The London Papyrus 122 (PGM VIII) is a magical handbook dating to the fourth or fifth century CE, and on lines 1-63 it contains a crucial theurgical spell designed to “obtain favour” (kharistêrion) from Thoth-Hermes. The Spell was mislabelled as a love spell in the original and was crudely repurposed as a money or work prosperity spell to be given to a workshop to improve its business. But the Spell’s core is far above that. Even the PGM translator EN O Neil suggested the Spell shows “traces of mysticism”, something a magical mind spots and a muggle or armchair magician cannot.
The Spell is vital to me because I used it initially as a candle offering to my contact every night for 12 years (I missed a week when I was in hospital for a check-up), and slowly, it taught me what it did.
Briefly, it creates a daemon that acts as a means for Thoth-Hermes to communicate with the magician and interacting with that “helper” brings blessings from Thoth-Hermes. The Spell gradually builds and ensoul the thought-form. It is classical Theurgy and if done correctly, can be life-transforming. Before all my workings and initiations, I also use it to connect to Thoth Hermes.
The Spell is syncretic using Egyptian and Greek concepts but veers more toward ancient Greek magic, invoking Gods through their Egyptian names because they are exotic.
Firstly, here is my version of the Spell as it is written in London Papyrus 122. I have added verse numbers so that I can refer to each part in the commentary. The underlined sentences were added by the writer of the London Papyrus for their workshop spell. They can be safely removed to restore the spell to its true purpose:
- Make a small statue from olive wood of a seated dog-faced baboon with Hermes’ winged helmet on its head. On its back, it should have a box with the name of Hermes. Write in myrrh ink; after praying for what you do, or what you wish, close the lid of the box, burn incense, and place it where you wish in the workshop.
- The names written on the papyrus in myrrh ink are: Phthoron, Phthionê and Thôuth.
- You may add the following Great Names: Iaô Sabaôth Adônaie, Ablanathanalba, Akrammakhamarei, 365, give [insert name] and their work business, favour, elegance, prosperity.
- Nun! Nun! Êdê! Êdê!
- While you do so, pray for what you want. Put the papyrus in the statue and cover. Burn incense before it and recite the following Spell.
- Come to me, Lord Hermes, as life comes to a women’s womb
- Come to me, Lord Hermes, and gather the sustenance of Gods and men.
- Come to [name], Lord Hermes, and give me favour, sustenance, victory, prosperity, beauty, and power over (text says of) every man and woman.
- For I know your names in the four quarters of the sky: Lamphen Ouôthi, Ouasthen Ouôthi, Oamenôth and Enthomoukh.
- Yes, I know you, and I know your forms. In the East, you have the form of an Ibis; in the West you are a dog-faced baboon; in the North you are a serpent and in the south you are a wolf.
- I know that your plant is the grape which is the Olive and your wood is Ebony.
- I know you Hermes, who you are and that you are from the city of Hermopolis.
- Come to me, Lord Hermes, Many-named One, who knows the hidden secrets under Earth and Sky.
- Come to me, Lord Hermes, Come to [name]. Lord Hermes serve well as a benefactor of the world. Here me and make me agreeable to all forms throughout the inhabited world. Open up for me the hands of everyone who dispenses gifts and compel them to give me what they have in their hands.
- Yes I know you the names that the barbarians call you Pharnathar, Barakhêl and Khtha.
- Whenever Isis, Greatest of the Gods, invoked you in every crisis, in all regions, against gods and people, daemons, dryads, nymphs, Satyrs and nature spirits, she held your favour. She had victory over humans, gods, and creatures from the underworld. So, I [name] invoke you.
- For this reason, give me your favour, form and beauty.
- Hear me, Hermes, a benefactor, who invented drugs. Let our communication be easy. Take the form of your Ethiopian dog-faced baboon who is the Lord of the underworld Daemons. Calm those daemons and give me [insert the usual] and let them provide me with gold, silver, and sustenance, which never fails.
- Preserve me permanently and through all eternity from deceits, all slander, poisons, and evil tongues. Protect me from daemonic possession, hatred of Gods and men. Instead, let them give me favour, victory, successful business and wealth.
- For you are me, and I am you. We have the same name and I am your image.
- If perhaps something should happen to me, any time this year or month or day or hour, it will happen to the Great God Akhkhemen Estroph whose name is carved into the prow of the holy ship.
