Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Real Meaning of Io Evohe!

The phrase "Io Evohe" is used very commonly in Wicca, on loan from the western mystery schools. For a long time, I thought these were just "barbarous words." A little research showed they are not. I got curious if there was a translation for this phrase.

Barbarous words are made up of seed sounds strung together to create nonsensical words. We sometimes say nonsense because the sounds have a transformative nature on the mind of the speaker as a result of the particular vibrations the sounds make. Sound can transform the mind. This can be true particularly with the names of some deities, which can be chanted to modify your inner self.

The first word of the phrase is very simple. It is the Latin translation of the Egyptian, Isis, goddess of fertility.

The second word is a bit more complex. Collins English Dictionary tells us that "evohe" is a variant of "evoe," which is "an exclamation of Bacchic frenzy."

As is common when transcribing from Latin to a Germanic language, the original upsilon (u), which was often represented by the character we now know as a "v," stayed intact but was likely misunderstood. So we need not hold tightly to the spellings we can read above.

On the website,, is an article revealing all of the many names of Dionysus. A particular entry stands out (highlights mine).

Évios - (Euius; Gr. Εὔιος, ΕΥΙΟΣ) Évios is an epithet of Diónysos referring to the ecstatic howl of joy, εὐαἵεὐοἱ, made by the God and those who worshipped him and participated in his orgies.
- Lexicon entry: Εὔιος (Εὔἱος EM391.15, cf. Lat. Euhius), , name of Bacchus, from the cry εὐαἵ, εὐοἱ, in lyr. passages; Εὔιος, = Βάκχος.  II. εὔιος, ον, as Adj., Bacchic. (L&S p. 717, left column, edited for simplicity.)- "Cornutus, the tutor of the Roman poet Persius (ed. 34-62 BCE), tells us that the wine treaders invoked the God by various names, such as 'Bakchos' and 'Euios.' [Cornutus, Theologiae graecae compendium XXIX.] Reference to these scenes was made at the Second Council of Constantinople, the Trullianum, in the year 691 A.D. Until that date the wine treaders still cried out 'Dionysos,' but this was now forbidden. [μἡ τὸ τοῦ βδελυκτοῦ Διονύσου ὄνομα τοὑς τὴν σταϕυλὴν ἐκθλίβοντας ἐν τοῖς ληνοῖς ἐπιβοᾶν, cited by P. Koukoules, Βυζαντινῶν βίος καὶ πολιτισμός , p. 293.]"  (Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life by Carl Kerényi, 1976, Princeton Univ. Press. p. 67) 
- (ed. Évios is a) name of Dionysos, implying, Well done, my son! words ascribed to Zeus, when he saw Bacchus returning victoriously from combating the Giants. Evoe, or Evan, was the exclamation with which the Bacchanals invoked their God during the celebration of his orgies. (CM*p.181)

The invocative shout mentioned above didn't just fall into obscurity. In 1903, Ginn & Company published Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges by J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge, A. A. Howard, Benj. L. D'Ooge, Ed. The names of both deities above are cited as interjections of joy (highlights mine).
 225. Some Interjections are mere natural exclamations of feeling; others are derived from inflected parts of speech, e.g. the imperatives emlo (probably for emetake); agecome, etc. Names of deities occur in herclē pol(from Pollux ), etc. Many Latin interjections are borrowed from the Greek, as eugeeuhoe, etc.

 226. The following list comprises most of the Interjections in common use:
ōēnecce ehempapae vāh (of astonishment).
ēvaeēvoeeuhoe (of joy).
heu ē˘heuvaealas (of sorrow).
heusehoehodumho (of calling); sthist.êia euge (of praise).
prō (of attestation): as, prō pudorshame!1 Some of these have been included in the classification of adverbs. See also list of Correlatives. § 152.

I should note that the Order of the Golden Dawn was gaining popularity in Britain and America in 1903. No other occult organization had as much impact on the contemporary witchcraft movement as did the Golden Dawn. The majority of the ritual concepts that are used today were codified and transmitted by the Golden Dawn.

By shouting "Io Evohe," a witch is effectively shouting, as an exclamation of joy, the names of a female and male fertility deity, "Isis! Bacchus!" Now you (and I) can put one of thousands of witch questions to bed.

Update: It was brought to my attention that all of this may not help those who want to bother with original pronunciation. For those who don't, it is always acceptable to pronounce this phrase traditionally, which is "EE-oh ee-voh-HAY."

Both Latin and Greek had a series of rules for establishing which syllable was stressed. Usually, the "penultimate" (second to last) syllable was pronounced unless it had a short vowel in it. In that case, the emphasis shifted to the "ante-penultimate" syllable (next to the second to last, that is, the third to last). There were always exceptions that put the emphasis on the last syllable.

In the case of "Io," there are only vowels present. Though some vowels create diphthongs, there is no diphthong for i+o, so these are separate syllables. Using the rule above and Latin pronunciation gives us "EE-oh." This is assuming the Latin O comes from the Greek omega, rather than the Greek omicron. If it was originally an omicron, the name could be spoken as "EE-aw" rhyming with the phrase "Be off."

