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I. Introduction.

Magic has exercised the deepest influence upon mankind from remote antiquity unto our own days. It either formed part of the religion of the country, as it was the case in ancient Egypt and Babylon and as it is now in some forms of Buddhism (Tibet), or lived an independent life side by aide with the recognized religion. In some instances it was tolerated, or rendered less obnoxious, by a peculiar subdivision into white or beneficial and black or evil magic, or was downright persecuted. Wherever we go, however, and especially if we turn to the popular beliefs that rule the so-called civilized nations, we shall always and everywhere find a complete system of magical formulas and incantations. The belief in the witch and wizard, and their powerful filters and charms, holds still stronger sway upon human imagination than appears at first sight.

It is remarkable that we do not possess a good work, or exhaustive study, on the history and development of Magic. It is true that we find allusions to it, and sometimes special chapters devoted to the charms and incantations and other superstitious customs prevailing among various nations in books dealing with such nations. But a comprehensive study of Magic is still a pious (or impious) wish. One cannot gainsay that such an undertaking would present extreme difficulties. The material is far too vast, and is scattered over numberless nations and numerous literatures. Besides, much of ancient times has disappeared; in fact, there is a profound gap between antiquity and modern times which is not by any means bridged over by the literature of the Middle Ages. In these times magical art and practice were ruthlessly persecuted by the Church, and the Councils teem with denunciations against the work of the Evil One. Moreover, it was connected in a certain degree with the teachings and practices of the various heretical sects, and the pursuit was anything hut harmless. Thus it comes about that an exhaustive study of the origin and development of Magic is still a wish for the future, and the full influence which it has exercised upon mankind cannot be investigated in such a manner as to have a scientific value until at least a portion of the ancient literature will again have come to light.

The syncretistic character of the Gnostic teachings shows itself also in the adoption of Magic, and in the spiritual interpretation with which they invested the forms and formulas of Magic. The adherents of the various teachings of the Gnostics, and especially those that lived in Egypt and Palestine, adopted all the ideas that were floating about and transferred them into their system of superior Gnosis.

If anything of the teachings of the Gnostics has survived, it is the thaumaturgical portion of it. This has always been popular with the masses, as it afforded them those means which they wanted to defend themselves against the attacks of unseen evil spirits, and to the more speculative minds it afforded a clue to the mystery of the universe. It gave them the means to subdue and to put to their service the unknown forces of nature. This lies at the root of the general acceptance of magic formulas and enchantments, and gives to this practice the popularity which it still retains.

Being the most formidable sects that assumed an anti-Christian character, although some are anterior to Christianity, the Gnostics were the first to be attacked by the Fathers of the Church. Most of the ancient writings of the Fathers are filled with polemics against heretics, of which these are the foremost. The result of this campaign, which lasted for centuries, has been the absolute destruction of all the writings of the Gnostics. Sparse and incoherent fragments only have come down to us, and we are now compelled to study their systems and superstitions, if we may call them so, from the writings of their antagonists, Irenæus and Hippolytus, Tertullian and Epiphanius. A single exception is the work known as "Pistis Sophia," the date of whose composition is variously assigned to the second or fourth century. It certainly seems to belong to a later stage in the development of the Gnosis, as it contains some of the later ideas. It has come down to us in a very bad state of preservation.

Within the last few years the soil of Egypt has rendered some more fragments of this kind of literature, and magic Papyri have now enriched our hitherto very scanty stock of genuine ancient literature. These belong to the second and third century, and, being exclusively of Egyptian origin, throw an unexpected light upon the form which Magic assumed under the influence of the new order of ideas. It is a fact that nothing is so stable and constant than this kind of mystical literature. The very nature of a mystic formula prevents it from ever being radically changed. As there is no other reason for its efficacy than the form in which it is pretended to have been fixed or revealed to the Select by the Divinity itself, any change of that form would immediately destroy its efficacy. Dread preserved the form intact, at least as long as the practitioner stood under the influence of those divinities whose power he invoked for protection, or as long as he believed in the power of those demons whose malignant influence he tried to avert by means of that form of enchantment. This explains the uniformity of a number of such charms in whatever language we find them and almost to whatever time they may belong; as long as they are the outcome of one and the same set of religious ideas, which is the determining factor. But with the change of religion the charms also undergo changes, not in the form but in the names of the divinities invoked, and these bring other changes with them. To take a modern example, the charm against the Evil Eye will contain the name of Christ or of a Saint in a Christian charm, the name of Muhammad in the Muhammedan, and that of an angel or a mysterious name of God in the Jewish formula, though all the rest would be identical. The same process happened also in ancient times, and the Papyri mentioned above assist us in tracing the change which the new order of ideas had introduced in the magical formulas of the Christian era.

