A PGM-Based Jewish Hermetic Prayer of the Patriarchs

It’s fascinating to see what you can find when you dig through your old notes and drafts.  Interesting insights that slipped your mind, funny stories you’d want to tell again, and wonderful accomplishments that remind you of better times and better techniques than what you may have slipped into using.  But, perhaps most fun to find?  Unfinished drafts and projects that you couldn’t finish for one reason or another at the time, but have since come into the right knowledge and tools to do just that.  This post is one such example of that happening, and I’m glad to finally share it with you, dear reader, after so long.

As many of my readers know, the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is such a wonderful collection of texts that have, somehow, miraculously survived to our care in the modern day.  It’s on the same level as the Nag Hammadi Scriptures or the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which focuses instead on the so-called “practical Hermetica”, the spells, rituals, ingredients, and ritual processes of theurgy and thaumaturgy as used by actual living mages and priests from roughly 100 CE to 500 CE, largely residing in that philosophical-academic-spiritual orgiastic environment of Alexandria, Thebes, and other parts of Hellenic Egypt.  It’s important to remember, though, that the PGM isn’t just a single “grimoire”, but rather a collection of smaller grimoires, notes, tablets, and other texts from a variety of magicians that happened to be clustered together under a single volume.  There’s quite a lot of variation in there, and if different entries seem counterintuitive or contradictory to each other, that’s because they are.  It’s not proper to treat the PGM as “a single text”, but rather a collection of numerous texts that happened to be collected over the centuries and only recently compiled into a single volume (specifically, the Betz version of the PGM, though Preisendanz’s texts, volumes one and two, is still considered the earlier and other major version).

Although many of the fun rituals that are more commonly known come from the earlier PGM entries, such as the Headless Rite from PGM V or the Heptagram Rite from PGM XIII, the Betz version of the PGM has over 130 sets of PGM texts, including a number of Demotic ones, too.  Not all of them are well-preserved, and some are incredibly fragmented with extensive lacunae, but there are still plenty of gems in some of the lesser-known texts.  One such text is PGM XXIIb.1—26, headlined as the Prayer of Jacob.  The term used for “prayer” in the headline, προσευχή, can also be used to refer to a temple or sanctuary, especially of the Jews, so perhaps a better headline for this might be, if we can be granted a bit of translator’s license here, the “Holiness of Jacob”.  Given its structure and its placement, the attribution is (as it almost always is) spurious, but the fact remains that it’s primarily a Jewish, or at least heavily Judaically-inspired, prayer with some Gnostic elements as well as some elements of Merkabah and Heikhalot literature or proto-literature.

In any case, it’s mostly complete, but isn’t wholly so due to the large number of lacunae.  Most of the lacunae appear in the strings of barbarous words, though when looking at the actual text, the size and location of these lacunae become clearer, offering hints of what may have gone into them.  After all, the whole section is only 26 lines of text long, and the rest of the PGM is replete with invocations, strings of godnames, and a variety of other clues that can help fill in some of the lacunae in the text.  One of my earlier projects from a number of years ago (2013, according to the original draft post) was going to attempt a reconstruction and repair on this entry, but I didn’t really know where to go or how to attempt it, and so I just left it to get buried in the drafts folder.  But now that I’m a little older and a little more comfortable with this project, I want to try tackling it again.

To start with, this is what the original entry looks like in Betz:

O Father of the Patriarchs, Father of the All, Father of the [cosmic] power,
[Creator of all], … , creator of the angels and archangels, creator of the [saving] names!

I invoke you, Father of all powers, Father of the entire [cosmos] and of all creation inhabited and uninhabited, to whom the [cherubim] are subjected [who] favored Abraham by [giving the] kingdom [to him] … hear me, O God of the powers, o [God] of angels [and] archangels, [King]…

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ … ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ ΑΧΑΒΟΛ … Ο … ΥΡΑΜ ΤΟΥ … ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ … Θ … ΡΑ … ΧΑΧ ΜΑΡΙΡΟΚ … ΥΡΑΜ … ΙΘΘ ΣΕΣΟΙΚ, he who sits upon [holy] Mount Sinai;
… Ι … ΒΟ … ΑΘΕΜ … , he who sits upon the sea;
… ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ … ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … , he who sits upon the serpentine gods;
The [god who sits upon the] Sun, ΙΑΩ, he who sits [upon] … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ!
He [who sits] upon the … ;
[He who sits upon] the … ΜΑ … ΣΙ, ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΛΗΛ … Μ!
… ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι … resting place of the cherubim
to the ages of ages, God ΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ [ΣΑΒΑΩΘ] ΑΔΩΝΑΙ star … and ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ the Lord of the All.

I call upon you who give power [over] the Abyss [to those] above, to those below, and to those under the earth; hear the one who has [this] prayer, O Lord God of the Hebrews, ΕΠΑΓΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, of whom is [the] eternal power, ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel and from those who have been favored by you, O god of gods, you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ … Ι … Χ, O god of gods, amen, amen!

You who produce the snow, who presides over the stars,  who live beyond the ages, who constantly traverse the cosmos, and who cause the fixed and movable stars to pursue all things by your creative activity, fill me with wisdom.  Strengthen me, Master!  Fill my heart with good, Master, as a terrestrial angel, as one who has become immortal, as one who has received this gift from you, amen, amen!

This entry, further, is ended with a single direction: recite it seven times facing north and east.  I interpret this as meaning northeast, which would have been the direction of Jerusalem (or other places in Israel) from most places in Egypt, but there are other rituals in the PGM and other texts of that time like the Sepher haRazim that discuss how to conjure or pray to the powers of the Sun towards the East in the daytime or towards the North at nighttime, so it could be a synthesis of that, too.  I lean towards the Jerusalem theory, personally.

For reference, here’s the original Greek transcription as given in Preisendanz, taking his corrections and emendations as a given and putting the barbarous words and godnames, or the letters that are presumed to be parts of such, in capital letters:

Προσευχὴ Ἰακώβ.

