On Hermetic Tormentors and Egyptian Sins

It’s weird how research can lead you in a direction, and land you in a place, completely different from what you anticipated.

I’ve been on something of a Coptic kick for a while now, courtesy of Tobias’ post regarding Helleno-Kemetic practice over at Sublunar Space, when he brought up the very good observation that the hymns and songs used in the Coptic Christian Church are a direct descendant of otherwise ancient Egyptian musical practices.  As a result, I started listening in to a variety of Coptic hymns, and beyond the sheer beauty of it, it got me thinking about the use of Coptic as another language for Hermetic magical and religious practice.  (As if I really needed yet another language to learn.)  This led me to look into the different dialects of Coptic.  The modern Coptic church and modern Coptic speakers, such as they are, use the Bohairic dialect, based in Lower (northern) Egypt, though classically speaking, it was the Sahidic dialect that was more common as the lingua franca of Coptic, based in Upper (southern) Egypt.  Being a popular dialect common for writing texts in, is well-attributed and attested enough to study as a religious language for Hermetic stuff.

Sahidic Coptic’s area would include Hermopolis, aka Khemenu in ancient Egyptian, aka Shmun in Coptic, aka El Ashmunein in Arabic.  The placement of Hermopolis in this dialect area is important, as this was practically the city for Thoth worship as well as the worship of the  eight primordial creator deities of the Ogdoad (hence Hermopolis “city of Hermes” and Khemenu “City of Eight”), and according to some modern researchers, is a natural locus for the development of Hermetic practice and texts as well as some PGM texts (especially PGM XIII).  This is a natural draw for my attention, so I began to look up the history of this city in ancient Egypt and some of its religious practices.  This led me to begin researching the system of nomes, administrative divisions used in ancient Egypt.  I suppose it’s good to know that Hermopolis was found in the Hare Nome, Nome XV of Upper Egypt, but that’s not all that important on its own.

It was when a separate line of research of mine, diving into Egyptian texts for material to write new prayers with, combined with this information about nomes that I hit on something fascinating.  Many people are familiar with the Egyptian Book of the Dead (aka “The Book of Coming Forth by Day”) and the various scenes and trials of the afterlife, including the famous scene of the Weighing of the Heart.  For those who don’t know, the story goes like this: upon dying, the soul of the deceased is lead from its body and set on a perilous path through the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, culminating in being led by Anubis into the presence of Osiris to be judged.  The judgment would consist mostly of having the heart of the deceased weighed on a scale against the Feather of Ma`at, the goddess of truth itself: if the heart is at least as light as the feather, then the soul was judged to be pure and was admitted into the afterlife of the righteous.  If, however, the heart was heavier than the feather, then the heart of the deceased would be devoured by the fearsome beast Ammit, condemning the dead to “die a second time” and never being permitted to the true afterlife and instead forever being a restless and wandering spirit.

Leading up to this judgment of the scale, the deceased is to recite the 42 Negative Confessions (or the “42 Declarations of Purity”), oaths that describe how the deceased refrained from committing particular sins, crimes, or errors while in life.  That there are 42 such confessions here is important: each sin that was denied (e.g. “I have not stolen”, “I have not uttered curses”, etc.) was linked explicitly to one of the 42 nomes of ancient Egypt, each with its own assessor (or the Ma`aty gods) who watched over the judgment of Osiris, Anubis, and Ma`at as a sort of witness or court.  In this, there was a sort of moral code that the whole of ancient Egypt upheld in unity, and which could be seen to exemplify what morality and goodness looked like to the Egyptians.  Of course, as might be expected, different funerary texts and different versions of the Book of the Dead describe somewhat different sets of sins, but there’s massive overlap between them all.  There is some unclarity, too, in our knowledge of which assessor is linked to which nome, but we do know the names of at least a good few of them.

The number 42 caught my eye: it’s a pleasing number, to be sure, and yes, it is the number of nomes in ancient Egypt.  It is also, however, the product of 6 × 7, and since there are seven sets of six sins, this naturally made the leap in my mind to the seven planets.  No, it’s not the case that all things that come in sets of seven can be linked to the seven planets, I’m not saying that, but the description of some of these sins did bring to mind the irrational tormentors from the Corpus Hermeticum like we discussed a few months ago.  Between Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, we have a good idea of what the classical Hermeticists would decry as bad, immoral, or unethical behavior that results in our being tortured and hindered from achieving our true end.

My thought was this: what if we could look at the various sins of the Negative Confessions and organize them according to the tormentors associated with the seven planets?  So, I plotted out the various sins, and came up with my own little association of different crimes or sins of the Egyptians and mapped them to the seven planets based on where they fall along the tormentors described by Book I and Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum.  Because there are multiple sets of sins from different funerary texts, there’s no simple one-to-one matching, and there’s no clean division in some cases into seven groups of six (e.g. there are lots more crimes relating to temple observance as well as good conduct in speech compared to sexual missteps), so I tried to combine and collate them where possible, and filled in the gaps where necessary with equally viable entries in the sin-list of the Egyptians.

To that end, this is the list I came up with.  Note that each planet is described in a joint fashion as “The Sin of X with the Tormentor of Y”, with X being provided from the list of irrational tormentors from Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum and Y from Book I.  It’s kinda clumsy, as Book I and Book XIII aren’t precisely talking about the same thing, though it’s tantalizingly close.  In the cases of sins in quotes, e.g. “wading in water”, those are phrases from original Egyptian texts that I wasn’t really able to fully piece together, but had to either figure out contextually or give my own interpretation of such a sin.