If we trace the first impulse of these changes to the Gnostics, we must at once associate it with the sects of Essenes and Theraupeuts that swarmed in Egypt and Palestine, and with the most important sect of Gnostics which produced the greatest impression, i.e. that represented by Valentin. His is the one against whom most of the polemics of the Fathers of the Church were directed. He is the author of the most profound and luxuriant, as well as the most influential and the best known, of the Gnostic systems. He was probably of Egyptian-Jewish descent ; and he derived his material from his own fertile imagination, from Oriental and Greek speculations, and from Christian ideas. [1] In his system entered also the mystical combinations of letters and signs known under the name of cabalistic formulas, and he moreover favored the permutations and combinations of letters to express divine names and attributes. To him we owe the theory of Æons and the Syzygies, or divine creative pairs, of which the two first form together the sacred "Tetraktys." I believe this to be the Gnostic counterpart of the sacred "Tetragrammaton," and not, as has hitherto been assumed by others, the Tetraktys of the Pythagoreans. For one can see in his system, and more so in the mystical part of it, the direct influence of the Jewish mystical speculations of the time. Valentin lived, moreover, in Palestine, and nothing would suit him better than to manipulate that mystical, Ineffable Name of God, round which a whole system had been evolved in the service of the Temple. Angelology and mysterious names of God and His angels are, moreover, intimately connected with the above-mentioned sects.

The mysterious Ineffable Name of the divinity which is invoked seems to be the center of moat of the ancient and even modern Magic. By knowing that Name, which is assumed to be the name by means of which the world was created, the man or exorciser in Egypt pretended to constrain the god to obey his wishes and to give effect to his invocation if called by his true name; whilst in Chaldea the mysterious Name was considered a real and divine being, who had a personal existence, and therefore exclusive power over the other gods of a less elevated rank, over nature, and the world of spirits. In Egyptian magic, even if the exercisers did not understand the language from which the Name was borrowed, they considered it necessary to retain it in its primitive form, as another word would not have the same virtue. The author of the treatise on the Egyptian mysteries attributed to Jamblichus maintains that the barbarous names taken from the dialects of Egypt. and Assyria have a mysterious and ineffable virtue on account of the great antiquity of these languages. The use of such unintelligible words can be traced in Egypt to a very great antiquity. [2]

It is necessary to point out these things in order to understand the character of the new formulas which take now the place of the old. To the old and in time utterly unintelligible names, new names were either added or substituted, and the common source of many of these names is Jewish, mystical speculation. The Ineffable Name of God and the fear of pronouncing it can be traced to a comparatively remote antiquity. We find in those ancient writings that have retained the traditions of the centuries before the common era, the idea of a form of the Ineffable Name composed of 22, 42, or 72 parts, or words, or letters, of which that consisting of 72 was the most sacred. It is still doubtful what those 22, 42, and 72 were -- either different words expressing the various attributes of God, or letters in a mystical combination; but whatever these may have been they took the place of the Ineffable mystical name and were credited with the selfsame astounding powers. By means of these every miracle could be done and everything could be achieved. All the powers of nature, nil the spirits and demons could be subdued, and in fact there was no barrier to human aspiration. The heavens were moreover peopled at a very early age with numberless angels arranged in a hierarchical order and each endowed with a special Name, the knowledge of which was no less desirable for working miracles. I need only allude to Dionysius Areopagita to have mentioned a complete treatise of such a divine economy recognized by the Church, but we can go much higher up and find these divisions and subdivisions of the celestial hosts recorded in books that belong to the second era before Christ. In the Book of Enoch (ch. vi) we have a long list of such names of angels, and in a book, the date of which has been differently put, the names of angels are still more numerous, to which there are added also various names of God. The book in question pretends to be a vision of the high Priest Ismael, and is a description of the heavenly halls. Modern scholars who knew nothing of the Gnostic and other heretic literature put it as late as the ninth century, simply and solely because they could not find early traces of it in the old literature, and because it seemed to appear first in those times. A comparison of it with the Ascensio Iesaiae, and still more with a chapter in the "Pistis Sophia," easily convinces us, however, of the fact that absolutely similar treatises were known as early as the first centuries after Christ, if they were not, in fact, later remakings of still more ancient texts. The Greek Papyri already alluded to have also this peculiarity in common with these texts, that they abound in similar lists of names of angels and demons borrowed from Egyptian, Christian, and Jewish sources. Among these we find also numerous forms of the Name of God consisting also of a number of letters, 7, 27, and others, [3] and also most curious combinations of letters.

