Friday, February 28, 2014

Brought to you by the letter A,and also the letter A: Astarte-Ashtaroth-Ashrael-Ashera linguistics

In keeping with my G-d Name a week thing, and also as part of my new Work over at Andrieh Vitimus' amazing 30 Day Challenge website, I'm going to talk some today about names related to the root אשׁר (straight/happy), which I'll write as "asher" and עשׁר (shining/steller), which I'll write as "isher". I may also touch on ענ names, but that probably has to wait until I do more research.

In English, it's easy to think these names are all the same, but Hebrew (and other Semitic languages) have two different consonants that start words we think of as starting with the "a" sound, aleph and ayin.  That means that names that all sound related in English --Ashera, Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtaroth, Astarael, etc -- actually break down into two main families; those that derive from  אשׁר, like Asherah and names that derive from עשׁר like Ishtar.  However, recent scholarship, as well as my own "unverified personal gnosis" indicated that there might be a shared root from which both classes of names (and maybe even other further-flung names, like Astraea or Eoster, but that seems less likely) derive.  Certainly, the goddesses Athirat and Astart (and Anat) were being synchronized very early, possibly as early as the second millenium BCE.

A great deal of the information in this post comes from DDD, which I highly recommend.  It's an expensive book, but, if you do this sort of thing, well worth it.  My copy is well-loved.  If you don't have any familiarity with mythology of the ancient Near East, this post might be hard to follow.  I tried to provide some links.

A wide variety of spirit's names descend from asher, perhaps the most prominent being אשׁרה, Asherah.  When used in Torah, it can mean both the goddess Asherah and also her cult-object, a tall pole or tree.  However, the etymology of this word is disputed.  It may descend from the semitic root asr, "to stride".  In Ugaritic texts, Athirat, understood by most scholars to be identical with Ashera, is often called "who strides upon the sea".  While in Deuteronomist sources, Ashera is said to be the consort of Ba'al, she is understood to be the wife of El in other sources.  For this challenge, I'll be working with the angel אשראל, Ashrael or Asurel.  This is a pretty obscure angel.  His (her?) name appears on some amulets, but that's about it.  I really don't know what to expect calling him. I guess we'll find out!  For this reason, I might "back up" the conjuration with some other angels; I'm not sure who.  Maybe Raphael.  Ashtaroth is a very well-known and powerful demon.  I want to try to keep the"two sides" evenly more or less "evenly matched.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Here's my first thoughts for Andrieh's new 30 day challenge.

There is a class of kabbalistic work called “Yihudim ha Shemot” or “Unification of the Names”.  I’m not going to go into the technical details of how it works; basically, you do a lot of complicated combinatorical work with Hebrew letters to induce trance, and then you ascend/descend (it’s complicated) to the Other Place.  Once there, you focus on facilitating the sexual union of HaShem and Shekhina.  Their union is eternal, existing in every moment.  It’s the matter-antimatter collision at the beginning of time and the end of time*; it’s the tempest that gives birth to itself.  Obviously, this one paragraph explanation is a gross, gross oversimplification.  (“yihudim” can also refer to a technique for trance possession by a dead Jewish saint, like the Witch of Endor does.) However, another aspect of the Work of Unification is the collection and reuniting of the “shards of holiness” (qlipoth) trapped in Names of Power.  Here’s the short version of the story; When What-Is came into being, it passed through a series of “vessels”.  These vessels were too rigid to contain the “power” of “G-d”, and so they shattered, sending innumerable shards of “essential being-stuff” into the nothingness.  Once the physical world was manifested, these shards served to contain the Holy Essence in a way compatible with the separate nature of physical reality.  Despite their reputation as all darkity-dark and eeeeevil in Hermetic qabala, Jewish teaching doesn’t see them that way.  They serve an important function; they allow us to not be constantly aware of the fact that everything is, ultimately ONE.  (“divided for the sake of union”).  They are described as whirlwinds, clouds, fire, and brightness. One classic metaphor is to compare them to the peel on a fruit; it protects the fruit while it is growing, but it must be removed in order to take pleasure in the fruit. Work of Unification serves to help purify and refine these “windows”, so that the light of the Divine can pass through them more clearly into the World.  When we unify the names, we bring Harmony to parts of creation that are disharmonious, both within ourselves and in the greater world. This understanding stems from Zechariah 14:9, which says “ וְהָיָה יְהוָה לְמֶלֶךְ, עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ; בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, יִהְיֶה יְהוָה אֶחָד–וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד.”  ”And HaShem shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall HaShem be One, and His name one.”  It’s this sense that is inspiring me for my 30 day work.  For a long time, I’ve been working with a whole coterie of spirits whose names appear etymologically related: Ishtar, Astarte, Astaroth, Astrael, etc.  I’m going to try to work on unifying those names to reinvigorate the Holiness within them.  To that end, I’m going to develop a ritual of unification between the goetic demon Astaroth and the kabbalistic angel Ashrael, as a way to Unify the Holy Name.  I’ll be using “Astarte” as the name for the pairing, and for the underlying energetic construct (ie, the Holiness within the shard) Conveniently, the day I most associate with Astarte is right in the middle of these 30 days.  Purim, which begins at sunset on Saturday the 15th of March (Adar 14) and ends Sunday at sunset, is a Jewish holiday celebrating the Book of Esther.  A close reading of the text makes clear that this is an Ishtar festival in disguise.  On Purim, the central ritual is simply to read aloud the Megillah (book of Esther).  It is also customary to dress in drag, eat small vulva-shaped cakes called hammantashen, give gifts of food, play pranks, engage in satire of the holy books, and get so drunk you cannot tell the difference between good and evil.  (Seriously!  That’s the mainstream, normative, rabbi-approved way to celebrate the holiday.  Judaism is very cool sometimes.)   Some research notes follow:
  • Ugaritic: Athart, Ashtart.
  • Phoenician: Ashtart
  • Egyptian: Astrt, Istrt
  • Greek: Ἀστάρτη
  • Akkadian: As-tar
  • Hebrew: עשתרת
DDD says that it is a version of the Semitic name for the planet Venus.  When understood as the “morning star” it is male, and female as the “evening star”.  The sister of Anat, the lover/restrainer of Ba’al, who cures the bite of snakes, who wears the Atef crown, the daughter of Re, She who is pregnant but does not bare, perenially fruitfully yet eternally virginal, daughter of Ptah, wife of the Sea…
It’s midnight, and my alarm goes off at 5.  I have to go to bed now.  I’ll write more tomorrow.

