Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Names and Roles of the Planets, Pole Lords, and Fates of Heaven

We’ve been discussing lately this interesting thing from PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses, known as the Rulers of the Pole, a system of determining which planet rules over the celestial pole on any given day of the week, which is different from how we would consider planets to rule the days of the week.  At first, it didn’t seem like it was used much, but after seeing parallels in what we’re talking about throughout the rest of the PGM, we realized that we’re not just talking about the celestial pole, but the northern constellations of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, and specifically Polaris the North Star.  More than that, we also found out that there is an entirely separate but absolutely equivalent group of seven Pole Lords from the Mithras Liturgy of PGM IV.  With a little bit of innovation and star-mapping, we were able to link the seven Pole Lords and their paired Fates of Heaven to the seven stars of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, respectively, and each pair of such stars to each of the seven planets.  We’re really getting somewhere now, guys!

So, now we know how to attribute the seven bull-faced Pole Lords of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Minor and the seven snake-faced Fates of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Maior, and we know how to associate each to one of the seven planets.  This is all well and good, but what does it mean to approach them in this way?  Well, recall from the first post I made about this topic that we’ve got two systems of understanding an “order” to the planets: the weekday arrangement (Sun, Moon, Mars…Saturn) and the heavenly arrangement or the “Seven-Zoned” (Moon, Mercury, Venus…Saturn).  One of the things that I thought of was how PGM XIII might be treating each arrangement differently for different purposes, the weekday arrangement for a microcosmic or worldly purpose and the heavenly arrangement for macrocosmic or theurgic purposes.  This struck me as similar to the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua, where one sequence refers to a primordial state of archetypes, the other a manifested state of change and volatility.

Not to keep bringing up Taoist or Chinese practices like this, because we’re not talking about the same exact thing, but the notion of ascending through the individual stars of Ursa Maior or Ursa Minor in a theurgic process of elevation and henosis brings to mind the Steps of Yu dance of Taoist practices.  In this practice. priests and shamans ritually “dance” in the pattern of the stars of the Big Dipper to “step through” each star and obtain the power of the entire constellation, which is hugely revered in traditional Chinese religion.  Going back to the PGM, perhaps the closest parallel we’d find to a sort of “Steps of Yu” would be the Calling of the Sevenths from the Heptagram Ritual, PGM XIII.734—1077 specifically lines 824ff:

The instruction: speaking to the rising sun, stretching out your right to the left and your left hand likewise to the left, say Α.  To the north, putting forward only your right fist, say Ε.  Then to the west, extending both hands in front [of you], say Η.  To the south, [holding] both [hands] on your stomach, say Ι.  To the earth, bending over, touching the ends of your toes, say Ο.  Looking into the air, having your hand on your heart, say Υ.  Looking into the sky, having both hands on your head, say Ω.

[Then invoke:] “I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understand, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the pole, him who is under you; accomplish for me the NN. thing.  I call on you as by the voice of the male gods…”

The text gives a crude diagram that tries to illustrate the general layout of the vowels, which I’ve included from Betz along with my own rendition, and with Stephen Flower’s diagram from Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris (1995):

Consider what we’re doing here: we’re first facing the four directions in a square, then going from down to up.  We can think of this as standing in the middle of the “ladle” of Ursa Minor as Little Dipper to face the four stars at the corners of the most distant part of Ursa Minor, finishing with the Sun; the three stars on the “handle” of the Little Dipper reflect the vertical ascension represented by Mars and culminating with Saturn, appropriately looking directly up into the sky.  The use of the counterclockwise motion (facing east, north, south, and west for the first four planets) is odd, as usually we’d be accustomed to doing things clockwise; this would also be expected if we look at the stars of Ursa Minor, where going from Kochab to Pherkad etc. is also done in a clockwise way.  But, that’s from our point of view “down here”; if we were to consider the perspective of Aiōn who is above the stars, then looking down from that super-celestial perspective, it’d be from a counterclockwise perspective.  Plus, there’s also the notion that while the stars appear to revolve around the Earth in a clockwise motion, the planets themselves pass through the skies in a counterclockwise motion (which is why the Zodiac is always drawn in that way).  What we’re doing, then, is starting out with the assumption that we’re already celestial, and acting in this world accordingly; it’s the same logic as to why we’d use the macrocosmic Seven-Zoned heavenly-arrangement order of the planets to determine the Pole Lord of the day instead of the microcosmic weekday-arrangement order of the planets.

Backing me up, however, Leonardo of Voces Magicae wrote this excellent post some years ago on the nature of counterclockwise motion in the PGM, indeed referencing this very same ritual and the very same things as the celestial pole and why counterclockwise motion mimics the actual motion of things in the skies from a heavenly perspective, backing it up with evidence from the Corpus Hermeticum itself:

In the spatial-spiritual landscape of the Hermetic magicians,  the celestial pole would be seen as nothing less than a direct portal to celestial divinity. As such,  it is fitting that in the Heptagram Opening Rite – a ritual concerned with orientation – the polar divinity is invoked directly…

Perhaps, this was the intent of countermovement in the ritual practices of the PGM. Not necessarily a specific manifestation of a single countermovement cycle, the universe is resplendent with such examples; but rather orienting the practitioner towards the equilibrium and unity of the celestial pole as a source of stability and power by which to approach the deeper mysteries of our cosmos.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch; it’s one thing to understand this tiny Heptagram rite, this dinky Calling of the Sevenths that so many who are familiar with PGM-style magic are aware of, as a planetary attunement ritual to balance and fix planetary powers within ourselves.  It’s something else entirely to say that it’s an act of theurgic elevation unto itself by imitating the arrangement of the stars of Ursa Minor.  That said, it’s the performance of the Calling of the Sevenths immediately before an invocation of Aiōn, where we call on Aiōn as the gods, as the goddesses, as the winds, as the four directions and as the Earth, Sky, and Cosmos itself that makes me think that we’re essentially “stepping” our way through the seven heavens, gaining the power of the seven Pole Lords all at once so that we can finally approach and address Aiōn as the true Ruler of the Pole above the Pole Lords themselves.

This can further help out what we’re doing towards the end of that same invocation, where we see an interesting thing:

I call on your name, the greatest among gods!  If I say it complete, the earth will quake, the sun will stop, the moon will be afraid, the rocks and the mountains and the sea and the rivers and every liquid will be petrified, the whole cosmos will be thrown into confusion!  I call on you, ΙΥΕΥΟ ΩΑΕΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΕΗ ΑΙ ΕΗ ΑΗ ΙΟΥΩ ΕΥΗ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΗΙ ΩΗΙ ΙΑΗ ΙΩΟΥΗ ΑΥΗ ΥΗΑ ΙΩ ΙΩΑΙ ΙΩΑΙ ΩΗ ΕΕ ΟΥ ΙΩ ΙΑΩ, the Great Name!

Become for me Lynx, Eagle, Snake, Phoenix, Life, Power, Necessity, images of God!  ΑΙΩ ΙΩΥ ΙΑΩ ΗΙΩ ΑΑ ΟΥΙ ΑΑΑΑ Ε ΙΥ ΙΩ ΩΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΙ ΑΩΗ ΟΥΕΩ ΑΙΕΗ ΙΟΥΕ ΥΕΙΑ ΕΙΩ ΗΙΙ ΥΥ ΕΕ ΗΗ ΩΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ ΑΙΩ Η ΙΙ ΥΥ ΗΗ ΟΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ

There’s a fun little note in the text, that ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ are “seven of the auspicious ones”, probably names, and I’ve hypothesized before that these names relate to the seven “images” given immediately before, which can also be given to the seven planets themselves:

Direction Vowel Planet Image Name
East Α Moon Lynx ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
North Ε Mercury Eagle ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
West Η Venus Snake ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
South Ι Sun Phoenix ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
Down Ο Mars Life ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
Center Υ Jupiter Power ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
Up Ω Saturn Necessity ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

There’s no explanation, whether in the text itself or in footnotes by Betz, as to the origin of these names or images, and I’m associating them to the planets because it does seem appropriate to the context.  How might we reconcile these names and images?  Though I’ve already made an attempt to explain this before, now that I’m thinking about stars, there are four constellations that would match these images verbatim: Lynx, Aquila, Serpens, and Phoenix.  Of these four, Serpens and Aquila kinda match with their corresponding directions, though Lynx is way too far in the south, and Phoenix is way too far in the southern hemisphere to likely have been used as a constellation; Phoenix, after all, doesn’t show up in Ptolemy’s list of constellations, and its first official documentation in the West comes from the early 1600s.  There could be an association with a specific fixed star, but I’m unsure.

However, traditional accounts of the Phoenix also describe it as eagle-like, but neither eagles nor phoenixes played a role in Egyptian mythology.  If we broaden the semantic notion of “eagle” to mean raptor or predatory birds, then we’d also include hawks and falcons, which would lead us sensibly to the solar gods Horus and Ra.  Horus could reasonably be considered more northern in concept, as one of Horus’ forms is Harpocrates, which I associate with the north according to a variety of PGM selections and which is also generally considered to be the Sun’s renewing strength at the winter solstice.  Ra, being Ra, could be considered the more purely solar, and thus southern, of the pair, and has associations with the Bennu, a type of supernatural heron which was likely the inspiration for the original Phoenix myth in Hellenic cultures, and which was connected to Ra.  So…maybe this is less of a solar thing and more of a mythological one.  If we keep going down that road, then there’s also a mythological connection between the Lynx and the Snake in Egyptian belief: Mafdet, the goddess of the execution of judgment and protector against snakes, was sometimes depicted as a lynx, and the lynx fought existential evil embodied by Apophis, the eternal serpent.

Then we have the issue of the images of Life, Power, and Necessity, which seem more Neoplatonic or even gnostic and less Egyptian in essence to me.  I’m not going to explain those here, but I leave it for consideration how Life could be naturally associated with the Earth and those that live upon it, Power with the power of the gods who live in the sky—which is the association given to the “direction” of Jupiter—and Necessity (i.e. Anankē or Adrasteia) with the primordial, hypercosmic forces that determine the fate and role of all that exists below which is fitting for Saturn, the cosmos, and the notions of Pole Lords and the Ruler of the Pole from above.  A simplistic association, but at least it makes sense in a straightforward manner.

So, let’s assess what we have at this point.  We have:

  • Seven snake-faced virgins, associated with the stars of Ursa Maior, the “seven Fates of Heaven” who “wield golden wands” (PGM IV.662—674)
  • Seven bull-faced youths, associated with the stars of Ursa Minor, the “seven Pole Lords of Heaven” who “are in possession of seven golden diadems” (PGM IV.674—692)
  • Seven “images of God” (PGM XIII.880—887)

Each member of each of these groups of seven can be associated with the same order of planets:

Order Planet Fate
of Heaven
Pole Lord
of Heaven
Image of
God
1 Moon ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ
KHREPSENTHAĒS
ΑΙΕΡΩΝΘΙ
AIERŌNTHI
ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
2 Mercury ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ
MENESKHEĒS
ΜΕΡΧΕΙΜΕΡΟΣ
MERKHEIMEROS
ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
3 Venus ΜΕΗΡΑΝ
MEĒRAN
ΑΧΡΙΧΙΟΥΡ
AKHRIKHIŪR
ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
4 Sun ΑΡΑΡΜΑΧΗΣ
ARAMAKHĒS
ΜΕΣΑΡΓΙΛΤΩ
MESARGILTŌ
ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
5 Mars ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ
EKHOMMIĒ
ΧΙΧΡΩΑΛΙΘΩ
KHIKHRŌALITHŌ
ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
6 Jupiter ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ
TIKHNONDAĒS
ΕΡΜΙΧΘΑΘΩΨ
ERMIKHTHATHŌPS
ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
7 Saturn ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ
ERŪ ROMBRIĒS
ΕΟΡΑΣΙΧΗ
EORASIKHĒ
ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

Great, okay.  Knowing that the associations of these names (and their corresponding images) are based on highly circumstantial evidence from both PGM IV and PGM XIII as well as other Mithraic and astrological/astronomical connections, let’s talk about what we might be able to ply these names and associations for.  First, let’s summarize some of our findings:

  • Roger Beck (“Interpreting the Ponza Zodiac: II”, Journal of Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, no. 2) says that the Fates of Heaven and the Pole Lords of Heaven are associated with not only moving and controlling the actions and motions of the cosmos, but are also associated with Fate, punishment, and reward.  Moreover, given their role as the stars of the Bear constellations, they are not just symbols of such power and control, but they are agents of it.  Because they have exactly parallel structures, they may also be considered to be seven pairs of deities, one snake-faced virgin and one bull-faced youth, each pair related to one of the seven planets.
  • As indicated from all those Bear charms from before, and based on some of the invocations of PGM XIII, the Pole Lords are not the highest power in the cosmos; they may rule the Pole, and their rulership of the Pole amongst themselves changes from day to day, but they rule the Pole in the name of and under the supervision of a true Ruler of the Pole, which is Aiōn, and in a more properly Mithraic context, Mithras himself, the god of revelation in the Mithras Liturgy.
  • There’s a subtle distinction being implied in PGM XIII that there are planetary rulers and then there are planetary Lords: the ruler of the day “in the Greek reckoning” is not the true Lord, which follows a different method of reckoning.  This recalls the notion of the Greek versus Phoenician method of navigating according to the northern stars: the Greeks originally used Ursa Maior as a general indicator of north, but this gave them varying and vague and wandering results.  The Phoenicians, however, used Ursa Minor and Polaris, which doesn’t wander or vary as much, and so obtained a truer and more steady path north.  What we’re arriving at is an understanding that one can approach the planets “down here” in a microcosmic way or “up there” in a macrocosmic way that is more true and real than the microcosmic.
  • By approaching the macrocosmic (or even hypercosmic) planetary Pole Lords “up there” through imitating their motions and calls upon the true highest, hypercosmiciest Divinity, we can break past the “images” and into a truly higher state of being in communion with the highest divinity, Aiōn, who has power over all fate and happenings.  This is done not through the usual planetary motions, but through the planetary harmonies and rulership of the celestial pole and the stars found there, Ursa Minor.
  • By identifying with the Sun, we start off as “a star wandering about with you and shining forth out of the deep” (PGM IV.574ff), but eventually we come to identify with Aiōn itself in a process not unlike that of the magician in the Headless Rite, where one begins addressing Akephalos but eventually becomes Akephalos.  By becoming the only one who can say the full name of Aiōn, a name “not even the gods can utter”, one takes on the full power of Aiōn, which can only be done through working through, assimilating, and being accepted by the various Pole Lords to become the true Ruler of the Pole.

