Friday, June 24, 2016

Nebiros and Zeus-Meilichios: Caves, Mountains, Thunder and Lightning

Last week we looked at the spirit Nebiros and followed his trail to the PGM, our trusted source of the techniques found in the grimoire traditions of Europe. For more on the argument for the similarities between Nebiros, Cerberus and Anubis, as found in the various grimoires and earlier magical papyri, I would highly recommend Jake Stratton Kent's Geosophia. In Book 6, the chapter "Nebiros and Hermes Chthonios" lays out the firm foundation for this argument, which my last blog post aimed at extrapolating on, and helping to prove by examination of the source materials. This week we will be looking at another valuable source: pre-Olympian Greek cults. It is my hope that this further examination will help to shed light on the similarities between the demons of the grimoires, and the daimones, gods and the spirits of the dead who are the basis of its predecessors. While many would be quick to imagine a demon running off and making things happen after the bargain is struck or the spell is woven, rather than them compelling the Dead to do their bidding. As the PGM shows us, it really is a delicate spiritual ecosystem, and one in which hierarchy is everything. The hierarchies of the grimoires are broken, scattered and require a multifaceted approach to reconstruct, however ultimately, this quest will involve quite a bit of conjecture, but so it goes. Until it is put into practice and verified. But let us press onward.

A quick recap:

Based on his appearances in the the Grimorium Verum (GV), Grand Grimoire (GG), the Grimoire of Pope Honorius (GPH), the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum (PM) and the Egyptian Magical Papyri (PGM) we can ascertain that the spirit Nebiros is:

  • A chthonic and nocturnal spirit
    • Referred to as gnome, being an earth elemental, in the Muzzi edition of the Verum
    • Said to dwell in caverns and rule over nocturnal assemblies according to Honorius
    • Referred to Cerberus in the Pseudomonarchia, who is the Dog daimon guardian of Hades
  • Able to do evil to whomever he wishes
    • Cerberus, and his Egyptian counterpart, Anubis, are found invoked in many curses, bindings and all forms of malefic magic in the PGM
  • A great necromancer
    • Invoked to bind and compel the violently dead to achieve the aims of the magician in the PGM
    • Able to bind the shade of a dead man who guards over his treasure in the Grand Grimoire and the Grimorium Verum
  • Provider of wealth or hidden treasure
    • Leads the magician to a buried hoard of gold in the Book of Secrets in the Muzzi edition of the Verum
    • Nambroth, his alias in the Grimoire of Pope Honorius, is "the guardian of riches and hidden treasure"
Based upon the GV and GG entries referring to him, in the guise of a dog, as a gnome, we can ascertain his elemental nature as being of earth, which makes sense for finding treasure that is buried in it. Given his preference for caverns and the darkness of night we can further classify him according to Psellus' Operations of Daemones, as a subteranean, and a lucifugous spirit. Further more, knowing he is a gnome, we can attribute him as being ruled by Amaymon, the demon king of the elementals of Earth and ruler of the southern quarter according to Agrippa. The Sworn Book of Honorius of Thebes, associates the South with Mars, and works and spirits of destruction. The day of Mars is of course the day assigned to Nambroth, or Frimost, alternatively in the GPH. He is also said to respond well to Saturday nights, also ruled by Mars. Interestingly enough Jake, in the Geosophia, further connects Nebiros and Frimost by virtue of the origins of their names.
"A Greek origin for this name may be traced in nebros, meaning a fawn skin. This was an attribute of Bacchus, and many terms from this root are associated with the cult of Dionysus (Bacchus). This etymology links the older Thracian deity Dionysus with the god known in Classical times as Hermes Chthonios, the underworld Hermes. In addition it connects Nebiros with the rites of Bacchus, often thought to connect with the the Witches' Sabbath. In similar vein, the demon name Frimost translates Bromios, a title of Dionysus from Greek to Latin."
The shared planetary day, as well as name origin, between these two spirits should well be considered. It should also be noted that these names came from, not proper names, by from descriptive titles or epithets for a particular aspect of a deity. Cultic titles were an important aspect of ancient Greek religion, and one which can easily be lost on the modern mind approaching these words as proper names. Similar to all the confusion in Abrahamic religions involving Satan, which originated not as a proper noun, but simply as a qualifier. It was the title of an angel, and not the name of an actual being charged with doing all evil in the universe. However, that discussion is well beyond the means of this current post, so I shall digress no further on this point.

Now it is very strange to me that a subterranean and light fleeing spirit would be so associated with thunderclaps, lightning and storms.
"He makes loud noises, with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning;"
I would assume a more aerial spirit to be involved with such things, however his association with these as well as hidden wealth does bear a resemblance to a rather curious element of Greek religion: Zeus-Meilichios. Jane Ellen Harrison presents fantastic study of this little talked about aspect of Zeus, the high and mighty One of the Olympian gods, in the Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion. Zeus-Meilichios was worshipped in a festival known as the Diasia. These rites were quite strange, and described as stygian, or gloomy, quite the opposite of the typical Jove thought of as ruling the higher airs from atop Mount Olympus. Instead what we find worshipped as Zeus-Meilichios is a powerful chthonic serpent. The title of Meilichios can be translated as , and could be rationalized as being the opposite of Zeus' attribute of Maimaktes, he who rages eager, panting and thirsting for blood. However, both the atmosphere and description of the rites belonging to this specific title, as well as the method of sacrifice called for, and the the very image associated with this name all hint at something else.

