Sacred Texts

Bone tablets from Olbia
SEG 28.659:
Life. Death. Life. Truth. Zagreus. Dionysos.

SEG 28.660:
Peace. War. Truth. Lie. Dionysos

SEG 28.661:
Dionysos. Truth. Body. Soul.

Pherai tablet
Passwords: Male child of the thyrsos, Male child of the thyrsos; Brimo, Brimo; Enter the sacred meadow. For the initiate is without penalty.

Gold tablet from Rome
A: I come pure from the pure, Queen of the Underworld, Eukles and Eubouleus, noble child of Zeus! I have this gift of Memory, prized by men!
B: Caecilia Secundina, come, made divine by the Law!

Gold tablet from Pelinna
Now you have died and now you have been born, thrice blessed one, on this very day. Say to Persephone that Bakchios himself freed you. A bull you rushed to milk. Quickly, you rushed to milk. A ram you fell into milk. You have wine as your fortunate honor. And rites await you beneath the earth, just as the other blessed ones.

Gold tablet from Petelia
You will find a spring on the left of the halls of Hades, and beside it a white cypress growing. Do not even go near this spring. And you will find another, from the Lake of Memory, flowing forth with cold water. In front of it are guards. You must say, ‘I am the child of Ge and starry Ouranos; this you yourselves also know. I am dry with thirst and am perishing. Come, give me at once cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory.’ And they themselves will give you to drink from the divine spring, and then thereafter you will reign with the other heroes.

Gold tablet from Eleutherae in Crete
A: I am dry with thirst and am perishing.
B: Come, drink please, from the ever-flowing spring on the right, where the cypress is. Who are you, and where do you come from?
A: I am the son of Earth and Starry Heaven.

Gold tablet from Thurii
A: I come from the pure, o Pure Queen of the earthly ones, Eukles, Eubouleus, and You other Immortal Gods! I too claim to be of your blessed race, but Fate and other Immortal Gods conquered me, the star-smiting thunder. And I flew out from the hard and deeply-grievous circle, and stepped onto the crown with my swift feet, and slipped into the bosom of the Mistress (Kore), the Queen of the Underworld. And I stepped out from the crown with my swift feet.
B: Happy and blessed one! You shall be a god instead of a mortal.
A: I have fallen as a kid into milk.

Gold tablet from Thurii
But whenever a soul leaves the light of the sun–enter on the right, where one must, if one has kept all well and truly. Rejoice at the experience! This you have never before experienced. You have become a god instead of a man. You have fallen as a kid into milk. Hail, hail, as you travel on the right, through the Holy Meadow and Groves of Persephone.

Orphic tablet from Thurii
To the First-Born, to Mother Earth, to Cybela, daughter of Demeter.
Zeus, Air, Sun. Fire conquers all.
Avatars of fortune and Phanes. Moirai that remember all. You, O illustrious daimon.
Father who subdues all. Compensation.
Air, fire, Mother, Nestis, night, day,
Fasting for seven days. Zeus who sees all. Always. Mother, hear my prayer.
Fine sacrifices. Sacrifices. Demeter. Fire. Zeus. The Underground Girl.
Hero. Light to the intelligence. The Adviser seized the Girl.
Earth. Air. To the intelligence.

Orphic tablet from Thurii
To Earth, first-born Mother, Cybelean Kore said: … [lacuna] …
… of Demeter … all-seeing Zeus.
O Sun, Fire, you went through all towns, when you appeared with the Victories and Fortunes and All-wise Fate, where you increase the brightness of the festival with your lordship, O glorious deity! By you all things are subdued, all things overpowered, all things smitten! The Decrees of Fate must everywhere be endured. O Fire, lead me to the Mother, if the fast can endure, to fast for seven nights and days! For there was a seven-day fast, O Olympian Zeus and all-seeing Sun …

The Mikroteros krater
Hermes the interpreter is messenger of all; Nymphai are the water, Hephaistos the fire, Demeter the grain. Sea is the great Poseidon, the Earth-shaker, war is Ares and peace is Aphrodite. Wine, beloved by gods and mortal men, which Dionysos, born as a bull, found as charmer of all pains for humans and furnished as the most pleasant cause of merriment for mortals, is present in all banquets.

