On the Zodiacal Names and Characters of PGM VII.795—845

On the Zodiacal Names and Characters of PGM VII.795—845

Man, going through the PGM has been productive lately.  One of the reasons is because I finally picked up a copy of Stephen Skinner’s Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic, finally, after way too long.  Though I take issue with some parts of his analysis and contextualization of the material in the PGM, it’s still another solid resource for me to tap into, especially given how thorough he is with categorizing all the different rituals and parts of the PGM in a readable reference.  There are things I wish I could have seen more of in the book, but on the whole, it was still a solid purchase to make.  And, plus, relying on his organization helps point me into new directions to explore, or old roads to go down further than I have before.

I’m also realizing how big PGM VII, specifically, is.  This part of the PGM is huge, if not the hugest, and includes so much material, including (most of) the Homeromanteion, the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē, some of the invocations to the Northern Stars and the Full Moon I make, lists of dates and signs for recommended magical or divinatory actions, and that recent Lunar Spell of Klaudianos I shared the other day.  Lots of good stuff in there, amongst many other things to look at and try out.  (It’s also the source for that ancient PGM meme of “grind up a pepper with some honey and coat your ‘thing'”.)  Well, one of the things in this text is PGM VII.795—845, titled “Pythagoras’ request for a dream oracle and Demokritos’ dream divination”; the attributions here are likely spurious, but then, so are most attributions to mythical or famous mathematicians or prophets in this sort of literature.  This specific ritual is much like others: it’s a particular way to obtain divinatory or prophetical knowledge through ritualized dreaming by means of the angel Zizaubiō who hails from the Pleiades.

What sets this ritual apart from so many other dream oracle rituals in the PGM is that this one relies on the use of a particular apparatus of a branch of laurel with leaves on it, on which you write a mystical name of each sign of the Zodiac as well as a magical character for each sign, one sign per leaf.  This attribution of magical names and characters to the Zodiac signs is unlike anything else in the PGM; if there are references to the Zodiac, they’re usually direct and unmagical about it.  To have a magical approach to these signs with barbarous words and characters would be a massive boon for deploying other kinds of zodiacal invocations or conjurations in the style of the PGM, but unfortunately, the list of characters didn’t…make sense at all.  Some signs seemed to have several characters, others none, and some seemed to be clustered together in weird ways.

I don’t like clutter or confusion, so I decided to sit myself down with whatever PGM source materials I could find, and do a bit of forensics and research to see if I couldn’t suss this out.  Get a drink and strap in, because this is going to be a bigger post than even I’m accustomed to making; if you just want to see my results, skip ahead to the end.  Otherwise, you get to learn how some of the words and characters from the original PGM documents got changed slightly from version to version through academia; I hope you enjoy!

So, what does Betz give us for this part of the ritual?  I’m just going to post a quick scanned excerpt, because I want to show exactly how Betz gives the characters for this section:

The two footnotes in this section, just for reference:

  1. “In this list most of the numerical designations 1 — 12 can be recognized in the far right column of the papyrus manuscript, numbering downward from Aries to Pisces.  These numbers were erroneously included in the magical symbols by Preisendanz.”
  2. “Har-Month is Horus-Montu.  Montu is the Egyptian god of war and therefore the proper counterpart of Ares, the ruler of the zodiacal sign Aries.  Horus is also associated with this sign, for “Horus the Red” was the name of Mars which governs Aries. [R.K.R.]”

For kicks, here’s the corresponding entry in Preisendanz (broken down into two images because they were on different pages):

We can see that the Betz version of the characters pretty closely matches the Preisendanz version, except that the characters that suspiciously look like Greek letter-numerals to the right are instead interpreted, rightly so, as numbers.  Fair enough; plus, we can kinda get a slightly better resolution idea of what these characters actually are.   Note also the weirdness for Libra and Scorpio, how instead of there being two characters in two horizontal lines, one for each sign, there are two characters together, and it’s not clear how to distinguish which sign gets which character.  Also note that Aries gets no character in either Betz or Preisendanz, which is odd.

Now, to throw things for a bit of a loop for the sake of being better informed, let’s take a look at the Kenyon transcription of the same text:

Now things are getting interesting!  Between the Kenyon and Preisendanz versions, there are quite a few differences.  In Kenyon:

  • Most of the zodiac sign names are abbreviated, terminating with an upwards hyphen.  Only Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, and Sagittarius are unabbreviated; Libra is there in full, but is marked as abbreviated.  Capricorn gets a full slash rather than an upwards-hyphen, and Pisces gets a weird spelling and grammatical form (might just be a typo or mistranscription).
  • A number of the characters, though similar, have subtle differences.
  • There’s an extra character above the list at the end of the preceding paragraph (line 808).
  • The second glyph for the Libra-Scorpio pair (with the upright sheaf-like character) does not have a Z shape under it; instead, it has a Zēta to the side, which is properly the Greek numeral for 7, with lowercase stigma above it for the numeral 6.  Still, though, we have these two characters side by side again.
  • The character for Sagittarius is radically different.  Even noting Kenyon’s reuse of similar-looking letters for characters based on graphical similarity, we can’t help but be caught off-guard, especially with the separator of spacing and a middle dot in there, too.
  • The Greek numeral 4 (represented by the letter Delta) is clear in Kenyon, but look at how deformed it is in Preisendanz as the rightmost character (line 813).
  • The Greek numeral 5 (represented by the letter Epsilon) is joined into the rightmost character for Virgo (line 815); note how it’s also conjoined in Preisendanz, but not in Betz.  However, Virgo should be the sixth sign, not the fifth, which is Leo.  Yet, Leo (line 814) doesn’t have an Epsilon, but a funny-looking squiggly-b letter both in Kenyon and Preisendanz.  Something got mixed up here.
  • The numbers for the signs are clearly labeled on the right as separate letters, though oddly  Ēta (8, for Scorpio) and Iōta (10, for Capricorn) seem to have been skipped.  Alpha (1, for Aries) is actually present, just put on the end of the mystical name for Aries (line 810); Preisendanz makes this clear.
  • The esoteric names for Aries (line 810) and Aquarius (line 820) do not have spaces in them.

As for the footnotes Kenyon has for the transcription, only one is pertinent to this excerpt, line 819: “αιγογερ- : so, for αιγοκερ” (referring to the abbreviation for Capricorn, Aigokerōs (Αἰγόκερως).

Now, we can clearly see some solutions to some of the problems presented by Betz and Preisendanz:

  • The long arrow-like symbol on Kenyon’s line 808 could be the character for Aries, though its placement in Kenyon is weird.
  • The weird squiggly-b symbol to the right of the character for Leo on Kenyon’s line 814 should be interpreted as a Greek numeral Epsilon, because this is the fifth row/sign/character we get.  This means that the “conjoined-epsilon” on the right character for Virgo on line 815 is actually part of the character, because it doesn’t make sense for Virgo to be given the numeral 5 when it’s the sixth sign; instead, the stigma (Greek numeral 6) put to the upper side of the sheaf-like character on the next line down should be considered Virgo’s numeral.
  • The positioning of the last three characters for Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces in Kenyon is a little weird, but the numerals for ΙΑ (11, for Aquarius) and ΙΒ (12, for Pisces) help significantly.  It’s weird that we don’t see a single Iōta for the character for Capricorn, however, but given its vertical placement above the latter two characters, it’s safe to assign this character to Capricorn.
  • We still have the issue of not knowing which character to give to Libra and which to Scorpio.  However, given Zēta’s proximity to the upright sheaf-like character, especially seeing how it was conjoined with it in Preisendanz and Betz, and given that Zēta is the numeral for 7, and given that it’s positioned slightly higher than the left Labmda-like character, I would give this character to Libra (the seventh sign) and the left lambda-like character to Scorpio (the eighth sign)
  • If that’s the case, however, then we would expect to see an Ēta somewhere to clearly delineate that the left Lambda-like character goes to Scorpio, but instead, it appears to be entirely missing from the diagram.  We should look for something that resembles an uppercase H, maybe with a loop connecting the right end of the horizontal bar and the top end of the right vertical bar.

