A Small Note on the Modern Use of the Calling of the Sevenths

A good friend and colleague of mine pointed out to me that the modern usage of the Calling of the Sevenths rite, otherwise known as the Heptagram Rite (as I’m sure you’re familiar with by now, dear reader) isn’t exactly old.  We don’t see it used past twenty years ago, really, and…well, part of that is that the craze with Greco-Egyptian magic (from the Greek Magical Papyri to the Demotic Magical Papyri to Hebrew bowl magic and so forth) wasn’t nearly before then as it’s gotten in recent years.  That it’s gotten as big as it has is amazing, and is definitely fueling a new push in magical techniques, but there’s a danger in that that’s evident from the PGM itself: reckless synthesis without clear attribution of sources.

So, my friend Julio Cesar Ody pointed out that the ritual we know as the Calling of the Sevenths has an origin.  I’m not talking about the ancient origin of PGM XIII.824-841, either, but a much more recent origin.  Let’s trace it back through three books:

  1. Michael Cecchetelli’s Book of Abrasax, published 2012
  2. Tony Mierzwicki’s Graeco-Egyptian Magic: Everyday Empowerment, published 2006
  3. Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris, originally published 1995 and republished 2009

Of the three, I got my hands on Cecchetelli’s book last.  One of my biggest gripes about Cecchetelli’s book is that he doesn’t cite a damn thing.  While synthesis and personal innovation is awesome, I would have loved to have references to the PGM, PDM, and other texts that Cecchetelli got his stuff from, and I end up having to dig through a variety of texts to get the original Greek or Coptic spellings out or to see how Cecchetelli may have innovated or adapted the ritual from its original.  Happily, both Mierzwicki and Flowers provide those references, and they largely share the same core texts, and I’ve read over the PGM enough times to have a good feeling of where I might find a particular incantation.

Flowers is…well, it’s Flowers.  He does a lot of straight lifting from the PGM (and only from the PGM, not even the PDM), and as much explanation of the magico-philosophical milieu that the PGM came from.  Likewise, he combines as much actual extant theory with made-up fantasy, which makes his book not exactly a great one from an academic’s perspective.  Still, there’s some good information in there nestled amongst the crazy bits, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without having come across it.

I got my hands on Mierzwicki’s books around the same time as Cecchetelli, and…well, it’s a good book, but I wasn’t impressed by it, and that fault is entirely mine; by the time I read Mierzwicki, I was already conversant with the PGM as a whole, and seeing his adaptation of the PGM was boring at that point.  Still, it’s a text I highly, highly recommend to those who are getting started with PGM-style magic.

So, back to the Heptagram rite.  My point here is that of the three texts, Flowers should probably be credited with bringing it back from the dusty pages of the PGM into modern usage.  However, he also called it the Ritual of the Heptagram, which is basically the name the PGM gives this same ritual.  Mierzwicki, on the other hand, calls it “Calling of the Sevenths”, which is also appropriate, and a name that Cecchetelli and other authors have lifted without attribution.  It’s important to give credit where it’s due, and I’m glad my friend Mr. Ody told me about this; it’s given me a reason to take another good look at Mierzwicki’s work, and also to clarify a bit about our modern practice in our occulture.

Cite your work, my friends.

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The Grand Heptagram Rite

Thanks to Stephen Flowers in his Hermetic Magic and Fr. Michael Cecchetelli in his Book of Abrasax, there’s a particularly common ritual that many Hermetic magicians use that’s lifted from the Greek Magical Papyri.  It’s usually called something like “calling the sevenths” or “heptagram rite”; the latter name is informative if misunderstood, since it should be interpreted as “seven letters” instead of a seven-sided polygon.  I use it daily with my own tweaks for my own practice.  It’s pretty straightforward, and Fr. MC has the simple form of the ritual on his blog:

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

And that’s it.  Visualizations of color, planetary symbols, reciting the permutations of the name ΙΑΩ, &c. are unnecessary for the completion of this ritual, strictly speaking.  Merely making the gestures and intoning the seven vowels suffices for attuning oneself to the powers of the seven planets and inducing equilibrium in one’s sphere, as Fr. MC puts it.  It’s a good practice to do, especially if you only have a few seconds to balance yourself out.  Personally, I add in an intonation of the full set of vowels and permutation of the name ΙΑΩ (ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΙΑΩ ΑΩΙ ΩΙΑ ΑΙΩ ΙΩΑ ΩΑΙ ΩΥΟΙΗΕΑ) to make it more well-rounded, but again, this isn’t necessary for the ritual itself.

