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.
10
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.
20
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
30

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.

On the Hymns of Silence

Would you believe me if I said that one of the most powerful prayers, indeed the only true prayer we’re capable of, involves no words or speech at all?  Further, that this prayer is what undergirds every ritual, working, and sacrifice we make to the Source and to the world?

One of the things that Fr. Rufus Opus’ lessons in Hermetic magic teaches is how to get up and running as a Hermetic magician working with the spheres of the cosmos.  This process grounds the magician in working with the four elements that compose this sphere we live in, whether you call it Earth or Malkuth or whatever.  From there, you then begin to work with the forces of the heavens, indicated by the different planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.  By cycling through these forces, either in conjuration or astral exploration or qabbalistic pathworking or what-have-you, the magician begins to understand the relationship between the heavens and the earth, what is above versus what is below.  Each heaven feeds into the next, such that the forces that come from Saturn feed into Jupiter, which feeds into Mars, all the way down to Earth.  Ascending through the heavens gives the magician a solid footing in each of the forces that collectively build up the world, understanding how things on Earth come to be through the elements and how the elements come to be through the planets.

But the work doesn’t stop there, of course.  The planets themselves are collectively formed from even higher forces, which is sometimes termed “the sphere of the fixed stars”.  Ancient astrologers and astronomers only knew of the seven planets, and guessed at their relative distance from the Earth based on their speed.  Thus, the Moon, having the fastest speed around the Earth, would be the closest planet to Earth, and Saturn, with the slowest speed of the traditional naked-eye planets, would be the farthest.  From this, we get the terms “first heaven” relating to the sphere of the Moon, “second heaven” to Mercury, and so forth.  If Saturn is then the “seventh heaven”, then what lies beyond Saturn would be the “eighth heaven”, but there are no visible naked-eye planets to correspond to such a place.  The ancients then assigned all of the fixed stars, the lights in the sky that don’t move relative to each other like the planets do, to the eighth heaven; this includes all of the constellations of the Zodiac, all of the lunar mansions, and all other fixed stars, constellations, and the like.  This is the furthest boundary between what exists and what does not exist (God), whose membrane exists somewhere between the stars themselves and Saturn.

My first experience with the eighth sphere was something I looked forward to for some time, and I was finally able to attain during the consecration of my ebony Wand of Art last year.  I had done a week straight of conjuration, going through each element and planet in turn for seven days straight, reincorporating those forces within me to prepare me for the final conjuration of Iophiel of the Fixed Stars, the Eighth Heaven, and to call it a memorable experience would be a grievous understatement.  After a lot of conversation with the angel Iophiel, something had finally clicked that Fr. RO had mentioned time and time again on his blog that had enticed me to contact this angel in the first place, the Hymns of Silence:

In the Eighth sphere, we learn to Hymn in Silence. The Hymns are hymns of CREATION. We are creator gods, and the most holy form of worship is the creation of our world. Hymning in silence seems, from my experience, to mean that we get apply the forces of creation at will through methods such as imagining a shape or form, tensing a muscle, and paying attention (focusing awareness) to a certain thing happening. t’s an immediate thing that has a great deal of potential. (from “Seven Spheres in Seven Days: Phase II”, 11/4/2012)

But when you get to the Eighth Sphere, my God, it’s a whole new ball game! The Hymns of Silence are exactly that. In the rituals and rites of the Seven Planetary spheres and the lower realms, you speak and commune and direct, you mix and mingle and create talismans and tools and things. But in the Eighth, youintend and things happen. I’ve learned there are forces released when you make a physical movement with a specific intent empowered by teachings from certain spirits at certain times, and the world just bends a little bit. (from “Abramelin: Hermetic Rite or Hermetic Wrong?” 6/8/2010)

And it’s really weird for me because I’m used to being able to put things into words. But in the Eighth Sphere, you learn to sing hymns of silence in preparation for the Ninth. It’s a matter of directing your intent in worshipful observation, in celebration of the process of manifestation. You tune your observation-with-intent to harmonize with the manifestation current, and you find yourself as the conductor as well as a player in the orchestra. And see, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished. You name a thing, and it responds, and then it returns to where it used to be.  (from “Ch-ch-ch-changes”, 6/24/2010)