*: This is a metaphor.  It’s not a science lesson.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Shakshouka recipe (Israeli eggs)

There's no magic or kabbalah in this post.  It's a recipe for shakshouka, which is a delicious, easy impressive way to make breakfast (or brinner).  I'm mostly writing it so my roommate will take the hint and make shakshousa for dinner sometimes. :)  It takes about 15 minutes to make, and is whipped up with stuff you almost certainly have in your kitchen (or, if not, you should).  I make mine with cheesy garlic dumplings, but that's completely optional.  My Turkish ex used to make a version with a spicy beef sausage called sucuk (which is very much like pepperoni), which is also very, very good.  You can get sucuk at any middle eastern store, or you could just use pepperoni or chorizo.  You can also throw in any other veggies you want.  Spinach is good, but looks kind of ooky.

With the dumplings, it's dairy, but if you know how to make non-dairy dumplings, it would be easy to make pareve.  Omit the dumplings to make it gluten free.  It can't be vegan, because it's essentially poached eggs in sauce.  If you omit the eggs, it's just spicy tomato sauce with dumplings, which I guess is also ok.  I think, actually, this kind of tomato sauce might be called "harissa"

The eggs aren't done yet.  The white blobs are dumplings.  Also, this is my favorite pan.  The handle broke, and my Dad welded it back together.  Also, how do people on the internet make pictures of food look so good?  I promise it tastes better than it looks.


  • 4-8 eggs
  • 1 large can (28 oz) tomatoes (diced)
    • I really like these tomatoes.  
    • OR the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes, diced.  Ifyou use fresh tomatoes, you need to cook it slightly longer, to let the tomatoes soften.
  • 1 small diced onion OR diced green onion (optional)
  • diced bell peppers (traditional, but optional.  I often leave them out because I don't always have peppers in the house, and I don't really like peppers anyway)
  • whatever leftover vegetables are in the fridge and look like they might go bad.  diced.  zucchini and carrots are especially good.
  • garlic to taste
  • middle eastern spice mix (my go-to mix is below, but any kind of commercial one is fine too.  the kind you want is called "res al hanout")

Cheesy Garlic Dumplings:

  • 1 cup biscuit mix (or your favorite dumpling recipe)
  • 1/2 cup shedded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup milk (or however much your dumpling recipe calls for)
  • 2 Tbsp crushed garlic (you could probably use powder if that's what you have.)
  • black pepper to taste

Saute the onions with some salt and pepper.  If you're using cast iron, you'll need a little butter or olive oil.  If you're using nonstick pans, you should probably get cast iron pans, because they are awesome.
Once the onions are translucent, and starting to brown, add the tomatoes.   Turn down the heat, and mix your dumplings in a bowl.  There are directions on the back of the Bisquick box.  Let the tomatoes simmer until they're soft and saucey (about the consistency of lumpy ketchup)

Add the spices to the tomatoes, and stir well.  Gently spoon the dumpling mixture into the tomatoes, and cover the pan until the dumplings aren't liquid anymore.  I like my eggs kind of runny, so I let the dumplings steam for a few minutes before I add the eggs.

After about 3 or 4 minutes, make a few dents in the tomatoes and gently crack eggs into them.  Cover the pan until the eggs are as cooked as you like. (For me, that means the whites are solid, and the yolks are skinned over, but still runny).  The dumplings are quite tolerant of varying cook times.

Eat hot.  If you didn't make dumplings, eat with crusty bread or toasted pita.  The dumplings and tomatoes reheat very well, but the eggs not so much.

Middle Eastern Spice Mix:
1 part:
black pepper
smoked paprika

1/2 part:
mace (if you don't have this, that's ok.  use a little more nutmeg and some extra black pepper)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Small Face, Big Face, Old Face, New Face

Warning:  This post (particularly the title) gets a little kabbalistically technical; I tried to link words I thought you might not know.  I'm happy to explain in more detail.  Just ask in the comments.  Also, apparently I'm just rambling and chatty and telling a lot of stories this morning.  I promise there's some actual kabbalah in here somewhere.

Now, I know it might not seem this way to the orthopraxic, but I take the prohibition on idolatry quite seriously. Sometimes, I think, significantly more seriously than they do.  I feel like a lot of mainstream Judaism (in my experience) is somewhat more Small-Face-oriented than is healthy.  The "Small Face" is the "manifest" aspect of the Infinite One.  Think of it as the demiurge, and you're not too far off.  My paternal grandmother called it "little g god", a nomenclature picked up by my Jewish mother and atheist father. Or, sometimes, Grandma called it "Jesus", because that's how she rolled.  I had a complicated interfaithless upbringing.

It's not that Small Face is bad. At the end of the day, the Small Face is still actually Ein Soph (or, as Grandma would have said "big G God", and then you wave your hands around), but I think it's dangerous to focus too much on that face.  A lot of people get stuck there, worshiping a small, petty, anthropomorphic god who is very much "of the world".  I think the real danger of that is that when you make G-d small, you don't give yourself much room to "grow in spirit" before you hit the ceiling.  When I was in my early 20s, I lived for a while with a tantric monk.  He once told me that when you imagine your lover to be G-d, you're engaged in the highest form of worship, and when you imagine G-d to be your lover, you're doing it wrong.    Wisdom, that.

Here is a related joke that the Baal Shem Tov once told me in a dream:

Once, a Mystic and a Kabbalist were neighbors.  Each morning, at dawn, they each went out to walk and contemplate.  After some time, they began to walk together, in silent companionship.  After their walk was complete, they would sit in the kabbalist's kitchen to talk.  One morning, the mystic said to the kabbalist, "The Universe is so vast and beautiful and; in the face of such a thing, our human lives are truly nothing."  The kabbalist agreed, "Compared to the Holy One, blessed be He, all of us are as nothing."  They continued like this for some time.  All the while, the kabbalist's wife was listening, while she scrubbed the kitchen floor.  She began to pray under her breath, "Oh Lord, you are everything and I am nothing."  The kabbalist saw her, and nudged the mystic.  "Look who think's she's nothing now!"  

