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.
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.
Brian P. Alt, PhD