Fr. MC gets the ritual from the Greek Magical Papyri, specifically from PGM XIII.824-841.  However, what he doesn’t say is that this is only a small part of a much longer entry, PGM XIII.734-1077, titled The Tenth Hidden Book of Moses (although the word “tenth” is conjectured).  It follows two other lengthy entries in PGM XIII, also titled something along similar lines as the Eighth Hidden Book of Moses, which are fairly decent magical grimoires in their own right.  While it’s proven by demonstration that the heptagram rite given above works, it’s not quite the whole heptagram rite, which includes a lot more in the way of prayers, intonation, and and setup.  For instance, Jason Miller in his Advanced Planetary Magic text includes an invocation that goes along with his own variation of the heptagram rite, which he calls “the Heptasphere” and which he also references Flowers’ and Fr. MC’s renditions of the ritual.  This invocation is found directly after the heptagram rite in the PGM, and is nearly identical to Miller’s.

The text begins with a general instruction to the student, implying that the text is itself a selection or continuation of some other part of the PGM, referencing a list of gods of days, hours, weeks, and the months as well as an oath to keep the text secret (whoopsie).  The purpose of the ritual is to obtain a favor, request, or vision of the god, though which god is unclear; the text begins by specifying as Ogdoas (a singular form of the eight-fold Egyptian gods collectively known as the Ogdoad), but the text veers off in another direction later.  This initial part of PGM XIII.734 specifies six special names, the first implicitly and the latter five explicitly, and later there are the names of the eight individual gods (described as guards who attend the highest God) that are in the Ogdoad:

  • The name of 7 letters: ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ
  • The name of God of Creation: ΟΓΔΟΑΣ
  • The name of 9 letters: ΑΕΗ ΕΗΙ ΟΥΩ
  • The name of 14 letters: ΥΣΑΥ ΣΙΑΥΕ ΙΑΩΥΣ
  • The name of 26 letters: ΑΡΑΒΒΑΟΥΑΡΑΒΑ ΑΒΑΡΑΥΟΑΒΒΑΡΑ
  • The name of Zeus: ΧΟΝΑΙ ΙΕΜΟΙ ΧΟ ΕΝΙ ΚΑ ΑΒΙΑ ΣΚΙΒΑ ΦΟΡΟΥΟΜ ΕΠΙΕΡΘΑΤ
  • The eight names of the Ogdoad: Η Ω ΧΗ ΧΟΥΧ ΝΟΥΝ ΝΑΥΝΙ ΑΜΟΥΝ ΑΜΑΥΝΙ

The ritual continues with a lengthy preliminary invocation, followed by the Heptagram Rite as we know and practice it.  After that, there’s the invocation to God (the one that Jason Miller based his off of), followed by a series of vowel permutations to call on God as the male gods, female gods, winds, east, south, west, north, earth, sky, and cosmos call God.  Another invocation follows,  and then the ritual seems to be concluded.  What follows appears to be a separate initiation ritual that has not survived in its entirety, resuming near the end of another spell invoking Dionysos and Michael; after that, there are a series of other invocations, incantations, and spells that collectively compose this mini-grimoire of the Tenth Hidden Book of Moses.

With no further ado, let’s go over PGM XIII.763-889, the relevant part of the PGM entry.  At sunrise, say the preliminary invocation:

Come to me, you from the four winds, ruler of all, who breathed spirit into men for life, whose is the hidden and unspeakable name, unutterable by human mouth, at whose name even the daimons are terrified when they hear it!  You whose is the Sun, ΑΡΝΕΒΟΥΑΤ ΒΟΛΛΟΧ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΙΧ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΙΧ ΒΑΑΛΣΑΜΗΝ ΠΤΙΔΑΙΟΥ ΑΡΝΕΒΟΥΑΤ and the Moon ΑΡΣΕΝΠΕΝΠΡΩΟΥΘ ΒΑΡΒΑΡΑΙΩΝΕ ΟΣΡΑΡ ΜΕΜΨΕΧΕΙ—they are unwearied eyes shining in the pupils of men’s eyes—of whom heaven is the head, ether the body, earth the feet, and environment the water, the Agathos Daimon!

You are the ocean, begetter of good things and feeder of the civilized world.  Yours is the eternal processional way in which your seven-lettered name is established for the harmony of the seven sounds of the planets which utter their voices according to the 28 forms of the Moon, ΣΑΡ ΑΦΑΡΑ ΑΦΑΡΑ Ι ΑΒΡΑΑΡΜ ΑΡΑΦΑ ΑΒΡΑΑΧ ΠΕΡΤΑΩΜΗΧ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΕ Η ΙΑΩ ΟΥΕ ΕΙΟΥ ΑΕΩ ΕΗΟΥ ΙΑΩ.

Yours are the beneficent effluxes of the stars, daimons, and Fortune and Fates, by whom is given wealth, good old age, good children, good luck, a good burial.  Lord of Life, King of the heavens and the earth and all living things in them, you whose justice is not turned aside, you whose glorious name the Muses sing, you whom the eight guards attend who are Η Ω ΧΗ ΧΟΥΧ ΝΟΥΝ ΝΑΥΝΙ ΑΜΟΥΝ ΑΜΑΥΝΙ, you who have truth that never lies!

