In this article I will analyze, line-by-line, Eliphas Levi’s Prayer of the Gnomes. It wont’ be an exhaustive an analysis. It will focus on those myths and pieces of lore that have a relationship with the world of Crafts.
So the prayer is a pretext. In a future article, I will deal with this prayer in a devotional and ritual context, and how to employ this for those who practice magic.
O Invisible King, you who took the Earth for foundation and who dug its abysses to fill them with your Almighty Power.
The foundation is the third part of the hermetic division of the world. In Greek myth is the domain of Hades/Plouton, later associated with Ploûtos, the lord of Riches.
The invisibility of the king point to Hades’ Helmet, who granted this power, and to the invisibility of the underworld. All the riches spring up from the earth, from the mystery realm of the unknown, subterranean womb of the mother. Plato sums it up in Cratylus, section 403a:
Sokrates: As for Pluto, he was so named as the giver of wealth, because wealth comes up from below out of the earth. And Hades—I fancy most people think that this is a name of the Invisible, so they are afraid and call him Pluto. […]he who also bestows such great blessings upon us who are on earth; such abundance surrounds him there below, and for this reason he is called Pluto.
In our case, the realm of the underworld is also related to Hephaestus. In time many chtonic elements raised to ouranian dignities. For the Lame God it was the opposite. In the Iliad, his forge was upon Olympus and in the Odyssey we already see a shift. In Odyssey’s eight book we learn of the affairs between Aphrodite and Ares. The singer Demodocus tells that Hephaestus is often on his sacred island. Lemnos is inhabited by his rescuers and assistants, the Sintians, mysterious people of Pelasgian origin, sometimes addressed as Tyrrhenoi.
In later sources it’s forge is beneath the earth, in caves and volcanoes. He’s also an earth-shaker, though not having an epithet, due to his links with volcanic eruptions. For example, when Zeus defeat Typhaeus, he bury him under the Aetna, setting Hephaestus to guard him. So he establish his forge in the volcano, constantly beating the vanquished enemy. He strikes on the anvil placed upon him, thus causing quakes and eruptions.
Note that Levi used the verb “to dig”, which brings us in the semantic area of Work. It’s worth to mention that labor and tools define the field of interests of Craftsmen Gods.
Hephaestus is “sooty” and work on the anvil. Khnum make mankind on the pottery wheel. Adonai labored so hard for 7 days that he had to rest. (Note: I adhere to the theory that the God of Abraham partially sparks from a Canaanite deity of metallurgy. I’ll post on this in the future).
Levi names the Four Kings of the Elementals, though they are a bit perplexing. They are basically those of creatures of the elements. Ghob, king of Earth, is a name for Goblins, gnome-like entities of European folklore; Nicksa, king of Water, represent the Nicksas, or Nixes, which are a type of water nymphs; Djin, king of Fire, is the name of the djinns, or genies, of Arab origins; Paralda is still unknown but probably follows the same criteria.
So can we expand a bit on Ghob? Or shall we let it be a hollow name? Let’s say a few words.
The word “Ghob/Gob” could refer to lots of entities of European folklore. Many of them have related etymologies. The french Goblin, the german Kobold, the dutch Kabouter, the english Hob, the welsh Coblynau. There are different sub-categories for these spirits. All of them have a subterranean version who deals with mining and metals, following the lines of the Paracelsian gnomes. Let me add some names of Kings of these creatures. Note that everyone have the power of invisibility. So a viable option for our Invisible King could also be an hypothetical King of the Fairies:
- King Laurin: monarch of a race of dwarfs, his legend is widespread all along the Alps. He has a cloak that make him invisible. He also has a belt that gives him the strength of twelve people. However, invisibility is typical of all the fairies so not too peculiar.
- King Goldemar: Invisible king of the kobolds or dwarfs who lived in Hardenstein Castle. People often brought him offering. When someone tried to see him, he left the castle and all the luck vanished with him.
- Alberich: a dwarf that make his appearance in German middle age legends. He appears also in the Thidreksaga under the name Alfrikr, where is also a smith. It is equivalent to the french name Auberon (english Oberon). Not surprisingly, his name means “Ruler of elves”. He has the strength of 12 men. No mention of a belt. He’s defeated by Sigurd with a cap of invisibility, even if in certain stories he can become invisible too.