The Gurôb Papyrus
… in order that he may find
… on account of the rite they paid the penalty of their fathers. Save me, Brimô, Demeter, Rhea and armed Curêtês!
So that we may perform beautiful sacrifices …
Goat and bull, limitless gifts …
And by the law of the river …
… of the goat, and let him eat the rest of the flesh. Let no uninitiated look on!
… dedicating to the …
… prayer …
I call on … Eubouleus, and I call the Maenads who cry Euoi …
You having parched with thirst … the friends of the feast …
… of Demeter and Pallas for us …
King Irekepaigos, save me, Phanes!
… top, rattle, dice-bones, mirror …

PGM IV.1716-1870
Sword of Dardanos: Rite which is called “sword,” which has no equal because of its power, for it immediately bends and attracts the soul of whomever you wish. As you say the spell, also say: “I am bending to my will the soul of him NN.”

Take a magnetic stone which is breathing and engrave Aphrodite sitting astride Psyche and with her left hand holding on her hair bound in curls. And above her head: “ACHMAGE RARPEPSEI”; and below Aphrodite and Psyche engrave Eros standing on the vault of heaven, holding a blazing torch and burning Psyche. And below Eros these names: “ACHAPA ADONAIE BASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO E PHARPHAREI.” On the other side of the stone engrave Psyche and Eros embracing one another and beneath Eros’s feet these letters: “SSSSSSSS,” and beneath Psyche’s feet: “EEEEEEEE.” Use the stone, when it has been engraved and consecrated, like this: put it under your tongue and turn it to what you wish and say this spell:

“I call upon you, author of all creation who spread your own wings over the whole world, you, the unapproachable and unmeasurable who breathe into every soul life-giving reasoning, who fitted all things together by your power, firstborn, founder of the universe, golden-winged, whose light is darkness, who shroud reasonable thoughts and breathe forth dark frenzy, clandestine one who secretly inhabit every soul. You engender an unseen fire as you carry off every living thing without growing weary of torturing it, rather having with pleasure delighted in pain from the time when the world came into being. You also come and bring pain, who are sometimes reasonable, sometimes irrational, because of whom men dare beyond what is fitting and take refuge in your light which is darkness. Most headstrong, lawless, implacable, inexorable, invisible, bodiless, generator of frenzy, archer, torch-carrier, master of all living sensation and of everything clandestine, dispenser of forgetfulness, creator of silence, through whom the light and to whom the light travels, infantile when you have been engendered within the heart, wisest when you have succeeded; I call upon you, unmoved by prayer, by your great name: AZARACHTHARAZA LATHA IATHAL Y Y Y LATHAI ATHA LLALAPH IOIOIO AI AI AI OUERIEU OIAI LEGETA RAMAI AMA RATAGEL, first-shining, night-shining, night rejoicing, night-engendering, witness, EREKISITHPHE ARARACHARARA EPHTHISIKERE IABEZEBYTH IT, you in the depth, BERIAMBO BERIAMBEBO, you in the sea, MERMERGO U, clandestine and wisest, ACHAPA ADONAIE MASMA CHARAKO IAKOB IAO CHAROUER AROUER LAILAM SEMESILAM SOUMARTA MARBA KARBA MENABOTH EIIA. Turn the ‘soul’ of her NN to me NN, so that she may love me, so that she may feel passion for me, so that she may give me what is in her power. Let her say to me what is in her soul because I have called upon your great name.”

