When God Says No: On God and the Angels

Yes, another post from Curious Cat.  It’s honestly a great way for people to reach out to me, and it gives me a ready store of ideas for posts to write about.  (I’ve been asking for comments on my website, Facebook, and Twitter for ages for when people would like to ask questions, but people either just don’t do that or don’t generally trigger a post-writing reaction.)  Plus, according to Human Design (which my blessed sister studies and practices), I’m a so-called “manifesting generator” type, who responds well to being asked questions in order to produce and effect wonderful things.  But unlike other posts about things that come from questions on Curious Cat, this post is gonna be a little different; we’re going to discuss a common thread that ties together several different questions that were asked, all largely pertaining to angels, their role in the cosmos, how we interact with them, how we’re permitted to interact with them, and what their relationship is to God.  To give a brief summary of the questions asked and my replies to them:

  • Where do angels come from, and what are they?  God made them to carry out his will in infinitesimal slices of divine presence, made discrete and distinct to govern over specific things, entities, events, or phenomena of the cosmos.  Angels have no free will; by definition, their will is the will of God and vice versa, so that they act strictly and solely in accordance with, for, by, and to God.
  • If angels have no free will, then when we invoke or conjure an angel and commission it with a request, it can only fulfill this request if God wills it? Yes!  All the conjurations we do in the Western Hermetic and Solomonic tradition of higher entities, if we’re not taking the rather old-school approach of assuming divine power ourselves and browbeating the cosmos into complying with our (temporarily-assumed) divine will, is to supplicate God through prayer to reveal that he send his angels to us in his name for his honor and glory.  Thus, when we call on an angel, we’re essentially asking God to graciously give his permission for the angel to be sent to us, because God’s will and God’s will alone is what allows all things to happen; how much more this is the case, then, for entities whose sole purpose is to perfectly and only fulfill the will of God!
  • What sort of behavior do angels hate?  It depends on what they’re the angel of, but in general, angels don’t really “hate” because they don’t really do emotion, since they’re the embodiments of and agents for the will of God.  In that sense, angels “hate” anything that goes contrary to the will, design, aims, and goals of God—and, by extension, all that we do that goes against our True Will, which is nothing more or less than the will of God that is right and proper for us to will and accomplish in our lifetimes.
  • How can we discover our True Will if we’re unaware of it?  This is nothing short of the first half of the Great Work; the second half is fulfilling it.  And there is nothing harder or higher than to know and do what it is what we truly Will.  This is exactly the same thing as knowing the purpose God has established for us in life.
  • Why do angels hate emotion, then? Angels don’t hate emotion; they just don’t have it, or at least in any meaningful way that we might recognize as emotion.  We might perceive or interpret them to be acting emotionally, but that’s only because we ourselves are human and thus emotive creatures, while angels are utterly devoid of humanity and completely above and beyond our level, at least or especially where emotions are concerned.  Angels don’t have free will; they don’t even roll or blink their (innumerable) eyes without God willing it.
  • If an angel is being difficult, how do we complain to its manager?  If an angel is being difficult, it’s not because the angel is acting wily or being a punk for the sake of being a punk.  If an angel declines to do something, it’s because God declines to permit that thing from occurring; it’s not that the angels decide against it, but God decides against it.  That’s why, when we pray in conjuration for an angel to appear, we pray that God grant that it should happen (see above).  If something doesn’t happen, then there’s a reason for it; we either must work towards it so that we’re ready and proper for it in the eyes of God, or we must pray for the right thing to occur, whether it involves the conjuration and commissioning of an angel to do something or whether we should do something else entirely that would be better for us to do.
  • If God is unwilling to help us, would intervention from other deities from other traditions or pantheons help instead? Maybe, but if God’s decided against it, then there’s probably a good reason for that. It could be that you should look elsewhere for help, such as from another god or using another set of spirits or practices entirely to get the same thing done rather than by directly appealing to the Highest, but it could also be that you’re asking for the wrong thing entirely or that it’s not meant for you, whether now or at all. That’s where divination is crucial for magicians: it helps us plan out what we can do, but more than that, whether we should do something. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, and if you shouldn’t, you should learn the reasons why. In other words, don’t go shopping around for a second opinion when you already got The One Opinion To Rule Them All. Keep to the principle of “move, or move me”.
  • But when it comes to other gods, don’t they also share power over our reality as well?  Absolutely!  But for all their greatness and grandness and power, they’re not as great or grand or powerful as the cosmocrator God behind them all. And that’s okay, because they don’t need to be, and it’s often better to work with them directly if you’re in such a tradition than to work with the behind-the-scenes all-ruling One, because they’re more accessible. But there are limits in place that even they can’t argue with, because they’re not in charge of literally everything like God is.

All this ended up with me saying this from that last question in the series, which I want to specifically quote with a special emphasis on one particular line:

God (and I use that term in a very general, very high-and-behind-the-scenes way as in Hermetic theology/philosophy), more often than not, doesn’t really established hard and fixed prohibitions so long as something fits (or is, at least, tolerated and permissible) within the grander scheme of things.  Even the biggest events and problems in our lives are less than specks of dust compared to the grandness of all creation, and accordingly, there’s not too much that really conflicts with the overall overarching design of God; there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But when God says “no” through the creation of the cosmos, there’s no angel, demon, ghost, or god that will say “yes”. If God says “no”, then you should find out why that might be the case and act accordingly, because more often than not, it’s with your own best interests in mind. Again, this is where divination is important, because it will tell you what’s going on, whether you can do something, and whether you should do something.

Now, there’s a lot to unpack in all of this, because I didn’t necessarily summarize everything, and Curious Cat, for all its usefulness, isn’t great for truly nuanced discussions, what with its 3000 character limit on replies, and it’s easy to get some parts of the above misunderstood.  Plus, there are things that I’m hinting at in some of my replies that really need to be said explicitly, but just couldn’t fit reasonably in the above replies within the constraints of Curious Cat.  First, let me preface this by saying that I’m coming from a position that’s largely Hermetic and Neoplatonic and fundamentally emanationist-monist within a polytheistic framework, and I recognize that not all systems of theology, cosmology, or philosophy operate on these principles—but there are still quite a number that do.  Since I’m the one being asked these questions for my opinions, and since this is my own blog, these are my thoughts on all of this.

At the core of it all, the theme of all these questions is what role God has to play in our Work, whether or not we’re monotheistic or monist, and how we relate to God in that sense.

First, what exactly is this God we’re talking about?  Coming from a Hermetic standpoint, God is the ultimate underlying authority and entity that created and creates the whole cosmos.  Without getting into the nitty-gritty of Hermetic philosophy (I did a good-enough job of that in my 49 Days of Definitions blog series from 2013 regarding the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”), God is both the end result of spiritual development and the ultimate source of all things that exist, don’t exist, might exist, etc.  Everything else that exists does so within God as part of God.  It may be said that God is fullness itself; instead of merely saying that all things exist within God, it can also be said that all things are God, and since God is all things, God is All.  However, since God is still one divinely simple entity, God is also One, and thus All is One.  God is the Platonic Good, the summum bonum of the philosophers, the object of highest knowledge and importance that is the forerunner and producer of all other objects.  God is also the Monad, the One, that which is alone in itself, made by itself endlessly (i.e. unmade), making all things, coming first; it is the one Source of all things, creating all things within itself yet never being made from anything besides itself, never taking away from itself into less nor multiplying itself into more.  God, further, encompasses all things; not only is God fully immanent in all of creation, but God also transcends all of creation, too.  Everything is permeated with divine essence, but everything is also intrinsically connected to each other and to God by it as well.

Where does that put us, as human beings?  All beings, human and otherwise that are not God are finite; they are not infinite, unending, immovable, or the like, since these are qualities that belong only to God.  Something that is finite has an end; it is defined, or set in by boundaries.  The maximum extent of these boundaries can be called something’s capacity, and nothing that is finite can exceed its own capacity.  Thus, everything that exists that is not God has a certain way of existing up to a certain point, whether it be in quantity or quality or good or evil; these things cannot act outside or beyond that point, because then it would exceed its own capacity.  A being’s capacity is, essentially, its destiny; a being does what its nature is designed to do, which is to fulfill its own capacity, but which it cannot exceed, because that would be going past what its destiny necessitates.  This is essentially our power: to fulfill our capacity, to fulfill our fate, and we have the choice of doing good or evil in a Hermetic sense, to fulfill our fate or to not fulfill it.  And that’s huge!  But, despite all this power we’re entitled to have, we’re not omnipotent; for example, our nature as humans is to die; we are mortal, after all, and the nature of things with material bodies is to die eventually.

What about other entities that aren’t human beings, such as angels or gods that are distinct from capital-G God?  They’re entities in their own rights, to be sure, and have their own capacities, natures, and roles to play.  But they’re still finite, no matter how much power they have.  Whatever something is according to its nature, that is going to be how it will be for that being.  These entities still have power, but they still exist as finite entities within creation; thus, they are still not God.  Rather, it’s God who establishes their natures and capacities, and it’s the role of those entities to fulfill them however they so choose.  Being higher than us and made of more subtle stuff and without the distractions and darkness of incarnate bodies, they also see more and know more than we do, and are necessarily closer to God than we are down here.  All the same, however, they cannot exceed their own capacities, either.

Now, I know that this might seem a little…appropriative, as if I’m trying to fit every possible tradition or religion into a single monist framework.  In a sense, yeah, because that’s what Hermeticism is, and it’s fundamentally one of the ways that Neoplatonic philosophy regards the hierarchy and workings of the cosmos.  To be sure, there isn’t just one Neoplatonism, and I’ll admit that my own philosophical background is amateurish, but it’s a thing I’ve seen and considered time and again and, simply, the framework works.  While I believe in God, I also believe in a plurality of many other gods; they’re all real, and often with varying powers, domains, personalities, temperaments, preferences, and the like.  And yet, they exist as part of creation just like I do, which is why approaching them works.  Yet, as a Hermeticist, I also recognize the existence (such as it is) of a God of gods, a God behind all creation, both within and without.  This is effectively the same God as that of Abraham or Muḥammad as well as of Hermēs Trismegistus, as well as Olodumare of the Yòrubá and Lukumí, as well as the God of the gnostics and the Good of the philosophers.  One can still be a monist without being a monotheist or monolatrist.  Even if you disagree with that approach to divinity and divinities (and I know of at least several who would with very good reasons!), accept the premise of it for the purposes of this post.

When it comes to angels, the word itself literally means “messenger” in Greek (ἄγγελος ángelos), and the notion of it in Abrahamic religions comes from the Hebrew מלאך mal’ākh meaning, again, “messenger”.  More than just being a bearer of the messages of God, however, angels are more like ambassadors, emissaries, or functionaries of God: they accomplish the will of God in every possible way, fulfilling it by governing, ruling, directing, and instructing different parts of the cosmos, essentially acting as the limbs of God and extensions of the will of God.  If we want to take the “messenger” idea a bit further in a way that comports with both Hermeticism and Christianity, consider the role of the Word; after all, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word is God”.  The “Word” of Christianity does refer to Jesus Christ, sure, but it’s also the Logos of the Hermeticists, the rational and intelligible principle that allows God (as the Nous, or Mind) to allow the cosmos to function.  In that sense, angels are messengers of the Word of God; where they bear the Word, they fulfill the will of God.

