Nov 27, 2015

The magickal power of the words

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..." 

"One little lie can ruin my day. 
Words are like weapons, they betray. 
When I am afraid. 
One word of kindness, it can save me." 

The very act of communication is nothing short of a miracle. I cannot agree with the people who insist that the “intelligible” language and writings are what makes us human beings, thus on some level, and in some amount, separates us from the rest of the animals. But I will say, that I firmly believe, that it’s what perpetuates our self-consciousness, and “human-nature”. Moreover, it’s safe to say that the communication, language(s) and the writing, are one of the first products of human kind, which were self-aware, and reasonable to whatever point.

     So what is language, anyway? One of the definitions, provided by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is as follows:
a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings” [1]

     Quite clear, and quite on point. And the reason why You and I can read it, understand and perhaps even share with others, is exactly because we are, as humans capable, to name, describe and communicate things to each other. It is wildly held by anthropologists, that what preceded the communications, language, and ultimately the words and symbols, is the event of hominids becoming aware of themselves. Then they become aware of significance of others, and relaying of emotions, notions, ideas and information’s to them.

     In the Leary’s Eight-circuit model of Consciousness, this would have occurred, when the third mental circuit appeared in human mind, or when the “human” (most likely a hominid at that point), evolved into it. The third mental circuit is, according to this “model” concerned with handling the environment, language, invention, prediction, calculation, physical dexterity, and so on. [2]
     Such event marks the evolutionary changes, and the raise of human consciousness, which made our “primitive” ancestors more organized, united, and productive, enabling them to teach, and spread the experiences and knowledge.

     According to many occultists, the birth of language, marks the birth of use of magick by humans, as we know it today. Humans could then name the objects or other humans, and thus influence or even control them.

Spiritual dimension of words and language

     Many religions, philosophies and mystical systems in the world, assign crucial place to the language, and the spoken and written word likewise, in the spiritual practice in general.

     The Egyptian deity Thoth, held dominion over the writing, science, words, language, and is believed to be the one that taught the human kind the art of magick. He was not conceived, like most of the other Egyptian deities, at the time, but had rather “emerged” directly from the thoughts of Amon Ra. What more, Ancient Egyptians had held, that without Thot’s influence, Universe would never come to be in the form we know it, for he had role in defining and shaping things, noting them down etc. [3] Heka practitioners, thus, always warn of the needed caution when speaking,  expressing wishes or writing the words down, for every word, particularly a spoken one, creates a sort of a ripple effect and changes in one’s life. According to their teachings, the essence of the words is magickal, creative energy, a notion, which as we will discuss later here too, was held by the like of Agrippa too. The names, were also crucial in both Egyptian religion and Magick, as they were the way to secure the afterlife. 

     In Christianity, Judaism, the words precede creation, and the Lord has created the very universe in which we live through the means of word:

     “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it” ( John 1:1-5 NIV ) [4]

     Another term used for Word here ( in many translations ) is the “logos” and while the Gnostics may argue that it does not truly mean “word”, but rather (self)consciousness, it’s more likely that the earlier is the case here. Logos does come from the Greek “lego” which literarily means “I say”, and furthermore, the Gospel of John clearly identifies the Logos with the Second personification of the Holy Trinity, which would be the Lord Jesus Christ. So the Logos in this section can be understood also a creative power of the words, fueled by the Divine power.

     Which brings us to the our next point, an idea, or a notion, which is fairly popular in Ceremonial magick, and mentioned in “Arbatel de magia veterum”, also in the Agrippa’s “There Books of Occult philosophy” which claim that the words and characters ( letters, seals, signatures etc. ) hold magickal power because G’d has ordained so, and it is basically through his divine power that they take effect. [5]

     Thanks to such, the words, contain also a sort of “essence” ( “natural-power” ) in Agrippa’s words, which pertains to the things they describe. Which enables that a living being, or an object, once named, or described, in a way becomes eternal, for even if it’s physical composition disappears, it can always be “conjured” from the memory, or even writings, even if not literally so.

Here magicians say, that proper names of things are certain rays of things, everywhere present at all times, keeping the power of things, as the essence of the thing signified, rules, and is discerned in them, and know the things by them, as by proper ,and living images.” [6] ( Agrippa, Three Books of Occult philosophy, I Book )

     The words and symbols were thus, in the antiquity, primarily of the concerns of the intuitive priesthood, who were the original scribes, forming the languages and alphabets as we know them. For they could receive the information in forms of words and signs, form Higher Power and spirits, and capture the essence of things relayed through them.

