The Ancient Magic and Theology of the Moon

The Astronomical Satellite In Astrology

The Moon is the Earth’s satellite in modern astronomy. However, in astrology, the Moon is considered a planet, and it is 239,000 miles (384,000 km) away from Earth. It was about 4.5 billion years ago; the Moon was formed when a large object struck Earth, causing all the material blasted into the sky to form orbit and form into a sphere as they merged, melted, and cooled off. Five hundred years after the Moon was created, it was struck by pieces of debris. Some of the basins became flooded with lava and formed a smooth, dark rock. As time worked on pulling the Moon further from the Earth, it had begun to affect the tides. The Moon causes tides on Earth roughly every 12 hours and 25 minutes. Our satellite takes about 27.3 days to rotate around the Earth. The radius of the Moon is 1,079.4 miles (1737.1 km).

Overview of the Moon in Classical Cosmology

Ancient astrologers viewed the cosmos and universe as a living being, not just merely the scientific material view of the processes of which things were created. When we observe Renaissance material and ancient literature, we see that the universe and everything in it was believed to have an intelligence and spirit. The Moon was one of the most critical astrological planets to almost all cultures because of its visibility and distance. In traditional astrological terms, the reference is closer regarding the planet’s spiritual energy and spirit, rather than the material rock in outer space itself.

Therefore, in this work, I will be referencing works to outline the ancient world’s spiritual cosmology, primarily in the Neoplatonic model. Nor will the planets here be treated as mere energy, but beings with intelligence. I will be going over the Moon’s astrotheology, theology of the Moon and the Great Chain of Being, and magic of the Moon.

Astrotheology of the Moon and the Planets

Firstly, we see potentially clear evidence that the early pagan gods, especially Selene, of the west were influenced by astrotheology or religion based on the stars. This seems almost imminent when we go through the literature. But remember I do not mean astrotheology in a demeaning or insulting way.

Plato (428/427 or 424/423 BCE to 348/347 BCE) was a student of Socrates and a famous Greek philosopher. His most popular books in modern literature are The Republic and Timaeus. We see Plato concluding that the Greek gods originated from astrology in Cratylus, 397 C-D:

Socrates: So isn’t it right to begin by seeing why the name ‘theoi’ (‘gods’) is itself One that that the gods are correctly called?”

Hermogenes: It probably is.

 Socrates: I suspect something like this. It seems to me that the first inhabitants of Greece believed only in those gods in which many foreigners still believe today – the sun, Moon, Earth, stars and sky. And seeing that these were always moving or running, they gave them the name ‘theoi’ because it was in their nature to run (thein) later when they learned about the other gods, they called them by that name. Does that seem likely – or am I but nonsense?

Julius Firmicus Maternus (306 CE to 337 CE) also addressed this matter in his astrological corpus Matheseos Libri VIII. He makes an argument to those who believe in the gods as physical beings, planets, and can take any form; he also successfully gives valid ideas to those who do not believe in the gods:

3. The essential truth of our doctrine by the fact that they struggle against it with such force of argument. This is not surprising since we know how much difference of opinion there is among them about the nature of the gods, and with how many different theories they are trying to destroy the whole force of astrological divination.

Some say there are no gods; others say there are, but described them not concerned with the world; some say they exist and also that they undertake the care and management of all of our affairs.

All these thinkers are involved in such variety of opinions that we should digress too much if we were to list their views, especially now that we are about to take up another kind of work.

4. Some arbitrarily give the gods physical shape and physical space; they assign them dwelling places and tell many deeds about their stories and lives; they say all things which are done or planned are governed by the judgment of the gods. Others say that the gods plan nothing, take care of nothing, and have no desire to govern. All these opinions have plausibility which may sway the minds of the credulous.

There is evidence in The Holy Bible that there were early astrotheological religions in Genesis 1:14-19:

God said, ‘Let the there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from night, and let the them be signs to indicate seasons and days and years; and let them servce as lights in the in the expanse of the sky to give light on earth.’ It was so. God made to great lights- one to rule over the day and the lesser to rule over the night. He made the stars also. God placed the lights in the expanse of the sky to shine on Earth, to preside over the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening , and there was morning, a fourth day.

This book in The Holy Bible never actually named the Sun or the Moon because pagans did this in their pagan worship. The authors had to separate themselves from the celestial gods because they had one monolithic creator named Elohim, identified as YHWH later on.

The book of Genesis in chapter 1 was based on Enuma Elish. We see a more deified version of the Moon in this particular version as Marduk commands her to perform her role:

Marduk bade the Moon come forth; entrusted night to her, made her the creature of the dark, to measure time, and every month, unfailing, adorned with her crown.

