Magic 1 for Priests


 1) Discuss the importance and actions of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of general Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)

Within the context of the general Indo-European studies and applying Dumezil’s Theory of Tripartition, a culture is divided into three social strata: the priestly strata, the warrior strata, and the herder-cultivator stratum.  The magico-religious function would fall into the first strata of people (Littleton 4-5).  These are the people who serve as magicians and priests within their culture, as well legal and justice role. When looking at the lore from an Indo-European culture, it should be noted that the gods associated with the first function were often paired in order to include both roles. One of example of this is Odin and Tyr in Norse mythology. Odin fulfilled the magician and priest role, while Tyr fulfilled the legal and justice role (Mallory 131-2).  It was the function of the magician to perform rites of passage as needed, but also to act as seers and spell casters for both individuals and institutions within their culture.   It was the duty of the priest to be sure that all proper forms of sacrifice were observed and that each necessary holiday was celebrated appropriately.  They would also perform rites of passage as needed, as well as preside over other seasonal and cultural celebrations.  In some cases the function of the priest and the magician would overlap, however their paths diverged more in some cultures than others.  The legal aspect of this first function was fulfilled by the community leaders, whether this was a king, members of the Assembly, members of the Senate, or a clan leader.


2) Identify the terms used within one Indo-European language to identify ‘magic’ and ‘magician’ examining what these terms indicate about the position of the magician in that society and the practice of his or her art. (minimum 100 words)

There are a variety of terms that are used to describe magic and magician, and the connotation of the word would change depending on which term is used to describe a magical person or magical act.  Mageia, the Greek word for magic, is what is practiced by the magos or magi, the magician or sorcerer.  The term magi comes from Persian, and when used in Greek, refers to a foreigner.  There is a kind of grudging respect because they are skilled in and responsible for “royal sacrifices, funeral rites, and for the divination and interpretation of dreams” (Graf 20), however due to the cultural and political tensions between Persia and Greece, they were not trusted.  The Heraclitus prophecies threaten these “wanderers of the night, … the magi, … with tortures after death” and with torturing by fire because “the mystery initiations [are] impious rites” (Graf 21).  There are other subsets of terms used to describe the various magicians.  The agurtes were beggar priests, to whom people could go for individual work, with the likelihood that the amount you paid them would effect what they told you.  The mantis was a diviner.  He was the freelance diviner, as opposed to the institutional diviners.  Both of these people were defined in the Derveni papyrus as “a professional of rites” (Graf 21).  They were lumped in with the night wanderers because they were privy to and specialized in the secret rites.


3) Discuss the existence and relative function of trance-journey magic within at least one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words)

In many Indo-European cultures trance work is often linked to divination of some sort. Trance and trance-journeying appear to be a common method for conducting divinatory magic.  The most prominent example of trance-journey magic within ancient Greece remains the existence of the institutional oracles.  These women would enter a trance state in order to commune with the divine and receive answers from the spirits.

For example, the oracle of Delphi (the Pythia) was said to sit above a chasm in the rock, on a three-legged stool, and breathe in the vapors of the mountain. The ancients believed these vapors were the breath of Apollo, and by breathing it in, he (or his daimons) would possess her and speak through her (Johnston 44-7).  This is the idea that “when this prophetic potency mixes with the Pythia’s body, it opens up channels through which her soul can receive impressions of the future” (46-7).


4) Discuss the place of alphabetic symbolism as part of the symbolism of magical practice within one Indo-European culture. (minimum 150 words)

Within ancient Greece the use of the Greek Alphabet in divination was, while not the most famous method of divination, a useful tool for many people.  A common method for this style of divination was to place pottery shards that had been inscribed with the letters and shake them in a drum frame until one or more leapt out (Sophistes “Oracle”).  Divination was a deeply ingrained magical practice within ancient Greece.  It is interesting to note, however, that the institutional oracles were likely not using the alphabet system to divine, but were rather much more likely to be engaging in enthused prophecy (as discussed in question 3) (Johnston 44-7). The freelancer diviners were more likely to use the alphabetic or other tactile methods for divination. Part of the reason for their use of these methods was likely because they were operating on a smaller scale than the institutional oracles, and as such needed a wider variety of tools because they were “clarifying problems on the spot” (109). Additionally, because they were freelance entrepreneurs, they were “willing to expand their repertoire as their clientele demanded” (177).

The letters of the Greek alphabet are used in the creation of amulets.  This can be seen in the variety of examples within the Greek Magical Papyri.  For example, PGM VII. 206-7 describes the creation of an amulet to prevent coughs.  The magician takes hyena parchment and inscribes a series of ancient Greek letters upon the talisman (Betz 121).