The biggest issue we’ve got, then, is the weirdness for the characters for Sagittarius and whether it might be hiding any letters that would act as an Ēta (to distinguish the sign for Scorpio) and Iōta (to distinguish the sign for Capricorn).  As given in either Betz, Preisendanz, or Kenyon, the character (or characters) for Sagittarius are the most complex and confusing, and something here isn’t what it seems.

Unfortunately, all I have to go on are these three “critical editions” of the PGM, none of which actually translate faithfulness from the original papyrus.  If I had a scan of PGM VII.795—845, that’d make this easier to see what’s precisely going on, especially to see what the original format of the characters would have looked like without resorting to Greek letter lookalikes.  Happily, after scouring the Internet (and, of course, right as soon as I contact an actual professor for help), I found them!  Thus, here are the relevant scans from PGM VII, also known as Papyrus 121 in the London collection, courtesy of the British Library:

Now we can get some more answers!  The character for Capricorn is slightly less embellished in the scan than in Kenyon: note the lack of ring-marks on the vertical bottom end and horizontal left end.  However, there is still no Iōta present to mark the character, breaking with the rest of the pattern.  Besides that, however, the characters for Aquarius and Pisces are, indeed, made clear by positioning.  At least some of our questions can be cleared up at a glance.

For comparison to get a better idea of how the same author in the same document writes his numerals, compare PGM VII.765—778, looking at the leftmost column of two or three letters from just the previous column in the papyrus.  (Coincidentally, this is the list of the fourteen signs of Mēnē from the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē ritual I mentioned not too long ago.)

Okay, so, with the information we now have at our disposal, let’s go down our problems one at a time.  What we need to do is try to decipher not only the text here, but we need to figure out the intent and mind of the original author of the papyrus.

The Mystical Name of Aquarius

This is a minor issue, but an issue nonetheless for me.  How the name for Aquarius should be spelled is a little complicated; Preisendanz and Betz give it as ΜΕΝΝΥ ΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ, while Kenyon gives it as MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ.  The scan is clear that there is definitely no space between ΜΕΝΝΥ and ΘΥΘ, so those two should be a single name (though I understand Preisendanz’s reason for splitting ΘΥΘ off under the influence of the god Thoth).  However, whether the final ΙΑΩ should be separate is debatable.  ΙΑΩ is definitely a common name in the PGM, that can’t be denied, and there is a pattern of other names that have two parts (Taurus, Gemini, Virgo) to have a second part composed of only three letters.  However, unlike those other names, there isn’t a huge space between MENNYΘΥΘ and ΙΑΩ.  The only indication that there should be a space read here is that the final Thēta of MENNYΘΥΘ doesn’t connect with the Iōta of ΙΑΩ, and the handwriting of the author always (as far as I can tell) connects the horizontal bar of Thēta with the following letter in a non-final position.  Given that, it can certainly be argued that this name should have two parts, but it can go either way.  So, the name would be MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ (two parts) or MENNYΘΥΘΙΑΩ (one part).

The Delta-Epsilon-Stigma Numerals

Going down the list, we would expect one numeral per line-sign-character: Alpha for Aries, Bēta for Taurus, Gamma for Gemini, and so forth.  Largely, this is true, but we have a bit of an issue when we look at Cancer, Leo, and Virgo.  We would expect, in order, Delta for Cancer, Epsilon for Leo, and Stigma (which was commonly used in lieu of Digamma for the number 6) for Virgo, and indeed, all these numerals appear, but not exactly where we see them.  The line for Cancer has two characters, a Thēta-like character with a long horizontal bar that swishes from the lower left to the upper right and a sort of wide Delta-like character with an upwards slash going through it, followed by a normal Delta though with a weird angular bracket between the slashed-Delta character and the Delta-numeral.  This might indicate that the bracket is part of the characters for Cancer, but let’s keep looking.  As far as that Thēta goes, it’s spaced out far enough from the rest of the name that I’m pretty sure it’s not part of the name, and it forms a character unto itself.

Leo posits more of an issue, however.  We see two glyphs to the right of the name for Leo: what looks like a plain old Delta (though it also looks like a Roman cursive lowercase “a”), and a sort of 6-like glyph.  We would expect to find an Epsilon at the end of this row to act as the numeral 5, but we don’t.  Instead, we find an Epsilon glyph at the end of the second character on the following line, and based on how the horizontal bar of the Epsilon doesn’t match up with the horizontal bar of the character, it seems like this truly is a separate glyph, indicating that that character is marked as for the fifth row.  That said, it occurs right to the side of the other character within the same row for Virgo, which should get the numeral for 6 (which would be Stigma), and we find Stigma immediately under and centered beneath it.

I’m pretty sure the vertical-sheaf character is the seventh character for the seventh sign, Libra, and we see the numeral for 7, the Greek letter Zēta, placed immediately under and centered beneath it.  Additionally, almost all the signs have exactly one glyph that acts as its given character; the only exceptions are Aries and Cancer, and both of those are still debatable at this point, and whatever is going on with Sagittarius. Given that, I would say that the cross-loopy-Z character is the proper (and only) character for Virgo, while the arrow-hourglass character is the proper (and only) character for Leo.

However, if that’s the case, then we end up with a problem: what to make of Cancer’s Delta-numeral?  We find two Delta-numerals, one to the right of the characters and one under them; there’s also the slashed-Delta which might or might not be part of the characters for Cancer along with maybe the angle bracket, and we still have that weird 6-like glyph on the line for Leo.  Given that the Delta on the line for Leo is definitely and clearly a Delta (compare its form to the “εστιν δε” above the list), I’m inclined to think it’s just a numeral to refer to the characters for Cancer on the line above.  This would make the Delta above extraneous, however, and I’m inclined to think that the author slipped up several times here: the slashed-Delta was originally going to be the numerical reference for this line, but it didn’t line up with the numerals Bēta and Gamma from the prior two lines, and it got crossed out and replaced with another Delta to the side, but then that made it messier, so he added another Delta underneath the Thēta-like character to make it clearer what the actual character for Cancer was.  The 6-glyph, then, would be a typographic mark to indicate something amiss here, either to link the Delta-numeral on the line for Leo to its proper, original placement on the prior line, or to “negate” that line’s space and direct the author/reader to look on the next line for the expected character.  I’m pretty sure that the 6-glyph isn’t a character for any of the signs, because it also doesn’t fit in with either the style of the characters, any of the letters, or any of the numerals.

The Characters for Libra and Scorpio

The vertical length of the sheaf-like character makes it difficult to squeeze into the tight rows of the text.  However, given its height and positioning, it seems like it should be given clearly to Libra, especially since it has the Greek letter Zēta immediately beneath it for the number 7.  However, I have one issue with how it’s drawn in Kenyon and Preisendanz/Betz: the four inverted chevrons are connected down the middle with a vertical line, but how far that vertical line should extend seems debatable.  Kenyon has the vertical line extending past the top chevron and below the bottom chevron, and all unconnected to its Zēta numeral; Preisendanz has the line stop at the vertex of the topmost chevron, extending past the bottom one, and in contact with the Zēta numeral; Betz has the line extend past the bottom and top chevrons and coming in contact with the Zēta numeral.  The scan is pretty clear that the vertical line should not extend past the vertex of the top chevron, but there’s a crack/crease that makes the rest of the character hard to read.  It doesn’t seem like the character should come in contact with the Zēta numeral; not only does it seem like there’s an absence of ink that would connect the two, but no other characters are graphically connected to their numerals.  Looking closely, however, there is a faint vertical line that connects the chevrons together by their vertices, but it doesn’t seem to extend past the top or bottom chevron.  So we have a good idea of what this character should actually look like.