It is crystal clear that the Enuma Elish author saw the Moon as a form of deity or intelligence that was the great queen who ruled the night. It was not the only work to reference the astrotheology of the gods.

The Greeks left the world with a fantastic treasure to explore, both astrotheology and ancient religion, especially Moon. The Homeric Hymns, written around the 7th century BCE, demonstrate how the Moon was revered in the sky with a vocation to rule the night:

To Selene

Muses, sweet-speaking daughters of Zeus son of Kronos
and mistresses of song, sing next of long-winged Moon!
From her immortal head a heaven-sent glow
envelops the Earth and great beauty arises
under its radiance. From her golden crown the dim air
is made to glitter as her rays turn night to noon.
Bright Selene bathes her beautiful skin
in the Ocean, puts on her shining raiment,
and harnesses her proud-necked and glistening steeds;
She drives them on swiftly as their manes play
with the evening, dividing the months. Her orbit is full
and as she waxes a most brilliant light appears
in the sky. Thus to mortals she is sign and a token.
Once the son of Kronos shared her bed and her love;
she became pregnant and gave birth to Pandeia,
a maiden outstanding for beauty among the immortal gods.
Hail, queen and white-armed goddess, splendid Selene,
kindly and fair-tressed! Beginning with you I shall sing
of the glories of demigods, whose deeds are ennobled by bards,
who shall serve the Muses with their skill in song.

In 1423 an important set the scene when some epithets reached Constantinople, making us look at the beauty of antiquity. The Orphic Hymns were introduced to the world again. The Derveni Papyrus was discovered in 1962 and was datable back to the second half of the 4th Century BCE. The Bacchic Tablets were found from Rome to Asia Minor and from Crete to Macedonia, dating back to 400 BCE to 200 CE. Here we find other literature inspired by the Orphic Hymns. It is not the goal to go into the depths of the orphic cult or different forms of it, but it is safe to say that in these mysteries, Orpheus, the man who went to retrieve his wife from Hades in the Underworld, was the main character of worship. However, we see reverence for Selene and all of nature in this book.

To Selene
incense- aromatic herbs

Hear me, O divine queen,
O light-bringing and splendid Selene,
O bull-horned Moon,
Crossing the air as you race with the night.
Nocturnal, torch bearing,
maiden of beautiful stars, O Moon,
waxing and waning,
feminine and masculine,
luminous, lover of horses,
mother of time, bearer of fruit,
amber-colored, moody,
shining in the night,
all-seeing and vigilant,
surrounded by beautiful stars,
you delight in quiet
and in the richness of the night,
you grant fulfillment and favor
as, like a jewel, you shine in the night.
Long-cloaked marshal of the stars,
wise maiden whose motion is circular,
come, O blessed and gentle lady,
lady of the stars, through your own light
shine and save, O maiden,
your new initiates.

Secondly, the theology of the Moon as the nearest object in space to us has created a wonderful systematic view for calendars and cultural belief. For the sake of the blog we will be focusing more specifically on the Great Chain of Being because of the comprehension of this system for creation. Plato and Aristotle had systems that would eventually impact the Arabic speaking world, the Medieval period for Europe, and the Renaissance by combining both philosophies to create the Great Chain of Being. Therefore, to understand the role of the Moon we must comprehend the Great Chain of Being.

To understand a simplified view of the Great Chain of Being I will quote Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. However he does not explicitly say the term, but he is talking about how it works. In The Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book I, chapter I:

Seeing there is a threefold world, elementary, celestial, and intellectual, and every inferior is governed by its superior, and receiveth the influence of virtues thereof, so that the very original, the chief Worker of all doth by angels, the heavens, the stars, elements, plants, metals, and stones convey from himself the virtues of his omnipotency upon us, for whose service is he made, and created all these things: wise men conceive it no way irrational that it should be possible for us to ascend by the same degrees through each world to the very world itself, the Maker of all things, and First Cause, from whence all things are, and proceed; and to enjoy not only these virtues, which are already in the more excellent kind of things, but also besides these to draw new virtues from above.

The Picatrix, an Islamic grimoire written around 1000 CE states the chain of being in a very different way. It is much less detailed than what you might find in Marsilio Ficino’s or Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s associations. It states that creation has three stages: 1) God, 2) generation, and 3) corruption. Pythagoreanism has a similar formula: Monad, Dyad, and Triad.

