A Simple Prayer from a Beloved Fandom

As I know I’ve mentioned before on my blog, one of my all-time favorite fandoms is that of Myst, the famous game series (with accompanying novels) put out by Cyan starting with the famous 1993 game (one of the first on CD-ROM and which perhaps cemented the medium’s importance in the history of computing) and progressing to the critically acclaimed sequel Riven in 1997, followed by other games like Exile, Uru, and others.  In addition to having a fantastic story and universe built (which is itself centered around the building, or rather connecting to, other worlds), it has a famous constructed language known as D’ni.  It’s not as well-built as other conlangs out there, whether for games or for more serious use, but it’s still got a bit of a corpus for itself.

One of the oldest (perhaps the first) full text of D’ni is known as “Atrus’s Prayer”.  This prayer, attributed to Atrus (one of the main characters of the whole Myst series as a sort of helpless and largely absent benefactor and instigating character who asks for your help), was shown in the 1996 Myst calendar.  For each month, the calendar included a snippet from one of Atrus’ journals regarding the various worlds (“Ages”) he traveled to and studied, mostly those that weren’t actually featured in the game itself except perhaps in one or two oblique references.  However, for November, underneath an image of Atrus’ makeshift writing desk when he was trapped in K’veer in D’ni, we find this prayer instead of a journal entry (or, perhaps, it was indeed a journal entry of its own).

Interestingly, on the December page immediately following, instead of a prayer or a journal entry relating to a particular Age, we instead get a snippet of Atrus’ own personal journal, which I include here for the tantalizing hint of context:

I am not able to understand, only to understand more.  The picture that I wish to examine is not static, it is growing and living.  Even as I understand how the hinges of a door allow me to open it, I find it leads to a room even larger than the first.  But I think perhaps that is part of wisdom.  Knowing that I cannot know all, understanding that I cannot understand all.  If the Maker’s creation was understandable would I not find the Maker something less than great, would I not consider myself equal with the Maker?  It is a tribute then to his greatness when I find myself more confused even at the very instant I have gained insight.

I’ll forego the transliteration of the prayer for the moment (for reasons which will soon become apparent), and stick to the…well, what the D’ni linguistic community can manage to translate of it.  This is a combination of several works that try to analyze it (here and here, for example, among others linked below), with possibilities regarding particular words:

Yahvo
I was [reflecting (?)] [on] your [powers (?)].
I was thinking what [grace (?)] it is to be able to link to various places of your creation.
It is [amazing (?)] to me how complex to [apparent (?), thorough (?)] you have created this universe I live in.
Still with how it is–[however (?)] [apparent (?), thorough (?)] to five [senses (?)] – you [act (?) exist (?)] still to love for me.
I [pray (?)] to you.
What I can [accomplish (?)] by Art I do not entirely [understand (?)] I am [achieving (?)] by your greatness and holiness.
I praise you for who you are.
And I thank you for what you have [allowed (?), done (?)] and what you will [allow (?), do (?)].
I am [thankful] [for my sake (?), moreover (?), my (?)] [grandmother] was diligent to [ask (?)] with end [result (?)] about you and your [purpose (?)].

The reason for so many question marks in the text, and the general awkwardness of it all, is that this prayer was published before Riven, and Riven was the first game to actually make use of the D’ni language (even the spelling of that word was different in the original Myst game, “Dunny”, before that was dropped).  Because of this (and to state things in a non-roleplaying/out-of-character sense), it’s most likely the case that this prayer was written before the D’ni language was finalized or formalized.  While it’s still recognizably D’ni both in script and in language, many of the values of the individual letters seem to have changed between this early version of D’ni and later versions that were otherwise used, and many of the words have not otherwise been encountered and are still questionable.  As a result, if we were to transliterate the text as it is using the canonical correspondences of the D’ni script, we’d get relative nonsense, and even using corrected values, we still don’t have a full grasp of the meaning of the prayer.  Still, the overall gist of the prayer makes sense, especially to those who are familiar with the Myst universe and storyline, and especially all the more after the release of Uru and other games that expounded upon D’ni religion.

Wanting to incorporate at least a bit more D’ni in my own practice (even if only for the sake of inspiration and to remember one of the biggest influences on my imagination since a young age), I thought I’d try my hand at coming up with a prayer based on the above, less oriented towards the D’ni religion that Atrus might have received in his own small way and more towards my own Hermetic path.  The way the prayer is phrased even in the original, it would seem as if a silent contemplation of awe and pious observance of the cosmos and divine creation would precede the recital of the prayer.

O Maker,

I was reflecting on your powers,
and in thinking what a blessing it is to be able to behold the various works of your making,
it awes me how complex in appearance you have created this cosmos I live in.
Yet, however it may appear to my senses, you still continue to love me.

I pray to you who are called God:
I revere you who are the maker;
I cherish the making that you make.
I do not fully understand what I am to accomplish by the great power you grant me,
yet still I work to achieve it by your greatness and holiness.
I praise you for what you do;
I thank you for what you have done and what you will do.

I am thankful for my teachers who were diligent in seeking you and the understanding of you.

In the original prayer, the recipient of the prayer is addressed as Yahvo, also sometimes called “the Maker” and the deity of the monotheistic religion of the D’ni.  Instead of translating this as “God”, I instead decided to opt for “Maker”, since this is also a way to name God according to Hermēs in CH XIV.4, and is also used to refer to God in other parts of the CH (like in CH V or CH X).  Likewise, when it comes to “Art” (which is a technical term referring to the D’ni study and mastery of writing special books to link to other Ages), which I do not myself possess, I decided to generalize it to “this great power you grant me”.  To be sure, there are plenty of Hermetic arts, the three biggest and famous being those of astrology, alchemy, and theurgy, but I decided to both generalize and personalize it a bit.  Similarly, instead of referring to linking to the various places of creation, I changed it to refer to beholding and bearing witness to the works of creation (as much as I’d love to link to other worlds, myself).  I also decided to add in an extra statement not there in the original prayer, but based on something included in a letter from Rand Miller and later included in a prophetical text from one of the later games.