- Your True Name is chiselled into the Sacred Stêlê, in your shrine in Hermopolis which was where you first manifested. Your True Name is Osergariakh Nomaphi. The first is a name of 15 letters which is the number of the days the Moon rises, and the second is seven letters corresponding to those who rule the World.
- Truly Abrasax. I know Thee, Hermes, and you know me. For you are me, and I am you. So, do everything for me and may you turn to me with Good Fortune and Good Daemon immediately
- Nun! Nun! Êdê! Êdê!
The Spell was slightly changed in antiquity to charge a statue of Thoth, in the form of a Baboon, to bring good luck to a workshop. The changes are minor and, once removed, give a clearer picture of the spells true theurgic nature. It seems tragic that the Spell was dumbed down in this way, and rather than attempts being made to restore it to its full spiritual glory, modern magicians have seen fit to profane it further as a modern money-making spell. I have underlined where the Spell veers off course (the tone also changes), and you can see that the words added are a small part of the original Spell which follows a different approach. The attempt becomes evident in the sentence which states:
“Calm those daemons and give me [insert the usual] and let them give me gold, silver, and sustenance which never fails.”
“Insert the usual” is the short form in PGM for “state the ritual’s intention”, and in this case, the scribe did not cross that out (probably so that the Spell could be used for something else without needing to be rewritten) and just tacked on the words to make the workshop earn cash. The scribe/magician could easily have made this into a love spell (as the header suggests) or something else because it taps into a current of Thoth Magic to bring about a general effect. Only the most literal would see this as a money-making spell because too much within it fails to meet that need. Likewise, those inexperienced or untrained in magic or Theurgy could mistake what this Spell is really doing.
This sentence describes the making of a wooden statue of Thoth Hermes in his Ape form. There are several accounts of Theurgic statues made from wood or other material sacred to the God. In his Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity Algis Uzdavinys said that understanding theurgic ‘animation’ of statues was the key to understanding how various Egyptian priestly practices related to the daily ritual service and encounter with the divine presence in the temples, developed into the Neoplatonic mysticism of late antiquity. The system appears to be based around the Book of the Dead’s “Opening of the statue’s mouth” so that the God can speak to the Theurgist. Working with such a statue was said to provide a mystical union with the noetic Sun by giving a revelation of the divine face.
Statues were said to offer sacred gifts and freedom to return to the divine. The act of placing the divine names on a piece of paper and inserting it into the statue animates it for a purpose. It provides a house for Thoth’s Daemon, which acts as a “more material conduit” that can communicate with the magician and its astral form be sent off to do tasks as an assistant. There are similarities to the Kabbalistic idea of the Golem, but it is possible to overstate the statue’s servile meaning. The Theurgist would see the statue as a means to rising to the God. What is odd about this statue is that its made of Olive wood when the Spell correctly says that Thoth’s wood is ebony. Apparently Ebony is too hard to carve, so the spell writer substituted olive wood which is Thoth’s plant. Materials used in theurgic statues vary. My own Ape is Lapis and was unearthed by a friend in the Valley of the Queens and the invocation is inserted in a handy cavity in the back. The statue then was “activated” with the Opening of the Mouth rite. What is important is that the statue has a story that is connected to the God invoked.
This Verse shows one of the paradoxes of this Spell is tied up with the word “favour” which modern people think means “doing favours.” In fact, EN O’ Niel, the Greek word more closely means “grace.” The world is used in Christianity to mean “the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” While this could mean helping your business out, but it is more likely that it is the spiritual blessing of having the God on your side.
This Verse has been seized on as proof that the intention of the Spell is to “get what you want” because you effectively place an intention in the box and expect the Daemon to do it (like a Golem). However, if this sentence was added as part of the business spell, the rest of the sentence is bog-standard Theurgic practice. Say a prayer to the statue and light incense (after performing the Spell).
Come to me as life comes to a woman’s womb (literally women’s coils) might sound rough in translation. But symbolically this might be a reference to life emerging within the universe (seen as the Great Goddess) from nothing. Verse seven refers to “the sustenance of Gods and Men” which is the primal God from which all things have their root. This rules out Thoth Hermes bringing cash or material benefits because Gods have no use for these things.
