On Repurposing Ritual Parts for New Practices

This PGM train won’t stop, at least, not yet.  I hope you’re not bored of this talk of the Greek Magical Papyri, dear reader, because there’s so many awesome things about it, not least for its historical value in understanding some of the origins and foundations of Western magical practice as we know it today and how their rediscovery continues to shape it in modern occulture, but because of all the wonderful techniques they contain.  And just think: what we have in Betz’s famous translation is still only a fraction of what’s still out there, both discovered and undiscovered, translated and untranslated.

So, I meant to have this post out shortly after the ritual writeup of the Royal Ring of Abrasax was put up, but then the last post happened where I also introduced it, so…whoopsie.  Anyway, this ritual, PGM XII.201—269, describes the consecration of a kind of ring of power, “useful for every magical operation and for success”, which it claims is constantly sought after by kings and other types of rulers.  In a sense, this particular ring can act as a general phylactery or protective charm against spirits in magical works and conjurations as well as a charm for success, victory, and fortune in all of one’s endeavors.  In some sense, it can be considered something resembling a conceptual forerunner of the Ring of Solomon known to later magicians; this isn’t to say that PGM XII.201—269 is an ancestor of the Ring of Solomon, but it indicates a transition of magical rings and how they evolved from simple empowerment and fortune charms into phylacteries and guarantors of magical success.  If you haven’t seen my write-up and analysis yet, it’s up under the Occult → Classical Hermetic Rituals menu.  Take a look!  It’s a fine example of a solid Graeco-Egyptian consecration ritual which can be seen as a kind of forerunner to later Hermetic and Solomonic ones.

The reason why I’ve been looking over this ritual is because Gordon White over at Rune Soup used this ritual as his (only) group exercise for his recent 2018 Q2 course on the PGM.  It’s an excellent course, as I’ve mentioned before, especially as it focuses less on the actual rituals present in the PGM and more about the background, context, development, and general methodology behind them.  Of course, it’s not like Gordon only wanted to just talk about them, but he wanted to get people up and running with them in a sensible way that involves some measure of rigor and spiritual connection.  For that purpose, Gordon set up a group exercise for those participating in the course to recite a portion of PGM XII.201—269 as a kind of semi-self-initiation before other PGM work.  As to how, specifically, Gordon accomplishes this, I recommend you head over to Rune Soup to check out the members section and go through his course material.  It’s worth the small cost of admission, I claim.  Just because the course is finished doesn’t mean you can’t perform the self-initiation ritual at any time you want or need, especially now that a current-connection has already been established in the same way by quite a number of other magicians.

Gordon explains his reasoning for adapting this ritual for this purpose at the end of the first module of the course.  Essentially, the author (or compiler) of these parts of the PGM texts was, in all likelihood, an actual Egyptian initiated priest who moonlighted as a magician-for-hire.  Because of his initiated status, he had access and license to work with the gods and spirits found in the PGM in such a way that we never can at this point, or at least, not in the same way; those initiations and lineages are long since vanished, and there’s no way to achieve the exact same status as our original author friend; as I’ve discussed before, lineage can make a world of difference when it comes to starting out at the same point of power based on initiation and lineage or the lack thereof.  To that end, Gordon set up a specially-modified form of PGM XII.201—269 as a sort of quick self-initiation into the powers and currents of the PGM to make our future PGM work that much more effective, serving as an introduction to the PGM powers.  Without performing such a self-initiation, it’s possible that we can get some results out of doing PGM work, but not necessarily to the same extent without a formal introduction, for which Gordon’s modified PGM XII.201—269 serves decently enough for any beginner to PGM-style magic.  Plus, it benefits from the fact that it’s a comparatively simple ritual (at least in Gordon’s modified form) without onerous barbarous names of power, which can be terrifying for those new to the PGM.

The Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual is not a particularly complex or difficult ritual to do; sure, there’s a bit of animal sacrifice involved, but that’s nothing that we can’t work with, either by actually bleeding the required birds or by making a sincere and appropriate substitution (I go over one such method in my write-up for those who are unable or unwilling to perform such a sacrifice, and for more information, check out my last post).  The main hymn of it is rather beautiful, but it also struck me as familiar, and I wasn’t entirely sure why that was the case.  It was some of the footnotes from Betz that tipped me off; part of the hymn was annotated with a reference to PGM XIII.734—1077, which titles itself the Tenth Book of Moses, from which the Heptagram Rite comes (along with its smaller variant the Calling of the Sevenths, aka Heptasphere).  The preliminary invocation of the Heptagram Rite (at least in its Major form that I’ve written about) is basically the entirety of the main hymn of the Royal Ring of Abrasax, just fleshed out with more barbarous names of power, including close variants of the same barbarous name that the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual centers around.  This was fantastic to discover on its own, that these two PGM sections from different papyri could be tied together in this way, but there was another part to discover; the end of the Tenth Book of Moses (after the Heptagram Rite is discussed) introduces a consecration for a particular kind of phylactery that, itself, bears many parallels to the consecration ritual of the Royal Ring of Abrasax.  So, not only do we have a near-identical prayer in these two PGM sections, but we even have a rough match of a consecration for a charm of power and protection!  Finding two such similar rituals in close proximity within the same PGM would be one thing (a la the Eighth Book of Moses from PGM XIII.1—343, 343—646, and 646—734), but this is an even more important realization.  It either indicates that both papyri were compiled or written by the same author, or that two separate authors had the same source for almost the same procedures; I’m not sure which is more likely, but both are exciting things.

However, the parallel parts between PGM XII.201—269 and PGM XIII.734—1077 are separated by quite a lot of content, and what’s present in one is not used in the same way as it’s used in the other.  The near-identical hymn that’s present in both is used for two radically different rituals: in PGM XII.201—269, it’s used as part of a consecration of a charm, and in PGM XIII.734—1077, it’s used as part of (what is essentially) a theurgic ritual.  It’s an interesting example of using the same ritual act or performance for different ends, especially because it’s in the source text of the PGM which we all admire and love.  What this indicates to me is that there’s an implicit acknowledgment that certain things can be used in different ways, a kind of magical upcycling or repurposing of techniques.  This isn’t particularly uncommon; after all, consider the PGM-style framing rite I put out a few days ago.  The vast majority of that is slapped together from a variety of PGM sources, picking and choosing this and that to come up with a more-or-less unified whole.  Heck, one of the sources I picked some techniques from, PGM IV.930—1114 (the Conjuration of Light under Darkness ritual) itself has the markers of being slapped together from two different rituals for different purposes brought into a more-or-less unified whole.  What I did to come up with my framing rite may not sit well with PGM-focused grimoire purists, but it’s solidly within the same tradition and following the same meta-methodology that’s present within the PGM itself.

Consider our modern use of PGM V.96—172, the Headless Rite.  Originally, it was intended as a simple exorcism, but thanks to the innovations of Aleister Crowley, it was adapted into a theurgic self-empowerment and self-elevation ritual, and the way he did it allows for further customizations to be made.  Where Crowley changed “deliver NN. from the demon that restrains him” to “hear me and make all spirits subject unto me” (a reuse of one of the last lines of the ritual), other adaptations can be made to the Headless Rite that can turn it from an exorcism ritual into a banishing, empowering, or theurgic ritual:

  • Exorcism: “Deliver NN. from the demon that restrains him!”
    • Here, NN. is the name of the person to be exorcised.
    • This is the original “rubric” as used in the PGM version of the text, since this was originally intended as an exorcism ritual.
  • Banishing: “Deliver me, NN., from any and all demons, death, defilement, illness, impurity, infirmity, pain, plague, or poison that restrains me!”
    • Here, NN. is your own name.
  • Empowering: “Subject to me all spirits so that every spirit whether heavenly or ethereal, upon the earth or under the earth, on dry land or in the water, of whirling air or rushing fire, and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient to me!”
    • This is the version used in Liber Samekh, which is just a more fleshed-out version of the charge used for donning the coronet, as discussed below.
  • K&CHGA: “Send to me my neverborn friend and guardian, my supernatural assistant, my agathodaimon, my holy guardian angel!  Send to me the spirit NN. whose duty it is to guide, lead, assist, and protect me through this and all lives!”
    • Here, NN. in this case refers to the name of the guardian angel, if known.  Otherwise, omit the use of a name entirely and refer to the guardian angel generally.