And on a golden leaf inscribe this sword: “One THOURIEL MICHAEL GABRIEL OURIEL MISAEL IRRAEL ISTRAEL: May it be a propitious day for this name and for me who know it and am wearing it. I summon the immortal and infallible strength of God. Grant me the submission of every soul for which I have called upon you.” Give the leaf to a partridge to gulp down and kill it. Then pick it up and wear it around your neck after inserting into the strip the herb called “boy love.”

The burnt offering which endows Eros and the whole procedure with soul is this: manna, 4 drams; storax, 4 drams; opium, 4 drams; myrrh, [f drams;] frankincense, saffron bdella, one-half dram each. Mix in rich dried fig and blend everything in equal parts with fragrant wine, and use it for the performance. In the performance first make a burnt offering and use it in this way.

Chalcis Aretalogy
… of Demeter and Kore and Dionysos and Iacchos … brother of Sleep and Echo. I am every season and take thought for all seasons, the inventor of … I created … I was the first to make adyta and sanctuaries for the gods; I devised measures and numbers … I produced the sistrum for Isis; I devised the ways to hunt all kinds of animals. … I established rulers for cities at all times; I preside over the upbringing of children; I established hymns … and dances of men and women, the Muses aiding me; I invented the mixing of wine and water; … of flutes and pipes; I am always at the side of litigants in order that nothing unjust may be done; I always share the thiasoi of Bakchoi and Bakchai; I caused … to spring up; I cleansed the whole earth; mountain-dwelling, sea-dwelling, river-dwelling, divining by throne, divining by stars … horn-shaped, Agyieus, Bassarios, of the heights, Indian-slaying, thyrsos-shaking, Assyrian hunter, wandering in dreams, giver of sleep …; approving … vengeful against those who are unjust in love. I hate the accursed … I taught all the science of drugs … Titanian, Epidaurian. Hail Chalcis, my mother and nurse … Ligyris inscribed this.

P. Berol. 17202
who traverses the air,
star holder, mountain walker,
come to me, O serpent, through the god.

Rhapsodic Theogony according to Otto Kern’s Orphicorum Fragmenta
Aristokritos the Manichee. (The poet speaks to Musaios.) These things keep in thy mind, dear son, and in thy heart, well knowing all the things of long ago, even from Phanes.

Malalas. Lord, son of Leto, far shooter, mighty Phoibos, all-seeing, ruler over mortal and immortals, Helios, borne aloft on golden wings, this is now the twelfth voice of those I heard from thee. ‘Twas thou that said it, and thee thyself, far shooter, would make my witness.

Etymologicum Magnum. These they call Giants by name among the blessed gods, for that they were born from Earth (Ge) and from the blood of Heaven (Ouranos).

Proklos. Of this Chronos, the ageless one, whose counsels never perish, was born Aither and a great yawning gulf on this side and on that: and there was no limit to it, no bottom nor foundation.

Proklos. (All things were in confusion) Throughout the misty darkness.

Damaskios. Then great Chronos fashioned in the divine Aither a silvery egg.

Proklos. (a) And it moved without slackening in a vast circle. (b) And it began to move in a wondrous circle.

Proklos. And at the birth Phanes the musty gulf below and the windless Aither were rent.

Lactantius. First-born, Phaeton, son of lofty Aither.

Proklos quotes the latter with half with the variant ‘beauteous’ for ‘lofty’.

Etymologicum Magnum. Whom they call Phanes… because he first appeared in the Aither.

Hermias. (Of Phanes.) With four eyes looking this way and that.

Hermias. (Of Phanes.) With golden wings moving this way and that.

Proklos. (Of Phanes.) Uttering the voice of a bull and of glaring lion.

Proklos. Female and Father the mighty god Erikepaios.

Proklos, Olympiodoros. Cherishing in his heart swift and sightless Eros.

Proklos. (Of Phanes.) The key of mind.

Proklos. (Of Eros-Metis.). A great deamon ever treading on their tracks.

Proklos. An awful deamon. Metis, bearing the honoured seed of the gods, whom the blessed on tall Olympus were wont to call Phanes, the Firsborn.