 E.M.W. Tillyard does a beautiful job formatting the Great Chain of Being in his small but valuable book, The Elizabethan World Picture. Tillyard puts this system in terms that were even applicable to the Renaissance people and Middle Ages people in Europe. He outlines A) Order and B) Sin. Then he goes into the ordering of the Chain of Being into A) angels and ether; B) stars and fortune; C) elements; D) man; E) animals, plants, and metals. He also goes into the macrocosm and macrocosm, celestial correspondences, and the importance of astrology.

The phrase that sticks out like a sore thumb in Plato’s Timaeus in 28 C is:

And, as we have shown, perceptible things are grasped by opinion, which involves a sense of perception. As such, they are things that come to be, things that are begotten. Further, we maintain that, necessarily, that which comes to be must come to be by the agency of some cause. Now, finding the maker and father of this universe [to pan] is hard enough, and even I succeeded, to declare him to everyone impossible.

We have established in the Timaeus at this point there is a singular creator of all, as we can validate through the Monad, in Pythagoreanism and Neopythagoreanism in The Life of Pythagoras preserved by Photius (820 CE-891 CE):

The Pythagoreans preached the difference between the Monad, and the One; the Monad dwells in the intelligible realm, while the One dwells amongst numbers. Likewise, the Two exists among numerable things, while the Dyad is the indeterminate.

The Chain of Being begins at the throne of God; many people do not adhere to this; some do. The Monad, to some, is not seen as the Judaic God but Deity in the Platonic sense. The Greeks believed everything came from the mind of God. At the same time, Jews and Christians apply his intelligence as a being with a personality. Although Judaism is decentralized, and people have different opinions on God. This is an essential concept to the Moon because it is the first gate to the One and the creative source.

Hermetica, the core book for Hermetists and Hermeticists, was written between the late 1st century CE to the 3rd century CE. This particular source says in The Mind of Hermes regarding the Moon and its role compared to the other six planets:

 Through me look out on the cosmos set before your gaze and observe its beauty carefully, a body undefiled, than which nothing is more ancient, always in its prime and young and yet even more in its prime. And the seven worlds spread out below, marshalled in eternal order, each completing eternity in a different circuit; see how everything is full of light, yet nowhere there is fire. The attracting and combining among things contrary and unlike became light shining down from the energy of the God who is the father of all good, ruler and commander of the order of the seven worlds. Coursing ahead of them all is the Moon, nature’s instrument, transforming the matter below and in the midst in the universe is the Earth, the nurse who feeds terrestrial creatures, settled in the beautiful cosmos like sediment. Look at the multitude – how great it is – of immortal beings and of the mortal, and in between the two, mortal and immortal, circling the Moon.

Hermetica says that A) the Moon transforms matter below and B) is the gateway between all things mortal and immortal. Below the Moon, we have sublunary spirits, which will be important magically. We also have our souls that go back to the cosmos after death, according to the Corpus Hermeticum, which surpasses the Moon. However, The Picatrix, Book II, chapter 3 takes this quality a little further when it describes the theology of Luna and using her astrologically:

You should pay attention to the Moon in all workings, as the foremost of the planets, because she has the most manifest effects and judges all things in this world, and to her belong the powers of generation and corruption, and she is the mediatrix of their effects; for she received the influences and impressions of all the stars and planets, and pours them on inferior things of this world.

Agrippa gives the exact sentiments in regards to the Moon in The Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book II, chapter 29:

Neither thou shalt expect the signification of the work to be powerful, but thou must observe the Moon opportunely directed to this; for thou shalt do nothing without the assistance of the Moon…

Interestingly enough, the Jews start a new month every New Moon, called Rosh Chodesh, because of Exodus 12:1-2:

 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the hear for you.”

In my conjecture, I see the classical model of Hermetism and the Moon’s philosophy being the separation between the perfection of the heavens and the Earth in the last book of The Holy Bible. I believe this figure to be Mary as she stands on the Moon in Revelation 12:1-2:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the Sun, and the Moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…

The Ancient Magic of the Moon

As for the occult practice of the Moon, we see a significant difference in how the gods were treated. One noticeable and essential difference is the intention of the authors. We can see the Homeric Hymns and Orphic Hymns were far more reverent toward worship and not as syncretic. For example, we do not see Selene being the same deity as Artemis or Hekate. However, all these changes when Alexandria becomes the cultural capital of the world. Gods started to become interchangeable—a system we coin today as The Greek Magical Papyri is used to stereotype this sort of magic.

