On Using Apps for Generating Randomness

Not too long ago, someone commented on my blog who’s learning geomancy about what methods can be used for generating the figures.  Personally, after getting my bearings with the traditional stick-and-surface method (which I recommend everyone beginning geomancy to use until they get the “feel” of the system down, as if it were a type of initiatory practice on its own), I either use cards or dice.  Dice divination, especially, is flexible and polyvalent, and I use it for both geomancy, grammatomancy, and other systems of divination as the need strikes me, and not only are they easy to use, they’re also highly portable and compact as a tool.

The issue (well, not “issue” per se) came up in this conversation when the commenter mentioned using an app to generate the Mothers as a whole, or a random number generator to generate numbers with which to reduce into the Mothers.  This particular commenter isn’t alone in using an app for this; I know of other geomancers who use apps to generate Mothers, either as whole figures or as numbers for the rows of the figures.  A feeling of guilt was mentioned, since the commenter hasn’t read accounts of geomancers using apps or seen videos with such apps being used, but I dismissed that feeling because it’s definitely a thing for some geomancers.

Of course, it should be emphasized that it’s only some geomancers who do that, with “some” being the operative word.  It’s not a common thing; most geomancers I know use some sort of tools, with few just using raw numbers pulled from some source or other.  I know it can be a thing for Arabic geomancers to use the Dairah-e-Abdah enumeration of the figures and tell their querents to give them four random numbers from 1 to 16 and using the figures associated with those numbers for the Mothers, but that’s not really a thing in Western geomancy because we don’t really have an equivalent enumeration system for the figures.  Instead, when Western geomancers use automatic Mother generators at all, it’s often with dice-rolling apps or similar random number applications.

Personally, I don’t like using them.  I’m a tangible person, and I prefer tangible tools I can hold, wield, throw, and manipulate with my hands.  For me, I am as physical a person as I am a spiritual one; my body is a tool unto itself, and by using my body to interact with physical things, I can just as easily interact with their spiritual counterparts and ethereal symbol-referents.  Plus, the use of tools helps me get into the right headspace, that light trance state where I can focus purely on the query and act of divination, which I find is essential to getting good results in my readings.  That’s one of the reasons why I can’t exhort new students to use the stick-and-surface method of divination enough, because it helps inculcate the ability to enter that trance state and allows them to tap into it at a moment’s need using any sort of tool or trigger.

Is such a state necessary for all diviners?  I suppose not, though it certainly doesn’t hurt.  I know that I like doing it, and I’ve found that my focus is weakened, my interpretations more vague, my ability to tap into a situation less refined, and my understanding of the symbols in a reading gets a little slower without sufficient mental preparation which, for me, is aided by the manipulation of physical tools.  For that reason, I don’t use apps or other tools to generate figures for me, because it doesn’t do anything for me to help with entering that divinatory headspace.  Pressing a button and reading figures off a screen, or clicking something and then reducing a bunch of numbers off a web page into dots just…it lacks that connection that I find helpful.

When I generate figures, it’s me who’s the one doing that generation; these figures are “falling from my own hand”, so to speak.  I have that connection with the figures of the reading that allows me to tap into the reading and swim in its currents, dredging up whatever treasures and traps I can from it.  For a similar reason, when someone wants my help with a chart, I don’t just read the chart details they give me; I actually spend the time generating the entire chart from scratch with all the details I need, not only to make sure that the chart was calculated correctly, but also to help me integrate the chart into my own sphere.  Even if I’m not in a trance state for that act (after all, the divination was already done by someone else), the mere act of drawing out the Mothers and the entire rest of the chart helps bring those details to life.  It’s like reciting a litany of prayers; sure, you could just skip to the end or anywhere in the middle you feel is necessary, but the recitation of the entire process from start to end makes everything more potent once you get there.

Plus, as a software engineer, there’s something I’d like to clue you in on.  Most random number generators you use tend to actually be what are called pseudorandom number generators, algorithmic methods that approximate true randomness within acceptable boundaries but which aren’t truly random.  The reason why pseudorandom generators are used is that, for most purposes, they’re random enough to be useful, and are generally easier to develop and faster to produce output than true random generators.  For me, though, I’d rather a true random number generator, which can be harder to find or manipulate.  For that, I might recommend the excellent site RANDOM.ORG, which produces truly random results sequences for many purposes.

