Revisiting the Sixteen Realms of the Figures

Happy solar new year!  Today’s the first full day of spring according to the usual zodiacal reckoning, with the spring equinox having happened yesterday afternoon in my area; if I timed it right, this post should be coming out exactly at my area’s solar noon.  I hope the coming year is bright and full of blessing for all of you.

I’m taking the day to celebrate, as well, and not just for the freshness of the new year.  Since the start of the calendar year, when I made that post about a sort of feast calendar for geomantic holy days, I’ve been busy coming up with an entirely new devotional practice.  It’s not really my doing, but it’s a matter of inspiration, and…well, it’s an impressive effort, even by my own standards.  As part of it, around the start of the month (fittingly, the start of this current Mercury retrograde period!), I undertook my first celebration of the Feast of the Blessed Dead, my own recognition, honoring, and feasting with the blessed ancestors of my kin, faith, work, and practices.

And, of course, far be it from me to pass up a half-decent photo op.

According to the scheme I made for a geomantic calendar, after the Feast of the Blessed Dead at sunrise begins the Days of Cultivation, 16 days of prayer, meditation, study, fasting, purification, and the like.  In a way, it’s kinda like a kind of Lent or Ramaḍān, but at least for only 16 days instead of a lunar month or 40 days.  After those are done, it’s the Feast of Gabriel the Holy Archangel, Teacher of the Mysteries.  Which happens to coincide (either on the day of or day after, depending on the exact time) with the spring equinox.  Yanno, today.  So I’m quite thrilled to bring this ordeal to an end and take things easier again—especially after a good two hours of prayers, rituals, and offerings this morning—but I can’t take it too easy; one of the many benefits I’ve been seeing from doing this practice is that it’s forcing me to get back to a daily practice again, something I’ve been meaning to do now that I have the time again in the way I want to but just haven’t.

(As a side note: one of the things I’ve been doing is a kind of fast, not a whole or total fast, but something more like a Ramadan or orthodox Lent with extra dietary restrictions: no eating or drinking anything except water between sunrise and sunset, one large meal after sunset, no meat nor dairy nor eggs nor honey nor any other animal product.  It wasn’t my intention to go vegan; instead, I had this elaborate progressive fasting scheme that took inspiration from kosher dietary restrictions and the Fast of Daniel from the Book of Daniel, but that proved way too complicated for such a short-term thing, so I just decided to omit meat and dairy, but that then extended to all animal products, so.  I have to say, it’s been a good exercise, all the same, and the intermittent fasting regimen is something I may well keep up, as I’m seeing other benefits besides spiritual focus, even if I do find myself being cold a lot more often than before; more reason to cultivate inner-heat practices.  All that being said, I am excited to indulge in a whole-ass pizza or tub of orange chicken tonight.)

One of the practices I was doing every day during these Days of Cultivation was a contemplation on one of the sixteen figures of geomancy.  In a way, I was returning to one of the oldest and first major things I ever did in my geomantic studies.  John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy, as part of the section on geomantic magic, instructs the reader to “scry” the figures.  Rather than scrying into a crystal ball or anything like that, what he means is an active contemplation and visualization of the figures, or in more Golden Dawn-ish terms, engage in a kind of pathworking of the figures: visualize the figure clearly, then see it emblazoned on a door of some kind, then go through the door and see what you see, hear what you hear, and experience what you experience as part of the realm or world of that figure.  This is a deeply profound and intimate way to learn about the figures, once you have a basic understanding of their usual meanings and correspondences, because you’re actually entering the worlds of the figures themselves.  Those who recall my De Geomanteia posts from way back will remember that I gave an elaborate visualization or scene that helped to impart some of the meaning of that figure; those are the direct results of my contemplations of the figures from years ago.  (If you never read those posts, check them out!  I talk about the figures in depth and at length, and talk a bit about some really useful geomantic techniques, too.)

So, I decided to try contemplating the figures again, except this time, I brought a lot more of my art to bear (I wasn’t really a magician back in those days!) and fit it within the framework of this burgeoning devotional practice, calling on my guardian angel as well as the archangel Gabriel, that famous celestial being who taught the founders of geomancy their art, to help me understand the figure through its mysteries.  The process was, fundamentally, the same, except with some preliminary and concluding prayers (which helped in ways I would never have conceived of even a few months ago, much several years ago): visualize the figure, see it form a door, mentally go up to the door and knock, open the door, and go on through.  I augmented this process by using the geomantic salutes as well as by intoning the epodes for a figure and reciting the orison for a figure (16 short hymns of the figures, available in my Secreti Geomantici ebook!) for an all-around way to get as much of me engaged in the process as I could without breaking out into a fuller ritual involving incenses or candles or the like.  For the order, I used my trusty elemental ordering of the figures according to their primary and secondary elemental rulerships, based on the structure of the figures rather than their planetary or zodiacal correspondences.  So, I started with Laetitia on the first day, Fortuna Minor on the second, Amissio on the third, and so forth, up until Tristitia on the last and final day.

I was looking forward to seeing what new knowledge I could get, getting reacquainted with these figures I see and use so often in my work, maybe even revisiting the same scenes I saw so long ago.  Interestingly enough, that wasn’t the case.  Instead, what I was shown was a city, a vast metropolitan city filled with skyscrapers and towers that came to an abrupt end at a single, long road that ran from an infinite East to an infinite West, on the opposite side of which was an equally-vast forest, filled with every kind of tree and bush and plant imaginable.  Every figure-contemplation took place along that road, dividing that vast city and that vast forest, but every figure-contemplation was drastically different: time of day, weather, what was happening, the condition of the city; heck, there even seemed to be a notion that sometimes years or even decades would pass along that road between visualizations.  In a way that caught me off-guard, the elemental ordering of the figures I used told a deep, intricate, and coherent story of the flow of time of that place, between the metropolitan inhabitants of the city and the autochthonous inhabitants of the forest, ranging from celebration to war to cataclysm to peace and all the things between.

In a way, I guess I was revisiting the realm of Via itself.  After all, the fact that all these visualizations took place along a Road was not lost on me, and seeing how this figure is often considered to be the first figure of geomancy in the historiolas that we have as well as having all elements present, and that I was using an elemental ordering of the figures to arrange and schedule my contemplations of them…well, I guess it makes sense, in retrospect.

