The Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē

The devil of every author hit me the other day when I released my ebook on the Grammatēmerologion, the lunisolar calendar system I developed for associating the days of the lunar months to the letters of the Greek alphabet for my Mathesis work.  Every author can sympathize: within hours of my having made the damn thing public, I found something that would have been an excellent addition to incorporate into the text.  Damn shame, that.  Ah well, live and learn; besides, after actually thinking about it, I couldn’t find a way to incorporate that information neatly into the text anyway.  I’ll write about it here instead, for those who are interested.

To give some backstory, I’d like everyone to know that I first came across grammatomancy—the Greek alphabet oracle that assigns each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to an oracular statement of advice or wisdom—from the Biblioteca Arcana, a treasure trove of pagan, occult, and theurgic resources in a Hellenic current as maintained by Apollonius Sophistes, better known as John Opsopaus.  I took the information from his site, reworked it a bit, expanded on it, and that’s how I got to my current form of grammatomancy, which kickstarted my whole Mathesis thing.  Well, Opsopaus put out a book last year, The Oracles of Apollo: Practical Ancient Greek Divination for Today, which I encourage many of my readers interested in Hellenic and Greek system of occult works to check out.  In that book, he lists a set of image-symbols to link to each of the Greek letters, as well as an ancient source for where he got them, such that the image of the ox is given to Alpha, the vulture to Bēta, and so forth.  Excitedly, I dashed off to check out the source, which of course is the Greek Magical Papyri.  What I found immediately brought to mind my beloved Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual from PGM IV.1596—1715, except as a lunar parallel to that, with equally as little information in the PGM itself and with equally as much potential for expansion.

PGM VII.756—794, simply titled “Prayer”, is like the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios in that all we have is the spoken text to be used for the ritual without any instructions or directions to use it.  The prayer consists of a reasonably short invocation to the moon goddess Mēnē (MHNH) under the power of the great divinity known throughout the PGM and many other magical texts for the past two thousand-some years, Iaō (ΙΑΩ).  However, again like the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios, we get some special good insights into how we might think of or perceive the Moon as a sacred entity with many faces, forms, or approaches.  It’s not as complete as the Hēlios rite in that we don’t get names or specific blessings, but instead we get a set of 28 sacred images and 14 sacred sounds.

Below is my rendition of the prayer text, with minor edits to formatting and spelling:

I call upon you who have all forms and many names, double-horned goddess MHNH, whose form no one knows except him who made the entire world, ΙΑΩ, the one who shaped you into the twenty-eight shapes of the world so that they might complete every figure and distribute breath to every animal and plant, that it might flourish, you who grow from obscurity into light and leave light for darkness.

And the first companion of your name is silence,
the second a popping sound,
the third groaning,
the fourth hissing,
the fifth a cry of joy,
the sixth moaning,
the seventh barking,
the eighth bellowing,
the ninth neighing,
the tenth a musical sound,
the eleventh a sounding wind,
the twelfth a wind-creating sound,
the thirteenth a coercive sound,
the fourteenth a coercive emanation from perfection.

Ox, vulture, bull, beetle, falcon, crab, dog,
wolf, serpent, horse, she-goat, asp, ibex, he-goat,
baboon, cat, lion, leopard, fieldmouse, deer, multiform,
virgin, torch, lightning, garland, a herald’s wand, child, key.

I have said your signs and symbols of your name so that you might hear me, because I pray to you, mistress of the whole world!
Hear me, the stable one, the mighty one,
ΑΦΕΙΒΟΗΩ ΜΙΝΤΗΡ ΟΧΑΩ ΠΙΖΕΦΥΔΩΡ ΧΑΝΘΑΡ ΧΑΔΗΡΟΖΟ ΜΟΧΘΙΟΝ ΕΟΤΝΕΥ
ΦΗΡΖΟΝ ΑΙΝΔΗΣ ΛΑΧΑΒΟΩ ΠΙΤΤΩ ΡΙΦΘΑΜΕΡ ΖΜΟΜΟΧΩΛΕΙΕ ΤΙΗΔΡΑΝΤΕΙΑ ΟΙΣΟΖΟXΑΒΗΔΩΦΡΑ

The final block of barbarous words, transcribed into Roman script:

APHEIBOĒŌ MINTĒR OKHAŌ PIZEPHYDŌR KHANTHAR KHADĒROZO MOKHTHION EOTNEU
PHĒRZON AINDĒS LAKHABOŌ PITTŌ RIPHTHAMER ZMOMOKHŌLEIE TIĒDRANTEIA OISOZOKHABĒDŌPHRA

The ritual is then concluded with that wonderfully vague direction so common in the PGM: “add the usual”.

One of the things Opsopaus describes about the ritual is that it gives 27 symbols of the Moon, which can be likened to the 27 main days of the lunar month (between the Noumenia and the Hene kai Nea, the first and last days of the month, just on either side of the New Moon itself).  To get 27 symbols instead of the 28 listed above (as in Betz), Opsopaus combines the symbols “multiform” and “virgin” into “multiform virgin”, which is to say the image of Hekate with three faces.  This is a reasonable leap to make; after all, the final set of symbols after that of the deer are all classically associated with Hekate, especially in the PGM.  Still, this is in disagreement with the Betz translation, which clearly distinguishes “multiform” and “virgin” as separate.  Additionally, by bringing the number of symbols down to 27, Opsopaus gets all seven Hekatē-related symbols together in the same seven-day week of the Moon.

