Every once in awhile you come across a spell in a old grimoire that is so shockingly similar to one you came up with yourself that you already did successfully that you get really excited and feel like you have to share it with someone…but then you remember you can’t just spill all your occult secrets out in the open and that the spells that you create are tailored to yourself and your spirits.
It’s incredibly validating when you come to something on your own and then find it in an ancient text later. There’s a logical explanation as to why that happens: two magicians separated by thousands of miles and hundreds of centuries can come up with the a similar spell because it works. The stories, archetypes, rituals, and formulas that appear the most across different cultures and times are the ones that are most effective. Remember what I said earlier about the Lindy Effect? The technologies and ideas that have existed in use the longest will continue to be utilized long after newer ones become obsolete. Rituals and stories that have survived through the millennia have done so because they work. Treat them like technology. You may not know the exact, scientific “how” or “why” of the inner workings behind the screen of a smartphone, but you know the many ways a smartphone is useful to you every day.
“Rituals and stories that have survived through the millennia have done so because they work. Treat them like technology. You may not know the exact, scientific ‘how’ or ‘why’ of the inner workings behind the screen of a smartphone, but you know the many ways a smartphone is useful to you every day.”
So since the exact dream spell that I use is very personal and I don’t feel like sharing it with the public is right; I’m going to do the next best thing and walk you through how to more practically use this incredibly similar dream oracle spell from the PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae, or Greek Magical Papyri) because the technology behind them is essentially the same.
For educational purposes, here is the spell as it is translated by Hans Dieter Betz in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation: Including the Demotic Spells (no copyright infringement intended):
“Request for a dream oracle from Besas: Take red ocher [and blood] of a white dove, likewise of a crow, also sap of the mulberry, juice of single-stemmed wormwood, cinnabar(1), and rainwater; / blend all together. Put aside and write with it and with black writing ink, and recite the formula to the lamp at evening. Take a black of Isis(2) and put it around your hand. When you are almost awake the god will come and speak to you, and he will not go away unless you wipe off your hand with spikenard or something of roses and smear the picture (a sigil which is missing from the PGM) with the black of Isis. But the strip of cloth put around your neck, so that he will not smite you. Formula to be spoken to the lamp: ‘I call upon you, headless god, the one who has his face upon his feet; you are the one who hurls lightning, who thunders, you are [the one whose] mouth continually pours on himself(3). You are the one who is over Necessity ARBATHIAŌ; you are the one lying on a coffin and having at the side of the head an elbow cushion of resin and asphalt, the one whom they call ANOUTH. Rise up, daimon(4). You are not a daimon, but the [blood/ of the two faIcons(5) / who chatter and watch before the head of Heaven. Rouse your nighttime form, in which you proclaim all things publicly. I conjure you, daimon, by your two names ANOUTH ANOUTH. You are the headless god, the one who has a head and his
face on his feet, dim-sighted Besas. We are not ignorant. You are the one whose mouth [continually] burns. I conjure [you by] your two names ANOUTH ANOUTH M . . . ORA PHĒSARA Ē . . . Come, lord, reveal to me concerning the NN matter, without deceit, without treachery, immediately, immediately; quickly, quickly.(6)’ ”
-PGM VII. 222-49
1. If you can’t find a red mulberry bush for the sap, make a paste from nutmeg and mugwort. Fresh wormwood is also hard to find, so you could make a tea from wormwood and steep it really strong and boil it down really thick. Or you could re-hydrate the wormwood and puree it into a watery goop. Or just use absinthe that you’ve soaked even more wormwood in till it’s a darker green. Cinnabar should probably be replaced with red brick powder or dragon’s blood resin that has been powdered. Maybe even both mixed together. I know for a fact that you can go online and buy dragon’s blood ink right now. (But where’s the fun in that?) You could also blend red henna with ochre (or replace the ochre with henna), since the goal is clearly to make a blood-colored ink.
Please, for the love of gods don’t actually use crow’s and dove’s blood, as that is illegal and unsafe to use as ink on skin. Betz says in the footnotes that the birds’ blood is actually optional. If you want the effects and resonance of dove and crow blood try this:
Instead, on a new moon prior to the dream ritual, put a crow feather, a dove feather, a ruby (preferably dove’s blood red), and obsidian in a jar of red calligraphy ink and red wine. Place the jar in the middle of one black, one red, and one white candle and say: “You are wine, you are not wine, but the blood of the two faIcons who chatter and watch before the head of Heaven whose names are ALGHURĀB HAIYŌWNĀH You are ink, you are not ink, but the blood of the messenger.” Leave in a window to charge for seven days, then store in an airtight container in a dark place.
(The “you are NN, you are not NN” formula is how you build resonance for sympathetic magic. Meaning, that is how you make one thing symbolically/etherically another thing. Like how in poppet magic the poppet is for all intents and purposes the person you are trying to affect magically.)
