The Attainment of Adam

Now that we’re done with our DSIC discussion (which you can access easily by going to the recap post at this link or searching through the blog with the tag reviewing the trithemian conjuration), let’s move on to other topics once again.

Not all the PDFs I make for my occult and spirituality stuff go up for sale; sometimes I just like fiddling around in LaTeX (which is my preferred way for formally typesetting documents, whether it’s an ebook, a book-book, or a letter), especially if I’m trying to get something out onto paper for a more formal use than otherwise.  I’ve made personal-use ebooks for things like Orphic Hymns, Homeric Hymns, divination oracles for grammatomancy and astragalomancy, and the like before for my temple; I have no intent on publishing them, but there’s a quiet enjoyment I take in this sort of typesetting, even if only I see the results of it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on restructuring my own Hermetic practice in a way that uses a sort of geomantic devotional approach as its main vehicle for work, which largely resulted as a product of mulling over what geomantic holy days would look like, then again into a more simplified and regular “wheel of the year” kind of form.  Since then, I’ve been working on putting together another ebook—again, one I don’t intend on putting out publicly, at least not yet, and not anytime soon.  This ebook is essentially my new vademecum, my new enchiridion, my new prayerbook consisting of prayers, orisons, litanies, prayer bead rules (like those misbaḥa prayers I’ve mentioned), rituals, consecrations, and the like.  It’s currently sitting at 226 pages, all told; since it’s still in flux, from the specific wording and phrasing of prayers to the processes and procedures used for a variety of rituals I’ve been working on that all form together to make a complete system (one of the reasons I’ve been working on those DSIC posts!), I haven’t actually printed it out yet, but just keeping it as a PDF on my phone.  I’m really pleased with how it’s been turning out and coming together, as well as my practices generally.

But there’s one sticking point I haven’t been able to resolve.  I’ve been able to either outright write fresh, compile, pilfer, adapt, or otherwise reuse many prayers in this new prayer book of mine for so many purposes: general prayers to God, to the ancestors, to the angels, for specific dates or times or needs, for the figures and planets, for this and that…but there’s been one group of entities for whom I haven’t been able to come up with pretty much damn near anything, and that’s the prophets themselves: Adam, Enoch, Hermēs Trismegistus, and Daniel.  I just can’t seem to put anything to paper for them, for prayers or praises or invocations or rituals, unlike the abundance of the same I have for the angels or the blessed dead or this or that or the other.  Ironic, then, that the very four entities, these progenitors of the geomantic art, who inspired me who come up with a ritual calendar and formed the basis of this whole geomantic practice, have basically nothing coming up for them.

It’s not for lack of trying, I swear.  But it just…I can’t seem to get anything out of me.  Even more annoying, I can’t seem to find very many prayers or the like in traditional Abrahamic or Hermetic literature as devotions for these four geomantic forefathers.  Like, sure, there’s a few things that come to mind that I could use from the Book of Enoch to write up some Enoch-focused praises, at least in the context of his angelization into Metatron (though I’m hesitant to put too much weight on that specific aspect), but that’s not a lot on its own, and there’s just not a lot that seems to be written out there.  Like, while there are prayers in abundance for many of the mythic and saintly figures of Christianity and Islam (especially the various ‘ad`iyah /du`a’s of Islam attributed to their holy and saintly figures), there’s just…really not a lot.  Heck, the idea, even, sounds weird to me, since we don’t often think of the prophets of Abrahamic traditions to necessarily be saints or to participate in intercession or intervention like the saint-saints or angel-saints do, and while we all certainly praise Hermēs Trismegistus as the one revealed the secrets of the Great Work by the Divine Poemander to teach to the world, I just can’t find many prayers or praises in a formal context like this.  It could be that I’m not looking in the right sources (perhaps more Gnostic texts might be useful), but I just can’t find a lot.

So, it happened that, according to my ritual calendar, the Feast of the Prophet Adam, the First Man, Progenitor of Attainment came and went on Monday, May 6 earlier this year.  I had intended to devote a few weeks in April trying to draw up something to mark the day, even just something simple…but alas, the day arrived on its own, and I showed up empty-handed.  Still, I did what I could still do: I sat down at my shrine, lit a candle and some incense for Adam as I would any other saint or hero, and just sorta…thought and mused aloud in the solitude of my temple space.  Though I came empty-handed, I left with quite a few insights that I didn’t have before, and I wanted to share them here, even if only to keep the thoughts about it going.

Back when I wrote the Secreti Geomantici ebook, I developed a “Prayer of the Geomancers”, which I recite daily as part of my own practice (though reworked slightly and fit into my newer practice that arise after I wrote Secreti Geomantici).  In it, I give a supplication where we ask to be instilled with the four blessings of  “the judgment of Daniel, the dedication of Enoch, the wisdom of Hermēs, and the attainment of Adam”.  I basically tried to come up with some sort of high-minded virtue, ideal, strength, blessing, just…yanno, something that I could associate with each of the four progenitors to ask for to help us in our divination practices and spiritual development as geomancers.  For Daniel and Enoch, I used their very names as inspiration, the former meaning “God is my Judge” and the latter meaning “dedicated”, as in to God.  Hermēs Trismegistus, for me, is associated with wisdom, not just knowing things but knowing how to apply them.  But for Adam…I honestly didn’t know what to say.  “Attainment” sounded good enough, and it sorta semantically ties in with Adam in general for me.  Earth-born, earth-made Adam, whose name is a pun on the Hebrew word for “earth” (adamah), and was God’s final creation in the Genesis narrative as a distinct species or entity.  Eve (and Lilith), of course, could also be considered separate, but when reckoning them all as various kinds of Human, then it was Adam that would be considered the final bit of distinct creation of God.