This leaves the Lambda-like character to its left; given its smaller size, it seemed easier to slap it right next to the name for Scorpio, and the graphical placement really does make it clear that it’s this that’s the proper character for Scorpio, indeed.  Taking a closer look at the scan, it looks like a proper capital Alpha with two ring marks on the terminals of the legs, and a large ring mark at the apex that seems blurrily filled in.  Kenyon preserves the horizontal bar of this character and shows a larger-than-usual apex ring mark with a cross inside, while Preisendanz/Betz do away with the horizontal bar and leave the apex ring mark small and empty.  It seems clear to me that the horizontal bar really should have stayed in, but it’s hard to make out what exactly is going on with the apex ring mark.

However, we’re still missing an Ēta somewhere here, which is what we expect since this would be the eighth sign and every other character-sign so far has a numeral attached to it.  It’s not present here, in teh previous line, or in the next line, so this leaves us with two options: the apex ring mark has something to do with it, or the author simply left it out.  The former seems unlikely to me; though it does look messy, there’s nothing there that resembles an Ēta the way the author writes them, either in the middle of text or as a numeral.  The latter seems more likely to me, since the context here makes it clear that this character belongs, and can only belong, to Scorpio.

If we rule out that the mess with the apex ring mark has anything to do with a missing numeral, then it looks like the author made another mistake here and tried to fix it by going over the glyph again in more ink.  Looking closely, it seems like there’s a smaller ring mark within the larger one, right at the actual apex of the Alpha-shape of the character.  To me, this would indicate that the author originally drew the ring mark too big, and then tried to draw the smaller one inside in bolder ink to indicate that, no really, it should have been made the same size as the other two ring marks at the terminals of the Alpha-shape.

What the Hell is Going On With Sagittarius

So we have a bit of a mess with Sagittarius.  The end of the line has a Thēta for the numeral 9, which is what we expect, and the glyph immediately to its left is definitely a character.  Then we have the wide-bottomed Ksi glyph and the two Upsilon letters.  Kenyon has that extra dot between the Ksi glyph and the Upsilon glyphs, but that looks like it belongs more to the Zēta directly above as punctuation more than anything else, and Preisendanz and Betz don’t accurately capture how these glyphs aren’t actually connected with each other.  One thought is that these aren’t characters, but actual letters that should continue the name of the sign, so instead of it being ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ, we could read it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑΞΥΥ.  However, I don’t think that’s the case, because the Ksi here is written on a different baseline than the name itself with the upper-left terminal of the letter at the base height of the line for the name, and it’s way too angular for the author to write as a normal Ksi when compared with the rest of the text, where it’s a lot more squiggly and starts up at a higher point than x-height, as in the examples below (PGM VII.386, “ΠΟΘΗΞΑΣ ΕΡΑΤΕΥΝ” and PGM VII.504, “δοξασον μοι ως εδοξασα το”).

So, if this angular-Ksi is indeed a character, as I think it could be, then the two Upsilon-chevrons to its right must also be part of it, as well.  This seems weird to me, though, because this, when combined with the definite character at the end of the line before the Thēta numeral, would make Sagittarius the only multi-glyph character, and definitely the largest and most complex of them all.  At the same time, looking through the rest of this author’s writings, the author rarely uses Ksi as a letter in his barbarous words, and it seems to be a phoneme that’s not comfortable in his own magical practice, especially when compared with the other parts of the PGM.  Indeed, this author seems to have a much stronger Egyptian bent to his work than other authors elsewhere, so I suppose it would make sense that we probably wouldn’t see a more Greek-type of phoneme.  Additionally, for a barbarous word of this length and style to end in a double Upsilon also seems unlikely to me.

There is another possibility, however, that these three glyphs form a second part of the name unto itself.  So, instead of reading it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ followed by several characters or as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑΞΥΥ followed by the one definite character, we could read it as ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ ΞΥΥ followed by the one definite character.  We already have three names for sure that are two parts, Taurus (ΝΕΦΟΒΩΘΑ ΘΟΨ) and Gemini (ΑΡΙΣΤΑΝΑΒΑ ΖΑΩ) and Virgo (ΕΙΛΕΣΙΛΑΡΜΟΥ ΦΑΙ), with Aquarius maybe having two parts as stated above (MENNYΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ).  The extra long length of the bottom line of the Ksi could be to accommodate the spacing for the two Upsilon letters to its right as well as the Zēta numeral and the character for Scorpio directly above it, since getting all this to fit on one row would be overly cramped at this point.  The angularity of the Ksi here is still a little weird, but then, the author has a tendency to make sharper/more defined the letters at the beginning of words or sentences (basically, capital letters), although it doesn’t seem like any of the names here are capitalized in the same way, and I can’t easily find an example of a Ksi starting a word in the text.  So, for the name of Sagittarius to be a two-parter like Taurus, Gemini, et. al. is plausible, and would also allow us to maintain only a single character for Sagittarius like all the other signs.

To be honest, I’m not comfortable with either choice, that there’s only one barbarous name for Sagittarius and it having several characters, or having two barbarous names, the second of which is pretty unusual for this author, with one character.  However, of the two, the second seems more likely to me, because it fits in better with the pattern set by the other signs in this list with a mystical name that’s either one long part or one long part plus a shorter, three-letter part, and with each sign getting one character.  If I were to bet on one place I’d make a mistake in this analysis, it’d be here, but I’m still comfortable with my choice of analysis, or at least relatively so when compared to the alternative.

The Missing Character for Aries

Though it’s the first sign in the list, I’m saving it for last because this is probably the most perplexing of the issues, even beyond the deal with Sagittarius.  We know that the author of the papyrus tries gives the letter-numeral corresponding to the zodiac sign after the character for the same zodiac sign, either to its right if it can fit on the same line or underneath if there are space issues, with the sole exception of Scorpio with its character due to space constraints.  The line for Aries doesn’t have a noticeable character, but it does end in an Alpha, which Preisendanz/Betz understands to be the numeral, but which Kenyon has as part of the name of the sign.  However, the name here is already pretty long, and is broken down into several units by Preisendanz/Betz.  There’s a crack in the papyrus in the middle of the final…glyphs of this line, between the (possibly) larger than usual Khi and the final Alpha, and Preisendanz and Kenyon are both in agreement that this cracked glyph should be a lowercase Epsilon.  I would claim, then, that either the last one two glyphs before the final Alpha are not part of the name, but rather the character for Aries.  So, we’d end up with the name ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ with both the Khi and the Epsilon as the character, or ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ if the Epsilon itself is the character.

It can probably be established that my earlier theory was wrong, that the long horizontal arrow before the list was the missing character for Aries; it seems to be a sort of fanciful colon or continuation mark of the author rather than a character of a sign (and which is misrepresented in Kenyon, anyhow, as being three reversed “c” glyphs followed by a long horizontal line), especially given that we see similar signs elsewhere in PGM VII.  This leaves us with the question: where does the mystical name for Aries end and the character (or characters) for Aries begin?  There is a space between ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ and the following Khi, but it’s nowhere like the other spaces for the other multipart names where there’s a very wide space, like for Taurus, Gemini, and Virgo.  Moreover, the second part of those names always have three characters, while this one wouldn’t; we couldn’t separate the final Ōmega from ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩ because it’s visibly connected to the preceding Thēta.  I’m also not confident that the Khi here is actually part of a separate word, because there doesn’t seem to be that big of a space between it and the preceding Ōmega; elsewhere in barbarous names and in regular text, the author doesn’t usually join Ōmega to its following letter, so the name here should be at least ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ.

