Saturday, October 5, 2013

All is not what it seems: A Mindless approach to Hebrew Amulets

I have been asked to comment on a talisman being sold online, the intention of which is to bring "good luck" and which has been written by an individual listed as a "great authority" on such objects. On perusing the amulet, I noticed that the item is made up of a mishmash of material, apparently thrown together sort of nilly-willy, or perhaps the various magical seals employed in the construct, were chosen to impress the recipient with their ornateness. As it is, the item comprised seals and symbols which are not normally traditionally employed conjointly, their fundamental intentions being quite different. In this regard consider the following two sets of symbols appearing, amongst others, on one amulet. Here is the first:

These Divine Names and accompanying seals are employed in instances necessitating some or other request having to be presented to a higher authority, i.e. a governmental administrator, judiciary, or another in high office who might impact ones life benevolently. In this instance the original instruction requires one to write the listed five tri-letter Names and accompanying magical seals on parchment made from the skin of an aborted animal. I am aware that this Kamea was employed to great effect with the said Divine Names and seals written on plain good parchment, hence I suggest you spare yourself the gory task of having to skin an aborted animal. Voodooistic actions such as these might have impressed mediaeval mindsets, but more recent experience clearly indicated the task at hand to be well executed with great effect by means of the many good parchments available in our day.

As said, the instruction is to write the Divine Names and seals on the parchment, which is held in your hand or carried in your belt during the time when you have to face the higher authority with a personal request. However, since this action requires great purity to ensure a beneficial outcome, it is necessary to fast and to perform prayer and ritual submersion in a sacred bath (Mikvah). Regarding the latter activity, we are informed that if such is not at your disposal, that you must be careful to abstain from any sexual activity for around two days prior to seeking a specific service from an individual in high office.

Regarding the five tri-letter combinations listed with the magic seals, these were derived from an alternative presentation of the "Name of Seventy-Two Names." It might come as a surprise to learn that the “Name of Seventy-two Names” is also employed in a variant format in Jewish magic. In this regard the arrangements of the letters of the three verses comprising this Divine Name are in the exact same order, i.e. as written from right to left, the result being as follows:

As indicated, these combinations are presented with vowels, since some magical applications require these in certain instances. In this regard, the vowels are directly related to their order of appearance as aligned with the letters comprising the three biblical verses from whence the “Shem Vayisa Vayet” was derived. We are told that both the standard and variant seventy-two tri-letter units can be employed for exactly the same talismanic purposes, which in the current instance require the tri-letter units to be arranged into thirteen sets comprised of five units each, and one set of seven units.

As it is, such employment of the “Name of Seventy-two Names” necessitates precise knowledge regarding the exact days when these Kameot should be composed. In this regard the first amulet is written on the third day of any Hebrew month; the second is written on the seventh day of the month; the third on the tenth day of the month; the fourth on the twentieth of the month; the fifth on the twenty-third of the month; and all of the remaining Kameot are written on the twenty-ninth day of the month.

The actual mental/emotional stance of the one composing these Kameot plays a primary role in the efficacy of each amulet. Hence the instruction to acquire a most harmonious mindset prior to commencing the creation of a Kamea, and, whilst the Divine Names are being written, to recite the component Divine Names in a pleasant voice. In fact, we are told the power of these amulets necessitates cleanliness of body, great mental and emotional purity, devotion, fasting, as well as abstinence from any sexual activities for at least three days prior to commencement of these magical procedures.

Be that as it may, according to the individual who queried me on the validity and efficacy of the earlier mentioned, as it were, "syncretic amulet," there were no accompanying instructions of any kind regarding any fasting, the performance of prayer and visiting a Mikvah, or abstaining from any sexual activity for two days prior to using the amulet. Whilst such purification activities are required in the case of the mentioned magical seals, this is not applicable in terms of some of the other seals and symbols displayed in the amulet in question. In this regard, consider the following magical seals which were added to the mentioned magical hotch-potch:

It would seem the two Hebrew terms listed top right, i.e. (“he”) and (“she") are respectively referring to the magical seals directly below and to the left of the writing. I was told these indicate, as it were, the “male” and “female” expressions of the same magical glyph. The phrase at the bottom of the amulet reads . This could be translated “a gift from S’fifi’el, Shumi’el splattered.”

Now, this portion of the amulet is basically recommended to individuals desiring an increase in personal prominence. So if anyone wishes to increase his or her social status, etc., they could construct an amulet by tracing these specific magical seals, and writing the words and names on a piece of deerskin parchment. Regarding the latter, which may be hard to acquire today, I have noted that a clean sheet of high quality paper will do nicely. The amulet is then worn on the person of the individual requiring this support, and, we are informed, the said individual will be perceived by all and sundry with great love and affection.

We are further told that if anyone should desire to grow and succeed in all his or her endeavours, that individual should draw the seals and write the names of this amulet on the lines of the palm of his or her hand. In this instance the procedure is concluded by uttering the following incantation:

Y’hi ratzon milfanecha YHVH Elohai v’Elohei avotai Elohei ha-tzva’ot b’koach eilu ha-shemot v’ha-chotamot sh’tatzlichuni b’chol mah she’ertzeh
May it be your will YHVH my God, and God of my fathers, God of the Hosts, in the power deriving from the names and the seals for me to have success in all that I want to.

