Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Abrasax, Giants, Geryon

                                                                     Edited April,16, 2012

Let's go back to snakes.

The word Abrasax which is far more common in the sources than the variant form Abraxas, was a word of mystic meaning in the system of the Gnostic Basilides, being there applied to the “Great Archon”, the princeps of the 365 spheres.

The word is found in Gnostic texts such as the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit, and also appears in the Greek Magical Papyri. It was engraved on certain antique gemstones, called on that account Abraxas stones, which were used as amulets or charms.

There are similarities and differences between such figures in reports about Basilides' teaching, ancient Gnostic texts, the larger Greco-Roman magical traditions, and modern magical and esoteric writings. Opinions abound on Abraxas, who in recent centuries has been claimed to be both an Egyptian god and a demon. The Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung wrote a short Gnostic treatise in 1916 called The Seven Sermons to the Dead, which called Abraxas a God higher than the Christian God and Devil, that combines all opposites into one Being.

According to E. A. Wallis Budge, "as a Pantheus, i.e. All-God, he appears on the amulets with the head of a **** (Phœbus) or of a lion (Ra or Mithras), the body of a man, and his legs are serpents which terminate in scorpions, types of the Agathodaimon.

Gemstone carved with Abrasax, obverse and reverse.
Engraving from an Abrasax stone.
Carl Jung (Seven Sermons to the Dead)

Abraxas is an important figure in Seven Sermons, a representation of the driving force of individuation (synthesis, maturity, oneness), referred with the figures for the driving forces of differentiation (emergence of consciousness and opposites), Helios God-the-Sun, and the Devil.

"There is a God about whom you know nothing, because men have forgotten him. We call him by his name: Abraxas. He is less definite than God or Devil....

"Abraxas is activity: nothing can resist him but the unreal.... Abraxas stands above the sun[-god] and above the devil.... If the Pleroma were capable of having a being, Abraxas would be its manifestation."
—2nd Sermon

"That which is spoken by God-the-Sun is life; that which is spoken by the Devil is death; Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word, which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible."
—3rd Sermon

Chnoubis is an Egyptian Gnostic solar icon, found most often on gnostic gems, and amulets for protection against poison and disease. It is a composite figure with the head of a lion and the body of a serpent, usually with seven rays emanating from the head, sometimes, with the twelve zodiacal signs. Chnoubis is an aspect of the Gnostic Demiurge, Yaldabaoth, and is associated with Abraxas. Images of Chnoubis are most often found inscribed on gnostic gems, small talismans made from semi-precious stone, that date from the first century onward.

Chnoubis is probably originates in the syncretistic Jewish-Gnostic-Egyptian context of the Jewish Temple in Leontopolis, according to Atilio Mastrocinque in Jewish Magic and Gnosticism(don’t let the title fool you–it’s pretty much all about snake cults in late antiquity!). And, in one gem, he is syncretized to Glykon.
Ophioneus (or Ophion) is the name given of the primordial serpent in some Orphic texts like the Derveni Papyrus; indeed, the primordial creature is often thought of as serpentine in form, including the multiply-animal-headed Phanes in some versions of his story, and Ananke. This serpent is also often said to be Cronos (or Chronos). Not surprisingly, the Orphic idea of a later incarnation of Phanes being Dionysus, through his father Zeus who took serpentine or draconic form to mate with Persephone, then has further ophidian connections when the Titans attack Dionysus and, in the version of this story given by Nonnos, the child Zagreus (Dionysus) transforms into many animal shapes, including a ram-horned serpent–which is often pictured with the Gaulish god Cernunnos and similar figures in Celtic iconography. As it is often wondered if the craftsmanship of the most famous depiction of such a serpent with a horned god, from the Gundestrup Cauldron, originates from Thracian metalworkers being advised by Gaulish patrons, and both the cult of Orpheus and many Dionysian activities were said to have been Thracian in origin, perhaps this connection is a deep one. (And, as Bithynia considered itself Thracian in origin, perhaps this influence was even there in Antinous’ youth. There is also some suggestion that Herodes Attikos and Polydeukion’s cults had an Orphic dimension to it, so this may go even deeper within the interests of the Ekklesía Antínoou.) The serpent Ophion(eus) is also said to have had wings, not unlike some other important feathered serpent deities like the Meso-American Quetzlcouatl. I personally also imagine him to have many heads, like the Indian cosmic serpent Shesha.
 Zeus  Meilichios
 God Serapis as a snake from
Aleister Crowley:
Abraxas is invoked in the The Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica:
Aleister Crowley 12 October 1875 – 1 December 1947), born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema.

