A Prayer to the Moon (PGM 7.756–794)

1 Introduction

2 Translation

A Prayer.

“I call upon you, all-shaped and many-named, double-horned goddess Mēnē (‘Moon’),¹ whose shape (morphē) no one knows except for him who created the entire cosmos, Iahō,² who formed you into the 28 shapes (skhemata) of the cosmos, so that you would complete every shape (idea) and allot to each animal and plants its (vital) breath (pneuma), so that it may flourish;³ you who wax from the unmanifest into light, and wane from light into darkness! Who begin to wane into increase!⁴

“And the 1st property of your name is silence (sigē).¹
The 2nd is a popping sound (poppysmos).
The 3rd is groaning (stenagmos).
The 4th is a shrill sound (syrigmos).
The 5th is a joyful cry (ololygmos).
The 6th is a mournful cry (mygmos).
The 7th is barking (hylagmos).
The 8th is mooing (mykēthmos).
The 9th is neighing (khremetismos).
The 10th is a musical sound (phthongos enarmonios).
The 11th is vocal(ic) breath (pneuma phōnaen).
The 12th is a breathy (lit. ‘breath-producing’) sound (ēkhos anemopoios).
The 13th is a forceful (lit. ‘coercive’) sound (phthongos anankastikos).⁶
The 14th is a forceful effluence of perfection (teleiotētos anankastikos aporrhoia).⁷

“Ox (bous), vulture (gyps), bull (tauros), beetle (kantharos), falcon (hierax), crab (karkinos), dog (kyōn), wolf (lykos), serpent (drakōn), horse (hippos), she-goat (khimaira), asp (thermouthis), goat (aix), he-goat (tragos), baboon (kynokephalos), cat (ailouros), lion (leōn), leopard (pardalis), fieldmouse (mygalos), deer (elaphos), many-shaped (polymorphos), maiden (parthenos), lamp (lampas), lightning (astrapē), wreath (stelma), herald’s staff (kērykeion), child (pais), key (kleis).⁸

“I have spoken the signs (sēmeia) and the symbols (symbola) of your name, so that you might hear me, because I pray to you, the Lady (despoinē) of the entire cosmos! Hear me, (you,) the stable one (monimos), the powerful one (krataia)!

“Apheiboēō Mintēr Okhaō Pizephydōr Khanthar Khadērozo!
Mokhthion Eotneu Phērzon Aindēs Lakhaboō Pittō Riphthamer Zmomokhōleie Tiēdranteia Sisozokhabēdōphra!”⁹

(Then, add the) usual.¹⁰

3 Notes

1: Mēnē is poetic synonym of Selēnē.

2: Iahō, the god of Abraham, is here accepted as the demiurge or creator of the universe.

3: One could say that the Moon is being assigned both an incorporeal paradigmatic function, like the Platonic forms, and a corporeal animating one, like Stoic pneuma.

4: Probably a (less plausible) alternative reading for “and wane from light into darkness,” which suggests our copyist (or his model) was working from two slightly different exemplars.

5: This and the following could simply be read off, but it is perhaps envisioned that one would also vocalize them (or even only vocalize them without reading the words). Compare the description of a witch (saga) in Lucan: “She has the bark of dogs and the howl of wolves; whatever question the fearful horned owl, whatever the nocturnal screech owl hoots, whatever beasts rattle and cry, whatever hiss the serpent makes, she imitates, and the wail of the wave beating the rough rocks, the noise of the woods and the thunderclap of the broken cloud; her one voice (vox) was of so many things” (Civil War, 688–693).

6: I do not know how exactly we are to imagine this and the following two properties (syntrophoi) of the name, beyond reading the words.

7: It is no accident that the list comes to fourteen sounds, half the number of “shapes” of the Moon.

8: These must be the 28 shapes of the cosmos mentioned above. Many of these symbola are associated with Hekate, the Moon or Artemis elsewhere.

9: The “barbarous names” seem unique to this text.

10: That is, add the the prayer request.