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

Be with me always for good, a good god dwelling on a good man, yourself immune to magic, giving me health no magic can harm, well-being, prosperity, glory, victory, power, sex appeal!  Restrain the evil eyes of each and all of my opponents, whether men or women, and give me charm in everything I do!

ΑΝΟΧ ΑΙΕΦΕ ΣΑΚΤΙΕΤΗ ΒΙΒΙΟΥ ΒΙΒΙΟΥ ΣΦΗ ΣΦΗ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΝΟΥΣΙ ΣΕΗΕ ΣΕΗΕ ΣΙΕΘΩ ΣΙΕΘΩ ΟΥΝ ΧΟΥΝΤΙΑΙ ΣΕΜΒΙ ΙΜΕΝΟΥΑΙ ΒΑΙΝΦΝΟΥΝ ΦΝΟΥΘ ΤΟΥΧΑΡ ΣΟΥΧΑΡ ΣΑΒΑΧΑΡ ΑΝΑ of the god ΙΕΟΥ ΙΟΝ ΕΟΝ ΘΩΘΩ ΟΥΘΡΟ ΘΡΩΡΕΣΕ ΕΡΙΩΠΩ ΙΥΗ ΑΗ ΙΑΩΑΙ ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ ΗΟΧ ΜΑΝΕΒΙ ΧΥΧΙΩ ΑΛΑΡΑΩ ΚΟΛ ΚΟΛ ΚΑΑΤΩΝ ΚΟΛΚΑΝΘΩ ΒΑΛΑΛΑΧ ΑΒΛΑΛΑΧ ΟΘΕΡΧΕΝΘΕ ΒΟΥΛΩΧ ΒΟΥΛΩΧ ΟΣΕΡΧΝΘΕ ΜΕΝΘΕΙ

For I I have received the power of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of the great god, the daimon ΙΑΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΣΙΑΒΡΑΘΙΛΑΩ ΛΑΜΨΤΗΡ ΙΗΙ ΩΩ, God!

Do this, lord ΠΕΡΤΑΩΜΕΧ ΧΑΧΜΗΧ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΕΗΟΥ ΙΑΩ

Perform the calling of the sevenths, aka the Heptagram Rite.  The ritual text has an accompanying diagram that links the directions with the vowels; the text says to just intone the letter, although the diagram specifies to lengthen the letter according to its place in the seven-lettered name (so Α, ΕΕ, ΗΗΗ, ΙΙΙΙ, etc.).  For simplicity, I’ll just use the single version of each vowel.

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

Say the invocation to Aiōn:

I call on you, eternal and unbegotten, who are one, who alone hold together the whole creation of all things, whom none understands, whom the gods worship, whose name not even the gods can utter.  Inspire from your breath, ruler of the Pole, him who is under you!  Accomplish for me now that which I seek:…

I call on you as the male gods call you: ΙΗΩ ΟΥΕ ΩΗΙ ΥΕ ΑΩ ΕΙ ΩΥ ΑΟΗ ΟΥΗ ΕΩΑ ΥΕΙ ΩΕΑ ΟΗΩ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΩ

I call on you as the female gods call you: ΙΑΗ ΕΩΟ ΙΟΥ ΕΗΙ ΩΑ ΕΗ ΙΕ ΑΙ ΥΟ ΗΙΑΥ ΕΩΟ ΟΥΗΕ ΙΑΩ ΩΑΙ ΕΟΥΗ ΥΩΗΙ ΙΩΑ

I call on you as the winds call you!

Face the sunrise in the east with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face north with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face west with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face south with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face down with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face forward with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Face up with arms raised in the orans gesture.

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

Say the final supplication.

Accomplish for me quickly that which I seek:… I call on your name, the greatest among gods!  If I say it complete, the earth will quake, the sun will stop, the moon will be afraid, the rocks and the mountains and the sea and the rivers and every liquid will be petrified, the whole cosmos will be thrown into confusion!  I call on you, ΙΥΕΥΟ ΩΑΕΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΕΗ ΑΙ ΕΗ ΑΗ ΙΟΥΩ ΕΥΗ ΙΕΟΥ ΑΗΩ ΗΙ ΩΗΙ ΙΑΗ ΙΩΟΥΗ ΑΥΗ ΥΗΑ ΙΩ ΙΩΑΙ ΙΩΑΙ ΩΗ ΕΕ ΟΥ ΙΩ ΙΑΩ, the Great Name!