In “PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae) IV.2785-2890 A Prayer to Selene for Any Spell,” we see gods merely being used for spells:

Come to me, O beloved mistress, Three-faced
Selene; kindly hear my sacred chants;
Night’s ornament, young, bringing light to mortals,
O child of morn who ride upon fierce bulls,
O queen who drive your car on equal course
With Helios, who with the triple forms
Of triple Graces dance in revel with
The stars. You’re Justice and the Moira’s threads:
Klotho and Lachesis and Atropos
Three-headed, you’re Persephone, Megaira,
Allekto, many-formed, who arm your hands
With dreaded, murky lamps, who shake your locks
Of fearful serpents on your brow, who sound
The roar of bulls out from your mouths, whose womb
Is decked out with the scales of creeping things,
With pois’nous rows of serpents down the back,
Bound down your backs with horrifying chains
Night-Crier, bull-faced, loving solitude,
Bull-headed, you have eyes of bulls, the voice
Of dogs; you hide your forms in shanks of lions,
Your ankle is wolf-shaped, fierce dogs are dear
To you, wherefore they call you Hekate,
Many-named, Mene, cleaving air just like
Dart-shooter Artemis, Persephone,
Shooter of deer, night shining, triple-sounding,
Triple-headed, triple-voiced Selene
Triple-pointed, triple-faced, triple-necked,
And goddess of the triple ways, who hold
Untiring flaming fire in triple baskets,
And you who oft frequent the triple way
And rule the triple decades, unto me
Who’m calling you be gracious and with kindness
Give heed, you who protect the spacious world
At night, before whom daimons quake in fear
And gods immortal tremble, goddess who
Exalt men, you of many names, who bear
Fair offspring, bull-eyed, horned, mother of gods
And men, and Nature, Mother of all things,
For you frequent Olympos, and the broad
And boundless chasm you traverse. Beginning
And end are you, and you alone rule all.
For all things are from you, and in you do
All things, Eternal One, come to their end.
As everlasting band around your temples
You wear great Kronos’ chains, unbreakable
And unremovable, and you hold in
Your hands a golden scepter. Letters ’round
Your scepter Kronos wrote himself and gave
To you to wear that all things stay steadfast:
Subduer and subdued, mankind’s subduer,
And force-subduer; Chaos, too, you rule.
ARARACHARARA ÊPHTHISIKÊRE.
Hail, goddess, and attend your epithets,
I burn for you this spice, O child of Zeus,
Dart-shooter, heav’nly One, goddess of harbors,
Who roam the mountains, goddess of crossroads,
O nether and nocturnal, and infernal,
Goddess of dark, quiet and frightful one,
O you who have your meal amid the graves,
Night, Darkness, broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are you; you’re Moira and
Erinys, torment, Justice and Destroyer,
And you keep Kerberos in chains, with scales
Of serpents are you dark, O you with hair
Of serpents, serpent-girded, who drink blood,
Who bring death and destruction, and who feast
On hearts, flesh eater, who devour those dead
Untimely, and you who make grief resound
And spread madness, come to my sacrifices,
And now for me do you fulfill this matter.

Offering for the rite: For doing good, offer storax, myrrh, sage, frankincense, a fruit pit. But for doing harm, offer magical material of a dog and a dappled goat (or in a similar way, of a virgin untimely dead).

Protective charm for the rite: Take a loadstone and on it have carved a three-faced Hekate. And let the middle face be that of a maiden wearing horns, and the left face that of a dog, and the One on the right that of a goat. After the carving is done, clean with natron and water, and dip in the blood of one who has died a violent death. Then make a food offering to it and say the same spell at the time of the ritual.

 The Papyri Graecae Magicae shows that the magician would associate Hekate (as equated to Selene or the Moon) as being great for curses. Our nocturnal luminary reflected something more horrifying in comparison to the previous poetry about the Moon as well. PGM IV. 2622-2707 shows you how much of the ancient magic applied uses dead bodies and Selene’s violent nature. Hence, the magician needed protection from Selene with a magnetic lodestone.

 Slander Spell to Selene, to which works for everything and every right. For it attracts in the same hour, it sends dreams, it causes sickness, produces dream visions, removes enemies when you reverse the spell, however you wish. But above all be protected by a protective charm and do not approach the procedure carelessly or else the goddess is angry.

Preparation of the procedure’s protective charm: Take a magnet that is breathing and fashion it in the form of a heart, and let there be on it Hekate lying about the heart, which is like a crescent . Then carve the twenty-lettered spell that is all vowels and wear it around your body.

