Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Feast of the Dead [EDITED]

The Feast of the Dead by V.F.F.

“Silence! Silence! Silence!
Symbol of the Living, Incorruptible God!
Guard me, Silence, NECHTHEIR THANMELOU!”
“Silence! Silence!
I am a star, wandering about with you, shining forth out of the deep, OXY O XERTHEUTH!
- PGM IV. 475-829. (Untitled/“The Liturgy of Mithras.”)

The Demon of a Dead Man.”
This post is in part inspired by R.O.'s The Dead are Everywhere! I had planned to do a post like it, anyway, but why not jump from where he started?

Most of the terminology I'm going to use stems from the PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae or Greek Magical Papyri). I was going to try and flesh out a rough “three world structure” and place the spirits discussed in it, but I keep thinking of all kinds of exceptions and becoming annoyed with myself for not being able to sort the different categories of Daimons into specific spaces. So, instead, I'm just going to talk about the Daimons and try to keep this simple. Where possible, expect to see references to the PGM.

The most important term I will be using is that of the “daimon.” To quote Betz Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: “In the PGM, as often in Greek literature, this term is used of deities and lesser spirits whose influential control is sought. In the New Testament, the word is used of an evil spirit, 'demon,' a sense not generally used in the PGM.” Thus, a daimon can be just about any spirit ranging from a God such as Hermes Kthonios, to the most impotent and least empowered of the spirits of the dead.

However, if we want to achieve some coherency when it comes to distinguishing between the Heroic/Mighty Dead and the Restless Shades, it might be helpful to default to original terminology beyond the simple reference point of “daimon.”

The Heroic Dead
To quote Phil, again:
Of the various classes of divine being that existed for the Greeks, heroes are an interesting further option. Gods are gods (let us take what this means for granted!), and demigods are often born of a god and one mortal parent, though very few are recognized as such in cultus. Dionysos, for example, is never called a demigod, though Semele (his “final” mother) was mortal (though eventually made immortal as well). However, Herakles and Perseus are both sons of Zeus, and the latter is never considered a god and is only a hero, whereas the former hero was eventually deified and underwent apotheosis. The Dioskouroi seem like they ought to be heroes, but in fact they are considered gods more often than not. However, many heroes seem to have started out as strictly mortal. Whatever the cultic or theological reality may be in each individual case, perhaps the main distinction is that most gods have a timeless and eternal quality about them, whereas heroes have a beginning and end in death, but a very productive afterlife...”
- P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, The Syncretisms of Antinous.
The Heroic Dead express a range of action and potential. At the upper end is someone like Asklepios, who “attained divinity” (or was treated as though he had by his cult) and is considered a God, but whose divinity was often contested even at the height of his cult's practices. At the other end of this spectrum is any one of the number of soldiers that died in the battles of antiquity and was part of the Mass Heroizing practices that were performed at some sites.

Conceptually speaking, we might well compare them to Saints, and perhaps even more-so to Folk Saints. A given hero may or may not have had a cult, or a cult site, but that doesn't make them any less Heroic. It sounds like for the most part, contact was contingent on some form of space they may have also inhabited (such as their tomb), but... Who knows? There were a lot of heroes, by my understanding, and they don't act like some of the other Daimons one might come across.

Am I allowed to add pantheons of Daimons like the Daimones Argyrei or the Daimones Khryseoi? There were human at some point, but now they aren't. So, do we class them along with Heroic Spirits or do they occupy their own special categories? I have no idea. I want to, but, I'm not like an expert or anything.

The Biaiothanatoi.

According to Betz, they were:
 “those who died violent deaths, were unable to enter the underworld because their time on earth had not been completed. After death they lingered as evil spirits and were subject to magical compulsion.”
They belong, if I'm correlating them correctly, to Hecate's Horde.

Even when their presence is not explicit in the PGM, materials relating to them for lunar workings or invisibility is present. For example PGM IV. 2785-2890, a “Prayer to Selene for any Spell.” The prayer is over-all to the Moon, but heavily influenced by Hekate and her aspects. After crafting the protective charm for the rite, the magician is told to “clean with natron and water, and dip in the blood of one who has died a violent death.” (V.V.F. Has argued that alternatively, a magician could try using one of the plants attributed to being sprung from the blood of a hero. This is an interesting suggestion, but... I don't know. I need to think more about it.) Additionally, since the rite is all-purpose (“for any spell”), there are two different offerings that are to fed to the charm upon it's completion: “For doing good, offer storax, myrrh, sage, frankincense, a fruit pit.” This is contrasted for doing harm: “offer magical material of a dog and a dappled goat (or in a similar way, of a virgin untimely dead).” Some of the polluted materials (excepting the elements relating strictly to Hecate and her relation to pollution) largely appear to be relating to the Biaiothanatoi.

Alternatively, some invisibility spells such as the one mentioned in the third part of the Dead Man's Hand (Edit: continuing from points made in the second.) entries call for materials relating to these daimons, for reasons I assume exist along the lines of inoculation. (A great many of the spells don't seem to be created to make one literally invisible, but appear more likely to make one invisible to a spectrum of adverse daimons that the magician wishes to avoid. But I am being perhaps too general on that subject. I've seen at least two PGM spells for invisibility that seem to be semi-literal.)

Finally, simply because a spirit is of this class doesn't appear to be all that it can be. PGM IV. 1928-2005 is entitled “Spell of Attraction of King Pitys over any skull cup.” A crucial line to it is this: “Grant me power over the spirit of this man who died a violent death...” Far from being horrific, the goal of the ritual is to introduce said dangerous, and restless, shade to the power of Helios. Thereafter the spirit is altered, presumably by the power of the Solar God, into a badass that can crank out exorcisms. However, PGM IV 2125-39 is “a restraining seal for skulls that are not satisfactory for use in divination, and also to prevent them from speaking or doing anything whatever of this sort.” So, clearly, even the rituals attributed to King Pitys were not thought to work universally. Nonetheless, I am bringing these rituals up to make it clear that even a spirit that initially is encountered and part of one group of spirits can end up doing something radically different when employed by a magician. At least that is the view that the PGM leaves one with. The question of whether or not the rituals referenced above even work is... Something I can hardly attest.

Still, I hope this little dialogue was of some benefit to someone.

If I got something wrong, please let me know so that I can correct it. Again, I'm not an expert or authority or anything on these matters.

And also: there is no “the Goetia.” There is The Lemegeton,” and there was Goetia (which was practiced by Goetes), but they are not precisely the same thing. Just sayin'. I know I've also sinned against that category of practice by referring, many times, to demons evoked from the Lemegeton and similar magical books as “Goets.” My bad. I should stop that. Like. Forever.
Finally, should the picture above become my new header? With a bit more cleanup, of course.