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Category: Spirit

Magicians Were Poets, and Poets Were Magicians

” … The numerous incantations which were inscribed on clay tablets and treasured in libraries, do not throw much light on the progress of medical knowledge, for the genuine folk cures were regarded as of secondary importance, and were not as a rule recorded.

But these metrical compositions are of special interest, in so far as they indicate how poetry originated and achieved widespread popularity among ancient peoples. Like the religious dance, the earliest poems were used for magical purposes.

They were composed in the first place by men and women who were supposed to be inspired in the literal sense; that is, possessed by spirits. Primitive man associated “spirit” with “breath,” which was the “air of life,” and identical with wind.

The poetical magician drew in a “spirit,” and thus received inspiration, as he stood on some sacred spot on the mountain summit, amidst forest solitudes, beside a’ whispering stream, or on the sounding shore. …

Or, perhaps, the bard received inspiration by drinking magic water from the fountain called Hippocrene, or the skaldic mead which dripped from the moon.

The ancient poet did not sing for the mere love of singing: he knew nothing about “Art for Art’s sake.” His object in singing appears to have been intensely practical. The world was inhabited by countless hordes of spirits, which were believed to be ever exercising themselves to influence mankind.

The spirits caused suffering; they slew victims; they brought misfortune; they were also the source of good or “luck.” Man regarded spirits emotionally; he conjured them with emotion; he warded off their attacks with emotion; and his emotions were given rhythmical expression by means of metrical magical charms.

Poetic imagery had originally a magical significance; if the ocean was compared to a dragon, it was because it was supposed to be inhabited by a storm-causing dragon; the wind whispered because a spirit whispered in it.

Love lyrics were charms to compel the love god to wound or possess a maiden’s heart–to fill it, as an Indian charm sets forth, with “the yearning of the Apsaras (fairies);” satires conjured up evil spirits to injure a victim; and heroic narratives chanted at graves were statements made to the god of battle, so that he might award the mighty dead by transporting him to the Valhal of Odin or Swarga of Indra.

Similarly, music had magical origin as an imitation of the voices of spirits–of the piping birds who were “Fates,” of the wind high and low, of the thunder roll, of the bellowing sea. So the god Pan piped on his reed bird-like notes, Indra blew his thunder horn, Thor used his hammer like a drumstick, Neptune imitated on his “wreathed horn” the voice of the deep, the Celtic oak god Dagda twanged his windy wooden harp, and Angus, the Celtic god of spring and love, came through budding forest ways with a silvern harp which had strings of gold, echoing the tuneful birds, the purling streams, the whispering winds, and the rustling of scented fir and blossoming thorn.

Modern-day poets and singers, who voice their moods and cast the spell of their moods over readers and audiences, are the representatives of ancient magicians who believed that moods were caused by the spirits which possessed them–the rhythmical wind spirits, those harpers of the forest and songsters of ocean.”

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.

The Naassene Fragment, on Attis

S. 4 Moreover, also, the Phrygians say that the Father of wholes 5 is Amygdalos 6

J. —no [ordinary] tree 7 (H. he says); but that He is that Amygdalos the Pre-existing, who having in Himself the Perfect Fruit, as it were, throbbing 8 and moving in [His] Depth, He tore asunder 9 His Womb, and gave birth to His own Son 10

C. —the Invisible, Unnameable, and Ineffable [One] of whom we tell. 1

S. For “amyxai” 2 is, as it were, “to break” and “cut open”; just as (H. he says) in the case of inflamed bodies and those which have some internal tumour, when physicians lance them, they speak of “amychas.” 3

Thus (H. he says) the Phrygians call him Amygdalos.

C. From whom proceeded and was born the Invisible—

“Through whom all things were made, and without whom nothing was made.” 4

(30) S. The Phrygians also say that that which is generated from Him is Syriktēs. 5

J. For that which is generated is Spirit in harmony. 6

C. For “God (H. he says) is Spirit.” 7

Wherefore He says:

“Neither in this mountain do the true worshippers worship, nor in Jerusalem, but in Spirit.” 8

For the worship of the perfect [men] (H. he says) is spiritual, not fleshly.

J. And “Spirit” (H. he says) is there where both Father and Son are named, generated there from Him 1 and the Father.

S. He 2 (H. he says) is the Many-named, Myriad-eyed, Incomprehensible, whom every nature desires, some one way, some another.

J. This (H. he says) is the Word 3 of God, which is:

“The Word of Announcement of the Great Power. Wherefore It shall be sealed, and hidden, and concealed, stored in the Habitation, where the Root of the Universals has its foundation—

“Of Æons, Powers, Intelligences, Gods, Angels, Spirits Delegate, Existing Non-existences, Generated Ingenerables, Comprehensible Incomprehensibles,—Years, Months, Days, Hours,—of [the] Boundless Point, from which the most minute begins to increase by parts. 4

“For (H. he says) the Point which is nothing and is composed of nothing, though partless, will become by means of its own Thought a Greatness 1 beyond our own comprehension.”

