Five reasons PGM is not for noobs
Five reasons PGM is not for noobs

Five reasons PGM is not for noobs

For those who know nothing about magic, the Greek magical Paprii [PGM] appears to arrive fully formed and ready to play with.  There is no mucking around with perceptions of Ancient Magic or 19th-century lodges; here are the spells written down and good-to-go – no training required.

PGM also has the advantage of being examined by the great gods of the armchair magicians – academics. The spells look and feel authentic, and that is all you need if you are trying to run a magic system without recourse to training. All you need is a literalist approach and read a few PhD papers, and you are sorted.

However, there have been warning from those who have made magic their life’s work that some care is needed when approaching PGM.  Josephine McCarthy with her legendary bluntness, annoyed many when she said that people who use PGM tend to be infected with magical parasites. Other occult legends have given PGM a wide birth preferring earlier “less corrupted” Ancient Egyptian material.

I use PGM material and have even adapted it, but there are some magical issues associated with PGM that many noobs will not spot.  So I will list my top five reasons why PGM needs careful handling.

1. It is not a coherent magical system.

Since Agrippa, Western Magic has followed similar rules. System’s might differ, but generally, there are identical correspondences between them. This was one of the reasons the Golden Dawn is so effective; it draws on a sizeable syncretic pool that works across different systems. For this reason, we have come to expect magical systems, whether Grimoires or lodge systems, to slot together.

PGM is a collection of different spells gathered and copied by several magicians in the late fourth century. It is a mixed bag of systems and mythologies that have been “adapted” from their original intent. They do not slot together; there is no start, middle or end. Some of the spells are based around older Ancient Egyptian religion; others are pure Greek or Hebrew.  Something is a god in one area and a devil in another. The magician needs to develop a system in which the spell is incorporated to provide this consistency. Preferably this system should be one in which they have already been trained.

2. Scholars often do not agree on the nature of each spell, and occultists have proved hopeless at working it out.

The Golden Dawn found “PGM” (PGM 2 64– 183) (Betz 1986, 14, n.15, 18, line 170)in the early 20th century and adapted a spell it called the “bornless one” as a means to call a magician’s Higher Genius.  But the original spell was an exorcism to a god called Akephalos – ‘The Headless One.’ In Ancient Egypt, decapitation was a terrible thing. You had to be a terrible criminal and a foreigner to earn it. After a person’s head was cut off, they were often buried with it on their feet. Negatively viewed, the ἀκέφαλοι are spirits of the Dead from the group of the ἄωροι, the ‘untimely deceased’, whose circumstances of violent death, through accident or beheading caused them to appear as incredibly evil spectres.

To show how badly the Egyptians considered ἀκέφαλοι have a look at this spell from the Book of Caverns:

 “O decapitated ones, without their heads, foremost of the place of destruction! O fallen ones, without their bas, foremost of the place of destruction! O inverted ones, fettered ones, foremost of the place of destruction! O inverted ones, bloody ones deprived of hearts, foremost of the place of destruction! O enemies of the underworld ruler, Osiris-Foremost-of-the-West, behold, I have commanded you to destruction! I have assigned you to non-existence! (Book of Caverns, 2nd Division).”

This implies this spell, with its exorcism intent, was to call a more extensive and badder version of an evil spirit to scare out a lesser demon from a person. What is confusing for modern people and academics is that Akephalos takes on some of the titles of the dismembered Osiris. However,  this might not be a good thing. The part of the Osiris and Set story where Osiris is cut up is not where God is at his best. He represents the lowest point of the Egyptian calendar, desperate for the flood of fertility.

So, this could mean that Akephalos is a scary undead criminal spirit whose job is to terrify lesser spirits.  Not someone who could ever be your Higher Genius and a godform you would want to invoke with care, probably in connection with an exorcism. I use Akephalos in the early stages of Higher Genius work because I want to give the lower self a bit of a kicking as part of my system. I use it in its exorcism role.  Others do not (one of the more bizarre new age uses is to get a car to start or mend a broken appliance). The point is that we do not know what is correct, and you will not find anyone who agrees. You cannot be sure if you are invoking the spirits of murderers to fix a flat battery or inviting a child molester into your house to restore your washing machine. Again, it comes down to point one.

3. We do not know that the spells worked.

Sure, we have a collection of ancient spells, and some are even marked as valid or working.  We don’t know if they were just collected spells or really did work.  When I look at my hard drive, I have written hundreds of rituals.  Some worked, others did not, but I keep them around because they have components that I can cut and paste and put into spells that might work. PGM is a similar hard drive.  Some spells were kept for the exotic nature; others might have been preserved because a magician might have wanted to try them using a different planetary hour or at a better astrological moment (In antiquity, it was known by the ancient Egyptians that planetary elections were vital for magical work). Equally, we do not know if the person who compiled the PGM spells ever used them or their motivation for collecting them.

4. Most of the spells lack an “inner content” or can be mistaken for literalism where it is described.

Modern ritual magic features an inner component where the magician is supposed to see something. Techniques such as pathworking, channelling, scrying, or seeing beings in a room are essential magic parts. There has been a move among literalists to claim that these things are unnecessary. Still, the inner reality is the key to magic and anyone who says otherwise mostly lacks imagination (literally). While there has been a tendency to believe that inner visions are modern, it is pretty clear reading ancient texts such as the book of the dead and PGM that “inner states” are essential parts of the work. The first spell in PGM which calls for an assistant is a minefield to catch literalists.  It describes a hawk coming from the heavens and dropping an inscribed stone at the feet of the magician and later having a party with the invoked assistant.  It is an inner vision, but it is amusing to imagine a literalist sitting on their roof all night waiting for a bird to deliver the goods.

