20 May, 2008

Oumin and Berzeboul

In Hyde Park, Sunday before last, when the sun was busy making a mockery of the anti-social, a dear friend of mine asked me, quite out of the blue I think, who had more names—God or the Devil? Well, the answer is obvious. But the question was brought back to me today as I leafed through the first volume of Armand Delatte's Anecdota Atheniensia (1927), in which are transcribed a number of Greek manuscripts relating to the history of magic and divination. The first item in this collection is a Traité de Magie found in two codices—A, Athens National Library 1265, from around 1600; and B, MS 115 of the "Société Historique et Ethnographique d'Athènes", from around 1800.

Sometimes one stumbles into the realm of the obscure—actually this happens fairly often in my case—and sometimes one goes beyond that realm, or rather to its darpest, deekest corner, and comes across words, pages, so gossamer as to be moored to our reality only with the frailest of threads. I cannot even imagine somebody else looking at this book. If I should breathe too hard, the letters will evaporate into nonsense. And so, to reassure myself that this Traité, so shrouded and forgotten, really exists, I fix it here, so that it may see a little light.

The Traité consists largely of theurgical (white) and goetical (black) invocations. To be able to control a daemon, you must first know its name. Thus beginning on p. 25 (Codex B, f. 21), is a long passage on the names of benign and malign spirits. The list of angelic names really gets underway on the next page:
δεομαι του cαγιου ονοματος σου, δος μοι χαριν τω δουλω σου cοπως δυνηθω cυποταξαι και σπαραξαι και εις τους ποδας μου πεσειν τα πνευματα των δαιμονιων, εις ονομα—

I need your holy name; give grace to me, your slave, so that I can subject and tear apart the spirits of the daemones, and make them fall at my feet, in the name of—
And then the catalogue itself, with several repetitions:
Ελελογη Ελογη Αδοναγη Μελεχ Σαδαγι Βαβι, Τετραγραμματον, α και ω, αρχη και τελος, Ηοσεφ Μπεσελ Ασχας Ραβ Μπαλατην Αλητος Σελ Αρεπα Αγιοθ Λεμουθ Νησουρ Αδαμσορ Λαγις Μηλα Φιλους Φηλας Ανα Αβουνα Ραμ Πηραμ Μπι Λαμζου Ηαλεμ Ληθ Αταγι Ενκθα Ελζεφηρες Φαριν Φακα Φανη Σιγιλα Ηαρουγη Καρα Μπαρουχ Οντα Ιλημ Εματορ Αβρασας Αθητιελ Κεομ Πιαλ Αμον Αμουναμεθ Ουδαδ Διαμοτ Δαχη Δαμα Πηναθ Ηαραθ Σημχα Ποραθ Οκυενλ Τηταγι Οιρον Ορ Τισα Αμους Τα Ατδαθ Δηδη Μαηκη Βινιρα Ελαλ Ια Κα Ουγεμαχ Μπαρουλ Βιελες Παρχηελ Σιμεολ Μαλχαδεελ Αδονελ Χαη Ατα Ελοημ Ορα Αμιτα Ραβιχανουν Εληον, Τετραγραμματον, Γραφοντον Ελεαν Ελαθ Ον Ναβαρ Μαπηρ Ανα Αβουνα Ηνουν Καηαμ Λεοδαμ Χαη Βακον Ζηβλατον Αγι Ια Ζαγδον Δαμανε Ελοα Δελοημ Ελοημ, α και ω, αρχη και τελος
Once you start looking at the list, you start to recognise the names. Some of the titles are plain: Tetragrammaton, alpha kai omega, arkhē kai telos, 'beginning and end'. Other identifications are almost indisputable: Adonagē must be a variant of Adonai, 'Lord'; Melekh must be the Hebrew מלאך, 'angel'; Elelogē, Elogē and especially Eloém are surely Elohim, just as Ia is Jah. Abrasas or Abrasax is a common Gnostic daemon. Then we reach obscurer and more doubtful cases. Amon is a daemon named among the standard 72 of mediaeval lore. Μπαρουχ or Baroukh looks like 'Baruc', one of the 'Names of God, most holy and unknown', from the Key of Solomon, a mediaeval grimoire; the name also seems to appear in the Greek magical papyri, III.110, as 'Barouch'—is the name related to that of Jeremiah's scribe, Baruch? And is Ram related to Raum, another standard daemon? Is Balatēn equivalent to Beleth, Nabar to Naberus, Ora to Oray? Could Elzephēres be a Semitic form of [El] Zephyr? Could Diamot conjure Tiamat? And might Tētagi recall Titache, also mentioned in the Key? The identifications become less and less certain, until finally we are all but lost in an apopheniac haze of letters.