Here, he told me, was where the joke used to end, when he was a young man.  But, he said, for me, it could have a different ending.  And he continued with his story:

Silent tears fell into the water the woman scrubbed with, and the floor she cleaned with her tears began to shine like gold.  The mystic, seeing this, went over the the woman, drew her up to her feet, and kissed her on the forehead, which scandalized the woman.  And then he said to her "Beloved daughter, truly Nothing is greater than the Holy One."

The Besht wept like a little child after he told me this story; it was heartbreaking.  I think, if I was a good person, I probably would have kissed him on the forehead, but I didn't.  Instead, I stole his hat.  He turned into a giant grey rabbit, and hopped away.  Because dreams are like that.

I guess the moral of this story is probably that I'm supposed to forgive Orthodoxy for its arrogant, oppressive, misogynistic bullying, but fuck that noise.  Repentance needs to precede forgiveness.

Anyhow, I am again a little off topic.  Another name for "Small Face" is "the Face that looks up", and that's really important.  By looking up, the Small Face is showing you that you too should look past it.  Tipheret gazes up, adoringly, awe-struck, simultaneously enlightened and warmed by the Light of Keter, just like we on Earth look up at the Sun, but the Sun looks up into space.  At least, that's how it seems to me. Now, I'm going to tell you a secret though; Keter looks up too.  The Ancient of Days is still "of days" and Ein Soph isn't. Probably Ein Soph looks up too, but I don't really know (yet).

If the Divine to which you aspire is just a big, powerful, person, then I don't really understand what the point is.  I mean, really; once you think that G-d cares more about how long it's been since you ate dairy than He does about whether or not everyone has enough to eat, your god is just an asshole.  At the end of the day, it's hard for me to fathom how someone can think they're being "a good Jew" while obviously turning their back on klal Israel.  But, I'm getting a little sidetracked again.

My point is this, I'm really quite leery about idolatry.  I think it's better to refrain from worshiping anything at all, if you can, than risk idolatry. Trust me, when you find yourself in the presence of the Holy ONE, you'll end up on your knees whether you want to or not.

Not only that, but this whole idolatry shit comes up in my life in a way it doesn't in many people's.  I literally watched someone pour out libations to a statue last night.  Now, I've seen lots of Wiccans and Heathens do that kind of thing.  It's surely not wrong (although it often seems kind of silly).

I've poured out my fair share of offerings to angels and demons and gods of all stripes as well.  But something about this was different.  This wasn't inviting the spirits to a meal.  It wasn't hospitality, and it wasn't relationship building or "teleconferencing" with a statue.  This dude worshipped a statue.  And it squicked me out a little.

It's not that I've never seen this.  I've been to Hindu temples, and those idols are POWERFUL.  I've been in circles of standing stones and called quarters with Wiccans.  I've felt Shekhina descend when she's called Isis or Mary or even, weirdly, in a way I don't quite get, Titania.  This was not that.  This was personal.  This was a statue transubstantiated into Hermes, my beloved teacher, the light of my Mind.

Here is a story I recall hearing, but I don't remember where.  Maybe Talmud; it's got that kind of vibe to it.  For all I know, it might have been a parable Jesus told.  It doesn't really matter who told it.  Here's the story:

     Once, a young man went, all in consternation and confusion, to his teacher with a burning question.  "Teacher," says he, "Today I saw a lame man go into the temple of that pagan god and come out dancing!  If the pagan gods are all false, how can this be?"  
     His teacher replied "It was that man's time for healing.  Should G-d withhold his healing because he happened to be in a pagan temple?  No!!  The reason for this is because our G-d is not a petty, racist asshole."

(Update: The source for the story is Midrash Asheret Dibrot.  Crowdsourcing FTW!  Full disclosure: the midrash phrases it a little differently.)

So, as I've said, I've seen plenty of people healed while in a pagan temple.  But, last night was very different.  A very new friend, but someone whose Work I respect very much worshiped a statue with me last night.  He's among the most impressive magician/priests I have ever met.  This is a man whose connection to the Eternal, Infinite, and Unitary Divine shines in his eyes and his words, and the room lit up with the hovering Presence when he did it. The light of Hermes he spoke to WAS the Shekhina.  This guy definitely believes Hermes to be, not just "among the circle of the eternal stars", but rather a true and eternal face of Ein Soph, and he produced some incredibly convincing evidence to back that shit up.  I know what the presence of the LORD feels like, and this was the real deal.  There is no doubt in my mind that he has a real, abiding, loving relationship with the Holy ONE in the form of Hermes.  Watching him do it, feeling him do it, I understood that he wasn't worshiping an idol; he was worshiping the ONE through an idol. And yet, and yet... the statue still kind of squicked me out a little.

And that wouldn't have been a problem.  To each their own.  There's nothing wrong with him using a statue.

The thing is, afterward, he gave me the statue, which is beautiful and powerful and which he hand-painted with fixed quicksilver. It's so REAL. 

It's a statue of Hermes Kriophoros, the good shepherd, the angelic savior of Isaac, who turns aside harsh judgement, Jacob walking Rachael and her sheep home from the well. It's a face of Hermes whom you all know I adore. I'm really, really conflicted about this. I keep an altar to Hermes. I pour out libations in his name. I adore him. I initiate children into his mysteries. I've spent the greater part of my life in his employ, as a mathematician and a magician and a magician. (Didn't know that? Go read this.) And yet, and yet...that statue. I think I'm going to have to pray on it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ARARITA update: now with scholarship!

My flurry of emails this morning is starting to pay off.  A scholar of Jewish philosophy from Bar Ilan University named Isaac Hershkowitz wrote me back and had TONS of useful information.  Here's some of what I've learned:

Early kabbalists recommend meditating on the name ARARITA while praying the middle section of the Amidah.  The section in question goes, basically, "Hear our voice, Lord our G‑d; merciful Father, have compassion upon us and accept our prayers in mercy and favor, for You are G‑d who hears prayers and supplications; do not turn us away empty-handed from You, our King, for You hear the prayer of everyone. Blessed are You Lord, who hears prayer.  Look with favor, Lord our G‑d, on Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to Your Sanctuary and accept with love and favor Israel's fire-offerings and prayer; and may the service of Your people Israel always find favor."

The second is that our knowledge of the name comes mostly from Hayim Vital's school, and from the Pardes Rimonim.  You guys have heard me talk about Pardes Rimonim before (in conjunction with counting the omer).  I don't remember ARARITA being in it, but I'm sure it is.  I'm out of town (in Pittsburgh) all this week.  I'll look it up when I get home.

