I Hermes thrice powerful interpreter of heaven, for those most fortunate wise persons who have come into being from my emanation, I intend and guard this sacred and holy book written in my own words as an offering for those semi divine persons who are able to understand me at some point in the future, from which the cosmos as a whole will be led forth.The Oracle of Hermes Trismegistus
Thus is the inscription on the Viennese manuscript (Vindobonesis med. 23) of the Sacred Book of Hermes to Ascelpius, written in Greek , by physicians, probably around 50 CE. It contained instructions for magical finger rings to ward off illness based on an amazing marriage of Babylonian and Egyptian astrological traditions. If you would be one of those most fortunate wise persons whom Hermes Trismegistus is addressing, please continue reading!
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar given by Demetra George entitled Egyptian Decans: Star Gods of Time. The following is what I took from that seminar.
It begins in 2300 BCE in Egypt with the decans, a star or a small group of stars, the band of which lies parallel with, and south of the band of 12 zodiacal constellations. This band of decans divides the 360-degree sky into 36 uniform sectors or sections; initially decans were used for timekeeping and later for religious rituals, especially as a guide to the dead on their trip to the netherworld. Every 10 days, a new decan is born on the eastern horizon whilst at the same time, another dies on the western horizon. The cycle from rising and setting takes about 280 days after which the decan disappears (to the underworld) for 70 days.
The history of the use of decans (sometimes in conjunction with the planets) in ancient Egypt is richly documented on the walls and ceilings of the temples and pyramids, with the decans often taking the image of various gods and semi-divine spirits. As the result, the decans became associated with invoking those deities usually for protection from enemies and/or healing. At first, this magic was available only for the kings (both dead and alive). But by about 837 BCE, the magic of the decans was available to everyone. By the close of the Egyptian dynasty (380-362 BCE), it became political with Naos of the Decades (the temple to the decans) built on the Nile facing East to ward off the invading Persians.
Shortly afterwards, Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt: the Persians were out and the Greeks were in. Alexandria became a melting pot of cultures and beliefs. This gave rise to Hellenistic astrology and Alexandrian Hermeticism, which lies at the base of all Western esoteric traditions, as we now know them. The best-known texts of this period are those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus – whose attributes were also a melting pot of the Egyptian god, Thoth and the Greek god Hermes (known as Mercury in ancient Rome).
The text of special interest to us here is, of course, the Sacred Book of Hermes to Ascelpius, which is dedicated to making medicinal remedies and talismans by drawing down the powers of the stars, now a convenient (if not entirely authentic) mix of the 36 Egyptian decans, or star gods, with the Babylonian 12-fold zodiac, each sign of which rules a certain part of the body.
The Ram is the head of cosmos, the Bull in the neck, the Twins are the shoulders, the Crab is the trunk, the Lion is the back, heart, and sides, the Virgin is the stomach, the Scales are the buttocks, the Scorpion is the private sexual parts, the Archer is the thighs, the Goat-Horned One is the knees, the Water-Pourer is the shins, and the Fishes are the feet.Babylonian Melothesia
According to the Sacred Book of Hermes to Ascelpius, we each must create a talisman to wear or carry that is uniquely inscribed for us based on a specific point in our natal charts:
‘Midway between the horoskopos and the good daimon, and the place concerning the bodily condition’.
As Demetra notes, these cryptic instructions leave many options. But after much study (and trial and error), she suggests that we use the midpoint that is 30 degrees away from the degree of the ascendant (horoskopos) which, depending on where you were born, will be a point either in the 12th house (concerning chronic illness and suffering), or the 11th house (the good daimon). An additional plus for choosing this option is that this is the part of the sky in which that new decan born every 10 days would first have become visible, thus assuming it’s rightful power.
For example, my ascendant is 17 Cancer. That would mean that the decan applying to me would be that which holds 17 Gemini.
This is the 2nd decan of Gemini.
It is called OUARÍ and looks like a man with the head of a goat. He holds a stick (or staff) in his right hand, and his left hangs over his thighs. He is covered in wrappings down to the knees. He governs the arms. Engrave him on a pankhrous stone, place under a pentadactyl plant (five fingered grass or cinquefoil), enclose it in whatever you wish and wear it on you while abstaining from parrotfish.The Sacred Book of Hermes to Asclepius
Now, I need to decipher these instructions in terms of how they would have been understood in Hellenistic world at the time that they were written.
This will be fun but not easy.
(to be continued).