However, I disagree with such a combining of “multiform” and “virgin” into a single symbol of “multiform virgin”.  Betz gives 28 symbols, and the prayer explicitly says in the introductory part “the twenty-eight shapes of the world so that they might complete every figure and distribute breath to every animal and plant”.  Plus, though Hekate is often reckoned as being a maiden-virgin, there are stories and myths where she gives birth to Kirke and Medea.  If we’re talking about multiple forms here, then, it makes more sense to me to consider “multiform” (i.e. triple-faced) and “virginal” as two separate faces of the Moon.  Even then, however, with 28 symbols, I couldn’t find a way to link them all to the letters of the Greek alphabet, which has either 24 letters (omitting the obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi) or 27 (including the obsolete letters).  Given that 28 seems to be the more solid number to go on for this ritual, I’m hesitant to actually associate these symbols to the Greek letters, and would instead consider it its own separate symbol set; this is why I decided against trying to go back and include this information in my Grammatēmerologion text, and instead write about it here as its own separate thing.

So much for the 28 symbols given in the ritual; what of the fourteen “signs”, the sounds that the ritual gives?  Moreover, why fourteen?  I’d liken each of these to the stages of the Moon in terms of her brightness or lack thereof, such that on the first fourteen days of the lunar month (from New to Full), we’d associate that fullness of the Moon with that particular sign, and on the second set of fourteen days, the signs would be given in reverse order.  In other words, if we were to plot them out, we’d get a table like the following:

Day Sign Symbol
1 Silence Ox
2 Popping Vulture
3 Groaning Bull
4 Hissing Beetle
5 Cry of Joy Falcon
6 Moaning Crab
7 Barking Dog
8 Bellowing Wolf
9 Neighing Serpent
10 Musical Horse
11 Sounding wind She-goat
12 Wind-creating Asp
13 Coercive Goat
14 Coercive emanation from perfection He-goat
15 Coercive emanation from perfection Baboon
16 Coercive Cat
17 Wind-creating Lion
18 Sounding wind Leopard
19 Musical Fieldmouse
20 Neighing Deer
21 Bellowing Multiform
22 Barking Virgin
23 Moaning Torch
24 Cry of Joy Lightning
25 Hissing Garland
26 Groaning Herald’s wand
27 Popping Child
28 Silence Key

It’s tempting to think that the symbols are associated with the signs in some way, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  It’s equally tempting, at least for me, to shift some of the symbols around to match up with their signs, at least in the first 14-day period, such that e.g. horse matches up with neighing, or garland with “cry of joy” (in terms of a wedding garland or other celebratory crown).  Perhaps the orders of the signs and symbols could be experimented and toyed around with, and see if the order actually matters as given or if we could swap some of them around.  There might also be correspondences that could arise from mapping the two symbols together based on their shared sign, but I’m unsure about that; that could be slightly bigger a leap than I currently realize.

So, that’s the prayer and some beginning information on the contents thereof.  I have plans on expanding it into a full, multiply-repeated ritual a la the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual, perhaps one that actually spans a lunar month, building up the symbols day by day and actually using the signs in the ritual as a means of focusing concentration and power…even though some of them don’t seem like actual sounds one could make, except as soundless spiritual vibrations that would cause spiritual effects.

In the meantime, what I would recommend (and what I plan on trying out for my own first attempt) is to perform the ritual on the last day of the lunar month before or on the New Moon, the Greek Henē kai Nea also known as Hekatē’s Deipnon, between sunset and sunrise, probably at solar midnight when the Moon is directly underfoot.  Face the North, and light three white candles; if you’re using an altar, these would be arranged in an upwards-pointing triangle towards the North, but if you’re not using an altar, you could use three candles put together in the same configuration on the ground before you or three candles arranged in a triangle around you in a large-enough “circle” to stand in and move about.  With the usual offerings you’d bring to a ritual of the Moon or to a Deipnon of Hekatē, arrange and make use of them as usual: food offerings, libations of dark wine, incenses, and so forth.  Recite the ritual as given above, making the associated sounds physically and/or spiritually (when appropriate) after their enumeration, and visualizing a circle of the symbols around you as you recite each symbol, starting from the North and going clockwise from there.  After the recitation of the barbarous names, give your charge to the Moon goddess Mēnē, and recite the barbarous names once more.  Conclude the ritual with your thanks, then leave the candles to burn out on their own.

A variant of this ritual that springs to mind immediately is, instead of doing the ritual on the New Moon, perform the ritual at the Full Moon instead, outside where you can see the Full Moon, when the Moon is highest in the sky.  Face the Moon, and arrange the candles in a downwards-pointing triangle instead of an upwards-pointing one.  Use the same process as above, perhaps beginning or concluding with my normal Full Moon invocation from the PGM.

Now to get the time and supplies and purpose arranged for such a ritual experiment, then getting a more elaborate system built up.  The next New Moon is just over two weeks away, after all.

Grammatēmerologion Calendar for Cycle 69, available for download now!

I mentioned in the introduction to my last post on myth and stories as models for practice that I’ve been working on my old grammatomantic calendar, the Grammatēmerologion, again.  In short, this is a lunisolar calendar I devised based on the Attic calendar used in ancient Athens for my Mathesis work, with a special emphasis on associating the days of the lunar months to the letters of the Greek alphabet.  Not only does this help me get a sort of feel for the type of day I might be facing, a la omen calendars such as in Hesiod’s Works and Days or the day-based forecasting of Mayan astrology, but it also helps me organize rituals and meditations, especially for sacrifices to the Greek gods.  I find it an incredibly useful invention for my own work, and I used to do a Daily Grammatomancy blurb for my followers on my Facebook page that incorporated the information from this (the practice of which I plan to bring back in the near future, so if you haven’t yet, log onto Facebook and like my page!).  For more information on the Grammatēmerologion calendrical system, check out these posts:

Thing is, keeping track of a lunisolar calendar by hand can be hard.  I’ve written a few simple programs that calculate the lunisolar date and corresponding letter information for my convenience, but trying to export that information was hard enough as it is, especially if I’m down in my temple, forgot the proper date, and need to temporarily abort ceremony to run back to my computer to figure out what the date is.  For this sort of thing, having an actual physical calendar would be useful; after all, keeping track of dates is literally what they’re for!  Of course, given the kinds of data I wanted, I had to do quite a bit more programming to calculate any arbitrary set of astronomical and astrological phenomena, because…well, trying to find almost 40 years’ worth of such data online and then formatting it into a way I can use turned out to be far more work than coding the astronomical algorithms by hand, making sure the calculations were reasonably accurate, and formatting the output from said calculations.  It sounds like it’d be more work to do it that way, but it actually wasn’t that bad, compared to wrestling with any number of websites and then beating them into submission.