This Verse also rules out the statue being used for money magic or indeed its original intention of helping drum up business for a workshop. Sure, prosperity is mentioned but what would a business want with “beauty” or “sustenance” in the PGM sense? This is clearly a request by the magician to be supported by the God while they follow their spiritual path. Following a magical path is hard, and you do need to lean on your contact to give you the occasional “get out of jail free” card. There is an interesting line which might have been a slip of the pen where the scribe wrote “the power of men and women” when it is more likely that “power over men and women” fits better into the context. It is unclear what power of men and women really is in this situation. I did toy with the idea of translating it as “the power of humanity” which had a nice feeling if you see humanity in its Adam Kadmon sense.
The four parts of the sky having the names Lamphen Ouôthi, Ouasthen Ouôthi, Oamenôth and Enthomoukh does not seem to appear outside this Spell. However, the sky was divided into four “rudders” in the Book of the Dead.
Hail, thou Beautiful Power, thou Beautiful Rudder of the Northern Heaven.
Hail, thou who circlest, Guide of the Two Lands, Beautiful Rudder of the Western Heaven.
Hail, Splendour, Dweller in the temple of the Ashemu gods, Beautiful Rudder of the Eastern Heaven.
Hail, Dweller in the temple of the Red gods, Beautiful Rudder of the Southern Heaven.
These “rudders” were identified with the four sons of Horus (one of which has a Baboon’s face) four pillars of Shu. The Spell suggests a tradition where Thoth or the divine Logos supports the sky and provides the secret names by which he does this. The four sons of Horus ruled over the body’s internal organs, which suggests that Thoth has control over these. This Spell then is rooted in the magician’s body.
In this Verse, Thoth is seen in four forms for each quarter. The Ibis and the Ape are the most obvious. Less recognisable is Thoth as a wolf or a snake which was a puzzle for PGM translators. One suggests the snake was Uto, another form of Anubis was a wolf, although none could suggest why Thoth was in the East or connected to the other two. Ebony Wands in the forms of serpents have been found and were connected to the priesthood of Thoth. Rather than being different gods, this verse suggests they were all forms of Thoth. When working with this Spell, I have noticed that the astral forms of Thoth send energy and tether themselves to the central daemon forming in the centre. I believe the aspects of Thoth are creating the daemon, which is a hybrid of its aspects. his is identified first with the Logos that directs heaven and uphold the sky and then the forms of the God on earth and underneath it.
These verses show that the magician obtains the power to do the Spell through their knowledge of the God. This is important because it effectively precludes the Spell from working for a “muggle” who has no connection with Thoth Hermes. The magician declares, ‘I know you Hermes, who you are and where you are from and what your city is: Hermopolis’ and when a spell is to be directed towards a specific individual in the Greek magical papyri, the name of the person’s mother is often stated to the same effect. In this case, the Spell is not directed towards anyone other than the daemon. A similar ‘I know’ statement with a ‘you are’ formula can be found in Mark 1:24. The pronouncement ‘you are (name)’ is as common as the ‘I know’ formula in the Greek magical papyri, and it functions as further proof of the magician’s knowledge of the spirit that he is seeking to control. For example:
‘You [are] the dew of all the gods, you [are] the heart of Hermes, you
are the seed of the primordial gods, you are the eye of Helios, you are
the light of Selene, you are the zeal of Osiris, you are the beauty and
the glory of Ouranos, you are the soul of Osiris’ daimon…you are
the spirit of Ammon.’ (PGM IV. 2984-86)
The verse asks Thoth to make the universe work for them and not make the magician money. The phrase “Force them to offer me what they have in their hands” appears in other spells and alludes to material holdings or possessions. In societies based on patronage, this means gaining access to the good things of life from others. Notice it does not say customers or clients, which means the Spell is not about business success but making sure that Hermes remembers that you need these sorts of things to live. Gods and contacts have a bad habit of forgetting that a dedicated magician needs food, housing, love, and cash and only con people make money out of magic. For the rest, following the magical path is about service.
This is an interesting example of a narrative charm, a form of Thoth magic that appears to have been lost (it will be something I plan to write a book on). This magic is drawn down through a story that has some connection to the spell caster. It follows the rules of a story and brings archetypal power. This charm associates the magician with Isis (who was another magician) and recites the times when Thoth helped her. It obeys all the rules of narrative charms in that it is written in the past tense and appears slightly disconnected from the intention of the ritual.