The thing about angels is that they are still only messengers; they speak the Word of God, but that is all they can speak, for that is their capacity and nature.  Angels, as extensions of the will of God, have no free will of their own; their whole purpose is to effect the will of God in the creation God made.  Whatever an angel “wants” to do is identical with what God wills; their will is inherently God’s will.  That’s why, among many other things, we can’t command an angel to do anything, because that’s equivalent to commanding God to do something, which is so far outside our finite and human capacity and capabilities that it’s laughable.  Angels cannot and do not do anything that God does not command them to do, but “command”, though a familiar concept to us coming from a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic background, isn’t really what’s happening between God and the angels; rather, God speaks his Word, and the angels bear that Word to wherever they’re going to accomplish whatever that Word is.  Angels are almost machine-like in that sense; they exist for the sole purpose of “serving God” by fulfilling the will of God.

In terms more suited to Renaissance Hermeticism, angels are “intelligences”, spiritual entities under the rule of God that guide and direct the manifestation of the forces of the cosmos.  Every force, entity, place, planet, and thing in the cosmos has its own presiding or governing angel, which can be worked with through devotional, magical, or some other kind of spiritual means.  Thus, consider Tzaphqiel, the angel of Saturn; this angel is the “governor” of that planet, and serves to establish the power, roles, functions, motions, and works of Saturn in all things in the cosmos.  Tzaphqiel, as an angel, bears the Word of God in a way that focuses on the Logos as it pertains to Saturn.  If we want to bring more Saturn power into our lives or throttle it back from our lives, we can work with Tzaphqiel to do just that.  But what if Tzaphqiel says “no”?

This is basically what a lot of these questions on Curious Cat are getting at.  Let’s step aside for a bit and consider something else for the moment: where does the nature of angels in relation to God leave us in angelic magic, whether through prayers or conjurations?  It cannot be denied that working with angels is often incredibly effective for any number of ends, and is a staple of European folk religion and folk magic as well as Hermetic, Solomonic, and other kinds of magic generally in both the West and the East.  Obviously, we don’t worship angels—that’d be idolatry, and an insult to both the angel and God—but we do venerate them and honor them, especially when thanking them or calling upon them.  But the thing is that, when we call upon them, there’s something that’s really common in much of Western magical literature that we need to carefully consider: we don’t command the angels to appear, but we ask for them to appear.  Moreover, we don’t ask the angel to appear, but we ask God that the angel appear for us.  And there are very good reasons for that.

Consider the specific conjuration prayer from Johann Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  For clarity, let me use my own slightly reworded version, and note the specific phrasing of the prayer in the emphasized sections:

In the name of the blessed Tetragrammaton, I call upon you, you strong and mighty angel Michael, if it be the divine will of the most holy God that you take the shape that best shows your celestial nature, and appear to me visibly here in this crystal, and answer my demands in as far as I shall not transgress the bounds of divine mercy by requesting unlawful knowledge, and that you graciously show me what things are most profitable for me to know and do, to the glory and honor of his divine majesty, who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.

Lord, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Make clean my heart within me, and take not your holy spirit from me.

O Lord, by your name I have called Michael; suffer him to administer unto me, and that all things may work together for your honor and glory, and that to you be ascribed all might, majesty, and dominion.  Amen.

O Lord, I thank you for the hearing of my prayer, and I thank you for having permitted your spirit to appear unto me.  Amen.

For another example, consider the orison from book II, chapter 12 of the Book of Abramelin:

O Lord God of Mercy … Sanctify me also with the oil of thy sanctification, wherewith thou hast sanctified all thy prophets; and purify in me therewith all that appertains unto me, so that I may become worthy of the conversation of thy holy angels and of thy divine wisdom, and grant unto me the power which thou hast given unto thy prophets over all the evil spirits. Amen, amen.

Another example, the prayer from septenary II, aphorism 14 from the Arbatel of Magic:

O Lord of heaven and earth, Creator and Maker of all things visible and invisible; I, though unworthy, by thy assistance call upon thee, through thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord, that thou wilt give unto me thy holy Spirit, to direct me in thy truth unto all good. Amen.

Because I earnestly desire perfectly to know the Arts of this life and such things as are necessary for us, which are so overwhelmed in darkness, and polluted with infinite humane opinions, that I of my own power can attain to no knowledge in them, unless thou teach it me. Grant me, therefore, one of thy spirits, who may teach me those things which thou would have me to know and learn, to thy praise and glory, and the profit of our neighbor…

Then again, the invocation to call forth angels from the Ars Almadel (language cleaned up to be made more readable for modern readers):

O you great, mighty, and blessed angel of God, NN. … I, the servant of the same your God entreat and humbly beseech you to come and show unto me all the things that I desire of you, so far as in office you can or are capable to perform if God permit to the same.  O you servant of Mercy, NN., I entreat you and humbly beseech you … to inform and rightly instruct me in my ignorant and depraved intellect, judgment, and understanding, and to assist me both in both this and in all other truths that the almighty Adonai, the King of Kings and the Giver of all good gifts, shall in his bountiful and fatherly Mercy be graciously pleased to bestow upon me.  Thus, o you blessed angel NN., be friendly unto me and work for me, so far as God has given you power in office to perform, whereunto I move you in power and presence to appear that I may sing with his holy angels: o mappa la man, hallelujah!  Amen.

I think the message I’m getting across is clear here.  Granted, not all grimoires in the Solomonic or Hermetic tradition use this kind of phrasing, especially when we’re dealing in a more goetic fashion where instead of pleading for God to grant his permission of such-and-such a phenomenon happening, we simply assume that God has given us his authority to make things happen, thus all the perilous threats that Solomonic magicians are known to use.  But how do we actually know or make sure we have that authority, or how do we know whether God will grant us permission?  Consider the very first line of the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 1): “Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel, hath said that the beginning of our Key is to fear God, to adore him, to honor him with contrition of heart, to invoke him in all matters which we wish to undertake, and to operate with very great devotion, for thus God will lead us in the right way.”

Heck, I think the Key of Solomon is an excellent text to discuss here.  Julio Cesar Ody (of famous occult-lampooning fame), if I recall correctly (and I hope he corrects me if I’m wrong!) has remarked before that people treat the Key of Solomon as something to pilfer and take extracts from, rather than treating it like a full initiatory system of magic unto itself.  And when you look at it…yeah.  It really is far more than just a collection of works and talismans to be made with good prayers to be used for consecrating three dozen and more tools and pentacles.  Consider that the recitation of psalms is a huge part of they Key of Solomon; why would that be the case?  Because the Psalms are fundamentally songs that are used to praise God for his power and  beneficence, creation of the world, and miracles and favors done for mankind generally and for the sake of Israel specifically.  They can take the form of laments, thanksgiving, praisegiving, celebration, or pleas for help, and their study and recitation is common in Judaism and Christianity for imparting wisdom and cultivating grace and an elevated spirituality in accordance with the will and command of God.  Yes, the specific psalms used in the rituals of the Key of Solomon do bear relation to the things being consecrated at times, but it’s a constant practice of keeping ourselves spiritually in line with the will of God, which, when used with the actual prayers of the rituals themselves, produce an all-around feat of holy work.  Consider the first prayer from book I, chapter 5:

O Lord God, holy Father, Almighty and Merciful One who has created all things, who know all things and can do all things, from whom nothing is hidden, to whom nothing is impossible!  You who know that we do not perform these ceremonies to tempt your power, but that we may penetrate into the knowledge of hidden things.  We pray to you, by your sacred Mercy, to cause and to permit that we may arrive at this understanding of secret things of whatever nature they may be by your aid, o most holy ADONAI, whose Kingdom and Power shall have no end unto the Ages of the Ages. Amen.

Fundamentally, working divine magic is just prayer, just supplications to the Divine—to God—that certain things happen, not for the simple reason that we want it to happen, but that it be capital-G Good and ordained by God that it should happen.  That’s really all there is to it.  You might want to use so many words as all the excerpts above show, perhaps to inflame yourself with prayer to reach a more powerful or ecstatic state of working, or you might use less, if you can manage to get as much intent and focus out from fewer words.  Either way, this sort of magic is just prayer.

In this light, what happens when we pray for something and it doesn’t happen?  There could be several explanations:

  • What we’re praying for isn’t permissible within the design of God. It could be that what you’re asking for just isn’t possible, realistic, or appropriate for the world that God has established.  God could look at you and say “you’re being unreasonable here, focus on what’s realistic”.  I could pray to grow wings so that I can fly around the skies, but it’s not going to happen according to the laws of human physiology and basic physics in this world, which were designed according to the will and plan of God.  It could happen on other planes where one’s form isn’t so rigidly fixed, but it’s not going to happen here.  Likewise, if you pray for the consecration of a particular talisman for a particular end and it doesn’t end up consecrated, it’s because God sees that what you’re asking for isn’t permissible within the overall scheme of things that God has set up for us, perhaps due to the nature of what you’re asking (e.g. a talisman to shoot fireballs out of our hands) or due to the ramifications it might have (e.g. it could set off a chain reaction that would end up butting up harshly against things God already has in store for the cosmos).
  • What we’re praying for isn’t for us to receive. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, but you’re not the right person to request it or have it.  God could look at you and say “this is a good idea, but it’s not for you to work on, so ask for  something else”.  Not everyone is going to be good at everything; I’m no fighter or doctor, so while I might pray for skill in battle or for success in a lucrative medical career, these things aren’t in my life path.  Trying to force them, so long as it doesn’t go against the will of God for me, could get some success, but it could also just as easily happen that trying to go down those paths would end up with me being stymied, frustrated, and blocked at every turn.  These are signs from the cosmos itself that I’m not on the right path and that I’m barking up the wrong tree.  Instead, I should learn what my path truly entails and focus on that; it might not be easy (it rarely is!), but it will be successful in a way that would go far beyond things that I’m not meant to do.  Thus, if you’re praying for something to happen and it doesn’t happen, it’s could be because that thing isn’t for you to have in your life because it won’t help you and could easily harm you.
  • What we’re praying for is something that we can receive eventually but which we’re not ready to receive now. It could be that what you’re asking for is good, noble, and proper, and it’s proper for you to have those things, but you’re not ready to have it yet.  God could look at you and say “you’ve got the potential, but you aren’t at the right state of development for it right now, so keep working at it”.  In other words, you’re on the right track, but it’s above your station; one day, if you keep on the right track, you’ll get there.  Consider the notion of knowledge and conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel; coming in contact with this divine spirit often involves an ordeal because it’s a direct link to God, and quite simply, not everyone is ready for it.  They all have their own guardian angels, to be sure, but they might not be able to truly comprehend the power and, thus, the accompanying responsibility of the conscious company of that spirit yet.  They need to refine themselves through cultivating virtue and abandoning vice until they reach a certain stage of spiritual development.  Receiving those things we pray for earlier than when it’s appropriate for us could very easily cause us and those around us harm at worst or just distractions and delays at best.

How do we know whether a prayer of ours will be granted?  This is where divination comes into play.  Divination is important for magicians of all kinds, not just because it’s a useful and profitable skill to bring in clients and to spy on people, but because it shows us the way for our own Work.  By divination, we can figure out what’s going on and what the appropriate ways are to handle it; as part of that, we can see not just whether we can do a particular ritual for a particular end, but whether we should do it (or, in the words of the good and most reverend Bishop Lainie Petersen, whether it’s wise for us to do it).  If a reading indicates that we can do something but that we should not do it, then it’s within our power to do the thing but it’s not the best use of our power to do it.  If a reading indicates that we can not do something but that we should do it, then it’s not within our power yet to do the thing and that we need to focus on cultivating that power however necessary in order to do it.  And, if a reading indicates that we can not do something and that we also should not do it, then it’s neither in our power nor our best interests to do the thing.  The answer to can-or-can’t ultimately lies with us, but the answer to should-or-shouldn’t lies with God.