     One final dimension of words, and language, which should be mentioned here, before proceeding on more practical, and common use of words and language in magick, is that the language enables sharing of information, concepts, ideas, in their raw form from one mind to another. Kind of light wireless transfer, or even some crude form of telepathy. We could never really decipher what’s inside another mind, If we were not capable of understanding universal symbols like letters and pictures, charts, etc, and using them ourselves. This is of particular importance in communication with any form of disembodies spirits. The spirits will “speak” to via form of telepathy, but they can only relay information to us in a way we can comprehend, compare, analyze, or illustrate somehow. In short, things we can conceptualize. From this, it’s only logical to expect that the person with more broad education, knowledge, vocabulary will be able to more precisely understand the often cryptic messages of spirts, who can only convey something to us in terms of concepts we already have in our mind. If we can not comprehend or associate something the spirits are trying to tell us, it may not even be “visible” to us at all, or we could even misinterpret it.

Incantation, charms, magick words

     There are many terms, and phrases used both throughout the word, and in the English language alone. They all more or less loosely encompass the use of words and sometimes also sounds in magick.

     So let’s try to define some of them, and see how they are used in magick, and spiritual practice in general.

     An incantation, is simply put, a charm or a spell created by using words. The word is of a Latin origin, being that in Latin “inacntare” (present active infinitive) means: “to say (a magickal spell) upon/on/over something” . Sensu lato, it’s often directly translated to: “to charm”, “to enchant” or “to bewitch”. [7] Hence incantations are said over someone or something, to influence them or it magickally. A term, which is held to be synonymous with “incantation” in the English language, is the term “enchantment” borrowed from the French around XIV century, and means basically the same ( they even have the same roots ), the only difference is that the verb “enchant” can also be used to describe inducing any fascinating, or charming effect upon someone, oftentimes mundane. Hence, the very noun enchantment, or incantation, is not completely unlike the “mantra” of the Sanskrit.
     In magick, incantations are often repeated over potions, amulets or talismans to enchant them, that is infuse with additional magickal power, and designate them towards a goal. They can also be sung, and combined with music, in which case, they’d become “chants”, which we will explain later on, here.
Babyllonian terracota bowl with
incantation in the Aramaic lang.
 inscribed in spiral pattern, often buried
upside down under doorsteps and
used to trap evil spirits

     Some incantations rhyme, yet others don’t. When used in magick, prayers and Psalms, strictly technically speaking, are in fact incantations, spoken words to produce a spiritual, magicka effect. Hence, when a Hoodoo practitioner, for example, raises an opened mojo bag close to his mouth, and speaks the words of prayer or Psalm into it, he is in fact enchanting the mojo, and “breathing life into it” at the same time. Even though I doubt any rootworker would call it enchanting, by name.

     Also the common, short prayers from the books such as “Egyptian Secrets” or “Pow wows of a long lost friend” are a typical examples of incantations. Some even rhyme, but most do not.

     A charm, on the other hand, is a rather ambiguous term, often synonymous with the term “spell”, and used to describe anything from a magick word to an object such as amulet or talisman. In mundane terms, it represents a quality of someone, which is much like charisma, a quality of likability, allure, or appeal.   As a verb, it can be understood as making a delightful, astonishing effect upon someone, making someone like you. Here are some definitions from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

“: something that is believed to have magic powers and especially to prevent bad luck
: a small object that is worn on a chain or bracelet
: a quality that causes someone or something to be very likeable : an attractive quality
a :  the chanting or reciting of a magic spell :  incantation
b :  a practice or expression believed to have magic power
:  something worn about the person to ward off evil or ensure good fortune :  amulet “ [8]

     Here, we shall focus on the charms as magickal words, or symbols formed with the use of words, as the other meanings have already been explained, or do not fit under the subject of this particular article ( ea. Amulets and  talismans, bracelets, appeal etc. ). 

     A charm in magick would therefore be a word, or phrase believed to possess special power. Kabbalistic Divine names, which are inscribed upon talismans, chanted or etched into candles even, are in their own way charms. It should be noted here, though, that observance or use of the Holy Names as charms, is in Judaism prohibited, and condemned, but alive and prominent in mystic systems that sprout from it, or Christianity.

