A Treasury of Phylacteries

No, not relics of martyrs, if that’s what you’re wondering, though that would be pretty nifty.

At a recent gem show, which had dealers of all kinds of cultures peddling all kinds of wares, shinies, and pretties, I picked up a nifty little container, a small metal canister that fits together snugly and near watertight with a few loops to hold a chain or strap.  It can hold a few small objects, like a charm bag, but since the stall I got it at stocked mostly Tibetan or northern Indian things, I figure it’s a scroll canister.  I’m making use of it by tying a strap through the loops to keep it shut and to affix it to my person when I’m, say, traveling or on an adventure (which happen tolerably enough for me), and filling it with a few protective scrolls of my own.  Traditionally, these are called phylacteries, protective talismans that ward physical and spiritual harm from their bearers.  A similar thing is still done by orthodox Jews using tefillin, boxes containing sections from the Torah.

I’m currently in the process of making a potent ink: it’s a dragon’s blood ink that uses frankincense and copal resins and Abramelin oil, consecrated according to the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 14), and mixed with a simple fluid condenser (chamomile extract and gold tincture).  It’s coming out a warm grey color, which I’m okay with, since I’m using the scrolls more for magical protection instead of artistic legibility (though that would also be nice).  This powerful ink will be used with a special pen and paper, also prepared according to the Key of Solomon, for the scrolls that I’m going to use for my phylactery.

As for the scrolls themselves, I’m considering at least two scrolls to go in this little phylactery tin: a copy of the Headless Rite written in Greek and anointed with Abramelin oil, and a phylactery text consisting of voces magicae and characteres from the PGM anointed with Fiery Wall of Protection oil.  The PGM has a huge selection of phylacteries available for the student, so I went through and got a list of some of the more complete ones from the index given in Betz’s edition.  Unless otherwise noted, they’re likely to be written down on paper or a lamen and kept with yourself for protection, though some are meant to be spoken aloud.  I’m using Romanized Greek text, so keep in mind that “TH” means theta, “Ē” means eta, and so forth.

  1. PGM IV.86-87, against demons or for one possessed by a demon: “HOMENOS OHK KOURIEL IAPHĒL, deliver (add the usual) EHENPEROOU BARBARCHAOUCHE”
  2. PGM VII.218-221, against daily fevers with shivering fits: “IAŌ SABAŌTH ADŌNAI AKRAMMACHAMAREI”, repeat subtracting the first letter of the previous line (AŌ SABAŌTH… then Ō SABAŌOTH…, then SABAŌTH…, etc.) followed by “ABRASAX”.
  3. PGM VII.311-316: “IAŌ SABAŌTH ADONAI ABLANATHANALBA AKRAMMACHAMAREI SESENGENBARPHARANGES PEEPHRAZAŌTH ZŌTH MENE BAINCHŌŌŌCH, protect (name) whom (mother) bore from any violence both by a friendful dream and by all demons of the air.  I conjure you by the great famous name ABRAM EMEINA AEOUBAŌTH BAITHŌ BES IA IABAŌTH AGRAMAKRAMARI PSINŌTH BER ŌŌN IASŌP BARPHARANGES PNOUTE (add the usual, whatever you wish).”
  4. PGM VII.317-318, to be said to the moon: “ACHTIŌPHIPH ERESCHIGAL NEBOUGOSOUALĒTH SATHŌTH SABAŌTH SABRŌTH (add the usual, whatever you wish).”  This is the basis for my full moon ritual, by the way.
  5. PGM VII.579-596, to protect against demons, phantasms, sickness, and suffering; to be written on gold or silver or hieratic papyrus: “KMĒPHIS CHPHYRIS IAEŌ IAŌ AEĒ IAŌ OŌ AIŌN IAEŌBAPHRENE MOUNOTHILARIKRIPHIAE Y EAIPHIRKIRALITHANYOMENERPHABŌEAI”, followed by a series of characteres and the injunction “Protect my body and the entire soul of me, (name) (add the usual)”.  Write in the center of an ouroboros itself lined with the words “TARĒOĒĒNOUPNIBRINIASĒNŌPHEIBRINOKYLĒAIA OBZTHBABAIMENE ŌĒOPIOBM MOĒAŌPHI”.
  6. PGM LXXI.1-8: “Great god in heaven revolving the world, the true god, IAŌ! Lord, ruler of all, ABLANATHANALBA, grant me this thing, grant me this favor: let me have the name of the great god in this phylactery, and protect me from every evil thing, protect me who is (name) whom (mother) bore, (mother) begot!”
  7. PGM LXXXIX.1-27, adapted from the original, possibly meant to be spoken aloud: “I, Abrasax, shall deliver!  Abrasax am I!  ABRASAX ABRASICHŌOU, help NN.! Get hold of and do away with what evil comes to (name)!  Whether it is a shivering fit, get hold of it!  Whether a phantom, get hold of it! Whether a daimon, get hold of it!  I Abrasax shall deliver.  Abrasax am !  ABRASAX ABRASICHŌOU, get hold of and do away with the plague and pest afflicting (name), that which comes to (name) on this very day!  Whatever it may be, do away with it!”

What about you?  Do you have any special protective charms that’d fit in this tradition, any written charms or scrolls you use?  In this case, something like the Benedictine Vade Retro or Medal of St. Benedict works well, too:

Crux Sanctum sit mihi lux / Non draco sit mihi dux
Vade retro Satana / Numquam suade mihi vana
Sunt malae quae libas / Ipse venena bibas

May the Holy Cross be my light / May not the dragon be my guide
Go back, Satan / Ne’er tempt me with vanities
What you offer is evil / You yourself drink the poisons

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

4 Responses to A Treasury of Phylacteries

  1. I was interested and amazed when I saw the names of Mesopotamian deities in PGM. I think besides Ereshkigal, there was Nanna and maybe another. That connection ended up with me joining Neos Alexandria.

    • polyphanes says:

      Don’t forget that the Mediterranean, especially in the beginning half or so of the Roman Empire, was a veritable melting pot of all kinds of cultures, especially in Hellenized Egypt and Alexandria, which was a major center of learning and port city. Christian, Jewish, Roman, Greek, Germannic, African, Babylonian, and any number of other cultures were all able to rub shoulders and chat freely back then and there; it’s almost nonchalant how those old magoi mentioned Jacob, YHVH, Zeus, Apollo, and Ishtar all in the same breath.

  2. Pingback: An Ancient Babylonian Diviner’s Prayer « The Digital Ambler

  3. Pingback: Making a Phylactery « The Digital Ambler

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