We’ll pick up on this tomorrow when we get more into the notion of what “should” really means here, because this is touching on what role the will of God plays for us in our lives.

Correspondence of Spirits to the Greek Alphabet

Judging from my recent blog post history, you’d be forgiven if you thought that this whole damn blog, and my whole damn practice, was just about geomancy.  Technically, that’d be wrong, but I do, indeed, talk about geomancy a lot.  There’s just a lot to talk about when it comes to that topic.  One of the things I still keep up with, albeit not as much as I’d like or as much as I’d otherwise have time for, is my old Mathēsis practice, that whole system of Greek letter mystiticsm, a kind of neo-Pythagorean quasi-Hermetic system of theurgy and meditation that works closely with the Greek gods.  I’ve made some good innovations when it comes to developing this practice, from coming up with a Tetractys-based “map” of the cosmos, as well as various other meditative and purificatory practices that, even when I’m not working in a mathētic framework, still help out one way or another.  This whole thing came about through my interest and development of grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, which I’ve found to be an excellent system of divination that I also specialize in along with geomancy.  One of my finest innovations, I think, is the Grammatēmerologion, a lunisolar calendar that maps the days, months, and years themselves to different letters of the Greek alphabet for tracking feasts, holidays, rituals, and meditations, whether according to the days purely or overlaps between the letters of the days along with astrological and astronomical phenomena.  I’ve found it incredibly helpful, and I hope that others can, as well.

One of the things I find it especially useful for is arranging the days of the lunar month, from New Moon to New Moon, to the different gods of the Hellenic pantheon and other aspects of ancient Greek and Mediterranean mythos.  However, in a naïve or simple way, the Greek letters don’t really have very many associations to the various deities, divinities, and spirits, but I wanted to see how far I could take things.  For instance, it makes sense to honor Asklēpios along with Apollōn, his father, and by extension the goddesses of health like Panakeia or Hygieia or Iasō.  But what about the more obscure divinities, like Triptolemos or Amphitritē or Themis?  I began to expand the associations I was working with to associate the Greek letters to the gods, and I ended up with…well, quite a large set, especially because I wanted to be pretty darn complete or at least reasonably so.  Yanno, just in case.

That ended up in making a table so big even I wasn’t comfortable with it, so I ended up making four tables of correspondences of the various deities and spirits of a Hellenic, Pythagorean, or generally Greek pagan practice to the letters of the Greek alphabet.  I tried to make the associations as reasonably as I could, and despite the overwhelming number of entities present in Greek myth, I tried to focus on those that tended to receive cult in classical times.  Below are those tables, as reasonably complete as I could make them.  When gaps exist in the tables, that indicates that I couldn’t find anything to fit there, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be; perhaps this table could be expanded upon over time, and I’d look forward to it.  Heck, even for the cells that are populated, I’m sure there can be additions or changes made.

What’s also nice is that these tables can also play well with the use of the Kyranides, a famous proto-grimoire “index” of the various minerals, animals, and plants of the world according to their initial letter by their Greek names; connections between those sorts of associations according to the Greek alphabet and how they might play well with the associations given by other authors and sources would be a great thing for me to (eventually) research.

Before we begin, let me share a few resources that were helpful, instrumental, or otherwise important in helping me devise these tables of divine correspondences to the Greek alphabet:

Table I: The Table of the Whole.  This table gives the high-level associations of the letters of the Greek alphabet, both the 24 letters in use from ancient times to modern times as well as the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi, to their various associations: those of the various forces of the cosmos of the elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac based on Cornelius Agrippa’s associations (book I, chapter 74); the singlemost important deity for that letter of the alphabet based on its corresponding force; a sacred word of power taken from PGM CI.1-53, a holy angel for each letter taken from the Coptic magical manuscript Berlin 11346, and a general part of the body commonly associated with the letters of the Greek alphabet apart from other zodiacal associations.  Note that the three obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi lack most associations, and are instead given to three classes of spirits of the dead: Digamma has Ancestors of Kin (one’s own blood- and name-related family), Qoppa has Ancestors of Work (ancestors, founders, and forebears of one’s mundane and spiritual professions and lineages), and Sampi has Ancestors of the Great (culture heroes, legendary founders of cities and civilizations, as well as forgotten and wandering dead).  Other oddities, such as the presence of Eōsphoros and Hesperos for Ēta or Zeus Euēnemos for Phi are discussed below in tables for that specific class of letters.

Letter Force Deity Word Angel Body
Α
Alpha
Moon Selēnē ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ
Akrammakhamarei
ΑΧΑΗΛ
Akhaēl
Head
Β

Bēta

Aries Athēna ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ
Būlomentoreb
ΒΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Banūēl
Neck
Γ
Gamma
Taurus Aphroditē ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ
Geniomūthig
ΓΑΝΟΥΗΛ
Ganūēl
Arms
Δ
Delta
Gemini Apollōn ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ
Dēmogenēd
ΔΕΔΑΗΛ
Dedaēl
Breast
Ε
Epsilon
Mercury Stilbōn ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ
Enkuklie
ΕΠΤΙΗΛ
Eptiēl
Chest
Ϝ
Digamma
Ancestors
of Kin
Ζ
Zēta
Cancer Hermēs ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ
Zēnobiōthiz
ΖΑΡΤΙΗΛ
Zartiēl
Back
Η
Ēta
Venus Eōsphoros and
Hesperos
ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ
Ēskōthōrē
ΗΘΑΗΛ
Ēthaēl
Belly
Θ
Thēta
Earth Hēra Geēros ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ
Thōthūthōth
ΘΑΘΙΗΛ
Thathiēl
Thighs
Ι
Iōta
Sun Hēlios ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ
Iaeouōi
ΙΩΧΑΗΛ
Iōkhaēl
Knees
Κ
Kappa
Leo Zeus ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ
Korkoūnoōk
ΚΑΡΔΙΗΛ
Kardiēl
Legs
Λ
Lambda
Virgo Dēmētēr ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ
Lūloenēl
ΛΑΒΤΙΗΛ
Labtiēl
Ankles
Μ
Mu
Libra Hēphaistos ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ
Morothoēpnam
ΜΗΡΑΗΛ
Mēraēl
Feet
Ν

Nu

Scorpio Arēs ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ
Nerksiarksin
ΝΗΡΑΗΛ
Nēraēl
Feet
Ξ

Ksi

Water Persephonē ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ
Ksonophoēnaks
ΞΙΦΙΗΛ
Ksiphiēl
Ankles
Ο
Omikron
Mars Pyroeis ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ
Orneophao
ΟΥΠΙΗΛ
Oupiēl
Legs
Π
Pi
Sagittarius Artemis ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ
Pyrobaryp
ΠΙΡΑΗΛ
Piraēl
Knees
Ϙ
Qoppa
Ancestors of
Work
Ρ
Rhō
Capricorn Hestia ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ
Rerūtoēr
ΡΑΗΛ
Raēl
Thighs
Σ
Sigma
Aquarius Hēra ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ
Sesenmenūres
ΣΕΡΩΑΗΛ
Serōaēl
Belly
Τ
Tau
Pisces Poseidōn ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ
Tauropolit
ΤΑΥΡΙΗΛ
Tauriēl
Back
Υ
Upsilon
Jupiter Phaethōn ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ
Upephenūru
ΥΜΝΟΥΗΛ
Hymnūēl
Chest
Φ
Phi
Air Zeus
Euēnemos
ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ
Phimemameph
ΦΙΛΟΠΑΗΛ
Philopaēl
Breast
Χ
Khi
Fire Hadēs ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ
Khenneopheokh
ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥΗΛ
Khristūel
Arms
Ψ
Psi
Spirit Dionysos ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ
Psykhompolaps
ΨΙΛΑΦΑΗΛ
Psilaphaēl
Neck
Ω
Ōmega
Saturn Phainōn ΩΡΙΩΝ
Ōriōn
ΩΛΙΘΙΗΛ
Ōlithiēl
Head
ϡ
Sampi
Ancestors of
the Great

Table II: the Table of the Seven Vowels.  This table expands on the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, which are given most strongly to the seven traditional planets.  Each planet has its own specific astral titan associated with it, such as Selēnē for the Moon or Hēlios for the Sun, but note that Venus has two astral titans for it, Eōsphoros and Hesperos, because historically this planet was reckoned as two separate entities, Eōsphoros as the Morning Star when Venus rose before the Sun and visible in the dawn hours before sunrise, and Hesperos as the Western Star when Venus set after the Sun and visible in the dusk hours after sunset.  Based on the directions associated with these letters as given in the Heptagram Rite of PGM XIII.734—1077, each of these planets may also be given to the four Elder Titans along with their mother Gaia and their father Ouranos.  Other deities may also be assigned to the planets, such as Artemis for the Moon, along with clusters of lesser deities and other spirits associated with those deities.

Letter Planet Star Titan Deities Cluster
Α Moon Selēnē Hyperiōn Hekatē,
Artemis
Mēnai,
Hōrai
Ε Mercury Stilbōn Koios Hermēs Dioskouroi
Η Venus Eōsphoros,
Hesperos
Iapetos Aphroditē Hesperides
Ι Sun Hēlios Kriōs Apollōn, Dionysos,
Eōs, Theia
Hēliades
Ο Mars Pyroeis Gaia Arēs, Hēphaistos,
Hēraklēs
Υ Jupiter Phaethōn Kronos Zeus,
Ouranos
Ω Saturn Phainōn Ouranos Kronos, Adrasteia,
Khronos
Erinyes,
Moirai

Table III: the Table of the Five Complex Consonants. This table expands on the five complex or double consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the four elements plus the quintessence, the meta-element of Spirit.  Each of these is presided over by one of five gods, with the four classical elements associated with Zeus, Hēra, Hadēs, and Persephonē according to the Greek philosopher Empedocles.  To distinguish this specific Zeus and Hēra from their other forms, the titles “Zeus Euēnomos” (Zeus of the Good Winds) and “Hēra Geēros” (Hera of the Earth) are given specifically to them.  Along with these major divinities, other minor divinities who often received cult and are associated with these elements are given, along with important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits.

Letter Element Major
Deity
Minor
Deities
Cluster Spirits
Θ Earth Hēra Geēros Gaia, Rhea, Kybelē,
Mēter Theōn
Kourētes,
Korybantes
Karpoi,
Panes
Ξ Water Persephonē Aphroditē, Ōkeanos,
Tēthys, Hekatē
Seirenēs Naiades,
Potamoi
Φ Air Zeus Euēnemos Aiolos,
Hēra
Anemoi,
Harpyiai
Aurai,
Nephelai
Χ Fire Hadēs Hēphaistos, Hestia,
Hekatē
Erinyes,
Nekrotagoi
Lampades
Ψ Spirit Dionysos Promētheus, Iakkhos,
Priapos
Mainades,
Satyroi

Table IV: the Table of the Twelve Simple Consonants.  This table expands on the twelve simple or single consonants of the Greek alphabet, which are given to the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Each of these zodiac signs are assigned to one of the twelve Olympian gods according to the Orphic Scale of Twelve as given by Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 14) as their prime divinity, along with lesser or alternate divinities who are closely associated with the functions, roles, and ideals of those gods.  Along with these, other sacred figures are given according to the specific body of the zodiac sign, such as the divine twins Dioskouroi to the sign of the twins of Gemini, as well as important clusters of (often-named individual) spirits and lesser gods as well as general classes of various spirits that are also associated with the major divinities of these letters.

