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

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:



  • 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!

A PGM List of Nighttime Hour Rulers

One of my favorite things about the Greek Magical Papyri is that, if some technique or concept exists in modern magic, chances are extraordinarily high there’s a parallel, variant, or outright origin of the thing in the PGM.  In some cases, the stuff we find in the PGM is in the same league as the direct ancestors of what we do today; it may not be the great-great-great-great-grandfather of a particular thing, but his brother or adopted sister that he grew up with.  This makes sense, given the naturally syncretic and eclectic collection of texts present in the PGM and PDM, representing a…not a cacophony, but a callophony of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Indian, Babylonian, Persian, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, messianic, apocalyptic, theurgic, goetic, mantic, prophetic, and other influences that collectively laid the foundations for Hermetic practice.  Of course, it’d be folly to read the PGM and similar texts as a single grimoire; this is not a cohesive selection of texts from a single author, magician, tradition, or practice, but a collection of texts from a variety of authors, magicians, traditions, and practices that spanned several centuries.  It’s important to bear that in mind, because not all the texts agree with each other in terms of doctrine or practice, and some don’t even agree within themselves.

On occasion, I’ll find something great in the PGM that, even though it’s great, strikes me as being incomplete for something I want to accomplish.  Case in point: the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual from PGM IV.1596—1715 gives an incredibly useful list of names, specifically the twelve “faces” of the Sun as he traverses the skies in the twelve hours of the day.  Though these are essentially transformations of Hēlios into different forms, they do describe different temporal realms and, therefore, can be used as a way to refer to the hours of the day in a magical sense, much like how the Heptameron or the Ars Paulina of the Lemegeton give names for the hours or their rulers.  The frustrating thing about the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual is that it only gives the names of the twelve hour rulers for the day; it gives nothing for the twelve hours of the night, and as far as I’m aware, there’s no list in the PGM that gives a list of 24 such names.

Recently, however, I think I found something that’d be perfect for what I’d need.

Behold PGM VII.862—918, “Lunar spell of Claudianus and [the ritual] of Heaven and the North Star over lunar offerings”.  According to the text, this “papyrus itself, the personal property of the Twelve Gods, was found in Aphroditopolis [beside] the greatest goddess, Aphroditē Ourania, who embraces the universe”.  Aphroditopolis, in this instance, could refer to one of two ancient Egyptian cities, Tpyhwt (modern Atfih) or Per Hathor (modern Gebelein), with the latter being more likely.  This text associates Aphroditē Ourania (Heavenly Aphroditē) with Selēnē, the Moon.  The ritual is phrased as a love-binding spell, where one calls upon Selēnē to cause a particular person to fall madly in love with the magician by means of sending dreams and images, but dreams of other types may be sent to whomever to accomplish whatever it is you want by them.

The ritual is done by first preparing a special clay statue according to a particular scheme (which is missing in the text, but likely resembles Hathor) and consecrating her in a shrine of olive wood without letting her ever come in contact with sunlight:

  1. Make a shrine of olive wood, being sure to keep it in a place that sunlight does not touch.  (I imagine this is essentially a cabinet with a door that can close.)
  2. Prepare the statue of “Mistress Selēnē the Egyptian…in the form of the Universe” from “clay from a potter’s wheel” mixed with sulfur and the blood of a dappled goat.  (There exist extant images of Isis-Aphroditē which is often also associated with Hathor-Aphroditē, such as examples here, here, and here.)
  3. Dedicate the statue with “the ritual that works for everything”.
  4. Anoint the statue with “lunar ointment” and wreathe it.
  5. Stow the statue away in the shrine in advance of the ritual itself.

In the fifth hour of the night, the magician is to make a “lunar offering” and anointing oneself with “lunar anointment”, face the image of Selēnē, and recite the following invocation:

I call upon you, Mistress of the entire world, ruler of the entire cosmic system, greatly powerful goddess, gracious daimōn, lady of night, who travels through the air, ΦΕΡΟΦΟΡΗ ΑΝΑΘΡΑ…ΟΥΘΡΑ.  Heed your sacred symbols and give a rustling sound, and give a sacred angel or a holy assistant who serves this very night, in this very hour, ΠΡΟΚΥΝΗ ΒΑΥΒΩ ΦΟΒΕΙΟΥΣ ΜΗΕ, and order the angel to go off to her, NN., to draw her by her hair, by her feet; may she, in fear, seeing phantoms, sleepless because of her passion for me and her love for me, NN., come to my consecrated bedroom.