He also mentions a book called Sepher Ha Iyyun (The Book of Contemplation) that I am completely unfamiliar with.  Apparently, in that book are described two divine rings on which the names ARARITA and AHYA are inscribed.  I only know a little bit about that second name, but I'll try to learn more and write about it over the next week (but I'll be back at work, so my time is quite limited).  Here's what I know:  Originally, G-d's name was aleph-heh-vuv-yod, but some stuff happened and the world got made and Torah came down to earth and blah, blah, blah and the name got split into two pieces HaShem (yod-heh-vuv-heh) and Eheyeh (aleph-heh-yod-heh). That's really all I know.

Here's the part I love best...  Apparently the function of the name ARARITA is to activate/facilitate a kind of shamanic journeying called hekhalot.  That's exactly what drove me crazy when I was in college, so I don't want to write too explicitly about it here.  If you actually know me, give me a call and we'll talk shop).  It's also used in conjunction with fertility.

He goes on to explain that Chayim Vital associates the name with Keter.  More tomorrow.

ARARITA: The ONE who gives birth to the Ten Thousand Things.

Update: I've been corresponding with scholar from Bar Ilan who has generously sent me a great deal of fascinating and useful information on this name.  I'm slowly making my way through it, and will write another post in a few days.  When it's done, I'll link to it HERE.  

I really enjoyed writing that El Shaddai post last week. I think I'm going to try to write about a new name every week.  Today, I'm going to write about the notirikon "ARARITA".  Here's how it came up.  Jason Miller posted a link to this Slate article about the Gates of Hell grimoire recently.  The linked article included a discussion about the translation of the Hebrew in this picture.  While most of the words are straight-forward, the one at the bottom of the triangle is tricky.

It appears to be Aleph-Resh-Aleph-Resh-Yod-Heh-Aleph, which isn't a word I (or anyone else I asked) knows.  My Hebrew teacher is in Israel visiting family, but I'll add her input when she answers her email.  I think, however, it's just mispelled.  I think the heh at the end (the second to last letter) is supposed to be a tav (the two letters look VERY similar)  In the picture on the right, the letter on the left is a heh and the one on the right is a tav (and the one in the middle in a chet).  While tav shouldn't have a gap between the left "post" and the "lintel" on top, if you look at the heh's in the HaShem in the middle triangle, you can see the illustrator didn't put the squiggly-serif on the left post in his heh's there, so I think that's his indication that letter is a tav.  My guess is that the author of the grimoire wasn't a fluent Hebraist; he was probably copying from another source, and didn't know the difference. (Which is hard; there are a lot of Hebrew letters that look very similar to someone used to a latin alphabet.  It took me a long time to learn to tell them apart.)

So, if we assume it's a tav, then that leaves us with the name ARARITA, which is a kind of Hebrew acronym called a "notarikon". It's shorthand for "Echad Rosh Echadotho Rosh Ichudo Temurato Echad".  That's usually translated as "One is His Beginning, One His Individuality, The Beginning of His Permutation is One."  Literally, I understand it as "One Head, One Unity, Head Uniqueness Exchange One"  ("exchange" as in "switch places" but also as in "exchange money for goods or services").  But, as loyal readers know, my Hebrew is quite bad.  I have sent an email to my Israeli math-genius about whether it can mean "permute" in a combinatoric sense (which would be fascinating, particularly given my recent Abulafia reading).  A kabbalah scholar I've been corresponding with translates it as "One.  His Oneness is First.  His Uniqueness is First.  There is only One of His Kind", which I REALLY like.

The name ARARITA, unlike most Hebrew godnames, is much more widely known/used in occult circles than in Jewish ones.  Case in point: I've spoken with 4 Hermetic magicians so far this morning, and all of them were passingly familiar with it, but neither of the (mainstream) rabbis I spoke with knew it at all.  While Hermetic and Christian sources on it are relatively easy to find, it's unusual to see it in Jewish texts.   (I've got no beef with Hermetic kabbalah; I certainly think of myself as Hermetic, but I feel like there are lots of places to go for that information, so I've been trying to focus on Jewish stuff here.)

I first heard the name ARARITA in Agrippa, and it immediately struck me.  Embarrassing admission: my second book on magic, when I was about 13, was Buckland's Big Blue Book of Bippity Boppity Boo.  My first (not counting my 7th grade ancient history textbook) was Paddy Slade's Encyclopedia of White Magic, which I recommend.  It's a beautiful book, lushly illustrated.  (This was before the internet, and suburban Lancaster PA was not a hotbed of easily accessible occult information)

Buckland has a section on how to invent your magical name which I found very interesting (shocking, I'm sure).  I don't exactly remember what he said, but there was something about numerology and permuting and adapting the letters of your birth name.  After much permutation of "Sara Mastros", sounding my way through the dark, I arrived at the name "Sararetas" (sah-rah-ree-tahs). which I knew wasn't actually my name, but was a powerful name, so I just appropriated it.  I didn't really understand then that magical names aren't really things you decide, they're things you discover.  While I'm not a very good medium, and I can't skry worth shit, even now after years of practice, but, there's this one thing that I'm pretty ok at, and that's sounding my way into words and names of power.  And so, I ended up with the magical name of Sister Sararatas.  (At the time, I styled myself something of a communist, and the idea that the "religion of the country folk" would use titles like "Lady" or "Lord" really struck me the wrong way.)

Around that same time, my gifted teacher challenged me to "invent my own religion".  I ended up with a system of 8 "powers of the world", which I understood to be sort of Platonic forms of all the gods of mythology.  Don't judge!  I was 14, while I had read some Plato and a great deal of mythology, my understanding of "reductive cultural appropriation" was somewhat lacking.  My 8 powers were: Nature, Love, Knowledge, Power, Emotions, the Moon, the Sun, and the Abyss.  I knew that there was something outside of all the circles, in which they were all floating.  I called it "Universe", and my mother (of blessed memory), who was nominally Jewish, "spiritual", wise, beatifically compassionate, and somewhat witchy, assured me it was probably just God. And then she teased me about becoming a religious fanatic, and how she wasn't going to wake up early to drive me to temple!  I labeled the area outside the circles because I was, even then, extremely pretentious and somewhat "left handed", with my own magical name, Sararatas.