Having carefully inspected the amulet in question, it is clear the variety of Divine and Angelic Names, including magical seals, merged in such a willy-nilly manner, are respectively applied for a number of divergent purposes, and hence they should not be intermingled in a single amulet. Of course, it is perfectly clear that there are “soferim” (scribes) who are not only keen to devote themselves to writing and selling amulets, but are all too eager to impact the minds of potential clients with impressive seals and signs. It would seem they think this approach would generate the best possible prices for their fanciful talismanic constructs, and they appear to be wholly indifferent to the fundamental influences of the active “psycho-spiritual potencies” triggered and channelled by the amulets in question. It is also worth noting that much of those amalgamated material was derived directly from the “Shorshei ha-Shemot.” As it is, Rabbi Moses Zacutto, the author of this seminal text on Jewish Magic, delineated in the greatest detail the construction and employment of each of its listed amulets, hence there is nothing to be said in mitigation of a mindless approach to Hebrew amulets!


Virgil said...

Haha, this is actually pretty funny. I've always known that most amulets/talismans of this nature are garbage. Kabbalistic diagrams do have the potential to look impressive and intimidating regardless of whether or not they make any sense. This is the first time I've ever seen someone actually take such an amulet and examine it in detail to show everything that's wrong with it though.

Jacobus G. Swart said...

Whilst I object to Hebrew amulets being pandered in such a jumbled manner, I have not the slightest doubt as far as their efficacy is concerned when they are employed in ways appropriate to their fundamental purpose. It is this which I am "championing" on this blog, and which I delineated in as detailed a manner as possible in my forthcoming "Book of Seals and Amulets."

Virgil said...

Good point. The physical appearance of the amulet is not the most important thing. I would assume however, that most people who know how to use and amulet or talisman properly would make their own as opposed to buying one. Or at least check the source of the amulet in question. Maybe that's just me though.

Jacobus G. Swart said...

The fundamental understanding as far as Hebrew amulets are concerned is "the more precise the construct.....the better." In other words, all seals, signs and words employed in the construct must be harmoniously related for the item to function in accordance with the basic intention behind its composition. Otherwise it is believed that mismatched combinations of Divine Names, "Magical Seals," and so forth, i.e. those aspects which are not only out of sync with the fundamental intention of the amulet on which they feature, but are in fact not harmoniously related together, could have a deleterious impact on the flow of “subtle forces” understood to be "channelled" by the amulet.

In this regard, I am reminded of the use of Hebrew Divine Names in magical incantations. It would seem that many modern practitioners of "Ceremonial Magic" would simply take the pronouncements handed down to them by some or other proclaimed expert (self or otherwise), as absolute fact, without checking the verity regarding a Divine Name, or a set of Divine and/or Angelic Names for that matter. They assume that because such-and-such wrote a book 200 years ago, which was perhaps "updated" by so-and-so in our day, that this is an authentic passing down of "traditional knowledge." Yet, the instant one checks the basic principles pertaining to the use of Divine Names in their so-called "traditional systems," i.e. primary connectedness to "subtle forces," it turns out that in many instances Divine Names are used inappropriately. Hence my reason for writing the "Shadow Tree Series" of texts on Jewish Magic, in which Divine Names are addressed in as clear and unambiguous a manner as I am able to muster. Furthermore, I am also ensuring that these texts comprise material drawn from primary Hebrew magical sources, i.e. Shoshan Yesod Olam, Sefer Raziel, Toldot Adam, Mifalot Elokim, Shorshei ha-Shemot, and a veritable host of primary Jewish Magical texts in which Divine Names, Magical Seals, Kameot, etc., are addressed with absolute clarity and preferably in great detail.

Of course, until fairly recently very little of these primary sources were readily available to the average Hebrew reader, and even less than that available to an English readership. Today, with much of these sources available both in hard copy and digital formats, there is no reason why anyone seriously interested in this topic should not have access to the mentioned primary sources. In this regard, I am certainly doing my damnedest to make this come true to some degree in the few remaining years of my current life.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jacobus,

Thank you for this article and it is lovely to have you back providing very informative and educational blog posts. Can you please share where to find the instructions on creating kameot using the 72 tri-letter name? In your blog you mentioned specific days of the week to write the kamea, etc and I would like to read up on this further. Thanks and be well,


Jacobus G. Swart said...

My Dear Simon, I posted a response and it would seem to have disappeared! Be that as it may, I mentioned that my main source for material on the uses of the "Name of Seventy-two Names" in Hebrew Amulets is the Shorshei ha-Shemot by Moses Zacutto. The details you require are discussed from page 205 to 209 in the two volume edition of this text. If you should have the one volume version, check section "Vav" from subsection 12 to 14.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jacobus,

Thanks for the reference information. I really should invest in the 2-volume set. You have inspired me with your recent blog posts to create some amulets for my own use. Yours,