Notes on the word AZOTH

I’ve gotten the crafting bug again, which is both a good and bad thing.  It’s good because, honestly, making pretty shit to be used in the Art and Work is kinda awesome, not to mention it gives me a physical reminder of how far I’ve come and what it is I’m trying to do.  That said, it’s also nerve-wracking, because some of these supplies are rare or expensive, and I sometimes only get one chance to get them done right.  I have such a project coming up soon: an ebony wand based on the wand from Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals.  A good and exceptionally generous friend of mine gave me an ebony dowel perfectly cut to the length of my forearm (elbow to middle finger), which I plan on engraving with the requisite names and symbols from Trithemius plus those of the wand from the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 8).  Overall, the design will look like this:

Ebony Wand Design

Engrave that into a very expensive and rare gaboon ebony dowel with a friend’s flexishaft, inlay the engravings with gesso and 24k gold leaf, mixing the sizing oil with holy oil set atop the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, and capping the ends with bronze and, who knows, maybe setting a quartz point on one end.  Simple project, right?  (I already want it to be over.)

I’m breaking from the Trithemius instructions in that I’m adding the symbols from the Key of Solomon to the wand and using Hebrew instead of Latin script for the names of God, but I’m also making another change.  The Trithemius wand is to have “AGLA + ON + TETRAGRAMMATON” on one side, and “EGO ALPHA ET OMEGA” on the other.  Instead, I’m using the magical word “AZOTH” in place of that last phrase, because…well, I hate that phrase.  I find it tacky to use Latin with Greek like this, and I think there are better ways to say the same thing.  Besides, I don’t think this phrase is essential to the wand, either; my first wand (which I currently still use) omits it entirely, and I’ve used the word “AZOTH” on similar projects before.  AZOTH is a funny word, because it’s the only time I’ll ever willingly mix up scripts like this: Phoenician, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew:
Word of AZOTH
What does it all mean, dear reader?  Let me explain the letters themselves:

  1. ‘Alp, the first letter of the Phoenician script, which was used by traders across the Mediterranean and which was adopted by various tribes and cultures all over the Mediterranean world.  Over time, these adopted scripts were customized and developed in their own ways and became a variety of other scripts, including (but by no means limited to) the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew scripts; this letter became the Latin letter ay, Greek alpha, and Hebrew aleph.  Phonetically represents the glottal stop, but eventually became a placeholder for a vowel or a vowel in its own right for various front-mid and mid-low vowels.  Has its origins in the Proto-Canaanite script derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs for ox.  Numerological symbolism of one and Unity, and stoicheic associations with Air and the Moon.
  2. Zee (or Zed, if you’re from the Commonwealth), the final letter of the Latin script.  Has its origins in the Phoenician letter zayin, meaning weapon, by way of Greek zeta.  Was not originally a Latin letter, but was included in the Latin script to write Greek words when a “s” wouldn’t cut it; because of its late appearance and limited use, zee was appended to the end of the Latin alphabet and seen as a generally worthless letter.  Generally represents the voiced sibilant; due to the Latin method of using Roman numerals, zee has no native numerological significance, though modern occultists have attributed it large or final numbers.  In addition to referring to the least or most worthless, zee also indicates finality or totality right down to the most minute or oft-overlooked detail.  Stoicheically associated with Taurus, via Greek, but Cornelius Agrippa assigns zee to Fire; however, since stoicheia was not traditionally done for the Latin script, such correspondences are on shaky ground, though Taurus indicating Earth is the stronger of the two.
  3. Omega, the final letter of the Greek script.  Unique among these letters, omega has no direct relationship with any of the Phoenician letters, having derived from an alternate form of omicron, itself derived from `ayin, meaning “eye”; although the ancient Greek name for this letter was merely ō, it was renamed in Byzantine times to omega meaning “big o” (as opposed to omicron, “little o”).  Traditionally it had the phonetic value of the long open-mid back vowel, but is now pronounced like any other o in Greek.  Numerologically it signifies 800, but also “the last” or “the ultimate”; there was originally sampi used for a value of 900, but this ceased being used as an actual letter for writing Greek early on.  Stoicheically associated with Saturn, and thus any sort of final, ultimate boundary.
  4. Tav, the final letter of the Hebrew script.  A development of the older Phoenician letter with the same name with the form of a cross, meaning a mark, wound, engraving, or cross, it originally had a phonetic value of the voiceless dental stop, what we would call “t”; some dialects of Hebrew use “s”, and in some foreign words it can take on a theta-like sound.  Numerologically, it signifies 400 (the most of any non-specifically-final-form letter), but again with the sense of finality and being rounded-out.  Associated with Saturn in Qabbalah, especially given its associations with the Tarot trump “The World”; these give it similar associations to omega above.