However, the more I look at it, the less I’m sure that the final Alpha here actually marks a numeral rather than a plain letter.  Note the long tail at the end of the Alpha; we see long tails in the text parts of the list of lunar symbols from the Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē text, and elsewhere where the letter can form a tail at all (like a final Sigma or final Epsilon), while the numeral use of Alpha doesn’t use a tail, there or elsewhere in the text.  Between that and how…lax the letter is written, especially with the hypercorrect numeral-letters elsewhere in sign list, it seems like this Alpha should be part of the text and not marking a character, which would make Aries have the name ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ.  If the footnote from Betz is correct here, that ΑΡΜΟΝΘ is a rendition of Har-Montu, then we could explain ΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ as Har-Thōkhea, which…doesn’t seem to match anything I can find.  However, there could be a metathesis of letters going on here; if we switch the Theta and Khi, we would get Har-Khōthea.  It’s a stretch, but this could be a way to write Har-[em]-Akhet, better known as Harmachis, or “Horus in the Horizon”.  Harmachis has appeared before (PGM IV.475—829, “Mithras Liturgy”) under the rendition ΑΡΑΜΑΧΗΣ, but there’s no way to explain the drop of the M sound in the name, so I’m not confident that that’s what this name is really getting at.  There is the possibility that the author simply dropped the sound due to dialect or preference, but that’s a questionable assumption I’m not prepared to make.

Either way, to read this name in any way like this would leave it with no character at all, making Aries the one sign without a character, which seems absurd here!  Even if we were to read this name as something like Harmachis, we wouldn’t be able to explain the final Alpha anyway, so it really should be a numeral, though it’s not entirely clear what the character ought to be.  There is the chance that the text simply never included a character for Aries, and I’m finding it hard to escape that conclusion, reluctant though I am to accept it.  The only other alternative is that some of the letters in this name are the character for the sign; the author, elsewhere in this papyrus, has a habit of using Greek letters as characters, and it’s not always clear how to distinguish them, like in PGM VII.411—416.

In the present text, though, it doesn’t even seem like the letters are spaced or delineated in any way that would suggest that they’re supposed to be used as characters instead of letters.  That said, we do have a Thēta as the character for Cancer, and the long crossbar across it isn’t exactly unusual for the author when writing his Thētas elsewhere.  If we leave the name of Aries here as ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧ, then we have the final ΕΑ to deal with.  If we read the Alpha here as a numeral, ignoring the lack of spacing and how it looks like the middle bar of the Epsilon is conjoined with the Alpha in a way that looks pretty fluid and standard for the author, then we would use the Epsilon as our character.  But…it still doesn’t seem like that’s the case, precisely because of those very aspects of the way this is written.  It seems like ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ or ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕΑ should be the full name of Aries, and even if the final Α seems weirdly written as a numeral, it still seems like it should be one all the same, giving us ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ as the name for Aries.

The only other alternative we have, then, if Aries is to have a character at all, is that weird triple-backwards-C with the horizontal mark from two lines before.  It might be punctuation or “filler” for the rest of this column of text, but it doesn’t really seem like the author uses such filler when ending a column with extra space in the line, nor are these actual letters, and can’t be explained as such.  The fact that it’s not present in the same line as the sign and mystical name for Aries is hard to reconcile, but assuming that the author wrote down a complete set of mystical names and characters for each sign of the Zodiac without any of them missing, then this is the only other thing I can think of that might fill that void.  It being the first character drawn could explain its odd position before the author settled on an actual format when writing them down in an orderly way, but that’s a leap for me to make.  Still, I see no other way to get around this without admitting a missing or forgotten character.

The only argument I have that this set of backwards-C-with-the-line characters are the characters we’re looking for is in that scan from PGM VII.411—416 above; note the backwards-C characters and the horizontal lines, which follow “ος αν βουλε” (“add the usual, as much as you want”) for writing on a scroll.  This could be a kind of ellipsis, but I’m not confident that it is, and again, I’m pretty sure this isn’t line filler because the author doesn’t make a habit of that.  Betz and Preisendanz don’t mention it in their versions of the text, but Kenyon does.  For PGM VII.411—416, this would indicate that you’d write the string of characters first, then your request, then the terminal backwards-C-with-the-line characters.  If these are indeed characters, then it would stand that we see a similar enough set of characters for Aries here, just in a slightly unusual place.  That’s the only thing I can think of for this problem of Aries otherwise being character-less, but it would also make this sign of the Zodiac have a name and character that are disjoint, and there’s also the fact that this set of symbols does appear elsewhere in the text in unrelated parts, so I can’t say that this would be the actual character for Aries.

Of course, there is one other argument which makes so much of the rest of this moot, which makes sense and actually works given the context yet which makes me incredibly frustrated: there is no true distinction between what we’d view as letters versus what we’d view as characters.  The original text here doesn’t use the word χαρακτερ to refer to the things written at all, but rather ζωδιον, which we’d translate as “sign”.  The difference here is nuanced and subtle, but bear in mind that none of these things are part of the spoken ritual, but are all intended to be written down on the leaves of laurel for the ritual.  In other words, all that which is written is part of the zōdia, and is not necessarily meant to be decomposed into a speakable name and a writable character.  In that sense, it’s not that Aries is missing a character, but it simply doesn’t have a non-letter part of its zōdion.  I…I can’t deny that this makes sense, and does make the entire thing simple, but it also has its own weirdness (why doesn’t Aries have a character as part of its zōdion?), and it frustrates me because it would still be great to have something that could be spoken and also could be written.  The intent of the original author may be lost here, but it could be back-hacked to give us what we want, all the same.  While this last argument doesn’t get us anywhere, I wanted to bring it up just in case someone wanted to take this idea further.

Results and Refinements

Based on all the above, here’s what I would end up with as the mystical names for the signs of the Zodiac:

Sign Name
Aries ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ HARMONTHARTHŌKHE
Taurus ΝΕΟΦΟΞΩΘΑ ΘΟΨ NEOPHOKSŌTHA THOPS
Gemini ΑΡΙΣΤΑΝΑΒΑ ΖΑΩ ARISTANABA ZAŌ
Cancer ΠΧΟΡΒΑΖΑΝΑΧΟΥ PKHORBAZANAKHŪ
Leo ΖΑΛΑΜΟΙΡΛΑΛΙΘ ZALAMOIRLALITH
Virgo ΕΙΛΕΣΙΛΑΡΜΟΥ ΦΑΙ EILESILARMŪ PHAI
Libra ΤΑΝΤΙΝΟΥΡΑΧΘ TANTINŪRAKHTH
Scorpio ΧΟΡΧΟΡΝΑΘΙ KHORKHORNATHI
Sagittarius ΦΑΝΘΕΝΦΥΦΛΙΑ ΞΥΥ PHANTHENPHYPHLIA KSUHU
Capricorn ΑΖΑΖΑΕΙΣΘΑΙΛΙΧ AZAZAEISTHAILIKH
Aquarius ΜΕΝΝΥΘΥΘ ΙΑΩ MENNYTHYTH IAŌ
Pisces ΣΕΡΥΧΑΡΡΑΛΜΙΩ SERYKHARRALMIŌ

And, based on my analysis of the the original scans, plus clarifications and guidance from Betz, Preisendanz, and Kenyon, and assuming that the zōdia for the signs of the Zodiac can indeed be broken down into separate spoken parts (names) and written parts (characters), here are my renditions of the characters for each of the signs of the Zodiac, with alternatives where possible:

 

Notes:

  • The character for Gemini is unclear from the original PGM, and all subsequent authors have their own interpretation of how exactly to replicate this glyph.  I’ve given several versions based on Betz, Kenyon, Preisendanz, and the original PGM (from what I can ascertain from it).
  • The character for Libra has two versions: one with the vertical line descending beneath the last chevron, and one where it terminates at the vertex of the last chevron.  Either may be used here.
  • The characters for all the signs of the Zodiac are essentially the same as in the text, with the exception of Aries, which does not appear in the text.  By interpreting the name of Aries ΑΡΜΟΝΘΑΡΘΩΧΕ as a corruption of Har-Montu Hor-em-Akhet or Montu-Harmachis, I decided to take the hieroglyphic spelling of the name and combining/corrupting them into something that resembles a character in its own right.  Totally an invention of my own, I admit, but it seems like a good path to follow, until someone else smarter and wiser than me can resolve the issue of the missing Aries character in this part of the PGM.