The other name could have several pronunciations. Church Latin pronounced V as a V, while classical Latin pronounced it as W. Also, the use of H is interesting. In Greek, the H is the vowel Eta, which sounds like "eh." Interestingly, this word has another spelling, which drops the H to become "evoe." This could be a clue that the original word was Greek and the H was the Eta, rather than the breathy letter we know in English. This means the vowel, eta, immediately precedes a diphthong of "oe." All of these vowels blend into a sound that is kind of like "oy,"  This would make the pronunciation something close to "EY-voy" or "EY-woy" depending on your preference for either the modern or the classic Latin pronunciation.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Planetary Rulers of the Hours, from Scratch

As part of the Grimoiric Magical Tradition of the Middle Ages, wisdom from more ancient cultures contributed to the development of a complex magical theory. Alchemy, astrology, and mediumship all helped to shape the traditions that made up a complex ceremonial  magical system, parts of which have survived to today. Within the realm of medieval astrology is a system of determining the most auspicious times for magical workings, which is still used by witches today.

In the expanse of the sky above us, float the stars and planets. Their movement has influenced the magical schools that have developed around the globe since humans had the capacity to look up. Planets got their name from the fact that they were a special kind of star that wandered through the fixed stars (planētai means “wanderers”). There were 5 planets visible with the naked eye to the first civilizations.

Highly accomplished astronomers, the Babylonians had a complex theology surrounding these planets, believing that the planets were deities, each one governing the universe from a transparent sphere, called a “heaven,” that revolved around the Earth. Each sphere was larger than the last and enveloped the smaller spheres, much like layers of an onion, with the Earth at the center. 

Ptolemy organized the 5 planets, along with the Sun and the Moon, based on their speed, so 7 heavens encased the Earth with the Moon being the fastest and closest to Earth, then Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and finally Saturn, which was the slowest.

The sphere outside of Saturn was the heaven that held the field of immovable stars, including the Zodiac. Outside of that were the divine spheres. Before birth and after death, every soul had to come or go from Earth by passing through the heavens. As we passed through these levels, our spirits would pick up personal qualities - affected by being exposed to the powerful vibration of these spheres.

This was the origin of what we now know as Astrology, because it was postulated that the spheres would influence behavior. These heavenly spheres were viewed as endowing their power, not just on the spirits of people, but also on the moments of the day and on the days of the week. The priests of each deity would calculate the most auspicious times in every day to work with their patrons.

It’s a common practice today to reference a table of the rulers of the planetary hours before casting a spell. This gives us the chance to do our spell work during a time of day that vibrates with the most appropriate magical “frequency” for the intended purpose. There are many good online calculators that can provide you with a very quick and accurate table of hourly rulers. But what if you can’t use an online tool? What if you’re doing your spells in a cabin in the woods with no internet access? Every witch should have the ability to chart the rulers of the hours. Once you understand how these rulers came to be, you can create that chart easily from memory.

We have seven days of the week and each day belongs to one of the planetary rulers to be the primary ruler of the whole day. Sunday ("Sun-day") is the most obvious example and the primary ruler is the Sun. Monday and Saturday are ruled over by the Moon (“Moon-day”) and Saturn ("Saturn's-day"), respectively. The remaining days of the week are based on their association with Norse deities. Tuesday is ruled by Týr ("Týr's-day"), Norse god of law and heroism, who corresponds to the Roman god, Mars. Wednesday is ruled by Woden ("Woden's-day") who corresponds to the Roman god Mercury; both are gods of travelers, magic and learning. Thursday is ruled by the Norse god of thunder ("Thor's-day") and corresponds to the Roman god, Jupiter.  Venus, goddess of love, who is seen in the Norse pantheon as Freya ("Freya's-day") rules Friday.

A ruler of a day governs the first hour, which begins at dawn. The rulers of each of the subsequent hours are laid out in a specific order that forever repeats throughout the 24 hours of each of the seven days of the week. Let’s start with an example day – Monday – which is ruled by the Moon. This means that the Moon will always be the ruler of the first hour on Mondays. Each daily period following the Moon’s governance will be ruled by one of the remaining six planets, but always in the same sequence. To find this sequence, write out a repeating sequence of the planets in order from slowest to fastest. We know the Moon is ruler of the first hour on Mondays and it is the fastest planet, so it is the last planet in the speed sequence; we must return to the slowest planet and begin the sequence again. The second hour will be Saturn, the third will be Jupiter, then Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and lastly, the Moon again. Continue to repeat that sequence until there are 24 rulers on your list. You have listed the sequence of the rulers of all the hours from sunrise on any Monday, through the night time, to sunrise on the following Tuesday morning.

If you continued the sequence into Tuesday and the remaining hours of the week, you would create a chart like the one below. Notice how the sequence for all the hours of the week flows from day into night, then into the next day, then continues without change through all the hours of each day and night for the rest of the week. The sequence determines which day of the week has arrived because of the particular ruler of the first hour. Hour 1 of the daytime always begins with sunrise. Hour 1 of the night time (or hour 13 in some tables) always begins with sunset.

In the contemporary age, the period of the day that we call an “hour” is a specific length – always 60 minutes, each made up of 60 seconds. But the hours ruled over by each of the planetary rulers are not always 60 minutes long. This is because the Babylonians reckoned their hour, not as a set length as we do, but as one-twelfth of the total amount of daylight time or darkness. That is, both the day time and the night time, separately, were divided into twelve equal periods based on sunrise and sunset. Starting on the Equinoxes, the amount of daylight we experience between sunrise and sunset is more than 12 hours in spring and summer and less than 12 hours in autumn and winter. So if we are in spring or summer, when the day time totals more than 12 hours, each one-twelfth period of that time is going to last greater than 60 minutes. In autumn or winter, each one-twelfth period will be less than 60 minutes. Clearly, continuing to call these periods "hours" is confusing, so I will only call them periods from this point onward.