Well, I’m happy to announce that such a calendar is now complete in as good a form as I can stomach to make it (at least for the time being).  You can download the Grammatēmerologion Calendar for Cycle 69, spanning the time between June 2009 and June 2047.  This document includes:

  • A thorough description of the design, calculations, and nuances of the Grammatēmerologion lunisolar calendar from its Attic calendar origins
  • A discussion on grammatēmerologic days, months, years, hours, and days of the week
  • How to organize ritual and divination according to the grammatomancy of the days and other time periods of the Grammatēmerologion
  • Dates of significant grammatēmerologic importance
  • Seasonal start and midpoint dates
  • Zodiacal ingress dates of the Sun
  • Lunar phases of the Moon
  • Solar and lunar eclipses

Download the Grammatēmerologion Calendar for Cycle 69 for free at this link.
Ignore that link, check out the revised version (and why) here!

Unlike my other ebooks, I release this one gratis for all those who are interested in it.  Not only is it much different in style and purpose from my other ebooks, but I’m aware that this is a very niche thing that, in all likelihood, only I and maybe one or two other people will use.  Given its departure from the Attic calendar and the traditional way of assigning feast days to the Greek gods, I’m not holding my breath for Hellenion or any of the Hellenic pagan community to just suddenly up and adopt this calendar for their own usages.  That said, some of my fellow occultists and woogity friends have expressed interest in this calendar, so why not?  After all, I find value in long-term planning, and what could better fit that tendency of mine than planning out New Moon dates some 30 or 40 years in advance?  Plus, this way, I and others can print out hard copies to stash in our temples, so that we’re not running back and forth reaching for our phones or computers to check the letter-date when we happen to forget it after we already get comfortable in our sacred spaces.

Making this calendar was a fair bit of fun, and I have to say I learned quite a bit about astronomy and calendrical orders, as well as how to get my computer to play well with compiling huge documents programmatically.  Still, it was a lot of work, and I’m glad I don’t have to do this again anytime soon (though I may release other versions of this for previous or future cycles, just for those who want that sort of ephemerical information for decades far removed from our current one).  If there’s enough of a need for it, I may also decide to redo this project to include other astronomical or astrological information (perhaps retrograde periods of particular planets?) or other traditional Hellenic holidays accounted for by the Attic calendar, but that can wait for later.  If you find this sort of thing useful, please consider throwing a few bucks my way to my Ko-fi page to keep me caffeinated and productive on this and other projects!  Every little bit helps, and you’ll have my undying appreciation for the support.

Also, as another small update to be aware of: you can now purchase my ebooks directly through my blog!  I’ve added a new Books page to the top-level menu, so check it out!  Before now, the only way to get my ebooks was through my Etsy shop, but if (for some reason) you don’t like going through them or can’t, you can just use PayPal instead.  Be aware that, once you purchase an ebook directly through my blog, I’ll do my best to send you a copy of the ebook (either the file itself or a link to its download) as soon as I can; with Etsy, the download link is sent automatically upon purchase.  Still, this can give some people a helpful alternative to buying some of the things I’ve written.

Update: okay, so, later in the day after I publicly make this thing available, I found something in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM VII.756ff) that would have been perfect to add into this.  Take a look; you won’t be disappointed once you see it.

On Geomantic Cycles

A while back on the Facebook community I manage for geomancy, the Geomantic Study-Group, someone had posted a proposed method to obtain four Mother figures for a geomantic reading based on the time and date of the query.  The poster based this proposal off of the Plum Blossom method of I Ching, where (as one of several possible formulas) you take the date and time and numerologically reduce the numbers to obtain trigrams; in a sense, such a method could theoretically be done with geomantic figures, and so the poster called this a type of “horary geomancy” (though I’m reluctant to use that term, because it’s also used by Gerard of Cremona to come up with a horary astrological chart by geomantic means, as well as by Schwei and Pestka to refer to geomancy charts that have horary charts overlaid on top).  He proposed three methods, but they all revolved around using the time of the query in astrological terms.

The proposed idea went like this:

  1. Inspect the planetary ruler of the hour of the query.
  2. Inspect the planetary ruler of the weekday of the query.
  3. Inspect the planetary ruler of the Sun sign of the query.
  4. Inspect the planetary ruler of the year of the query.
  5. Transform the planets above, “taking into account rulerships by day or by night”, into geomantic figures, which are used as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Mothers for the resulting chart for the query.

Seems straightforward enough!  I mean, I’m already familiar with the basics of horary astrology, I keep track of date and time cycles according to Greek letters, and I’ve flirted with using the Era Legis system of timekeeping as proposed by Thelema, and it’s even possible to extend the planetary hour system into planetary minutes and even seconds; having a geomantic system of time, useful for generating charts, seems more than fitting enough!  Besides, there’s already a system of geomantic hours based on the planetary hours which can probably be adapted without too much a problem.

