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Isopsephia in Theory

isopsephia

Correspondence Chart written in the margins of a page in The Treatise of Solomon. The first row of characters shows Arabic numerals. The second row, the first 8 letters of the Greek Alphabet, which are 1-9. The third row represents 10-80, and the fourth row represents 100-800. The characters for 6, 90, and 900 had fallen out of use by this time.

by J.A.Doyle, 2130

Before the invention and widespread utilization of a specialized system of written characters used to represent numerical values, the Ancients most often turned to their written alphabet to illustrate the complex relationship of numbers and the cosmos. Prior to this, however, the Ancients arranged tiny stones into patterns to function as their visual calculator. The Greek word for pebble was ‘psephos‘, and it also stood for “calculation” (calculi itself being the Latin word for ‘pebble’). Eventually, the Ancients needed a better way than pebbles to display the more complex of mathematical formulas, and until the advent of the acrophonic system (“Roman Numerals”) and the later adoption of the Hindi-Arabic numerals, using an alphanumerical system to represent both sound and calculation was the best method. The Pythagorean school’s motto “All is number,” was taken rather literally.

The Greek Theurgists and Wonder-workers saw a deeper relationship between their alphabet, corresponding mathematical values, and the powers of the world. The Classical Hellenistic worldview of the Hermetic Philosophers included twenty four elements, called ‘stoicheion‘. First of all were the four ‘rhozomatoi‘ or ‘roots’ first expounded upon by the philosopher Empedocles, who suggested that it was from these roots that all things were created. The four roots were known as Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. Aritstotle later suggested a fifth root called ‘aiether’, or Spirit, which exists in the heavens and binds all things together. The latter parts of the twenty four elements include the seven ‘planetoi astres‘ or ‘Wandering Stars’ and the twelve figures of the ‘zodiakos kuklos‘ or the ‘wheel of living things’.

Of these seven wandering stars are the two luminaries the Sun and Moon, and the five planets capable of being seen with the unaided eye Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The term “Seven Heavens” refers to the division of the sky into seven spheres that are the domains of the planets that reside within them. Beyond the Seven Heavens is the Eighth Sphere, the domain of the zodiac and the abode of the signs of Ares, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The zodiac encompasses the elliptic that the Sun passes through on his yearly journey through the heavens. Contrary to ordinary belief, the zodiac no longer corresponds precisely to the constellations of stars they are derived from, but rather functions as a 12-fold division of the heavens. In this way each of the four seasons contains three zodiac signs, but not the constellations themselves.

This was a component of the cosmology of the Hermetic Philosophers, an early periodic table of elements, if you will. The lingua franca of the philosophers of the ancient world was Greek. There are 24 commonly used letters in the Greek Alphabet, others symbols have come and gone throughout history. The Greek Alphabet is very much a composite system of foreign influence and the majority of the characters were originally derived from the 22 letter Phoenician Alphabet. The Greeks system was the first one to represent vowels, and these took on a highly mystical importance.

Now, with magically-minded people existing in a world with and alphabet of 24 commonly used letters and 24 elements comprising the known Kosmos someone was bound to correspond these with each other. Thus, the sounds and forms of words came to represent an element, a Planet, or a sign of the Zodiac. And since the letters corresponded with numbers, the sympathy between them also corresponds with the stoicheon. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) The adoration of the ‘Logos‘, or the Word, Speech, Reason, is persistent throughout Greek thought and religion from the Classical Pagan philosophers up to the emergence of early Mediterranean Christianity and beyond. To speak is to change the world, and the world is contained within the word. Allen Moore, writer and occultist, has made apparent that he believes magic to be a system of grammar, a way of using language. His statement is not unfounded.