  1. Moon ­— The Sin of Increase and Decrease with the Tormentor of Ignorance
    1. Causing pain in general through misbehavior generally or through unknown missteps
    2. Neglect of property, both in the carelessness of one’s own property and the lack of respect for the property of others
    3. Making ungainly distinctions for oneself, i.e. polluting oneself by hubris and having one’s name submitted to the authorities for good or evil out of hubris and self-acclamation
    4. “Destroying food”, i.e. the causing of affliction, tears, grief, and hunger through wanton destruction
    5. Taking more food for oneself than what one needs, including general indulgence and the stealing of food
    6. Depriving the needy, whether of food specifically or sustenance generally, including children, orphans, and the poor
  2. Mercury — The Sin of Evil Machination with the Tormentor of Sorrow
    1. Eavesdropping and prying into matters
    2. Sullenness, i.e. grieving uselessly or feeling needless remorse
    3. Transgression of human and mundane law
    4. Quarreling, i.e. violence by words or thoughts
    5. Crookedness, e.g. tampering with scales or other instruments used for measuring
    6. Disputing, attacking people for one’s own ends with words or law without care
  3. Venus ­— The Sin of Covetous Deceit with the Tormentor of Intemperance
    1. Babbling and needlessly multiplying words in speech
    2. Slighting others through through words, especially someone of a lower rank to someone of a higher rank
    3. Debauching another in any non-sexual way
    4. Disturbing the peace and stirring up strife
    5. Debauching another in any sexual way
    6. Adultery, i.e. deceitful or objectionable sex outside the bounds of what is agreed to within relationships
  4. Sun — The Sin of the Arrogance of Rulers with the Tormentor of Lust
    1. Damaging a god’s image or otherwise defacing or damaging the property of the gods
    2. Transgressing divine and cosmic law
    3. “Wading in water”, i.e. defiling the sacred springs, rivers, and other bodies of water of the gods, or otherwise messing with the natural world to defile and corrupt it
    4. “Conjuration against the king”, cursing or blaspheming against a ruler or leader acting with the divine license and power of the gods or otherwise acting appropriately and respectfully of the law both mundane and divine
    5. Killing the sacred animals of the gods, including the irreverent slaughter of sacred bulls as well as otherwise hunting, trapping, or catching animals from the sacred precincts of the gods
    6. Reviling the gods, e.g. cursing the gods or treating them with contempt, including blocking their processions
  5. Mars — The Sin of Impious Daring and Reckless Audacity with the Tormentor of Injustice
    1. Impatience, i.e. acting or judging with undue haste
    2. Terrorizing, including physical violence and threats of abuse to others
    3. “Being unduly active”, i.e. acting out of passion rather than reason, especially rage
    4. “Being loud-voiced”, i.e. speaking arrogantly or in anger
    5. “Being hot-tempered”, i.e. being angry without just cause
    6. Murder, i.e. the desired and intentional killing of those who do not deserve it
  6. Jupiter — The Sin of Evil Impulse for Wealth with the Tormentor of Greed
    1. Rapaciousness
    2. Wrongdoing, i.e. the general practice of evil against others for one’s own gain
    3. Stealing the property of other humans
    4. Stealing the property and offerings of the gods, the dead, and other spirits
    5. Robbery with violence
    6. Dishonest wealth, including the use of malefica against another for one’s own gain
  7. Saturn — The Sin of Ensnaring Falsehood with the Tormentor of Deceit
    1. “Being unhearing of truth”, i.e. being unwilling to know the truth or or willfully ignoring or remaining ignorant of it
    2. Falsehood, i.e. to not tell the truth to others (including exaggeration, depreciation, or omission) to mislead others for one’s own ends
    3. Lying, i.e. uttering untrue statements, including slander or libel of others
    4. Blasphemy, i.e. lying about divinity
    5. Hoodwinking, i.e. leading others into wrongdoing
    6. Perjury, i.e. to not tell the whole truth in a court of law whether mundane or divine

It’d be even cooler if there were 49 sins; this would give us a sort of primary-secondary planetary pair to arrange the sins by, such that we could say “such-and-such a sin is the sin of the Sun of Saturn”.  Alas, there’s just 42, for the reasons already described above.  But, if we consider the tormentor of the planet as a sin unto itself as a sort of primary, overarching, or root sin, then that would fulfill the same need: the tormentor-sin would be the root of all the other sins associated with the planet.  Thus, the list of sins above follow a more-or-less planetary order: the first sin of the Moon is given to Mercury (skipping over the Moon itself), the second to Venus, the third to the Sun, etc., and the first sin of Mercury to the Moon, the second to Venus (skipping over Mercury itself), the third to the Sun, etc.  It’s a loose scheme, honestly, and I’m not 100% sold on some of them, but it’s an idea to toy around with in the future.

Now, I’m not saying that these things are really Hermetic; there’s no real list of crimes or sins in Hermetic texts, nor have I found anything resembling a code of conduct for Hermetists/Hermeticists.  Still, it is nice to consider how to flesh out the things that trigger the various tormentors along Hermetic lines, and it’s also good to tie in Egyptian practices and beliefs back into Hermetic stuff given Hermeticism’s Egyptian origin and context, no matter how much Hellenic and Mediterranean philosophy gets mixed into it.  Besides, I’m not trying to rewrite or cop the Book of the Dead or other afterlife practices or beliefs here, but rather proposing a set of prohibitions for those who might consider taking their Hermetic philosophy to the next level through changes in their daily behavior.

One way we might apply this list of planetary sins, beyond simply observing the prohibitions regarding them of course, would be to take one sin from a given set each day, or each set as a whole day by day, and meditating on them.  I recall Arnemancy bringing up the practice of Mussar, using Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues as an example, but we could expand on that in this way.  For instance, we could dedicate a particular Wednesday, the day of Mercury, to one of the sins or to all six sins as a whole, contemplating it in the morning and dedicating oneself to observing that prohibition, and then contemplating and reviewing the day in the evening before bed to see how well one stuck to it and how one could improve on observing it.  Taking each sin day by day would take place across six weeks, or across seven weeks if we also include the arch-sin/tormentor of a given planet itself to bring up the total number of sins from 42 to 49.

If one were to use a whole set of sins for a given day, one could take a slightly more ritual approach to this by announcing a dedication to each of the six directions, e.g. saying “I will not engage in eavesdropping” to the East, “I will not engage in sullenness” to the South, “I will not transgress the law of this world” to the West, “I will not engage in quarreling” to the North, “I will not engage in crookedness” downwards to the Earth, and “I will not engage in disputing” upwards to Heaven.  This could be preceded and/or followed with the declaration of “I will not engage in evil machination” (the arch-sin/tormentor of Mercury) taking the place of the divine center, or this could be included in each of the six declarations said to the directions, e.g. “I will not engage in evil machination through sullenness”.  It’s an idea, at any rate, and could be good for a stricter spiritual practice that focuses on purity through abstinence of wrong behavior.

Something that struck me late in writing this post, I admit, is the lack of mention of drunkenness.  I did throw this in under the fifth (Jupiter) sin of the Moon, “taking more food for oneself than what one needs” as a form of indulgence, but that’s really more about stealing food than overindulgence in it.  Moderation is certainly a virtue, but this got me thinking a bit: overindulgence in a way that shifts the state of the mind doesn’t do much on its own, but it’s works that impact the well-being of other people and the world that matter.  Thus, being drunk isn’t a sin, but committing violence or adultery while drunk is—but it’d be as much a sin anyway even if you weren’t drunk.  After all, as Hermēs Trismegistus preaches in Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, everyone is in a state of sloth and drunken stupor in their mindlessness as they are; what more could booze really do when we’re already at the bottom of the barrel?  Despite the noetic focus of much of Hermetic work, when it comes to day-to-day living, it’s generally the action that counts instead of the thought.  After all, without Nous, what true thinking could you have anyway that animals themselves wouldn’t already have?  And with Nous, why would you engage in wrong behavior to begin with?

As magicians and spiritual workers, obviously we have a variety of things to study as far as the practice, technology, and technique goes for our various disciplines and types of Work, but it’s equally as important to study the philosophy, theology, and cosmology behind the practice.  This goes hand-in-hand with living life in the proper way as a way to indirectly implement the philosophical components of our Work and as a way to assist and ground the practical components of it, as well.  Merely adopting a set of purity rules or fasting is good, don’t get me wrong, but considering broader notions of morality and good/right behavior should play a bigger role in this as well.  While I won’t ascribe cosmic importance to these rules above beyond a basic planetary correspondence, and while I’m certainly not saying that this is a good stand-in for what to deny while standing before Osiris, I think it’s a good set of rules to live by for a good number of people who want to lead a good life respectful of other human beings, the cosmos, and the gods themselves irrespective of the specifics of one’s religious tradition.

Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration: The Planetary Stuff on the Table

Where were we?  We’re in the middle of discussing the early modern conjuration ritual The Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals (DSIC), attributed to the good abbot of Spanheim, Johannes Trithemius, but which was more likely invented or plagiarized from another more recent source by Francis Barrett in his 1801 work The Magus, or Celestial Intelligencer.  Many who are familiar with it either read it directly from Esoteric Archives, came by it through Fr. Rufus Opus (Fr. RO) in either his Red Work series of courses (RWC) or his book Seven Spheres (SS), or came by it through Fr. Ashen Chassan in his book Gateways Through Stone and Circle (Fr. AC and GTSC, respectively).  I’ve been reviewing the tools, techniques, and technology of DSIC for my own purposes as well as to ascertain the general use and style used by other magician in the real world today, and right now, we’re in the middle of focusing on the Table of Practice and how DSIC instructs the table and pedestal to be made.  Last time, we bit into one of the biggest debates about different approaches to the DSIC, namely whether to use the names of the Four Kings of the Earth (Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon) or the names of the Four Archngels (Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel); many grimoire-purists and demon-workers argue for the former, while Fr. RO, Fr. Acher, and a number of others argue for the latter or for either or.  But we’re moving on now to keep the discussion moving; if you need a refresher, go read the last post!

Now that we have the debacle-debate about the four kings out of the way, let’s move on with the rest of the table.  We know from the description given in DSIC that the table needs to have the following on it:

…on the table on which the crystal stands the following names, characters, &c. must be drawn in order.

First, The names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters. The names of the four kings of the four corners of the earth. Let them be all written within a double circle, with a triangle on a table; on which place the crystal on its pedestal: this being done, thy table is complete (as in the Fig. D,) and fit for the calling of the spirits…

With the four kings understood, and the debate about the pros and cons about using the four archangels instead of the four kings, what about the planetary stuff?  DSIC says to draw “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters”.  That’s…quite a lot of stuff, actually.  According to the text, we need the name of the planet, the name of the angel ruling the planet, and then…well, what exactly do we mean by “their seals or characters”?  Do we mean the seals of the angels, the seals of the planet, or both?  The most common form of table that we see, as seen from Fr. RO’s versions above, use only the glyph for the planet (viz. the ones we most commonly see as a representation of them in astrological charts and texts) and the names of the planetary angels, with no other characters or names present.  We see this in the majority of Tables of Practice with some variants, such as the Magian-script one from the Scribbler, another version made by Fr. FC, and many that are commonly made and sold on Etsy

However, Fr. AC, as usual, goes a bit further.  GTSC gives the following for each planet:

  • the glyph of the planet
  • the name of the planet
  • the name of the angel
  • the seal of the angel

GTSC separates these four elements with middle dots (·), and separates groups of these elements with colons (:).  I like that design choice of separation, but I want to call into question his choice of characters here.  Though it’s a little hard to see, an image of how he sets up his table (along with the pedestal) is up on one of his old blog’s posts:

I find it incredibly odd that GTSC uses only the genitive forms of the Latin names instead of the nominative (e.g. Saturni instead of Saturnus, “of Saturn” instead of just “Saturn”).  Maybe this is due to a result of a poor understanding of Latin on Fr. AC’s part? I mean, it could be read as e.g. “Saturni Cassiel” translating to “Cassiel of Saturn”, but the use of the separator dot would seem to break that construction.  I think Fr. AC made a mistake here: he says he likes the “old spelling” of the planets, but that would properly imply using the nominative case here, just as we wouldn’t say “Michaelis” (genitive of Michael) or “Raphaelem” (accusative of Raphael), just “Michael” and “Raphael”.

However, Fr. AC interprets “their seals or characters” to only apply to the angels and not the planets, but there are indeed characters of the planets, too, which Fr. AC completely passes over in this case.  As noted above, Fr. Acher uses the sigils of the planets derived from their magic squares from Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 22), but Satyr Magos over on his blog Journey Through The Obsidian Dream devised a nonce-based version that included only the planetary glyphs and characters (while omitting the angelic names) from earlier on in Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 33).  Similarly, Erneus of Magia Pragmatica: Key to the Key of Solomon developed a Fr. RO-based design of the Table of Practice that includes the angelic names and seals as well as the planetary characters and images from the Magical Calendar, replacing the usual planetary glyphs with their corresponding images.  And, too, recall how Fr. Acher uses the number square-based planetary seals, too, on his table design.

Satyr Magos uses the planetary characters from Agrippa, but the table design made by Erneus uses the characters that were also used in the Ars Paulina.  The Ars Paulina, I should note, is likely the main inspiration or corroborating text that the Magical Calendar sourced its versions of the planetary characters from, and so it’s these that already have a good argument for using them instead of Agrippa’s planetary characters because they’re already part of a Table of Practice used for the same ends as the DSIC one, even if it’s of a fundamentally different design.  That is, there would be a good argument if only it weren’t for the fact that the Ars Paulina likely postdates Agrippa (given its likely Paracelsan origin), and the Magical Calendar definitely postdates Agrippa.  However, I think either set of characters would work, but I would favor the Agrippa set of characters that Satyr Magos uses.  However, Joseph Peterson mentions in his notes to the Lemegeton that the characters from the Ars Paulina, given the connections that the Ars Paulina also has with book II of the Steganographia of Johannes Trithemius (actually the real author instead of his spurious association to DSIC), may well give this latter set of characters a stronger argument.

While it’d be great to have the name, glyph, and character(s) of the planet as well as the name and seal of the angel, Fr. Acher pointed out in his design of his own table that it’s…just kinda too much.  Plus, it also raises the issue of the fact that the four kings have only names and neither characters nor seals (unless you want to go with the really intricate seals from the Clavis Inferni, as Asterion showed on his blog, which may not be necessarily recommend for this purpose); we could use the elemental glyphs, but that seems weird to me, as the four kings are more about the four corners of the Earth rather than the four elements.  If we wanted to make everything follow the same standard, we’d use only the names of the angels and planets and the names of the kings with no other glyphs or seals or characters, because that’s something they all have, but that certainly misses DSIC’s explicit instruction to engrave them with the “seals or characters” of the planets and/or the angels.  If we interpret the “seal or character” of the planet to just be that planet’s glyph, as GTSC appears to do, then that makes the process much easier and cleaner for us, and it avoids having to cram in several batches of things into a tight space, but I don’t like that approach; it seems to stretch what is normally meant by “seal or character”.  But, including the planetary characters, if we weren’t going to go with the seal/sigil like how Fr. Acher did (which is super detailed and can be hard to do on some surfaces with sufficient clarity) would mean we’d either need either a very large table or a very small font to get everything written in.