There’s one word present in Atrus’ Prayer that is important to hinge things on: taygahn, usually translated as “love” but with a slightly more involved meaning closer to “to love-know with the whole mind”.  In D’ni, this word “implied a deep understanding, respect, and most importantly unselfish love for one another” in the context of D’ni marriage and the ideal relationship between spouses, but was also used in the context of D’ni belief as the cornerstone of a relationship with Yahvo.  We might consider as the closest translation for this D’ni word used in the religious sense to be the Greek word ἀγάπη agápē.  Interestingly, the word used throughout the Hermetic texts for “love” when it occurs in a divine context is either a variant of φιλία philía (e.g. CH IV.6, SH 2B.1) or—far more commonly—ἔρως érōs (e.g. CH I.4, CH I.12—16, CH VI.4, CH XVIII.14, SH 2B.3).  Litwa notes the role of érōs (passionate love) in the ascent of heaven is talked at length in Plato’s Phaedrus (224a—252b) and Symposium (206a—212b).  That agápē is not used in the Hermetic texts shouldn’t be all that surprising, seeing how it was only sometimes used for “affection” or “hold in esteem” generally prior to Christianity and only took on its much more elevated sense afterwards, originating in the Great Commandment from the New Testament, itself based on Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:5 (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”, וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכׇל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכׇל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכׇל־מְאֹדֶֽךָ׃), the Hebrew word there being a generic one for “love” in a general sense.  Anyway, it’s interesting that Atrus’ Prayer has (what we guess) Yahvo reaching out or giving taygahn-love to Atrus, rather than some dedication of Atrus committing to taygahn-love of Yahvo, but I think it makes sense in its own way, much as God in the Hermetic texts loves Humanity and, thus, each one of us as Humans, wanting us to be truly Human and to come to know (and be with) God.

The phrase “I praise you for who you are” in the original D’ni of the prayer is something I changed to “I praise you for what you do”.  To me, it’s weird to think of God as a person or other entity who is, like how my parents are or how I am or how Hermēs is, and I don’t consider God to exist in the same way as other entities might exist.  Following CH V.9, CH XI.13, CH XI.22, and CH XIV.6, which altogether say that God is not separate from the activity of God which is making (hence one of the names of God being “maker” according to Hermēs), I thought it better to rephrase this as “I praise you for what you do”, since what God does is, in effect, who God is.  This also follows Jack Miles’ insight (from his book God: A Biography, in chapter 4 section 1) that one of the names of God from Shemot/Exodus 3:15, “`Ehyeh `Ašer `Ehyeh” (“I am who I am”) can be altered slightly by changing a yod to a vav, leaidng to “`Ehyeh `Ašer `Ahweh” (“I am what I do”), with the last word “`ahweh” being strikingly similar to the Tetragrammaton itself.  In changing this phrase from “I praise you for who you are” to “I praise you for what you do”, I’m also setting up a better flow and connection with the following statement of “I thank you for what you have done and what you will do”.  Of course, the D’ni word ahrtah is not well understood, and could mean things like “do” or “permit” or “allow” or “achieve” in this context, but I’m going to go with a simple “do” (and may likely be connected to the word bahrtah earlier on tentatively translated as “accomplish”, perhaps without a prefix b’ used to indicate an infinitive verb in D’ni).

The final line of the prayer is a bit strange; based on how the prayer was originally typeset, it would seem that this final dedication of thanks to Atrus’ grandmother Ti’ana may not be part of the prayer itself.  Rather, it seems like a postscript or secondary meditation by Atrus in remembering how the eternal inquisitiveness of his grandmother (“what do you see, Atrus?”, a question he kept as a mantra close to his heart throughout his life since being raised by her in his childhood) in order to reach a better understanding of the nature of things.  Although I don’t recall Atrus coming across as particularly religious or spiritual in the games or novels (nor is religion heavily mentioned in the games until the time of Uru and Myst V), he’s certainly not irreligious, especially given the November and December pages of the 1996 Myst calendar that showed a religious wonder and awe at his deity and their works.  Since neither of my grandmothers were particularly religious or informative in my own religious life but from whom I still learned plenty, I’ve opted to generalize this dedication to “teachers” and to refocus it less on God’s purpose/design and more on the understanding (if not outright knowledge, as in gnōsis) of God.  As a final dedication, it also recalls how I myself am able to get so far and how far I’ve gotten precisely because of those who have gone before me.

For those who are interested in the transliteration of the D’ni text of Atrus’ Prayer (corrected, such as it is) and perhaps to give it a shot at pronouncing, I offer it below in my own transcription system (the other more common styles given on Omniglot and other websites around the internet, none of which I’ve ever been particularly happy with):

(Y)avo,
Kodoḵantor femagentīom.
Kodokanræd kæm lorag kenen b’ken s̠in b’bēḵ b’totī ranal co marntavom.
Dopraqizen b’zū d̠o muḵon b’tērūs̠ lemarnem met mis̠o cav te.
Gat̠ t’d̠o kenen—d̠ozones̠ tērū t’bas̠tī vat—ḵagem gat̠ b’tēgan ḵezū.
Parḵ b’s̠em.
Kæm s̠in barta t’gestō rilnar b’fasī domad̠o t’parat̠om gahūcēt̠om.
Votar a’s̠em ḵekæmrov kenem.
G’qev a’s̠em ḵekæm l’artaem ga kæm boartaem.
Ken qevet ōn mor’oḵ’mor kokenem remesfet b’vēnu t’ḵōtag zu cos̠em g’bortaom.

As a pronunciation guide, besides the usual values of the letters which you can otherwise guess based on English while also trying to be faithful to the nuances of D’ni script modifiers:

  • Vowels
    • a — /ɑː/, as in “hot” or like “father”
    • ā — /aɪ/, as in “eye”
    • æ — /æ/, as in “cat”
    • e — /ɛ/, as in “bed”
    • ē — /eɪ/, as in “day”
    • i — /ɪ/, as in “bit”
    • ī — /iː/, as in “see”
    • o — /ɔː/, as in “thought” or like “goat”
    • ō — /ɔɪ/, as in “boy”
    • u — /ʊ/, as in “hook”
    • ū — /ʊː/, like “shoe”
    • ‘ — /ə/ after a consonant is an unstressed relaxed vowel as in the final syllable of “Tina”
  • Consonants
    • ḵ — /x/, like German “ach” or Scottish “loch”
    • d̠ — /ð/, as in “then”
    • t̠ — /θ/, as in “thin”
    • s̠ — /ʃ/, as in “shin”
    • q — /t͡ʃ/, as in “chair”
    • c — /t͡s/, as in “pats”
    • j — /d͡ʒ/, as in “hedge”
    • ‘ — /ʔ/ after a vowel is a glottal stop as in “Hawai’i” or “uh-oh”
    • Other consonants (v, b, t, s, y, g, k, f, p, r, m, d, h, w, z, n) are as in English.

