# On the Elemental and Geomantic Epodes

Ever since I wrote that post about how the physical body can be represented by geomantic figures, I’ve been trying to puzzle something out for myself.  At the end of the post, I introduce the concept of a system of geomantically-derived energy centers in the body based on four centers and four elements: the Fire center in the head, the Air center in the throat, the Water center in the upper belly, and the Earth center at the perineum.  This is based on the Geomantic Adam diagram given in MS Arabe 2631, which divvies up the geomantic figures to the parts of the body in a way that’s untied to any astrological method (which is the usual method used in European and Western geomancies):

In addition to proposing four such energy centers, I also propose three possible sets of intonations based on the obscure BZDH technique from some forms of geomancy, and also suggest that the sixteen geomantic gestures or “mudras” can be used in addition with these to form the basis of a kind of geomantic energy practice.  However, I didn’t really describe any implementation beyond laying these individual parts of such a hypothetical practice down, because I hadn’t yet come up with a way to put the parts together into a whole.  I’ve been puzzling over how to do just that since the post went up earlier this summer.  I mean, it’s not hard to just slap some energy into parts of the body and call it a day, but let’s be honest: I want to do this right and be able to incorporate it into my own practice in a way that’s not harmful, and as we all know by now, it’s just as easy to use energy to make a body awful as much as it can be made awesome.

Now, I was originally going to just write a post about a more-or-less solid energy practice that uses four energy centers in the body, one for each of the four elements.  I’m still going to write that post, because I already started it, but I realized that there’s a significant chunk of it that needs to be clarified in its own post, because there’s a number of options one might choose for it with different bits of logic and arguments for and against each choice.  This section kept growing and growing, and it eventually dwarfed the actual point of the post itself, so I decided to get this bit out of the way first, especially since I’ve already introduced the topic when I brought up the notion of a geomantic energy practice to begin with.

For me in my magical practice, the spoken word is important, especially when it comes to things that are intoned, such as barbarous words or particular chants.  For instance, the seven Greek vowels are absolutely vital to my work, because each vowel is associated with one of the seven planets.  In fact, each of the letters of the Greek alphabet has its own spiritual associations to the planets, signs of the Zodiac, and elements.  It’s the elemental letters that are the focus here now: if I wanted to intone a special word to attune myself to the power of an element just like how I’d intone a vowel to attune myself to the power of a planet, what would I use?  I can’t really intone a consonant, so I invented special “power words” for the four elements by taking the corresponding consonant for the element, intoning ΙΑΩ, and ending with the consonant again, as below:

• Fire: ΧΙΑΩΧ (KHIAŌKH)
• Air: ΦΙΑΩΦ (PHIAŌPH)
• Water: ΞΙΑΩΞ (KSIAŌKS)
• Earth: ΘΙΑΩΘ (THIAŌTH)

This method works, but to be honest, I’ve never really liked it.  It’s always felt kind of imbalanced and inelegant, especially compared to some of the more refined barbarous words of power or the simplicity and clearness of the vowels for the planets.  When I first started thinking of what I could intone for a geomantic energy practice, my routine use of these words first came up, but I quickly remembered that there are other options available to me besides just this.  All I need to find is some appropriate, elegant system of four words for intoning for the sake of attuning to the four elements.

Also, what am I calling this particular type of power word, anyway?  These are small, usually single-syllabled things to intone or chant to attune with a particular force.  I suppose that these are barbarous names of a sort, but the fact that they’re so easily constructed doesn’t seem quite appropriate to call them “barbarous”.  The closest thing I can think of are bīja, which is a Sanskrit term meaning “seed”, but referring to single syllable mantras that can be intoned and thought of as encapsulating or emanating particular elements or powers.  Think of the syllables oṃ, dhīḥ, hūṃ, or other single-syllable such mantras found in tantric Buddhism or Hinduism.  These are powerful syllables and contain some aspect of the cosmos or dharma in their own right, and many deities, bodhisattvas, buddhas, and other entities or powers have their own bījas.  That’s a good concept and term for this, but I can’t think of any Western or non-Sanskrit term to call them, like how we might have “chant” or “orison” for the word mantra, “gesture” for mudra, or “energy center” for chakra.  Since I like having Greek-based terms, here are a few I would think are appropriate:

• Odologue, which could come either from ᾠδόλογος ōidólogos meaning “song-word” or, alternatively, ὁδόλογος hodólogos meaning “road-word”, and either Greek word could be used here.  Odology, after all, can refer to “the study of the singing voice” or “the study of roads and paths”, and considering the purpose and use of these bīja-like words,
• Rhizophone, from Greek ῥιζόφωνη rhizóphōnē, literally meaning “root sound”.  This is about as close a calque to bīja as I could think, helpfully suggested by Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick (who has a new website now, go update your RSS readers and links!).
• Epode, which is simply the Greek word ἐπῳδή epōidé, meaning “song sung to something”, and more figuratively an enchantment, charm, or spell.  Unlike odologue or rhizophone, epode is actually a known word, both in Greek and in English, and though it can be used more broadly for spells or charms in general, the notion of something being sung here is important, which is basically intonation.  Though I like the above two words, let’s be honest: epode here is probably the best to go with.
• There are other words used in Greek to refer to magic spells or charms, like kḗlēma or thélktron or other words, so we can reserve “epode” for what are basically mantras.
• “Epode” could be used to give a useful Greek translation of “mantra” generally, as opposed to just bīja syllables, which are themselves considered single-syllable mantras.  For this, “root epode” or “small epode” could be used to clarify single-syllable epodes.
• Likewise, “epode” wouldn’t necessarily be of the same type of word as “names”, ὀνόματα onómata, referring to the barbarous words of power that may simply be spoken, shouted, or intoned depending on the situation.  Plus, the barbarous names themselves aren’t usually constructed, patterned after anything, or even understood as having distinct or intelligible meanings.