Thinking on this for myself, just to consider the planetary elements of the design of the table, I would include the glyphs for the planet, the strings of planetary characters from Agrippa, and the name of the angel; those would be my priorities.  The glyph of the planet basically stands in for and is synonymous with the name (and indeed is read as the name itself in many occult texts), and the planetary characters help to give the planetary power to the table as their “seals”, much as in the same way the names of the four kings lend their power to the table as well.  As for the angels, the angelic names are more important for me than their seals; after all, you don’t need a spirit’s seal to conjure them so long as you have their name, and so long as you have their name, you can develop any number of sigils for that name by which you can conjure them as effectively (or nearly so).  Plus, on the lamen itself (which we’ll discuss in the future), it’s the name that’s given the most prominence rather than the seal, which is comparatively hidden and nestled inside the hexagram.  It’s not that we want to bring the full presence of the angel to the table, either, but just their attention; I feel like this is more appropriate for just using their name rather than their fullness.  All this effectively interprets “the names of the seven planets and angels ruling them, with their seals or characters” as referring to the names, angels, and seals of the seven planets, not the names and characters of the angels and of the planets, nor the names and characters of the angels and also of the planets.  This final point really is up to just how specifically you want to interpret the DSIC description here, and is probably the most serious linguistic point of contention between how different people want to design the table.  However, in doing it this way, we also end up with something that’s on the same scale as the GTSC table combined with Satyr Magos’ design above, and yields a slightly cleaner and simpler design choice.

Moving on from that, what order do we put the planetary stuff in?  There’s no order given in DSIC for this, but given that the order of the Scale of Seven from Agrippa (book II, chapter 10) starts with Saturn and proceeds towards the Moon in descending geocentric distance order, I would think that order would be the most sensible to use.  Of course, you could go the other way, going from the Moon up to Saturn.  I don’t think it actually matters much, but as we’ll see in a bit, I think there’s a good argument to be made for the descending geocentric distance order, especially as we’ll see more about in a bit.  Fr. AC in GTSC agrees with this, that one should use the descending order of the planets, and Fr. RO uses this same order in his Modern Angelic Grimoire and RWC.  Both Fr. AC and Fr. RO use the same image in both their respective books to illustrate why this might be the case, the famous design of the geocentric celestial spheres according to Peter Apian’s 1539 work Cosmographia:

While we’re looking at this diagram, by the way, we also see why Fr. AC used the genitive forms of the names of the planets in his table design, because that’s what he most likely read according to this specific diagram.  Properly speaking, however?  Note the word “COELṼ” (read “coelum”, literally “heaven”) to the left of the glyph for Saturn; this should be read as “Coelum Saturni”, or literally “Heaven of Saturn”, and likewise “Coelum Iovis” as “Heaven of Jupiter”.  If we just wanted to use the planetary names on their own, we’d write the names in the nominative case instead: Saturnus, Iovis/Iup(p)iter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercurius, Luna.  I’m pretty sure the case-based linguistics of Latin tripped Fr. AC up, leading him to use the wrong form of the planetary names.

Anyway, back to orders.  Interestingly, Fr. RO uses another order instead for SS: going in the direction of the names of the angels (counterclockwise due to the right-to-left nature of Hebrew) he uses the order of Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Moon, Mars, Sun.  This doesn’t match the distance order, weekday order, or even weight order of the planets (according to their planetary metals, as I discussed once long ago, that of Saturn, Mars, Venus, Moon, Jupiter, Sun, Mercury).  First, compare the following two Tables of Practice he’s put out, the older one from RWC that uses the four archangels and the distance-based order, and the more recent one (posted on his own Facebook page) that uses the four kings and this new weird order.

I know where he got it from: it’s the association of the planets to the elements and directions according to Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four.  Note how Mercury and Saturn, associated with Water, are placed by Egyn in the North, associated with Gabriel the angel of Water in his version of the table; Mars and the Sun, put by Oriens in the East, associated with Michael of Fire; Jupiter and Venus, put by Paymon in the West, associated with Raphael of Air; and the Moon, put by Amaymon in the North, associated with Uriel of Earth (along with the fixed stars according to the Scale of Four, but which aren’t associated with any planetary angel).  Though he never mentions it in SS, this is essentially Fr. RO’s hiding of his old Table of Manifestation layout from his earlier stuff; Fr. RO is organizing the planets according to their elemental associations, according to Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7).  While I wouldn’t call this an order, it is an arrangement with its own internal logic.

This is classic Fr. RO stuff here.  Using this same organization for the Table of Manifestation as he uses for his Table of Practice is not an approach that I disagree with, given what Fr. RO uses his Table of Manifestation layout for, but it’s not one I particularly like for the table for DSIC.  I still prefer the descending distance order of the planets, myself, but Fr. RO’s arrangement is definitely a valid approach if you take a primarily elemental/directional approach to arranging things on the table from our perspective as incarnate human beings on the Earth—which we necessarily do.

But there’s also one more issue at play here: the specific names to be used.  Fr. RO and Fr. Acher use the Hebrew names as given in Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four; this is simple enough.  However, this isn’t precisely in line with other sets of planetary angel names.  Granted, many of the names are similar, but not identical, and it shows.  GTSC, for instance, use the names as given in the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, and Erneus put out another version of his table that uses a faithful Hebrew rendition of the same names rather than those used by Cornelius Agrippa (note the subtle differences in the Hebrew in the outer ring).

So there’s also some contention about the exact spelling of names.  To give a comparison between the different versions we’re looking at, here’s a table that shows the various spellings that are common for DSIC Tables of Practice from a variety of sources:

  • The Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, which gives the names in Latin.  These are the same names given in DSIC itself, with the same spellings.
  • Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy.  He gives them in both Hebrew and Latin transcription.
  • Erneus’ version of the table above, which gives them in Hebrew.
  • GTSC itself, which gives the names both in Latin and Hebrew.  The Latin names are identical to that of the Heptameron.
  • SS itself, which gives the Latin names as given in the Heptameron, but frustratingly, two different Hebrew spellings: one for the Table of Practice (which agrees with Agrippa), and another set that appears to be closer to Erneus and GTSC, but with a number of differences, too.
    • There also appear to be some typos: the Hebrew spelling of Gabriel in the Table itself matches everything else, but the lamen omits the letter Yod (giving us “Gabrel”), and the Hebrew spelling of Haniel in the Table uses an initial Aleph instead of Heh (giving us “Aniel”).  I won’t mention these typos as specific spelling differences, however.
    • Annoyingly, RWC (the old Gates texts upon which SS was based) use a different set of spellings on some of the lamens themselves, but which agree with Agrippa’s Hebrew: the angel of Saturn is given as צדקיאל, that of Jupiter צפקיאל, and that of Mars כמאל.  Oddly, the typo of Gabriel as lacking the letter Yod in his lamen is still present.