On the following page (B, f. 23), is a corresponding invocation of evil spirits:
cινα, cοπου και ευρισκεσθε, ελθετε εμπροσθεν μου και καμετε το θελημα μου ανευ βλαβης και κακωσεως του σωματος και της ψυχης μου εν ειδει ανθρωπινω και σχηματι και μορφη. cορκιζω cυμας—

In that place, wherever you are to be found, come unto me and labour at my desire, without harm or damage to my body and soul, in a human form, shape and figure. I command you—
But here the demons are much fewer in name than the angels:
Δενας Κονταστορ Τζιτζανηελ Χαληκεελ Οραπαελ Λουμπηελ Λουτζιφερ Βερζεβεουλ Ασμεδαη Ορνιλ Παγαριθ Γαρπα Εζιμμιστραος
Again, most of the names are obscure—many are evidently Hebrew, with their endings in -el—but three at least are clearly recognisable. These are Loutzipher, Berzebeoul, and Asmedaē, or as we know them, Lucifer, Beelzebub and Asmodai. Indeed, we can fill up the canonical list elsewhere, with Ασθοροτ or Astaroth (p. 17) and Μπεθιηλ or Beliel (p. 25), along with many others—though not Satan. On p. 28 we read 'I command you, Lotropheres, I command you, Astathor, I command you, Berzeboul, I command you, Admodai, you who are the foremost among the daemones'. On p. 34 we have another group under the heading 'prayers for the south wind (notos)':
Βερζεβουλ, Ακαηλ, Αχογισθ, Ρηξ, Θεου, Ηφαλ, Μηανηθ, Εφηπτα, Μητοαρ, Καριτερ, Ηπολταγι, Λεστρηθο, Καθηθουλ, Βηοδον, Μαλησκαρ, Παλησκαξ, Βιλιουλ, Πηγιαβ, Γααβηουλ, Ησγινελ, Ρεδε, Ποον, Λαμηουλ, Δαμασιν, Ηπερηηπαρ, Ουκας, Λατζηταν, Ποτε, Θαρμι, Λαβηκος, Ουτηκαι, Ηθαψον
The south wind is harmful, and so we see Berzeboul and Bilioul (Beliel) included among the number of spirits associated with it. Good old Berzeboul appears in the flesh, too, on p. 81, along with one 'Oumin':

The 1818 Dictionnaire Infernal of Collin de Plancy, the last of the grimoires, tells us that almost all demonologists regarded Belzébuth as the 'sovereign of the dark empire; and each depicts him according to his own imagination'—'One sees, in the veritable Claviculae Salomonis, that Belzébuth appeared sometimes under monstrous forms, like those of an enormous calf or of a goat with a long tail; often, meanwhile, he shows himself under the figure of a fly of extreme fatness.' But our Berzeboul could hardly be jollier. And how marvelous, how out of the ordinary to see lines as lively as this in an old book that makes you sneeze, full of Greek type on mystical subjects. I mean, this is what you expect to see—