Now, that said, if you find that using an app to generate random (or pseudorandom) Mothers, or numbers for reducing into odd or even rows for the Mothers, works for you, then keep using it!  I would still recommend learning a set of tools for geomancy or whatever preferred divination system it is you use, because there may be times you don’t have access to a phone or a computer.  Geomancy benefits from this especially in that all you really need is a pen and paper or a stick and some dirt; even if I don’t like the method, it still works, and it can truly be taken anywhere without having to carry tools of various and sundry types that can set off security gates or the paranoid eyes of watchful passers-by.  Still, if using an app works for you, don’t fix what ain’t broken.  It’s not my preference to use it, but I can’t rightly knock it if it works.

Efficient Geomancy with Playing Cards

I know I’ve been awfully quiet lately.  There’s been a lot going on this year, and I’m just trying to keep my head above the water.  I’m succeeding, at least, but it’s giving me a lot of time and space to parse and pick through everything that’s been going on in my life, in both a mundane and spiritual sense.  While I may be inactive at blogging lately, I’m still doing research and writing on my own, though much of it isn’t for public eyes.  Still, on a lark this morning and inspired by the ever-handsome ever-brilliant Dr Cummins, I decided to go through and flip through my manuscript on geomancy (which, yes, is still going, albeit slowly, blah blah blah).  In the section on generating geomantic figures, I stumbled across the blurb I have about using playing cards to generate a geomantic figure.  It’s a pretty basic notion: draw four cards, and look at their color (red or black) or their parity (even or odd rank) to create a single geomantic figure; with 16 cards, you can generate a full set of Mothers.  Basic, simple, easy, but oh so boring.

Then a small bit of inspiration struck me:

I claim that you can generate a full geomantic chart with only four cards from a standard playing card deck, rather than just a single geomantic figure, and if you wanted, a single geomantic figure for a single card drawn.  There are only two tricks involved to get this method to work.  The first trick lies in slightly modifying the deck where each card is marked for an up-down direction (or upright-reversed); some cards in most playing card decks are often reversible with no way to determine which way is upright, so you’d need to find a deck where each card is marked for an upright position, or a deck where each card has a distinct pattern that can unambiguously be seen as upright or reversed.

The second trick (well, not really) lies in assigning the four suits of the playing card deck to the four traditional elements, by means of their standard Tarot/tarocchi equivalences:

  • Clubs are associated with Wands and thus with the element of Fire.
  • Spades are associated with Swords, and thus with the element of Air.
  • Hearts are associated with Cups, and thus with the element of Water.
  • Diamonds are associated with Pentacles, and thus with the element of Earth.

And, just to remind you of the two properties of the elements, Heat and Moisture:

Hot Cold
Dry Fire Earth
Moist Air Water

With all that out of the way, to get a full geomantic chart using this more efficient method, draw four cards from your deck and lay them across in a row from right to left.  Read them across in the same direction in the following four methods:

  1. Heat of the suit.  Is the element of the suit hot or cold?  If hot, give the corresponding row in the First Mother single point; if cold, two points.  (In most modern decks of cards, this amounts to seeing whether the suit is black or red.)
  2. Parity of the card.  What is the rank of the card?  If odd, give the corresponding row in the Second Mother a single point; if even, two points.
  3. Moisture of the suit.  Is the element of the suit dry or moist?  If moist, give the corresponding row in the Third Mother a single point; if dry, two points.
  4. Direction of the card.  What is the direction of the card?  If upright, give the corresponding row in the Fourth Mother a single point; if reversed, two points.

Alternatively, instead of using four cards drawn at once and reading “across” the cards, you could also read each card as a single figure, forming the Fire, Air, Water, and Earth lines by the Heat, Parity, Moisture, and Direction of any single card.  As a kind of mnemonic for the order, remember it like this: Heat is hot (Fire), Parity is math and needs thinking (Air), Moisture is wet (Water), and Direction is how you move on earth (Earth).  Since the four Mothers are assigned to these four elements in this same order, the mnemonic can work for both methods.  Using the reading-across technique may work better for a full set of Mothers, while the reading-individually technique is better for single-figure or two-figure divination.