And, in case anyone wants them, I’ve also made versions of the line-fill glyph used just before this text and from other parts of PGM VII, both in a shallow-C and deep-C form, in case others want to use them as the character for Aries or for other uses.

And there you have it!  A set, largely intact and preserved from antiquity, of magical names and characters for the signs of the Zodiac based on PGM VII.795—845, with refinements from later transcriptions and critical editions of the original papyrus.  I hope this lengthy analysis, with my own mixed-in conclusions and innovations, can be of some use to those who seek to extend the names and characters from this ritual into other uses.

I would also like to give my deepest thanks to Dr. Kirsten Dzwiza of Universität Heidelberg and her excellent resource Charaktêres.com, an online database and series of publications that detail the location, use, function, and types of characters in the PGM and other texts, inscriptions, stones, and other works from the classical period for her insight and assistance in clarifying some of the sources to be used for this particular post.

Well, now, that was a rather busy month of posts; with this, May comes to a close, the summer season informally begins, and I’ve rounded out this month with 13 posts, not a bad number, and it feels good to get back to the research and to the Work.  That said, I really need to focus more on editing and refining my textbook on geomancy so that it’ll come out at some point during the next eon, so for the foreseeable future (a month or three), the number of posts is going to be scaled back to once a week, except and unless anything important pops up that needs to be known or shared with celerity.  I’m still writing for the blog, of course, I’m just throttling back my output so that there’ll always be something to output.  And yes, I’m still going to be around, so if you need me for anything in the meanwhile, feel free to leave comments on my blog or send me an email.  Thank you, dear reader, for sticking around!

Same Figures, but Different Names and Different Traditions

In addition to the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook that I admin, there are a few other groups out there that focus on geomancy.  I may or may not be a member of them, or I might have been at one point before leaving, but there’s one that I belong to that focuses on the Arabic style of geomancy, Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy).  What the Geomantic Study-Group is for Western geomancy, this group is for Arabic `ilm al-raml (the formal Arabic term for geomancy, literally “the science of the sand”, sometimes abbreviated to raml or ramal), and since I’d love to learn more about that style of geomancy, I decided to join in.  It’s not always easy, since many of the members use Urdu or Arabic as their primary language, but when there are English conversations, I try to follow along best I can.

One of the major issues in learning Arabic `ilm al-raml for an English speaker is, of course, terminology.  It’s only fair and expected that the users of a system built in one language would use that language to discuss it, but it still poses a stumbling block.  After all, geomancy has been practiced continuously in Arabic- and Urdu-speaking countries far longer than it was in Europe, and they’ve kept the system in their own ways.  Once I see what they’re doing and see certain words repeated in certain contexts, I can usually catch on and follow along, but the biggest impediment to discussing geomancy and `iln al-raml is the different names we have for the figures themselves.  It’s difficult for me to talk about the meanings of a given figure and compare it with what it means in `ilm al-raml when neither of us know which figure we’re supposed to be talking about, after all.

So, with that in mind, I decided to produce the following table that lists the names of the sixteen geomantic figures and their names in Western geomancy (in Latin and English, using their most popular form) and in Arabic `ilm al-raml (in Arabic and English, again using their popular form).  This is to help me out to learn the names of the figures better in Arabic contexts, as well as to help the students of `ilm al-raml learn the European names for Western contexts.  For other variants in these and other languages that have historically been used for geomancy, including Hebrew, Greek, Sudanese, and Malagasy, I’d recommend checking out Stephen Skinner’s book on geomancy, Geomancy in Theory and Practice, and his larger book on correspondences, The Complete Magician’s Tables.

Figure Latin Arabic Yoruba
Populus
People
جماعت
Ǧamaʿat
Group
Oyẹku
Via
Way
طريق
Ṭariq
Way
Ogbe
Albus
White
بياض
Bayaḍ
White
Oturupọn
Coniunctio
Conjunction
اجتماع
Iǧtimaʿ
Meeting
Iwori
Puella
Girl
نقى
Naqi
Pure
Otura
Amissio
Loss
قبض الخارج
Qubiḍ al-ḫariǧ
Catching the outside
Ọsẹ
Fortuna Maior
Greater Fortune
نصرهّ الداخل
Nuṣraht al-daḫil
Inside victory
Iwọnrin
Fortuna Minor
Lesser Fortune
نصرهّ الخارج
Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ
Outside victory
Irosun
Puer
Boy
فرح
Farih
Happiness
Irẹtẹ
Rubeus
Red
حمره
Ḥumrah
Red
Ika
Acquisitio
Gain
قبض الداخل
Qubiḍ al-daḫil
Catching the inside
Ofun
Laetitia
Joy
ليحان
Layhan
Bearded
Ọbara
Tristitia
Sorrow
انكيس
Ankis
Ọkanran
Carcer
Prison
عقله
ʿUqlah
Odi
Caput Draconis
Head of the Dragon
عتبة الداخل
ʿAtabaht al-daḫil
Inner threshold
Ọsa
Cauda Draconis
Tail of the Dragon
عتبة الخارج
ʿAtabaht al-ḫariǧ
Outer threshold
Ogunda

Because I like using an Arabic transliteration system that uses diacritics for faithful romanization, it can be a little difficult to read the Arabic names, but the accented letters can be read as follows:

  • q sounds like a “k”, but further back in the throat.
  • ṭ, ṣ, and ḍ all sound like normal but with the back of the tongue further to the back and top of the throat.  However, in Urdu, ṭ and ṣ just sound like “t” and “s”, and ḍ just sounds like “z”.
  • ǧ sounds like a soft “g” or “j” (or like in the word “division”).
  • ḫ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch“.
  • ḥ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch” but a little smoother.
  • ʿ sounds like a very soft, whispered “h” sound, if pronounced at all.

So, “Bayaḍ” can sound like either “bah-yahd'”, or “bayz”, “Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ” will sound like “nus-raht al-khareej”, and so forth.  Note that some of these names are not proper Arabic, and moreover, just like in Western geomancy, there are dozens of names used across the Arabophone sphere.  These are just one set that I’ve found common in geomancy groups online, and are the ones I’m trying to memorize.  Most of the other variants used are just that: variants, which are easy enough to pick up on.

Also, note that I’m using the standard planetary order of the figures in the above chart, which is fairly common for Western geomancers.  While Western geomancy doesn’t really prescribe a particular order as the order of the figures, Arabic geomancy has a set number of particular orders of the figures that are used for various divinatory purposes.  Probably the most common and canonical one is the dairah-e-abdah, which uses a kind of binary ordering, as seen in the following diagram (to be read from right to left):

While it may not seem like it makes much sense for me to make a single blog post doing nothing more than transliterating and translating a single set of Arabic names into English, given my penchant for long-winded exploratory posts, this is still an important first step in increasing Western geomancers’ understanding of Arabic `ilm al-raml as well as Arabic practitioners’ understanding of Western geomancy.  After all, it’s hard to make a journey if the door is still shut, and this helps open the door for both sides.

