A PGM-Style Framing Rite for Pretty Much Any Purpose

This past quarter, the splendid Gordon White of Rune Soup held another of his classes, this time on the Greek Magical Papyri, otherwise known famously as the PGM.  It was a great course; rather than being focused on simply presenting rituals and implementations thereof, Gordon went all out on giving the context, development, influences, cosmology, and theory that really fleshes out the PGM.  No, the PGM cannot be considered a single body of texts, because they’re inherently not: they’re a jumble of papyri from multiple authors across multiple centuries.  However, Gordon’s class really pulls so much of it together into something that could, honestly, feel like it could be presented as part of a single text, or at least a single tradition with more-or-less a single mindset.  It’s a tall order, but it’s a great thing to take if you’re a member of his class stuff.  That said, and to be candid about it, I’m kinda left a little hungry by the course: knowing that Gordon’s been doing PGM magic for…quite some time (probably longer than I’ve been a magician at all), I’d’ve liked to see more implementations and descriptions of ritual rather than just the cosmological backgrounds behind what we have in the PGM.  Still, I also know that I’m often left a little (or a lot) disappointed by other books on PGM-style magic that mostly or only list rituals with only a smattering of cosmology behind them; some of them are worthwhile, at least for a while, but I tire of them easily, probably because I’m a spoiled brat and like to chew on things myself rather than simply have them presented to me, so perhaps it’s really for the best that Gordon focused on the background and theory of the PGM rather than the contents themselves.  Of the other well-known books about the PGM, Stephen Skinner’s Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic is a great analysis of the content of the PGM, and is a helpful index and guide to looking at and investigating parts of the PGM (though I differ with him on some accounts as well).

Flatteringly, Gordon referenced me and my work on my blog and website several times throughout his course.  (I admit, I was caught off-guard each time he did so, and it felt like I was being called out in the middle of a college lecture hall each time I listened into his class, and so promptly spat out my wine and/or energy drink of choice at that moment.)  To my credit, I have done quite a bit of PGM work; not as much as I’d like, but I do write about it quite a bit, and have whole groups of pages up both for PGM and PGM-like rituals as well as prayers from the Hermetic and PGM traditions, and about a tenth of the posts and pages on this website reference the PGM in one way or another.  For other splendid websites and bloggers on PGM stuff, I might also recommend Voces Magicae as well as Sublunar Space, who both appear to do quite excellent stuff on their own.

One of the most hilariously common things one might see in the PGM texts is the phrase “add the usual” (even to the point where Gordon was considering naming parts of his course that phrase).  Bear in mind that the PGM is basically a collection of the notes of working, jobbing magicians who kept track of their observations, rituals, recipes, and the like.  Just like how someone wouldn’t write down something in their journal that they did each and every time they got themselves ready in the morning but merely obliquely referenced it, so too did the PGM authors do the same for their own texts; if they had a particular MO, they wouldn’t waste the ink and papyrus on it, but simply said “add the usual”.  What that “usual” might have been, we don’t often know or have the means to find out, but it does indicate that certain rituals took place within a broader framework or ceremonial practice.  A modern term for this is a “framing rite”, where a particular ritual procedure is established to attune, protect, and generally set things up for a magician to do something specific within the overall ritual.  Examples of framing rites abound in modern systems of magic, and for those who have a daily magical practice, those same rituals can often be used both generally each day as well as immediately before/after a ritual to prepare or wind down the magician for the ritual.  With all the instances of “add the usual”, we have evidence that similar practices were done in the era of the PGM authors, as well.

With that in mind, and bringing my own Mathēsis practices and my other temple procedures into the mix, I was wondering if I could codify and establish a PGM-style framing rite for myself.  I adore the PGM stuff, after all, and I definitely incorporate many of its techniques in much that I do, whether it’s whole rituals or just parts I pick and extrapolate from.  Plus, given all the PGM resources I’ve put out on my blog, including implementations of rituals for which we only have the bare bones from the original source, it’s not like I lack for sources of inspiration.  So, I decided to pluck bits and pieces from a variety of PGM, Hermetic, Neoplatonic, and similar sources of magical praxis and slap them together into an overall procedure that works as a framing ritual for…well, anything, honestly, but with a focus on PGM-style magic (though not necessarily the PGM rituals themselves, especially those that provided inspiration for this framing ritual).  Between the lists of names of spirits, invocations for a variety of purposes, implementations of ritual designs, and the other practices I’ve developed in the meantime, it wasn’t hard to form a synthesis of PGM-inspired ritual.  Is it a mish-mash?  Absolutely, and I make no denial or complaint against that!  Is it effective?  As far as I’ve noted, it definitely is, which is why I have no complaints about it (besides my own quibbles in refining it over time).  I don’t mean to say that the PGM can be treated as a single, coherent text, because it’s absolutely not; that said, it’s not hard to pick the individual techniques that can be separated from particular parts of the PGM and synthesize them together into its own more-or-less coherent whole.

What follows is my attempt at such a generalized magical procedure.  Admittedly, this is still an experimental framework, and I’m still in the process of making minor tweaks and edits to it; however, the bulk of it is stable, and any further changes to be made would be minor indeed.  The framing rite, as the ritual proper itself, will benefit from being done in a previously established or consecrated space, but the framing rite itself suffices to establish a working temple in any space or location.  Further, with minor modifications, anything before the ritual proper according to the framing rite schema given here may also be used as a format for a regimen for daily magical practice.  Not all parts are required, but may be done at the magician’s discretion; when something is optional, I’ve said as much.  The general outline of the framing ritual, in full, is as follows:

  1. Send out any non-initiates.  (optional)
  2. Ablute with lustral water.
  3. Illumine the temple and call on the Lord of the Hour.
  4. Call on the Lord of the Day.  (optional)
  5. Call on the Lord of the Stars.  (optional)
  6. Consecrate the Light.
  7. Call on the Guardians of the Directions.
  8. Opening prayer.  (optional)
  9. Cast the circle.  (optional)
  10. Empowerment and fortification.
  11. Initial offering of incense to the spirits. (optional)
  12. The ritual proper.
  13. Closing prayer.  (optional)
  14. Dismissal offering to the spirits.
  15. Uncasting the circle.  (only if a circle was previously cast)
  16. Extinguishing the Light.

The following materials are required for the framing rite itself, in addition to whatever other materials the ritual proper calls for:

  • A head covering, such as a shawl or scarf
  • A clean basin or bowl
  • A clean towel (optional, if desired)
  • Fresh water
  • Salt or natron
  • Bay leaves, or cotton balls along with a tincture of bay laurel and frankincense
  • A lamp or candle, not colored red or black
  • Incendiary tool, such as matches or a lighter
  • Incense, most preferably frankincense
  • White chalk, a wand, or a knife to draw a circle (optional, only if desired)

In the future, once I make any further refinements and hammer out any other inconsistencies in the framing rite, I’ll eventually add it to the Rituals section of pages on my website.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy, and if you’re interested, give it a whirl and see how you feel applying the following framing rite, both around a ritual itself as well as a basis for daily practice!

Note that in the following ritual text, except for the few short Greek phrases used and the names of spirits listed in the tables below, I’ve left what few barbarous words of power are used in the framing rite in Greek.  I tried to use selected portions of the PGM that didn’t rely too heavily on barbarous words of power, but their use is still essential to PGM-style magic in general.  None of what are used below are particularly long or complicated strings of words of power as some parts of the PGM are known for, but are rather some of the shorter and most common ones; I’ve left them in Greek to prevent formatting clutter.  If you’re unsure on how to read them, consult the listed PGM sections in the Betz translation or learn how to read basic Greek.  I might also recommend to check out this page on the phonetic and esoteric associations of the Greek.alphabet as well as this post on a primer on how to meditate on them to get used to their sound and power.

If desired, especially if this is done in a group setting, recite Porphyry’s command from On Images to give a general call to dismiss all unwanted or uninitiated entities, incarnate and otherwise, to leave the space in which the ritual is to be performed:

I speak only to those who lawfully may hear:
Depart all ye profane, and close the doors.

If there is a door to the space in which the ritual is performed, now is the time to close it, unless safety concerns mandate it being open; some sort of barrier should be used instead, such as a bar, board, or stone put across or symbolically blocking the entry to the space.

Prepare the lustral water and ablute with it so as to purify yourself and the temple space. This is essentially the process of making khernips for khernimma:

  1. Fill a basin with clean, fresh water.
  2. Pour or sprinkle a small amount of sea salt or natron into the water.  I recommend doing this in a cross formation above the basin.
  3. Light a whole dried bay leaf or a cotton ball soaked in a tincture of frankincense and bay laurel. Hold it above the basin, and say:

    For the sake of purity and becoming pure…

    Quench the fire into the water, and say:

    …be purified!