Annibale Carracci, God Pan and Diana

Let's continue with serpent-footed monsters.

The GIANTS, they say, were serpent-footed, had a thousand hands, and being huge they were also invincible in their might. Some have said that the GIANTS were born in Phlegrae or Pallene, which is the westernmost of the three peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea from Chalcidice.
The GIANTS were born from the flowing blood which fell upon the earth after the Castration of Uranus, performed by Cronos. But it has also been told that Gaia, vexed because the OLYMPIANS had defeated the TITANS, gave birth to a race of GIANTS so that they should attack heaven, and obtain revenge.
These GIANTS did attack heaven (see Gigantomachy), and as an oracle had declared that none of the them could perish at the hands of the gods unless a mortal could help them, these summoned Heracles 1 to their aid, and the GIANTS were destroyed.

The mythology and legends of many different cultures include monsters of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. "Giant" is the English word (coined 1297) commonly used for such beings, derived from one of the most famed examples: the gigantes (Greek "γίγαντες"[1]) of Greek mythology.
In various Indo-European mythologies, gigantic peoples are featured as primeval creatures associated with chaos and the wild nature, and they are frequently in conflict with the gods, be they Olympian,Nartian, Hindu or Norse.
There are also accounts of giants in the Old Testament, most famously Goliath. Attributed to them are extraordinary strength and physical proportions.

Roman mythology
Several Jupiter-Giant-Columns have been found in Germania Superior. These were crowned with a statue of Jupiter, typically on horseback, defeating or trampling down a Giant, often depicted as a snake. They are restricted to the area of south-western Germany, western Switzerland, French Jura and Alsace.

Zeus fight Giant
Typhon also Typhoeus, Typhaon or Typhos was the last son of Gaia, fathered by Tartarus, and the most deadly monster of Greek mythology. He was known as the "Father of all monsters"; his wife Echidna was likewise the "Mother of All Monsters."

Combat de Zeus contre Typhon

Istanbul Archaeological Museum - Gigantomachy (the battle among the Greek gods (at the left side is depicted Athena) and the Giants. Hellenistic art of the Roman period, 2nd century AD. From Aphrodisias. Picture by: Giovanni Dall'Orto.

Istanbul Archaeological Museum - Gigantomachy (the battle among the Greek gods and the Giants. Hellenistic art of the Roman period, 2nd century AD. From Aphrodisias. Picture by: Giovanni Dall'Orto.

Date: ca 320 AD

Detail of a Gigante from a mosaic depicting the death of the giants in their war against the gods. The serpent-footed monster is pierced by an arrow.

Date: ca 320 AD

A group of serpent-footed Gigantes felled by the arrows of the gods.

In Greek mythology, Geryon; Ancient Greek son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe and grandson of Medusa, was a fearsome giant who dwelt on the island Erytheia of the mythic Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. A more literal-minded later generation of Greeks associated the region with Tartessos in southern Iberia.[2]
Geryon was often described as a monster with human faces. According toHesiod Geryon had one body and three heads, whereas the tradition followed by Aeschylus gave him three bodies.

A Gustave Doré wood engraving of Geryon for Dante's Inferno

Dore's art reminds me about William Blake's paintings.

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun

The Great Red Dragon and the Beast from the Sea