The Jewish idea of a mystical Name of God rests thus upon the interpretation of the Tetragrammaton, or the word JHVH, that stands for God in the Hebrew text, which from very ancient times the priests first and then the whole people refrained from pronouncing in the way it was written. A substitute was found for it, so as to avoid a possible profanation of the sacred Name. But it is an object of millenary speculation what that substitute really was. As already remarked, it is represented by a changing number of elements, letters or words. The original miraculous, powerful Name, however, was the Tetragrammaton known as the "Shem ha-meforash." This word has presented great difficulties to the following generations. It can be translated either as meaning explicit, the "explicit" Name of God, whilst the others are merely substitutes, or separate, the name which is used exclusively for the designation of the Divinity. These two are the best known and most widely accepted interpretations of the "Shem ha-meforash." In the light, however, of our study it will appear that another translation will henceforth be found to be the only true one, at any rate for ancient times. Later on the true meaning of this expression was lost, and one or the other of the first-mentioned philological translations was adopted. So we find in the Testament of Solomon, e.g., "the angel called Aphoph, which is interpreted as Rafael." [This expression proves that it is based upon a Hebrew original, and that the word "perush" was taken to mean " interpretation."] Considering that this name was believed to be the only True Name of God, the all-powerful name which was never pronounced, "Shem ha-meforash" can only mean the Ineffable, as we find it also in the "Pistis Sophia," and all throughout the ancient tradition. It is an euphemism; instead of saying: it is the "Ineffable" unutterable name, they used the word which meant: it is the "explicit" name, just as they said for a "blind" man -- he is "full of light"; other examples can be easily adduced. In this way an ancient mystery and a stumbling-block for the translator of such texts disappears.

As the Tetragrammaton, or "Shem ha-meforash," was the Ineffable Name, and could by no means ever be uttered, others were substituted and were used by the priest when blessing the people. These also were endowed with a special sanctity, and were revealed only to the initiated. These substitutes were considered to be no less effective for miracles, and the knowledge of these mysterious Names was no less desirable than that of the true Tetragrammaton, for they were believed to represent the exact pronunciation of the forbidden word, and thus to contain part, if not the whole, of the power with which the Tetragrammaton itself was invested. Rab, a scholar who had studied in Palestine towards the end of the second century, says of these substituted names, and more especially of that of forty-two elements (Tr. Kiddushin, fol. 71a) : "That this Name is to be revealed only to a man who stands in the middle of his life, who is pious and modest, who never gives way to anger and to drink, who is not obstinate. Whoever knows that Name and preserves it in purity is beloved in heaven and beloved upon earth; is well considered by man and inherits both worlds." [4] What these forty-two may have been has thus far been the object of speculation. When comparing the ancient tradition with the new texts in the Papyri, and in the mystical texts of Hebrew literature, there can no longer be any doubt that the Name of forty-two, or more or less, elements could not have been originally anything else but words consisting of that number of letters, which were substituted in the public pronunciation for the Ineffable Name consisting of one word and only word and only four letters -- the Tetragrammaton! In time these substitutes were also forgotten, or not divulged, and thus arose a series of new substitutes and variations for the divine Name. There was also the fear of profaning the name of God when writing it down in the way it occurred in the Bible, and therefore they resorted to manifold devices on the one hand to avoid a possible profanation, and on the other to obtain sacred or mysterious substitutes for the Ineffable Name.

Another element that came within the purview of this activity of coining new names was the new and greatly developed angelology that flourished at that time in Palestine and Egypt. The angels had to be provided with appropriate and powerful names, and the authors resorted to the same devices, of which I mention the most prominent, and which are the cause of many of the barbarous forms and names that abound in the magical rites and formulas and in the so-called practical Cabbalah. The biblical names of Michael, Gabriel, and others with the termination -el = God served as a model for some of the new angels, such as in the Book of Enoch and in other similar writings. The first part was, as a rule, taken from the characteristic attribute connected with the activity of that new angel: so Raphael = the healing angel, in the Book of Tobit; Raziel = the angel of the mysteries; and in the same manner a boat of similar names. Then came into requisition the system of permutation of the letters of the divine name: one standing first was placed at the end, and so on. Much more extensively were the change in the order or the substitution of other letters resorted to. In the Alphabet of R. Akiba no less than five different systems of this kind of substitutions are enumerated; either the last letter of the alphabet stands for the first (A-t; b-sh, etc.), or one letter stands for the one immediately preceding such, as b for a; or the eighth and fifteenth stand for the first, and so on (A-h-s; b-t'-a, ), or first and twelfth are interchangeable (A-l; b-m, ). One can easily see how differently the same name could be written and employed in the same amulet, and all these various forms representing only one and the same name. The Tetragrammaton appears, therefore, either as , or , or , or etc. The number of such permutations and substitutions is not limited, however, to these four systems enumerated; they are innumerable, and it is almost impossible to find the key for all met with in these mystical writings, and especially on the amulets.

