Mishkan ha-Echad

Friday 19 August 2011

Geomancy Figures & Images

When magicians are first introduced to geomancy the geomantic figures can seem a little daunting, difficult to recognise, and hard to interpret. However, there are some good ways to view the figures that make them easier to remember and understand.

Puer (boy) has a relatively easy image to remember: a sword. This is a very masculine symbol and helps relate it to both the meaning of the figure and the planet associated with it (Mars). However, there is another image linked with this that I found through John Michael Greer's work: "a male figure with exaggerated testicles". This is quite a strong image that reveals the meaning without question, and it also makes sense when taken in context of Puella. The aggressive nature of the sword also ties in with Aries, who was a god of battle  and particularly focused on weaponry.

Amissio (loss) is an interesting one, as it looks like an upside down bag, which lets the coins fall out. This can be related to the earthy aspect of its astrological sign, Taurus.

Albus (white) looks like a cup or chalice, which ties in with the idea of white wine.

Populus (people) is pretty much self-explanatory, as it contains all eight dots possible in a geomantic figure, with each one representing a person. They say three is a crowd, so imagine what eight is. Sufficed to say, it's the most populated of the geomantic figures.

Via (way) is also self-explanatory, as it represents a straight road, which guides the way. Both it and Populus share the same astrological sign, Cancer, and planet, Luna. They are the exact opposite of each other in terms of dots, with Populus showing four pairs of two, while Via shows four pairs of one.

Fortuna Major (greater fortune) has the image of a valley through which a river flows, according to Greer, but I don't think this is a particularly strong image. Personally I liken it to a torch or lamp, which guides the way. Since this represents the inner connection with the Divine, the Spark of Light, it is the greater fortune. The link between a torch and fire also helps cement the relationship with Leo and Sol.

Fortuna Minor (lesser fortune) has the image of a mountain with a staff on top of it, according to Greer, but again I don't think this is very strong. Personally I see it as a lever for the Wheel of Fortune, but since this is a game of chance, it is the lesser fortune in comparison to that of the lamp. It shares the same sign and planet as Fortuna Major.

Conjunctio (conjunction) looks like the astrological symbol for opposition, while the symbol for a conjunction is half of this. However, we can also see it like a pair of handcuffs, which conjoins your hands or the hands of two people together. Another parallel is the planet Mercury, which is also the planet for Albus, which has the sign Gemini. The Twins are an obvious sign of two forces conjoined.

Puella (girl) has a relatively simple image: a sword with point down, symbolising the passive element of the female gender. Greer also gives "a female figure with exaggerated breasts", which is self-explanatory, and "a mirror", which is an interesting one, as it relates well to the planet associated with the figure, Venus, in terms of beautifying oneself. It can also be seen as a scales, indicative of the astrological sign linked with it, Libra.

Rubeus (red) is a cup or chalice upside down, representing red wine. The reason this one is upside down is because of its link with Scorpio and Death. I also sometimes see the image as an X with a line underneath it, like a warning symbol. The colour red helps link it with its planet, Mars.

Acquisitio (gain) is a bag of coins held upright, representing achievement. I link this with the arrow of Saggitarius, which I see as hitting a bullseye. I also see the image as an X with a spot beneath it, as in X marks the spot (where treasure lies). Finally, the link with Jupiter, which we often beseech when looking for gain, is obvious.

Carcer (prison) can be seen as a jail, an enclosure. This links pretty well with the earthy aspects of Capricorn, but even moreso with the planet Saturn, which represents the force of bondage and constraint.

Tristitia (sorrow) can be seen as a wooden stake, which we can imagine putting through the heart of a loved one, which links well with its meaning. The waves of the Acquarius sign (even though it's an Air sign) can be linked to tears, while the planet Saturn is heavily linked with sorrow, particularly in the form of melancholy.

Laetitia (joy) is the exact opposite and can be seen as a tower, where we are high in the clouds, away from the troubles of the world. The link with the joyful, or jovial, aspects of Jupiter is pretty obvious.

Caput Draconis (head of the dragon) could be seen as the head, with the line representing the neck. Its link with the north node of the Moon is inherent in the name.

Cauda Draconis (tail of the dragon) is the exact opposite and clearly looks like a tail. Again, its link with the south node of the Moon is self-explanatory.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Dublin Temple

I'd like to officially announce the website of the Dublin Temple of the Golden Dawn.

The Dublin Temple was established in 2009 and has operated quietly since then, but I think it's time now to formally announce its existence to the world so that magicians in Ireland can benefit from another option to the magical consortium here.

Check out the website here.

Monday 8 August 2011

A Cursory Look At The Vault Walls

Jupiter Wall of Magical Order of Aurora Aurea Vault

Initiation in the Inner Order takes place within the illustrious and mysterious Vault of the Adepts, a Golden Dawn recreation of the mythical resting place of Christian Rosenkreuz.

