Pole Lords and Northern Stars: The Names and Roles of the Planets, Pole Lords, and Fates of Heaven

We’ve been discussing lately this interesting thing from PGM XIII, the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses, known as the Rulers of the Pole, a system of determining which planet rules over the celestial pole on any given day of the week, which is different from how we would consider planets to rule the days of the week.  At first, it didn’t seem like it was used much, but after seeing parallels in what we’re talking about throughout the rest of the PGM, we realized that we’re not just talking about the celestial pole, but the northern constellations of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, and specifically Polaris the North Star.  More than that, we also found out that there is an entirely separate but absolutely equivalent group of seven Pole Lords from the Mithras Liturgy of PGM IV.  With a little bit of innovation and star-mapping, we were able to link the seven Pole Lords and their paired Fates of Heaven to the seven stars of Ursa Minor and Ursa Maior, respectively, and each pair of such stars to each of the seven planets.  We’re really getting somewhere now, guys!

So, now we know how to attribute the seven bull-faced Pole Lords of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Minor and the seven snake-faced Fates of Heaven to the stars of Ursa Maior, and we know how to associate each to one of the seven planets.  This is all well and good, but what does it mean to approach them in this way?  Well, recall from the first post I made about this topic that we’ve got two systems of understanding an “order” to the planets: the weekday arrangement (Sun, Moon, Mars…Saturn) and the heavenly arrangement or the “Seven-Zoned” (Moon, Mercury, Venus…Saturn).  One of the things that I thought of was how PGM XIII might be treating each arrangement differently for different purposes, the weekday arrangement for a microcosmic or worldly purpose and the heavenly arrangement for macrocosmic or theurgic purposes.  This struck me as similar to the Earlier Heaven and Later Heaven sequences of the Ba Gua, where one sequence refers to a primordial state of archetypes, the other a manifested state of change and volatility.

Not to keep bringing up Taoist or Chinese practices like this, because we’re not talking about the same exact thing, but the notion of ascending through the individual stars of Ursa Maior or Ursa Minor in a theurgic process of elevation and henosis brings to mind the Steps of Yu dance of Taoist practices.  In this practice. priests and shamans ritually “dance” in the pattern of the stars of the Big Dipper to “step through” each star and obtain the power of the entire constellation, which is hugely revered in traditional Chinese religion.  Going back to the PGM, perhaps the closest parallel we’d find to a sort of “Steps of Yu” would be the Calling of the Sevenths from the Heptagram Ritual, PGM XIII.734—1077 specifically lines 824ff:

The instruction: speaking to the rising sun, stretching out your right to the left and your left hand likewise to the left, say Α.  To the north, putting forward only your right fist, say Ε.  Then to the west, extending both hands in front [of you], say Η.  To the south, [holding] both [hands] on your stomach, say Ι.  To the earth, bending over, touching the ends of your toes, say Ο.  Looking into the air, having your hand on your heart, say Υ.  Looking into the sky, having both hands on your head, say Ω.

[Then invoke:] “I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understand, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the pole, him who is under you; accomplish for me the NN. thing.  I call on you as by the voice of the male gods…”

The text gives a crude diagram that tries to illustrate the general layout of the vowels, which I’ve included from Betz along with my own rendition, and with Stephen Flower’s diagram from Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris (1995):

Consider what we’re doing here: we’re first facing the four directions in a square, then going from down to up.  We can think of this as standing in the middle of the “ladle” of Ursa Minor as Little Dipper to face the four stars at the corners of the most distant part of Ursa Minor, finishing with the Sun; the three stars on the “handle” of the Little Dipper reflect the vertical ascension represented by Mars and culminating with Saturn, appropriately looking directly up into the sky.  The use of the counterclockwise motion (facing east, north, south, and west for the first four planets) is odd, as usually we’d be accustomed to doing things clockwise; this would also be expected if we look at the stars of Ursa Minor, where going from Kochab to Pherkad etc. is also done in a clockwise way.  But, that’s from our point of view “down here”; if we were to consider the perspective of Aiōn who is above the stars, then looking down from that super-celestial perspective, it’d be from a counterclockwise perspective.  Plus, there’s also the notion that while the stars appear to revolve around the Earth in a clockwise motion, the planets themselves pass through the skies in a counterclockwise motion (which is why the Zodiac is always drawn in that way).  What we’re doing, then, is starting out with the assumption that we’re already celestial, and acting in this world accordingly; it’s the same logic as to why we’d use the macrocosmic Seven-Zoned heavenly-arrangement order of the planets to determine the Pole Lord of the day instead of the microcosmic weekday-arrangement order of the planets.

Backing me up, however, Leonardo of Voces Magicae wrote this excellent post some years ago on the nature of counterclockwise motion in the PGM, indeed referencing this very same ritual and the very same things as the celestial pole and why counterclockwise motion mimics the actual motion of things in the skies from a heavenly perspective, backing it up with evidence from the Corpus Hermeticum itself:

In the spatial-spiritual landscape of the Hermetic magicians,  the celestial pole would be seen as nothing less than a direct portal to celestial divinity. As such,  it is fitting that in the Heptagram Opening Rite – a ritual concerned with orientation – the polar divinity is invoked directly…

Perhaps, this was the intent of countermovement in the ritual practices of the PGM. Not necessarily a specific manifestation of a single countermovement cycle, the universe is resplendent with such examples; but rather orienting the practitioner towards the equilibrium and unity of the celestial pole as a source of stability and power by which to approach the deeper mysteries of our cosmos.

Admittedly, this is a bit of a stretch; it’s one thing to understand this tiny Heptagram rite, this dinky Calling of the Sevenths that so many who are familiar with PGM-style magic are aware of, as a planetary attunement ritual to balance and fix planetary powers within ourselves.  It’s something else entirely to say that it’s an act of theurgic elevation unto itself by imitating the arrangement of the stars of Ursa Minor.  That said, it’s the performance of the Calling of the Sevenths immediately before an invocation of Aiōn, where we call on Aiōn as the gods, as the goddesses, as the winds, as the four directions and as the Earth, Sky, and Cosmos itself that makes me think that we’re essentially “stepping” our way through the seven heavens, gaining the power of the seven Pole Lords all at once so that we can finally approach and address Aiōn as the true Ruler of the Pole above the Pole Lords themselves.

This can further help out what we’re doing towards the end of that same invocation, where we see an interesting thing:

I call on your name, the greatest among gods!  If I say it complete, the earth will quake, the sun will stop, the moon will be afraid, the rocks and the mountains and the sea and the rivers and every liquid will be petrified, the whole cosmos will be thrown into confusion!  I call on you, ΙΥΕΥΟ ΩΑΕΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΕΗ ΑΙ ΕΗ ΑΗ ΙΟΥΩ ΕΥΗ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΗΙ ΩΗΙ ΙΑΗ ΙΩΟΥΗ ΑΥΗ ΥΗΑ ΙΩ ΙΩΑΙ ΙΩΑΙ ΩΗ ΕΕ ΟΥ ΙΩ ΙΑΩ, the Great Name!

Become for me Lynx, Eagle, Snake, Phoenix, Life, Power, Necessity, images of God!  ΑΙΩ ΙΩΥ ΙΑΩ ΗΙΩ ΑΑ ΟΥΙ ΑΑΑΑ Ε ΙΥ ΙΩ ΩΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΙ ΑΩΗ ΟΥΕΩ ΑΙΕΗ ΙΟΥΕ ΥΕΙΑ ΕΙΩ ΗΙΙ ΥΥ ΕΕ ΗΗ ΩΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ ΑΙΩ Η ΙΙ ΥΥ ΗΗ ΟΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ

There’s a fun little note in the text, that ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ are “seven of the auspicious ones”, probably names, and I’ve hypothesized before that these names relate to the seven “images” given immediately before, which can also be given to the seven planets themselves:

Direction Vowel Planet Image Name
East Α Moon Lynx ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
North Ε Mercury Eagle ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
West Η Venus Snake ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
South Ι Sun Phoenix ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
Down Ο Mars Life ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
Center Υ Jupiter Power ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
Up Ω Saturn Necessity ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

There’s no explanation, whether in the text itself or in footnotes by Betz, as to the origin of these names or images, and I’m associating them to the planets because it does seem appropriate to the context.  How might we reconcile these names and images?  Though I’ve already made an attempt to explain this before, now that I’m thinking about stars, there are four constellations that would match these images verbatim: Lynx, Aquila, Serpens, and Phoenix.  Of these four, Serpens and Aquila kinda match with their corresponding directions, though Lynx is way too far in the south, and Phoenix is way too far in the southern hemisphere to likely have been used as a constellation; Phoenix, after all, doesn’t show up in Ptolemy’s list of constellations, and its first official documentation in the West comes from the early 1600s.  There could be an association with a specific fixed star, but I’m unsure.