Other means employed for the purpose of devising new variations and protections for the sacred name, belonging to the very eldest times, were the combination of two words into one, of which one is a sacred name and the other an attribute, but the letters of these two words are intermingled in such a manner that it is not always easy to decipher them. An example, which has hitherto not been understood, we have already in the Talmud. The High Priest Ismael is said to have seen Iah Aktriel in the Temple. This word, which stands for the mysterious name of God, is nothing else than the combination of the two words Ktr = Crown and Ariel, from Isaiah xxix, 1. In the text, which I publish here, we have the name Skdhzi = and Hzk = mighty, powerful. Names were further formed by leaving out one or two letters from the Tetragrammaton or from ether sacred names of the Bible, the primary reason always being to avoid the possibility of profanation, as the profane utterance of the divine name brought heavy penalty upon the culprit. In this manner is the obscure exclamation in the Temple to be understood, Ani vhu, instead of the usual "O Lord" (help us) : in each of these two words one letter has been left out -- the d in the first, Adni, and the second h in the second word. On other occasions strange letters were inserted between those of the divine name, and thus we get the puzzling form (Tr. Synhedrin, 56a = vii, 5) which is mentioned when the blasphemer who had blasphemed God was brought before the judges. The judges ask the witnesses to repeat the blasphemy uttered by the accused, and they say, instead of mentioning the Divine Name, the words , which may have obtained this form in our printed texts through popular etymology, meaning "Jose beat Jose!" But originally we have here clearly the Tetragrammaton , and a strange letter inserted after each letter of that word, viz. .

This process continues still unto our very days, but from the thirteenth or fourteenth century onwards a change has taken place in the system of the formation of these mysterious words, considered to be so efficacious in amulets. The initials of the words of a biblical verse are combined into a new word without any meaning, or the letters of a verse are so arranged as to form uniform words of three letters without meaning, the commencement of each of these words being the letters of the Hebrew words arranged consecutively. The most celebrated example is the use to which Exodus xiv, 19-21 has been put for many a century. But these are a mark of more recent origin, and not a trace is to be found throughout the whole ancient mystical literature, and also not in our text.

If we should apply these principles to the Greek Papyri, there is no doubt that a key might be found for the innumerable curious names which crowd these fragments of a literature that at one time must have been very rich. Traces of it we find also in the "Pistis Sophia," where special stress is laid upon that Ineffable Name, communicated only to the initiated. The knowledge which a man acquires through the "Nomen Ineffabile" is described at some length (pp. 131-153). In another place we read that Jesus spoke the Great Name over the disciples whilst preaching to them, and blew afterwards into their eyes, by which they were made to see a great light (p. 233). The mysterious names of God and of the Powers are enumerated on pp.223 and 234-5, whilst the following passage explains the power of that Name:-- "There is no greater mystery than this. It leads your soul to the light of lights, to the places of truth and goodness, to the region of the most holy, to the place where there is neither man nor woman nor any definite shape, but a constant and inexpressible light. Nothing higher exists than these mysteries after which ye seek. These are the mysteries of the seven voices, and their forty-nine Powers, and their numbers, and no name is superior to that Name in which all the other names are contained, and all the Lights, and all the Powers. If anyone knows that Name when he goes out of the material body, neither smoke nor darkness, neither Archon, angel, or archangel, would be able to hurt the soul which knows that Name. And if it be spoken by anyone going out from the world and said to the fire, it will be extinguished; and to the darkness, and it will disappear; and if it be said to the demons and to the satellites of the external darkness, to its Archons, and to its lords and powers, they will all perish, and their flame will burn them so that they exclaim 'Thou art holy, Thou art holy, the Holy of all the Holy.' And if that Name is said to the judges of the wicked, and to their lords and all their powers, and to Barbelo and the invisible God, and to the three Gods of triple power, as soon as that Name is uttered in those regions they will fall one upon the other, so that being destroyed they perish and exclaim ' Light of all the Lights, who art in the infinite lights, have mercy upon us and purify us.'" [5] This is almost identical with the saying of Rab, with the difference that in the "Pistis Sophia" the Egyptian influence is not yet wholly obliterated. These examples suffice to show the character of the central point in the new Magic adopted by the Gnostics, viz. , the mysterious Divine Name and its substitutes derived from the mystical speculations of Palestine, and also the general tendency of syncretism and absorption of various forms and invocations in that form of Magic which henceforth will have the deepest influence upon the imagination and belief of the nations of the West.

From that period, then, up to the twelfth or thirteenth century there is a gap which neither Psellus nor the Testament of Solomon fill sufficiently. All those ancient magical books, being declared the work of the evil spirit, were successfully hunted up and destroyed. The link which binds the literature of the second half of the Middle Ages with the past is missing, and we find ourselves often face to face with the problem whether a book that appears after that period is of recent origin, or is an ancient book more or less modified? Such a book is, for instance, the so-called Sefer Raziel, or the book delivered to Adam by the angel Raziel shortly after he had left Paradise. It is of a composite character, but there is no criterion for the age of the component parts. The result of this uncertainty is that it has been ascribed to R. Eleazar, of Worms, who lived about the middle of the thirteenth century. One cannot, however, say which portion is due to his own ingenuity and which may be due to ancient texts utilized by him. I am speaking more particularly of this book as it seems to be the primary source for many a magical or, as it is called now, a cabbalistical book of the Middle Ages. Trithemius, the author of "Faust's Hoellenzwang," Agrippa, and many more, are deeply indebted to this book for many of their invocations and conjurations, although they must have had besides similar books at their disposal, probably also the Clavicula Solomonis, the Great Grimoire, etc.