So, what we’re doing here is coming up with elemental epodes, simple words that can be intoned or sung to attune or call down the forces of the elements, just how the intonation of the seven Greek vowels can do the same for the planets.  In fact, those vowels, when sung in a magical way, would become epodes in their own right.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  One straightforward option is to just use the Arabic or Greek words for the four elements themselves as things to intone:

• Arabic:
• Fire: nar (نار, pronounced “nahr”)
• Air: hawa’ (هواء, pronounced “HAH-wa” with a sharp stop in the throat)
• Water: ma’ (ماء, pronounced “ma” with a sharp stop in the throat)
• Earth: turab (تراب, pronounced “tuh-RAHB”)
• Greek:
• Fire: pũr (πῦρ, pronounced “pür” like with the German ü or French u, or as “peer”)
• Air: aḗr (ἀήρ, pronounced “ah-AYR”, smoothly without a stop in the sound)
• Water: húdōr (ὕδωρ, pronounced “HEE-dohr” or “HÜ-dohr”, again with that German/French sound)
• Earth: gē̃ (γῆ, pronounced “gay”)

However, I’m not a fan of doing this.  For one, the words themselves aren’t necessarily important if the resonance and link between what’s uttered/intoned and what’s being connected with is strong.  Here, all I really have to go is the semantic meaning of the words.  Plus, I don’t like how some of them are two syllables and others only one, and they all feel inelegant in some of the same ways as my *ΙΑΩ* words from above.  So, while the words for the elements could be used, it’s not one I’d like to use.

And no, I won’t use Latin or English for such things, either.  I don’t hold either to be a very magical language like how I’d hold Greek or Hebrew or Arabic, largely due to the lack of meaningful isopsephy/gematria or stoicheia of the letters for the Roman script common to both Latin and English.  I also didn’t list Hebrew here because, for the sake of my energy work, I largely focus on Greek stuff (for the Mathēsis side of things) or Arabic (for the geomantic side), and Hebrew doesn’t fit into either category.

However, there is another option for coming up with an intonation that is rooted in geomantic practice: the BZDH (or BZDA) technique.  This is a little-known technique in Western geomancy that seems to have had more use in Arabic geomancy.  As I said in the earlier post about the geomantic figures and the human body:

From my translation of the 15th century work Lectura Geomantiae:

By the Greek word “b z d a” we can find the house of the figures, which is to say in which house the figures are strongest, wherefore when the first point starting from the upper part of the beginning figure is odd, the second house is strong; when the second point is odd, the seventh house is strong; when the third point is odd, the fourth house is strong; when the fourth and last point is odd, the eighth house is strong. Thus we will find by this number the proper houses of the figures; by “b” we understand 2, by “z” 7, by “d” 4, by “a” 8, as in this example: “b z d a”.

This may not make a lot of sense on its own, but compare what Felix Klein-Franke says in his article “The Geomancy of Aḥmad b. `Alī Zunbul: A Study of the Arabic Corpus Hermeticum” (AMBIX, March 1973, vol. XX):

The best taskīn is that of az-Zanātī; it bears the key-word bzdḥ: according to the principle of Gematria, the transposition of letters of a word into numbers, in place of bzdḥ there result the numbers 2748. Thus the Mansions of the taskīn are indicated; each spot denotes one of the four elements; in the 2nd Mansion there is only the element Fire (Laetitia, ḥayyān), in the 7th Mansion only Air (Rubeus, ḥumra), in the 4th Mansion only Water (Albus, bayāḍ), and in the 8th Mansion only Earth (Cauda Draconis, rakīza ẖāriǧa).

Stephen Skinner clarifies this even further in his works on geomancy.  From his 1980 book “Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy”:

Further specialized configurations or taskins are outlined together with mnemonics for remembering their order. Gematria, or the art of interpreting words in terms of the total of’ the numerical equivalents of each of their letters, is introduced at this point. Using the mnemonic of a particular taskin such as Bzdh, Zunbul explains that the letters represent the four Elements, in descending order of grossness. Each letter also represents a number in Arabic, thus:

b – 2 – Fire
z – 7 – Air
d – 4 – Water
h – 8 – Earth

This mnemonic therefore indicates House number 2 for Fire, House number 7 (Air), House number 4 (Water), and House number 8 (Earth). For each of the Houses indicated in this taskin, we see that the second is most compatible with Fire, the seventh with Air, and so on. Therefore, if the geomantic figure Laetitia (or in Arabic Hayyan), which is solely Fire, occurs in the second House, this would be. an extremely favourable omen. Likewise, the occurrence of Rubeus (or Humra), which is solely Air, in the seventh House would also be extremely auspicious. Further chapters are devoted to even more complicated combinations of the basic figures, and to labyrinthine rules for everything from marriage to medicine. Diagnosis by raml even became a lay rival of the latter, and tables were educed of the relationship between specific parts of the body and the geomantic figures.

In other words, based on these letters, we could intone a particular sound that starts with the letter “b” for Fire, “z” for Air, “d” for Earth, and “ḥ” (think of the guttural “ch” of German, but further back in the throat).