Letter Zodiac
Sign
Maior
Deity
Minor
Deities
Zodiac
Deity
Cluster Spirits
Β Aries Athēna Nikē, Mētis, Pronoia,
Hēphaistos, Erikhthonios
Γ Taurus Aphroditē Erōs, Adonis, Harmonia,
Peithō, Parēgoros
Kharites,
Erōtes
Naiades
Δ Gemini Apollōn Aristaios, Lētō,
Hymenaios, Asklēpios,
Hygeia, Panakeia, Iasō
Dioskouroi Mousai
Ζ Cancer Hermēs Pan, Morpheus,
Maia, Hērakles
Pleiades Panes, Oneiroi,
Oreiades
Κ Leo Zeus Tykhē, Nemesis, Themis,
Ganymēdēs, Hēraklēs,
Bia, Nikē, Kratos, Zēlos
Moirai,
Hōrai
Λ Virgo Dēmētēr Persephonē, Triptolemos,
Hekatē, Ploutos, Iakkhos
Asteria Hōrai
Μ Libra Hēphaistos Athēna, Kēladiōn Dikē Kyklōpes,
Kabeiroi,
Palikoi
Kēlēdones,
Kourai
Ν Scorpio Arēs Phobos, Deimos,
Eris, Enyō
Graiai,
Gorgones
Π Sagittarius Artemis Lētō, Hekatē Kheirōn Nymphai,
Dryades
Ρ Capricorn Hestia Pan
Σ Aquarius Hēra Hēbē, Eileithyia, Iris Ganymēdēs Hesperides,
Kharites
Τ Pisces Poseidōn Prōteus, Amphitritē,
Tritōn, Nēreus,
Palaimon, Leukotheua
Tritones,
Nēreides

One of the fascinating things I find about this Table IV is that there’s a subtle logic in how the major divinities are assigned to the signs of the Zodiac based on the opposing sign.  Consider that Pan is the god most commonly associated with the actual form of the sign Capricorn, but Pan is also often associated with Hermēs in mythos, sometimes even being Hermēs’ own son; there’s an interesting dichotomy here between these two signs, with Hestia essentially being the goddess of what happens inside the home while Hermēs is the god of what happens outside the home.  Likewise, note how the famous centaur Kheiron (or Chiron in modern spelling) is the god of the form of the sign Sagittarius, the opposite sign of Gemini, which itself is associated with Apollōn, his adoptive father and also the father of Asklēpios, whom Kheiron later teaches as his pupil.  Ganymēdēs, too, was the famous cup-bearer taken up by Zeus and placed into the sky as the sign Aquarius, yet this sign itself is given to Hēra, who disapproved of Ganymēdēs, while the sign opposite of both Hēra and Ganymēdēs is none other than Leo, given to Zeus himself.  It’s kinda fascinating to see the logic and polarities going on with how the gods are given to the signs and how they play off each other in a coherent whole of reinforcing-oppositions.

And there you have it!  My system of correspondences I use to categorize and organize the various gods, demigods, daimones, and spirits of the classical and mythic Hellenic world according to the letters of the Greek alphabets.  I’ve personally gotten good mileage out of it, and I hope others can, too, inasmuch as a letter-based system of mysticism might be helpful, but also to just pick out associations and links between the different entities of Hellenic mythos.

Mathētic Order of Offerings to the Theoi

One of the longest spiritual practices I’ve maintained more-or-less continually, or at least kept around in one form or another, is that to the Greek gods.  I have a shrine to a few of them in my temple, and though the form and shape of it has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve kept venerating and offering to them since I got started, pretty much.  From my apartment after college where I had Hermēs in one corner of my bedroom and Asklepios against the wall, and after with Dionysos joining Asklepios; then moving into a house with my boyfriend and having an entire room for my spiritual stuff, with an elaborate set of glass shelves for the theoi, with separate spaces for Zeus and Aphroditē and Apollo and Hephaistos and even Hadēs at one point; now into the house I moved in with my now-husband and having another room set up with different qualities and things got downsized a bit.  Hestia, of course, has been around in every house in one form or another, and Dionysos has gone from having an entire shrine dedicated and decorated to him to being…reduced in size but not in presence to a special contraption I set up just for him.  All the same, throughout all these changes, I’ve still kept up my worship of the theoi.

My practices have changed somewhat between moves from house to house and temple to temple; for instance, in the last place where I lived, my temple room was across from the hallway bathroom and had a window outside, so it was trivial to dump offerings out or get water anytime I needed.  Now, however, my temple is in a basement room with no easy access to either external ventilation or a sink or drain of any sort.  This makes disposing of old offerings and libations a little different, and given the lack of ventilation and general light, it’s easy for libations set out to evaporate really quickly or get mold faster than I would’ve thought otherwise.  That makes, for instance, the use of many small libation vessels for each theos I have enshrined a pain, because they all have to be hauled up the stairs to the kitchen to be emptied and washed then all hauled back downstairs, and so forth.  Besides that, I used to open the window during ritual as a symbolic act as a means to “let the god in” and for incense offerings to reach the heavens, but I can’t do that at this point, so I have to adjust my processes for that.

As I’m getting back to my daily practice (and struggling to find out how to make things more efficient and effective while still making things count), I’ve also been digging through my notes to see what insights I had before, what my proposed methodologies or practices were, and how I managed to get by before and how I did things.  I suppose that’s one benefit of blogging so much, because I found two such posts on my method of offering to the theoi, specifically within the context of Mathēsis, one post on general daily mathētic practices, the other on a specifically mathētic procedure to make offerings to the gods.  The former is good for me to review anyway, because it’s something I need to get back on as well, either by reworking it to be less-than-daily or by incorporating it into my general daily practices, and because it recommends a regular, daily offering or invocation of the god of the day according to my Grammatēmerologion calendar.  The latter is actually useful, because it documents one such way that an invocation and offering to a god might be done, whether associated with a particular day or otherwise, and whether it’s a grand offering or just a small quick invocation.

However, as I look back on this procedure, there are things that I really would feel more comfortable changing than keeping the same.  (That’s one good benefit of writing my own blog; I get to make the claim that anything I write can be improved on later!)  Between my own experiences and interactions with the theoi on their own terms and by bringing in other ideas that I’m comfortable with applying across the board, there are some things I’m getting into the habit of that I wouldn’t’ve considered before.  For instance, while in the past I would often (but not always) make a perfunctory and preliminary offering to Hestia while also saying that it’s not strictly necessary, nowadays I’m definitely on the side of always making an offering to her to start with before any others, though I’m not entirely convinced that every offering must also conclude with another one to her, as well.  Rather, I’m now in the habit of honoring Zeus in every offering, regardless whether he’s the focus of my prayers or not, due to his role as divine cosmic king who rules over the three realms; at first I had his name praised and made a perfunctory offering to him before any other god (besides Hestia), but after some conversation, I make him last.  Or second-to-last, if Hestia gets a final offering as well.

So, let me draw out my process and my thinking.  It is true that many of the theoi operate independently in some respects, but it is also true that they are all part of the same pantheon and part of the same cosmic schema.  Just as you can’t remove a single number from the Decad and have it still remain the Decad, you can’t really remove a single theos from the theoi and have it remain the pantheon.  However, not every individual theos needs to be worshipped at all times, but a few key ones that allow for worship to happen at all makes more sense.  For that, the general order of invocation and offering that I use nowadays goes like this:

  1. Perfunctory initial offering to Hestia.  Hestia should always get the first offering, because she’s the goddess of the hearth and home itself.  Without her, we would have nowhere to live, build, or establish shrines; it is only by her support that we can make such offerings in our own homes, dwellings, and temples.  If one is living in the wild and makes offerings in a pristine place untouched by civilization with offerings that are not the products of agriculture or animal husbandry, then I would make an argument that an offering to Hestia is not needed, but it would still be appreciated as she is still rightly the eldest of the first generation of the Olympian Theoi.
  2. Perfunctory offering of wine to Dionysos.  This step is sometimes skipped depending on what I’m offering.  If I’m offering wine in this ceremony, and I’m either going to run out of an existing bottle or if I’m opening a new bottle of wine for any reason, I open it up here and pour a small amount for Dionysos, giving him thanks for his own sacrifices and allowing us to partake in his sacrifice of flesh and the grape which allows us to perform our own sacrifices.  In many ways, Dionysos is the god of wine as well as the god in wine; by opening a new bottle and giving him the first pour, we recognize his presence and dedicate our sacrifices to his own.
  3. Perfunctory offering to Hermes.  Hermēs is important to always recognize, and by calling on him, we ensure that our prayers can be heard by any and all the gods.  Hermēs is the messenger of the gods, to be sure, but he’s also the messenger between gods and mankind; it’s by him that we come to know the will and desires of the gods, but it’s also by him that they come to know our prayers and supplications.  Hermēs is, indeed, the god of prayer and ritual in general, just as Hestia can be said to be the goddess of shrines in general and Dionysos the god of sacrificing wine in general.  Plus, this helps with the notion of “bringing the god in” for when I call upon the presence of a particular deity; before, I’d open the window as a formal “opening of the gate”, but since I don’t have a window anymore, this seems to suffice as well.  It’d still be great to have a window or some other aperture, but I simply don’t have that option available to me.
  4. Main offering.  This is where the actual invocation to the god begins.  All their prayers and invocations and offerings and whatnot take place after all the initial offerings are made.
  5. Perfunctory concluding offering to Zeus.  At the end of the ceremony, once the other offerings are made, Zeus should also always be honored, as the divine ruler of the cosmos, the father of gods and men, and the supreme king of all.  In honoring Zeus who rules over the three domains of sky, sea, and land, we also honor all those who live within them, both mortal and immortal.  This suffices not only to render tribute to the god of gods, but also to recognize the divinity of all the other gods who fall under Zeus’ domain.
  6. Other perfunctory concluding offerings.  As Hestia is the first-born of Rhea and Kronos, she is also their last-born; she was born first from Rhea’s womb, and torn out last from Kronos’ belly.  The Homeric Hymn to Hestia (#24) says that “without you mortals hold no banquet, where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last”.  However, I don’t think that this sort of concluding offering is strictly needed after that of Zeus, but it can certainly be done; if it were, I think it would also be appropriate to honor both Hermēs and Hestia both for both their roles as divinities of prayer-speaking as well as that of shrine-keeping.  In other words, after the main offering and offering to Zeus, we work backwards: if we start with Hestia and Hermēs, we end with Hermēs and Hestia.  It’s something I’m still working out, admittedly.

This idea of a ritual process, going through multiple divinities in order to sacrifice to one, may seem needlessly complicated; I know I thought that at one point, and before, I’d just go to my Apollo shrine and do my thing and be done with it.  That said, I think of my other traditions where there is absolutely an order to worship, where certain divinities must be honored before others; this idea works for the Greek gods, too.  Plus, there are other examples of having such an order; consider the Hellenist reconstruction group Elaion and their ritual templates shared by Elani Temperance over at Baring the Aegis, where every ritual begins with a libation to Hestia, to Gaia, and to Themis before proceeding with the main event, and all of which conclude with a final offering to Hestia.  This also makes sense: just as we honor Hestia for being the goddess of hearth and home and shrine, so too do we honor the Earth for supporting all that happens and to divine Law and Order for that which is proper that all might continue to be proper.  Sure, it might seem easier to just make offerings to one god (and a lot less use of wine and oil and incense), but the more I think about it and the more I practice it, the more sense it makes to really go in for the process and proper sequencing of things in a formal offering.