Now, my third book on magic was Ritual Magic by E.M. Butler.  The bibliography of that book was the best thing ever!  By then, the internet (although not the www) was starting to be a thing.  On a local BBS (in exchange for some distasteful sex chat with a skeevy pagan guy who probably did not know I was 14), I scored a pdf of the Arbatel, and Agrippa's Three Books.  From then on, as my ex would say, it was on like Donkey Kong.  I encountered the name ARARITA, and it was like an explosion in my soul.  The closest experience I've ever had, actually, was when I laid tefillin last week.  Things I didn't understand were, for a brief instant, very clear, and then they faded away just as fast.  In many ways, I've spent decades trying to get back to that moment.

ARARITA, to me, is all about the panentheistic strains in Judaism (not polytheistic, panentheistic).  In Buckland, I first heard the phrase "All the gods are one God, and all the Goddesses one Goddess."  Even then, it seemed stupid and kind of offensive to me to posit that gender was the defining quality of gods.  The idea that there were thousands of millions of gods seemed reasonable.  More appealing to me, being at least sort of Jewish, was the idea that there was only One.  But, the idea that God was two, God and Goddess (or the idea that God was Three, Father, Son,and Spirit) just seemed ridiculous to me.  (No offense to you if that's what you're into, but it still seems absurd to me.)

OTOH, the idea that, at the end of the road, all the "faces" of the divine were masks of one "G-d" was completely natural to me.  It let me reconcile my Greek and Jewish roots. (While my father's Greek family was primarily Eastern Orthodox, my father was a pretty militant atheist. My Jewish family are also overwhelming secular.  I grew up "interfaithless", and so mythology was a much bigger part of my Greek identity than Christianity.)  It seemed very natural and obvious and Right.

In that same 7th grade history class I mentioned before, I was introduced to the Tao Te Ching.  This passage has always, to me, been the most important and the most beautiful:

The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the Ten Thousand Things.

Or, more poetically,
The Torah you can write is not The Torah.
The name which you can say is not HaShem.
The unspoken sound is the beginning of creation,
but in naming are the ten thousand things brought to life.
(for a little more about what I mean by "the unspoken sound" (and it's relationship to the letter aleph) read this old blog post)

That's what ARARITA is about to me; they interplay between the nameless and the named, the One and the Multiplicity, Creator and Creation.

I'm sorry I can't provide more scholarly analysis about this one.  I totally failed at finding reliable Jewish sources on the matter. Everything I can find seems to learn the name from Agrippa.  I can't find any useful Jewish sources on it (in English or German). I sent some emails to my rabbi, his kabbalistic colleagues (including Reb Zalman, who came through so spectacularly on the "Omer: Why do we count down the tree instead of up" question), to Jonanthan Garb (who teaches that MOOC I menitoned beofre), and to another kabbalah scholar who had a confusing powerpoint about ARARITA, which I assume made sense if you were int eh lecture it accompanied. (he wrote me back; see the link above) I'll let you know if any of that yields anything interesting or useful.  If any of you know sources, please do let me know.

Spells from Seventh Grade: Salt and Fire

The first "serious" spells I learned were from my seventh grade ancient history textbook. (I think it was an earlier version of this book.)  Before that, I just made stuff up based on fairy tales, Greek mythology, A Wizard of Earthsea, and what my mother called "effective wishing". It was immediately obvious to me, the day we read them aloud in class, that there was real power here.  Power of a whole different sort than what I'd been doing.  That was really the day I became a magician.  Here they are:

Oh Salt
Oh Salt, created in a clean place,
For food of gods did Enlil destiny thee.
Without thee, no meal is set out in Ekur,
Without thee, god, king, lord, and prince cannot smell incense.
I am NAME, son/daughter of NAME,
held captive by enchantment,
held in fever by bewitchment.
O Salt, break my enchantment!  Loose my spell!
Take from me the bewitchment!
And, as my creator, I shall extol thee!

Scorching Fire
Scorching Fire, Warlike son of Heaven
Thou, the fiercest of they brethern,
Who, like Moon and Sun decidest lawusits--
Judge thou my case, hand down the verdict!
Burn the man and woman who bewitched me;
Burn, O Fire, the man and woman who bewitched me;
Burn them, O Fire!
Scorch them, O Fire!
Take hold of them, O Fire!
Consume them, O Fire!
Destroy them, O Fire!

After class, I asked my teacher (Mrs. Kindbaum-Becker, who was probably the best teacher I ever had, but no magician.) where I could learn more about that sort of thing.  She gave me a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh. I fell in love.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Shekhina, photo by Leonard Nimoy

Tefillin are Jewish amulets you wrap around your arm and put on your third eye.  Their original impetus comes from Deuteronomy 11:18, which says "Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes"  One "set" of tefillin consists of two small black boxes filled with torah scrolls.  One goes on your non-dominant arm and wraps around (see picture).  The other goes on your third eye, and a special magic knot goes at the base of your skull (on your "jade pillow").  they have long leather straps which you wrap in complicated kabbalistic ways.  There are a variety of customs concerning them, but most Orthopraxic Jewish men (and many un-orthopraxic ones, like SR) "lay" (ie, wear) them in when saying their daily prayers.  Depending who you ask, women either "don't have to" or "aren't supposed to" or "are completely forbidden to" wear them.  Most men who own a set (they're relatively difficult to make and VERY expensive) won't let a women wear them.

SR (the Judaics teacher at my school) let me wear his this morning.  It was AMAZING.  I didn't really feel much from the arm one (probably because the wrapping itself was complicated, and I lost my place in the prayers a couple of times; my Hebrew is still VERY weak, although it's improving).  OTOH, when the second one hit my head, I got all weak in the knees and had to grab the table for support.  It was among the most powerful "energetic" sensations I've ever had.  I'm not usually very sensitive to that kind of thing, but this was overwhelming.  It was exactly the same sensation as lighting shabbat candles, that of Shekhina descending, but it was instantaneous, and much more....hard to was much more electric.  It was like being

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tree of Life quick start guide

I've mentioned to some of you that I've been writing about counting the omer. This is from that book:

“Fortunate is the man who has found Wisdom and a man who has understanding, for her commerce is better than the commerce of silver, and her increase is better than fine gold; she is more precious than pearls, and all your desirable things cannot be compared to her.  Length of days is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.  She is a tree of life for those who cling to her, and those who draw near her are fortunate.”
Proverbs 3:13-18