So, in this technique, we have four consonants that correspond to four elements.  We could use this BZDH technique to use these four consonants, each associated with one of the four elements according to an obscure technique in Arabic and early Western geomancy, to create a simple, clear syllable for each element when paired with a simple long vowel:

• Arabic method:
• Fire:  (با)
• Air:  (زا)
• Water:  (دا)
• Earth: ḥā (حا)
• Greek method:
• Fire:  (ΒΗ)
• Air:  (ΖΗ)
• Water:  (ΔΗ)
• Earth:  (Ἡ)
• Latin method:
• Fire: ba
• Air: za
• Water: da
• Earth: a

Note that I’m largely using the “ah” sound a lot for these.  For one, in Greek, this is the vowel Alpha, which is associated with the Moon, which is one of the planets closest to the sphere of the Earth and which is one of the planets most aligned with the element of Earth.  Additionally, this would be represented in Arabic with the letter ‘Alif, which has the form of a straight vertical line, much like the geomantic figure Via (or Tarīq using its Arabic name), which is also a figure associated with the Moon and which is important as it contains all four elements; in this case, the “ah” sound would be most aligned to that of the powers of geomancy as a whole, I would claim.  Note, also, how the Latin transcription of ḥ (to represent the element Earth) turned into “a”; if you wanted to think of geomancy as primarily being an oracle of Earth (which is a claim I take some issue with), then the “ah” sound would indeed be closest for phonologically working with the elements from a geomantic perspective and from our worldly, manifest basis.  Yet, we’re using Ēta for the Greek method given above; for one, this is because there’s no distinct vowel for “long a”, but “long e” is a close-enough approximation.  Using ΒΑ, ΖΑ, ΔΑ, and Ἁ for them would work as well, but using Ēta is also acceptable in this case.

Now, remember that these four consonants are used because they have their origins in being specifically labeled as elemental in the original geomantic technique from whence they come due to their numerological (gematria or isopsephic) significance. The mnemonic BZDḤ was used based on the numerological values of those letters in Arabic: bāʾ for 2, zāy for 7, dāl for 4, and ḥāʾ for 8.  Interestingly, these same consonants were used in the European version of the technique as BZDA (with A replacing Ḥāʾ, though it makes more sense to consider it H) even though it’s not technically the letters that were important, but their numerical equivalents.  If we were to simply go by their numerological (or numeric order) basis, then we should use ΒΔΗΘ for Greek or BDGH for Latin.  I suppose that one could use these letters instead for the BZDH technique-based intonation syllables, but I feel like using the original BZDH (or BZDḤ) is truer to the elements themselves, though the true Greek system could also work given their stoicheic meanings: Bēta associated with the Fire sign Aries, Delta associated with the Air sign Gemini, Ēta (used consonantally as an aspiration/aitch letter) representing the planet Venus which can be associated with the element of Water, and Thēta associated with the element of Earth itself.  So, one could also use a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system like this (using Ēta below, but again, Alpha would also work):

• Fire:  (ΒΗ)
• Air: (ΔΗ)
• Water: (Ἡ)
• Earth: thē (ΘH)

Or a Latin BDGH system as:

• Fire: ba
• Air: da
• Water: ga
• Earth: ha

Again, I’m not a fan of using Latin generally, but I can see an argument for using a BDGH system here because it’s not really words, isopsephy, or stoicheia here that are necessarily important.  However, if we were to use Greek isopsephy for determining which letters to use to represent the four elements for a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system, why not use the Greek stoicheia for them, instead?  It breaks with why we were using numbers to begin with, but we already know the letters Khi, Phi, Ksi, and Thēta work quite well for the four elements themselves, so if we were taking a purely elemental approach, it seems more proper to just use the elemental letters instead of the numerologically-appropriate letters and their natural vowels (specifically their long versions to keep with the theme of using long vowels for the epodes):

• Fire: khei (ΧΕI)
• Air: phei (ΦΕI)
• Water: ksei (ΞΕI)
• Earth: thē (ΘH)

There are definitely arguments for the use of the stoicheically-appropriate letters (ΧΦΞΘ) over the others, or the isopsephically-appropriate ones (ΒΔΗΘ), or the transliterated Arabic ones (ΒΖΔΗ).  In a more Mathēsis-pure approach, I’d probably go with the stoicheic letters, but in this particular case, I’d recommend most the transliterated Arabic ones, because that set of letters ties this energy practice closest to the original geomantic technique.  I suppose experimentation would show which is best, but I’m most comfortable sticking with the BZDH technique.

However, even using the BZDH technique as a foundation for this, an interestingly extensible system of syllables can also be devised where the BZDH technique of using different consonants is mixed with using Greek vowels that were similar enough in element to those four consonants.  For this mashup, I used my Mathēsis understanding of the planets and their positions on the mathētic Tetractys or the planetary arrangement for the geomantic figures to get vowels for the elements, and settled on using Iōta (Sun) for Fire, Upsilon (Jupiter) for Air, Ēta (Venus) for Water, and Alpha (Moon) for Earth.  Though Mars would be more appropriate for Fire and Saturn for Earth, their corresponding vowels are Omicron and Ōmega, which may not be distinct enough for this purpose, as I feel like it should be, so I made a sufficiently-acceptable substitution to use the Sun for Fire instead of Mars, and the Moon for Earth instead of Saturn.

