Tag Archives: Greek Magical Papyri
As I mentioned in my previous post, the more I perform the Stele of Jeu rite, the more subtle the effects seem to be. Given some of the more extravagant warnings I’ve heard regarding this ritual, this interests me a great deal, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last couple days.
One of the first sources to warn me about the Stele of Jeu was, of all things, Crowley’s Goetia, which refers to the rite as the London Papyrus. According to the editor, the rite (before Crowley made his changes that ultimately produced Liber Semekh) was passed around in Golden Dawn circles as a last-ditch banishing/exorcism rite, to be performed with utmost caution and formality lest one permanently haunt the place where it was performed. The next was from the gentleman who was kind enough to work me up to my first experiment with the ritual. His warning, in addition to the above should one go through with a clearly botched performance, related the possibility of one’s life getting broken apart in order to be put back together in a better shape.
My own experience with the ritual, while powerful and transformative, has never quite lived up to the earth-shattering hype. A commenter on my early experiments reported even less dramatic results.
After some rumination, I’ve come up with a theory. You see, I’ve actually heard very similar stories about other rituals: the Abramelin Operation, for example; most other methods of contacting one’s HGA/Supernal Assistant; the use of moldavite for the first time. The common theme in many (though not all) of these stories is that when people whose lives are already fucked do major-fix-magic, their lives get more fucked before they get better.
The GD source who provided the initial warning—with no disrespect intended to modern initiates of those orders—was clearly terrified of dealing with the spirit world in any situation where they did not have absolute control of the circumstances and proceedings. The source of the second warning tells stories about the Stele of Jeu in ways that sound a lot like it was a part of his formative experiences with magic—which is to say, probably before he got his life in order.
Meanwhile, my commenter complaining of insignificant results has (to the best of my ability to determine from the stories he tells; he may feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken) had his shit together for quite a while. College done, good job, college loans in order, sophisticated magical practice, already talks with his HGA so often that he complains about not having much to talk about. There’s nothing there for the Stele of Jeu to fix, let alone break.
When I first performed the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist, my life was already largely in order. I’ve already been through my Saturn Return. I’ve already left the job I’d come to hate for higher education in order to pursue a new calling. I have a regular magical practice that was pretty much at the top if its game. My biggest problem is the psychic scars left over from all the shit I fucked up when I was a wee faun of a mage. And, boy howdy, has it ever fixed that shit—but that deserves a post all on its own.
Now, all this evidence is anecdotal. I’ve only been performing this ritual regularly for about four months now. I’ve also been having a really hard time doing more than a preliminary study of its history, interpretations, and various effects. I know that the Order of the Hollow Ones, Jason Miller, and probably countless other groups each have their own variations on the rite (to say nothing of Crowley’s, obviously). But Jack Faust is one of the very few people I’ve seen talk about the ritual and its effects publically at all; one of the few others can be found at practicaltheurgy.com, but s/he appears to be defunct. The silence of the scholastic community is even more deafening: I’ve only found one or two books which even refer to the rite, outside the PGM itself, and I have not had the opportunity to read them.
1 – As described by Hymanaeus Beta in his foreword and footnotes to the Illustrated Second Edition of The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King. Weiser: York Beach Main (1995).
2 – Discounting, for my purposes, allusions to the ritual solely as it relates to the Bornless Rite and attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is clearly not what the PGM ritual is about.
I have now performed the rite of the Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist three times as a part of my lunar rites. It has been, without question, one of the most powerful magical operations I have ever performed.
The first time, at the last Dark Moon, the sheer power of it got me so high that I forgot to take down my circle; I had strange visions and nightmares that night, and when I did to Yoga the next day, I walked out feeling like a god.
The second time, at the Full Moon, was less dramatic; I was high, but not disorientingly so, and I could feel the magic moving out into my Web of Influence. Although there may have been other factors—stress from too heavy a course-load, conflicts with a professor, and a sorting out some issues with my lover, among other things—I hardly got one good night of rest out of three for the next two weeks. My patience with any sort of bullshit vanished altogether, and my temper was entirely out of control. These symptoms faded over the early-semester break, but did not disappear entirely until the next Dark Moon, when I performed the ritual again.
The third time, again at the Dark of the Moon, was less dramatic still. I think I need to linger more over the voces magicae and Barbarous Words. My patience has returned, some, and my temper faded; more importantly, though, my will to act has been charged.
Though I feel that the results so far have been extremely positive—excepting the insomnia, which may or may not be related—I am still struggling to understand the precise affects of the ritual. Jack Faust argues—and convincingly—that it is somehow related to the ἀγαθός δαίμων (agathos daimon). Crowley’s Liber Semekh was derived from a less complete version of this ritual, known as the London Papyrus 46(1), thus linking it to the tradition of modern Western Ceremonial Magic and the pursuit of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
The ritual, which reads as an exorcism of sorts—“…deliver him, ____, from the daimon which restrains him…”(2)—is thick with interesting syncretism. The magician identifies himself as Moses, and with the line of the prophets of Israel. He also identifies himself a the “Messenger of the Pharaoh Osoronnophris (a cult-name for Osiris). Osoronnophris and IAO (a Graeco-Egyptian name for YHVH) are both evoked (or perhaps invoked), and the ritual culminates with a particularly interesting and graphic image and imperative: “My name is a heart encircled by a serpent, come forth and follow.”(3)
Now, bear with me a moment as I seem to change subjects:
Over the last several weeks, I have also been using a variation of DuQuette’s Ganesha banishing/invocation to start my day and to open my rites. Not feeling sufficient personal resonance with Ganesha, however, I have substituted a deity that I can subsume myself in utterly: Eros the Elder. When I perform this banishing/invocation, it gets me high. Really, really high, actually. And the sensation is interestingly similar to what I’ve felt while performing the rite of the Stele of Jeu. And, if you didn’t follow that link I just gave you, you missed this image:
A heart encircled by a serpent, perhaps?