The charge for the angel can likely be replaced with whatever one might need or wish.  At this point, the magician should see the divine statue of Selēnē turning red, which indicates that “she is now attracting”.  The magician is then to continue the invocation:

Mistress, send forth your angel from among those who assist you, one who is leader of night, because I adjure you by your great names, because of which no aerial or infernal daimōn can ignore you, ΜΕΣΟΥΡΦΑΒΑΒΟΡ ΒΡΑΛ ΙΗΩ ΙΣΙ Η!  Come to me, as I summon you, ΟΡΘΩ ΒΑΥΒΩ ΝΟΗΡΕ ΚΟΔΗΡΕ ΣΟΙΡΕ ΣΟΙΡΕ ΕΡΕΣΧΙΓΑΛ ΣΑΓΚΙΣΤΗ ΔΩΔΕΚΑΚΙΣΤΗ ΑΚΡΟΥΡΟΒΟΡΕ ΚΟΔΗΡΕ ΣΑΜΨΕΙ!

Hear my words and send forth your angel who is appointed over the first hour, ΜΕΝΕΒΑΙΝ
and the one over the second hour, ΝΕΒΟΥΝ
and the one over the third hour, ΛΗΜΝΕΙ
and the one over the fourth hour, ΜΟΡΜΟΘ
and the one over the fifth hour, ΝΟΥΦΙΗΡ
and the one over the sixth hour, ΧΟΡΒΟΡΒΑΘ
and the one over the seventh hour, ΟΡΒΕΗΘ
and the one over the eighth hour, ΠΑΝΜΩΘ
and the one over the ninth hour, ΘΥΜΕΝΦΡΙ
and the one over the tenth hour, ΣΑΡΝΟΧΟΙΒΑΛ
and the one over the eleventh hour, ΒΑΘΙΑΒΗΛ
and the one over the twelfth hour, ΑΡΒΡΑΘΙΑΒΡΙ
so that you may do this for me, that you may attract, that you may tame on this very night, so that she, NN. (or “he, NN.”) be unable to have success until coming to me, NN.!  May she remain fully satisfied, loving, desiring me, NN., and may she be unable to have intercourse with another man, except with me alone.

As a personal observation, I like the casual inclusion of “or he” towards the end of the ritual.  I guess it doesn’t just work on women, which pleases me greatly.

Anyway, this second invocation is to be recited many times, and “it will attract and bind, and she will love you for all the time of your life”.  However, after you two meet and have sex, the sacred image of Selēnē is to be stowed away “giving her magical material”; so long as the image of Selēnē is kept from sunlight, your success in the matter will continue.

At any rate, look at what we have here: a list of names for the twelve hours, but focusing on the messengers/angels (in a sense, rulers) under Selēnē!  What’s fascinating about this is that we have, as far as I can tell, the only list of hours of the night in the PGM.  Other instances of hour-name lists focus on the twelve hours of the day, but now we have a matching one for the night.  In addition to that, but this one pairs quite nicely with the Twelve Faces of Hēlios list; while that has a list of explicitly solar daytime hours, here we now have a list of explicitly nocturnal lunar hours.  The only conceptual difference between the two is that the former are all different aspects of the same celestial entity, while the latter are all subordinate spirits who rule in the name of another celestial entity.  In effect, however, the idea is the same: we have a list of names that correspond to the ruling celestial power according to the time in which we call them.

The only issue I can think of is that, because lists of hours for the night are so uncommon while lists of hours for the day are more common, it could be thought instead that the list in the ritual above actually correspond to the twelve hours of the day; after all, Stephen Skinner in his Techniques of Graeco-Egyptian Magic gives the above list as “angels for each hour of the day”.  However, given that everything in this ritual is oriented towards the night and to nocturnal darkness, from keeping the image of Selēnē away from the sun to the ritual being done at night and how Selēnē is explicitly hailed as “leader of night” or “lady of night”, it makes more sense to me that these names are for the nocturnal hours rather than the diurnal hours.

To that end, I present this table of PGM-style hour ruler names, in both Greek script and Roman transcription for use and experimentation:

 Hour Diurnal Nocturnal

Bearing this in mind, how might we invoke these names of the rulers of the hours outside their original rituals?  Because of the difference in nature between the solar-diurnal hour names and the lunar-nocturnal hour names, I hesitate to give a general invocation, though something short and sweet can easily be made, especially given a line from PDM xiv.1—92.  For instance, for the first hour of the day and the night, I might recommend these short invocations:

  1. Solar-diurnal hour: “Bright face of Hēlios, ΦΑΡΑΚΟΥΝΗΘ, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this first hour of the day, bring your light to me!”
  2. Lunar-nocturnal hour: “Bright angel of Selēnē, ΜΕΝΕΒΑΙΝ, you whose hand is this moment, who belongs to this first hour of the night, bring your light to me!”