The Tree of Life is a classic kabbalistic map of the cosmos that can be interpreted in many ways.  For our purposes, it provides a detailed schematic of creation, tracing the paths that the Divine flowed into the universe, the way that Being became.  If you are not familiar with the Tree of Life, you might want to do some supplemental reading before you begin opening the gates.  See the bibliography for resources.  In counting the omer, we only really deal with the tree’s “lower” manifestations, starting at Chesed.  However, for completeness, I’ll begin with the “supernal” manifestations (those above/before Chesed).  This is an extremely brief, simplified understanding of the sefirot, specifically their roles as “way stations of creation”.  While I’ve told the story as if it progresses linearly through time (because how else can I tell it?), all of these things are happening at once, all the time.
Before everything that is, there was Nothing, and that is the first stop on our tour of the tree.  Called in Hebrew Eyn, which means literally “not”, Eyn is the primordial state of the universe. In Hebrew, we say that the universe was created “yesh me-eyn”, or “something from nothing”.  This vast No-thing exists in constant tension with Eyn Soph, the transcendent and eternal Divine.  Eyn Soph means, literally, “without limit” and is used in modern Hebrew mathematics to mean “transfinite”.  When Eyn and Eyn Soph come together, a third thing is formed, the Eyn Soph Aur, or “Limitless Light”.  Like the energy released by a collision of antimatter and matter, Eyn Soph Aur is used to fuel creation.  
This transcendent light is mediated through the Divine, in an emanation we call Keter, or “crown”.  Keter is the lense through which the light of Eyn Soph Aur is filtered into the universe.  It is the dwelling place of G-d.  Keter is the ultimate and complete unity of creation, past all illusion and separation.  When G-speaks the universe into being, Eyn Soph Aur is the air all around Him, but Keter is the breath with which He speaks.  Keter is the first utterance, the sound of breath just before a word begins.
After Keter lies Chokmah, Wisdom.  The second utterance, Chokmah is the first thing spoken into being.  Chokmah is the first manifestation of the Divine.  This is where the ONE become two, and it is also where two become one.  This is the universe “divide for the sake of union”. Chokmah is the spark of creation that, in Binah, will light the fire of the world. There is a whole genre of text from the ancient near east called “Wisdom Literature” that is narrated by Chokmah.  My favorite example is Proverbs 8.  Go read it; I’ll wait.  
Next is Binah, or Contemplation.  In classic kabbalistic texts, Binah is referred to as a palace of mirrors, reflecting refracting the ONE light into a million scintillating lights.  It is the womb of Being, where the “ten thousand things” of the Dao gestate.  In hemertic qabala, Binah is associated with Saturn.
Binah is the last of the “supernal” emanations.  From here, the divine light passes through the veil of Knowing (Da’at) and pours into the fourth emanation, Chesed.  It is here that our counting will begin.  “Chesed” is notoriously difficult to translate.  In modern English, it is usually rendered as “loving-kindness”, but I’m partial to “compassion”.  Chesed is considered the central value of Judaism, the highest moral calling.  It is the impulse behind charity, and the protective love one feels for a child.  
In hermetic qabala, Chesed is associated with Jupiter, particularly his role as Father-King.  The name of G-d I most associate with Chesed is Aveinu-Malkeinu (Our Father, Our King), but El is more traditionally given as “the” name is Chesed.  More than anything else, Chesed is the love that binds creator and creation.  Traditionally, Tzadkiel is given as “the” angel of Chesed, but Sandalphon is also excellent for Chesed work.  In Christian cabala, Chesed is closely associated with the Virgin Mary, particularly in her role and a merciful intercessor.  It’s color is sky blue, the color of Mary’s robe.
After Chesed, creation proceeds in Gevorah, or Strength, also translated as “justice” or “severity”.  Gevorah is the fire of creation, the passion and the will.  Sepher Bahir (a classic kabbalistic text) says “"What is the fifth (utterance)? Fifth is the great fire of God, of which it says 'let me see no more of this great fire, lest I die (Deut 18:16). This is the left hand of God".  The phrase “left hand path” refers to Gevorah-work in particular.  In Gevorah, creation first manifests into separate things; Gevorah is our power to discriminate “this” from “that”.  
Hermetically, Gevorah is associated with Mars.  The traditional god name here is Elohim Gibor (The Mighty Gods), although I would usually use El Elyon (God Most High) or Aish ha Kadosh (the Holy Flame).  The angel of Gevorah is, obviously, Gabriel (Givoriel), although many Christian and Hermetic sources place him in yesod (see below).  Kamael, the usual Hermetic assignment, is also a great choice for working with Gevorah.
Tiferet, is usually translated as Beauty in Hermetic texts and Adornment in Jewish ones.  Personally, I’m partial to the less literal “Harmony”.  Tiferet is very closely associated with the Sun, both literally, as the ultimate source of the heat and light energy that fuel all life on earth, as well as figuratively, the shining star at the center of Being. The “light” God says in Genesis is the light of Tiferet.  Tiferet is the halfway point between Keter and Malchat; it is the balancing point of the universe.  
In Christian Cabala, Tiferet is the domain of Christ, in his role as intermediary between Earth and Heaven.  The names assigned to Tiferet vary widely between sources.  I, personally use Oseh Shalom ( Peacemaker) or, most often, HaShem (the Name).  The angel of Tiferet is Raphael or Michael.  Personally, I use Raphael.
Below Tiferet is Netzach, which is often translated as Victory, and which I would call Eternity, but which is most literally something like Endurance.  In Netzach, purposes are not always clear.  Here, the Divine light can remain hidden.  Netzach is associated with the Book of Esther, the hidden star, and the near eastern goddess Ishtar.  In Hermetic qabala, Netzach is associated with Venus (probably by way of Ishtar)  One traditional god name for use here is Adonai Sabaoth (The LORD of Splendor), but I like El Shaddai, which is usually translated as God Almighty, but whose etymology is hotly debated.  It might mean “The Destroyer” and it might mean “The Breast”.  In modern Hebrew, the word “shaddai” means “demonic”.  I understand the name to mean “God Who Sustains and Destroys”.  For me, the name El Shaddai is closely associated with the marriage of Sarai and Avram (who become Sarah and Abraham).  Traditional angels of Netzach include Haniel, Ariel, and Uriel.  Personally, I mostly use Ariel.
After Netzach, we come to Hod, which is usually translated as “Splendor”.  I like “Brilliance” as a translation, because I like the interplay of connotations it evokes’ brilliant can mean “shiny” and it can also mean “smart” and its clearly related to “enlightened”.  Action is Hod is calculated, circumspect, and often counter-intuitive.  Hod is associated, in modern Chassidus (ultra-orthodox Jewish teaching) with sincerity, supplication and acceptance.  It is strongly associated with truth telling and also with tricks and lies.  Language originates in Hod, and it is in Hod praise and thanksgiving come into the world.  Why?  Because in Hod sentience is attained.  Prior to hod, the universe was full and alive, but there were no people (human or angelic or whatever) to be conscious of the universe, no one to appreciate it, because there was no one capable of understanding.  Hermetically, Hod is associated with Mercury, with symbol and intellect in general, and with magic, mathematics, and written language specifically.  The Golden Dawn cites Michael as the angel of Hod, but I like Auriel (Uriel) here.
The next sefira is Yesod, or foundation.  Yesod is the womb in which the physical world gestates.  In classic kabbalah and modern chassidus, Yesod is overtly sexual in nature. Yesod is also associated with the Abrahamic covenant.  Yesod is where the idea of physical instantiation takes shape, the interface between the seen and the unseen.  El Shaddai is the typical god name here, but I like El Chai or Elohim.  Many people place Gabriel in yesod, but I think that’s silly.  For me, good choices are Auriel, Cassiel, or Sariel.

