Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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.

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