I was excited for this idea; having a geomantic calendar of sorts would be a fantastic tool for both divination and ritual, if such a one could be reasonably constructed, and better still if it played well with already-existing systems such as the planetary week or planetary hours.  That said, I quickly had some questions about putting the proposed method from the group into practice:

  1. What about the assignment of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis?  Do we just occasionally swap them in for Venus/Jupiter and Mars/Saturn, respectively, and if so, how?
  2. Each planet has two figures associated with it; how do you determine which to pick?  “Taking into account rulerships by day or by night” isn’t always straightforward.
  3. How do we determine the planetary ruler of a given year?
  4. Is it possible instead to use the already existing cycles, such as the geomantic hours of Heydon, the rulerships of the lunar mansions, or the Cremona-based or Agrippa-based rulerships of the signs?

When I raised these questions (and a few others), I didn’t really get anything to clarify the method, so this particular conversation didn’t go anywhere.  This is unfortunate, because these pose some major problems to using a strictly planetary-based method of coming up with a geomantic cycle:

  1. The issues in assigning the nodal figures to the planets is the biggest issue.  They simply don’t quite “fit”; even if you reduce the 16 figures into pairs, it’s hard to get eight sets mapped into seven planetary “bins”.  We see this quite clearly when we look at Heydon’s geomantic hours, where the nodal figures are sometimes given to the benefic or malefic planets (though I can’t determine a method), and on Saturdays, two of the hours of the Sun are replaced by the nodal figures (which is, itself, shocking and may just be a typo that can’t be verified either way).  Unless you expand a cycle of 24 hours or seven days into a multiple of 8 or 16, you’re not going to end up with an equal number of figures represented among the planets.
  2. Given that each planet has two figures (ignoring the nodal figure issue from before), you can decide that one figure is going to be “diurnal” and the other “nocturnal”, or in planetary terms, “direct” or “retrograde”.  Different geomancers have different ways to figure out which of a planetary pair of figures are one or the other, so this might just be chalked up to individual interpretation.  Still, though, when would such a diurnal/nocturnal rulership actually matter?  Finding the figure for a planetary hour, using diurnal figures for diurnal hours and nocturnal figures for nocturnal hours?  Finding the figure for a weekday, using the diurnal figure if daytime and the nocturnal figure if nighttime, or alternating whole weeks in a fortnightly diurnal-nocturnal cycle?  Determining what figure to use if the Sun is in Leo or Cancer?
  3. Multi-part problem for the issue of finding the “planetary ruler of a year”:
    1. By inspecting the mathematics of the different kinds of planetary cycles that are established in the days of the week and the hours of the day, we can extend the system down into the minutes of the hours and the seconds of the minutes.  However, scaling up can’t be done along the same way; what allows for the planetary hours to work is that 24 does not evenly divide by 7, nor 60.  Because there’s always that remainder offset, you get a regularly repeating set of planets across a long system that, when aligned with certain synchronized starting points, allows for a planetary ruler of a given hour or day.  However, a week is exactly seven days; because there is no remainder offset, you can’t assign a planet ruling a week in the same way.  If you can’t even cyclically assign a planetary ruler to an entire week, then it’s not possible to do it for greater periods of time that are based on the week.
    2. There is no method of cyclically assigning a planetary rulership to a year the way we do for days or hours.  The poster alluded to one, but I couldn’t think of one, and after asking around to some of my trusted friends, there is no such thing.  You might find the ruler of a given year of a person’s life, or find out what the almuten is at the start of a solar year at its spring equinox, but there’s no cyclical, easily extrapolated way to allocate such a thing based on an infinitely repeating cycle.
    3. We could adopt a method similar to that in Chinese astrology: use the 12-year cycles based on the orbit of Jupiter, which returns to the same sign of the Zodiac every 11.8618 years (or roughly every 11 years, 10 months, 10 days).  In such a system, we’d base the planet ruling the year on the sign where Jupiter is found at the spring equinox.  This is both a weird import into a Western system that isn’t particularly Jupiter-centric, and is not quite exact enough for my liking, due to the eventual drift of Jupiter leading to a cycle that stalls every so often.
    4. It’s trivial to establish a simple cycle that just rotates through all seven planets every seven years, but then the problem becomes, what’s your starting point for the cycle?  It’s possible to inspect the events of years and try to detect a cycle, or we can just arbitrarily assign one, or we can use mythological calendrics (a la Trithemius’ secondary intelligences starting their rulerships at the then-reckoned start of the world), but I’m personally uncomfortable with all these options.
  4. Different existing cycles, different problems for each:
    1. John Heydon’s geomantic hours from his Theomagia (which are the first instance I can find of such an application of the planetary hours) are a mess.  Even accounting for how he reckons the figures as “diurnal” or “nocturnal” and their planetary rulers, the pattern he has breaks at random points and I can’t chalk it up necessarily to being typos.  Additionally, there are 168 hours in a week, but this doesn’t evenly divide into 16, meaning that within a given week in Heydon’s (quite possibly flawed) system of geomantic hours, some figures will not be given as many hours as others.  If we went to a fortnight system of 14 days, then we’d end up with 336 hours which is evenly divisible by 16 (336 hours ÷ 16 figures = 21 hours/figure), but Heydon doesn’t give us such a system, nor have I seen one in use.
    2. The system of lunar mansions from Hugo of Santalla’s work of geomancy ultimately formed the basis for the system of zodiacal rulerships used by Gerard of Cremona (which I’m most partial to).  However, of the 28 mansions, seven have no rulership, and five are duplicated (e.g. mansions 25, 26, and 27 are all ruled by Fortuna Minor).  Moreover, this system of attribution of figures to the mansions is apparently unrelated to the planetary rulership of the lunar mansions (which follow the weekday order, with the Sun ruling mansion 1).  It may be possible to fill in the gaps by closing ranks, such that the unruled mansion 7 is “absorbed” by Rubeus which already rule mansion 6.
    3. There’s another system of lunar mansion rulership assigned to the figures, described by E. Savage-Smith and M. Smith in their description of an Arabian geomancy machine relating to directional correspondences, which uses the similarities between graphical point representation of the figures and certain asterisms of lunar mansions to give them their correspondence.  However, it is likewise incomplete, moreso than Hugo of Santalla’s assignments, and is likely meant as a way of cementing geomancy into Arabic astrological thought (though the two systems do share three figure-mansion correspondences, but this might just be coincidental overlap).
    4. Hugo of Santalla’s system of lunar mansions and geomantic figures was eventually simplified into a set of zodiacal correspondences for the figures, such as used by Gerard of Cremona.  I like this system and have found it of good use, but Agrippa in his On Geomancy says that those who use such a system is vulgar and less trustworthy than a strictly planetary-based method, like what JMG uses in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  Standardizing between geomancers on this would probably be the riskiest thing, as geomancers tend to diverge more on this detail than almost any other when it comes to the bigger correspondences of the figures.
    5. Even if one were to use Agrippa’s planetary method of assigning figures to the signs of the Zodiac, you’d run into problems with the whole “diurnal” and “nocturnal” classification that different geomancers use for the figures, which is compounded with the issue of nodal figures.  For instance, according to Agrippa, Via and Populus are both given to Cancer; Carcer and Caput Draconis are given to Capricorn; and Puer, Rubeus, and Cauda Draconis are all given to Scorpio.  I suppose you might be able to say that, given a choice, a nodal figure is more diurnal than the planets (maybe?), but how would you decide what to use for Scorpio, if both figures of Mars as well as Cauda Draconis are all lumped together?