Of course, fuller invocations can be developed based on the original rituals to more properly call upon the ruler of the hour.  For example, I would suggest these abbreviations of those rituals as a solar invocation of the face of the diurnal hour:

Greatest god, eternal lord, world ruler, who are over the world and under the world, mighty ruler of the sea, rising at dawn, shining from the east for the whole world, setting in the west!  You are the great Serpent, leader of all the gods, who control the beginning of Egypt and the end of the whole inhabited world, who mate in the ocean, ΨΟΙ ΦΝΟΥΘΙ ΝΙΝΘΗΡ!  In the first hour, your name is ΦΑΡΑΚΟΥΝΗΘ!  Hear my words and aid me in this your time!

And a lunar invocation of the angel of the nocturnal hour:

Mistress of the entire world, ruler of the entire cosmic system, greatly powerful goddess, gracious daimōn, lady of night, who travels through the air, send forth your angel from among those who assist you, the one who is leader of night, because I adjure you by your great names, because of which no aerial or infernal daimōn can ignore you, ΜΕΣΟΥΡΦΑΒΑΒΟΡ ΒΡΑΛ ΙΗΩ ΙΣΙ Η!  Hear my words and send forth your angel who is appointed over the first hour, ΜΕΝΕΒΑΙΝ!

As I noted before in my discussion on the angels of the hours of the Ars Paulina, working with these names and at least making a perfunctory gesture to recognize the ruler of the current time can be huge for ensuring success and smoothness in magical workings.  Just as how the Ars Paulina invokes the angels of the hours instead of the angels of the planets because the former “closer” to us on the ladder of manifestation than the latter, especially in a temporal sense, we can recognize these specific emanations of the Sun and Moon as genii temporum, “spirits of the times”, much like how we recognize genii locorum, “spirits of the places”, when recognizing, appeasing, and working with the spirits of the place where we work.  Except, with this combined system, we now have a full PGM parallel to accommodate such a need.

With that, I’m gonna try experimenting with these names as lords of the hours.  And maybe give the Lunar Spell of Klaudianos a try at some point, too.

Another Look at the Heptagram Rite

So, in going over my notes and prayers lately, I’ve been thinking of shaking up my regular practices and trying out new formats for prayers, devotions, rituals, and the like.  Rituals that are whole unto themselves, like the Trithemian conjuration ritual, don’t need any further framing or whatever done before or after them except for, say, meditation and purification, but other things could certainly benefit from restructuring or being placed into a structure.  One of the things that could benefit from that is my Invocation of the Solar Guardians, specifically the fuller version of them; I mean, as a simple homage unto itself to the guardian gods of the four stations of the Sun, it works fine unto itself, but it can also be used as part of a grander ritual, such as part of warding or cosmos-building.  One application I’d like to experiment with it is to use the Invocations as a form of sun-worship to recognize the seasonal changes of the equinoxes and solstices, but for a proper and full ritual to mark the turning of the Sun, I’d personally want more than just a few words to say.  Hence, framing rituals.

I didn’t expect to start with much, honestly, but after even a brief look through my notes and collected rituals, I found plenty of things to combine that include lustration, temple/circle warding, consecration of a candle, dismissal of spirits, thanksgiving offering of incense, and so forth, mostly pulled from or based on sources across the PGM.  I want to give it a few tries and refinements before sharing it publicly, but one of the things I wanted to include was, of course, the Heptagram Rite or, as is sometimes known, Calling the Sevenths to Induce Equilibrium which is a much more modern appellation.  Essentially, this is a method of attuning to the forces of the cosmos (specifically the planetary or celestial forces) by means of intoning the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet while facing certain directions and making certain motions.  In short:

  1. Face east.  Extend both hands to the left.  Intone Α.
  2. Face north.  Extend only the right fist forward.  Intone Ε.
  3. Face west.  Extend both hands outward as if in embrace.  Intone Η.
  4. Face south.  Place both hands on the belly.  Intone Ι.
  5. Face down.  Bend over and touch the ends of the toes.  Intone Ο.
  6. Face forward.  Place the right hand on the heart.  Intone Υ.
  7. Face up.  Place both hands on top of the head.  Intone Ω.

Simple enough!  I’ve used this as a quick act of attuning myself or of energy work in preparation for a larger ritual as well as part of a daily practice of energy work.  It’s nothing special, but it is highly effective.

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, this ritual comes from the PGM, as part of a much larger text, PGM XIII.734—1077, a large, mostly well-preserved section in the Greek Magical Papyri entitled “Tenth Hidden Book of Moses” (which is mostly, but not entirely, complete).  The ritual, named “the spell to which God gives attention”, is an invocation of God by means of the seven planets and their seven letters to obtain a vision or achieve some request.  It is intended to be done at dawn, though no specific day or other circumstance is given.  Unlike the common Heptagram Rite, which is a modern adaptation of part of this ritual taken from lines 824—841, the larger invocation which I call the Grand Heptagram Rite is not intended to be used as a framing ritual to prepare or attune oneself before another working, but rather on its own as its own complete ritual.  I’ve written about it before on my blog, and have a whole page up for it under Rituals, which I direct you to look at for more information.