  4. Mix the water thoroughly with the right hand.
  5. Wash the left hand with the right, then the right hand with the left, then the face with both hands, reciting:

    Χερνίπτομαι (Kherníptomai)! In purity, I cleanse myself and free myself from defilement.

  6. With the right hand or a bundle of bay leaves, sprinkle the khernips around you in a counterclockwise direction, reciting:

    Begone, begone, you polluting spirits, you evil spirits, begone, begone!
    May all that is profane be cast out, that only holiness may here remain.

  7. If desired, pat the face and hands dry with a clean towel or cloth.
  8. Cover your head with a loose-fitting shawl, scarf, stole, hood, or other headcovering.

If more than one person is present, the lead magician prepares the khernips, washes themselves, and asperges the temple space first.  After that, the other ritual participants wash themselves only (reciting only the “Χερνίπτομαι! In purity…” part).

Illumine the temple with sacred fire that shines forth with the light of Divinity. This is a combination of both a conjuration of the flame of the lamp or candle to be used in the ritual as well as an invocation to the temporal Lord of the Hour.  This lamp or candle should not be colored red or black, given the general proscriptions against it in the PGM for most types of work, and should be kept separate from other lights used in the ritual proper unless it’s a lamp divination or theophany that uses such a light.  Light the lamp or candle, ideally while standing to the west of the lamp and facing east towards it, and recite the following conjuration of the flame based on the spell for fires to continue from PGM XIII.1—343 (the Eighth Book of Moses) and the invocation to the lamp of PDM xiv.1—92 and PDM xiv.489—515, depending on whether the ritual is done during the daytime or the nighttime.

  • Diurnal conjuration of the flame:

    I conjure you, Fire, o daimon of holy Love, the invisible and manifold, the one and everywhere, to remain in this light at this time, shining and not dying out, by the command of Aiōn!
    Be great, o light!  Come forth, o light!  Rise up, o light!  Be high, o light!
    Come forth, o light of God!
    O bright face of Hēlios, …,  servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this Xth hour of the day, bring your light to me!

  • Nocturnal conjuration of the flame:

    I conjure you, Fire, o daimon of holy Love, the invisible and manifold, the one and everywhere, to remain in this light at this time, shining and not dying out, by the command of Aiōn!
    Be great, o light!  Come forth, o light!  Rise up, o light!  Be high, o light!
    Come forth, o light of God!
    O bright angel of Selēnē, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this Xth hour of the night, bring your light to me!

The rulers of the unequal hours of the day and the night, taken from PGM IV.1596—1715 (Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios) and PGM VII.862—918 (Lunar Spell of Klaudianos):

Hour Diurnal
(PGM IV.1596—1715)
(PGM VII.862—918)

Similarly, though not necessarily required, an invocation to the ruling god of the day may also be made at this time.  This may be done in one of two ways: either by the ruler of the day according to the planet, or according to the ruler of the Pole using the Seven-Zoned method from PGM XIII.1—343/XIII.646—734.

Using the same section from PDM xiv.489—515 as before, invoke the planetary ruler:

  • Using the day ruler method:

    O blessed god, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who rules over this day, bring your light to me!

  • Using the Seven-Zoned (Pole ruler) method:

    O blessed god, …, servant of God, you whose hand is this moment, who rules over the Pole on this day, bring your light to me!

Alternatively, another invocation to the appropriate planet may also be used, such as praying the Orphic Hymn to that planet.

Weekday Ruling Planet
By Day Pole Ruler
Sunday Hēlios Selēnē
Monday Selēnē Hermēs
Tuesday Arēs Aphroditē
Wednesday Hermēs Hēlios
Thursday Zeus Arēs
Friday Aphroditē Zeus
Saturday Kronos Kronos

If further desired, though again not required, an invocation may be made to the Zodiac sign that rules the present time, based on PGM VII.795—845 (Pythagoras’ request for a dream oracle and Demokritos’ dream divination).  Given the lunar and nighttime connections of that ritual, it may be best to call upon the sign of the Zodiac in which the Moon is currently found; however, for more solar-oriented rituals, using the Zodiac sign in which the Sun is currently found may be used instead.  A combined method, which I would recommend, calls upon the two signs of both the Sun and the Moon together:

O blessed heavens, solar … and lunar …, you two asterisms that watch over all the works of the world, bring your light to me!

If, however, the Sun and Moon are in the same sign:

O blessed heaven, …, you great asterism who watches over all the works of the world, bring your light to me!

Zodiac Sign Name

With the sacred light lit and the appropriate powers of the present time invoked, uncover your head and recite the Light-Retaining Charm based on PGM IV.930—1114 (Conjuration of Light under Darkness):

I conjure you, holy Light, breadth, depth, length, height, brightness,
remain by me in the present hour, until I have accomplished all I have set out to do!
Now, now, immediately, immediately, quickly, quickly!

Call upon the Guardians of the Directions.  This is essentially using my Invocation of the Solar Guardians, based on PGM II.64—183 and PGM.XII.14—95, to recognize the four spiritual entities who stand guard of the stations of the Sun at sunrise, noon, sunset, and midnight, as well as the realms and rulers of the heights and the depths, so as to orient and protect both the temple and the magician.  The first guardian to be invoked is the one who controls the quarter of the sky where the Sun currently is: between sunrise and noon, the Guardian of the East should begin the invocations; between noon and sunset, the Guardian of the South; and so forth.

  1. First, face the East or, if preferred, whatever quarter of the sky the Sun happens to be in at the moment of the invocation.
  2. Take a half-step forward with the right foot, raise the right hand forward and out, and raise the hand up and out towards that direction.  Give the salutation to the guardian, lower the hand, bring the right foot back, then turn 90° clockwise to salute the next guardian.  The four salutations for these guardians are, with the order to be changed according to the direction first started with:

    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. Once all four guardians of the cardinal directions have been saluted, return to the original direction, and stand with both feet together.
  4. Look directly up and extend the right palm outwards and upwards to salute the guardian of the heights:

    ΙΩ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take thy place in the Heights!

  5. Look directly down, and extend the right palm outwards and downwards to salute the guardian of the depths:

    ΙΩ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take thy place in the Depths!

  6. Extend both arms outward with the right hand turned up and the left hand turned down, and give the concluding call:

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing in the midst of the All!

At this point, if desired, the magician may enter into a phase of prayer before any further work.  This is not required, but those who take a more liturgical or Hermetic priestly approach may consider reciting such prayers as the Prayer of Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum, the Stele of Aiōn from PGM IV.1167—1226, the Hymn of the Hidden Stele from PVM IV.1115—1166, or other such prayers.  This would be to focus the mind of the magician as well as to further sanctify the temple, but these are not strictly required to be performed.

Before further work, some magicians may feel more comfortable working within a cast circle.  Given the purification, illumination, and warding of the temple in the previous steps, a circle may be deemed superfluous and unnecessary, and though researchers like Stephen Skinner suggest that circle-working could have been a common aspect of PGM-style magic, very few rituals in the PGM and similar works explicitly call for a circle, and most have no need for one.  However, should a circle be desired for further working, one may be cast at this point.  Starting from the same direction that the Guardians of the Directions began and proceeding clockwise, trace a circle on the ground (either drawn out in white chalk or natron, or traced with the fingertips of the dominant hand, a wand, or a knife) while reciting the following (adapted from my older preparatory/framing rite the Q.D.Sh. Ritual).  As there are four lines in the chant that follows, draw the circle slowly and thoughtfully enough such that each line can be recited within the tracing of one quarter of the circle.

In the name of the Nous, this circle is consecrated for our defense.
By the power of the Logos, this circle is defended for our perfection.
For the sake of the Sophia, this circle is perfected for our work.
Through the might of the Aiōn, may all that is baneful be cast out, that only Good may here remain.

Empower yourself.  This is a three-step process, combined from one popularly-known modern one and two adapted from the PGM.  The first part is what I call the “Ray of Heaven and Earth”, which is a variant of the first part of Jason Miller’s “Pillar and Spheres” energy work method from The Sorcerer’s Secrets; the visualization is largely the same, but I’ve replaced the chants from Latin/English with appropriate Greek ones.  The second part is a shorter form of the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII.734—1077; it’s more involved than a simple Calling the Sevenths (which is fine on its own and may be substituted here instead for time), but it’s also not the entire Heptagram Rite, either; this middle-form is what I call the Minor Heptagram Rite.  This is finished with the final declaration of power and protection from the Headless Rite from PGM V.96—172, using the Crowley form of the ritual (though substitutes may be made here as well).