Sadly though, many of the spells in PGM lack such vision work leaving only the spell’s words. A noob might believe that all they have to do to make a PGM spell work is light a few candles and read the spells straight from the book.

5.The spells are corrupted or lack enough content to be viable.

While some spells have detail, there are others that are limited. When I look at my rituals, I could go through the usual battery of writing “lesser ritual of the pentagram”, “open the element gates”, “confession”, “purify or consecrate as normal”, and all I will have done is wasted a good tree.  I know those things by heart and don’t need to repeat them.  If I were writing my rituals by hand, I would not be repeating that every time (if ever). What is likely is that the spells are meant to be part of a more extensive “system” which has been lost.  Other problems that crop up with the PGM were when names and sentences have become corrupted and garbled, presumably because of the Chinese whispers complex.  PGM is not just a copy of a copy, but in some cases, many documents have become progressively garbled and lost their impact. To make matters worse, Betz’s translation (good for academics) is frighteningly literal and stripped of any magical poetry that would have been part of the spell.

So something like: “Rejoice with me, you who are set over the East wind and the world, for whom all the gods serve as bodyguards at your good hour and on your good day, you who are the Good Daemon of the world, the crown of the inhabited world, you who rise from the abyss, you who each day rise a young man and Set an old man…

Might be better: “I conjure the East Wind’s ruler, the world’s true King who all the Gods protect. Come forth, Helios, for I have invoked you in the hour and day allotted to you. You are the world’s good daemon and the highest aspiration. At dawn, you rise from dark chaos as a child; at noon, you are the magician at the height of your powers. At sunset, you enter the underworld as an old man and ride your golden bowl on the sea of chaos….”

Restraining Anger Spell

Other spells are simply a line long, such as a spell to restrain anger: “If you want Someone to cease being Angry with you, write with Myrrh this Name of Anger: “CHNEO’M” . Hold it in your Left Hand and say: “I am restraining the Anger of all, especially of him, NN, which is CHNEO’M.” [PGM XII.179-81] |+| I mention this because it is one of my favourites.  CHNEO’M is very likely to be the Egyptian god Khnum, the Egyptian god of fertility and water. He was represented as a ram with horizontal twisting horns or as a man with a ram’s head. Khnum was believed to have created humankind from clay on a potter’s wheel.

So what do we take from that? Write the name of Khnum on a red candle in Greek Χνοῦβις or Hieroglyphic.   

Followed by the name of the person you want to calm down.

1.        Open your temple as normal

2.       Invoke Khnum (pronounced Kay Num) .

Ram headed Khnum I invoke you in peace

Khnum-Amun, the ancient who emerged from Chaos

In peace, awake peaceably

Wake, lord of fields, Great Khnum, who makes his domain in the meadow,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, lord of gods and men, lord of the war cry,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, mighty planner, great power in Egypt,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, lord of life, wooer of women, to whom come gods and men as he bids,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, ram great of majesty, tall-plumed, sharp-horned,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, great lion, slayer of rebels,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, crocodile-king, Mighty victor, who conquers as he wishes,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, veiled-faced one, who shuts his eyes to his foes,

as he bears arms,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, leader of herdsmen, who grasps the stick, smites his attacker,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, great crocodile who says, “Each of you shall slay his fellow,”

In peace awake, peaceably!

Wake, Shu, strong-armed, his father’s champion, slayer of rebels,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, fighting ram who chases his foes, herdsman of his followers,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, multiform one, who changes shape at will,

In peace, awake peaceably!

Wake, Khnum who fashions as he wishes, who sets every man in his place!

In peace, awake peaceably!

3.        Visualise Khnum opposite you on your altar his arms outstretched as if he were shaping reality on your altar.

4.       Take the candle in your left hand and light it.

5.        While still holding the candle in your left hand chant the following. After a while the altar and candle will start to turn (anticlockwise) keep chanting for ten minutes after the turning begins.

“I restrain the anger of all especially [name of person] who is Khnum.”

Let the candle burn down.

Summary

This article shows the reasons why PGM is not a quick and dirty method of getting into real ancient magic, which can be managed by someone with “literally hours of study.” Studying the texts, or reading PHD papers on it will only take you so far. Academics do not know how magic works so they are certainly not going to tell you how to fill the gaps in the written PGM.

It is an interesting avenue to start looking into after you have had a few years of training and practical experience under your belt and then can start adapting the spells so that they work within your own system.  Paradoxically, If you are just reading the spells from PGM, you are not doing PGM magic no matter how often you repeat a mantra that it is working.  One of the effects of magical parasites that Josephine McCarthy mentioned above, is a misplaced belief in your own magical ability, ego inflation, and a tendency to over-promote yourself. Given some of the crapulence which appears within the PGM-based magical communities perhaps she is right.

2 Comments

  1. Julie Mair

    Wow, so good to read red this article Nick. I too belonged to BOTA through the 90’s. I was also loved, healed and supported through a very difficult time. I truly enjoyed the teachings and even Wills quirks. Joyce was to me the most dedicated, selfless woman I have ever met. I loved her dearly and was supported perfectly through the rough waters until my departure overseas in 2000. I’m now living between Amsterdam and New Zealand. Still absorbing magic and striving firvself live and sovereignty.

    1. I was there in the 80s and left for the UK in 1989. I liked it at the time, for similar reasons. But apparently, Will didn’t trust me. I remained a member though for years even when in the UK. After a while though the hard sell and new thought stuff got to me. I think the last straw was the way they treated Joyce in the end (even if that was patched up).

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