Consider also our modern use of the Orphic Hymns, especially those for the planets.  One of my good colleagues suggests that the original use of the Orphic Hymns were that they were to all be sung in succession as a kind of diagnostic theurgic rite so as to call out specific divinities that might be affecting someone at a given time, and not necessarily that individual hymns were to be used on their own.  Yet, magicians have been using them for centuries as individual prayers for individual entities outside their original contexts; consider what Cornelius Agrippa has to say about them in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapter 71):

Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place. They that desire further examples of these, let them search into the hymns of Orpheus, then which nothing is more efficatious in naturall Magick, if they together with their circumstances, which wise men know, be used according to a due harmony, with all attention.

After all, most people in the modern Hermetic/astrological magic scene (especially those who work outside the Golden Dawn and similar systems) are familiar with the use of the Orphic Hymns for the planets and use them in their rituals, whether as a kind of daily adoration of the ruling planet of the day or as part of a chant for the consecration of a planetary talisman during an election of that planet or for other purposes.  For instance, as a gesture of worship to Hermēs, I recite his Orphic Hymn whenever I enter a post office, no matter the day or time; this is certainly a modern adaptation of the use of such a prayer, and one that wouldn’t fit into any classical scheme except the broadest notions of “general worship”, but it goes to show that bits and pieces of ritual and religious texts can be used in ways that may not have been anticipated by their original authors, yet work well all the same for their new purpose.

In a similar vein, consider the use of the Psalms of the Old Testament.  These were originally devised as songs for worship, celebration, and religious meditation, yet parts of them have been in use in a variety of religious rituals and ceremonies; consider the Asperges Me, a few lines of Psalm 51 that’s recited in some Catholic Masses as well as in folk ceremonies of purification.  Heck, consider the wide and deep practice of psalm-based magic, where particular psalms are recited, either on their own or accompanying other ritual acts such as dressing and lighting candles.  A good example of a similar type of Old Testament-based magic is that of Draja Mickaharic’s Magical Spells of the Minor Prophets, where Mickaharic describes how to use individual verses of the minor prophetical books from the Old Testament for a variety of magical ends, including one chapter where every verse from an entire book can be used magically.  This is definitely magical repurposing on a whole new level, and yet is so firmly grounded and founded in classical magical meta-methodology that it’s hard to see how deep these foundations have been dug.

The trick when repurposing bits and pieces of extant ritual and texts, as always, is to be smart about it.  Cherry-picking without care or caution can get you into a lot of trouble real quickly, because not all individual parts of rituals can be extracted or extrapolated for different use.  For instance, the Conjuration of Light under Darkness is absolutely a conjuration ritual, combined from a lamp divination spell and a theophanic ritual.  However, at a large scale, the Conjuration as a whole cannot be adapted to the conjuration of other entities generally, like how the Trithemian rite of conjuration I use can be used for angels, natal genii, genii loci, and so forth with the right adaptations; instead, it’s pretty specifically geared to the conjuration and communion of one entity.  However, particular parts of this ritual may be used outside of it; I chose the Light-Retaining Charm and the Dismissal of Light, specifically, which kind of come as a set, since if you use one, you need the other.  My whole dismissal prayer I use is cobbled together from two different PGM sources (PGM I.262—347 and PGM VII.930—1114) which work well when mixed together due to overlap of particular phrases, and the fact that they do the same thing.

The compatibility and extensibility of particular techniques, and at what level and for what purpose, is important to consider when trying to pick and pull things together.  This can be difficult with PGM stuff, given the use of barbarous names of power; in general, we don’t know what they mean, and so we don’t know if we’re calling on something generally by their use in a given situation or if we’re calling on something particularly specific for a specific function.  Moreover, we don’t know whether what we’re calling is compatible only with its original context and not with the repurposed one we’re putting it to.  What makes things dicey is that we can’t just omit the barbarous names of power, either; consider Zoroaster’s injunction #155 from the Chaldaean Oracles, “change not the barbarous Names of Evocation for-there are sacred Names in every language which are given by God, having in the Sacred Rites a Power Ineffable”.  The words have power, which is why we say them; to remove the words is to remove the power, and to change the words is to change the power.  Better to use them than not, where present, unless you know precisely what you’re doing and how to get around it.  That’s why one of the reasons it took me so long to cobble together a PGM-style framing rite from off-the-shelf PGM pieces, because I needed to make sure that they were either naturally general enough to be used, or could safely be made general while still being effective as well as compatible with the other parts I was using.