At first glance at the walls of the Vault it might look like a seemingly random series of mystical symbols, including Hebrew letters, astrological glyphs, and alchemical icons. However, it's really a simple and logical array of some of the most potent forces we deal with as magicians.

First, let's deal with the Hebrew letters, which are found within squares with a border. These are the first letters of the names of the Sephiroth, and their placement mirrors that on the Tree of Life. So, the square in the centre of the second line contains Kaph for Kether, the two on the line below are Beth for Binah and Cheth for Chokmah, and so on.

Above the Kaph square is the symbol for Spirit, which is a fairly common sense placement, given the position of the Ain Aoph Aur, etc. above Kether. On either sides of this symbol are the glyphs of the Kerubim, in order of elemental progression up the Tree from right to left: Taurus (Bull - Earth), Aquarius (Man - Air), Scorpio (Eagle - Water), and Leo (Lion - Fire).

These four symbols are replicated further down on the fifth line from the top, where the more familiar astrological symbol for Scorpio is employed. These represent the astrological powers, compared to the Kerubic forces at the top.

The rest of the astrological symbols can be found on the final two lines, on either side of the Hebrew letters Yod (for Yesod) and Mem (for Malkuth). These are placed in the same elemental order as the Kerubic or Fixed Signs, with all the Cardinal ones on the second last line and all the Mutable ones on the last line.

The planetary symbols for Tiphareth (Sol) and Yesod (Luna) are found directly above their Hebrew letter square. The symbol for Saturn is above Sol, mirroring its placement on the Hexagram and its mystical relationship with Da'ath (which borrows its Divine Names from Binah).

The remaining planetary symbols are found directly to the side of the Sephirothic squares, Mars next to Gimel (Geburah), Jupiter next to Cheth (Chesed), Mercury next to Heh (Hod), and Venus next to Nun (Netzach).

The remaining symbols are found directly beneath the Kerubic ones at the top. On the right-hand side there are the three primary elements: Water, Air and Fire. Note the placement of the Water triangle beneath the Water Kerub and the Fire triangle beneath the Fire Kerub, but also note how Air is placed between the two, not below Fire, since it is the reconciler between these two extremes.

On the other side there are the three alchemical symbols of Sulphur, Salt and Mercury. Note the placement of Salt beneath Earth and Mercury beneath Air, with Sulphur on the next line, which matches the placement of Fire across the way.

For a look at the colours on these walls check out this post by Nick Farrell and, of course, the Book of the Tomb.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Hebrew Pronunciation & Spelling, Part 2

In Part One we covered the often confused issue of vowels in the Hebrew language. Now let's look at some similarly confusing letters that have multiple sounds, along with resolving some confusions over doubled up letters in the English transliteration. We'll save prepositions for a future post.

Division of Letters

Hebrew has 22 letters, but these are split into three different groups: Mothers, Doubles, and Simples (or Singles), which we learn in the Third Knowledge Lecture. 

The Mother Letters are Aleph, Mem, and Shin, relating to the three primary elemental forces. The term 'mother' for these is appropriate since all other forces are born from these elements.

The Double Letters are Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, Tav. These relate to the seven planets.

The Simple or Single Letters are the remaining twelve letters: Heh, Vav, Zayin, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi, Qoph.

The terms 'Mother' and 'Simple' are fairly common sense, but 'Double Letters' can seem very confusing at first, but really it boils down to the simple fact that they have two pronunciations.

Double Letters - Double Sounds

All seven Double Letters traditionally have two sounds, a hard sound and a soft one. These are as follows:

בּ Beth (Hard) - B
ב Beth (Soft) - V (Bh)

גּ Gimel (Hard) - G
ג Gimel (Soft) - Gh

דּ Daleth (Hard) - D
ד Daleth (Soft) - Dh

כּ Kaph (Hard) - K
כ Kaph (Soft) - Kh

פּ Peh (Hard) - P
פ Peh (Soft) - Ph (F)

רּ Resh (Hard) - R
ר Resh (Soft) Rh

תּ Tav (Hard) - T
ת Tav (Soft) - Th

The first thing you'll note is that all of the soft sounds work by adding a 'h'. This softens the sound so it has less impact and becomes more guttural or fricative. 

Technically all of these sounds employ the 'h', including the 'v' sound of Beth. In many languages (including Irish) when something is spelled as 'bh' the sound is pronounced 'v' (a fricative 'b'). The same for Resh - the 'h' helps roll the sound; this can become clearer if you put the 'h' in front of the 'r' - for example, in how you would pronounce 'hroll'.