What’s nice about combining the BZDH technique with the planetary vowels is that we can mix and match both systems and, using our system of primary and secondary elements of the figures, get a distinct epode not only for the four elements but also for each of the sixteen geomantic figures, which can be extraordinarily useful in its own right for other magical and meditative purposes.  (And here I thought that little innovation of mine was no more than “a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy” when it’s come in use time and time again!)  So, let’s see about making such a full system for all sixteen figures using the three competing Greek systems (Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ, Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ, Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ):

Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΖΙ
ZI
Puer
ΔΙ
DI
Puella

HI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΖΥ
ZU
Rubeus
ΔΥ
DU
Via

HU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΖΗ

Coniunctio
ΔΗ

Albus

Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΖΑ
ZA
Acquisitio
ΔΑ
DA
Populus

HA
Tristitia
Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΔΙ
DI
Puer

HI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΔΥ
DU
Rubeus

HU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΔΗ

Coniunctio

Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΔΑ
DA
Acquisitio

HA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia
Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Vague Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΙ
KHI
Laetitia
ΦΙ
PHI
Puer
ΞΙ
KSI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΑ
KHA
Cauda Draconis
ΦΑ
PHA
Acquisitio
ΞΑ
KSA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia

Note that in the ΧΦΞΘ system below, instead of using Iōta for Fire and Alpha for Earth (as given in the “vague elemental vowels” table immediately above), I went with Omicron for Fire and Ōmega for Earth because, well, if we’re going to go all the way and stick solely to using stoicheically-appropriate consonants, it makes sense to follow through and stick to using the most precisely, stoicheically-appropriate vowels. However, it breaks with the other systems here, so while this is perhaps the most suited to a pure Mathēsis or purely-Western approach, it doesn’t fit with any of the others and it makes a total break with any BZDH system we have.  Additionally, the similarity between Omicron and Ōmega here can cause some confusion and difficulty for those who aren’t precise with their pronunciations, even if the system is precisely correct as far as stoicheia goes.

Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Exact Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΟ
KHO
Laetitia
ΦΟ
PHO
Puer
ΞΟ
KSO
Puella
ΘΟ
THO
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΩ
KHŌ
Cauda Draconis
ΦΩ
PHŌ
Acquisitio
ΞΩ
KSŌ
Populus
ΘΩ
THŌ
Tristitia

deep breath

Okay.  So, that’s all a lot of tables and lists and examples and options to pick from, all of which are nice and all, but where does that leave us?

What we wanted to come up with was a set of four simple intonable syllables—our “epodes”—to work with the four classical elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, much as how we have the seven Greek vowels to work with the seven traditional planets.  While a straightforward option would be to simply intone the words for the elements themselves, we can use an obscure geomantic technique that gives us four consonants to reflect the four elements, which we can then intone by adding a vowel to it.  However, we can make variants of this system based on how far we want to take the logic of why we have those four consonants to begin with, even going so far as to come up with a set of sixteen epodes for each of the geomantic figures.  These geomantic epodes work within the same overall system because the geomantic figures are compositions of the four elements, and the figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia are the geomantic figures that represent single elements unmixed with any other, which is a fact I’ve been able to use before for coming up with gestures for the four elements using the same logic.

Now, because of all the possibilities of what script to use (Arabic, Greek, Roman), what consonants to use (BZDH or the script-appropriate variants based on numerical order within that script’s alphabet), and what vowels to use (the “ah” sound, Ēta for Greek variants, or using stoicheically-appropriate vowels based on the planetary affinities towards the elements), we end up with quite a few different options for our elemental epodes:

Fire Air Water Earth
Words Arabic نار
nar
هواء
hawa’
ماء
ma’
تراب
turab
Greek πῦρ
pũr
ἀήρ
aḗr
ὕδωρ
húdōr
γῆ
gē̃
Latin ignis aer aqua terra
ΙΑΩ Names ΧΙΑΩΧ
khiaōkh
ΦΙΑΩΦ
phiaōph
ΞΙΑΩΞ
ksiaōks
ΘΙΑΩΘ
thiaōth
Transliterated Arabic با
زا
دا
حا
ḥā
Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΖΗ
ΔΗ

Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΖΑ
za
ΔΑ
da

ha
Roman BA ZA DA A
Isopsephic Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΔΗ

ΘH
thē
Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΔΑ
da

ha
ΘΑ
tha
Roman BA DA GA HA
Hybrid Transliterated ΒΙ
bi
ΖΥ
zu
ΔΗ

ha
Isopsephic ΒΙ
bi
ΔΥ
du

ΘΑ
tha
Mathēsis Natural
Vowels
ΧΕΙ
khei
ΦΕΙ
phei
ΞΕΙ
ksei
ΘΗ
thē
Vague
Vowels
ΧΙ
khi
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΑ
tha
Exact
Vowels
ΧΟ
kho
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΩ
thō

See now why I had to break all this out into its own separate post?

Originally, I was using the ΙΑΩ-based epodes, but I never really liked them, especially compared to all the other elegant options we have now based on the BZDH technique or its variants.  Of course, we have quite a few options now, and there are plenty of arguments for and against each one.  Here’s what I recommend based on your specific approach:

• If you’re using a strict Arabic or classically “pure” geomantic system apart from planetary or other concerns and want to stick to the root of geomancy as much as possible, despite any other advantages out there from the other systems, use the Transliterated BZDH system, most preferably the Arabic system (bā/zā/dā/ḥā) or the Greek-Alpha system (ΒΑ/ΖΑ/ΔΑ/Ἁ), depending on how good your pronunciation skills at pharyngeal consonants are.
• If you’re using a purely Greek system that wants to use the advantages of the stoicheia of the Greek alphabet as much as possible, use the Mathēsis system with exact vowels (ΧΟ/ΦΥ/ΞΗ/ΘΩ).
• If you’re a general Western geomancer with no particular leanings towards or against any particular niche, use the Hybrid system with transliterated consonants (ΒΙ/ΖΥ/ΔΗ/Ἁ).  This would be considered the middle approach between the two extremes of “original root source” and “Mathēsis-only stoicheia please”, and is probably appropriate for the largest number of people given its ease of use and pronunciation.

Likewise, for the use of the geomantic epodes:

• If you want a more general use, go with the Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System.
• If you want a specialized mathētic use, go with the Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System with exact vowels.