2. A black strip of fabric from the robes of a priestess of Isis. If you or someone you know works with Isis or Ishtar and has designated ritual attire use a strip of that. If not, you will have to do a separate ritual to consecrate some black fabric in the name of Isis. If you happen to be friends with a professional escort, erotic dancer, burlesque performer, or belly dancer who is also a magical practitioner, a piece of one of her costumes would work. Ask politely though, please don’t just go raid her closet, that’s just creepy. Honestly, you could probably make it work with any old consecrated black handkerchief. The “black of Isis” is just used to ward off evil spirits. Think of wiping off the sigil with it to banish the spirit like wrapping a mirror or some other scrying device with black cloth.
3. Obvious ouroboros symbolism is obvious. There is a possibility that it’s not referring to Besas himself, but maybe evoking a serpentine entity in the name of Bes. Bes was kind of an all-purpose go-to deity at the time. Or maybe Bes has a serpent form, or was syncretized with a serpent deity such as the Agathos Daemon. [Edit: Josh just pointed out to me another spot in the PGM where Bes and Apep are implied to be the same spirit.] Whatever the case may be, this “Headless god” is likely the same one invoked in the famous “Headless Rite” (called “Bornless” by Crowley because he was a shoddy translator who cherry picked meanings to suit what he thought words should mean).
4. Daimon in Greek just means spirit, not “evil demon”.
5. Falcon in this instance probably is just a generic term for bird.
6. “Immediately, immediately; quickly, quickly.” seems to be the Greek version of “So mote it be”. Many spells in the PGM end with these words.
Now, like I mentioned before, the sigil that you are supposed to write on the back of your left hand with your magic ink is missing from the manuscript because some idiot graverobber chopped it up into pieces to sell to multiple buyers so he could make more money off it. Thanks to that asshole there are still huge chunks of text missing.
This leaves you with a few possible options for sigil replacement:
A. Make your own dream oracle sigil.
B. Turn the barbarous words ARBATHIAŌ and ANOUTH into a sigil using the Spare Method or some similar way of turning letters into a sigil.
C. Use a pre-existing sigil form a different grimoire. Like the Draumstafur (dream stave) from the Galdrabok:
(I’ve used this before)
D. Some combination of all the above.
To be totally fair, you could go full chaos mage and skip the ink-potion construction and use a red or black permanent marker to draw the sigil on your left hand (I’ve done that before too). After all, it’s your focused magical intent that is key. However if you skip making wormwood and wine infused ink, then instead drink a mixture of wormwood tea and wine (mixed with a generous amount of honey because wormwood tastes like soap) while reading off the incantation.
I don’t think you are supposed to write the entire incantation on your hand, there’s not enough room, especially not with homemade ink. Not to mention it takes ochre and henna awhile to set. So What I would suggest is to write it on a nice piece of drawing paper. If you don’t have a calligraphy pen or a quill you can turn a coffee straw into a pen, just cut the tip diagonal-wise. Once the ink is dry and you have said the words to the lamp or candle shove it under your pillow before you go to sleep.
As for the stuff in all caps, called “barbarous words” (barbarous just means foreign in Greek), I’m not gonna tell you how to say them because: A) I don’t exactly know, and B) half of them are missing in this spell, and C) if you really want to learn them, that’s an entire subject onto itself and I’m sure there is some Thelemite or Ceremonial magic blog that will walk you through it.
Even though the spell itself is incomplete, the technology behind it is solid. If you’re creative you can choose some god names and barbarous words to throw in there. Considering how many of the barbarous words in the PGM are words from various Semitic languages poorly transliterated into Greek and shoved together in a grammatically senseless fashion, you could probably just pick some relevant words/god names in Hebrew and Arabic to fill in the missing spaces and retain the spell’s effectiveness.
A couple warnings from experience: 1) The dreams you have may very likely be emotionally jarring, but incredibly useful and enlightening. 2) The sigil on your hand may end up on your face or some other part of you body while you sleep. Be sure to check the mirror when you wake up.
You may be wondering what elements does the PGM spell have in common with my own so maybe you can write your own from scratch. Here are some of the key elements:
- Wormwood and other mild hallucinogens
- Calling upon a serpentine entity
- Red and/or black ink with organic ingredients
- Use of fabric from ritual attire dedicated to an initiatrix goddess
- Use of crow parts
- Sleeping with the dream sigil on your left hand
- Saying the incantation over a lamp or candle
That’s all I can say without going into too much detail. Now, I know some of you are like “Banshee, the reason this gives you intense dreams is all the fucking hallucinogens you are putting on your skin.” While I’m sure the herbs help, I can tell you these dream spells I have been doing for almost a year now have yielded life-changing results for me. And I only used wormwood and such in about 20% of them. Besides, if all it took was drugs every hippie and stoner would be practicing sorcery. (Although there are a fair amount who do.) Like I said, the most important element in a ritual in your intent.
Now go out and have some mind-blowing magical dreams.