Now, before anyone jumps me: I’m not drawing any conclusions. Maybe I just don’t have enough experience invoking transcendent powers to tell them apart in the heat of the moment. (The temptation to make a sexual analogy here is almost overwhelming.) But it’s interesting, and I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else who’s tried either ritual.
Regardless, things in my life are already starting to move around. I can’t see the effects, yet, but I can feel them. Temper, patience, and will to act as noted above. More people going out of their way to get my attention—both people I already knew and people I’ve never even seen, let alone spoken to. And some really, really strange and interesting things are starting to happen to my aura, which deserve a post all their own.
Further details as they come.
1—As described by Hymanaeus Beta in his foreword and footnotes to the Illustrated Second Edition of The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King. Weiser: York Beach Main (1995).
2—Betz, Hans Dieter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1986) PGM V.124-5.
Sunday night I tried something that would have terrified younger versions of myself. The rite in question, of course, is the Stele of Jeu, from which Aleister Crowley derived the Preliminary Invocation of the Goetia and, later, Liber Semekh.
I had been thinking about doing the ritual for a while. It had been suggested to me that the astrology for starting this sort of project was ideal (although, re-reading that post this morning, it seems much more immediate and less “the astrological current of the coming weeks”. Oh, well. It got me going.), it was just a question of which of the various versions of such a rite. Finally, the Stele came across my field of vision one too many times to ignore. A colleague whom I admire was willing to hook me up with a copy of Hans Dieter Betz’s beautiful tome, as well as to give me a bit of preliminary advice.
The evening was set aside for nothing but this: I had done my house-cleansing the night before; I would do my monthly tarot the following night. I broke out all the stops… including that oft-advocated practice which I have historically disdained: the preliminary divination.The 9S there at the end made me nervous, but the Aeon more than made up for it. It was go time.
Proceeding with the ritual, I opened with my Pentagram Rite. I cast a full, formal circle, and made offerings to all my gods and allies. I drew a circle in salt, and cast another circle within it. I read through the ritual a final time once I had sealed myself within the salt circle, and felt a presence watching and waiting. I almost got the impression it was waiting to see if I would fuck up.
Lacking the formula and the six names to which the Stele referred (PGM V.156-60), I omitted them, but I still began with the preliminary invocation which appears at the end of the letter (165-70). Beginning the ritual, the sensation of something watching over my shoulder grew stronger. Not trusting myself to memorize so many voces magicae and barbarous words, I read the rite directly from my printout.
I had been warned to stop if any poltergeist phenomena occurred, and there were a few moments when the Indiana wind gave me a scare, but the ritual went off without a hitch. The watching presence disappeared somewhere through the middle of the ritual, and nothing seemed to happen at first.
Then the first wave of power hit me.
The only thing I can compare the experience to is the sort of top-notch, sticky-green, creeper weed that I haven’t had since I left Larryville. It was slow at first: a sort of spiritual bliss, a sense of fullness and euphoria. I just basked in it for a while before I decided to clean up after the ritual. Which was when it started to become apparent just how potent the ritual had been.
I ended up closing/cleaning up in three separate stages, because I kept forgetting what all needed to be done. There was a particularly interesting surge of power when I broke the salt circle. I could barely operate my phone to text my friends and let them know that, no, I hadn’t botched the ritual and that a rescue party would not be needed. (What, you don’t take such precautions when trying something that new?)
The waves of euphoria kept getting stronger, and after a while I could barely walk. I tried to journal about it, but it was all so surreal that (as you can see) words couldn’t quite convey it. I remember thinking “nothing has moved my insides around this much since my initiation”.
When I laid down, though, the mood shifted. I was confronted with violent images I can only call visions. A close friend being run over by bus then getting up and boarding the bus. A man in a business suit whose head exploded into a snarling wolf’s maw. There were others—countless others—but only those first two were with me when I woke, after a night of strange and similarly violent dreams. Despite that, I was still high on the ritual.
In fact, I was high until noon the next day. I still feel like my aura’s been “inflated”, and I don’t think that the godhood I felt coming out of yoga yesterday morning was, well, just the yoga. People who never had a spare glance for me last semester suddenly remember my name.
I can’t wait to do it again.
Up next: Dark Moon 3/3: Tarot and Splat
 I’m a very post-modern magician in my own way. Besides, better to loose a little power by reading the text from a page than to mangle the incantation, or to accidentally summon or anger someone by practicing it aloud outside the Circle.
Betz, Hans Dieter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.