Another road of inquiry for this hypothetical king of the gnomes brings us to the smith god of Gaulish origin. It is Gobannus, also spelled Cobannos, and his neighbors the Irish Goibniu/Gobán Saor and the welsh Gofannon.
The root of these names are very similar to those of the creatures and the one reported by Levi.
He was christian and probably all these references weren’t on his mind. Still, this prayer is basically a pretext to expand specific lore. It enable us to understand the archetype of the Divine Artificer through the entities and myths that embody this concept. Not to operate a reduction that collapse all the difference in a badly made syncretism. On the contrary, to expand, through contact and similarity, our understanding of them.
There is a red thread that unites the Middle East to North Europe. Archaeological findings links Cobannos to Mars and Vulcan and many folklorists propose that these earthly spirits mentioned above may derive from the ancient Greek mythological figure of the Kobaloi (note Kob-old, Gob-lin, Kab-outer,Cob-lynau, Hob), mischievous spirits companions of Dyonisus. This root also put on the table the enigmatic Kabeiroi, phallic dwarfs with metallurgical skills.
When pursuing and researching this connection, I do it with an historical background in mind. During the Bronze Age, Europe connected to Asia through two trade routes, following Amber and Tin. The latter especially interests us. Ore requires work on site. This forces them to bring skilled labor to the mining sites and train the locals.
Imagining ancient metallurgists, we have to keep in mind that their high technical skills gave them a certain status and culture, and probably, as we see in Athens where blacksmith had their own festivals, they also had their own beliefs, brought with them in their travels. That’s why we find common themes in all these smith gods, like the lameness of Hephaestus and Weyland or the escape through flight shared by him and Dedalus to name but a few.
You whose name shakes the vaults of the World, you who make the seven metals to flow through the veins of the stone, King of the Seven Lights!
The reference to a name that makes the world tremble could be either that of Hades, whose name people feared to speak, or to the unutterable name of God. The vaults of the world are part of the structure that prevents the world from collapsing. This reminds us of the role of Uranus in Hesiod’s Theogony, which personifies the dome of the sky, brazen and fiery with stars.
When the vaults collapse, the mystical union of Uranus and Gaea occurs. The imagery of these lines is of a clear sexual nature: the molten metal, like the male semen, flows between the cracks of the Earth, whose surface is a body, complete with veins. The fall of the sky is a myth probably based on meteorites and related precisely to the figure of Uranus. As already mentioned, it is the bronze dome of the sky, therefore composed of metal. We also find him under the name of Akmon (“Anvil”) or Akmonides (“Son of the anvil”).
We must read this translation in a broader sense, as a note in Hesychius gives us the meaning of “pestle” instead. Therefore generalizing, it denotes something that strikes a surface from above. The falling”mass” from heaven, be it an anvil or a pestle of brass or iron, evokes the fall of Hephaestus. According to one version of the myth, this occurred when he tried to free Hera from the chains of Zeus, who had bound her by hanging anvils at her feet.
Small side note: in Latin “celum” is the chisel, and “caelum” is the sky. The word siderurgy derives from the Greek “sideros”, iron, a term that in Latin, as”sidus, sideris” can mean star, in the plural sky and also ornament, splendor, probably drawing from the imagery of incandescent metal.
The symbolic connections between seven metals and seven lights probably date back to the Babylonian era, but certainly at least to the Hellenistic period, where the number seven stands among others as a structural part of the cosmos: the seven planets or luminaries (hence lights) make up the kingdom in between and the seven metals are their reflections in the world below.
The alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis wrote of seven steps of descending and eight of ascension. In the first seven steps, the metal is tortured, which is a metaphor for the violent operations of heat and force required to purify the ore of its slag. Then in the next seven ascending steps, we have the refinement of the metal, whose course end in the final step, representation of the Ogdoad and the conquest of perfection and transcendence.
Again in the Cratylus, Hephaestus is “the noble master of light”, a suggestion found also in the Orphic Hymn of Hephaestus (translation A. Athanassakis):
“[…] unresting fire, radiant, shining one, the daimon who illuminates mortals, bearer of light, […] the blameless element,
all eating, all taming, all consuming, highest one: the sky, the stars, and the moon, and the undefiled light: for all these things show the limbs of Hephaistos to mortals.”