Overall, the word “AZOTH” indicates a totality, a wholeness consisting of a single, unified, unitary, primordial Source of all things, which through transformation and evolution becomes all begotten, made, transitory, and created Manifestations.  In other words, it’s more than just saying “I am the First and the Last”; it’s saying “I am the One and the All”, and “I am the Source and the Creation”.  It represents all of manifested reality that we see Down Here, down from every minor and minuscule speck of dust (zee) to the greatest and most distant of celestial objects (omega) and everything in between crossing the cosmos and universe (tav).  It similarly represents that no matter how different things may seem or appear, everything comes from the self-same One Thing (‘alp), Kether, the Ain Soph Aur, Divinity.

Using a bit of questionable gematria, AZOTH can be given the value 1201: 1 from ‘alp, 800 from omega, 400 from tav, and 0 from zee (since numerology wasn’t traditionally done for Latin letters, and since zee was always seen as worthless or nothing anyway).  This number, although not related to any Greek or Hebrew word I can find with the same value, can also be read as 100 × 12 + 1.  100 = 10², the perfect number multiplied against itself, indicating a multiplicity of perfection and harmony in all directions across the cosmos.  12 is the number of signs in the Zodiac, indicating the primary step in an idea first separating from Kether to the rest of the Tree by means of the sphere of the fixed stars, where the Idea becomes ideated, the Thought is thought.  Thus, 1200 can indicate perfection in every thought, abundance of holiness in every idea, and also that the entire cosmos is reflected in toto in all other parts of the cosmos.  That extra one that makes the number 1201 indicates the Divine Unity that began all this, at once immanent yet transcendent, part of the number yet sticking out.  Using the Zodiac image from before, we have 1200 around the sky forming a complete circle, and a single One in the middle around which all the 1200 revolve and derive their power from.  In other words, All comes from the Source, yet the Source is present in All, just as all light in the solar system comes from the Sun (circle with a point in the middle), or all Light from the Son (God with the earth below, heavens above, and hung on the Cross between them: Alpha, Zee, Omega, Tav).

This word also has very important alchemical meanings, too: similar to the Philosopher’s Stone, azoth is said to be the end goal and purpose of alchemy and the Great Work, a Universal Solvent, an Elixir of Life, the Panacea, and so forth.  Basically, it is pure Mercury, the pure spiritual essence of life and creation, present both within and without all things, the First Substance, transcendent yet immanent in all of the cosmos, universe, and world.  And, fittingly enough, it often takes the caduceus as its symbol.  I’ve even given the word AZOTH its own fitting talismanic design using a hexagram, the Star of Azoth, to be used to represent all the essences both before being split and after being rejoined, pure quintessence and all essences combined.  (Please excuse the use of the Hebrew aleph there, dear reader, for I lack a readily available Phoenician font.)

Star of Azoth

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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.

10 Responses to Notes on the word AZOTH

  1. Kneuphis says:

    Hi, i want, if you let me..make a little observation, the word “on” on the T. wand, in the Mathers k.o.s. appears like ayin-vav-nun, but this word in hebrew means sin or crime.
    Making some research i found that maybe the correct word used was alef-vav-nun, that means power.
    Also is the hebrew vav-nun, but means all kind of delicacy or idleness, nothing to do with context.
    Instead of that “on” sounds like greek, but in dictionary didnt found anything that fits with the context where the word is used.
    I encourage you to make some research on that, because i found this problem time ago in a similar proyect.

    • polyphanes says:

      Hm, good catch! Now I wonder why Ayin-Vav-Nun appeared in Mathers’ version. I can’t find any reference for Aleph-Vav-Nun, though; do you have a reference for this, or a good Hebrew dictionary indicating this definition or implication?