The reuse of the hymn to the Agathos Daimōn between the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual and the Major Heptagram Rite presents us with a unique opportunity, then, to see how one particular magical technique can be repurposed and even reworded; note that the Royal Ring of Abrasax version of the hymn contains far fewer barbarous names, indicating that—perhaps—not all of those are needed here for this purpose, or their use would have been more appropriate to a theurgic ritual rather than a consecration ritual, or that their use was not needed at all for the sake of praising and honoring the Agathos Daimōn.  Noting how the same prayer can be used in different rituals, it’s also easy (and, I’d argue, fruitful) to think how the prayer can be used in other contexts, such as in a daily prayer routine alongside other PGM-derived prayers like PGM IV.1115—1167 (the Hymn of the Hidden Stele, which has no purpose stated either as a header or as part of this section of the PGM) or PGM IV.1167—1226 (the Stele of Aiōn, which works as both a powerful prayer generally as well as being “useful for all things; it even delivers from death”).

When going about cobbling together from parts of other rituals (PGM or otherwise), I would recommend to a few questions to bear in mind to make sure you’re on the right track:

  1. Have you studied or, even better, performed the original ritual you’re choosing parts from to get an intimate understanding of what it does, both as a collection of ritual parts and as a unified whole?
  2. What is the nature of the original rituals, both as a whole and as parts, and how does it compare with the goal of the new ritual, both as a whole and as parts?
  3. What entities are being called upon in the original ritual, and do they conflict with other entities from other original rituals?
  4. Does the part of the original ritual being chosen require something else to be done with it, or can it stand alone on its own?
  5. Can the part being chosen from the original ritual be picked up and used as it is, or does it require modifications to wording or performance?
  6. Does the original ritual use barbarous or divine names of power?  Does the intent behind them in the context of the original ritual work for a different use?
  7. Can the charge or purpose of the part being chosen from the original ritual be modified or generalized while still keeping true to the power of the original ritual?
  8. Is taking a part from an original ritual really needed?  Is that part serving an actual use or function within the cosmological and methodological understanding of the new ritual?
  9. Is a new ritual being put together from parts of original rituals necessary, or will an original ritual suffice, either with or without modifications to charges, commands, or ritual implements?

There is value in knowing and understanding the dozens, hundreds of rituals in the PGM, or in any system or tradition or collection of magical works, and accomplished magicians can pull any ritual they need from their handbooks or private collections to accomplish anything they need or want.  However, there is at least as much value in being able to understand the parts of those same rituals, know what works, know what can be extended or abridged or adapted, and being able to whip something up (big or small) from parts off the shelf that’s at least as effective because they know how to plug certain ritual actions into each other.  The trick is being smart about it and knowing what can—and should—plug into what.

PGM Kyphi: On The Incense of the Eighth Book of Moses

Trying to come up with my PGM-style framing rite was pretty fun, I have to admit.  Scouring the entire PGM for things that fit a pattern I work in, trying to select the best or most appropriate verses to use to make sure they’re generic enough to not step on toes while still being specific enough to function for a purpose, and seeing what was really needed and what wasn’t as far as potential options go helped me get an even deeper realization of the abundant (yet never enough!) material available to us in the Greek magical papyri.

Still, there were some design decisions that I had to make about what to include and where.  In the end, I decided to make the framing rite as general and flexible as possible, making lots of things optional rather than just not having them in there (and being asked about it later, or forgetting myself where something might best be placed).  One of the ritual acts that I made optional was a general burning of incense, after the empowerment and just before the ritual proper around which the framing rite takes place.  Personally, I love the use of incense, and I don’t do many rituals without it; I typically find it to be an important, if not outright essential, part of ritual magic, and there are too many rituals in the PGM to count that use some sort of suffumigation or another.

The problem is, though, the use of incense generally outside of a ritual for its own sake.  Looking through the PGM, whenever incense is burned, it’s for a specific purpose, generally to bless a particular object or as an offering.  Incense doesn’t seem to be used for its own sake, whether as a general perfume, a spiritual resonance-tuning method (getting a place more into the “feel” of a particular sphere or spirit), or a method of blessing or purifying a space (a la smudging), which are all pretty common modern uses of incense.  Rather, the use of incense appears to almost always be used as an offering to some god or spirit, or as a suffumigation to bless a particular object under a particular god or spirit.  These acts are intrinsically and intimately bound up with specific rituals, and no one method seems to cover most of them; because of this, I decided against having a general incense burning before the ritual proper in the framing rite.