Now, we can be sure that the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet Alpha, Epsilon, Hta, Iota, Omicron, Upsilon, and Omega represent the seven planets known in Latin as Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This is attested to in collections like the Papyri Graecae-Magicae, a melange of Greco-Egyptian Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic rituals. The other attributes are more-or-less accurate, and with less apparent origins. There are no ancient references to the attributes of the other seventeen letters of the alphabet; however, contained within the Occult Philosophy of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa is a chart which corresponds the twenty-four stoichieon with the Hebrew letters, Chieromantic signs, the Greek letters, and an old Roman alphabet. Therefore, by the 1500’s a European tradition of the use of the twenty-four stoichieon and corresponding Greek letters was established in occult philosophy and practical Kabala. Perhaps, then, this was not unknown to the author of the Testament of Solomon, which displays the use of Isopsephia,  and other subsequent grimiores of the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.

Within the use of the alphabet to represent mathematics we find the Hellenistic occult technique of ‘Isopsephia‘, combining the word for pebble with ‘Iso,’ meaning ‘equal’, like the modern system of Numerology yet distinctly pertaining to Greek Mysticism and Language, its origins are in the teachings of Pythagoras and other Philosophers. There are many other similar alphanumerical occult systems, such as the Hebrew practice of ‘Gematria‘ (itself being a Greek loan-word meaning “earth-measurement”). It is even suggested that the Hebrews adapted the technique after they began to colonize parts of Greece. Though, there is even evidence to support and even earlier use of the alphanumerical technique in the writings of Ancient Mesopotamia.

The Greeks realized that when viewing a word or phrase written in their alphabet, it could also be seen as a collection of numbers due to their mathematical system. When each of these letters are combined through addition, a greater number is found. The mystics looked for words that added up to the same number to find secret connections. If two words or phrases are equal then it can be said that a sympathetic resonance exists between them. When that resonance is meditated upon its power is made manifest. One of the secret treasures of Isopsephia is to awaken the initiate to the realization that number, sound, and symbol are all at the foundations of the magic of the temple.

I conclude with a chart of the Greek Alphabet that will further illustrate the relationship between Kosmos, Number, Sound, and Symbol. Next time we will explore the practical applications of Isopsephia such as the arts of Contemplation, Magical Formulae, Talismanic Images, Temple-building, Encryption, and Secret Code.

The Greek Alphabet  

Characters

Name

Transliteration

Pronunciation

Value

Στοιχεια

Translation

Α α

Alpha

a

Father

1

Σεληνη

Luna

Β β

Beta

b

Vine

2

Κριος

Aries

Γ γ

Gamma

g

Get,

Yet before Ι or Ε,

Sing before Γ, Κ, Ξ, Χ

3

Ταυρος

Taurus

Δ δ

Delta

d

Then

4

Διδιμοι

Gemini

Ε ε

Epsilon

e

Set

5

Ερμες

Mercury

Ζζ

Zeta

z

Zeal

7

Καρκινος

Cancer

Η η

Eta

ē

Pick or Met

8

Αφροδιτη

Venus

Θ θ

Theta

th

Thin

9

Γη

Earth

Ι ι

Iota

i

Yet or Meet

10

    Ηλιος

Sol

Κ κ

Kappa

k

Sack

20

Λεον

Leo

Λ λ

Lambda

l

Light

30

Κορη

Virgo

Μ μ

Mu

m

Mouse, (μπ=Ball)

40

Ζυγος

Libra

Ν ν

Nu

n

Never

50

Σκορπιος

Scorpio

Ξ ξ

Xi

x

Ox, Kicks, Axe

60

Ηυδρος

Water

Ο ο

Omicron

o

Lot, Rote

70

Αρης

Mars

Π π

Pi

p

Pan, (μπ=Ball)

80

Τοξοτις

Sagittarius

Ρ ρ

Rho

r

Perro, Problems

100

Αγιοςκερος

Capricorn

   Σ σ ς

Sigma

s

Silver

200

Υδροηοος

Aquarius

Τ τ

Tau

t

Stop

300

Ιχθης

Pisces

Υ υ

Upsilon

y

Ü

400

Ζευς

Jupiter

Φ φ

Phi

ph, f

Phone, Fire

500

Αερ

Air

Χ χ

Chi

x

Loch

600

Πυρς

Fire

Ψ ψ

Psi

ps

Lips

700

Αεθειρ

Aether

Ω ω

Omega

ō

Tote

800

Κρονος

Saturn

Resources:

Theology of Arithmetic, by Iamblichus

De Occulta Philosophia, by Heinrich Corneilus Agrippa

The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, by Hans Dieter Betz

Mystery of the Seven Vowels, by Jocelyn Godwin

Hermetic Magic: The Post-Modern Papyrus of Abaris, by Steven Flowers

Stoichia, by Polyphanes (http://digitalambler.wordpress.com/skills/stoicheia/)

Isopsephia Calculator, by John Opsopaus (http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/Isopsephia.html)

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Return of The Curio Cabinet

Greetings to you, Oh Curious Wanderer! Welcome to the blog of The Curio Cabinet and it’s owner, the Wizard of Grand. The Curio Cabinet was established in 2010 to serve those seekers of a magical life. Besides being the online occult journal of the Wizard, thecuriocabinet.wordpress.com will serve as an interface for clients to learn about the Wizard and the development of The Curio Cabinet. Check out what The Curio Cabinet and the Wizard have to offer!  Curious about our terminology?

  • Sorcery– At The Curio Cabinet, this word defines the art of divination due to it’s etymological roots in the Latin word sors, which meant “lots,” as in “casting lots,” or divination. This encompasses the arts of Tarot, Astrology, Dream Interpretation, and other forms that the Wizard of Grand can perform.
  • Witchcraft– Without ruffling the feathers of too many purists and anthropologists, we like to use the term “witchcraft” to define the techniques of folk magic, without attaching it to any specific religion or cosmology. This includes, but is not limited to or defined by, the observance of sympathetic magic, the use of magical herbalism and perfumery, candle magic, warding the evil eye, and other ancestral, folk wisdom passed on from generation to generation.
  • Theurgy– This word comes from the Greek θεουργία which literally means “God work.” Part of the Work of The Curio Cabinet is to help foster spiritual growth in individuals. With the knowledge of Neo-Platonism, Hermetic Philosophy, and Ceremonial Magic, the Wizard of Grand is able to aid in the construction and performance of ceremonies of transition and transformation.

A List of Our General Services

  • Tarot– The Wizard has always had a deck of Tarot cards since the early days of his occult studies. Focusing on the rich symbolism of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, the Wizard of Grand discovered a enlightening journey of personal growth. The Wizard can read the cards in a variety of spreads to help you find own way to a journey towards enlightenment.
  • Astrology– Working with the 7 planets and the 12 signs of the zodiac in the tropical scheme, the Wizard of Grand can cast and interpret a variety of horoscopes based on the astrological lore of ancient, classical, medieval, and renaissance authors.
  • Onieromancy– It may have been vivid and ludid dreams that led the Wizard of Grand towards a fascination with symbolism and hidden meanings. Many figures in his early life encouraged and inquired him about the meanings of dreams. While everyone’s dream symbolism is their own, the Wizard of Grand can assit in the interpretation and understanding of dreams.
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See anything that sparks your curiosity? Contact The Curio Cabinet and The Wizard of Grand through e-mail or comments on the blog. Come back soon!

The Magical Calendar

“…you will need to know about the times and seasons of the witches’ year. These are the correct times when you will be able to recharge your magical batteries and draw down to yourself the new currents of elemental power to work your spells.” –Paul Huson, Mastering Witchcraft, Ch. 1 ‘Magical Times and Seasons’

Heliocentric Zodiac

The Magical Calendar is one that follows the natural progression of seasons, as influenced by the Sun, Moon, myriad Stars and the weather. It began as the obsessive observation of the Heavens by our Ancestors. There was something unique in our consciousness that caused us to wonder up at the ceaselessly rotating firmament. After observing celestial events for so long, early civilizations began to realize correlations between the Heavens and the Earth. It was this ancestral practice that led to sciences such as astronomy and meteorology, study of the stars and the weather. Even today, many “rational” people believe in or at least take interest in their zodiac sign. Even if you do or do not believe in or agree with Astrolatry, it is impossible to deny the historical influence celestial observation has had in the creating of calendars.