Not too shabby a result, I suppose.

Now, I’m not in a position to carry out the entire Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV or the entirety of the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses from PGM XIII; those are endeavors I’m not willing to commit myself to at the present time.  However, we’ve wheedled enough information out of them to apply some of the cosmological bits from them more generally in PGM-style practice.  Here’s what I would suggest based on my current understanding:

  • The names and images of God from PGM XIII can be used as microcosmic presences of seven planets; thus, an “esoteric” name for the Moon can be KHEKHAMPSIMM, which may be used in PGM rituals to refer to the Moon instead of just saying “the Moon” or Selēnē.
  • The Fates of Heaven from PGM IV are the macrocosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient to the Pole Lords but which are higher than the names and images of the microcosmic planets.  It is these stellar entities that determine what is permissible in the world we live in, and wield authority (their “golden wands”) over the world.  They determine order and structure of things.
  • The Pole Lords of Heaven from PGM IV are the hypercosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient only to Aiōn.  These entities permit powers and ideas to pass in and out of the world under them which they rule (their “golden diadems”) but whose orders the Fates execute in their name.

In other words, it is through the seven Pole Lords that blessings, curses, creations, and destructions are ordered in the world we live in.  Once they give the order, the corresponding Fate executes the will of her Pole Lord through the work of the seven images of God, not just the one specifically granted to the same ruling planet of that Fate and Pole Lord.  Even then, amongst all the planets, it is still the Moon that is most important; knowing that its image is the Lynx, associated with the divinity Madfet, it is the Moon that truly opens up the light and presence of all the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven, because it is the Moon that is closest to the heart and presence of the constellations of the Pole.  We must always start with the Moon, and through the Moon honor the entirety of the Pole Stars; through the passage of and through the Moon, we can ascend through the other planetary heavens and achieve the blessing and acceptance of the other Fates and Pole Lords of Heaven until we reach the final pair, the last stars of Alkaid and Polaris.  Once we reach them, we have finished our approach to the Pole and then may surmount it, leaving behind this world under their power and entering into the presence and power of Aiōn.

I’m tempted to draw a parallel between the later notions of planets having spirits and intelligences, or to how all the different spirits of the planets in the Picatrix may be thought to have particular roles in the governance and execution of the powers and presence of a planet.  However, that’s not quite the same feeling I get from the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven.  I’m content with considering the names and images of God from PGM XIII to be esoteric associations of the planets, and I look forward to applying them in rituals that call on them (e.g. “o blessed light of Selēnē shining forth from the East, you who are KHEKHAMPSIMM…”), but it’s calling upon the Pole Lords and Fates that I want to figure out.  Honoring the Pole Lord of the day makes sense, sure, but it also makes sense to honor the Pole Lord with its corresponding Fate, almost as a supercelestial King and Queen, or divinity with its consort.  It makes for a beautiful theurgic mystery, at any rate, and I’d like to take that into meditation and consideration in future works.

I suppose it can make sense to call on the Pole Lord and Fate as PGM-style “planetary intelligences” to guide and direct the powers of the planets “down here”, much as we’d call on Michael and Nakhiel to guide the activities of Sorath, but something about that nags at me.  Still, it’s probably not a bad idea to do just that, especially if what we’re trying to do is plug into a true source of Divinity and bring down immortal power from the immortal heavens.  If nothing else, we’ve figured out a little more about the Pole Lords and the Seven-Zoned of PGM XIII, and now I’m content.

Time to share my findings back on that Facebook post in the PGM group and see if it can’t start more conversation.

Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Ruler of the Pole and the Charms of the Bear

As it turns out, I do belong to other groups on Facebook than just the geomancy one I admin, and just like in that group, many of the discussions in other groups to which I belong are equally as fascinating and helpful.  One such group, the PGM Study & Practice Group, is focused on (mirabile dictu!) the study and practice of rituals and texts from the Greek Magical Papyri (or PGM, as many of my readers know).  I’ve shared some of my works and joined in some conversations there from time to time, and I find it a helpful resource to belong to.

Recently, I made a bit of a post myself, asking for help and experience from others in the group about a particularly interesting and particularly obscure point from PGM XIII, which is a truly fascinating bundle of texts that I’ve discussed before on my blog.  The post I made specifically discussed the nature, purpose, and function of the Ruler of the Pole from these texts:

PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses, uses an interesting device. Before the various spells of PGM XIII.1—343 and at the end of PGM 646—734, we’re given “the technique of determining which god is ruler of the celestial pole” using “The Seven-Zoned” method.

If the day is Sunday (day of Hēlios), the ruler is Selēnē.
If the day is Monday (day of Selēnē), the ruler is Hermēs.
If the day is Tuesday (day of Arēs), the ruler is Aphroditē.
If the day is Wednesday (day of Hermēs), the ruler is Hēlios.
If the day is Thursday (day of Zeus), the ruler is Arēs.
If the day is Friday (day of Aphroditē), the ruler is Zeus.
If the day is Saturday (day of Kronos), the ruler is Kronos.

In other words, however many days have elapsed in the week since Sunday, the further up in the celestial spheres you go. As Sunday marks the beginning of the week, so too does Selēne mark the first celestial sphere; as Saturday marks the end of the week, so too does Kronos mark the last celestial sphere.

My question is: what is this for?

The “celestial pole” is, almost certainly, the pole around which the Earth and all its heavens whirl around, commonly recognized to be Polaris, the North Star, and tail of Ursa Maior. However, PGM XIII doesn’t refer to a way of invoking or referring to the ruler of the pole, just that there apparently is one. In fact, nowhere else in the PGM is the word “pole” used in conjunction with planetary rulers; the only such thing I might be able to even tangentially relate to it is in PGM IV.930—1114, where it calls upon a form of Horus Harpocratēs in a conjuration of sorts by calling upon “you who are seated within the seven poles ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ”, but this seems unrelated and more about the seven supports of the heavens (cf. PGM V.213—303, “The pole [of the sky] will be brought down…”). PGM XIII.1—343 does mention that the student should “learn who is the ruler of that day” along with the “[names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks”, but this again appears to be something different, like a different god for each day of the year.

So what are we actually recognizing by this “ruler of the pole” method? Are we saying that the North Star, and thus the immortal gate of heaven itself through which we ascend and address the gods, has a planetary affinity that shifts from day to day in a way separate from the planetary rulers of the day? Are we saying that the usual weekday reckoning of the planetary ruler of the day is a blind for a more magical, more woogity kind of planetary rulership of the days? Or is this referring to something we just don’t have extant in the texts anymore? Would you attach any significance to the fact that Saturn is the ruler of the pole as well as of the day on Saturday?

Unfortunately, my attempt at starting a discussion just garnered a lot of likes and not a lot of comments.  So, let me explain what little I understand and think of this particular aspect of this particular segment of the PGM.

Basically, PGM XIII gives us a table like the following that compares the ruler of any day of the week as we’d normally consider it to the ruler of the Pole on that given day.  No matter what the planetary ruler of the day is “in the Greek reckoning”, which is the system we’re most commonly used to in the West based on the planet that rules the first hour of the day starting at sunrise, PGM XIII says instead to recognize the planet that rules over the Pole according to the “Seven-Zoned” (also called “The Monad of Moses” in PGM XIII.646—734).

Weekday Planetary Ruler
Day Ruler
(“Greek reckoning”)
Pole Ruler
(“Seven-Zoned”)
Sunday Hēlios Selēnē
Monday Selēnē Hermēs
Tuesday Arēs Aphroditē
Wednesday Hermēs Hēlios
Thursday Zeus Arēs
Friday Aphroditē Zeus
Saturday Kronos Kronos

The idea behind this organization appears to be that, as the week gets “older” and later, starting from Sunday all the way to Saturday, the Ruler of the Pole on that day gets “older” and higher in the heavens, starting with the Moon and going all the way until Saturn.  Thus, on the first day of the week (Sunday), the Ruler of the Pole is the first closest heaven (the Moon); on the second day (Moon), the second heaven (Mercury); and so forth.  It’s not a matter of picking, like, the midnight planetary hour on each day, as the order of the planets in the Seven-Zoned method doesn’t fit that result.  Plus, it might be significant that the only planet that overlaps its Pole Ruler day with its own weekday is Saturn.

There is a relationship that can be drawn between these too, however.  Recall the Planetary Heptagram that’s used to determine the order of the week by tracing the planets both in a circle as well as in an acute heptagram.  There are different ways we can draw it that end up with the same result, but this is the basic and traditional order:

If we start with the Moon at the top and work counterclockwise around in a simple circle outside the heptagram, we get the order of the planets ascending through the heavens (Moon, Mercury, Venus, &c.).  If we follow the heptagram around clockwise starting from the Moon, we get the order of the planets for the days of the week (Moon, Mars, Mercury, &c.).  Instead of using that heptagram, consider the following obtuse heptagram:

Here, if we start with Moon at the top and go around the circle clockwise, we get the order of the planets in the days of the week (Moon, Mars, Mercury, &c.), and if we follow the heptagram clockwise around starting from the Moon, we get the order of the planets ascending through the heavens (Moon, Mercury, Venus, &c.).  What we basically end up with is the exact inverse arrangement as before, we’re just flipping the arrangement around.  It might be argued that the author of PGM XIII considered the arrangement of planets for the days of the week to be a blind or corruption of a true order, that of the heavens, and by applying the same function that transformed the heavenly arrangement into the weekday arrangement just in reverse, we end up with a corrected, ideal, true order of the planets (kind of like the difference between the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua).

In fact, that comparison to the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua might not be a bad parallel.  If we consider the usual modus operandi of a magician of the PGM, if they’re not outright apotheotizing themselves into God, then they’re often initiating themselves to be their equals as, indeed, we’re doing in the rituals of PGM XIII.  Aiōn, which is basically the divinity being appealed to in this part of the PGM, is considered an eternal god of time, but who’s to say what “time” looks like to such an entity?  Our methods of reckoning time down here on Earth may not really apply “up there”, where another system entirely might be used.  In other words, the different arrangements of the planets apply on different scales of the cosmos: the weekday arrangement of planetary rulers of the day functions on a microcosmic, human level, while the celestial arrangement of the planets functions on a macrocosmic, divine level.  If (and this is a huge “if”) the author of PGM XIII was thinking in this way, then we’d want to appeal, entreat, and approach the gods on their own temporal terms rather than using our own human and worldly systems of planetary time-keeping.  It’s an idea, I suppose, but I have nothing to back it up.

So much for the method and a potential argument as to its function, I suppose.  Even assuming we understand its function, what about its purpose?  Why is it a thing?  Despite the importance of this table and method of determining the planet that rules over the Pole on any given day of the week, it’s not really that apparent why the Ruler of the Pole is supposed to be called upon.  There are exceedingly few references to such a pole in the PGM, and it doesn’t make much sense to interpret them on the same level as what we might find in PGM XIII.  There are a few such mentions, some of which are explicit and some of which are debatable:

  1. The invocation of Aiōn from PGM XIII.1—343, specifically lines PGM XIII.64ff, and again in a minor variant of wording and barbarous names from PGM XIII.570ff:

    I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, you, the self-begotten, who see all and are not seen.  For you gave Hēlios the glory and all the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but apportioned all things that they should be equal. For when you appeared, both Order arose and Light appeared.  All things are subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who change into all forms.  You are invisible, Aiōn of Aiōns.