The only problem with using a standard deck of playing cards is that the Parity method causes an issue, since each suit in a standard deck of playing cards has 13 ranks, so we’re biased slightly towards having more odd than even rows in our geomantic figures.  For some people this isn’t an issue, but if you’re concerned about true randomness with equal chances for each individual figure (which you should be!), we’ll need a way to work around this.  While we can trivially fix this by removing an odd number of ranks from each suit of the entire deck (e.g. just the Ace or all the face cards), we have a more elegant remedy by slightly tweaking how we interpret the parity of a card, which gives exactly equal chances for the parity of any given card to be odd or even.  Let’s call this the Jack Eyes rule:

  1. If the card is a pip card (ranks 1 through 10, Ace through Ten), the parity is as expected.
  2. If the card is a Queen or King (ranks 12 or 13), the parity is as expected.
  3. If the card is a Jack (rank 11), count how many eyes it has.  In standard 52-card decks, the Jack of Spades and Jack of Hearts are drawn in profile and have only one eye, while the Jack of Clubs and Jack of Diamonds are drawn in oblique face and have two.  If your deck doesn’t have these drawing rules, remember this association anyway.

Alright, time for an example.  In this deck of otherwise-standard playing cards, I’ve marked each card such that you can tell direction by looking at the numbers in the corners: the upper left digit is marked for upright, so if a card is drawn and the lower right digit is marked, the card is reversed.  Knowing that, say I draw the following four cards:

Reading right to left, we have the upright Queen of Hearts, upright Ten of Hearts, upright Eight of Hearts, and upright Five of Hearts.  (I’m not sure how I ended up with so many uprights or hearts after shuffling for a minute straight, but that’s randomness for you.)  Reading across the four cards to get the four Mother figures:

  1. Heat: All four cards are Hearts, and therefore associated with Water, and thus Cold, so even-even-even-even.  The first Mother is Populus.
  2. Parity: The parity of the four cards is 12 (Queen), 10, 8, and 5, so even-even-even-odd.  The second Mother is Tristitia.
  3. Moisture: All four cards are Hearts, and therefore associated with Water, and thus Moist, so odd-odd-odd-odd.  The third Mother is Populus.
  4. Direction: All four cards are upright, so odd-odd-odd-odd.  The fourth Mother is Via.

Now, instead of reading across the four cards for the four Mothers, let’s try using the other technique, where each card is a figure unto itself.  Consider this draw of four cards:

Reading right to left, we have the upright Queen of Clubs, the reversed Jack of Hearts, the upright Jack of Clubs, and the reversed 10 of Clubs:

  1. First Mother: The first card is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Hot, so the Fire line is odd.  It is a Queen, and therefore has a rank of 12, and thus even, so the Air line is even.  It is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Dry, so the Water line is even.  It is upright, so the Earth line is odd.  Odd-even-even-odd gives us the geomantic figure Carcer.
  2. Second Mother: The second card is a Heart, and therefore Watery, and thus Cold, so the Fire line is even.  It is a jack which normally has a rank of 11, but because of the Jack Eyes rule given above, we count how many eyes it has; here, it has one eye, so the Air line is odd.  It is a Heart, and therefore Watery, and thus Moist, so the Water line is odd.  It is reversed, so the Earth line is even.  Even-odd-odd-even gives us the geomantic figure Coniunctio.
  3. Third Mother: The third card is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Hot, so the Fire line is odd. It is a jack which normally has a rank of 11, but because of the Jack Eyes rule given above, we count how many eyes it has; here, it has two eyes, so the Air line is even.  It is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Dry, so the Water line is even.  It is upright, so the Earth line is odd.  Odd-even-even-odd gives us the geomantic figure Carcer.
  4. Fourth Mother: The fourth card is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Hot, so the Fire line is odd.  It is a Ten, and thus even, so the Air line is even.  It is a Club, and therefore Fiery, and thus Dry, so the Water line is even.  It is reversed, so the Earth line is even.  Odd-even-even-even gives us the geomantic figure Laetitia.

Instead of using playing cards, you could also just use (most) Tarot cards, which actually might make the whole thing simpler for two of the methods: each card is usually (but in some older decks, not always) known as being upright or reversed based on the image it portrays, and there are an even number of ranks per suit, getting rid of the Jack Eyes rule (though you may want to fix it so that the Page and Queen, ranks 11 and 13, are “set” to even given their feminine qualities, and the Knight and King, ranks 12 and 14, are “set” to odd given their masculine qualities).