Now, you’ll notice that I’ve also included a third set of names, which are Yoruba for the figures as used in the sacred divination of Ifá.  I’ve included them for reference (both my own and other scholars of geomancy, especially those with a historical or academic eye), but I want to make something clear that I’ve only mentioned in passing before: Ifá is not geomancy, and geomancy is not Ifá.  Stephen Skinner talks at length about how the art of Ifá came about historically in his geomancy book, but the short of the matter is this: as geomancy traveled along the Arabic trade routes from its (likely) origin in the northern Sahara westward to Morocco and Spain, eastward to Palestine and Greece, and southward through Africa as far as Madagascar, it also traveled to West Africa where it was adopted and adapted by the priests and lorekeepers of the cultures living there.

While geomancy largely retained the same form and (mostly) the same interpretations everywhere else, it underwent dramatic changes and adaptations to the native Yoruba and Fon cultures in what is now Nigeria and Benin to become Ifá.  The form of the figures and several crucial aspects of geomancy were retained, but pretty much the entirety of the art was rebuilt from the ground up and grew apart into its own entirely-unique system.  As a result, although we as geomancers might recognize that Ifá has sixteen figures in the same format we’d consider them to be figures, almost nothing of what we know about geomancy applies to Ifá, and no assumptions should be made regarding any similarities besides the superficial appearance thereof.  To say it another way, if European geomancy and Arabic `ilm al-raml are sisters who grew up in the same house but then left to go their separate ways in neighboring cities, then Ifá is a distant cousin who grew up in an entirely different part of the country with little contact with the rest of the family.

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (aka Santería), which also has roots in Nigeria and matured alongside Ifá in Cuba, Ifá is something I’m constantly surrounded by, especially since I belong to an Ifá-centric house that respects, utilizes, and incorporates Ifá and its priests (the babalawos and oluwos) in our ceremonies and lives.  While I understand the historical origins of Ifá from geomancy, I also have to understand and respect the mythological origins and religious context of its practice as its own thing.  And, like Santería itself, it’s an initiated tradition, and non-initiates are not taught or permitted to learn the secrets of Ifá; for various reasons, I am not and will likely never become an initiate in Ifá.  Unlike many Western systems including geomancy, where formal initiation is not really a Thing outside magical lodges and certain master-student systems, this might be something of a shock to my readers, but as it is, there is only so much of the external parts of Ifá that I can learn, and even less that I’m willing to share to people, even to those in Santería itself.  I caution my readers to avoid getting too studious of Ifá without considering proper initiation and study under a legitimate and respected babalawo.

Likewise, a similar word of warning for those Western geomancers who aspire to study Arabic `ilm al-raml and vice versa.  Unlike geomancy and Ifá, geomancy and `ilm al-raml are much closer in method, meaning, and use, and many things are easily translatable between the two systems.  However, caution should still be taken, because although they’re very close sister traditions where there are more similarities than differences, they are still different traditions where the differences still matter.  It’s much like the difference between Western astrology and Indian jyotiṣa astrology: same origin, same symbols, slightly different techniques of interpretation and shades of meaning of those symbols.  While some things are translatable between geomancy and `ilm al-raml, not everything is, and the two systems should still be respected as two separate systems.  Experience and study of both systems will show the diligent geomancer what can be brought over with no effort, what must be adapted from one system to the other, and what is unique and proper to one system and not the other.  Though they share the same origin and great similarities, enough time, space, and work has passed that have made the two sciences grow apart into their own unique systems.  Respect that, study the differences, and experiment accordingly.

Also, my thanks go out to Masood Ali Thahim, one of the multilingual good guys in the `ilm al-raml group on Facebook, who helped me with the Arabic spelling and transliteration of the names of the figures as used in `ilm al-raml.

Practical Arbatel: Names and Seals of the Olympic Spirits

So now that I’m getting seriously interested in the Arbatel, I suppose it’s time to start reviewing what I know and what, exactly, it is that I’ll be doing and conjuring.  Most of the Arbatel is focused on being, basically, a good magician, which for all intents and purposes is to be a good Christian.  The basic virtues of piety, faith, love and honor of God, helping out your fellow man, and the like are what’s really expounded in the text, with most of the aphorisms of the Arbatel written on these subjects and how to effect them in one’s life.  That said, the Arbatel contains an introduction on the conjuration of seven Olympic Spirits, each associated with one of the seven planets and each possessing a certain number of spiritual legions of their own, as well as particular secrets that they can reveal to a magician who lives properly and is worthy of those secrets.  So, yes, there will be conjuration involved in this project (yay!), but it’ll be of a different kind than I’m used to (ooh!).

As the text reads in the Third Septenary (III.16), the names of the seven Olympic Spirits are given in the Latin alphabet as Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg, Och, Hagith, and Phul.  While I’d normally be okay with using these names as they are, my penchant for using literally anything other than the Latin alphabet whenever possible has led me to attempt a Greek transliteration of these names.  After all, when using Greek, I can tweak my spelling of things and get a better understanding of the isopsephy and stoicheia behind the names, perhaps leading to something a little more appropriate than what might be naïvely spelled.  Add to it, by beginning to incorporate more Greek into my conjuration work, I can perhaps make inroads into developing a system of mathetic conjuration that would augment and build up the rest of mathesis.  Besides, with these Olympic Spirits being Olympic and with many references to the text suggesting a pseudo-Greek origin to the system, it might befit us to use Greek anyway instead of Roman or Hebrew.

Happily, such a Greek transliteration of the Arbatel names is already given by Stephen Skinner in his Complete Magician’s Tables (M.42 through M.50, particularly M.43).  There, he gives the names of the seven Olympic Spirits, as well as their isopsephic values, as Αραιθρον (341 = 11 × 31), Βεθορ (186 = 6 × 31), Φαλεκγ (558 = 18 × 31), Ευχ (465 = 15 × 31), Ηαγιθ (31 = 1 × 31), Οφιιλ (620 = 20 × 31), and Φυλ (930 = 30 × 31).  These spellings are a little odd for me, however, as is the isopsephy involved.  For this, Skinner explains:

Immediately a pattern becomes obvious, confirming the accuracy of the orthography.  All the names are based on 31 or αλ ‘AL’ in Greek, and are therefore a carefully constructed formula, not just random mediaeval names, as most people previously assumed.  Even the grand total of all the values comes to 3131.  The Greek names of the Olympic Spirits also form a key to Crowley’s Liber AL vel Legis, although one of which Crowley was perhaps not aware, a key that I do not believe has been published by anyone else to date.  I intend to postpone the explanation of that material to a later time.  Suffice it to say that they are a significant key to Liber AL vel Legis.

Furthermore, the multiples of 31 are in themselves significant.  Apart from the factors 15, 20, and 30, the remaining factors form a significant Middle Pillar formula:

1 + 6 + 11 = 18, can be interpreted as Kether + Tiphareth + Daath = ih (10 + 8) or Arrow (in Greek).  The path so traced out is indeed the Path of the Arrow.  The key numbers for these spirits are therefore:

  • Hagith = 1
  • Bethor = 6
  • Araithron = 11
  • Phaleg = 18
  • Och = 15
  • Ophiel = 20
  • Phul = 30

In all honesty, mixing Golden Dawn and Thelemic works into a text 300 years their senior is a dicey proposition, and I don’t think that there’s much to link the two, even if it had been in the Golden Dawn’s scope to do so.  Add to it, I haven’t seen these spellings or this reasoning anywhere else, and the spelling and pronunciation in Latin or in German (since we can claim that the Arbatel is definitely a German work of occult literature) are quite different from the pronunciation given in Skinner’s transliterated Greek, and his use of “Araithron” instead of “Aratron” is unusual, since the Arbatel clearly only gives Aratron.  Add to it, Skinner’s claim about the sum of 1 + 6 + 11 = 18 associated with arrows makes no sense to me; “arrow” in Greek is τοξευμα (common antique word), οιστος, βελος (preferred modern word), ιος, ατρακτος, πτερον, or γλθφιδες, the isopsephy of any which is anything but 18.  Likewise, the Hebrew word for “arrow” is חץ, which still doesn’t add up to 18.