Πάτερ πατριὰρχῶν, πατὴρ ὅλων, πατὴρ δυνάμεων τοῦ κόσμου, κτίστα παντὸς …
κτίστα τῶν ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, ὁ κτίστης ὀνομάτων σωτηρικῶν
καλῶ σε, πατέρα τῶν ὅλων δυνάμεων, πατέρα τοῦ ἄπαντος κόσμου και τῆς
ὅλης γενέσεως καὶ οἰκοθμένης καὶ ἀοικήτου, ᾡ ὑπεσταλμένοι οἱ χερουβίν, ὅς
ἐχαρίσατο Ἀβραὰμ ἐν τῷ δοῦναι τὴν βασιλείαν αὐρῷ
ἐπακοθσόν μοι, ὁ θεὸς τῶν δυνὰμεων, ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀρχαγγέλων, βασιλεύς …
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰεροῦ Σιναΐου Ι … ΒΟ ΑΘΕΜ
ὀ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης … ΕΑ … ΒΛ … Δ … Κ … Ε … ΘΗΣ
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ … ό καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῶν δρακοντείων θεῶν, ὀ θεὸς καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ
Ἡλίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ … ΤΑ … Ω … Ι … Χ, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ … θε …
… ΜΑ … ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ … Μ … τὸν κοιτῶνα χερουβὶν … ΧΙΡΕ … ΟΖ … Ι …
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰῶνων θεὸς ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΘΙΑΩΘ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, ἀστραπηφόρε
καὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ ΑΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ … ΑΩΘ, ὁ κύριος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐπὶ χάσματος δὸντα
δύναμιν τοῖς ἄνω καὶ τοῖς κάτω καὶ τοῖς ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς. Ἐπὰκοθσον τῷ ἔχοντι τὴν
εὐχήν, ὁ κύριος θεὸς τῶν Ἑβραίνων, ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ, οὗ ἡ ἀέναος δύναμισ, ΕΛΩΗΛ
ΣΟΥΗΛ. Διόρθωσον τὸν ἔχοντα τὴν εὐχὴν ἐξ τοῦ γένους Ἰσραὴλ καὶ τῶν
χαριζομένων ὑπό σοθ, θεὲ θεῶν, ὁ ἔχων τὸ κρυπτὸν ὄνομα ΣΑΒΑΩΘ
… Ι … Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς
ἀπλανεῖς καί πλανωμένους ἀστέρας διώκειν τὰ πάντα τῇ σῇ δημι-
-οθργίᾳ. Πλήρωσόν με σοφίας, δυνάμωσόν με, δέσποτα, μέστωσόν μου,
τὴν καρδίαν ἀγαθῶν, δέσποτα, ὡς ἄγγελον ἐπίγειον, ὡς ἀθάνατον
γενὰμενον, ὡς τὸ δῶρον τὸ ἀπὸ σοῦ δεξάμενον, ἀμήν, ἀμήν.

Λέγε ἐπτάκις πρὸς ἄπρκτον καὶ ἀπηλιὼτην τὴν προσευχήν τοῦ Ἰακώβ.

Happily, at least this part of PGM XXIIb (P. 13895 in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin) has been digitized, but between the lacunae and the faintness of the ink in places, it’s still awfully hard to read, even if we can get a sense for how long some of the barbarous words should be.

We can kind of get a notion for how many letters are missing from the lacunae, based on the width of the letters generally in this otherwise cleanly-written papyrus, as well as some of the other notable gaps, but it also makes it clear how much of Preisendanz guessed at some of the barbarous words, too.  Incorporating Preisendanz’ bracket and blank notations and comparing with the above, we get something like this for the parts that really catch our interest for the lacunae, where the underscores indicate the relative amount of letters that are missing which may or may not be barbarous words:

ΛΕΛΕΑΧ____ΑΡΩΑΧ ΤΟΥ__ΑΧΑΒΟΛ [Ω]_______[ΥΡΑ]Μ ΤΟΥ___ΒΟΑΧ ΚΑ__________
Θ__ΡΑ_______ΧΑΧ.  ΜΑΡΙΟ[Κ]____ΥΡΑΜ_________ΙΘ Θ_______ΣΕΣΟΙΚ________
ὀ κ[α]θ[ήμενος] ἐπὶ ὄρους ἰ[εροῦ Σ]ιναΐου_________Ι_ΒΟ______ΑΘΕΜ__________
[ὀ] καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς θα[λάσσ]ης _ΕΑ___ΒΛ______Δ_Κ________Ε_ΘΗΣ_________
ΠΑΡΑΧΘΗ_ ό καθήμενο[ς ἐπὶ] τῶν δ[ρα]κοντ[είων] θεῶν, ὀ [θεὸς καθήμε]ν[ο]ς [ἐπὶ τοῦ]
[Ἡ]λίου ΙΑΩ, ὁ καθήμε[νος ἐπὶ]_____ΤΑ_Ω_Ι___Χ, ὁ [καθήμ]εν[ος ἐπὶ τοῦ]__θε____
__ΜΑ__ΣΙ ΑΒΡΙΗΛ ΛΟΥΗΛ_____Μ__[τ]ὸν [κ]οιτῶνα χε[ρο]υ[β]ὶν____ΧΙΡΕ___ΟΖ_______Ι _

[κ]αὶ ΒΡΙΛΕΩΝΑΙ [Α]ΔΟΝΑΙ ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ, ὁ κ[ύρ]ιος των ὅλων. Ἐπικαλουμαί σε, ἐ[πὶ χ]άσ[μα]τος δὸντα

_Ι_Χ. Θεὸς θεῶν, ἀμήν, ἀμήν, ὁ χιόνα γεννῶν, ἐπὶ ἀστέρων ὑπὲρ αἰώνων καὶ ἀεὶ διοδεύων καὶ ποιῶν τοὺς

My original goal, a few years ago, was to try to see what barbarous words would fill in these gaps through a combination of comparative analysis between this and other PGM entries, as well as through straight-up divination and trancework. But I realized, after looking at these lacunae, that it’s not possible to figure out what might just be a barbarous word and what actually might be legitimate Greek, and Lord knows my Greek is awful at best.  Some of the natural impulses I have, like replacing ΧΑ___ΑΩΘ with ΧΑΧΒΑΡΑΩΘ by adding in a few letters (in bold) to make it sound fairly appropriate based on what we see elsewhere in the PGM, make sense, but then there are others that just wouldn’t go along with that, or where there’s just not enough available to sensibly reconstruct, especially when we don’t know whether, for instance, ΚΑ__________ (in the first line) is a barbarous word (it probably is!) or one of the almost 5000 Greek words (according to Perseus-Tufts) that start with kappa-alpha.  My original approach just wasn’t going to work in any way I was going to be comfortable with or competent at, which is why I put this project off for so long.