This gets us the messy table below to compare a variety of all these angel spelling names:

Latin Hebrew
Heptameron Agrippa Agrippa Erneus GTSC  SS
Saturn Cassiel Zaphkiel*† צפקיאל קפציאל § כאססיאל ¶
Jupiter Sachiel Zadkiel* צדקיאל זכיאל סאחאל ¶
Mars Samael Camael כמאל סמאל סאמאל ¶
Sun Michael‡ מיכאל
Venus Anael Haniel האניאל ענאל ענאל or אנאל ‖ אנאל
Mercury Raphael‡ רפאל
Moon Gabriel גבריאל גבראל

* Agrippa renders Tzaddi as “Z” here according to the custom at the time of Hebrew transcription, so these should probably more accurately read “Tzaphkiel” and “Zadkiel”.  Likewise, he renders Qoph as “K”, which would give us an even more faithful rendition of these names as “Tzaphqiel” and “Tzadqiel”.
† Mistake in the text; Agrippa has “Zaphiel” (or, reading Z as Tzaddi, “Tzaphiel”).  “Zaphkiel” (or “Tzaphqiel”) is given in Agrippa’s Scale of Ten, as expected.
‡ Agrippa swaps Michael and Raphael such that Raphael becomes the angel of the Sun and Michael the angel of Mercury, which is definitely a thing seen in many grimoires of the time, which is also repeated in his Scale of Twelve when it comes to the corresponding sephiroth.  I swapped them back to fit in with modern/conventional practice.
§ This Hebrew spelling of the angel of Saturn in Erneus and GTSC would more faithfully be transliterated as “Qaptziel” and could arguably be transliterated into Latin as “Cassiel” (← Qassiel ← Qafsiel ← Qaptziel, account for the Hebrew combination of the /f/ and /p/ sounds).  While reasonable on its own, I can’t help but wonder if this is a case of propagated dyslexia, because swapping Qoph and Tzaddi here gets you the same spelling as in Agrippa.
‖ GTSC gives both spellings, one that starts with `ayin and one that starts with ‘aleph.
¶ Fr. RO seems to have naïvely transliterated the names from the Heptameron back into Hebrew, as some of these spellings seem really unlikely.

There’s a lot more variation in the Hebrew spellings because we don’t really have consistent or reliable Hebrew spellings for these angel names besides what’s given in Agrippa; the usual approach, it would seem, is to take the Latin names from the Heptameron and back-transliterate them into Hebrew, which gets us such varied results.  I don’t much care for this approach, honestly, but it’s not an unreasonable one, especially if you can trace back the root meanings of the theophoric names or use a bit of numerological magic to finagle them into shape.  I haven’t really seen a lot of reliable and historical Hebrew spellings for these angels besides Agrippa, but that might just be my own lack of literature and infamiliarity with texts that others might be more familiar with.

With all these variants above, what would I recommend?  Honestly, since I’m not sure where the Hebrew spellings of the angels came from in Agrippa, or whether they shared an origin with the Latin ones and one set or the other got corrupt, or one set formed the root for the other via transliteration.  While the spelling of the angel ought to matter, I think practice shows that all these names are, even if they are fundamentally different, just synonyms for the same spirit, so that Cassiel is Qaptziel is Tzaphqiel; heck, “Cassiel” itself is such a problematic name, as it was spelled in so many damn ways in the old grimoires, including Captiel, Caffriel, and Cafriel (cf. the Munich Manual entry on planetary conjurations, which has the same origin as the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano); this could be explained as misreading the lowercase “f” as a long s “ſ” (making the original spelling like Caffiel which was reinterpreted as Cassiel, as in Caſſiel) or the other way around.

My recommendation, at the end of the day, is to pick a set of names from a single source that you like and stick with it.  Experience and reports from many magicians the world over show that they all basically work.  That said, if you wanted to go with Hebrew, I don’t suggest Fr. RO’s Hebrew spellings from SS.  As much as I love the man, I wouldn’t trust these spellings here.  They don’t match the spelling pronunciation rules that are typically used for Hebrew, even for magical names; I’d recommend most going with either Agrippa or GTSC for the Hebrew spellings.

And, one more final note about writing the names themselves and in what script.  Given the late origin of DSIC and the fact that the four kings don’t have a readily agreed-upon spelling in Hebrew, it’s probably best for the sake of uniformity to use the Latin spellings of all the names on the table.  Consider, after all, that all the names and words for the wand, pedestal, and lamen are written in Latin; it follows that those on the table should be, too.  Again, this might have been an innovation by Fr. RO and/or Fr. Acher, who used Hebrew for the names of the angels and, in Fr. Acher’s case, the planets.   However, the lamen design from DSIC does have the name of “Michael” emblazoned on it in Hebrew as well as in Latin, so…I think it could go either way.

If, however, you choose to use Hebrew, at least for the angelic names, then there’s also the option of either using plain old square script that Hebrew is normally and conventionally written in, or the use of the Celestial Script as described by Agrippa (book III, chapter 30), which I personally like doing for planetary, stellar, and celestial angels generally (though I give the square script to the elemental angels as well as the honest-to-God truly-divine seven archangels, but that’s another topic for another day).  The Celestial Script is just another form of Hebrew, using more angular lines and ring-marks to imitate both constellation lines on star maps as well as the ring-mark characters on a variety of magical literature from the classical and medieval periods; this was either introduced or propagated later on by Agrippa with other magical scripts of the time.  While I like using Celestial for writing the names of the planetary angels, I seem to be an outlier in that (except for when I see people using my own designs); Fr. RO doesn’t advocate for this use in either SS or RWC explicitly for his Table of Practice, but I believe I got the idea from the discussion groups in his class (I think).  It made sense to me at the time, given that these entities are celestial beings, and Fr. RO does use the Celestial script for the names of the planetary angels on the lamens themselves.  I just followed suit and used the same font for the table, as well.

And then, related to this point about linguistics, there’s the Fr. AC’s decision in GTSC to spell the four kings out in Greek, which…honestly I don’t understand, and which he doesn’t explain.  I’d just use the Latin spellings, honestly, especially as we don’t know whether, for instance, Paimon should be spelled in Greek script with an ōmega or omikron (ΠΑΙΜΩΝ or ΠΑΙΜΟΝ).  Strangely, Fr. AC spells it ΠΑΥΜΟΝ, interpreting the Latin spelling of “Paymon” to use the equivalent Greek letters, but that’d interpret the Latin “y” as a Greek upsilon, which would give it a pronunciation more like “paow-mon” or “pav-mon”; ditto for Amaymon (“ah-maow-mon” or “ah-mahv-mon”).  I think these are both errors, to be honest; after all, Latin y is not the same letter with the same pronunciation as Greek upsilon.  Consider, further, that the name Amaymon comes from the Arabic jinn Maymūn (ميمون), meaning it should be an “i” sound (Greek iōta, Latin i or y) rather than a “u” sound (which Greek upsilon would imply).  It also ignores the fact that the name “Oriens” is literally just the Latin word for the direction East.  But, even more than that, it also goes against his own reasoning in GTSC for using the Latin names of the angels instead of Hebrew:

I debated for a time whether I wanted to use English, Hebrew, or angelic script for the names of the angels and the planets.  I believe any of these choices are valid and would be appropriate.  However, I eventually settled on the English versions, since this is the language I will be requiring the angels to speak in.