If one wanted to make a few changes to the D’ni prayer based on my own version of it to make it fit a bit better, though still largely not quite understandable according to modern D’ni understanding:

  • Instead of Avo at the start, it should probably be Yavo to accord with the more common spelling.  To avoid messing with any potential nuance of saying Avo instead of Yavo (the former might mean “Father” or another honorific title of the god), we might instead just say Rebareltan (“the Maker”) as an epithet.
  • Instead of b’ken s̠in b’bāḵ b’totī ranal co marntavom (“to be able to link to various places of your creation”), say b’ken s̠in b’yim a tīgaltī ranal co marntavom (“to be able to see the various works of your creation”).
  • Instead of t’gestō (“by Art”), say tregas̠inet̠ mot koltagem b’zū  (“by the great ability you have given me”).  “Ability” in this instance is a synonym for “power”, in the sense of a potential capability, capacity, or ability to accomplish something.
  • Instead of Votar a’s̠em ḵekæmrov kenem (“I praise you for who you are”), say Votar a’s̠em ḵekæm doartaem (“I praise you for what you are doing”).  I decided to use the simple present (artaem) as a sort of gnomic aspect rather than using the continuous which seems more temporally progressive.
  • Instead of ōn mor’oḵ’mor (“my grandmother”? it’s not clear what ōn in this context means, though it is strikingly similar to the D’ni possessive suffix meaning “my”) in the last line, say garot̠tīō (“my great ones”, i.e. “my teachers”).  There is no word for “teacher” I could find, so I’m taking a cue from Judaism and using the term garot̠ (“great one”) in the same way a Jew might refer to their rabbi (from Hebrew rav meaning “great one”, metaphorically “master”).  Because we change the subject of this clause from a singular noun to a plural one, we also need to change the verb to agree with it, so kokenem (“she was”) becomes kokenīt (“they were”).

This would yield the following prayer, a mixture of “proper D’ni” based on the language’s grammar and lexicon as currently understood and the “early D’ni” of the 1996 Myst Calendar itself.  I’ve also added a few minor orthographic and stylistic changes to make it mesh better with D’ni as commonly understood and today (inasmuch as it might be “common”).

Yavo (Rebareltan),

Kodoḵantor femagentīom.
Kodokanræd kæm lorag kenen ḵezū b’ken s̠in b’yim a tīgaltī ranal co bareltavom.
Dopraqizen b’zū d̠o muḵon b’tērūs̠ lemarnem a mis̠o tetomet cav.
Gat̠ t’d̠o kenen—d̠ozones̠ tērū t’bas̠tīō vat—ḵagem gat̠ b’tēgan ḵezū.

Parḵ b’s̠em kæmrov kenem fūsaij Yavo.
Isyīr a s̠em kæmrov kenem rebareltan.
S̠eten a rebalretav mot barelem.
Kæm s̠in barta tregas̠inet̠ mot koltagem b’zū rilnar b’fasī domad̠o t’parat̠om gat’hūcēt̠om.
Votar a s̠em ḵekæm artaem.
G’qev a s̠em ḵekæm koartaem ga kekæm boartaem.

Ken qevet ḵegarot̠tīō kæmrovtī kokenīt remesfet b’vēnu t’ḵōtag zu cos̠em g’bortaom.

I’ll leave finding and translating the minor changes as an exercise for the overly interested geeky reader, but it still remains in sync with my own version of the prayer given above.

Hermeticism FAQ: Part IV, Practice

Continuing our Hermeticism FAQ series (see part I, part II, and part III here), let’s continue today with (the final) Part IV, on the various practices of Hermeticism!

What practices are part of Hermeticism?

Although the “philosophical Hermetica” are great for teaching doctrine, they offer very little in the way of actual practice, whether day-to-day routine practice or things for non-routine ritual.  However, we do know that prayer to God is something Hermēs Trismegistos encourages, especially at sunrise (preferably outdoors facing east) and at sunset (again preferably outdoors facing south), along with at nighttime immediately before going to bed.  Practices of purity and asceticism are also encouraged, both for their training of the body as well for the work of engaging divinity without being polluted by the passions of base matter.  In tandem with study of the discourses and other arts, frequent meditation should be engaged with, both for the purposes of delving deeper into the meanings of the teachings as well as to gain insight regarding one’s own nature and the nature of the cosmos generally.  For those who are building shrines for the gods, calling the gods down into statues for more immediate contact and worship of them is recommended, by the means of filling the statues with sacred substances, burning incense before them, bathing them in sacred liquids, and the singing of hymns to seat them in their terrestrial bodies; rather than just statues or other images, bodily possession by the gods may also be attempted.  When ready, works of spiritual elevation and divine ascent should be undertaken, which can be considered among the crowning acts (though far from a one-time effort) a Hermeticist should endeavor towards.  Besides these, many other practices as described in the “technical Hermetica” or which are borrowed from any number of other magical and spiritual traditions may also be incorporated.

Are there any particular gods I should worship?

The only divinity one is strictly required to worship and venerate in Hermeticism is God, and that in a way that is often distinct from other gods; rather than burning incense or making material sacrifices, the true worship of God consists of a sacrifice of speech and the singing of hymns in sacred silence, adoring the Creator by means of their Creation.  Beyond that, whatever other gods one worships (if one worships other gods at all) is entirely up to the student.  For those who are willing, Hermēs Trismegistos himself is an excellent candidate to receive worship for those who follow the Way of Hermēs, whether as a divinity in his own right or as a deified hero-prophet; the same goes for the students of Hermēs Trismegistos, like Asklēpios (the Egyptian Imhotep), Tat (another instance of Thōth), and Ammōn (the Egyptian Amun).  While Greek and Egyptian religion offers many such deities to worship, to say nothing of the many syncretic religious entities present in texts like the Greek Magical Papyri, there is no limit nor rule as to which gods one should worship, so long as one (also) worships God.