In English we do this with the letter 'w' in words like where and wheel. Most of us pronounce this with a hard 'w', but the sound is really a fricative 'w', denoted by 'wh'. The difference in the sound is that it tremors, vibrates, or buzzes, compared to the explosive sound of the hard form of the letter. This dual sound for 'w' isn't present in Hebrew, but it might help you get a better idea of where the Double Letter sounds come from.

The 'dh' sound of Daleth and 'th' sound of Tav are very similar, but neither are really used nowadays (we use them in the proper English pronunciation of words like though and there, however).

The soft Resh is pronounced at the back of the throat. It's like a cross between a thrill and a guttural 'r'. Many people pronounce this as a normal thrill, however, primarily because it's easier. In modern Hebrew Resh is always pronounced in its soft form. However, English-speakers who learn Hebrew tend to always pronounce it like the normal English 'r', since it's difficult to pronounce the other variation.

The hard and soft Peh are both used today, such as in Sephiroth (soft Peh - 'ph', pronounced as an 'f') and Qlippoth (hard Peh -'p').

The soft Kaph is pronounced like Cheth, the harsh guttural 'ch' sound found in Scottish loch or German bach. This is why certain words like Malkuth employ the Cheth sound for Kaph and why some people spell it as Malkhut.

The soft Gimel sound is very alien to English speakers, as it employs the back of the throat in a way similar to that of Cheth, albeit with a 'g'. It's almost like a choking sound. This is generally not used in modern Hebrew anymore.

The double sounds that have survived in modern Hebrew are: Beth, Kaph, Peh and Tav, although Tav has become indistinguishable from Teth in pronunciation for the most part. The double sounds for Gimel, Daleth and Resh have faded out, mainly because they were difficult to pronounce (Gimel), somewhat obsolete (Daleth), or became the standard (Resh).

Doubles & The Dagesh

You might have noticed a little dot in the middle of the Hebrew letters above that contain the hard sounds. This is called a dagesh, which is used to help you see the difference in pronunciation. It was not employed in original Biblical Hebrew, since the Rabbis knew the words by heart, including the subtle differences in pronunciation, but the modern language tends to use them. However, you'll generally not see a few of them, such as Gimel and Resh, since the second sound (which would employ the dagesh) has been lost.

[If you have difficulty seeing the dagesh in the letters, try pressing CTRL and + on your keyboard to zoom in on the article. You can make things smaller with CTRL and -. CTRL and 0 will return everything to normal.]

Shin & Sin

Shin is another letter that has two sounds, yet it is not one of the Doubles. Primarily it is pronounced as 'sh', but sometimes, very rarely, it is pronounced 's', similar to Samekh. The letter is sometimes written and pronounced Sin when denoting the 's' sound.

When a dagesh is employed for Shin it goes above the letter, either on the right or left. If it's above the right prong of the letter (שׁ) it's pronounced 'sh'; if it's above the left (שׂ), it's pronounced 's'.

A rule of thumb for Shin is that it's predominantly pronounced as 'sh'. For example, Shalom (שלום), Shemesh (שמש), and Shabbathai (שבתאי). However, in some rare cases you'll see words spelled with an 's' in the English transliteration, but with a Shin in the Hebrew. For example, Seraphim (שרפים). At first glance you'd think this is spelled with a Samekh (the usual letter for an 's' sound), but the Hebrew employs a Shin. These exceptions or irregularities, like those in all languages, simply need to be learned by heart, since they do not follow the rules.

This problem for Shin is exacerbated by some common Hebrew words that have crept into the English language, such as Sabbath (שבת). This is technically pronounced Shabbath, but many modern English-speaking Jews pronounce it Sabbath, since this is the common pronunciation we are used to. This is deceptive, however, and doesn't do us any favours in learning how to spell the language. This is why I always spell the transliterations of these words as they are pronounced in Hebrew; i.e. Shabbath.

Double Letters in Transliteration

You might come across some instances where you see a doubled up consonant in the transliterated form of a Hebrew word. Some examples are: Qlippoth (קליפות) and Tiqqun (תיקון).

It is easy to be tempted into putting two of the same letters in to the Hebrew spelling, but all doubled-up letters in the English transliteration are a single letter in Hebrew. These represent the hard sounds, with the transliteration showing two of the letter to drive the point home that it's pronounced with a strong explosive sound (often called plosives in linguistics).

A rule of thumb is that you never put the same Hebrew letter twice unless there's a vowel sound between them. For example, Metatron is spelled MTTRVN (מטטרון). Teth is there twice in a row, but that's because there are vowels between them. The word is not Mettaron - if it was there would only be a single Teth in the Hebrew, despite there being two in the English transliteration.

In Part Three we'll cover some common prepositions and two very common endings you'll see in many of the words we use in the Qabalah.

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