Friday, August 24, 2012

The Demons of Magic by Morton Smith

I've been re-reading Morton Smith's The Demons of Magic, which I do every six months or so. I actually tend to re-read everything by him in my library every six months or so, because I often finding myself forgetting points he made, or becoming confused again.

But there were some choice bits in it I wanted to sample:
The papyri give you the fullest description of the daimones and their place in the world. They refer to them fairly often, as a class of beings who are intermediate, apparently, between gods and men. They are supernatural beings, in the sense that they haven't got human physical location and limitations, but they are subordinate to the gods. They are found in the air, on the earth, in the waters, and on the sea, and also in the underworld. An especially important class of them are the demons of the underworld, particularly the demons of the dead who become daimones after death--apparently all the dead do, and whenever you have a dead man you have a decidaimon who can be called up if you have some remains of the body, the proper spells, and so on. The decidaimon will be particularly effective if the dead man was killed violently, especially if was executed for a crime, but also if he died young, particularly if he died before marriage. Those who did not reach their time of flourishing, and those who died as infants, especially, provide lots of demonic service for the magicians. All of these daimones for the most part are what you might call the help, the labor, of the magical world. They are called in to provide various services for the magician. For example, “Go to a such and such house and stand next to somebody and take the appearance of the god or demon that he or she particularly reveres and tell the target person as follows.” Then you give the message you want conveyed. Or “take control of them,” usually used in attempts to get women. “Make her jump out of bed and come to me right away and pound on the door.” “Inflame her with passion. Make her burn.” And so forth and so on. You can also change the gender, but women, on the whole, are easier. The magical world is predominantly straight, so charms of this sort are usually for men trying to get women. You can also send out demons to commit murder, or for all sorts of other purposes, such as to get information. I suppose that if magic were still going there would be spells like, “Go to my competitor's computer and read what he has on the following keys.” So these, what I might call lower class help, the helper class of demons, frequently appear in lists, especially when you are talking about the Great Name. “I have the Great Name at which the gods prostrate themselves, the demons are terrified, the wild animals take flight, rivers flow backwards...” and so forth and so on. You can go right on down. You normally start with the gods, then the demons, then the men or wild animals, and then other physical phenomenon, such as the seas will calm, and so forth....
Besides this, however, there is a very interesting class of exceptional passages which occur much more rarely but deserve, I think, much more attention. These are the ones that carry on the old tradition of identifying the gods as daimones, so that you get a list of names for example: lord god of gods, king daimon, followed by magical voces. Further on down in 460 in PGM 4, Helios Horus is addressed as “ruler of the world” or “lord of the world,” “daimon of sleepless fire.”
You get into PGM 7 and 8 and you find an interesting spell which occurs several times: “Spell for demanding a dream from Bes.” “I call on you the headless god who has sight in his feet. You who lightning and thunder . . .” etcetera. Besides being headless, he is cosmic. “Arise, daimon. You are not a daimon but theblood of the two hawks on the coffin of Osiris . . .” etcetera. You go on to what the two hawks are up to and come back. “I conjure you daimon by your two names: Anouth-anouth. You are the headless god.” and so forth, “Answer me.” It's quite clear that the terms “daimon” and “god” are fluctuating back and forth here as practically equivalent terms.* And that the creature we have in mind, a headless being with eyes on his feet is much like, or like what would ordinarily be considered a good daimon, then what would ordinarily be considered a high god. But he is the high god and I think he is the high god because he is the earth which hasn't got a head, which has a great stretch of flat land. The shoulders with the neck cut off which wears around itself the seed as a great serpent out of which the gods and men and other things grow. As gods, plants and men and the like are shown growing from this headless being wearing the great serpent around his middle as a loincloth. I'm describing a lapis lazuli gem in the British museum that shows this very clearly; it is reasonably well inscribed so you can see these details. There are a number of other gems showing this headless demon and we also find him in statues. There are a couple of lead statues from Syracuse showing him with his eyes (in this case) not on the feet but in the tummy. You have a headless torso with a face on the navel and there is another to prove that this was not just a Syracusen peculiarity. You have another statue of the same sort from the neighborhood of Constantinople. So this earth god is Bes and he also agathos daimon. Bes and agathos daimon and the headless god are very closely intertwined. That was easier to do because as you all know agathos daimon is serpentine. Agathos daimon is a well recognized god, who has well recognized cults in Egypt also elsewhere in southern Italy and the like.

*Italix mine.


Brother Christopher said...

I find this terribly amusing:

"You can also change the gender, but women, on the whole, are easier. The magical world is predominantly straight, so charms of this sort are usually for men trying to get women."

Cause, you know, the number of spells to get women has nothing to with the culture. And if women were easier, there wouldn't be so many spells to get them. Although I have used a spell to get man from the PGM and it did work quite well.

Jack Faust said...

Bro. Chris: Yeah, I'd agree that the actual spells and how they're used or who they target are culture and context dependant. That was an oversight of his, I think. But I think he also means that women are easier to effect with those spells. That's still a load of cultural assumptions and baggage, but I've noticed a huge chunk are heavily lunar. Those spells will hit people who are in sympathy with Luna if used intelligently.

But, in all honesty, having sex with someone being obsessed with a sublunar Biaiothanatos Daimon/Decidaimon doesn't sound very wise to me. Actually, that sounds like a situation very likely to explode horribly in one's face unless they are very experienced.

But I have to ask - which ritual did you use? How did it work out?

Brother Christopher said...

I would have to go through my stuff, cause I think I still have it somewhere.

I do agree with the idea of using a spirit to coerce someone's actions into having sex or being in a relationship with you can be quite risky.

It did work out quite well, part of which the target was someone I had already had relations with once before, and wished to continue to do so, at least for short while.

Anonymous said...

Is this the same Morton Smith who wrote about Jesus the Magician and the secret Gospel of Mark?