Did the classical Hermeticists practice magic, and should we continue to practice magic today?

Although the “philosophical Hermetica” is silent on the subject, and although Zosimus of Panopolis suggests that Hermēs Trismegistos disavowed magic, it is a fact that Hermeticism has long been associated with magical works of many types, and indeed, ancient Egyptian religion saw little distinction between religious works and magical works, to the point where the very concept of magic itself (Heka) in Egypt was venerated as a deity in its own right in addition to the view that the gods had such supernatural power at their disposal to accomplish all manner of works.  Magic is simply the operational use of subtle forces or spiritual entities in addition to or instead of physical or bodily ones to achieve particular ends, and as such, the study of such forces and entities is part and parcel of the study of the cosmos as much as the study of any material or physical force or entity.  This being the case, classical Hermeticists (along with Egyptian priests themselves, and in company with many other wandering magicians of the day) certainly practiced magic, as this was a valid way to engage with the various powers of the cosmos, and thus we are both enabled and encouraged to today.  Of course, such works should be held to a high moral and ethical standard—but so should any other work, whether or not it can be considered “magical”.

What about astrology or alchemy?

These two arts have long been held to be Hermetic, and there’s good reason for saying so; even in the core classical Hermetic texts themselves, there is much astrological symbolism and even directives to engage in the study and practice of astrology to better understand the nature of the cosmos and of divinity.  Alchemy is somewhat more complicated of a subject, becoming more popular and well-studied in the late classical and post-classical periods, but is also tied to Hermetic practices of the creation of medicine, ink, oils, and talismans.  Different texts from different time periods will focus on these arts to various degrees, but they are certainly important for the practical side of Hermeticism, and those who are interested in Hermeticism are encouraged to study and engage with them.  Remember that the study of astrology is what helps us understand more about the processes of Fate; if astrology is the “as above”, then alchemy provides the “so below”, since it helps us understand the processes of change in the cosmos, learning how the activities and energies of the cosmos play out at a low level.  The power and potentiality of Fate can be learned through astrology, and the activity and actuality of Fate can be learned through alchemy.  Even if neither are strictly required, by learning both, one has a strong footing to engage in the work of theurgy.

What about theurgy?

Theurgy (from Greek theourgia, “divine work” or “god-work”) is the ritual mystical practice of participating in the presence of the divine, whether individual gods or God itself.  On the one hand, this can be considered the work of lifting oneself up to the level of the gods through spiritual elevation and divine ascent; on the other, it can also be considered the work of bringing the gods down to our level, either by having them inhabit sacred statues or other idols or by possessing their devotees for the gods to perform work down in our world.  In either case, the ultimate goal of theurgy is to unite ourselves with the divine, fulfilled through rites of purification of the body and soul along with communion with the gods.  It should be noted that this is not a kind of “coercion of the gods” where the gods are “forced” down (as if such a thing were possible in Hermetic terms), nor is it the case that we “trap” the gods in statues for our own bidding.  This is an act of communion, such as inviting someone to live in your home and share your table, and similar acts can be seen in the tradition of “living statues” of Hinduism and in many other pagan traditions across the world.  In a smaller sense, although not always done with theurgical goals in mind, the work of ensoulment and enlivening images can also be seen in the consecration of talismans, where one “brings to life” a particular object for it to confer some benefit, either by having a “shard” of the power of some force (like a planet) empower an object or by having a spirit come to inhabit the object.

What about thaumaturgy, and how is it different from theurgy?

Thaumaturgy (from Greek thaumatourgia “wonder-working”) is a way to describe magic in general, especially magic that is intended to create change or other paranormal phenomena in our world.  In other words, thaumaturgy is another word for most magic most people do and have done the whole world over since time immemorial.  Although some people consider theurgy to be “high magic” and thaumaturgy to be “low magic”, it should be noted that the difference between theurgy and thaumaturgy consists primarily in ends or goals, not in the means or methods; the same method one might use to raise a shade of the dead to learn where buried treasure lies may well be the same method one calls upon the presence of a god to bask in their glory in unity with them.

Are initiations involved or required in practicing Hermeticism?

“Initiation” in its literal sense indicates the beginning of something new, but in a religious context, it refers to the formal induction into a mystery, something secret that bestows some sacred or mystical power, license, experience, or knowledge, generally one protected as secret by a group dedicated to that mystery.  Importantly, an initiation is conferred upon an initiate by someone who is already initiated; it is something given, not merely taken.  In that light, although individual groups that profess Hermeticism may have their own mysteries may require initiations to access such mysteries, Hermeticism as a whole does not require them, and the very notion seems to be unknown according to the Hermetic texts.  That beings said, there are mysteries in Hermeticism, and are described as such in terms of being acts of spiritual elevation or divine ascent in order to behold divine visions.  Engaging in this work may be considered an initiation of sorts, whether or not there is one there to guide a student in such an endeavor.  It is perhaps better to consider this an initiation only when one who has already undertaken such a feat guides another in undertaking that same feat; beyond that, when one undertakes it on their own without such guidance, it might better be said to not be an initiation in the technical sense, even if it does acquaint one with a mystery of the Divine apart and away from any such group.  It’s a complicated topic to discuss, but suffice it here to say that there are often initiatory experiences involved in the higher works one undertakes in Hermeticism, whether or not one is initiated into a group by other human beings.

Is divination okay in Hermeticism?

Absolutely!  Divination is more than just “telling the future”, although it also does that, too; it is the act of approaching the gods to come to know them and what they have to say.  Not only does this fall in line with ancient practices that span the entire world, upholding old traditions of the oracles of the many gods, but it also is explicitly justified in the Hermetic texts as something legitimate we can do, so that we can know what has been, what is, and what will be.  Plus, so many forms of divination have been assigned to Hermēs Trismegistos, or even just Hermēs in the purely Greek sense, not least of which is astrology, that it’s hard to not separate out the work and study of divination from Hermeticism.

Do I need to be a vegetarian or vegan to be a Hermeticist?