    I call on you, lord, to appear to me in a good form, for under your order I serve your angel, ΒΙΑΘΙΑΡΒΑΡ ΒΕΡΒΙΡ ΣΧΙΛΑΤΟΥΡ ΒΟΥΦΡΟΥΜΤΡΩΜ, and your fear, ΔΑΝΟΥΦ ΧΡΑΤΟΡ ΒΕΛΒΑΛΙ ΒΑΛΒΙΘ ΙΑΩ. Through you arose the celestial pole and the earth. …

    I call on you, the creator of all, who are greater than all, you, the self-begotten god, who see all hear all and and are not seen.  For you gave Hēlios the glory and the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but assigned them equality [with it]. For when you appeared, both Order arose and Light appeared, and all things were arranged by you.  Therefore all things are also subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who take different forms in [different] visions, Aiōn of Aiōns.

    I call on you, lord, that you may show me your true form. For under your order I serve your angel, ΑΝΟΓ ΒΙΑΘΙΑΒΑΡ ΒΕΡΒΙ ΣΧΙΛΑΤΟΥΡ ΒΟΥΦΡΟΥΜΤΩΡΜ, and your fear ΔΑΝΟΥΠ ΧΡΑΝΤΩΡ ΒΕΛΒΑΛΙ ΒΑΛΒΙΘ ΙΑΩ. Through you arose the [celestial] pole and the earth. …

  2. Ritual practice from lines PGM XIII.114ff and again from PGM XIII.671ff. Though the use of a god of a day in this context might refer to one of the gods of the individual 365 days of the year, the specific phrasing leads me to believe it’s discussing the Ruler of the Pole of the day.

    Accordingly, as I said before, when you have purified yourself in advance [through the last seven days] while the Moon is waning, at the dark of the Moon begin sleeping on the ground on a pallet of rushes.  Rising at dawn, greet Hēlios through seven days, each day saying first the [names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks.  Also [each day], learning who is the ruler of that day, keep after him, saying “Lord, on such-and-such a day, I am calling the god to the sacred sacrifices”—doing so until the eighth day.

    Accordingly, as I have said before, when you have purified yourself in advance [through the last] seven days while the Moon is waning, at the dark of the Moon begin sleeping on the ground. Rising at dawn, greet the Sun through seven days, each day saying first the [names of the] gods of the hours, then those set over the weeks. Also [each day], learning who is the ruler of that day, keep after him, saying “Lord, on such-and-such a day I am calling the god to the sacred sacrifices”—doing so until the eighth day.

  3. Sacrifice protocol from PGM XIII.376ff.  However, despite being a “ruler of the day in some sense”, what’s being referred to here probably refers instead to a ruler of one of the 365 days of the year, especially given its use along with gods of the hours, each with their own compulsive or restraining formula that we see traces of later in the Hygromanteia tradition.  This is different than the juxtaposition of the “ruler of that day” from the above section, because it’s separated from the gods of the hours which are bundled with the gods of the weeks.

    The tasting of the victims is done [in] this way: When you are ready to taste them, sacrifice the rooster, so that [the god] may receive lots of spirit, and at the point of tasting, call on the god of the hour and him of the day, so that you may have sponsorship from them.  For if you do not invoke them, they will not hear you, as being uninitiated.  Now you will find [the names of] the gods of the hours and those of the days, and the compulsive formula for each of them in the Key of Moses, for he set them out one by one.

  4. Invocation of Aiōn from PGM XIII.844ff:

    I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understand, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the pole, him who is under you; accomplish for me the NN. thing. …

This is basically all I can find in PGM XIII about the Ruler of the Pole, so as important as it might be for the text to point out how to determine the Ruler of the Pole, it’s apparently not that important except in how to address maybe one or two prayers and how to consider the temporal qualities of Aiōn on a day-to-day basis.  None of these few uses, most of which are limited to just references to Aiōn as being a generic ruler (or a sort of hyperstasis of the individual planets, a sort of planet-behind-the-planets or the very Platonic Idea of Planet itself?), give much of a hint of what we’re doing by invoking the Ruler of the Pole.

Let’s back up a bit, I suppose.  What, exactly, is the “Pole” being ruled over?  There are two possible candidates for this: the ecliptic pole (the pole of the planet of the ecliptic, the orbital path of the Sun as viewed from the Earth) and the axial pole (the pole around which the Earth itself rotates on a daily basis).  Though these two poles are similar, they are not identical; after all, the ecliptic is tilted slightly to the rotation of the Earth, which is why we have seasons.  The axial pole of the Earth is basically the North Star, Polaris, which is the tail of Ursa Minor, or the Litte Dipper.  On the other hand, the ecliptic pole of the Earth, along with all the other planets in the Solar System, lies further off in the nearby constellation of Draco.

This was the point of the only small conversation that my post in the Facebook group started, mostly by my good colleague Freeman Presson.  Freeman had the idea that, in a sense, every planet is conjunct the Pole by longitude in the same sense that, if you yourself are standing at the North Pole on Earth, any direction you face or travel will be south.  Because of this, every planet could be seen as being eternally in communion with the Pole, even if they’re separated by latitude.  However, someone else popped in to say that that’s not quite right, and that the pole of the ecliptic is not the same as the pole of the axial rotation of the Earth, and the two don’t really line up that well here.  It was something to consider at least, but it doesn’t really get us much of anywhere.

To be honest, I think it’s far more likely that it really is the axial pole of the Earth (the one that points to Polaris and Ursa Minor) it the one being referred to.  While I’m sure the ecliptic pole was known, there’s far more emphasis in the PGM on the use of the pole stars Polaris, Ursa Minor, and Ursa Maior, with many “bear charms” and other works with the northern stars.  Plus, it does help that both Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior both have seven stars each; indeed, the old Latin word for “north” is “septentrio”, from “septem triones” meaning “seven oxen” or “seven bulls”.  When we look at the Bear-related spells from the PGM, we get a better understanding of some of the power of this figure, or at least the station of this figure (bold text emphasizes similarities with the description of the Ruler of the Pole in PGM XIII):

  1. PGM IV.1275—1322 (“Bear charm which accomplishes everything”): I call upon you, the greatest power in heaven, in the Bear, appointed by the Lord God to turn with a strong hand the holy Pole, ΝΙΚΑΡΠΟΛΗΞ!  Listen to me, Hēlios, Phre!  Hear the holy prayer, you who hold together the universe and bring to life the whole world…ΘΩΖΟΠΙΘΗ, Bear, greatest goddess, ruling heaven, reigning over the Pole of the stars, highest, beautiful-shining goddess, incorruptible element, composite of the all, all-illuminating, bond of the universe ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΕΗΙΟΥΩΑ ΗΙΟΥΩΑΕ ΙΟΥΩΑΕΗ ΟΥΩΑΕΗΙ ΥΩΑΕΗΙΟ ΩΑΕΗΙΟΥ, you who stand on the pole, you whom the Lord God appointed to turn the holy Pole with a strong hand
  2. PGM IV.1323—1330 (“Another [Bear charm]”): ΚΟΜΦΘΟ ΚΟΜΑΣΙΘ ΚΟΜΝΟΥΝ, you who shook and shake the world, you who have swallowed the ever-living serpent and daily raise the disk of the Sun and of the Moon, you whose name is ΙΘΙΟΩ ΗΙ ΑΡΒΑΘΙΑΩ Η, send up to me, NN., at night the daimon of this night to reveal to me concerning the NN. matter.
  3.  PGM VII.686—702 (“Bear charm”): Bear, Bear, you who rule the heaven, the stars, and the whole world; you who make the axis turn and control the whole cosmic system by force and compulsion, I appeal to you, imploring and supplicating that you may do the NN. thing, because I call upon you with your holy names at which your deity rejoices, names which you are not able to ignore…

The thing about many of these Bear charms is that they bear (heh) some semantic similarities and connections to the Hellenic goddess Artemis, due to the myth of her companion Callisto transformed into the constellation of Ursa Maior and the view that Callisto was seen to be an aspect or manifestation of Artemis herself.  From Artemis, connections can be drawn to Selēnē, the Moon, and from the Moon to the Egyptian god Thoth.  Yes, Thoth, who was considered by the Egyptians themselves to be a lunar deity (consider the fact that he is often depicted as wearing a lunar crown and that the crescent shape of the beak of the ibis recalls the shape of the crescent Moon).  Though epithets and praise names of this god are many, some of the more relevant ones are:

  • Who fashioned all things
  • Who made all that exists
  • Bull among the stars (remember the “seven bulls” of the northern stars!)
  • Who determines fate
  • Who glorifies the two eyes (yes, the eyes of Horus, but remember “you gave Hēlios the glory and the power, Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses…”)
  • Governor of Ma’at (i.e. Truth or Fate) in heaven and Earth
  • Lord of heaven
  • According to whose word the Ennead acts

There are even some texts that give Thoth descriptions and praises in similar patterns and wordings to Akephalos, the Headless One of the Headless Rite.  While I’m not suggesting that Thoth is the Ruler of the Pole or the North Star here, I am suggesting that many of the same qualities of a pantokrator/cosmocrator/all-ruler god transfer over based on similar ideas and notions.  In other words, I’m definitely freestyling my correspondences and connections here, but rather than saying “X is Y”, I’m saying that “X is like Y”.

Anyway.  It’s also fascinating to see mentioned in PGM IV.1323—1330 that reference to “you who have swallowed the ever-living serpent”, which could, if we were to take a staunchly pro-stellar view, refer to the constellation Draco, which might be viewed as a sort of conquering of the ecliptical pole by the axial pole.  It could also relate, as Betz notes in a footnote to PGM IV.930—1114, to the serpent Apophis who daily attempts to devour the bark of Re.  Other references to serpents yields PGM VII.300, another lunar spell that also includes an ibis (!) and a reference to the explicitly lunar god Khonsu, has a particular “circled-ibis” phylactery:

ΣΑΧΜΟΥ ΟΖΟΖΟ, you the one who thunders, the one who shakes the heaven and the earth, the one who has swallowed the Serpent, hour by hour raising the disk of the Sun and surrounding the Moon, ΧΩΝΣΟΥ ΟΧΧΑ ΕΝΣΟΥ Ο ΒΙΒΕΡΟΗΣΟΣ.  Write on your left hand with myrrh ink these things surrounding the ibis.

Similar incantations also exist in PGM VII.359—369 (“Request for a dream oracle”).  PGM VIII.1—63, however, includes a neat little tidbit: an aspect of Hermēs called upon for a binding love spell, but the aspect of which is given the description “in the north you have the form of a serpent”.  Betz notes that this refers to the deity Uto or Wadjet, who is often found associated with the north.  This whole “conquering” or “swallowing of the serpent” could also refer, historically, to the slow shift of the North Star to Polaris in Ursa Minor from Thuban, α Draconis, from some two- to three-thousand years prior.  It’s an idea, I suppose.

This is fascinating, but we’re not where we need just yet to figure out what the Rulers of the Pole are or what they do.  We know that the Pole being ruled over has something to do with Polaris and the constellations of Ursa Maior and Ursa Minor, but that’s about it; we’re not seeing anything in PGM XIII or the Bear charms that are giving us a hint about these specific “rulers of the pole”.  But there are other hints in the PGM and from the classical world that can tip us off in the right direction; we’ll handle that in the next post.

PGM Kyphi: On The Incense of the Eighth Book of Moses

Trying to come up with my PGM-style framing rite was pretty fun, I have to admit.  Scouring the entire PGM for things that fit a pattern I work in, trying to select the best or most appropriate verses to use to make sure they’re generic enough to not step on toes while still being specific enough to function for a purpose, and seeing what was really needed and what wasn’t as far as potential options go helped me get an even deeper realization of the abundant (yet never enough!) material available to us in the Greek magical papyri.

Still, there were some design decisions that I had to make about what to include and where.  In the end, I decided to make the framing rite as general and flexible as possible, making lots of things optional rather than just not having them in there (and being asked about it later, or forgetting myself where something might best be placed).  One of the ritual acts that I made optional was a general burning of incense, after the empowerment and just before the ritual proper around which the framing rite takes place.  Personally, I love the use of incense, and I don’t do many rituals without it; I typically find it to be an important, if not outright essential, part of ritual magic, and there are too many rituals in the PGM to count that use some sort of suffumigation or another.

The problem is, though, the use of incense generally outside of a ritual for its own sake.  Looking through the PGM, whenever incense is burned, it’s for a specific purpose, generally to bless a particular object or as an offering.  Incense doesn’t seem to be used for its own sake, whether as a general perfume, a spiritual resonance-tuning method (getting a place more into the “feel” of a particular sphere or spirit), or a method of blessing or purifying a space (a la smudging), which are all pretty common modern uses of incense.  Rather, the use of incense appears to almost always be used as an offering to some god or spirit, or as a suffumigation to bless a particular object under a particular god or spirit.  These acts are intrinsically and intimately bound up with specific rituals, and no one method seems to cover most of them; because of this, I decided against having a general incense burning before the ritual proper in the framing rite.

This doesn’t apply, however, to the final dismissal, where incense is burned, because the parts of the PGM where I pulled those prayers from do indeed call for incense, and it being a dismissal and thanksgiving offering to the spirits, the use of incense is appropriate.  Using that logic, it’s also quite possible and appropriate to make an introductory offering of incense to the same spirits, at least those of time and space (i.e. the Guardians of the Directions, the Lord of the Hour or Day or Sign, etc.) as well as to higher powers such as the Agathodaimon or Aiōn, but I’m also not entirely sold on doing that each and every time; after all, why eat dessert when breakfast has yet to be served?  (Hush, inner child.)