To determine the length of each period, you will first need to know the times of sunrise and sunset. The times of sunrise and sunset are actually calculated by astronomers based on your location on the globe and the date of interest. They will be different for each latitude because of the curvature of the Earth, the tilt of its axis and the date. These times are commonly published in local newspapers and almanacs, as well as pagan calendars, but are also readily available online through reliable sites like NOAA. For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that we looked in our almanac to find that our sunrise time will be 6:42 AM, our sunset time will be 7:32 PM and we decided that the best period for our spell will be the hour of Mars.

Step 1: Convert the sunset time into the 24-hour clock.
Simply add 12 to any time between 1:00 PM and 11:59 PM. For example, a sunset of 7:32 PM will become 19:32.

Step 2: Convert clock times into decimal hours.
This allows us to use standard math until the very end. The arithmetic of decimals works easily on a calculator, while arithmetic of clock time does not. Doing these calculations on paper is even worse! You can convert clock times into decimal hours by dividing just the minutes by 60. So our sunrise time of 6:42 AM will become 6.78 (42 ÷ 60 = 0.78). Our sunset time of 19:32 will become 19.53 (32 ÷ 60 = 0.53).

Step 3: Subtract the smaller clock time from the larger.
19.53 – 6.78 = 12.75 hours
This result is the amount total of daylight time that will shine on our Monday; there are 12.75 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset.

Step 4: Divide this total time by 12.
12.75 hours ÷ 12 periods = 1.06 hours/period
This means that every period ruled by each planet, beginning with the Moon, will be 1.06 hours long.

Step 5: Find the start and end of the period of interest.
Remember that our period of interest is ruled by Mars. If we refer to our list of the rulers of Monday, we find that Mars rules the 4th period. Multiply the length of the periods, which we found to be 1.06 hours/period, by the number of the period for Mars on our day, which is 4. This gives us a result of 4.24 (1.06 hours/period x 4 periods = 4.24 hours). The Mars period will end when the next period begins, so we can multiply by 5 to find the end time: 5.30 (1.06 hours/period x 5 periods = 5.30 hours).

Step 6: Add the period start and end times to the decimal time of sunrise.
Period of Mars, starts: 6.78 (sunrise) + 4.24 hours = 11.02
Period of Mars, ends: 6.78 (sunrise) + 5.30 hours = 12.08

Step 7: Convert both of the times back to clock time.
Simply multiply only the minutes by 60.
Period of Mars, starts: 11.02 becomes 11:01 AM (.02 x 60 = 1.2 minutes, rounded to 1).
Period of Mars, ends: 12.08 becomes 12:05 PM (.08 x 60 = 4.8 minutes, rounded to 5).

Step 8: Convert any result that is 24-hour time back to 12-hour time.
Subtract 12 from any clock times from 13 to 24.

As witches, we do most of our spells after sunset, when the darkness provides us with protection and secrecy and helps to generate the appropriate head-space. Finding the correct period after dark often produces more difficulty because of the transition from PM to AM at midnight. However, a simple reversal can resolve all difficulty, though the process seems unconventional. I find that the best way to handle the difficulty is to treat the night as if it was the day, then work all the steps normally.

Your periods will start with sunset and will end with the sunrise on the following date. Convert the AM times to 24-hour time, instead of the PM times. Complete all calculations the same. At the very end, convert any time between 13:00 and 23:59 back to 12-hour time as AM, instead of as PM.

I recommend keeping all values rounded to two decimal places until step 7. This minimizes any distortion of the period start times. I also find it helpful to ensure that my spell work happens at least 5 minutes past the chosen period start time, just to be sure I’m well past any minutes affected by rounding, putting me solidly into the correct period before I begin.

Whenever possible, I advocate using a reliable planetary rulers calculator, but if you can’t get to one, you should have this technique tucked in your book of shadows as a back-up plan.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Writing Your own Magickal Chants

Magical chants work very much like mantras. They provide for us a device that helps to focus our mind on the single task at hand – raising power. Just as a burning feeling builds in a muscle when it is repeatedly used, so the energy of the witch builds when one uses a chant.  When writing magical chants, there are a few principles to keep in mind to write the kind of chant to which generations after you will gravitate.


The process of thinking is a taxing one. The mind puts incredible energy into organizing all of the many thoughts that it processes. It is designed to seek out order, even to the point of creating patterns when none exist. This is a by-product of our mind clinging to the principle of cause and effect. “This happened because that happened first, right? Doesn’t everything happen for a reason?”

Because the mind loves patterns, rhythm, which is simply a pattern of sounds and silences, activates the storage ability of the mind very easily. Adding rhythm to chants makes them memorable, but it also makes them fun to speak, much like singing a song or humming a tune.

Rhyme, which is a manifestation of pattern, isn’t necessary to put in chants, but it does help the mind to more smoothly experience the patterns that it craves.

There are many rhythms already present in the world today. In both poetry and music, rhythm is typically called “beat.” Both poems and songs can provide you with some interesting rhythms to borrow when building a new chant. Remember how attractive – almost addictive to the ear –is the rhythm and rhyme in Poe’s The Raven? There is no reason to reinvent the beat in your chant from scratch.


Adding metaphor to chants is a great way of expanding your options when trying to compose a chant. To create metaphors, you look for associations between concepts that may be somewhat similar. For example, if someone is a coat-tail rider, you may also metaphorically refer to them as a flea on a dog. Fire is symbolic of passion, because the feeling acts as quickly and completely as does a burning flame. You can make connections between any of the properties or characteristics of two things to establish some kind of symbolism.