Well, I took a look at my notes again, and then went back to the PGM to do some more research, and I came up with a few more observations.  To my horror, it seems that I left off the final lines of the final invocation from the text, either to my oversight or confusion.  I had it mostly complete, up through line 886.  I’ve added the “seven auspicious names” to the final invocation to the page on my blog, and I apologize for the confusion and error on my part.  However, the text does not end at this point, either; in fact, it goes on quite a bit longer, though I’m unsure how much to actually include as part of what I’d call the Grand Heptagram Rite proper.  Starting on line 889 of the text:

This initiation is performed to the suns of the thirteenth day of the month, when the gold lamella is locked off and one says over it: ΙΑΙΑ ΙΥ ΟΗ ΙΕΥΟΩ ΗΩΙ ΕΟ Η ΩΥ ΕΗ ΥΩΗ ΩΩΟ ΩΩΙ ΩΑΩ ΕΩ ΟΗ ΥΩ.  Then more completely, ΑΩΕΥΗ ΟΑΙ ΙΟ ΗΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΩ ΩΟ ΕΙ ΟΥ ΗΟ ΟΙΥΥ ΩΥΥ ΩΙ Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΩ ΕΟΗ ΕΩΗ ΙΑΑ ΗΩΙ ΗΙΩ.  In [the] initiation these things are said six times with all [the rest?], and the seven vowels are written on the gold lamella to be licked off, and on the silver lamella the seven vowels for the phylactery ΟΗΩ ΑΩ ΟΟΟ ΥΟΙΗ ΟΥ ΥΗΙ ΣΟΡΡΑ ΘΩΩΜ ΧΡΑΛΑΜΠΗΑΨ ΑΤΟΥΗΓΙ.  The following series of vowels [are written as] “wings”; and on the gold lamella write ΑΩΕΥΗΟΙ and on the silver ΙΟΗΥΕΩΑ…

Betz has a footnote here that says that “something, probably directions from another rite, seems to have fallen out of the text.  It resumes near the end of another spell”; indeed, several diagrams of vowels written in slanting rows follows, with another footnote: “this has no clear connection to the proceeding words, so Preisendanz conjectures a lacuna.  However, this may be the continuation of the lost spell in which the vowels stood.”  Based on the text that continues from this point, though there are a series of barbarous words with a start that bears high similarity to the last string in the above section, I’m inclined to agree; the final part of this “initiation” involving the lamellas and phylacteries seems to be incomplete.  Additionally, there’s no mention of any use of lamellas before this point.  The rest of the Tenth Book of Moses has mostly different sets of barbarous words attributed to various sources and a handful of charms.

So, on its own, what does the Grand Heptagram Rite (more originally “the instruction for the recitation of the heptagram and the spell to which the god gives attention”) do?  The introduction to this section of the PGM says that this text is “for this personal vision”, and that it is to work with and call upon Ogdoas, “the god who commands and directs all things” (though the Ogdoad is, more properly, a combination of eight Egyptian gods considered as a whole unit who created the universe and who represent the masculine and feminine aspects of the primeval world, and which were heavily worshiped in Hermopolis).  The rest of the text after the initial explanation is simply the ritual to be spoken, followed by the incomplete initiation above (which also doesn’t seem to match well with the rest of the text as it is, suggesting that it really is a separate ritual).  In context within the broader PGM, the Tenth Book of Moses takes place before the Eighth Hidden Book of Moses (PGM XIII.343—646 and 646—734), which itself is before another Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.1—343).  This is an interesting batch of texts, and Betz has quite a bit to say about how this is essentially a compilation of several versions of the same text along with other information from other texts, especially “Mosaic” ones.  These books being called the “Eighth” and “Tenth” Books of Moses, when nothing is said of a ninth, seventh, sixth, or so on can be attributed to the prestige given to the numbers 8 (for the Ogdoad of Egyptian belief) and 10 (for the Decad of Pythagorean belief).  PGM XIII in its entirety can be considered, in many ways, a grimoire compiled out of several sub-grimoires in the same tradition, much as one might find several versions of the Key of Solomon bound together as a complete text.  It’s a fascinating section of the PGM, and I’m sure much more can be said about it than what is appropriate here.

Back to the Grand Heptagram Rite in the Tenth Book of Moses.  Unlike an exorcism ritual like that of the Headless Rite (which can be bent to a sort of empowerment ritual according to the tweaks of Crowley and Mathers), this seems to be more of a ritual to call upon and bring forth the presence of the Divine, either for a divinatory vision or for initiation into that god’s power (especially since the Grand Heptagram Rite is followed by what seems to be an introduction to an initiation), though part of the prayer establishes a connection then and there in the ritual:

Your name and your spirit rest upon the good.  Come into my mind and my understanding for all the time of my life and accomplish for me the desires of my soul.  For you are I, and I you.  Whatever I say must happen, for I have your name as a unique phylactery in my heart, and no flesh, although moved, will overpower me; no spirit will stand against me, neither daimon nor visitation nor any other of the evil beings of Hades because of your name, which I have in my soul and which I invoke.