However, traditional accounts of the Phoenix also describe it as eagle-like, but neither eagles nor phoenixes played a role in Egyptian mythology.  If we broaden the semantic notion of “eagle” to mean raptor or predatory birds, then we’d also include hawks and falcons, which would lead us sensibly to the solar gods Horus and Ra.  Horus could reasonably be considered more northern in concept, as one of Horus’ forms is Harpocrates, which I associate with the north according to a variety of PGM selections and which is also generally considered to be the Sun’s renewing strength at the winter solstice.  Ra, being Ra, could be considered the more purely solar, and thus southern, of the pair, and has associations with the Bennu, a type of supernatural heron which was likely the inspiration for the original Phoenix myth in Hellenic cultures, and which was connected to Ra.  So…maybe this is less of a solar thing and more of a mythological one.  If we keep going down that road, then there’s also a mythological connection between the Lynx and the Snake in Egyptian belief: Mafdet, the goddess of the execution of judgment and protector against snakes, was sometimes depicted as a lynx, and the lynx fought existential evil embodied by Apophis, the eternal serpent.

Then we have the issue of the images of Life, Power, and Necessity, which seem more Neoplatonic or even gnostic and less Egyptian in essence to me.  I’m not going to explain those here, but I leave it for consideration how Life could be naturally associated with the Earth and those that live upon it, Power with the power of the gods who live in the sky—which is the association given to the “direction” of Jupiter—and Necessity (i.e. Anankē or Adrasteia) with the primordial, hypercosmic forces that determine the fate and role of all that exists below which is fitting for Saturn, the cosmos, and the notions of Pole Lords and the Ruler of the Pole from above.  A simplistic association, but at least it makes sense in a straightforward manner.

So, let’s assess what we have at this point.  We have:

  • Seven snake-faced virgins, associated with the stars of Ursa Maior, the “seven Fates of Heaven” who “wield golden wands” (PGM IV.662—674)
  • Seven bull-faced youths, associated with the stars of Ursa Minor, the “seven Pole Lords of Heaven” who “are in possession of seven golden diadems” (PGM IV.674—692)
  • Seven “images of God” (PGM XIII.880—887)

Each member of each of these groups of seven can be associated with the same order of planets:

Order Planet Fate
of Heaven
Pole Lord
of Heaven
Image of
God
1 Moon ΧΡΕΨΕΝΘΑΗΣ
KHREPSENTHAĒS
ΑΙΕΡΩΝΘΙ
AIERŌNTHI
ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ
KHEKHAMPSIMM
2 Mercury ΜΕΝΕΣΧΕΗΣ
MENESKHEĒS
ΜΕΡΧΕΙΜΕΡΟΣ
MERKHEIMEROS
ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ
KHANGALAS
3 Venus ΜΕΗΡΑΝ
MEĒRAN
ΑΧΡΙΧΙΟΥΡ
AKHRIKHIŪR
ΕΗΙΟΥ
EĒIOU
4 Sun ΑΡΑΡΜΑΧΗΣ
ARAMAKHĒS
ΜΕΣΑΡΓΙΛΤΩ
MESARGILTŌ
ΙΗΕΑ
IĒEA
5 Mars ΕΧΟΜΜΙΗ
EKHOMMIĒ
ΧΙΧΡΩΑΛΙΘΩ
KHIKHRŌALITHŌ
ΩΟΗΟΕ
ŌOĒOE
6 Jupiter ΤΙΧΝΟΝΔΑΗΣ
TIKHNONDAĒS
ΕΡΜΙΧΘΑΘΩΨ
ERMIKHTHATHŌPS
ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ
ZŌIŌIĒR
7 Saturn ΕΡΟΥ ΡΟΜΒΡΙΗΣ
ERŪ ROMBRIĒS
ΕΟΡΑΣΙΧΗ
EORASIKHĒ
ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ
ŌMURUROMROMOS

Great, okay.  Knowing that the associations of these names (and their corresponding images) are based on highly circumstantial evidence from both PGM IV and PGM XIII as well as other Mithraic and astrological/astronomical connections, let’s talk about what we might be able to ply these names and associations for.  First, let’s summarize some of our findings:

  • Roger Beck (“Interpreting the Ponza Zodiac: II”, Journal of Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, no. 2) says that the Fates of Heaven and the Pole Lords of Heaven are associated with not only moving and controlling the actions and motions of the cosmos, but are also associated with Fate, punishment, and reward.  Moreover, given their role as the stars of the Bear constellations, they are not just symbols of such power and control, but they are agents of it.  Because they have exactly parallel structures, they may also be considered to be seven pairs of deities, one snake-faced virgin and one bull-faced youth, each pair related to one of the seven planets.
  • As indicated from all those Bear charms from before, and based on some of the invocations of PGM XIII, the Pole Lords are not the highest power in the cosmos; they may rule the Pole, and their rulership of the Pole amongst themselves changes from day to day, but they rule the Pole in the name of and under the supervision of a true Ruler of the Pole, which is Aiōn, and in a more properly Mithraic context, Mithras himself, the god of revelation in the Mithras Liturgy.
  • There’s a subtle distinction being implied in PGM XIII that there are planetary rulers and then there are planetary Lords: the ruler of the day “in the Greek reckoning” is not the true Lord, which follows a different method of reckoning.  This recalls the notion of the Greek versus Phoenician method of navigating according to the northern stars: the Greeks originally used Ursa Maior as a general indicator of north, but this gave them varying and vague and wandering results.  The Phoenicians, however, used Ursa Minor and Polaris, which doesn’t wander or vary as much, and so obtained a truer and more steady path north.  What we’re arriving at is an understanding that one can approach the planets “down here” in a microcosmic way or “up there” in a macrocosmic way that is more true and real than the microcosmic.
  • By approaching the macrocosmic (or even hypercosmic) planetary Pole Lords “up there” through imitating their motions and calls upon the true highest, hypercosmiciest Divinity, we can break past the “images” and into a truly higher state of being in communion with the highest divinity, Aiōn, who has power over all fate and happenings.  This is done not through the usual planetary motions, but through the planetary harmonies and rulership of the celestial pole and the stars found there, Ursa Minor.
  • By identifying with the Sun, we start off as “a star wandering about with you and shining forth out of the deep” (PGM IV.574ff), but eventually we come to identify with Aiōn itself in a process not unlike that of the magician in the Headless Rite, where one begins addressing Akephalos but eventually becomes Akephalos.  By becoming the only one who can say the full name of Aiōn, a name “not even the gods can utter”, one takes on the full power of Aiōn, which can only be done through working through, assimilating, and being accepted by the various Pole Lords to become the true Ruler of the Pole.

Not too shabby a result, I suppose.

Now, I’m not in a position to carry out the entire Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV or the entirety of the Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses from PGM XIII; those are endeavors I’m not willing to commit myself to at the present time.  However, we’ve wheedled enough information out of them to apply some of the cosmological bits from them more generally in PGM-style practice.  Here’s what I would suggest based on my current understanding:

  • The names and images of God from PGM XIII can be used as microcosmic presences of seven planets; thus, an “esoteric” name for the Moon can be KHEKHAMPSIMM, which may be used in PGM rituals to refer to the Moon instead of just saying “the Moon” or Selēnē.
  • The Fates of Heaven from PGM IV are the macrocosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient to the Pole Lords but which are higher than the names and images of the microcosmic planets.  It is these stellar entities that determine what is permissible in the world we live in, and wield authority (their “golden wands”) over the world.  They determine order and structure of things.
  • The Pole Lords of Heaven from PGM IV are the hypercosmic presences of the seven planets, subservient only to Aiōn.  These entities permit powers and ideas to pass in and out of the world under them which they rule (their “golden diadems”) but whose orders the Fates execute in their name.

In other words, it is through the seven Pole Lords that blessings, curses, creations, and destructions are ordered in the world we live in.  Once they give the order, the corresponding Fate executes the will of her Pole Lord through the work of the seven images of God, not just the one specifically granted to the same ruling planet of that Fate and Pole Lord.  Even then, amongst all the planets, it is still the Moon that is most important; knowing that its image is the Lynx, associated with the divinity Madfet, it is the Moon that truly opens up the light and presence of all the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven, because it is the Moon that is closest to the heart and presence of the constellations of the Pole.  We must always start with the Moon, and through the Moon honor the entirety of the Pole Stars; through the passage of and through the Moon, we can ascend through the other planetary heavens and achieve the blessing and acceptance of the other Fates and Pole Lords of Heaven until we reach the final pair, the last stars of Alkaid and Polaris.  Once we reach them, we have finished our approach to the Pole and then may surmount it, leaving behind this world under their power and entering into the presence and power of Aiōn.

I’m tempted to draw a parallel between the later notions of planets having spirits and intelligences, or to how all the different spirits of the planets in the Picatrix may be thought to have particular roles in the governance and execution of the powers and presence of a planet.  However, that’s not quite the same feeling I get from the Pole Lords and Fates of Heaven.  I’m content with considering the names and images of God from PGM XIII to be esoteric associations of the planets, and I look forward to applying them in rituals that call on them (e.g. “o blessed light of Selēnē shining forth from the East, you who are KHEKHAMPSIMM…”), but it’s calling upon the Pole Lords and Fates that I want to figure out.  Honoring the Pole Lord of the day makes sense, sure, but it also makes sense to honor the Pole Lord with its corresponding Fate, almost as a supercelestial King and Queen, or divinity with its consort.  It makes for a beautiful theurgic mystery, at any rate, and I’d like to take that into meditation and consideration in future works.