The “final” sefira is Malchat, which means “kingdom”. Shekhina is an alternate name. For our purposes, Malchat is the physical world, both in a broad sense of things studied in physics and also in a very specific “the land beneath us” way.  The god-name usually given here is Adonai HaAretz (Lord of the Earth/Land), but I always use Shekhina.  Many feminist Jews have taken to using Malkat HaOlam (Queen of the Forever), but I think that name is better in Netzach.  Malkat HaAretz would be a good Hebrew “Earth Mother” option, if you’re into that kind of thing. The “traditional” angel here is Sandalphon, which I don’t think is a good fit.  I really never use angels in Malchat work, but if I were going to, I think I’d probably use Michael.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

El Shaddai

Some background info you'll need for this post:  I'm slowly improving my Hebrew (which is terrible). I work at a progressive, pluralistic Jewish high school (that's going to come up). You should know who Sarai/Sarah and Avram/Abraham are.  This previous post might be relevant. You should know who Artemis of Ephesus is.  You should know who Ishtar is.  I don't know how to type Hebrew in blogger.  Sorry.  

Last night I discovered that my Hebrew flashcards (and render shin-daled-yod as"demonic".  This surprised me because I am used to that word (shaddai) in the context of the name alpeh-lamed shin-daled-yod, or El Shaddai, which is usually translated as God Almighty.  It's a very ancient Jewish god name, the one used by the matriarchs and patriarchs.  (Exodus 6:3 says "And I appeared unto Avraham, unto Yitzchak, and unto Ya’akov, as El Shaddai, but by My name YHVH I did not make Myself known to them.")

a Mesopotamian goddess figurine, 2000 BCE.
This is called the "Ishtar pose"
It is El Shaddai who prophesies children for Sarah in Genesis 17; "And when Avram was ninety and nine shanah, Hashem appeared to Avram, and said unto him, I am El Shaddai; walk before Me, and be thou tamim (blameless)..."  This is particularly interesting, because the (presumably priestly) "narrator" uses THE name (YHVH), but relates that G-d calls herself (himself?  itself? whatever) El Shaddai.   Similarly, in Genesis 35:11 El Shaddai prophesies children for Jacob:  "And Elohim said unto him, I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be from thee, and melechim [kings] shall come out of thy loins".  Again, notice the disparity between the narrator's use of the name Elohim and the "in character" use of El Shaddai.  In Genesis 49:25, Jacob is blessing his sons.  He says "By the El Aveinu [God of your father] who helps you, and El Shaddai who blesses you, Blessings of the heavens from above, Blessings of the deep lying under, Blessings of breasts and womb, Blessing of ancient mountains, Blessing of everlasting hills..."  Rashi, weirdly to me, has "fathers and mothers" where I've given "breasts and womb".  He says "Heb. שָׁדַיִם. [How does שָׁדַיִם come to mean father?]“He shall be cast down (יָרֹה יִיָּרֶה)” (Exod. 19:13) is translated by the Targum as אִשְׁתְּדָאָה יִשְׁתְּדֵי Here too, [שָׁדַיִם means the father] because semen shoots (יוֹרֶה) like an arrow."  I have no idea what he's talking about.  Maybe that makes sense in Hebrew?

RK, a former student who's currently studying Judaics at Bar Ilan in Israel, said this in response to my facebook post this morning: "When "Shaddai" is used, it is usually in the context of child bearing or something having to do with the mitzvah of "Peruh Orevuh." Hashem is represented through justice when called "Elokim" and merciful when called "Adonai." When "Shaddai" is used, it relates Hashem with child bearing. " (peruh orevuh is "be fruitful and multiply")

This was very interesting to me, so I dashed of a quick email asking about it to some colleagues.  That's where things got interesting.  (We have off school for snow today, so all of us have some unexpected free time)  SR is our Judaics teacher.  He's also a Reconstructionist (extremely progressive) congregational rabbi. YY is our head of school.  Like me, he's more or less anti-denominational, but I think he would self-identify as something like "egalitarian/humanist/traditional-leaning pluralist" if pressed and "atheist/who-gives-a-shit" if he wasn't employed as a head of a Jewish school.  His training is from Pardes, a progressive pluralistic (although they hotly deny it!) school in Israel.  Were I to get a rabbinic ordination (a thing I occasionally consider when I'm less than sober), Pardes probably is where I would go.  Here's what they say:

10 Cups, Rohrig deck
SR: "It's complicated, of course.  So much in Hebrew language and thought is bipolar.  The breast (shad) is also the demon (shed); nurturance and destruction operate on the same spectrum.  God the destroyer is also God the preserver.  The shoresh (Hebrew root) shin dalet dalet means "deal violently with, despoil, devastate, ruin" (BDB dictionary).  I believe this verb includes the positive as well as the negative denotation.  A mother's love can be a terrible as well as blissful thing, sometimes simultaneously.  However, I could be wrong.  The roots could be different.  It's mainly linguistic speculation as to whether shin dalet dalet and a lost verb (perhaps shin dalet weak [or hey]) refer to the same phenomenon.  At any rate, coincidentally or not, one form, shod, can mean both "violence, havoc, devastation, ruin" and "breast" (again, BDB).  No one knows for 100% sure how vowels work since the original Hebrew writing, itself probably a record of oral speech traditions, has no vowels.  According to BDB, the word shed, meaning "demon," might be an Assyrian loan word denoting "a protecting spirit, esp. of bull-colossus."  That would certainly fit the theory that it also refers to the female breast, which is a life-giving protuberance.  I believe that it also points toward androgynous tendencies in the Hebrew conception of the divine."

