For the past few weeks, I have been experimenting with several rites from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM). The PGM can feel intimidating to a newcomer, especially if they lack knowledge of Greco-Egyptian myths and magic. However, I believe that everyone has to start from somewhere, and the PGM is as good a place as any for someone who is seriously interested in magic to begin. This post will be a recounting of some of my experiences, in case others wish to try them themselves and compare notes!
Experiment 1: the Headless Rite
I have experimented with my own version of the rite back when I was relatively new to the occult roughly about 1-2 years ago. Now, I wish to attempt the rite again in hopes of turning it into a monthly cleansing regimen. The following rite is mainly inspired by Digital Ambler’s interpretation of the text.
First, I created the coronet-phylactery by taking a strip of white cloth and writing AOTH ABRAOTH BASYM ISAK SABAOTH IAO in blue ink on it along with the symbol :> on the white cloth, and then tied it around my head so that the text rests on top of my brow. Then, I take the coronet-phylactery and anoint it with Sphere and Sundry’s Sun in Aries oil and consecrate the cloth by reciting PGM IV. 1596-1715 over it.
Next, I stood facing north, wore the coronet-phylactery, incanted the names of AOTH ABRAOTH BASYM ISAK SABAOTH IAO and performed the Headless Rite.
Incantations of the Headless Rite could be found in PGM V.96—172, or you could follow the guide by Digital Ambler at https://digitalambler.com/rituals/classical-hermetic-rituals/the-headless-rite/
The first time I performed the rite using this method, nothing much happened as I was still getting into the headspace required to perform the rite. In a sense, you have to relax and allow the words to flow through you, letting yourself become a vessel for the Headless God. Jack Grayle refers to this concept of theosis — a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God — as taking on a deity’s Godface. It is akin to a lighter form of possession, in my experience. When I incanted the words of the rite for the second time, forcing myself to relax, I noticed that the words came much easier, as if someone else was taking the helm so to speak. Hence, I allowed that presence to fill me up and steer my actions, informing the tone of my voice and the words that spilled forth from my mouth. By the third time and onwards that I performed the rite, I found my body physically reacting to the words. I felt nauseous. I could hear the blood thumping in my ears. Frankly, I felt like throwing up.
That, in essence, is the purging and exorcistic nature of the Headless Rite.
By allowing the Headless God to fill you up, whatever else is not meant to be there inside you is pushed out. Naturally, I stopped the rite before it became ‘too much’. Zia, a dear friend of mine (who could be found on Instagram @necrowright) later performed a geomancy reading on my experience, identifying the rite as entailing the act of “cutting ties, or cleansing, or getting rid of something dead weight”. For those who wish for a relatively efficient and ‘easy’ rite (in the sense that you only need an easily made phylactery and the ability to speak to perform the rite) to help with getting rid of unwanted spiritual gunk, I believe the Headless Rite is perfect for that.
Experiment 2: the Headless Rite and the Consecration of Helios
The next experiment is an idea I received from Alison Chicosky, who posted the following on her Facebook group PGM Study & Practice Group (which I sincerely encourage people to join if they wish):
PGM Experiment Time!
I have been testing this combo for several months with amazing success. It recently came up where one of the “open doors” spells was suggested as a potential road opener. This is the combo I use when someone needs pretty much as much help as they can get- not just a single result, but a comprehensive solution.
Materials: a candle, and frankincense, whatever else you think you need for rituals.
Timing: time this spell so that it completes at sunset. This combo usually takes me less than 20 minutes.
Step 1: PGM V 96-172 The Stele of Jeu the Hieroglyphist
Where the spell says “deliver him, NN..” use the target’s name, or yours if this is for you.
Step 2: PGM IV 1596-1715 Consecration for all purposes/ spell to Helios
Instead of using this as a consecration, use the targets name or yours. So in each case, instead of “give glory and favor to this phylactery” say “give glory and honor to him, John Doe” or whatever the name of your target.
At the end of the spell, before the last line, I add something to the effect of: “as the sun sets, let the sun also set on the troubles of NN, and let it not rise tomorrow unless NN rises also in power and glory.” Remember that you are also timing this to complete at sunset.