At the end of the Perfect Sermon, there is a direction given by Hermēs Trismegistos to his students where they are to eat a “meal that includes no living thing” or “holy food which has no blood in it” following a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  Some interpet that this is an injunction for students of Hermēs Trismegistos to be vegetarian (or even vegan) in general, while others hold to a more limited opinion that only certain ritual meals need to be vegetarian.  It’s a good question, but there’s no one right answer.  It is known that those initiated into the Orphic and Pythagorean mystery cults were famously vegetarian as a constant ascetic practice (and also excluded certain kinds of beans due to their textural similarity to flesh), and it is also known that Egyptian priestly purity practices involved many abstinences from any number of animal products, both the eating of meat and otherwise (like the wearing of wool).  For our purposes today, while maintaining a vegetarian (or vegan, if one so chooses) diet is an excellent ascetic choice one can make, it can be agreed upon as important to abstain from consuming animal products prior to engaging in ritual and to only consume vegetarian (or vegan) food as part of ritual where ritual meals are called for, regardless whether sacrifices to the gods or spirits require meat or other animal products.

What about qabbala/kabbalah/cabala?

This term (all really the same word, just different transliterations from the Hebrew) refers to the overall mystical tradition of Judaism, which builds upon earlier Jewish traditions of hekaloth literature and merkaba mysticism along with Bablyonian and Hellenistic influence.  Although its origins ultimately lie in much earlier Jewish practices, qabbala as its own discipline only arose in the medieval period around 1200 CE.  Due to the complicated and messy history of Judaism in Europe, qabbala became integrated with non-Jewish systems of magic and mysticism, and earned central importance to magical systems like those of the Golden Dawn and Thelema.  While the study of qabbala, in its various forms and approaches, may be useful to some modern Hermeticists of various styles, it is not in and of itself Hermetic in the same sense that the Corpus Hermeticum is Hermetic, though due to the Neoplatonic and broadly Hellenistic influences upon the development of qabbala, it may be integrated with Hermetic practices.

Can I incorporate modern or non-Hermetic practices into Hermeticism?

By all means, feel free!  Considering the difficulty we have in reconstructing the practices of classical Hermeticists, to say nothing of the variety between their practices as well as the practices of various Hermeticists throughout the past 2000 years, there is plenty that can be done by us today in service to the Way of Hermēs. Just bear in mind that just because you might use a practice within a Hermetic context does not automatically make it “Hermetic”, and it is also worthy to remember the context in which such a practice arose and what its design and purpose is for.  Some things can be adapted or adopted for Hermetic ends quite neatly and nicely, other things less so, and some practices are best kept separate from Hermeticism entirely depending on their nature and purpose.

Will Hermeticism make me powerful, give me spells to get laid, etc.?

Sigh.  Technically yes, and I won’t deny that a fundamental drive for magic is the drive to get laid and get paid, but we’re also here to recognize that there’s more to life than just power, sex, money, and the like.  There’s magic, and then there’s magic for Hermetic ends, and while the same spell can be used for a Hermetic end as well as a non-Hermetic end, there’s a reason greed and lust are outlined as “irrational torments of matter” that we’re meant to purge ourselves from.  Let’s try to be a little more mature in the future, yes?

The Practice of Sending Peace

A little over a year ago, I mused a bit on the nature of peace, especially in the context of it being a blessing from God.  Between why it wasn’t listed as part of the ten mercies of God from CH XIII and the etymology of “peace” in Indo-European languages versus those of Semitic languages, I wrestled with how to place it in my own practice and how it relates to the other mercies or notions of blessings we have in various strains of Hermetic and (especially) Abrahamic practices:

In this light, peace is both the means to blessing and a blessing unto itself, but it’s not like other blessings like prosperity or health.  Sure, prosperity resolves poverty, health resolves illness, and the like, and all those things lead to peace, but only when all problems are resolved can total, complete, and full peace be obtained.  Thus, to wish for such peace upon someone is to inherently wish for the resolution of all their problems in every way.  At the same time, the presence of a smaller, incomplete peace in one way helps bring about other smaller peaces in other ways: if you’re sick and poor, having health can help you resolve being poor faster, just as being prosperous can help you regain health faster.  Every little bit of peace we get helps bring about more peace, and the blessing of peace itself is all encompassing of everything else we do.  In praying for a small peace for ourselves, we bring about bigger peace for ourselves; in praying for peace for ourselves, we bring about peace for others; in praying for peace for the world, we bring about peace for ourselves.  Peace is, in many ways, the origin as well as the result of all other blessings.  In this, it precedes and fulfills everything else we do and work for and pray for, every other kind of well-being, every other kind of problem resolution, every other kind of abating of torment, whether for ourselves or for others.

Thinking more on this since then, I’ve come to the realization that I consider peace—true, divine peace as the highest blessing from God—to be much akin to the Hellenic philosophical notion of eudaimonia.  Although that word literally means “happiness” or “welfare”, more literally “good-spiritedness” and more metaphorically “blessedness”, it was largely considered by many of the ancient Greek philosophers to be one of the outcomes of living life properly and well.  Socrates agreed with pretty much everyone else in his time that all human beings strove for eudaimonia, but unlike (most of?) the rest, he argued that virtue (aretē) was both necessary and sufficient for attaining it.  The Stoics claimed that it was living “a good flow of life” in agreement with Nature; the Epicureans advocated a maximizing of pleasure through virtue such that the eudaimonious life was the most pleasurable one because virtue brings pleasure; the Aristotelians argued that virtue was necessary but alone insufficient for eudaimonia, achievable along with virtue through both rational activity as well as good such as friends, wealth, power, and the like.  In all cases, however, eudaimonia is something that all humans strive for; although the philosophers disagreed on the proper way of achieving it, they all agreed that it was something that could be achieved, and those who managed to do so were held as sages in their own right.  To me, then, this classical notion of eudaimonia rings so strongly of my notion of peace that I’d venture to say that I’m converging onto the same thing, just from a different (and not necessarily virtue-based) perspective.