There are lots of ways, tools, and methods you can use to generate geomantic figures, and you can probably find multiple ways to use even the same tool as well.  This is just another way, more efficient than drawing 16 separate cards but requires a bit more subtlety, to do the same thing.  I’m sure there are more, and I’ve heard tell of some traditions of geomancy that use deliberately obfuscating methods that rely on similar underlying observations.

Do you use playing cards for geomancy, or for divination generally?  If for geomancy, are there any other ways besides the ones here you use to generate a geomantic figure, either on its own or as part of four Mothers?  What are some of your tips and tricks for playing card divination?

Pronouncing Generated Greek Names

In my quest for working more with the Greek alphabet in my practice, there’s one thing that Greek doesn’t do too well that Hebrew does excellently, and that’s the pronunciation of generated names.  Not names generated from the point of stoicheia, but rather names generated from other processes where it may not be a “legal” Greek name following rules of Greek orthography or phonology.  If you plan to use generated names for spirits in your work, Greek is not the most convenient option in some respects, but it is in others,

Consider the generation of the name of the Natal Genius (which you can generate easily thanks to Quaero Lux’s excellent Daimon Name Calculator), where you input the degrees of the five hylegical places (Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Part of Fortune, Prenatal Syzygy) and you get a five-letter sequence back based on these degree locations that forms the name of your Natal Genius, the spirit who watches over you in this life and is the Idea of all the things you do and are meant to do.  Chris Warnock and Fr. Rufus Opus tell you more about how to develop this name, both of which are based on Agrippa’s methods (book III, chapter 26).  Basically, every degree of the Zodiac has a letter attributed to it; the Hebrew method starts with Aleph at the first degree of Aries, Bet at the second degree of Aries, and so forth all the way through the end of the Zodiac, looping back on the alphabet in the 23rd degree of Aries at Aleph, Bet at the 24th, and so forth.  By finding the degrees of these five hylegical places in the order given above, you get the name of the Natal Genius.  It’s a little complicated, but the overall process is simple.

Thing is, Hebrew has 22 letters (not counting the final forms of Kaph, Nun, etc.), which is not a divisor of 360, the number of degrees in a circle.  Thus, the final letter of the final degree of the Zodiac is not Tav, as might be expected, but Chet, which then immediately goes back to Aleph in the next degree, the first of Aries.  Greek, on the other hand, has 24 letters, which is a factor of 360 (24 × 15 = 360), so the letter corresponding to the final degree of Pisces is Ōmega, which flips back to the letter Alpha in the next degree, which is the first of Aries.  In this sense, the Greek system works a bit nicer.

However, Hebrew is more amenable to pronouncing random strings of consonants (which is all the Hebrew script really is) than Greek is, since Greek has a mixture of vowels and consonants that need to be pronounced together.  With Hebrew, you just need to throw in an extra “eh” or “uh” here or there, maybe “ah” or “i” if the letter is Heh or Yod, and you’re good to go.  You can get more complicated than that if you want, but I haven’t really noticed a big difference.  Greek, however, is more complicated; how does one pronounce ΔΩΚΓΦ?  Dohkgph?  Doh-kegph?  What happens when you have two of the same vowels in a row?  Where exactly do you throw in vowels to make the word pronounceable?

To that end, I’m going to take a page out of some famous Jewish kabbalists who were famed for working with letters and institute a system of “natural vowels”, the vowel that can be most readily used with a given letter.  For vowels, you just use the vowel, but the consonants oftentimes need an extra vowel thrown in.  Simply put, this vowel is the first vowel from the name of the letter itself:

Letter Name Natural Vowel
Α Alpha a
Β Bēta ē
Γ Gamma a
Δ Delta e
Ε Epsilon e
Ζ Zēta ē
Η Ēta ē
Θ Thēta ē
Ι Iōta i
Κ Kappa a
Λ Lambda a
Μ Mu u/y
Ν Nu u/y
Ξ Xei or Xi ei, i
Ο Omicron o
Π Pei or Pi ei, i
Ρ Rhō ō
Σ Sigma i
Τ Tau au
Υ Upsilon u, y
Φ Phei or Phi ei/i
Χ Khei or Khi ei/i
Ψ Psei or Psi ei/i
Ω Ōmega ō