I performed the combination of the two rites above and the results were stunning, even if I felt like at the time I hadn’t given it my 100% in the rite since I was exhausted from a long day of work. Firstly, a day or so after the rite, I received a refund of some money I had totally forgotten about. Since I was hungry for some extra cash, this refund came at a perfect time. Secondly, some magic targeting my rivals began to take effect despite the fact that those curses were done a long while ago and not many prominent effects were seen since then. I later divined on it and discovered that the reason the curse took an effect now was due to the combination of the Headless Rite along with the Spell to Helios.
Because of this, I believe the rite works in two ways. To borrow some Hoodoo terms: the rite is a combination of an uncrossing, a road opener, a blockbuster and a success spell. The Headless Rite uncrosses the occultist by performing something akin to an exorcism on them, before destroying any blocks that lies in the occultist’s path. This allows for the Spell to Helios to draw success towards the occultist as they are consecrated by Helios, whilst also opening the roads to success for the occultist (a road which is now unobstructed due to the blockbuster element of the rite). Finally, the last sentences of the rite regarding the setting and rising of the sun adds to the destruction of anything that troubles the occultist, along with the enchanting of the occultist themselves so that their heart’s desire can come true.
All in all, even when performed halfheartedly, the rite was wildly successful.
Experiment 3: the Serving Woman
Inspired by Jack Grayle’s adaptation of the rite, I substituted the skull required in PGM XI.a 1-40 with a drawing of a donkey’s skull, drawn in black ink. On the drawing itself, I also wrote the necessary symbols followed by the word SABERRA in red ink. Then, I simply performed the rite as written in the text. At night, around 3am (a time I deem to be incredibly liminal, but the rite should be just as successful if performed at midnight), I went to a bridge and placed my left foot on the image and then spoke the formula as described in PGM X1.a 1-40, following the instructions as accurately as I could.
That attempt, frankly, failed.
So, I decided to change the location.
I made my way to a threeway traffic junction. Thankfully, due to the lateness of the night, there was minimal traffic in the area. I stood at the center of the crossroads and performed the rite just like before. To my shock, I saw a literal creepy-looking house peeking through the darkness from where I stood. Of course, it may just be a coincidence that there are houses near the traffic junction where I impulsively chose to perform my rite. However, as the rite is addressed to a goddess called ‘The Mistress of the House’, I believed it was a sign that I was on the right track. Hence, I continued the rite, stepping my left foot on the skull-drawing and speaking the words as written in the text. To add to the eerie atmosphere, I noticed too that my voice echoed when I spoke. Could it simply be the acoustics of the area, due to the fact that a bridge hung above the traffic junction? Perhaps, but it genuinely added an air of mystique to the rite.
Then came the moment where I was supposed to receive a token from the goddess in the form of two teeth. To my surprise, I heard the sounds of cars arriving in the distance, so I stepped away from the crossroads and allowed the cars to pass me by. It was at that moment that the light from the car illuminated my vision, allowing me to see the previously pitch-black roads and realize that a black-colored object laid on the road right in front of me. My gut instinct told me that this object was the token I was meant to receive, so I collected the token and said the words to release the Mistress of the House from her bonds, and returned to my home nearby.
That was where things went wrong.
I had a weird sense of feeling nagging me, as if I forgot to do something. So, I did some divination to double check the rite and was glad to see that I received my domestic helper just as the rite intended. However, there was something off about the tarot cards I read, something I couldn’t quite put my fingers on. Hence, I hit up my friend Zia and through her impressive divinatory skills, I eventually realized what was missing. The Mistress of the House was not yet released from her bonds at the crossroads! I thought I did everything right because the PGM text simply said:
“But do release the goddess, when you are sure that the old woman will serve you, by speaking as follows […] When the old woman hears this, the goddess will mount the ass and depart.”
Eventually, I figured out that the reason the releasing incantation did not work was because I did not have my left foot stepping on top of the drawing of the skull when I said the incantation. This is particularly interesting, as in the beginning of the rite, it is stated that:
“After you say this, you will behold sitting on an ass a woman of extraordinary loveliness, possessing a heavenly beauty, indescribably fair and youthful.”