Rewarder of subterranean Workers! Lead us into the desirable Air and into the realm of splendour.
Another hypothetical petition to Ploûtos, god of riches and miners, with a double intent: to let the miner find its reward, and to help for safety, be it physical safety or the salvation of the soul. Note that mining was (and is) a dangerous job. To cite Statius:
“The miner returns all pale at the sight of Dis [Haides] and yellow as the gold he has unearthed.”
To a literal reading, I’ll juxtapose an allegorical one. The miner is the one who descend into the depths in search of Gold. A metaphor of the hermetic quest for perfection. We look inside us, and then through intensive work, we are able to find the ore and divide it’s slag from its metal parts. So the realm of splendor can be both the sky as the “higher realms” but also the Upper Ether, home of Hephaestus as god of forms, as the one who forge the perfect form and refine metal through labor.
I can’t but mention the motto V.I.T.R.I.O.L:
Visita interiora terrae, rectificando invenies occultum lapidem
(Visit the insides of Earth, by purifying you will find the hidden stone).
We, as the subterranean workers, start a journey to know the self and the world. So we explore the outer world, and bring the ores inside us, refine them in our inner furnace, and this refinement helps us take better roads. This in turn makes us find better metals, and so on, through the road to completion.
Of course there are mythical miners: in Germanic folklore and mythology they explore the bowels of the earth looking for precious metals to do their splendid work of craftsmanship. They usually live under stone cairns, in tunnels that lead to the underworld, making them guardians of the threshold, and dwellers of the liminal space between life and death
Other mythical figures I’ll briefly present for future essay are the Idaian Dactyls. Practitioners of ancient Goeteia, City founders, Teachers of Mysteries, Masters of Fire and Metal, Inventors, and Priests of the Mother. The Dactyls are her Attendants: lovers, sons, servants and opponents.
They dive deep into the Earth, like phalli entering the ancestral womb, bringing out the fruits of their labor, of this mystical union made of sweat, toil and pain, of this love conjoined into the subterranean realm of darkness and death.
At the same time they are the forces that keep nature from reclaiming the space we wrenched from her for our cities and fields, committing a necessary sin, enacting a cosmic drama and tension between nature and culture, sparking the need-fire that bloomed the seeds of civilization.
We watch and labor untiringly, we seek and we hope, by the twelve stones of the Holy City
The first element that strikes here is about these “Twelve stones”. It’s a reference to Apocalypse of John 21, where twelve stones with the name of the Apostles supports the Celestial Jerusalem. Later, in the chapter, there are mentions of three doors in every cardinal direction, which again (3×4) is a total of twelve. This is a double reference. To the four cardinal directions, and the the realm of the Zodiac. From the 12 signs we can divide the four elements, composed each of 3 signs (Cardinal, Fixed, Mobile).
Another point of speculation comes from platonic thinking. Plato equates the 5 platonic solid to the 4 elements plus an extra one:
Dodecahedron: The Universe, the One, the All
So we have the holy city supported by 12 stones and various elements based upon the same number, while it’s shape being that of a cube. This is consistent with the idea of the Celestial Jerusalem, being the union of Earth (Cube) and God (Dodecahedron).
In this, the craftsman-initiate, as both crafter and builder, can approach the idea of the Celestial Jerusalem as the goal of perfection: with his work, he contribute to make the World more similar to the Holy City, thus making his part in the eternal quest for perfection.
By the buried Talismans
The only direct reference I managed to find is in “Vathek”, a novel by William Beckford from the end of the XVIII century. This novel has an occult background set in arabic and islamic lore, involving djinns, Iblis, Solomon. These are some quotes from the novel:
“Would’st thou devote thyself to me? adore then the terrestrial influences, and abjure Mahomet. On these conditions I will bring thee to the palace of subterranean fire: there shalt thou behold, in immense depositories, the treasures which the stars have promised thee, and which will be conferred by those intelligences whom thou shalt thus render propitious. It was from thence I brought my sabres; and it is there that Soliman Ben Daoud reposes, surrounded by the talismans that control the World.”