Anyway.  While looking through the PGM for topics and sections involving the use and types of incenses, I came across (once again) the Eighth Book of Moses, split and replicated in several forms in PGM XIII, sections 1—343, 343—646, and 646—734.  These sections precede the section PGM XIII.734—1077, which calls itself the Tenth Book of Moses, which is also the source of the Heptagram Rite (and, thus, the Calling the Sevenths or Heptasphere ritual that’s so common in modern PGM-forms of magic).  Taken all together, PGM XIII presents a fascinating self-initiatory form of magic coming into some of the highest and most glorious powers of the cosmos, and presents an interesting blend of Egyptian and Jewish priestly practices.  One of which is the use of incenses, described in the earlier parts of PGM XIII, which is used both as an offering substance for the divinity or divinities invoked in the ritual as well as an ingredient for consecrating particular inks and drinks in the ritual.

Seven types of incenses are described as proper to the seven planets:

  • Saturn: styrax (στύραξ)
    • Despite the common modern use of styrax (or storax) to refer to benzoin (Storax officinalis, storax or cowbell), this was most likely instead the resin of Liquidambar orientalis, oriental or Turkish sweetgum, a type of balsam which was well-known in classical and medieval times.  However, given the ambiguity of this term, either may be meant.
  • Jupiter: malabathron (μαλάβαθρον)
    • This is an older name for the leaves of Cinnamonum tamala, more commonly known as Indian bay leaf, tējapatta/tejpat/tejpata, tamalpatra, tamaala, vazhanayila, edana, pattai illai, or bagharakku in various Indian languages.
    • Betz also gives Cinammonum albiflorum as an option, but it seems like this is just a synonym for Indian bay leaf.
  • Mars: costus (κόστος)
    • Sassurea lappa, also known as saw-wort or snow lotus.  The dried root was an important and well-known trade item between Rome and India.
    • Currently listed as endangered, making it illegal to dig up the plant for export, so trade of this plant is highly regulated.
  • Sun: frankincense (λίβανον)
    • Boswellia sacra, our gold old friend.  Pretty straightforward here.  We all know and love this stuff.
  • Venus: Indian nard (νάρδος Ἰνδικός)
    • Nardostachys jatamansi, spikenard, which was a luxury item in the Mediterranean.
  • Mercury: cassia (κασία)
    • Cinnamonum cassia, the usual cassia or Chinese cinnamon.  The bark of the plant is as available today as it ever was, and most store-bought cheap “cinnamon” tends to be cassia, anyway.
  • Moon: myrrh (ζμύρνα)
    • Commiphora myrrha, the resin of the plain old myrrh.  No further explanation needed.
    • The spelling for this is weird, using an initial zēta instead of an initial sigma, but so it goes.  Likely explainable due to voicing from the following mu.

In addition, PGM XIII.1—343 says that one should “prepare sun vetch on every occasion”, meaning the “Egyptian bean”.  Here, it’s most likely referring to Vicia faba, or the simple fava bean, still a staple in Egypt to this day.  Another option might be bitter vetch, Vicia ervilia, which was domesticated before fava beans by about 1500 years, but I’m inclined to think that fava beans are meant here.  However, it’s unclear whether it’s the bean itself to be used or the leaves or flowers of the plant instead.

What strikes me as significant is how…Jew-ish all those materials are.  Like, obviously this is not a particularly canon rite that would have been done in the Temple at Jerusalem, but the whole Eighth Book of Moses is definitely appropriating Jewish elements heavily, far beyond just attributing the book to the prophet Moses.  Consider PGM XIII.230ff:

The initiation called The Monad has been fully declared to you, child.  Now I subjoin for you, child, also the practical uses of this sacred book, the things which all the experts accomplished with this sacred and blessed book.  As I made you swear, child, in the temple of Jerusalem, when you have been filled with the divine wisdom, dispose of the book so that it will not be found.

Betz includes a fantastically sharp footnote here for this paragraph: “pretentious hokum”.  Still, it’s indicative of how heavy Jewish influences are in this part of the PGM, and the incense list above indicates a distinct familiarity with priestly practices.  Consider Exodus 30:22—38, which discusses the recipes and uses for the holy anointing oil and the offering incense:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil.  Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer.  It will be the sacred anointing oil.  Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand.  You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.

“Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.  Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come.  Do not pour it on anyone else’s body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred.  Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people.'”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—stacte, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer.  It is to be salted and pure and sacred.  Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.  Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord.  Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.”

Note the ingredients of those two special substances: myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, stacte (most likely storax or styrax), onycha (most likely part of a sea snail or labdanum from Cistus creticus), galbanum (resin of Ferula gummosa), and frankincense.  We see some significant overlap between this part of Exodus and the incense materials given in PGM XIII.  To make matters even more interesting, consider the rabbinic literature of the Talmud: it expands the list of ingredients for the incense offering significantly from the Exodus list:

  1. stacte (understood as the sap of the balsam tree, i.e. styrax, but it could also refer to mastic from terebinth, Pistacia palaestina)
  2. onycha (to which was added Carshina lye and Cyprus wine for refining and steeping it)
  3. galbanum
  4. frankincense
  5. myrrh
  6. cassia
  7. spikenard
  8. saffron
  9. costus
  10. aromatic bark
  11. cinnamon

We know that the Talmudic literature and traditions go back to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and so its beginnings would have been roughly contemporaneous with the PGM authors.  If the Talmudic/rabbinical recipe list given above can be considered something approximating or reflecting actual Jewish practice at the time of PGM XIII’s inception, then we basically have the entire list of incenses given in PGM XIII.  The only odd one to consider is malabathron, which is not listed in either the Exodus or Talmudic recipes; however, knowing that it’s considered close to cinnamon, which we lack in our PGM incense list (except as a phylactery or charm to wear around the neck—perhaps too precious or expensive to be burned?), it could be seen as a reasonable substitute for cinnamon, and some rabbinical scholars suggest that it could indeed have been used in place of actual cinnamon.

There are other Jewish influences in PGM XIII as well, such as how the ritual is to be done such that the 41 days of purification ends with the New Moon in Aries.  This is basically ensuring that you’re timing things to line up with Passover, which generally occurs around the Full Moon in Aries.  That said, the ritual as a whole is really more of a priestly Egyptian kind of magic with Jewish elements mixed in.  This reaches its pinnacle in the idea that one has to receive “the Name” from the “god who comes in” via the initiation; this is that god’s own True Name, which is sacred and powerful and is used in many of the works that follow the initiation in PGM XIII.1—343; this can be seen to also bring in some of the influence of the Divine Name of God, only permitted to be spoken aloud once a year by the high priest in the holy of holies of the Temple.

So much for the Jewish influences.  Anyway, we have seven materials to be used as planetary incenses.  PGM XIII also prescribes the use of “the seven flowers of the seven stars”, a mixture to be made from the flowers of:

  1. Marjoram (σαμψούχινον)
    1. Origanum majorana, sometimes called sweet marjoram or knotted marjoram to ensure it’s kept distinct from oregano which can sometimes be called “marjoram”.  Another species, Origanum onites (Cretan oregano or pot marjoram) could be substituted, but all indications point to it being marjoram proper.
    2. The word used here is not the usual Greek word for marjoram, but specifically a “foreign name”, while the usual classical Greek term would be ἀμάρακος (amárakos).
  2. Lily (κρίνινον)
    1. Betz gives “white lily”, though this is not mentioned in either Preisendanz or the original Greek.  Indeed, “white lily” would have been referred to by λείριον and not the word used in the PGM, while this word here refers to non-white lilies. I’m not quite sure what a good species would be, but so long as it’s a non-white true lily like Lilium chalcedonicum or Lilium martagon (Turk’s cap) or even Lilium bulbiferum (fire lily).
  3. Lotus (λώτινον)
    1. Lots of options here, but most likely is Nymphaea lotus, also called white lotus or Egyptian lotus (unsurprisingly), and was revered in ancient Egypt as a symbol and medicine of strength and power, though it could also be the blue Egyptian lotus, Nymphaea caerulea.
  4. Erephyllinon or herephyllinon (ἐρεφύλλινον)
    1. This name is unknown and nobody seems to be sure what this name refers to.  Preisendanz gives “Dichtlaubpflanze (?)”, literally “thick-foliage plant”, so he’s not sure, either, though he also gives a possible alternative ἑρπύλλινον “herpullinon”.  If I translated it right, this word refers to tufted thyme, Thymus caespititius, and unlike many of the other plants which come from the Near East or South Asia, this one is native to Iberia.  The author may instead be referring here to Thymus capitatus, conehead thyme or Persian hyssop, and is native to the Mediterranean and Turkey, so it’s possibly more likely.
  5. Narcissus (ναρκίσσινον)
    1. This is just daffodil, most likely the type species Narcissus poeticus.
  6. Gillyflower (λευκόϊνον)
    1. “Gillyflower” confused me, but Preisendanz gives “Goldlack” as the name in German, which refers to Erysimum cheiri syn. Cheiranthus cheiri, or common wallflower.
  7. Rose (ῥόδον)
    1. It’s…it’s rose.  If one wanted to get really particular, I’d recommend the Damask rose, Rosa × damascena, which seems to have been cultivated in the classical world and is prized for both its fragrance and flavor.

Though these seven flowers are said to be “of the seven stars”, no association is made explicit between these and the planets.  The order of the incenses might be temping to use as a correspondence, but there are two orders given both for the incenses and the flowers between PGM XIII.1—343 and PGM XIII.343—646, so I’m not comfortable linking them up that way.  It’s possible to deduce some planetary rulerships, but I’m unclear on what sources to use; most modern resources would give multiple flowers to Venus (lily, rose, narcissus, and thyme), leaving not many for the other planets.  For that matter, the planetary patterns of the incenses, too, are unfamiliar to modern magicians.  It’s possible that they would be mixed-up as a blind, but I’m disinclined to think so; what few blinds there are in the PGM are code-names for particular materia magica (e.g. PGM XII.401—444), but beyond that, it’d be odd for blinds to be introduced in what are little more than personal notes or examples that were never probably meant for public dissemination.  All told, I’m not sure we can clearly identify which flower goes with which planet, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s needed; unlike the incenses, there never seems to be a use for individual flowers, but they’re to be mixed up and used as a single substance.

According to the directions in PGM XIII.1—343, these seven flowers are to be taken 21 days “before the initiation” for processing.  The timeline given in the ritual suggests that a pre-initiatory period of sunrise salutes begins on the New Moon for seven days leading up to the initiation, which then would make the initiation occur on the First Quarter Moon.  21 days before this, then, would mean to gather the flowers on the day of or just before a Full Moon.  The text says that the flowers, once picked, are to be ground finely either in a white mortar or into a white incense (the Betz translation gives two options for this), then left to dry in the shade.  However, I’m not sure this makes sense; given the colors of the flowers, grinding them “into white incense” doesn’t seem likely or possible, nor does it make sense to grind them up before drying them if they need to be ground fine into anything except a paste or mush.  Still, perhaps that’s desired; if they are to be mixed up, perhaps making a single mass of them and letting them dry in the shade (protected from the light of the Sun and the Moon and other stars) could be more effective than letting the flowers dry out first then grinding them up into a powder.

The directions further on in PGM XIII.1—343 suggest that the the seven flowers was to be mixed with the appropriate planetary incense into a “bean”, a small nugget of incense, which was then to presumably be burned; later, the incense and the powder of the seven flowers is to be used when making ink for writing on a special tablet of natron before washing it off in wine and drinking the wine.  PGM XIII.343—646 suggests that, as a general initiatory incense, all seven of the planetary incenses were to be mixed with the the seven flowers, along with unmixed wine; additionally, the seven flowers are to be mixed with ink in the same way as before; though no reference is made here to using the incense as well for this purpose, PGM XIII.646—734 does say to use both the incense and the flowers for the ink.

The use of the flower powder and the incense for making ink is outside the scope of this post, since I want to focus on the process of making the incense.  As said above, the end of PGM XIII.1—343 says that the powder of the flowers is to be mixed with the incense and, presumably, sun vetch (fava beans) into nuggets of incense.  Making pellets like this is something I’ve done before, and was definitely done in the old world as well; while burning a combination of resins works, mixing them ahead of time along with a filler to produce more, thicker, or brighter smoke was often done as well.  However, some sort of liquid would be needed in order to steep and soften the resins and barks in order that they can be ground up; indeed, PGM XIII.646—734 says that, “having ground them all to a powder” (meaning both the flowers at minimum and likely also the incenses), one is to add “wine not mixed with seawater”.  This would moisten the incenses and flowers together, allowing them not only to be more fragrant and pungent, but also giving a bit of sugar to it as well, which would help the incense smoke more; the specific note of “not mixed with seawater” suggests that white wine would have been the preference, which would also line up with the Talmudic use of Cypriot or old white wine, dry and with a greater acidity, for the Temple incense.  The use of fava beans would then act as a binder and filler, giving the incense nuggets as a whole an earthy base to solidify on and would help stretch the use of scarce or expensive ingredients.