     There are many charms which consist of words, magickal phrases, Barbarous names, deities names etc. written in a certain fashion, or in a geometric pattern, that thus become magickal, and exhibit splendid powers. Some wellknown examples would include Abramelin squares, or other magickal squares like the SATOR square, ABRACADABRA triangle, OKNOTINOS charm for removing fever, and various other folk healing charms , of which I wrote before in greater length, providing various examples. Some of them need to be written down, but some can be spoken, making them thus a cross between an incantation and a charm, as it were. Such example is one of the uses of the Shebriri charm, which is recited, to defeat the demon that can cause blindness, and poor eyesight, often associated with the water metabolism disorders too. Such patients are instructed to chant:
My mother told me to beware of Shabriri, briri, riri, iri, ri!” [8]

     Sometimes, the very characters, graphemes, and signature, in magickal alphabet or a common one, alone, or combined minding some specific arrangement, are used as magickal charms. Each letter of Hebrew alphabet, for example,  is in the Western traditions correspondent to a certain Tarot card from the Major Arcana, planet, numeric value, symbol, or even element. Vibrating them ( pronouncing in a vibrating voice ), on inscribing on  amulets and talismans, produces a magickal effect.

     Magick words, sensu stricto, are any words use in magick, or as a magick formula. Incantations, charms, or lengthy and complex invocations and evocations in Latin, random barbarous names, or spoken charms, are all words of power, hence magik words. Thus all that’s said before, in regards of incantations and charms, applies here too.

Chants and the power of sound and singing

     Chanting for example, is the continuous act of singing verses, words of names, with a spiritual meaning or significance, often in repetitive manner, and all for the purpose of producing a spiritual effect. At least in religion and magick, that is. Hence, chants, which oftentimes rhyme, or have certain metric regulations, alternating rhythmic patterns and so on, serve to both

a)      invoke the aid of some Higher power,
b)      to alter the state of consciousness.

     Continuous loud recital or singing of the mantras, is what we call chanting, in magick. When part of a religious rite or a ceremony, and the act involves more individuals, the resulting effect may be, that the chanting people raise an enormous amount of energy, and start feeling how the boundaries between them are melting away, and they become united in worship, and/or religious ecstasy. An example of such is the “Canto Gregoriano” or short Gregorian chants, used in Christian masses. It’s often reported that the pious people have learnt the melody and the meaning of the chants through merely partaking the mass, without even previous knowledge of the Latin.   [9]

     Furthermore, the very sound of words and letters, which is created by uttering them, has a magickal effect. Vibrating the letters or words may induce trance, or broaden the spiritual awareness.
     Each note, is assigned a color and planetary correspondence, combining thus the magickal power of music and sound, with the words and rhymes  alters the state of consciousness, and produces powerful magickal effects.

The Language(s) of magick

     While many New-Age practitioners would laugh at the very mention of a “magickal language” or the “language of magick”, it’s really not a risible notion at all, but one with a lot of common sense and experience behind it.

     Of course that any language can be used in magick, in fact pretty much any sound can. But, using a specific language, which is not Your mother tongue, for magickal practices, had been a legitimate, and glorified magickal practice at least since the medieval times. We can conclude such, by observing the influence of Kabalistic magick,  and use of Psalms in to  affect one’s luck, health, prosperity etc. This medieval concept relayed that the Psalms, particularly those by David, contain certain “seed sounds” or “hidden syllables”, which being uttered, would complete specific tasks, and  reach specific goals, magickally. [10] Furthermore, Divine names, and Angelic names, as well as all sort of acronyms ( take “AGLA” as an example ), sometimes genuine Hebrew phrases, sometimes corrupted versions, appear in the host of invocations and evocations of Higher, that is, Ceremonial magick, particularly Solomonic ( Grimoire – style ), type of magickal works.  They remain untranslated, although sometimes phoneticisied in the respective language of the book editions, because they are believed to hold power to compel spirits and command them to do our biddings, restrict their power that could otherwise hurt us and more. All sort of Divine names, from Kabbalah, including the ineffable, unutterable and the most Holy Name of the Lord ( “IHVH” ) as such, are inscribed on talismans and amulets even of completely unrelated mystical or religious traditions,  because the experience has taught the magickal practitioners that their efficacy would be foolish to neglect. 