In that sense, why “attainment”?  What did Adam attain?  Adam was the attainment, the completion and fulfillment of God’s work to create the cosmos; in the Abrahamic as much as the Hermetic sense, we are made in the image of God, but we could not exist as we are without literally everything else having existed before us.  (This reminds us to be humble in a new way; though we might be closest to God as a species of this worldly reality, we are also the youngest, junior to and thus dependent on ants, urchins, fleas, mold, and all else that exists.)  It wasn’t until God made humanity that God could rest on the seventh day after he first spoke “let there be light”.  In that sense, the creation of humanity completed the cosmos, giving everything the final connection that allows the cosmos be what it needs to be.

However, humanity as created was not made in a fixed state, as it lacked primarily one thing: knowledge.  That’s where the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil came in; it wasn’t until Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree and gave it to Adam to eat that humanity finally knew their position in the cosmos and learned about themselves.  Up until that point, they were made in the image of God, but since they did not know or could even understand their material nature, they could not act on it or incorporate that knowledge; for them, they lived in a divine ignorance that effectively separated their spiritual nature from their material nature.  Only by eating the fruit of the Tree could they understand the latter, and then began incorporating it.  Of course, this had its own cost: by understanding the material nature of the bodies they inhabited, they became trapped by them, and in the process, excluded from Paradise.  We could consider this as a sort of “birth” from the womb; though they were not “born” in the traditional sense, we could consider God their “father” and the Earth their “mother”, with the Garden of Eden itself being the womb from which they were born.  For as long as they lived in Paradise, they could not be independent or truly alive in the sense that you and I are alive; they had to be “born” into the world, just as we are, in order to fully come into their own.  For them, their own completion was not complete until they went into their own birth.  And, just like with our own birth, it was accompanied by tears and pain.

This isn’t to say that God made humanity poorly, but that creation is a process that isn’t just a one-and-done thing.  As Jack Miles demonstrates in his wonderful literary and character analysis of the Old Testament God: A Biography, the process of creation is effectively God learning as much about his creation as we do ourselves.  And it’s not until we can take a look at the whole picture of something that we can finally perform a full analysis of something to understand it, and we can’t do that in terms of a human until we know their entire life.  For Adam and Eve, that entirety doesn’t come about until they die: it takes death to fully understand the whole of the human experience, so it wasn’t until the death of the First Man that the original creation of God might finally be considered “complete”.  In this sense, Adam had to attain his own creation and completion just as God did—and so too do all of us, as well.

This is also where the angel Uriel comes into the picture.  Uriel, in the Western tradition, is the archangel who’s typically associated with the element of Earth, and so I consider this angel to have a natural connection to Adam on a simple elemental basis.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Uriel is the angel appointed to stand guard at the gate to the Garden of Eden with the flaming sword.  What does this mean for us in terms of “attainment”?  Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly need while in the Garden, and so would never have had to work for anything, learn anything, struggle, adapt, invent, or grow at all; they would have lived in this sort of ignorant stasis where everything was good and nothing was bad, having been given everything except something to do—something to attain.  Just as we can no longer enter our mother’s womb, so too could Adam and Eve never reenter the Garden and regress to an earlier stage of development; their expulsion was necessary for humanity to truly flourish.  I mean, consider: if humanity is made in the image of God, then what had God done up to this point?  God had made something from nothing.  If Adam and Eve were to take after God, then they too must create something from nothing, but so long as they lived in the Garden, how could they do that if they already had everything and had neither anything to invent nor needed anything to invent?  It was only when they were taken out of the Garden that they truly had nothing—except the clothes that God made for them as an act of parental care, but let’s be honest, by that point they had already made their clothes to cover their nudity in the Garden after eating the fruit of the Tree.  And consider the context of that, too: they made something in a place God made where they needed nothing, and so effectively judged God’s creation…I hesitate to use this word, but lacking in a way.  To use a software development metaphor, if the Garden was God’s development-and-testing sandbox, the fact that Adam and Eve could create and invent shows that they were finally capable of being released into production, becoming independent co-creators with God in the process (“co-creators” because we are made to take after God and being infused with his breath), just on a smaller scale as befits our finite, more material role.

Uriel was positioned at the Gates to ensure that neither Adam and Eve nor any of their descendants could eat of the fruit of the other Tree, the Tree of Life, which would grant them immortality that God himself possesses.  Okay, fair.  But Uriel’s purpose is more than just to guard the other Tree; I think he was stationed there to make sure that humanity itself could learn to use their own world and tools to constantly create more of the world, co-creating with God throughout the entire process of their lives.  However, our lives must come to an end; why?  Because we have descendants.  In order for us to properly execute our function as humans, we must create and leave things behind so that others can create after us—whether they’re our own blood-and-flesh children, godchildren, initiates, or students doesn’t matter.  In order that they too can fulfill their purpose, they must have their own share of the world; for that reason, our bodies must return to the Earth, “for from it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return”.  Also, it’s at this point in the Genesis narrative, once God issues his order of expulsion—that Adam finally names Eve, whose name in Hebrew is Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”, (most likely) related to Hebrew Ḥāyâ “to live”, and Genesis itself says that Adam named Eve such “because she was the mother of all the living”.  The final name given to the final God-made creation of the Garden, only complete at their time’s end within it.