The text therefore implies that the Mistress of the House arrives on the back of a donkey, and after the rite is done, she departs the location by riding her donkey back. Therefore, the act of saying the releasing incantation whilst your left foot is still stepping on the skull, and then removing your feet off the skull after you are done saying the incantation, is what allows the Mistress of the House to depart. In my case, I had removed my foot from the skull-drawing when I was trying to escape getting hit by a car at 3am. In my hurry, I must’ve said the releasing words whilst forgetting about the skull entirely, therefore rendering the releasing words impotent. Regardless, I returned to the traffic junction before dawn could come and fixed my mistake by properly releasing the Mistress of the House this time around.
A part of me wonders what may happen if I choose never to release her. Will she remain trapped there forever? What if I didn’t release her and instead kept increasing my demands of her?
Since the Mistress of the House is a title that refers to the Ancient Egyptian goddess Nephthys, I don’t actually believe that the being whom we were able to restrain is actually Nephthys herself. Rather, after having a discussion with Zia about it, I have come to the conclusion that the being we summoned is actually some (lesser or smaller) emanation of the goddess. But, perhaps if we were to refuse to let this being return, it may be possible that Nephthys may be angered by this act or worse. In my case, I’d rather be safe than sorry so releasing the Mistress of the House is a wise decision in my view.
As for the serving woman herself, it is said in the PGM that: “everything that your soul desires will be accomplished by her. She will guard all your possessions and in particular will find out for you whatever anyone is thinking about. Indeed she will tell you everything and will never desert you: such is her store of good will toward you.” That is a certainly impressive claim. Out of curiosity, I approached Sfinga (@dragoncunning on Instagram, and a writer at withcunningandcommand.com) and texted her a photo of my token. Sfinga stated that she had a strange vision of “a middle-aged woman who sometimes looks even older, wearing fairly modest Greek clothing blended with old English elements. She has a head wrap tying her hair back […] a simple necklace with some symbol on it. Her feet are hooves. She looks really present and ready to facilitate domestic/home functions, like a house spirit” along with how she had been “upgrading the wards” of my current place of dwelling.
Judging from the vision, I believe the hooves may be a reflection of her donkey-inspired nature. In my experience though, I didn’t see an old woman but something else, a creature more aesthetically pleasing to my eye (that is, only when I’m trancing and trying to invoke a vision, otherwise the spirit doesn’t really show itself to me as it tends to just prefer being in the background). I believe that the PGM house spirit is capable of taking many forms, including whatever form that will put her master or mistress at ease. So far, the house spirit has been incredibly helpful in dealing with some issues with insects in my room, along with helping me unblock a sink of mine. Through my own divination (with my friend Red, @witchcraftinred on Instagram and of bloodandhawthorn.com, helping me interpret and double check some of the cards), I have also found that the house spirit is capable of magic related to ‘death’ and the ‘revelation of secrets and the illumination of the truth’. This seems to be in line with what the PGM stated (how she will ‘ find out for you whatever anyone is thinking about’) along with her connection to Nephthys, the Kemetic goddess associated with mourning, the night/darkness, service (specifically temples), childbirth, the dead, protection, magic, health, embalming, and beer, according to Wikipedia.
Anyhow, for the rite that was done in a very impromptu manner, I’d call this a wild success.
Experiment 4: Hymn of the Hidden Stele
At the rising of dawn, I simply anointed myself with Sphere and Sundry’s Sun in Aries oil and then recited PGM IV.1115—1166, the Hymn of the Hidden Stele, which is what Sam Block / Polyphanes of the Digital Ambler calls the “a prayer that praises and invokes the all-encompassing, all-powerful, all-generating Aiōn as the god of all gods”. Likewise, Jack Grayle described the hymn to be “a love-song to the kosmos” whose purpose is to “attain one-ness with the Supreme Being”.
I have nothing much to say about this hymn except that it is incredibly beautiful and theurgic. It helps if you visualize the things you are saying, and eventually I find that the visualization becomes vision.
I encourage anyone interested to try it out to do so.
Experient 5: Bring BOEL in!
Sfinga was the first person to inform me of the fact that there is a spirit in the PGM called Boel— a name that is the one and the same as the Boel of the Second Pentacle of Mercury from the Key of Solomon. I’ve been wanting to contact Boel to help with my academic life and my future career, so the fact that there is something about him in the PGM is absolutely fascinating.