I must still mention one more fragmentary relic of that literature, viz. the inscribed cups and bowls from ancient Babylon with Aramaic inscriptions. These belong partly to the Lecanomantia, and are another example of the constancy of these formulas; for centuries these remain almost unchanged, and even in their latest form have retained a good number of elements from the ancient prototype.

It so happened, then, that some inquisitive men living in Kairouan, in the north of Africa, should address a letter to the then head of the great school in Babylon, Haya Gaon (d. 1037), asking him for information on various topics connected with magic rites and the miraculous powers ascribed to the Ineffable Name. I give here the gist of some of their questions, which date therefore from the second half of the tenth or the commencement of the eleventh century. They ask first, what it is about that Ineffable Name and other similar mysterious Names of angels through the means of which people can make themselves invisible, or tie the hand of robbers, as they had heard from pious men from Palestine and Byzantium that if written upon leaves of reeds (Papyri!) or of olive trees and thrown in the face of robbers would produce that effect; and if written on a potsherd and thrown into the sea, calms it; or placed upon a corpse, quickens it to life; and, further, that it shortens the way so that man can travel immense distances in no time. They have also books with these terrible, awe-inspiring Names, and with the seals of those celestial powers of which they are terrified; as they know that the use of these mysterious Names, without due and careful preparation, brings with it calamity and premature death. To these and other questions the Gaon gives a sensible and philosophic reply, warning them, in the first instance, not to place too much credence on the statements of people who pretend to have seen, but to try and see with their own eyes. Then he goes on to tell them that such books with mystical names are also to he found in his college, and that one of his predecessors was known to have been addicted to these studies, and to the writing of amulets and the knowledge of incantations, but, he adds, "only a fool believes everything." As for the books with formulas, he goes on to say: "We have a number of them, such as the book called 'Sefer ha-Yashar,' and the book called 'The Sword of Moses,' which commences with the words, 'Four' angels are appointed to the Sword,' and there are in it exalted and miraculous things; there is, further, the book called 'The Great Mystery,' besides the minor treatises, which are innumerable. And many have labored in vain to find out the truth of these things." In the course of his reply Haya touches also upon the Ineffable Name and the name of seventy-two (elements), which, according to him, was the result of the combination of three biblical verses (cf. above, p. 11, where reference is made to Exodus xiv, 19-21), but he neither knows which they are nor how they were uttered; as to the other of forty-two, he says that it consisted of forty-two letters, the pronunciation of which was, however, doubtful, resting merely upon tradition. This name commenced, according to him, with the letters Abgits, and finished with Skusit. He mentions further the books-- "The Great and the Small Heavenly Halls" and "The Lord of the Law," full of such terrifying names and seals which have had that dreaded effect upon the uncalled, and from the use of which those before them had shrunk, lest they be punished for incautious use. [6]

These abstracts suffice to show that the mystical literature had not come to an end with the third or fourth century, but had continued to grow and to exercise its influence throughout the whole intervening period. The reasons why so little is mentioned in the contemporary literature is, that each period has its own predilections, Subjects which absorb almost exclusively the general interest, and are therefore prominently represented by the literature of the time, whilst other things, though in existence, are relegated to an obscure place. The best example we have is the modern folklore literature, that has assumed such large proportions, no one pretending that the subject did not exist throughout the centuries, although neglected by scholars. It must also not be forgotten that we have only fragments of the literature that flourished in Palestine and among the Jews in the Byzantine empire, to which countries this mystical literature belongs. Christian literature leaves us also in the dark for this period, for the reasons stated above; only Syriac might assist us somehow to fill up that gap, but as far as I am aware very little is to be expected from that quarter, as in the whole magnificent collection of the British Museum I have not found a single MS. of charms or magical recipes, except one single, rather modern, Mandaic text. Two very small, and also rather modern, Syriac MSS. of charms are in the possession of the Rev. H. Gollancz.

Of those books now mentioned by Uaya Gaon in his reply -- all of which, by the way, seem to have been irretrievably lost -- I have had the good fortune to discover one, viz. that called "The Sword of Moses," of which he gives us the first words. From the answer of Haya it is evident that he considered this book to be old and to be the most important, for he is not satisfied with merely giving the title as he does with the other books, but he makes an exception for this to indicate the commencement and to add that it contained "exalted and wonderful things." A glance at the contents of the newly-discovered text will justify the judgment of Haya, for it is a complete encyclopedia of mystical names, of eschatological teachings, and of magical recipes.