Honestly, to avoid any such confusion, I’d recommend spelling at least the names of the four kings in Latin, and neither guess at what their Greek or Hebrew counterparts would be.  The other names for the angels, both elemental and planetary, could be spelled in any such language or font, but there’s a strong argument to be made to just use the Latin versions of the names (using the English alphabet, which is functionally equivalent) for them all for the sake of standardization and to go along with Fr. AC’s reasoning.

Search Term Shoot Back, August 2015

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 August 2015.

“how do we summon spirit astaroth to appear physically” — Carefully.  Summoning a spirit, whether to physical manifestation or just to spiritual presence, is no joke, and takes a lot of practice, study, and dedication.  Summoning a spirit to physical manifestation is even less of a joke and something that, as I see it, is nearly never necessary.  It’s all well and good if you can pull it off, but I see it as a kind of bragging right if you can do it; it requires strict fasting, serious self-empowerment, a good relationship with the spirit, intent focus on the ritual, and a huge expense of energy that…honestly, most people can’t afford and have no need to spend.  If you can do it, great!  If not, don’t worry.  So long as you can bring them in enough contact so you can communicate and perceive them, you’re doing what you need to do.  Anything more is cool.

“big cork anal prison” — Nope.

“runes that look like sigils” — I’m not sure what your idea of “sigil” means here.  To me, a sigil is a symbol that refers to some concept, word, name, entity, or intent that has been graphically encoded through a mechanical means, such as through a qamea sigil or a sigil wheel or simple combination of letters.  Seals, on the other hand, are symbols that refer to some concept, word, etc. that are obtained or revealed directly from a spirit, and are not generated through any conscious process.  Many people use the terms interchangeably, though I find the distinction helpful in my work.  So, sigils can take many forms, but runes are more or less fixed with a few variations based on era and geographic origin.  Perhaps you mean the system of bindrunes, a ligature (or, I suppose, letter-combination sigil) of two or more runes?

“crystal ball uses” — Crystal balls have many uses, and some of their more common uses are seen everywhere in our culture.  However, I’d like to go over some of the more arcane uses that only the most dedicated crystal users might consider applying crystal balls for, as it’s not always apparent how to do so.  Paperweight.  Decoration in a fountain.  Regift for a new age friend.  Drain stopper.  Candle snuffer.  Meat tenderizer.  Foot/back massager.  Game piece.  Cosplay costume component.  Laser light scatterer.  Blunt trauma weapon.  Anal bead/ben-wa ball.  Body modification implant.  Dough spreader.

“oil lamps less soot” — I wrote a post on how to use oil lamps for great effect in home and ritual, but a few points probably need restating for clarity.  There are several ways you can use an oil lamp with less soot: trim the wick before using it so that all the worst charred parts of it are removed, keep the wick low enough so that you have a big enough flame without it trying to use too much fuel at once, use a clean and pure wick made of natural cellulose or linen with no chemical additives, use clean and pure oil with few chemical (natural or artificial) additives.  Mineral oil tends to be good, but that’s because it tends to be pretty neutral in most respects, as well; olive oil would produce some soot due to its natural compounds, but the higher grade the oil, the better quality flame you’ll get.

“how should fiery wall of protection oil be applied to home” — Different traditions and practices will tell you different things, and even within a tradition, you may have different ways to apply oil for different oils.  For me, I apply Fiery Wall of Protection oil in a small cross on every threshold or lintel in the house: everywhere there’s a gate, doorway, or windowsill that leads to another room or to the outside, I put the oil towards the top and center of that threshold.  If I’m going all out, I’ll also anoint all doorknobs, latches, air vents, drains, and the like just to cover every possible means of ingress or egress from the house.  Alternatively, you could use a five-spot pattern (a dab on each corner and once in the middle) on every window and door, or anoint four large iron spikes (railroad spikes are perfect) and nail them into the ground at the four corners of your house.  The possibilities are endless!

“working with seals of iupiter in virgo” — Assuming you’re working with the Pentacles of Jupiter from the Key of Solomon (book I, chapter 18), I’d go with the consecration instructions given for each pentacle.  Mind you, Jupiter is weak in Virgo (detriment), as he’s opposite his domicile sign of Pisces, so Jupiter isn’t particularly happy about being there.  However, if the pentacle was well-made at a time good for it (day and hour of Jupiter at a minimum), then I’d think it’d be good to use whenever with little change in effect otherwise.  Thus, I wouldn’t want to make anything particularly under the planet Jupiter while he’s in Virgo, unless I really needed his specific influence where no other planet or means of obtaining something could work; in other words, unless it’s an emergency that only Jupiter and nothing else can fix, I’ll probably look elsewhere for help.  The same goes for any Jupiterian working.  Mind you, Jupiter spends just under a year, give or take a few weeks, in each sign.

“how do you spell your name in angelic script?” — First, note that nearly all forms of “angelic script” tend to be different 1-to-1 ciphers (or “fonts”) of Hebrew script; Celestial Hebrew, Malachim, Passing the River, and Paracelsus’ Magi script all follow this trend.  Thus, although these might be considered alphabets, they follow the same rules and have the same number of letters as Hebrew does.  To that end, you’d want to first learn how to spell your name in Hebrew, then use your preferred angelic script.  The big exception to this is Enochian, which was transmitted to John Dee and, although it claims to be an original proto-Hebrew Adamic language, follows the same rules as English spelling and grammar of his day.  However, Enochiana, although technically angelic, tends to be in a whole different field than the rest of the angelic stuff, and may not correspond semantically to other types of angelic work.

“ancient human giant cocks” — As I like to say, there’s nothing new under the sun; I claim that humanity has been pretty much the same today since the dawn of civilization or the dawn of language, if not the dawn of humanity itself some 60,000 years ago.  Sure, we have newer things to play with, complicated systems we’ve engineered, and a variety of abstract philosophies to lose ourselves in, but we’re still fundamentally the same.  This goes for penis size, too; I can’t seem to find any information on historical penis size, but I assume they’re more or less the same size today as they were for ancient humans.  If anything, penis sizes are probably, on average, larger today than they were in earlier eras; several cultures of the past considered smaller penises to be ideal, as they’d cause less vaginal/anal stretching and, thus, less tearing in sensitive tissue, which would lead to fewer rates of infection; similarly, huge cocks were something reserved for the gods, and even then, only in a sense of comical debauchery or intimidation (cf. guardposts with an ithyphallic Pan).  As we’ve gotten better about hygienic practices, internal tearing due to getting on a huge dick hasn’t been as much a concern, so there’s a little more bias now towards going for guys with bigger cocks, and if that’s genetic, then there’s a slight evolutionary trend for more well-endowed guys.