“Forget me not then, but the moment thou art in possession of the talismans which are to open to thee the mineral kingdoms, and the centre of the earth itself, fail not to dispatch some trusty genius to take me and my cabinet, for the oil of the serpents I have pinched to death will be a pretty present to the Giaour, who cannot but be charmed with such dainties.”
“Creatures of clay, I receive you into mine empire. Ye are numbered amongst my adorers. Enjoy whatever this palace affords—the treasures of the preadamite sultans, their bickering sabres, and those talismans that compel the Dives to open the subterranean expanses of the mountain of Kaf, which communicate with these.”
“avail thyself of the talismans, which will break asunder all these gates of bronze, and not only render thee master of the treasures contained within them, but also of the spirits by which they are guarded.”
“Carathis, however, eagerly entered the dome of Soliman, and, without regarding in the least the groans of the Prophet, undauntedly removed the covers of the vases, and violently seized on the talismans. Then, with a voice more loud than had hitherto been heard in these mansions, she compelled the Dives to disclose to her the most secret treasures, the most profound stores, which the Afrit himself had not seen. She passed by rapid descents known only to Eblis and his most favored Potentates, and thus penetrated the very entrails of the earth, where breathes the Sansar, or icy wind of death.”
By observing the pieces of the novel I posted there are clear solomonic themes, and in his notes Beckford confirms it:
“The most famous talismans of the Levant, and who could even balance the weapons and magic of gods or giants, were the mohur Solismani, the seal or ring of Suleiman-Jared, fourth monarch of the world after Adam. They gave their owners complete power, not only over the elements, but also over demons and all created beings. (Richardson et Herbelot.)”
Then it’s clear how in the novel the Buried Talismans represents the lost jewels of power owned by King Solomon. Sadly, I can’t confirm if this is based on some legends, or either if Levi knew about this book since I couldn’t find any explicit mention. We can still expand this piece of lore adding a few points.
Certainly, the idea of a jewel that wield the power “To rule them all” (cit.) is common to many cultures, often as symbol of a royalty that mimic the power of the heavenly sovereign. Thus, in the Iliad, the scepter of Agamemnon is a gift by Zeus, from king to king, the one above reflecting the one below.
But when in myth we find the rhetoric of the magical item, we usually see it from the point of view of the one who receive the item, which often is a king, a hero, a warrior, etc.
And what about the craftsman? Most of the craftsmen in myths have already accomplished their path and are capable of making their masterpiece, so we can rarely glimpse the efforts, the travels and adventures that a craftsman has done to reach his status of Master. Can’t go to deep on this, but I have planned to write about the initiatory journey of craftsmen (My “to write” list becomes longer and longer, damn!).
For now, let’s just point that the Seal/Ring of Solomon is a gift from the emissary of God. Rarely the emissary is also the one who makes the item. Often it comes from Craftsmen Gods. So maybe it is a work of the Highest, made in his forge, which could be the same Volcanic Throne he sits upon.
Generically, we may consider a talisman as a precious, magical item. This simple reading brings us to the theme of the Treasure Hunt, often found through the grimoires tradition and also touched by the novel.
Of course, we can think of the treasure in a literal way, gold being the most coveted award, and present in all kinds of folk tales and legends. Still, we can add more layers of meaning.
Talisman, as a word denoting precious and sacred items, has close ties to metals. So the buried talismans are in a sense the buried holy metals. The initiate-miner-worker aspire to unearth, refine and use them properly, bringing us again to the VITRIOL. The initiate go down the earth like it being his temple, in this place adorned with sacred items (=talismans), thus furthering the Great Work.
Another reading, perhaps even more daring, could be to interpret talisman as a cryptic reference. Talisman derives ultimately from the Greek “Telesma”, which means “religious rite, ritual”. Then the buried talismans are the hidden and lost rites, the Mysteries that through initiations bring us closer to Aletheia, to the disclosable truth. This invites us to search the knowledge buried into the depth of Earth, allegorically representing both the self and the world. To unearth the hidden gold that we have inside ourselves, and to search for the gold that lie around the world, waiting for Experience to go and claim it.
by the Lodestone Axis that passes through the centre of the world.