I suppose it can make sense to call on the Pole Lord and Fate as PGM-style “planetary intelligences” to guide and direct the powers of the planets “down here”, much as we’d call on Michael and Nakhiel to guide the activities of Sorath, but something about that nags at me.  Still, it’s probably not a bad idea to do just that, especially if what we’re trying to do is plug into a true source of Divinity and bring down immortal power from the immortal heavens.  If nothing else, we’ve figured out a little more about the Pole Lords and the Seven-Zoned of PGM XIII, and now I’m content.

Time to share my findings back on that Facebook post in the PGM group and see if it can’t start more conversation.

Mythos and Stories as Models of Practice

Lately, I’ve been fiddling around with Python and LaTeX scripts again.  For those who aren’t as inclined to computers, the former is a very flexible, extensible programming language of no small fame, while the latter is a type of language used to format, typeset, and compile documents (sorta like what HTML and CSS are for webpages).  I use Python for all my short, little, experimental research things, like calculating certain astronomical/astrological phenomena or doing a brute-force search of all 65,536 possible geomantic charts for particular patterns, minimums, or maximums of certain qualities.  Meanwhile, I use LaTeX for all my document needs, mostly for ebooks but also for letters, résumés, and other things in lieu of a normal word processor like OpenOffice or Microsoft Word (because I’m a crazy fool who loves the commandline and raw power over convenience and ease).

The main impetus for this bout of hobby programming that’s been going on this week is so I can make a full calendar in LaTeX that spans from June 23, 2009 through June 23, 2047, complete with dates of eclipses, lunar phase changes, seasonal start and midpoint dates, and zodiacal ingresses of the Sun.  It’s hard to find that sort of data over such a wide span of time, and much more difficult than that to find it in an easily-obtainable format that I can use for LaTeX compilation.  To that end, I wrote the scripts to calculate all the astronomical information from scratch (Jean Meeus’ “Astronomical Algorithms” is a godsend of a book for this, so do get yourself a copy for reference) and formatted the output just the way I needed it.  It’s not exactly an exciting feeling to realize that it’s easier to just code and test all the algorithms yourself than trying to find the data you need online, but after two long days of coding, the profound feeling of accomplishment can’t be easily described (except, of course, as “fucking awesome and thank god that’s over”).

For what end would I take on this crazy project, you might ask?  Because this unusual span of time is the 69th cycle of 38 years of the Grammatēmerologion, the lunisolar grammatomantic calendar I devised that associates the days of the lunar months, the lunar months themselves, and the lunisolar years with the letters of the Greek alphabet for use in ritual grammatomancy and, more broadly, my nascent theurgic practice of mathesis, a new kind of Hermetic theurgy I’m developing that refocuses on Pythagorean, Platonic, and Neoplatonic influences before introduction of qabbalah.  It’s been a bit since I’ve done any mathetic work, given the whole house-buying/house-moving of 2016 and the Year in White of iyaworaje that went on through most of 2017, but I’m preparing slowly to pick it up again.  Since a daily observation of the letter of the day is a practice I found great use with, I wanted to have an actual calendar to reference instead of having another one of my scripts calculate it for me each and every morning.  (This also means I’ll be getting back to my Daily Grammatomancy posts I was doing for a while over on my Facebook page, so if you haven’t liked it yet, please head on over and do so!)  So, yanno, it’s the little gains that help give a sturdy foundation for this sort of work.

The thing is, though, that I’m not setting out to develop this whole new practice and system for its own sake, or for the sake of being able to say “look at me, mister high muckety-muck of my own sandcastle!”.  I want a way to explore the Neoplatonic and Hermetic cosmos without having to rely on the procrustean bed of qabbalah that we can’t seem to escape from, purge, or ignore; Hermeticism and Neoplatonism existed before and did fine without it, and even if qabbalah brought in excellent insights and models and frameworks for the two philosophies to expand with (and it most certainly did!), after a certain point, those same models and frameworks can become a hindrance.  If nothing else, taking another look with another system can breathe a breath of fresh air into these things, and allow for opening up new doors and avenues to cosmic exploration, theurgy, and spiritual development.

Going through my old posts and notes on what I’ve already set up is incredibly useful, but I see something clearly now that I didn’t before (time is great for providing experience, after all, no matter how much we might think we have some at the time).  Consider one of my favorite quick rituals, the Blessing of the Vessel, first discussed in this 2015 post, which I use as a way for generating a sacred elixir to partake of the blessing of the Divine.  This ritual works quite well on its own, though it uses some pretty arcane Judaeo-Coptic symbolism.  However, if I were to make a mathetic variant…I ran into a mental wall trying to figure that one out.  Sure, I could just replace the names of the angels or godforms, but…that seems hollow to me.  While swapping out related concepts from one system to automagically transform it into a new system is definitely a thing, like using a Celtic or Hellenic deities instead of the four archangels to make more pagan forms of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, I personally find the practice distasteful and it never seems to work as fully, as cleanly, or as effectively as the original ritual in its own context with its own appropriate entities and names.  Moreover, I couldn’t think of anything comparable to the symbols and metaphors used in the Blessing of the Vessel that could be seen in Hellenic mythology off the top of my head, which…

That reminded me of that post I wrote not too long ago about how the rituals we use are means of reliving myths.  La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, more commonly known as Santería, is a perfect example of this.  All the ceremonies we participate in, all the things we wear, all the offerings we make, all the songs we sing, and so forth are established not just by tradition, but by the precedents laid out for us in the mythological stories that undergird the entire religion.  In this case, as in many religions and systems of faith, “myth” here doesn’t just mean a fairy-tale, but a narrative that explains how things become into the world and why we do certain things in a certain way.  The mythos of a religion, then, is the collective story of the cosmos from the point of view of that religion; to participate in the religion is to participate in the eternal telling-retelling of that mythos, where we are both a member of the audience as well as an actor on the stage.  Every religion is like this: Christianity retells the story of Christ’s sacrifice through the Eucharist, which is an eternal event that is played out in discrete instances that participate in the eternal truth of Jesus’ sacrifice; Judaism retells the story of the covenants of God with Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, and Aaron and the Exodus through the Passover Seder and the various mitzvot they maintain; Buddhism describes the paths to nirvana through the practices of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and how we are to understand the Noble Eightfold Path as well as all the discrete, different practices that can more quickly help us achieve our goal; Santeria tells through all the odu and all the pataki about the exploits of the orishas and how they impact our lives and what we can do about the problems through the rites and rituals that the orisha laid down so long ago, and so on.  Even in magic, we use stories that undergird our work: Solomonic magicians take on the role of Solomon as primordial gōes, reiki masters take on the role of their initiators going back to Usui-sensi to ply their work, Greek necromancers take on the role of those heroes like Odysseus who went down to the land of the dead and came back alive, and so forth.  These aren’t just simple stories we tell to children; these are the archetypal foundations of ideology, worldview, culture, faith, and interaction that our societies and civilizations are built upon and grow around.

So, what then of mathesis?  I realized that, though I have the basic ideas of Hermetic theurgy within a Pythagoreansim-centered Neoplatonic framework down and a handful of basic tools and methods at my disposal, I lack a story, a myth that explains what the whole goal is and how spiritual practices and methods should be established.  It’s these stories that not only provide inspiration for new methods to grow and develop, but also point to some of the dangers I might face and flaws I might find in myself along the way, as well as the remedies and precautions to take for when I do face them.  Without such a story, all I’m really doing is bumbling around in the dark repeating the same acts over and over with no purpose.  I can liken this to an actor on a stage reciting the same soliloquy extemporaneously with neither context nor play; no matter how excellently they might recite it, it has no meaning or purpose except to practice the ability of recitation for its own sake.  It’s only when such a soliloquy takes place in the proper context of a play that it has meaning.  All these practices of purification, meditation, contemplation, initiation, and whatnot don’t mean anything if they don’t have an overall story to fit into.  Like a collection of pieces to build furniture from IKEA, if you don’t know what you’re doing and have no instructions to fit everything together, that collection is going to remain nothing more than a pile of bits and odds and ends that don’t do anything except allow for someone to play at a frustrating adult version of Legos.

Now, I should say that I’m not trying to distill mathesis down to any one myth, any one story that we know of from ancient Greece.  I’m not suggesting that I’m doing that, or that I should do that.  I’m really talking about something more archetypal and fundamental than any one story, something that takes place time and time again in individual stories.  Consider what Leo Tolstoy (or Dostoyevsky, or John Gardner, or others) once said: “all great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town”.  This is the kind of archetype I’m talking about: a fundamental action that takes place.  Just how the Iliad is an example of the classical “war epic” while the Odyssey is one of the “journey epic”, and how the Aeneid is an example of both, and all of which take place in greater and larger cycles of epics and sagas, each with their own stories and subplots that collectively describe how things come to be, what is the sort of high-level framework “saga” that mathesis might adopt as its underlying mythos?  That’s an interesting thing for me to ponder as a model for mathesis.