Given that Skinner’s transliterations weird me out and that his reasoning is sketchy, even though they do have that oddly nice consistency with the number 31, I think it might be better to take another look and develop a new set of Greek names for the Olympic Spirits.  Of course, transliterating what are essentially barbarous names between Greek and Roman isn’t always easy, so we often have multiple alternatives available to us.  For transliteration, I’ll only use the names given in the Arbatel itself; other books, such as the Secret Grimoire of Turiel and the Complete Book of Magic Science seem to be much later inventions, and the Arbatel would appear to be the first published text with the names and seals of the Olympic Spirits.

  • Aratron: The “-on” ending here strikes me as being omicron-nu, since most second declension neuter nouns in Greek have this same ending.  Thus, a straightforward transliteration would be Αρατρον (622).  If we were to use a theta instead of tau in the name to get Arathron, courtesy of Skinner’s suggestion, we’d have Αραθρον (331), but this seems to be a stretch, since I find no reason why we should use a theta if it wasn’t indicated in the source text, although it is likely as a more German pronunciation of the name (a slightly harder “t” than tau in German would provide).  Thus, we’ll use Αρατρον.
  • Bethor: The “-or” ending in this name strikes me as being omega-rho, since only a very few words in Greek end in omicron-rho.  The real question then becomes whether we use epsilon or eta, giving us either Βεθωρ (916) or Βηθωρ (919).  For me, Βεθωρ seems more likely; 9 + 1 + 6 = 16, and 1 + 6 = 7.
  • Phaleg: The ending here should be a simple gamma, not kappa-gamma as Skinner suggests, since that was a comparatively modern innovation to represent a hard “g” sound.  Thus, we’d end up with either Φαλεγ (539) or Φαληγ (542), based on whether we use epsilon or eta, and of these, Φαλεγ seems the more likely spelling.
  • Och: Depending on how we transliterate “o” as either omicron or omega, we could get Οχ (670) or Ωχ (1400), or even Ωοχ (1470) as Skinner proposes as an alternative to his Ευχ (465), although Skinner mistakenly gives the isopsephy of Ωοχ as 930 and not 1470.  Of these four names, Ωχ appears to be the cleanest and most likely.
  • Hagith: Greek doesn’t represent aspiration, so we really should be transliterating “Agith”.  This is fairly straightforward to transliterate, Αγιθ (23), with no other options available to us unless we really change things up, like replacing iota with eta for Αγηθ (21).  Thus, Αγιθ it is.
  • Ophiel: This is the most Judeo-Christian “angelic” appearing of the names, and Judeo-Christian angelic and otherwise theophoric names ending in “-el” in Roman are typically written as “-ηλ” in Greek.  However, the initial “o” could be either omicron or omega, giving us either Οφιηλ (618) or Ωφιηλ (1348).  Alternatively, if we use epsilon instead of eta, we could get Οφιελ (615) or Ωφιελ (1345).  Of these, I find Οφιηλ to be the most likely; .
  • Phul: There are only two options here, depending on what kind of “u” we want, either the French “u” represented only by upsilon, or the long “u” represented by omicron-upsilon, giving us either Φυλ (930) or Φουλ (1000).  However, Φυλ appears to be the more straightforward and reasonable of these.

Thus, for our Greek names, we’ll use Αρατρον (622), Βεθωρ (916), Φαλεγ (539), Ωχ (1400), Αγιθ (23), Οφιηλ (618), and Φυλ (930).  Altogether, the sum of the names isopsephy yields 5048.  While these names don’t have the consistency of a repeated number as Skinner’s names do, I also find these far more likely spellings to use of the Olympic Spirits.

Now that we have our names settled, it remains to figure out the seals, and happily, there’s pretty much nothing to figure out.  The seals given in the Arbatel are clear and consistent, and there are excellent modern renditions given by Asterion on his art blog.  I plan on using his seals, which are essentially the same as those given in the grimoire itself, but a little more squared up and cleaned up.  Normally, in conjurations, I make a Trithemian-style lamen bearing the seal of the spirit in a central hexagram with six pentagrams around it, the name of the spirit around that, and thirteen names of God around that.  However, I didn’t want to use the Trithemian design for these conjurations, since I wouldn’t be using the Trithemian ritual and also because the lamen format is fairly overkill for the Arbatel-type of conjuration, which is essentially minimalistic.  I took into account other lamens that other magicians have made for the Arbatel, such as Fr. Acher’s lamens for his Arbatel operations, but decided against anything too fancy.  Instead of using a psalm, series of names of God, or parts of the prayer from the Arbatel, I decided upon the Greek phrase:

Την ημερα και την ωρα του XΧΧ καλω σε ω Δαιμων Ολυμπικε !
In the day and in the hour of XXX I call upon you, o Olympic Spirit!

Thus, if I were to call upon Aratron, I’d use Κρονου, “of Kronos (Saturn)” in the XXX spot; if Bethor, Διος; if Phaleg, Αρεως; and so forth.  Alternatively, I prefer to use the planetary titan names that I’ve mentioned before when first pondering a Greek kabbalah, so instead of Κρονου I’d use Φαινω, “of Phainon”, etc.  A note on this, however: the planet Venus was considered to be two stars, Eosphoros (Dawn-bringer, Venus when it rises before the Sun in the Morning) and Hesperos (Evening Star, Venus when it sets after the Sun in the evening); either of these names could be used, when the proper phase of Venus applies, or you could use the general name Phosphoros (Light-bringer, a general name of Venus).

And, yes, as someone pointed out on Facebook, the use of the word “δαιμων” may raise some eyebrows here.  The text itself, which is a German work originally written in Latin in the 1500s, used the Latin word “pneumatica” to refer to the spirits, and doesn’t use the word “daemon”.  However, lest people think I’m confusing the Olympic Spirits with the types of spirits found in the Lemegeton Goetia, the word δαιμων refers to any natural power, force, fate, or entity, not unlike what’s connoted by θεος.  It was only with the development of Christianity that the word δαιμων began to pick up distinctly negative connotations, leading to our modern word “demon”.  The Renaissance use of the word πνευμα plus the connotations of the Christian Πνευμα το Αγιον, then, picked up what δαιμων left behind, going from a meaning of breath-like life energy to a force of nature as a discrete nonphysical entity.  Now, when I developed this phrase, I found the word δαιμων to be a perfectly acceptable word to use here, especially considering what the Olympic Spirits are proposed to be, but if they themselves wish to use the word πνευμα, I have nothing against changing the phrasing here.

With all that in mind, I made the following set of lamens for my use in my upcoming Arbatel work.  Assuming the Olympic Spirits themselves don’t mind them, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use them, though it’s unclear how best I could use them, either as something to wear as I would in other rituals, or as something to place the scrying medium above, but that’s for another post.

Greek Onomancy: The Sphere of Democritus and the Circle of Petosiris

I don’t consider all systems of divination to be equal.  More specifically, I don’t consider all that is considered to be divination to be actual divination.  Geomancy, Tarot, augury, extispicy, horary astrology, and the like are divination systems to me: the interpretation of omens from physically random, spiritually determined sources by means of inspiration and technique.  This is distinguished from prophecy or clairvoyance, which is sheer revelation of messages or sights from the gods, and it’s likewise distinguished from purely mechanical methods of prediction, such as economic and weather forecasts derived from mathematical formulae alone.  All these things, however, share something in common: revelations about the future.  As a diviner, I find this an extraordinarily useful field of magic and occultism, and one of the things I insist those who are interested in magical practices to investigate first.