When referring to sounds, it is interesting to note that sometimes within the Greek Magical Papyri, there are direct instructions on how a specific sound is to be made, and the feel of it in your mouth.  For example, in PGM V. 1-53 it directs the magician to pronounce AOIAO EOEY by saying “the ‘A’ with an open mouth, undulating like a wave; / the ‘O’ succinctly, as a breathed threat, / the ‘IAO’ to earth, to air, and to heaven; / the ‘E’ like a baboon; / the ‘O’ in the same way as above; / the ‘E’ with enjoyment, aspirating it, / the ‘Y’ like a shepherd, drawing out the pronunciation.”  This detailed description implies that the exact way in which the letters were said, and the exact sound they made, was imperative to the successful completion of the magical act, in this case, creating and working with an oracle (Betz 101-2).


5) Discuss three key magical techniques or symbols from one Indo-European culture. (minimum 100 words each)

Rites of Binding (defixiones)

Binding spells are found in the curse tablets that are scattered across the ancient world, most notably in the Mediterranean area.  They are texts, primarily written on tablets of lead, that are intended to force another to the magician’s will, or make them unable to follow their own desires.  The texts themselves are divided into five different types of spells: judicial, erotic, agonistic, anti-theft, and economic.  In these cases, while the written texts have allowed us to study them, the part that is more important is the rite itself where the binding is carried out (Graf 119-123).  The text of who is bound and in what way conveys the intent of the spell, but there were also instructions for the magician for how and where to send the tablet down, whether by burying or sinking or nailing, etc.  The magician treated with chthonic beings to help him carry out the binding spell (134-5).


There are a whole host of techniques revolving around divination.  The famous methods of divination involve the use of direct visions either directly to the querant or through an intermediary (Graf 197).  This is what is seen at the Oracle of Delphi and the Oracle of Dodona.  This type of divination uses trance work to determine the message.  There are instructions to conduct such a direct vision in the Greek Magical Papyri specifically with Apollo in PGM VII. 727-39 (Betz 139).  There is also the use of augury to conduct divination, as well as knucklebones (or astragaloi) and basic lots for sortilege.  This is what we most often use in modern paganism.  Some other methods include divination through lamps, mirrors, or bowls of water.  These methods often have an elaborate set of directions to prepare the magician and the object for use.  For example, one set of instructions in PGM IV. 221-258 explains how to take a bronze vessel and fill it with a specific type of water depending on who you wish to contact, as well as the words to say over it in preparation (42).

All of these methods of divination are magic because they depend on having a relationship with spirits in order to achieve the results you desire.  Even if the result is no more than being able to interpret an omen, to be able to do that you must develop a relationship with a spirit to do so properly, and convince, cajole, bribe, etc. them to get their help in the matter.  Because spirit arte is working with spirits to achieve the goals of your work, divination within the Hellenic hearth culture is a form of spirit arte.  If you want something, including the answer to a divinatory question, then you have to find a spirit and win them over to your cause in order for that thing, or that answer, to happen.  This is seen time and again within the Greek Magical Papyri, as spirits are called for both simple and elaborate tasks (Betz).


There are a great many examples of amulets begin created and worn to achieve a certain end.  In paging through the Greek Magical Papyri, there are hundreds of examples.  One category of amulets has to do with healing.  The magician takes the material required and inscribes a series of letters or sigils.  The person the spell is for then wears the amulet.  PGM VII. 213-14 describes wearing an olive leaf about the neck as an amulet, with a shape that looks like a cone inscribed on the shiny side of the leaf, and a crescent moon inscribed on the dark side of the leaf (Betz 121).   Another description of an amulet is PDM xiv. 1003-14 which gives instructions on how to create an amulet to cure gout (244).


6) Discuss the relative place and methodologies of magic within your personal religious/spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)

I have struggled with the concept of magical work, partly because for me it is so entwined with both trance and divinatory work.  Magic, trance, and divination all contain pieces of the others that make it difficult for me to pull out just one of them and discuss it independently of the others.  Magic is simply prayer with intent, and so it is a very broad term that can encompass many things.

When I do magical work, it most often takes one of five different forms: trance work, divinatory work, ritual magic, healing work, or bardic work.  And these forms can happen at the same time, and often do.  I often use trance in combination with all of the forms, as well as independently to better focus the intent of the work, or to gain a clearer or more intense understanding of the desired outcome.  When I do divinatory work, I always call on Apollo Mantikos to aid me, making this a form of spirit arte.  Ritual magic is the kind of things that happen within a ritual.  Within ADF these are things like opening the gates and calling for the blessings.  When I do healing work, it is most often done with the aid of a spirit.  I make offerings to the spirit and call on them to help me focus my intent and lend energy to the person in need of healing.  Bardic work is done through trance and calling on various spirits for inspiration.  An initial offering is made to a spirit, and the outcome is often the creation of a bardic piece that can then be used to further honor the spirit.



