Update 08 – Interlinear Magic

Dear Supporters,

Work on Interlinear Magic continues to progress, albeit more slowly than I predicted. More accurately, I am still tying up loose ends, but there are far more loose ends than I thought when I sent the last update. Additionally, I am considerably busier this semester, since I have had the opportunity to resume my studies of Demotic (the most difficult Egyptian script) in a formal, graduate-level university course. Thus, I must ask for your continuing patience. I am in uncharted territory in a project like this, attempting to synthesize a great amount of research and comparative data into a coherent whole that will likely be 50-80% longer than I originally anticipated. You can rest assured that your pledges at the book level or higher will be the best deal on this increasingly massive book.

With all this in mind, I have decided not to release the pre-order page for the book until I have an accurate final page-count. If the book is significantly longer than my initial range of projections (which included stretch-goal augmentations), the pre-order and post-publication prices may increase somewhat, but don’t worry: this will not affect copies secured through Kickstarter pledges. If you are interested in pre-orders, please keep an eye on www.interlinearmagic.com, where I release all news and updates related to the project.

The artwork for the book is now entirely finished and ready to go. In some cases, this includes digital traces of the papyri to accurately represent kharaktēres and other drawings in the manuscripts.

Since it seems unlikely at this point that the book will be both printed and delivered by the end of the calendar year, I have decided to release a few chapters in preliminary form as PDFs. These will include at least one of the longer chapters (1-12) with commentary, as well as at least two shorter chapters (13-60). This will be the first place I announce the release of the sample chapters, so stay tuned to www.interlinearmagic.com for updates.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises I have found in the course of this work is the evidence throughout the PGM of a deep devotional tradition that has its roots in ancient Egyptian ritual forms. Some of the best examples of this are the symbolic systems related to the 28 forms of the moon (the “illuminations” corresponding to the nights of the lunar month) and the 12 forms of the sun (corresponding to the “seasonal” hours of the day and night). These are precisely the kinds of ritual structures that Egypt-adjacent philosophical writers (e.g., Chaeremon, Plutarch, Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus) allude to in their extant writings. The esoteric or initiated knowledge that these systems encode has at least two functions: (1) as ritual structures that track the changing times and conditions through cyclical time in order to identify the opportune time (καιρός) for ritual action, and (2) as devotional or theurgic tools that cataphatically indicate or “point to” the unified reality behind the changing forms expressed in time and space. The evidence for all this, including ancient Egyptian precedents, will be presented in the book. The “discovery” of these symbolic systems has prompted me to write a detailed commentary of the 28 animal-forms and other symbols associated with the days of the idealized lunar month; this addition itself will likely add 10-20 pages to the final product.

Thank you again for your continued patience as this unpredictable project nears completion.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 07 – Interlinear Magic

Dear Supporters,

I write to you today having just printed a complete draft of the hydra-headed General Introduction to Interlinear Magic. The draft of the Introduction alone is 52,000+ words, which is more than three times as much as I originally intended, and this is the primary reason for the additional delay. I have written much more than I set out to do because the topics I have been addressing have greater depth and often require more explanatory background than I predicted. The Introduction will have its own table of contents that I will release after some editorial restructuring, but I will outline below some of the topics that it covers. Although there remains some writing and editing to be done, the book is now very close to complete and will be ready for proofreading in a matter of weeks.

With that in mind, I have decided to teach only one more course in 2022. For those of you who have already taken Ancient Greek Magic: A Linguistic Approach, you are welcome to take the class again for free, which will cover some new material that I have developed for the book. If you haven’t already taken the course, I am offering it to Kickstarter supporters for the same discounted price as the add-on during the Kickstarter campaign itself: $300 USD (normally $400). Not only will this likely be the only course I teach for the remainder of 2022, it may also be the last time all the class sessions are presented and recorded live. (I am strongly leaning toward prerecording lessons for future courses and meeting via Zoom only for Q&A sessions and the like.) So if you’re looking for a live learning experience every week with yours truly, this will be a good opportunity for you. And if you do need to miss a class or otherwise fall behind in the course, digital recordings will remain available to you for at least one year, enabling you to learn at your own pace.