Become for me Lynx, Eagle, Snake, Phoenix, Life, Power, Necessity, images of God!  ΑΙΩ ΙΩΥ ΙΑΩ ΗΙΩ ΑΑ ΟΥΙ ΑΑΑΑ Ε ΙΥ ΙΩ ΩΗ ΙΑΩ ΑΙ ΑΩΗ ΟΥΕΩ ΑΙΕΗ ΙΟΥΕ ΥΕΙΑ ΕΙΩ ΗΙΙ ΥΥ ΕΕ ΗΗ ΩΑΟΗ ΧΕΧΑΜΨΙΜΜ ΧΑΓΓΑΛΑΣ ΕΗΙΟΥ ΙΗΕΑ ΩΟΗΟΕ ΖΩΙΩΙΗΡ ΩΜΥΡΥΡΟΜΡΟΜΟΣ ΑΙΩ Η ΙΙ ΥΥ ΗΗ ΟΑΟΗ

With that, the ritual is complete (or appears to be so).  Besides my usual stylistic changes to the PGM text to make it flow a bit better and incorporating Betz’s additions to the text, I made one significant change in the long intonations of the vowels, calling on God as each of the directions.  This part in the PGM didn’t seem to match the earlier sevenths-calling rite in several ways:

  • The order goes east, south, west, north, earth, sky, cosmos (as opposed to the earlier east, north, west, south… before)
  • Calling as the north starts with Ω (not Ε, as before)
  • Calling as the earth starts with Ε (not Ο, as before)
  • Calling on the cosmos starts with Ο (not Ω, as before)
  • There are no gestures specified for these, but being general, I went with a general gesture.  You might substitute, instead, with the prescribed gestures from earlier.

Now, as a proper ritual, at least we have a general idea of how it’s supposed to be employed, unlike some rituals from the PGM.  We know that (what I’m calling) the Grand Heptagram Rite is an invocation of God by means of the seven planets and their seven letters, whether it is to obtain a vision or achieve some request.  It’s intended to be done at dawn, though no specific day is mentioned within this part of the PGM entry.  Unlike the common Heptagram Rite, which is a modern adaptation of part of this ritual, PGM XIII.763-889 isn’t intended to be used as a framing ritual to prepare or attune oneself before another working, but is to be employed on its own as its own complete ritual.  However, nothing stops the interested magus from employing the Grand Heptagram Rite as a preliminary ritual, much as one might use the Headless Rite before a conjuration.  However, based on the above, it’s clear how we might expand the popular Heptagram Rite into something not quite as big or elaborate as the Grand Heptagram Rite, such as by augmenting the single vowel intonations with the other vowels in sequence (as in the “I call on you as the east/north/west/&c.” section).

On the Solar Guardians

Recently, I described my method of applying PGM IV.1596, a prayer used for a consecration under the twelve faces of Helios, in a ritual format, but there’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t in the PGM because…well, it’s not in the PGM.  All that we have is the prayer, so I took some liberties and frameworks of my own and structured a ritual around it.  As part of that, I incorporated four barbarous words of power: ΕΡΒΗΘ, ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ.  I only briefly mentioned where they were from, and only really discussed them once before on my blog as something relating to the directions, but I think it’s time for me to talk a bit more about them.

Let’s take a look at the Greek Magical Papyri for a sec, specifically PGM II.64-183, An alternative procedure on a conjuration of Apollon-Helios for wisdom and blessing.  After a lengthy “greeting formula” including a hymn not unlike the Orphic Hymn to Helios, we find the following:

…you who dwell throughout the whole inhabited world, you whose bodyguard is the sixteen giants, you who are seated upon the lotus and who light up the whole inhabited world; you who have desiguated the various living things upon the earth, you who have the sacred bird upon your robe in the eastern parts of the Red Sea, even as you have upon the northern parts the figure of an infant child seated upon a lotus, O rising one, O you of many names, ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ; on the southern parts you have the shape of the sacred falcon, through which you send fiery heat into the air, which becomes ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ; in the parts towards the west you have the shape of a crocodile, with the tail of a snake, from which you send out rains and snows; in the parts toward the east you have the form of a winged dragon, a diadem fashioned of air, with which you quell all discords beneath the heaven and on earth, for you have manifested yourself as a god in truth, ΙΩ ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ ΖΑΣ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΣΜΑΡΘ ΑΔΩΝΑΙ ΣΟΥΜΑΡΤΑ ΙΑΛΟΥ ΒΑΒΛΑ ΥΑΜ ΜΟΛΗΕΝΘΙΩ ΠΕΤΟΤΟΥΒΙΗΘ ΙΑΡΜΙΩΘ ΛΑΙΛΑΜΨ ΧΩΟΥΧ ΑΡΣΕΝΟΦΡΗ ΕΥ ΦΘΑ ΗΩΛΙ…

From this passage, we can note a few things:

  • The Sun, again, changes his form based on his position in the sky, only instead of it being hour by hour as in PGM IV.1596, here he changes based on what quarter of the sky he’s in.
  • The northern quarter has the name ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ with the form of an infant seated upon a lotus.
  • The southern quarter has the name ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ (part of the whole Aberamen formula) with the form of the sacred solar falcon sending out heat and fire.
  • The western quarter has no name here, but the form of a crocodile with the tail of a snake sending out coldness and water.
  • The eastern quarter has a long name starting with ΕΡΒΗΘ, with the form of a winged dragon with a “diadem of air”, or of clouds.