Of course, all that above is just the general template, and templates change in certain circumstances.  For instance, if I were to just make an offering to Hestia for Hestia’s own sake, I wouldn’t really bother with Hermēs or the other gods, because Hestia is already right there present in my home, so Hestia is one of the very few (perhaps the only) divinity I could just sacrifice directly to and not get the rest of the gang involved and not feel bad about it.  In general, however, there’s always going to be a process, and there are certain rules to how that process might change in certain examples.  Let’s consider a few examples, with the main event in bold text and anything unexpected in italics:

  1. Hestia
    1. Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hestia, Zeus
    2. Because Hestia is always first no matter what, she still comes first.  However, as she’s immediately present and we’re already making an offering to her, we don’t need the messenger/interpreter presence of Hermēs.  If a new bottle of wine is to be opened, a perfunctory offering to Dionysos should come first before Hestia, though this is really more a respect gesture than anything else.  Likewise, Zeus can still be honored afterwards, but beyond Hestia and honoring the hearth itself that even the gods honor, there’s not too much that needs to be done.
  2. Dionysos
    1. Hestia, Hermēs, Dionysos, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Normally, we’d have a perfunctory offering to Dionysos before Hermēs if we’re opening a new bottle of wine.  However, if I’m offering to Dionysos himself, I’d skip that stage and celebrate him entirely in his own part of the ceremony.  Instead of being given just a token, perfunctory offering, he gets his own full thing going on.  After Dionysos is honored, then we’d give a perfunctory offering to Zeus, and if desired, any other concluding offerings to e.g. Hermēs and Hestia.
  3. Hermēs
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Pretty straightforward here; Hermēs takes his usual place after Dionysos (if needed) and before Zeus, but as there are no other gods to be worshiped, Hermēs himself becomes the focus.  Instead of giving Hermēs a perfunctory offering, he gets a full offering here.
  4. Zeus
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, libation to all the gods, other conclusions
    2. Like with Hermēs, instead of just getting a perfunctory offering, Zeus himself is celebrated in full.
    3. However, remember that Zeus is normally celebrated in every ceremony to remind ourselves of his divine and cosmic importance, and by him, we can honor all the other gods and goddesses of the cosmos.  However, if we’re worshiping and offering to Zeus as Zeus alone, then we’d need something to step in to formally recognize all the other entities of the cosmos, hence a separate step for the “libation to all the gods” after Zeus.  This would be perfunctory, as the offering to Zeus any other time would be.
  5. Apollo
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is the basic template, using Apollo as the main offering.  Nothing unexpected here.
  6. Asklepios
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Asklepios, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is essentially the basic template, with Asklepios as the main offering, but note how we’re also honoring Apollo immediately before him.  This is because, as I reckon it, Asklepios is not sufficiently independent or major of a god in his own right.  Sure, he can be offered to independently and on his own, but I find it more proper to recognize his father Apollo first.  In other words, to use a royal metaphor, Asklepios is a noble in the royal court ruled by Apollo; as Apollo is the ruler of that court, he gets first honors, and then any
    3. A similar case would go for any other minor god that is clearly part of another god’s “court”, such as Hēbē under Hēra, Eros under Aphroditē, Tykhē under Zeus, Nikē under Athena, and so forth.   Recognize the primary god of that court first with a perfunctory offering, then the minor god as the main offering.

Although the Greeks may not have conceived of their gods as belonging to “courts” per se, I think it’s still a useful classification of the minor gods and goddesses around central rulers who were more well-known.  For instance, I would consider all the thalassic deities Triton, Nereus, and the Nereides and Naiadēs including Thetis to all belong to the court of Poseidon, who either is the father, husband, brother, or conquering usurper of the other gods.  In sacrifice and myth, this may not really be true, but it’s a really useful way to organize “groups” of the theoi for the purposes of my Grammatēmerologion calendar, which assigns the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month, and by the letters, to individual signs of the Zodiac or other powers, which are associated the major gods of the Hellenic pantheon.  For instance, in the Grammatēmerologion, the twenty-third day of the lunar month is given to the letter Tau.  Tau is given to the zodiacal sign of Pisces, which is associated with the theos Poseidon; thus, it makes sense to cluster the worship of all the oceanic deities onto the day of Tau, just as all the deities associated with Hēra like Hēbē and Eileithyia are given to Hēra’s day of Sigma and so forth.  If nothing else, honoring the “court ruler” of a minor god also counts as honoring the primary god of the same day that minor god would be worshiped on, which fulfills part of my daily mathētic practices.

So, when I say “perfunctory offering”, what exactly do I mean?  Basically, a token offering, a nod, something I give just enough to recognize the divinity I’m making such an offering to.  It’s really little more than a very quick pour of wine or clean water, no more than an ounce or a few drops, accompanied by a few words of honor and veneration, calling upon their aid.  If I feel like it, I’ll recite the entire Orphic Hymn or one of the shorter Homeric Hymns to them, but in general, what I’ll say is something short, like:

Hestia, as you were first born of Rhea and last born of Kronos, so too do you receive the first offering and the last!  Queen goddess of the hearth, without you we could not live nor could we offer to the gods.  Right and proper it is to honor you first in all such rites.

Dionysos, roaring lord of reborn life, yours is the blood of the vine which we cut and rend that we might live and live well.  As you spilled your blood that we might partake in it, I give you the first offering of this bottle that you might always be honored in every pour and spill.

Hermēs, you are the messenger of gods and men, to whom we all turn in all our rites.  Hear my prayers, take these sacrifices, and carry them aloft to divine ears and immortal hands!  May all the righteous ways of worship be opened for me and for the gods!

With that, I’ll pour out a bit of wine and olive oil out—not a lot, because it’s better to give a little so that we always have something to give, and if we’re going through the process, then we’ve already got a lot to give.  From what I’ve been doing, it seems that a standard set of offerings will take around half a normal 750ml bottle of wine and maybe an ounce or two of olive oil.  While before I was pouring straight from the wine bottle into individual vessels for each individual divinity, which was fine when I could more easily wash them or empty them without having to schlep them up and down stairs, I’m now in the habit of using a large white bowl I set before my entire Greek shrine, and pouring in libations into that from a smaller white bowl.  That way, I can partake of the libation and give a toast to each of the gods as I offer, and I replicate the old practice of pouring a libation out on the ground itself.  The bowl, of course, keeps it all contained instead of splashing everywhere, and is easier to carry up instead of four or six silver or glass chalices full of wine and oil.

Of course, all of the above—the process, the order, the perfunctory offerings versus the main offerings, the courts, etc.—only really count if I’m making an actual offering to the theoi.  On days when I don’t, either because I don’t want to or don’t need to, there’s no need to go through all of that.  Instead, a simple invocation will suffice.  For instance, say that it’s the day of Gamma; Gamma is associated with Taurus, and thus with Aphroditē.  If I’m going to make a full offering to Aphroditē that day, then yes, I’ll go through the process of Hestia, Dionysos, Hermēs, Aphroditē, Zeus, &c.  However, if I’m not, whether because I’m too tired or don’t plan on doing an offering to Aphroditē that day, then I’d just call on her and give her a simple prayer; rather than giving her a main offering in the midst of a bunch of perfunctory offerings, I’d just give her a perfunctory (or bigger) invocation with no other process involved.  In other words, if all I’m doing is verbally honoring and recognizing the god of the day, then there’s no sacrifice or offering, so the whole process of offering doesn’t apply.  Easy, indeed, and if it’s all I need to get by for a daily practice, then all the better.

I’m sure, given enough time, this proposed method will continue to change.  What is becoming clear to me is that it’s easier for me to bundle my already-existing Hellenic/Greek practices into my overall Mathēsis work, which is fine by me; the less I have to arrange as separate “practices”, especially when one directly comes from the other and is going to subsume it anyway, the better.  By refocusing my Hellenic work into my Mathēsis work, I can better focus both together and synthesize them in a way that reduces stress and conflict while still being able to expand and expound on both.  Plus, if this Mathēsis stuff is actually going to head in the direction I want it, having processes for this sort of thing are definitely a needed and beneficial organizing principle.

Search Term Shoot Back, September 2014

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of September 2014.

Before I start with the actual search terms, I’d like to point out that September is generally the month of Virgo.  And yes, if you’ve kept up with the other Search Term Shoot Back posts, then you can probably guess that I’ve gotten a large number of queries involving the Greek god Hermes, the Zodiac sign Virgo, men, and huge dicks.  These search terms are a thing (though I can’t fathom why).  I can’t really speak to whether Virgo men generally have huge dicks; I have my reasonable sample size of them (that I’ve sampled in more than one way, ohhh my), of course, and I can’t draw any good conclusions one way or the other.  Hermes is a god, and generally speaking everything involving the gods is big, so, yeah.  Anyway, onto the more legitimate queries!

“how the moon affect the invocation of angels?” — In my experience, not much, but it depends on the angel you’re calling and for what purpose.  The only times astrological phenomena have negatively interfered with my conjurations of the angels is during periods of Mercury retrograde, when the voices of the angels tends to be more distant or unclear or I might get the wrong spirit in the crystal, but it’s a problem that’s easily worked around.  I’ve also noticed that the angels of the zodiac tend to like being conjured when their sign is rising or culminating, but that’s another issue.  Rather, the Moon affects the purpose of conjuration.  Generally, you want the waxing Moon to bring things into manifestation or achieve worldly ends (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s heavenly light to the Earth), and you want the waning Moon to take things away from the Earth or achieve spiritual initiations (since the Moon is reflecting more of the Sun’s light away into the heavens).  The Full Moon is good for opening up clear communication and all matters generally, while the Dark Moon is good for obscurity, binding, and hidden matters generally.  I haven’t noticed Void of Course Moon affecting conjurations themselves, but again, consider it as part of a larger project rather than in conjuration alone.

“crucible omnimancers” — The Omnimancers are good people who do good work, and I’m hanging out with them this coming weekend at Crucible Convention 2014 in Princeton, NJ.  More than that, I’m speaking there this year on my mathesis research!  You should totally come by if you’re anywhere in the mid-Atlantic US region during this weekend of October 4.  Not only will you get to meet me and the Omnimancers, but you’ll also get to meet a slew of other awesome people and magicians!

“the great book of saint cyprian pdf download” — You can do so for $10 off my Etsy!

“roman alphabet with english translation” — Technically, English already uses the Roman alphabet.  We use the same letters, generally speaking, as the Romans did for Latin, and have for at least 2500 years or so.  We’ve developed a few extra letters since then (J which is a variant of I, and U and W which are variants of V), and other languages written with the Roman script have developed others (like Nordic and Germanic languages, which use Æsh, Þorn, Eð, Ƿynn, among others).  Still, for a comparison between how the Romans used the alphabet and how we English-speakers use it, compare their corresponding pages on Omniglot.