So, if our bodies return to the Earth, whence, then, our breath, our divine essence that God gave to humanity?  As I see it, based on this little bit, the breath returns to God, and thence can be breathed back into the world to continue the co-creation of the world.  For as long as the process of life and death exists, for as longs as there are descendants of Adam and Eve, for as long as the world exists, the process of co-creation is always ongoing.  Individual people may complete their attainment, but their attainment is not truly complete until the end of their lives as befits us as mortal creatures of this world.  Similarly, the attainment of humanity cannot be complete until humanity itself finally and eventually passes away from the world—or the life-sustaining world itself passes away, whichever comes first, I suppose.  And, when we do return to the Earth, it is only then that we can reenter the Garden.

What, then, of our own attainment?  What can we take after Adam, what could we ask for to help us in our own spiritual paths?  We know that, just like Adam, we cannot revert to an earlier stage in our spiritual progression; we know that we must become independent from our mothers, go out into the world, and work for ourselves and those who come after us; we know that we must live our lives until such a time as proper for us that our bodies return to the Earth and our breath returns to God, and until that point, we must always work to constantly create our world, co-creating with God as we are made in his image.  It is up to us, to each of us, that we do what we can to fulfill our purpose, role, and function in this world, taking what has been given to us and what we can to constantly create, build, grow, and nurture.  It is up to us that we attain our own role as being truly human and truly divine.  It is up to us to attain the fullness of our creation.  It is up to us to attain our true Will.  We cannot go back from whence we came, for just as the angel Uriel guards the gates to Paradise, but just as Uriel is the angel of the light of God, we can look back upon our past and see what was so that we can begin to understand what may be.  I mean, in this system of devotion I’m building, the title I give to Uriel is “Keeper of the Mysteries”; just as he keeps the Garden apart from us, he shows us with his light (and the light of his “fiery ever-turning sword”) what is possible, and permits reentry into the Garden as divine gatekeeper only at the proper time.  Things may leave the Garden, but not enter back in improperly.

There’s more that I can muse about this, of course, but I think this is a start.  I mean, honestly, this is probably one of the actual mysteries of this new little practice that’s been dropped on my lap that I’m really starting to chew into, structured by all the prayers and routines and rituals that I have.  Perhaps one day, after enough musing and research and writing and meditating, I might have proper prayers for Adam—maybe even the rest of the prophets, too!  For now, though, I don’t have much…but I do have this last bit I want to share.  While there’s not a lot out there that I can find for prayers that are attributed to Adam, there is one short Islamic du`ā’ of Adam (and, also, properly speaking, of Eve) that I thought was simple enough to commit to heart.  This was taken from Qur’ān 7:23, after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Paradise and were called out by God for it:

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

Rabbanā ṭālamnā anfusanā wa-in lam taghfir lanā watarḥamnā lanakūnanna mina al-khasirīn

Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall surely be among the losers.

It’s not a lot, but it’s something.  Working on the spot, and recalling the context in which this bit of scripture was recited, I also recalled to mind another simple du`ā’, this one from Qur’ān 21:83, this one associated with Job after he was ill for many years:

أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

Annī massaniya aḍ-ḍurru waanta arḥamu ar-raḥimīna

Truly, adversity has touched me, and you [God] are the Most Merciful of the merciful.

Kinda working on the spot, I ended up mixing these two supplications together, tweaking the terms and concepts slightly to better match my own spiritual needs and framework, and ended up with another misbaḥa devotional, which was at least something I could offer in the memory and veneration of Adam.  It’s not the same thing as what might be recited by faithful Muslims, but then, I’m no Muslim.  Using the usual misbaḥa format:

  1. Recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Truly Merciful, the Exalter and Abaser both.”
  2. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, may we not wrong ourselves.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, show us your grace and your mercy.”
  5. On the second separator, recite:”It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite:”O God, may we not be among the lost.”
  7. Recite once: “Though suffering is near to me, it is you, o God, who is Merciful among all the merciful.”

It’s something that I can use in the meantime, barring anything more.  It’ll just be part of my own attainment.

Yet Another Misbaḥa Prayer: the Thrice Holy Crown

Yes, another devotion that uses the misbaḥa, the prayer beads used in Islam and Arabic-speaking areas.  I’ve already discussed this twice before—once about my Crown of Gabriel, another for the Crown of the Dead and the other archangels—and it seems like I’m falling into an unimaginative yet productive pattern when it comes to coming up with new ones.  This one, however, is more like the original Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah, in that it’s a devotion to God and God alone rather than calling upon another spirit or devoted for the sake of a spirit.  And it’s kinda rooted in a Christian practice, too, that also happens to use a set of Christian prayer beads.

So, we know the format, right?  The misbaḥa is a set of 99 beads, split up into three groups of 33 with a separator between the sets, all strung along from a larger starting bead that isn’t itself counted.

