Greek Words and Names for a Greek Qabbalah
June 15, 2014 13 Comments
Lately, based on my grammatomantic research, I’ve been looking more into using Greek as my go-to magical language. Despite the prevalence of Greek ideas, theology, mythology, and philosophy rife throughout a lot of occulture, there’s surprisingly little that I can access in English when it comes to the work I’m interested. Either things go full Renaissance Hermetic, when Latin was the main working language of things, or full Hermetic Hebrew, due to the influence of the Golden Dawn and traditional qabbalah. To that end, I know of the Greek gods and their myths, and I use the gods’ names for the planets, and I have a few Greek-origin terms and prayers here and there, but little else. Seeing how more and more of my practice is turning towards the northeast Mediterranean rather than the Near East or western Mediterranean, I figured that I should get all my terms and words in order to allow for more fluent use of Hellenic and Greek terms.
For instance, take the planets. In the past, I’ve referred to them by the names of the Greek gods they’re associated with, which isn’t wrong; after all, the planets were often considered to be the physical bodies of the gods themselves. That said, it turns out there are another set of names used to refer to the planets themselves, which are properly the planetary titans.
- The Sun, associated with the god Apollo, is given to the titan Hēlios
- The Moon, associated with the goddess Artemis, is given to the titan Selēnē, also called Mēnē
- Mercury, associated with the god Hermes, is given the name Stilbon
- Venus, associated with the goddess Aphrodite, is given to the titans Eōsphoros (Morning Star) and Hesperos (Evening Star)
- Mars, associated with the god Ares, is given the name Pyroeis or, lesser used, Mesonyx
- Jupiter, associated with the god Zeus, is given the name Phaethōn
- Saturn, associated with the titan Kronos, is given the name Phainōn
So, let’s start from the beginning. Just as the Hebrew Tree of Life has ten sephiroth (sing. sephirah), the Greek Tree has ten sphairai (sing. sphaira, “sphere”) or arithmoi (sing. arithmos, “number”). Each of these has a name of its own, modeled after the names of the Hebrew Tree. While Michael Strojan has his own naming system, the one I’ve seen first was given in Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic, and written about at length by the Confraternity of the Rose Cross (albeit in a long-winded and sometimes purposefully obtuse series of articles). Those names are:
- Arkhē, “First Principle”
- Sophia, “Wisdom”
- Noesis, “Understanding”
- Doxa, “Glory”
- Dynamis, “Power”
- Agathōsynē, “Goodness”
- Nikē, “Victory”
- Megalōsynē, “Greatness”
- Themelion, “Foundation”
- Basileia, “Kingdom”
And, of course, just as the missing sephirah Da`ath means “Knowledge”, the equivalent missing sphaira is Gnōsis, meaning the same.
Similarly, just as each Hebrew sephirah has its own corresponding name of God, so too does each individual sphaira. However, while a simple translation of each could be done, much as in the same way as the names of the sphairai were made, I thought it more appropriate to look through both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a bit of Gnostic literature here and there, to compile a list of names of God and ascribe them to the sphairai based on numerological connections as well as their semantic resonance with their corresponding Hebrew names. As many of the names are technically imperfect Greek without an article or predicate noun applied, they’re given in parentheses.
- (ho) Ōn, “He who Is”
- (ho) Ēn, “He who Was”
- (ho) Erkhomenos, “He who Is to Come”
- (ho) Theos, “(the) God”
- Iskhyros (ho Theos), “(God is) Strong”
- Athanatos (ho Theos), “(God is) Immortal”
- Pantarkhos (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Ruling”
- Pantokrator (ho Theos), “(God is) All-Mighty”
- Pantosōmatos (ho Theos), “(God is) In All Bodies”
- (to) Alpha kai (to) Ōmega, “(the) First and (the) Last”
The names were developed by dividing the Tree of Life into four groups based on the familiar triads: the supernal (or first) triad consisting of the first three sphairai (1, 2, 3), the middle (or second) triad consisting of the next three (4, 5, 6), the lower (or third) triad consisting of the next three (7, 8, 9), and the final sphaira (10) left alone in its own group. Based on these, I found names of divinity used in pagan, Hermetic, Hellenic Jewish, and Christian traditions, and associated them in particular groups that fit together well.