In all honesty, given my qualms with trying to find ways to overlay planetary cycles with geomantic ones, I’m…a little despairing of the notion at this point.  The systems we have to base geomantic cycles on are either irregular or incomplete, and in all cases unsatisfactory to my mind.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have heard that some geomancers have used the geomantic hours to good results, but I’ve also heard that some geomancers can get the methods of divination for numbers and letters to work; in other words, these are things that everyone has heard of working but nobody seems to have actually gotten to work.  And, I suppose if you don’t think about it for too long and just take it for granted, perhaps you can get the geomantic hours to work!  After all, I’ve found good results with Hugo of Santalla’s figure-mansions correspondences, even if they’re incomplete and unbalanced, without anything backing them up.  (I never denied that over-thinking can be a problem, much less a problem that I specifically have.)

Further, I’m not saying that geomantic cycles don’t exist; they very likely do, if the elements and the planets and the signs all have their cycles in their proper times.  The problem is that so much of these other cycles we see are based on fancier numbers that are either too small or infrequent (4 elements, 7 planets) or don’t evenly divide into 8 or 16 (like 12 signs, 27 letters in an alphabet), or they simply don’t match up right.  For instance, it would be possible to create a new set of geomantic hours where each figure is present in turn over a course of 16 hours, then repeat the cycle; this leads to returning to the same figure at the same hour of the day every 48 hours, starting a new cycle every third day.  This doesn’t match up well with a seven-day week, but rather a cycle of two weeks (as hypothesized above, since 14 days = 336 hours, and 336 is divisible evenly by 16).  However, such a system would break the correspondence between planets and figures because of the “drift” between cycles of 16 and 7.

So…in that line of thinking, why not rethink the notion of geomantic cycles apart from tying them to planetary ones, and start from scratch?

We’re accustomed to thinking of magical cycles in terms of seven planets, but we could just as easily construct cyclical time systems in terms of four (which can be divided four ways within it), eight (divided into two), or sixteen units.

  • Consider the synodic period of the Moon, which can be said to have eight phases: new, crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, disseminating, third quarter, and balsamic.  We could attribute each phase two figures, and then sync the cycle to, say, the new moon (when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction) or to the first quarter moon (when the Sun sets as the Moon is directly overhead), giving a synodic month 16 geomantic “stations” each lasting about 1.85 days.
  • Those with a neopagan background are used to thinking of the year as an eight-spoked Wheel, where the year is divided by eight sabbats, which are four quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) and four cross-quarter days; each period between one sabbat and the next could be split into a geomantic “season” lasting roughly 22 or (sometimes) 23 days long.
  • Alternatively, a year of 365 days can be broken up into 22 “months” of 16 days each, leading to 352 days, meaning three or four intercalary/epagomenal days at the end of the year or spread around for, say, the quarter days.
  • Within a single day from sunrise to sunrise, we can divide the day into four segments (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) divided by the stations of the sun (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight), and each segment can be further subdivided into four geomantic “hours”, leading to a total of 16 geomantic “hours” within a day which would, assuming a day of equal daytime and nighttime, have each “hour” equal to 90 minutes.
  • Years can be broken down into cycles of four years, every fourth year requiring a leap day; this could lend itself to a cycle of 16 years (one geomantic figure per year), or even to a cycle of 64 years (comprising 16 leap days), each of which can be used as a way to define larger-time cycles.

Such a four- or eight-fold division of time and space isn’t unheard of; we commonly reckon a year (at least in most Western Anglophone countries) as having four seasons, the Greeks broke up cycles of years into four-year Olympiads, the ancient Romans divided up the night into four watches (while using twelve hours for the daytime), and there are discussions of a Hellenistic system of astrological houses called the octotopos/octotropos system which uses eight houses instead of the usual 12, so it’s possible to dig that up and rework it to accustom a geomantic method where the number 16 could be applied to work better than mashing it onto a system where the number 7 is more prominent.  That said, finding such a system that’s thoroughly based on 4, 8, or 16 is difficult, as it’d be pretty artificial without including the moon (which repeats in patterns of 12 or 13) or whole number divisors of 360, and considering how thoroughly cultural transmission/conquering has established the 12-month year across most of the world, often obliterating and subsuming earlier systems that may not have left much of a trace.  But, again, if we’re gonna just up and make one from scratch, I suppose it doesn’t need to be grounded in extant systems, now, does it?  Even if it’s artificial, if it’s a cycle that works, such as by associating the different motions of the sun and sensations of the day with the figures, or by linking the changes in the seasons with the figures, then that’s probably the more important thing.