Given that kind of framework, here’s the misbaḥa-based devotional I call the “Thrice-Holy Crown”:

  1. Recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Holy, whose mercy is endless.”
  2. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “Holy God, have mercy on us.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “Cleanse our sins, forgive our errors, heal our illness.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “Holy Strong, have mercy on us.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “Before your glory do we bow in worship.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”
  7. Recite once: “Glory be to God, forever and ever.”

Simple, clean, effective.  It’s one I find myself increasingly using in my regular devotions alongside, but more commonly nowadays instead of, the standard Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah when I’m not using my misbaḥa for other devotions.  Honestly, I’m liking the use of the misbaḥa for being so generic, flexible, and amenable to any number of devotions or ways to use it, and I’m basically treating it as taking in spiritual oomph like how some esoteric Buddhists treat their malas.  Plus, a standard misbaḥa is large enough to be worn around the neck or wrist to keep it at ready access, as well as being large enough to be draped over or wrapped around something.  This, I’m finding, is coming in use as a spiritual technique to gird or surround or help imbue something or someone with a particular spiritual presence.  For instance, when I’m praying something special for Gabriel, I’ll pray the Crown of Gabriel misbaḥa prayer I have using the misbaḥa, then either wear it while doing my intense Gabriel works or wrap it around a candleholder that’s being used for a candle dedicated to Gabriel.  For things like that, my misbaḥa is fast becoming one of my favorite multipurpose spiritual tools I have in my temple.

The heart and ultimate origin of this devotion is that of the Trisagion, one of my favorite and most simple prayers:

Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

That’s it.  That’s literally all there is to it.  It’s simple, short, and effective, and though it comes from Christianity, it can be used as well for pretty much any deist practice.  The Trisagion is an ancient prayer, and the name itself literally means “thrice holy”—hence its Latin appellation, the Tersanctus, which has the same meaning.  The prayer is sometimes incorporated into a broader “Trisagion Prayer”, or appended to other liturgies, but it’s a common sight in many forms of older forms of Christianity.  There’s also the wonderfully-termed Anti-Trisagion, which is sometimes used as a replacement for the Trisagion proper, but of which there also exist several variants or options, such as:

Before your Cross we bow down in worship, Master, and we glorify your holy Resurrection.

As for where it comes from, though there exists a traditional miraculous origin story for it, it may well be a combination of the Kyrie Eleison prayer and supplication (“Lord, have mercy”) plus an expansion of the Sanctus prayer, originally the hymn of the seraphim to God from Isaiah 6:3:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,
Heaven and Earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!

Personally, I change “who comes in the name of the Lord” to a more inclusive and atemporal “who comes, has come, and will come in the name of the Lord”, based on a more Orthodox version of the prayer, but that’s just me.

But back to the Trisagion, it’s…it’s just elegant and refined in its simplicity, and I find it a useful chant on its own.  Heck, that’s exactly what Greek and Russian Orthodox people use it for in conjunction with the Jesus Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The way the Jesus Prayer and Trisagion come together in Orthodox and Eastern Christian devotions is through the komboskini or prayer rope, essentially the Eastern/Orthodox parallel to the Western/Catholic rosary or chaplet.  Rather than being beads strung on a string or chained together, the prayer rope is a rope held together with intricate knots that take the form of crosses upon crosses.  Prayer ropes typically have 100 knots, with separator beads at every 25, sometimes 10, knot; smaller prayer ropes, sometimes of 10 or 50 knots or even 33 knots, and larger prayer ropes of 150 or more knots, also exist.

With the prayer rope, the usual practice (from what I’ve seen) is to recite the Jesus Prayer once on each knot, and the Trisagion on each separator bead.  Of course, there’s no one way to use the prayer rope, just like there’s no one way to use the misbaḥa, but the Jesus Prayer and Trisagion together form a wonderful spiritual practice for mystics and monastics alike.

Of course, I’m trying to…I mean, “divest” or “distance” is correct but I feel like that’s overly harsh, and it’s not like I have any ill will or bitterness towards Christian prayers, yet…well, anyway, in any case, I am trying to keep my own Hermetic practice as generally deist as possible without relying on religion-specific references, such as to Christ or Mary or Muḥammad, hence all this reinventing-the-prayer-wheel work I’ve been doing lately.  And yet, it’s been profoundly useful and clarifying for me to do so, to focus on a Hermetic practice that’s set apart from Christian Hermeticism or Islamic Hermeticism.  Plus, it’s not like all prayers from Christianity or Islam or Judaism or what-have-you are bound up in those religions; the Lord’s Prayer, for example, is a lovely prayer no matter who you are or what you’re doing, in a way that can be set apart from the Hail Mary or the Glory Be.  And, of course, if you’re Christian yourself, you should make use of such prayers!  But if you’re not, there are definitely alternatives and other options available.

Anyway.  What I did was, given the neat three-fold division of the structure of the misbaḥa, I split the Trisagion up into three separate supplications, then used each supplication for each set of beads on the misbaḥa.  For the separators, I took inspiration from one of the supplications used in the Eastern Orthodox Trisagion Prayer liturgy (see bold text):

Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us.
Lord, cleanse us from our sins.
Master, pardon our iniquities.
Holy God, visit and heal us for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

Our Father who art in heaven, &c.