In my post from last year, I mentioned that there’s a particular prayer I end my daily prayer routine with.  It’s not so much an “offering”, but more of a litany of sorts, a series of requests for the blessing of peace upon…well, anyone and everyone, really.  It’s that prayer, the “Sending of Peace”, that I’d like to share with you all today.  This prayer is loosely based on the Ṣalawāt salutation phrases used for the prophets, angels, and saints conventional to Islam (e.g. “peace be upon him”) as well as those used in the daily Islamic prayers.  It’s not meant to replace them, of course, and it’s not even that general of a prayer to begin with; it’s a prayer specifically to pray for the peace (and eudaimonia) of all the people, spirits, and divine entities in your life and in your world, including yourself.  And it really is to pray for the peace of all entities in the cosmos; although I don’t have a lot of practices along these lines, this is one of the closest I’ve come up with to the general “dedication of merit to all sentient beings” or similar blessing (like my favorite, the Cullamangalacakkavāla Paritta) common to some Buddhist practices, and it’s one I like using for a similar purpose.  Although I give my general rubric below, it can be easily extended or modified to suit one’s own practice as best as one might need it.

I should also note that this a prayer I didn’t include in either my recent Preces Castri or Preces Templi ebooks.  I originally developed it as part of my “geomantic-theurgic Hermetic” practice with heavy Islamic influence (as noted above), but I decided to hold off on putting out so I could make it more public in its own way.  It didn’t seem to really fit with either my Luxoric or Papetic approaches to prayer, and really kinda belongs to both in its own ways.  It was written to be extensible and customizable, but more than that, I figured that this is something I think should just be put out there.  I hesitated last year on sharing it, but I figured now’s as good a time as any.  After all, in the Western Christian liturgical calendar, we’re now in Advent and Christmas will be upon us soon, as well as the New Year in general, so maybe this is a good time to start praying for peace in the world and for ourselves more.  To that end, I hope you can find it at least somewhat useful, dear reader; give it a whirl and see if it adds anything to your practice.

The prayer process is broken down into several sections: an initial invocation of the divine, praying for the blessing of peace upon different entities or groups of entities or people, and finally upon oneself.  Each step is accompanied with a particular gesture or pose and simple visualization to further focus and refine the prayer.  We’ll take it step by step below.

The Glorification of God

To invoke and venerate God.  A pretty standard, short thing unto itself, not uncommon as far as a lot of the Luxoric/Abrahamic stuff I do.

Praised, exalted, glorified, and blessed be God,
Lord of Heaven and Earth,
Master of the Seen and the Unseen,
King of all that is, was, will be, and may be!

This should be said while gazing (or otherwise directed to) at a shrine lamp, holy fire, or other devotional focus used to represent the divine presence of God (crucifix, qiblah, whatever), ideally with hands in an orans position or other conventional pose.  If you wish to augment this with a visualization or imagination, visualize this focus swelling with a pure, holy light, radiating pure peace and clarity.

Upon the Agathodaimōn

To pray for the peace of one’s own tutelary divinity.

Peace be upon my Agathodaimōn, my neverborn friend and guardian, who leads me in all my ways in all my days.

If an icon or image of the agathodaimōn is present, this should be said while gazing at it.  Otherwise, it may be directed to the same direction as the “Glorification of God”.  Again, hands in an orans or other offering pose.  Visualize or imagine a “ray” or “beam” of pure light radiating and flowing from the focus of divinity towards your agathodaimōn, covering and filling them with peaceful light.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon him” (or whatever gender you assign to your agathodaimōn).

Instead of saying “Agathodaimōn” here, you might also say “(holy) guardian angel”, “Perfect Nature”, or another similar term depending on your approach to this entity.  If you know the name of this entity, you might also say it before their role, viz. “Peace be upon NN., my Agathodaimōn…”.

Upon the Powers

To pray for the peace of the various powers and spirits of the cosmos.

Peace be upon all the spirits of this place.
Peace be upon all the spirits of this hour and this day.
Peace be upon all the spirits of every hour and every day.
Peace be upon all the spirits of the cosmos in all their works and all their ways.
Peace be upon all the powers of sky, of sea, of land, of light, of darkness.
Peace be upon all the heavenly powers who fulfill the will of God.
Peace be upon all the earthly powers who complete the work of God.

Face straight ahead and unfocus your gaze, or (if desired) face any direction you might feel appropriate to the specific set of entities being prayed for (e.g. “heavenly powers” looking up rotating the gaze from right to left, “earthly powers” looking down panning the gaze from left to right, etc.). Again, hands in an orans or other offering pose.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each group of entities.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon them all” after each invocation.

If you wish to pray for the peace of any specific named powers as opposed to general groups of powers, you might do so here now after the above; see below for “Upon the Named Angels” for guidance on an approach to this.

Upon the Myriad Angels

To pray for peace of all the innumerable angels.  This section, along with the following, is more geared towards those who recognize the presence and role of angels in a largely Abrahamic context, so it may be skipped if one does not work with or recognize angels apart or away from other powers.

Peace be upon all the blessed archangels who stand before the Throne.
Peace be upon all the elder angels who preside over the precessional way.
Peace be upon all the glorious angels who praise God in every sphere.

This should be said while gazing upwards, higher and higher for each line, from a somewhat inclined pose for “blessed archangels” (or otherwise at the same direction as the “Glorification of God”) all the way to directly upwards for “glorious angels”.  Again, hands in an orans or other offering pose.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each group of angels.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon them all” after each invocation.

Upon the Named Angels

To pray for peace of any angel whose name is known and wishes to be specifically prayed for.  This section, like the one above, is more geared towards those who recognize the presence and role of angels in a largely Abrahamic context, so it may be skipped if one does not work with or recognize angels apart or away from other powers. 

Peace be upon Gabriel, the Holy Archangel, Teacher of the Mysteries.
Peace be upon Uriel, the Holy Archangel, Keeper of the Mysteries.
Peace be upon Michael, the Holy Archangel, Defender of the Mysteries.
Peace be upon Raphael, the Holy Archangel, Healer of the Mysteries.

Peace be upon Jehudiel, the Blessed Archangel, Praise of the Throne.
Peace be upon Barachiel, the Blessed Archangel, Blessing of the Throne.
Peace be upon Sealtiel, the Blessed Archangel, Prayer of the Throne.
Peace be upon Jerachmiel, the Blessed Archangel, Mercy of the Throne.