C. This [Point] (H. he says) is the Kingdom of the Heavens, the “grain of mustard seed,” 2 the partless point, the first existing for the body; which no one (H. he says) knows save the spiritual [men] alone.

J. This (H. he says) is what is said:

“They are neither words nor languages whereby their 3 sounds are heard.” 4

H. These things, [then,] which are said and done by all men, they thus interpret off-hand to their peculiar theory (νοῦν), pretending that they are all done with a spiritual meaning.

For which cause also they 5 say that the performers in the theatres—they, too, neither say nor do anything without Design. 6

S. For example (H. he says), when the people assemble in the theatres, and a man comes on the stage, clad in a robe different from all others, with lute 7 in hand on which he plays, and thus chants the Great Mysteries, not knowing what he says: 8

“Whether blest Child of Kronos, or of Zeus, or of Great Rhea,—

Hail, Attis, thou mournful song 9 of Rhea!

Assyrians call thee thrice-longed-for Adōnis;

all Egypt [calls thee] Osiris;

the Wisdom of Hellas [names thee] Mēn’s Heavenly Horn;

the Samothracians [call thee] august Adama;

the Hæmonians, Korybas;

the Phrygians [name thee] Papa sometimes,

at times again Dead, or God, 1 or Unfruitful,

or Aipolos, or Green Reaped 2 Wheat-ear,

or the Fruitful that Amygdalos brought forth,

Man, Piper . . . Attis!”

H. He [S.] says that this is the Attis of many forms of whom they [NN., in H.’s opinion] sing as follows:

S. “Of Attis will I sing, of Rhea’s [Belovèd];—

not with the boomings 3 of bells,

nor with the deep-toned 4 pipe of Idæan Kurētes;

but I will blend my song with Phoebus’ music of the lyre.

Evoï! Evan!—for [thou art] Pan, [thou] Bacchus [art], and Shepherd of bright stars!”

G.R.S. Mead, Thrice-Greatest HermesVol. 1, 1906, pp. 182-6.

From Hippolytus, Philosophumena; or, Refutation of all Heresies.

More From the Naassene Fragment, Jesus Says “I am the True Door”

“Lift up the gates, ye who are rulers of you, and be ye lift up ye everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.” 1

This is a wonder of wonders.

“For who (H. he says) is this King of Glory? 2 A worm 3 and no man, the scorn of men, and the contempt of the people. 4 He is the King of Glory, the Mighty in War.” 5

By “War” he 6 means the “[war] in the body,” for the plasm is compounded of warring elements, as it is written (H. he says):

“Remember the war that is [warred] in the body.” 7

This (H. he says) is the Entrance, and this is the Gate, which Jacob saw, when he journeyed into Mesopotamia. 8

C. Which is the passing from childhood to puberty and manhood; that is, it was made known to him who journeyed into Mesopotamia.

J. And Mesopotamia (H. he says) is the Stream of Great Ocean flowing from the middle of the Perfect Man.

And he 9 marvelled at the Heavenly Gate, saying:

“How terrible [is] this place! This is naught else than the House of God; yea, this [is] the Gate of Heaven.” 10

C. On this account (H. he says) Jesus saith:

“I am the True Door.” 11

J. And he 12 who says these things is (H. he says) the [one] from the Inexpressible Man, expressed from Above—

C. —as the perfect man. The not-perfect man, therefore, cannot be saved unless he be regenerated passing through this Gate.

(21) S. This same [Man] (H. he says) the Phrygians call also Papa; 1 for He calmed 2 all things which, prior to His own manifestation, were in disorderly and inharmonious movement.

For the name Papa (H. he says) is [the] Sound-of-all-things-together in Heaven, and on Earth, and beneath the Earth, saying: “Calm, calm” 3 the discord of the cosmos.

C. And: Make “peace for them that are far”—that is, the material and earthy—“and peace for them that are near” 4—that is, the spiritual and knowing and perfect men.

(22) S. The Phrygians call Him also Dead—when buried in the body as though in a tomb or sepulchre.

C. This (H. he says) is what is said:

“Ye are whited sepulchres, filled (H. he says) within with bones of the dead, 5 for Man, the Living [One] 6 is not in you.”

And again He says:

“The dead shall leap forth from their graves” 7

—that is, from their earthy bodies, regenerated spiritual, not fleshly.

This (H. he says) is the Resurrection which takes place through the Gate of the Heavens, through which all those who do not pass (H. he says) remain Dead.