So I took those three supplications and combined them into a single line for the first separator, “cleanse our sins, forgive our errors, heal our illness”.  Similarly, the second separator is based on the Anti-Trisagion given above.  It was the beginning and ending prayers that I was kinda torn on.  I mean, with Islamic prayers, everything is started with the Basmalah, the famous incipit of the Qur’ān and so many other practices and prayers:

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Heck, the words for “Most Gracious” and “Most Merciful”, raḥmān and raḥīm, both derive from the same root, R-Ḥ-M, with a general notion of mercy, compassion, loving-kindness, and the like.  So, I could have just started the Thrice-Holy Crown with that and have it be entirely appropriate (it lacks anything specifically Islamic in its wording, after all), but I decided on a different start.  I like to keep the same format of the Basmalah to start my own misbaḥa prayers, all starting with “in the name of God…” and ending in a way that’s more fitting for that specific misbaḥa devotion, so I decided to go with “in the name of God, the Most Holy, whose mercy is endless”.  The appellation of God as “Most Holy” reflects the underlying focus of the Trisagion on the holiness of God, and the “whose mercy is endless” comes from the (strangely optional) concluding prayer from the Catholic devotion of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, another wonderfully potent and beautiful Christian devotion for the same purpose that I’m going for with my Thrice-Holy Crown (see bold text):

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself

The concluding prayer of the Thrice-Holy Crown, a simple “Glory be to God, forever and ever” is just a generic praise of God, my equivalent to the practice of tasbīḥ in Islam, which is nothing more than the recitation of “subḥānallāh” meaning “glory be to God”, though literally translated sometimes as “God is free/void” in the sense of having no errors, defects, faults, or flaws.  In fact, it’s this very same prayer in Islam that gives the foundation to the use of the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah and to the misbaḥa generally—note the shared root there, S-B-Ḥ, referring to notions of glory or praise.

And there you have it!  At some point, once I refine some of my other misbaḥa “crown” prayers, I’ll end up compiling them into their own page.  For now, though, there’s already plenty else for me to do, but I did want to share this little thing I’ve been using for those who are amenable to using it.

More Misbaḥa Prayers: Crown of the Dead, along with Crowns for Michael, Raphel, and Uriel

I’ve been working under a bit of a deadline recently for one of my own projects.  I’ve mentioned before, sometimes subtly and sometimes (probably most of the time) not, that I’ve been developing a new practice, a kind of devotional-spiritual-magical geomantic practice.  It’s been taking more and more shape, pleasantly enough; prayers, feasts, celebrations, lunar observances, and an upcoming thing which I’m calling the Days of Cultivation: 16 days of fasting, abstinence, prayer, meditation, and a generally intensified spiritual practice.  I mentioned the idea back when I brought up a sort of geomantic calendar of sorts a few months ago.  Having established that the first full day of spring after the vernal equinox in March would be established as a Feast of Gabriel and also the geomantic/solar new year, I also brought up the idea of two more events: a Feast of the Blessed Dead set 17 days before the Feast of Gabriel, and the sixteen days between them being the Days of Cultivation:

I actually feel pretty comfortable with this novel arrangement. Though there are five main feasts that would be celebrated, which would be an odd number for geomancy, it’s really more like four feasts of the Progenitors plus a special feast that they all center around. They could be balanced by adding in the other three feasts of the archangels to yield a constant and balanced eight feasts per year, sure, peppered with the other feasts throughout the year for the other saints and days taken from Catholic (or Orthodox) tradition. For me, though, it suffices to have these primary five (really, four plus one) feasts to act as holy days for a devotional geomantic practice. I can easily envision having lead-up days, such as one to four days of fasting immediately prior to the feasts of the Progenitors or four to sixteen days of fasting, studying, and praying leading up to the feast of Gabriel at the spring equinox, too, which would also work to deepen and focus devotional practices. Heck, we could give these fancy terms, too, like “Days of Cultivation” for the period leading up to the feast of Gabriel…

…What about a day or feast to recognize the blessed dead, whether familial or spiritual, by blood-lineage or tradition-lineage? Again, you could use All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days for this, or other culturally-appropriate Day of the Dead-type holidays; for specific ancestors, you could use their birthdays or their deathdays. Though, given the above system, I think we could do one better. Those Days of Cultivation, the days of fasting and study and prayer leading up to the geomantic new year and the Feast of Gabriel? Why not make the day before that dedicated to the dead? After all, it’s because of them that all this we have can come to pass, and by “starting” the Days of Cultivation with them, we give them their proper due and respect as we would begin our own period of intensive study and prayer and preparation for the New Year. So, that means that the Feast of the Blessed Dead would be 17 days before the Feast of Gabriel

Well, this year, according to the rules set in that post, the Feast of Gabriel is slated for Thursday, March 21, which means the sixteen days prior would be the Days of Cultivation, which means that the day before those start would be the Feast of the Blessed Dead.

Which is today.

I’ve been slowly building up this whole practice, and though I have most of the feasts established in how I want to recognize them—at least for the four archangels, because prayers and rites to recognize the four progenitors Adam, Enoch, Hermēs, and Daniel stubbornly refuse to come together in any way—the last major feast for me to come up with something was that of the Blessed Dead.  After piecing together something that I’m pretty proud of, based on other ancestor veneration practices I use or with which I’m familiar, there was one more thing I felt like I should add: a set of repetitive prayers.  Specifically, something using prayer beads.