I didn’t want to give a whole new set of intricate visualizations, much less share some of the intimate things I witnessed in each contemplation, but I did want to share a few things with you from what I saw: primarily, the form of the door that formed for each figure, and a brief lesson to learn from each figure.  The doors you might see in your own contemplations may well be different, but I figure that giving some sort of description for what to expect could help.  The lessons were, for those who follow me on Twitter, shared day by day in a short-enough form to encapsulate some of the high-level important messages that I could deliver from each realm of the figure.  Perhaps they, too, can be helpful for those who are learning about the figures, or want something to start with that they can expand on in their own meditations.

Laetitia
A large arched banded wooden door situated in a fluted pillar-supported stone arch, opening towards
There are always reasons to celebrate, but celebration need not mean partying. While some take time off, others still serve, and they too have cause to celebrate. To truly celebrate is to rejoice in work, channeling hope into power; true praise of God is praise through Work.

Fortuna Minor
A square, wide, wooden door banded with iron and surrounded by cut stone, opening towards
Don’t chase after sunsets. Diminishing returns will waste you time, and time is something you can’t waste anymore. All we have is all we have; prepare when you can, make do when you must. It’s all we can do to look after ourselves and our own; find independence through community.

Amissio
A normal cheap white bedroom door with plain threshold, opening outwards
Better to be homeless in loss than to build a home on it, lest your foundation sink into quicksand. Refugees, divorcees, ex-employees, we all suffer loss time and again; it hurts, and it hurts to stay and it hurts to go, but in accepting loss, we leave loss behind.

Cauda Draconis
A weak, filthy, dusty, shaky door that smells, opening outwards
This world is meant to end, and yet we are meant to make it last. We must do what we can when we can—but at the proper time, and no sooner? Collapse early, avoid the rush. Loss is nothing compared to perdition; how simple we are to focus only on the now when all else is at stake.

Puer
Metal bulkhead door, opening outwards
Enthusiasm can wash over any disaster like an opportunistic wave, but when faced with actual problems, it can end in dashing oneself against rocks in order to break them, or fleeing to fight another battle and another day. Waves will break and scatter but overwhelm all the same.

Rubeus
A black door, almost invisible, opening outwards
Unbridled desire is like air, stale though thinking it’s fresh, trapped in a cyclone that wrecks damage it cannot see. Over and over it runs roughshod over all, consuming and hurting all. Only true fresh thought clears the air, bringing helpful change instead of harmful calamity.

Coniunctio
A rustic door with a fine, elaborate lintel, opening outwards
In war, all else looks like peace; in peace, all else looks like war. It’s in the liminal space between them, a blue hour of life, that everything and everyone can come together as equals. Not as allies, but as equals in crisis, equals in opportunity, equals in assessment.

Acquisitio
A marble door with engraved inlays of lapis and gold, flanked by fluted columns, opening towards in half
After reckoning comes work; after assessment, business. All come as equals, sharing to increase, increasing their share, carrying our past forever with us. True wealth is practical knowledge, an endless font to always build, augment, and—soon—to rejoice. “Go forth and multiply.”

Puella
An opalescent glass door with a shiny chrome frame, opening outwards
Beauty is an emergent property out of assessment, union, and work. We don’t find beauty; it finds us, when we’re in the embrace of equals whom we don’t just acknowledge but truly know are our equals. Beauty is a property of truth, and truth comes from acceptance of the world.

Via
A color-changing veil suspended from an arch, sliding to the left
Every infinitesimal moment has infinite potential, every one a knife-blade, a parer of possibilities. In each moment lies every potential of every kind of action; it’s up to us to take it, transforming the world and ourselves. Geomancy isn’t called “cutting the sand” for nothing.

Albus
A white wooden door in a white, rough-cut stone threshold, opening towards
After we (re)build, the dust settles, and we can see clearly; purity of the heart leads to purity of the mind. We hollow the church, and fill the world as a monastery, living in peace to remember and re-member. But don’t forget: believing we have peace doesn’t mean we really do.

Populus
A thin, white, translucent veil divided in half, suspended from a thin smooth metal frame, parting to open from the middle
Love leads to peace, but without further direction, leads to inertia and languor. Utter clarity of vision leads us to live utterly in the here and now, and makes us forget our lessons, even as we return to how things always were. We take too much for granted; we lose our way.
*Note: this one feels like it should be first or last, a complete return to how things always were.

Carcer
A double door, the inner one of thick wrought iron bars opening towards, the outer one of heavy steel bulkhead opening outwards
Inertia stops to become hollow convention, which becomes enforced restriction. The word of God is replaced by the word of law, and we become isolated and ignorant of the larger world, and keeps us bound to the same old same old, always for the best, and if you’re not convinced…

Caput Draconis
A pair of elegant-yet-subdued baroque French doors, ivory with bright gold leaf accents, opening outward from the middle
With enough rules, even rulers become slaves, and all the old guard wander in lost memories. It’s the too-young, those too fresh to have known anything else, that begin the coup, but all they know is how to prepare and destroy. Chaos? Yes! The climactic Big Bang, a fecund reset.

Fortuna Maior
A gate of warm gold set with bars of iron with iron gateposts on either side, opening outward from the middle
Forced dominion toils to keep order, but true royalty has no need for force. Rulers naturally assume their role, and all rule their own proper domain; as planets in their orbits, all take care of their own work, honest and pure. Independent success, all for the sake of the All.

Tristitia
The heavy, metal-covered stone door of a tomb with a ring for a handle, opening towards
The Work is easy to start, but hard to continue; hope flees and dread finds us instead. The plague of “what if?” seeps into us like polluted air into sod, turning fertile grass into barren dust. The Sun has set, but will rise again; keep going until dawn, for then there is hope.

Meditating on the Abacedarian Ancient Words of Power

I think it’s been too long since I mentioned everyone’s favorite ancient grimoire, the Greek Magical Papyri, isn’t it?  Yes, it has been too long, especially when there are some real gems in there (and in the related Demotic Magical Papyri) that can help us out to this day, especially since I was reminded not too long ago of one particular selection from the PGM that can help us out in our mathesis work.