Skip ahead a few years.  This prayer caught my attention again, so I decided to do some actual research in academic literature about it to see what might turn up.  As it turns out, there’s a bit of commentary here and there about this particular entry of the PGM, and of them, that in Pieter W. van der Horst and Judith H. Newman’s Early Jewish Prayers in Greek is an excellent one, especially about the purpose of this prayer:

“As one who has become immortal”: Goodenough assumed that the reciter of the prayer becomes angelic and immortal as a result of  saying the prayer: “Through knowing it and using it, the devotee has become an angel upon earth, an immortal, and has received the final ‘gift,’ which would seem to be the supreme mystical gift, participation in divinity.” Goodenough’s phrase “participation in divinity” begs the question of what that experience would mean exactly in the context of this prayer and cannot be answered on the basis of this prayer alone but rather within the context of angelic transformation within the Jewish and Graeco-Roman traditions. …

The final line of the prayer contains instructions to recite the prayer seven times. The number seven was of course of symbolic importance. The final line is governed by aorist middle participles which agree with the aorist imperatives. This would indicate that at the moment God fills the petitioner with wisdom, empowerment, and good, he or she becomes an angel and receives these as God’s gift. Some ambiguity remains as to when the transformation was thought to occur, whether it is during the process of repetition that the reciter is transformed into an immortal angel or if the one offering the prayer must wait until the seventh round of repetition and thus the ritual is entirely complete. The directions of north and east suggested by the rubric are understood by Reimund Leicht to be a “clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios-Yao-Yaoil at night,” but this is a problematic claim because our prayer is addressed not to Helios-Yao, but to the God of Israel who is enthroned above Helios-Yao.

There’s also a wonderful paper by Reimund Leicht on the entry, too: Qedushah and Prayer to Helios: A New Hebrew Version of an Apocryphal Prayer of Jacob.  Although Leicht is concerned with a different “Prayer of Jacob”, he touches on this one from the PGM, too, and compares it to other entries in the PGM as well as to other prayers from the Jewish and Christian traditions much later:

In this point, our Prayer of Jacob is very similar to the PGM Prayer of Jacob (PGM XIIb). Although both texts largely differ, they have crucial elements in common: Both are prayers directed to Yaô, the creator of the world, and both adapt motifs of the celestial throne with the cherubim (PGM XXIIb 8). The two sentences “(You who) give power ov[er (the) cha]sm (to those) above and those below and those under the earth” and “[He] who is upon (the) stars abo[v]e (the) ages” remind us of the adaptation of Is 6:3 in 2:20 (fol. 2a/13 f.). Finally, the request for “wisdom” (XXIIb 17) is not very far removed from our Prayer of Jacob. The instruction to “say the prayer of Jacob seven times to (the) North and East” (PGM XIIb 20) is a clear hint that it was conceived of as an invocation of Helios- Yao-Yaôil at night.*  These similarities are certainly not sufficient proof of a direct dependency, but they can be taken as hints that the two prayers may be rather remote relatives.

* The North is the place where the sun is at night and in the East it rises.  For an invocation of Helios at night from the North cf. Sefer ha-Razim IV/43; for an invocation of the sun from the East cf. PGM XIII 254.

So, we have this wonderful little prayer that, although the majority of it is there, there are some gaps that make it just barely unfit for use.  That’s where looking at other entries from the PGM comes in.  Although the Prayer of Jacob might be unique in the PGM, some of its phrasing, barbarous words, invocations, and supplications are not, and we can find some strikingly similar examples in other parts of the PGM and other texts:

  • PGM XXXV.1—42: another Judiacally-inspired prayer, addressed to God or an agent/angel of God for power and favor, notable for its similar list of “who sit over…” attributions
  • PGM V.459—489: “Another way” to “loosen shackles, makes invisible, sends dreams, [and is] a spell for gaining favor”.  Again, with heavy Jewish influences, including the barbarous words ΒΑΡΟΥΧ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΕΛΩΑΙ ΑΒΡΑΑΜ, which can be easily read as Hebrew for “Blessed be my Lord, the God of Abraham” (“barukh ‘Adonai, ‘Eloah ‘Abraham”).
  • PGM IV.1227—1264: “Excellent rite for driving out daimons”, another Judaically-influenced but also Christianically-influenced prayer of exorcism, with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, along with the Christian Trinity.
  • PGM XII.270—350: “A Ring, a little ring for success and favor and victory”.  A ring consecration ritual with a lengthy prayer including a long string of barbarous words with references to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though this shows far more Egyptian influence than anything else.
  • PGM III.1—164: “The ritual of the cat”, a lengthy and highly syncretic quasi-grimoire with some Jewish and Abrahamic elements.

Based on these texts, what I did was basically synthesize parts of them together, using the incomplete Prayer of Jacob as given in PGM XXIIb as a base, and overlaying it with parts from other prayers that fit well, especially those with similar purposes as the Prayer of Jacob.  After a few rewrites, reorganizations, and slight additions to the text for flow and content, what we end up with is a new prayer.  As a result, however, due to how badly preserved the barbarous words are from the original text, sometimes I went with replacing them entirely from another source rather than trying to see what might fit in the right places.   Now, I’m not exactly a fan of swapping out one set of barbarous words for another—Tobias over at Sublunar Space and I have discussed doing that and how it can lead to some disastrous consequences—but some of these entries are so similar to the Prayer of Jacob in approach and style that I think we can do so safely here, so long as we’re smart about it.

However, there’s a weirdness here; in all the texts that have a similar list of barbarous words, or a similar arrangement of qualities such as “you who sit upon X”, including PGM XXXV.1—42 and the Beirut phylactery for Alexandra daughter of Zoē (cf. D. R. Jordan, “A New Reading of a Phylactery from Beirut”, ZPE 88, 1991, pp.61-69), it would seem like these refer to different spirits or angels of particular things rather than attributes of God, yet the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb treats them as just that: attributes and names of God.  There’s definitely a tradition of prayers going on here, but it would seem that the Prayer of Jacob is an outlier in how it treats these lists of names and dominions.  That said, when we read “you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ”, with ΣΑΒΑΩΘ being a rendition of Hebrew Ṣabaot or “Hosts” referring to the innumerable angels…well, it kinda makes sense, either which way, at least to the mind of the practical Hermeticists of the PGM.  The fact that the same structure and form of prayer is present in a number of unrelated sources is significant, but equally so is the vast disparity between the divine names used.  It’s my hunch that the names are less important than the structure, and as such, the sets of names can largely be interchangeable with each other.  It’s not an ideal situation, but it does allow us some wiggle room for experimentation, and given that the barbarous words are so incomplete and damaged in PGM XXIIb, we can’t really use them anyway—but I claim that we can use those from near-identical prayers elsewhere with as good a result.