I adore the use of the Catholic Chaplet of the Dead, but it doesn’t fit into the overall practices I’m developing, which are more Hermetically theist rather than being Christian, Jewish, or Islamic (though acknowledging the debt I have to all those faiths and practices that have their origin in them).  Plus, it…it doesn’t last that long, and the most awkward parts of it are the reciting of the first three prayers.  It wouldn’t work for what I wanted to do, so I did the next best thing: I wrote my own set of prayers for use with prayer beads.  I already brought up the misbaḥa in a previous post, the Islamic prayer beads of 99 beads broken up into three sets of 33, which is most commonly used for the famous Tasbīḥ Fātimah (In the name of God the Most Merciful the Most Gracious ×1, Glory be to God ×33, Praise be to God ×33, God is Great ×33, there is no God but God ×1), but for which I also developed the Crown of Gabriel, a specific devotion I wrote for the archangel Gabriel based on the Tanakh, New Testament, and Qur’ān.  So, knowing that the misbaḥa can be used in any number of ways, and knowing that I can write prayers for it, I decided to write one for ancestor veneration and prayers for the dead.

Thus, on this day of the Feast of the Blessed Dead, I’d like to present to you a new misbaḥa devotion, the Crown of the Dead.

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Lord of the World, the True Judge.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … unbounded mercy.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “O God, for all the evil … have done in life, overlook it and forgive them in death.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … eternal rest.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “O God, for all the good … have done in life, increase it and honor them in death.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “May God give … perpetual light.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “May … find peace on the wings of the divine presence of God.”

At each ellipsis, you can dedicate the recitation of the Crown of the Dead to a specific person (e.g. “May God give John son of Elizabeth unbounded mercy” or “May God give Jane Doe eternal rest”), or to all the dead generally (e.g. “May God give all the blessed souls of the dead perpetual light”.  Thus, the Crown of the Dead may be performed for a specific person who has passed away or for the benefit of all the dead.

There are basically four influences on the construction of the Crown of the Dead:

So, pretty nifty, I think.  Simple in its execution, powerful in its meaning, and flexible in its use.

At this point, my little prayerbook-in-development now listed three prayers (Dead, Gabriel, and the Tasbīḥ Fātimah) for the misbaḥa instead of just two, which actually made it worth a section of its own.  But why should I stop there?  After all, I’ve gotten some experience writing chaplets for archangels before, so why not try coming up with other misbaḥa-based prayers for the other three archangels that this system would celebrate, Michael and Raphael and Uriel?  Truth be told, I didn’t originally want to or plan to; I was going to use the Crown of Gabriel as a general preface practice for all the angelic celebrations, because this practice is largely Gabriel-centric.  However, when thinking about it and trying to arrange the celebrations right, they just…it didn’t fit.  Not that that should be surprising, but I ended up buckling and coming up with three more misbaḥa practices for the other archangels, named (oh-so-creatively!) the Crown of Michael, the Crown of Raphael, and the Crown of Uriel.

The Crown of Michael:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Holy, the Lord of the Heavenly Host.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “Holy Michael, defend us in battle.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “O God, come to my assistance.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “Protect us against the snares and wickedness of evil.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “O God, make haste to help me.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “There is none like unto God but God.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Save us, o Lord, and grant us the defense of your angels.”

The Crown of Raphael:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the Living, Eternal, and Faithful King.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, may Raphael lead me to health.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “Holy Raphael, o cure of all diseases! Come to my aid, o terror of all demons!”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, through health, lead me to virtue.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “Holy Raphael, o guide of all paths! Come to may aid, o friend of all travelers!”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, through virtue, lead me to victory.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Blessed are you, o God, Lord of creation, who bestows good things upon the unworthy and has bestowed upon me every goodness.”

The Crown of Uriel:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God, the One Light of all creation.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O flaming sword cutting darkness and deception!”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, holy Uriel, enlighten me in my dark understanding.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O scales of justice proving truth and fairness!”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, holy Uriel, enlighten me in my dark understanding.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “O abundance of the garden nourishing all the world!”
  7. At the end, recite once: “Glory to God and all his deeds, for all that he does is good.”

There are a variety of influences here, ranging from Jewish blessings to Catholic prayers to calling on the general symbolism of the angels and their powers and patronages.  Personally, while I’m set on the Crown of the Dead and the Crown of Michael, the Crown of Raphael and the Crown of Uriel don’t seem quite finished to me yet; there seem to be some subtle differences in how they’re currently written versus the others that I’m not comfortable with, so those are up for some refining, but I still think they’re quite usable on their own.  I haven’t had much of a chance to actually work them—yet—but I’m excited to give them a swing.