This doesn’t apply, however, to the final dismissal, where incense is burned, because the parts of the PGM where I pulled those prayers from do indeed call for incense, and it being a dismissal and thanksgiving offering to the spirits, the use of incense is appropriate.  Using that logic, it’s also quite possible and appropriate to make an introductory offering of incense to the same spirits, at least those of time and space (i.e. the Guardians of the Directions, the Lord of the Hour or Day or Sign, etc.) as well as to higher powers such as the Agathodaimon or Aiōn, but I’m also not entirely sold on doing that each and every time; after all, why eat dessert when breakfast has yet to be served?  (Hush, inner child.)

Anyway.  While looking through the PGM for topics and sections involving the use and types of incenses, I came across (once again) the Eighth Book of Moses, split and replicated in several forms in PGM XIII, sections 1—343, 343—646, and 646—734.  These sections precede the section PGM XIII.734—1077, which calls itself the Tenth Book of Moses, which is also the source of the Heptagram Rite (and, thus, the Calling the Sevenths or Heptasphere ritual that’s so common in modern PGM-forms of magic).  Taken all together, PGM XIII presents a fascinating self-initiatory form of magic coming into some of the highest and most glorious powers of the cosmos, and presents an interesting blend of Egyptian and Jewish priestly practices.  One of which is the use of incenses, described in the earlier parts of PGM XIII, which is used both as an offering substance for the divinity or divinities invoked in the ritual as well as an ingredient for consecrating particular inks and drinks in the ritual.

Seven types of incenses are described as proper to the seven planets:

  • Saturn: styrax (στύραξ)
    • Despite the common modern use of styrax (or storax) to refer to benzoin (Storax officinalis, storax or cowbell), this was most likely instead the resin of Liquidambar orientalis, oriental or Turkish sweetgum, a type of balsam which was well-known in classical and medieval times.  However, given the ambiguity of this term, either may be meant.
  • Jupiter: malabathron (μαλάβαθρον)
    • This is an older name for the leaves of Cinnamonum tamala, more commonly known as Indian bay leaf, tējapatta/tejpat/tejpata, tamalpatra, tamaala, vazhanayila, edana, pattai illai, or bagharakku in various Indian languages.
    • Betz also gives Cinammonum albiflorum as an option, but it seems like this is just a synonym for Indian bay leaf.
  • Mars: costus (κόστος)
    • Sassurea lappa, also known as saw-wort or snow lotus.  The dried root was an important and well-known trade item between Rome and India.
    • Currently listed as endangered, making it illegal to dig up the plant for export, so trade of this plant is highly regulated.
  • Sun: frankincense (λίβανον)
    • Boswellia sacra, our gold old friend.  Pretty straightforward here.  We all know and love this stuff.
  • Venus: Indian nard (νάρδος Ἰνδικός)
    • Nardostachys jatamansi, spikenard, which was a luxury item in the Mediterranean.
  • Mercury: cassia (κασία)
    • Cinnamonum cassia, the usual cassia or Chinese cinnamon.  The bark of the plant is as available today as it ever was, and most store-bought cheap “cinnamon” tends to be cassia, anyway.
  • Moon: myrrh (ζμύρνα)
    • Commiphora myrrha, the resin of the plain old myrrh.  No further explanation needed.
    • The spelling for this is weird, using an initial zēta instead of an initial sigma, but so it goes.  Likely explainable due to voicing from the following mu.

In addition, PGM XIII.1—343 says that one should “prepare sun vetch on every occasion”, meaning the “Egyptian bean”.  Here, it’s most likely referring to Vicia faba, or the simple fava bean, still a staple in Egypt to this day.  Another option might be bitter vetch, Vicia ervilia, which was domesticated before fava beans by about 1500 years, but I’m inclined to think that fava beans are meant here.  However, it’s unclear whether it’s the bean itself to be used or the leaves or flowers of the plant instead.

What strikes me as significant is how…Jew-ish all those materials are.  Like, obviously this is not a particularly canon rite that would have been done in the Temple at Jerusalem, but the whole Eighth Book of Moses is definitely appropriating Jewish elements heavily, far beyond just attributing the book to the prophet Moses.  Consider PGM XIII.230ff:

The initiation called The Monad has been fully declared to you, child.  Now I subjoin for you, child, also the practical uses of this sacred book, the things which all the experts accomplished with this sacred and blessed book.  As I made you swear, child, in the temple of Jerusalem, when you have been filled with the divine wisdom, dispose of the book so that it will not be found.