As a result of all the above and my own tweaks, I won’t call what I ended up with a “Reconstructed Prayer of Jacob” like I originally intended, because what was “reconstructed” is so different from PGM XXIIb.1—26 to the point where I can’t honestly say that it’s a reconstruction.  However, the underlying text, organization, and purpose of the prayer is identical, so what I’ll call it instead is the “Prayer of the Patriarchs”, a Jewish-Gnostic Hermetic prayer with notions of solar piety that seeks for incarnate divinization of the self as a theurgical practice in line with the Jewish mystical practices of Merkabah and Heikhalot:

In the name of ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ who is above all the heavens!
I call on you who sit in the first heaven, ΜΑΡΜΑΡ
I call on you who sit in the second heaven, ΡΑΦΑΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the third heaven, ΣΟΥΡΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the fourth heaven, ΙΦΙΑΦ
I call on you who sit in the fifth heaven, ΠΙΤΙΗΛ
I call on you who sit in the sixth heaven, ΜΟΥΡΙΑΘΑ
I call on you who sit in the seventh heaven, ΚΑΧΘ
by the power of ΙΑΩ, by the strength of ΣΑΒΑΩΘ,
by the garment of ΕΛΟΗ, by the might of ΑΔΩΝΑΙ, by the crown of ΕΙΛΩΕΙΝ!
Protect me from every daimōn and every power of daimones and from daimonia and from all pharmaka and katadesmoi!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven, ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ
O Possessor of righteousness, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ
O Ruler of nature, ΣΑΝΚΑΝΘΑΡΑ
O Origin of the heavens, ΣΑΤΡΑΠΕΡΚΜΗΦ
You who sit upon the holy mount, ΣΙΝΑΙ
you who sit upon the snow, ΤΕΛΖΗ
you who sit upon the sea, ΕΔΑΝΩΘ
you who sit upon the serpents, ΣΑΕΣΕΧΕΛ
you who sit upon the Sun, ΙΑΩ
you who sit upon the Abyss, ΒΥΘΑΘ
you who sit upon the rivers, ΤΑΒΙΥΜ
you who are ΒΙΜΑΔΑΜ who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriēl and Lūēl;
you who are ΧΑΔΡΙΥΜ who sit in the midst of ΧΑΔΡΑΛΛΟΥ upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord ΣΑΡΑΧΑΗΛ of Bil`ām,
the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it,
the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, God who is God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of ‘Adam, o God of Shet, o God of ‘Enosh,
o God of Qeynan, o God of Mahalal’el, o God of Yared,
o God of Ḥanokh, of God of Metushelaḥ, o God of Lemekh, o God of Noaḥ,
o God of ‘Abraham, o God of Yiṣḥaq, o God of Ya`aqob, o God of gods,
you who have the secret name ΣΑΒΑΩΘ!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!

And, as an alternative, another version that omits the barbarous words entirely, replaces some of the more obscure magical terms with more common ones, and uses the more common English spellings of the Hebrew names used in the prayer:

In the name of the Eternal Light who is above all the heavens,
I call on you, angels of the seven heavens,
by the power of God,
by the strength of God,
by the garment of God,
by the might of God,
by the crown of God!
Protect me from every spirit, every power, every phenomenon, every spell, and every curse!

O Father of the Patriarchs, of the All, of the powers of the cosmos!
O Father of the angels and archangels, of the redeeming names, of all the powers!
O Father of the whole cosmos and all creation, both uninhabited and inhabited!
O Father to whom the cherubim and seraphim are subjected!
O Father who showed favor to Abraham by giving the kingdom to him!
O God of the angels and archangels, o King of kings, o Lord of lords!

O King of Heaven!
O Possessor of righteousness!
O gracious God!
O Ruler of nature!
O Origin of the heavens!
You who sit upon the holy mount,
you who sit upon the snow,
you who sit upon the sea,
you who sit upon the serpents,
you who sit upon the Sun,
you who sit upon the Abyss,
you who sit upon the rivers,
you who sit upon the fiery throne of glory, borne by Abriel and Luel;
you who sit upon the resting place of the cherubim and seraphim as they praise you in the midst of your glory,
you who are the Lord of the Heavenly Host,
you whose name is blessed and holy unto the ages of ages!
The Lord of Balaam, the God who made Heaven and Earth and all within it, the Lord of the All!

I call upon you, you who give power over the Abyss
to those above the Earth, to those upon the Earth, and to those below the Earth!
Hear your servant who prays to you in your name with your names!
O Lord God of the chosen people, o God glorious unto the ages of ages,
to whom is eternal might, o God who is the God of all gods!
Rectify your servant who gives unto you this prayer,
make straight him who is of your people,
maintain him who is of those who have received your favor, o God of gods!
O Lord God, Lord of Hosts, blessed are you forever,
o God of Adam, o God of Seth, o God of Enosh,
o God of Kenan, o God of Mahalalel, o God of Jared,
o God of Enoch, of God of Methushelah, o God of Lamech, o God of Noah,
o God of Abraham, o God of Isaac, o God of Jacob, o God of gods!

O you who are upon the stars and above the ages,
o you who brings forth snow and constantly traverse the entire cosmos,
o you who make the stars and planets marshal all things by your creating power!
Fill me with wisdom and empower me, o Lord,
fill my heart with good, o Lord,
that I might become your angel in this world,
that I might become immortal in your wisdom,
that I might be given a share of your strength and power,
that I might be shown your favor and peace,
that I might receive this gift from you!

Most of the changes, especially in the barbarous names, come from other PGM sources; while the Prayer of Jacob from PGM XXIIb is the most important part of the Prayer of the Patriarchs, the initial invocation of the angels of the seven heavens came from PGM XXXV and the Beirut phylactery (the PGM section in question lacks an angel for the seventh heaven), and the godnames preceding the “You who sit over…” invocations came from PGM XII.  Besides those, the only other major structural change is the addition of the full lineage of pre-Flood Patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, then ending with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I personally like doing this, because it implies a descent of divinity and spiritual heritage from the first man down to the forebears and founders of the Israelites and Jewish people.  Although none of this is in the Prayer of Jacob proper (I mean, if it was said by Jacob, then we wouldn’t expect to find his own name used in his own prayer praisingly), we do see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob put together in other sections of the PGM.  By throwing in the pre-Flood Patriarchs, I though I would be able to tap more into the raw divinity that they had from a time immemorial.  Additionally, from PGM XXXV.1—42, I also added in the prophet Balaam, a contemporary of Moses and the only non-Israelite prophet in the Old Testament.  The inclusion of Balaam is significant, because God made Balaam, a non-Israelite and thus not one of his chosen people, a prophet so that the non-Israelites couldn’t say “if only we had our own Moses, we would be as pious as the Israelites”; more than that, Balaam was blessed with the gift to know the exact moment God became angry or wroth, a deep and emotional intimacy which no other prophet or creature was given.  By including Balaam among the patriarchs here, we’re able to include Jewish heritage as well as non-Jewish heritage, giving us a bit more wiggle room for those who aren’t Jewish or even Noahide in their lifestyle.