Probably the “clou d’aimant“, translated literally as magnetic nail, is a reference to the axis of the earth. A concept present in the history of science since the Hellenistic period. Investigation of magnetism as a physical phenomena began systematically by William Gilbert (1540-1603) and continued throughout to Levi’s present. Also in 1851 Léon Foucault managed to scientifically demonstrate Earth rotation, a feat tried since the times of Galileo Galilei with no avail. Since this happened a few years before the publication of “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” (1854-1856), I wonder if it somehow influenced Levi.
This is also the Axis Mundi, the pillar that in many cultures supports and connects the higher and lower worlds in different forms: a tree, a ladder, a column, allowing communication and travel between them. Often the Pole Star is the end point of this axis that passes through the Earth and we find mention of this in PGM VII 686-702 (Papyri Grecae Magicae).
“Bear, Bear, you who rule the heaven, the stars, and the whole world; you who make the axis turn and control the whole cosmic system by force and compulsion”
The Pole star is the immovable point of the sky, connecting to earth with an imaginary line. This line is the axis which acts like a pivot, with the sky and the constellations revolving around it like a carousel.
To explain all the meanings of the Cosmic Axis would take me a whole book. I’ll just mention the parts relevant to this context. There is indeed a sexual symbolism in the idea of the axis and the earth, where the former is the male phallic agent and the earth is the receiving end. As we have seen, metallurgy has a lot of analogies in common with sex and birth.
Earth is the womb of metals. These, like fetuses, grows and change in the depth of the matrix, till they reach their final, mature state: that of Gold. Other metals are unripe phases of this process of metamorphosis.
The miner go deep into the openings of Earth, in the dark wombs that he digs out of the Mother, penetrating and uniting with her. The Metals are the fruit of his labor. Like a midwife, he brings the metals out of her.
Then, the alchemist can refine them. In accord with nature he helps the metals achieve their perfections, killing them and giving them a second perfect life.
In antiquity, lodestone was deemed a magical stone, filled with an invisible force responsible for attracting iron.
Also called Herakles Stone due to this “strength” of attraction. Still, this is not the Herakles we know of. This is the so-called Herakles Dactylos, one of the few mentioned dactyls to have more than a simple scrap of information, and that can shed light on this category of daimones. For now, suffice to say that this stone was sacred to him, and had many uses: protection, helping childbirth, cure of snake bites.
Let me add a final remark: if anyone of you readers will go down this “metal path”, or have metal as one of his focus archetype, or if metal has a central part in his beliefs, rest assured that magnetism will be part of it, so take notes of this.
O Lord, O Lord, O Lord! Have mercy on those who suffer, expand our hearts, free and lift our minds, elevate our being.
While this plea may seems like a simple general request of help, salvation and betterment, it hides an important piece to understand all the prayer. This one is a Prayer of the gnomes, not to the gnomes. So we have to imagine that the subject who chant this is not a human being, but one of the Elemental beings of Earth. But why the gnome is suffering? This brings us to the Paracelsian conception of these beings.
In his Liber de Nymphis, Paracelsus affirms that elemental being are miserable because they don’t have, like us, an immortal soul. So when they die, their destiny is nothingness, unless, as underlined by Le Comte de Gabalis by Henri de Montfaucon de Villars, they marry an human being. This mystical union allows the elemental to reach god and the eternal union with him. This is just a bad synthesis of the matter, which needs a lot of reading and reflection. I suggest those interested in this to read the books I mentioned because they hid in plain sight many cornerstones of wisdom and insight.
The Gnomes, of all the elementals, are the ones with the with the hardest life. They have the shortest lifespan, and are the most pressed by the Devil, here acting as obstacle, menace and tempter in their pursue of immortality. Few of them find the courage to try this risky path, so we imagine here the praying gnome turning to God begging him for help to reach this worthy goal. The gnome here is asking that his heart may be filled with love and courage, that his mind can be free of the devil’s whispers and lifted from its temptation, and then, finally, for the whole being to be elevated among the choirs of immortals.
O Stasis and Motion! Oh day shrouded with night! O darkness veiled by light!
Again, no clear reference, so I’ll make an hypotesis. Here we address the Lord as the absolute. By addressing him through both extremes of a term, we describe how he’s the All, and by being both terms at once, he’s beyond duality, thus being the One.