Of course, given all the options above, there’s plenty of room for experimentation, and I’m sure one could extend the logic of the BZDH system (whether through transliteration, isopsephy, or stoicheia) even further and combining it with other vowel systems to come up with more options, or there would be still other ways to come up with elemental epodes (and maybe even geomantic epodes, as well) that aren’t based on the BZDH or ΧΦΞΘ systems!  As with so much else with geomantic magic, there’s so much to experiment and toy with, because it’s such a fertile and unexplored field of occult practice, so if you want to experiment with these or if you have other systems you use, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

# On Sounds and Silences

In preparation for some more mathetic exploration, I took another look at the Tetractys and how I want to approach the exploration of paths.  To refresh your memory, dear reader, this is my version of the Tetractys, a kind of Pythagorean “Tree of Life”, with Greek letters forming the 24 οδοι between the ten σφαιραι that collectively compromise the ten Hermetic realms.

Any particular path will connect two particular spheres.  As mentioned an age ago, I separated out the 24 paths into two sets of twelve paths: the Gnosis Schema and the Agnosis Schema.  The Gnosis Schema connects all ten spheres in a cyclical manner, starting with the Sphere of Mercury and returning back to it multiple times.  We start at Mercury, continue down to Jupiter, then to Mars, then to the Sun, then back to Mercury, then to the Moon, and so forth.  This was the foundation for the assignment of letters to these paths, and each path in this order has the letter that corresponds to each of the twelve Zodiac signs.

Having the letters for the paths is good, since given we have several techniques to meditate on the power of individual letters.  However, even if we have means to access the powers of the paths, what might I do to access the powers of the spheres themselves in a similar fashion?  The paths lead to the spheres, but how do I embrace the spheres?  My instinct would be to use meditation on the seven vowels that correspond to the seven planets, but that only works for the lower seven of the spheres that correspond to the seven planets.

In the subfield of linguistics known as phonology, there are different ways to categorize a vowel.  A vowel can be produced in the front, middle, or back of the mouth; it can be produced with the tongue elevated or lowered; it can be produced with the lips rounded or unrounded.  A specific diagram is often used, known as the vowel trapezium, that illustrates the different vowels used for a given language, such as the one below for standard Californian English.  The more to the left a vowel is, the closer the tongue is towards the front; the more to the right, the closer the tongue is towards the back; the higher, the more closed the mouth is; the lower, the more open the mouth is.

Using Ancient Greek phonology, which is what I prefer for ritual, the resulting scheme that demonstrates (roughly, per Wikipedia) what the vowel qualities are for the seven Greek vowels:

Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close Ι Υ
Close-mid Ο
Middle Ε
Open-mid Η Ω
Open Α

Take a look at how these vowels are associated with the planets on the Tetractys.  We’ve previously grouped the ten spheres into three groups: the Hot Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Sun), the Cold Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Venus), and the Cosmic Initiatory Cycle (Mercury, Stars, Monad, Earth).  If we look at the Hot and Cold cycles, we can separate the vowels like this:

• Hot: Ε, Υ, Ο, Ι
• Cold: Ε, Α, Ω, Η

The Hot vowels are all middle-to-closed vowels (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth raised upward to the roof), while the Cold vowels are all middle-to-open (formed by the tongue in the middle of the mouth lowered down to the floor).  The vowel Ε, representing Mercury in the middle of the Tetractys, is fittingly part of both cycles as well as the only true middle or neutral vowel formed in the mouth.  Additionally, the most extreme closed vowel is Ι, representing the Sun which “descends” into Jupiter and Mars according to the Tetractys, and the most extreme open vowel is Α, representing the Moon which “descends” into Saturn and Venus.  Ε, the vowel of Mercury, “descends” into Venus and Jupiter, the vowels of which are less extreme and more moderated in the mouth than the vowels of Saturn and Mars.  The sync between the vowel qualities and the placement of the spheres of heaven on the Tetractys forms a neat little match.

This leaves three spheres that have no such sounds for the heavens: the Fixed Stars, the Earth, and the Monad.  These are the spheres that comprise the Cosmic cycle, which stars with Mercury and thus the vowel Ε, but there are no vowels for these last three spheres.  I’m still wrapping my head around this, and this is all as yet purely theoretical, but it would make sense that these spheres have no sound.  These are spheres of silence, but they’re different spheres, and thus should have different resonances, different “sounds” of silence.  Silence is a simple word, but like the word “love”, I think that it would be fitting to think of different kinds of silence that the word itself may not clearly delineate.  Bear with me a bit through this.

The sphere of the Earth (leading up to Mercury) is the sphere of terrestrial, pregnant silence.  This is the tension in the air you feel before a conversation, the feeling of blood pulsing through your veins, the breath entering in and exiting from the lungs, the whisper of wind coursing through the skies, the currents of water under the ocean, the flame combusting on clean fuel.  This is the silence that is an absence of communication but is always surrounded and punctuated by it.  This is the silence you hear everywhere there is life, the silence of potential, the silence of worldly presence without which there cannot be action.  This is the silence that gives way to speech and necessitates it in order to be produced again.  This is the silence of the womb whence we come and the silence of the tomb whither we go.

The sphere of the Stars (leading away from Mercury) is the sphere of heavenly, holy silence.  This is the Hymns of Silence, the infinite chorus sung outside the hearing of those who live, the deafening silence that ascends and descends that backs up all cosmic travel and all magical work, the sound behind any sound.  This is the silence of communion, of ritual, of connection without bodies.  This is the silence of activity, the silence of divine power, the silence of initiation.  This is the silence that precludes the need for sound and overrides any song sung, tale told, or speech spoken.  This is the eternal silence underlying all things that exist, both sounding-board and root of sound for all that becomes, all that is, all that was, and all that might be.