Still, there are a few other changes I made here and there, and there’s one interesting bit in the original phrasing that I intentionally changed.  Betz has one of the supplications as “Maintain the one who possesses this prayer, who is from the stock of Israel”, which I changed to “rectify the one who gives unto you this prayer”.  There are three things going on here:

  • I changed “who is from the stock of Israel” to “who is of your people”, making the prayer a bit more general for people who aren’t of Jewish descent to use while still establishing the mage as a person of God, godly in his works and faith, regardless of their Jewish birth heritage in favor of their Hermetic spiritual inheritance.  However, for mages who actually are Jewish, I would recommend the original phrasing instead of my correction.
  • I changed “who possesses this prayer” to “who gives unto you this prayer”.  The Betz translation, taking a cue from Preisendanz, would suggest that this whole prayer might not be recited at all, but instead written as an amulet like many of the other charms and ritual apparatuses of the PGM, but this goes against the ritual instructions at the end of this part of PGM XXIIb, so I don’t think it’s meant to be written and carried around (though doing so wouldn’t hurt, if you were to go the extra mile).  One alternative is to write down the first two paragraphs of the prayer as an amulet, while reciting the rest; that might be one possible breakdown, though I think it’s still better to recite the whole thing, with “possession” here meant metaphorically rather than literally.
  • Really interesting here is the use of the word “maintain” here, which in Greek is διόρθωσον, the aorist imperative form of διορθόω, which literally means “make straight”, in the sense of correction, revision, amending someone, reconciling, redeeming, or restoring to order.  The word has a medical connotation, too, of setting broken bones back in place, as noted by Phillip J. Long over at Reading Acts.  Instead of using “maintain” which doesn’t really have many of those connotations, I opted for “rectify”, which literally means “make right” or “make straight”, and gives more of those connotations of διορθόω.

Then there are the barbarous names ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ and ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ.  Though I’m not in the habit of leaving out barbarous words, I did I just that here, rendering them instead as “God glorious unto the ages of ages” and “God who is God of all gods”, respectively.  Though these can definitely be left as barbarous words, I think these ones can actually be translated.  As to how I translated them and why:

  • ΕΠΑΓΑΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΝ: There are a few Greek words that start with έπαγα- that all have to do with glory, exulting, or dignity, and I think this might be a synthesis of a Greek word with the Hebrew godname ‘El, literally “glorious ‘El” or “glorious God”.  ΑΛΑΜΝ, on the other hand, is strange, but van der Horst and Newman in their commentary on this prayer instead read its as “ALAMAN”, which they consider to be a corruption of Hebrew “`olam” or “`olamim”.  This word is common in the berakhot of Jewish practice, where every blessing begins “barukh atah ‘Adonai ‘Eloheinu, melekh ha-`olam…” or “blessed are you, my Lord, our God, king of the world…” or, alternatively, “…sovereign of the universe…” or even “…ruler of the cosmos…”.  However, in its plural form, `olamim can also mean “eternal” or, more poetically, “ages of ages”, and van der Horst and Newman note that ‘El `Olam would mean “God of Eternity”, suggesting also that we should read this as ΕΠΑΓΑ ΗΛ ΑΛΑΜΑΝ.  Thus, I translated these divine names as “God glorious unto the ages of ages”.
  • ΗΛΟΗΛ ΣΟΥΗΛ: Unfortunately, I’m not as clean here as with the above names, but I don’t want to read them as barbarous words, either.  If we break this up into ΗΛ Ο ΗΛ ΣΟΥ ΗΛ, then we could read it as “God, the God, your God” or “God, the God of you, God”.  ΗΛΟΗΛ is a weird theophoric name; although well-formed, like Μιχαηλ or Σαμουηλ, we don’t often see two divine elements put together, especially the same element, in the same name.  If we break this up into several words, then we can get a reasonable Greek construction: Ἠλ ὁ Ἠλ, literally “God, the God”.  Likewise, we can break up ΣΟΥΗΛ into σου Ἠλ, the second person singular genitive pronoun (i.e. “your”) and God.  It all comes together as “God, the God of you, God”, which implies a divinity-within-divinity or divinity-upon-divinity.  For clarity, and to imply a kind of hierarchy, I’m translating these as “God who is God of all gods”.  It’s not an exact translation, but I’m comfortable in its meaning.

And one more note: the barbarous word ΣΕΜΕΣΕΙΛΑΜ used at the start of the prayer is rendered as “Eternal Light” in the version without barbarous words.  This is due to rendering the word as Hebrew “shemesh `olam”, or “sun of the world” or “sun of eternity”.  This is translated as “Eternal Light” to avoid too heliocentric a focus of the prayer, despite the Prayer of Jacob’s and related prayers’ heliocentric theurgical focus, but bears an equivalent meaning.  This isn’t really used in any of the source texts I was working with, but it’s a word I like using with a beautiful and appropriate meaning, so I used it in a place that seemed useful for it.

And…that’s it.  This is a project that was delayed for almost six years, but I’m glad to finally remove that entry from my post drafts folder, and to present it publicly.  Now to say it seven times facing northeast.  (Or whatever direction faces Jerusalem, I suppose.)

On Geomantic Holy Days

One of the things I subtly introduced in my 2018 ritual calendar post was the inclusion of a lot more feast days of saints and holy men in the Abrahamic/Judeo-Christian tradition.  Some of them make sense for me as a magician (like Epiphany for the Three Magi, or Saint Cyprian of Antioch), while I recognize others for their use in scheduling feast days or ceremonies for orisha worship and work by means of the saints syncretized with the orisha (like Saint Barbara for Ṣàngó).  Others are more personal, like the feast of the Prophet Samuel for my namesake and reminding myself from whence I come and the virtues I need to remind myself to live up to.  Then there are a handful of others, where there’s no immediate connection.  I mean, what’s the deal with the Feast of Adam and Eve, or that of Daniel or Enoch?  Yeah, they’re all important characters in the Grand Story of the World, but…admittedly, it’s weird.