The Germanic peoples were particularly accomplished at a kind of metaphor called “kenning.” A kenning is a metaphor in which the description for one well-known thing is used to create the metaphorical name of something else. For example, if I had a particular dog that became somewhat famous for chasing the rabbits in the yard, I might metaphorically refer to all dogs in general as “bunny bullies,” which is simply a kenning for the word “dog.”


Many witches discount a chant’s atmosphere in an effort to score on rhythm and rhyme. Though you may have a very rhythmic and memorable chant, filled with all kinds of symbolism, you may still have a chant that doesn’t feel right when the circle is cast. Atmosphere is the overall feeling that a chant conveys. It creates a flavor, through the connotations built into the words of our cultures and languages, helping to paint a thorough picture of the scene in which a chant is most appropriate to use.

Many nursery rhymes feel childlike, because they were written to convey an atmosphere that was appropriate for children. Here is the earliest printed example (1881) of what we know today as “Ring around the Rosie.”
Ring-a-ring-a roses
A pocket full of posies;
Ashes, Ashes,
We all fall down!

Though this the rhyme’s connection to the Black Plague is highly contested, it could still make an excellent representation, through each line, of the symptoms, a possible ward, more symptoms and then the deadly result of the Plague. Yet its atmosphere is decidedly childlike.

To change the atmosphere of this rhyme, one could consult a thesaurus to find words with similar meaning, but darker connotations. I decided to consider each line and rewrite the same message using darker verbiage. Here’s how a darker rhyme about the Plague might look.
Big ole’ blackened bubo,
Posy hurled high and low;
Cinders, cinders
No one sees the dawn.

Though the atmosphere might still feel a bit childlike, perhaps because most of us cannot help but hear the original words in our minds when we hear that particular rhythm, the new rhythm is decidedly darker.

Creating a darker atmosphere is particularly important for chants that ward or curse, as these actions require a seriousness in our moods that help to keep us focused on the particular intent. Here’s a chant I wrote to disturb the thoughts of anyone who may be opposing you. It isn’t necessarily for cursing, but it can create a kerfuffle in the mind of someone competing for the same job as you.
Stones and sticks and broken bits,
Wreck and ruin rival wits.


By leveraging metaphor and atmosphere together, you ensure that the chant represents the appropriate theme for your spell. Your spell’s intent should have a picture – a kind of mental snapshot representing in one mental image everything for which the spell is cast. That picture should be well represented by your chant. Certainly, there are chants that are good for general use, because they represent general pagan concepts or have very little connotations attached to the words that comprise them. But most chants need to be thematically related to the spell being cast. For example, the previous chant would not be appropriate to use as a healing chant.

A witch’s spell written by children’s book writer, Mary Norton in 1943 and represented in the Disney film, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, shows lots of rhythm and the atmosphere is just right. It is a spell for turning any creature into a white rabbit.
Filigree, Apogee, Pedigree, Perigee

What makes it thematically correct is that it uses some higher level vocabulary including two from science (apogee and perigee) and a word relating to animals (pedigree), yet the words are relatively obscure for common speech, almost to the point of being esoteric. So the mind could perfectly agree that this chant could be a valid spell for turning a human into an animal. The key here is that the mind can agree with the appropriateness of the chant. Since most people’s minds are a bit flexible, one doesn’t have to be literal, but one shouldn’t wander too far off target either.


The last quality that is important in a chant is maintaining some degree of simplicity. Despite that the mind remembers things rather well when it has the help of rhythm, chants need to do more than simply stick in the mind. They also need to be spoken with ease. Unfortunately, our minds move more quickly than do our mouths.

The sounds we speak are made by the muscular flexibility and quickness of a variety of structures, including lips, tongue, jaw, vocal cords and diaphragm. We use all of these harmoniously, or else we wouldn’t speak with very much precision. We tend to worry about speaking with precision because no one wants their communication to be constantly misunderstood. But when we put together sounds at which we aren’t very practiced at making repeatedly, our bodies can’t move quickly or precisely enough to form them precisely.

As a witch gets further into the ecstatic moment – closer to the moment of release - this precision may become so unimportant that one may be simply muttering nonsense (rhythmically). But at the start of a chant, we need to minimize the difficulty. Too much oral difficulty steals focus. We begin to worry, even unconsciously, that we aren’t speaking correctly. Our brain starts putting more and more of its focus into the acrobatics of the mouth, which means we are not giving that focus to the intent of our spell.

Some poetic devices can be useful for creating the sought-after chant simply, but those same devices can also work against you. Alliteration puts the same sound at the beginning of concurrent beats. As in our previous example, “stones and sticks and broken bits,” there are two alliterative phrases (a repeating “s,” followed by a repeating “b”) that flow easily off the tongue. But be wary that too many repeating sounds may be too difficult to speak. A chant should not be a tongue twister. Unfortunately, there are no rules that apply. You will simply have to try the chant aloud to discover if it trips up your mouth.