Betz includes a fantastically sharp footnote here for this paragraph: “pretentious hokum”.  Still, it’s indicative of how heavy Jewish influences are in this part of the PGM, and the incense list above indicates a distinct familiarity with priestly practices.  Consider Exodus 30:22—38, which discusses the recipes and uses for the holy anointing oil and the offering incense:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil.  Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer.  It will be the sacred anointing oil.  Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand.  You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.

“Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests.  Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come.  Do not pour it on anyone else’s body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred.  Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people.'”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—stacte, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer.  It is to be salted and pure and sacred.  Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.  Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the Lord.  Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.”

Note the ingredients of those two special substances: myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, stacte (most likely storax or styrax), onycha (most likely part of a sea snail or labdanum from Cistus creticus), galbanum (resin of Ferula gummosa), and frankincense.  We see some significant overlap between this part of Exodus and the incense materials given in PGM XIII.  To make matters even more interesting, consider the rabbinic literature of the Talmud: it expands the list of ingredients for the incense offering significantly from the Exodus list:

  1. stacte (understood as the sap of the balsam tree, i.e. styrax, but it could also refer to mastic from terebinth, Pistacia palaestina)
  2. onycha (to which was added Carshina lye and Cyprus wine for refining and steeping it)
  3. galbanum
  4. frankincense
  5. myrrh
  6. cassia
  7. spikenard
  8. saffron
  9. costus
  10. aromatic bark
  11. cinnamon

We know that the Talmudic literature and traditions go back to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, and so its beginnings would have been roughly contemporaneous with the PGM authors.  If the Talmudic/rabbinical recipe list given above can be considered something approximating or reflecting actual Jewish practice at the time of PGM XIII’s inception, then we basically have the entire list of incenses given in PGM XIII.  The only odd one to consider is malabathron, which is not listed in either the Exodus or Talmudic recipes; however, knowing that it’s considered close to cinnamon, which we lack in our PGM incense list (except as a phylactery or charm to wear around the neck—perhaps too precious or expensive to be burned?), it could be seen as a reasonable substitute for cinnamon, and some rabbinical scholars suggest that it could indeed have been used in place of actual cinnamon.

There are other Jewish influences in PGM XIII as well, such as how the ritual is to be done such that the 41 days of purification ends with the New Moon in Aries.  This is basically ensuring that you’re timing things to line up with Passover, which generally occurs around the Full Moon in Aries.  That said, the ritual as a whole is really more of a priestly Egyptian kind of magic with Jewish elements mixed in.  This reaches its pinnacle in the idea that one has to receive “the Name” from the “god who comes in” via the initiation; this is that god’s own True Name, which is sacred and powerful and is used in many of the works that follow the initiation in PGM XIII.1—343; this can be seen to also bring in some of the influence of the Divine Name of God, only permitted to be spoken aloud once a year by the high priest in the holy of holies of the Temple.

So much for the Jewish influences.  Anyway, we have seven materials to be used as planetary incenses.  PGM XIII also prescribes the use of “the seven flowers of the seven stars”, a mixture to be made from the flowers of:

  1. Marjoram (σαμψούχινον)
    1. Origanum majorana, sometimes called sweet marjoram or knotted marjoram to ensure it’s kept distinct from oregano which can sometimes be called “marjoram”.  Another species, Origanum onites (Cretan oregano or pot marjoram) could be substituted, but all indications point to it being marjoram proper.
    2. The word used here is not the usual Greek word for marjoram, but specifically a “foreign name”, while the usual classical Greek term would be ἀμάρακος (amárakos).
  2. Lily (κρίνινον)
    1. Betz gives “white lily”, though this is not mentioned in either Preisendanz or the original Greek.  Indeed, “white lily” would have been referred to by λείριον and not the word used in the PGM, while this word here refers to non-white lilies. I’m not quite sure what a good species would be, but so long as it’s a non-white true lily like Lilium chalcedonicum or Lilium martagon (Turk’s cap) or even Lilium bulbiferum (fire lily).
  3. Lotus (λώτινον)
    1. Lots of options here, but most likely is Nymphaea lotus, also called white lotus or Egyptian lotus (unsurprisingly), and was revered in ancient Egypt as a symbol and medicine of strength and power, though it could also be the blue Egyptian lotus, Nymphaea caerulea.
  4. Erephyllinon or herephyllinon (ἐρεφύλλινον)
    1. This name is unknown and nobody seems to be sure what this name refers to.  Preisendanz gives “Dichtlaubpflanze (?)”, literally “thick-foliage plant”, so he’s not sure, either, though he also gives a possible alternative ἑρπύλλινον “herpullinon”.  If I translated it right, this word refers to tufted thyme, Thymus caespititius, and unlike many of the other plants which come from the Near East or South Asia, this one is native to Iberia.  The author may instead be referring here to Thymus capitatus, conehead thyme or Persian hyssop, and is native to the Mediterranean and Turkey, so it’s possibly more likely.
  5. Narcissus (ναρκίσσινον)
    1. This is just daffodil, most likely the type species Narcissus poeticus.
  6. Gillyflower (λευκόϊνον)
    1. “Gillyflower” confused me, but Preisendanz gives “Goldlack” as the name in German, which refers to Erysimum cheiri syn. Cheiranthus cheiri, or common wallflower.
  7. Rose (ῥόδον)
    1. It’s…it’s rose.  If one wanted to get really particular, I’d recommend the Damask rose, Rosa × damascena, which seems to have been cultivated in the classical world and is prized for both its fragrance and flavor.