However, if we were to include the beginning part of the subsequent initiation (PGM XIII.889ff) as part of the text, then we’d adopt the following procedure:

  1. Remain pure from the start of the lunar month through the thirteenth day of the lunar month, upon which the ritual is to be performed.
  2. Between the first and twelfth days of the lunar month counting from the first visibility of the new Moon, prepare two small tablets, one of gold and one of silver, the silver tablet able to be worn around the neck as a pendant.
    On the silver tablet, engrave or write in permanent ink the following:


  3. Before sunrise on the thirteenth day of the lunar month, just as the Moon approaches fullness but has not yet become full, prepare yourself in white clothing, wear the silver tablet around your neck, saying the following:


  4. Οn the gold tablet, write in water-soluble ink the following:


  5. At sunrise, go outside and face the Sun, say the following over the gold tablet:


  6. Lick the writing off the gold tablet, then say over the gold tablet:


  7. Recite the Grand Heptagram Rite in its entirety.
  8. Perform the preceding four steps (writing on the gold tablet, facing the Sun, praying over the gold tablet, licking the gold tablet, praying over the gold tablet a second time, and performing the Grand Heptagram Rite) again at midday and a third time at sunset.

In my estimation, I don’t think that whole procedure involving performing the ritual three times on the thirteenth day of the lunar month with the gold and silver tablets is called for, since I don’t think the initiation described starting on line 889 is necessarily about the Grand Heptagram Rite (though I don’t think it would hurt, either).  Though the barbarous words here can get messy, especially the strings of vowels, I find that the Grand Heptagram Rite is a wonderful ritual on its own accord for inducing cosmic visions and approaching the sense of divinity, when done on its own for its own sake.  That the Heptagram Rite itself, the simple seven-vowels-seven-gestures-seven-directions that became known more recently as the Calling the Sevenths is so powerful is a testament to the overarching power of the Grand Heptagram Rite.

Which brings me back, rather circuitously, to the use of it in a general sense as part of a daily practice or framing ritual.  The Grand Heptagram Rite is, in my view, far too large and unwieldy to include as part of a ritual process or framing ritual, especially given its strings of barbarous names that can be hard to rattle off or memorize.  On the other hand, the Heptagram Rite can often be too short and quick to allow things to settle in; it’s great as part of broader work, but it may not be suitable when dealing with heavier forces, nor would it be good if someone’s out of shape and needs something stronger to bend them back into shape.  There’s a wide gap between the entirety of the Grand Heptagram Rite and the Heptagram Rite, and I wanted something of a halfway point between the two in length, something that could be a little more empowering than the shorter of the two and a little more generic than the longer of the two.  What follows is my attempt to bridge that gap

  1. Recite the first invocation to Aiōn (PGM XIII.843—848):

    I call on you, eternal and unbegotten Aiōn, who are One, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understands, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the Pole, him who is under you!  I call on you as the gods call you!  I call on you as the goddesses call you!  I call on you as the winds call you!

  2. Salute each direction with the vowels (PGM XIII.849—870)
    1. Face east, extend both hands to the left, and say:

      I call on you as the east: Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ

    2. Face north, extend only the right fist forward, and say.

      I call on you as the north: Ε ΗΗ ΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑΑ

    3. Face west, extend both hands outward as if in embrace, and say:

      I call on you as the west: Η ΙΙ ΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕΕ

    4. Face south, place both hands on the belly, and say:

      I call on you as the south: Ι ΟΟ ΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗΗ

    5. Face down, bend over and touch the ends of the toes, and say:

      I call on you as the earth: Ο ΥΥ ΩΩΩ ΑΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙΙ

    6. Face forward, place the right hand on the heart, and say:

      I call on you as the sky: Υ ΩΩ ΑΑΑ ΕΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟΟ

    7. Face up, place both hands on top of the head, and say:

      I call on you as the cosmos: Ω ΑΑ ΕΕΕ ΗΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥΥ

  3. Recite the second invocation to Aiōn, based on the first version of the Eighth Book of Moses (PGM XIII.64—71ff) and the Headless Rite (PGM V.140 and 141):

    I call on you, who are greater than all, the creator of all, the self-begotten who see all and are not seen, who hear all and are not heard!  For you gave to Hēlios glory and all power, and to Selēnē the privilege to wax and wane and have fixed courses, yet you took nothing from the earlier-born darkness, but apportioned all things so that they should be equal!  For when you appeared, both Order and Light arose!  All things are subject to you, whose true form none of the gods can see, who change into all forms!  You are invisible, o Aiōn of Aiōns, and through you arose the celestial pole from the earth!  Hear me and help me, o lord, faultless and unflawed, who pollute no place, for I bear witness to your glory! Lord, King, Master, Helper, empower my soul!