After all, consider that we can use the word “model” in terms of “framework”, but also in the sense of “role model”.  What sort of character am I playing out by working in this way?  What sort of tribulations, conflicts, issues, problems, predicaments, and crises might I face?  Where might I look towards for help and succor?  To what end do I play out this role, and how does this role pick up and start again (reincarnate, rebirth, renew) in another iteration of the story?  After all, the idea of “role model” is played out quite heavily in occult and spiritual work in terms of godforms; the Catholic priest takes on the role of Jesus when he lifts up the host and say “this is my body”, the Vajrayana Buddhist takes on the role of their yidam in meditation, the Golden Dawn initiate takes on the role of any number of Egyptian gods for a given ritual, and so forth.  In adopting a role, we take on the strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and powers of that form we take; consider the Headless Rite, where the primary mechanism is to become Akephalos, the Headless One, to command the forces of the cosmos for exorcism or banishing or conjuration.  Not only do models inform us what our views of the cosmos will be like, but models also inform us how we act within that cosmos and what our abilities and limitations are.

This isn’t to say, of course, that we can’t, don’t, or shouldn’t live by our own stories; of course we can, and we must!  While there’s definitely truth to Ecclesiastes 1:9—”what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”—there’s a difference between the fundamental archetype which is mythos and the discrete, concrete instantiation of a a story that falls under that mythos.  Like with the whole “two stories, journey or arrival” quote from above, consider that, at least under the “journey” header, we have such disparate and varied stories such as that of The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Pokémon, and the Odyssey are all such stories.  Under the broader notion of Proto-Indo-European religion, which formed the basis for many of the pagan religions across Europe and some parts of Asia and the Near East, there are high-level archetype stories of divine horse twins, a sky father, a dawn goddess, and a hero slaying a dragon; take a look, dear reader, at Celtic, Greek, Roman, Slavic, Vedic, Nordic, and other Indo-European myths and you’ll find countless stories that relate to them, oftentimes many iterations of a single story with different variations.  We each have our own story, each of which is unique, and all of which play into the archetypes of the cosmos both as processes and actors.

Come to think of it, that’s one of the things that I think we as occultists tend to neglect.  It’s…it’s at least an issue, but I’m unsure whether it’s a full-blown problem, that so many of us lack contexts for the things we do.  Like the actor reciting a preset soliloquy extemporaneously without context, many of the practices we have are so distanced and removed from the theologies, cosmologies, and philosophies that gave birth to them, and we’re at a loss without understanding that collective context.  I mean, sure, the Headless Rite will still work for you whether or not you understand the currents of Egyptian, Christian, Jewish, Greek, gnostic, academic, priestly, and folk influences that collectively gave rise to that ritual and its place in the broader understanding of Greco-Egyptian magical praxis and theory, but knowing all the rest of that does significantly help attune oneself better to the ritual, not just by understanding where it came from, but also the role of the ritual, the magician who invokes Akephalos, and Akephalos itself.  To put it in modern terms, consider chaos magic with its notion of paradigm shifting.  You can pick up any ritual and make it work, sure, but if you can’t paradigm shift between them, you can’t get the most out of any given ritual you perform because you aren’t immersed in the fundamental contexts (the mythos) that allow for that ritual to work.

This is most dangerous for eclectic practitioners that don’t belong to any one tradition or practice except “what they feel like, a bit of this and a bit of that”; without a coherent, cohesive, connective mythos that undergirds their worldviews, philosophies, cosmologies, and so on, I find it extremely rare that anything of what they do even comes close to the power and efficacy of someone who has a mythos and has truly integrated themselves and everything they do into that mythos.  A mythos as model, then, provides both a skeleton and a skin for one’s practices: a skeleton to arrange and structure one’s practices together, and a skin to separate out what belongs to it and what does not, filtering things in to and out from one’s system of practices.  Without a mythos, you’re just a jumble of things that you do, some of which may have an immediate use but no overarching purpose; a set of practices without a mythos is no more than a jumble of IKEA parts without instructions that may or may not combine together to form a useful bit of furniture, and even then only if you stumble upon the right combination and order of doing so.  If you’re just interested in performing and knowing how to perform individual acts for individual needs, more power to you, but if you’re looking for purpose and direction and how all these things you do can lead to you it, then you’re going to need a mythos to understand how all these things you do play into it.

It’s because of this that I’m so interested in setting up a new kind of Hermetic theurgy with Neoplatonic philosophy divested from qabbalah.  The central mythos is the same both with and without qabbalah, sure, but the stories that play out would be different.  A different story means different actors, different problems, different predicaments, different crises, different climaxes, different resolutions, different conclusions, even if it all fits into the same mythic pattern.  With each new difference comes new insights, new abilities, new techniques, new practices that can be developed, refined, and applied, yielding new ways to understand the cosmos and ourselves.  Mathesis and qabbalah might both be mirrors made of the same stuff that reflect reality, but they’d present it from different angles, with different views, colors, shadows, and understandings of the thing to be reflected.

Qabbalah works for Hermeticism, to be sure, but almost all that we do is part of the same Hermetic story.  I want to tell a new story, and see where else I might end up.  What story will mathesis tell, I wonder?

Ritual and Divination as Reliving Myth

While working on editing my textbook on geomancy, I’m noticing that I recently added as many pages and sections as I’ve gotten rid of.  This is to be expected in the course of editing any work, of course, but it should be noted that I’m not getting rid of anything that would hinder someone from learning the process of divination.  Obscure astrological information that isn’t really used in geomancy, for instance, has little purpose being in a book on geomancy; things of this sort are what I’m trying to pare down and cull, not only to keep the page count from becoming too unwieldy, but also to help make sure the reader isn’t as confused or distracted from learning the actual processes of geomantic divination.  And those last two words in that sentence are important: “geomantic divination”.  This book is focused on the divinatory process and knowledge of geomancy.

I had a section on geomantic magic and the ritual timing of geomancy, but after giving it some thought, I decided to cull those sections out because, strictly speaking, they’re not really needed for geomantic divination; those are subjects best left to another book entirely.  So, of course, while I’m editing my textbook on geomantic divination during the day, during the night I’m working on a second text (which I may only release as a digital ebook or which I may also publish in some tangible form) on geomantic magic and ritual.  These are topics that one doesn’t need to know to do geomancy, but may be of help for those who take a more magical or occult approach to geomancy in general.  One of the topics I was rewriting for such a text was on ritual formats for divination, sorta like what the Golden Dawn uses, but in other ways and approaches.  I ended up coming up with a new divination ritual format, which I’m tentatively titling “The Blessing of Balaam the Prophet”, which I’m actually pretty excited about.  However, I ended up having to augment it with some follow-up ritual, because…well, the story of Balaam didn’t end too well, and there are reasons why he’s given the epithet rasha, “wicked”, in Jewish theology.  The work of Balaam may have been good, but he didn’t turn out so well; to invoke him, one should probably ward against falling into those same pitfalls, with which the ritual follow-up helps.

The backlash from using certain rituals and invoking certain powers can be rough and dangerous at times.  This isn’t necessarily from doing rituals wrong or from making certain spirits angry, but when we call upon certain powers, we borrow their semantic and mythological “essences” into our lives.  This is not just the raw spiritual forces of that power we draw up like water from a well, but it’s the overall current of power, its ebbs and flows from its originating sprint to its ultimate outlet, that we’re immersing ourselves in.  Being able to manage the raw spiritual force of a given power, saint, entity, or god is one thing, but being able to navigate that current to get you from point A to point B is quite often another, and often requires a more contextual view of what the ritual is doing in your life, as well as a contextual view of what the power is you’re calling upon in the traditions, cultures, stories, superstitions, and myths in which it appears.

That word “myth” can be a problem for some people.  Most people in our modern world consider “myth” to mean lies, rumors, fabrications, imaginative or inventive beliefs, or so on, but that’s all entirely a modern view of what a myth is, and one that does a great disservice to the world.  Rather, the word (originally Greek for “speech, thought, story, myth, anything delivered by word of mouth”) is perhaps the better general descriptor of what an archetype is: “myth” refers to the instructional or fundamental stories that explain how things in the world come to be and why things are the way they are.  For instance, Hesiod’s Theogony is a one set of Hellenic myths that explain the cosmogony and theogony of the world, and the Book of Genesis is a Judeo-Christian myth that describes the creation of the world and humanity and the origins of the Israelites.  Myths aren’t just limited to creation stories, either; the Greek myth of Arachne explains why spiders weave webs and where we get the name “arachnid” from, and the story of Apollo and Coronis explains why the raven has black feathers.  Myths are the spiritual documentation of how things come to be the way they are in our world, informed by culture, history, superstition, religion, and the transmission and mutation of all that; myth feeds into spirituality, and spirituality feeds into myth in a mutually-enhancing, recursive cycle.

When we say that “history repeats itself”, we’re often describing something mythological, not in the sense of repeating a lie or rumor, but that certain things fall into the same pattern over and over again from time immemorial.  Those patterns are, in and of themselves, myths; we might give them a fictional or primordial “original occurrence”, but that pattern is itself the myth that we explain the world by, extrapolate events from, and understand a situation’s causes with.  There are always variations in any given instantiations in the pattern—after all, while there’s nothing new under the Sun, you can’t step into the same river twice—but on the whole, the pattern holds.  That’s why it’s a pattern.  That’s why these patterns become myths, and why these myths are codified into religion and spirituality as doctrine and dogma.