I’m really warming up to the use of the misbaḥa as a general prayer tool.  There are (usually) no overt symbols of faith attached to it, and I like the number of beads and the forms it has, plus the general beauty of them compared to so many rosaries I’ve seen before.  Plus, its simplicity and flexibility allows it to be used for any number of devotions and prayer rules, even if a bit of ingenuity needs to be used to come up with them.  For instance, most chaplets for the angels and saints are done on so-called niner chaplets, chaplets that consist of nine beads; a straightforward, though laborious, way to apply chaplet prayers to a misbaḥa is simply to repeat each prayer 33 times instead of just once, going over the misbaḥa three times total for a series of 9 × 33 = 297 invocations.  Definitely worth taking one’s time, I suppose, or one could just apply separators to every 11 sets of beads, so that each invocation is repeated 11 times instead of just once or 33 times.  Plus, with masābiḥ (I think that’s the proper Arabic plural, even though I’m not 100% certain, because I don’t want to use the Anglicized plural of misbaḥas), they’re large enough to be worn comfortably as a necklace, just like a mala might be, and about the same length, too.  I find wearing them to be important, especially immediately after reciting one of the prayers above, like for Gabriel or Michael; I’m not just calling them “crowns” for nothing, after all.

On Prayer Beads, Devotions to Gabriel, and a New Way of Doing Just That

I think that, as of this moment…god, how many sets of prayer beads do I have in my temple room? Seven chaplets for the archangels I made myself, one rosary each for Mary the Theotokos and for Saint Cyprian of Antioch and for my ancestor shrine, a chaplet of Saint Cyprian of Antioch I designed myself, an Orthodox Christian prayer rope, a set of tiger’s eye prayer beads I made for solar work (specifically for a variant of my Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios), a set of labradorite prayer beads I made for my Holy Guardian Angel, a chaplet for Hermēs based on the work of the good Dr. Jeffrey S. Kupperman (yes, that one, the one with the book! he put out a wonderful novena rule and chaplet for Hermēs not too long ago), and a set of Islamic prayer beads (misbaḥa) for my ancestor shrine for one of my spirit guides. All told, that makes 16 different sets of prayer beads scattered throughout my temple, though admittedly I don’t use all of them; sometimes they’re there more for the shrine’s sake or the use of the spirits rather than my own. I used to have a rosewood mala for my old Buddhist stuff, but I’ve since gifted that away to a friend who can put it to better use since there’s nothing more for me to do along those lines or practices.

What? I like the convenience, customizability, and attractiveness of prayer beads. They’re useful, they’re tangible, they let the body focus on one thing and allow the mind to focus on another in a semi-autonomous way.

Well, lately, as part of my burgeoning geomantic devotional practice, I’ve been getting more interested in Islamic prayer methods. Credit where it’s due: Islamic devotional practice, prayers, and supplication frameworks are amazing. There’s a massive body of beautiful, poetic, and wonderfully specific literature-cum-prayer rules of endless supplication after supplication after supplication, and it’s at once dazzling and daunting. Now, I’m not a Muslim, nor have I intention to convert given…all the other obligations I have and some theological differences, but I cannot deny the beauty and profundity of how they approach divinity through prayer. As you might have guessed, there’s also a method of prayer with Islam’s own kind of prayer beads: the misbaḥa, also known as tasbīḥ. The word has its origins in the word subḥa, meaning “glory”, as in the phrase Subḥāna-llāh, “Glory be to God” (the recitation of which is also called Tasbīḥ, just as the recitation of the phrase Allāhu ‘akbar, “God is Great”, is called Takbīr).

Misbaḥa are easy to understand: they’re made of 99 beads, with two separators that stand out in some way to break the counting beads up into three sets of 33 beads each. The “head” or “tail” (depending on how you look at it) typically has a long, cylindrical bead, plus some other number of beads for keeping track of iterations of going through the entire thing. Other misbaḥa are made with other numbers, some as few as 11 beads or sometimes 33 broken into three sets of 11, but others used in some religious orders can have as many as a thousand beads. Some misbaḥa have a slidable marker to further mark off particular sets of beads, such as for holding one’s place or when reaching a particular count desired (e.g. 40 is a common number found in Islamic devotional repetitions).

Probably the most popular way, or at least one of the most popular and acclaimed ways, of using misbaḥa is through the method known as the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah, the method ascribed to Fāṭimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad. The method is simple:

  1. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite the Tasbīḥ: Subḥāna-llah (“Glory be to God”).
  2. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite the Taḥmīd: Alḥamdu li-llāh (“Praise be to God”).
  3. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite the Takbīr: Allāhu ‘akbar (“God is Great”).

Unlike rosaries or chaplets in the Christian tradition, note how the separators don’t have associated prayers or anything said on them; they’re just used solely as markers to switch up prayers. There are variations of this method, too, of course; some say to recite the Takbīr first followed by the Taḥmīd and the Tasbīḥ in that order, some say to recite the Takbīr 34 times instead of 33 times, some say to conclude by reciting the first part of the Shahāda (Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā-llāh, “there is no god but God”), but the general method is fundamentally the same. It is recommended for the observant to perform this devotion immediately after every compulsory prayer, but the original story behind the Prophet giving it to his daughter also recommends saying it before one retires for sleep.

Discussing this with one of my Muslim colleagues online, this is just one method of using misbaḥa; there are countless ways to use them, such as for reciting individual attributes or names of God (of which there are, of course, a conventional set of 99 in Islam), reciting particular verses of the Qur’ān over and over, and the like. The possibilities are endless, apparently.