The process of soaking and mashing the ingredients, plus curing the nuggets once made (say, in a terracotta or clay container), would indeed take about three weeks, giving the magician enough time to have them ready by the time they were to be used.  What we end up with, essentially, is a type of PGM-specific kyphi, the sacred incense compound used in Egypt for both religious and medicinal purposes, which was also a blend of a variety of resins, flowers, barks, and so forth, many of which according to ancient authors are found in our ingredients above (and which, of course, have overlap with the incense and oil recipes given by the Book of Exodus which may also have been influenced by ancient Egyptian priestly practices).  Given the Egpytian priestly influence in PGM XIII, and the fact that we see the use of this incense both as a form of fumigation as well as a type of sacred medicine (when the ink used to write on the natron tablet is either licked off or washed off into wine and drunk), it’s clear that PGM XIII is really giving us a special type of Hermetic kyphi recipe.

Quantities, unfortunately, are missing from PGM XIII (as they often are from much of the rest of the PGM), so it’s unclear exactly how much of each incense or flower we should use, the ratio of incense and flowers to beans, and so forth, so some experimentation would be needed to come up with something that would resemble the incense of PGM XIII.  Off the top of my head (and I could be really wrong about it), I’d probably think a 2:1:3 ratio by weight would be appropriate for resins to flowers to beans, all having been soaked ahead of time in dry, strong white wine that is, of course, with no salt or salt water added.  Moreover, finding these ingredients can be hard; expensive perfumery is as expensive as ever, and while all the ingredients are still technically available, the fact that some of the ingredients (like costus and, increasingly, frankincense) are considered endangered makes getting hold of sufficient quantities exceptionally difficult.  It is possible to replace the use of raw resins and barks (and even the flowers, too!) with essential oils instead, which could then be used for both making incense (when mashed with fava beans soaked in wine) as well as making a PGM-style anointing oil.

I think I’ll keep an eye out for getting some more flowers later this summer.  It’s unclear how close to what the PGM author and I’ve described I can get, but it’s probably worth a shot.  Having a PGM-style temple incense (and maybe even an oil, if I were to go the essential oil route, or simply distill the resins and flowers into an oil without the wine and fava beans) could be useful, indeed.

Another Look at the Heptagram Rite

So, in going over my notes and prayers lately, I’ve been thinking of shaking up my regular practices and trying out new formats for prayers, devotions, rituals, and the like.  Rituals that are whole unto themselves, like the Trithemian conjuration ritual, don’t need any further framing or whatever done before or after them except for, say, meditation and purification, but other things could certainly benefit from restructuring or being placed into a structure.  One of the things that could benefit from that is my Invocation of the Solar Guardians, specifically the fuller version of them; I mean, as a simple homage unto itself to the guardian gods of the four stations of the Sun, it works fine unto itself, but it can also be used as part of a grander ritual, such as part of warding or cosmos-building.  One application I’d like to experiment with it is to use the Invocations as a form of sun-worship to recognize the seasonal changes of the equinoxes and solstices, but for a proper and full ritual to mark the turning of the Sun, I’d personally want more than just a few words to say.  Hence, framing rituals.

I didn’t expect to start with much, honestly, but after even a brief look through my notes and collected rituals, I found plenty of things to combine that include lustration, temple/circle warding, consecration of a candle, dismissal of spirits, thanksgiving offering of incense, and so forth, mostly pulled from or based on sources across the PGM.  I want to give it a few tries and refinements before sharing it publicly, but one of the things I wanted to include was, of course, the Heptagram Rite or, as is sometimes known, Calling the Sevenths to Induce Equilibrium which is a much more modern appellation.  Essentially, this is a method of attuning to the forces of the cosmos (specifically the planetary or celestial forces) by means of intoning the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet while facing certain directions and making certain motions.  In short:

  1. Face east.  Extend both hands to the left.  Intone Α.
  2. Face north.  Extend only the right fist forward.  Intone Ε.
  3. Face west.  Extend both hands outward as if in embrace.  Intone Η.
  4. Face south.  Place both hands on the belly.  Intone Ι.
  5. Face down.  Bend over and touch the ends of the toes.  Intone Ο.
  6. Face forward.  Place the right hand on the heart.  Intone Υ.
  7. Face up.  Place both hands on top of the head.  Intone Ω.

Simple enough!  I’ve used this as a quick act of attuning myself or of energy work in preparation for a larger ritual as well as part of a daily practice of energy work.  It’s nothing special, but it is highly effective.

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, this ritual comes from the PGM, as part of a much larger text, PGM XIII.734—1077, a large, mostly well-preserved section in the Greek Magical Papyri entitled “Tenth Hidden Book of Moses” (which is mostly, but not entirely, complete).  The ritual, named “the spell to which God gives attention”, is an invocation of God by means of the seven planets and their seven letters to obtain a vision or achieve some request.  It is intended to be done at dawn, though no specific day or other circumstance is given.  Unlike the common Heptagram Rite, which is a modern adaptation of part of this ritual taken from lines 824—841, the larger invocation which I call the Grand Heptagram Rite is not intended to be used as a framing ritual to prepare or attune oneself before another working, but rather on its own as its own complete ritual.  I’ve written about it before on my blog, and have a whole page up for it under Rituals, which I direct you to look at for more information.

Well, I took a look at my notes again, and then went back to the PGM to do some more research, and I came up with a few more observations.  To my horror, it seems that I left off the final lines of the final invocation from the text, either to my oversight or confusion.  I had it mostly complete, up through line 886.  I’ve added the “seven auspicious names” to the final invocation to the page on my blog, and I apologize for the confusion and error on my part.  However, the text does not end at this point, either; in fact, it goes on quite a bit longer, though I’m unsure how much to actually include as part of what I’d call the Grand Heptagram Rite proper.  Starting on line 889 of the text:

This initiation is performed to the suns of the thirteenth day of the month, when the gold lamella is locked off and one says over it: ΙΑΙΑ ΙΥ ΟΗ ΙΕΥΟΩ ΗΩΙ ΕΟ Η ΩΥ ΕΗ ΥΩΗ ΩΩΟ ΩΩΙ ΩΑΩ ΕΩ ΟΗ ΥΩ.  Then more completely, ΑΩΕΥΗ ΟΑΙ ΙΟ ΗΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΩ ΩΟ ΕΙ ΟΥ ΗΟ ΟΙΥΥ ΩΥΥ ΩΙ Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΩ ΕΟΗ ΕΩΗ ΙΑΑ ΗΩΙ ΗΙΩ.  In [the] initiation these things are said six times with all [the rest?], and the seven vowels are written on the gold lamella to be licked off, and on the silver lamella the seven vowels for the phylactery ΟΗΩ ΑΩ ΟΟΟ ΥΟΙΗ ΟΥ ΥΗΙ ΣΟΡΡΑ ΘΩΩΜ ΧΡΑΛΑΜΠΗΑΨ ΑΤΟΥΗΓΙ.  The following series of vowels [are written as] “wings”; and on the gold lamella write ΑΩΕΥΗΟΙ and on the silver ΙΟΗΥΕΩΑ…

Betz has a footnote here that says that “something, probably directions from another rite, seems to have fallen out of the text.  It resumes near the end of another spell”; indeed, several diagrams of vowels written in slanting rows follows, with another footnote: “this has no clear connection to the proceeding words, so Preisendanz conjectures a lacuna.  However, this may be the continuation of the lost spell in which the vowels stood.”  Based on the text that continues from this point, though there are a series of barbarous words with a start that bears high similarity to the last string in the above section, I’m inclined to agree; the final part of this “initiation” involving the lamellas and phylacteries seems to be incomplete.  Additionally, there’s no mention of any use of lamellas before this point.  The rest of the Tenth Book of Moses has mostly different sets of barbarous words attributed to various sources and a handful of charms.

So, on its own, what does the Grand Heptagram Rite (more originally “the instruction for the recitation of the heptagram and the spell to which the god gives attention”) do?  The introduction to this section of the PGM says that this text is “for this personal vision”, and that it is to work with and call upon Ogdoas, “the god who commands and directs all things” (though the Ogdoad is, more properly, a combination of eight Egyptian gods considered as a whole unit who created the universe and who represent the masculine and feminine aspects of the primeval world, and which were heavily worshiped in Hermopolis).  The rest of the text after the initial explanation is simply the ritual to be spoken, followed by the incomplete initiation above (which also doesn’t seem to match well with the rest of the text as it is, suggesting that it really is a separate ritual).  In context within the broader PGM, the Tenth Book of Moses takes place before the Eighth Hidden Book of Moses (PGM XIII.343—646 and 646—734), which itself is before another Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.1—343).  This is an interesting batch of texts, and Betz has quite a bit to say about how this is essentially a compilation of several versions of the same text along with other information from other texts, especially “Mosaic” ones.  These books being called the “Eighth” and “Tenth” Books of Moses, when nothing is said of a ninth, seventh, sixth, or so on can be attributed to the prestige given to the numbers 8 (for the Ogdoad of Egyptian belief) and 10 (for the Decad of Pythagorean belief).  PGM XIII in its entirety can be considered, in many ways, a grimoire compiled out of several sub-grimoires in the same tradition, much as one might find several versions of the Key of Solomon bound together as a complete text.  It’s a fascinating section of the PGM, and I’m sure much more can be said about it than what is appropriate here.

Back to the Grand Heptagram Rite in the Tenth Book of Moses.  Unlike an exorcism ritual like that of the Headless Rite (which can be bent to a sort of empowerment ritual according to the tweaks of Crowley and Mathers), this seems to be more of a ritual to call upon and bring forth the presence of the Divine, either for a divinatory vision or for initiation into that god’s power (especially since the Grand Heptagram Rite is followed by what seems to be an introduction to an initiation), though part of the prayer establishes a connection then and there in the ritual:

Your name and your spirit rest upon the good.  Come into my mind and my understanding for all the time of my life and accomplish for me the desires of my soul.  For you are I, and I you.  Whatever I say must happen, for I have your name as a unique phylactery in my heart, and no flesh, although moved, will overpower me; no spirit will stand against me, neither daimon nor visitation nor any other of the evil beings of Hades because of your name, which I have in my soul and which I invoke.

However, if we were to include the beginning part of the subsequent initiation (PGM XIII.889ff) as part of the text, then we’d adopt the following procedure:

  1. Remain pure from the start of the lunar month through the thirteenth day of the lunar month, upon which the ritual is to be performed.
  2. Between the first and twelfth days of the lunar month counting from the first visibility of the new Moon, prepare two small tablets, one of gold and one of silver, the silver tablet able to be worn around the neck as a pendant.
    On the silver tablet, engrave or write in permanent ink the following:

    ΙΟΗΥΕΩΑ
    ΙΟΗΥΕΩ
    ΙΟΗΥΕ
    ΙΟΗΥ
    ΙΟΗ
    ΙΟ
    Ι

  3. Before sunrise on the thirteenth day of the lunar month, just as the Moon approaches fullness but has not yet become full, prepare yourself in white clothing, wear the silver tablet around your neck, saying the following:

    ΟΗΩ ΑΩ ΟΟΟ ΥΟΙΗ ΟΥ ΥΗΙ ΣΟΡΡΑ ΘΩΩΜ ΧΡΑΛΑΜΠΗΑΨ ΑΤΟΥΗΓΙ

  4. Οn the gold tablet, write in water-soluble ink the following:

    ΑΩΕΥΗΟΙ
    ΑΩΕΥΗΟ
    ΑΩΕΥΗ
    ΑΩΕΥ
    ΑΩΕ
    ΑΩ
    Α

  5. At sunrise, go outside and face the Sun, say the following over the gold tablet:

    ΙΑΙΑ ΙΥ ΟΗ ΙΕΥΟΩ ΗΩΙ ΕΟ Η ΩΥ ΕΗ ΥΩΗ ΩΩΟ ΩΩΙ ΩΑΩ ΕΩ ΟΗ ΥΩ

  6. Lick the writing off the gold tablet, then say over the gold tablet:

    ΑΩΕΥΗ ΟΑΙ ΙΟ ΗΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΩ ΩΟ ΕΙ ΟΥ ΗΟ ΟΙΥΥ ΩΥΥ ΩΙ Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΩ ΕΟΗ ΕΩΗ ΙΑΑ ΗΩΙ ΗΙΩ

  7. Recite the Grand Heptagram Rite in its entirety.
  8. Perform the preceding four steps (writing on the gold tablet, facing the Sun, praying over the gold tablet, licking the gold tablet, praying over the gold tablet a second time, and performing the Grand Heptagram Rite) again at midday and a third time at sunset.

In my estimation, I don’t think that whole procedure involving performing the ritual three times on the thirteenth day of the lunar month with the gold and silver tablets is called for, since I don’t think the initiation described starting on line 889 is necessarily about the Grand Heptagram Rite (though I don’t think it would hurt, either).  Though the barbarous words here can get messy, especially the strings of vowels, I find that the Grand Heptagram Rite is a wonderful ritual on its own accord for inducing cosmic visions and approaching the sense of divinity, when done on its own for its own sake.  That the Heptagram Rite itself, the simple seven-vowels-seven-gestures-seven-directions that became known more recently as the Calling the Sevenths is so powerful is a testament to the overarching power of the Grand Heptagram Rite.