This is a mess because the scribe lost the thread of what the line is supposed to do. It clearly is meant to take the underworld aspects of the ritual and use the Ape form of Thoth to bring the spirits of the Dead to help the ritual’s intention. Since in this case, the scribe wanted to do a ritual for a business they just created the image of people bringing gold and silver to the business. Unfortunately, they missed that the first part of the Spell clearly refers to the dead. Unless the magician wanted ghosts delivering cash to a business the first and second part of the verse are broken. The first part of the verse is more likely to request Hermes to calm any ancestral spirits that might cause the magician trouble.
Verse 19 is a request for general protection, this can’t be part of any cut and paste ritual for well being or love. It is a fairly direct theurgic request for protection from things that might distract you from your magical path.
Verse 20, 21
This line, which is repeated, is hugely important to the Spell and indicates that the magician is identifying themselves with the God or daemon they have created. The magician and the God have been in their usual traditional positions until this point. This is similar to the “headless one” where the magician says, “I am the headless one after a long invocation.” Here it is subtle but still present. The previous part of the Spell had been creating a daemon and now the magician is saying that they are the same force. Something similar can be found in PGM XIII 795
‘For you are I, and I, you (σὺ γὰρ εἰ ἐγὼ και ἐγὼ σύ). Whatever I say must happen, for I have your name as a unique phylactery in my heart, and no flesh, although moved, will overpower me…because of your name, which I have in my soul and invoke’ (PGM XIII. 795)
These statements are powerful parts of Theurgy which aid the ascent of the magician towards the God that they are working. It causes the magician’s sphere of sensation to identify with the daemon. Unlike the Headless One, where the Daemon is given permission to take control, this Spell works by resonation and is more gentle. It also reduces the risk of a possession getting out of control and has less impact on the ego.
Verse 21 begins sealing the identification of the daemon with that of the magician. It says whatever happens to me is happening to Thoth-Hermes because I am the image of the God. While this might sound like a threat to the God, only good things better happen to me because they are also happening to you, it is a reference to the power of God’s transformation over the Theurgist. If I get sick, you get sick, you can get better with divine powers, so I can get better. It is a recognition that what happens below happens above.
Verse 22, 23
Verse 22 uses a narrative charm concept to seal in the working into the magician’s sphere of sensation. The true name is chiselled into a stone tablet, just as the identification with Thoth-Hermes is chiselled into the sphere of sensation of the Theurgist. Those following the Golden Dawn will see in this part of the ritual elements of the last phase of the Neophyte Ritual where the “teachings” associated with the God are placed into the candidate’s sphere of sensation. The actual content of this knowledge is less important than the fact the daemon is connected to the candidate. Amongst this information is the gem of knowledge that Abrasax is a name of “Hermes” (i.e. Thoth). Here the numerological properties of the name are invoked, with its seven letters corresponding to the seven planets and its isopsephic value of 365 corresponding to the days of the year. Thoth is identified with Abrasax in PGM LXXIX. 1-7:
“I am the soul of darkness, Abrasax, the eternal one, Michaēl, but my true name is Thōouth, Thōouth.”
This identifies Thoth-Hermes with the seven rayed division of light throughout creation, the Logos. Interestingly this figure is that of a snake and might solve the problem we mentioned earlier with identifying Thoth-Hermes with a serpent.
The Spell finishes with a final identification with the God and a request that it bring Good Fortune and Good Daemon immediately and quickly.
I started doing the ritual as a simple candle offering to Thoth-Hermes by adding a phrase at the beginning to justify the offering.
“I have lit this sacred fire in your honour. Its light unites the stars and the earth, the heavens and the earth. This fire has been lit so that you will communicate with me in my dreams, thoughts and divinations.”
After a few weeks, visual images appeared during the ritual and a landscape developed. The candle became a sacred fire and a giant Ibis-headed Thoth Hermes began to appear in the middle. It was often anchored to the forms in the four quarters. After a few more months, I realised I was building a daemon and forming a bridge between me and Thoth-Hermes. Forms of Thoth-Hermes appeared in the visualisation and assisted the building work. Then I had the impulse to add the DWB formula to empower and ensoul the daemonic form. After that, the form started to help as a transformer of information and magical power into rituals.
After many years doing this rite daily, I can’t say that my life has improved materially, but communication with the contact and the power in my rituals has stepped up. I have also been getting more of what Terry Pratchett called “third and fourth thoughts” on different subjects. But practically, it has led to a relationship with Thoth-Hermes, which has become increasingly important. I am told that this is the goal of Theurgy. The power comes in repetition.