- The supernal triad got its names from the Revelation of John (Revelation 1:8), reflecting the eternality (existing outside of time) and sempiternality (existing within all of time) of God. Technically, the first two godnames are variations on the Greek verb “to be” (present participle and imperfect, respectively, of eimi), while the third is a form of “to come” (present participle of erkhomai). This draws a distinction between sheer Presence undifferentiated by time (Ōn) and Presence that stirs and changes over time (Ēn), while the third becomes that which brings about change (Erkhomenos). This distinction is reflected in the astrological correspondences of these sphairai, with the first being pure Light (Infinity), the second being Light that has moved in space (stars), and the third being a planet that moves and introduces change below it (Saturn).
- The Trisagion Prayer formed the basis for the divine names for the middle triad, with the fourth sphaira (associated with Jupiter and Zeus, already recognized as “the” God) given to Theos, the fifth sphaira (associated with Mars and Ares, thus power and strength) given to Iskhyros, and the sixth sphaira (associated with Sol Invictus and, especially, Jesus Christ himself) associated with Athanatos. Further, Theos and Iskhyros tie in with their corresponding Hebrew names, El and Elohim Gibor, respectively. Also, the use of Theos can be appended to any sphaira godname after the fourth sphaira, since all the following names (with the exception of that of the tenth) are all technically adjectives, with “God” being the noun that they apply to in the sense of “God is Strong” or “God is Immortal”. The fourth sphaira is conventionally held to be the beginnings of solid reality after the Fall from Divinity (cf. the Abyss), separating the eternal/sempiternal Presence of Divinity (Mind) from itself into a distinct Person of Divinity (God).
- The names in the lower triad share the same omnipresent qualities, as well as being the epithets for Isis, Hermes, and the Universe respectively in pagan and Hermetic traditions. Further, the Hebrew names for the seventh and eighth sephiroth, YHVH Tzabaoth and Elohim Tzabaoth, are similar in the notion of God presiding over the entirety of heaven and the heavenly hosts. The use of Pantosōmatos comes from the Corpus Hermeticum (V.10) in referring to God “beyond all name, unmanifest, most manifest, of no body, of many body, of every body”, and the notion of linking the Moon (sphaira 9, Themelion) with bodies, corporeality, and manifestation is not a new one, since all things that exist lower than the Moon must pass through the Moon and contain some of its essence in it, especially when the Hebrew name for the corresponding sephirah is Shaddai El Chai, or “Almighty God of Life”.
- The use of Alpha and Ōmega for the tenth sphaira comes from the description of Jesus/God from Revelation 1:8 and used throughout that book, which I found appropriate as the tenth sphaira is the World, containing every essence of every other plane of existence in itself as well as being the final sphaira reflecting the first, just as the English phrase “from A to Z” would be, and especially so as Alpha represents the Moon and Ōmega the planet Saturn in their esoteric meanings, encapsulating all the heavens between them.
That said, the names of God associated with the sphairai aren’t that important, except maybe in conjurations following Solomonic practice, since the sphairai themselves bear names of God. After all, the sphairai are emanations of God and given titles of God, and it’s likely that the attribution of divine names to the sephiroth in Hermetic qabbalah developed from another tradition. After all, most of the names of God given to the Hebrew sephiroth are, well, holy names not meant to be taken in vain or even spoken aloud, and it was more likely that magicians using them would prefer to use titles of God given to the sephiroth rather than names of God directly that they shouldn’t even write without several ablutions, much less speak aloud. I’m starting to think that the correspondence of these set of divine names to the sephirah was an outside tradition tacked onto qabbalah, probably under the influence of Western Solomonic or goetic magic that used divine names like nobody else’s business. When using one of these divine names in, say, a conjuration, the names for sphairai 5 through 10 would be reversed, so instead of “Iskhyros ho Theos” (God is Strong), it’d be “ho Iskhyros Theos” (the Strong God). Greek is weird.