Not too long ago, I was experimenting with coming up with a prayer for geomantic practice.  It’s something I’ve long tried to do, time and time again, but with little success in finding something right for my practice and needs.  Heck, when floundering around for inspiration, I even put out a post on Twitter and Facebook asking whether everyone else who divines has their own diviner’s prayer, and if so, what it might be.  (If you replied to that post, you have my unending thanks, and my deep appreciation for your practices, prayer or no!) Eventually, however, I finally came up with something that fit in well with my needs and in a pleasant, organized, comprehensive way.  As part of the prayer, I recognize my ancestors, not just of my kin but also of my practice.  In this case, I recognize my blood ancestors as well as my geomantic ancestors, and what better ones to recognize than the Forebears of the Art?

If you look through the older geomantic literature, you’ll sometimes find an educational narrative about how the art of geomancy came to be.  I’ve even written one myself, a bit more prose-filled and fleshed-out than what you might find in medieval manuscripts, but the idea is the same: at one point, a wise man was meditating and an angel came to him and taught him the art of geomancy, with which the man became even wiser and learned the secrets of the cosmos and of God.  Interestingly, the choices for which wise man are limited: it’s almost always Adam, Enoch, Daniel, Hermes Trismegistus, or Idris ﷺ.  Further, when the angel is given a name, it’s usually Gabriel, which brings in his associations with being the messenger for the Virgin Mary,  a protector and guide of Daniel, and the revelator who narrated the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

The Forebears of the Art make decent enough sense, if you think about it:

  • Adam was the first man created, and thus the origin of humanity with his wife and co-creation, Eve.  From him do we have all language and, thus, the original medium for us to have and process knowledge.  Plus, his name literally means “earth”, for it is from dust and clay that we were all created, by which we live and eat, and to which we all one day return.
  • Enoch was considered to be among the greatest scribes to have ever lived, and lived 365 years before walking with God and entering Heaven alive.  Enoch was seven generations descended from Adam and several before Noah, and is credited with writing the Book of Enoch, but also with a huge number of books on all subjects, which provided the foundation for all civilization, science, technology, and art.  Once assumed into Heaven, it is said that he assumes the role of the Metatron, attendant to the Throne, guardian to all celestial treasures and secrets, and communicator of the presence of God.  For this and other reasons, the meaning of Enoch’s name means “dedicated” or “educated”.
  • Daniel, whose name means “God is my Judge” or “judgment of God”, isn’t considered a prophet (the divine art of which ended with his immediate forefathers before the Babylonian Exile), but was considered the foremost righteous and pious of the Jews in the diaspora.  It is because of this that he was blessed with divine protection, understanding, visions, and knowledge of mysterious signs, dreams, and omens, to say nothing of his otherwise astute sharpness, observation, and knowledge.
  • Hermes Trismegistus is…well, Hermes Trismegistus, another prophetical figure, mentor to his son Asclepius and student Tat, who was revealed the true nature of things by Poemander, the Shepherd of Men, and who is credited with the Corpus Hermeticum, the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, the Perfect Sermon, the Emerald Tablet, and many other Hermetic texts.  It is from Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice-Great One, that we get the name for our style of magic, and many works, books, texts, arts, sciences, and discoveries are attributed to him.  That geomancy was one of them is of no great surprise.  In many ways, he can be considered another aspect of the Greek god Hermes, messenger and diviner and trickster and wayfarer, and especially so when combined with the Egyptian god Thoth, scribe, knowledge-seeker, order-keeper, magic-teacher, and ultimate president of fate.
  • Idris ﷺ is one of the lesser-known prophets in the Western world, but in Islam, he’s huge.  He came before the prophet Muhammad ﷺ, but still preached monotheism, purity, chastity, wisdom, honesty, patience, and all the other good virtues common to the prophets who came after him.  The name of this prophet has connections with the concepts of interpretation and instruction.  Many aspects of his life, from all the original civilizing works on sciences and arts, being the first to have the knowledge of writing, living for 365 years, and so forth have overwhelming parallels with Enoch, and the two are often considered identical in Qur’anic and biblical studies.  In other cases, especially by the more mystic interpreters of the texts, he’s associated with Hermes Trismegistus for many of the same reasons.  For the purposes of my studies and understanding, I equate Idris ﷺ more with Enoch than Hermes Trismegistus, but both associations are equally valid.

So, with that understood and clarified, I consider there to be four Forebears of the Art: Adam, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Daniel.  They are all equally the progenitors of the art of geomancy, each instructed according by the angel Gabriel to know, practice, and (in some cases) teach the art to their descendants, either children by blood or students by mind.  Given that there are four such Forebears, why not go one step further and associate them to the four elements themselves, and different blessings upon a diviner that grants them skill and success in the art?

  • Daniel, for his illumined understanding of visions and dreams and the judicious power of of the highest levels of mind, is given to the element of Fire, and models the blessing of Judgment to the diviner.
  • Enoch, for his education, skill in writing, and holding the secrets of the airs and the heavens in his possession, is given to the element of Air, and models the blessing of Dedication to the diviner.
  • Hermes Trismegistus, for his spiritual understanding and meditation upon the deepest of mysteries, initiation into new living and life, and mediation between all peoples and cultures, and so is given to the element of Water, and models the blessing of Wisdom to the diviner.
  • Adam, being born directly of the Earth and giving the first names to all things that are, bringing them into full materialization and actualization within the newly-made World of Man, is given to the element of Earth, and models the blessing of Attainment to the diviner.

Given that, if one were to consider honoring these progenitors, why not use their feast days, as normally reckoned according to the various Christian churches out there?

  • Feast of Gabriel the Archangel: March 24
  • Feast of All Angels: September 29
  • Feast of Daniel the Prophet: July 21
  • Feast of Enoch the Great Scribe: July 30
  • Feast of Adam and Eve: December 24

Note that, technically, Gabriel can be celebrated on two days: March 24 is his general feast day in the West, and was even recognized by the Roman Catholic Church before 1969.  After, the Church prefers to celebrate all the angels on Michaelmas, September 29, which includes Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel.