A great chant will check all the boxes. It will be memorable, easy to speak without tying up the tongue, metaphorically describe the theme of the spell and convey the atmosphere of the theme. Often you will unconsciously know that it is a good chant because you will find that you, as well as others who may use it, will gravitate back to that chant over again. Well-made chants will seem to take on a life of their own, making themselves a part of your magickal tradition.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Family Ancestry and Veneration

The following topic could possibly illicit some horrible reactions. Given that everyone wants to be focused on issues of racism and cultural misappropriation these days, there may be an assumption that this entry is about race. To address that, I have to first note that this is my blog and I can write whatever I want, because until further notice, I do still have the freedom to express myself. You, the reader, also have the freedom to navigate away from my words and not read them. Secondly, let me note that this blog entry is not about race at all, it is about families and their cultures. If you can't separate the two in your head, you need to stop reading now and go away.

The honoring of our past relatives is extremely important. Without diving into an extremely long blog entry on why it's important, just follow me down this thought path. Wouldn't you rather your descendants remember and honor you, instead of completely forgetting you? If you aren't going to leave a significant mark on this world through an invention or some major discovery, don't you at least want the mark you leave (your progeny) to recognize your contribution to their existence? And if the previous is true for you, why wouldn't you want to provide the same recognition to those who were responsible for your existence so that they are not forgotten? You exist because of them. To me, that alone makes them worthy of honor.

I'm not going to get into what you should do in ritual practice to honor your ancestors. Some great insights can be found in a book that I love because it is completely on target and appropriately written. It is also briefer than most books, as ancestor veneration is more about action and feeling than about research and "doing things right." If you can get it, read through Weaving Memory: A Guide to Honoring the Ancestors by Laura Patsouris.

Update, Oct. 19, 2017: I've recently learned that Laura Patsouris suffered some medical issues and so her book is out of print with no hope of new editions. If you can get it at a library, I encourage you to do so, but please respect that libraries are for everyone by not stealing this book from circulation. It darkens all of us to have knowledge stolen away.
Additionally, Raven Kaldera, the Managing Editor of the imprint for Laura's book has revealed that many of the articles written for Laura's book have been reprinted in a new book, along with new material by others. The book is called Calling to Our Ancestors by Sarenth Odinsson. Raven writes that "over half this book is the same (as Laura's)."

You may think it a gripe of semantics, but I should note that what I am exploring here is not called "ancestor worship." The word worship is tossed around a great deal, particularly in relation to this topic and by those who understand it very little. One can show honor to a deity that one worships - indeed, honor can be one expression of worship. But worship is what one does for deities, not for the spirits of the dead. As a result, calling this "ancestor worship" is incorrect. Doing so also incorrectly communicates to those who don't understand (and may be seeking to) exactly what we are doing, allowing them to have a misguided view of what we believe. I am not addressing here whether or not the dead can become deified; that is certainly possible. Rather, I am addressing what it is correctly called when one honors one's ancestors, albeit in a ritualized manner. A commonly used and acceptable word is veneration, since veneration is synonymous with reverence.

I should note that making appeals to ancestors for aid is also not worship, though it is an extremely common and valid magical practice. It is a practice seen in Catholic appeals to the Saints, as well as in Hoohoo appeals to the (named or unnamed) dead. One is not worshiping the dead when one makes an appeal to a dead spirit any more than one is worshiping the living when one asks for help from a living person. You can better hold onto the understanding of this concept by remembering that the dead are simply "the formerly living." One can venerate the living, but does not worship the living.

Because of the importance and power of names (you can read a bit more about that in this entry), knowing the names of your ancestors is extremely helpful and powerful. Upon first learning the name of a previously unknown ancestor, my mind swirls with speculation of the culture, the time, the whole world in which that person must have lived! Learning names breathes life into your ancestors - like peering through a window in which the past is on the other side. Of course, one can only learn names by doing research. Though you may not be good at research, it is the most effective and powerful non-ritual method of honoring your ancestors. Once you know their names, they are no longer forgotten. What could be a greater gesture of honor than making someone no longer forgotten? To advance my own practices of veneration, I have been researching my own ancestors for many years and I've worked very hard to discover their names.

Does this mean one can't do ancestor veneration unless one knows the names of one's ancestors? Certainly not! It is completely valid to conduct an act of veneration for those who are unnamed. I have personally made appeals to certain unnamed ancestors asking them to reveal themselves in my research, only to have a new ancestral record become available that reveals their name!

There are a few practices that are traditionally frowned upon, mostly by the Hoodoo culture, when conducting ancestor veneration. I'm going to review a few and provide my two cents about each.