“greek god sigils” — The Greeks didn’t use sigils for their gods; they may have used special characters to represent the language of the gods or the barbarous words of magic, but they didn’t have seals or sigils like how we developed them for the angels.  The more traditional way is to use isopsephy, or Greek gematria, to reduce their name to a number and use that as an esoteric symbol for them, or you might use my Greek Sigil Wheel to make a sigil for them much as how the Golden Dawn uses their Rose Cross wheel for Hebrew sigils.

“venus conjuration to bind someone to love you in angel magic” — So, while I understand what you’re trying to say, the way this is phrased irks me.  Technically, Venus is not an angel, so you can’t directly use Venus in angelic magic.  Venus is either a Roman goddess or an astrological planet, magically speaking.  Depending on your mythology and theology, you might consider the goddess Venus as an angel or deity subservient to the One, but this is somewhat rude and a little brusque when approaching her.  Instead, you’d want to contact the angel presiding over the sphere of Venus, whose name is Haniel (in Cornelius Agrippa) or Anael (in Pietro d’Abano’s Heptameron).  That’d be the spirit you’d be conjuring.  Second, binding someone to you in love magic does work, but logistically speaking, if you have to compel someone to stay with you, it’s probably not that great.  It’s like how the saying goes, “love is like a fart; if you have to force it, it’s probably shit”.  Rather, while Haniel (or Saint Cyprian, for that matter, since he’s known for love spells) can do love-bindings, you’d be better off smoothing things out so they’d willingly want to stay without the need for compulsion or impelling them, or using Venereal energies to put you in the right place where you’d find the truly right person for yourself.  But hey, if you know what you want, by all means, reach for it however you want.

“joseph lisiewski vs poke runyon” — I’d pay to see this cagematch.  If I recall correctly, Poke Runyon was in the Army, so if his radio show and magical lifestyle haven’t kept him too sedentary, I’d put my gold lamen on him (even if he can be delightfully crotchety).

“the greek way to bless your house from spirits” — So, an ancient Greek household would have three principle gods: Hestia (Lady of the Hearth), Zeus Ktesios (Zeus of the Property), and Hermes (protector from thieves).   What you’d do is have a small herm, a square pillar with a phallus on the shaft (heh) and a bust of the god on top and place it at the gate or entry to the property; this represents Hermes, and he’d watch out for thieves and robbers and keep them away; after all, he rules and leads them, so he can also lead them away from your house.  You’d have Hestia’s shrine set up at and as the hearth of the home, and a bit of every meal as well as a bit of every sacrifice made to any other god was always reserved for her both at the beginning and the last of the worship.  Zeus Ktesios watched over the property in general and its prosperity, but specifically over the pantry, and he’d have a special ktesios jar made as an offering to him as a matter of prosperity.  I really should get around to making a herm for my house and driveway one of these days, and I’ve already written about Hestia earlier this month; I haven’t gotten around to experimenting with Zeus Ktesios yet or ktesios jars, but I may in the future.  Beyond that, it helps to do a monthly cleansing ritual on the Noumenia or on the date of the new moon itself by sprinkling holy water around the house, lighting incense, and making offerings to one’s ancestors and household spirits besides Hermes, Hestia, and Zeus.  I keep thinking that there’s a ritual to get rid of unclean spirits by throwing beans and the like from the entry of the house outside into the street, but I may be conflating traditions here.  Generally speaking, if you have a good relationship with Hestia, Hermes, and Zeus, your house is basically going to be protected and blessed.

“isidore seville chaplet” — Chaplets, or a short prayer rule often done with a set of prayer beads, are an excellent devotion that the Catholic Christian tradition uses, and I’ve written up chaplets for the archangels Jehudiel, Barachiel, and Sealtiel as well as for Saint Cyprian of Antioch before.  However, not all saints and angels have their own chaplets, and there’s no set rule on how to pray them or make them; they’re basically personal devotions.  The most common form of chaplet is the “niner” chaplet, which consists of a medallion of the saint, three sets of three beads, and sometimes a crucifix; you pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Glory Be, and the Hail Mary on the three beads of each set in the honor of and seeking the intercession of whoever is on the medallion.  You can use this as a chaplet for Saint Isidore of Seville who, as far as I know, doesn’t have a specific chaplet form for himself.  I may get around to writing one up one of these days, however, since he’s the patron saint of the Internet and is pretty important in most of our modern lives.

“how big is the magical circle to be draw by trithemius” — Interestingly enough, Trithemius (really, Francis Barrett, since this ritual historically wasn’t likely to have been written by the pre-Agrippan Christian abbot) doesn’t specify how big the magic circle should be.  He specifies that the Liber Spirituum (Book of Spirits) must be about seven inches long, and that the crystal ball should be about an inch and a half in diameter, but those are the only concrete sizes he offers.  Presumably, the magic circle should be large enough to comfortably fit two people, one to conjure and one to scry, though I’ve only needed space enough for the altar and myself.  Thus, a circle about 6′ in diameter should be made at minimum if you’re including the altar in your circle, like I do under Fr. Rufus Opus’ instruction; alternatively, if you’re like Fr. Ashen, you might want the altar outside of the circle, in which case you don’t need as big a circle.  The most well-known size of circle is that from the Lemegeton Goetia, which specifies a circle 18′ in diameter, which is huge.  The rule of thumb I’d go by is, so long as you have enough space to expand your arms without breaking the circle and as long as you have enough space to hold all the gear you need, you have a big enough circle.

“big grids penis image” — …I don’t even.  Like, what, are you looking for low-resolution pictures of penis? Do you have a video compression fetish?

“saint cyprian nine days novena” — Yes, there are novenas for this good saint (as I’m sure many of us are now aware, now that the season of Saint Cyprian is done), and you can find a collection of them in my Vademecum Cypriani ebook, which you can buy off Etsy for US$9.00.  Just a note, however: traditional practice says that, when you’re timing a novena to a saint’s feast day, you normally coincide the final day of the novena with the feast day itself.  The process is a little different for Saint Cyprian, since people culturally do his novenas on the nine days before and not including his feast day (the Days of the Cyprians, the nine days between the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage and the Feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch).  Generally, time the final day to the feast day itself.  However, both of these rules are superseded by the more important rule of novena timing: whenever you need to do one.

“st cipriani evil saint magic” — I detest the notion that the saints can do “evil magic”.  They’re saints; by definition, they’re holy, and what’s holy is not evil.  That said, depending on how you ask, they might be more lenient to granting certain favors.  I mean, some of the saints are morally flexible.  Some are so morally flexible as to be part of a philosophical Cirque du Soleil.  After all, when you have the power of God to intercede with, theodicy becomes less a problem to puzzle out and more a resource to exploit for profit/prophet.

“hours and days for conjuring oriens” — Oriens is commonly known as a demonic, daemonic, or hellish king of spirits in the East (his name means “East” in Latin), and Cornelius Agrippa mentions him in his Scale of Four as a prince of spirits associated with Fire under the archangelic king Michael (book II, chapter 7).  Since Oriens is a sublunar spirit, planetary days and hours don’t need to be used for him, though since he’s associated with Michael who also happens to be the angel of the Sun, you might consider days and hours of the Sun for him.  Beyond that, though, I don’t think there are any special times associated with this spirit beyond what you might need for other works involving him (cf. the moon/invocation query above).

“enochian angels seals, digital-ambler.com” — You won’t find any of those on this site, I’m afraid.  Partially it’s because I have my hands full with so much other stuff, angelic and otherwise, but mostly it’s because Enochiana freaks me the fuck out.  I honestly can’t say why; it’s not the stories that people have told about furniture getting upended by Enochian angels (that’d actually be kinda awesome), or how people go crazy (they probably already were), or whatever.  Something about Enochiana just wigs me out and makes me uncomfortable, and I’m not sure why that is, nor do I particularly care to explore the reasons.

“can i use solomon seal drawing to summon spirits” — Absolutely not.  The Seal of Solomon is used to bind, constrain, and constrict spirits, like keeping them trapped in a prison.  You do not use it to summon them.

Alright.  Now that September is done and the Season of Saint Cyprian with it (though of course there’s always more Work to do), now I get a few days of rest before heading to Crucible this weekend.  Hope to see you there!

Hermes and the Other Gods in Mathesis

You’d think that, from the past few weeks (months?) on this blog, the only two entities I work with spiritually are Hermes and Saint Cyprian.  A quick glance around my temple room indicates otherwise, of course, and I have healthy and strong relationships with a bevy of angels, theoi, and saints, not to mention the Divine itself.  Still, at least as far as mathesis goes, it seems like the only god I’ve been talking about is Hermes.  After all, we start with the sphaira of Mercury in the Gnosis Schema, and the initiation ritual into mathesis makes Hermes into our guide, if not our salvific figure, in being released from the Agnosis Schema into gnosis.  So what happens with all the other gods?

Well, let’s backtrack a bit and talk about Hermes a bit more.  When I went to the conference on Hermes at UVa this year, I learned quite a bit (see my first, second, and third posts for what was discussed).  One of the things that had struck me was the prevalence of herms, the four-sided pillars with a bust of Hermes at the top and often a phallus on the pillar, in many devotional scenes of work.  No matter the god that was being worshipped, it seems like herms were always present in devotional settings of ritual or sacrifice, as if they were a terminal to interact with the gods.  Given that some of the herms depicted the caduceus or other Hermaic paraphernalia, it’s unclear whether all of these herms are actually Hermes or if there were some non-Hermes herms out there.  I’m unsure either way, but it would make sense if Hermes was each and every herm and, thus, present in each and every rite of sacrifice and worship.  After all, Hermes is the messenger of the gods, but also their interlocutor; he is the one who ferries information between the world of mortals and the world of immortals, as well as sacrifice and praise.  Heck, the Homeric Hymn to Hermes even states that Hermes is the god who invented fire for sacrifice:

…Then, after he had well-fed the loud-bellowing cattle with fodder and driven them into the byre, close-packed and chewing lotus and began to seek the art of fire. He chose a stout laurel branch and trimmed it with the knife ((lacuna)) . . . held firmly in his hand: and the hot smoke rose up. For it was Hermes who first invented fire-sticks and fire. Next he took many dried sticks and piled them thick and plenty in a sunken trench: and flame began to glow, spreading afar the blast of fierce-burning fire.

And while the strength of glorious Hephaestus was beginning to kindle the fire, he dragged out two lowing, horned cows close to the fire; for great strength was with him. He threw them both panting upon their backs on the ground, and rolled them on their sides, bending their necks over, and pierced their vital chord. Then he went on from task to task: first he cut up the rich, fatted meat, and pierced it with wooden spits, and roasted flesh and the honourable chine and the paunch full of dark blood all together. He laid them there upon the ground, and spread out the hides on a rugged rock: and so they are still there many ages afterwards, a long, long time after all this, and are continually. Next glad-hearted Hermes dragged the rich meats he had prepared and put them on a smooth, flat stone, and divided them into twelve portions distributed by lot, making each portion wholly honourable. Then glorious Hermes longed for the sacrificial meat, for the sweet savour wearied him, god though he was; nevertheless his proud heart was not prevailed upon to devour the flesh, although he greatly desired. But he put away the fat and all the flesh in the high-roofed byre, placing them high up to be a token of his youthful theft. And after that he gathered dry sticks and utterly destroyed with fire all the hoofs and all the heads.