More than that, myths (as symbols of and as patterns) are one of the fundamental underpinnings of ritual and divination.  Consider a divination method that relies on some sort of bibliomancy: you can consider divination using a random verse of the Bible, the Homeric Oracle where you throw dice and fall upon a particular verse from a Homeric epic, or even odu Ifá where you divine one of 256 particular odu and investigate the verses and stories of orisha associated with that odu.  When we employ one of these methods, we get a particular selection of a story, a myth, from a religion that inspires and guides us.  Sometimes the verse is pretty clear, and suggests something right off the bat to do, say, pray, or warn against.  Sometimes, we have to investigate the context in which that verse was written and see what it meant in context and how it can relate to a given situation for the bibliomancer.  In either case, however, notice what it is you’re doing: you’re being pointed to a spiritually-guided myth for guidance.  By understanding the myth, you understand the pattern of arising, action, and conclusion in the situation.  What the verse points out is “hey, what you’re facing now falls under this pattern, so pay attention to the actors and events in this myth-pattern, because you’re playing out the same scene, for good or for ill”.

Consider another form of divination: astrology.  Sure, we know that Mars is the planet of force, vigor, power, war, aggression, masculinity, and all that, but have you ever stopped to consider why Mars represents those things in a horoscope?  There are two ways we can arrive at these significations by the symbol of Mars:

  • The scientific method: by noting the arrangements, alignments, and motions of the stars, and what events happen in the lives of people and events of the world that happen at the same times.  By making observations and noticing repeated trends that correspond to each other, we can establish patterns, then extrapolate both into the past when we were unaware of the pattern and into the future when we’re as yet unaware of events to come to test the pattern and obtain more information.  By establishing a pattern, we can make a model of astrological phenomena and what mundane phenomena they correspond to.  This is the method that we know was used by the ancient Babylonian and early astrologers, who noted certain astrological and celestial phenomena, tracked them with events in the matters of the king and of the state, and used those correspondences to make predictions.  By extrapolating into the past, both we and they arrived at certain mythological foundations for why certain patterns hold.
  • The religious method: by associating the planets and stars with particular gods, we ascribe all the symbols of those gods to the planets, and vice versa.  By remembering certain myths that describe the actions and qualities of a single god, we directly ascribe them to the planet; by recalling the interactions of one god with another, we come up with a model that describes what happens when the planets of those two gods come into a certain arrangement with each other.  The myths form the pattern, and the particular arrangements of the planets describe which myth to investigate and which pattern is used for a given situation.  This is both a traditional and a modern approach, especially when we have new planets and asteroids being discovered where all we have to go on to start with is a name of some deity (like Makemake or Sedna).

In either case, through astrological divination (whether horary, natal, electional, mundane, or whatever), we end up with a pattern based on myth, which forms cycles and recurrences that we live time and again, just as we do with the verses of sacred scriptures pointed out to us through bibliomancy.  If it isn’t directly inspired like clairvoyance, mediumship, or prophecy, then divination pretty much universally relies on patterns established through myth.  Just like how we would go to our grandmother to listen to a story to make us feel better about a choice we have to make (that image itself is a myth that’s lived time and again by so many people alive even today!), we go to divination to give us the right myth to listen to for the events and problems we have in our lives now.  Those myths give us guidance, advice, warnings, and encouragement, not only to accept the things that have happened and will happen but also to guard us and warn us against how things can end up if we don’t heed the advice of the characters in the myth.

And that’s where things get really interesting: not just listening to myths, but applying them.  That is, ultimately, what ritual aspires to do.  Consider all the parts of a full ritual: costume, setting, decorations, timing, environment, actors, scripts, instruments, props…ritual is, in many ways, a kind of theater.  We say that we “perform rituals”, after all, just like we would a play.  What is the purpose of acting a play?  To bring to life the same circumstances, stories, problems, and resolutions that the story of the play enacts, not just for entertainment, but to instill in us the meanings, values, warnings, and lessons of the myth of that play.  This is why Dionysos, Greek god of ecstasy (literally “standing outside yourself”) and of the mysteries, also rules over theater and its masks and costumes: he presides over the form and function of being someone else and letting the myth take over.

To give one perfect example of ritual enacting a myth, consider the Christian Eucharist.  It’s a lot more than people gathering together to listen to the priest talk about ethics and morals and sharing some dry crackers and questionable wine; it’s a literal reenactment of the Last Supper, spiritually empowered to the point where the dry cracker literally becomes the flesh of Christ and the wine his blood, just as he broke bread and poured wine and declared them to be such two millennia ago.  Through apostolic succession, the priests are empowered not just to repeat those words of Christ, but to temporarily (through the reenactment of the ritual play) become Christ.  The Eucharist, then, not only is a reminder of the Last Supper, but is a new instantiation of the timeless and eternal presence and myth of it, just as the Last Supper itself as recorded in the New Testament was the first instance of it.

When we engage in ritual, we’re reenacting a myth, calling to mind the original actors, events, circumstances, and contexts of that myth, and applying it anew in our own lives.  By performing a ritual, we relive the myth in an intimate, present way more than just having history repeat itself again; we temporarily become the characters in the myth.  That’s one of the reasons why we wear, for instance, the Pentacles or Rings of Solomon, why we use particular phrases and clothing, why we have certain tools in our rituals: not only do these things have power and meaning of their own, but they’re backed up by myth, and by replaying the myth, we come to the same conclusions and endings that the myth describes.  When we perform a sacrifice or take the advice of a myth, we’re basically saying “this is the same problem that someone long before me encountered, and they did this particular thing to resolve it, so if I do the same thing, I will resolve the problem as well”.  In a way, not only are we replaying the myth, but we’re also honoring old pacts, which themselves establish a pattern and become myth: “if you give me X, I will give you Y, this is our covenant”.

But there’s a twist here: you don’t always have to replay the same myth in a ritual.  You don’t always have to play the protagonist of the myth; you can just as well play the antagonist, or twist certain things in the ritual around, which then messes with the myth, which can get you different results that would be predicted.  By changing the ritual, you change the myth.  In some cases, the results would be as expected; if you know that Aeneas did three steps to get the help of a particular deity, you can do two of the steps but change the third so as to not only immerse yourself in the myth but tweak the expected result to a different end.  That’s why, in the Blessing of Balaam the Prophet, I don’t just repeat the words that Balaam once said to Balak so long ago and live my life as Balaam, but I also take into account the fall of Balaam and “correctionally twist” the myth I’m enacting so that I don’t fall into the same pit that Balaam did.

Divination and ritual are powerful, not just because they allow us to interact with the powers of the cosmos in a way we can understand and command, but they also allow us to understand the myths that keep the cosmos working, and reenact those myths to attain certain ends that we know can and should (and almost always will) work.  Patterns hold; that’s why they’re patterns.  By living along patterns, we know where we’re heading; by modifying the pattern, we modify our course.  So, the next time you engage in a ritual, consider what myth that ritual is based on, inform yourself of the historical and spiritual context of that myth, and see how that enhances your performance of a ritual; the next time you modify a ritual, see how that modification would have changed the original myth or whether it would make it relate to another myth entirely, and see how that matches up with your result of the modified ritual.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Mythology of the Greek Letters

If we’re to really get anywhere with this Greek kabbalah, or kampala, then we need to start from the basics.  And, as an engineer, for me the basics often consist of the tools I’m going to use in order to build myself up more.  Theory and theology are great and all, but it’s hard to read a book if you don’t know how to read.  I claim that, in pursuing the goal of creating a system of kampala, it’s important to start out from the basics if we want to start from first principles.  Put bluntly, if the universe is made from number as Pythagoras claims, than it’s possible to gain an understanding of the universe by means of number.  And, if Greek letters stand for numbers, then it’s likewise possible to understand the universe by means  of Greek letters.  Add to it, the number of numbers is, well, infinite (infinitely and uncountably infinite, to be exact), while the Greek letters are finite; yet, the Greek letters can represent all numbers.  Since we’re finite beings ourselves, it helps us to use a finite set of symbols to gain understanding, not least infinity itself.

So, the Greek alphabet.  I claim it’s a useful tool, and not just for the purposes of grammatomancy and isopsephy, either.  I won’t harp on those topics just yet, though, nor do I want to talk about what the letters are or how to pronounce them or how they developed from Phoenician or how they developed as numbers.  You can read all that on your own without much context or debate.  What I really want to talk about is the mythology behind the letters, where they came from in a divine sense according to what we already know.  According to Hyginus in his Fabulae, #277:

The Parcae, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos invented seven Greek letters – A B H T I Y.
Others say that Mercury invented them from the flight of cranes, which, when they fly, form letters.
Palamedes, too, son of Nauplius, invented eleven letters; Simonides, too, invented four letters – Ó E Z PH; Epicharmus of Sicily, two – P and PS.
The Greek letters Mercury is said to have brought to Egypt, and from Egypt Cadmus took them to Greece. Cadmus in exile from Arcadia, took them to Italy, and his mother Carmenta changed them to Latin to the number of 15.
Apollo on the lyre added the rest.