  1. Veneration should never be conducted in a room where people sleep. I have no problem with enforcing this, unless one lives in a single studio room that includes one's bed, or there are sleeping people everywhere. If the rule would exclude the practice altogether, one needs to evaluate the spirit of the rule. Some have claimed that the dead can disturb the dreams of the living and make sleeping not very restful. But then my logic asks, "if they are your family, and disturbing your dreams would make you not venerate them, why would they do that to you and halt your veneration?" If one has to put one's veneration in a bedroom, the entire arrangement should be draped in a white cloth except when in use.
  2. Offerings of food are okay, as long as there is no salt or animal flesh provided. Does this mean no ice-cream? My dad loved butter pecan ice-cream. If I was going to make an offering of food, that would be what I'd offer. But is milk an animal flesh? I have to ask why food is even necessary at all. Aren't they no longer living? I would advise not to use any kind of food in your veneration practices. I think the desire to give food to the dead comes from anthropomorphizing what is no longer human. Yes, they are "formerly living" people, but a transformation happens to them when they give up their material body. Once the dead give up their bodies, the desires that are motivated by material life fall away. All of the energy that is needed by spirits can come from the veneration practice. The salt simply comes from the tradition that salt blocks the movement of energy.
  3. Images of the dead should not include anyone who is living. I completely agree with this one and here's why. An altar is a ritual focal point. It is where you pump your magical energy. If that energy incorporates an unconscious understanding that the target is dead, yet there are images of the living present, those living people could become the recipient of that energy for the dead. That could be disturbing to the psyche of the living. It could potentially cause problems as your energy for the dead constantly bombards their personal field. Given that computer-based scanners and photo editors are easy use these days, there is no reason why the living can't be excluded from altar photographs. When in doubt, leave it out.
  4. Ancestors who were abusive or substance-abusers in life should not be venerated in death. The intent behind this rule is to prevent you from granting access to your energy to spirits with potentially hostile intent. Again, I have a tiny bit of trouble with this one for the same reason I gave in #2 above; this is an attempt to anthropomorphize the dead. According to the writings of spirtist, Allan Kardec, once spirits give up their material bodies, all of the trials that motivated their actions in life fall away. They become free from those material influences and their motivations change, as do their actions. However, he also sites the distinction between the 9 levels or types of spirit energy. Some of these are immortal and some of these are not. Those that are not have a time limit before they completely dissipate, though they will attempt to avert decay with influxes of energy from the living. According to some, these soul-remnants can retain the base inclinations of life and can make some spirits quite nasty. So I must admit, I'm willing to concede this rule and omit certain dead from my place of veneration.

Recently, I decided to have my DNA tested for the proportions of genetics contributed by each of my ancestral origins. But if I look at the research I've already done, as well as the extensive research completed by my uncle in this area, I think I can chart a solid expectation of my test results. Let's assume that my family history breaks down into 8 main lines (my 8 great-grandparents). This is what I expect.

Mother's grandparents:
1. Line traced to 1741; German (the earliest was a "Hessian" captured by General Washington when he crossed the Delaware)
2. Line traced to 1670; German
3. Line traced to 1915; records for this line are undiscovered; possibly German
4. Line traced to 1590; British and Netherlander

Father's grandparents:
1. Line traced to 1811; German and British
2. Line traced to 1622; Scots Irish and British
3. Line traced to 1291; Swedish, then French, then British
4. Line traced to 1794; German (Franconia/Bavaria) and from where my surname comes.

Nearly all of the mentioned family lines settled in the western Maryland and south-central Pennsylvania areas as early American colonists. They were farmers and a very solid part of the colonial Pennsylvania Germans (the "Dutch"), though not of the Anabaptist groups.

I expect that my test will show a large amount of northern and central European (Germanic) heritage. I may find that most of my family is centered in one small area of Europe; I may find that there are hidden or unknown cultures about which I never knew. I don't expect to see very much from any other cultures on other continents, but it would be a fun surprise to know I had more in the mix, such as, Hispanic, African, American Indian or even a far eastern culture.

Being made up of mixed cultures means I have more complexity to tap when I honor my ancestors. Ancestral veneration practices are only partially built and executed for you. Mostly, they are done for the dead. You give them what you think they want. This means that a past ancestor may respond favorably if one uses practices that are based on one's familiar culture. Like the living, the dead prefer to have familiar things around. when one has many cultures contributing, the arrangement can become wonderfully "patchworked." Consider it like this: if you were a spirit being honored by one of your descendants, wouldn't you like to see some familiar elements from your own culture woven into the effort, instead of veneration that doesn't tip its hat to your culture in the least? As a result, your practices may seem like a cultural hodge-podge. That's entirely alright. What's most important is that you do something - anything - to show them honor and pay them some memory. Your practice can be as simple as lighting a candle, saying a prayer of honor and thanks, then blowing out the candle.Yep, it's that easy!

Ancestor veneration also achieves something wonderful. It gives you a moment of daily meditation. You can use the memory of your ancestors on which to focus, much like a mantra. These moments of meditation slowly transform your mind to be more receptive to intuitive skills. Not only will you grow closer to your familial dead, you will become more receptive to their messages and more adept at spell work in general.

Now for the racial part that is going to make people upset. Just as there were many different cultures produced by racially white people, there were also many cultures produced by racially black people and brown people and yellow people and red people. Every tribe, clan, country and region produced its own cultural practices that it held dear. Honoring those, rather than thinking that some are more valid or desirable than others, is what's most important during ancestor veneration. Whether you are the most racially pure person on the planet or a thoroughly blended human being, your ancestor veneration should be free of your racial issues, focusing instead on those cultural practices to which you are drawn..

This practice also teaches us - the living - that being different from each other is okay and worth celebrating. We can't celebrate diversity until we recognize diversity. We have to be willing to point out how we are different and then be open to sharing it. We have to be willing to say to each other, "I am white; you are black. Let's learn about each other so we can better value each other." Because of a fear of being labeled a racist, I believe that there is a lot of effort in the world today trying to wipe away our differences and our ancestral cultures by making our world intolerant to the act of cultural celebration. Cultural celebration is not racism, but it can be bigotry if we approach cultures that are not our own as if they are inferior to us.

Update, November 17, 2017: I learned from my test that I am largely Germanic. The bulk of my DNA comes from western Europe with a smaller amount from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. I had no DNA from the British Isles, Africa, Asia or the Americas. To my surprise, I had very distant DNA that was Sephardic Jew. This shouldn't surprise me, though, since most of the Jews who were expelled from Spain by King Ferdinand settled in Germanic areas of Europe.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Further Examinations on Pyramid and Pentagram

I have had a change of thinking. I would like to reexamine a couple of esoteric symbols thanks to some recent reading.