The following name is what is written: AEYO EIE OA EOA OI EOI.” For the spell is completely capable of everything. But perform this ritual in a holy manner, not frequently or lightly, especially to Selene. At any rate, burn it on pieces of juniper wood an offering of Cretan storax and being the spell.

The Spell which is to be spoken:

For you the woman NN burns
Some hostile incense, goddess;
The fat of a dappled goat, and blood,
Defilement, embryo of,
A dog, the bloody discharge of
A virgin dead untimely,
A young boy’s heart, with barley mixed
In vinegar, both salt and
A deer’s horn, mastic myrtle, and
Dark bay, and mix at random,
And crab claws, sage, rose, pits for you
And a single onion, garlic,
Mouse pellets, dog-faced baboon’s blood,
And egg of a young ibis-
And what is sacrilege, she placed
These on your wooden altar
Of Juniper. She, NN, said
That you had done this matter;
For she said that you slew a man
And you drank the blood of this man
And you ate his flesh, and she says that
Your headband is his entrails,
That you took all his skin and put
It in your vagina,
That you drank blood of a sea falcon
And your food was a dung beetle
And pan before your very eyes
shot forth his seed unlawful:
A dog-faced baboon now is born
From the menstrual cleansing
But you, AKTIOPHIS, mistress,
Selene, Only Ruler,
Fortune of daimons and gods,
NEBOUTOSOUALETH IO IMI BOULLON ENOURTILAIE (otherwise: NOUMILLION ESORTILES BATHYPNOU SANKANTHARA MIBERATH ENTOCHE THO RENTHA IMOUE SORENTHA)
Mark her, NN, the lawless one,
With bitter retributions,
Whom I again will duly charge
To you in hostile manner
(Of all unlawful things that she
Has said against the goddess
Detail as many as you want)
For by the spell she forces
Even the rocks to burst sunder”

This, then, is the beneficent offering which you sacrifice on the first and second day (but on the third day, with the coercive spell also sacrifice the offering that is coercive). The beneficent offering, then is: Uncut frankincense, bay myrtle, fruit pit, stavesacre, cinnamon leaf, kostos. Pound all these together and blend with Mendesian wine and honey, and make pills the size of beans.

The coercive offering: When you say the foregoing coercive spell on the third day make an offering: it is field mouse, fat of a virgin dappled in goat, magic material of a dog-faced baboon, egg of an ibis, river crab, a perfect noon beetle, single stemmed wormwood picked at sunrise, magic material of a dog, a single clove of garlic. Blend with vinegar. Make pills and stamp it completely with iron ring, completely tempered, with Hekate and the name BARZOU PHERBA.

The protective charm which you must wear: Onto lime wood write with vermillion this name: “EPOKOPT KOPTO BAI BAITOKARAKOPTO KARAKOPTO CHILOKOPTO BAI (50 letters). Guard me from every daimon of the air on the Earth and under the Earth, from every angel and phantom and ghostly visitation and enchantment, me NN.” Enclose it in a purple skin, hang it around your neck and wear it.”

 

This is not all the material that could have been written about the Moon in the West’s magical world aspect. These are merely primary sources to show how Selene’s role came about in a religious, magic, and mystical way to ancient occultists.

 

References:

1. Translated, introduction, and notes by Apostolos N. Athanassakis, The Homeric Hymns, 2004.

2. Translated, introduction, and notes by Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Molkow, The Orphic Hymns, 2013.

3. Brian P. Copenhaver, Hermetica, 2002.

4. David H. Levy, A Guide to Sky Watching, 2002.

5. E.M.W. Tillyard, The Elizabethan World Picture, 1942.

6. Hans Deiter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells, 1996.

7. Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Translated by James Freak, Edited and annotated by Donald Tyson, The Three Books of Occult Philosophy, 2000.

8. Julius Firmicus Maternus, Translated by Jean Rhys Bram, Ancient Astrology Theory and Practice, (PDF) Book_334_Firmicus Maternus_Ancient astrology theory and practice.pdf | Denis French – Academia.edu.

9. Compiled and Translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, Edited and Introduced by David Fideler, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, 1988.

10. NET Bible, Full Notes Edition, 2019.

11. Picatrix, Translated and introduction by Dan Attrell and David Porreca, The Picatrix: A Medieval Treatise on Astral Magic, 2019.

12. Picatrix, Translated by John Michael Greer and Chrstopher Warnock, The Illustrated Picatrix, 2015.

13. Plato,E dited by John M. Cooper, Plato Complete Works, 1997.

The Holy Bible: RSV Catholic Edition, 2008.

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