“how to conjure smaller angels” — Use a smaller triangle.

“what do occultists think of the kybalion” — Different occultists will give you different opinions.  Some occultists love it for its own virtue, some love it because it’s a “gateway text” that gets people into heavier and more interesting forms of occultism.  I personally detest the thing and would rather see all copies of it used for toilet paper.  It’s not Hermetic, despite what it claims, as its points and “axioms” are distinctly modern, and instead have its origins in the 19th century New Thought movement.  All of its major points and cosmological theories are either derived from modern New Thought stuff, or are only tangentially and convolutedly connected to actual Hermetic teachings.  I honestly find it to be a waste of paper and ink, and as its usually one of the first texts newbies encounter in the occult (for one unfortunate reason or another), it can lead to some really messed up ideas that ill-prepare them for serious education in Hermeticism.

“how to bless my pentacle in santeria” — Oh, honey.  You are doing everything so wrong.  You don’t; further, you don’t even, do you?  Because I can’t.

Translation, Transliteration, and Greek Letter Magic

One of the more common sets of search terms I get on my blog, for some reason, involves how to write Japanese words, characters, or kanji in English, or whether there’s a Japanese to English alphabet conversion.  I mean, there are ways to write Japanese using the Roman script (which is what the English alphabet actually is), but it’s not translation, and people are stupid and don’t understand the basics of writing things in different languages well.  Let me clarify some linguistic terms:

  • Translation is the conversion of words with meaning from one spoken language to another.  For instance, to say the word “love” in Latin, you’d say “amor”, ερως in Greek, (“erōs”), and 愛 in Mandrain Chinese (pronounced “ài” with the voice falling slightly from a high level to a lower level).  The meaning is preserved although how it’s pronounced is not.
  • Transcription is the conventional means by which one writes a spoken language in a graphical, non-spoken medium.  For instance, for English, we use a variant of the Roman script as conventional, while Japanese uses a mixture of hiragana and katakana (syllabic scripts) combined with kanji (Chinese characters).  I could write English using Devanagari, the writing system most commonly used in India to write, say, Hindi, and it’d be a way of transcribing spoken English, although only people who use Devanagari could read it.
  • Transliteration is the conversion of written symbols from one writing system to another.  As opposed to translation, transliteration preserves the sound of a word while the meaning is not.  For instance, my name “polyphanes” in Roman script is written πολυφανης in Greek alphabet, ポリファニース in Japanese katakana, and полыфанис in Russian script.  The sound is preserved across each, although it has no meaning in any language but Greek (meaning “many appearances”).

It must be remembered that a writing system is not a language; a writing system is a means by which one transcribes a spoken language with a set of symbols that represent sounds or meaning, and a spoken language is a means by which one person orally communicates to another person.  However, the two are not the same; consider the status of Hebrew, German, and Yiddish.  “Hebrew” refers both to the spoken language used in Israel as well as the script used in, say, the Torah; “German” refers to both the spoken language used in Germany as well as a variant of the Roman script used to represent the same.  Yiddish, however, blends the two by using the writing system of Hebrew but the spoken language of German.  A German speaker can understand spoken Yiddish but could not read written Yiddish (because it’s written using the Hebrew script); a Hebrew speaker can not understand spoken Yiddish but can read written Yiddish aloud without understanding its meaning (because the Hebrew script is here transliterating German words that have no meaning in spoken Hebrew).  I gave an example about all this specifically with Japanese back in my January 2014 Search Term Shoot Back:

“japanese alphabet with english letters” — This is one thing I really don’t get; so many people have come to my blog looking for Japanese writing translated into English, when I’ve mentioned Japanese four times on my blog to date, and none were about transliterating Japanese into English.  First, Japanese does not use an alphabet; an alphabet is a system of writing that uses letters to indicate either consonants or vowels.  Japanese uses several writing systems, among them kanji (Chinese characters that are combinations of semantic, phonetic, and pictoral images drawn in a codified way) and the syllabaries hiragana and katakana.  A syllabary is a writing system that use letters to indicate syllables, often consonant-vowel combinations.  Thus, while English uses the two letters “k” and “i” to write the syllable “ki” (as in “key”), Japanese might use キ (in katakana), き (in hiragana), and any number of kanjifor the syllable depending on the context and meaning of the character; some might be 幾 (meaning “some” or “how many”), 氣 (meaning “energy” or “atmosphere”), 木 (meaning “tree”), 箕 (referring to the “winnowing basket” constellation in Chinese astrology), or any other number of kanji, all of which we would transliterate as “ki”.  So it’s not as easy as it sounds; not everything is an alphabet!

So why am I talking about writing systems and languages?  Because this is a fundamental distinction between writing systems and spoken languages, and it impacts mathesis and grammatomancy, and Greek letter mysticism and magic more generally, in an important way for many of us non-Hellenes.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the use of stoicheia is a valuable tool in mathesis and grammatomancy.  It’s like isopsephy, or Greek gematria, in a lot of ways, but instead of evaluating a word in Greek using number, we evaluate it using the forces of planets, zodiac signs, and elements.  For instance, if we wanted to use the Greek name ΜΑΡΙΑ, “Maria”, we’d say that it’s a mixture of the forces of Libra (Μ), Capricorn (Ρ), the Sun (Ι), and the Moon (Α), perhaps indicating a balance of masculine and feminine or receptive and active powers balanced through darkness turning into light.  It’s a useful tool, especially when interpreting barbarous words of power that are best or originally written in Greek, but we have a major stumbling block when we come to the use of non-Greek words and names that aren’t historically written in Greek.  After all, I only know of systems of stoicheia and isopsephy for Hebrew and Greek, and I generally distrust anything for the Roman script since it’s highly language-specific, yet most languages I work with tend to be written in Roman.  Thus, for me to get a meaning out of something normally written in Roman script or one of its descendants (English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, etc.), I need to find a way to transliterate a non-Greek word into Greek script.

Consider my first given name, Samuel.  Samuel is a Hebrew name, originally written שְׁמוּאֵל (ShMVAL) and pronounced something more like “shmūwehl” originally.  However, in Latin, it’s written SAMVEL, and pronounced “sahmwel” as in modern Spanish.  In Greek, however, the name is written Σαμουηλ, or Samouēl and pronounced “samūīl”.  Since my name is natively a Hebrew one, I find a good argument to use Hebrew gematria and stoicheia for analyzing it, but since I also have a correspondingly clear way to write it in Greek, I can just as easily use Greek stoicheia and isopsephy for it.  However, the problem is that the meaning of the name is not preserved; in Hebrew, depending on your interpretation, the name means “God has heard” or “Name of God”, while in Greek it’s just a string of letters that’s pronounced “samūīl”.  If we were to translate the name, we’d end up with either Θεοκουσος (“Theokousos”) or Θεονοματιος (“Theonomatios”); these are straightforward translations of the name, and while we preserve the literal meaning of the name, we end up with radically different spellings, pronunciations, isopsephies, and stoicheias because the pronunciation, and thus the spelling, have changed.  So we can either go with the conventional spelling of Σαμουηλ, or we can go with the translation (properly “calque”) of Θεοκουσος, though I’m inclined towards the former, since a name is what you’re called, and the literal meaning of a word is often occluded by the importance of pronunciation (cf. all the barbarous words we use, which we don’t know the meaning of but we pronounce and intone them all the same for great effect).