The first time I tried mixing tech from the PGM and the Key of Solomon, I did it by drawing the Second Pentacle of Mercury and then conscrating it the classical way. Then, after doing that, I recited an adaptation of PDM xiv. 459-75 over it, asking that the pentacle be made capable of bringing Boel in. In my experience, something like that does work, but it also confuses the spirit of the pentacle itself somewhat. Hence, a better method is to simply consecrate the pentacle the usual way and then use incantations from the PGM to ‘call Boel in’ when you want to invoke Boel and petition him.
The second time around, I did so using the new method, and invoked Boel using the words below which is an adaptation of PDM xiv. 459-75, PDM xiv. 489-515 and PDM xiv. 150-231:
Boel— in the name of Mercury, by the powers of the Second Pentacle of Mercury, I conjure you!
In the name of God, hear me and heed my will!
O Boel, first servant of the great god, he who gives light exceedingly, the companion of flame, in whose mouth is the flame, he of the flame which is never extinguished, the god who lives, who never dies, the great god, he who sits in the flame, who is in the midst of the flame, who is in the lake of heaven. I shall praise you before the moon; I shall praise you on earth; I shall praise you in whose hand is greatness and might of the god, he of great praise, PETERI PETERI PATER EMPHE EMPHE O doubly great god, who is in the upper part of heaven, in whose hand is the beautiful staff, who created deity, deity not having created him.
O great god, TABAO BASYKHAM AMO AKHA-GHAR-KHAN-GRABYNSA-NYNI TSIKOMETO GATHY-BASA-THYRITH-MI-LAALO (x7)
TAGRTAT, he of eternity, bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! ARBETH-BAI YTSIO, O doubly great god, bring BOEL in! TAT TAT, bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! TATGRAT, he of Eternity, bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! BEYTSI O great god, bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in! Bring BOEL in!
Although I say ‘God’, in my mind, I was thinking of TAGRTAT, this being whom I can’t seem to find much information on. Is TAGRTAT none other than Thoth himself (a wild guess here, going by the fact that their names both start with a T)? Regardless, the rite went well. Boel seems efficient at his job too; he even scolded me (nicely) for being imprecise with my petition!
The experience made me wonder: are there other instances of planetary angels (or angels associated with specific planets) showing up in the PGM? That was when I came across the mention of Aniel whose name appears alongside Boel in PDM xiv. 516-27. Aniel — also known as Haniel, Hananel, Anael or Hanael — is an angel generally associated with the planet Venus who also appears in the Key of Solomon. I haven’t attempted to reach out to Aniel yet, but I’d be curious if others have done so!
Experient 6: A Direct Vision
If I were to be frank: my spirit sight is utterly shit.
It’s gotten a whole lot better though. If I get into a trance, I can See things, and I have been training myself to fall into a trance state more quickly. Still, even when I do have a vision, the vision is rarely as vivid or as strong as I wish it to be. Hence, the PGM Va. 1-3 rite to receive a ‘direct vision’ fascinated me. The rite is extremely simple. All the occultist had to do is to say the barbarous words invoking Helios’ name, anoint oneself and then a direct vision will be granted. There is an instruction to “add the usual”, which I understood as instructions to state what vision you wish to see. Thus, I devised a simple rite to contact the God of Fire to grant us a vision.
Firstly, when looking at invocations of Helios, one invocation that intrigued me was in PGM XII. 160-78 where it is said to “use also the namc of Helios for everything: Fiery, EPHAIE, Hephaistos, who is shining with fire, brightly moving, ANANOCHA AMARZA MARMARAMO.” What particularly caught my eye is the mention of Hephaistos alongside Helios, for I have always had a fondness for the Crooked-Foot God. Hephaistos too is intriguing due to the archetype related to the Magician and possibly the Devil himself. I won’t elaborate here as it is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I recommend that people read this article by Christopher A. Faraone should they wish to explore the issue further https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/4671/5467
Anyhow, I decided to blend parts of my own devotional prayer to Hephaistos with the first half of PGM IV 1596-1715, also with PGM Va. 1-3 and bits of PGM XII. 160-78 in order to create the rite below.
Hail Hephaistos, Divine Smith, Lord of Subterranean Fire.