The modern Magical Calendar that many Neo-Pagans are familiar with are 8 holy days arranged around a wheel, commonly called the “Wheel of the Year”. This model is generally accepted to be the best guide to seasonal progression. The 8 days of the Wheel follow the life of the Sun and the fertility of the Land. However, if the land you live in is not similar to that of Northern Europe, this model might not be so useful. In fact, many of the holidays on the Wheel were never celebrated by the ancient pagans in the same way that they are observed today. The Church of the Middle Ages absorbed many different traditional European pagan festivals from several different native cultures. Through this absorption and later reclamation of the pagan symbolism of the Christian Liturgical year by the Occult Revival at the turn of the last century, the modern Neo-Pagan community has a standard calender many can agree upon.

General Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year

 The Moon has also been used as a timepiece perhaps longer than the Solar calendar. The Lady’s face changes shape every day and She visits nearly each zodiac sign every month. In fact, the English words “month” and “moon” are etymologically related. Modern Witches and Pagans are familiar with tracking the phases of the Moon, most likely holding celebrations on the Full and Dark Moons. There are also the 28 Mansions of the Moon, an art originating in Near East that has been seemingly vacant from Neo-Pagan teaching, until recently.

Lunar Mansions

We see the same cosmic truth in the cyclical pattern of the Lunar “Moonth” and the Solar Year. Ascent, Zenith, Descent, Nadir. Waxing, Full, Waning, Dark. Dawn, Midday, Dusk, Midnight. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Sowing, Growing, Ripening, Reaping. Sex, Youth, Age, Death. The Wheel of the Year, the Magical Calendar, the festivals of Witches, Magicians and Pagans abound are the observation and celebration of the Sun and Moon and their interplay with the Earth and Her fertility and sterility. As above, so below, no?

We heretic folk also take into account the passing of the Planets passing through the constellations of the Zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Some of us take into account 10 Planets or more (always including the luminaries, the Sun and Moon), but there are those of us who only look to the sacred 7: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, and Luna. They rove around the firmament free from the invisible grip the other stars are seemingly held captive by, and we can see them with our naked, but trained, eye. These are the same lights that fascinated our ancient ancestors, descending from the trees and ascending from the caves. So great was their awe of these free-traveling  stars that they called them gods.

Weekday Calendar

The Chaldean Order, that is the 7 planets arranged by the speed at which they travel through our visual sky, from fastest to slowest are the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Arranged in the pattern of the Heptagram, the 7 planets flesh out the pattern of the days of the week. So, not only does the complete Magical Calendar form the Solar Year and Lunar Month, as ruled by the relationship of the luminaries with the Earth and their passage through the zodiac, it also encompasses the 7 days of the week overseen by the 7 classical planets. Even the 24 hours of each day are divided and ruled by the planets.

Generally, the accepted calculation of the Planetary hours runs thus: at Dawn of the Day in Question, the first hour is ruled by the Planet of that Day in Question and follows the Chaldean Order after that. So on Friday, the Day of Venus, at Dawn is the Hour of Venus and is followed by the Hour of Mercury. These hours are not equal hours like we have on our clocks. Only at the Equinoxes are the Planetary Hours equal.

From the first stirrings of astrology in the Near East, to the development of the Mysteries in the Mediterranean, to the observations of the Celts and Germanic tribes, and the Holy Days of the Church, rediscovered by the Occult revival,, the reclaiming of our ancestral celebrations, these are the sacred moments that the Western Mysteries  have given us.

Now what should you do with them if you are interested? Study the meanings, the symbols, the stories, the myths. Study the science, the pattern, the ebb and flow. Spend time in the midst of the change of seasons, experience the transformation in your environment and within yourself. Build annual rituals to help tie yourself to the cycles that can be based upon pre-existing calendars or that which is sent from one’s own Genius. When one listens to the rhythm of Nature, one can begin dancing with Her.