7) Healing Work – Provide and explain one example of healing magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style healing working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)

The Artharvaveda is a collection of spells, prayers, charms, and hymns designed for a variety of purposes.  Many of these relate to healing work that can be done.  The example quoted below is a charm for teething, specifically for the first two teeth that break through.  The text of the charm calls directly to the teeth themselves, as well as to Agni.  Many of the healing charms within the Artharvaveda call to Agni.  I think this is both because he is the priest of the Gods and the one who accepts sacrifices, but also because Fire itself is purifying when dealing with illness or pain.  The charm calls on Agni to sooth the teeth that are breaking through the gums.  Offered to the teeth themselves are rice, barley, beans, and sesame, with the intent that the child will eat these rather than harm his parents.  This is especially apt, as breastfeeding a teething infant can lead to biting, which is supremely uncomfortable.   The next part of the charm asks that the teeth come forth gently and that the fierceness, the pain, be passed away from the body.

“VI, 140. Expiation for the irregular appearance of the first pair of teeth

  1. Those two teeth, the tigers, that have broken forth, eager to devour father and mother, do thou, O Brahmanaspati Gâtavedas, render auspicious!
  2. Do ye eat rice, eat barley, and eat, too, beans, as well as sesamum! That, O teeth.. is the share deposited for your enrichment. Do not injure father and mother!
  3. Since ye have been invoked, O teeth, be ye in unison kind and propitious! Elsewhere, O teeth, shall pass away the fierce (qualities) of your body! Do not injure father and mother!” (Bloomfield VI, 140)


A blessing on a child’s first two teeth

(1)Two tigers have grown up who long to eat the mother and the sire:

Soothe, Brāhmanaspati, and thou, O Jātavedas, both these teeth.

(2)Let rice and barley be your food, eat also beans and sesamum.

This is the share allotted you, to be your portion, ye two Teeth.

Harm not your mother and your sire.

(3)Both fellow teeth have been invoked, gentle and bringing happiness.

Else whither let the fierceness of your nature turn away, O

Teeth! Harm not your mother or your sire.” (Griffith CXL)


In creating this healing work for modern use, I have written a charm to be said while mixing the ingredients together for “Dr. Tally’s Soothing Tooth-Tiger Liniment.”  As a baby is able to start of solid foods around the same time that they will be getting teeth, I decided that a concoction that can actually be consumed and eaten by the child easily would be the way to go.  One of the ingredients called for in the ancient charm is beans.  Chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are the main ingredient in hummus, which can be easily eaten by most infants who have started on solid foods (though it may cause gassiness).  Both rice cereal and barley cereal can be mixed into the pureed chickpeas, and then seasoned with just a little bit of sesame oil or tahini.  This will create a pureed food that even babies who are just starting solids could eat, as it could be thinned with as much water as necessary for them. There have been reported cases of sesame seed allergies, so as always, before introducing new foods to your baby, consult their doctor.

To make “Dr. Tally’s Soothing Tooth-Tiger Liniment” combine the following ingredients in a food processor while saying the charm that follows (alternatively, say this charm over the dish before you serve it if you aren’t the one who made it):

  • 1 can of drained chickpeas (or chickpeas that you’ve cooked yourself)
  • 2 Tbsp tahini (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp rice cereal
  • 1 Tbsp barley cereal
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • water to desired consistency

“Fierce and sharp tooth tigers, you who have broken through,

Be eased, bright tigers, in your work by this gift.

Come forth, and bring with you smiles of joy, rather than grimaces of pain.

Be soothed, sweet tigers, and be not over eager in your entrance.

Come forth, and partake of this share allotted to you.

Fierce and sharp tooth tigers, born of blessed Fire, be warmly welcomed here!”


8) Warding Work – Provide and explain one example of warding or protection magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style warding working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)

There are many examples of protective talismans within the Greek Magical Papyri.  PGM VII. 206-7 describes the creation of an amulet to prevent coughs.  The magician takes hyena parchment and inscribes a series of ancient Greek letters upon the talisman (Betz 121).

