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.
Brian P. Alt, PhD
The book will also feature some hieroglyphic images where they help explain certain concepts in the Greek texts. For example, the royal epithet αἰωνόβιος, “ever-living,” is the Ptolemaic equivalent of ankh-djet, shown below:
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.
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
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.
Brian P. Alt, PhD