The first and most complete source of information of Graeco-Egyptian magic that comes to mind to this moment are the Graeco-Egyprian papyri (PMG) translated by Betz that incorporate magical techniques, rituals, hymns, spells, formulas, consecrations, and active methods for changing the future. The texts of PMG are mainly from the 200BC to 500AD.
The original source of PMG is probably Egyptian, but we know that there were interactions on many different levels between the two cultures. The most significant historical event that outlines the beginning of this interaction is when in 332BC Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and established the city of Alexandria. With this the magical traditions of the two cultures interacted as well. The PMG include Jewish magic as well as the roots of the Babylonian practices are really obvious there.
If we compare the PMG texts with the cuneiform texts from Babylon, we see many similarities in the rituals, the incantations, the uses of herbs, and most importantly, the principles that are Hermetic in all cases.
Principles of Graeco-Egyptian Magic
* Importance of Hierarchy and the Power of the Name
This comes from ancient Mesopotamia as there to name something; to give a name is act of authorization. It is like that the thing would not exist without a name or before the name was given. This is seen in the first sentences of the creation epic Enuma Elish. Thus, naming the spirit is an act of power and the spirit comes and assists the magi.
In the ancient tradition the magicians clearly distinguished and respected the hierarchy of the spirits:
PGM I. 195-222
*This, then, is the prayer of deliverance for the first-begotten and first-born god: “I call upon you, lord. Hear mc, holy god who rcst among the holy oncs, at zoo whose side the Glorious Ones” stand continually. I call upon you, / [forelfather, and I beseech you, eternal onc, eternal ruler of the sun’s rays, eternal ruler of the celestial orb, standing in the seven-part region, CHAO CHAO CHA OUPH CHTHETHONIMEETHECHKINIA
MEROUMI ALDA ZAO BWTHAMMACH~TH PHRIXA EKE
. . . PHYEIDRYMEO PHERPHRITHO IACHTHO PSYCHEO PHIRITHMEO ROSEROTH /
205 THAMASTRA PHATIRI TAOCH IALTHEMEACHE; you who hold fast to thc root, [who] possess the powerful name which has been consecrated by all angels. Hear me, you who have established the mighty Decans and archangels, and beside whom 210 stand untold myriads of angels. You have been exalted to heaven, and the lord / has borne witness to your wisdom and has praised your power highly and has said that you have strength in the same way as he, as much strength as he [himselfj has.
“I call upon you, lord of the universe, in an hour of need; hear me, for my soul is [distressed], and I am perplexedj9 and in want of [everything. Wherefore, come] 215 to me, you who arc lord over all 1 angels; shield mc against all cxcess of magical power of aerial daimon [and] fatc.” Aye, lord, because I call upon your sacred name which reaches from the firmament to the earth, ATHEZOPHOIM ZADEAGEOBEPHIA- 220 THEM AMBRAMI ABRAAM THALCHILTHOE ELKOTHOOBB ACHTHONON / SA ISAK CHOEIOURTHASIO IOSIA 1CHEMEbi)i)i) AOAEI, rescue me in an hour of need.”
*Use of Planetary and Hour Rulership in Magic
The magic was always practiced in coordination with the stars and the stellar divine beings. We have evidence of the use of this method in Babylon, and it was used in ancient Egypt and is widely used in the contemporary magic now. This method is explained in separate section of this website.
*Use of Animals, Herbs, Oils, and Gemstones
PGM I. 247-62
*Tested spell for invisibility: A great work. Take an eye of an ape or of a corpse that has died a violent death and a plant of peony (he means the rose). Rub these with oil of lily, and as you are rubbing them from the right to the left,”‘ save the 250 spell as follows: ‘ I am AUBIS I am, OSIR-PHRE, I am OSOT SORONOUIER, I am OSIRIS whom SETH destroyed. Rise up, infernal daimon, …whatever I order you to do. Be obedient to me.”
The use of above very much resembles the Babylonian magic as well. Animal parts or blood were widely used in their healing practices, medical diagnose, exorcism and magic.