One thing I don’t feel comfortable with, at least just yet, is making a new set of Greek spirit names, especially those for the angels. It can’t be escaped that much of Hermetic magic is based on Abrahamic lore, such as those of the angels, and so many of the names are going to remain Hebrew in origin; thus, Michael will remain Michael (though spelled in Greek as Mikhaēl) and so forth. Likewise, the names of the planetary intelligences and spirits are based on Hebrew gematria principles, and so couldn’t be easily translated into Greek. However, at least one set of angelic names can be translated: those of the choirs, or taxiarkhies. Even then, though, those with explicitly Hebrew names (viz. Seraphim and Cherubim) would remain in Hebrew, but the rest wouldn’t, even though several of the names are really similar in English because much of Christian doctrine comes from, you guessed it, Greek.
- Serapheim, Seraphim
- Kheroubeim, Cherubim
- Thronoi, Thrones
- Kuriotētes, Dominions
- Dynameis, Powers
- Exousies, Virtues
- Arkhes, Principalities
- Arkhangeloi, Archangels
- Angeloi, Angels
One of the keys to developing new spirit names, especially for those of the planets, would be to recreate the qameas, or magic squares, of the planets. The sigils for the planetary spirits and intelligences are based off the magic squares for their respective planets, and since the letters of the Hebrew script double as numbers, it would be possible to redraw the magic squares using Greek letters instead of Hebrew. Since these names are all based on numerological principles and founded on the numbers associated with the planets, new names can feasibly be drawn up for these entities based on numerology (one of the few useful instances I’ve found of the craft, but I digress). However, while redrawing the magic squares in Greek letters is easy, finding acceptable names of planetary spirits and intelligences that adhere to the same numeric values as the Hebrew names is not, since there are far more permutations of letters that would add up to the same value than I can calculate off the top of my head. A good amount of work would be needed to develop a set of names and see which would work for the spirit and intelligence of each sphaira, not to mention figure out whether an “intelligence of intelligences” or “spirit of spirits” would be needed for spheres like those of the Moon and Venus.
At this point, there’s really little else than to make a new set of tables of correspondences a la Cornelius Agrippa’s Scales, replacing Hebrew godnames and the like with native Greek ones where appropriate, and honestly there’s already a lot done for me that I don’t need to do again (thank you, Stephen Skinner). That and, of course, a hellish amount of scrying, pathworking, and exploration to really see what needs doing, patching up, and evaluating to see what’s actually needed for theurgy and thaumaturgy. I’m thinking I might have to go with what Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick did a while back, scrying up a new style of Tree of Life on my own Starry Path. I was thinking I was going to go that route anyway, using my grammatomantic lunar calendar to set certain days to scry the paths of the Greek Tree of Life, but now that I’m realizing how big an effort this is going to be, it’s certainly not going to be a short-term project.
One final thing, though: what would this new system be called? Kabbalah or qabbalah (I use the K to signify the Jewish practice and Q the Hermetic one) is still a Hebrew word itself, meaning “receiving” or “tradition”. The Greek Wikipedia article uses the word “kampala”, with “kabbala” as an alternate spelling. Going by the meaning of the word, I think “(to) Paradedomenon” (that which is handed down) isn’t too far off the mark; “kampala” would be the shorthand name for the system as a transliteration of the Hebrew. But of course, since clearly nobody speaks Greek (including myself, which I should eventually get around to fixing), “Greek kabbalah” would be the most easily accessible name for the system.
Oh, and for those of you who keep tabs on my Facebook, you’ll notice I posted an interesting photo about Greek kabbalah. We’ll get into that more later on; I’ve got plenty to write about it for those who’re interested in a Neoplatonic/Pythagorean kinda thing.