Add to the fact that Hermes is instrumental in sacrifice, Hermes was often known as almighty or παντοκρατωρ, “all-ruling”.  Sometimes this word was used to flatter a god being praised, but in Hermes, this isn’t too terrible a description.  The thing about Hermes is that, even though we know he is the god of messengers and of trade and this and that, Hermes is not just any of those things.  To be fair, no god is just one thing or another, but Hermes is especially the jack of all trades because he had no one sphere of influence; he was involved in everything.  This is why it’s surprising that it’s uncommon to find actual temples, or τεμενοι, dedicated to Hermes, not to mention a scarcity of cults that were often given regularly to all the other gods.  I mentioned this when a particular theme of talks dawned on me during the second day of the Hermes conference, that in working with Hermes, we gain the ability to approach and interact with all the other gods:

Hermes, although an Olympian, is certainly not among the important ones, but he’s still a vital god to work with and crucial in day-to-day living.  Hermes has no temple, because he’s in every temple; he has no rites, because he’s in all rites; he has no expertise, because he’s an expert in everything.  Hermes is the go-between that leads us on in anything and everything; he is the road between destinations, but is not the destinations themselves.  He only leads us along the roads, but the road is where we spend most of our lives and times.  The presence of Hermes is required by man to work with any god, and is required to communicate to man from the gods.

However, just as Hermes is god of the roads, he’s also the god of opening the roads, which is essentially what the ritual of mathetic initiation is about: opening the path to the Gnosis Schema from the Agnosis Schema, and proceeding onward from there.  This is fitting, because Hermes has told me that he will not lead me into the sphairai themselves, only along the odoi.  I have a few inklings here and there as to why that might be, but if we consider each sphaira to be a destination, an abode, then chances are it’s where a given divinity or family dwells.  They’re not places of exchange or trade, that’s for sure, else Hermes’d be all up in there.  It’s not a theater, either, since Hermes was often found in plays and can be considered a god of both comedic drama and cajoling song.  The sphairai are places of rest or respite, a pause where we must make the choice to leave, picking up the path again when we contact Hermes to get back on the road.

So, either we don’t need guidance in the sphairai themselves, or we do and Hermes simply isn’t going to be it for us.  It would logically follow that another entity would step in at that point, and to logically follow that, it’d be the other gods.  We only ever work with Hermes on the odoi of the Tetractys, never in the sphairai, and this includes the sphaira of Mercury (even to my own confusion).  Thus, although Hermes is a crucial figure in mathesis, helping us out during times of transition (which is where most of the work is focused), he is of necessity not the only one we work with.  Instead of considering the sphairai the destinations and the odoi the transitions, we might consider the sphairai to be transitions or changes in direction between the individual odoi.  After all, if each of the odoi on the Gnosis Schema is marked by a letter associated with a zodiac sign, then the sphairai are the cusps of the signs, the thresholds between the last degree of one sign and the first degree of the next.

Given this solar image, it makes me wonder whether the sphairai are intimately connected to the god Apollo in a way I hadn’t considered before.  After all, it would tie in with what Hermes said before about not entering into the sphairai themselves.  If Hermes is the god who can literally go anywhere, then why on earth wouldn’t he go to a particular place, and what would that place be?  Hermes himself tells us in the Homeric Hymn again:

Then the son of Leto said to Hermes: “Son of Maia, guide and cunning one, I fear you may steal form me the lyre and my curved bow together; for you have an office from Zeus, to establish deeds of barter amongst men throughout the fruitful earth. Now if you would only swear me the great oath of the gods, either by nodding your head, or by the potent water of Styx, you would do all that can please and ease my heart.”

Then Maia’s son nodded his head and promised that he would never steal anything of all the Far-shooter possessed, and would never go near his strong house; but Apollo, son of Leto, swore to be fellow and friend to Hermes, vowing that he would love no other among the immortals, neither god nor man sprung from Zeus, better than Hermes: and the Father sent forth an eagle in confirmation.

Hermes does not enter the house of Apollo.  Apollo is associated with the Sun, and the sphairai are the cusps, the thresholds, the stations of the Sun as it progresses through the zodiacal odoi.  Apollo, further, is the Μουσηγετης, Muse-leader, the head of the nine Muses.  Together, Apollo and the Muses are ten deities, perhaps one for each sphaira of the Tetractys.  So who are the nine Muses?

  • Kalliopē (“Beautiful Voice”), muse of epic poetry
  • Kleiō (“Make Famous”), muse of history
  • Eratō (“Lovely”), muse of lyric poetry
  • Melpomenē (“Celebrate with Song”), muse of tragic drama
  • Ūraniē (“Heavenly”), muse of astronomy and astrology
  • Polyhymnia (“Many Hymns”), muse of hymns and devotional speech
  • Euterpē (“Giving Much Delight”), muse of song and elegaic poetry
  • Terpsikhorē (“Delighting in Dance”), muse of dance
  • Thaleia (“Blooming”), muse of comedic drama

And if I had to guess off the top of my head which deity goes with which sphaira:

  • Monad: Apollo (leader of the Muses and source of art)
  • Light: Ūraniē (dance of celestial bodies)
  • Darkness: Terpsikhorē (dance of terrestrial bodies)
  • Sulfur: Kalliopē (poetry of action)
  • Mercury: Euterpē (poetry generally of all types)
  • Salt: Eratō (poetry of affection)
  • Fire: Polyhymnia (godly works)
  • Air: Thaleia (joyful works)
  • Water: Melpomenē (sorrowful works)
  • Earth: Kleiō (factual works)

Of course, this is a fairly late list of Muses and their attributes, but it’s an idea all the same.  Even if this little path of association leads us nowhere, it does show that the Tetractys is full of gods, not just of the individual zodiac signs but of everything.  The Tetractys, after all, is the “enformer of gods and men” and present in us all, so why not all of us within it?  I’m sure, over time, a more coherent theogony and theology of the Tetractys and mathesis will come together, and it’s still really early in the game to determine who goes where or what sphaira means what power more specifically than “salt” or “fire”.  I can definitely say, however, that mathesis will lead us to work, in at least some respect, all the gods of this world.

After all, “this world” is the world below Olympos, the cosmos under the rule and sight of the gods.  Every city, every forest, every river, every stone, every person is presided over by a god big or small.  By traveling the paths on the Tetractys, we come to be exposed to all parts of the cosmos, not just the parts that humans live in; we live in only one part of the world, though we have the ability (with practice and the blessing of Logos and Nous and all that good stuff) to go anywhere and everywhere.  In mathesis, that’s quite the point; we need to do that, instead of just getting stuck in a the fraction of the cosmos we know as the human world.  It is only by becoming all that we can become, knowing all that we can know, going all where we can go, and doing all we can do that we experience everything and in every way.

And while it’d be hubristic of me to say that we can conquer the world, we can certainly become unified with it and, while not escaping it (for who can escape the All?), we can certainly come to the All and be with it.  Note that I’m saying the All, and not the One or the Monad; these are generally the same concept and used interchangeably in philosophy, but it’s a slightly different nuance I’m using here.  Consider the Tetractys as a mountain, with the peak at the top.  This mountain is that of Olympus, the center of all divine activity and from which all rules, edicts, and cosmic decisions are made.  By ascending and descending Olympus, we come to know the gods and interact with them (assuming they allow us and they allow Hermes to guide us, lest we get struck by lightning on the way).  However, it is only by integrating all of them into ourselves, and by them all of the cosmos, that we can live in perfect accordance with them even when they themselves conflict.  After all, the Dyad isn’t just two Monads acting independently, but it’s the relationship between them that makes them into a Dyad.  Likewise, we should aim for acting as that which makes the ten monads of the Tetractys into a Decad, a complete whole, and nothing less.

Personally, this is starting to sound like a weird mix of Stoicism, Hermeticism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  Let’s see how it’ll turn out.

Lunar Grammatomantic Ritual Calendar

About a year ago, I first encountered grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, and just took it and ran with it.  I do a Daily Grammatomancy on Facebook and Twitter (or, at least, mostly daily, excepting days I’m off work or am not up for it), and I’ve even written an ebook on the topic that correlates the Greek letters to the different forces of astrology, the Greek gods, the angels, and many others.  Later on last year, based on my inspiration with my daily grammatomancy reading and watching a friend use the Mayan calender system for divination, I toyed around with the idea of applying the Greek alphabet oracle to a calendrical system of its own, making two variants:

Of the two, the lunisolar one is the more easily approachable and immediately recognizable as a calendar that the ancients might conceivably have used, especially when considered against the highly mathematical and rigorous solar variant.  Of course, the ancient Greeks had their own calendars, with the ritual ones largely based on the cycle of the Moon, so it made sense for me to base my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar on such a system, and given that the most data we have on such calendars comes from Athens and Attic culture, I based my calendar on the Attic lunar festival calendar.  The Attic calendar had several feasts and ritual days scattered throughout the month based on the myths of the gods, such as Hermes on the fourth day of the month, Apollo on the seventh, and so forth.  By straightforwardly connecting the letters of the Greek alphabet in my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar to the lunar festival calendar of Attica, we get something like the following:

Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Α
Noumenia
2
2nd rising
Β
Agathos Daimon
3
3rd rising
Γ
Athena
4
4th rising
Δ
Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite, Eros
5
5th rising
Ε
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Artemis
7
7th rising
Ζ
Apollo
8
8th rising
Η
Poseidon, Theseus
9
9th rising
Θ
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
12
12th
Κ
13
13th
Λ
14
14th
Μ
15
15th
Ν
16
16th
Ξ
Full Moon
17
17th
Ο
18
18th
Π
19
19th
Ϙ
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
22
9th waning
Σ
23
8th waning
Τ
24
7th waning
Υ
25
6th waning
Φ
26
5th waning
Χ
27
4th waning
Ψ
28
3rd waning
Ω
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Omitted in hollow months
30
Old and New
— (Ϡ if hollow month)

Pretty simple.  A civilized calendar for a more civilized age, I suppose, but it’s a little lacking for me.  I mean, it clusters most observances in the first week or so of the month with little to do later, and most of the gods and heroes it includes I simply…don’t work with.  I mean, my practice is going to necessarily be different than those of the classical Athenians even if I base some of my work off them, so it makes sense.  I recall Sannion developing his own calendar and observance cycle based on his own practice in the vein of a new system, which I believe (though he can correct me if I’m wrong) he’s using for his Thiasos of the Starry Bull; making a ritual calendar fine-tuned to one’s own practice, I believe, is a helpful thing indeed, and a few stray comments on Twitter inspired me to take a closer look at my own calendrical observances and system.  I mean, I have a ritual schedule in place, though it’s also all over the place, with daily, weekly, monthly, lunar-monthly, yearly, seasonal, and astrological observances, and honestly, it’s a mess.  Add to it, my day-to-day life with offices and commuting and aikido classes takes up a significantly large chunk of my time, and it’s not always possible to follow through with the plans I set for myself at the beginning of the year based on what else I need to do and how much sleep I can get (which is, as ever, not enough).

In my ebook on grammatomancy, I linked the letters of the Greek alphabet to the various gods of Greek religion based on their stoicheic correspondences of the elements, planets, and signs.  And since I also linked the letters to the days of the lunar month, it makes sense that I could link the gods to the days of the lunar month, as well.  However, so that it could suffice for me as a proper lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar, I also wanted to add in things specific to my practice or modern practice, such as a day to venerate the ancestors and mighty dead, a day to celebrate other forces that aren’t specifically gods, and the like.