  1. Perform the Ray of Heaven and Earth.
    1. Stand upright with the back straight. Center yourself.
    2. Visualize an infinite, infinitely white light shining directly above you, infinitely distant in the highest heavens.
    3. Intone: Κατάβαινε, ὦ πέλεια! (Katábaine, ō péleia! or, in English, “Descend, o Dove!”) As you intone this, inhale deeply and visualize a ray of white light shining down from the heavens directly into the crown of the head, down through the spine, through the sacrum, and downwards infinitely below you. Exhale slowly, feeling purifying, soothing, straightening power radiate from the ray into the rest of your body.
    4. Maintain the above visualization. In addition to that, Visualize an infinite, infinitely red light shining directly below you, infinitely distant in the lowest reaches of the earth.
    5. Intone: Ἀνάβαινε, ὦ ὄφϊ! (Anábaine, ō óphï! or, in English, “Ascend, o Serpent!”). As you intone this, inhale deeply and visualize a ray of red light shining up from the earth directly into the sacrum, up through the spine, through the crown, and upwards infinitely above you. Exhale slowly, feeling vivifying, heating, hardening power radiate from the ray into the rest of your body.
    6. Visualize both rays, the white descending from heaven though you into the earth and the red ascending from earth through you into heaven, and mixing in your body, connecting it with all the heavens and all the earth with you in the direct center channel between them.
    7. Intone: Ἅφθητι, ὦ πυρ! (Háphthēti, ō pur! or, in English, “Be kindled, o Fire!”) As you intone this, inhale deeply and let both powers suffuse your body in an infinitely bright light, feeling all the powers of heaven and earth connect within you. Exhale slowly, letting the power radiate through you and from you, having connected with heaven and hell equally.
  2. Perform the Minor Heptagram Rite.  If desired, the shorter Calling the Sevenths may be done instead, but for full rituals, the Minor Heptagram Rite is preferred.
    1. Recite the invocation to Aiōn:

      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, o ruler of the Pole, the one who calls on you 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. 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

    3. Face north with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    4. Face west with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    5. Face south with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    6. Face down with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    7. Face forward with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    8. Face up with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

    9. Recite the second invocation to Aiōn, based on the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.1—343) and the Headless Rite (PGM V.96—172):

      I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, the self-begotten who see all and are not seen! 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!

  3. Recite the final empowerment of the Headless Rite:

    Come forth and follow, so that every spirit, whether heavenly or ethereal, upon the earth or under the earth, on dry land or in the water, of whirling air or rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient unto me.

    Alternatively or additionally, if another phylactery is to be used for a given ritual, this is the proper time to don it and recite any accompanying prayers or invocations that go along with it.  These include rings, pendants, headwear, anointing with oils, or the use of other charms, spoken or otherwise.

Now, complete the empowerment and establishment of the temple by reciting the following, again from the Crowley version of the Headless Rite:

Thus have I spoken; thus are the words!

At this point, the temple has been prepared and established as a sacred space, and you as the magician have become empowered and placed yourself under the powers of the cosmos and of those who watch over the temple.  If desired, incense may now be lit for its own sake as a means to further purify the temple, as well as an offering for the powers that watch over and already inhabit it, though it is not necessary to do so at this time and is better reserved for the ritual proper that follows.

With all the above done, the ritual proper may then begin in earnest.  Whatever happens here depends on the magician and the ritual itself.

After the ritual proper, prayers of thanksgiving and communion (such as the Prayer of Thanksgiving of Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum) may be made at this point, especially after purely theurgic or truly divine rituals, but are not required.

Once the ritual proper has come to a close, the temple must also be closed with a general dismissal of spirits and a formal extinguishing of the light:

  1. Light a small amount of incense as a final thanks, general dismissal, and banishing, reciting the following based on the final prayers from PGM I.262—347, PGM IV.154—285, and PGM VII.930—1114.  Frankincense is the best general choice for this, but other types of incense may also be offered based on the nature of the ritual done before.

    I have been attached to your holy form;
    I have been given power by your holy name;
    I have been blessed with your holy emanation of the Good;
    Be gracious unto me, Lord, god of gods, master, daimōn, primal, elder-born one!

    I give thanks to you, o great gods, elder-born, mighty powers!
    Depart, lords, depart into your heavens, into your places, into your courses.
    I adjure by the fire which first shone in the void,
    I adjure by the power which is greatest over all,
    I adjure by him who destroys even in Hadēs
    That all now depart from this place, returning to your abodes,
    And harm me not, but be forever kind.
    Keep me healthy, unharmed, untroubled by ghosts, free from calamity, and without terror.
    Hear me for all the days of my life!

    Thus have I spoken; thus are the words!

  2. If the optional circle was cast earlier, it should be traced counterclockwise starting at the same direction from which it was drawn prior to such prayers.  If the circle was merely traced, e.g. with the fingertips or a wand, trace it in reverse using the same means; if it was drawn in e.g. chalk or natron, make four openings in the circle aligned to the four directions as the circle is otherwise traced with the fingertips.  No invocation or chant is required for this, but a short thanksgiving prayer may be said, such as the following from my own simple thanksgiving practice:

    Nous, Logos, Sophia, Aiōn,
    Thank you very much for everything.
    I have no complaints whatsoever.

  3. Extinguish the light.  With the eyes closed, recite the following over the flame of the lamp or candle using the Dismissal of Light from PGM VII.930—1114 as well as a short form of the method for quenching fire from PGM XIII.1—343, the first to send away the holiness in the flame and the second to put out the physical flame itself:

    ΧΩΩ ΧΩΩ ΩΧΩΩΧ, holy brightness!
    Depart, holy brightness!
    Depart, beautiful and holy light of the highest God Aiōn!

    Hear, o Fire, o work of the works of God, o glory of the Sun!
    Be quenched, become cold, and let your flame be scattered that it may touch no one and nothing!

    Cover your head once more, open your eyes, then put out the fire in one swift motion.

The temple space has now been closed, and the ritual has now come to a complete end.  Follow-up meditation or prayers may be made or a meal may be served, and any clean-up of the temple may now be done.

Compilation Paralysis

I’ve been on a compilation kick lately.  I mentioned in a recent post of mine about the Orphic Hymns that I’m compiling a personal temple text from a variety of sources because I don’t like having books in my temple room if I can avoid it; for instance, I have a copy of Dervenis’ Oracle Bones Divination that, up until quite recently, I’ve been using as my reference for astragalomancy, and have kept it with my shrines for the Greek gods.  This…makes me uncomfortable, so I transcribed all the necessary information from that into a personal ebook for me to keep a printout of instead.  Not only do I get to finally put the damn book back on the bookshelf after way too long, but I also get to reformat it, reorganize it, and include other information I want to reference, as well as tweak some of the translations for my own tastes.

Of course, one thing led to another.  I also included a few pages for grammatomancy, which also references a good chunk of my Mathesis correspondences to the letter, and because Opsopaus included the Delphic Maxims in his Oracles of Apollo book, I decided to include those, too.  Again, nothing too elaborate or in-depth; I have enough experience with these systems and the backgrounds and contexts in which they were written to not have to have all the extra information in a temple reference.  The final result is something I could be content with…except, of course, I wasn’t.  Given all the references to the other gods between grammatomantic correspondences to the zodiac signs and, by those, to the Greek gods (cf. Agrippa’s Orphic Scale of Twelve, book II chapter 14), I wanted to also have a section for the Orphic Hymns.  This is reasonable; after all, my personal vademecum-enchiridion-prayerbook has a number of them already transcribed, and while I won’t use all the Orphic Hymns in my practice, why not have a complete set for reference, just in case?  It wasn’t hard to find a copy of the Greek texts as well as the Taylor translations that I could simply copy, paste, and format for LaTeX’s customary needs.

But, of course, why stop there?  I also ended up adding Gemisthus Plethon’s hymns as well as those of Proclus, which I find useful for my Neoplatonic uses as well as my devotional ones.  And, if we’re going with devotions, I decided to also include a few prayers attributed to Hermes Trismegistus from the Corpus Hermeticum, the Asclepius, and so on, and because of those, I also wanted to bring in a few things from the PGM, which then became more than a few things from the PGM, and then I added in the planetary invocations from the Picatrix because those would be useful, too…

The ebook I was preparing ballooned from a simple reference for divination to a compendium of devotional and oracular texts.  Whoops.

