Meeting With Your Own Daimon: PGM VII. 505–28

I have a great love of the Greek Magical Papyri and all their related historical material, having experimented heavily with various phylacteries, talismans, conjurations, and dream incubation rituals from its corpus, as well as various broader collections of Coptic, Aramaic, and Hebrew sorcerous texts. For a number of years, it has been a bit of an unofficial tradition among myself and a few local friends to flip through the English translation by Hans Dieter Betz, fall upon an entry at random, and test out the formulary to see what comes of the results. The sorcery you can get up to with just a sheet of tin or papyrus!

Recently, while Salt has been busy with a particularly intense training program, Key and I took it upon ourselves to resume this practice and select a working from the papyri to carry out. At the top of our freshly-generated list (the remainder of which we will also write a series on, both together and individually, depending on the undertaking) was PGM VII. 505–28, a short ritual falling under the parhedros or supernatural assistant evocation category, aptly named “Meeting with your own daimon”.

A cropped image of the rite as it appears in the Betz translation, pages 131–2.

Suffice to say, Key and I shared a lot of laughter about this one. There’s just something about waking up at dawn, immediately reading a gnostic prayer, and then eating a raw egg that had us feeling like we were on some sigma male bodybuilder mindset cultivation plan. And yet, this deceptively simple ritual had completely captivated us. The prayer, outlining the order of spatial and temporal emanation, from heaven and firmament down through the planets, elements, and finally the abyss. The repetition at dawn and dusk, culminating in fourteen prayers to match the fourteen eggs. The “male eggs” themselves, one of which must be cleansed with and the myrrh holy name licked clean, the other to swallow after ensorcelling it with the incantation. The fragmented mention of “olive branches”, perhaps suggesting that the magician should stand underneath them while showing the egg to the sun, was also doable—though ultimately, as we would later find out, unnecessary. Everything about the ritual’s logic to its tantalizing promise was especially intriguing, and, after much deliberation (and many memes), Key and I decided to carry it out together. At worst, we would be down fourteen eggs and some sleep; at best, we would have gained an exceptional new spirit ally.

As Betz himself notes in his 1981 article, “The Delphic Maxim ‘Know Yourself’ in the Greek Magical Papyri,” title “Meeting with your own daimon” at first glance appears misplaced, as the matter of the actual introduction between the magician and the daimon is never raised again. The oration is short, beginning with praise to Tyche, other divine names, Helios-Aion, and then continuing with the planets, elements, and abyss, terminating with the holy Scarab, Khepri. While the ritual does appear to be quite short, differing from other more complicated evocations in the parhedros genre, Betz explains that not only is the title appropriate, there is a rich internal logic to the conjuration. Drawing on Plato’s myth of Er, he elaborates how the “personal daimon” (again, in this context, it is clear that this is not an emissary or assistant of another deity, granted unto the magician as a familiar, but rather the intimate companion and fated, celestial guide of the individual magician themselves) has been greatly associated with Ananke, Tyche, and the three Moirai. To begin with Tyche is especially advantageous, Betz muses, as this draws on a long Platonic and Neoplatonic history through Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus of associating one’s personal daimon with the fulfillment and resolution of one’s own personal destiny, incarnated purpose, and fortune.

It is not immediately clear when the spirit is supposed to appear, however. The magician is to lick the divine names off the first egg and discard it, after first using it to cleanse their body thoroughly. The second egg, which is consumed following the seven utterances of the prayer, perhaps provides protection. Yet, there is nothing more following this. Key and I spoke to our spirits separately, and returned with similar guidance; both in additional advice on how to further enhance and complete the ritual, and also in terms of how best to consider its own structure. Independently, we were told that the “daimon” that will be summoned is incarnated through the consumed eggs, having passed through the various layers of reality, being reborn from its original substance into the fullest sphere of the magician. While the spirits long predate the ritual, it struck us that the eggs served the additional purpose of further inoculating their essence with our own, calling forth an ideal supernatural assistant. Our spirits also agreed that, as Key and I are both in exceptionally intimate, soul-bound pacts with our primary guardians and mentors/initiators, whom would otherwise fulfill the role of “personal daimon” in the Socratic and Plotinian senses, that whichever spirits would manifest through this rite would naturally have to be of a complimentary nature as familiars and tutors. With the approval to proceed given, and the relevant additions made, we proceeded without haste onto our new regimen of early rising, prayer, and cleansing.