Hermias and others. The Firstborn none saw with his eyes, unless it were holy Night alone. But all the others marveled when there burst upon their gaze the unlooked-for light in the Aither; so gleamed the body of immortal Phanes.

Lactantius. (Of Phanes.) He built for the Immortals an imperishable house.

Proklos. And he devised another world, immense, which the Immortals call Selene and the inhabitants of Earth Mene (both words mean Moon), a world which has many mountains, cities, many mansions.

Proklos. (Of the moon.) That it may return in a month as much as the sun in a year.

Proklos. He appointed for mortals a seat to inhabit apart from the Immortals, where the path of the sun in the middle turns back upon itself, neither too cold above the head nor fiery hot, but betwixt the two.

Proklos. And the honourable works of nature are steadfast and boundless eternity.

Proklos. (Of Phanes.) And he made him (the sun) guardian and bade him have lordship over all.

Proklos. These things the Father made in the misty darkness of the cave.

Proklos. (Of Phanes.) Himself he robbed his daughter of the flower of her maidenhood.

Proklos. (Of Phanes.) His splendid scepter he placed in the hands of the goddess Night, that she might have the honour of royal sway.

Alexander of Aphrodisias. (Of Night.) Holding in her hands the noble scepter of Erikepaios.

Hermias. He granted to her (Night) to have the gift of prophecy wholly true.

Hermias. (a) Fair Ide and her sister Adrasteia.

(b) He (She?) gave to Adrasteia brazen cymbals in her hands.

Proklos. Nurse of the gods is ambrosial Night.

Syrianos. He took and divided between gods and mortals the universe then existing, over which first ruled famous Erikepaios.

Hermias (Of Night, though line 2 is quoted elsewhere as if it referred to Phanes.) She in her turn bore Gaia and broad Ouranos; and brought to light those that where invisible, and of what race they were.

Alexander of Aphrodisias. (Of Ouranos.) Who first held sway over the gods after his mother Night.

Proklos. (Earth bore) seven fair daughters… and seven kingly sons… daughters… Themis and kindly Tethys and deep-haired Mnemosyne and happy Theia, and Dione she bore of exceeding beauty and Phoibe and Rheia, the mother of Zeus the king. (Her sons where of the same number), Koios and Krios and mighty Phorkys and Kronos and Okeanos and Hyperion and Iapetos.

Eustathios. And the circle of unwearied, fair-flowing Okeanos, who winds about and enfolds the earth with his swirling streams.

Proklos.. Titans of evil counsel, with overweening hearts.

Proklos. (The Titans were defeated by the Olympians.) For powerful though the were they had set themselves against a mightier foe, out of their fatal insolence and reckless pride.

Proklos. (Of Ouranus.) With their inexorable hearts and lawless spirit… he cast them into Tartaros, deep in the earth.

Proklos. The genitals (of Ouranos) fell down into the sea, and round about them as they floated swirled the white foam. Then circling seasons the Year brought forth a tender maiden, and the spirits of Rivalry and Beguilement together took her up in their arms, so soon as she was born.

Proklos. But above all others it was Kronos whom Night reared and cherished.

Proklos. At this time Okeanos kept within his halls, debating with himself to which side his intent should lean, whether he should maim his father’s might and do him wanton injury, conspiring with Kronos and his other brethren who had hearkened to their mother’s peace. Long did he ponder, then remained he sitting his halls, for he was wroth with his mother, and yet more with his brethren.

Proklos. Under Zeus son of Kronos to have immortal life, with clear cheek… wet fragrant locks, not to be touched with the white growth of weak… but thick, luxuriant beard.

Proklos. Until Rhea should bear a child to Kronos in love.

Proklos. Aforetime was she Rhea, but when she came to be called mother of Zeus she became Demeter.

Proklos. Then Kronos afterwards, when he had eaten the food given him in deceit, lay and snored mightily.

Clement of Alexandria. He lay with his stout neck lolling sideways, and all conquering sleep overtook him.

