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Abraxas: God or Demon?
Article ID: 13588
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Crick [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: February 21st. 2010
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When one mentions the word “Abrasax” there are oftentimes, conflicting views which arise. To some he was seen as a God, to others as a demon, and yet to others as an amalgamation of both. And so I have endeavored to present the more commonly accepted views of Abrasax. You may know of still more interpretations not noted within this article. But at any rate as a pagan, I personally believe that we should always be students of life. And as such we should always be prepared to open the next door awaiting before us.
Throughout the various beliefs associated with Abraxas, he was often described as having the head of a lion or in some cases a cock, which at times bore a royal crown, along with a dragon's tail, and serpents in lieu of legs. There are many interpretations attached to the word “Abrasax”.
According to the “Basilidians”, he was the Supreme God, for the Greek letters that forms his name adds up to the number of 365, which according to their beliefs in turn corresponds to the number of days in a year. Each day of the year according to the Gnostics, represents a “circle of creation” which in turn has its own individual spirit assigned to it. Basilides was a Gnostic Christian teacher from the second century CE who taught in Alexandria Egypt.
It is thought that when Carl Jung wrote his “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (The Seven Sermons to the Dead) , he was in effect, paraphrasing Basilides. His treatise is in effect a three-stage development of God as understood through the eyes of humans. Very basically these three stages begin with god as a single entity who then transforms into a separation of god and devil, which then becomes a unified entity of both god and devil. The Basilidians also believe that it was Abrasax who sent Jesus Christ to do his bidding here on earth.
The word Abraxas was the name used by the Gnostics to denote the unspeakable name of the Supreme Being. This is a practice found in other belief systems such as the Judaic practice of using the term “Yahweh” as a term for the unspeakable name for their god.
It is established knowledge that the word Abraxas (Abrasax or Abracax) was often found engraved on certain gemstones, which were called Abraxas stones. These in turn were used as amulets or charms. Such stones contained the name “Abraxas” and/or other mystic figures and/or groups of letters.
The initial spelling of the word as seen on the stones was "Abrasax". According to Gnostic cosmology, the seven letters spelling its name represent each of the seven planets, which within the Gnostic belief system are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The word Abraxas is thought by some to be the origin of the word “abracadabra”, though this word also has other sources cited as being its origin.
The name is also found in the Gnostic text, “Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians” which in turn contains the “Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit”. Throughout the centuries, Abraxas has been variously described as an Egyptian god, a demon, and/or to represent God and Satan in one entity and thus the dual nature of its essence.
The name Abraxas also is also found in the Greek Magical Papyri, which consists of the following sections:
Acquiring a Supernatural Assistant
Papyri graecae magicae I.54
Papyri graecae magicae III.1-59
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1-25
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1227-64
Papyri graecae magicae IV.1716-1870 ("The Sword of Dardanos")
Papyri graecae magicae VII.429-58
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber I
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber II
Ecloga Ex Papyris Magicis: Liber III
The Greek Magickal Papyri has to do in part with the summoning of demons and thus may be the root of the belief that Abraxas was a king of demons. Whether Abraxas was a god or a demon, I don’t know. But then I personally see demons as demigods whose comprehension and goals may not be on the same level of reality as perceived by humans. When the actions of such other worldly beings become at odds with that of humans, then humans tend to view such entities as evil or demons if you will.
But then who commands validation in such situations? Humans who are but naïve babes in the grand scheme of things or those entities who came before us? Such a question can only be answered by each individual as pertains to their understanding or lack of such matters, beyond their immediate sense of awareness.
It should be noted as part of this treatise on Abraxas, that in 1913 CE, Aleister Crowley wrote the “Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica” in which the name of Abraxas is invoked as part of this ritual. One of the interesting aspects of this OTO ritual is that it must be performed by both a HP and HPS of whom the latter is required to officiate while skyclad. You as the reader may draw your own inferences from this requirement.
At any rate Abraxas is one of those entities that is shrouded in mystery as to origin and/or purpose. And as with such mysterious entities, there are certain attributes that may or may not be applicable. A lesson that may be drawn from this is that there truly is no right or wrong way, only that which works for the individual. Oftentimes, we as pagans are quick to cite such tenets, but then often as not, we are quick to make assumptions about what is right or wrong for others based upon one’s own comfort zone.
If pagans are to ever create a community where those who follow a mystical path are able to coincide with others of parallel beliefs then perhaps such a lesson should be brought to the forefront of our awareness. For a problem can only be resolved if it is recognized and accepted as such, for denial only leads to more of the same.
Location: Manheim, Pennsylvania
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