Which brings me back, rather circuitously, to the use of it in a general sense as part of a daily practice or framing ritual.  The Grand Heptagram Rite is, in my view, far too large and unwieldy to include as part of a ritual process or framing ritual, especially given its strings of barbarous names that can be hard to rattle off or memorize.  On the other hand, the Heptagram Rite can often be too short and quick to allow things to settle in; it’s great as part of broader work, but it may not be suitable when dealing with heavier forces, nor would it be good if someone’s out of shape and needs something stronger to bend them back into shape.  There’s a wide gap between the entirety of the Grand Heptagram Rite and the Heptagram Rite, and I wanted something of a halfway point between the two in length, something that could be a little more empowering than the shorter of the two and a little more generic than the longer of the two.  What follows is my attempt to bridge that gap

  1. Recite the first invocation to Aiōn (PGM XIII.843—848):

    I call on you, eternal and unbegotten Aiōn, who are One, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understands, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the Pole, him who is under you!  I call on you as the gods call you!  I call on you as the goddesses call you!  I call on you as the winds call you!

  2. Salute each direction with the vowels (PGM XIII.849—870)
    1. Face east, extend both hands to the left, and say:

      I call on you as the east: Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

    2. Face north, extend only the right fist forward, and say.

      I call on you as the north: Ε ΗΗ ΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ

    3. Face west, extend both hands outward as if in embrace, and say:

      I call on you as the west: Η ΙΙ ΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕΕ

    4. Face south, place both hands on the belly, and say:

      I call on you as the south: Ι ΟΟ ΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗΗ

    5. Face down, bend over and touch the ends of the toes, and say:

      I call on you as the earth: Ο ΥΥ ΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙΙ

    6. Face forward, place the right hand on the heart, and say:

      I call on you as the sky: Υ ΩΩ ΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟΟ

    7. Face up, place both hands on top of the head, and say:

      I call on you as the cosmos: Ω ΑΑ ΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥΥ

  3. Recite the second invocation to Aiōn, based on the first version of the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.64—71ff) and the Headless Rite (PGM V.140 and 141):

    I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, the self-begotten who see all and are not seen, who hear all and are not heard!  For you gave to Hēlios glory and all power, and to Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but apportioned all things so that they should be equal!  For when you appeared, both Order and Light arose!  All things are subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who change into all forms!  You are invisible, o Aiōn of Aiōns, and through you arose the celestial pole from the earth!  Hear me and help me, o lord, faultless and unflawed, who pollute no place, for I bear witness to your glory! Lord, King, Master, Helper, empower my soul!

(Note: I talk about why I changed the original order of the invocations here, going counterclockwise in agreement with the vowels, on the main ritual page.)

Essentially, what this shortened form of the ritual does is call upon the same attunement and cosmos-building that the Heptagram Rite does, itself framed by invocations to Aiōn, while allowing things to settle in more comprehensively and from all ways.  The main thing I wanted to accomplish here, however, was to avoid using barbarous names or vowel permutations where possible, hence why I’ve avoided including them in the “I call on you as by the voice of the [male] gods” and “…as the voice of the [female] goddesses”.  However, instead of continuing with the invocation to Aiōn from the Tenth Book of Moses (lines 871ff., starting “I call on your name, the greatest among gods…”), I opted for another invocation to Aiōn pulled from the Eighth Book of Moses, also because it doesn’t involve barbarous words, but also because the focus shifts here from a specific request for the divine apparition of Aiōn (as in the Tenth Book) to a general invocation (as in the Eighth Book), augmented by a single line from the Headless Rite (line 140 and 141, “Lord, King, Master, Helper, save the soul”).

(I’d also like to note that the first invocation to Aiōn from PGM XIII.843—848 is the origin of Jason Miller’s prayer to Aeon that he gives in his Advanced Planetary Magic ebook.  In that text, he describes the “Heptasphere” ritual, which is the Calling of the Sevenths followed by the prayer to Aeon, though without the usual motions from the PGM.  It is effectively the same thing as I’m trying to do, just not as long or as involved as I’m describing here.)

Though I’m comfortable with this middle-path ritual as it is, one of the things I don’t yet know about is any visualizations to be performed.  Normally, when doing the usual Heptagram rite, I just visualize the pure color of the planet coming from the direction I’m facing: purple from the East, orange from the North, and so forth.  For this, however, a visualization would need to take into account something more complex…probably?  I’d still want to keep the seven colors visualization as a base, but augment it with…not sure.  Visualizing seven sets of the seven vowels in each direction, or a seven-pointed star with each ray in a different planetary color for each direction?  Perhaps I could repurpose a line from further in the Tenth Book, line 880:

…Become for me lynx, eagle, snake, phoenix, life, power, necessity, images of God!…

I could feasibly read this as here are four animals and three ideas, all of which are images of God.  And, since there are four cardinal directions, plus below, center, and above, each of these images could be given to each direction we face in the ritual.  This could further be augmented by the final “seven of the auspicious names” at the very end of the Grand Heptagram Rite:

Direction Vowel Planet Image Name
East Α Moon Lynx ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
North Ε Mercury Eagle ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
West Η Venus Snake ΕΗΙΟΥ
South Ι Sun Phoenix ΙΗΕΑ
Down Ο Mars Life ΩΟΗΟΕ
Center Υ Jupiter Power ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
Up Ω Saturn Necessity ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ

Of course, all of this is incredibly hypothetical at this point, and it doesn’t seem to match up entirely nicely; after all, why should the Eagle be given to the North for Mercury, or Lynx to the East for the Moon?  If there’s any merit to linking up the directions/vowels/planets to the images in this way, and the images aren’t just given in a random order, then the answer might lie in Egyptian mythology and cosmology; after all, the Eighth Books and Tenth Book of Moses definitely have distinct Egyptian influences, and in Egyptian cosmology, the Lynx was said to be the enemy of the Serpent (Mafdet vs. Apep), while the Phoenix…well, doesn’t really have much of a connection with Eagles, though its solar nature cannot be denied, especially as it was considered the animal avatar of the Sun god Re.  Eagle, on the other hand, is more confusing; it wasn’t a traditional animal in Egyptian cosmology, though it could be equated with the falcon, the animal of Horus, and thus an equivalent to Jupiter or Zeus or to Helios.  Which, again, doesn’t necessarily match; we’d expect Thoth, an ibis or baboon, as an equivalent for Mercury/Hermes.  It could be argued either way, I suppose; it’s something for me to experiment with, all the same.

All that leaves me with one last thing: what to call this?  I don’t want to have to rename the Heptagram and Grand Heptagram Rites to different names to accommodate this middle-path version, though to be honest, that might be best.  For my own reference from this point on, I’ll use these terms:

  • Calling the Sevenths: the simple seven-directions, seven-vowels, seven-motions attunement ritual (previously “Heptagram Rite” or “Heptasphere Rite”)
  • Minor Heptagram Rite: the shortened ritual procedure as described above in this post
  • Major Heptagram Rite: the full ritual procedure from PGM XIII 763—887 (previously “Grand Heptagram Rite”)

So, fine.  The page on the Heptagram Rite has been updated with corrections and additions, and these are the terms I’ll use from now on to refer to these rituals.  And, better than that, I have a new attunement ritual and invocation to use, try out, and tweak for improvements.  In addition to offering a slightly fuller form of Calling the Sevenths, it also adds in useful invocations for power, assistance, and divine aid, which (in my own routines) can simplify my ritual process and make other things obsolete or redundant, which makes things even more efficient for me, whether in daily practices or in framing rituals.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you have any experience with the Heptagram Rite in any of its forms, whether the shorter Calling the Sevenths or the whole process of PGM XIII.734ff?  Do you have your own PGM-style framing rituals that make use of the directions or vowels?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

A Small Note on the Modern Use of the Calling of the Sevenths

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

A good friend and colleague of mine pointed out to me that the modern usage of the Calling of the Sevenths rite, otherwise known as the Heptagram Rite (as I’m sure you’re familiar with by now, dear reader) isn’t exactly old.  We don’t see it used past twenty years ago, really, and…well, part of that is that the craze with Greco-Egyptian magic (from the Greek Magical Papyri to the Demotic Magical Papyri to Hebrew bowl magic and so forth) wasn’t nearly before then as it’s gotten in recent years.  That it’s gotten as big as it has is amazing, and is definitely fueling a new push in magical techniques, but there’s a danger in that that’s evident from the PGM itself: reckless synthesis without clear attribution of sources.

So, my friend Julio Cesar Ody pointed out that the ritual we know as the Calling of the Sevenths has an origin.  I’m not talking about the ancient origin of PGM XIII.824-841, either, but a much more recent origin.  Let’s trace it back through three books:

  1. Michael Cecchetelli’s Book of Abrasax, published 2012
  2. Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magic: Everyday Empowerment, published 2006
  3. Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris, originally published 1995 and republished 2009

Of the three, I got my hands on Cecchetelli’s book last.  One of my biggest gripes about Cecchetelli’s book is that he doesn’t cite a damn thing.  While synthesis and personal innovation is awesome, I would have loved to have references to the PGM, PDM, and other texts that Cecchetelli got his stuff from, and I end up having to dig through a variety of texts to get the original Greek or Coptic spellings out or to see how Cecchetelli may have innovated or adapted the ritual from its original.  Happily, both Mierzwicki and Flowers provide those references, and they largely share the same core texts, and I’ve read over the PGM enough times to have a good feeling of where I might find a particular incantation.

Flowers is…well, it’s Flowers.  He does a lot of straight lifting from the PGM (and only from the PGM, not even the PDM), and as much explanation of the magico-philosophical milieu that the PGM came from.  Likewise, he combines as much actual extant theory with made-up fantasy, which makes his book not exactly a great one from an academic’s perspective.  Still, there’s some good information in there nestled amongst the crazy bits, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without having come across it.

I got my hands on Mierzwicki’s books around the same time as Cecchetelli, and…well, it’s a good book, but I wasn’t impressed by it, and that fault is entirely mine; by the time I read Mierzwicki, I was already conversant with the PGM as a whole, and seeing his adaptation of the PGM was boring at that point.  Still, it’s a text I highly, highly recommend to those who are getting started with PGM-style magic.

So, back to the Heptagram rite.  My point here is that of the three texts, Flowers should probably be credited with bringing it back from the dusty pages of the PGM into modern usage.  However, he also called it the Ritual of the Heptagram, which is basically the name the PGM gives this same ritual.  Mierzwicki, on the other hand, calls it “Calling of the Sevenths”, which is also appropriate, and a name that Cecchetelli and other authors have lifted without attribution.  It’s important to give credit where it’s due, and I’m glad my friend Mr. Ody told me about this; it’s given me a reason to take another good look at Mierzwicki’s work, and also to clarify a bit about our modern practice in our occulture.

Cite your work, my friends.

The Grand Heptagram Rite

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Thanks to Stephen Flowers in his Hermetic Magic and Fr. Michael Cecchetelli in his Book of Abrasax, there’s a particularly common ritual that many Hermetic magicians use that’s lifted from the Greek Magical Papyri.  It’s usually called something like “calling the sevenths” or “heptagram rite”; the latter name is informative if misunderstood, since it should be interpreted as “seven letters” instead of a seven-sided polygon.  I use it daily with my own tweaks for my own practice.  It’s pretty straightforward, and Fr. MC has the simple form of the ritual on his blog:

  1. Face east.  Extend both hands to the left.  Intone Α.
  2. Face north.  Extend only the right fist forward.  Intone Ε.
  3. Face west.  Extend both hands outward as if in embrace.  Intone Η.
  4. Face south.  Place both hands on the belly.  Intone Ι.
  5. Face down.  Bend over and touch the ends of the toes.  Intone Ο.
  6. Face forward.  Place the right hand on the heart.  Intone Υ.
  7. Face up.  Place both hands on top of the head.  Intone Ω.

And that’s it.  Visualizations of color, planetary symbols, reciting the permutations of the name ΙΑΩ, &c. are unnecessary for the completion of this ritual, strictly speaking.  Merely making the gestures and intoning the seven vowels suffices for attuning oneself to the powers of the seven planets and inducing equilibrium in one’s sphere, as Fr. MC puts it.  It’s a good practice to do, especially if you only have a few seconds to balance yourself out.  Personally, I add in an intonation of the full set of vowels and permutation of the name ΙΑΩ (ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΙΑΩ ΑΩΙ ΩΙΑ ΑΙΩ ΙΩΑ ΩΑΙ ΩΥΟΙΗΕΑ) to make it more well-rounded, but again, this isn’t necessary for the ritual itself.

