Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Challenge: Moses Cordovero & Practical Kabbalah

In the great tradition of the "duellists" of yesteryear, I have received a challenge! I am instructed to put my money where my mouth is, and back a claim I made in "The Book of Sacred Names" regarding "Practical Kabbalah" techniques in “Sefer Pardes Rimmonim” (Garden of Pomegranates) by Moses Cordovero, with verifiable evidence. My opponent maintains that there is not a single instance of anything pertaining directly to "Practical Kabbalah," or "Jewish Magic" for that matter, to be found in this text written by the father-in-law of the Holy Ari. Hence he felt it necessary to challenge me to either "own up" or face public exposure of my "deceit" less!!
Naturally I would not normally bother with uninformed challenges, but I thought I might face the "truth of the matter" and satisfy the "questing spirit" of my challenger with an example of Practical Kabbalah penned by the very hand of the great Moses Cordovero, who wrote (Pardes Rimonnim: Gate Ten Chapter 1):
"There is no doubt that the colours can introduce you to the operations of the Sefirot and the drawing down of their overflow. Thus, when a person needs to draw down the overflow of Mercy from the attribute of Grace, let him imagine the name of the Sefirah with the colour that is appropriate to what he needs, in front of him. If he [applies to] Supreme Chesed, [let him imagine] the outmost white.....Likewise when he will operate a certain operation and he will be in need of the overflow of the [attribute of] Judgement, let him then dress in red clothes and imagine the form [of the letters of] the Tetragrammaton in red, and so on in the case of all the operations causing the descent of the overflows.....Certainly in this manner [we may explain] the meaning of the amulets. When a person prepares an amulet for the [Sefirah of] Chesed, let him imagine the [divine] name in a bright white, since then the operation of that name will be augmented.....
We have seen someone who designed amulets which refer to the [attribute] of [stern] judgement [using the colour of] red, and those which refer to Grace in white and those which refers to Mercy in Green, and everything [was done] in accordance with what [was revealed] by true [angelic] mentors, which taught to him the preparation of the amulets. All this [was done] in order to introduce him to the subject of the colours and the operations which derive from the above....."
I hope this is satisfactory proof to my challenger, and, just in case I be accused of posting a bad translation of the original text, it should be noted that whilst the transliterations of Hebrew terms in the text is in accordance with my personal preference, the translation of the quote itself is not mine. It appeared in a chapter written by Moshe Idel which is titled "Jewish Magic from the Renaissance Period to Early Hasidism," and which was published in "Religion, Science, and Magic: In Concert and in Conflict" edited by Jacob Neusner, Ernest S. Frerichs and Paul Virgil McCracken Flesher. The latter is a most informative work which my challenger might want to peruse for greater elucidation on matters obscure!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 7

Since the "Magic Square" of the seventh order is amongst the few chotomat (seals) of this nature employed in Jewish magic, I thought I would focus attention on one of its most curious uses.I am referring specifically to the following square addressed in "Niflaim Ma’asecha" by Avraham Chamaui:
This specific sevenfold “Magic Square,” being aligned with the planet Venus, is said to be a special segulah, i.e. a unique magical action or an object, which in this instance is employed to encourage the generation and birth of sons. In this regard, an individual desiring male offspring, is encouraged to collect sixteen pieces of silver to be handed to a woman who has children. She is then to deliver this hoard of silver to a jeweller or silversmith, who in turn has to first purify the silver and then to shape all of it into a large, clean silver disk.
Next the jeweller has to purify himself, e.g. take a ritual bath inside a Mikvah, etc., and after this ablution to create the amulet in question by engraving the “magic square” under current discussion, as well as the following phrase, on both sides of the silver tray:
He lachem zera
Here you have semen
We are reminded that all the letters on this Kamea should be written in ashurit, i.e. the standard square Hebrew letters, and also that they should be spaced in such a manner on the construct, that none of the glyphs are touching.
On conclusion of this action, the silver amulet is placed inside three white bags which were sewed with white cotton. First it is located in a white bag made from pure silk, which is in turn placed inside a bag made of garment quality linen. All of these are finally located inside another, an equally good quality, white silk bag, and the procedure is concluded with the individual requiring this magical service suspending the amulet on a Friday, the day of Venus, in a bedroom window of his residence, where it is left until the following Tuesday.
(More to follow)