There’s also reference to part of the experience of the Subterranean Worker: how he work between two dimensions, the realm above and the one below, where one is light and one is dark, when one is stable and the other is under the risk of quakes and collapses, where one is profane, and the other is sacred.
O Master who never detain the wages of your Workers!
The role of Master in craft guilds involved these (and other) responsibilities. Teaching the trade and dealing with the payment of wages. In this sentence, God is equated with this role, as he creates nature, thus teaching by an example that everyone tries to imitate. Furthermore, he is the one who dispenses gifts to those who are faithful to him, to those who obey his law, thus emulating the concept of the Salary. Those who work well (and therefore according to the rules) are rewarded.
A few years before the publication of Levi’s book, the writer and poet Gerard De Nerval wrote an interesting novel, full of references to the mythology of the artisan world, with particular attention to the field of masonry. The book, known in French under the title of “Balkis et Salomon: histoire de la reine du matin et du prince des génies”, romances the biblical narration of the construction of the Temple of Solomon, expanding the figure dear to the Freemasonry of the architect and master Hiram Abiff, here disguised under the name of Adoniram.
I’d like to add some personal reflections. The word Demiurge derives from dēmos “common people” and ergon “opus, work”. It originally indicated a craftsman, as we can see in the Iliad. The God of Old Testament is a Demiurge. His main feat is neither killing primordial gods nor taking a throne: it is the making of the universe from the primeval water. His main feat is an act of Creation, so pervasive that it tire him out. He is a god who works. If you check ancient pantheons, most, if not all gods who engage themselves in labor, have often ties to creation, cosmogony or crafts.
If I’m God’s worker, am I operating theurgy (from theos “god” + ergon “opus, work”)? What does it mean to be God’s worker? To me, it means mirroring the first act of demiurgy, made of hard labor and design that brought the universe into existence. To be a craftsman is to strive to be like God in the Microcosm, to reach inner and outer perfection. And to be conscious of this, to practice craft with hands, heart, mind and spirit is an Initiation, into the Path walked by the Demiurge. One of the most peculiar art practiced by the theurgists was that of telestiké, the art of making magical statues that can host the spirit of God. This art, termed “God-making” was in use also among the Egyptians, and included complex rituals performed by special craftsmen-priests.
The underlying meaning is that in order to host a divinity you have to elevate matter to a level worthy of the purity and perfection of the gods. In the neo-Platonists schools this involved knowing the sympathy through which matters resonate with the celestial dimension, so the so called Correspondences of magic, and the holy names and characters that could operate this mystical transmutation of matter, turning a simple statue into a miniature house for the god.
In the Egyptian temples this happens through alchemy. With this sacred art priests were able to change the color of metals, thus bringing the divine qualities that the color represented into the statue. And these had probably different colours, and different metals, making them a spectacle to behold, suitable for the awe and marvel that being in front of a god should instill.
Pursuing a craft with this and even greater awareness, we place ourselves as parts of an invisible chain that dates back to the first artisans who shaped the world. Their work still resonates around us and we can add our share to the legacy for future generations.
My hope is that every artisan, and not only, who reads this text can remember that Hephaestus was married to Grace (Charis), Beauty (Aphrodite) and Splendor (Aglaia). And this is the duty and service of every craftsman. It doesn’t matter if beauty betrays us with blood, war, heroism and sex; behind warriors, kings and priests, it was the work of the artisans that allowed their glory to shine down to our days.
I’d like also to mention a passage from the Gospel of James, (2:14-26). I’m quoting only the first sentence, but i suggest to read all the paragraph, linked above.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
This passage is an invitation to accompany faith with actions, to turn it into something physical, concrete. And the prayer we’re analyzing all speak of work. This is what the benedictines said: Ora et Labora, Pray and Work.
This is a way to enter a relationship with God, to be theurgist of God, pursuer of His work, so much to be worthy of a wage. This work, as already outlined, stands up on two pillars: that of Spirit, and that of the Hands.
Because God is generous, but only with those worthy of his wage, who follow the virtues and the alchemical path to perfection for both the Self and the World.
O Silvery Whiteness! O Golden Splendor!