     Hence, some magickal languages are traditionally associated with spiritual practice and magick, 
and even believed to hold magickal energy in their very graphemes, symbols and alphabet. Combining them in specific ways, can born new magickal phrases or names of power, and the Sanskrit and the Hebrew are great examples of this.
Magickal alphabets comparison table,
from top to bottom: Theban, Enochian ( Celestial ),
Malachim, and "The Passing of the river" 

    In the Hebrew spiritual and mystical practices, we can find many names of G’d. Ranging from monogrammata, or the Hebrew letter “Hey” that represents the breath of Lord, through which the Ruach (living beings )  came to be on the 5th day of Creation, to the 216 letters name of G’d, or rather 72 three-letter names of G’d, that are generally most  well-known due to the popularity of all sort of Practical Kabbalah movements and schools that make great deal of using them.  These 72 names of G’d are attained by means of permutation of the letters from the specific there verse of the Old Testament in Hebrew (14:19-21, all three verses having exactly 72 letters), that is by combining the first letter from the first verse, with the last letter from the second verse, and the first letter from the third verse, and so on, following the same patter for each of the letters. The result are 72 triads of names, referred to as “Names of G’d” , which depict and embody specific qualities of the Divine and manifestation of His power. In the theoretical Kabbalah, these are meditated upon, for spiritual insight, and development, whereas in the practical Kabbalah they are used in a more pragmatic way, being inscribed on amulets, such as two 36-names amulets, each to be worn on one hand. [11] Being that these very names/words and phrases, are used in spiritual practice only, in their natural form, it would certainly not be unprecedented to call them a form of magickal language on their own. Or a part of one at least. 

     So we have seen that a language, can, due to its  prominent use in spirituality and magickal qualities contained in its symbols ( once again, we can compare them to the “rays” of the “natural power” Agrippa has written of ), be treated as a magickal language. But there are more criteria that can set a language apart as a magickal one.

     One of them is general consensus of the spiritual people and practitioners, greatly due to universality of the language, which can be seen as either parental or influential to the languages they speak, as their first language. This would be Latin. In my humble opinion the most magickal language of them all. Not only that it’s universal ( or at least it was ) in magickal writings and texts, such as the medieval grimoires, but it’s greatly favored by all sort of spirits, particularly the celestial and infernal spirits. As most of the practicing mages of Ceremonial magick will readily attest. The language itself, initially, had most likely  found its way to magickal European grimoires thanks to Christian monks and their diligent work on preserving and copying books of interest, and their  occasional, personal interest in the occult. Keeping the texts of interest from the profane people, or even general masses, writing them in Latin, was pretty much an act of cryptic coding, more so taking in consideration the level of literacy and education back in those turbulent times. Therefore, it’s somewhat a traditional value to use it in spiritual works and writing about it.   Finally, learning to use and understand Latin, at least the bits used in magickal workings, is an act of devotion, and a sort of a “curtain” that separates our spiritual work from the mundane. The same way some people leave daily offerings to their deities, even though that deities themselves do not need them, but always appreciate or even demand them, the Latin language in magick is a form of specific action system that is reserved for spiritual practices, and dealing with spiritual, physically intangible ( most of the time, anyway ) beings.

     So to summarize, while the use of a specific language in Your magickal working is definitely not mandatory, it is beneficial for more than a few reasons, namely:

·         Separating the spiritual and mundane work, keeping and perpetuating the traditional values
·         Showing respect and devotion to the spirits, favouring the spirits
·         Keeping words of power secret from the preying, curious or ill-intended eyes
·         Making the magickal information we gather, or write down accessible to practitioners all over the globe, if they use the given language in their works, regardless of their mother-tongue, or ethnical/religions/other-kind background

     Hence, one does not have to become a fluent Hebrew, Sanskrit or Latin speaker, but taking care to learn and use some of it, be it just the phrases, adds to the sanctity, importance, and uniqueness of Your spiritual practices, separating them from the mundane one, while developing devotion and awareness and pleasing spirits. It also adds that timeless quality to something that very well deserves it.  Certainly worth of try If You ask me. 

NOTES: This article was written and composed by myself, so If You wish to use any part of it elsewhere online, fee free, but do add credits; Shadow of the Shadows magick place,    or a direct link to this post

[3] According to :  Joann Fletcher  in “Ancient Egypt”
[5] Leitch, Aaron “Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires; the classical texts of magick deciphered”
[6] Retrieved from: source listed under [5] page 144th  
[8] acc. To “Amulets and Talismans” by  E. A. Wallas Budge
[9] acc. To “Encyclopedia of Magic and Ancient Wisdom: The Essential Guide to Myth, Magic and the Supernatural” by Cass Eason

Picture 1
The 1st and 3rd  are edited digitally by myself, all used here for illustrative,  and educational/explanatory purposes without any ill will 

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