S. The same Phrygians again call this very same [Man], after the transformation, God [or a God]. 1

C. For he becomes (H. he says) God when, rising from the Dead, through such a Gate, he shall pass into Heaven.

This is the Gate (H. he says) which Paul, the Apostle, knew, setting it ajar in a mystery, and saying that he was caught up by an angel and came to the second, nay the third heaven, into Paradise itself, and saw what he saw, and heard ineffable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter. 2

These (H. he says) are the Mysteries, ineffable [yet] spoken of by all,—

“—which [also we speak, yet] not in words taught of human wisdom, but in [words] taught of Spirit, comparing things spiritual with spiritual things. But the psychic man receiveth not the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness unto him.”3

And these (H. he says) are the Ineffable Mysteries of the Spirit which we alone know.

Concerning these (H. he says) the Saviour said:

“No one is able to come to Me, unless my Heavenly Father draw him.” 4

For it is exceedingly difficult (H. he says) to receive and accept this Great Ineffable Mystery.

And again (H. he says) the Saviour said:

“Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord! shall enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens, but he who doeth the Will of My Father who is in the Heavens” 5

—which [Will] they must do, and not hear only, to enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.

And again He said (H. he says):

“The tax-gatherers and harlots go before you into the Kingdom of the Heavens.” 1

For by “tax-gatherers” (τελῶναι) are meant (H. he says) those who receive the consummations 2 (τέλη) of the universal [principles]; and we (H. he says) are the “tax-gatherers” 3 [upon whom the consummations of the æons have come” 4].

For the “consummations” (H. he says) are the Seeds disseminated into the cosmos from the Inexpressible [Man], by means of which the whole cosmos is consummated; for by means of these also it began to be.

And this (H. he says) is what is said:

“The Sower went forth to sow. And some [Seeds] fell by the way-side, and were trodden under foot; and others on stony places, and they sprang up (H. he says), but because they had no depth, they withered and died.

“Others (H. he says) fell on the fair and good ground, and brought forth fruit—one a hundred, another sixty, and another thirty.

“He who hath (H. he says) ears to hear, let him hear!” 5

G.R.S. Mead, Thrice-Greatest HermesVol. 1, 1906, pp. 171-4.

From Hippolytus, Philosophumena; or, Refutation of all Heresies.

On the Evil Status of Goats

“Nevertheless, many extant fragments prove that Isaac had a certain interest in questions relating to the nature of Sammael, whose name had become for the Jews of the Middle Ages, the principal one associated with the devil and his dominion. The following dictum of Isaac makes good sense when viewed against the background of the large number of shepherds populating the western Languedoc:

He who lives with herds of sheep, even if it is in the high mountains and in the desert wastes, which are uninhabited, has no need to fear Satan and the evil powers, for no evil spirit rules among them. But he who lives among goats [of him it can be said] that even when he is surrounded by ten houses and a hundred men, an evil spirit rules over them.

In another fragment, we learn that Sammael’s origins lie in the power of the sefirah pahad, channeled to him through the last sefirah “without any other intermediary.” He has, therefore, a legitimate position in the sacred totality of Creation.

It was only when he pitted himself in the war of Amaleq against Israel and the sacred order it represents—a war that has always been interpreted in Jewish tradition as a metaphysical event of enormous significance—that he lost this legitimate place. Since then he receives his power only indirectly, from planetary spirits, and “no longer by the path of the primordial order of Creation.”

Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 297.

Man as the “Great Seal”

“The divine power spreading from the sefiroth into Creation, from the world of the Throne and the angels outward, also descends below the human domain to living beings of a lower order, even to plants.

Trees, too, have a mystical root in those of Paradise, which represent the primordial images of all future trees. Everything below is linked to that which is above, to which it owes its existence, until it is linked by a chain of this kind to the Infinite.

”All creatures on earth depend on the higher powers, and these on still higher, up to the infinite cause.”

This cosmic chain is, at least in the realm of the sefiroth, a magnetic one. The sefiroth and logoi “rise above themselves like something rising under the influence of a magnet and thus their end [in the words of the Book Yesirah] is [enclosed] in its beginning” (on 1:7).

But in addition to the connection through emanation there is also one through vision, sefiyah. In connection with Yesirah 1:6, we learn that this vision itself is the magnetic act of communication in which everything ascends to its origins.

The Book of Creation says that the vision of the sefiroth is like lightning, and Isaac explains:

“The vision is the meditation of one thing out of the other. . . . Every cause is taken up and rises and then looks down from a cause that is higher than itself. . . . Everything is in the other and in communication with the other.”

Thus, not only does God contemplate the depths of his own wisdom when he produces the world, but a contemplative communication of the same kind also takes place among the sefiroth.