Unlike my older grammatomantic calendars, where the order of the letters provided a useful guide to how the system should “flow”, the geomantic figures have no such inherent order, but can be ordered any number of ways (binary numeral equivalence, element and subelement, planetary, zodiacal order by Gerard of Cremona or by Agrippa, within one of the 256 geomantic emblems, the traditional ordering of odu Ifá which we shouldn’t ever actually use because this isn’t Ifá, etc.).  Or, alternatively, new orders can be made thematically, such as a “solar order” that starts with Fortuna Maior at sunrise, continues through the figures including Fortuna Minor at sunset, and so forth.  This would be a matter of experimentation, exploration, and meditation to see what figure matches up best with what part of a cycle, if an already existing order isn’t used as a base.

I do feel a little bad at not offering a better alternative to the problem that the original poster on Facebook posed, instead just shooting it down with all my own hangups.  Over time, I’d eventually like to start building up a geomantic calendar of sorts so as to try timing things for geomantic spirits and rituals, but that’ll have to wait for another time.  Instead, going back to the original problem statement, how can we use time to come up with four Mothers?  Well, perhaps we can try this:

  1. Consider four lists of geomantic figures: binary (B), elemental (E), planetary (P), and zodiac (Z).  Pick a list you prefer; for this method, I recommend the simple binary list (Populus, Tristitia, Albus…Via).  Enumerate the figures within this list from 0 to 15.
  2. Look at the current time and date of the query being asked.
  3. Take the second (1 through 59, and if the second is 0, use 60), minute (ditto), and hour (1 through 23, and if 0, use 24).  Add together, divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 1.
  4. Take the day of the year (1 through 365 or 366), divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 2.
  5. Take the year, divide by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 3.
  6. Add up all the digits of the current second, minute, hour, day, and year.  Divide this number by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 4.
  7. For each key, obtain the corresponding Mother by finding the figure associated with the key in the list you choose.

So, for instance, say I ask a query on September 25, 2017 at 9:34:49 in the evening.  According to the method above, starting with the actual math on step #3:

  1. Since 9 p.m. is hour 21 of the day, 49 + 34 + 21 = 104.  The remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 8, so K1= 8.
  2. September 25 is day 268 of year 2017.  The remainder of 268 ÷ 16 is 12, so K2 = 12.
  3. The remainder of 2017 ÷ 16 is 1, so K3 = 1.
  4. 49 + 34 + 21 + 268 + 2017 = 2389, and the remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 5, so K4 = 5.
  5. Using the binary list, (K1, K2, K3, K4) = (8, 12, 1, 5), which yields the Mother figures Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Tristitia, and Acquisitio.

While this is not a perfect method, since the number of days in a year is not perfectly divisible by 16, the possibilities of each figure appearing as a Mother are not exactly equal to 1/16, but the process is decent enough for pretty solid divination based on time alone.  Instead of using purely date/time-based methods, you could also use the birth information of the querent alongside the date and time of the query, use the figures for the current geomantic hour/lunar mansion/Sun sign of the Zodiac, or numerologically distill the query by counting the number of letters or words used or by using gematria/isopsephy to distill and divide the sum of the content of the query.  So, I a method like what the original poster was proposing could certainly work on strictly numerical principles alone, just not on the astrological or planetary cyclical methods proposed.

As for geomantic cycles, dear reader, what do you think?  If you were to link the geomantic figures to, say, the phases of the moon, the eight “spokes” of the neopagan Wheel of the Year, or the flow of light and darkness across a day reckoned sunrise-to-sunrise, how would you go about creating such a cycle?  Have you used the geomantic hours, and if so, have you run into the same problems I have, or have you used them with good effect, in lieu of or in addition to the normal planetary hours?

Empowerment Candle Ritual with Psalm 119

(Update 1/8/2018: Got here by Googling around or followed a link from another site?  Interested in more about this ritual, especially since this post is old and I’ve learned quite a bit more since then?  Want to know how to do this ritual better?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Recently, I got back in touch with a good magical colleague of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in a bit.  Not that anything was wrong, it was just that life got in the way of us having a good time.  Happily, our mutual absence from each other’s lives is now over, and we’re getting down to brainstorming some good ol’ fashioned powerworking, because we’re fancy like that.  My friend and I don’t exactly match much in what we do; I’m the fancy Hermetic quasi-Hellenic part-classical-part-Renaissance ritual magician, and my friend is basically a dirty, fabulous, conjuring, rootworking, Vodou-doing swamp witch.  We happily complement each other’s works, and although we’re kinda like night and day, there are a good number of places we overlap.

One night, we were discussing some traditional protection magic involving mirror boxes and representations made of ourselves to act as decoys in attracting maleficia. My friend brought up the idea of circling the representation in ash composed from burning copies of Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, both of which serve extremely well in spiritual protection and defense.  The notion of circling an image of oneself in ash struck me as peculiar, but also extraordinarily powerful.  The image of Tarot Trump XXII, the World, stuck in my head, and my mind made the leap to using Psalm 119 as the basis for such an ash as well.

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After all, Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible, and itself is longer than a good number of books from both the Old and New Testament.  It’s an example of an acrostic hymn, where each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet (in this case, the Hebrew script).  Thus, there are 22 sections of 8 verses each, each verse extolling a different virtue or blessing ascribed to the Law.  Because of it’s all-encompassing nature, it’s one of the most powerful psalms used in psalmic magic, like in conjurework and American folk magic.  Sometimes just a small section of the Psalm is used, and sometimes the entire psalm.