Before stating the contents I must first give a short description of this MS., now Cod. Hebr., Gaster, 178. This text has come to me with a mass of other leaves full of magical formulas, all in a very bad state of preservation and apparently hopelessly mixed up. Happily there were custodes at the ends of the leaves, and by their means I was enabled, after a long toil and careful handling of leaves falling to pieces on account of old age and decayed through dampness to recover a good portion of the original MS. and the whole of this text, which occupies twelve small quarto leaves. The number of lines varies. The writing belongs to the thirteenth or fourteenth century, and is in Syrian Rabbinical characters. It is evidently a copy from a more ancient text, and the copyist has not been very careful in the transcript he made. Many a letter is written wrongly, having been mistaken for another similar, such as (D) for (R) and (M) for (S). In many a place there are evident lacunae, and the copyist has often not understood the text. The language is a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic, Hebrew prevailing in the first part, which I call the Introductory or historical, as it gives the explanation of the heavenly origin of this text, and deals with all the preliminary incidents connected with the mode of using the text in a proper and efficacious manner. In the last, which I call the theurgical or magical part, Aramaic prevails. All the diseases are mentioned in the language of the vulgus, and so also all the plants and herbs, and the other directions are also in the same language. To no language, if I may say so, belongs the middle part, which is the real text of the "Sword." This consists of a number of divine and mysterious Names, a good number of which are the outcome of all those modes of manipulations with the letters briefly indicated above. It would be a hopeless task to try and decipher these names, and to transliterate them into the original forms of which they are the transformations and mystical equivalents. In this section we can recognize besides the unchangeable character of some of the magic formulas. What I said before of the Egyptians, who would not change any sacred Name, however barbarous it may sound, for fear of destroying its efficacy, holds good also for another number of Names found here in a bewildering variety. Almost every religion must have contributed to the list that makes up the "Sword." Eclecticism would be a mild word for this process of general absorption, that has made the "Sword" thus far the most complete text of magical mysterious Names which has come down to us. A small encyclopedia of a similar character is the Greek Papyrus of the British Museum, No. cxxi, and the Leyden Papyrus (J. 395), with which our text shows great similarity, but these Papyri mark as it were the first stages of this process of growth by the assimilation of various elements and combination into one single complete vade-mecum for the magician or conjurer. In the "Sword" we have the full development of that process, which must have run its course at a very early period.

Nothing is more fallacious than to try etymologies of proper names. The omission or addition of one letter by a careless copyist suffices to lead us completely astray. It is, therefore, difficult to advance any interpretation of even a few of the names found in this text that have a familiar appearance. If we were sure of the reading, we might recognize among those in No. 6, Isis (Apraxia, Veronica), Osiris, Abraxas, and others; but, as already remarked, such an identification might easily lead us astray, and the coincidences might only be the result of mere chance. No doubt can, however, be entertained as to the complex character of this text, and to the astounding form of many of the names which it contains. It is a systematically arranged collection ; in the apparent disorder there is order ; and the names are placed according to certain leading features which they have in common. Thus we have a long string of names that are composed with the word Sabaoth (Nos. 24-37); others that are the components of the divine -el (Nos. 102-34). More startling still is a list of supposed names of heavenly powers that are represented as sons if of other powers. These are undoubtedly derived from many sources, the author welding smaller texts and lists into one comprehensive list. The third part contains the directions for the application of these various Names. These are also arranged according to a certain system. The diseases follow, at any rate in the first portion, the order of the members in the human body, commencing with the head and its parts, then descending to the lower members; after which follow recipes for ailments of a different nature, to be followed by the directions for performing miracles and other remarkable feats.

Each of these 136 items (numbered by me) corresponds with a certain portion of Part II, the words or the mystical Names of those portions in Part II being the mysterious words that alone were the proper to have the expected magical result. In order to facilitate research, I have subdivided Part II into such corresponding portions to which I give the same number. There is thus an absolute parallelism between the two parts-one the text and the other its magical application. We see that the book has been very methodically arranged by one who intended to prepare as complete a magical book as possible. By this parallelism, and by the partial repetition of the mysterious words in Part III, we have the means to satisfy ourselves as to the accuracy of the copyist, who does not come out very satisfactorily from this test. It may be that the original from which he copied was already partly corrupt, and the fear which such books inspired prevented him from attempting to correct what are obvious mistakes in the spelling of those Names. It not seldom happens that the same Name is written in two or three different forms in one and the same recipe. I have also not attempted any correction, as we have no means to decide which of these variæ lectiones is the true and which the corrupt. Another reason why the copyist may be exonerated from at least some of these inconsistencies, is the fact that he gives in many places what are intended to be different readings. lie starts his copy with the marginal note, unfortunately half gone, the paper being destroyed in that place, that "there are differences of opinion as to the readings of the text and of the Names," or, as I would interpret this mutilated glosse, "the marginal readings are variæ lectiones." For, in fact, there are a good number of marginal glosses throughout Parts I and II.