But, yanno, I was hooked!  I wanted to bring in what I could, because it might be useful, whether in a devotion to the theoi or in divination or needing something to reference for meditation.  And, so, my penchant for completionism and perfectionism kicked in—hard—and I’ve been looking through my other references and books, trying to pick out useful prayers, invocations, rituals, and the like for my temple.  In effect, I was essentially making a typed-up version of my vademecum, with a different focus and with plenty more texts that I’m not accustomed to using.

This is all well and good, of course, assuming I could actually use the thing.  And in the form it was in, even in the form it had been in, it was quite plenty useful, and definitely satisfied my original needs of having a handy divination reference in my temple.  But since I brought in all these other things, I knew I wanted more, and because I wanted more, I also knew that it was incomplete.  And how would I tolerate having something be incomplete?  The idea is as distasteful as unnecessarily having books in my temple room.  Because it was incomplete, I didn’t want to print it out prematurely, especially with having to deal with page numbers or section enumeration, because if I wanted to add or fix something, I’d have to go back and reprint the damn thing for consistency, and even though I can get by by using the office printers once in a while for personal ends, I didn’t want to waste that much paper and ink.  Editing a text is one thing—I’m not opposed to using interim texts with scratched-in notes—but putting something on paper, especially printing something out, gives me a hard-to-achieve and yet so-satisfactory feeling of something being “fixed”, even if it is for my eyes only.  So, in order to make printing this thing meaningful, I wanted to make sure it was worthy and proper for printing.

It’s been over a month since I had the original problem of “I need a quick reference for divination”.  It’s also been over a month since I’ve had a workable, totally satisfactory solution for this problem, too, and yet I still haven’t fulfilled my needs.  Instead, I got caught up in a problem I call “compilation paralysis”: not wanting to proceed in some matter due to a fear of not having enough resources, options, or sources.

Some authors, especially those in academia or in teaching-types of writing, might know the feeling well, of not feeling like you have adequate source material to publish.  I have that same sensation, too, for my geomancy book-in-progress, knowing that there’s still so much more that might be included but…well, the benefits diminish after a certain point, and well before that, it’s probably better to cut out stuff that’s truly extraneous and unnecessary before adding anything more.  It does, in fact, help to start off with too much and cut down rather than having the opposite problem, and this is a habit I picked up in college for my research papers (getting down to the ten-page mark was a lot easier than trying to BSing and subtle-formatting my way up to it).  But, at the same time, consider the context: what these authors are dealing with is a single book on a single topic that is published for a single need.  Once that need is met, the book is (in theory, at least) publishable; further books can be written or new editions made with further appendices, but those aren’t strictly needed.  My problem, in this case, is dealing with something for me and me alone that needs to satisfy my sometimes-nebulous needs.

One of the reasons why I support people having a notebook or, perhaps even better from a utilitarian standpoint, a binder with written pages for their vademecum-enchiridion-prayerbooks or records of their prayers and rituals is because these are essentially living documents; as we grow in practice, they grow, too.  As we find new prayers, rituals, and correspondences, we add them in, organization be damned.  We can reevaluate the real use of these things we add, and reorganize what makes the cut, when we fill the first notebook and move onto the second one, as I did not too long ago.  These aren’t things that need to be polished, edited, or fixed in any way except what serves our needs in prayer and ritual, and as such, don’t need to be fancy, embellished, typeset, illumined, or otherwise made particularly fancy.  In fact, I have a personal fear of using those beautifully handcrafted, leatherbound, embossed, etc. journals I see floating across the internet and bookstores because I tremble at the thought of messing up such a beautiful work with errors or wasted paper; not only is my calligraphy not up to par to match the beauty of these books, but I find these things to be more appropriate to true works of devotion and love that are complete and refined unto themselves.  (I only speak for myself, of course.)

So, like, with my personal enchiridion, I don’t particularly care about making errors; there are scratchmarks, crossouts, and addenda all over the damn thing.  The important thing for me is not to waste space, so I try to be as efficient as possible cramming in as much information and references as possible into as few pages and lines as possible.  This is fine; after all, it’s my own personal thing, and nobody else needs to see or use it; besides, Moleskines can be expensive for such a notebook, even if they’re the perfect size to carry around (and fit in a Hyundai car manual leather case, I might add, which gives it extra padding and some extra utility, in case you wanted to try that out as a Moleskine bookcover).  The things I add to my enchiridion are a testimony to my growth and directions and shifts in focus I take in my practice, which I find is informative on its own.  The only important criterion I have for adding stuff to it, truly the only one, is whether something is going to be useful to me; if not, I’m not gonna waste the time writing it in or the ink to write it.

That’s what reminded me to get out of my compilation paralysis.  There’s no need to be scared or anxious about not having enough sources; if I need something later, I can just add it it.  It’s not like I didn’t already have these sources and there’s a threat of losing them; I’ve never needed a copy of the Homeric Hymns or the Nabataean prayers to the Sun or Saturn on hand when I didn’t already have my enchiridion or my copy of the Picatrix at hand, after all, so why should I be so worried about not having them in this temple reference?  I can always add new things into the overall document, print out the necessary pages, and just add them into the binder where appropriate.  It’s not that big a deal.  I know for a fact that I can always get this information should I need it, and if I haven’t needed it yet, there’s no harm to start off with that which I know I need right now and add stuff later.  I’ve got more than enough source material for what I need, anyway, and it’s more manageable to deal with two small binders than one massive one.

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow, but even I have to admit it: none of us needs to know everything about our practices right out of the gate.  It might be nice, to be sure, but that’s also kind of the beauty of it, to let growth happen organically, especially if you’re in a practice that you’re developing on your own, as so many magicians and pagans are.  You don’t need full copies of the Homeric Hymns or Orphic Hymns in both Greek and English the moment you decide to build a shrine to one of the gods; you don’t need to know all the specific proportions of all the ingredients for the obscure incenses needed for all the planets from the Picatrix when you’re not even going to bother with a planet you’re going to interact with tonight once and probably not again for a few years more.  Part of the practice is just that: practice.  We do things, and then we do both more things and we do those same things more.  We learn, we accumulate, and we incorporate what we do into what eventually becomes our whole practice.  Part of that is necessarily finding more things to add and adding them at the proper time, as well as changing the things we do as we need to change them so as to keep doing them better or, at least, keep doing things better for our own sakes.  If we need to make emendations, do so at the proper time; you don’t know what would need them until you do or until they’re pointed out to you, and so much of that is based upon trial and error, experimentation and evaluation.  It’s not that big a deal.

There’s no need to worry, and there’s no cause for paralysis.  All you need to do is, simply, do.  Amend, fix, and add when you need to.  Don’t worry about trying to have everything ready for everything, especially when you don’t know what “everything” consists of.  Relax, then Work.

On Orphic Hymns and Multiple Aspects of Gods

After making public my recent text on the Grammatēmerologion, the lunisolar calendar system I use for my Mathesis work, I’ve decided to go ahead and make another text for myself.  This latter text is something I don’t plan on making available, since it’s little more than a compilation of oracular verses, wisdom texts, and hymns; due to the copyrighted nature of some of the translations (even if I’m changing them heavily to reflect something I find more fitting based on alternative translations from the original Greek), I don’t think I can or should make this public, as it’d probably put me on uncomfortably thin ice that I don’t care to skate on.  If you’re interested in some of these original texts, here are some references for you to check out:

The reason for my compiling this new text is that…well, basically, I don’t like having books in my temple space.  It’s a personal quirk of mine, but if I can avoid it, I prefer to have my books on my bookshelves where the rest of them are, so that if I need to reference them, I can just reach out and grab one rather than have to enter my temple space unnecessarily.  For instance, I’ve had Dervenis’ Oracle Bones Divination stashed with my Greek stuff because it’s the text I use for astragalomancy, or Greek knucklebone divination; it’s been down there for quite some time, so it’s ended up picking up that faint incense smell common to books gotten from New Age stores.  I haven’t removed it from the Greek shrine area because I keep using it there, though at the cost of when I want to reference it, I typically put it off because I don’t like fiddling with my shrines if I’m not actually going to work with the shrines or, at least, not in a state of purity.  Now, by compiling my own text, I can print out a copy of what I need, store it in a binder, keep the binder in the temple, and move the book to its proper place back on the bookshelf.  I plan on also keeping a binder-copy of the Grammatēmerologion for much the same purpose, too.