Add to it, the connection of the different sections of Psalm 119 with the Hebrew letters struck me as powerful.  I think my readers are already familiar with my affinity for alphabet magic, especially when it comes to Greek, but that’s not to say I discount the use of Hebrew.  After all, qabbalah is still a thing.  With each Hebrew letter represented in Psalm 119, the psalm truly does have a universal power that can affect, well, everything.  Every force in the Hebrew tradition (12 signs of the Zodiac, 7 planets, and 3 elements because Earth and Spirit aren’t a thing rabbinically speaking) is represented here, and is heavily involved in the modern understanding of the paths of the Tree of Life.  If we combine the powers of the building blocks of the cosmos with the already notable power of Psalm 119 as used in traditional magic, we can get a truly powerful result upon ourselves.

Thus, this ritual makes an ash with Psalm 119 and circles a representation of ourselves with it; we effectively encircle, fortify, and bless ourselves with all of creation and all of the blessings and promises of the Lord, while also orienting ourselves to the Law of God and our duties within it.  My swamp witch friend heard me out on this and we promptly queened out over the prospects of using this in a separate ritual.  After some discussion, we decided to draw out a recitation of the entire Psalm 119 over the course of a lunar month for a general, but profound, empowerment ritual to strengthen, bless, and help us in all our needs in life.  A tentative working name for this ritual might be “Anointing of the World’s Blessing”, given a structural similarity with the World card and what it actually does.

The ritual takes place over a full lunar month (30 consecutive days), broken down into several stages.  The way we’ve planned it, the ritual requires about 15 minutes per day, but it can be augmented as necessary according to your own preferences.

  • Day 0 (New Moon, one day): preparation of supplies and altar
  • Days 1 through 3 (three days): initial prayers
  • Days 4 through 25 (22 days): Psalm prayers
  • Days 26 through 28 (three days): final prayers
  • Day 29 (Dark Moon, one day): thanksgiving and cleanup

The materia for this ritual are fairly simple and easily obtained:

  • Four white candles (tealights work fine)
  • Four seven-day candles (those 7-color glass-encased candles are perfect)
  • A recent picture of yourself
  • A printout of Psalm 119
  • A Bible (any decent translation in your native language is good, but you can’t go wrong with the King James Version)
  • A small glass jar or vial with airtight lid
  • Olive oil

(Again, this is an outdated post, and even so, I don’t like deleting them.  If you’re interested in performing this ritual, check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

On the day of the New Moon, prepare your representation of yourself.  If you’re just using a picture of yourself, write out your full birth name, followed by “son/daughter/child of” the name of your mother, and your birthday and birthtime (if you have it), perhaps writing your name on it seven times to make a proper name paper out of it.  Once this is done, take the printout of Psalm 119 and burn it to ash.  On an altar or surface that you’ve already ritually cleaned off for the working, set the representation of yourself down and make a complete circle around it in the Psalm ash, and set the four 7-day candles around the circle aligned to the four cardinal directions.

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Set one white candle on top of your representation (with at least some sort of protection between the candle base and your representation) and light it, letting it burn down completely, praying that the ritual to be used with them be purified and blessed with the grace and power of God.  Once the white candle has burned out later that day, dispose of it.

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On the sunrise after the New Moon (the start of the Noumenia), begin the first three days of the ritual.  Light the candle aligned towards the East and face the East as well if you can (not required).  On sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times.  Recite an adaption of the prayer from the Heptameron (normally to be used instead of invocations of the angels of the airs when working above the fifth heaven):

O God, mighty and merciful!
O God, great, excellent, and honored through endless ages!
O God, powerful, strong, and without beginning!
O God, wise, illustrious, just, and divinely loving!

I ask you, most holy Father, that I should complete and completely realize my work, labor, and petition, You who live and reign, world without end.  Bless me in all times, in all days, in all places, in all ways.  Let boundless bounty and blessing come to me from the four corners of the world.  Help me, o Lord, in my life that I may come to be girded by the strength and aid of the world, subject only to You.  Amen.

On the sunrise of the fourth day, go to the altar and face East if you can (not required).  Recite the following prayer over the altar:

O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
O God, make speed to save me.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

On this day, pray the first section of verses (Psalm 119:1-8) corresponding to the Hebrew letter Aleph.  As is traditional, it’s important to actually read this from a hardcopy Bible, but that’s only if you care about being traditional.  After praying this section of Psalm 119, meditate briefly on the meaning and content of the section just recited, closing with a silent prayer for the blessing of the world to infuse your life, empower you, strengthen you, illumine you, and assist you in all undertakings.

Repeat this process for the next 21 days, reciting each of the sections of Psalm 119 in turn.  Thus, on the fifth day, recite the second section of Psalm 119 (Bet); on the sixth, the third section (Gimel); on the seventh, the fourth section (Dalet); and so on until the 25th day, reciting the 22nd section (Tav).  Eventually, the 7-day candle you lit earlier will burn out; on the next sunrise, light the next candle going in a clockwise direction (so East, South, West, then North).  The first three candles should have burned out by the 25th day, with more than half of the fourth and final candle having been consumed.  If they burn longer than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day using the flame from the old candle; if they burn shorter than expected, set alight the next candle on the expected day rather than immediately.