One way to think of the difference between these two kinds of silence is to reflect upon how we recognize something meant when we hear it.  When we hear a word we understand, we have the spoken sound of it, but then we also have the known meaning of it.  We cannot directly hear meaning, but it is borne into us by the sound of the word.  The meaning is always forever in our mind, even if it is not always at the forefront of our minds; conversely, the sound can always be made, but is not the only sound we make nor is it a sound that continues forever.  A meaning cannot be communicated to another without it being spoken aloud, and a word that is not understood does not communicate meaning.  In this case, meaning is like the silence of the Stars: it is always there, but must be known before being understood or used in any way; likewise, word is like the silence of the Earth: it must be made, though it cannot be made forever without something else interrupting it, and it can only be made once per instance.

That just leaves the silence of the Monad.

The sphere of the Monad (between the spheres of the Stars and of the Earth) is…well, this is a little tricky.  This is a silence beyond silence.  This is a place beyond places.  This is a sound beyond sounds.  And it is none of these things.  The Monad is, in a word, God, beyond all duality and all manifestation, beyond all potential and all action.  This silence is ineffable, the holy presence itself that contains all information intelligible and unintelligible, all knowledge knowable and unknowable.  This is the place from which sounds and silences both come.  This is a thing beyond understanding, describing, or talking, so perhaps it is best to keep my own silence on this matter.

# Pronouncing Generated Greek Names

In my quest for working more with the Greek alphabet in my practice, there’s one thing that Greek doesn’t do too well that Hebrew does excellently, and that’s the pronunciation of generated names.  Not names generated from the point of stoicheia, but rather names generated from other processes where it may not be a “legal” Greek name following rules of Greek orthography or phonology.  If you plan to use generated names for spirits in your work, Greek is not the most convenient option in some respects, but it is in others,

Consider the generation of the name of the Natal Genius (which you can generate easily thanks to Quaero Lux’s excellent Daimon Name Calculator), where you input the degrees of the five hylegical places (Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Part of Fortune, Prenatal Syzygy) and you get a five-letter sequence back based on these degree locations that forms the name of your Natal Genius, the spirit who watches over you in this life and is the Idea of all the things you do and are meant to do.  Chris Warnock and Fr. Rufus Opus tell you more about how to develop this name, both of which are based on Agrippa’s methods (book III, chapter 26).  Basically, every degree of the Zodiac has a letter attributed to it; the Hebrew method starts with Aleph at the first degree of Aries, Bet at the second degree of Aries, and so forth all the way through the end of the Zodiac, looping back on the alphabet in the 23rd degree of Aries at Aleph, Bet at the 24th, and so forth.  By finding the degrees of these five hylegical places in the order given above, you get the name of the Natal Genius.  It’s a little complicated, but the overall process is simple.

Thing is, Hebrew has 22 letters (not counting the final forms of Kaph, Nun, etc.), which is not a divisor of 360, the number of degrees in a circle.  Thus, the final letter of the final degree of the Zodiac is not Tav, as might be expected, but Chet, which then immediately goes back to Aleph in the next degree, the first of Aries.  Greek, on the other hand, has 24 letters, which is a factor of 360 (24 × 15 = 360), so the letter corresponding to the final degree of Pisces is Ōmega, which flips back to the letter Alpha in the next degree, which is the first of Aries.  In this sense, the Greek system works a bit nicer.

However, Hebrew is more amenable to pronouncing random strings of consonants (which is all the Hebrew script really is) than Greek is, since Greek has a mixture of vowels and consonants that need to be pronounced together.  With Hebrew, you just need to throw in an extra “eh” or “uh” here or there, maybe “ah” or “i” if the letter is Heh or Yod, and you’re good to go.  You can get more complicated than that if you want, but I haven’t really noticed a big difference.  Greek, however, is more complicated; how does one pronounce ΔΩΚΓΦ?  Dohkgph?  Doh-kegph?  What happens when you have two of the same vowels in a row?  Where exactly do you throw in vowels to make the word pronounceable?

To that end, I’m going to take a page out of some famous Jewish kabbalists who were famed for working with letters and institute a system of “natural vowels”, the vowel that can be most readily used with a given letter.  For vowels, you just use the vowel, but the consonants oftentimes need an extra vowel thrown in.  Simply put, this vowel is the first vowel from the name of the letter itself:

Letter Name Natural Vowel
Α Alpha a
Β Bēta ē
Γ Gamma a
Δ Delta e
Ε Epsilon e
Ζ Zēta ē
Η Ēta ē
Θ Thēta ē
Ι Iōta i
Κ Kappa a
Λ Lambda a
Μ Mu u/y
Ν Nu u/y
Ξ Xei or Xi ei, i
Ο Omicron o
Π Pei or Pi ei, i
Ρ Rhō ō
Σ Sigma i
Τ Tau au
Υ Upsilon u, y
Φ Phei or Phi ei/i
Χ Khei or Khi ei/i
Ψ Psei or Psi ei/i
Ω Ōmega ō

Okay, so we have those.  But there are a few notes with this:

• A vowel is its own natural vowel; there’s no change or transformation involved here.
• The letters Π, Φ, Χ, and Ψ have two spellings and, therefore, two possible natural vowels.  The first spelling with “ei” is the classical Attic spelling of the letters, and the second spelling with just “i” is the modern Greek spelling; which you use is up to you, though I prefer classical spellings whenever possible.
• The letters Μ, Ν, and Υ all have upsilon as their natural vowel.  These can be written as “u” or “y”, but are pronounced the same, like a French u or a German ü.
• The letter Τ has the vowel combination “au”, but more on this later.

