Saturday, October 8, 2011

"And a river went out of Eden" - Part 1

Whilst investigating primary Jewish magical literature, with special attention on Hebrew amulets which is the subject of my "The Book of Seals and Amulets," I chanced upon very interesting mystical and magical teachings regarding the four rivers of the Biblical "Gan Eden." As you probably recall, we are told that "a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads" [Genesis 2:10]. Tradition would have it that the original river is the "River of Life," which is channelled by its four divisions into the whole of manifestation. These, named Pishon, Gichon, Chedekel and Frat, have a number of specialised functions in Jewish magical traditions, and, in the age old tradition of the "Doctrine of Signatures," are aligned with a set of unique correspondences. The 13th century Rabbi Isaac of Acco lists some of these in his "Me’irat Einayim," of which I think the following will be of great interest to readers interested in Jewish magic and the doctrines of the Western Mystery Tradition in general:
The addition of four associated Sefirot are mentioned elsewhere, these are respectively Chesed (Lovingkindness/Mercy) = Pishon, Gevurah (Strength/Severity) = Gichon, Tiferet (Beauty) = Chedekel, and Malchut (Kingdom) = Frat. I am sure some of these correspondences might be startling, and quite at odds with what some readers may have learned previously. However, I believe one should not be too concerned about the "rightness" or "wrongness" of any of these attributions, since there are many variances to be found in this regard, not only between mainstream Kabbalah and the Christian or Hermetic varieties, but even within the far too glibly considered "uniform doctrines" of "Jewish Kabbalah." I believe a knowledge of affiliated traditions, i.e. traditional astrology, etc., and a good dose of common sense, will soon clarify matters.
Besides this, there are the "magical" applications of the names of the four "rivers" to consider. Since these streams are believed to be channelling the primordial "River of Life," it is thought one could, as it were, "invoke" their respective powers by means of their names, hence the appellatives Pishon, Gichon, Chedekel and Frat are considered "Names of Power," and as such are used in Hebrew amulets, incantations, and magical healing practices. I thought I might share some with you.
Amongst the more simple magical applications there is one delineated in the "Sefer Rafael ha-Malach," which pertains to the alleviation of all kinds of fever. In this regard an apple is selected on which is written with ink in simple graphics the names of the four Edenic rivers. The procedure necessitates that the apple is first divided into four parts, then the four names are respectively written on the four portions, i.e. one name for each part. The afflicted individual is then fed the four sections of the apple in the exact order of the listed names, i.e. the part with the name Gichon on it is consumed first, thereafter the Pishon portion, followed by the Chedekel one, and concluding with the Frat section. We are told that God willing, the fever will abate and the sufferer healed.
(More to follow)

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