In my post on the Witch's Pyramid, I wrote the following:
It has come to my attention that, in recent years, the Witches Pyramid has had ascribed to it a fifth principle: "To Go." I believe this is happening from a misguided attempt to correlate the pyramid with the pentagram. The pentagram is a very different symbol and does not discuss the hermetic principle symbolized by the pyramid. The pentagram is a symbol of the unity of the five elements of the universe, not the principles employed by hermetic students to understand how to evolve the spirit. Though I'm fine with people developing whatever mnemonic device they feel is helpful, I do not agree with inventing something that never was while claiming that it did. The pyramid has older names including the "Hermetic Quaternary" and the "Four Powers of the Magus." Both of these names specify four principles, not five, because the new principle that has been invented is clearly not necessary. The four principles are forward-moving principles, so to state that one must then go is redundant to the goal. It also shows a failure to understand what is being taught.
The hermetic magical principles are not symbolized by the corners of the pyramid, but by the faces. There are four triangular faces representing the principles. They are supported by a square face that is hidden. Triangles are symbolic of active properties. Squares are symbolic of manifestation. The surprise to most is that we are not trying to metaphorically travel to the peak of the pyramid. Too many people assume incorrectly that the only way to symbolize the attainment of higher states of being is with a literal movement upward. However, in this case, what is revealed comes from looking at the face of the pyramid that we cannot see. On each of the active faces rests one of the elemental angels, as we saw in the Wheel of Fortune, above. On the base is the manifested figure of the Sphinx herself, for she represents the unity of the elements. Only through unifying the powers of the elements do we gain manifestation. This is the core lesson of magical work.
My change of thinking is not about the reinvention of the Witch's Pyramid to have 5 principles. I still believe contemporary magicians should not try to muck with an axiom that works. Rather, I am seeing more connection between the pyramid and the pentagram. This change of thinking is not simplistically caused by the fact that both feature the number 5; there are deeper connections at work. I would like to explore them and expose more of my thinking on the matter.

I also wrote in the previous entry a little about the riddle posed by the sphinx to Oedipus. Let's look at that riddle so we have it before us (Apollodorus, 3.5.8).
And having learned a riddle from the Muses, she sat on Mount Phicium, and propounded it to the Thebans. And the riddle was this: What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? . . . Oedipus found the solution, declaring that the riddle of the Sphinx referred to man; for as a babe he is four-footed, going on four limbs, as an adult he is two-footed, and as an old man he gets besides a third support in a staff.
Note that I stated that squares are symbolic of manifestation. That is an important link to understand the potential divinity in man. Our bodies are material things, made up of the four elements unified on this material level. But on a divine level, there is a reflection of our bodies ("as above, so below"). That reflection is also made up of the unified elements, but in the divine sense; the elements are not material, they are spiritual. They are the elements about which Levi spoke. They are the non-material principles that together make up the spirit. That which is opposite to the peak of the pyramid is the base of the pyramid. So if the peak is our spirit self, which is conveniently represented as a point with no dimension, the base is our body, which is also conveniently represented by the square, the symbol of the material in balance. I have already mentioned in the last entry that the base is also represented by the sphinx herself, a being still in this material plane, but incorporating all of the elements. She is the Magus.

What changed the connection between the pyramid and the pentagram was a passage from an occult writer I greatly respect, though more current than Levi. Here is a passage (translated) from The Practice of Magical Evocation by Franz Bardon:
When practicing evocation or invocations of beings, it is desirable to draw within the center of the circle in which one is to stand another smaller circle or a pentagram with one of its points upwards, the symbol representing man. This is then the symbolization of the small world, of man as genuine magician.
So here we read that Bardon reveals the symbolism of the pentagram be symbolic of man. Allow me to provide an image that may help illustrate this point. It is by Agrippa, from book two of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, 1651.

Next, let's recall the associations between the pentagram and the elements, which has come down to us through tradition from the mystery schools.

So we can see that the pentagram embodies both the elements and the body of man. But does this analogy only seem solid because both coincidentally incorporate the number five? Does the connection between the pyramid and the pentagram go deeper? Considering the image above, what happens if we lose one element? Five becomes four. Suppose that the element above called "spirit" is more correctly "divinity." Without the divine, one is a creature with four elements only, much like the sphinx - the base of the pyramid.

For one to travel from the base of a pyramid to its peak - to metaphorically evolve from the material plane to a divine one that is without dimension - one must travel up each (perhaps all) of the four triangular faces. To do this on a material pyramid, one would travel a distance that the Greek mathematicians called "phi"

The value of phi was so important to the Greeks that it was used as the basis of all of their architecture and was called the Golden Mean and the Divine Portion. Interestingly, the same value is found all over the pentagram.

The shape of man's body is also packed with phi, which is illustrated by this image very well (represented by any section labeled M, where E is the value of 1).

So it is true that the Hermetic principles are symbolized by the faces of the pyramid, rather than by the corners. But it is also true that there is a divine relationship between the symbolism present in both the pyramid and the pentagram. Both are helpful to understanding the lessons found in the witch's pyramid as a guide to evolving the spirit. Both point to the power inherent in man.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

More Math in Magic Squares

This entry is a continuation of my last blog entry on planetary sigils and kamea. It is the entry with all the math and odd speculation that makes a blog entry boring. So if reading about investigation and the process of decoding puzzles isn’t your thing, feel free to skip over this one. But if you are the least bit curious about the Solomonic sigils, you might want to take a peek.