(Note: I talk about why I changed the original order of the invocations here, going counterclockwise in agreement with the vowels, on the main ritual page.)

Essentially, what this shortened form of the ritual does is call upon the same attunement and cosmos-building that the Heptagram Rite does, itself framed by invocations to Aiōn, while allowing things to settle in more comprehensively and from all ways.  The main thing I wanted to accomplish here, however, was to avoid using barbarous names or vowel permutations where possible, hence why I’ve avoided including them in the “I call on you as by the voice of the [male] gods” and “…as the voice of the [female] goddesses”.  However, instead of continuing with the invocation to Aiōn from the Tenth Book of Moses (lines 871ff., starting “I call on your name, the greatest among gods…”), I opted for another invocation to Aiōn pulled from the Eighth Book of Moses, also because it doesn’t involve barbarous words, but also because the focus shifts here from a specific request for the divine apparition of Aiōn (as in the Tenth Book) to a general invocation (as in the Eighth Book), augmented by a single line from the Headless Rite (line 140 and 141, “Lord, King, Master, Helper, save the soul”).

(I’d also like to note that the first invocation to Aiōn from PGM XIII.843—848 is the origin of Jason Miller’s prayer to Aeon that he gives in his Advanced Planetary Magic ebook.  In that text, he describes the “Heptasphere” ritual, which is the Calling of the Sevenths followed by the prayer to Aeon, though without the usual motions from the PGM.  It is effectively the same thing as I’m trying to do, just not as long or as involved as I’m describing here.)

Though I’m comfortable with this middle-path ritual as it is, one of the things I don’t yet know about is any visualizations to be performed.  Normally, when doing the usual Heptagram rite, I just visualize the pure color of the planet coming from the direction I’m facing: purple from the East, orange from the North, and so forth.  For this, however, a visualization would need to take into account something more complex…probably?  I’d still want to keep the seven colors visualization as a base, but augment it with…not sure.  Visualizing seven sets of the seven vowels in each direction, or a seven-pointed star with each ray in a different planetary color for each direction?  Perhaps I could repurpose a line from further in the Tenth Book, line 880:

…Become for me lynx, eagle, snake, phoenix, life, power, necessity, images of God!…

I could feasibly read this as here are four animals and three ideas, all of which are images of God.  And, since there are four cardinal directions, plus below, center, and above, each of these images could be given to each direction we face in the ritual.  This could further be augmented by the final “seven of the auspicious names” at the very end of the Grand Heptagram Rite:

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

Of course, all of this is incredibly hypothetical at this point, and it doesn’t seem to match up entirely nicely; after all, why should the Eagle be given to the North for Mercury, or Lynx to the East for the Moon?  If there’s any merit to linking up the directions/vowels/planets to the images in this way, and the images aren’t just given in a random order, then the answer might lie in Egyptian mythology and cosmology; after all, the Eighth Books and Tenth Book of Moses definitely have distinct Egyptian influences, and in Egyptian cosmology, the Lynx was said to be the enemy of the Serpent (Mafdet vs. Apep), while the Phoenix…well, doesn’t really have much of a connection with Eagles, though its solar nature cannot be denied, especially as it was considered the animal avatar of the Sun god Re.  Eagle, on the other hand, is more confusing; it wasn’t a traditional animal in Egyptian cosmology, though it could be equated with the falcon, the animal of Horus, and thus an equivalent to Jupiter or Zeus or to Helios.  Which, again, doesn’t necessarily match; we’d expect Thoth, an ibis or baboon, as an equivalent for Mercury/Hermes.  It could be argued either way, I suppose; it’s something for me to experiment with, all the same.

All that leaves me with one last thing: what to call this?  I don’t want to have to rename the Heptagram and Grand Heptagram Rites to different names to accommodate this middle-path version, though to be honest, that might be best.  For my own reference from this point on, I’ll use these terms:

  • Calling the Sevenths: the simple seven-directions, seven-vowels, seven-motions attunement ritual (previously “Heptagram Rite” or “Heptasphere Rite”)
  • Minor Heptagram Rite: the shortened ritual procedure as described above in this post
  • Major Heptagram Rite: the full ritual procedure from PGM XIII 763—887 (previously “Grand Heptagram Rite”)

So, fine.  The page on the Heptagram Rite has been updated with corrections and additions, and these are the terms I’ll use from now on to refer to these rituals.  And, better than that, I have a new attunement ritual and invocation to use, try out, and tweak for improvements.  In addition to offering a slightly fuller form of Calling the Sevenths, it also adds in useful invocations for power, assistance, and divine aid, which (in my own routines) can simplify my ritual process and make other things obsolete or redundant, which makes things even more efficient for me, whether in daily practices or in framing rituals.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you have any experience with the Heptagram Rite in any of its forms, whether the shorter Calling the Sevenths or the whole process of PGM XIII.734ff?  Do you have your own PGM-style framing rituals that make use of the directions or vowels?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