Peace be upon Samael, the Glorious Angel, Venom of the Heavens.
Peace be upon Sachiel, the Glorious Angel, Righteousness of the Heavens.
Peace be upon Anael, the Glorious Angel, Grace of the Heavens.
Peace be upon Cassiel, the Glorious Angel, Prudence of the Heavens.

Peace be upon Abadiel, the Tailless Watcher, Eternal Destroyer of all that ever was.
Peace be upon Azaliel, the Headless Watcher, Timeless Deserter of all that is to be.
Peace be upon Azrael, the Help of God, messenger of Death and receiver of souls.

If images of these angels are present, each blessing should be said directed to each image as appropriate.  Otherwise, they may be said directed to a general inclined direction, or to the same direction as the “Glorification of God”.  Again, hands in an orans or other offering pose.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each angel.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon him” (or whatever gender you assign to each individual angel) after each invocation.

Unlike the preceding section, this section is for specific angels with individual names, roles, or functions that one might recognize.  This can consist of any number, from as few as one to as many as you might like; as an example, I gave here above a set of the angels I recognize as part of my own Abrahamic/Luxoric work.  The first block of names are the four big archangels everyone recognizes, the second block for the other archangels from the Orthodox tradition (including Jerachmiel, the eighth archangel, more common in some Russian or occult communities), the third block for the planetary angels who do not overlap with the other archangels, and the last block for three other angels I hold as part of my own unique practice.  You can kinda see a theme in how I divvied up the different groups, too, based on how I phrased each set of invocations.  Note how each address to an angel is tripartite: name, station or title, and function or role.

Upon the Dead

To pray for the peace of the dead who have gone before us.

Peace be upon all the prophets who reveal to us the mysteries once revealed to them.
Peace be upon all my blessed dead of my family, my bone, my flesh, and my name.
Peace be upon all my blessed dead of my faith, my works, my practices, and my traditions.
Peace be upon all the blessed dead of the mighty and the meek, whose names we all remember and whose names we have all forgotten,  whose presence lives on with us still.

If images of the prophets or the general dead are present, these should be said facing them as appropriate.  Otherwise, the head should be downturned, with the gaze fixed upon the ground.  The hands should be lowered and out to the sides, palms facing the ground.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each group of the dead.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon them all” after each invocation.

As with before for the named angels, if you wish to pray for the blessing of any specific named prophets or other dead, feel free to do so immediately after the general invocation for the group most appropriate to that dead (e.g. for one’s deceased grandmother immediately after “all my blessed dead of my family”, but before “all my blessed dead of my faith”).  The prophets are meant for any religious leader, teacher, or founder one wishes to specifically honor as one’s gateway to divinity, the “blessed dead of the mighty and the meek” for culture heroes and the forgotten/lost dead together, and the “blessed dead of my family” and the “blessed dead of my faith” being fairly straightforward.

Upon the Living

To pray for the peace of the living who are still with us.

Peace be upon all the great family of the blood I have of my body.
Peace be upon all the great family of the water I share of my soul.
Peace be upon all my kind teachers who teach me and all those who taught them.
Peace be upon all those who have helped me and all those whom I am to help.

If images of the living family, godfamily, teachers, or other notable people are present, these should be said facing them as appropriate.  Otherwise, the head should be fixed more-or-less straight ahead, with the gaze unfocused.  The hands should be held close to the chest in front of it, with the palms upturned.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each group of people.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon them all” after each invocation.

As with before for the named angels and the dead, if you wish to pray for the blessing of any specific named living people, feel free to do so immediately after the general invocation for the group most appropriate to that living person.  The “great family of the blood I have of my body” is for one’s blood-related kin, the “great family of the water I share of my soul” being for godfamily or one’s spiritual community, the “kind teachers who teach me and all those who taught them” being for living lineage-holders who initiated you into your current place and position as well as for all teachers who enabled you to get you to where you are today, and “all those who have helped me and all those whom I am to help” being for exactly whom it says.

Upon the Companions

To pray for the peace of the living who are still with us.  This is more specific than the preceding section, and is more geared towards communal prayer when one is praying alongside others, or when one is involved in a spiritual community of like-minded people.  This notion is extended not just to those in one’s immediate presence, but to all people in the world (and, by extension, all creatures in the cosmos).

Peace be upon all those who study the mysteries.
Peace be upon all those who seek the truth.
Peace be upon all those who sustain their people.
Peace be upon all those who live in the world.

For “all those who study the mysteries”, turn the head to the left and look over your left shoulder.  For “all those who seek the truth”, turn the head to the right and look over your right shoulder.  For “all those who sustain their people”, face straight ahead and look downwards.  For “all those who live in the world”, look straight ahead.  The hands should be out to the sides with the palms upturned.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity towards each group of people around you, and then into the whole world beyond you.  Silently or mentally recite “May God send his peace upon us all” after each invocation.

Given the nature of this section, naming specific people is not so recommended here unlike the previous several sections; they’re meant for all those who surround you in the Work in one sense or another.  “Those who study the mysteries” can be thought of to include all those who work with you in the same way and manner as you do, “those who seek the truth” to include all those who do not work with you or like you but for the same ends, “those who sustain their people” being all those who work for the betterment and sustenance of humanity, and “all those who live in the world” being for exactly whom it says.

Upon Oneself

To pray for the peace of yourself in your own life.

Let there be peace and peace and peace and peace,
and may God send his peace upon me!
Glory be to God, from whom there is no higher blessing than peace.

As with the “Glorification of God”: face whatever focus you use for representing the divine presence of God, returning the hands to the usual orans pose or whatever conventional pose you use for prayer to God.  Visualize a ray of light radiating from the focus of divinity directly towards, around, and into you, uniting you in peaceful light with all the cosmos and with the Divine itself.

After this final part, the “Sending of Peace” as a whole is complete.  Say “amēn” or another phrase of closing and sealing to end the prayer, according to your custom.  If desired, follow up with any other supplications for peace or similar blessings, like the “Prosperity for All” prayer by Śrı̄ Vēthāthiri Mahaṛṣi or my own variant I gave in the post from last year, or any other closing prayers you might find appropriate to your own practice.