Although the majority of the well-preserved PGM spells are at the beginning of the collection, some of the later ones are pretty awesome, even if they’re fragmented.  PGM CI.1-53 contains a full binding ritual, a καταδεσμος or defixio, using the spirits of the dead to bring a woman in love to the magician.  The magician in question threatened the gods of the world with upsetting the cosmic order and constrained the spirits to carry out his will, and in the process used a series of barbarous words of power to constrain the forces of the cosmos to do his bidding.  That series of magical words is rather special, since we see almost nothing like it elsewhere: a list of 24 magical words, each starting with a different letter of the Greek alphabet.

Letter Word of Power
Α ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ Akrammakhamarei
Β ΒΟΥΛΟΜΕΝΤΟΡΕΒ Būlomentoreb
Γ ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ Geniomūthig
Δ ΔΗΜΟΓΕΝΗΔ Dēmogenēd
Ε ΕΝΚΥΚΛΙΕ Enkyklie
Ζ ΖΗΝΟΒΙΩΘΙΖ Zēnobiōthiz
Η ΗΣΚΩΘΩΡΗ Ēskōthōrē
Θ ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ Thōthūthōth
Ι ΙΑΕΟΥΩΙ Iaeūōi
Κ ΚΟΡΚΟΟΥΝΟΩΚ Korkoūnoōk
Λ ΛΟΥΛΟΕΝΗΛ Lūloenēl
Μ ΜΟΡΟΘΟΗΠΝΑΜ Morothoēpnam
Ν ΝΕΡΞΙΑΡΞΙΝ Nerxiarxin
Ξ ΞΟΝΟΦΟΗΝΑΞ Xonophoēnax
Ο ΟΡΝΕΟΦΑΟ Orneophao
Π ΠΥΡΟΒΑΡΥΠ Pyrobaryp
Ρ ΡΕΡΟΥΤΟΗΡ Rerūtoēr
Σ ΣΕΣΕΝΜΕΝΟΥΡΕΣ Sesenmenūres
Τ ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ Tauropolit
Υ ΥΠΕΦΕΝΟΥΡΥ Ypephenūry
Φ ΦΙΜΕΜΑΜΕΦ Phimemameph
Χ ΧΕΝΝΕΟΦΕΟΧ Khenneopheokh
Ψ ΨΥΧΟΜΠΟΛΑΨ Psykhompolaps
Ω ΩΡΙΩΝ Ōriōn

With the exception of the words for Alpha and Omega, each word starts and ends with the same letter of the alphabet, and based on the structure of the words, it’d appear as if some of them were originally meant to be palindromes, words running the same in both directions.  Regardless of whether the words are supposed to be palindromes, they pack some power, and can be seen in echoes across the PGM.  Consider the words ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, ΘΩΘΟΥΘΩΘ, and ΩΡΙΩΝ: the first is a well-known voces magicae meaning “cast off the nets” and can be used to dispel protections or wards; the second is a triple name of the Egyptian god Thoth, and the last is the hero from Greek mythology and one of the most well-known constellations in the sky.

Although these words can be used as magical names of the letters and, by extension, the world of correspondences to each letter (such that ΤΑΥΡΟΠΟΛΙΤ encompasses both the zodiacal world of Pisces as well as the divine realm of Poseidon, and more) and likely have many magical uses, the first one that came to my mind was in meditation and contemplation of these worlds.  After all, it’s part of my daily mathesis ritual that I do a meditation on the letter of the day of the lunar month, so when I have the time during the day, I’ll spend a bit longer after doing my letter chants and enter into a more contemplative state of mind.  In a way, this is basically scrying the letter, but it’s a little different from how I’ve done it in the past.

So, when I sit down to do my daily mathesis rituals, I start with some basic breathing exercises to calm down the mind and body; it helps that I usually do at least 15 minutes of awareness meditation before this, too, but you don’t strictly need that.  Then I recite the Invocation of the Tetractys, and I do my Tetractyean meditation and visualization.  Once I finish that, I’ll then begin what I call my letter chants, or (as I tentatively call it in Greek) γραμματωδαι (grammatōdai, sing. grammatōdē).  I’m still settling into the pattern I want to use for them, but I’ve broken it into several styles based on what type of letter it is.  Once I finish the grammatōdai, I’ll do some visualization to open up a doorway into the world of the letter using the mystical word associated with it, and see what comes out of that.

First, let’s split up the 24 Greek letters into four groups: vowels, stop consonants, continuing consonants, and complex consonants.

  • The seven vowels (letters that produce a clear vocal sound) are pretty straightforward: Α, Ε, Η, Ι, Ο, Υ, Ω
  • Stop consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth and stop the airflow completely: Β, Γ, Δ, Κ, Π, Τ
  • Continuing consonants are those which are produced from one action in the mouth but can be vocally continued: Ζ, Λ, Μ, Ν, Ρ
  • Complex consonants are those which are produced from two actions in the mouth: Θ, Ξ, Φ, Χ, Ψ

The first part of the meditation is to intone the name of the letter.  I’ll slowly and powerfully say the name of the letter (alpha, beta, etc.) at least once and no more than nine times, depending on the pythmenic value of the letter, but once usually suffices.  While doing this, I’ll picture the written form of the letter clearly in my mind.  I repeat this step until I get the “feel” and image of the letter solidly situated in my mind and body.

After this, I’ll start repeating the “simple” sound of the letter repeatedly at a quick pace.  For consonants, this just involves making the sound over and over again.  Thus, for Beta, I’ll go “buh buh buh buh buh buh buh”, for Kappa “kh kh kh kh kh kh kh kh”, for Theta “th th th th th th th”, and so forth.  Vowels are a little different, where instead of just intoning the vowel constantly I’ll separate out “repetitions” of the vowel with aspirations.  Thus, for Alpha, I’ll go “a ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha”, and so forth.  I’ll continue this for four or so full breaths, completely exhausting my lungs with each series of repetitions while maintaining my focus on the sound of the letter and the feeling it makes within me, making a note of any observation that arises from doing so.

