Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ephesian Letters and Temple of Diana

What are they? They're a collection of ancient words and no one knows what they actually mean:

“Askei Kataskei Eron Oreon Ior Mega Samnyer Baui Phobantia Semne.”

There are other words too, but this sentence is the one currently in fashion. It's taken from one of the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) called the "Charm of Hekate Ereshkigal." I don't know why Hekate's name is in there because all references, including imagery are of Ereshkigal. The two were certainly conflated, but Pesephone has more in common, it seems, with Ereshkigal than Hekate does. Mmmm syncretism... The translators of the PGM seem to believe this is a statement of initiation and translates to "I have been initiated, I have seen what lies in the dark (virgin, bitch, etc) and I have returned." Makes sense- this charm is about the Goddess of the Underworld and escaping punishment there- those who are initiated get some benefits, and this was supposed to be one of them, including the Mysteries of Eleusis and of Samothrace.

By the 4th centure BCE they were already noted as famous. In fact, "aski kataski" was slang for Magic. 

Many modern practitioners, including Sortia d'Este, have associated the Ephesian Letters with Hekate because of a reference to a dog here and Brimo there... However, the very charm which references Brimo (which was an epithet applied to many Goddesses including Diana) is called the Bear Charm. Artemis is associated with the bear, not Hekate. Brimo, as an epithet has also referred to Diana, Demeter and Persephone as well as the Furies.

The Temple of Diana/Artemis at Ephesus is where these magic words were carved. Where were they carved? On the statue of Diana!!! Not on a statue of Hekate. This is why they are the Ephesian letters, because they were carved on the Cult Image at Ephesus! No disrespect to the Lady of the Dark Moon, I just want to give Diana her due.

Here are some ancient references to the then already famous Letters. You'll find others here:

He walks around those getting married, speaking the Ephesian warding magics. 
–Menander, Kock Com. Att. Frag. III, 108.

Androkydes the Pythagorean, indeed, says that the so-called Ephesian letters, which were well-known among many, were of the order of symbols. And he said that Askion is darkness, for this has no shadow; and Kataskion is light, since it casts a shadow with its rays; and Lix is the earth, according to the ancient name; and Tetrax is the year, according to the seasons; and Damnameneus is the sun, the tamer; and Aisia is the true word. And truly the symbol signifies that the divine things have been set in order: darkness to light, the sun to the year, the earth to every kind of genesis of nature.
–Clement of Alexandria, Stromata V, 8, 43

So now the question is: Are you going to use a phrase when you don't know what it means?  Are you going to claim to be an initiate if you haven't been initiated (assuming that is the correct translation)? My answers tomorrow in part 2!

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