In sharing this prayer, I hope you can make use of it, and that you might join me in praying for peace for yourself, for all those in your life, and for the whole world.  In praying for it, may we also find it, and work towards it for all.

New ebook for sale: Preces Templi!

Not that long ago, I put out an ebook, Preces Castri or “Prayers of the Castle”, being a prayerbook consisting of over a hundred prayers for a variety of devotional and ritual purposes, ranging from blessings of various ritual implements and supplies to invocations of the planets to general prayers and meditations on the divinity of God.  In many ways, I consider this to be a compendium of many of the things I’ve written, compiled, or composed based on existing ritual, grimoiric, and religious texts as part of my own spiritual work.  The thing is, however, that this text is…arguably not for all of my readers.  Not that this is a particularly advanced text—it’s definitely not by any stretch of the imagination—but the flavor of these prayers is largely Abrahamic in nature.  To be sure, I still consider all these to be solidly Hermetic in their foundation, but the word “Hermetic” can be used to mean any number of things, really, given how it’s been so mixed and remixed time and time again over the past 1500 years across so many religious traditions, Christianity and Islam notably among them.  As a result, many of those prayers in Preces Castri have a heavy Islamic, Christian, or otherwise Abrahamic monotheistic flair to them, which may not be so tasteful for all of my readers.  But, as I hinted when I published that text and on some of the more recent podcasts I’ve been on, that’s not the only kind of Hermetic work I do, not by a long shot.

The reason why I named that ebook Preces Castri, “Prayers of the Castle”, is given in the introduction to it.  Some time ago on Twitter, I gave some thought to how my own spiritual practice might be termed beyond simply “Hermetic”, and decided to use the ancient Egyptian city of Thēbes as a basis for naming it.  After all, Thēbes is the source for many of the papyri that form the collection we today call the “Greek Magical Papyri”, and was one of the two ancient capitals of Egypt, conveniently located in the middle area between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt.  Although many Hermeticists might find that Alexandria to be the Egyptian source of so much of our tradition, I would rather give that to multiple cities throughout Egypt, with Thēbes at the top of the list.  Of course, Thēbes was just the usual Greek name for the city; towards the end of the classical period and into the Islamic one of Egypt, there were two other names for the city, one of which is still in use today:

  • Pape, from Coptic ⲠⲀⲠⲈ (earlier Egyptian p’ jp.t), meaning “the adyton”
  • Luxor, from Arabic al-`Uqṣur meaning “the castles”

It’s from these two names that I derived the terms “Papetic” and “Luxoric” to refer to the two styles of spiritual work I do, “Luxoric” referring to the more Abrahamic and monotheistic approach and “Papetic” to refer to the more pagan, Greco-Egyptian, and polytheistic approach.  Mind you, this is entirely a distinction I make for my own convenience, mostly for the purposes of organizing rituals and chaining prayers together (I find the whiplash from going between one to the other to be too jarring at times for myself), and is meant solely for the purposes of practical approaches rather than anything deeper regarding cosmology or syncretism without making use of the problematic terms “Abrahamic” or “pagan” to describe what it is I’m doing.  Still, all that being said, Preces Castri is a good example of the Luxoric stuff I do and have written about.  But what of the Papetic stuff, then?

Well, I’m happy to announce a new ebook for sale just for that: Preces Templi, or “Prayers of the Temple”, available through my Ko-fi store or to my Etsy store for US$18!

(Yes, I did basically reuse the ring design from the write-up I did of the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual from PGM XII.  I had a hard time trying to make a companion frontispiece like the one I used for Preces Castri, and opted for a different approach.  It makes sense in the context here, trust me.)

As with Preces CastriPreces Templi (extending the meaning of “the adyton” to “temple” more generally) is a prayerbook that I’ve written, both from scratch or composed from existing sources (mostly the Corpus Hermeticum, the Stobaean Fragments, the Nag Hammadi Codices, and the PGM), or otherwise compiled from other sources (e.g. Stoic and Neoplatonic hymns or Egyptian votive texts).  Unlike Preces CastriPreces Templi is much more pagan and polytheistic in its outlook and approach, with a heavy Hellenistic (though not necessarily Hellenic) and Greco-Egyptian flair, and may be more fitting for those who eschew purely monotheistic or Abrahamic approaches to Hermetic magic and devotional work.  To be sure, I’ve certainly shared a few such prayers on my blog previously (like here, here, or here), but again, there’s much more in here (well over 100 prayers total!) that I haven’t shared publicly before:

  • Various prayers and hymns to God from or based on the Hermetic texts or other attestations of the prayers and invocations of Hermēs Trismegistos
  • The “Epitomes of the Divine”, a series of 21 ten-line stanzas on Hermetic doctrine for use in contemplation as well as daily recital across the three ten-day decans across a single sign of the Zodiac (or across the three decamera of a lunar month) and the seven-day weeks
  • General prayers for ritual work
  • PGM invocations to Aiōn as the god of the gods
  • Hymns to the various gods of the Hellenistic/Greco-Egyptian world, including original prayers to Poimandrēs, Ammōn, and Asklēpios-Imhotep
  • Invocations of the 36 decans
  • And more!

This prayerbook is intended to be used by anyone who operates within what might be termed a “syncretic Hellenistic approach”.  Consider the overall outlook of the various rituals of the PGM: it’s an incredibly mixed bag of stuff, calling on Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and other powers using at least as many ritual forms from such traditions, switching between what we might consider to be monotheistic, polytheistic, or henotheistic, sometimes even in the same sentence.  As opposed to a more monotheistic or Abrahamic approach, this prayerbook is more geared towards those who are more freewheeling, open to syncretism, or outright polytheistic (though, at least for the “pure Hermetic” stuff, with a focus on a hierarchical single-god-above-the-rest-of-the-gods) approach.  Again, this is only a collection of prayers, not of rituals, but those who have even an ounce of ingenuity will be able to construct or adapt these prayers to their own ritual needs, perhaps augmenting what they already have or making new rituals with them.

This prayerbook is one that I’m really proud of and one that I’m genuinely happy to have put out—so what are you waiting for?  Head over to my Ko-fi store or to my Etsy store and get yourself a copy today, and I hope that these prayers serve you well in your own Work!