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 6

As you can imagine, "magic squares" of the third order are put to great amuletic use in Practical Kabbalah, and I hope to address these in greater detail in "The Book of Hebrew Amulets." For the time being we have to content with the sampling of its magical efficacy addressed in the previous missive, and turn our attention to one of the magical applications pertaining to two of the alternative fourfold "Magic Squares," these being quite different from the one traditionally attributed to Jupiter and popularised by Cornelius Agrippa. Both of the chotamot listed below belong to the same category, and the second is simply a variant of the first:
In both instances the numbers 9 to 11 are not included in the "Magic Square," and the numbers 17 to 19 added. The numerical value of each row comprising these squares is 40, and the total value is 160. We are reminded that the total value of this "Magic Square" is equal to the gematria (numerical value) of the words ("Tree" ) and ("Image" or "likeness" ). The upper "magic seal" is the one which appears in "Shaar Ruach ha-Kodesh" by Chaim Vital. Its magical use is mentioned in "Refuah V’Chayim B’Yerushalayim" [Jerusalem 1974], and both of these variant squares are also addressed in "Shorshei ha-Shemot" by Moses Zacutto.
Regarding their usage for magical purposes, these variants, as can be expected, are employed for the same magical purpose in Practical Kabbalah. We are informed that when there is an outbreak of smallpox, measles, or anything of that ilk, all children, and anyone else for that matter who is yet unaffected by the epidemic, can be protected from contracting the virus inadvertently from those infected, by simply carrying either or both of these "Magic Squares" on their person. In this regard we are told to write these "magic seals" on a metal plate or on a "korsher parchment," the latter being simply a clean parchment or unused sheet of paper.
We are further instructed that if the "Magic Square" is to be engraved on a little plate of gold, this should be done at daybreak during the first hour of the day in the zodiacal period of Taleh (Aries). On the other hand, if your intention is to write the chotam on parchment, this can be done any time on a Thursday afternoon. We are again reminded that what is important about writing any of these "Magic Squares" for magical purposes, is that the Hebrew letter/numbers should be written in ashurit, and that you write their component letter/numbers in exact numerical order.
As mentioned, both squares can be employed conjointly. In some instance the two chotamot are respectively engraved on either side of a metal Kamea (amulet), or written next to each other on the same parchment, one to the left and the other to the right, or again one at the top and the other at the bottom of the page. Afterwards the amulet is carried like a pendant around the neck.
(More to follow)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Word" & "Number" Squares in Jewish Magic - Part 5

Regarding the "magical" employment of the numerical "Magic Squares," it is interesting that most of the relevant practices pertain to the square of the third order, i.e. the one traditionally attributed to Saturn:
There are certainly many interesting magical practices associated with this chotam (magical seal), but the one I would like to share pertains to She'elat Chalom (Dream Questioning), a topic we have addressed in a previous missive on this blog.
As mentioned before, the numerical value of each of the rows, columns and diagonals of the “Magic Square” of the third order is 15, and this value is the gematria of the Divine Name (Yah). Calculating the numerical value of the three rows, or three columns, indicates the total value of this chotam to be 45, i.e. three times Yah, which is said to pertain to the third full spelling of the Ineffable Name:

The gematria of this expanded spelling of the Ineffable Name is 45, hence it was titled the “Forty-five Letter Name of God” or simply (Mah), the gematria of the latter appellative being:
In the Shorshei ha-Shemot we are told the “serving spirit” of this chotam is Agi’el, and the subservient spirit is Zazel, and in the writings of Cornelius Agrippa these “spirit intelligences” are respectively termed the “intelligence” and “spirit” of Saturn.
As said, amongst the powers of this “Magic Square” is She’elat Chalom, i.e. facilitating requested answers in “Dream Questioning.” In this regard the following procedure is worked in a state of holiness and purity on the Erev Shabbat, the eve of the Sabbath, which in this instance means that you should work the procedure on a Thursday evening. Write the “magic square” in question on a piece of parchment, ensuring that you inscribe the letter/numbers comprising this chotam in their exact order in ashurit (the normal square Hebrew letters). This is considered an important action in the process of, as it were, “triggering the spiritual powers” behind the magical seal. In this regard we are told the letter (chet) should be written in the form of a “hunchback,” i.e. , which is the manner in which it appears in the Bible.
When you are ready to retire to bed for the night, the completed chotam is tied to your forehead in such a manner that the writing is facing outwards. Afterwards you have to recite Psalm 23 seven times. In this instance we are told to include the Name (Shadai) after the Ineffable Name in the first and last verses of the Psalm, and to utter the two Divine Names as well as the succeeding phrase of the first verse seven times. We are also instructed to insert the Divine Names (El Elohim) after the word (atah) in verse 4. The entire Psalm would thus read:

(Verse 1) Mizmor l’david YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar, YHVH Shadai ro’i lo ech’sar
(Verse 2) bin’ot desher yarbitzeini al mei m’nuchot y’nahaleini
(Verse 3) nafshi y’shoveiv yan’cheini b’ma’g’lei tzedek l’ma’an shemo
(Verse 4) gam ki eleich b’gei tzalmavet lo ira ra ki atah El Elohim imadi shivt’cha umish’antecha heimah y’nachamuni
(Verse 5) ta’aroch l’fanai shulchan neged tzor’rai dishanta vashemen roshi kosi r’vaya
(Verse 6) Ach tov vachesed yird’funi kol y’mei hayay v’shavti b’veit YHVH Shadai l’orech yamim
(Verse 1) A Psalm of David. YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want, YHVH Shadai is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(Verse 2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.
(Verse 3) He restoreth my soul; He guideth me in straight paths for His name’s sake.
(Verse 4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou El Elohim art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
(Verse 5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(Verse 6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of YHVH Shadai for ever.
Continue the procedure by saying seven times:

Tzofi’el Tzadki’el Rafa’el Razi’el
Ensure that you have the kavvanah, the focussed intention, of your initial query, i.e. keeping it firmly in your mind, as you verbalise the question seven times. Afterwards place both your hands on the “magic seal” on your forehead, and say:

Biz’chut ha-chotam ha-zeh ha-nikra chotam Yah v’biz’chut ha-shemot shehizkarti shetodi’eini ba-lailah ha-zeh tshuvat sha’alti b’beirur shehi kach v’kach.
In the merit of this seal, called the seal of Yah, and in the merit of the Names I mentioned, that you reveal to me this night the answer to my question, in a manner which is clear and certain.
Afterwards, get into bed and ensure that you go to sleep on your left side, and, if you should wake up after midnight, to turn over onto your right side.
(More to follow)