Thoughts on a Grammatomantic Calendar

Earlier this year, I produced my first ebook, a short text detailing the history and use of grammatomancy, or divination using the Greek alphabet much as one might use runes for divination. It’s an interesting system, and I combined the ancient oracular meanings of the letters with their isopsephic (gematria) meanings, stoicheic (planetary/elementary/astral) meanings, and qabbalistic symbolism to produce a full divination system suitable for any student of the magical arts. It got real complicated real fast, but also real complete in the process. (If you don’t have a copy, stop being lazy and get one here.)

As some of my readers may know, I make use of this every day (mostly) for my Twitter/Facebook feeds under the posts “Daily Grammatomancy”. It’s helped me and others plan our days out, using a simple oracle for how the day will go; the question I ask for our mutual and communal benefit is “for myself and for all who come in contact with my words, for this day, this very day: how best should we live our lives in accordance with the divine will of the immortal gods?”. For some people, it’s no better than a newspaper horoscope; for others, it hits dead on time and time again.

Doing this for a while has lead some of my friends to start pursuing their own daily divination methods. One such friend, Raven Orthaevelve (who is a fantastic artist and crafter whom you should totally buy and commission things from for anything fancy, magical, or otherwise), has started using the Mayan calendar as a divination tool. This isn’t any 2012 bullshit, either; the Mayan calendar was known for being a reasonably complex set of interlocking cycles. One such calendar used for these cycles is the tzolk’in, a 260-day calendar made up of 13 20-day “months”. Each day has a particular name and divinatory meaning which forms the basis of much of Mayan divination, natal astrology, and prognostication. Raven posts her interpretations of the tzolk’in daily on her Facebook, and will eventually build in other Mayan cycles into the mix for a more complex and complete daily prognostication.

In some sort of weird feedback loop, this has started to help me pursue my own idea of a cyclical divination using Greek letters. In other words, although the daily grammatomantic divination would be helpful for specific days, a day might generally have a particular meaning based on its location in a cycle of days; combining the two can help focus knowledge and energy for particular problems, much as one might combine the cycle of planetary days and planetary hours for rituals. Interesting as this idea might be, though, it’d be incredibly difficult; there’s no information I can find that this was done in ancient times, so it’d be a new innovation. Add to it, the development of any kind of calendrical cycle is difficult (as my experiments with forming a ritual calendar for planning things out have shown).

One option I might explore is just using the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet in making a type of calendar. 15 repetitions of this cycle would produce 360, a very nice number indeed; if I were to tie it to the solar year, then it’d produce 5 or 6 intercalary days that would not be associated with any particular letter. This kind of practice isn’t uncommon by any means: the Mayans used a similar practice with their haab’ calendar: 18 cycles of 20 days, again producing 360 days with five days (wayeb’) at the end; the ancient Egyptians and modern Copts use 12 cycles of 30 days, again 360 days, plus five or six days at the end. 24 is a pretty convenient number, I have to admit, especially with its divisors and amenability to larger cycles of 12, 360, and the like.

Plus, if I were to use this cycle of 15 months of 24 days, I could further associate each month with a particular letter, which could afford another general cycle around the day-letter cycle. Say that we associate the first month of the first year with Α, then the second with Β, and so forth. Because the year only has 15 months, the last month of the first year would be Ο, and the first month of the second year would be Π; likewise, the first month of the third year would be Η, the first month of the fourth year would be Χ, and so forth. This produces a cycle such that every 9th year has the first month starting with Α; thus, there are eight distinct years with this month-letter cycle. And if we have a month-letter cycle, we could also expand this to a year-letter cycle, such that three such month-letter cycles form one year-letter cycle, or 24 years (8 × 3 = 24). Alternatively, we might have a great year-letter cycle, where one month-letter cycle is given a letter, and 24 month-letter cycles completes a great year-letter cycle; this would be a cycle of 8 × 24 = 192 years. At this point, I’d just be forming cycles for the sake of cycles for a kind of neo-Greek long count calendar, but it’d be nifty all the same for finer, long-term gradations of influences.

To use such a cycle, however, I’d need to use a particular day as a start date, at least for the months. Although the Greek alphabet oracle as I use it was found in modern Turkey, different parts of ancient Greece used different calendars with different start dates for individual years. The Attic calendar, about which we know the most among all ancient Greek calendars, started on the first new moon after the summer solstice; other Greek calendars often started off between autumn and winter. For simplicity, I’d say that either the spring equinox (to tie it in with astrology) or the summer solstice (to tie it in with Athenian practice) would be the official start date. Thus, the five or six days leading up to this start date (according to the Gregorian calendar) would be the intercalary days, which would have no letters assigned to it; alternatively, I might devise a scheme to associate particular letters with these intercalary days based on specific properties of the letters. This doesn’t even mention where the month-cycles (years of day-letters) would begin, or what the anchor date might be.