Despite being the lord of the seven lights, in folk traditions God is simply the ruler of the Sun and Moon. Them being the only visible sources of light, which in turn is the most refined source of fire. They are also the two polar principle of male and female, as seen on the Rebis of alchemy. Silver and white were the colors traditionally associated with the moon, and Gold was the color of the Sun.
O Crown of Living and Melodious Diamonds!
This resonate Isaiah 28:5
“In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown, and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people.”
The reference to melody is probably a metaphor that equates the perfection of a diamond to god’s creation. The universe in esoteric representation is indeed a geometry, being made up of spheres and levels, with Angels singing constantly of God’s glory. Every diamonds (angel) of the crown is a perfect piece in God’s perfect structure, which is perfectly harmonic and thus melodious. Like gears of a perfect machine, every part move, rotate, spin in perfect tune with the will of God.
This could also possibly refer to the northern Corona Borealis constellation. It is the crown that Hephaestus makes and gives to Ariadne as a gift for her wedding with Dionysus. The text doesn’t specify the kind of gems. However, it mention they came from India, and this area was the only source of diamonds of antiquity. This reference is rich in implication. Hephaestus craft the crown, which, according to some versions of the myth, is the object that Theseus use to escape the labyrinth (Referring to the property of the crown to emit reflecting light).
The labyrinth is an opus of the master craftsman Daedalus. And the wedding of Ariadne and Dionysus was one of the sacred marriages celebrated at Samothrace. These characters are rich in symbolism which we could take into account, since both Ariadne and Dionysus have elements connected to the theme of civilization and invention, which are major theme in our context, but I’m afraid I have to expand this piece in another post.
You who wear heaven on your finger like a sapphire ring.
Sapphire comes up many times in the Bible. Often, like in Exodus 24:10 KJV, the stone is equated to the floor where God’s walking. This floor, since God’s above heaven, symbolically represent the Sky.
While often common to equate the sapphire or lapis lazuli to the sky, we must add an interesting piece of lore.
Since antiquity, a common garment of craftsmen was the Pileus Hat, a cap tied to eastern regions, worn by lower-class workers and liberated slaves.
Among the gods related to our field, it was worn by:
- The Dioskouroi: their cap represented the two half of the egg from which they were born. They received worship both in the Kabeiric mysteries and in those of Samothrace.
- Hephaestus: tied to his lower status as craftsman.
- Vulcan: In imperial period coins he’s portrayed wearing a Pileus adorned with laurel crown.
- Ptah: depicted with a skullcap, almost identical in shape with the Pileus.
- The Pataikos: Phoenician dwarf spirits, whose images resembles Ptah and Bes, had his same skullcap. They had role of protecting mariners along their travels, and their statues were often on board.
Similar to the Pileus is the Phrygian hat, which is conical in shape. It has a different origin and link to higher classes. Still, they entangle in a certain way:
- From Phrygia come the Mother of the Mountains and the Dactyls her servants.
- In roman times, we see statues of Vulcan with a Pileus that tends towards a conical shape.
- In medieval times, Jews wore a distinctive sort-of Phrygian hat, and they had the fame of excellent metallurgists.
- The conical hat is typical in folklore as a garment of fairies, gnomes and dwarfs.
Now, it is difficult to draw some conclusions about a garment. It has traveled through time, space, culture and people, but I’ll try to get a symbolic picture of it. I must apologize in advance as I can no longer find the sources of what I am about to say.
I take into analysis Ptah blue skullcap and the Dioskouroi “egg-hat”. If the universe is the body of the creator god, then the Head of god is the sky. This is deduced since in the case of Ptah, the Sun and the Moon are his eyes. And the sky, like the egg, has the shape of a dome. Dome which has a very solid nature, since it is the foundation of the palaces of the gods. This brings us again to Hesiod Theogony and its brazen sky-dome.
Now, I’ve forced enough, but this is my personal belief: That the Pileus may be a sign of the maker as he who uphold the sky and maintain the structures of the universe.
Since we are already outside the realm of academic, I’ll add another intuition stemmed from this prayer. My mind mistook the “Finger” of the phrase for a translation of Dactyls. Next I had in mind this picture of them wearing these blue hats on their heads.