So, of course, this got me thinking: while I, too, can use the Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah devotion, is there a way I could use this venerable tool in a way specifically geared for my own needs? Of course there is. The Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah practice is wonderful on its own, and doesn’t require one to be a Muslim to use it; after all, the supplications involved in it are pretty basic and can work for anyone with an Abrahamic, Hermetic, or just plain deist bent, and it’s a clean and straightforward practice that doesn’t involve a lot of preliminary setup, education, or training. It’s effective, I’ll absolutely grant it that. But if there are other ways to use misbaḥa, why not also try something else as well for a more specific purpose than just worship, hesychasm, and henosis?

There being three sets of 33 beads reminded me of the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel the Archangel from Catholic devotions, which is constructed with a lead chain of three beads linked to a ring of 33 beads broken into three sets of 11 beads with one separator bead between each set.

  1. Lead bead 1: “Heavenly Father, through the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel, may we honor the incarnation of your divine Son.”
  2. Lead bead 2: “Mother of our Savior, may we strive always to imitate your holy virtues and respond to our Father, ‘be it done unto me according to thy Word’.”
  3. Lead bead 3: “Archangel Gabriel, please praise our Father for the gift of his Son praying, one day, by his grace, we may all be one.”
  4. On each of the beads in each set of 11: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
  5. On each of the two separator beads: “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.”

Simple and straightforward. It wouldn’t be a stretch to simply expand the repetitions from three sets of 11 for a total of 33 to three sets of 33 for a total of 99 (33 being a sacred number for Christians, being the number of years Jesus was alive when he was crucified). I could definitely use misbaḥa for Gabriel-based devotions, which is good given the importance of Gabriel being the angel of revelation to the prophet Daniel as well as to Elizabeth, Mary, Muḥammad, Enoch, and so many others, and given the fact that Gabriel is the angel who taught the founders of geomancy their art. However, I didn’t feel like the Catholic approach here—although totally workable—felt appropriate for either my own devotional needs or for use with the misbaḥa.

So, I scoured some verses of Scripture in which Gabriel was either directly present by name or directly being referenced from the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Qur’ān, and in the end, I developed a new method of repetition-based devotions to God through his archangel, a method I’m tentatively calling the “Crown of Gabriel”, to be used on a standard misbaḥa of 99 beads:

  1. At the beginning, recite once: “In the name of God who created me.”
  2. On of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “May God fill me with his grace.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “God willing, teach me, o Gabriel, mighty in power, revelations to be revealed.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “May God be with me.”
  5. On the second separator, recite: “God willing, come forth, o Gabriel, to give me understanding and insight.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite: “Do unto me according to his word.”
  7. At the end, recite once: “My Lord is the Most Generous.”

The specific supplications come from four verses of Abrahamic scripture, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, and two from the Qur’ān, all of which are associated with Gabriel in one way or another:

  • Daniel 9:22 (the clarification of the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks):

    And he [Gabriel] informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.

  • Luke 1:28—38 (the Annunciation):

    And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured [full of grace], the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah An-Najm, 53:1—10 (which describes the appearance of Gabriel to the prophet, with connections to the star Sirius):

    By the star when it descends, your companion [Muhammad] has not strayed, nor has he erred, nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is not but a revelation revealed, taught to him by one intense in strength, one of soundness. And he rose to [his] true form while he was in the higher [part of the] horizon. Then he approached and descended and was at a distance of two bow lengths or nearer. And he revealed to His Servant what he revealed.

  • Qur’ān, Sūrah Al-`Alaq, 96:1—5 (the very first revelation to the Prophet by Gabriel):

    Recite in the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.

For my own needs, I didn’t keep the exact wording from scripture as the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel does; rather, I tweaked them to be more specific to me, that God might teach, fill, and guide me through his angel in a personal way appropriate to me and me alone. Unlike the usual method of Tasbīḥ Fāṭimah and like the Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, I did include prayers for use on the separator beads; originally, I had those supplications for the separator beads and the supplications done at the first and last swapped (so that you’d start with “God willing, teach me…” and end with “God willing, come forth…”), but I felt like swapping them was better so that the whole thing could start off with an invocation of God of sorts—not the proper and usual Basmala (bi-smi-llāhi ar-raḥmāni ar-raḥīm, “in the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”), but something that works as well and follows the same structure.

Also, what’s nice is that, even though the Crown of Gabriel is designed for a misbaḥa, it can still be used on a regular Chaplet of Saint Gabriel, reducing the number of repetitions of the main supplications from 33 to 11. As for what to recite on the three lead beads, one might add in generic prayers (the Sanctus, the Trisagion, etc.) for all three to be followed with the initial supplication of the Crown of Gabriel, or one could break out the initial supplication into three by incorporating the Basmala as well:

  1. “In the name of God, the Most Compassionate!”
  2. “In the name of God, the Most Merciful!”
  3. “In the name of God, who created me!”

And, on the joint of the chaplet and lead beads, recite the Our Father, just to keep things moving.

Up till now, my angelic devotions largely focused (and will still focus!) on the archangel Michael and my own holy guardian angel. However, I cannot deny the huge role Gabriel necessarily plays in the religions that recognize the archangels at all, as well as in the mythological origins and continued practices of geomancy. Granted that all the archangels work together in a synaxis (basically, where you call on one, you’re basically getting the whole set together no matter what), it’s clear I need to amp up my own devotional practices to Gabriel. I think the Crown of Gabriel method should suffice nicely for that, while also being a way to increase my own intuitive abilities as a diviner in the process. God willing, of course.