If I were to use the Attic practice of using the summer solstice as the start date, though, why not actually go ahead and use the Attic calendar itself as the basis for my cycle? The Attic calendar, specifically the festival calendar used to determine festivals and rituals, was a lunisolar calendar. There were 12 months as determined by the observation of the Moon; months began on the first sighting of the New Moon just after syzygy (νουμηνια, “new moon”), and ended on the day of the syzygy itself (ενη και νεα, “old and new”). Thus, the months could be 30 days (full months) or 29 days (hollow months). A month was divided into three periods of ten days each, which I’ll call decamera; if the month was hollow, then the third decameron would have only nine days, with the usual 29th day being omitted entirely.

The problem with using this type of lunisolar calendar is that there are more days in a month (29 or 30) than there are letters in the Greek alphabet (24). Even if I were to include the obsolete letters digamma, qoppa, and sampi for a total of 27 letters, this would still leave three days leftover. This might be remedied by throwing “letterless” days into the mix, on which no advice can be given, as well as making the obsolete letters effectively “letterless” since they have no associated oracles or stoicheic meaning. They have isopsephic meaning, however, which can be substituted with Hebrew gematraic meanings (and, through them, Hebrew stoicheic meanings), but this is starting to overreach and combine different traditions.

However, the use of those three decamera within each month does lend itself well to the Greek alphabet, assuming we use the full body of 27 letters. Using isopsephy, the letters Α through Θ (including digamma) are given to values 1 through 9, Ι through qoppa are given to 10 through 90, and Ρ through sampi are given to 100 through 900. Thus, we have nine letters per decameron, of which two days per period are letterless (or one day for the final period in the case of a hollow month); one for the obsolete letter in the mix and one extra letterless day at the end of the period. In this manner, we’d have a method to create a grammatomantic lunisolar calendar, which would be interesting to use. There’d be gaps in the calendar, of course, but it’s no worse than other magical calendars I’ve seen, e.g. PGM VII.155-167 or the Munich Manual, for determining which day of a given month is good or bad for magic or divination.

Using a year of 12 months is convenient, and can make the process of assigning letters to each month much simpler: a month-cycle of two years can be had here, since two years of 12 months produces 24 months, one for each letter. That said, the issue with lunisolar calendars is that the months get out of sync without an embolismic month, or intercalary month every so often. Using the ancient Metonic cycle of 19 years, there would be 12 “short” years (years with 12 months) and 7 “long” years (years with 13 months). The embolismic month could be held as letterless and placed at the end of the year in long years. Thus, every two years would complete one month-letter cycle in this lunisolar scheme; due to the parity of the Metonic cycle, every 38 years would complete one year-letter cycle. Using the Babylonian and Hebrew method of assigning embolismic months, years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 would be long years.

So, that turned out to be a much longer discussion on calendrical cycles for divination than I intended. Then again, calendars and cycles have never been easy to work with for any culture or era. In all honesty, the use of the simple 15 months of 24 days plus intercalary days is highly appealing for the sake of its simplicity and ability to lend itself to cycles within cycles. There is something to be said for the attribution of letters to the lunisolar months, though, especially for the sake of timing rituals or determining favorable lunar influences for a given letter. I’ll try drafting the rules and algorithms for these two types of grammatomantic calendars, along with date calculation methods, and see where that gets me.  The next few posts will go over these two types of calendars, one based on the solar cycle of the seasons and one based on the lunisolar cycle of the lunar months as tied to the seasons, so stay tuned!

Search Term Shoot Back, August 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of August 2013.

“magic orgone” — I wouldn’t call orgone “magic”, per se, but it is basically the quintessence, akasha, ether, or spiritual force underling the energy model of magic; orgone can be said to be the same thing as odic force, qi/chi/ki, or prana, depending on your tradition or viewpoint.  Orgone technology was developed as a kind of fringe science using the principles of magnetism, electricity, and polarity extrapolated towards human energy/subtle-body models of working with the body.  There are ways to work with orgone in a magical way, as my own experiments with orgone have shown, but it can be used outside of a magical framework just as easily, just as radionics or reiki aren’t necessarily considered “magical” (though basically are, anyway).

“planetary hours for july” — Planetary hours are calculated for individual days, based on the location and date of the observer.  Trying to form a generalized calendar independent of location won’t work, since planetary hours rely on the sunrise and sunset times for a particular place (which change depending on latitude, time zones, and the like).  Lots of free planetary hour calculators abound on the internet, however, so look instead for “planetary hour calculator”.

“sex sigil” — Yes please.