Thus, we have several groups of letters along with who invented them:

  • Moirai (7): Α, Β, Η, Τ, Ι, Υ, ?
  • Palamedes (11): Γ, Δ, Θ, Κ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Ξ, Ο, Ρ, Σ, Χ
  • Simonides (4): Ω, Ε, Ζ, Φ
  • Epicharmus of Sicily (2): Π, Ψ

The list is somewhat confusing, since the translation (and a Latin copy of Hyginus) give variations depending on the source of who invented what letters or how many.  The list above has the Moirai inventing seven letters but only listing six.  Something’s not adding up here, but that’s what crappy penmanship and scribery will get you over the centuries.  Besides, this is only one myth, and there are many; Herodotus in his Histories claims that Cadmus, a Phoenician prince, brought a Phoenician alphabet to the Greeks.  Herodotus and others note that ancient Greek (and this was ancient even for them) was written using identical letters to those of Phoenician scripts of the time, though over time the Greek alphabet had diverged and grown unique in its own use.  Other historians cast doubt on Herodotus, claiming the Greek script had a Euboean, Eretrian, or other Greek origin; others yet claimed that calling them “Phoenician letters” was a misnomer since, even if the Phoenicians brought them to Greece, they themselves got their letters from other nations, specifically Syria according to Diodorus Siculus.  As it would turn out, Herodotus was closest to the factual history of the matter.  This is why Hebrew and Greek share a common origin, because they both pull their alphabets from Phoenician, though their mythologies may say differently on the matter.

Unlike Egyptian or Hebrew mythology, the Greeks as a whole didn’t have that many myths for where their alphabet came from; either Cadmus the Phoenician gave it to Greece, or the Fates and Hermes contributed to the alphabet along with mortals.  That doesn’t change the fact that the Greeks had and appreciated their writing system, though, and if any mythological non-mortal origin must be traced to the letters, then it’s from two sources: the Moirai, goddesses of fate, as well as Hermes, communicator and messenger of the gods.  The Moirai were Klōthō, Lakhesis, and Atropos, the three white-robed goddesses who, respectively, spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle to begin life, measured the thread to determine how long a life should be, and cut the thread of life to end it once it was fully measured out.  Their name itself refers to “part” or “lot”, similar to one’s fate or destiny or the allotment of length of life.  However, their collective name can be more broadly interpreted to refer to everything that fell as one’s lot in life: glory, happiness, grief, death, and the like, which are all unexpected and fall to chance and fate.  Sometimes, even, the three Moirai are represented as the single goddess Moira, who subsumes all their functions into an abstract concept, of whom Zeus is the occasional personification.  In terms of writing, however, that the Moirai developed several letters for our use indicates that the ability to write gives us the ability to understand and work with what falls to us; writing not only comes from the divine but allows us to learn more about them.

As for Hermes, well, what needs be said about him that many of us don’t already know?  He’s the communicator and messenger between the gods, traveling across all worlds doing their bidding, and especially from our world to the heavens to communicate our desires and prayers and sacrifices to the gods themselves. He’s the god of all communication and the post, and thus over writing and many of its related arts such as mathematics, science, engineering, programming, and so forth.  However, his association with this is not given in his Homeric hymn, but developed as a result of his function as messenger and courier.  The myths do associate him with divination through signs, such as birdflight and other chance omens, which themselves are messages.  In this light, letters are messages from the gods always telling us more about the world as well as of the gods themselves.  Letters, coming from the shapes of birds and other omens, all have their own messages to speak in addition to the message they spell out as a whole.

Unlike in Hebrew, where the world was literally created by means of the Hebrew script (which the Jews think God gave to mankind in exactly the same curvy square-script form they use today, which I find…odd), the Greeks had no such conception; there are plenty of other cosmogonies in Greek mythology, but none involve language per se or even as an important tool; abstract gods generate other gods either by themselves or in copulation with another.  Instead, the use of writing is a constant transaction between us and the cosmos; every letter of every message is significant in always communicating to us the will and desire of the gods, as well as correlating all the things in our life to what happens to and because of us.  This is a huge idea; this means that if the will of the gods are in their messages, and their messages are in the letters, then they are effectively within and staring at us from the letters.  As we write letters, we communicate the will of the gods by means of the things we write since they use each letter independently and in tandem with each other to communicate their will to the rest of the cosmos.  While the letters may not be the building blocks of the world, they are vital to its constant functioning and maintenance.

Greek Words and Names for a Greek Qabbalah

Lately, based on my grammatomantic research, I’ve been looking more into using Greek as my go-to magical language.  Despite the prevalence of Greek ideas, theology, mythology, and philosophy rife throughout a lot of occulture, there’s surprisingly little that I can access in English when it comes to the work I’m interested.  Either things go full Renaissance Hermetic, when Latin was the main working language of things, or full Hermetic Hebrew, due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and traditional qabbalah.  To that end, I know of the Greek gods and their myths, and I use the gods’ names for the planets, and I have a few Greek-origin terms and prayers here and there, but little else.  Seeing how more and more of my practice is turning towards the northeast Mediterranean rather than the Near East or western Mediterranean, I figured that I should get all my terms and words in order to allow for more fluent use of Hellenic and Greek terms.

For instance, take the planets.  In the past, I’ve referred to them by the names of the Greek gods they’re associated with, which isn’t wrong; after all, the planets were often considered to be the physical bodies of the gods themselves.  That said, it turns out there are another set of names used to refer to the planets themselves, which are properly the planetary titans.

  1. The Sun, associated with the god Apollo, is given to the titan Hēlios
  2. The Moon, associated with the goddess Artemis, is given to the titan Selēnē, also called Mēnē
  3. Mercury, associated with the god Hermes, is given the name Stilbon
  4. Venus, associated with the goddess Aphrodite, is given to the titans Eōsphoros (Morning Star) and Hesperos (Evening Star)
  5. Mars, associated with the god Ares, is given the name Pyroeis or, lesser used, Mesonyx
  6. Jupiter, associated with the god Zeus, is given the name Phaethōn
  7. Saturn, associated with the titan Kronos, is given the name Phainōn

So, let’s start from the beginning.  Just as the Hebrew Tree of Life has ten sephiroth (sing. sephirah), the Greek Tree has ten sphairai (sing. sphaira, “sphere”) or arithmoi (sing. arithmos, “number”).  Each of these has a name of its own, modeled after the names of the Hebrew Tree.  While Michael Strojan has his own naming system, the one I’ve seen first was given in Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic, and written about at length by the Confraternity of the Rose Cross (albeit in a long-winded and sometimes purposefully obtuse series of articles).  Those names are:

  1. Arkhē, “First Principle”
  2. Sophia, “Wisdom”
  3. Noesis, “Understanding”
  4. Doxa, “Glory”
  5. Dynamis, “Power”
  6. Agathōsynē, “Goodness”
  7. Nikē, “Victory”
  8. Megalōsynē, “Greatness”
  9. Themelion, “Foundation”
  10. Basileia, “Kingdom”

And, of course, just as the missing sephirah Da`ath means “Knowledge”, the equivalent missing sphaira is Gnōsis, meaning the same.

Similarly, just as each Hebrew sephirah has its own corresponding name of God, so too does each individual sphaira.  However, while a simple translation of each could be done, much as in the same way as the names of the sphairai were made, I thought it more appropriate to look through both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a bit of Gnostic literature here and there, to compile a list of names of God and ascribe them to the sphairai based on numerological connections as well as their semantic resonance with their corresponding Hebrew names.  As many of the names are technically imperfect Greek without an article or predicate noun applied, they’re given in parentheses.

  1. (ho) Ōn, “He who Is”
  2. (ho) Ēn, “He who Was”
  3. (ho) Erkhomenos, “He who Is to Come”
  4. (ho) Theos, “(the) God”
  5. Iskhyros (ho Theos), “(God is) Strong”
  6. Athanatos (ho Theos), “(God is) Immortal”
  7. Pantarkhos (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Ruling”
  8. Pantokrator (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Mighty”
  9. Pantosōmatos (ho Theos), “(God is) In All Bodies”
  10. (to) Alpha kai (to) Ōmega, “(the) First and (the) Last”

The names were developed by dividing the Tree of Life into four groups based on the familiar triads: the supernal (or first) triad consisting of the first three sphairai (1, 2, 3), the middle (or second) triad consisting of the next three (4, 5, 6), the lower (or third) triad consisting of the next three (7, 8, 9), and the final sphaira (10) left alone in its own group.  Based on these, I found names of divinity used in pagan, Hermetic, Hellenic Jewish, and Christian traditions, and associated them in particular groups that fit together well.