There also are some in Part III, but these are of a totally different character. They are purely philological, and furnish one powerful proof more both for the antiquity of the text with which we are dealing and for the country where the MS. has been copied. Most, if not all, these glosses are, namely, Arabic translations of the Aramaic words of the original. By the mistakes that have crept into these Arabic glosses, it is evident that they have not been added by the copyist, who surely would have known how to write his own translation, but who would make mistakes when copying another MS., especially if it were in any way badly written or had suffered in consequence of age. The translation further proves that the original was written at a time when Aramaic was the language of the people, and that at a certain time when the copy was made from which this MS. is a transcript the language of the original had begun to be forgotten and required a translation, which, by the way, is not always exact. The Aramaic of this text is, in fact, not easy to understand; there occur in it many words of plants and diseases which I have not found in any dictionary in existence, and many of the grammatical forms present peculiar dialectical variations, which point to Palestine as the original home of our text, and deserve a special study. Here again we have to lament the fact that we deal with an unique manuscript and have no means to test the accuracy of the text. But even as it is, this text will prove an extremely valuable contribution to Semitic philology, and would enrich even Löw's book on Aramaic names of plants, where I have in vain searched for the names and words occurring in our text. I have therefore added a translation, which, however, in some places, does not pretend to be more than an attempt to grapple with a very recalcitrant text.

The title of the book seems to be derived from the last words spoken by Moses before his death. He concludes his blessing of the Children of Israel with these words (Deuter. xxxiii, 29): "Who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and that is the Sword of thy excellency," or "thy excellent Sword." The figurative "Sword" spoken of here must have been taken at a later time to signify more than a figure of speech. Under the influence of the mystical interpretation of Scripture flourishing at a very early period, it was taken to denote a peculiar form of the divine Name, excellent and all-powerful, which served as a shield and protection. It therefore could be made to serve this purpose in magical incantations, which did not appeal to tile assistance of demons but to the heavenly hosts obeying the command of the Master of that "Sword." There is no wonder, then, that it came to be connected with the name of Moses, the very man who spoke of it, and whose last words were of that "Sword." In the Greek Papyri, Moses is mentioned as one who keeps divine mysteries (Brit. Mus., Pap. xlvi, of the fourth century, lines 109 ff., ed. Kenyon, in Catalogue, 1893, p. 68, and note to it) ; and again, in another Papyrus, cxxi, of the third century (ibid. p. 104, l. 619 and note), a reference to one of tile magical books ascribed to Moses, called "The Crown of Moses." But what is more important still, the Leyden Papyrus calls itself the eighth Book of Moses. It resembles very much our text, which has thus preserved the old name by which many of these magical books went. Dieterich, who published the Leyden Papyrus (Abraxas, Leipzig, 1891), looks to Orphic origins for that magical composition and lays too great stress on the Cosmogony in it. In the light of our text it will become evident that these go all back to one common source, viz. to the mystical speculations of those sects, which lie himself enumerates (pp.136 ff.) ; and the "Logos ebraikos" quoted by him from the Paris Papyrus (ibid. pp. 138-141) shows more clearly still the same sources for all these compositions. The overwhelming importance assigned in these texts to the "holy Name" consisting of a number of letters, and the book calling itself "The Work of Moses on the Holy Name," justify us in seeing in it an exact parallel to the Hebrew text, recovered now by me. There is much internal similarity between the Hebrew "Sword" and the Greek Papyri. The order of subjects is similar; all commence with an eschatological part, which in the Greek is more in the nature of a Cosmogony, in the Hebrew that of the description of the heavenly hierarchy. In both follows the "Name," and after that a list of magical recipes which refer back to that Name. The constant refrain of the Leyden Papyrus after each recipe is: "Say the Name! " Here the Name is still simple; in the Hebrew text it is represented by the rich variety which I have pointed out, but an intimate connection between these various texts cannot be doubted.

There exists besides another small treatise (B), also unique, that goes under the same name as "The Sword of Moses" (Cod. Oxford, 1531, 6). It is a short fragment of a different recension, and has only a remote resemblance with the first text (A). It consists of a list of mystic Names, different in their form from the other text, and has only sixteen recipes, which do not correspond with portions only of the first part, but, as in the Leyden Papyrus, the whole of this was to be repeated after each recipe. Immediately upon this short text follows an invocation of the heavenly Chiefs, attributed to Ismael, the High Priest, the reputed author of the "Heavenly Halls." This addition corresponds to a certain extent with the first part of the "Sword" (A). In none, but very few exceptions, of B is there any trace of Aramaic, and a totally different spirit pervades the whole text. It is in the first place doubtful whether we have here the whole of it or merely a fragment. In two places we find the letters (NG) and (ND), which taken as numerals mean 53 and 54. If they stand for such, then we have here only the last two or three portions of a long text, of which the preceding 52 are missing. Again, on the other hand, as it is regularly recommended to repeat the whole of the "Name" after each recipe, an operation that would be well-nigh impossible for the inordinate length of that text, those NG and ND may not stand as numbers of paragraphs. This text presents besides many more peculiar traits that make it rather remarkable. We find here thus far the only trace in Hebrew literature of the "Twins" or Didymoi" which appear in the Gnostic hymns of the apocryphal Acts of the Apostle Thomas, [7] and are brought into connection with the system of Bardesanes, The heavenly Powers mentioned in the "Sword" (A) under the form of sons of other Powers, point also to the same system of Bardesanes, of whom Ephraem Syrus said: "He invented male and female beings, gods and their children." [8] He may have taken these ideas from older sources. However it may be, this coincidence is none the less remarkable. We find further angels with double names, the one of which I translated "Kunya," i.e. the proper name, and the other the explicit, i.e. Ineffable unutterable name, corresponding entirely with that of the Testament of Solomon, where we find "the angel called Apharoph interpreted Raphael" (. -- Orient, 1844, col. 747).