However, I don’t rank numerology among useful methods of divination or prediction.  I never have, and I doubt I’ll ever ascribe it the same level of predictive power or flexibility as, say, geomancy, and I put numerological methods of divination in the same category as phrenology, palm reading, and other forms of physiognomy.  Something about the use of fixed factors in divination irks me, especially when it comes to matters of names, number, and the body.  Then again, I consider my natal horoscope in astrology to provide useful information, and I do consider haruspicy to be worthwhile; I suppose some fixed factors can be used in divination, if applied judiciously enough.  Moreover, even if I don’t consider such methods to be the most reliable or trustworthy, I’d appear to be in the minority with that view, considering how much of the old literature dating back to Hellenistic times is devoted to these topics.

One of the most well-known and well-used forms of numerological divination involved the isopsephia, or Greek gematria, of a person’s name in determining their health or lack thereof.  Divination was heavily used as a prognostic tool in medicine up even through the Renaissance and early modern times, sometimes through pre-modern medical means like uromancy, sometimes through astrology, and sometimes through numerology.  One such method of numerological divination using names, sometimes called “onomancy”, involves determining whether a patient will live or die from their illness based on their name and the date on which they fell ill.  Although my resources are scant, mostly coming from some Gutenberg texts and the PGM, let me describe two (or three) ways Greek name divination was used with isopsephy to determine how a given matter would turn out.

A few notes first:

  • When we say “the day on which the person fell ill”, we mean the lunar date starting with the Noumenia.  Thus, if someone fell ill three days after the Noumenia, then the day number of the lunar month would be 4.  If someone fell ill on the last day of the month, i.e. the New Moon, then you’d need to check whether that month had 29 or 30 days.  We note the day that someone fell ill based on when they took to rest; for us modern people, that might be the first morning we just couldn’t get out of bed to go to work or class if we were feeling okay the night before, or the very day we suddenly fell nauseated and went home to rest from the office or school.
  • Obviously, given the advance of modern medicine, people don’t tend to get sick as severely or as fatally as they used to (but who knows, that’ll probably change given the end of useful antibiotics and the rise of superbacteria looming over us).  While it’s possible someone could always die from an illness (gotta love human mortality!), consider the more dire warnings given by these divination methods to be something indicating a chronic, debilitating, or acute disease, while the more mild warnings something comparably mild to endure.
  • In mathematical notation, the percent sign (%) used as an operator indicates the “modulo” operation.  While the division mark (÷) indicates division, the modulo mark indicates the remainder.  So, 28 ÷ 9 = 3.333… or 3 with 1 as a remainder, while 28 % 9 = 1.

The first is the Sphere of Democritus, a prognostic technique from PGM XII.351.  This technique determines whether a sick person will live or die based on their name and the calendar date that they fell sick.  First, calculate the isopsephic value of the person’s name and add to it the day of the lunar month on which they fell sick, took to bed, or called out of work.  Once this sum has been found, divide this sum by 30 and take the remainder.  The text gives a rectangular chart divided into two parts; if the remainder is in the upper part, the person will live, but if in the lower part, the person will die.

fig3-hi

  • They will live if the remainder is 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, or 27.
  • They will die if the remainder is 5, 6, 8, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 22, 28, 29, or 30.

So, let’s say it’s 200 AD, and my name is actually polyphanes (Πολυφανης), and it’s a few days before the full moon, say the 12th of the lunar month.  I suddenly get a fever and I decide to go to bed, and a healer-magician comes by and runs some tests.  The isopsephy of my name is 1339, and added to the day number 12, this yields 1351.  1351 % 30 = 1, and we find 1 in the upper portion of the Sphere.  Good news!  I’ll be fine.

The next method is the Circle of Petosiris, which was popular enough back in the day to take several forms.  I found two such methods which are essentially the same to each other and to the Sphere of Democritus, but the level of detail is different.  The idea, however, is the same, at least for the first Circle of Petosiris: take the isopsephic value of the person’s name and add it to the day number of the lunar month on which they fell ill.  However, instead of taking the sum and dividing by 30, here we divide by 29 and find the remainder.  Instead of just determining whether someone will live or die, we get more detail:

fig1-hi

 

  • Great life: 2, 3, 7, 9, 11,
  • Average life: 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20
  • Short life: 22, 23, 26, 28,
  • Short death: 1, 25, 27, 29
  • Average death: 4, 10, 15, 18, 21, 24
  • Great death: 5, 6, 8, 12

Let’s say that, once more, I’m sick and instead of calling over the healer-magician from before, I call over a different magician who uses the Circle of Petosiris instead of the Sphere of Democritus. Again, the isopsephy of my name is 1339, and added to the day number 12, this yields 1351.  1351 % 29 = 17, and we find 17 in the “average life” section of the Circle.  Good news!  I’ll live reasonably well once I recover without too much a threat of relapse.

The second Circle of Petosiris is more complicated, however, and involves a slightly different method than the first Circle of Petosiris and the Sphere of Democritus.  Generally speaking, however, the technique used for the first Circle can also be used for the Second, dividing by 30 instead of 29, but with a slightly different arrangement of numbers:

fig2-hi

 

  • Great life (speedy recovery): 11, 10, 9, 7, 3, 2
  • Small life (recovery within seven days): 22, 23, 26, 28
  • Small death (destroyed within seven days): 27, 25, 30, 1
  • Great death (speedy death): 12, 8, 5, 6
  • Brightness (vertical line above horizon): 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20
  • Darkness (vertical line below horizon): 4, 15, 18, 21, 24, 29

Another method can be used in this Circle such that one takes the isopsephic remainder of the person’s name divided by 30 and compared against the day number of the lunar month on which they fell ill.  These are then both compared against each other.  If both numbers are in Brightness, the combination promises a good figure; if both in Darkness, an unfortunate one.  If the day number of the lunar month is Bright and the number of the person Dark, then misfortune will occur under the pretense of fortune; if the number of the person is Bright and the day number of the month is Dark, the person will do well eventually though they’ll be in danger.  This method is extended more generally such that if one number or the other or both are above the horizon or below, we can get similar answers, though the Bright and Dark numbers themselves appear to be middling between “great life/death” and “small life/death”.

Once more, I’m sick and instead of calling over the healer-magician from before, I call over a different healer who’s much fancier in his techniques and who uses the this second Circle of Petosiris instead of the other methods. Again, the isopsephy of my name is 1339, and added to the day number 12, this yields 1351.  1351 % 30 = 1, and we find 1 in the “small death” section, where I might die within seven days due to the illness.  However, if we compare the numbers of my name and the number of the lunar date, then we compare 1339 % 30 = 19 against 12; 19 is Bright (above the horizon) and 12 is Dark (below the horizon).  All told, this will be reasonably chancey for me, but I should be able to live and get through this with enough help, though I’ll be in danger of dying all the same.

The “lobes” around the edge of the Circle are, starting at the 9 o’ clock position and going clockwise, indicate both the course of the Sun around the Earth in a single day as well as the four elements:

  1. Midnight (Arctic stars over the earth)
  2. Fire
  3. Sunrise (Rising above the earth)
  4. Air
  5. Noon (Midday over the earth)
  6. Water
  7. Sunset (Setting under the earth)
  8. Earth

The octants on the inner circle say much the same thing, though these are really quadrants, since each pair of octants has the same text.  Much as with the outer lobes, these use astronomical phenomena to describe times of day, though some of them don’t make sense (the Arctic stars only ever stay in the north).  Starting at the upper left quadrant and going clockwise:

  1. Nighttime (Arctic stars over the northern earth)
  2. Daytime (Midday over the northern earth)
  3. Nighttime (Midday under the southern earth)
  4. Daytime (Arctic stars under the southern earth)