Despite what I normally think about him and his work, Stephen Flowers in his Hermetic Magic occasionally hits on a few good thing.  He references this part of the PGM in the construction of his Hermetic ritual circle and preliminary invocation; after he calls the sevenths with the seven vowels in the Heptagram ritual, he then uses the four names ΕΡΒΗΘ, ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ as well as the four forms given to the four directions as stated before.  While this section of the PGM does not list ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ as one of the names, given its presence throughout the rest of the PGM, I think it could be a safe attribution to make.

However, Flowers isn’t the only one to use barbarous words of power for the directions.  Michael Cecchetelli in his Book of ABRASAX uses a similar arrangement in his ritual of “Calling of the Sevenths to Induce Equilibrium”.  In it, he uses the names ABLANATHANALBA, AKRAMMACHAMARI, DAMDAMENNEOS, and SESENKEBARPHAGES for the south, north, west, and east (well, technically, to the right, left, rear, and front of the magus, respectively, while facing the East).  However, he doesn’t say where these words come from nor whence their directional correspondences, and neither does he list any visualization or imagery for the names; he says the ritual is found in “PGM 824”, though I’m pretty sure he means to reference lines 824 through 840 of PGM XIII.734-1077, a long section entitled The Tenth Hidden Book of Moses that includes far more than just the recitation of the seven vowels of the Heptagram and, in fact, includes a far more complex calling of the directions, as well.  However, this section doesn’t list any words of power for the directions specifically, and Fr. MC’s spelling of the names is a little odd compared to what we’d normally find (ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ instead of ΔΑΜΔΑΜΕΝΝΕΟΣ, ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ instead of ΣΕΣΕΓΚΕΒΑΡΦΑΓΗΣ).

What’s interesting to me is that we have two separate authors, Flowers and Cecchetelli, who both use the Heptagram ritual with a ritual of calling on the names of…something at the four directions.  Both Flowers and Cecchetelli use the name ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, and without a PGM reference to indicate otherwise, Flowers hits the mark closer to assigning the names to the directions than Cecchetelli does.  However, all six names are powerful and quite common throughout the PGM, and I dislike having to pick between two otherwise-competent and reasonable systems, so I figured, why not use all six?  After all, both of these sets of names are used in the context of calling on seven directions, not just four, and between Flowers and Cecchetelli, we have six names.  My system for assigning the names to the directions is largely based on Flowers’ system:

  • ΕΡΒΗΘ in the east
  • ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ in the south
  • ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ in the west
  • ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ in the north
  • ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ in the heights
  • ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ in the depths

It’s my own innovation to include the heights and the depths to this directional framework, and the two names have responded more-or-less well in practice, though they do feel a bit detached from the others.  This makes sense; in the context from which the four names for the cardinal directions come, they reference the forms of the Sun in his path across the skies, while the heights and the depths don’t really take part in the path of the Sun.  Instead, they form more of a backdrop, a general rulership, or “host” to the Sun.

When it comes to the “forms” for ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, I spent a bit of meditation with the names and the directions, and received two images:

  • ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ has the form of an old man in pale grey or white silver, balding with head uncovered, looking downward, holding a ring of keys in his right hand and a staff as tall as he is in his left.
  • ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ has the form of a young woman dressed all in fiery red, head and hair covered in a red shawl, looking directly forward, holding a tall spear in her right hand a torch in her left.

It’s important to note that these are personal revelations and are somewhat influenced by the planetary attributions of the heights and depths given in the Heptagram (heights with Saturn, depths with Mars), but were obtained from the names through reflection and meditation.  It’s also striking that these forms are humane in nature, unlike the animal forms of most of the Sun’s forms with the exception of the face of ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ in the north, where it’s a babe (primordial human) on a lotus (the growth of celestial seed and fertile earth).

Now we have six names, but what about a seventh?  We have names for the four cardinal directions, the heights, and the depths, but we’re lacking one to match the directions used in the Heptagram ritual, where that missing direction is the center.  For this, I originally suggested to use the name of one’s HGA/genius/paredos/agathodaimon/whatever, but after some more meditation and communion with…something, I settled on the word ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ, a word I use for empowering and directing the self itself.  This is, again, a word I was “given” by one of the planetary angels, but I felt like it works well as a stabilization and centralization of the self in preliminary rituals.  It’s like a generic “higher self” name, in my experience.

So, to that end, my ritual (or mini-ritual component) for calling on the directions goes something like this.