In the Gnostic prayer from the Acts of the Apostle Thomas, the Sophia is spoken of as the one "who knows the mysteries of the Chosen," or, according to the Syriac version, "revealer of the mysteries of the Chosen among the Prophets." With this the passage in the Hebrew text (B) may be compared, where the same idea is enunciated; and one feels almost tempted to see in the inexplicable word ("Kinn") the Greek "Koinôn," the companion or partaker of the mystery; although it seems rather strange to find the very word in the Hebrew text. But there are many words that have a peculiar appearance in this text, and they look like transliterations of Greek words in Hebrew characters, such as "Chartis Hieratikon," etc. I have added, therefore, this second text also, making thus the publication of the "Sword" as complete as possible.

As a second Appendix I have added two conjurations found in the MS. of the "Sword " (A), both in Aramaic, and extremely interesting also for their similarity with the inscriptions inside the bowls brought from Assyria and Babylon. A detailed study of some of these magic bowls and their inscriptions has been published by M. Schwab. [9]

I have reproduced all these texts as closely and accurately as possible, without attempting any corrections or emendations, except in the case of obvious mistakes, which are pointed out by me as corrections. The glosses are given as notes, and the few corrections of obvious mistakes. I have refrained from referring to inscriptions on Gnostic gems and amulets, where we find "Ephesia grammata" similar to those of Part II of the "Sword" (A) and to some of Appendix I, and to the magical formulas in the terra-cotta bowls, which present a striking similarity with some portions of "The Sword." One cannot exhaust a subject of this kind, and the utmost one can attempt to do is to place as ample a material as possible at the disposal of those who make the study of Magic and theurgy and of the so-called practical Cabbalah the object of special enquiry. I have limited myself to draw attention to the relation that exists between these, the Greek Papyri, and the Hebrew texts which I publish here for the first time, and to point out the important fact that we have now at least one fixed date from which to start in the enquiry of a subject in which dates and times have thus far been very doubtful. It is, moreover, a contribution to Semitic philology, and by the addition of a facsimile of the first page a contribution to Semitic palæography.

The origin of the "Sword" is none the less somewhat difficult to fix. From the letter of Haya Gaon it is evident that it must have been at least a few centuries older than his time (tenth century). But it must be much older still. As the Leyden Papyrus belongs at the latest to the third century, and those of the British Museum to the third or fourth century, we are justified in assigning to the first four centuries of the Christian era the origin of our Hebrew text, which throws so vivid a light upon those remnants of Greek Magic buried hitherto in the soil of Egypt. Herein lies also one side of the importance of our text, that it shows how the connection between antiquity and the later ages was maintained. The Greek texts had become inaccessible and practically lost to the world, whilst the Hebrew text, written in a language which was considered sacred, the knowledge of which was never allowed to be extinguished, preserved the ancient magical texts, with their curious mystical names and formulas, and carried them across the centuries, keeping up the old tradition, and affording us now a glimpse into a peculiar state of the popular mind of those remarkable times. The careful study of those Greek fragments side by side with the Hebrew will assist very materially in the understanding also of those often very obscure texts, and lift the study from the narrow groove in which it has hitherto been kept by the classical scholars who have devoted their attention recently to them. It will also help us in laying bare the fountains from which flowed the whole of the magical arts of the Middle Ages.


1. P. Schaff, "Anti-Nicene Christianity," ii, Edinburgh, p.472 ff.

2. Lenormant, "Chaldean Magic," p.104 ff.

3. A. Dieterich, "Abraxas," p. 185 (Papyrus Leyden).

4. Cf. Bachor, "Agada d. Babylonischen Amoraeer," pp. 17, 18.

5. "Pistis Sophia," ed. Schwartze, p. 236.

6. Taam Zekenim, f. 545 ff.

7. Ed. Bonnet, pp. 36-38. Cf. Lipsius, "Apokryphe Apostelgeschichten," i, pp. 313 and 318 ff.

8. Lipsius, i.e., p. 310.

9. Proc. Bibl. Archæology, 1890, pp.292-342.

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