Monthly Archives: January 2016

Solar Altar

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The Solar Altar as it currently stands after the first two weeks of the planetary witchcraft experiment.

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Orphic Hymns to the Sun: Translations in Action

A great deal of the current work being done with planetary magic right now relies heavily on the use of the Orphic Hymns, chiefly the 18th century translations by Thomas Taylor.  Long-time readers may recall that I am uncomfortable with those translations, and have argued that the more recent and more accurate translations of Apostolos Athanassakis be used instead.  It was not only inevitable, then, but entirely by design that my first week of conjurations put these two translations back-to-back to see what differences might be discerned in their efficacy.

For those magicians who are not also ancient language geeks (how have I not bored you to death?), the gist of it is that the Ancient Greek in which the Orphic Hymns were composed was written in meter rather than rhyme, and hammering the verses into a simple English rhyme-scheme takes some serious torture.  Also, archaeology is amazing, and we know more about the languages of Hellenistic Greece today than Taylor did, so some of his mistakes may be rooted in bad dictionaries.  Some magicians, equally if not more geeky and educated as I, believe that the Taylor translations work better magically for all sorts of reasons, but I ride this hobby horse to hell, regardless.

Taylor’s rhyming cant does, I must concede, a certain something for the brain of the English speaking magician.  We have this whole thing with magic and rhyme, and any good Chaos magician knows how valuable it is to tap into that sort of unconscious power source.  Moveover, between their ready (and free) availability, and the work of Rufus Opus (among others), the Taylor translations of the Hymns are explicitly tied to the planetary rites of the modern Western magical tradition.  All this goes to say that when I used the Thomas Taylor translation of the Hymn to the Sun, by itself, as a part of RO’s Seven Spheres rite, and as a part of conjurations of my own design, I already knew something of what to expect.

The warmth of the Sun responds readily to the hymn, and one may ride that way direct to the planetary current, and the Archangel Michael or the Titan god Helios respond equally readily to accept the offerings laid out before them.

The translations of Apostolos Athanassakis are aimed at the casual enthusiast as much as the professional Classicist, so they are not as sharp-edged as some might fear — the pages are unmarred by indications of broken text in the original, or annotation regarding the academic infighting of one translation versus another.  Moreover, in the particular case of the Hymn to Helios, the differences between the two translations are much less stark and more stylistical than other Orphic Hymns.

The Sun that responded to Aradia and I when we called by this hymn, both by itself and as a part of the Seven Spheres rite, was startlingly different from that which answered to the Taylor translation.  It was tarnished, or perhaps brazen rather than gold.  It was older, more aloof, more … Titanic.  Aradia described the experience as having used a back door to the sun.

It was the Athanassakis translation of the Orphic Hymn to Helios, substituted for Taylor in the Seven Spheres rite, which produced my most vivid experience of the experiment so far: the sensation of having ascended to an old, cooling, and abandoned region of the Sun, and of being observed by a vast red-gold eye, the size of a planet, staring widely at my from within an almost understandably vast head.

 

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