In other parts of the Greek Magical Papyri there are direct instructions on how a specific sound is to be made, and the feel of it in your mouth.  For example, in PGM V. 1-53 it directs the magician specifically in how they should pronounce AOIAO (101-2). The materials used, the letters and words inscribed, and the words spoken were all important parts in the creation of talismans.

Each Hellenic Full Moon ritual I lead has a magical working in it.  During the Artemis full moon, we created protective talismans for the children of the folk who normally attend (or for the children of those close to those who normally attend).  I wrote out the text for the working, and we did it in a call and response fashion.  I felt that it was important for each person to speak the words themselves, because they knew who the talisman was being created for, and could better focus the intent.  It was also important for each person to speak the words due to the power that the verbalization of those words carry.

I fashioned this protective working after some of the amulets in the Greek Magical Papyri, such as what things were done to the item in order to make it fit for the intended use.  For example, PGM VII 149-54 gives instructions for grinding and mixing ingredients (goat bile, water, rosemary, saltwater) to sprinkle about to prevent bugs/fleas from getting in the house (Betz 119). In the case of this working I wanted the talisman infused with the powers of the land, sea, and sky, as well as ensuring that the child would be looked after by all the Theoi and by Artemis specifically, so I considered what types of things could be done to put those aspects into the talisman.  I also considered what words to say to accompany the creation of the charm. PGM VII 370-73 gives instructions on what to wear as well as what to say to keep wild animals, aquatic creatures, and robbers away (127).

Creating a Protective Talisman:

  • Need a token of some sort that will be on or near child/young mother
  • Need blessed waters, cypress or walnut (both sacred to Artemis), and incense

We come together now in the presence of all the Theoi, but most especially Artemis, protector of children.

I take this token and ask that it be blessed.

Blessed in the light of the moon which has infused these Waters.

Blessed in the presence of the Maiden, who watches over all children.

Blessed by the breath of the Theoi, who watch over us all.

Let these waters wash clean (this child) as they infuse this token.

*blessed waters form the Return Flow are sprinkled on the token*

Let this plant, sacred to Artemis, fill (this child) with strength, and protect (her) from all harm, as it infuses this token.

*cypress/walnut is rubbed into the token*

Let this smoke breathe life and joy into (this child) as it infuses this token.

*incense is wafted around token*

Infused with the blessings and in the presence of the Kindreds, we call now for the powers of Land, Sea, and Sky to combine with ours and with the bright, fierce essence of Artemis, to seal this intent into this token.

*brief pause to focus and visualize intent*



9) Purification Work – Provide and explain one example of purification magic from an Indo-European culture, and write an ADF-style purification working based on that example. (min. 150 words for example explanation)

The Greek Magical Papyri contains examples of amulets and talismans that aid in the work of the magician.  There are many spells that are designed for the consecration of tools.  One such is PGM IV. 1596-1715 (Betz 68-9).  This particular spell calls on Helios to consecrate a tool, which in the example in the Greek Magical Papyri is a stone, though it indicates that it can be any object.  A great portion of the words that are said are praising the work of the god.  This spell is designed to invoke Helios in each of the hours that he is seen in the sky, and for each hour provide a skill to the magician and his consecrated object.  Towards the end of the spell, the magician would speak: “Hear my voice in this present day and let all things done by this stone or for this phylactery, be brought to fulfillment, and especially NN matter for which I consecrate it” (Betz 69)

The magic that is being done here in the modern working is a visualization of a maelstrom stripping away those things that are pulling in our unwanted attention.  The swirling maelstrom then purifying us and allowing us to find our center.  We are consecrating a stone to help us stand firm at the center of the swirling storm, and help us to maintain our own center.  The working focuses not only on the purification of the individual, but also in maintaining that purified and grounded state.  It uses the imagery of the sea and the omphalos as the axis mundi to center the individual who is creating this tool.  For this working you will need a stone (or some other focus object), myrrh, and salt.

“Poseidon, Earth Shaker, Wave Bringer:

You whose trident stirs the mighty maelstrom,

whose waters wash us clean in the storm.

I bring you this gift of salt for your realm, and myrrh for your delight

As I ask your aid in this working tonight.

*salt and myrrh are offered*

You teach us of endurance and patience:

The calm in the raging storm.

You teach us of strength and perseverance:

The gates holding the Titans at bay.

You teach us of persistence and change:

The ebb and flow of the tides.

*each person takes stone and holds it at their center and speaks:*

“Poseidon, may this stone mark my center,

Holding me firm and strong here within myself.

Let the whipping winds cyclone about me

Stripping away the miasma I carry.

Strip away the obstacles I put up in front myself.

Strip away the extraneous emotions and thoughts diminishing my focus.