This is followed by another set of repetitions, but much slower than the first.  Thus, for consonants, instead of going “buh buh buh buh buh” in a single breath, I’ll go “buhhhhhhh” and exhale completely, repeating again with a new breath.  For vowels, I’ll simply intone the vowel until my lungs are emptied, e.g. “ahhhhhhhhhh”.  I try to do at least four times as many slow repetition breaths as I do the fast repetition breaths, this time letting myself get completely absorbed in the simple sounds themselves.

The next step depends on whether I’m meditating on a consonant or a vowel, but the point here is to begin to vocalize the letter with vowels:

  • For consonants, I’ll take the consonant and go through each of the seven vowels, mixing each with the letter in different ways.  Using the notation where C indicates the consonant and V indicates the vowel, I’ll intone the CV, VC, VCV, and CVC combinations with the consonant and every vowel, starting first with Alpha through Omega and then starting again with Omega and going through Alpha.  So, with Beta, I’ll intone: ΒΑ ΒΕ ΒΗ ΒΙ ΒΟ ΒΥ ΒΩ, ΒΩ ΒΥ ΒΟ ΒΙ ΒΗ ΒΕ ΒΑ; ΑΒ ΕΒ ΗΒ ΙΒ ΟΒ ΥΒ ΩΒ, ΩΒ ΥΒ ΟΒ ΙΒ ΗΒ ΕΒ ΑΒ; ΑΒΑ ΕΒΕ ΗΒΗ ΙΒΙ ΟΒΟ ΥΒΥ ΩΒΩ, ΩΒΩ ΥΒΥ ΟΒΟ ΙΒΙ ΗΒΗ ΕΒΕ ΑΒΑ; ΒΑΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΩΒ, ΒΩΒ ΒΥΒ ΒΟΒ ΒΙΒ ΒΗΒ ΒΕΒ ΒΑΒ.  Thus, for every consonant, there are 4 × 7 × 2 = 56 different words to intone.
  • For vowels, I’ll intone different pairs of vowels, always focusing on the vowel of the day.  In this case, using X for the vowel of the day and Y for the other vowel, I’ll go through all different combinations of XY, YX, XYX, YXY.  Thus, for Alpha, I’ll intone: ΑΑ ΑΕ ΑΗ ΑΙ ΑΟ ΑΥ ΑΩ, ΑΩ ΑΥ ΑΟ ΑΙ ΑΗ ΑΕ ΑΑ; ΑΑ ΕΑ ΗΑ ΙΑ ΟΑ ΥΑ ΩΑ, ΩΑ ΥΑ ΟΑ ΙΑ ΗΑ ΕΑ ΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΩΑ; ΑΩΑ ΑΥΑ ΑΟΑ ΑΙΑ ΑΗΑ ΑΕΑ ΑΑΑ; ΑΑΑ ΕΑΕ ΗΑΗ ΙΑΙ ΟΑΟ ΥΑΥ ΩΑΩ, ΩΑΩ ΥΑΥ ΟΑΟ ΙΑΙ ΗΑΗ ΕΑΕ ΑΑΑ.  Thus, for every vowel, there are another 56 words to intone.  I don’t have a glottal stop or an aspiration between vowels, so the sound changes smoothly between each vowel.

I’ll usually do the vocalizations once, but if they don’t seem to have kicked in yet and settled into my body and mind, I’ll start it over again another time.  After this, I’ll do another set of quick simple repetitions followed by long simple repetitions of the pure sound, followed by another set of repetitions of the name of the letter.  Note that, throughout this whole time, I’ll be holding the image of the letter itself in my mind, usually without color but occasionally fluctuating depending on the vowel being intoned.

Once I finish intoning the name of the letter for the last time, by this point I’m already in a good headspace for going into a trance session into scrying the letter.  To begin this, I continue visualizing the letter in my mind, but then I picture it being placed on top of a veil split down the middle, supported by a stone threshold.  Both the color of the cloth and the style of the threshold will differ based on the letter itself and the feelings it’s given me; some are simple linen supported by a few sticks, some are black velvet with gold threading supported in a temple entryway, and others are yet different. All the same, the veil hangs down flat, and I approach the veil in my mind.  I then intone, both mentally and physically, the full magical word for the letter, into the visualization of the letter on the cloth.  At this point, the veil tends to fly apart like it’s being blasted by a gust of wind from behind, and I enter into the veil.

This scrying method is a variation of a common technique to scry or contemplate symbols using a door with the symbol emblazoned on the door itself.  However, with other symbols, I’ve been able to explore full worlds of rich imagery and sensation and people.  The letters, on the other hand, are different: I see nothing.  It’s mostly visceral sensation and sounds, which, to be honest, make sense given what these symbols are: letters, graphical representations of human articulation made from the body.  If I try to conjure any sort of mental image, I usually get a close up of a particular sound and how it might be realized in my mind as an image, e.g. a sticky wet cool sensation as blood on grass.  Usually, however, there are no mental images, only sound and sensation.  I’ll perceive motion, weight, pressure, sound, acceleration, charge, and emotion; pretty much the whole gamut except for sight, and for that matter smell and taste, too.  I’m sure that, with deeper levels of meditation, I could eventually get those, but if I’m meditating on the letters qua letters, then my perceptions will be in the same ways letters make: through physical vibration and all the effects that entails.

At some point, once I’ve had my fill of the scrying session, I’ll “back out” of the world, though it’s hard to describe how do that without an image-based perception of the place to maneuver around.  At some point, I’ll exit out back through the gate of the veil, and I’ll intone the magical word of the letter once more to shut the veil and to calm the winds that blow it open.  Once the veil is closed, I’ll focus my attention on the letter itself until just that letter exists.  I close the meditation out by breathing in the letter into my body, dissolving it entirely within me, and intoning the name of the letter on the exhale.

If you’re interested, give the letter meditation and grammatodai a try.  How does the letter feel when you pronounce it?  How does it play with the vowels?  What kinds of emotions or sensations or objects does the sound of the letter call up?  What kind of veil and threshold do you see when you visualize it for the letter?  What kinds of sensations, feelings, and perceptions do you get while scrying the letter?  How does the magical word feel compared to the magical world its linked to?