Okay, so we have those.  But there are a few notes with this:

  • A vowel is its own natural vowel; there’s no change or transformation involved here.
  • The letters Π, Φ, Χ, and Ψ have two spellings and, therefore, two possible natural vowels.  The first spelling with “ei” is the classical Attic spelling of the letters, and the second spelling with just “i” is the modern Greek spelling; which you use is up to you, though I prefer classical spellings whenever possible.
  • The letters Μ, Ν, and Υ all have upsilon as their natural vowel.  These can be written as “u” or “y”, but are pronounced the same, like a French u or a German ü.
  • The letter Τ has the vowel combination “au”, but more on this later.

Now, how do we go about using these letters?  If we have a string of consonants, where exactly do we put in vowels?  One natural vowel per consonant?  While simple, it’s a little too naïve, and I have a more complicated but elegant system in place that produces, as close as possible, a “natural”-sounding Greek name.  First, though, let’s take a short break into Greek phonology and orthography.

First, let’s break down the Greek consonants into a phonetic categories (which is a little different than how we normally break them down for stoicheic purposes):

  • Bilabial plosives: Π, Β, Φ
  • Dental plosives: Τ, Δ, Θ
  • Velar plosives: Κ, Γ, Χ
  • Nasals: Μ, Ν
  • Liquids: Λ, Ρ
  • Fricatives: Σ
  • Affricates: Ζ, Ξ, Ψ

While Greek spelling tends to be straightforward, we need to watch out for digraphs, or clusters of two letters that produce a distinct sound that would not be immediately noted.  There are two types of digraphs, those with vowels and those with consonants.

Vowel digraphs, which are pronounced together as a unit:

  • αι (pronounced “ai” as in “eye“)
  • αυ (pronounced “au” as in “how“)
  • ει (pronounced “ei” as in “skate”)
  • ευ (pronounced “eu” as in “ew“)
  • ηυ (pronounced “eu” as in “eww“)
  • οι (pronounced “oi” as in “coy“)
  • ου (pronounced “oo” as in “food”)
  • υι (pronounced “ui/yi” as in “yield”)

Consonant digraphs:

  • γγ (pronounced “ng”)
  • γξ (pronounced “nks”)
  • γκ (pronounced “nk”)
  • γχ (pronounced “nkh”)
  • μπ (pronounced “b” at the beginning of a word and “mb” elsewhere)
  • ντ (pronounced “d” at the beginning of a word and “nd” elsewhere)

Plus there are special consonant digraphs that are considered doubled or germinate sounds but not at the beginning or end of a word:

  • τθ (pronounced “tth” as in “that thing”)
  • κχ (pronounced “kkh” as in “mark king”)
  • πφ (pronounced “pph” as in “sap pins”)
  • κγ (pronounced “gg” as in “sag gasket”)

So, with that, let’s get onto the rules, first for consonants:

  1. A consonant that precedes a vowel does not use its natural vowel of the consonant, but the vowel itself.  Thus, ΒΑ is “ba”, not “bēa”.
  2. A consonant that follows a short vowel does not use its natural vowel, but forms part of a syllable with the previous consonant-vowel pair.  Thus, ΒΑΓ is “bag”, not “ba-ga”.
  3. A consonant that follows a long vowel or a consonant with its own long natural vowel or a vowel dipthong (two vowels pronounced as a unit) uses its natural vowel, starting its own syllable.  Thus, ΒΗΓΤ is “bē-gat” and not “bēg-ta”; ΒΗΘΓΤ is “bē-thē-gat”; ΒΕΙΓΤ is “bei-gat”.
  4. A consonant may or may not use its natural vowel if it forms part of a consonant combination; if not, it is followed by the natural vowel of the second letter of the combination.  Thus, ΒΑΓΓ can be”ban-ga” or “ba-gag”; ΒΑΝΤ can be “ban-dau” or “ba-nyt”.
  5. A combination of a plosive plus a liquid or nasal is to be treated as a consonant cluster.  Thus, ΤΡΟΦA is “troph-a”, ΜΒΛΧΙ is “myb-lakh-i”, and ΣΚΠΛΓ is “skap-lag”.
  6. A doubled consonant is broken up across syllables unless the preceding syllable has a long vowel.  Thus, ΒΑΤΤΑ is “bat-ta” and ΒΑΚΚΑ is “bak-kha”, but ΒΤΤΑ is “bē-tau-ta” and ΒΠΠΟ is “bē-pei-po”.
  7. A consonant cluster of the form τθ, κχ, κγ, or πφ is broken up across syllables unless the preceding syllable has a long vowel, but is treated as separate consonants at the beginning or end of a word.  Thus, ΒΑΚΧΟ is “bak-kho”, but ΤΘΟΞΕ is “tauth-ox-e” and ΗΠΦΓΛ is “ē-piph-gal”.
  8. A doubled consonant or a consonant cluster of the form τθ, κχ, κγ, or πφ cannot occur at the beginning or end of a word.  Thus, ΤΘΓΗΑ is “tauth-gē-ha” and not “tthē-gē-ha”, and ΞΗΟΓΡ is “xē-hog-rō” and not “xē-hogr”.