Though these seven flowers are said to be “of the seven stars”, no association is made explicit between these and the planets.  The order of the incenses might be temping to use as a correspondence, but there are two orders given both for the incenses and the flowers between PGM XIII.1—343 and PGM XIII.343—646, so I’m not comfortable linking them up that way.  It’s possible to deduce some planetary rulerships, but I’m unclear on what sources to use; most modern resources would give multiple flowers to Venus (lily, rose, narcissus, and thyme), leaving not many for the other planets.  For that matter, the planetary patterns of the incenses, too, are unfamiliar to modern magicians.  It’s possible that they would be mixed-up as a blind, but I’m disinclined to think so; what few blinds there are in the PGM are code-names for particular materia magica (e.g. PGM XII.401—444), but beyond that, it’d be odd for blinds to be introduced in what are little more than personal notes or examples that were never probably meant for public dissemination.  All told, I’m not sure we can clearly identify which flower goes with which planet, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s needed; unlike the incenses, there never seems to be a use for individual flowers, but they’re to be mixed up and used as a single substance.

According to the directions in PGM XIII.1—343, these seven flowers are to be taken 21 days “before the initiation” for processing.  The timeline given in the ritual suggests that a pre-initiatory period of sunrise salutes begins on the New Moon for seven days leading up to the initiation, which then would make the initiation occur on the First Quarter Moon.  21 days before this, then, would mean to gather the flowers on the day of or just before a Full Moon.  The text says that the flowers, once picked, are to be ground finely either in a white mortar or into a white incense (the Betz translation gives two options for this), then left to dry in the shade.  However, I’m not sure this makes sense; given the colors of the flowers, grinding them “into white incense” doesn’t seem likely or possible, nor does it make sense to grind them up before drying them if they need to be ground fine into anything except a paste or mush.  Still, perhaps that’s desired; if they are to be mixed up, perhaps making a single mass of them and letting them dry in the shade (protected from the light of the Sun and the Moon and other stars) could be more effective than letting the flowers dry out first then grinding them up into a powder.

The directions further on in PGM XIII.1—343 suggest that the the seven flowers was to be mixed with the appropriate planetary incense into a “bean”, a small nugget of incense, which was then to presumably be burned; later, the incense and the powder of the seven flowers is to be used when making ink for writing on a special tablet of natron before washing it off in wine and drinking the wine.  PGM XIII.343—646 suggests that, as a general initiatory incense, all seven of the planetary incenses were to be mixed with the the seven flowers, along with unmixed wine; additionally, the seven flowers are to be mixed with ink in the same way as before; though no reference is made here to using the incense as well for this purpose, PGM XIII.646—734 does say to use both the incense and the flowers for the ink.