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Symbolism of the Greek Letters

From before, a letter has four parts: a name, a glyph, a sound, and a meaning.  The first three were discussed last time, along with a basic set of meditations to get us familiar with the first three of these parts.  We didn’t discuss the final part of the letters, however, which is the meaning of the letters.  Unlike the name, glyph, and sound for a letter, of which there tends to be only one of each, there are many layers of meaning for each letter: numerical, astrological, divine, oracular, Phoenician, Greek, and more.  This is what makes the divination system of grammatomancy so powerful, in that a whole world of knowledge can be unlocked with a single letter.  So, even though the meaning of a letter is the fourth part, there are many parts to the meaning of a letter.

What are some of those meanings?  Honestly, if I had to indicate all the meanings of the letters, this blog post would become a whole blog in and of itself, so I’ll simply list a few sets of meanings along with links or links to books for further reading, though my ebook on grammatomancy lists many of them:

  1. Numerical:  my page on isopsephy and gematria, Kieran Barry’s The Greek Qabalah
  2. Astrological: my page on stoicheia, Agrippa’s table of letters (book I, chapter 74, though I reverse how he arranges the planets to the Greek vowels)
  3. Oracular: Apollonius Sophistes’ Greek Alphabet Oracle
  4. Divine: a post linking the Greek gods to the letters for purposes of a lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar

Honestly, with all that down, we already have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but there’s another way to give meanings to the Greek letters: their original Phoenician names, and Greek words related to the letters.  Even the Greeks were aware, to an extent, of the Phoenician origin of their alphabet, which doesn’t diminish its importance in the least for our purposes.  After all, the Phoenician script was the origin of many of the world’s writing systems (especially if you buy the argument, as I do, that it formed the origin of the Brahmic script in India, which connects it even to the Far Eastern Korean).  The diagram below shows Phoenician in the center column, Hebrew to the right of Phoenician and Arabic to the right of that, and Greek to the left of Phoenician and Latin to the left of that.  Letters of different scripts in the same color boxes show the origin of the letter, while arrows show derivations of other letters.

Origins of Letters from Phoenician

 

Phoenician script has 22 letters, the same 22 as modern Hebrew; there’s a 1-to-1 mapping between those two scripts.  The Ionian Greek script, however, got rid of three of the letters (digamma/waw, qoppa, san/sampi), added four (phi, khi, psi, omega), and moved the position of the derived form of Waw (which became Upsilon) further back in the alphabet.  Each of the Phoenician letters had their own name, many of which provided the names for their corresponding Greek letters.  These names referred to, in many cases, earlier Egyptian hieroglyphs or related words that provided a basis for what the letter looked like.  Many of these names were maintained in Greek, often in derived forms, such as Alpha from ʾĀlp, Bēta from Bet, Gamma from Gimel, and so forth.  For the Greek letters that have Phoenician origins, either in name of the letter or its form, their Phoenician meanings might include the following:

Letter Phoenician Meaning
Α ʾĀlp Ox
Β Bet House
Γ Gimel Throwing stick weapon, camel
Δ Dāleth Door
Ε He Window
Ζ Zayin Weapon, sword
Η Ḥeth Wall, courtyard, thread
Θ Ṭēth Wheel, good
Ι Yōdh Hand, finger
Κ Kaph Hand, palm of a hand
Λ Lāmedh Goad
Μ Mēm Water
Ν Nun Fish, serpent, whale
Ξ Simketh or Sāmekh Fish, tent peg, prop support
Ο ʿAyin Eye
Π Mouth
Ρ Rēš Head
Σ Form from Šin
Name from Simketh
Tooth
Τ Tāw Mark, cross
Υ Wāw Hook
Φ Form from Qōph Back of the head, sewing needle, eye of a needle, monkey
Χ
Ψ
Ω Form from Omicron

Of course, by the time the Ionian Greek script was adopted and spread throughout Greece, many of the letter forms were so far removed from their Phoenician counterparts (if any existed) that many of these meanings became meaningless or detached from the letters.  However, the Greeks themselves often found new symbolism for the names, often from a variety of sources.

  • Words or names that started with the letter itself
  • Images or concepts that bear a resemblance to the shape of the letter
  • Words that bear a strong resemblance or things that have a connection to the name of the letter
  • Assigning a letter to parts of the body, starting with Alpha at the head and going down to Mu at the feet, then starting again from Nu at the feet and going back up to Ōmega at the head (cf. the Body of Sophia)
Letter Meaning
Initial letter Graphical Importance Body
Α  Man, air, Apollo  Beginning, invention, source, God  Head
Β  King, help  Duality  Neck
Γ  Earth, birth  Shoulders and hands
Δ  God, ten  Breast
Ε  Build  Justice, Apollo  Diaphragm
Ζ  Life, Zeus  Back
Η  Hera  Belly
Θ  God, death, Mars  The world/universe  Thighs
Ι  Jesus, jot, single  Line, perfection, Rod of Moses  Knees
Κ  Lord, Caesar  Lower legs
Λ  Lion  Ratio, progression  Ankles
Μ  Mary, myriad  Middle  Feet
Ν  Feet
Ξ  Ankles
Ο  Circle, heaven  Lower legs
Π  Father, fire, five, Mars  Knees
Ρ  Thighs
Σ  Savior  Belly
Τ  Cross, crucifix  Back
Υ  Son  Moral choice, dilemma  Diaphragm
Φ  Voice, sound  Breast
Χ  Time, Christ  World soul, cross  Shoulders and hands
Ψ  Psyche, soul  Holy Spirit  Neck
Ω  Ocean, Orion  End  Head

You’ll note that I’ve started to include Abrahamic and Christian references; this is intentional, and not simply me copying entries blind from Kieran Barry’s “The Greek Qabalah”.  After all, as a Hermeticist, I’m not opposed to including Christian or Jewish references here (despite my trying to distance myself from Jewish kabbalah); rather, including them reaches back and allows for more access to much of Renaissance and Medieval development of Hermeticism as well as its classical and pagan origins.

So, where does all this leave us?  Between the graphical shapes and names of the letters, along with their oracular meanings, divine connections, numerical and isopsephic connections, and astrological or planetary or elemental connections, we have whole worlds of meaning for each of the letters.  These can all be incorporated into the meditations on the letters by visualizing or contemplating on them while intoning or repeating the letters.  The images and symbolism of the letters, coupled with their pronunciation, will further open up more doors in exploring the worlds and meanings of the letters and how they affect the world through their presence and, by their presence, the will and presence of the gods and God.