Let me stand firm at the center,

Even though the storm may rage about me.

Though the maelstrom spins, I stand strong.

Like this stone, I stand firm upon the Earth:

Unshaking and unafraid.

Like this stone, I stand firm amidst the storm:

the waves breaking around me, the riptide passing me by.

Like this stone, I stand firm and strong

Here at my Center.”

Poseidon, Lord of the Deep,

Connect us to the foundations of the Earth

And help us to find peace and joy

in the blossoming waves of the storm.”


10) Introspection – Having done the above work, provide detail of your understanding of why self-knowledge and introspection are critical for working with magic and how you intend to pursue your own course of self-understanding. (min. 350 words)

The work described in the practicum for this course, as well as the work done in Magic 2, have both helped to inform my understanding of why self-knowledge and introspection are critical for working magic. They have helped me consider how I approach magical work, what methods I use, how I determine what magical work to do, and how my work reflects on how I am perceived by others.

Self-understanding and introspection are essential for every person who practices magic, whether or not they consider themselves a magus or magician.  For me this becomes a discussion of ethics, and a discussion of ethics within my practice turns towards the Delphic Maxims (Oikonomides).  Personal introspection falls under maxim #8 “Know Thyself” or perhaps “Be Yourself,” depending on the translation. This requires a person to examine their personal values, and determine why they feel the way they do, and how to best act in accordance with those values they have come to own.  Many other values are accounted for within the maxims that help to guide who that “self” is that you should strive to know and be.

In the work described in the practicum, I looked at what type of magic would actually be useful to me and to those who were attending the rites where that magic was performed. Part of the introspection was setting aside ideas for workings that would be ‘cool’ or ‘flashy,’ but not necessarily be the best way to accomplish the goal of that work. This required me to deepen my understanding of myself. An understanding of yourself requires that you know who you are and continually exploring who you want to become.  It requires an understanding of how your actions and inactions affect yourself and others, and your view of yourself and how others perceive you.  This does not require you to cater to or be afraid of how others will view you, but at least have an understanding.  This understanding as you grow will help you to distinguish the role that magic is taking in your life. I believe there is always a danger that hubris can overtake a person, and in the case of magical work, this hubris can be more devastating as the magician breaks from reality.  One of the guiding maxims that I think helps to curb hubris is to “Be (religiously) silent.”  It is more important to do the work than talk about all the work you have, or could have done. One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve done the work for the initiate path as well as the beginning work for the clergy training program (including the practicum for this course), is that my view of myself will affect the way that others view me, and the best course of action for me is to let my work speak for itself and let others determine their view of me from my actions.

An understanding, and continual drive for better understanding, of how you view yourself and how others view you will help to keep hubris from taking root and destroying both the self and any relationships that may exist.  You should like who you are, and act in such a way that you continue to do so.  If you don’t like yourself, then you should be able to take steps to fix that.  You should also have an understanding of how those around you view you, and be able to accept that view.

Ways that I pursue a course of self-understanding are first by examining (and re-examining) my biases.  It is important for everyone to know their biases so that they can account for the ways that may pre-dispose them to a certain belief or outcome.  I do divinatory work to consult the divine on whether or not an action (magical or not) is called for.  I meditate on how my actions will affect myself and others. I work to determine what I view as right and wrong, and where my line is that I won’t cross.  I do my best to stay honest with myself and true to my gods, because in the end, I have to answer to my conscience and my gods.


Works Cited:

Betz, Hans Dieter. The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells. Chicago, Ill.: U of Chicago, 1986. Print.

Bloomfield, Maurice. “Hymns of the Atharva-Veda.” Sacred Books of the East. vol 42. 1897. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

Graf, Fritz. Magic in the Ancient World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1997. Print.

Griffith, Ralph T.H. “The Hymns of the Atharvaveda.” Sacred Texts. 1895-6. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.

Johnston, Sarah Iles. Ancient Greek Divination. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print.

Littleton, C. Scott. The New Comparative Mythology: An Anthropological Assessment of the Theories of Georges Dumézil. Rev. ed. Berkeley: U of California, 1973. Print.

Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1989. Print.

Oikonomides, Al. N.. “Records of “The Commandments of the Seven Wise Men” in the 3rd c. B.C..” Classical Bulletin: 67-76. Web. 1 July 2014. <>

Sophistes, Apollonius. “Hellenic Magic Ritual.” Hellenic Magical Ritual. Biblioteca Arcana, 2000. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

Sophistes, Apollonius. “A Greek Alphabet Oracle.” A Greek Alphabet Oracle. Biblioteca Arcana, 1995. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

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