The only feast day I don’t have listed above for is Hermes Trismegistus who…well, doesn’t really have one.  It’s a little weird, now that I think about it, but I never really considered a specific day to give to Hermes Trismegistus. While he was sometimes recognized as a gentile prophet by some fathers of the Church, much as how Idris ﷺ was recognized as a virtuous pre-Islamic prophet before the Qur’an, Hermes Trismegistus is not formally recognized as either saint or prophet, and so has no feast day of his own in the Churchs’ systems.  So, my ideas on a possible feast day for Hermes Trismegistus:

  • I can’t really seem to find any practice or consensus of a feast day for Hermes Trismegistus besides a very modern and unexplained May 24, which doesn’t seem well-grounded to me.  The only source for this I can find is in Dennis William Hauck’s book on the Emerald Tablet, something-something pan-pagan Triple Goddess feast day, mumble-mumble alchemical processes describing the enlightenment/death of the Buddha Śākyamuni on the full moon of May.  I’m unconvinced of the associations, personally.
  • Previously I’d’ve used the Hermaia, but that’s more properly for the Hellenic Hermes, and is also based on the Hellenic lunisolar calendar (fourth day of the tenth lunar month, reckoned from the summer solstice).   This typically occurs in March at some point.
  • Rather than the Hellenic festival, the Roman one of Mercuralia on May 15 could suffice.  However, the focus on this was really the god of the marketplace and commerce (as Mercury always was, only later adopting more of Hermes’ traits and, even later than that, Hermes Trismegistus’).
  • We could just assign him a day of a new invention with an appropriate number.  The fourth day of the fourth month for us would be April 4, which might just be simple enough to work, even if it is unfounded in anything else.  This day does happen to be the feast day for Saint Isidore of Seville, the famous composer of the Etymologiae, the patron saint of the internet, computers, programmers, and students generally, so this might actually work reasonably well.
  • I suppose one could argue for an astrological alignment, such as when the planet Mercury is at 15° Virgo (or between that point and the start of Libra) between sunrise and noon as described in the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, but that’s incredibly variable and not tied to the Gregorian calendar, which can also involve nasty retrograde periods, which might be ill-fitting for honor.   Plus, there’s debate about whether this is just an astrological election for talismans, a set of one-time instructions for the mythic engraving of the Discourse, or a reoccurring celestial marker to actually remember him by.  Plus, now that I look at it, there isn’t clarity as to whether the text really means the planet Mercury or the Moon, because Hermes Trismegistus was associated with Hermes in the Hellenic system and Thoth in the Egyptian one; Hermes is given the planet Mercury, but Thoth the Moon.
  • Instead of thinking of a purely Christian system, why not look at Hermes Trismegistus’ older Egyptian one?  Thoth was primarily celebrated on the third day of the Wag Festival, held from the 17th through 19th of First Akhet, the first month after the heliacal rising of Sirius.  The heliacal rising of Sirius isn’t something I would like to use, as the Egyptian calendar was timed by this observation but dependent upon the precession of the stars and latitude of observation; some modern Kemeticists do the right thing and calculate when the new year would be for their own area, but just as many (so it seems) just use an old date and work from there.  I often see August 6 as a date to celebrate Thoth and, thus, Hermes Trismegistus, but again, this is using a date that’s long since been out of sync with any historical use.
  • The ancient Egyptian calendar is still technically in use by their modern descendants, the Copts.  The Coptic calendar is still used by Coptic Christians today, and is largely regularized though it still drifts ever so slowly, since it’s effectively a kind of Julian calendar and not Gregorian.  Still, it’s better than nothing!  The first day of the year in that calendar, 1 Thout, is September 11 in our calendar (or September 12 in Gregorian leap years) for the rest of this century, due to the Julian-Gregorian drift of leap days (shhhh); skipping ahead to the 19th day of this month gets us to September 29, which would be the modern date of the Wag and Thoth Festival.  Oh, would you look at that, September 29 is also Michaelmas.  Cute.  So, we can slide Hermes Trismegistus on into there as well, and use that (or knock it back one day later, during leap years or until 2100 CE) as our feast day for the prophet.
  • Another Egyptian calendar, the Cairo Calendar, gives an explanation of the usefulness and auspiciousness of each day in the Egyptian year, along with an ongoing mythic account of what happens in the divine realm on that day.  The events have been associated and linked to certain celestial events involving certain stars, as well, with Thoth especially linked to Alphecca (α Coronae Borealis) in its heliacal rising on October 12 for the “going forth of Thoth in order to judge in the presence of Ra” or its culmination at dawn on January 24 for “the coming of Thoth”.

Honestly?  I’m inclined to just use April 4 for its regularity and convenient timing, so as to not overlap or bunch up with other things going on that time of year, and consider Saint Isidore of Seville to be a “mask” lent to Hermes Trismegistus for this purpose.  No heliacal or stellar observations, no Julian calendrics, no lunation weirdness; it’s easy, it’s regular, it’s Gregorian, the number matches well with Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus and geomancy, it matches the pattern of the other feast days, and the saint mask here is perfect.  Boom, April 4, done.

So much for feast days of the saints of geomancy.  The usual invocations and offerings can be made to them: candles in appropriate colors, traditional meals or drinks, flowers, and so forth.  Gabriel is, of course, among the most well-known of Christian entities, and chaplets, novenas, and other prayers to him are readily found aplenty.  (Heck, I even wrote an ebook compiling prayers to the seven Christian archangels, including more than a few for Gabriel.)  In the absence of any particularly specific prayers for some of the older biblical figures, I like using the Orthodox kontakion and troparion prayer-songs for Daniel and Adam and Eve, but I’m having trouble finding other such prayers for Enoch; I’ll likely need to do more digging or some writing for those, or appropriate/innovate from the Islamic tradition with his equivalent there.  Prayers for Hermes Trismegistus are old hat and abundant in Hermetic literature, but devising new ones might always be appreciated.

What about giving days to the figures themselves, for like a Feast of Albus or a Feast of Fortuna Minor?  This is getting dangerously close to setting up a “geomantic zodiac”, which weirds me out and is getting into very experimental territory; I’ve spoken before on setting up geomantic cycles of time, which can get kinda hairy.  Still, talking with the good Dr Al Cummins, I decided “eh, screw it” and went to work drafting an idea for a geomantic calendar of sorts.  The idea is very loosely based off the pagan Wheel of the Year, which divides up the solar year into eight parts.  Eight is just half of 16, so if we can divide the year up into eight, why not one more division down?  The fundamental idea behind these 16 “geomantic districts of the ecliptic” lies in the primary and secondary elemental rulers of the elements, so brush up on those if you’re unfamiliar with how I structurally figure those out.