Fr. MC gets the ritual from the Greek Magical Papyri, specifically from PGM XIII.824-841.  However, what he doesn’t say is that this is only a small part of a much longer entry, PGM XIII.734-1077, titled The Tenth Hidden Book of Moses (although the word “tenth” is conjectured).  It follows two other lengthy entries in PGM XIII, also titled something along similar lines as the Eighth Hidden Book of Moses, which are fairly decent magical grimoires in their own right.  While it’s proven by demonstration that the heptagram rite given above works, it’s not quite the whole heptagram rite, which includes a lot more in the way of prayers, intonation, and and setup.  For instance, Jason Miller in his Advanced Planetary Magic text includes an invocation that goes along with his own variation of the heptagram rite, which he calls “the Heptasphere” and which he also references Flowers’ and Fr. MC’s renditions of the ritual.  This invocation is found directly after the heptagram rite in the PGM, and is nearly identical to Miller’s.

The text begins with a general instruction to the student, implying that the text is itself a selection or continuation of some other part of the PGM, referencing a list of gods of days, hours, weeks, and the months as well as an oath to keep the text secret (whoopsie).  The purpose of the ritual is to obtain a favor, request, or vision of the god, though which god is unclear; the text begins by specifying as Ogdoas (a singular form of the eight-fold Egyptian gods collectively known as the Ogdoad), but the text veers off in another direction later.  This initial part of PGM XIII.734 specifies six special names, the first implicitly and the latter five explicitly, and later there are the names of the eight individual gods (described as guards who attend the highest God) that are in the Ogdoad:

  • The name of 7 letters: ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ
  • The name of God of Creation: ΟΓΔΟΑΣ
  • The name of 9 letters: ΑΕΗ ΕΗΙ ΟΥΩ
  • The name of 14 letters: ΥΣΑΥ ΣΙΑΥΕ ΙΑΩΥΣ
  • The name of 26 letters: ΑΡΑΒΒΑΟΥΑΡΑΒΑ ΑΒΑΡΑΥΟΑΒΒΑΡΑ
  • The name of Zeus: ΧΟΝΑΙ ΙΕΜΟΙ ΧΟ ΕΝΙ ΚΑ ΑΒΙΑ ΣΚΙΒΑ ΦΟΡΟΥΟΜ ΕΠΙΕΡΘΑΤ
  • The eight names of the Ogdoad: Η Ω ΧΗ ΧΟΥΧ ΝΟΥΝ ΝΑΥΝΙ ΑΜΟΥΝ ΑΜΑΥΝΙ

The ritual continues with a lengthy preliminary invocation, followed by the Heptagram Rite as we know and practice it.  After that, there’s the invocation to God (the one that Jason Miller based his off of), followed by a series of vowel permutations to call on God as the male gods, female gods, winds, east, south, west, north, earth, sky, and cosmos call God.  Another invocation follows,  and then the ritual seems to be concluded.  What follows appears to be a separate initiation ritual that has not survived in its entirety, resuming near the end of another spell invoking Dionysos and Michael; after that, there are a series of other invocations, incantations, and spells that collectively compose this mini-grimoire of the Tenth Hidden Book of Moses.

With no further ado, let’s go over PGM XIII.763-889, the relevant part of the PGM entry.  At sunrise, say the preliminary invocation:

Come to me, you from the four winds, ruler of all, who breathed spirit into men for life, whose is the hidden and unspeakable name, unutterable by human mouth, at whose name even the daimons are terrified when they hear it!  You whose is the Sun, ΑΡΝΕΒΟΥΑΤ ΒΟΛΛΟΧ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΙΧ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΙΧ ΒΑΑΛΣΑΜΗΝ ΠΤΙΔΑΙΟΥ ΑΡΝΕΒΟΥΑΤ and the Moon ΑΡΣΕΝΠΕΝΠΡΩΟΥΘ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΑΙΩΝΕ ΟΣΡΑΡ ΜΕΜΨΕΧΕΙ—they are unwearied eyes shining in the pupils of men’s eyes—of whom heaven is the head, ether the body, earth the feet, and environment the water, the Agathos Daimon!

You are the ocean, begetter of good things and feeder of the civilized world.  Yours is the eternal processional way in which your seven-lettered name is established for the harmony of the seven sounds of the planets which utter their voices according to the 28 forms of the Moon, ΣΑΡ ΑΦΑΡΑ ΑΦΑΡΑ Ι ΑΒΡΑΑΡΜ ΑΡΑΦΑ ΑΒΡΑΑΧ ΠΕΡΤΑΩΜΗΧ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΕ Η ΙΑΩ ΟΥΕ ΕΙΟΥ ΑΕΩ ΕΗΟΥ ΙΑΩ.

Yours are the beneficent effluxes of the stars, daimons, and Fortune and Fates, by whom is given wealth, good old age, good children, good luck, a good burial.  Lord of Life, King of the heavens and the earth and all living things in them, you whose justice is not turned aside, you whose glorious name the Muses sing, you whom the eight guards attend who are Η Ω ΧΗ ΧΟΥΧ ΝΟΥΝ ΝΑΥΝΙ ΑΜΟΥΝ ΑΜΑΥΝΙ, you who have truth that never lies!

Your name and your spirit rest upon the good.  Come into my mind and my understanding for all the time of my life and accomplish for me the desires of my soul.  For you are I, and I you.  Whatever I say must happen, for I have your name as a unique phylactery in my heart, and no flesh, although moved, will overpower me; no spirit will stand against me, neither daimon nor visitation nor any other of the evil beings of Hades because of your name, which I have in my soul and which I invoke.

Be with me always for good, a good god dwelling on a good man, yourself immune to magic, giving me health no magic can harm, well-being, prosperity, glory, victory, power, sex appeal!  Restrain the evil eyes of each and all of my opponents, whether men or women, and give me charm in everything I do!

ΑΝΟΧ ΑΙΕΦΕ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΕΗΕ ΣΕΗΕ ΣΙΕΘΩ ΣΙΕΘΩ ΟΥΝ ΧΟΥΝΤΙΑΙ ΣΕΜΒΙ ΙΜΕΝΟΥΑΙ ΒΑΙΝΦΝΟΥΝ ΦΝΟΥΘ ΤΟΥΧΑΡ ΣΟΥΧΑΡ ΣΑΒΑΧΑΡ ΑΝΑ of the god ΙΕΟΥ ΙΟΝ ΕΟΝ ΘΩΘΩ ΟΥΘΡΟ ΘΡΩΡΕΣΕ ΕΡΙΩΠΩ ΙΥΗ ΑΗ ΙΑΩΑΙ ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΗΟΧ ΜΑΝΕΒΙ ΧΥΧΙΩ ΑΛΑΡΑΩ ΚΟΛ ΚΟΛ ΚΑΑΤΩΝ ΚΟΛΚΑΝΘΩ ΒΑΛΑΛΑΧ ΑΒΛΑΛΑΧ ΟΘΕΡΧΕΝΘΕ ΒΟΥΛΩΧ ΒΟΥΛΩΧ ΟΣΕΡΧΝΘΕ ΜΕΝΘΕΙ

For I I have received the power of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of the great god, the daimon ΙΑΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΣΙΑΒΡΑΘΙΛΑΩ ΛΑΜΨΤΗΡ ΙΗΙ ΩΩ, God!

Do this, lord ΠΕΡΤΑΩΜΕΧ ΧΑΧΜΗΧ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΕΗΟΥ ΙΑΩ

Perform the calling of the sevenths, aka the Heptagram Rite.  The ritual text has an accompanying diagram that links the directions with the vowels; the text says to just intone the letter, although the diagram specifies to lengthen the letter according to its place in the seven-lettered name (so Α, ΕΕ, ΗΗΗ, ΙΙΙΙ, etc.).  For simplicity, I’ll just use the single version of each vowel.

  1. Face east (“speaking to the rising sun”).  Extend both hands to the left.  Intone Α.
  2. Face north.  Extend only the right fist forward.  Intone Ε.
  3. Face west.  Extend both hands outward as if in embrace.  Intone Η.
  4. Face south.  Place both hands on the belly.  Intone Ι.
  5. Face down (“to the earth”).  Bend over and touch the ends of the toes.  Intone Ο.
  6. Face forward (“into the air”).  Place the right hand on the heart.  Intone Υ.
  7. Face up (“into the sky”).  Place both hands on top of the head.  Intone Ω.

Say the invocation to Aiōn:

I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understands, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the Pole, him who is under you!  Accomplish for me now that which I seek:…

I call on you as the male gods call you: ΙΗΩ ΟΥΕ ΩΗΙ ΥΕ ΑΩ ΕΙ ΩΥ ΑΟΗ ΟΥΗ ΕΩΑ ΥΕΙ ΩΕΑ ΟΗΩ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΩ

I call on you as the female gods call you: ΙΑΗ ΕΩΟ ΙΟΥ ΕΗΙ ΩΑ ΕΗ ΙΕ ΑΙ ΥΟ ΗΙΑΥ ΕΩΟ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΑΩ ΩΑΙ ΕΟΥΗ ΥΩΗΙ ΙΩΑ

I call on you as the winds call you!

Face the sunrise in the east with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the east: Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

Face north with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the north: Ε ΗΗ ΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ

Face west with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the west: Η ΙΙ ΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕΕ

Face south with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the south: Ι ΟΟ ΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗΗ

Face down with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the earth: Ο ΥΥ ΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙΙ

Face forward with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the sky: Υ ΩΩ ΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟΟ

Face up with arms raised in the orans gesture.

I call on you as the cosmos: Ω ΑΑ ΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥΥ

Say the final supplication.

Accomplish for me quickly that which I seek:… I call on your name, the greatest among gods!  If I say it complete, the earth will quake, the sun will stop, the moon will be afraid, the rocks and the mountains and the sea and the rivers and every liquid will be petrified, the whole cosmos will be thrown into confusion!  I call on you, ΙΥΕΥΟ ΩΑΕΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΕΗ ΑΙ ΕΗ ΑΗ ΙΟΥΩ ΕΥΗ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΗΙ ΩΗΙ ΙΑΗ ΙΩΟΥΗ ΑΥΗ ΥΗΑ ΙΩ ΙΩΑΙ ΙΩΑΙ ΩΗ ΕΕ ΟΥ ΙΩ ΙΑΩ, the Great Name!

Become for me Lynx, Eagle, Snake, Phoenix, Life, Power, Necessity, images of God!  ΑΙΩ ΙΩΥ ΙΑΩ ΗΙΩ ΑΑ ΟΥΙ ΑΑΑΑ Ε ΙΥ ΙΩ ΩΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΙ ΑΩΗ ΟΥΕΩ ΑΙΕΗ ΙΟΥΕ ΥΕΙΑ ΕΙΩ ΗΙΙ ΥΥ ΕΕ ΗΗ ΩΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ ΑΙΩ Η ΙΙ ΥΥ ΗΗ ΟΑΟΗ

With that, the ritual is complete (or appears to be so).  Besides my usual stylistic changes to the PGM text to make it flow a bit better and incorporating Betz’s additions to the text, I made one significant change in the long intonations of the vowels, calling on God as each of the directions.  This part in the PGM didn’t seem to match the earlier sevenths-calling rite in several ways:

  • The order goes east, south, west, north, earth, sky, cosmos (as opposed to the earlier east, north, west, south… before)
  • Calling as the north starts with Ω (not Ε, as before)
  • Calling as the earth starts with Ε (not Ο, as before)
  • Calling on the cosmos starts with Ο (not Ω, as before)
  • There are no gestures specified for these, but being general, I went with a general gesture.  You might substitute, instead, with the prescribed gestures from earlier.

Now, as a proper ritual, at least we have a general idea of how it’s supposed to be employed, unlike some rituals from the PGM.  We know that (what I’m calling) the Grand Heptagram Rite is an invocation of God by means of the seven planets and their seven letters, whether it is to obtain a vision or achieve some request.  It’s intended to be done at dawn, though no specific day is mentioned within this part of the PGM entry.  Unlike the common Heptagram Rite, which is a modern adaptation of part of this ritual, PGM XIII.763-889 isn’t intended to be used as a framing ritual to prepare or attune oneself before another working, but is to be employed on its own as its own complete ritual.  However, nothing stops the interested magus from employing the Grand Heptagram Rite as a preliminary ritual, much as one might use the Headless Rite before a conjuration.  However, based on the above, it’s clear how we might expand the popular Heptagram Rite into something not quite as big or elaborate as the Grand Heptagram Rite, such as by augmenting the single vowel intonations with the other vowels in sequence (as in the “I call on you as the east/north/west/&c.” section).

On the Solar Guardians

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about these entities?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Recently, I described my method of applying PGM IV.1596, a prayer used for a consecration under the twelve faces of Helios, in a ritual format, but there’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t in the PGM because…well, it’s not in the PGM.  All that we have is the prayer, so I took some liberties and frameworks of my own and structured a ritual around it.  As part of that, I incorporated four barbarous words of power: ΕΡΒΗΘ, ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ.  I only briefly mentioned where they were from, and only really discussed them once before on my blog as something relating to the directions, but I think it’s time for me to talk a bit more about them.