The Twenty-Eight Faces of Mēnē

The devil of every author hit me the other day when I released my ebook on the Grammatēmerologion, the lunisolar calendar system I developed for associating the days of the lunar months to the letters of the Greek alphabet for my Mathesis work.  Every author can sympathize: within hours of my having made the damn thing public, I found something that would have been an excellent addition to incorporate into the text.  Damn shame, that.  Ah well, live and learn; besides, after actually thinking about it, I couldn’t find a way to incorporate that information neatly into the text anyway.  I’ll write about it here instead, for those who are interested.

To give some backstory, I’d like everyone to know that I first came across grammatomancy—the Greek alphabet oracle that assigns each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to an oracular statement of advice or wisdom—from the Biblioteca Arcana, a treasure trove of pagan, occult, and theurgic resources in a Hellenic current as maintained by Apollonius Sophistes, better known as John Opsopaus.  I took the information from his site, reworked it a bit, expanded on it, and that’s how I got to my current form of grammatomancy, which kickstarted my whole Mathesis thing.  Well, Opsopaus put out a book last year, The Oracles of Apollo: Practical Ancient Greek Divination for Today, which I encourage many of my readers interested in Hellenic and Greek system of occult works to check out.  In that book, he lists a set of image-symbols to link to each of the Greek letters, as well as an ancient source for where he got them, such that the image of the ox is given to Alpha, the vulture to Bēta, and so forth.  Excitedly, I dashed off to check out the source, which of course is the Greek Magical Papyri.  What I found immediately brought to mind my beloved Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual from PGM IV.1596—1715, except as a lunar parallel to that, with equally as little information in the PGM itself and with equally as much potential for expansion.

PGM VII.756—794, simply titled “Prayer”, is like the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios in that all we have is the spoken text to be used for the ritual without any instructions or directions to use it.  The prayer consists of a reasonably short invocation to the moon goddess Mēnē (MHNH) under the power of the great divinity known throughout the PGM and many other magical texts for the past two thousand-some years, Iaō (ΙΑΩ).  However, again like the Consecration of the Twelve Faces of Hēlios, we get some special good insights into how we might think of or perceive the Moon as a sacred entity with many faces, forms, or approaches.  It’s not as complete as the Hēlios rite in that we don’t get names or specific blessings, but instead we get a set of 28 sacred images and 14 sacred sounds.

Below is my rendition of the prayer text, with minor edits to formatting and spelling:

I call upon you who have all forms and many names, double-horned goddess MHNH, whose form no one knows except him who made the entire world, ΙΑΩ, the one who shaped you into the twenty-eight shapes of the world so that they might complete every figure and distribute breath to every animal and plant, that it might flourish, you who grow from obscurity into light and leave light for darkness.

And the first companion of your name is silence,
the second a popping sound,
the third groaning,
the fourth hissing,
the fifth a cry of joy,
the sixth moaning,
the seventh barking,
the eighth bellowing,
the ninth neighing,
the tenth a musical sound,
the eleventh a sounding wind,
the twelfth a wind-creating sound,
the thirteenth a coercive sound,
the fourteenth a coercive emanation from perfection.

Ox, vulture, bull, beetle, falcon, crab, dog,
wolf, serpent, horse, she-goat, asp, goat, he-goat,
baboon, cat, lion, leopard, fieldmouse, deer, multiform,
virgin, torch, lightning, garland, a herald’s wand, child, key.

I have said your signs and symbols of your name so that you might hear me, because I pray to you, mistress of the whole world!
Hear me, the stable one, the mighty one,

The final block of barbarous words, transcribed into Roman script:


The ritual is then concluded with that wonderfully vague direction so common in the PGM: “add the usual”.

One of the things Opsopaus describes about the ritual is that it gives 27 symbols of the Moon, which can be likened to the 27 main days of the lunar month (between the Noumenia and the Hene kai Nea, the first and last days of the month, just on either side of the New Moon itself).  To get 27 symbols instead of the 28 listed above (as in Betz), Opsopaus combines the symbols “multiform” and “virgin” into “multiform virgin”, which is to say the image of Hekate with three faces.  This is a reasonable leap to make; after all, the final set of symbols after that of the deer are all classically associated with Hekate, especially in the PGM.  Still, this is in disagreement with the Betz translation, which clearly distinguishes “multiform” and “virgin” as separate.  Additionally, by bringing the number of symbols down to 27, Opsopaus gets all seven Hekatē-related symbols together in the same seven-day week of the Moon.