It makes sense to me, at least.

One of the things I plan on including in this new binder-text are a selection of the Orphic hymns (Ὀρφικοί Ὕμνοι)—you remember those, right?  They’re the hymns that were commonly associated with the religious sect of Orphism in the classical age, and were further attributed to their mythological founder Orpheus.  Though they have mythological origins dating back to prehistory, it’s more likely that they were written anywhere from the 6th century BCE to the 4th century CE.  Among many other esoteric, ritual, magical, and religious texts, the Orphic Hymns have withstood the test of time as an inventory of some 90-ish (depending on how you count them) prayers that invoke the various gods, goddesses, and spirits of the Greek spiritual cosmos.  I’ve used them countless times both in my magical works as well as my religious offerings, and even Agrippa has great things to say about them when he discusses the power and virtues of prayers and hymns used as incantations both for religion and for magic (book I, chapter 71, emphasis mine):

Besides the vertues of words and names, there is also a greater vertue found in sentences, from the truth contained in them, which hath a very great power of impressing, changing, binding, and establishing, so that being used it doth shine the more, and being resisted is more confirmed, and consolidated; which vertue is not in simple words, but in sentences, by which any thing is affirmed, or denyed; of which sort are verses, enchantments, imprecations, deprecations, orations, invocations, obtestations, adjurations, conjurations, and such like. Therefore in composing verses, and orations, for attracting the vertue of any Star, or Deity, you must diligently consider what vertues any Star contains, as also what effects, and operations, and to infer them in verses, by praising, extolling, amplifying, and setting forth those things which such a kind of Star is wont to cause by way of its influence, and by vilifying, and dispraising those things which it is wont to destroy, and hinder, and by supplicating, and begging for that which we desire to get, and by condemning, and detesting that which we would have destroyed, & hindered: and after the same manner to make an elegant oration, and duly distinct by Articles, with competent numbers, and proportions.

Moreover Magicians command that we call upon, and pray by the names of the same Star, or name, to them to whom such a verse belongs, by their wonderfull things, or miracles, by their courses, and waies in their sphear, by their light, by the dignity of their Kingdome, by the beauty, and brightness that is in it, by their strong, and powerfull vertues, and by such like as these. As Psyche in Apuleius prayes to Ceres; saying, I beseech thee by thy fruitfull right hand, I intreat thee by the joyfull Ceremonies of harvests, by the quiet silence of thy chests, by the winged Chariots of Dragons thy servants, by the furrows of the Sicilian earth, the devouring Wagon, the clammy earth, by the place of going down into cellars at the light Nuptials of Proserpina, and returns at the light inventions of her daughter, and other things which are concealed in her temple in the City Eleusis in Attica. Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place.  They that desire further examples of these, let them search into the hymns of Orpheus, then which nothing is more efficatious in naturall Magick, if they together with their circumstances, which wise men know, be used according to a due harmony, with all attention.

But to return to our purpose. Such like verses being aptly, and duly made according to the rule of the Stars, and being full of signification, & meaning, and opportunely pronounced with vehement affection, as according to the number, proportion of their Articles, so according to the form resulting from the Articles, and by the violence of imagination, do confer a very great power in the inchanter, and sometimes transfers it upon the thing inchanted, to bind, and direct it to the same purpose for which the affections, and speeches of the inchanter are intended. Now the instrument of inchanters is a most pure harmoniacall spirit, warm, breathing, living, bringing with it motion, affection, and signification, composed of its parts, endued with sence, and conceived by reason. By the quality therefore of this spirit, and by the Celestiall similitude thereof, besides those things which have already been spoken of, verses also from the opportunity of time, receive from above most excellent vertues, and indeed more sublime, and efficatious then spirits, & vapors exhaling out of the Vegetable life, out of hearbs, roots, gums, aromaticall things, and fumes, and such like. And therefore Magicians inchanting things, are wont to blow, and breath upon them the words of the verse, or to breath in the vertue with the spirit, that so the whole vertue of the soul be directed to the thing inchanted, being disposed for the receiving the said vertue. And here it is to he noted, that every oration, writting, and words, as they induce accustomed motions by their accustomed numbers, and proportions, and form, so also besides their usuall order, being pronounced, or wrote backwards, more unto unusuall effects.

In my work, I typically use Thomas Taylor’s 1792 English translation, which are arguably among the most well-known and are useful in magic for their rhyming and well-metered format, though Apostolos Athanassakis put out a new translation in 2013 which is arguably more literal and faithful to the original Greek.  I’ll also take the opportunity to point out that Sara Mastros of Mastros & Zealot: Witches for Hire is making a new set of translations, as well, which you can check out on her Facebook page.  HellenicGods.org has the original polytonic Greek texts for the hymns as well, which are useful in their own times and needs.  All the same, regardless what translation or style you use, the Orphic Hymns have power that truly have withstood the test of time; I highly encourage you to use them, if you’re not yet doing so, or at least give them a read-over a few times, as they give period-appropriate descriptions of the gods the Hellenes and other Mediterranean peoples worshiped and invoked.

One of the things about the Orphic Hymns might confuse people is that there are sometimes multiple hymns for the same god; for instance, Zeus has three, Dionysos has four, Hermes has two, and so forth.  Each hymn, however, is clearly labeled as being distinct; Taylor gives the ones for Zeus as To Jupiter, To Thundering Jove, and To Jove the Author of Lightning, or in their respective traditional Greek appellations, Zeus, Zeus Keraunios, and Zeus Astrapaios.  Though these are all Zeus, what gives with the different prayers?  The idea lies in something called epithets and aspects of the gods, which was easily understood in Hellenic times but may not be as easily understood to us modern folk.  Basically, a single deity could reveal themselves in any number of ways, or take on special offices and patronage in certain circumstances that they wouldn’t necessarily take on otherwise, and each of these aspects had a different epithet to distinguish that specific instance of the god, and often had different temples as well.  For instance, Poseidōn is the lord of the seas, to be sure, but there’s also Poseidōn Sōter (who keeps people at sea safe), Poseidōn Asphaleios (the averter of earthquakes), and Poseidōn Hippios (creator and tamer of horses).  Poseidōn is Poseidōn is Poseidōn, but you wouldn’t go to Poseidōn Hippios to ask for no earthquakes in the coming year.  You can kind of think of it like how Mary mother of God is also Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Navigators, Our Lady Undoer of Knots, or any other number of titles based on specific miracles she works or in particular places where she’s appeared; another modern parallel is the notion of caminos or “roads” of the orisha in Yoruba or Yoruba-derived religions like Lukumí.

For me, the idea of having multiple aspects of a god that can be approached separately isn’t hard to understand, but what does bring up an interesting problem is how to make use of some of these approaches in a modern system.  For instance, in my Mathesis work, I associate each of the letters of the Greek alphabet to an element, a planet, or a sign of the zodiac according to the rules of stoicheia.  It would be great, then, to have a deity presiding over each letter to approach that deity specifically for the blessings and wisdom of that specific letter.  However, there are overlaps between some of these sets of attributions.  For instance, Zeus is the god of the planet Jupiter as well as (according to Agrippa’s Orphical Scale of 12 in book II, chapter 14) the zodiacal sign Leo.  Moreover, using Empedoclēs as a guide for associating the gods to the elements (clarified by the ever-wonderful help of John Opsopaus), Zeus is also given rulership over the element of Air.  In this case, we have three separate patronages under one god, which could be considered three mathetic aspects of Zeus.  Not all the gods have this quality of having multiple stoicheic patronages, but a few of them do:

  • Aphroditē: ruler of the planet Venus and the zodiacal sign Taurus
  • Hermēs: ruler of the planet Mercury and the zodiacal sign Cancer
  • Hēra: ruler of the zodiacal sign Aquarius and the element Earth (according to Empedoclēs)
  • Zeus: ruler of the planet Jupiter, the zodiac sign Leo, and the element Air (according to Empedoclēs)
  • Arēs: ruler of the planet Mars and the zodiacal sign Scorpio

Unfortunately, of these gods, only Zeus has three separate Orphic hymns, and Hermēs only has two (one of which is for Hermēs Khthonios, or Underworld Hermēs, which I find most apt astrologically to represent Mercury retrograde).  This is also complicated by the fact that some stoicheic forces are associated with multiple entities I recognize that could be approached by, some of which have Orphic hymns and some don’t (those that do are linked in the list below):

  • Earth: Hēra,
  • Mercury: Stilbōn, Hermēs (when Mercury is direct), Hermēs Khthonios (when Mercury is retrograde)
  • Venus: Eōsphoros (when Venus sets before the Sun), Hesperos (when Venus sets after the Sun), Aphroditē
  • Mars: Pyroeis, Arēs
  • Jupiter: Phaethōn
  • Kronos: Phainōn

All this is made more complicated by the fact that the footnotes from Taylor can be both helpful (in understanding the writing of the Hymns) as well as confusing (for us outside a strictly Orphic system), such as in a footnote from the hymn for :

According to Orpheus, as related by Proclus, in Tim. p. 292. Earth is the mother of every thing, of which Heaven is the father. And the reader will please to observe, that, in the Orphic theology, Rhea, the mother of the Gods, the Earth, and Vesta, are all one and the same divinity, considered according to her essential peculiarities.