"The great snake, later worshipped as Zeus Meilichios, was, we have already seen, not Zeus himself, but an underworld being addressed by the title Meilichios, gracious, kindly, easy to be entreated. It will now be evident that his snake form marks him as the vehicle or incarnation of a ghost, a local hero. He was only one of a large class of local divinities who were invoked not by proper names but by adjectival epithets, descriptive of their nature, epithets which gradually crystallized into cultus-titles." Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion
Zeus' assumption of this title and the rites related clearly indicates the absorption of an earlier cult, and one related, with little subtlety, to the underworld and the Dead. The sacrifices to Zeus Meilichios are by holocaust, meaning that the entire offering is given to the God and consumed by fire, unlike the more common Homeric style rituals where the sacrifice was also partook of by the worshippers as a sort of communion. As Jane says, "The manner of the sacrifice, not the material, is the real clue to the significance of the title Meilichios." Further examining these rites shows that they were to remove obstacles, or to atone for the slaughter of kindred blood, connecting this deity with the archaic practice of the vendetta.
"The regular ancestral sacrifice to Zeus Melicihios was a holocaust of pigs, and the god himself was regarded as a source of wealth, a sort of Ploutos."
Here we arrive at one of the chief aspects linking Nebiros to this rather unknown form of chthonic sky god: a bringer of wealth. Meilichios as ploutos bears a striking resemblance to Nebiros/Cerberus/Nambroth as a guardian of treasures. His ability to bind the dead for the benefit of the living, either to divest them of their hidden treasure, or, as with Zeus Meilichios, to purge the living of spilled blood and thus protect them from wrathful ghosts. We find sacrifices are integral to working with Nebiros or Meilichios. It is not necessarily the animal chosen that is linked to the god, as the author has already said, however pigs do have some association with chthonic deities, their cheapness in regards to keeping them seems rather strange when being offered to the richest and most powerful of the gods. All of these clues seem to indicate a far older ancestral or hero cult relying upon the appeasement of chthonic entities to purify and remove evil from the worshippers, and that the spirits involved could be described as "Meilichian". This would have been a localized cultus, and not based upon Olympian myths. We read further on this in the Prolegomena:
"Most fortunately for us Pausanias, when at Myonia in Locria, visited a sanctuary, not indeed of Zeus Meilichios, but of 'the Meilichians'. He saw there no temple, only a grove and an altar, and he learnt the nature of the ritual. 'The sacrifices to "the Meilichians" are at night-time and it is customary to consume the flesh on the spot before the sun is up.' Here is no question of Zeus; we have independent divinities worshipped on their own account and with nocturnal ceremonies. The suspicion begins to take shape that Zeus must have taken over the worship these dread Meilichian divinities with its nocturnal ceremonial. The suspicion is confirmed when we find that Zeus Meilichios, like the Erinyes, the avenger of kindred blood. Pausanias saw near the Kephissos an ancient altar of Zeus Meilichios; on it Theseus received purification from the descendants of Phytalos after he had slain among other robbers, Sinis, who was related to himself through Pittheus."

The atonement for the slaying of kindred is no small matter in this worldview, for to have spilled the blood of a relative would indeed bring about the wrath of Furies, or Erinyes, or the vengeful ghost of the one slain. Here we find Meilichios as being a powerful arbiter between the worlds of the living and the Dead and able to reconcile them. Elsewhere we read of his ability to bring wealth to one, Xenophon, who after running out of funds, is unable to return from his adventure until making a sacrifice to Zeus Meilichios, who he is told is standing in his way. It is my conviction that Nebiros, and other spirits of the grimoires bear a striking resemblance to this mysterious class of daimones, known as the Meilichians. Their shared nocturnal rites, and the blood sacrifices offered to them are quite astonishing. While the animal offered in sacrifice in the procedures of goetia is most commonly a goat (although a cockerel, lamb and others appear throughout the numerous manuscripts), and not a pig, it is sacrificed entirely to the spirit. The skin is taken and preserved to be made into the vellum on which the explicit pact is to be made. Although in the True Grimoire it says nothing of what is it to be done with the rest of the goat, the blood is poured upon the ground in offering to the spirit, with the words "I kill you in the name and honor of N." However, per the instructions of the Grand Grimoire, other than the skin of the animal, a holocaust is implied, directly linking this method of sacrifice to the rites of the Meilichian divinities. Are these the exact same spirits? No. They are, however, extremely similar, both in rituals involving them, as well as nature. They are chthonic spirits; they are wealth guarding spirits; and, most importantly, they are spirits very much involved with the Dead. Whether, they themselves are the deified Dead, as in a hero cultus; or, just simply spirits which share the same relative ecosystem as those of the Dead, it does not matter. Their similarities are enough to inform our praxis.

Meilichios, like Satan, Brimos/Frimotus and Nebros, is a title; and not a proper name. This begs the question then, when calling a spirit by this title, are we calling the Nebiros, or a Nebiros? If this is a descriptive title, rather than proper name, would this mean any spirit that fits the the qualities could harken to its summons? Is the Nebiros I work with, the same as the Nebiros of another? It would make a lot of sense for these spirits to be localized in practice, and while bearing a passing resemblance and the same title, they could very easily be different. We are entering here the realms of pure conjecture and I will leave these questions to be examined and answered by the reader, and I hope that this on going study will inspire others like myself to discover and verify the identities of these spirits for themselves.

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