Our two spry daemones, on the other hand, look like the sort of thing Picasso might have doodled in the New Yorker. [A note on this. The problem with comparing anything to Picasso is that Picasso is generally taken as a catch-all name for modern art. Often as not, saying something looks like a Picasso means the eyes are in the wrong place. One feels like the fool who mentions Shakespeare whenever he sees a 'thee'. Still, it really does look like the sort of thing Picasso might have doodled in the New Yorker.] Oumin's face recalls the treatment of faces in La Baignade (1937); Berzeboul, meanwhile, reminds me of the figuration in work like La Joie de Vivre (1946), or the pigeon of a 1941 Nature Morte. When I showed the image to Mrs. Roth, she said, Oh, it looks like a Picasso. Only she, of course, pronounces it Pic-ah-sso. I like to think he would have relished the association. After all, his 1941 burlesque, Desire Caught by the Tail, ends with this, a modernistical version of demonic magic:
(ALL THE CHARACTERS come to a stop on either side of the stage. By the window at the end of the room bursting it open suddenly, enters a golden ball the size of a man which lights up the whole room and blings the characters, who take handkerchiefs from their pockets and blindfold themselves and, stretching up their right arms, point at each other, shouting all together and many times)

ALL. You! You! You!

(On the golden ball appear the letters of the word: 'Nobody'.)
Picasso's continuing goal is a search for authentic figuration. He wants to strip away the superficies of the human shape, to discover its essence, its primitive essence. As a modernist, he is a primitivist. In many respects modernism was an attempt to recapture the visceral thrill of the Romantic experience: the thrill of speed, of dreams, of childhood adventure. The modernist, like the Romantic, wants to experience the world immediately—without mediation. This accounts for two of Picasso's most famous sayings. Je ne cherche pas, he says, je trouve. I do not spend time looking for something: I find it, immediately. Certain peintres, he says, transforment le soleil en un point jaune; d'autres transforment un point jaune en soleil. Some painters turn the sun into a yellow dot; others [ie. Picasso] turn a yellow dot into the sun. To experience a yellow dot as the sun, a single line as a bird, without mediation, is the Picassian experience par excellence.

It was the same with words: the modernist word, ideally, is a fleshy and direct thing, not a pallid and passive bearer of meaning. A rose is a rose is a rose. Cropse. Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop. Cornegidouille. Loplop. Sordello. And so on. The modernist tries to recover the 'essential identity between the word and what it represents'. I take the expression from Cassirer, who is writing not about modernism but about primitive religion.
As the Word is first in origin, it is also supreme in power. Often it is the name of the deity, rather than the god himself, that seems to be the real source of efficacy. Knowledge of the name gives him who knows it mastery even over the being and will of the god.
This was written in 1925, right at the heart of modernism. Three years earlier, Ogden and Richards had published their Meaning of Meaning, which features an entire chapter trying to explain primitive name-magic to civilised Oxbridge rationalists. In 1927 Delatte publishes his Anecdota. In 1928 Preisendanz publishes the first volume of his edition of the Greek magical papyri. The synchronicity of art and scholarship is no coincidence. Compare a modernist nonsense 'poem' like Hugo Ball's 'Karawane' (jolifanto bambla ô falli bambla, grossiga m'pfa habla horem) to the above Ελελογη Ελογη, or to a typical invocation from the papyri
In the one case, the nonsensical or halfsensical babble is religious; in the other, it is secular, or a secular sort of religious. Men of all ages have sought oblivion and transcendence in pure sound and the free line.


Simon Holloway said...

Thankyou for posting this: this is excellent stuff! A few comments, only:

Μελεχ: may this not be the Hebrew מלך (Melekh), meaning "king"?

Ηοσεφ: perhaps Hebrew יוסף (Yosef), meaning "Joseph"?? Seems odd, but it springs to mind.

Μπεσελ: I suppose one shouldn't look for Hebrew cognates all the time, but this makes me think of בית-אל (Beit-El - or, perhaps, Beith/Beis-El), "House of God"?