In fact, speaking of doors, let me share a method of scrying I like to use for deeply exploring a particular symbol.  Once the meanings and symbolism of the letters in all their complexity and layers have been learned and reviewed, and after meditating briefly to calm and clear the mind but before leaving the meditative state, I visualize a doorway with a particular symbol inscribed on it.  In our case, that symbol would be one of the letters of the Greek alphabet.  Knock on the door, mentally intoning the letter itself, and open it up.  Everything inside is a representation and symbol connected to that original symbol; explore the world, perhaps calling on the genius or spirit of the symbol to guide you or to send you a guide, or calling on your own HGA or personal tutelary spirit to guide you through it.  Explore the world as deeply as you care to, and when you’ve decided you’ve had enough, take the same route back through the world, passing by all the things you passed by before, and exit the same way you came.  Close the door, clear the mind again, and exit the meditative state.  I’ve used this skill to great efficacy before, notably on my meditations on the geomantic figures and the elemental archangelic kings, and it can be adapted to any number of symbols.  Using this method with the Greek letters can increase one’s deeper knowledge of them by exploring the deeper symbolism and worlds behind the letters which wouldn’t be apparent from simply reading up on their symbolism, and can indicate other symbols not listed above as well as connections to other letters that might not be apparent.  Further, the technique can be augmented by having it take place in one’s astral temple, or astrally projecting into the world itself.

Search Term Shoot Back, April 2014 (and an announcement!)

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of April 2014.

First, a bit of an announcement: I’m going to be taking the month of May off from blogging, since I’m moving from my apartment of four years into a house with my boyfriend and a friend of ours.  I just need some time to myself and away from writing the blog for a bit so I can get all my stuff packed up and moved, my new ritual schedules implemented, my new commute acclimated to, and my old place cleaned out and patched up.  I’ll still do my Daily Grammatomancy on Twitter and Facebook when I can, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or contact me through social media, and I’ll still reply to comments on my blog.  Also, I won’t be taking any craft commissions until the start of June, though you’re welcome to get a divination reading from me or get one of my ebooks off my Etsy page.  I still have those St. Cyprian of Antioch chaplets for sale, too, if you want to help out with moving expenses.  With that, onto the search results!

“computer generated geomancy” — If you’re looking for a place to get you geomancy figures automatically generated, you could do worse than go to random.org and use their random number generator to produce 16 binary results (0 or 1), or 4 results with a value of 0 through 15 (or 1 through 16).  If you’re looking for a program that draws up geomancy charts for you, there are a handful out there; I’ve coded one myself, geomancian, which is available for free on the Yahoo! and Facebook geomancy groups, but it’s command-line only (and old).  There’s Geomanticon available from Chris Warnock’s Renaissance Astrology, and I think there are a few mobile apps that do similar, but you’d have to pay for these.  If I ever learn mobile programming, I’d make a new one for Android, that’s for sure.  Still, no application can ever give you a proper interpretation of a full geomancy reading, though it can help you with interpreting the chart for yourself; if you want a full reading, I’m more than happy to offer them.

“do virgo males have big penises like greek god hermes” — I…really can’t speak to this.  (Disclaimer: my boyfriend is a Virgo, so there’s nothing I could say here that would end well for me.)  Also, save for the odd herm and a few ithyphallic representations of Hermes (more properly Mercury, especially in Roman art), Hermes isn’t portrayed with a particularly large cock.  It was actually seen as a good thing for a man to have a small dick in classical times, since they were easier to keep clean and reduced the risk of vaginal/anal/oral injury, trauma, or tearing, which would’ve very easily led to infection in pre-modern times.  That said, well, Hermes has shown me a few, shall we say, fulfilling things once in a while.  I’ll let you get on your knees and pray for that yourself, if you like.

“how to turn holy water into wax” — I don’t think you have a proper understanding of the physics that goes on here.  I mean, water and wax don’t mix, literally or metaphorically, and no ritual or physical process could achieve this short of a biblical miracle.  It’d be easier to turn water into wine, but that wouldn’t turn out so great, either.

“occult symbols of death” — Good question, and not one I really know an answer to.  You might use a seal for a spirit of Saturn, commonly associated with death, or of Azrael, the angel of death itself.  You might find symbols associated with Santissima Muerte, too, since she literally is death.  Other such symbols, such as the cap of Hades, associated with gods of death can work equally well.  When trying to find symbols for concepts like this when a spirit is not necessarily called for, I tend to look for sigils made from the letters of the word itself (so a sigil for the word “death” or “θανατος“), an Egyptian hieroglyph, or an ancient Chinese bone script or seal script character which you can easily find on Chinese Etymology.

“invocation of akasha or ether” — I suggest you don’t bother.  The only Western tradition that can even make good use of akasha is the Golden Dawn, since they’ve spent so much of their time augmenting classical and Renaissance Western mystery traditions with pilfered and appropriated Eastern, Vedic, Taoist, and Buddhist systems.  The use of a fifth element directly in magic doesn’t really have that much of a place, as I see it; Agrippa doesn’t reference it in his Scale of Five (book II, chapter 8) where he lists “a mixed body” instead, and its description in Plato’s Timaeus has it “arranging the constellations on the whole heaven”, so it’s probably more strongly based in stellar powers than perceived emptiness.  This makes sense, since we have no prayers, invocations, or workings of quintessence in the Western tradition before the Golden Dawn, but we have plenty for the gods, signs of the Zodiac, and stars.  To that end, you might use the Orphic Hymn to the Stars.  Alternatively, since the quintessence is the underlying substratum of the elements themselves, you might pursue your own Great Work, much as the alchemists did to find the Summum Bonum and Philosopher’s Stone, to understand and invoke ether on your own; I personally use the Hymns of Silence and invocations of pure Divinity.  And if you’re a neopagan who insists there are five elements because Cunningham says so, I hope you’re up for some actual magical lifting.