For the ensuing seven days, we would exchange daily groggy, near-incoherent egg-related texts shortly before the crack of dawn after being woken by our alarms. We had sorted through our egg cartons and separated the fourteen “male” eggs for the ritual beforehand, but we decided to inscribe in myrrh ink the holy names upon the shell each morning before use instead of all at once in the beginning. On the subject of male and female eggs, Betz makes a comment in the footnotes that the ancients were themselves in disagreement over which eggs would produce which sex of bird, as well as how to distinguish them, and that there was no consensus. Following some practical folklore from my own culture, we ended up going with Pliny the Elder’s judgement in his Natural History, Volume 10, Chapter 74: that the male eggs are those with pointed ends, and the female eggs those which are rounder. This is, of course, merely a folklorically useful judgement and not a truly scientific one, but nevertheless it proved helpful in the carrying out of the rite. Once they were marked with the myrrh ink, we performed the cleansing with the first, the prayer with the second, and swallowed the contents. During the evenings, right as the sun was setting, we would give the oration another seven times, as per directed.

Over the week, we continued to catch glimpses of visions relating to the project. I would frequently see the egg in my hand coil with serpents, like in the famous Orphic Egg images, and at times I would catch flashes of a holy, golden scarab rolling it gently across the horizon. Whenever I would give the evening prayer, I would feel the taste of the yolk, and be reminded of the noble birth of this spirit presided over by Khepri, emerging out of the primordial sea, shaking the pillars upholding the earth. Throughout the conjurations, I was often reminded of Jan Bergman’s analysis of the prayer in his article, “Ancient Egyptian Theogony in A Greek Magical Papyrus (PGM VII, II. 516-521),” in which he noted the presence of the first-ever Greek transcription of the Egyptian names of the two solar barks, (Me)Sektet and Manedjet—the night and day barks respectively—proving an authentic Egyptian lineage. His own translation notes the noble birth (“or the primoridal apparition) of a god: Ra as Khepri, coming into being to regulate the cosmos and create the daimon. Bergman’s entire article is excellent, and I highly recommend it as further reading; he goes into a great deal of depth into the Egyptian cultic origins of much of the prayer, and additionally touches on the possibility that the two male eggs—the primary materials for the magical work—are themselves representations of Khepri and Atum, the latter of which might even be syncretized with IAŌ.

On the final morning, Key and I both noted the visions becoming far more personal, though no spirit came. We had been told earlier by our spirits that the daimon would appear upon the final recitation of the prayer at sundown, and, when the time finally came, we were both overjoyed to report to the other that the operation was a success. On my end, the daimon manifested in a flash of light, gathering its form out from the corners of perception, bringing together heaven and earth at the horizon, and then springing forward towards me, emerging from what looked to be layers of reality riding a solar disk. An umbilical cord formed between us, humming with etheric, stellar light, filling my body with an intense warmth that flooded down to my shadow, to which I quickly became aware my new ally would anchor himself to, and rest within. The spirit indeed presented himself to me in a masculine form, the details of which I will not share, but suffice to say it was immediately clear that he had taken on not only the characteristics of the various divine names invoked within the conjuration, but also elements of my own witchcraft and deepest, sorcerous mysteries.

In Key’s case, primordial dusts and clay aggregated into a body that knelt before him, which was subsequently flooded with the remaining classical elements in sequence. Waters filled his veins, Air filled his lungs, and Fire ignited within him, all commingling and undergoing various transmutations to further enliven the body, ceasing only as the newly incarnate “soul” of the spirit stepped forth from the setting sun into the effigy that had assembled before him. The daimon then stood, immediately revealing the signs, omens, and forms similarly intimately linked to Key’s own witchcraft mysteries.

The characteristics of being able to reside in our shadows (not only that which is cast upon the ground, but every stretch of darkness that brings dimension to our skin), the presence of an umbilical-like tether, the forms mirroring both the cosmic mysteries of Ra and Khepri as well as our own innermost mysteries, and various obvious, immediately-tangible, and powerful abilities that they immediately were able to manifest clearly and plainly before us were shared between our spirits equally. They presented us with individual, private names, as well as nicknames to call them by when discussing them amongst each other, and were able to immediately cohere to our courts’ idiosyncrasies, facilitating manifestations, further organizing spirits, and gathering divinatory intelligence. One aspect we both remarked on was how easy it was to see through the eyes of the daimons, to trade visions, and fly out through their perception as with other more closely-bonded, pacted familiars. When we arranged for them to observe each other, we experienced the exciting vertigo of regarding each other’s magic and spirits through multiple sets of sensory perspectives, aligned in holy focus.

What started out as something of a joking dare flourished into a memorable experience, yielding precious companionship. We were not certain if the ritual would work at all when we began the process, but we are thrilled to be able to report that it was not only successful, but alarmingly so. Among the various parhedros and supernatural assistant rituals in the papyri, PGM VII. 505–28 is not only an excellent one, but fairly simple to perform, requiring only dedication, consistent prayer, and some tenacity. If you are considering performing it yourself to encounter your assigned daimon, do field it by your court first with divination, and check in case there are any additional protocols unique to you that your spirits may suggest. Until then, happy conjuring.