This morning in church, I took time during the worship service to pursue the silent hymns of the 8th Sphere. Doing so in the midst of vocal hymns was interesting, and I highly recommend anyone working with Iophial or the Archangels of the Zodiac to take the time on a Sunday morning to go to a church that sings. It doesn’t matter if it’s contemporary or traditional, but if you’ve forgotten the essence of what a hymn to the highest is all about, then you won’t have the context to understand what they can teach. If you’re a pagan, review the Orphic hymns, I’m pretty sure they’re around somewhere. The point is to worship, which is not a debasing or limiting thing at all. IT is freeing, and you can’t begin to understand the image you were made in until you are able to understand what you’re an image of. If that makes sense. My fingers are typing the wrong words lately. (from “The Silver Key”, 3/22/2009)

Each of the spheres has its own “tune”, it’s own note, with our lowest sphere of Earth composed of all of them.  However, Saturn has commonly been depicted as a sphere of silence, of the lowest possible note where only whispers are possible, if anything at all (especially in my own travels in that sphere, or say Alan Moore’s “Promethea” series).  If these seven spheres correspond to the seven basic pitches of Western music, then what exists beyond that?  Because that’s where the Eighth Sphere lies, and even beyond that the Ninth, which is the Source of all other things that exist.  It’s the beautiful music that comes from the Eighth Sphere without sound, the tone without pitch, the vibration with both all and no vibrations at once, that undergirds all other possible music that can be made below it, and this music is the Hymn of Silence.

This isn’t something that Fr. RO made up, either.  It goes all the way back to the beginning of Hermeticism in the Poemander (section 26):

And then, with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father.

They who are there welcome his coming there with joy; and he, made like to them that sojourn there, doth further hear the Powers who are above the Nature that belongs unto the Eighth, singing their songs of praise to God in language of their own.

And then they, in a band, go to the Father home; of their own selves they make surrender of themselves to Powers, and [thus] becoming Powers they are in God. This the good end for those who have gained Gnosis – to be made one with God.

Why shouldst thou then delay? Must it not be, since thou hast all received, that thou shouldst to the worthy point the way, in order that through thee the race of mortal kind may by [thy] God be saved?

And the idea is talked about even more at length in Hermes’ Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth to Asclepius:

H: “Lord, grant us a wisdom from your power that reaches us, so that we may describe to ourselves the vision of the eighth and the ninth. We have already advanced to the seventh, since we are pious and walk in your law. And your will we fulfill always. For we have walked in your way, and we have renounced […], so that your vision may come. Lord, grant us the truth in the image. Allow us through the spirit to see the form of the image that has no deficiency, and receive the reflection of the pleroma from us through our praise.  And acknowledge the spirit that is in us. For from you the universe received soul. For from you, the unbegotten one, the begotten one came into being. The birth of the self-begotten one is through you, the birth of all begotten things that exist. Receive from us these spiritual sacrifices, which we send to you with all our heart and our soul and all our strength. Save that which is in us and grant us the immortal wisdom.  Let us embrace each other affectionately, my son. Rejoice over this! For already from them the power, which is light, is coming to us. For I see! I see indescribable depths. How shall I tell you, my son? […] from the […] the places. How shall I describe the universe? I am Mind, and I see another Mind, the one that moves the soul! I see the one that moves me from pure forgetfulness. You give me power! I see myself! I want to speak! Fear restrains me. I have found the beginning of the power that is above all powers, the one that has no beginning. I see a fountain bubbling with life. I have said, my son, that I am Mind. I have seen! Language is not able to reveal this. For the entire eighth, my son, and the souls that are in it, and the angels, sing a hymn in silence. And I, Mind, understand.”

What he had finished praising, [Asclepius] shouted, “Father Trismegistus! What shall I say? We have received this light. And I myself see this same vision in you. And I see the eighth, and the souls that are in it, and the angels singing a hymn to the ninth and its powers. And I see him who has the power of them all, creating those in the spirit.”

H: “I am singing a hymn within myself. While you rest yourself, be active in praise. For you have found what you seek.”