The contemplation of the mystic in a state of kawwanah is thus not unlike that which occurs among the spiritual essences themselves. In creation, it is not the divine middoth, the “fathers,” that act directly but rather the derivative middoth, toladoth, which issue from them. In isolation, without communicating with “fathers” or “mothers,” they are unable to produce anything.

Man too is inserted into this process. He is …

” … built out of combinations of the letters” (chap. 3). “And this higher edifice of spirit [ruah] that directs him [also] directs the All, and thus the All is connected to the upper and the lower ones and is composed of the world, the year and the soul. . . . And the soul is the determining factor in the All” (ibid.).

Man, our text continues, is “the quintessence of all creatures, a great seal, in which the beginning and the end” of all creatures are enclosed.”

Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 290.

The Ka, the Ghost of the Egyptians

The peculiar ideas which the Egyptians held about the composition of man greatly favoured the belief in apparitions and ghosts. According to them a man consisted of a physical body, a shadow, a double, a soul, a heart, a spirit called the khu, a power, a name, and a spiritual body.

When the body died the shadow departed from it, and could only be brought back to it by the performance of a mystical ceremony; the double lived in the tomb with the body, and was there visited by the soul whose habitation was in heaven.

The soul was, from one aspect, a material thing, and like the ka, or double, was believed to partake of the funeral offerings which were brought to the tomb; one of the chief objects of sepulchral offerings of meat and drink was to keep the double in the tomb and to do away with the necessity of its wandering about outside the tomb in search of food.

It is clear from many texts that, unless the double was supplied with sufficient food, it would wander forth from the tomb and eat any kind of offal and drink any kind of dirty water which it might find in its path.

But besides the shadow, and the double, and the soul, the spirit of the deceased, which usually had its abode in heaven, was sometimes to be found in the tomb.

There is, however, good reason for stating that the immortal part of man which lived in the tomb and had its special abode in the statue of the deceased was the “double.”

This is proved by the fact that a special part of the tomb was reserved for the ka, or double, which was called the “house of the ka,” and that a priest, called the “priest of the ka,” was specially appointed to minister therein.

The double enjoyed the smell of the incense which was offered at certain times each year in the tomb, as well as the flowers, and herbs, and meat, and drink; and the statue of the deceased in which the double dwelt took pleasure in all the various scenes which were painted or sculptured on the walls of the various chambers of the tomb, and enjoyed again all the delights which his body had enjoyed upon earth.

The ka, or double, then, in very early times was, to all intents and purposes, the ghost of the Egyptians.

In later times the khu, or “spirit,” seems to have been identified with it, and there are frequent allusions in the texts to the sanctity of the offerings made to the khu, and to their territories, i.e., the districts in which their mummified bodies lie.

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 217-8.

Vignettes From the Papyrus of Ani


The soul of the scribe Ani visiting his mummified body 
as it lies on its bier in the tomb. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 17.)

“Many of the pictures or vignettes carry their own interpretations with them, e.g., the picture of the soul hovering over the dead body which lies beneath it on the bier at once suggests the reunion of the soul with the body; the picture of the deceased walking away from a “block of slaughter” and a knife dripping with blood suggests escape from a cruel death; the picture of a soul and spirit standing before an open door suggests that the soul has freedom to wander about at will; and the picture of the soul and the shadow in the act of passing out through the door of the tomb indicates clearly that these parts of man’s economy are not shut up in the tomb for all eternity.

Anubis with Ani

Anubis holding the mummy of the scribe Ani.

Anubis holding the mummy of the scribe Ani; 
by the door of the tomb stand the soul and spirit of the deceased 
in the form of a human-headed hawk and bennu bird respectively. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 16.)

But the ideas which prompted the painting of other vignettes are not so clear, e.g., those which accompany Chapters CLXII-CLXV in the late or Säite Recension of the Book of the Dead, although, fortunately, the rubrics to these chapters make their object clear.

Thus the picture which stands above Chapter CLXII. is that of a cow having upon her head horns, a disk, and two plumes, and from the rubric we learn that a figure of it was to be made in gold and fastened to the neck of the deceased, and that another, drawn upon new papyrus, was to be placed under his head.

If this be done “then shall abundant warmth be in him throughout, even like that which was in him when he was upon earth. And he shall become like a god in the underworld, and he shall never be turned back at any of the gates thereof.”

Ani Leaving the Tomb

Ani Passing Through the Door of His Tomb

The scribe Ani passing through the door of the tomb. 
Outside are his shadow and his soul in the form of a human-headed bird. 
(From the Papyrus of Ani, plate 18.)

The words of the chapter have great protective power (i.e., are a charm of the greatest importance) we are told, “for it was made by the cow for her son Râ when he was setting, and when his habitation was surrounded by a company of beings of fire.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 113-6.

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