  • The supernal triad got its names from the Revelation of John (Revelation 1:8), reflecting the eternality (existing outside of time) and sempiternality (existing within all of time) of God.  Technically, the first two godnames are variations on the Greek verb “to be” (present participle and imperfect, respectively, of eimi), while the third is a form of “to come” (present participle of erkhomai).  This draws a distinction between sheer Presence undifferentiated by time (Ōn) and Presence that stirs and changes over time (Ēn), while the third becomes that which brings about change (Erkhomenos).  This distinction is reflected in the astrological correspondences of these sphairai, with the first being pure Light (Infinity), the second being Light that has moved in space (stars), and the third being a planet that moves and introduces change below it (Saturn).
  • The Trisagion Prayer formed the basis for the divine names for the middle triad, with the fourth sphaira (associated with Jupiter and Zeus, already recognized as “the” God) given to Theos, the fifth sphaira (associated with Mars and Ares, thus power and strength) given to Iskhyros, and the sixth sphaira (associated with Sol Invictus and, especially, Jesus Christ himself) associated with Athanatos.  Further, Theos and Iskhyros tie in with their corresponding Hebrew names, El and Elohim Gibor, respectively.  Also, the use of Theos can be appended to any sphaira godname after the fourth sphaira, since all the following names (with the exception of that of the tenth) are all technically adjectives, with “God” being the noun that they apply to in the sense of “God is Strong” or “God is Immortal”.  The fourth sphaira is conventionally held to be the beginnings of solid reality after the Fall from Divinity (cf. the Abyss), separating the eternal/sempiternal Presence of Divinity (Mind) from itself into a distinct Person of Divinity (God).
  • The names in the lower triad share the same omnipresent qualities, as well as being the epithets for Isis, Hermes, and the Universe respectively in pagan and Hermetic traditions.  Further, the Hebrew names for the seventh and eighth sephiroth, YHVH Tzabaoth and Elohim Tzabaoth, are similar in the notion of God presiding over the entirety of heaven and the heavenly hosts.  The use of Pantosōmatos comes from the Corpus Hermeticum (V.10) in referring to God “beyond all name, unmanifest, most manifest, of no body, of many body, of every body”, and the notion of linking the Moon (sphaira 9, Themelion) with bodies, corporeality, and manifestation is not a new one, since all things that exist lower than the Moon must pass through the Moon and contain some of its essence in it, especially when the Hebrew name for the corresponding sephirah is Shaddai El Chai, or “Almighty God of Life”.
  • The use of Alpha and Ōmega for the tenth sphaira comes from the description of Jesus/God from Revelation 1:8 and used throughout that book, which I found appropriate as the tenth sphaira is the World, containing every essence of every other plane of existence in itself as well as being the final sphaira reflecting the first, just as the English phrase “from A to Z” would be, and especially so as Alpha represents the Moon and Ōmega the planet Saturn in their esoteric meanings, encapsulating all the heavens between them.

That said, the names of God associated with the sphairai aren’t that important, except maybe in conjurations following Solomonic practice, since the sphairai themselves bear names of God.  After all, the sphairai are emanations of God and given titles of God, and it’s likely that the attribution of divine names to the sephiroth in Hermetic qabbalah developed from another tradition.  After all, most of the names of God given to the Hebrew sephiroth are, well, holy names not meant to be taken in vain or even spoken aloud, and it was more likely that magicians using them would prefer to use titles of God given to the sephiroth rather than names of God directly that they shouldn’t even write without several ablutions, much less speak aloud.  I’m starting to think that the correspondence of these set of divine names to the sephirah was an outside tradition tacked onto qabbalah, probably under the influence of Western Solomonic or goetic magic that used divine names like nobody else’s business.  When using one of these divine names in, say, a conjuration, the names for sphairai 5 through 10 would be reversed, so instead of “Iskhyros ho Theos” (God is Strong), it’d be “ho Iskhyros Theos” (the Strong God).  Greek is weird.

One thing I don’t feel comfortable with, at least just yet, is making a new set of Greek spirit names, especially those for the angels.  It can’t be escaped that much of Hermetic magic is based on Abrahamic lore, such as those of the angels, and so many of the names are going to remain Hebrew in origin; thus, Michael will remain Michael (though spelled in Greek as Mikhaēl) and so forth.  Likewise, the names of the planetary intelligences and spirits are based on Hebrew gematria principles, and so couldn’t be easily translated into Greek.  However, at least one set of angelic names can be translated: those of the choirs, or taxiarkhies.  Even then, though, those with explicitly Hebrew names (viz. Seraphim and Cherubim) would remain in Hebrew, but the rest wouldn’t, even though several of the names are really similar in English because much of Christian doctrine comes from, you guessed it, Greek.

  1. Serapheim, Seraphim
  2. Kheroubeim, Cherubim
  3. Thronoi, Thrones
  4. Kuriotētes, Dominions
  5. Dynameis, Powers
  6. Exousies, Virtues
  7. Arkhes, Principalities
  8. Arkhangeloi, Archangels
  9. Angeloi, Angels

One of the keys to developing new spirit names, especially for those of the planets, would be to recreate the qameas, or magic squares, of the planets.  The sigils for the planetary spirits and intelligences are based off the magic squares for their respective planets, and since the letters of the Hebrew script double as numbers, it would be possible to redraw the magic squares using Greek letters instead of Hebrew.  Since these names are all based on numerological principles and founded on the numbers associated with the planets, new names can feasibly be drawn up for these entities based on numerology (one of the few useful instances I’ve found of the craft, but I digress).  However, while redrawing the magic squares in Greek letters is easy, finding acceptable names of planetary spirits and intelligences that adhere to the same numeric values as the Hebrew names is not, since there are far more permutations of letters that would add up to the same value than I can calculate off the top of my head.  A good amount of work would be needed to develop a set of names and see which would work for the spirit and intelligence of each sphaira, not to mention figure out whether an “intelligence of intelligences” or “spirit of spirits” would be needed for spheres like those of the Moon and Venus.

At this point, there’s really little else than to make a new set of tables of correspondences a la Cornelius Agrippa’s Scales, replacing Hebrew godnames and the like with native Greek ones where appropriate, and honestly there’s already a lot done for me that I don’t need to do again (thank you, Stephen Skinner).  That and, of course, a hellish amount of scrying, pathworking, and exploration to really see what needs doing, patching up, and evaluating to see what’s actually needed for theurgy and thaumaturgy.  I’m thinking I might have to go with what Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick did a while back, scrying up a new style of Tree of Life on my own Starry Path.  I was thinking I was going to go that route anyway, using my grammatomantic lunar calendar to set certain days to scry the paths of the Greek Tree of Life, but now that I’m realizing how big an effort this is going to be, it’s certainly not going to be a short-term project.

One final thing, though: what would this new system be called?  Kabbalah or qabbalah (I use the K to signify the Jewish practice and Q the Hermetic one) is still a Hebrew word itself, meaning “receiving” or “tradition”.  The Greek Wikipedia article uses the word “kampala”, with “kabbala” as an alternate spelling.  Going by the meaning of the word, I think “(to) Paradedomenon” (that which is handed down) isn’t too far off the mark; “kampala” would be the shorthand name for the system as a transliteration of the Hebrew.  But of course, since clearly nobody speaks Greek (including myself, which I should eventually get around to fixing), “Greek kabbalah” would be the most easily accessible name for the system.

Oh, and for those of you who keep tabs on my Facebook, you’ll notice I posted an interesting photo about Greek kabbalah.  We’ll get into that more later on; I’ve got plenty to write about it for those who’re interested in a Neoplatonic/Pythagorean kinda thing.

Foundations of Ritual

I’ve gotten a few requests from people for me to teach them magic and ritual.  This is fantastic;  I’m glad people are eager to learn more about themselves, their place in the cosmos, their innate godhood, and everything like that.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I started writing this blog, not just to vent and show people the things I do and how easy(?) putting Hermetics to use is.  That said, I’m hesitant to teach, not only because I find myself as-yet unworthy of having students, but also because I don’t consider it possible to teach anyone magic as an isolated subject; one doesn’t “just learn” magic, just as one cannot “just learn” how to build a spaceship or “just learn” protein synthesis.  Before I even consider taking up anyone as a student of mine, I insist that they have the proper foundations that provide the context in which ritual magic can be done.

For anyone to learn anything, they need to have a strong foundation upon which they can build.  For ritual magic, indeed, any life that involves ritual, those foundations are myth, technology, and reason.  Above the others, however, myth is the single-most important factor in any magician’s knowledge.

It’s important to understand what I mean when I say “myth”.  I don’t mean a set of fanciful stories about primitive worldviews or pre-scientific notions of how things work.  I mean “myth” in the classical sense: the overarching backstory to the world, the legends that fuel our lives, and the causes for things.  Myth has been described as “ideology in narrative form” and, to a large extent, I agree with this.  Instead of understanding it as a collection of stories, you might interpret myth as “theory” or “philosophy”; myth provides the reason for us to live our lives in the world we happen to live in.  If your worldview includes gods, then the mythos you should learn will involve those gods, their natures, their stories, their likes and dislikes, and their adventures and pleasures and wraths.  If your worldview is atheistic and focused on energies, then the mythos you should learn will involve the background of energy, how it works, how it flows, and how it affects and is affected by other things in the cosmos.  If your worldview is based around emanationist Qabbalah, then the mythos you should learn will involve the sephiroth, the planets, the elements, the angels, God and his different names and forms, and how events in any sphere of existence are reflected, affected, and effected by other spheres.  Myth provides the theoretical framework upon which myth is based upon; it can be as terse as tables of correspondences, or it can be as flowery as ancient histories and stories passed down by mouth from one generation to the next.