The present course begins September 17 and runs for ten weeks. To get the Kickstarter discount, you will have to follow the link sent to you in the Kickstarter update email. A full description of the course is available here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is NOT the free course (unlocked by the $50K stretch goal) for all Kickstarter supporters. That course will focus more on the PGM in historical context and somewhat less on the ancient Greek language, with little to no overlap in content between the courses. I have already outlined the course content but will be creating video lessons rather than teaching it live, as I don’t think Zoom can handle nearly 800 students. Instead, I will begin to create the video lessons as soon as the book goes to press, and I will release them as I complete each lesson rather than waiting for them all to be complete.

Back to the book then. Beyond the Introduction, which requires a thorough editorial restructuring to make it the most useful, a few of the commentaries to chapters 1-12 need to be finished up, some notes fleshed out, and some translations polished. One effect of the decision to include English translations in addition to the interlinear (Greek and English) versions is that I have been able to approach the former with more freedom while retaining a more literal approach to the latter. This means the English translations have often diverged from their interlinear counterparts in interesting ways, and I have not attempted to “standardize” the English translations as I first intended. Instead, I have embraced the idea that each of the 60 rites will have two translations, a more literal interlinear translation that attempts to be word-for-word (within the limits imposed by the grammatical differences between ancient Greek and modern English), and a less literal but more idiomatic English translation that departs from the Greek in more significant ways. Fear not, however, because if there’s ever a question of how many liberties I’ve taken with the English translation, you can quite easily check the steps of my work by consulting the interlinear translation.

Topics covered by the General Introduction include (in no particular order):

  • A Brief History of the PGM
  • Egypt in the Greco-Roman Period
  • The Major Theological Systems of Egypt (Heliopolitan, Hermopolitan, Memphite, Theban) in the Greco-Roman Period
  • Interpretatio Graeca: Egyptian Gods in Greek Translation
  • The Living Cosmos in Egyptian religion and Greek philosophy
  • As Above, so Below: Cosmic Sympathy and the “Magical Worldview”
  • Symbols and Symbol Systems in Greco-Egyptian ritual practice
  • Planetary Hours and Egyptian Timekeeping
  • Esoteric and Initiated Knowledge in the PGM
  • “Barbarous Names” and ancient theories of divine language
  • “Add the Usual” – Improvisation in the PGM

Thank you again for your patience and support. This project has proven to be quite a challenge, but it’s the most enjoyment and satisfaction I’ve ever experienced creating anything, and I am confident that the final product will justify the extra time spent on it.

Sincerely,

Brian Alt

Update 06 – Interlinear Magic

Dear supporters,

Interlinear Magic is progressing well and nears completion. What follows is a detailed update on the progress and an outline of what to expect over the next few months. (Please remember that if your shipping address will change before the book is shipped, you can update it through the survey sent out through Kickstarter.)

I intended to send this update last month, but several personal difficulties intervened, including a rather significant bout of illness that has interfered with my productivity for nearly two weeks now. Thank you for your patience.

I recently did an interview with the Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast (SHWEP.net) on the Egyptian background of Iamblichus and the PGM. The two-part interview is available here:

Part 1: Brian Alt on Sacred Materials, Divine Names, and Subtle Physiology in Iamblichean Theurgy

Part 2 (SHWEP members only): Brian Alt on Iamblichus, Late Antique Egypt, and Ritual Practice

Why the delay?

The 60 PGM rituals chosen for the book continue to surprise me, with new discoveries coming to my attention several times each week. Admittedly, this is a good problem for a scholar to have, but it has created quite a conundrum. Among these 60 rites are some of my favorites in the entire corpus, so my desire to understand every nuance and to write full commentaries on each of them can sometimes get the better of me, leading me down rabbit holes that are nearly always productive, if also time-consuming. Additionally, the insights I’d like to share about these ancient texts aren’t always the simplest thing to communicate, so I’ve been adding several introductory essays and other content that help contextualize the rites and point out the connections between them. All of this takes time, and it’s extra time I didn’t anticipate when setting previous completion goals.