  1. Start facing the east (or whatever quarter of the sky the Sun happens to be in), and calm and center the breath.
  2. Take a half-step forward with the right foot and raise the right arm in a salute, hailing the direction and its guardian while visualizing him to fill that direction.  Move clockwise, saluting the four cardinal directions:

    ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, take thy place in the East!
    ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take thy place in the South!
    ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take thy place in the West!
    ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take thy place in the North!

  3. Return to the original direction.  For the next two guardians, stand with both feet together and look towards the direction, moving the right hand towards it and moving the left hand away; thus, raise the right hand and lower the left when saluting the heights, and vice versa for the depths.  Again, visualize the guardian while saluting.

    ΙΩ ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take thy place in the Heights!
    ΙΩ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take thy place in the Depths!

  4. Return to the original direction.  Face forward with arms extended out to the sides, visualizing all the guardians around you in their proper stations, with yourself luminous and casting light out in all directions.  Intone the following salutation:

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ in the Center of All!

    If you wish, mentally intone the name of your HGA as you physically say the word ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ.

And that’s basically what I do when calling on the guardians of the directions, although I’m thinking of changing it up some.  As I’ve mentioned before, the guardians of the heights and the depths don’t feel in the same current as those of the four directions; they do respond, just not with the same force or oomph as the other four.  For a general preliminary invocation, I’m probably just going to drop the salutation of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, though I will keep the self-proclamation of ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ as a preliminary centering act before other ritual work.

Admittedly, it’s been not that easy for me to contact the four guardians, but when I have, they’ve indicated that they’re not strictly separate, just as the four points on a circle aren’t really separate but part of the same line.  Instead, they told me that they’re definitely stations, managers, or “reflections” of the Sun at the four corners of the world.  This is fascinating in retrospect, since I only really fully realized what this meant after reviewing PGM II.64 in light of the consecration of the twelve faces of Helios, which is a much more recent study.  However, they do have separate powers and presences, and although they are best called together, one will usually predominate, the one that represents the quarter of the sky that the Sun is currently in.

I’m a dunce for not recognizing this sooner or picking out the patterns, but this has led me to think of a new ritual dedicated just to the salutations of the four faces of the Sun in the two realms of the Heights and the Depths.  It’s turned out a bit like Liber Resh, about which I’m unsure about how I feel, but it’s a good PGM-centric alternative to be used by those who don’t have a taste for Crowley’s rituals.  Again, when I say “noon” or “midnight”, I mean astronomical noon/midnight, not necessarily clock noon/midnight, since things like summer time or DST may leave you an hour early or late to the appropriate station.

  1. At sunrise, hail the rising Sun in the East crossing the boundary from the Depths to the Heights.  Face the rising Sun at the East, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the winged dragon-serpent with a crown of clouds taking reign over the East.

    ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, you who are Helios who rise now from the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ into the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take your place in the East as you come from the North, quelling all discord as you bring bright force to dark space!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΕΡΒΗΘ!

  2. At noon, hail the bright Sun in the South at the zenith of the Heights.  Face the noontime Sun at the South, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the solar golden falcon with fire emanating from his wings taking reign over the South.

    ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, you who are Helios who surmount now onto the highest heights of the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ, take your place in the South as you come from the East, sending upon us radiant fire and life-giving heat!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ!

  3. At sunset, hail the setting Sun in the West crossing the boundary from the Heights to the Depths.  Face the setting Sun at the West, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the snake-tailed crocodile sinking below the oceanic waters taking reign over the West.

    ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, you who are Helios who sink now from the realm of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ into the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take your place in the West as you come from the South, shedding cold water as you cleanse hot day with cool night!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ!

  4. At midnight, hail the reborn Sun in the North at the nadir of the Depths.  Face the midnight Sun at the North, with the right foot forward and right hand raised in salutation, visualizing the form of the sacred naked child enthroned on a blossoming lotus in the mud taking reign over the North.

    ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, you who are Helios who set now upon the darkest depths of the realm of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ, take your place in the North as you move from the West, reborn as king from the virgin womb of the world!

    Extend both arms outward with the feet together.

    For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ standing before you, calling upon you who are ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ!

Looking back at this ritual, we can begin to see something resembling a solar-elemental attribution to the four directions: east has a crown of clouds to clear the airs, so Air; south has heat and light, so Fire; west has coldness and water, so Water; north has the lotus in the mud, so Earth.  This…well, huh.  This is the same as the Enochian/Neopagan/Golden Dawn system of directional-elemental attributions.  I’ll be damned; I didn’t expect to see this kind of thing pop up here, of all places, but it’s cool to see that maybe, just maybe, if we were to extrapolate this ritual out a bit into the powers of the four elements, it could tie itself into more modern forms of Hermetic or angelic magic.