Now, how do we go about using these letters?  If we have a string of consonants, where exactly do we put in vowels?  One natural vowel per consonant?  While simple, it’s a little too naïve, and I have a more complicated but elegant system in place that produces, as close as possible, a “natural”-sounding Greek name.  First, though, let’s take a short break into Greek phonology and orthography.

First, let’s break down the Greek consonants into a phonetic categories (which is a little different than how we normally break them down for stoicheic purposes):

• Bilabial plosives: Π, Β, Φ
• Dental plosives: Τ, Δ, Θ
• Velar plosives: Κ, Γ, Χ
• Nasals: Μ, Ν
• Liquids: Λ, Ρ
• Fricatives: Σ
• Affricates: Ζ, Ξ, Ψ

While Greek spelling tends to be straightforward, we need to watch out for digraphs, or clusters of two letters that produce a distinct sound that would not be immediately noted.  There are two types of digraphs, those with vowels and those with consonants.

Vowel digraphs, which are pronounced together as a unit:

• αι (pronounced “ai” as in “eye“)
• αυ (pronounced “au” as in “how“)
• ει (pronounced “ei” as in “skate”)
• ευ (pronounced “eu” as in “ew“)
• ηυ (pronounced “eu” as in “eww“)
• οι (pronounced “oi” as in “coy“)
• ου (pronounced “oo” as in “food”)
• υι (pronounced “ui/yi” as in “yield”)

Consonant digraphs:

• γγ (pronounced “ng”)
• γξ (pronounced “nks”)
• γκ (pronounced “nk”)
• γχ (pronounced “nkh”)
• μπ (pronounced “b” at the beginning of a word and “mb” elsewhere)
• ντ (pronounced “d” at the beginning of a word and “nd” elsewhere)

Plus there are special consonant digraphs that are considered doubled or germinate sounds but not at the beginning or end of a word:

• τθ (pronounced “tth” as in “that thing”)
• κχ (pronounced “kkh” as in “mark king”)
• πφ (pronounced “pph” as in “sap pins”)
• κγ (pronounced “gg” as in “sag gasket”)

So, with that, let’s get onto the rules, first for consonants:

1. A consonant that precedes a vowel does not use its natural vowel of the consonant, but the vowel itself.  Thus, ΒΑ is “ba”, not “bēa”.
2. A consonant that follows a short vowel does not use its natural vowel, but forms part of a syllable with the previous consonant-vowel pair.  Thus, ΒΑΓ is “bag”, not “ba-ga”.
3. A consonant that follows a long vowel or a consonant with its own long natural vowel or a vowel dipthong (two vowels pronounced as a unit) uses its natural vowel, starting its own syllable.  Thus, ΒΗΓΤ is “bē-gat” and not “bēg-ta”; ΒΗΘΓΤ is “bē-thē-gat”; ΒΕΙΓΤ is “bei-gat”.
4. A consonant may or may not use its natural vowel if it forms part of a consonant combination; if not, it is followed by the natural vowel of the second letter of the combination.  Thus, ΒΑΓΓ can be”ban-ga” or “ba-gag”; ΒΑΝΤ can be “ban-dau” or “ba-nyt”.
5. A combination of a plosive plus a liquid or nasal is to be treated as a consonant cluster.  Thus, ΤΡΟΦA is “troph-a”, ΜΒΛΧΙ is “myb-lakh-i”, and ΣΚΠΛΓ is “skap-lag”.
6. A doubled consonant is broken up across syllables unless the preceding syllable has a long vowel.  Thus, ΒΑΤΤΑ is “bat-ta” and ΒΑΚΚΑ is “bak-kha”, but ΒΤΤΑ is “bē-tau-ta” and ΒΠΠΟ is “bē-pei-po”.
7. A consonant cluster of the form τθ, κχ, κγ, or πφ is broken up across syllables unless the preceding syllable has a long vowel, but is treated as separate consonants at the beginning or end of a word.  Thus, ΒΑΚΧΟ is “bak-kho”, but ΤΘΟΞΕ is “tauth-ox-e” and ΗΠΦΓΛ is “ē-piph-gal”.
8. A doubled consonant or a consonant cluster of the form τθ, κχ, κγ, or πφ cannot occur at the beginning or end of a word.  Thus, ΤΘΓΗΑ is “tauth-gē-ha” and not “tthē-gē-ha”, and ΞΗΟΓΡ is “xē-hog-rō” and not “xē-hogr”.

When it comes to vowels, there are a few more rules:

1. Any two of the same vowels in succession have an “h” inserted if they do not form part of a vowel digraph.  Thus, ΑΑ is “aha” and ΕΕ is “ehe”.  This also applies to long vowels and short vowels, such that ΕΗ is “e-hē”, ΗΕ is “ē-he”, ΟΩ is “o-hō“, and ΩΟ is “ō-ho”.
2. An extra “h” may be inserted between any two vowels if it makes the distinction between them clearer.  This is up to the personal preference of the reader.
3. Any two vowels that form part of a diagraph are read as a digraph.  Thus, ΕΙ is “ei” and ΑΥ is “au”.
4. A vowel following a vowel digraph has an “h” inserted before it, preserving the vowel digraph that comes first.  Thus, ΑΥΑ is “au-ha”.