From that particular footnote, I glean two things:

  1. That the notion of aspects of gods is indeed something we should respect and understand in our modern practice, and even might be considered to apply at higher levels where individual un-epitheted deities may be aspects of a yet higher one (such as Rhea, Hestia, etc. of the Earth-Mother).
  2. That my attribution of the Sphairai of the Dyad according to my Mathetic Tetractys of Life to Heaven and the Earth is a solid one.

There’s also the issue of how far I want to go in associating some of the other entities of the Hellenic cosmos to the stoicheic forces based on what’s present in the Orphic Hymns.  For instance, there’s a hymn To Fire, but this is more accurately “To Aithēr”, and aithēr is a whole lot more than just fire, both cosmically and religiously; do I want to equate the two for the purposes of stoicheic associations?  What about Water with Okeanos, or Air with the hymns to the North, South, and West Winds?  Do I want to give Pan to Spirit, along with Dionysus, or should I give that slot (or both) to Nature instead?

So what does this all mean, and where does this all leave us?  For one, I doubt that any Orphics of the classical period managed to pass on their cult to the modern day, so I don’t think we have any living experts on the tradition to clarify some of the specific purposes of the Orphic Hymns to us, especially where one deity is given multiple hymns, sometimes according to multiple epithets and sometimes not, and even where epithets are given, they’re often exceedingly obscure (but if there are any, please feel free to hit me up, I’d love to ask you some questions).  For another, I’m reminded that my ideas for associating the letters of the Greek alphabet to the Hellenic theoi and daimones still need some refining, either so that I end up with only one entity per letter, find a single epithet or aspect of an entity that has multiple letters for each letter, or a neat system that can accommodate multiple entities per letter.    For yet another, given Taylor’s footnotes, I have quite a bit to read of Proclus and some of the other Neoplatonists so as to fortify my knowledge and make better-informed decisions about some of these associations.  This isn’t to say I’m looking to set the map in stone from the get-go without deeply exploring the terrain first, but that I’m trying to plan my best first attempt at exploration based on the knowledge and resources available to me.

Mathetic Invocation and Offering to the Gods

The last post described a daily practice for people interested in working with mathesis, and how I use it for getting myself in line with the entities and powers present within this system: a meditation on the Tetractys, a meditation on the Greek letter of the day of the lunar month, a grammatomantic divination to plan my day, an offering to the god of the day of the lunar month, a pre-bed invocation of Hermes Oneirodotes for dreams, and a recollection of the day’s events as I go off to sleep.  It’s all fairly simple and I described the method of each, except for one: the offering to the god of the day.  I realize that not everyone has the same offering procedure: some go all-out with the gods with wine and food and the like, some make a quick prayer under their breath as they leave their house for the day, and some fall in-between the two extremes.  I never really offered a method of offering to the gods, so I want to talk about what I do as a template for other mathetai.

While it’d be nice to make awesome offerings to all the gods, that’s pretty much going to be impossible; there were effectively an infinite number of gods back in the old days (not like that’s changed since), with regional rituals differing from polis to polis as they differed from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, or even household to household.  Some people hold this god in high esteem, some that god, while nobody seems to really rever this other god even though they have a high mythological stature.  It’s important to honor all the gods, but honoring the gods doesn’t necessarily mean to make offerings or vows to them all; all deities should be honored, but not all deities should be worked with.  We can make a personalized practice and roster of gods by limiting ourselves to the deities have an important role in our lives: major gods relate significantly to our lives’ works, acts, jobs, and activities, while minor gods don’t have much of an active role.  For instance, as a software engineer, Hermes has a huge role in my livelihood, while Demeter doesn’t since I’m not much of a gardener, planter, or farmer.  Zeus as king of the gods has a universal all-ruling aspect to him, but besides honoring him as cosmic king, I’m not much of a prince or ruler besides myself.

Just to clarify: the terminology here of “minor” does not imply a generally unimportant or localized role, like how river gods or gods of a particular grove or street corner might be consider minor.  Rather, “minor” only implies that one doesn’t have much to do with that god, like a software engineer with Demeter or a hippie pacifist with Ares.  When making an offering to a minor god, the minimum we need to do is an invocation of them to praise them for the general work they do in the world and that they continue to bless us, however indirectly, by the people who carry out their work, by their general blessing to make our lives better, and by their presence that we may come to know and honor them more in a better way.  “Major” gods, on the other hand, directly impact our ability to live and prosper in the world, and so we fall much closer to them than the “minor” gods.  Again, the minimum needed for them is prayer, but a much more personal prayer, asking for the blessing of the god as we carry out their work and that we may receive their blessing in the work we do, and by it to

So, how do we know which god to honor on which day?  We use the lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar I developed, where each day of the lunar month is associated with a particular letter of the Greek alphabet.  Each letter can be associated with a stoicheic force, and one or more of the gods can also be associated with a stoicheic force, and so we honor that god/those gods on the day of that letter that shares a stoicheic force with that god/those gods.  So how do we associate the letters with the gods?  Again, let’s use our threefold division of the letters into simple consonants, complex consonants, and vowels:

  • The simple consonants are associated with the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Cornelius Agrippa corresponds the zodiac signs with the Twelve Olympians (counting Hestia, not Dionysus) in book II, chapter 15.  His method seems a little haphazard, but it works.  Agrippa seems to be using a combination of assigning pairs of gods to opposing signs based on relationship (e.g. Apollo and Artemis, twins, to Gemini and Sagittarius) or pairs of gods to signs ruled by the same planet based on idea (e.g. Athena and Ares, gods of warfare, to the Martial signs Aries and Scorpio).  However, we can expand this list to include closely-associated deities with the Olympians, such as Asklepios with Apollo, Pan with Hermes, Nike with Athena, Eros with Aphrodite, and so forth.
  • The complex consonants are associated with the four elements and the metaelement of Spirit.  Agrippa doesn’t assign these to the Olympian or other gods in his Three Books, although we can assume that the gods of these days directly pertain to the element of the day and, moreover, aren’t among the Olympians.  I’ve settled on giving the letter Psi, associated with the metaelement Spirit, to Dionysus, since he’s the outsider god, able to commingle with gods and men and travel in all places above and below.  Theta, associated with Earth, is given to any divinity of the Earth itself: Gaia, Rhea, and Kybele come to mind, but this also would include any flora or fauna spirits, the fae, gnomes, and other nature spirits of the land, mountains, or forests.  Xi, given to Water and generally falling on the day of the Full Moon, can be used to honor Okeanos, Thetis, or any divinity or spirits of the seas, rivers, or lakes, but I also give this to the underworld gods Hades and Persephone, since deep waters often have chthonic or subterrestrial associations.  Phi, associated with Air, I give to any spirits of the air and the mind, including the Muses and Graces.  Khi, associated with Fire, is given to any spirit of light, fire, the stars, or otherworldly spirits, but given that Khi falls near the end of the month, I also give this to the fiery underworld goddess Hekate.
  • The vowels are associated with the seven planets, and although one could honor the Olympian associated with each planet (e.g. Ares for Mars) or the pair of Olympians associated with the planets by means of their signs (e.g. both Ares and Athena for Mars), I reserve these days for magical operations involving the planets.  Technically, the planets were considered either as the bodies of the Olympians or as titans in their own right, so I don’t really make offerings on these days so much as I call down the forces themselves.  Alternatively, we can associate the planets with the seven directions (north, south, east, west, up, down, beyond) with the different winds (Boreas, Notos, Apeliotes, etc.) or other guardians of the directions (Erbeth, Lerthexanax, Ablanathanalba, etc.) and honor them, too.

However, in our lunar grammatomantic calendar, we also have two other types of days: three days that use the obsolete letters of Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi; and three days that have no letter at all.