Μπαρουχ: This is quite possibly related to ברוך (Barukh); are you aware that the word means "Blessed"? There is a Rabbinic liturgical response to the oft-repeated "Blessed are you, O Lord..." of "Blessed is His name!" (ברוך שמו). Should one choose, one could hear this as "You are Barukh, O Lord... /Barukh is His name!/". That's a little bit silly, but it works grammatically, and I suspect that many of these names come from such appropriations.

Fascinating that Satan should be absent! Do you think that λουμπηελ might be "the lamp of God"? I realise that λαμπιδος (if I am spelling it correctly) is a Greek word and that it might seem strange in a Hebraic/Aramaic formation, but the word also appears in Hebrew as לפיד, לפידות (lapid, lapidot): Gen 15:17, Judges 4:4.

1904 said...

Names are so important. As Gertrude Stein says in "Wars I Have Seen," "I wonder sometimes why the English royal family lets any one who might come to the throne lets him be called George how can they, to be sure Shakespeare said a rose will smell as sweet call it by any name but will it. No it will not. Consider the name of George. Every time there was a George on the throne there was trouble bad trouble."

Stein goes on to say a lot of things then about language and English history and then asks "will the royal family again have the temerity to call a son who might come to the throne George. Bertter not, really better not. There is something in a name all the same."

Which I think proves your point that "men [and women] of all ages have sought oblivion and transcendence in pure sound and the free line."

Greg Afinogenov said...

Fantastic post as always, Conrad.

The adage about words you quoted might be an interesting way to approach the lengthy made-up etymological excursions in Proust--we might say, for instance, that digging into the true history of place-names is not just analogous but somehow identical to the work of memory, the Recherche itself. So, however irrelevant or boring the etymology must seem, it is no less important than the arrangement of chairs or the view from the train window. Fascinating.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Thanks, friends.

Simon: Yes, I don't know about the relation (if any) between melekh / melakh, but it seemed like angel was a better sense fit. Your other speculations (esp. about Baruch) are certainly possible. I thought Μπεσελ might be the Egyptian Bes.

1904 and Greg, yes. I appreciate the nod to our first encounter (of sorts). Maybe I should write something on Proust and etymologies some time.

Shawn Thuris said...

Hector Berlioz found, if not "oblivion and transcendence", at least a whale of a time when, near the end of his Damnation de Faust, he wrote this zany fantasy:

Faust a donc librement
Signé l’acte fatal qui le livre à nos flammes?

Il signa librement.

Has! Has!

[Les démons portent Méphistophélès en triomphe.]

Tradioun Marexil fir trudinxé burrudixé!
Fory my dinkorlitz.
O mérikariu! O mévixé! Méri kariba!
O mérikariu! O midara caraibo lakinda, merondor dinkorlitz, merondor
Tradioun marexil,
Tradioun burrudixé
Trudinxé caraibo.
Fir omévixé merondor.
Mit aysko, merondor, mit aysko!

[Les démons dansent autour de Méphistophélès.]

Diff! Diff! merondor, merondor aysko!
Has! Has! Satan.
Has! Has! Belphégor,
Has! Has! Méphisto,
Has! Has! Kroïx
Diff! Diff! Astaroth,
Diff! Diff! Belzébuth, Belphégor, Astaroth, Méphisto!
Sat, satrayk irkimour.
Has! Has! Méphisto!
Has! Has! Has! Has!
Irimiru Karabrao!

(Apparently there is something like an infernal judiciary or House of Lords operating down there. Who knew?)

Most of that hellacious "fight song" is made of whole cloth, as far as anyone can tell. Berlioz simply wrote down something that sounded suitably weird for denizens of the deep. The loud and increasingly frantic music accompanying it really makes me want to root for the wrong team. Good old Berlioz.

Thanks for the evocative (and invocative) post.

Language said...