Consequently, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions about what not to include in this volume to prevent this project from sprawling into next year. Everything promised on Kickstarter (and then some!) will be included in this book, but some of the additional commentaries and introductory essays will have to wait for a probable second volume of Interlinear Magic. And although I’ve added commentaries to the first 12 rites, these commentaries won’t be comprehensive, but will cover the most important findings and historical background for each rite.

Additional Introductory Content

To give just one example of the material I’ve added, many of the mythological features of the PGM rites can best be explained by looking into the widespread ancient practice of identifying Greek gods with their Egyptian counterparts. Scholars generally call this interpretatio Graeca (a Latin phrase meaning “Greek translation/interpretation”), but in the case of Egypt and the PGM, many of these identifications were made by Egyptian priests themselves whose goal was to make their religion(s) more comprehensible to the many Greek-speakers in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt. You can see examples of this on the walls of some of the later temples, such as the temple of Hathor at Dendera, where the bilingual dedicatory inscriptions explicitly identify Hathor with Aphrodite.

I’ve included a detailed section in the General Introduction on how interpretatio Graeca works and how it helps us understand the PGM. Perhaps the best example of this applies to the elaborate “Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs” (PGM IV.2967-3006), which I recently posted on the website as a preview translation.

Revised Delivery Estimate

With the additional work and other delays outlined above, I have had to take several measures to finish the book as soon as possible. As of today, I will be adding no new research to the book beyond what remains necessary for the introductions. I’ve gone through every chapter and noted the specifics of what needs to be done in each case. With these things in mind, and barring additional setbacks, I anticipate needing six weeks to complete the writing process. This includes finishing up several sections of the General Introduction, putting some final editorial touches on translations and commentaries, producing a couple of drawings, and checking cross-references.

Therefore, I plan to have the book done on or around July 20. At this point the draft will immediately enter the proofreading, compositing (typesetting), and test-printing phases to ensure that the finished product will be the best quality possible. I expect that this will also take approximately six weeks. During this period, there will be an opportunity to pre-order additional copies of the book for those who may have missed the Kickstarter or otherwise want additional copies.

As soon as the final draft is sent to the printer, I will immediately begin producing the pronunciation recordings (some of these are already done) and the video lessons for the free course unlocked by the Kickstarter stretch goal. These will be released as they are completed rather than all at once.

Given all this, I aim to have the book in your hands by early autumn. If you also ordered a phylactery, these will be included with the book shipments. (Please remember that if your address will change before the book is shipped, you can update it via the survey sent out through Kickstarter.) Thank you again for your patience, and I assure you that most of these delays will be met with corresponding improvements to the overall quality of the book and related products and services.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 05 – Interlinear Magic

Dear Friends,

I am writing with an update about my book, Interlinear Magic: An Anthology of the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri.

I am excited to announce the first of several free “preview” translations (English-only) on the InterlinearMagic.com website. More will follow over the next several weeks.

As of this writing, I am still shooting for an April 30 deadline for the complete draft, with a potential June date for shipments. An additional delay seems likely, however, because of a couple of unexpected obstacles that came up over the last two months. First, the new Magic in Hieroglyphs course I just finished teaching involved a lot more preparatory work than I anticipated, and thus I got less work on the book done than I would have liked in February and March. (Because of this, I have decided not to offer any new courses until the book is sent off to the printer.) However, the research involved in preparing the course materials and translations for this class produced an unexpected benefit related to the book.

One of my goals with the Hieroglyphs course was to increase my (and my students’) understanding of the ancient Egyptian precursors to the Greco-Egyptian magic of the PGM, especially in the domain of esoteric knowledge that was the purview of Egyptian priestly circles. The sheer volume – as well as the significance – of the connections we made during the eight weeks of the course far exceeded my expectations, and many of these new findings have found their way into the book. In some cases, I came to realize that Greek phrases in the PGM that had been puzzling me could be explained by a much earlier Egyptian mytheme or divine epithet. Although I can’t (yet) say that I can explain every piece of obscure symbolism in the PGM, diving deep into the magical traditions of Pharaonic Egypt has led to some remarkable discoveries that I am excited to share with you.