You who hide under the Earth
The first part reminds us of Hades, the invisible god dwelling under earth. Yet, we can also mention another relevant myth: the birth of Ploutos. He represents the riches of the earth and is the offspring of the hero Iasion and Demeter. More recurring themes. Demeter is here taking the role of the mother goddess. She and Rhea are equated in the Orphic fragments, and they share a dominion over land and its fruits. Iasion is a culture hero who founded the mysteries of Samothrace.
About their union, Hesiod tells us that they joined in the “Thrice-ploughed” field. It could allude to vestiges of ancient agricultural fertility rites. From their union Pluto was born, ruler of wealth. This echoes similar actions. Those of Jason and Cadmus, who sow dragon’s teeth from which earth-born men arise. The act of plowing is in itself a kind of marriage between the farmer and the land. An act that produces wealth, in the form of food.
Now, back to our original phrase. Hesiod says about Ploutos:
“a kindly god who goes everywhere over land and the sea’s wide back, and he who finds him and into whose hands he comes he makes rich, bestowing great wealth upon him”.
So he could be the one hiding under Earth. It is the riches that await the expert farmer after using his expertise in “marrying” the Earth. At the same time, the act of plowing is similar to that of the miner. They both dig and turn the earth, and they got both phallic references. The plow penetrate the earth to make it bear fruits, the miner enter the earth and bring out the fruit.
In either cases, the farmer and the miner/smith apply their knowledge, expertise and effort in devotion to Earth, their spouse.
Otherwise, this statement about Ploutos could be a simple reference to the hidden treasures of Earth, mentioned above.
In the Kingdom of Gems, the marvelous Seed of the Stars
Gems and stars have a lot in common. Both are characterized by their splendor. We have already found this parallelism. In the star-like studs, or gems, set in the bronze dome of Uranus and in the starry palace of Hephaestus. In Hesiod’s Theogony all matter comes from Gaea, who emerged from Khaos. From her the Sky is born. And even the Stars, before shining in the vaults of the night, once lay in the depths of the Mother.
The mineral world in Hellenistic time reflect somehow the planetary sphere. Every planet above have it’s correspondence below, in a certain kind of metal. Also, many stones originate from gods, the zodiac and the planets. This marks a clear connection between the world below and the world above.
Even in the bible, in Genesis 15:5, there’s a clear reference:
“And He brought him forth outdoors and said, “Look now toward heaven and count the stars, if thou be able to number them.” And He said unto him, “So shall thy seed be.”
According to some ancient commentators (Philo, Sirach, the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham), this isn’t just mentioning numbers. It is not about Abraham descendants becoming as much as stars. It is also mentioning the process of deification and transformation into angels. This way Abraham’s seeds can replace the stars as the divine or angelic inheritors of the nations.
Live, reign, and be the Eternal giver of treasures of which you have made us wardens. Amen
As the prayer ends, it reminds us again that God is the giver of treasures. It can be either material wealth, spiritual elevation or self discovery. Still, as we see, the Invisible King has made us wardens of this treasure. What does it mean? Are we the seekers or the wardens?
My hypothesis focuses on multiple points. First, as mentioned this is the Prayer “of” the gnomes, and not “to” the gnomes. This means that we have here an identification of the subject with the object. To get further on the spiritual development, one gradually identifies himself with the mystical reality that has to embody.
So here you are both the seeker of treasures and the warden. You are the gnome called to serve God in his creation by creating yourself and serving others in their path. Through guarding, protecting and showing the way to the treasures of Earth. In witchcraft and other traditions, there’s often mention of the Earthly Initiator, a figure I consider of utmost importance. It’s the one who guides along the first steps of self consciousness. It helps us and brings us away from the routine of normality. It is the one who kindles in ourselves the spark of perseverance in pursuing our true self.
As always, hope I’ve sparked some interests and reflections on the lore connected to craftsmanship. Many points could be deepened even more, but I leave this to those who will pursue them.
Personally, I learned a lot while writing this essay. I connected even more dots and had the opportunity to refine my knowledge on certain topics. I’m quite a perfectionist and corrected, added, changed this article many time, learning a lot in the process.
So a huge thanks to you who show interests in my blog. You are the ones who inspire me to write.
As the metal, so the body