Essentially, these rules try to ensure a specific type of syllable structure, where a syllable can (but does not have to) start with a consonant, and ends with a long vowel (ēta, ōmega, or any vowel digraph) or a short vowel (any single vowel except ēta or omega) plus a consonant.  So, with that, let’s try some randomized examples, with syllables clearly marked by hyphens:

1. ΚΥΚΛΥ is “Kyk-lu”.
2. ΞΩΘΑΧ is “Xō-thax”.
3. ΒΥΧΙΩ is “Bykh-iō“.
4. ΒΝΑΗΔ is “Bē-na-hē-de”.  Why not “Bēn-a-hēd”?  Because ēta (natural vowel of bēta) is a long vowel, so the syllable cannot end with a consonant.  Nu, the following letter, then starts its own syllable with the following alpha instead of forming a syllable with bēta.  Likewise, the ēta on the end of the word cannot be followed by a consonant, so the delta forms its own syllable with its own natural vowel.  Because alpha and ēta don’t form a vowel digraph, an “h” is inserted between the two sounds.
5. ΞΩΛΒΘ is “Xō-lab-thē”.  Why not “Xōl-bath”?  Because the lambda starts its own syllable, since the preceding vowel is long (ōmega and not omicron).
6. ΝΤΔΞΣ is “Daud-xeis” or “Daud-xis”.  Note the consonant cluster at the start which still uses the natural vowel of tau, and how the different natural vowels of xi can affect the pronunciation here.
7. ΙΦΑΘΓ is “Iph-ath-ga”.  Note how the first letter is a vowel, which forms its own syllable with the subsequent phi.  Because gamma at the end isn’t connected to the preceding syllable, it forms its own.
8. ΗΑΙΩΞ is “Ē-ai-ō-xei” or “Ē-hai-hō-xi”.  Because the first letter is a vowel, it doesn’t connect at all to the next syllable, which is also a vowel, and a vowel digraph at that!  Because the ōmega is long, it doesn’t connect to the next consonant, leaving xi to form its own syllable.  Plus, given the string of vowels that may be complicated to pronounce, extra “h” sounds may be inserted if it makes it any easier.
9. ΞΣΛΩΩ is “Xei-sil-ō-hō” or “Xis-lō-hō“.  Note here how the different possible natural vowels of xi can change the name!  If we use “ei” as the natural vowel of xi, then it’s a vowel digraph and treated as a long vowel, so the next letter sigma starts its own syllable.  If we use “i”, then we treat it as a short vowel, so it forms a closed syllable with sigma.
10. ΦΣΣΓΓ is “Phei-sis-gag” or “Phis-sing-ga”.  In the first case, we treat the vowel of phi as long, which pairs the sigmas and gammas together into their own closed syllables.  However, if we treat the natural vowel of phi as short, then we break up the double sigma across syllables as a consonant cluster broken up across the first two syllables, and the double gamma as an “ng” consonant cluster also broken up across the last two syllables, ending in the natural vowel of the final gamma.
11. ΓΖΦΞΠ is “Gaz-phei-xei-pei”, “Gaz-phix-pi”, or “Gaz-phei-xip”.  This is what happens when you have multiple letters with multiple natural vowel choices; you get multiple choices of how to pronounce it and divide up the syllables!

Okay, so now we’re able to pronounce randomized sequences of Greek letters, which is pretty cool.  I’ve never encountered a good set of rules based on linguistics that indicates how to pronounce these types of names, and the rules here for Greek aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it.

What about isopsephy, though?  If we’re analyzing the numerical value of a generated Greek word, do we just use the five letters given to us through the generation method or do we fill in the word with the extra vowels we need to make it pronounceable?  For the last example above, do we use ΓΖΦΞΠ (without extra vowels) or do we use ΓΑΖΦΙΞΠΙ (with extra vowels)?  Honestly, try both.  You can treat the form without extra vowels (if any are needed) as a purer, more divine or ideal form of the spirit, and the form with vowels as a more manifest or material form, though they’re pronounced the same either way.  In some cases, like with ΞΩΘΑΧ, no extra vowels are needed, so the isopsephic value wouldn’t change anyway.  If you had to choose, I’d go with the version without extra vowels, but try both and see what comes up.

Ah, and now I can hear a reader in the distance saying “but these are to be used for angel names, aren’t they?”  Yes, you can use this method to generate angelic names with Greek letters and pronunciations, but chances are you’re wondering about the theophoric suffix “-(i)el” or “-iah” we see so often at the end of angelic names.  In Greek, these would be written as -(Ι)ΗΛ and -ΙΑ, respectively, and can be used to mark a name as explicitly angelic or divine.  In practice, either can be used, though I read that the “-(i)el” form of the name is used to denote the spirit working down towards the physical and away from the spiritual while the “-iah” form is used to work from the physical up to the spiritual.  I haven’t noticed a big difference either way, personally, having experimented with both, but other people might think it important.  When using these endings, I suggest you take the extra letters into account for isopsephy, and spell out the name in full with all the extra vowels.

Since I hadn’t seen a guide like this to pronouncing randomized or generated strings of Greek letters, I thought I’d share my method.  I hope it comes in help for you guys; I know I’ll certainly be using it as I work with spirits more to find new names.  The above rules can be bent and twisted as needed, of course; they’re meant to suggest pronunciations, not to dictate them, since the spirits themselves have the final word on the matter.  I can think of a few exceptions to the rules above, but I’ll leave those to the adventurous phonologist and linguist to solve out.  I mean, consider some of the words in the PGM, like ΑΒΡΑΩΘ, which is “ab-ra-ōth” and not, according to our rules, “ab-ra-ō-thē”.  Then again, the words of power in the PGM tend to be, you know, pronounceable.  Random letter combinations are not always so, which is what my rules help with.

Who knows, it might even come in use to read those weird barbarous words of power from older texts or (heavens forbid!) some kind of Greek Enochiana to be developed.