Proklos. (Of Adrasteia.) Taking the brazen cymbals and tympanon of goat hide.

Porphyry. (Night speaks to Zeus.) Whenever thou shalt see him under the oaks with lofty foliage, drunk with the works of loud-murmuring bees, then bind him (Kronos).

Proklos. (Zeus to Kronos.) Set up our race, illustrious deamon.

Proklos. (The length of the scepter of Zeus.) Of four and twenty measures.

Proklos. And Justice, bringer of retribution, attended him (Zeus), bringing succour to all.

Proklos. (Zeus speaks.) Mother, highest of the gods, immortal Night, how am I to establish my proud rule among immortals?

Proklos. (Zeus speaks to Night.) How may I have all things one and each one separate?

Surrounding all things with ineffable Aither, and in the midst of that set the heaven, and in the midst the boundless earth, in the midst of sea, and in the midst all the constellations with which the heaven is crowned.

Proklos. (Night to Zeus.) But when thou shalt stretch a strong bond about all things, fitting a golden chain from the Aither.

Proklos. Thus then engulfing the might of Erikepaios, the Firstborn, he held the body of all things in the hollow of his own belly; and he mingled with his own limbs the power and strength of the god. Therefore together with him all things in Zeus were created anew, the shining height of the broad Aither and the sky, the seat of unharvested sea and the noble earth, great Ocean and the lowest depths beneath the earth, and rivers and the boundless sea and all else, all immortal and blessed gods and goddesses, all that was then in being and all that was to come to pass, all was there, and mingled like streams in the belly of Zeus.

Porphyry. Hymn to Zeus, which begins: Zeus became first, Zeus of the bright lighting last. Zeus is head, Zeus is middle, and from Zeus all things have their being. Zeus became male, Zeus was an immortal maiden. Zeus is foundation of earth and starry heaven. Zeus is king and Zeus himself first Father of all.

Proklos. (On Phanes from the beginning) Great Bromios and all seeing Zeus.

Proklos. (Athena.) Gleaming with arms, a brazen glory to behold.

Proklos. (Athena.) She is called by the noble name of Arete.

Proklos. (Athena.) That she might be for him (Zeus) the accomplisher of great deeds.

Proklos. (Athena.) For she was made the dread accomplisher of the will of Kronos’ son.

Proklos. (Athena.) For she is best of all immortal goddesses at plying the loom and devising the works of spinning.

Proklos. (The Kyklopes.) Who made for Zeus the thunder, and fashioned the thunderbolt, the first craftsmen, and taught Hephaistos and Athena all cunning works that the heaven contains.

Proklos … and the sea received the seed of great Zeus. So as the year completed its circling course, in the season of fair springing plants he bore the waker of laughter, Aphrodite, the foam-born.

Proklos. (Of Artemis.) Unmarried and all untried in child birth she resolves its issues.

Proklos. She then, divine Hekate, daughter of fair-tressed Leto, leaving there the body of child departed to Olympos.

Proklos. (Of Demeter.) She devised servants, and attendants, and followers; she devised ambrosia and the fragrance, of red nectar; she devised the splendid works of the loud-murmuring bees.

Tzetzes. Plying the loom, an unfinished toil, flowery.

Proklos. (Demeter speaks to Kore.) But going up to the fruitful bed of Apollo, thou shalt bear splendid children, with countenances of flaming fire.

Proklos. (Kore bears) nine daugthers, grey-eyed, makers of flowers.

Proklos. (Of Dionysos.) And he was called sweet child of Zeus.

Proklos. (Names of the Moon.) Plutone and Euphrosyne and mighty Bendis.

Proklos. (Zeus makes Dionysos king) for all he was young and but a greedy infant.

Proklos. (Zeus speaks.) Give ear ye gods; this one have I made your king.

Proklos. (a) Only the heart, the seat of thought, did they leave.

(b) Seven parts of child in all did they divide between them.