It is your calloused and ever-dutiful hands that built the palaces of gold and marble, exalting the glory of the gods. From the world’s great orb, to the seas that ring the globe, to the sky that hangs above, no beauty eludes your craftsmanship. The majesty of the Theoi are yours, crafted painstakingly for your brothers and sisters, for heroes and kings— a statement to last the eons, enduring the death of stars and turning of the ages. You breathe life into metal, you breathe souls into statues. Whether it be the maidens, the bulls or the horses of brass and iron, it is your flame that kindles their souls. O, Lord of the Dragging Footsteps, toiling and pouring sweat over the forge and furnace; you are the Lord of Creation, a smith on reality’s anvil. Halting Lord of Quiet Dignity, only your metal-bright mind, like the silver glint of a blade, could be sharp enough, shrewd enough, to bind the Queen of the Gods. You bargained your way into power, and earned your seat upon the throne.
Hail Helios, Celestial Titan and Lord of the Solar Fire.
Fire’s dispenser, world’s far-seeing king. O Helios, with noble steeds, the eye of Zeus which guards the earth, all-seeing one, who travel lofty paths, O gleam divine, who move, through the heaven, bright, unattainable, born long ago, unshaken, with a headband of gold, wearing a disk, mighty with fire, with gleaming breastplate, winged one, untiring, with golden reins, coursing a golden path, and you who watch, encircle, hear all men. I invoke you, Helios. I invoke you, Hephaistos-Helios. I invoke you, the greatest god, eternal lord, world ruler who are over the world and under the world, mighty ruler of the sea, rising at dawn, shining from the east for the whole world, setting in the west. Come to me, thou who risest from the four winds, joyous Agathos Daimon, for whom heaven has become the processional way. I call upon your holy and great and hidden names, which you rejoice to hear! The earth flourished when you shone forth, and the plants became fruitful when you laughed; the animals begat their young when you permitted.
I invoke you, the greatest in heaven:
EI LANKHYKH AKAREN BAL MISTHREN
MARTA MATHATH LAILAM MOUSOUTHI
SIETHO BATHABATHI IATMON ALEI
IABATH ABAOTH SABAOTH ADONAI
The Great God ORSENOPHRE
ORGEATES TOTH ORNATESA KRITHI BIOTHI
IADMO IATMOMI METHIEI LONKHO’O
AKARE BAL MINTHRE BANE
The shining Helios, giving light throughout the whole world!
You are the Great Serpent, leader of all the gods, who control the beginning of Egypt
And the end of the whole inhabited world,
Who mate in the ocean
PSOI PHNOUTHI NINTHER
You are he who becomes visible each day
And sets in the northwest of heaven, and rises in the southeast.
Fiery, EPHAIE, Hephaistos, who is shining with fire, brightly moving, ANANOCHA AMARZA MARMARAMO
O Helios BERBELOCH CHTHOTHOMI ACH SANDOUM ECHNIN ZAGOUEL, bring me into union with you,
And show me a vision of [insert petition].
[Then, anoint yourself with holy oil and witness the vision.]
[In my case, I used Sphere and Sundry’s Sun in Aries oil.]
As for the results of the rite, I experienced a stream of information pouring into my head along with flashes of mental images answering the question I posed. The rite itself has also inspired me to renew my veneration of Hephaistos, and divination for whether I should start venerating Hephaistos again or not came back incredibly positive (the ending card being ‘The Sun’, which is incredibly fitting).
It’s been a wild ride. Lately, I’ve been performing magic for the sake of improving specific areas of my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I got inspired to perform magic for the sake of performing magic, resulting in the spree of me messing about with the PGM to see what may happen. There are other rites I have done but left out of the blog post for privacy reasons. However, I am also excited (egg-cited… I am sorry) to eventually perform the PGM VII. 505–28 rite to ‘meet your own daimon’, wherein one of the actions required for the rite is to eat a raw egg every dawn for a week. Key and Sfinga have written a lovely post on the rite on their blog withcunningandcommand.com which I recommend everyone check out if they are interested.
In my view, the greatest takeaway I had from the experiments is that magic and theurgy by themselves can be incredibly fun and fulfilling. Experimenting without expectation of results— everyone should try that out at least once in their life.
Finally, I end this post by including some images of items used in the rites down below.