The use of the flower powder and the incense for making ink is outside the scope of this post, since I want to focus on the process of making the incense.  As said above, the end of PGM XIII.1—343 says that the powder of the flowers is to be mixed with the incense and, presumably, sun vetch (fava beans) into nuggets of incense.  Making pellets like this is something I’ve done before, and was definitely done in the old world as well; while burning a combination of resins works, mixing them ahead of time along with a filler to produce more, thicker, or brighter smoke was often done as well.  However, some sort of liquid would be needed in order to steep and soften the resins and barks in order that they can be ground up; indeed, PGM XIII.646—734 says that, “having ground them all to a powder” (meaning both the flowers at minimum and likely also the incenses), one is to add “wine not mixed with seawater”.  This would moisten the incenses and flowers together, allowing them not only to be more fragrant and pungent, but also giving a bit of sugar to it as well, which would help the incense smoke more; the specific note of “not mixed with seawater” suggests that white wine would have been the preference, which would also line up with the Talmudic use of Cypriot or old white wine, dry and with a greater acidity, for the Temple incense.  The use of fava beans would then act as a binder and filler, giving the incense nuggets as a whole an earthy base to solidify on and would help stretch the use of scarce or expensive ingredients.

The process of soaking and mashing the ingredients, plus curing the nuggets once made (say, in a terracotta or clay container), would indeed take about three weeks, giving the magician enough time to have them ready by the time they were to be used.  What we end up with, essentially, is a type of PGM-specific kyphi, the sacred incense compound used in Egypt for both religious and medicinal purposes, which was also a blend of a variety of resins, flowers, barks, and so forth, many of which according to ancient authors are found in our ingredients above (and which, of course, have overlap with the incense and oil recipes given by the Book of Exodus which may also have been influenced by ancient Egyptian priestly practices).  Given the Egpytian priestly influence in PGM XIII, and the fact that we see the use of this incense both as a form of fumigation as well as a type of sacred medicine (when the ink used to write on the natron tablet is either licked off or washed off into wine and drunk), it’s clear that PGM XIII is really giving us a special type of Hermetic kyphi recipe.

Quantities, unfortunately, are missing from PGM XIII (as they often are from much of the rest of the PGM), so it’s unclear exactly how much of each incense or flower we should use, the ratio of incense and flowers to beans, and so forth, so some experimentation would be needed to come up with something that would resemble the incense of PGM XIII.  Off the top of my head (and I could be really wrong about it), I’d probably think a 2:1:3 ratio by weight would be appropriate for resins to flowers to beans, all having been soaked ahead of time in dry, strong white wine that is, of course, with no salt or salt water added.  Moreover, finding these ingredients can be hard; expensive perfumery is as expensive as ever, and while all the ingredients are still technically available, the fact that some of the ingredients (like costus and, increasingly, frankincense) are considered endangered makes getting hold of sufficient quantities exceptionally difficult.  It is possible to replace the use of raw resins and barks (and even the flowers, too!) with essential oils instead, which could then be used for both making incense (when mashed with fava beans soaked in wine) as well as making a PGM-style anointing oil.

I think I’ll keep an eye out for getting some more flowers later this summer.  It’s unclear how close to what the PGM author and I’ve described I can get, but it’s probably worth a shot.  Having a PGM-style temple incense (and maybe even an oil, if I were to go the essential oil route, or simply distill the resins and flowers into an oil without the wine and fava beans) could be useful, indeed.

Another Look at the Heptagram Rite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ΙΟΗΥΕΩΑ
    ΙΟΗΥΕΩ
    ΙΟΗΥΕ
    ΙΟΗΥ
    ΙΟΗ
    ΙΟ
    Ι

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

    ΟΗΩ ΑΩ ΟΟΟ ΥΟΙΗ ΟΥ ΥΗΙ ΣΟΡΡΑ ΘΩΩΜ ΧΡΑΛΑΜΠΗΑΨ ΑΤΟΥΗΓΙ

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

    ΑΩΕΥΗΟΙ
    ΑΩΕΥΗΟ
    ΑΩΕΥΗ
    ΑΩΕΥ
    ΑΩΕ
    ΑΩ
    Α

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

    ΙΑΙΑ ΙΥ ΟΗ ΙΕΥΟΩ ΗΩΙ ΕΟ Η ΩΥ ΕΗ ΥΩΗ ΩΩΟ ΩΩΙ ΩΑΩ ΕΩ ΟΗ ΥΩ

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

    ΑΩΕΥΗ ΟΑΙ ΙΟ ΗΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΩ ΩΟ ΕΙ ΟΥ ΗΟ ΟΙΥΥ ΩΥΥ ΩΙ Α ΕΕ ΗΗΗ ΙΙΙΙ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΑΩ ΕΟΗ ΕΩΗ ΙΑΑ ΗΩΙ ΗΙΩ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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