Proklos. Proklos. But Atlas holds the board heaven under the weight of stern necessity, at the bounds of the earth.

Proklos. Proklos. (Dionysos is often called Wine by the theologoi from his gifts.)

(a) Instead of one stock of Wine they put in its place three.

(b) Take up all the limbs of Wine in order, and bring them to me.

(c) Jealous as she was of Wine, the son of Zeus.

Proklos. Zeus then, the father, ruled all things, but Bakchos ruled after him.

Proklos. The Phrygians are said to call water bedü.). And bedü if the Nymphs drips down, sparkling water.

Proklos. Proklos. All who live purely beneath the rays of the sun, so soon as they die have smooth path in a fair meadow beside deep-flowing Acheron, but those who have done evil beneath the rays of the sun, the insolent, are brought down below Kokytos to the chilly horrors of Tartaros.

Proklos. (The fate of the souls of animals is different from that of our own.) The souls of beasts and winged birds when they flit away, and sacred life forsakes the creature, not one of them is brought to the house of Hades, but each flutters aimlessly where it is, until some other creature snatch it up as it mingles with the guests of the wind. But when it is a man who leaves the light of the sun, then the immortal souls are brought down by Kyllenian Hermes to the vast hidden part of the earth.

Proklos. (a) Fathers and sons on the halls are the same, and neat housewives and mothers and daughters—all come out of each other in the succeeding generations.

(b)…since the souls of men in circles of times goes in turn among animals, now this one and now that. At one time a horse, then it becomes… again a sheep, then a bird, a sight of fear, again the form of a dog with deep-toned bark, and the race of cold snakes that creeps upon the bright earth.

Plutarch. A creature as long-lived as the young palm with feathered top.

Clement of Alexandria. Water is death to soul, and soul to water. From water comes earth, and from earth water again, and from that, soul, quitting the vastness of aither.

Clement of Alexandria. Of all the springing herbs with which mortals have to do on the earth, none has an unchanging destiny laid upon it, but all must go full circles, and it is not lawful to stop any part, but each bough holds to just a share of the course, even as it began it.

Vettius Valens. (a) The soul of man has its origin from aither.

(b) As we draw in the air we gather to ourselves divine soul.

(c) The soul is immortal and ageless, and comes from Zeus.

(d) The soul of all is immortal, but the bodies are mortal.

Clement of Alexandria. To cease from the circle and have respite from evil.

Olympiodoros. Men will dispatch full hecatombs in all the seasons of the year, and will perform the mystic rites, yearning to be set free from their lawless ancestry. Then thou, for thou hast power in these things, shalt set free whom thou wilt from grevious pain and endless sting of passion.

Malalas and Kedrenos. Beasts and birds and sinful tribes of mortals, burdens to the earth, counterfeit images, knowing no single thing, without wit to perceive the approach of evil, nor to avert disaster from afar, nor skilled when good is at hand to repent and make yours, but vain and foolish and improvident.

Clement of Alexandria. For there is no worse, no more terrible thing than a woman.

Olympiodoros. Many are the wand-bearers, but few the Bakchoi.

Et varia. Kronos who did a mighty deed to Ouranos, son of Nyx, who became king first of all; following Kronos was Zeus the contriver. Having heard of the prophecy from his father, when Zeus reached his strong maturity he took in his hands the glorious daimon, the reverend one, and swallowed him who first sprang forth into the Aither. So then, by engulfing Erikepaios the Firstborn Phanes, he had the body of all things in his belly, and he mixed into his own limbs the god’s power and strength. Because of this, together with him, everything came to be again inside Zeus, the broad air and the lofty splendour of heaven, the undraining sea and earth’s glorious seat, great Okeanos and the lowest Tartara of the earth, rivers and boundless sea and everything else, and all the immortal blessed gods and goddesses, all that had existed and all that was to exist afterwards became one and grew together in the belly of Zeus. After he had hidden them all away, again into the glad light from his holy heart he brought them up, performing mighty acts.