When it comes to vowels, there are a few more rules:

  1. Any two of the same vowels in succession have an “h” inserted if they do not form part of a vowel digraph.  Thus, ΑΑ is “aha” and ΕΕ is “ehe”.  This also applies to long vowels and short vowels, such that ΕΗ is “e-hē”, ΗΕ is “ē-he”, ΟΩ is “o-hō“, and ΩΟ is “ō-ho”.
  2. An extra “h” may be inserted between any two vowels if it makes the distinction between them clearer.  This is up to the personal preference of the reader.
  3. Any two vowels that form part of a diagraph are read as a digraph.  Thus, ΕΙ is “ei” and ΑΥ is “au”.
  4. A vowel following a vowel digraph has an “h” inserted before it, preserving the vowel digraph that comes first.  Thus, ΑΥΑ is “au-ha”.

Essentially, these rules try to ensure a specific type of syllable structure, where a syllable can (but does not have to) start with a consonant, and ends with a long vowel (ēta, ōmega, or any vowel digraph) or a short vowel (any single vowel except ēta or omega) plus a consonant.  So, with that, let’s try some randomized examples, with syllables clearly marked by hyphens:

  1. ΚΥΚΛΥ is “Kyk-lu”.
  2. ΞΩΘΑΧ is “Xō-thax”.
  3. ΒΥΧΙΩ is “Bykh-iō“.
  4. ΒΝΑΗΔ is “Bē-na-hē-de”.  Why not “Bēn-a-hēd”?  Because ēta (natural vowel of bēta) is a long vowel, so the syllable cannot end with a consonant.  Nu, the following letter, then starts its own syllable with the following alpha instead of forming a syllable with bēta.  Likewise, the ēta on the end of the word cannot be followed by a consonant, so the delta forms its own syllable with its own natural vowel.  Because alpha and ēta don’t form a vowel digraph, an “h” is inserted between the two sounds.
  5. ΞΩΛΒΘ is “Xō-lab-thē”.  Why not “Xōl-bath”?  Because the lambda starts its own syllable, since the preceding vowel is long (ōmega and not omicron).
  6. ΝΤΔΞΣ is “Daud-xeis” or “Daud-xis”.  Note the consonant cluster at the start which still uses the natural vowel of tau, and how the different natural vowels of xi can affect the pronunciation here.
  7. ΙΦΑΘΓ is “Iph-ath-ga”.  Note how the first letter is a vowel, which forms its own syllable with the subsequent phi.  Because gamma at the end isn’t connected to the preceding syllable, it forms its own.
  8. ΗΑΙΩΞ is “Ē-ai-ō-xei” or “Ē-hai-hō-xi”.  Because the first letter is a vowel, it doesn’t connect at all to the next syllable, which is also a vowel, and a vowel digraph at that!  Because the ōmega is long, it doesn’t connect to the next consonant, leaving xi to form its own syllable.  Plus, given the string of vowels that may be complicated to pronounce, extra “h” sounds may be inserted if it makes it any easier.
  9. ΞΣΛΩΩ is “Xei-sil-ō-hō” or “Xis-lō-hō“.  Note here how the different possible natural vowels of xi can change the name!  If we use “ei” as the natural vowel of xi, then it’s a vowel digraph and treated as a long vowel, so the next letter sigma starts its own syllable.  If we use “i”, then we treat it as a short vowel, so it forms a closed syllable with sigma.
  10. ΦΣΣΓΓ is “Phei-sis-gag” or “Phis-sing-ga”.  In the first case, we treat the vowel of phi as long, which pairs the sigmas and gammas together into their own closed syllables.  However, if we treat the natural vowel of phi as short, then we break up the double sigma across syllables as a consonant cluster broken up across the first two syllables, and the double gamma as an “ng” consonant cluster also broken up across the last two syllables, ending in the natural vowel of the final gamma.
  11. ΓΖΦΞΠ is “Gaz-phei-xei-pei”, “Gaz-phix-pi”, or “Gaz-phei-xip”.  This is what happens when you have multiple letters with multiple natural vowel choices; you get multiple choices of how to pronounce it and divide up the syllables!