Especially interesting is the use of herbs and gemstones. The importance of the planetary day and hour is a fact also in this magic tradition. The Babylonian ritual of covering the herb with cloth after sunset and surrounding it with flour and water circle is used by the Graeco-Egyptian magi. An Egyptian when collecting herbs takes hold of the plant and calls on the ruler to whom the plant is sacred. This is obviously to the god to whom the plant is sacred, and they’ve just been called daimones. He tells the plant that it is the heart of Hermes, the eye of the sun, the light of the moon and so on.
The Spell for Picking a Plant before sunrise is part of the ritual:
The Spell to be spoken:
“I am picking you, such and such a plant, with my Five-fingered Hand, I, NN, and I am bringing you home so that you may work for me for a Certain Purpose. I adjure you by the Undefiled Name of the God: if you pay no Heed to me, the Earth which produced you will no longer be watered as far as you are concerned – ever in Life again, if I fail in this Operation, MOUTHABAR NACH BARNACHO’CHA BRAEO’
MENDA LAUBRAASSE PHASPHA BENDEO’; fulfil for me the Perfect Charm!”
The stones natural and specifically used according to their planetary of stellar rulership are important part of the magic ritual:
“Take a magnetic stone which is breathing and engrave Aphrodite
sitting astride Psyche and with her left hand holding on her hair
bound in curls. And above her head: “ACHMAGE RARPEPSEI”;
and below Aphrodite and Psyche engrave Eros standing on the
vault of heaven, holding a blazing torch and burning Psyche. And
below Eros these names: “ACHAPA ADONAIE BASMA CHARAKO
IAKOB IAO E PHARPHAREI.” On the other side of the stone
engrave Psyche and Eros embracing one another and beneath
Eros’s feet these letters: “SSSSSSSS,” and beneath Psyche’s feet:
“EEEEEEEE.” Use the stone, when it has been engraved and
consecrated, like this: put it under your tongue and turn it to what
you wish and say this spell:
“I call upon you, author of all creation, who spread your own wings
over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable
who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all
things together by your power, firstborn, foun der of the universe,
golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable
thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who
secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you
carry off every living thing without growing we ary of torturing it,
rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when
the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom
men dare beyond what is fitting and take re fuge in your light
which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable,
inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torchcarrier,
master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine,
dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the
light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been
engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I
call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name:
AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA
LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI
AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing,
night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA
EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO
BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and
wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO
CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA
MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA. Turn the ‘soul’ of her NN to
me NN, so that she may love me, so that she may feel passion for
me, so that she may give me what is in her power. Let her say to me
what is in her soul because I have called upon your great name.”
*Directions and special orientation
To address the rising and the setting Sun was very important also in this magical tradition.
The rituals of consecration often include instructions to address first East-the rising Sun and stretch out right hand to the left and left hand to the right and say first the vowel A; then to the north putting forward right fist and saying the vowel E two times; then to the west stretching both hands in front and saying three times H; to the south holding both hands to the stomach and saying I four times; to the earth bending over, touching the ends of the toes and saying O five times; to the air with hands on the heart saying Y six times; looking to the sky with hands on the head saying O seven times.
Seven vowels like the seven planetary spheres.
In the invocation below, the four cardinal points are also very important:
A “God’s Arrival” of Osiris
[I.e., an Invocation of Osiris for a Revelation] “O Isis, O Nephthys,
O Noble Soul of Osiris Wennefer, come to me! I am Your Beloved
Son, Horus. O Gods who are in Heaven, O Gods who are in the
Earth, O Gods who are in the Primeval Waters, O Gods who are in
the South, O Gods who are in the North, O Gods who are in the
West, O Gods who are in the East, come to me tonight! Teach me
about Such and Such a Thing about which I am asking. Quickly!
Quickly! Hurry! Hurry!”
*Fasting, Purification and Washing before Ritual
Before magical ritual the priest would abstain from animal food and fast for some time. Then would perform ritual cleansing of his body parts and mouth, will burn incenses and anoint himself with the oil appropriate for the ritual.
These are only the very basic rules and principles of the Graeco-Egyptian magic that without any doubt have their roots in ancient Mesopotamia. We see so many similarities and Hermetic principles that are the most important foundation of astrology, divination and magic.
In separate articles we will give more detailed attention towards specific magical methods for creating astrological magical amulets and talismans.