Tag Archives: Greece

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)

Celebrations of the Vernal Equinox

By J.A. Doyle, the Wizard of Grand

In 2013, the Vernal Equinox will take place on March 20th

The word “Equinox” comes from the Latin words meaning “equal-night.” On two days a year, in the Spring and in the Autumn, we experience near-equal times of day and night. The Spring Equinox is the astrological New Year, when the Sun enters the sign of Ares. In astrology, the sign of Aries the Ram is ruled by the Red Planet, called Mars by the Romans and Ares by the Greeks. The month of March was named so by the Romans in honor of Mars, and they held great festivals for Mars during this time. In Ancient Mesopotamia, the Babylonians celebrated their New Year at the New Moon after the Spring Equinox in celebration of the Epic of Creation and the triumph of the God Marduk over the Dragon-Goddess Tiamat. The Israelites adopted the Babylonian calender and also celebrated the Spring Equinox as their New Year, eventually holding “Pesach,” or Passover, in honor of the Exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery.

Tiamat and Marduk

The Germanic Eostre, Goddess of Dawn and Spring

During the 2nd-Century, the early Christian Church rendered “Pesach” into the Greek “Pascha” and celebrated the Resurrection of Christ during this time. As Christianity spread into Northern Europe, they found the Germanic Pagans celebrating the “Eostarmonath”, first attested to by the 8th-Century monk, Bede the Venerable. Bede claims that the Pagans had honored the Spring and dawn goddess Eostar during this month, and that this practice had died out by his lifetime but the people still call the “Paschal season” by the old name. So, we see now how “Passover” became “Easter.”

The festival of Easter retained many older Pagan symbols and traditions. Legends of Slain and Resurrected Gods or Heroes were widespread in Antiquity, and many of their rituals were celebrated around the Spring Equinox. Even today, Easter is determined by a Lunar reckoning, being observed at the Sunday after the Full Moon that falls after the Spring Equinox. The March Hare, or “Easter Bunny,” was associated with copious fertility and the Spring Equinox in Antiquity, also thought to be a hermaphrodite by some ancient writers. Easter ceremonies also often include great fires (the zodiacal sign of Ares is elementally associated with Fire), and scapegoating rituals meant to cleanse the community of sin. Sometimes the two are combined, such as in the burning of an effigy of Judas Iscariot, practiced by many Mediterranean and South American communities. 

Netherlanders watching the Eostar-fire

Passover Meal

Eggs, in particular, have been associated with the Spring Equinox throughout history. Eggs are a symbol of new life, fertility, and the cycle of life. The Seder plate of Passover includes an egg and Early Christians would have had knowledge of, if not participation in, this. Also, because of the food-restrictions during Lent in the Middle Ages, Easter-tide was when eggs could be reintroduced to the diet. Mesopotamian and Mediterranean Christians dyed eggs red to symbolize the blood shed from Christ, and developed an egg-cracking ritual wherein the participants tap eggs together and whoever had an egg that remains intact at the end receives good luck. A popular folk tradition, particularly in North America, is the balancing of an egg on it’s tip. While may claim it can only be done on the two Equinox days, I must admit I have seen it done at other times. I prefer to think that to balance an egg on the Equinox is to only invite good luck and balance into one’s life, or at least a sense of accomplishment.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

St. Patrick

A few days before the Equinox, the Feast of Saint Patrick is celebrated on March 17th. Commonly associated with the color green, shamrocks, and great feasting, St. Patrick’s Day has become a modern expression of an ancient desire to celebrate the Spring (as well as a brief break from Lenten restrictions). According to legend, St. Patrick was sent by Rome to Ireland to spread Christianity. He allegedly used the shamrock with its three-leaves to explain the nature of the Holy Trinity to the Irish Pagans. The legend of St. Patrick chasing serpents from the Emerald Isle is an allegory of his conversion of Druidic peoples. Through this association with serpents St. Patrick was, through syncretism, identified the Vodun creator spirit and father of the loa, Damballah Wedo, the white serpent. His feast is celebrated in Haiti and New Orleans on March 17th. Damballah is also said to hold the Cosmic Egg that contains all of Creation in his mouth. Serpents, in general, are also symbols of resurrection and rebirth because of their shedding. Interestingly enough, the earliest celebration of the Spring Equinox by the Babylonians focused on the slaying of a serpent-like Goddess and the creation of the World from her corpse. The connection of serpents and the arrival of Spring is an ancient conception.

Damballah Wedo’s Veve

What we see throughout history is a celebration of resurrection, new life, and fertility. Observances to mark these celebrations are made by the position of the Sun, Moon, and stars, as well as by the warming of the air and the return of green to the Earth. Humans have performed rituals throughout history in honor of the Slain and Resurrected, parallel to the increasing sunlight of early Spring. Fires are made heaping up to the skies, images representing what we wish to cast off are immolated with the promise of new growth. In celebrating the Spring Equinox, with symbols of eggs, hares, serpents, and divine figures victorious over Death, we align with the powers that these symbols hold, and reaffirm our connection to the cycles of Nature and the omnipresence of God. It is a time to allow ourselves, like Nature, to rise up towards the Light of the Sun and begin to grow anew. It is time to celebrate the Re-Creation of the World.