To give just one example, consider the phrase “in an empty breath” (ἐν τῷ κενῷ πνεύματι), which occurs both in the Stele of Ieou (also known as the Headless Rite) and in three “separation” spells (to separate allies or lovers) from PGM 12 and 14. My preferred translation of πνεῦμα as “breath” may have actually prevented me from seeing this sooner, but when I considered “air” instead, suddenly it all made sense, especially in light of my recent reading in hieroglyphic texts. The Egyptian god Shu, one of the twin offspring of Atum, the primordial creator god in the Heliopolitan Cosmogony, was the key to understanding this. The name/word Shu, as it is spelled in Egyptian (šw), typically refers to air, but with a different semantic determinative (an extra meaning-sign used to distinguish words that are spelled the same but have different meanings) can also be the verb šw: to be empty or devoid. It was a widespread practice among Egyptian priests and scribes to play on words and divine names with a similar spelling, so “empty air” as šw šw(t) suggested itself as a probable epithet of Shu in Egyptian that had been translated into Greek and incorporated into these rites.

One of Shu’s main functions in Egyptian myth is to separate Heaven (Nūt) from Earth (Gēb), and he is often portrayed in iconography as visually holding up his daughter Nūt to separate her from his son Gēb, as in the famous Greenfield Papyrus in the British Museum. Thus, Shu as the primordial Separator in Egyptian myth makes him the perfect deity to invoke in rites intended to separate lovers or allies, as well as in the Stele of Ieou, an exorcism ritual to separate a daimon from its human host. This is just one example of the many instances of hidden Egyptian lore in the Greek-language papyri.

The second obstacle came with the realization that the introductions/commentaries to the individual ritual-texts were rapidly becoming too unwieldy, especially given the many cross-references between rituals (a problem which was exacerbated by the addition of extra rites from the Kickstarter). The solution for this required additional restructuring of the volume. As a result, the multipart General Introduction for the volume has grown significantly and may exceed 100 pages when complete. This includes additional sections on Egyptian creation myths and their local and temporal variations, especially as they relate to the Greco-Roman period of the PGM.

I am quite happy with the results of all this extra research and writing, not only because the book nears completion, but because this will be a tremendously useful volume (even to its author). Although I never intended for this book to be an exhaustive scholarly commentary, nevertheless it has grown far beyond what the word “Anthology” in the title would indicate, rapidly becoming a detailed reference guide that will be highly useful to students of the PGM.

I remain grateful for your support and patience, and I welcome your questions or comments at any time.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD

Update 04 – Interlinear Magic: An Anthology of the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri

Dear supporters,

I am writing with a major update on the progress of Interlinear Magic: An Anthology of the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri. In what follows, I will discuss my progress towards completion, the book’s new website, the estimated page count after stretch-goal additions, the revised table of contents, and the revised delivery estimate.

First, I would like to tell you about the new course I am offering, which begins February 5. The course, Magic in Hieroglyphs: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Ancient Egyptian Ritual Practice, will examine historical precursors to the Greco-Egyptian magic of the PGM while teaching the basics of the hieroglyphic script and Egyptian vocabulary and grammar. Note that if you have already signed up for the Egyptian magic class as part of your Kickstarter pledge, you do not have to register again. Note also that this is NOT the free class unlocked by the $50K stretch goal (which will be released after the book is done). The full details about the new course are available here: https://www.greekmagicalpapyri.com/egyptian-courses

Since the last update in late November, I have made significant progress on writing the introductions, both the general introduction and those for the first 12 rituals. Additionally, the translations, both interlinear and English, are now mostly complete, although I will still be revising them as I go in order to accurately reflect cross-references and to provide consistent translations across the 60+ rites. I am especially excited about the two-translation format because it allows me to fine-tune both the more literal interlinear translations and the more natural (standalone) English translations. I have plans to post an example of these two translation styles on the website soon.