Adonagē must be a variant of Adonai

Adonagē is a transcription of Adonai; by the Middle Ages g before a front vowel was pronounved /y/ (hence Gianni = Yanni).

Good old Berlioz.

Good old Berlioz indeed: still the least appreciated of great composers. The popularity of that damn Symphonie Fantastique has overshadowed the rest of his stupendously varied and consistently brilliant catalogue for over a century. (Fun fact: Unlike most composers, Berlioz learned music on a guitar, not a piano, which illuminates his genius at orchestration and explains why his student compositions did so badly in competitions, where they were presented in piano reductions -- his fellow students essentially composed them at the piano to begin with, so of course they sounded good that way, whereas Berlioz's were genuinely orchestral in conception and sounded like crap on the piano.)

Conrad H. Roth said...

"Adonagē is a transcription of Adonai; by the Middle Ages g before a front vowel was pronounved /y/ (hence Gianni = Yanni)."

Yes, but it is only one possible transcription: elsewhere is Adonē, Adonaiē, etc.

Language said...

Yes, but my point is that it's a transcription, not a variant. (With the massive collapse of the Ancient Greek sound system, combined with the absurd conservatism of the writing system, you can get quite a variety of transcriptions of any foreign name incautious enough to include a front vowel or glide.)

Conrad H. Roth said...

Well, OK, let's be pedantic. It is obvious, and needs no discussion, that Αδοναγη is a transcription (of אֲדֹנָי), or at least derived from one. I intended by my original claim that Αδοναγη was an (orthographical) variant of Αδοναι—not that Αδοναγη was a variant of אֲדֹנָי. Behind this claim were two assumptions: first, that there existed a standard transcription of אֲדֹנָי, and second, that that transcription was Αδοναι. One or both of these assumptions may be incorrect; I don't have the resources at the moment to check. But the statement that Αδοναγη was a variant of Αδοναι is not incompatible with the statement that Αδοναγη (and, indeed, Αδοναι) are transcriptions. If Αδοναι was indeed the standard transcription, one would expect to find it in the Greek Fathers--the LXX and NT consistently use Κυριος to translate אֲדֹנָי, but I strongly suspect that there are early, and canonical, Greek discussions of the word אֲדֹנָי / Αδοναι (or Αδοναγη).

Language said...

Fair enough! You know I'm a sucker for pedantry.

Robert said...

Thank you Conrad, next time someone asks me that question in Hyde Park I will know the answer! In the unlikely event that I should find myself in search of the Holy Grail, with or without Indiana Jones, I will have terrible trouble avoiding a plunge into the depths of hell beneath Petra!

You will be glad to hear that I have done some homework on John Locke as you suggested!

I wonder if 1904’s comments on the naming of potential Kings or Queens also applies to lesser mortals.

Is Languages’ comment on the popularity of Berlioz based on statistical fact? He seems to be quite well represented on the retail shelf, and Radio 3! The March to the Scaffold and the Witches Sabbath were somewhat bizarre to hear wafting thought the nave of Salisbury Cathedral. But I agree there are many other works which do not get the airing they deserve. The story of the guitar was interesting especially as I have been propositioned for a Master Class on Classical Guitar by a Lady in the Pyrenees recently!

Conrad H. Roth said...

Robert: the answer will apply equally well in other parks, or indeed not in parks at all! I'm glad to hear you have read up on Locke--I'm still not sure what to do with those photographs.

Language said...

Is Languages’ comment on the popularity of Berlioz based on statistical fact? He seems to be quite well represented on the retail shelf, and Radio 3!

My information may very well be outdated; if so I am well pleased.

Robert said...


In case you ever come back I found an interesting second hand book about Berlioz influence on Art of his time. When consumed I will post on it as I too an enamoured by his work.

Anonymous said...

Robert: Please leave a link here when you post about it!

--Language Hat

Anonymous said...

Does anybody know what the phrase "Φακα Φανη" means? in the text above?