Okay, so now we’re able to pronounce randomized sequences of Greek letters, which is pretty cool.  I’ve never encountered a good set of rules based on linguistics that indicates how to pronounce these types of names, and the rules here for Greek aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it.

What about isopsephy, though?  If we’re analyzing the numerical value of a generated Greek word, do we just use the five letters given to us through the generation method or do we fill in the word with the extra vowels we need to make it pronounceable?  For the last example above, do we use ΓΖΦΞΠ (without extra vowels) or do we use ΓΑΖΦΙΞΠΙ (with extra vowels)?  Honestly, try both.  You can treat the form without extra vowels (if any are needed) as a purer, more divine or ideal form of the spirit, and the form with vowels as a more manifest or material form, though they’re pronounced the same either way.  In some cases, like with ΞΩΘΑΧ, no extra vowels are needed, so the isopsephic value wouldn’t change anyway.  If you had to choose, I’d go with the version without extra vowels, but try both and see what comes up.

Ah, and now I can hear a reader in the distance saying “but these are to be used for angel names, aren’t they?”  Yes, you can use this method to generate angelic names with Greek letters and pronunciations, but chances are you’re wondering about the theophoric suffix “-(i)el” or “-iah” we see so often at the end of angelic names.  In Greek, these would be written as -(Ι)ΗΛ and -ΙΑ, respectively, and can be used to mark a name as explicitly angelic or divine.  In practice, either can be used, though I read that the “-(i)el” form of the name is used to denote the spirit working down towards the physical and away from the spiritual while the “-iah” form is used to work from the physical up to the spiritual.  I haven’t noticed a big difference either way, personally, having experimented with both, but other people might think it important.  When using these endings, I suggest you take the extra letters into account for isopsephy, and spell out the name in full with all the extra vowels.

Since I hadn’t seen a guide like this to pronouncing randomized or generated strings of Greek letters, I thought I’d share my method.  I hope it comes in help for you guys; I know I’ll certainly be using it as I work with spirits more to find new names.  The above rules can be bent and twisted as needed, of course; they’re meant to suggest pronunciations, not to dictate them, since the spirits themselves have the final word on the matter.  I can think of a few exceptions to the rules above, but I’ll leave those to the adventurous phonologist and linguist to solve out.  I mean, consider some of the words in the PGM, like ΑΒΡΑΩΘ, which is “ab-ra-ōth” and not, according to our rules, “ab-ra-ō-thē”.  Then again, the words of power in the PGM tend to be, you know, pronounceable.  Random letter combinations are not always so, which is what my rules help with.

Who knows, it might even come in use to read those weird barbarous words of power from older texts or (heavens forbid!) some kind of Greek Enochiana to be developed.

49 Days of Definitions: Part X, Definition 5

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy. These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff. It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text. The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon. While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the forty-seventh definition, part X, number 5 of 7:

Soul is bound to be born in this world, but Nous is superior to the world.  Just as Nous is unbegotten, so is matter too, (although) it (can be) divided.  Nous is unbegotten, and matter (is) divisible; soul is threefold, and matter has three parts; generation (is) in soul and matter, (but) Nous (is) in God for the generation of the immortal (beings).

Man is a creature composed of a material body inhabited and moved by soul, and the soul of Man (generally) have a contact with and capacity for Nous, or knowledge of God.  Because of the presence of Nous within us, we’re able to use Logos, or reasonable speech, which can help us understand and direct the world around us.  However, it turns out that we’re not the only ones in the game here; the immortal beings in heaven above us also move us down here, and it’s up to us to choose whether to steer ourselves in whichever way we think is best (even if it’s not really good for us) or let the stars and planets and gods steer us in whichever way they think is best.