  • The days of obsolete letters are given to our ancestors, heroes, and blessed dead, spiritual entities who are lower than gods and were human but are no longer among the living.  These days have no stoicheic force, but the spirits that guide them are those that helped us become real in our lives; without our ancestors and blessed dead, we literally would not exist.  I generally divide up the spirits of the dead into three categories: Ancestors of Kin (blood-related and otherwise familial ancestors), Ancestors of Work (masters and teachers in one’s studies, profession, traditions, and lineages, both spiritual and mundane), and the Ancestors of the Great (culture and war heroes whose work impacts us today though not directly, as well as all the forgotten dead).  I honor the Ancestors of Kin on the day of Digamma, Ancestors of Work on the day of Qoppa, and the Ancestors of the Great on the day of Sampi.  However, this division is kinda artificial, and it does no harm to honor “the dead” generally on the obsolete letter days.
  • The unlettered days have no offerings prescribed for them.  Moreover, without a letter or stoicheic force or spirit to guide or rule the day, these days are generally considered unlucky and unfit for most spiritual activity.  It’s better to focus on the world itself today and get one’s cleaning, chores, and purification done on these days.  Clean up altars and spiritual spaces, aerate the house, take a good long bath, and the like.

So, my overall ritual calendar (after a bit of fine-tuning) has come to look like this:

Day Letter Stoicheia Observance
1 Α Moon Selene, Hermes, Erbeth, Apeliotes
2 Β Aries Athena, Nike
3 Γ Taurus Aphrodite, Eros
4 Δ Gemini Apollo, Asklepios
5 Ε Mercury Stilbon, Apollo and Demeter, Sesengenbarpharanges, Boreas
6 Ϝ Ancestors of Kin: family, relatives, blood-relatives
7 Ζ Cancer Hermes, Pan
8 Η Venus Hesperos and Phosphoros, Aphrodite and Hephaistos, Ablanathanalba, Zephyros
9 Θ Earth Gaia, Rhea, Kybele, fae, flora, fauna, lands, mountains, forests, etc.
11 Ι Sun Helios, Zeus, Lerthexanax, Notos
12 Κ Leo Zeus, Tykhe
13 Λ Virgo Demeter
14 Μ Libra Hephaistos
15 Ν Scorpio Ares
16 Ξ Water Persephone, Hades, Charon, Okeanos, Pontos, Nereus, Tethys, Thetis, bodies of water
17 Ο Mars Pyroeis, Athena and Ares, Damnameneus, Styx
18 Π Sagittarius Artemis
19 Ϙ Ancestors of Work: traditions, professions, lineages, guilds, etc.
21 Ρ Capricorn Hestia
22 Σ Aquarius Hera, Hebe, Iris, Eileithyia
23 Τ Pisces Poseidon
24 Υ Jupiter Phaethon, Artemis and Poseidon, Malpartalkho, Agathodaimon, Hyperion
25 Φ Air Spirits of air and sky, Muses, Graces
26 Χ Fire Spirits of fire and light, otherworldly spirits, Hekate, Furies, Asteria
27 Ψ Spirit Dionysos
28 Ω Saturn Phainon, Hera and Hestia, Akrammakhamarei, Ouranos, Kronos, Khronos
29 ϡ Ancestors of the Great: culture heroes, war heroes, forgotten dead

Now, while one could adapt this type of lunar grammatomantic calendar to other pantheons, such as the Norse or Egyptian pantheons, I’d question why you’d want to do that.  This is all based on the Greek alphabet, after all, which is tied up culturally and mythologically with the Greek gods.  Before you go saying “Well, Thor is a god of lightning, so he should be given the same day as Zeus or the planet Jupiter!”, you might want to ask Thor whether he’s okay with that.  Heck, even this type of calendar isn’t traditional at all in Hellenismos or attested Greek cultural practice (at least in Ionia, Hermes was honored on the fourth day of the month, not the seventh), but my gods don’t seem to mind it one whit, and they’ve given me the go-ahead to use it in a cohesive system with the rest of my work.  Be respectful when trying to squish systems together.

So, say you’re good to go now with the ritual offering times for the gods based on grammatomancy and the lunar calendar.  Now what?  Now you need to make offerings to the gods, bearing in mind the major/minor distinction from above.  In general, we can use the same format for the individual gods, groups of gods or spirits, ancestors, and planets, although the fine details will differ from each to each.  The general format of offering I do follows the same course:

  1. Preparation of ritual space.  It’s important to maintain a proper sacred ritual space to invite the god into, and this usually consists of sprinkling a small amount of holy water or khernips (ancient Hellenic lustral water), around the area chanting “απο απο κακοδαιμονες” (“begone, begone evil spirits”).  I also make sure the lighting is right, not too bright but usually not completely dark, and I always make sure there exists an open window or doorway leading outside for the god to come into the room; of course, if you’re doing this outside, there’s no need for that last part.  Also, always involve Hermes into your worship; after all, he is the messenger of the gods and goes between the gods and mortals, and helps to ferry our prayers and offerings to them, and their messages and blessings to us.  Call upon him as Hermes Odolysios, Hermes the Road-Opener, before calling upon the god properly.
  2. Initial invocation of the god.  At this stage, I open up the ritual by singing the Homeric Hymn to the god (usually if there exists a short one), or some other personalized invocation to the god to invite them to the ritual space.  This sets the mood and formally announces to the gods that I’m calling upon them to receive my offering.  I also ask them to be present to accept the offerings and devotion that follow in a gesture of goodwill and grace.
  3. Announcement of the officiant by name.  I announce myself fully so that the god knows who’s making offerings to them.  I declare myself by my full name, being a child of my parents called by their full names, and I also announce any magical or working names I may be using so that the god knows who I am openly and without deceit.
  4. Dedication of offerings.  This is the part where I offer candles, incense, wine, oil, water, food, statues, or whatever I feel is good to give to the god.  For some of my shrines, I dedicate new altarpieces and nondisposable votive offerings during this point, but this is a once-in-a-while thing.  Usually, it’s just a liquid libation paired with at least one candle and one stick of incense.
  5. Singing of hymns.  I usually dedicate the singing of a hymn, such as one of the Orphic Hymns, as part of the offerings being one of praise and honor, but sometimes this accompanies the offerings in fulfilling a different role, something that blends both the previous step of dedication and the next step of supplication together.
  6. Supplication and meditation.  After I make my offerings, I request the blessing of the god in whatever senses I may need, or I may just sit back and chill in the presence of the god, meditating in their presence, conversing with them, learning from them, and the like.
  7. Closure of the invocation.  I thank the god for their presence and for having accepting the offerings prepared for them, and I use the Roman closing supplication of “if anything was said improperly, if anything was done improperly, let it be as if it were done correctly” from the Iguvine Tablets.  I bid farewell to the god respectfully, bidding them to go or depart as they choose to but acknowledging that they will be honored again at a proper time.

Optionally, if you’re of a more traditional bent, you might also consider making a preliminary and concluding offering to Hestia.  In Hellenismos and ancient Greek reconstruction paganism, Hestia is given the first and final offering every time a god is made an offering to, since she’s both the first-born of Gaia and last-saved from Kronos (and, in a sense, last-born), and most altars of the gods doubled as hearths for the family.  I don’t do this, and you can read more about my own work with Hestia in an older blog post, but it’s something to consider.

Just a note: whenever possible, the prayers and invocations and whatever should be spoken aloud, at least loud enough for you to hear yourself clearly.  It was traditional practice in ancient Greece that prayers were meant to be spoken aloud, that even if the gods are, y’know, gods, they aren’t necessarily omniscient or mind-readers.  Be direct and clear with the gods, speak your mind (respectfully, of course).  Indeed, Sophocles in his tragedy Electra has Clytemnestra (not a good person, thus her actions in the play are against common practice) pray to Apollo (who is certainly not on her side) in silence and obscurity rather than being outspoken and direct as a way to suggest that such prayer is badly done:

Raise then, my handmaid, the offerings of many fruits, that I may uplift my prayers to this our king, for deliverance from my present fears. Lend now a gracious ear, O Pheobus our defender, to my words, though they be dark; for I speak not among friends, or is it meet to unfold my whole thought to the light, while she stands near me, lest with her malice and her garrulous cry she spread some rash rumour throughout the town: but hear me thus, since on this wise I must speak.

That vision which I saw last night in doubtful dreams—if it hath come for my good, grant, Lycean king, that it be fulfilled; but if for harm, then let it recoil upon my foes. And if any are plotting to hurl me by treachery from the high estate which now is mine, permit them not; rather vouchsafe that, still living thus unscathed, I may bear sway over the house of the Atreidae and this realm, sharing prosperous days with the friends who share them now, and with those of my children from whom no enmity or bitterness pursues me.