However, I disagree with such a combining of “multiform” and “virgin” into a single symbol of “multiform virgin”.  Betz gives 28 symbols, and the prayer explicitly says in the introductory part “the twenty-eight shapes of the world so that they might complete every figure and distribute breath to every animal and plant”.  Plus, though Hekate is often reckoned as being a maiden-virgin, there are stories and myths where she gives birth to Kirke and Medea.  If we’re talking about multiple forms here, then, it makes more sense to me to consider “multiform” (i.e. triple-faced) and “virginal” as two separate faces of the Moon.  Even then, however, with 28 symbols, I couldn’t find a way to link them all to the letters of the Greek alphabet, which has either 24 letters (omitting the obsolete letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi) or 27 (including the obsolete letters).  Given that 28 seems to be the more solid number to go on for this ritual, I’m hesitant to actually associate these symbols to the Greek letters, and would instead consider it its own separate symbol set; this is why I decided against trying to go back and include this information in my Grammatēmerologion text, and instead write about it here as its own separate thing.

So much for the 28 symbols given in the ritual; what of the fourteen “signs”, the sounds that the ritual gives?  Moreover, why fourteen?  I’d liken each of these to the stages of the Moon in terms of her brightness or lack thereof, such that on the first fourteen days of the lunar month (from New to Full), we’d associate that fullness of the Moon with that particular sign, and on the second set of fourteen days, the signs would be given in reverse order.  In other words, if we were to plot them out, we’d get a table like the following:

Day Sign Symbol
1 Silence Ox
2 Popping Vulture
3 Groaning Bull
4 Hissing Beetle
5 Cry of Joy Falcon
6 Moaning Crab
7 Barking Dog
8 Bellowing Wolf
9 Neighing Serpent
10 Musical Horse
11 Sounding wind She-goat
12 Wind-creating Asp
13 Coercive Goat
14 Coercive emanation from perfection He-goat
15 Coercive emanation from perfection Baboon
16 Coercive Cat
17 Wind-creating Lion
18 Sounding wind Leopard
19 Musical Fieldmouse
20 Neighing Deer
21 Bellowing Multiform
22 Barking Virgin
23 Moaning Torch
24 Cry of Joy Lightning
25 Hissing Garland
26 Groaning Herald’s wand
27 Popping Child
28 Silence Key

It’s tempting to think that the symbols are associated with the signs in some way, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  It’s equally tempting, at least for me, to shift some of the symbols around to match up with their signs, at least in the first 14-day period, such that e.g. horse matches up with neighing, or garland with “cry of joy” (in terms of a wedding garland or other celebratory crown).  Perhaps the orders of the signs and symbols could be experimented and toyed around with, and see if the order actually matters as given or if we could swap some of them around.  There might also be correspondences that could arise from mapping the two symbols together based on their shared sign, but I’m unsure about that; that could be slightly bigger a leap than I currently realize.

So, that’s the prayer and some beginning information on the contents thereof.  I have plans on expanding it into a full, multiply-repeated ritual a la the Twelve Faces of Hēlios ritual, perhaps one that actually spans a lunar month, building up the symbols day by day and actually using the signs in the ritual as a means of focusing concentration and power…even though some of them don’t seem like actual sounds one could make, except as soundless spiritual vibrations that would cause spiritual effects.

In the meantime, what I would recommend (and what I plan on trying out for my own first attempt) is to perform the ritual on the last day of the lunar month before or on the New Moon, the Greek Henē kai Nea also known as Hekatē’s Deipnon, between sunset and sunrise, probably at solar midnight when the Moon is directly underfoot.  Face the North, and light three white candles; if you’re using an altar, these would be arranged in an upwards-pointing triangle towards the North, but if you’re not using a candle, you could use three candles put together in the same configuration on the ground before you or three candles arranged in a triangle around you in a large-enough “circle” to stand in and move about.  With the usual offerings you’d bring to a ritual of the Moon or to a Deipnon of Hekatē, arrange and make use of them as usual: food offerings, libations of dark wine, incenses, and so forth.  Recite the ritual as given above, making the associated sounds physically and/or spiritually (when appropriate) after their enumeration, and visualizing a circle of the symbols around you as you recite each symbol, starting from the North and going clockwise from there.  After the recitation of the barbarous names, give your charge to the Moon goddess Mēnē, and recite the barbarous names once more.  Conclude the ritual with your thanks, then leave the candles to burn out on their own.

A variant of this ritual that springs to mind immediately is, instead of doing the ritual on the New Moon, perform the ritual at the Full Moon instead, outside where you can see the Full Moon, when the Moon is highest in the sky.  Face the Moon, and arrange the candles in a downwards-pointing triangle instead of an upwards-pointing one.  Use the same process as above, perhaps beginning or concluding with my normal Full Moon invocation from the PGM.

Now to get the time and supplies and purpose arranged for such a ritual experiment, then getting a more elaborate system built up.  The next New Moon is just over two weeks away, after all.