Anyway, this new approach I’m planning incorporates the four cardinal directions as the Sun travels between the two realms, without recognizing the guardians ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ in the same way as the other four guardians, while also asserting the power of the self through the presence of ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ.  I’m planning on taking this approach in the future as opposed to the mini-invocation before rituals as well as when calling on the guardians themselves for their own sake or for a more concerted purpose than just having their presence upon me.  Like, I could supplement the self-proclamation at the end of the salutation with a libation or offering to the Sun, as well as any personal requests.  It’s a possibility I’d like to explore, at least to learn more about these four spirits.

For instance, I was in the habit of calling all the guardians at once on the night of the full Moon to make offerings to them, when either ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ (if between sunset and midnight) or ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ (if between midnight and sunrise) would dominate the conversation, with the guardians of the Heights and of the Depths kinda just hanging back and the other three guardians of the cardinal directions just kinda…being mute.  Instead of doing that, I could dedicate the time to making four separate invocations, calling on each guardian of the direction separately as the Sun reaches its proper station, recognizing the guardian into whose realm the Sun was reaching or traveling to or from, and meditating or communing with the Sun through its proper face at the given quarter of the day-night cycle.

Such a ritual invoking the four faces of the Sun at the four stations of the day-night cycle could be done, really, any day, but I’d think that it’d be best done at a time when the Moon is full or close to it, so that the Moon could represent the magus as the one who receives the light of the Sun and who is “standing before” the Sun.  For a similar reason, the full Moon is the time when the most possible light is shed upon the Earth, both from the Sun on one side and the full reflection of the Sun’s light upon and from the Moon on the other.  It’s a highly luminous time, and one when the most possible benefit could be obtained from the Sun.  Alternatively, a day when the Sun is otherwise powerful, such as on that of an election, the summer solstice, or when the Sun reaches his exaltation point at 18° Aries, would be especially nice.

However, this ritual done in its entirety wouldn’t be suitable as a framing ritual like the shorter invocation would be from before.  For that, perhaps this variant would suffice:

ΙΩ ΕΡΒΗΘ, take your place in the East between dark ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ and bright ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ!
ΙΩ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ, take your place in the South at the zenith of ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ!
ΙΩ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, take your place in the West between hot ΑΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ and cool ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ!
ΙΩ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ, take your place in the North at the nadir of ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ!
For I am ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ in the Center of All!

And, of course, I write all the above from my comfortable position in the northern hemisphere, where the Sun rises into the southern skies and sets into the northern skies.  For my readers in the southern hemisphere, where the case is reversed, you might try reversing the attributions of the names and directions as necessary, so that you’d have ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ (noon) in the north and ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ (midnight) in the south, moving counterclockwise instead of clockwise, and so forth.

Towards a Greek Kabbalah: Why the Alexandrian Tree Isn’t Really a Thing

So, let’s clear up some naming terminology before we continue this thread of thought.  Because there are different traditions of qabbalah depending on religion, I’m going to differentiate between them all using the following spellings:

  • Kabbalah (with “k”): Jewish
  • Qabbalah (with “q”): Hermetic
  • Cabala (with “c”): Christian
  • Kampala (with “k” but “mp” instead of “b”): my new Greek framework

Alright.  If I want to end up with what’s effectively a Greek kabbalah, the system of kampala is going to need to fulfill several requirements:

  1. Provide a cosmological framework that allows for the ten spheres of the cosmos (Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Fixed Stars, Divinity)
  2. Provide a cosmological map that allows for traversing the spheres of the cosmos with paths that connect them together
  3. Provide a mapping between the paths of the map with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet
  4. Provide a means of starting from awareness on the Earth sphere (where the majority of us live and operate on a day-to-day basis) and reaching any other sphere by means of the paths, especially that of Divinity
  5. Provide a description of the creation of the cosmos by means of the cosmological framework and mapping
  6. Provide a means of correspondence to link other forces, concepts, objects, etc. to the paths and spheres on the framework and map
  7. Be rooted primarily in Neoplatonic and Pythagorean thought, referencing Hermeticism as necessary without relying on explicitly Jewish principles that are not also present in Hermeticism

I’m sure there will be other requirements as we come along, but so far, so good.

The whole business with wanting to work with a Greek kabbalah started when I found the Rosicrucian Archives site, which contains a series of posts describing a Greek kabbalah with a Tree of Life with 24 paths.  The spheres themselves are the same as those of the sephiroth on the Jewish Tree, just with their names in Greek.  Most of the paths are the same as on the standard Hermetic qabbalah tree, except that two paths were removed (between spheres 2/6 and 3/6) and four paths were added (between spheres 3/4, 2/5, 1/5, and 1/4).  The paths were numbered in a different way than the Golden Dawn did with their Kircher tree, with the first letter of the Greek alphabet Alpha being assigned to the path between spheres 9/10 and working upward from there.  The picture they use is highly similar to the one given in Stephen Flowers’ Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Papyrus of Abaris, where he gives the image as “the form of the Kabbalistic ‘Tree of Life’ as it might have been framed by the Hellenistic cosmologists” when giving an overview of Neoplatonic cosmology.  Both trees are presented below; the paths are the same, as far as I can tell, while the names differ slightly for the spheres.