Of course, the process of even bringing Man into the world is complicated; first Nous makes soul from itself, then soul uses the heavenly beings to create a body, then the soul joins the body at birth.  Souls without bodies are “inert” and motionless, so they can only fulfill their functions when they have a body.  Bodies are material, so they belong in the world; thus, “soul is bound to be born in this world”.  Soul has basically no choice in the matter; if it wants to move and carry out its functions, it must have a body, so the connection between the intelligible soul and sensible body is almost mandated.  However, the soul of Man is blessed with a connection to and part of Nous, and “Nous is superior to the world”.  Although all things in the cosmos exist within and as part of God/Nous, Nous does not blatantly or consciously reside within all things; that’s only given to Man.  This is what allows Man to be both of the world (as far as his body is concerned) and in the world (as far as his soul is concerned).  Nous is not bound to the world; Nous is the world and so much more.

So, it goes without saying that God is unbegotten; God is the creator of all things, and God is both immortal and eternal, so nothing can have created God; God, simply, has always existed.  Thus, “Nous is unbegotten”.  However, what may be surprising is that just as Nous is unbegotten, “so is matter too”.  Thus, not only does the world exist within God, but the world has always existed within God.  There was never a point, except outside of time itself perhaps, when matter and the world did not exist.  God and the world, Nous and matter, have always both existed.  However, we know Nous to be the One, while we can pretty easily pick out different kinds of matter and different numbers of body.  Indeed, “[matter] can be divided”; thus, while matter has always existed, it does not exist in the same forms from moment to moment, and can be broken off or split up or otherwise divided so as to be joined with other matter later on.  Thus, “Nous is unbegotten, and matter is divisible”.  This sounds somewhat like the law of conservation of mass: nothing new was ever brought in, but always existed in some form or another.

So how does soul relate to the material world, besides being in a body?  Well, according to this, “soul is threefold”.  That’s not very helpful, but the footnotes provided by Jean-Pierre Mahé indicate that the “threefold soul” refers to its reasonable, unreasonable, and sensible forms.  By saying that the soul is threefold, I don’t believe that Hermes is saying that we have three souls, but rather that the soul has three “modes”: it can act reasonably, it can act unreasonably, or it can act sensibly.  Reasonable action is when the soul acts agreeably with Nous; unreasonable action is when the soul acts disagreeably to Nous.  Sensible action, however, is when the soul works with the body.  The body contains the sense organs, but it delivers the sensory data to the soul for it to understand and know.  Of course, all this threefold soul stuff only applies to Man, since he’s the only creature endowed with Nous and so can act reasonably or unreasonably.  For all other living creatures, they can neither act reasonably or unreasonably, but only sensibly, since that’s all that’s available to them.

Matter, on the other hand, has “three parts”.  Jean-Pierre Mahé suggests this to mean three dimensions, or that of length, breadth, and depth.  Anything solid must exist in at least three dimensions, since two dimensional objects indicate only flat abstract forms, one dimensional objects indicate direction and motion, and zero dimensional objects indicate infinity, singularity, or nullity.  All bodies exist with three dimensions, in other words, and these things are both quantifiable and qualifiable, since matter brings about these things (VII.4).  We can count how long things are, how fast they may be moving, and so forth.  These things are meaningless outside the sensible world, since these are all sensible qualities and quantities.

One such quantity we can measure is growth, which is continued generation.  How are things generated?  By “soul and matter”; soul is what makes the body and moves it, and by making use of the fluidities of femaleness and maleness as well as the four elements, the soul can direct the body to increase or decrease, or to be born or bear children, and so forth.  Generation and growth exists as a property of matter.  However, what about for things immortal?  Immortal beings are either heavenly, in which case they are made of matter, or immaterial, in which case they have no body at all but are detached from them, e.g. Man.  For the generation of mortal beings, “Nous is in God”.  Nous is immortality, and God is the means by which it is spread and grows.  Nothing can be immortal in the true, unbegotten sense as God or Nous is without Nous, and Nous is perfect truth, which is perfect immortality exceeding that of the heavenly beings.  While birth and death are in soul and matter, truth and perfection are in God.