The new website for the project: http://interlinearmagic.com/

The website will be used to post updates about the project as well as examples of the content as we get closer to the ship date. I will also be adding a reference section with bibliography, glossary of important terminology, and additional media files to support the book. These will eventually include links to all the audio recordings and video lessons for the free class (both from the Kickstarter stretch goals).

Given the additions to the book from the unlocked stretch goals, my original estimate of 300 pages will likely increase by 30-50%. I will update you again as soon as I know more.

The revised table of contents is appended to the end of this message.

It is perhaps needless to say at this date that the original estimate of a February 2022 ship date will not be met. It is probable, given the additional work underway (stretch goal texts, cross-references, and structural and formatting improvements that I will cover in the next update), that the books will ship sometime in June of this year. I have given myself a new set of deadlines in order to accomplish this goal, and I feel confident it will give me enough time. Thank you for your patience! This is all very new to me, but I am learning a lot and will be able to give better delivery estimates for Volume 2 of this project (already underway).

Thank you for your support and patience! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Warmest Regards,

Brian P. Alt

Revised Table of Contents (subject to change):
  • 0. General Introduction
Part I: Featured Rites with Full Analysis
  • 1. Ouroboros Phylactery (PGM VII.579-90)
  • 2. Protective Rite of Isis (PGM VII.490-504)
  • 3. Multipurpose Invocation of Zeus/Sarapis (PGM V.459-89)
  • 4. Invocation of the Solar Quarters and Four Elements (PGM II.101-18)
  • 5. Secret Name of Aphrodite (PGM IV.1265-74)
  • 6. Divine Encounter with the Personal Daemon (PGM VII.505-28)
  • 7. Invocation of the Lunar Goddess (PGM VII.756-794)
  • 8. Invocation of Hermes/Thoth for Business or Other Purposes (PGM VIII.1-63)
  • 9. Solar Prayer against Anger, for Victory, and to win Divine Favor (PGM XXXVI.211-30)
  • 10. The Hidden Stele (PGM IV.1115-66)
  • 11. The Oracle of Serapis (PGM V.1-53)
  • 12. Solar Consecration Rite for All Purposes (PGM IV.1596-1715)
Part II: Additional Rites, Translated with Notes
  • 13. Lunar Rite of Klaudianos (PGM VII.862-918)
  • 14. The Stele that is Effective for All Things (PGM IV.1167-1226)
  • 15. Stele of Iēou or the “Headless Rite” (PGM V.96-172)
  • 16. Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs (PGM IV.2967-3006)
  • 17. Rite to Gain Control of One’s Own Shadow(PGM III.612-32)
  • 18. Rite for Gaining the Divine Favor of Kmeph (PGM XII.182-89)
  • 19. Rite for Gaining the Divine Favor of Aphrodite (SM 63)
  • 20. The Stele of Aphrodite (PGM VII.215-18)
  • 21. Rite for Business with Typhonian Ink (PGM XII.96-106)
  • 22. Rite of Hermes for Business (PGM IV.2359-72)
  • 23. Hermes’ Wondrous Victory Charm (PGM VII.919-24)
  • 24. Rite of Hermes to Catch a Thief (PGM V.172-212)
  • 25. Another Rite to Catch a Thief (PGM V.70-95)
  • 26. Chain-Breaking Rite (PGM XII.160-78)
  • 27. Rite to Open a Door (PGM XXXVI.312-20)
  • 28. Prayer for Deliverance and Protection (PGM I.195-222)
  • 29. Excellent Rite for Driving Out Daemons (PGM IV.1227-64)
  • 30. Initiation and Bowl-Divination of the Sun, or the “Typhonic Initiation” (PGM IV.154-285)
  • 31. Divinatory Rite of Kronos, called “Little Mill” (PGM IV.3086-3124)
  • 32. Saucer-Divination of Aphrodite (PGM IV.3209-54)
  • 33. Rite for a Direct Vision (Bowl-Divination) of Anubis (PGM VII.319-34)
  • 34. Direct Vision Formula Using a Bronze Cup and Shipwreck Water (PGM V.54-69)
  • 35. Divination by Means of a Boy (PGM VII.348-58)
  • 36. Lamp Divination of Hermes (PGM VII.540-578)
  • 37. Rite for Obtaining Dream Revelations (Hermes Hymn) (PGM VII.664-85)
  • 38. Request for a Dream to Hermes-Thoth (PGM XII.144-52)
  • 39. Dream-Revelation Rite (PGM VII.359-69)
  • 40. Another Dream-Revelation Rite (PGM VII.740-55)
  • 41. Dream Divination of Eros and the Personal Daemon (PGM VII.478-90)
  • 42. Rite for Divine Revelation from the “Serpent-Faced God” (PGM XII.153-60)
  • 43. Rite for Esoteric Memory with Myrrh-Ink Recipe (PGM I.232-47)
  • 44. Attracting a Lover through Wakefulness (PGM IV.2943-66)
  • 45. Wondrous Attracting Rite of Isis and Osiris (PGM XXXVI.134-60)
  • 46. Another Rite to Attract a Lover (PGM XXXVI.295-311)
  • 47. “You are Olive Oil, You are not Olive Oil” (PGM LXI.1-38)
  • 48. “You are Wine, You are not Wine” (PGM VII.643-51)
  • 49. A Good Cup Spell (PGM VII.385-89)
  • 50. Attraction Rite that Works in the Same Hour (PGM VII.300a-310)
  • 51. Separation Rite of Typhon/Seth (PGM XII.365-75)
  • 52. Parallel to above Separation Rite (PGM XII.453-65)
  • 53. Parallel to above Separation Rite (PGM XIVc.16-27)
  • 54. Restraining Rite (PGM VII.417-22)
  • 55. Rite to Restrain Anger and Instill Obedience (PGM VII.940-68)
  • 56. Rite to Restrain Anger (PGM XII.179-81)
  • 57. Rite of Hekate-Ereshkigal against Fear (PGM LXX.5-29)
  • 58. Indispensable Obfuscation Rite (PGM I.222-31)
  • 59. Tested Rite for Obfuscation (PGM I.247-62)
  • 60. Circle of the Moon in the Zodiac (PGM VII.272-83)
Part III: Supplementary Hymns and Other Passages
  • 61-67: Planetary Orphic Hymns in Interlinear Translation
  • 68-71: Hymns to Hekate in Interlinear Translation
  • 72: Appendix of Short Passages in Interlinear Translation