Let’s take a look at the Greek Magical Papyri for a sec, specifically PGM II.64-183, An alternative procedure on a conjuration of Apollon-Helios for wisdom and blessing.  After a lengthy “greeting formula” including a hymn not unlike the Orphic Hymn to Helios, we find the following:

…you who dwell throughout the whole inhabited world, you whose bodyguard is the sixteen giants, you who are seated upon the lotus and who light up the whole inhabited world; you who have desiguated the various living things upon the earth, you who have the sacred bird upon your robe in the eastern parts of the Red Sea, even as you have upon the northern parts the figure of an infant child seated upon a lotus, O rising one, O you of many names, ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ; on the southern parts you have the shape of the sacred falcon, through which you send fiery heat into the air, which becomes ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ; in the parts towards the west you have the shape of a crocodile, with the tail of a snake, from which you send out rains and snows; in the parts toward the east you have the form of a winged dragon, a diadem fashioned of air, with which you quell all discords beneath the heaven and on earth, for you have manifested yourself as a god in truth, ΙΩ ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ ΖΑΣ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΣΜΑΡΘ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΣΟΥΜΑΡΤΑ ΙΑΛΟΥ ΒΑΒΛΑ ΥΑΜ ΜΟΛΗΕΝΘΙΩ ΠΕΤΟΤΟΥΒΙΗΘ ΙΑΡΜΙΩΘ ΛΑΙΛΑΜΨ ΧΩΟΥΧ ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ ΕΥ ΦΘΑ ΗΩΛΙ…

From this passage, we can note a few things:

  • The Sun, again, changes his form based on his position in the sky, only instead of it being hour by hour as in PGM IV.1596, here he changes based on what quarter of the sky he’s in.
  • The northern quarter has the name ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ with the form of an infant seated upon a lotus.
  • The southern quarter has the name ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ (part of the whole Aberamen formula) with the form of the sacred solar falcon sending out heat and fire.
  • The western quarter has no name here, but the form of a crocodile with the tail of a snake sending out coldness and water.
  • The eastern quarter has a long name starting with ΕΡΒΗΘ, with the form of a winged dragon with a “diadem of air”, or of clouds.

Despite what I normally think about him and his work, Stephen Flowers in his Hermetic Magic occasionally hits on a few good thing.  He references this part of the PGM in the construction of his Hermetic ritual circle and preliminary invocation; after he calls the sevenths with the seven vowels in the Heptagram ritual, he then uses the four names ΕΡΒΗΘ, ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ as well as the four forms given to the four directions as stated before.  While this section of the PGM does not list ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ as one of the names, given its presence throughout the rest of the PGM, I think it could be a safe attribution to make.

However, Flowers isn’t the only one to use barbarous words of power for the directions.  Michael Cecchetelli in his Book of ABRASAX uses a similar arrangement in his ritual of “Calling of the Sevenths to Induce Equilibrium”.  In it, he uses the names ABLANATHANALBA, AKRAMMACHAMARI, DAMDAMENNEOS, and SESENKEBARPHAGES for the south, north, west, and east (well, technically, to the right, left, rear, and front of the magus, respectively, while facing the East).  However, he doesn’t say where these words come from nor whence their directional correspondences, and neither does he list any visualization or imagery for the names; he says the ritual is found in “PGM 824”, though I’m pretty sure he means to reference lines 824 through 840 of PGM XIII.734-1077, a long section entitled The Tenth Hidden Book of Moses that includes far more than just the recitation of the seven vowels of the Heptagram and, in fact, includes a far more complex calling of the directions, as well.  However, this section doesn’t list any words of power for the directions specifically, and Fr. MC’s spelling of the names is a little odd compared to what we’d normally find (ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ instead of ΔΑΜΔΑΜΕΝΝΕΟΣ, ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ instead of ΣΕΣΕΓΚΕΒΑΡΦΑΓΗΣ).

What’s interesting to me is that we have two separate authors, Flowers and Cecchetelli, who both use the Heptagram ritual with a ritual of calling on the names of…something at the four directions.  Both Flowers and Cecchetelli use the name ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, and without a PGM reference to indicate otherwise, Flowers hits the mark closer to assigning the names to the directions than Cecchetelli does.  However, all six names are powerful and quite common throughout the PGM, and I dislike having to pick between two otherwise-competent and reasonable systems, so I figured, why not use all six?  After all, both of these sets of names are used in the context of calling on seven directions, not just four, and between Flowers and Cecchetelli, we have six names.  My system for assigning the names to the directions is largely based on Flowers’ system:

  • ΕΡΒΗΘ in the east
  • ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ in the south
  • ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ in the west
  • ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ in the north
  • ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ in the heights
  • ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ in the depths

It’s my own innovation to include the heights and the depths to this directional framework, and the two names have responded more-or-less well in practice, though they do feel a bit detached from the others.  This makes sense; in the context from which the four names for the cardinal directions come, they reference the forms of the Sun in his path across the skies, while the heights and the depths don’t really take part in the path of the Sun.  Instead, they form more of a backdrop, a general rulership, or “host” to the Sun.

When it comes to the “forms” for ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, I spent a bit of meditation with the names and the directions, and received two images:

  • ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ has the form of an old man in pale grey or white silver, balding with head uncovered, looking downward, holding a ring of keys in his right hand and a staff as tall as he is in his left.
  • ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ has the form of a young woman dressed all in fiery red, head and hair covered in a red shawl, looking directly forward, holding a tall spear in her right hand a torch in her left.

It’s important to note that these are personal revelations and are somewhat influenced by the planetary attributions of the heights and depths given in the Heptagram (heights with Saturn, depths with Mars), but were obtained from the names through reflection and meditation.  It’s also striking that these forms are humane in nature, unlike the animal forms of most of the Sun’s forms with the exception of the face of ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ in the north, where it’s a babe (primordial human) on a lotus (the growth of celestial seed and fertile earth).

Now we have six names, but what about a seventh?  We have names for the four cardinal directions, the heights, and the depths, but we’re lacking one to match the directions used in the Heptagram ritual, where that missing direction is the center.  For this, I originally suggested to use the name of one’s HGA/genius/paredos/agathodaimon/whatever, but after some more meditation and communion with…something, I settled on the word ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ, a word I use for empowering and directing the self itself.  This is, again, a word I was “given” by one of the planetary angels, but I felt like it works well as a stabilization and centralization of the self in preliminary rituals.  It’s like a generic “higher self” name, in my experience.

So, to that end, my ritual (or mini-ritual component) for calling on the directions goes something like this.

  1. Start facing the east (or whatever quarter of the sky the Sun happens to be in), and calm and center the breath.
  2. Take a half-step forward with the right foot and raise the right arm in a salute, hailing the direction and its guardian while visualizing him to fill that direction.  Move clockwise, saluting the four cardinal directions:

    ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, take thy place in the East!
    ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take thy place in the South!
    ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take thy place in the West!
    ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take thy place in the North!

  3. Return to the original direction.  For the next two guardians, stand with both feet together and look towards the direction, moving the right hand towards it and moving the left hand away; thus, raise the right hand and lower the left when saluting the heights, and vice versa for the depths.  Again, visualize the guardian while saluting.

    ΙΩ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take thy place in the Heights!
    ΙΩ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take thy place in the Depths!

  4. Return to the original direction.  Face forward with arms extended out to the sides, visualizing all the guardians around you in their proper stations, with yourself luminous and casting light out in all directions.  Intone the following salutation:

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ in the Center of All!

    If you wish, mentally intone the name of your HGA as you physically say the word ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ.

And that’s basically what I do when calling on the guardians of the directions, although I’m thinking of changing it up some.  As I’ve mentioned before, the guardians of the heights and the depths don’t feel in the same current as those of the four directions; they do respond, just not with the same force or oomph as the other four.  For a general preliminary invocation, I’m probably just going to drop the salutation of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, though I will keep the self-proclamation of ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ as a preliminary centering act before other ritual work.

Admittedly, it’s been not that easy for me to contact the four guardians, but when I have, they’ve indicated that they’re not strictly separate, just as the four points on a circle aren’t really separate but part of the same line.  Instead, they told me that they’re definitely stations, managers, or “reflections” of the Sun at the four corners of the world.  This is fascinating in retrospect, since I only really fully realized what this meant after reviewing PGM II.64 in light of the consecration of the twelve faces of Helios, which is a much more recent study.  However, they do have separate powers and presences, and although they are best called together, one will usually predominate, the one that represents the quarter of the sky that the Sun is currently in.

I’m a dunce for not recognizing this sooner or picking out the patterns, but this has led me to think of a new ritual dedicated just to the salutations of the four faces of the Sun in the two realms of the Heights and the Depths.  It’s turned out a bit like Liber Resh, about which I’m unsure about how I feel, but it’s a good PGM-centric alternative to be used by those who don’t have a taste for Crowley’s rituals.  Again, when I say “noon” or “midnight”, I mean astronomical noon/midnight, not necessarily clock noon/midnight, since things like summer time or DST may leave you an hour early or late to the appropriate station.

  1. At sunrise, hail the rising Sun in the East crossing the boundary from the Depths to the Heights.  Face the rising Sun at the East, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the winged dragon-serpent with a crown of clouds taking reign over the East.

    ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, you who are Helios who rise now from the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ into the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take your place in the East as you come from the North, quelling all discord as you bring bright force to dark space!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΕΡΒΗΘ!

  2. At noon, hail the bright Sun in the South at the zenith of the Heights.  Face the noontime Sun at the South, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the solar golden falcon with fire emanating from his wings taking reign over the South.

    ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, you who are Helios who surmount now onto the highest heights of the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take your place in the South as you come from the East, sending upon us radiant fire and life-giving heat!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ!

  3. At sunset, hail the setting Sun in the West crossing the boundary from the Heights to the Depths.  Face the setting Sun at the West, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the snake-tailed crocodile sinking below the oceanic waters taking reign over the West.

    ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, you who are Helios who sink now from the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ into the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take your place in the West as you come from the South, shedding cold water as you cleanse hot day with cool night!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ!

  4. At midnight, hail the reborn Sun in the North at the nadir of the Depths.  Face the midnight Sun at the North, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the sacred naked child enthroned on a blossoming lotus in the mud taking reign over the North.

    ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, you who are Helios who set now upon the darkest depths of the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take your place in the North as you move from the West, reborn as king from the virgin womb of the world!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ!

Looking back at this ritual, we can begin to see something resembling a solar-elemental attribution to the four directions: east has a crown of clouds to clear the airs, so Air; south has heat and light, so Fire; west has coldness and water, so Water; north has the lotus in the mud, so Earth.  This…well, huh.  This is the same as the Enochian/Neopagan/Golden Dawn system of directional-elemental attributions.  I’ll be damned; I didn’t expect to see this kind of thing pop up here, of all places, but it’s cool to see that maybe, just maybe, if we were to extrapolate this ritual out a bit into the powers of the four elements, it could tie itself into more modern forms of Hermetic or angelic magic.

Anyway, this new approach I’m planning incorporates the four cardinal directions as the Sun travels between the two realms, without recognizing the guardians ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ in the same way as the other four guardians, while also asserting the power of the self through the presence of ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ.  I’m planning on taking this approach in the future as opposed to the mini-invocation before rituals as well as when calling on the guardians themselves for their own sake or for a more concerted purpose than just having their presence upon me.  Like, I could supplement the self-proclamation at the end of the salutation with a libation or offering to the Sun, as well as any personal requests.  It’s a possibility I’d like to explore, at least to learn more about these four spirits.

For instance, I was in the habit of calling all the guardians at once on the night of the full Moon to make offerings to them, when either ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ (if between sunset and midnight) or ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ (if between midnight and sunrise) would dominate the conversation, with the guardians of the Heights and of the Depths kinda just hanging back and the other three guardians of the cardinal directions just kinda…being mute.  Instead of doing that, I could dedicate the time to making four separate invocations, calling on each guardian of the direction separately as the Sun reaches its proper station, recognizing the guardian into whose realm the Sun was reaching or traveling to or from, and meditating or communing with the Sun through its proper face at the given quarter of the day-night cycle.

Such a ritual invoking the four faces of the Sun at the four stations of the day-night cycle could be done, really, any day, but I’d think that it’d be best done at a time when the Moon is full or close to it, so that the Moon could represent the magus as the one who receives the light of the Sun and who is “standing before” the Sun.  For a similar reason, the full Moon is the time when the most possible light is shed upon the Earth, both from the Sun on one side and the full reflection of the Sun’s light upon and from the Moon on the other.  It’s a highly luminous time, and one when the most possible benefit could be obtained from the Sun.  Alternatively, a day when the Sun is otherwise powerful, such as on that of an election, the summer solstice, or when the Sun reaches his exaltation point at 18° Aries, would be especially nice.

However, this ritual done in its entirety wouldn’t be suitable as a framing ritual like the shorter invocation would be from before.  For that, perhaps this variant would suffice:

ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, take your place in the East between dark ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ and bright ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ!
ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take your place in the South at the zenith of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ!
ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take your place in the West between hot ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and cool ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ!
ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take your place in the North at the nadir of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ!
For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ in the Center of All!

And, of course, I write all the above from my comfortable position in the northern hemisphere, where the Sun rises into the southern skies and sets into the northern skies.  For my readers in the southern hemisphere, where the case is reversed, you might try reversing the attributions of the names and directions as necessary, so that you’d have ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ (noon) in the north and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ (midnight) in the south, moving counterclockwise instead of clockwise, and so forth.