O Lycean Apollo, graciously hear these prayers, and grant them to us all, even as we ask! For the rest, though I be silent, I deem that thou, a god, must know it; all things, surely, are seen by the sons of Zeus.

Just…just speak your prayers aloud, please.  You don’t need your son killing you with the blessing of the god you’re invoking because you decided to sleep with another man and want to hide it from the gods and other people around you for the sake of saving face.

So, let’s give some examples of worship.  As might be guessed, Hermes is one of my “major” gods, being my patron generally as well as the patron of mathesis specifically, so I make offerings to him not just on his day of the lunar month but also lesser observances every Wednesday (the day of Mercury of the week), but let’s focus on what I do for his major offerings.  Note that I have a shrine set up for Hermes, but you may not need one; it’s up to you, but I make full use of my shrines for my gods whenever possible.  If you read closely into the following, you’ll catch snippets of the phrasing I use with the gods and can apply them as easily in your own offerings.

  1. At sunrise (or whenever I can), I ritually prepare his shrine by sprinkling holy water around it, and I open the window in my temple room.  I set out four tealights anointed with a special kind of oil, and a stick each of frankincense, cinnamon, and sandalwood incense.  I pour out his offering bowl of wine and clean it out, if needed, and pour in fresh wine and a dallop or so of good quality olive oil.  I don a special orange silk scarf I use when doing my Hermaic priestly stuff, and I take up my ritual caduceus staff.  Since this is the offering to Hermes himself, I don’t really need to have him open the roads for his own reverence, though it can’t hurt if you so choose to do this.
  2. I knock on the shrine four times (four being the number of Hermes) and I recite a personal prayer I wrote to Hermes as well as the shorter Homeric Hymn to Hermes (#18).  I call out for Hermes by several of his epithets and roles, and I call for his presence with me
  3. I announce myself to Hermes as his priest, servant, dedicant, and devotee by my full name, my parents’ names, my magical names and mottoes, and that I have come to make him offerings in a spirit of love, thanks, honor, glory, and joy.
  4. I dedicate the candles to him burning for his honor, glory, exaltation, enlightenment, and empowerment, asking that as the candles shine their light upon the room, so too may he shine his light on my paths and empower and enlighten me.  I dedicate the incense to him burning that it may fortify, sate, and cheer him, asking that as the incense rises to fill up the room, so too may he fill up my body, soul, spirit, and mind with his blessing and essence of his divinity and presence that I may be initiated deeper into his presence and mysteries.  I dedicate the wine mixed with oil to him that it may refresh, please, and satisfy him, asking that as the libation has been poured out to him, so too may he pour his spirit into my life that I may be blessed completely by him in all aspects.
  5. I recite the Orphic Hymn to Hermes reverently, seeking that as my words ring out in the air, so too might they ring out throughout the entire world that all people may come to honor and revere Hermes.
  6. I ask for the blessing of Hermes in my life: skill in my profession, guidance when traveling, sharpness in thought, swiftness in talk, protection in work, proficiency in Work, and that he help me communicate and commune with all the other gods, as well as leading me through the mysteries of mathesis as he and I are both able.  I ask him for his guidance on any specific matters that might come to mind, and I generally chat and enjoy time with him, meditating in his light and power.
  7. I thank Hermes for his presence, for he has come as I called and aided me as I asked.  As he has come to receive these offerings, I bid him farewell; he can go as he will or stay as he will, but I leave him letting him know that he will always have a place of honor and respect in my life and in his shrine, and that if anything was done improperly, if anything was said improperly, let it be as if it were done and said properly.

Now, what about a “minor” god?  Let’s pick Demeter, the goddess of fields and produce of all plants, who although I rely upon for sustenance and survival, I don’t much deal with directly.  The format is overall the same but is much more pared-down; while an offering to a “major” god for me can last half an hour or more, a “minor” god’s offering can be as short as three or five minutes.

  1. At sunrise (or whenever I can), I ritually prepare a clean, raised space in my temple room by sprinkling holy water around it, and I open the window in my temple room.  I don’t usually make offerings of light, incense, or libations to gods I don’t have much of a relationship with, though if I feel moved to do so, I’ll set out a tealight, a stick of generic temple incense, and a clean glass of pure water or wine without oil.  I knock on the altar once and call upon Hermes Odolysios to be present with me and to clear the path from me to Demeter and from Demeter to me so as to allow my prayer to be heard and my offering to be received.
  2. I invoke the presence and blessing of Demeter to be with me in my life, to nurture me, and to help me honor her more fully as a human who relies upon the gods for his survival.
  3. I announce myself by my full name as a child of my parents, and that I have come to make her offerings in a spirit of love, thanks, honor, glory, and joy.
  4. I dedicate my praise to Demeter much as I would to Hermes, but without expectation or asking for reciprocal blessing; rather, I’m giving her offerings for her own sake and honor.
  5. I recite the Orphic Hymn to Demeter reverently in the same way I would Hermes’.  If a particular god lacks a hymn, I generally praise them however I can with whatever comes to mind, or I just sit in contemplation of their presence singing a Hymn of Silence focused on them.  Even then, if a god does have a specific hymn, I often just get by with a Hymn of Silence and contemplation with them praising them in silence.
  6. I ask for the blessing of Demeter generally, that she use her powers to help me in my life as I need them, and that I may come to be more aware of her work and her workers in the world that I may come to honor her more and more suitably.
  7. I thank Demeter for her presence, for she has come as I called and aided me as I asked.  As she has come to receive these offerings, I bid her farewell; she can go as she will or stay as he will, but I leave her letting her know that I will honor her again, and that if anything was done improperly, if anything was said improperly, let it be as if it were done and said properly.

Overall, all my offerings go mostly the same, though the prayers and specific offerings might differ.  Some gods prefer food, and I like offering fresh apples to Aphrodite; some gods like something done to one of the things on their altar, like making a notch in a specific wooden figure every month.  My ancestors get separate glasses of wine, water, and rum, and I also pray the Chaplet for the Dead, sing the Mourner’s Kaddish, and meditate with them while I play the Eggun song used in Santeria.  I rarely make offerings to the planets themselves, instead using the Orphic Hymns for their respective Olympian figures while I work with the planetary angels from my Hermetic/Trithemian work to honor and invoke their presence and powers in my life.  While my calendar may seem full, I only make major offerings to a very small subset of them based on the work I do, and I generally pare down my offerings to the minor gods to just a quick acknowledgment on mornings I’m busy.  It’s the major gods I work with who get focused offerings, after all.

So what happens if you happen to miss a day of offerings?  Let’s say it’s the day of Kappa, where one honors Zeus, and you have Zeus as a major god in your personal practice.  You get up early to make offerings at sunrise, only to remember that you have extra work to do in the office and need to leave early to make it home as you normally would, so you say that you’ll make offerings to Zeus when you get home.  However, despite leaving early, your day has still more work than you expected, and on the way home there’s a nasty traffic accident blocking the roads that makes you even later getting home.  By the time you get home, it’s already your bedtime, so you simply didn’t have time to make offerings.  In this case, you could simply pare down the major offering to a minor one during a few moments of silence or peace in the office, or do it right before you make your nightly supplication for dreams from Hermes; if you can’t manage that, try making the offering the next day, or at least on the next day you’d honor the ancestors.  So long as you catch up on the ritual sometime by the following unlettered day, you should be good, but this doesn’t give you a blank check to procrastinate on making offerings.  Whenever you can, always make at least one minor offering a day to the god, gods, or spirits of the day, no matter how rushed or quick.  Always acknowledge the gods each and every day; that’s the important bit here.  If you can’t afford the time or materials to make a major offering, don’t, but always try to make some kind of invocation to the gods as an offering of praise and honor.

One of the takeaways from all of this is that, for the mathetai, Hermes becomes a major god for us all, uniting us as being his students; we’d be οι μαθεται του Ερμου, after all, the disciples of Hermes, so it’s proper to honor him as a major god for us in mathesis.  Beyond Hermes, however, I can make arguments for all the others gods being both major or minor depending on what you do in your life, but for the purposes of mathesis, Hermes takes a central focus.  If you already have a relationship with Hermes, consider bumping it up by making more offerings to him, at least once a month (either on the seventh day of the lunar grammatomantic month or the fourth day of the traditional Ionian lunar month), but maybe a “minor” god-type of offering to him as well every Wednesday as you can.