Update 03

Dear friends,

Thank you for supporting Interlinear Magic: An Anthology of the Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri. What you have provided with your Kickstarter pledges is truly a blessing, in that it allows me to devote the lion’s share of my time and attention to making this book the best it can possibly be. I can’t sufficiently express how grateful I am for this opportunity!

This is the first of several status updates on the book’s progress. Below I will discuss the translations, the overall (re-)organization of the volume, and the remaining work to be done.

I am now done with all the base-level translations, including all the additional material that was added through stretch goals (a lot more than I was expecting!). This means that all the interlinear translation (Greek and English) are done and formatted, leaving some of the (much easier) English translations to be completed, although many of those are done as well. Once this second level of translations is complete, I should have a much more accurate estimate of the page count, but it looks like it will be well over 300 pages at this point.

Including all the additional stretch-goal material has also required revamping the organization of the book in order to group all the rituals together in the most logical way. The updated table of contents will be sent in the next update.

Most of the remaining writing (and research) at this point involves the introductory material, commentaries, and cross-references. Because most of this analysis is based on a close comparative reading of the individual ritual texts, this aspect of the work has become much more complicated since the material being compared has grown from 40 ritual texts to more than 70.

Am I saying there will be a delay with the book? Probably, but my goal is to still get a complete draft written before the end of December. Thus, I am not updating the delivery estimate at this point, but I will do that before the next update.

I will say that the sheer volume of “aha!” moments I have had in putting this book together has been extraordinary. The number of new findings I will be including in the book far surpasses what I originally thought to include. I am also commissioning additional artwork based on some of these findings. There will also be a website for the book (coming soon), where I will post regular updates (and excerpts) as the delivery date draws near.

Thanks again for your tremendous support! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Brian P. Alt, PhD