It’s an interesting Tree, and the analysis the Rosicrucian Archives gives to describe the internal logic of the Tree is a fascinating read, though with a sometimes purposely obtuse and obnoxiously mysterious style.  They also use the same stoicheic associations I do when assigning the Greek letters to the planets, elements, and Zodiac signs, which is a nice addition, and make use of those distinctions an important part in their analysis.  As might be expected from a Rosicrucian organization, the analysis is steeped in Christian theology, which is appropriate and not that much a stretch; after all, if Hebrew is the language of the Jews, Greek can arguably be said to be the language of the early Christians, especially since that’s the original script of the New Testament.  Stephen Flowers, on the other hand, leaves much more wanting when it comes to describing the Tree and kabbalah generally; he claims that “it has long been suspected that the cosmology of the Hebrew Kabbalah—as outlined in the Sefer Yetzirah and the Zohar—was based on a now lost Greek original”.  Mentally, I’m just throwing in [citation needed] tags all over his book nowadays, though it was useful to get started with as a basic, though fanciful, primer.  He claims that the “restored [Neoplatonic kabbalah] is based on simple principles using the classic cosmological pattern inherited by the Hebrew Kabbalah together with what we know of the Hellenistic philosophical tradition”.

If anything in this world is simple, the cosmology and patterns present in Jewish kabbalah aren’t it.

At any rate, I liked this schema, since it already fit nicely with what I already do and simply changed a few of the paths near the top of the Tree around.  Nothing big, right?  Well, as my ponderings from last time indicated, the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to work with this system.  What was substantially different?  Different numbering of the paths?  Big deal, plenty of Trees have been used by different traditions with different success.  Different associations of stoicheia on the paths?  Crowley himself changed the Star and Emperor, and thus their stoicheia, around on the Golden Dawn Tree.  Different paths towards the top?  Even the Golden Dawn had the use of several Trees, as did the Jewish kabbalists before them.  Even with the different coating of Greek bark, the Tree was still kabbalah, and relies on connections and culture that don’t fit quite right for me.  Even though it’s used by most modern Western magicians nowadays, what (maybe) works for them doesn’t dictate what will work for me.

Besides, even as a matter of correctness, there’s no real evidence to show that this Alexandrian Tree of Life is anything more than a fanciful mental exercise in what I was going to get myself engaged with.  Kieren Barry in his “The Greek Qabalah” describes many uses of the Greek letters in understanding the forces of the cosmos, but (chapter 6):

On the evidence we have seen, it is plainly incorrect to state that there are only a few correspondences to the letters of the Greek alphabet along the lines of those found much later in the Hebrew Qabalah.*  It is also anachronistic, as well as completely pointless, to attempt to project Hebrew Qabalistic symbolism onto the Greek alphabet, or to imagine anything so historically impossible as an “Alexandrian Tree of Life,” as has been done.**  It is hoped that the extensive Greek letter symbolism examined above is enough to put an end to any perceived need for this unnecessary practice by those with a background in Hebrew Qabalah.

* (47) See for example, D. Godwin, Light in Extension—Greek Magic from Modern to Homeric Times (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1992), pp. 197-198.  Through historical error, Godwin also unfortunately alleges that the Milesian system “which seems to have originated around 400 B.C., more or less copies the Hebrew/Phoenician system”; all of which is quite wrong.
** (48) See for example, S. Flowers, Hermetic Magic (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1995), a forgettable mixture of historical fact and personal fantasy.

In other words, Barry is of the opinion that the Greek letters are alive and well with their own internal symbolism and meaning, as well as those of the stoicheia behind them linking them to the elements and astrology, but nothing in the classical world along the lines of today’s kabbalah with the Hebrew script.  Like Greek letters, Hebrew letters have their own symbolism and biographies, with whole personalities and worlds within each letter.  Greek letters have the same, tailored just for themselves and not borrowed from another script.  To borrow the meanings of Hebrew kabbalistic practice, though, into Greek wholesale is folly.

Barry says that “the extensive Greek letter symbolism examined above is enough to put an end to any perceived need for this unnecessary practice [of making an Alexandrian Tree] by those with a background in Hebrew Qabalah”, and I agree with him.  However, where we may diverge (he’s not explicit with this) is that I think a method of understanding a creation of the world by letters, which are numbers, in a systematic and coherent way is worthy of our attention.  Thus, if the Alexandrian Tree of Life won’t do, something else needs to be made in its place that not only achieves the same ends but in a way more faithful to the Greek philosophic tradition.