I don't really get the connection he's making between a "bull-colossus" tutelary and "life-giving protuberances".  Not even a little, actually. (UPDATE: SR clarified.  It's below)

YY: " In hebrew, without vowels, both Shedi and Shaddai would look identical.  Shed refers to a demon.  Shed=demons.  Shedi= perhaps that might be where it is coming up with demonic. 
As far as I know, that word has nothing to do with the word Shaddai, which is in reference to God, usually in conjunction with El, as in El Shaddai, derived from either Shad=breast (meaning the fertile- and sustaining-one) or Shadad=destroyer (meaning the all-powerful one).  There are a number of rabbinic midrashim on Shadai, such as "sh'dai"= he who is enough/sufficient. ... The rabbis weren't shy about saying that they borrowed from other cultures. EG Rambam saying that our sacrificial system in the temple was borrowed from other cultures, for the purpose of weaning the early Jews off of physical sacrifices and towards an invisible God.  So I am hesitant to make the leap of saying there's a connection between 'shed' and 'shad', when there's nothing I could find in any Jewish source on it.  I'm unconvinced it's anything more than a confusion over vowels, like saying there's a meaningful connection between 'there' and 'their'.  Just my two cents."

YY tends to be quite literal and denotative in his answers to questions like this.  Honestly, I'm not terribly worried about whether the linguistic connection is "real" or not.  There's a long and rich Jewish tradition of word play as a kind of exegesis (Talmud is FULL of it), which is good enough for me; I'm really only interested in it mythologically/inspirationally rather than historically / etymologically.

I was particularly intrigued by YY's mention of "sh'dai" as a reading.  It's a thing you often see on mezuzoht (Jewish apotropaic amulets you hang on door posts).  It's an acronym for "shomer daltol Israel" which means something like "guardian of the doors of Israel".  Also, "dai" means "enough" or "sufficient" (like in "Dayeinu", the Passover song), so Sh'Dai as a god name can mean something like "The Guardian of the Gates of Israel" or "Who is Sufficient in Itself".  (Hebrew is fucking awesome; everything means everything else all the time.)

Artemis of Ephesus
I've always been particularly attracted to the name El Shaddai.  For me, it's always felt intimately attached to the marriage of Sarai and Avram (see this post) and, in a broader sense, to pre-rabbincal Judaism in general, a topic which is, you well know, close to my heart. When I pray extemporaneously, El Shaddai is almost always the name I use (although it depends on my mood and what I'm praying about, and Who shows up).  I knew about the "breast" connection and I knew that "sheddim" meant "demons" (although, in my experience, sheddim are really more like djinn or fairies than demons), but much of the information my rabbis provided was new to me.  

Thinking about all of this, I began to wonder, as I have before, about the connection between El Shaddai and the marriage of El and Astarte.  While "El" is the generic Hebrew word for "god" (little g), it's also a name for G-d, and the name of a specific Canaanite god.  El is strongly associated with bulls and thunder, is the creator of the world, and the husband of Ashera in Canaanite mythology.  Shaddai, if it does indeed mean both "breast" and "destroyer" could not be more closely aligned with Ishtar/Astarte, a goddess of sex, bounty, and conflict. Less well known is her patronage of pregnant and nursing mothers.  In the eastern parts of the Greek world, this goddess was known as  "Artemis of the East" or "Artemis of the Ephesians".  The statue in her temple at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, emphasized her role as the patron of nursing mothers, both human and animal, connecting in with the child bearing motif RK mentioned.  Fun fact: there is an interesting episode in the "New Testament" where her followers almost manage to stone Paul to death.  Too bad they missed!

Now, DDD translated "Shadday" as "God of the Wilderness", which it gets from the Akkadian "shaddu", or "dweller in the mountains". From there, it traces to the Hebrew sadeh, or "uncultivated field" or "plains".  It says "Any El Shadday, is, therefore, a "god of the wilderness" and can be connected with the iconographical motive of the 'lord of the animals'...with the emergence of the plough and incipient statehood, the 'Great Goddess' of the Neolithic period gave way to a male head of pantheon...The neolithic 'lord of beasts' survived only in marginal communities...El Shadday may thus serve as a prime example of the long way that a deity from ancient Canaan and early Israel had to go to become part of Old Testament theology."  While I'm pretty skeptical about this etymology, it is fascinating for the Babylon/Pan imagery it conjures...this time with El and Babylon and Shaddai as Pan, instead of the reverse!

For me, El Shaddai is the most ancient form of the Jewish god.  Most of you have head me say that the central teaching of my Judaism is the Shema.  "Shema Israel, HaShem Eloheinu, HaShem Achad.", literally "Listen up, Israel.  G-d is our god, G-d is one."  For me, that's the crux of the matter.  The god of our people (the way Athena is the god of Athenians, or Artemis the goddess of the Ephesians) is the Ineffable ONE who moment by moment brings the universe into being.  How fucking amazing is that?  It's COSMICALLY arrogant in a way no other people could dream to be.

El Shaddai, for me, is the name I use when I want to speak to my ancestral god, our tribal god, the nurturing breast, the violent destroyer, the Self Originator.  Expect a sound file this evening (like this one)

The following sources were very helpful in writing this:
Random fun-facts I discovered on google:

  • There's a PS3 game called "El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron", wherein you play Enoch, and try to keep seven fallen archangels from destroying the world in a great flood.  Obviously, I am looking for a copy.
  • There's a Christian song called "El Shaddai" by Amy Grant; it's not very good.  When I was about 12, I was at a sleepover, and was asked if I minded if we listened to some Amy Grant music. After we listened to it, I got asked if I wanted to be saved. I awkwardly declined.  I never told my mother, because I thought she'd think I was "falling in with a bad crowd" and not let me be friends with those girls anymore.
  • Many people seem to associate "El Shaddai" with Psalm 23 (the lord is my shepherd...).  I'm not sure why.