Crystal Addey- From ‘Divination & Theurgy in Neoplatonism’: Excerpt-02
Altar VIII.3.11 Pompeii. c.1819, sketch by W. Gell of the painting of the 12 Gods, with part of the painting of the two serpents. Here Gell names them from the left as Ceres, Diana, Apollo, Themis, Minerva, Jupiter, Venus, Vulcan, Vesta, Mars, Neptune and Mercury. See Gell W & Gandy, J.P: Pompeii published 1819 [Dessins publiés dans l’ouvrage de Sir William Gell et John P. Gandy, Pompeiana: the topography, edifices and ornaments of Pompei, 1817-1819], pl. 54. See book in Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art [France], collections Jacques Doucet Gell Dessins 1817-1819
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is the second excerpt of a little series devoted to Dr. Crystal Addey’s milestone study, ‘Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism, Oracles of the Gods’, Routledge, 2019.
🌿Astrological Ritual Instructions🌿
Some extant oracles from the ‘Philosophy from oracles‘ issue astrological ritual instructions, based on the correct time to undertake particular rituals according to broadly astrological criteria. These oracles are again based on the idea that the gods issue cultic instructions to mortals regarding their correct worship. Thus, they share their context with many other oracles within Porphyry’s work which issue cultic instructions to the enquirer. As we have seen, oracles issuing cultic instructions were common throughout Antiquity. Such ritual instruction, which could be considered a key purpose of oracles, was intended to enable humans to align the human world with the divine realm. One of the main oracles to include astrological ritual instruction states:
This oracle is also cited identically by John Philiponus, although his commentary differs slightly from that of Eusebius. The oracle advises the enquirer(s) on the appropriate days or times to invoke and thus worship specific deities.
A further fragment contains either one extended oracle or a pair of oracles: it shows Hekate’s reluctance to speak to those who have invoked her in unfavorable astrological conditions:
In the first oracle, the goddess Hekate says that she will not speak because of unfavorable astrological conditions: Titania (the Moon) is ‘looking at’ (ιδουσα, idousa) Ares. in ancient astrology, this refers to an unfavorable aspect (an astrological term used to describe the relationship between planets) between the Moon and the planet Ares (Mars). This oracle means that the Moon is moving towards an unpropitious place in the sky, and in bad aspects to Ares, and this is why Hekate is refusing to speak. There also seems to be a pun based on the word χεντρον (chentron), the ancient astrological term for ‘angles’ of the horoscope, which has a more generic meaning in Greek of ‘stinging goad’. Thus the Moon drives towards a stinging goad, which at the same time is also one of the angles of the horoscope. Since it is specified as an unpropitious angle, this term probably refers to the Imum Coeli or the Descendant, which were considered to be the less propitious angle.
Hekate’s statement that she ‘shut the gates of the throat‘, clearly does not refer to her own mouth, but to that of the human recipient-the prophet(ess)-through whose intermediary she speaks. This oracle concurs with theurgic doctrine, since an underlying notion of these systems is that the gods themselves communicate to mortals the various rituals for invoking them. Within this oracle, Hekate issues ritual instructions regarding the appropriate and inappropriate times to invoke her, based on astrological principles.
The astrological configurations mentioned by Hekate (the Moon aspecting the planet mars) seems to mirror exactly the circumstances of this ritual. Among her many attributes, Hekate was considered to be the goddess of the Moon in the Antiquity. The ritual practitioner(s) has invoked her in inappropriate conditions, trying to ‘force’ the epiphany of a deity, an action which ancient astrological texts would associate with the planet Mars, often linked with force, willpower and aggression. This mirroring shows the idea of sympathy (συμπαθεια, sympatheia ) in action within a ritual context.
The second oracle contained within this fragment seems to concur with the first fragment, stating that the reason for the questioner’s failure to attain an oracle from Hekate is the fact that the questioner is ‘bound by nature’ or, in other words, ruled by the stars. This concurs with theurgic notions, whereby most mortals are considered to be ‘bound’ within the realm of nature and so ruled by the stars and planets, while theurgists have the ability to raise their soul to the divine realm.* (HYGEIA note: See below quote by Jacob Boehme on this very same subject).
* ‘…For the outward life is fallen quite under the power of the stars, and if you wish to resist them, you must enter into God’s will, and then they are but as a shadow and cannot bring that effect which they have in their power-neither do they desire it, but the devil only desires it. For the whole Nature bows itself before the will of God. For the Image of God in Man is so powerful and mighty, that when it wholly catches itself into the will of God, it overpowers Nature so that the stars are obedient to it and rejoice themselves in the Image. For their will is that they may be freed from vanity, and thus be kindled in Meekness in the Image, at which the Heaven rejoices…’ From Jacob Boehme’s ‘ Threefold life of man’, chapter 11, excerpt from paragraph 38.