“how do i attach a crystal to a wooden dowel for wand” — In my experience, use two-part epoxy.  It forms one of the strongest adhesive bonds I can think of, far stronger than superglue, and it’s commonly and cheaply available at most craft or hardware stores.  If you have some sort of aversion to using artificial materials in crafting, the best I can suggest is carve out a niche in the wand just big enough for the crystal to fit and hold it in place with wire or cord.  Even then, it might fall out.  I strongly suggest the use of some kind of suitable adhesive for this, especially if you’re a heavy duty tool user.

“the use of crystals in conjuring” — Generally, I use crystals as the scrying medium within which I see spirits and by which I communicate with them, and this is often the case by many conjurers, especially those doing Enochiana with Dee’s works or the Trithemian system I use.  I also make use of a crystal on my ebony Wand of Art to help direct and focus power, if needed, but the crystal is not strictly necessary for the wand.  Beyond that, use crystals how you otherwise would in other rituals if you find a need for them; otherwise, don’t bring them into the ritual at all.  You don’t need a crystal for your wand, nor even for the scrying medium; a mirror, an obsidian plate, a blown-glass paperweight orb, a bowl of inky water, or a glass of clear water can all suffice as a perfectly good scrying medium, depending on your preferences; hell, depending on your second sight or conjuration skills, you may not need a scrying medium at all; with practice you’ll be able to perceive the spirit directly in the mind, or even evoke them to visible and material manifestation (which isn’t as important, I claim, as others may say it is, since it’s mostly a gimmick done for bragging rights at that point).

“when u draw a circle in a triangle,does it summon spirits? — On its own, no, otherwise every copy of Harry Potter with the Sign of the Deathly Hallows would actually be magical in more than the fantasy sense.  You’re just drawing shapes at this point, and the shapes are so basic and simple as to have no direct effect on their own.  However, you can summon spirits into the circle in the triangle afterward, which is the standard practice in Solomonic magic.

“is holy water used to bless the new fire?” — I mean, you could flick holy water into a fire to bless it, but the mixing of water and fire here bothers me.  The better way to make holy or blessed fire is to bless the fuel you use, such as the wood or oil, in conjunction with or just by saying prayers over the fire once lit.  This is common in Solomonic magic as it is in other religions, such as the fire blessing rituals of Zoroastrianism.  You might also consider making fire from holy woods or herbs, such as Palo Santo, sandalwood, or similar trees, depending on your tradition.  Generally speaking, fire is already one of the holiest substances we know of in the world and held in high esteem by many religions and traditions.  It can be made infernal, wicked, or evil, but the same can be said for anything material or physical, while it being naturally holy and closest to holiness is something that can be said for very few things, indeed.

“people who write in theban scripts” — Generally fluffy Wiccans, nowadays, who insist on making things blatantly-yet-“seekritly” magical.  The Theban script, as noted by Agrippa and Trithemius, has its origins in medieval alchemical ciphers common at the time, a simple 1-to-1 cipher for the Roman script (hence the use of a doubled U/V for a W).  Theban script used to be popular for enciphering alchemical and occult texts, but now it’s used once in a while for neopagan charms or quasigothic anime character design.

“how did saint isidore react when things went wrong” — Uh…”went wrong” is a pretty vague thing here.  For that matter, so is the saint; are you referring to Saint Isidore of Seville or Saint Isidore the Laborer?  The former didn’t really have much go wrong in his life, and the latter had his son fall into a well and needed to be rescued, so that’s hardly an epic to recount to kings.  I mean, the general Christian thing to do when things go wrong is prayer, which is probably what these guys did generally and how they also became, you know, saints.

“can we use orgonite ennrgy to cean air ?” — Short answer: no; long answer: fuck no.  Orgonite energy is properly orgone, which is a meta-energy that does not directly affect the physical world.  Orgonite is a lump of resin and metal shavings with other fanciful crap inside which is claimed to purify orgone from deadly orgone (DOR) to positive orgone (POR), which is crap and impossible even according to the (surprisingly versatile and workable) pseudoscience of Wilhelm Reich who developed orgone technology.  All orgonite could feasibly do is collect orgone energy inside to pull things out; even according to the rules of orgone theory, it cannot purify orgone from DOR to POR, since orgone tech cannot distinguish between the two (nor do I think a distinction is even possible, having never noticed any negative effects of DOR or overly positive effects of POR).  Physically speaking, there’s no mechanism for cleaning the air using a lump of congealed robot vomit, and you’d be better off putting a few fine sheets of cloth on your home HVAC air intake vent and washing it every month or so.  Orgone is orgone, energy is energy; there’s no real difference between “good energy” or “bad energy” when you’re talking about orgone.  You’d be better off learning energy manipulation and clearing space than using orgonite.

“greek alphabet as magical sigils” — Totally doable.  People have used various forms of the Hebrew alphabet magically for centuries now, and the Hebrew letters are well-known as symbols and referrants to the paths on the kabbalistic and Kircher Tree of Life, especially as stoicheic symbols for numbers, elements, planets, and signs of the Zodiac.  The Greek alphabet, sharing an ancestor with Hebrew and many of the same qualities, can be used similarly, right up to its own system of qabbalah.  Just as there exist magical cipher scripts for Roman script (Theban and the Trithemian cipher) and the Hebrew script (Celestial, Malachim, Passing the River, and the Alphabet of the Magi), I know of two cipher scripts for Greek: Apollonian and a medieval Frankish cipher (from Trithemius’ Polygraphia).  I’m sure others could be devised from similar principles or adapted from another magical script; alternatively, you could use archaic or variant styles of the Greek script, such as Coptic or even a variant of Phoenician.

“cockring orgone” — I…suppose this could be a thing.  Orgone does have its origins in the study of the life energy produced from sexual activity, so you’d just be going to the source for this.  I suppose you could make a cockring out of…hm.  Maybe something made of layers of synthetic latex and natural rubber?  Metal with a plastic core?  I’m unsure.  But more importantly, WHYYYYYYY.  If I wanted to give my partner a good zap, I’d just as soon use mentholated lubricant or, better yet, Tiger Balm (protip: for the love of God never do this).

“alan shapiro puts off the fire for the usps” — G…good for him?  I guess?  Seeing how I’ve never used that name on this blog nor known anyone by it, I…well, let’s just say that I’m so odd, because I can’t even.