The idea of this calendar goes like this:

  • Each season has a ruling element, based on the cardinal zodiac sign associated with the solstice/equinox that starts it.  Thus, Spring starts at the spring equinox, which is 0° Aries; because Aries is a Fire sign, Spring is ruled by Fire.
  • Divide each season up into four districts of 23 or 22 days.  As a guide, the quarter days (i.e. solstices and equinoxes) start the first district, and the cross-quarter days, reckoned by the Sun midpoint that season’s fixed sign (e.g. 15° Taurus in Spring) will start the third district.
  • The third district is given to the figure whose primary and secondary elemental ruler is the same as that season’s element.  Thus, for Spring, Laetitia (Fire/Fire) is given to the third district.
  • The second district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler is its complementary element.  Fire complements Air and vice versa; Water complements Earth and vice versa.  In other words, use the element where the heat matches but not the moisture.
  • The first district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler matches the element of the preceding season.  In the case of Spring and Autumn, the secondary element will be oblique to the primary one, agreeing in moisture but not heat; in the case of Summer and Winter, the secondary element will oppose the primary one, agreeing in neither heat nor moisture.
  • The fourth district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler matches the element of the succeeding season.  In the case of Summer and Winter, the secondary element will be oblique to the primary one, agreeing in moisture but not heat; in the case of Spring and Autumn, the secondary element will oppose the primary one, agreeing in neither heat nor moisture.

With that, here’s a table showing an approximate yearly calendar matching the four seasons, the date divisions of the geomantic districts and their ecliptic degree boundaries, the associated pagan Wheel of the Year celebration (if any), the primary/major and secondary/minor elements of the district, and the figure ruling the district itself.  Note that the dates here are rough approximates, and will shift from year to year according to the exact placement of the Sun along the ecliptic.

Season Solar
Element Figure
Major Minor
Spring 0° Ari Mar 21 Ostara Fire Earth Cauda Draconis
22°30′ Ari Apr 13 Air Fortuna Minor
15° Tau May 6 Beltane Fire Laetitia
7°30′ Gem May 29 Water Amissio
Summer 0° Can Jun 21 Litha Water Fire Puella
22°30′ Can Jul 14 Earth Populus
15° Leo Aug 6 Lammas Water Albus
7°30′ Vir Aug 29 Air Via
Autumn 0° Lib Sep 21 Mabon Air Water Coniunctio
22°30′ Lib Oct 13 Fire Puer
15° Sco Nov 5 Samhain Air Rubeus
7°30′ Sag Nov 27 Earth Acquisitio
Winter 0° Cap Dec 21 Yule Earth Air Caput Draconis
22°30′ Cap Jan 12 Water Fortuna Maior
15° Aqu Feb 3 Imbolc Earth Tristitia
7°30′ Pis Feb 26 Fire Carcer

As for the use of the neopagan names of the quarter/cross-quarter days, I should point out that I don’t really do anything with the cross-quarter days themselves, nor can I even really remember their names on a frequent basis.  However, they are a useful set of names for those eight days, which is why I’m using them here.  Besides, just because I don’t really do anything with them doesn’t mean nobody else does, and they’re pretty common knowledge for other people, so I figured I’d have them here anyway.

(that said, don’t @ me about the exact dates of the cross-quarter days in pagan/neopagan/tradcraft practice, I know that it’s common to give them to the first day of May, August, November, and February, I don’t care because it doesn’t mesh with a system based on the exact placement of the Sun in the ecliptic as described above. shhhhh.)

Presented in a more pleasant and graphical format, I present to you a prototype Geomantic Wheel of the Year. Read the figures from the outside in, aligned with the date text in each district.

Of course, the usual caveats apply: this is entirely theoretical and hypothetical, and is thus in need of actual experimentation.  There are some oddities that would need to be explored here, like starting off the solar year with…Cauda Draconis, of all figures.  Then again, consider that Caput Draconis starts off the winter; these are the two figures of the eclipses, the spots that turn the luminaries dark, and here they bound the darkest time of the year, and fruther, one could argue that one needs to firmly close and end the old year at the boundary before truly starting anew.  Alternatively, we might consider the geomantic year to start at the winter solstice with Caput Draconis, the district starting off the season of Earth, rather than with the spring equinox of Fire.  It’s an idea.

The important thing with this is the use of the exact days when the Sun enters the degree of the district, though I suppose it could be argued that if the geomantic figure actually resonates well with those particular degrees, it could hold over into the district as a whole.  And, of course, other such arrangements could exist, such as by expanding and refitting the lunar mansions associations of the figures into 22°30′ chunks, or reconfiguring the elemental assignments (swapping the rules for the first and fourth districts, for instance, or using different elemental rulers).

While I’m okay with the idea of ecliptic districts for the figures, the idea of particular days for the figures still strikes me as odd.  It’s like saying “this is the annual day to celebrate the Moon” or “this is the festival of the planet Jupiter”.  It’s fine when we talk about saints or gods, but when you’re talking about a celestial force apart and away from those, it seems a bit…weird.  Like, with the geomantic figures, yes they can be associated with spirits or saints or prophets or gods, but they’re still essentially forces that are constantly at work at all times in all places in the cosmos, universe, and world.  To single out a particular day seems more like a convention than something that actually arises harmonically and naturally, but then, considering how I’m linking the elemental flow of the seasons of the year to the elemental rulerships of the figures, I guess it could work.  I would fain try to apply the geomantic districts to any sort of astrological interpretation, but it is a useful model to organize a geomantic calendar, I suppose.

If you wanted to go one level further than just districts of the ecliptic, you could give the middle 16 days of each district to one figure (which means you’d have three to four days on either side of this set, or six to seven days altogether unallocated).  In that way, you could focus on pairs of the figures: first the figure of the current district, then the figure of the day within the district as its partner.  In this way, you could meditate on each of the 256 pairs of the figures throughout the course of a year in a regular, timed way.  How would the sixteen figures be allocated to the days within a district?  Good question, and one I do not propose an answer to (yet).  Maybe eventually, if the Geomantic Year ever takes off for me or others.

So now we have days for the geomantic saints, our noble Forebears of the Art, as well as an experimental system for special days for the sixteen figures themselves.  What about geomancy as a whole?  I mean, New Year’s Day, the turn of the seasons (or midseasons), one’s own birthday or nameday, or other important anniversaries can be done and made personal to one’s geomantic practice to perform divination for the coming season or year, as well as to honor the geomancers who went before you and the powers of the cosmos that are at work.  If you want to take a nature-centric approach to the art, there’s always Earth Day on April 22 each year.

But, if you’re asking me whether there’s one single day I might associate with the art?  I mean…that’s like asking for an “astrology day” or “tarot day” or “alchemy day”.  What I would say is this: no day must, any day can, and probably most days should be such a day to study and practice our art.