  • For any given letter and its singular stoicheic correspondence, there are usually multiple gods that correspond to it; for instance, Khi, associated with Fire, can be attributed to Rhea, Hephaistos, Hekate, or Hestia equally well.  I associate each day with one god, perhaps with a closely-associated figure, such as Hermes with his son Pan, or a group of gods or spirits as a class.
  • Some of the days of the month are significant purely for their lunar symbolism, such as the dates of the New Moon, Dark Moon, and Full Moon.  Other rituals happen on these dates, but are not specifically nor necessarily associated with the celebration of a particular god.
  • Days of the month that have no letters associated with them (days 10, 20, and the final day in full months) have no rituals associated with them.  No letter, no stoicheia, no gods, no ritual.  These are basically dedicated break days, a kind of sabbath, or they can be used to clean up offerings and rituals from the preceding decade of days or prepare for the next.
  • Three days of the month (days 6, 19, and 29) are given the obsolete Greek letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi.  These letters have no stoicheic correspondence, nor do they have any gods associated with them.  Since they were pirits of light, shadow, and the starsonce used and inherited from the Phoenicians, however, while they may be effectively missing from use, they’re not forgotten.  I’ve given these days to the ancestors, whom I divide into three groups: Ancestors of Kin (those related by name, family, marriage, and blood), of Faith (those of spiritual lineage, teachers, prophets, and tradition founders), and of the Great (culture heroes, saints, and other great people whose work has benefited our lives).
  • Although it might be expected that the seven days that have the seven vowels associated to them (days 1, 5, 8, 11, 17, 24, and 28) would be given to the gods that equate to the planets (such as Hermes for Epsilon on day 5), I normally invoke and make offerings to the planets on their corresponding days of the week (which is an unrelated cycle to this calendar).  Instead, I mark these days by honoring a set of powers I call “Guardians of the Directions”, kinda like Watchtowers of Enochiana or Archangels in the LBRP, but associated with the seven directions (east, south, west, north, above, center, below).  These are from my PGM explorations and daily energy work, which I’ve mentioned before, but they’re quite powerful forces in their own rights.  The Guardian at the center I associate with the word of power ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ, or “MALPARTALKHŌ”, a word I’ve received for this direction when I don’t want to use my own Agathodaimon/HGA name, though it refers to the Agathodaimon generally.  These forces are closer to the earth than some of the other gods, and certainly closer than the seven planets, yet still distinct from the world itself and its own sets of spirits.  Their letter correspondences come from the directions one faces when working with the powers of the seven planets, themselves associated with the seven vowels, according to a ritual from the PGM that I’ve adapted to my own uses.  These seven powers, as the seven planets or seven archangels, form a synaxis, a coherent and unified group, that work together, so I figured I should recognize them and elaborate on their places in my life a little more than I do currently.  Sets of gnostic aeons, the seven planets as gods in their own rights (perhaps as titans?), the seven Sages of Greece, or similar entities might similarly be worshipped on these days, but I figure that the Guardians are good for now.
  • Although I tried to keep the five elemental letters associated with things close to their elements, these are basically the catch-all days for groups of spirits or deities, with the exception of Psi, given to Dionysus, since Psi’s associated stoicheion is spirit, not quite an element but not quite a celestial force, either, perfect for the god as I see it.
Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Noumenia
Α
Erbeth
2
2nd rising
Β
Athena
Nike
3
3rd rising
Γ
Aphrodite
Eros
4
4th rising
Δ
Apollo
Asklepios
5
5th rising
Ε
Lerthexanax
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Ancestors of Kin
7
7th rising
Ζ
Hermes
Pan
8
8th rising
Η
Ablanathanalba
9
9th rising
Θ
Gaia and Oceanos
Spirits of land and water
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
Sesengenbarpharanges
12
12th
Κ
Zeus
Tykhe
13
13th
Λ
Demeter
14
14th
Μ
Hephaistos
15
15th
Ν
Ares
16
16th
Full Moon
Ξ
Persephone
Hades
17
17th
Ο
Damnameneus
18
18th
Π
Artemis
19
19th
Ϙ
Ancestors of Faith
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
Hestia
Spirits of house and home
22
9th waning
Σ
Hera
23
8th waning
Τ
Poseidon
24
7th waning
Υ
Agathodaimon
25
6th waning
Φ
Nine Muses
Three Graces
26
5th waning
Χ
Hekate
Three Moirai
Three Erinyes
27
4th waning
Ψ
Dionysus
28
3rd waning
Ω
Akrammakhamarei
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Ancestors of the Great
(day omitted in hollow months)
30
Old and New
Dark Moon

(Ϡ if hollow month)

(Ancestors of the Great if hollow month)

So, as a ritual calendar, that’s not too shabby.  It’s busy looking, of course, and if I were to give timai (honor, worship, service, etc.) to all the gods and spirits here listed, I’d be wrecking myself with overwork and more wine poured out than I could afford.  Happily for my health, that’s not the case, since I don’t give timai to all the gods.  I only wanted to show what a full ritual calendar made for my practice might look like theoretically; in practice, I’d make services only for those deities and spirits I work with or involve in my life.  This isn’t to say I don’t respect, say, Artemis or Ares, but I don’t involve them in my life as much as a hunter or a warrior would.  Plus, if I started working with a new god in this scheme, I’d already have a day allotted for them instead of having to cram them haphazardly into my schedule, which is my current MO and not a very good one at that.

So, given this schema, I’d be doing my daily offerings to the angels and planets as usual.  I’d be making offerings to the ancestors three days of the lunar month, plus the seven Guardians of the Directions; I’d also be making offerings to Hermes, Asklepios, and Dionysus as I do now, and I plan on working Aphrodite, Hestia, and Hephaistos into my routine.  At a minimum, then, I’d be making these special offerings 16 days of the 29- or 30-day lunar month, which’d increase to 21 days if I also include offerings to some of the other deities I’d like to work with once in a while: Zeus, the Muses and Graces, Hekate with the Erinyes and Moirai, Persephone and Hades, and the spirits of land and water.  It’d be a busy schedule, granted, but at least I’d have a good schedule to work with the gods in, and I could give them the time they need alone and separate from the others instead of being crammed in with a bunch of spirits on a Monday night after groceries when I have time.

The schema would indicate I’m focused on the Olympian gods in my worship, but that’s not entirely true; I only work with a handful of them, and their associations come from their links to the signs of the Zodiac, which I’ve associated with the “simple” consonants of the Greek alphabet (those except for Theta, Ksi, Phi, Khi, and Psi).  If a particular god, deity, or spirit has some sort of connection to one of these gods, or if they fall under the same realm, I might use the Greek grammatomantic day above to work with them if I can.  Also, of course, this only would be used for routine regular offerings, like what I do currently.  Yearly festivals, special observances, and the like are on their own cycle; the yearly Hermaia would still be kept on the fourth day of the tenth lunar month after the summer solstice, for instance, and so that would coincide technically with that month’s Apollo/Asklepios offerings.  Plus, I’d keep this system separate from the weekdays, which I use to work with the angels, saints, and other spirits that aren’t like the Greek gods or Hermetic ideas.

And, if I really wanted to get crazy with this, I could even tune this schedule into a straight 24-cycle of gods to worship all within a single day.  By taking a page out from my solar grammatomantic calendar idea, we can associate each of the 24 hours (diurnal and nocturnal as unequal hours, just like with the planetary hours, starting at dawn) with one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, omitting the three obsolete letters of the alphabet.  Each hour could be given to one of the gods in a sequence, allowing for an intense full day of worship and rituals to honor all the gods and forces of the cosmos.  So, starting with Alpha at dawn, we’d honor Erbeth, then Athena, then Aphrodite, then Apollo, and so forth until the hour just before dawn the next day with Akrammakhamarei.  The ancestors wouldn’t be explicitly honored, but as they’re always with us and living through and by us, they’re already involved in every ritual, anyway.  This would be an intense working, though not one I’d likely perform for a while, and is mostly just a thought to toy with at the moment.

What about you?  Do you use a kind of ritual calendar to schedule or arrange observances and worship in your own practice?  Do you prefer to just go to the gods as needed or as felt?  Do you schedule things by the week, month, year, or at all?  Share your practices in the comments!

49 Days of Definitions: Part IX, Definition 7

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-second definition, part IX, number 7 of 7:

Humans work the land, (and) stars adorn heaven.  The gods have heaven; humans, heaven, earth, and sea; but the air is common to gods and humans.

Finally, a short definition to close out this penultimate section!  It’s a little hard to pin down, given what we’ve mentioned in the other definitions of this section, ranging from what knowledge of God entails to that God loves us and is always with us to the special place Man has in the cosmos to the means by which we can join with God through the development of the soul.  And then we have this almost wistful statement about the structure of the lower earthy world and higher heavenly world.  For this, rereading the definitions in section II would be helpful, but also recall that of VII.2: “and the species of every living being is only in one part of the world, but the sole species of man is at once in heaven, on earth, in the water and in the air”.

“Humans work the land, and stars adorn heaven”.  There are two parts to the world, the lower world of the land and the higher world of heaven.  On land, humans (not Man, but humans!) work the land, plowing it, making everything work down here, and making the land beautiful.  Down here, we express our own natures and live our own lives, subject to the fate and destiny and nature we’re surrounded by.  On the other hand, high above, the “stars adorn heaven”; this is a comparatively lax statement, indicating that the natures of the stars (heavenly beings, and also gods) are less than active, and certainly less active than humans.  Humans scurry about hither and thither, while stars rotate and glide on through the heavens.  Humans come and go; the stars burn forever.  But realize that this statement also indicates something of management: humans manage, work, and cultivate the world below, while the gods manage, adorn, and cultivate the world above.

Just as fish have the sea and salamanders the fire, “the gods have heaven” and “humans [have] heaven, earth, and sea”.  Remember that “man’s possession is the world” (VI.1), without distinction as to what parts.  Everything belongs to Man, is created for Man, and exists within Man.  While the gods live in and have heaven, that’s all they have; they do not own what happens below.  Man, however, rules over and is involved with all parts of the cosmos.  This includes the air, which is “common to gods and humans”, since it’s the medium that joins heaven and earth and through which the gods above can come down and interact with us below, and through which Man can rise up and become gods on their own.  Plus, if you throw in the influence of astrology, then that adds even more power to this statement, where the gods above (stars, planets, etc.) influence us down below by means of the air, and from whom we can interact and pull power from again by means of the air.

While the gods are to be respected, at the very least, we know that Man “is worthy of admiration” and God “is worthy of worship” from the last definition.  God, after all, is bigger than all things and includes all things within itself (III.1), and Man is the only creature able to know God and within whom all things are represented within.  We are the distillation of the entire cosmos, and within us we contain all things.  Perhaps this is why God loves us, because God sees itself in us just as we see ourselves within God.  And God made all this, all the gods and animals and elements and worlds for us.  We have our place, and though it may not appear to be the grandest or the most luxurious, that wouldn’t suit us as gods subject to death or Man made into gods.  To fully encapsulate all the things in the cosmos, we must know and be part of the entire cosmos, which includes all phenomena: life, increase, decrease, death, birth, rebirth, pain, pleasure, sadness, joy, desire, opinion, reason, unreason, good, evil, and all other qualities and quantities.  In this, we have our place in the grand harmony of the spheres, the unity of the Whole, the Good.  And just as the stars adorn heaven in their cyclic manner according to the will of God that directs their pure souls, so too do we carry out the will of God by becoming knowledgeable of God.