On the 26th day, begin the process of closing the ritual for the final three days.  The process is the similar to the first three days: on sunrise of each of these three days, recite the Pater Noster once and the Gloria Patri three times. Finally, recite Matthew 7:7-8 from the Bible:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Ideally, the candle-verse breakdown should go like this:

  1. Three days of preliminary prayer, Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet
  2. Heh, Vav, Zayin, Chet, Tet, Yod, Kaph
  3. Lamed, Mem, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Peh, Tzaddi
  4. Qoph, Resh, Shin, Tav, three days of final prayer

On the 29th day, the day before the New Moon (maybe two days depending on the specific month we’re in), all the candles should have burnt out entirely.  This is the final day of the ritual when all the other work has been done.  First, take your picture and burn it to an ash, then collect the rest of the ash from the Psalm 119 printout and mix it together.  If there’s any wax or soot residue from the four seven-day candles, take a small scraping from each candle and mix it with the ash.  Get a small vial of good olive oil and mix the ash in fully and well.  Dispose of the rest of the remains from the ritual, then set the vial of ash where your picture used to sit, and set three white candles close around the vial.  Light them and make an offering of praise in thanksgiving to God for his help and blessing in your life; I recommend the thanksgiving prayers I use, based on Draja Mickaharic’s prayer from the Old Testament.  Pray over the oil mixed with the ash that it may assist you henceforth in all your undertakings, both those you desire and those you ought to desire, in the things you do and the things you ought to do, that you may always receive the blessing and strength and courage of the Lord in all your life.  Let the candles burn down completely.  Once they’ve burned out, the ritual is complete and finished.

The oil mixed with the ash is to be kept safe as a special and private anointing oil for yourself.  It’s intrinsically tied to you and your life, and not to be used by others or on the tools of others, only on you and your tools in your workings.  Anoint yourself with this oil (perhaps using Psalm 23, perhaps using my own prayer of anointing that you might find useful) before any working or operation, even if it’s a mundane thing like going to an interview; heck, anoint yourself with it upon rising every day.  This oil is a blessing for you in addition to having received the blessings from praying Psalm 119 itself.

(Yeah, you could do the ritual above, but it’s not as good as the one you should be doing! Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Some suggestions for alternatives or enhancements to the ritual:

  • Instead of using the preface prayer (O Lord, open thou my lips…) to the sections of Psalm 119, you might use Psalm 23 instead, which is also appropriate here.
  • A la my daily mathetic letter meditations, you may find it helpful to do a similar meditation ritual for the letter of the section of Psalm 119 being meditated upon, complete with a visualization of the Hebrew letter itself and projecting it and the sounds of the letter into the ash.
  • If you’d like to focus the entire ritual to a particular end rather than a general empowerment, dress the candles and your representation with an appropriate oil, as well as the Psalm printout before you burn it.  You could also write out the intention of the ritual on the back of your photo as well, writing it in a circle around your name and birth information.
  • Consider dedicating the four candles to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel in their appropriate directions (using whatever associations you prefer for this), and invoke them on each day their specific candles are burning.  Going with the Tarot theme, you might place the Kings of the Tarot under each candle (King of Wands for Michael, King of Swords for Raphael, etc.) and place the World card under yourself.  In the picture of my working setup above, you can see that I did just this, with the World card hidden under the silver platter with my picture and the ashes.
  • I only clean off a ritual surface with a light wash of Florida water and holy water (obtained from a church is always a good choice, but you can make it on your own, too), but you might enhance the ritual area by drawing an empowerment sigil under your representation, lining the surface with crossroads dirt, writing sacred verses from the Bible around your representation to be covered with the Psalm ash, or the like.
  • The ritual above says only one section of Psalm 119 per day during the main part of the ritual month.  You might also consider saying the entire psalm each day, or building up to saying the entire psalm over the course of the month (saying the Aleph section on the first day of this part of the month, Aleph and Beta on the second, Aleph through Gimel on the third, until the final day when you say the entire Psalm 119).
  • I know that there are angels for each of the letters of the Greek alphabet, and I’m sure that a similar set of angels exist for the letters of the Hebrew script, though I don’t know (yet) of one.  You might consider doing an invocation of the letter-angel on each day corresponding to the particular section of Psalm 119 being said.  Alternatively, you might consider invoking the angel associated with the force that is associated with each Hebrew letter (e.g. Heh is associated with Aries, so invoke the angel of Aries, Malkhidael; Aleph is associated with Air, so invoke the angel of Air, Raphael).  You can find these names courtesy of Agrippa (book II, chapter 7 for the elements, chapter 10 for the planets, chapter 14 for the signs).
  • If you want to be more Jewish about this, instead of reciting the prayers at sunrise, try doing them at sunset when the Jews consider their days to start.
  • To be honest, I hadn’t originally considered saving the ash from the Psalm and mixing it with the photo to turn it into an anointing oil, but hey, “waste not, want not”.  Instead of doing that, you could save the ash with the picture (not burning it) and turning it into a mojo bag or other similar charm to keep with you.
  • You might consider using a lodestone or magnet lightly dusted with the Psalm 119 ash and placing it on top of your image so that it attracts all the blessings of the world to you.  This magnet would be placed into the vial of oil to continue drawing the blessings to it and to you over time.  I don’t prefer doing this, only because with the ritual, there’s no need to attract anything from the world that you’re already the center of; all of the cosmos revolves around you in this ritual layout.  There are arguments for and against this, and I can see benefits for doing both.  Experiment!
  • If you want to speed up the process, you might be able to condense the whole working into seven days.  The first day would be for setup and opening prayers (days 0 through 3) and the last day for closing prayers and thanksgiving (days 26 through 29).  The intermediate five days would go more-or-less as usual, except that you’d recite four sections of Psalm 119 a day: open with section Aleph, two of the sections of the psalm (Beth and Gimel, Dalet and Heh, Vav and Zayin, Cheth and Teth, etc.), then close with section Tav.  This maintains a coherency along the entire week, but in a faster manner.  Still, why rush it?  Why use the microwave when you can have a slow-cooked, higher-quality meal instead?
  • As with any prolonged ritual working, this may have some unintended side-effects.  Read through the entire psalm first before deciding whether you want to use this ritual.  I honestly didn’t expect this ritual to have as many effects as it did, not all of which were entirely pleasant to go through, but I’m glad it did.

(Again, this post is old, so please check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)