Egyptian Rite for Gathering Herbs (PGM IV.2967-3006)

One of the most traditional Egyptian rites in all the PGM, this elaborate method for harvesting and empowering plants for ritual use draws on the ancient Egyptian genre of Gliedervergottung (“limb-divinization”) spells attested for most periods of Egyptian history beginning already in the Pyramid Texts. The rite identifies parts of the plant with various gods, most of whom can be understood to be Egyptian gods under a thin veil of interpretatio Graeca; the Egyptian gods referred to by their Greek names are noted in parentheses.

This translation is © Copyright 2022 Brian P. Alt.


Among the Egyptians, plants are always gathered in this way:

The root-cutter first cleanses his or her own body. Then, after sprinkling the herb with natron and censing it with pine resin, one should circle it three times while carrying the censer. Then, after burning kuphi and pouring a drink-offering of milk along with the prayers, one should pull up the plant while invoking the name of the divinity to whom the herb is being dedicated, for which purpose it is harvested, calling upon it to become more effective for its purpose. And the general invocation, which the root-cutter speaks over any herb at the moment of its harvesting, is thus:

“You were sown by Kronos (Gēb). You were gathered together by Hera (Mūt). You were watched over by Amūn. You were brought forth by Isis. You were nourished by rainy Zeus. You were grown by the Sun and dew. You are the dew of all the gods.

“You are the heart of Hermes (Thoth). You are the seed of the firstborn gods. You are the eye of the Sun. You are the light of the Moon. You are the esteem of Osiris. You are the beauty and the glory of Heaven (Nūt). You are the soul of the daimon of Osiris. You are the breath of Amūn.

“Just as you have lifted up Osiris, so too lift yourself up and stretch out, just as the Sun also rises every day. Your height is equal to the zenith of the Sun, your roots are of the Abyss (Nūn), and your powers are in the heart of Hermes (Thoth). Your fibers are the bones of Mnevis, and your flowers are the eye of Horus. Your seed is the seed of Pan (Min).

“I am cleansing you with resin just as I would the gods, and even for my own health. Be thee also cleansed by prayer and give us power, just as Ares (Rē-Horakhty) and Athena (Nēïth) do.

“I am Hermes (Thoth). I am gathering you with Good Fortune and Good Daimon and in an auspicious hour and on an auspicious day, which is effective for all things.”
After saying these things, the root-cutter rolls the harvested herb into a clean linen cloth. (In the place of the root, the Egyptians deposit seven grains of wheat and an equal amount of barley, after mixing them with honey.) And after heaping up over the hole the earth that had been dug up, the root-cutter departs.

© Copyright 2022 Brian P. Alt