A: “I will offer up the praise in my heart, as I pray to the end of the universe and the beginning of the beginning, to the object of man’s quest, the immortal discovery, the begetter of light and truth, the sower of reason, the love of immortal life. No hidden word will be able to speak about you, Lord. Therefore, my mind wants to sing a hymn to you daily. I am the instrument of your spirit; Mind is your plectrum. And your counsel plucks me. I see myself! I have received power from you. For your love has reached us…Grace! After these things, I give thanks by singing a hymn to you. For I have received life from you, when you made me wise…”

The closest way I can describe the Hymns are something like a combination of recognizing our True Will, joining intentfully into the Pleroma, and the injunction from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”.  The experience of singing the Hymns is ecstasy in the deepest meaning of the word, making us stand apart from ourselves in rapture.  The act of singing the Hymns is the act of dwelling in the Eighth, no matter where else we might be in mind or body, and to hear the Hymns even once leaves a mark on your own self that can never be erased.  It’s one of those milestones in Hermetic practice that, much like getting contact with the HGA, can never be forgotten nor ignored.  The sound, or thought, or vibration, or whatever-word-to-best-describe-it-that-I-can’t-find always lingers in the mind, like the currents under the surface of water or the bones supporting the body.  It never goes away, even in sleep or meditation, even above earworms that get stuck in the head, even above the most dire worries and concerns we have in this life.  This Hymn is the presence and awakening of Nous within ourselves.

This Hymn is the true and only Hymn we can ever possibly sing.  Any words put to music or used in religious service are ultimately empty without this Hymn, and any ritual done without this Hymn being sung is worthless and ineffective without it.   The good news is that this Hymn is already with us and coming from us, whether we’ve reached the Eighth Sphere or not, though we may never realize it without our eyes being opened.  We may be able to sing snatches of the Hymn, or pick out the tuneless tunes that match it for a particular purpose, but these Hymns are always within us, always being sung.  It’s obtaining access to the Eighth Sphere, however, and really learning about these Hymns that allows us to always be aware of them being sung within and without and around ourselves, and which allows us to intently and willfully sing it whenever we want.

In fact, if we want to be minimalist about it, singing the Hymn is the only ritual action we ever need to do.  The Hymn is the accumulated powers of the Eighth Sphere, the source of all things below it; it is the foundation of the planets, elements, and all that exists.  The only thing more primordial than the Eighth Sphere is God itself, and singing the Hymns not only prepares us for working with God directly as God but also prepares us to work with any other force in the cosmos.  Instead of using elemental magic to change things down here on Earth as they already are, or using planetary magic to change things as they come down to Earth through the planets, the magic of the fixed stars allows us to rig the game before it ever even starts.  You don’t work with a single part or multiple parts of the system, but the system as a whole; you get a broader picture of the harmony of the cosmos and what really needs working on and what’s really in discord rather than what we think is discord.  In singing the Hymns with our entire body, soul, spirit, and mind, we effectively become magic itself, capable of feats unimaginable even to ourselves, since the Hymns allow us to all but tap into Mind directly.

Of course, like anything else in magic, it’s not simply a one-time thing; you don’t just waltz up to Iophiel in the highest discrete sphere possible, get initiated into the Hymns, and be done with it.  Like any meditative or spiritual practice, it takes practice and effort to really get the Hymns to flow through you without discord coming from you; just like your True Will, it takes some work to align and fine-tune ourselves to sing the Hymns of Silence in Silence, with or without words.  We have a lot going on down here with ourselves, and a lot to use reason for, but not all reason is truly reasonable; we may justify what isn’t reasonable to look like reason, and we may happen upon reasonable acts without reason and without knowing why we should really keep doing reasonable things.  Singing the Hymns takes Work, and is another “key” to performing good ritual of any kind, but especially that of Hermeticism.

If any of the foregoing is confusing, I apologize, but this is hard to put into words to begin with, and even my talent for vocalization falls short when I try to describe something that is essentially unspeakable.  The only real advice I have for further clarification is for you to go and do the Work yourselves for this.  Go conjure the angels of the elements and learn their “instruments”, go conjure the angels of the planets and learn their “pitches”.  Understand the principles of the music of the spheres, the harmony that builds up to the crescendo creation of  our world, and with all those understood and incorporated into your own sphere that makes you your own orchestral symphony, go forth into the Eighth Sphere and learn the Music behind the music.  It’s not that hard; you’re born for this.  Go and Sing.