Worse yet, the problem with my name is simple compared to many others, because Samuel is an old name in a well-known and well-translated/well-transliterated text in Greek from Hebrew.  Other languages, such as Chinese or Russian or parts of Africa, have no standardized way to transcribe names or words from their languages into Greek; the closest you can get is what best approximates the sound of it, unless you want to go the way of calquing things, which…honestly, if someone called me Theokūsos, I’d never respond to it as I would Samuel, so calquing is basically right out.  For many names in English, it can be easy, since Greek and English tend to share many sounds; for some languages like Chinese, this can be exceptionally difficult, since Chinese has many sounds that Greek does not, and the Greek alphabet isn’t equipped to handle the sounds or structure of Chinese spoken language.  (Worse, there’s no official means to transcribe Chinese using Greek, as there is with Hanyu Pinyin for Roman script, though there are some unofficial means to go from Hanyu Pinyin into Greek.)

Meditation on names is important; I claim that you don’t know yourself or where you’re going if you don’t know your own name, either given at birth or chosen at will.  And since I’m a big fan of using Greek to meditate on as a sacred or mystical writing system, then I like meditating on Greek letters if at all possible so as to understand what’s in a name.  It’s just that getting names into Greek, if they’re not already in Greek, can be difficult, especially for people like my Brazilian, Chinese, or Malaysian readers, especially if the language-to-be-transliterated-from doesn’t share the same sounds as Greek does, or as what the Greek alphabet is meant for.  However, there are some exceptions, and generally speaking what I do is this:

  • If the word is just a word and not normally used as a name or isn’t used as a name for a given entity, like discussing what a rose is, I’ll use the Greek word for it.  Thus, to talk about roses, I’d use the Greek word “rhodē” (ροδη).
  • If the name is natively a Greek name, like “Stephan” from Greek Στεφανος meaning “crown”, then I’ll use the Greek form of the name.
  • If the name is not natively Greek but has a corresponding form in old works like the Bible, like “Samuel” above, then I’ll use the Greek spelling of the name regardless of how the name is spelled or pronounced in the originating language.
  • If the name is not natively Greek, I’ll transliterate the name according to modern Greek rules of spelling and other conventions.  Thus, someone given the Chinese name Yuping (宇平),  I’d transliterate it as Γιουπιν, “Gioupin” pronounced “Yūpin”; the final “-ng” is typically written as “-ν”, since “ng” is a weird phoneme in Greek.
  • If the name is a common word, like a flower, I’ll typically use the phonetic spelling and not the Greek word.  Thus, if someone is named Rose in English, I’ll use the phonetic transliteration of Rhoūz (Ρoουζ) and not the corresponding Greek name Rhodē (Ροδη).

Transcribing a name or word from one spoken language (or written language!) into Greek can be difficult, since it requires a good understanding of what the letters actually sound like so as to prepare an accurate transliteration and transcription of the name or word.  However, once that’s out of the way, it’s then straightforward to understand the mystic meaning behind such a name using Greek letter mysticism via isopsephy and stoicheia.

Now, let’s say we’re comparing the names of two different people, say Stephen and Sarah.  Stephen is a native Greek name from Στεφανος, while Sarah is natively Hebrew spelled שָׂרָה (ShRH), yet we know it’d be spelled Σαρα since she’s a figure in the Old Testament.  Conversely, from Hebrew translations of the New Testament, we know that Stephen would be spelled סטיבן (STIBN) in Hebrew.  How do we go about comparing these two names?  Do we convert both names to one language, or do we mix-and-match based on the native language of each name?  When simply doing a run-of-the-mill analysis, I’d stick to the former when possible; I’d run a stoicheic and isopsephic analysis of Στεφανος in Greek, and a similar analysis of שָׂרָה in Hebrew and compare what results.  Thus, I’d reduce the name to what it mystically means on a stoicheic and numerologic level, and use that as my means of comparison:

  • The Greek name Στεφανος has the stoicheia Aquarius (Σ), Pisces (Τ), Mercury (Ε), Air (Φ), Moon (Α), Scorpio (Ν), and Mars (Ο).  It has the isopsephic value of 1326.
  • The Hebrew name שָׂרָה has the stoicheia Fire (Shin), Sun (Resh), and Aries (Heh).  It has a gematria value of 505.
  • Sarah has almost entirely fiery symbols, while Stephen is mostly air and water.
  • Although the number of Stephan is close to thrice that of Sarah, by reducing the value down by adding up the individual digits, we get 1 + 3 + 2 + 6 = 12 → 1 + 2 = 3 for Stephen and 5 + 0 + 5 = 10  → 1 + 0 = 1 for Sarah.  Alternatively, we ignore the powers of ten: for Stephen, we get Σ + Τ + Ε + Φ + Α + Ν + Ο + Σ = 200 + 300 + 5 + 500 + 1 + 50 + 70 + 200  → 2 + 3 + 5 + 5 + 1 + 5 + 7 + 2 = 30  → 3 + 0 = 3, and for Sarah, we get  5 + 200 + 300  → 5 + 2 + 3 = 1.

So, when we’re comparing two names against each other for the sake of a pure stoicheic and isopsephic analysis, I’d prefer to use the systems in place for the scripts in which a name is derived.  However, as I mentioned before, I only really trust the systems for Hebrew and Greek, and when possible, I prefer Greek; thus, if I were comparing Stephan and, say, Julius, I’d convert Julius to Greek as Ιουλιος and go from there.  And, even if I were analyzing a Hebrew name, I’d convert it to Greek anyway if I were using something like Christopher Cattan’s Wheel of Pythagoras or the onomatic astrology of Vettius Valens I mentioned last time; if there’s a Greek-specific system in place that I don’t have in place for another language, then I’ll convert any and all names into Greek for that system if I have to.

Thing is, however, that Greek (and Indo-European languages generally) tends to complicate things because of how it’s written and spoken.  There’s the whole problem of word endings: case and declension for nouns, and the voice, tense, mood, and the like with conjugation for verbs.  English, mercifully, has tended to drop those things out or simplify them dramatically from its Germanic ancestry, but Greek uses them heavily.  As a rule, when analyzing a word on its own, I tend to use the nominative case for nouns, and for verbs…well, I’m not great with Greek grammar too well just yet, and I haven’t decided how to approach that.  Still, because the ending of the words change based on how they’re used in a sentence, their letters change, and so too do their isopsephic values.  For uniformity, I just stick with the “plain jane” or “unmarked” endings.