“circle filled with triangles orgonite” — My first thought was the image of the Flower of Life, a circle filled with overlapping circles which can form triangle-like shapes within, and a potent magical and religious symbol for thousands of years.  And then I saw “orgonite”, and my next thought was “new age bullshit”, which is about what people use the Flower of Life nowadays for anyway.  On the one hand, you’re talking about sacred geometry, and on the other, you’re talking about lumps of crap, so I’m unsure what you’re getting at here.  Also, I’m starting to loathe the popularity of these orgone searches, but they’re just so ripe for making fun of.

“hermetism and homosexualit” — Hermetism isn’t a word often used, and chances are that you’re referring to “Hermeticism”, the Neoplatonic-Gnostic-ish philosophy that came about in the classical Mediterranean from a whole bunch of philosophies and religions rubbing shoulders with each other.  In that sense, Hermeticism and Neoplatonism generally helped form a new concept of what was then called “Platonic love”, a love of souls more than that of bodies.  Men and men, men and women, and women and women can all have Platonic love for each other, while before this movement (especially in the Renaissance) it may have been hard to communicate one’s feelings about another, especially if love was itself defined between two people of the opposite gender.  Another point to consider is that “homosexuality” as a concept and identification didn’t exist until the late 1800s; labeling ourselves in this manner simply wasn’t done before then.  You either never had gay sex, were having gay sex at that moment, or had gay sex at some point in the past; it was an action and not a state.  Actions like this have no significant ramifications I can think of in Hermeticism, since there’s no sin to deal with or laws that say you can’t do that; it’s a very abstract yet thorough philosophy that embraces pretty much whatever and whoever you throw at it.  As for the other meaning of Hermetism, which I take to be a henotheistic worship of Hermes, well, the god-dude himself likes the occasional dick, so he has no problem with it.

“the most homosexual magician on the planet” — I…honestly don’t think I’m the best candidate for this esteemed title.  I mean, yeah, I’ve sucked a lot of dick, but I don’t go around drinking skinny margs, watching Glee, or wearing turtlenecks, either.  I mean, I’m not particularly effeminate (though I do have my moments), nor am I stereotypically promiscuous (not like that’s a bad thing), so…yeah.   Besides, the notion itself is kind of absurd; unless you’re a 6 on the Kinsey scale, I don’t think “most homosexual” is really a thing, but since I do score a 6 on that scale, I suppose I get the title?  Maybe?  I still claim that you’d be better off finding candidates for this title on Twitter, all of whom are good, noble, professional, upright people and magi (also I love you guys~).

“energy circle when summoning spirits how do you draw it” — You don’t draw energy circles when summoning spirits; you draw conjuration or summoning circles to conjure or summon spirits.  In that case, you draw (shock of the ages!) a circle.  You can add other symbols, names, or whatever to it as you want, but these are highly varied, as Ouroboros Press’ Magic Circles in the Grimoire Tradition by William Kiesel points out, but really, a circle is all you need.  You can use chalk, a knife, paint, rope, or whatever to draw it out, but do draw it out, even if it’s just in the carpet with a finger.  Energy circles are used in various forms of energy work with varying degrees of significance, though I’ve never needed such a thing except for shielding or putting out feelers in my local surroundings.

“ikea-rituals” — I’m not aware of any Ikea-specific rituals, but their wide array of furniture and household goods is quite amazing, much of it able to be repurposed to ritual use.  I plan on getting a few more LACK side tables as a series of altars, to be sure, and some nice shelves for my temple and personal library in the near future.  I assume rituals for Ikea would take on a strongly Nordic and Scandinavian flavor, but that’s not my area of expertise.

“where do i put my incense when summoning a demon”  — I would put the incense somewhere between you and the conjuration space for the demon, that way you have the smoke rising up to offer a kind of veil or ethereal lens through which you can more easily perceive the demon.  Where you put the conjuration space (Triangle of Art, Table of Practice, etc.), however, is another question entirely.  Some grimoires offer directions you should face, or a particular direction associated with the demon or spirit, which would provide you with a good idea of directional and spatial layout.

Also, this wasn’t really a search term, but something did catch my eye.  I keep track of what other sites lead people to my blog; search engines like Google and sites like Facebook are at the very top of the list, of course, but also some blogs are also notable.  One crazy hilarious blog linked to my post on the divine names written on the Trithemius lamen,  From the crazy blog itself, it’s about:

We are living in Biblically significant Times. Ironically it was the most persecuted man in modern history that lead me to dig deeper into the Bible and taught me more about God than any other human being on the planet. And that man is Michael Jackson. I started a blog to defend him. I ended up researching him and learned just why they were after him. They did everything they could to shut him down. In the song “Cry” he said “take over for me”, so that is what I am doing. God bless that man and his faith and strength

…alright, then.  Specifically, the post referenced my blog in that those silly Jews never understood God in that God obviously only has one possible name (the one referred to as the Tetragrammaton, which even they say has two pronunciations…I think? it’s hard to read the post) and that all other names refer to demons, and that Michael is not the angel of the Sun but is a demon because it’s another Michael besides Michael Jackson.  They also attempted to bind the angel Michael and God in the name of God because reasons.  My good friend Michael Seb Lux, before discovering that the blog doesn’t allow comment except from certified crazy people it allows, was going to reply with this:

Actually, there are multiple names ascribed to G-d in the Hebrew Scriptures. While Yahweh is the more common one, in Exodus 3:14 G-d speaks His Name as, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh” or “I am that what I shall be”. Similarly, the use of Adonai is common as a theophoric and literally means, “Lord”. Other names used in Scripture are Yahweh Tzevaot (1 Samuel 17:45), ha’el elohe abika (Genesis 46:3), Elah Elahin (Daniel 2:47), Elohim (Exodus 32:1; Genesis 31:30, 32; and elsewhere), and so forth. The four-fold name may have originated as an epithet of the god El, head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon (“El who is present, who makes himself manifest”) or according to the Kenite hypothesis accepted by scholars, assumes that Moses was a historical Midianite who brought the cult of Yahweh north to Israel.

May all the angels pray for us and God (in every one of his names) bless the Internet that we may be worthy of the lulz of paradise.

Anyway, see you guys in June!