First, let’s remember that there are sigils for both the planetary intelligences and the planetary spirits. We saw in the last blog entry how those two groups of sigils are created using numerology and names.

But there are also sigils simply called “planetary seals.” Here are images from around the web of how each of the planetary sigils are traditionally drawn. I will note that the seal of Saturn is my own drawing because the web is currently circulating all sorts of non-traditional garbage for what is probably the easiest drawn seal in all of ceremonial magic. (Witches, please check your work!)

Sigil of the Moon (9)

Sigil of Mercury (8)

Sigil of Venus (7)

Sigil of the Sun (6)

Sigil of Mars (5)

Sigil of Jupiter (4)

Sigil of Saturn (3)

These sigils are not drawn using the same method we examined previously, but I did get curious how they were created. I also began to notice some odd characteristics of the seals and the kameas.

I first noticed that the sigil of Saturn is drawn over that planet’s kamea using a very obvious technique. The numerals are divided into three sets of three. The numerals of each of the sets are connected with lines, separate from each other. A circle starts and ends each connecting line. I’ll illustrate that here by removing the numbers and using colors so it’s easy to highlight some of the characteristics of this seal. We will observe those characteristics later.

Saturn Drawing

Notice how the seal has bilateral symmetry with the axes of symmetry falling on the whole kamea's diagonals. The middle set of numerals also creates a line of symmetry (in red). The sets before and after the middle set make designs that are reflections of each other. Also, there is a convergence of lines on both sides of the center block.

I don’t know why this one planetary sigil was drawn using this technique, while the others were not. But I began to wonder what would happen if I applied these drawing methods to the other kameas. Allow me to walk you through my process.

So let’s draw on the other kameas, but only those that are based on odd numbers for now. Using the same methods we observed in the sigil of Saturn, we first write down all the numerals of each square and divide them into sets appropriate for the planetary number, then we draw out each numeral set using circles to start and end each set. Some interesting designs appear. We can see that there is bilateral symmetry in them. Again, the numeral set in the middle creates one of the lines of symmetry (in red). Each of the pairs of numeral sets on both sides of the middle set create designs that are reflections of each other. Also, all the beginnings and endings of the numeral sets straddle the diagonal (with the exception of the middle set). I’ve illustrated all of this with colors again to make it all easier to see.

Mars Drawing

Venus Drawing

Moon Drawing

What this shows is that the odd numbered kameas represent the symmetry inherent in mathematics. In order for all the rows and columns of blocks to sum the same, the very largest number must be placed opposite to the very smallest, then the next largest and smallest, and so on until the middle of the available numbers is reached. This isn’t magic, it’s just math. We can also see from the patterns that all of the odd numbered kameas are based on a similar numeral arrangement, but just increase their complexity as the kameas get larger. This makes the convergence that we saw on both sides of the middle block no longer the only convergence.

Let’s apply the same drawing methods to the even numbered kameas and see what happens. Jupiter and Mercury also show a bilateral symmetry. Since there is no middle numeral set, the sets simply pair up evenly without it. However, now the axes of symmetry have been rotated 45 degrees from the diagonals to the vertical and horizontal. Also, the start and end of each set has moved to the outer blocks. A convergence of lines becomes prevalent, only now all of the numeral sets is contributing. Here are more colors to illustrate all of this, though Mercury started to get visually busy, so I separated the first four numeral sets from their mates. This also helps to show the symmetry that is happening, as the first four sets create a mirror image of the last four sets. Notice also that a pentagram is starting to appear in Mercury's crossing lines.

Jupiter Drawing

Mercury Drawing

The odd man out in all of this is the kamea of the Sun. When we start to draw the lines from the sets, we quickly notice that there is no symmetry! Drawing it to the end shows that there is only one point of convergence to the right of center and there are several sets that force a drawn line to be back-tracked, which never happens in any of the other kameas. However, the sets do begin and end only on the outer blocks. I've separated the mates of the pairs, as I did in the Mercury drawing, to show the lack of symmetry.

Sun Drawing

Since I know that there are many different arrangements of numbers that can create a magic square still fulfilling the row and column summation rule, my first thought was that tradition had brought down to us the wrong 36-block kamea for this planet – one without symmetry. So, I tried to build a kamea that fit the rules displayed by all the other kamea. This proved impossible. Here’s why it’s impossible.

For an even numbered kamea to have bilateral symmetry, the base number must be divisible by 4, because bilateral symmetry creates a reflection (two images) on two planes, which creates quadrants of images (2 images x 2 planes = 4 images). Imagine a kaleidoscope that only produced four images inside it. Odd numbered kameas don’t have this problem because one of their numeral sets creates one of the needed lines of symmetry; a midline will always be built into those drawings. If we had kameas with a base of 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, etc., they would all show the same problem with bilateral symmetry, because they are all even numbers that are not divisible by 4. Again, this isn’t magic, it’s just math, though I will agree that math, particularly as it applies to shapes (geometry) can be very sacred.

By now you have likely wondered exactly what technique was used to create all those sigils of the planets that have come down to us - the ones at the very beginning of this entry. Well, unfortunately, no one knows. The best hypothesis I’ve seen to date was done by a clever Rosicrucian, who speculated that a counting technique was applied to the kameas. That information can be found here. For now, we simply accept that it is knowledge lost to the past.

If any of you have done work with kameas and planetary sigils, please comment your insights below or link the rest of us to your pages.

Thanks for indulging my mathematical deviation.