Aretalogy and Invocation.

One of the fun parts of being a mage is looking for small patterns within ritual that preserve echos of the past within the modern praxis of magick. Invocation is one of the basic practices of modern craft, exhibited fairly universally in chaos magic, hermeticism, kemetic practice and even wicca. I was recently looking through some of my older invocation rituals when I came across the following:


[…] I  invoke Tahuti,  the Lord of wisdom  and of utterance, the  god that cometh forth from  the veil. Oh thou majesty of  the godhead, wisdom crowned Tahuti,  lord of the gates of the universe, thee  thee I invoke. Oh thou of the ibis head,  thee thee I invoke.


After some prefacing the spell shifts perspective, with the operator assuming the direct identity of the godform.


[…] Behold,  I am yesterday,  today, and the brother  of tomorrow. I am born again  and again. Mine is the unseen force  where of the gods are sprung, which is  as life unto the dwellers in the watchtowers  of the universe. I am the charioteer of the east,  lord of the past and the future. I see by my own inward  light, lord of resurrection who cometh forth from the dust, and  my birth is from the house of death. […] Behold! He is me and  I in him. Mine is the radiance wherein Ptah floatheth over the firmament.  I travel upon high. I tread upon the firmament of Nu. I raise a flashing flame  with the lightening of mine eye.


This is, by all accounts, a fairly typical invocation. But the format resonates, drawing on echos of an old poem in my mind.


I am Isis, ruler of every land.

I was taught by Hermes (Thoth) and with Hermes devised letters, both hieroglyphic and demotic, that all might not be written with the same.

I gave laws to mankind and ordained what no one can change.


These are the opening stanzas of a Ptolemeic aretalogy to Isis, exemplary of the “I am” form that has come to be commonly associated with the genre ( “The Great Goddesses of Egypt”. p196-198). These forms of divine biographies often serve as our best clues to the shifting nature of the gods in contemporary religious studies (Jan N. Bremmer p111-114). The striking similarity of invocation and this older poem form made me look at this genre a bit more carefully. The recitation of deeds and domains is an easy way to establish correspondence. Each of these forms, both the ritual and the poem, extend much further than the small snippets I have, and even in the act of reading the resonance is strong. In fact, the recitation of these divine biographies may be one of the earliest and most universal cultic acts, being a baseline from which the development of other rituals is measured (Jan N. Bremmer P116)


In any case this has given me an interesting thread to pull at and I look forward to unraveling it further this saturday 🙂

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