      “On” otherwise vaguely reminds me of the Greek phrase “to holon”, meaning the Whole or the All, but this is unfounded and too unrealistic a connection to make, especially given the otherwise accurate translation of Greek-sounding names into Hebrew script in similar texts.

      What kind of project were you working on where you found this before?

      • Kneuphis says:

        I dont know why it appears, maybe a translation error or an invent; look at the black handled knife.. the word azot in there is a modern attachment or at least not older than Solomon was.

        In the dictionary “The New Bantam-Megiddo” Aleph-Vav-Nun means “strength; force”, the same word with Ayin isnt there.

        In “The Hebraic Tongue Restored” (not a dictionary but you have the words roots and some meaning words; i’ve the spanish version) Aleph-Vav-Nun is something like “a fading desire, into nothingness” or “any idea of ​​pain, sorrow and calamity”; in the same book the word Ayin-Vav-Nun is “the obscure action, to embody the vapors; the idea of ​​all corruption relating to the body and bodily actions; the vice; all that is bad; all that ails, humiliate”.

        In a digital app dictionary of ipod Aleph-Vav-Nun is “power; force; strength; virility and sap???”; same word with Ayin isnt there.

        Why the same word has so many different meanings? Thats because the nikkud or vowel points.

        Other options are Aleph-Nun (discarded) and Ayin-Nun, the first has nothing to do with context and the second means “a cry, an evocation, a response” among other things.

        Look at scribd for some hebrew dictionary..some good stuff in there.

        In the grimoire of Pope Honorius there is a little glossary where the meaning of the word Tetragramaton is detailed and specifically the meaning of the last part “on” is “mysterious voice, whose meaning can not be disclosed”.

        For Frater Achad “ON, is the Name of the SUN in the old Egyptian Language”.

        The proyect was the Trithemius wand, the only problem apart from this I found is that I have not ebony jajaja

        • polyphanes says:

          I actually contacted Joseph Peterson, the owner of the Esoteric Archives site, for his opinion. He believes that the name is Greek (on = being or creature). Many of the godnames used in Hermetic magic, even as far back as the late classical Sefer ha-Razim, are Greek in origin, and if that’s the case, then the name would merely be written as vav-nun. On the other hand, if it’s aleph-vav-nun, I also see meanings for this word meaning “wickedness” in some Hebrew dictionaries, although it does have a literary use meaning power or virility.

          One of my other friends has found sources where, instead of the name being written out at all, only a samekh appears here. This is bizarre, but she found it in multiple places, and given that samekh means “support” or “prop to hold things up/together”, this is not unreasonable.

          In either case, I’ll probably go back and change the wand design. I might go with vav-nun out of simplicity.

  2. runeworker says:

    Sounds amazing and awesome. I look forward to photos of the finished work.

  3. There’s also an illustration of Paracelsus holding a cane, and on the pommel of the cane is inscribed “AZOT.” I may have seen this in the Tyson edition of Agrippa (soon to be superseded by Purdue, yay — I am too lazy to get up and look for it). I’ve been trying to figure out the phonetics of Teth vs. Taw in Phoenician and Hebrew. It’s not so simple as one is “t” and the other is “th.”

    • polyphanes says:

      In modern Israeli Hebrew, they’re pronounced exactly the same, just like our “t” (although Diaspora Jews often use “s”, but nobody cares). Although tav is transliterated “th”, it’s teth that actually became Theta in Greek; classical Hebrew pronunciation had a kind of glottal or pharyngeal constriction that made this sound like you’re trying to say “t” with a really sore throat. To an untrained ear, this might sound like aspiration, which ancient Greek used from its proto-Indo-European roots. Thus, pharyngeal-t teth became aspirated-t theta, while simple t-tav became simple-t tau.

      • That’s what I thought, but they seem to be glossed exbackly zackwards from that, at least where Hebrew is concerned. It mainly matters when trying to transcribe a name given only in English.

  4. Andy Foster says:

    >I find it tacky to use Latin with Greek like this, and I think there are better ways to say the same thing.

    But ON – is the same. This is grrek word, not hebrew. Your Ayn-Vau-Shin is acronym of עקרב ונחש – Scorpio and Snake.

    Greek ON is the title-name, which you can find on Orthodox icons of YHShVH like http://www.zlatoriza.ru/uploads/items/big/51-01-04-0033.jpg

    Hebrew equivalent is אהיה

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