“ikea altar” — It’s true, my altar furniture is pretty much just from IKEA, or to a lesser extent, Target.  IKEA is fantastic for cheap but sturdy stuff, so long as you don’t mind the appearance of it; if you use an altar cloth, you’ll be set.  The small LACK side tables are perfect for corner altars or working tables in conjuration, I’ve found, and their price can’t be beat, especially if you want something disposable (a la Enochian Tables of Practice) or if you want something to engrave or woodburn without too much cost going into the thing.

“the kybalion homosexuality” — This probably references my post from before on the comparatively recent book Kybalion, gender, and sexuality.  I wish I could talk about this more, and I probably should one of these days, but my thoughts on the matter haven’t much evolved past the point of “I don’t know”.  Everyone has their own dynamic within themselves to work with, and even though the Kybalion is great at simplifying the world down into a few rules and laws of occult motion, they’re also sufficiently broad to gloss over the minute subtleties involved with actual experience in the world around us.  Plus, the interplay between the laws isn’t well developed in that short text as much as we might like, and the cultural and personal bias of the original author(s) may have had something to do with the laws as they apply to homosexuality or queerness more generally.  I’m going to appeal to authority here and say that Crowley had it probably more correct and concise when he said “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”.  In the end, it’s really only you yourself who can figure out who you are/Are, understand what you can and should do/Do, what’s good/Good and bad/Bad, and judge your own progress/Progress.  Nobody else has that right; nobody else can judge you or tell you what it is you need to do, or what’s a beautiful thing for you to preserve or maintain.  In this light, especially if you have any respect for Thelema or Crowley, to use any text, occult or otherwise, to justify judging, discriminating, controlling, or maligning others because of personal bias is revolting, and I advise all my readers to cut that shit out.

“strongest geomancy figures in order”  — It depends on what you mean by “strongest”, and even then which author you read, since geomancy is an old tradition of divination going back a thousand years across multiple continents.  If you mean favorability and fortune, i.e. how good a figure is, you might use a general rule such as that of Robert Fludd’s or an older Arabic system, but this is pretty broad and doesn’t take into account specific situations or context.  If you mean positions in the houses of the astro-geomantic chart, you might use the directional correspondences of the figures or their planetary joys, but this isn’t used by all geomancers.  At the risk of making my dear readers do a bit of goddamn research and study, I suggest you review my De Geomanteia posts on the figures to get a full grasp of what they mean and how they relate to any arbitrary situation.

“yes no meaning to six sided dice”  — I suggest looking at Balthazar Black’s post on using six-sided dice for this.  I use a set of RPG dice for my divinations, specifically the 2d10 dice for yes/no questions.  Simple methods can be made, however: high numbers indicate high likelihoods of “yes”, while low numbers indicate low likelihoods, or odd means “yes” and even means “no”, or other combinations.  Dice are an ancient tool and game, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you found any number of traditions from different cultures or ages indicating different methods of cleromancy with dice.

“quick divination”  — Tomorrow you’ll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep.

“is sprinkling salt in bath water and praying to god” — This was, in fact, the entire search term; it seems like something got cut off, but who can say?  Assuming the searcher in question ended the query with something like “evil”, “damnable”, “wicked”, or “sinful”, I can say that the answer is very firmly no.  Salt has long been used across cultures and ages as a cleansing, purifying, or protective agent; spiritual baths are a longstanding tradition in pretty much every occult and religious tradition, from misogi in Shinto to wudu in Islam to baptism in Christianity.  Prayer is, of course, a good thing in magic and religion, and any action whatsoever can always use that heavenly or divine boost from having the hand of God or hands of gods involved.  I should take full spiritual baths with prayers more often, honestly, but I content myself with a regular sprinkling of holy water every day with prayer; before any significant working, however, I’ll definitely cast some salt I’ve prayed over into a clean tub of tepid clean water, immerse myself completely, and pray a number of psalms while in the tub.

“tojil strategic ffxi” — er…I don’t play Final Fantasy XI, though my boyfriend does.  Tojil in FFXI is a pretty nasty boss mob, and from what I’ve seen over my boyfriend’s shoulder and from what I’ve heard him say about it, learning how to time attacks with Tojil’s changes in aura is key; you’d be able to take down this beast in fairly short time if you have a decent linkshell group with you.  However, this entity has its origins in Mayan mythology and religion; Tohil was a fire, sun, and rain deity, with some qualities similar to the more popularly-known Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.  One of my friends works with these pantheons, but I don’t myself, though they’re very cool guys and very powerful in their ways.  Then again, it takes a powerful practitioner to actually get any good work done with them, so caveat orator.  I’m pretty sure, since none of these terms actually appear on my blog, that it was grabbed by a Google spider from my twitterfeed on the right.