Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Habdalah of Rabbi Akiba, page 3

I continue my translation [entries on 5-25-07 and 6-6-07 The Havdalah of Rabbi Akiba, pg. 2: Angelic Names,... and Havdalah de-Rabbi Akiva: Jewish Sorcery ] of the Hebrew magical manual, Havdalah de Rabbi Akiva. Having completed the ritual recitation of Ps. 91 on page 2, a new mishna begins on page 3,

[Sentient Alef, by the artist David Singer]

consisting almost entirely of a string of names of power.

The centerpiece of this invocation is the recitation of the Hebrew alef-bet, first in regular order, then in reverse (the pattern of the atba”sh code, one of oldest forms of encryption known). The belief that reversals and permutations of the alef-bet have constructive power is first articulated in Sefer Yetzirah 2:4-5.

The typesetter has grouped the letters in clusters, suggesting that this is the necessary pattern for recitation. The purpose of this may be to create a meditative state in the adept performing the ritual, or it may have purely magical effect.

Page 3
[Mishna Bet] You holy signs[1] Ad’tae”l, the Light of Your Presence.
And before Him – Yatzkhe”l and Palie”l, P’lai”m, Pel”e, Nifl”a, Magli”a, P’lao”t,[2] Z’vu”d, the pruner Akh’s’kas,[3] Marmaraot surely comes Sabaot,[4] T’rami,[5] the Host of Yisrae”l Par’pare”l, Anaei”l,[6] Y’hudie”l Y’h”u[7] Nakh’v’die”l

אבגדהוזחטיכך[8] למם נן סע פף צץ קר שת תשרקצץ[9] פע סן נם מלך כיט חז והד גבא

By means of the angels of Adonai is a bright leopard burst.[10] I adjure[11] and I surely bind and I surely cut off, I surely forswear[12] against a[ny] spirit[13] or demon [Page 4] or shade[14] or spells or bindings or charms…


[1] The psalm now recited, this begins an incantation. This same opening phrase is used in a Geniza Fragment, T-S K 1.91, in a spell to combat impotence (As it appears in Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae, pp. 176-178). In the Geniza passage, “holy signs” refers to magical characters. Here the phrase apparently refers to the alef-bet itself, which is suggestive of how the author viewed the theurgic nature of the Hebrew language.
[2] The previous six names are a series of variant forms of the word “wonder.” The purpose of this permutation-configuration is not self-evident. This last name appears on an amulet as “Pelaot the angel.” Magic Spells and Formulae, p. 106.
[3] Literally, “I will scour.” Perhaps it is a name, a corruption of “Abraxas,” a popular angel in amulet texts.
[4] This is likely either a euphemism or corruption of tsevaot.
[5] Variant form of this name appears on an amulet
[6] This name appears on amulet Horvat Kanaf, Qasrin No. 3163, as transcribed in Amulets and Magic Bowls, p. 50.
[7] Most likely variant of the Tetragrammaton, this is a form popularly appearing on many amulets. The writer may well have regarded it as yet another angelic name. It may also be an acronym for yishmar’hu ha-Shem v’khuihu.
[8] It is unclear whether these letters are simply recited in a cluster or meant to be pronounced as one long word – a daunting task given this first grouping.
[9] The pattern breaks from absolute reversal here, having the tzadi come before the tzadi sofit, just as it does in the normal order. Perhaps it is simply a typesetter’s error, but assuming it is deliberate, it provides us a clue pointing to the idea that these clusters are to be pronounced as words, because a full reversal would have resulted in the next cluster of two letters beginning with the tzadi sofit, a violation of Hebrew word morphology.
[10] This speculative translation is based on the premise that the first word, which has no obvious meaning, is actually an abbreviation. A “bright leopard” may refer to a shape-shifting demon that takes on animal form (See Amulets and Magic Bowls, pp. 200, 201) . If someone else has a better translation of bama n’fatz tzaf n’mar, I welcome it.
[11] See Amulets and Magic Bowls, pp. 164 - 65.
[12] Derived from “vow.” It can also mean “roll down/pour out,” but as phrases of power, oaths are a critical element in adjuration rhetoric.
[13] Most likely meaning a ghost, dybbuk, or poltergeist.
[14] A kind of night specter, Magic Spells and Formulae pp. 72-73


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I find your blogs interesting and insightfuil, thank you. My question is...Are these kinds of rituals and esoteric practices necessary for salvation or anything else? What is the purpose of practicing all these types of rituals, incantations, etc...? Is there such a thing as the spiritual elite who can do these things and then the rest of us "normal" spiritual beings?

5:18 PM  

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