Technology, on the other hand, might be considered the opposite of myth.  Technology is the study of useful skills, arts, and crafts.  Knowing how things should be in the ideal world is one thing, but knowing how to accomplish things in the real world is quite another.  While technology can involve any sort of tool usage, it can also include methodologies such as procedures to make something, from food to clothing to houses to jewelry.  Anything you do down in this world involves technology in some way; learning how to use technology efficiently and powerfully is important in being successful in the world.  Something doesn’t have to be hi-tech to be considered technology here; writing systems, calendars, proper usage of heat to cook food, and eloquent speaking can all be considered technologies, as can building windmills, solar panels, computers, jewelry, or orgone accelerators.  Technology uses the world around us to make or change something for a particular end with a particular method and process.  If you’re a computer scientist, then your technology should consist of programming languages, setting up computers, managing RAID storage systems, and the like.  If you’re a chef, then your technology should consist of knives and other implements, cutting foodstuffs for preparation, using ovens and stoves and grills, and presentation of food for aesthetic pleasure, and the like.  If you’re a masseuse, then your technology should consist of strong hands and arms, energy manipulation, proper oils for lubrication and sensuality, and the like.  Technology is what we do down here to do stuff.

Reason is the bridge that combines mythos with technology for a higher aim.  This is essentially logic, but not necessarily the formal logic of mathematicians and legalists.  Logic here can consist of that, but it can also consist of emotions (how to feel better), survival (how to keep living), economics (how to become wealthier), or philosophy (how to live better), and other styles.  Reason uses myth as its values and axioms, upon which all arguments and actions can be based; everything else that follows is either a logical derivative of myth (e.g. if Aphrodite dislikes Helios for revealing her tryst with Ares, it follows that involving the powers of Venus and the Sun in the same place may not end up well) or an application of mythos with technology (e.g. if Aphrodite likes apples due to the whole Paris-Helen thing, one should probably sacrifice apples to Aphrodite).  Reason is what allows myths, tables of correspondences, divine preferences, and stories to be effected in the world using technology, as well as being what allows technological results to form more myths.  Understanding the causes and effects of things in a strictly material sense, strictly spiritual sense, and some combination of material and spiritual senses involves reason all around.  Figuring out “how things work” in a technological sense within a mythological framework involves reason every step of the way.

So, consider the case where someone wants to build a spaceship.  First, they need to understand the mythos of spaceships: the physical theory behind flight both in air and in space, the mathematical knowledge of arithmetic and calculus, the material properties of steel and aluminum, the theoretical programming of spaceship software, gravity, meteorology, and the like.  They also need to have a solid technological footing to build spaceships: how to cut metal apart and rivet it back together, how to wire computers together, how to set up an air ventilation and water filtration system, where to purchase fuel from, where and when to launch from, and the like.  They also need to have reason: how will the dynamics of space travel affect the integrity of the ship, how will high-acceleration and low-gravity environments affect the human body, where it might be legal to build and launch a spaceship, whether it’s a good idea given one’s finances and health to build and launch a spaceship, and the like.  No matter what, though, the theoretical knowledge (the “myth”) behind building spaceships is most important, because one cannot figure out whether a spaceship will work without knowing the mathematics and physics behind spaceships.

All these same things come into play when working with magic, just with different mythos, technology, and reason.  This is why I insist that, for people who want to learn my style of magic and Hermetics, someone have an exceptionally strong footing in the classical stories of European literature, such as the Homeric Cycle, the Bible, apocryphal and philosophical texts from different European and Mediterranean religions, tables of correspondences and qualities of the elements and planets and zodiac signs and lunar mansions, astrology and astrological timing, etc. Beyond the others, myth is the single most important foundation someone can and must have in order to learn magic and ritual.  All ritual takes place within mythology, whether it’s building a spaceship within the mythos of physics, making a talisman within the mythos of astrology, or making sacrifices within the mythos of a particular deity.  The technology can be picked up as one learns and grows, and the reason to link mythos with technology can be cultivated over time to produce new and hitherto-unknown ritual, but myth is that which guides and directs us to pick up either the needed technologies to implement it or the reason to bind it and bridge the gap between technology and myth.

Myth should never be dismissed as something that is merely primitive.  Myth is the foundation for our lives, and if all ritual is an extrapolation or extension of life itself, then ritual is even more based on myth than our lives.  Ritual brings myth into our lives and makes our lives into living myths; if one has no myth, one will necessarily have no ritual.

The Bitch that Launched a Thousand Ships

So I like mythology (as would suit most RPGers, Latinists, and occultists), and can recall probably several dozen stories from Greco-Roman lore off the top of my head.  Of course, back in those days, myths were more than just stories: they helped found whole cultures, ground identities, and flesh out institutions and customs for centuries and centuries.

One of my favorite stories starts off, as many do, atop the swanky Mount Olympus.  The gods, on Zeus’ idea, decided to throw a huge banquet (I think it was a wedding party, because clearly the gods needed to be wedded to get it on and stuff) and invited all the gods and goddesses and demideities and anyone who was anyone back in the days a few millennia ago.  It was a pretty big affair, because it was peaceful and the gods didn’t have much to care about that week, and also because Dionysus had a few extra amphorae of his best vintage to get errbody tipsy in Olympus.  Errbody, that is, except for Eris, the goddess of strife and discord.  I mean, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to invite that kind of thing (literally or no) to a wedding or banquet, right?  Who knows what might happen with Eris around, gosh.

Well, it’s also understandable that being the only deity among all the deities (and there were many) to be excluded from a classy affair might insult a bit.  Just a skosh, you know?  In fact, Eris was pretty pissed, but being who she is and all, decided to start some shit anyway (if she were invited, she might’ve just spilled some wine on someone “on accident”, but who can say?).  She got out a shiny thing, a golden apple, and inscribed the word ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΗΙ, or “To the Prettiest” and chucked it from her home all the way onto the dancefloor on Olympos.  It caught the attention of all the girls and goddesses on Olympos, and they all started fighting over it because, I mean, come on, obviously they each were the prettiest, Q. E. Duh.

Of course, that also included the big ladies Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, and when they got involved, everyone else backed off (except for the gods, who were cheering them on and betting who was gonna get bitchslapped first; imagine a high school brawl between Shaniqua, Bonquisha, and Tynecia in the cafeteria, except with fireballs instead of chairs being thrown and doing triple z-snaps in slurred Mycenaean Greek).  Eventually, Zeus had enough of the crap going on, and it was his party and THEY WERE RUINING IT OMG.  He got them to shut up for a second and got them to agree to have an impartial mortal male judge decide who was the prettiest, since all the other immortals had already picked sides (either for themselves or for whoever would get them laid that night), and Eris, the only immortal not there, was right out of the question.  Eventually, the gods found a decent judge of character and beauty (…sigh) in the form of a young shepherd prince in what’s now northwestern Turkey.  His name was Paris, son of Priam, who was King of Troy at the time.

So Zeus led Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to the fields of Troy where Paris was hanging out with his sheeps and peeps.  Respectfully, Paris greeted the deities with a “OMGZ WTF”.  Zeus replied “Bitches, obvi”, and explained the situation.  Immediately after Zeus gave control of the situation to Paris and returned to the party, the goddesses remained and immediately bribed him with something only they could give: Hera promised control and dominion over his whole area of the world; Athena promised great wisdom and strategic brilliance; Aphrodite promised the most beautiful woman of the world: Helen, wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.

Now, ponder with me for a quick sec: if you were a young boy with only sheep to chill with pretty much all the time, surrounded at home by gaggles of obnoxious sisters from gods-know-how-many-women-Priam-slept-with, second to the throne behind your older and more rugged and attractive brother Prince Hector, and a wuss when it comes to fighting except with the effeminate skill of archery, and had a brain that functioned with the cognition skills of at least a five-year-old, you’d probably want something that would help you cement your name and rule across the land and ages (but leaning more towards power and dominion in some form or another).  Unfortunately, Paris wasn’t really great at thinking with the head above his belt, and chose Aphrodite’s gift of Helen.  Aphrodite then proceeded to set up events so that Paris would hook up and sneak out with Helen on his next family’s visit to Menelaus’ pad in Sparta across the Aegean Sea (N.B. to married couples: if your partner is going on a business trip, make sure he stays at a hotel alone).  Paris, in return, handed the shiny apple to Aphrodite, while Athena and Hera scowled and flew off to Olympus, getting trashed on wine and trash talking Aphrodite.

Paris and Hector and Priam, when they went to Sparta next, had a few parties with the Sparta crew, Paris got together with Helen, and they left in the middle of the night together.  Menelaus, when he realized he wasn’t in bed with Helen (a few nights later on, of course, and wondering why he hadn’t seen her in a bit), realized what happened, whined to his brother Agamemnon, King of the Argives, who saw a chance for plunder and revenge against the Trojans.  The rest, as they say, is history (in the form of a few long-winded poems kids translate for AP Latin in high school).

Moral of the story?  Don’t be a bitch.  (Also this is what happens when I have a few beers and decide to write something.)