Select Chaldean Oracles
( Ἔκκριτα Χαλδαικὰ Λόγια )

© 2016, John Opsopaus


I. Select Chaldean Oracles

  1. Fr.2 (K.51)

  2. When thou hast donned the Vigor full-arrayed of Sounding Light,
    and hast equipped thy Nous and Soul with Three-barbed Strength,
    then cast the Triad’s whole Sign in thy breast, and haunt
    Empyrean Channels, not dispersed, but gathered in.

    These verses describe the armoring of the soul and its vehicle for the ascent. The Sounding Light is the music of the Spheres, and so its Vigor (Ἀκμὴν) is aithêr (Lewy, 193). The word translated “Strength” is λκῇ, the triadic soul-spark (a portion of the Father’s thought), which effects the soul’s separation from the body (Lewy, 193–4). The word translated “Sign” is Σύνθημα (Sunthêma). The word translated “haunt” (ἐπιφοιτᾶν) also means “to frequent,” which is probably the sense here. The word translated “gathered in” is στιβαρηδόν, an unusual word, which means the opposite of dispersed or scattered; thus collected or “with concentration” (Majercik, 49). The Empyrean Channels (Ὀχετοῖς) are the fiery rays that the initiate will ascend (Lewy, 193). These verses are in indirect discourse.

  3. Fr.3 (K.12)

  4.          … the Father snatched Himself away,
    and didn’t close His Fire in Noeric Power.

    The First God holds Himself apart from the universe and does not constrain His Fire within the Noeric Power of the Demiurge (Majercik 141–2).

  5. Fr.4 (K.13)

  6. For with Him is the Power, but from Him is the Nous.

    The Monad and the Indefinite Dyad (Power) are a couple, almost a bisexual Deity; the Demiurge (Nous) is Their Son.

  7. Fr.5 (K.13)

  8.          … For not in Matter doth
    the First Transcendent Fire His own Power clothe
    by means of deeds, but by the Nous; for Nous of Nous
    is Craftsman of the Fiery Cosmos. …

    The First Nous, the Transcendent Fire, does not directly clothe His Power (His Ideas) in Matter, but this is accomplished by the Second Nous, or Nous born of Nous, the Demiurge, who creates the Empyrean World, the Fiery Cosmos (cf. Majercik 143).

  9. Fr.6 (K.22)

  10. for as a Girdling Mental Membrane She divides
    the First and Other Fire, hastening to mix.

    The word translated “Mental” is Νοερός (Noeros), commonly translated “Intellectual,” but referring to the Intuitive Intellection of Nous. Simplicius cites this oracle in a discussion of Atlas as a Mediator between the Terrestrial and Celestial Worlds (cf. the Apples of the Hesperides).

  11. Fr.7 (K.14)

  12. The Father finished* every thing and handed them
    to Second Nous, whom you, the tribe of men, call First.

    *Finished (ἐξετέλεσσε) means to perfect or bring to a perfect end; that is, the Father thinks the Model perfectly, and passes it on to the Demiurge (Majercik 144). The Demiurge is often mistaken for the First God, because His work is more manifest to us.

  13. Fr.8 (K.14)

  14.          … beside this one a Dyad sits.
    For He hath both: to hold Noetics in His Nous,
    to bring Sensation to the Worlds.…

    This fragment may have followed fr. 7. He brings Sensation (αἴσθησιν) or Sense-perception to the world by putting the Forms in Matter. The Demiurge is a Dyad, for in His Nous He contemplates the Father’s Ideas and uses them to Form the world (Majercik 145).

  15. Fr.11 (K.15)

  16. The Good perceiving, where Paternal Monad is,

    Here “perceiving” (νοοῦσα) refers to the intuitive perception of Noêsis. The oracle shows that the First God is identified with The Good.

  17. Fr.18 (K.18)

  18. who see and know Abyss, Paternal, Hypercosmic

    The oracle comes from a hymn addressing “Ye Gods, who see and know...” That is, only the Gods are able to perceive the Paternal Abyss.

  19. Fr.25 (K.46)

  20. These things the Father thought*; a mortal was ensouled.

    *Thought (ἐνόησε) refers to intuitive thinking, which in the Mind of the Father is simultaneous with action. He is the ultimate source of individual souls.

  21. Fr.26

  22. The World, which saw Thee, Threefold* Monad, worshipped Thee.

    *Threefold (Τριοῦχον), the literal meaning is “containing three.” The Monad is a Triunity of Father, Mother, and Son.

  23. Fr.27 (K.18)

  24. In every World a Triad, ruled by Monad, shines.

    This oracle probably refers to the triadic structure of the Empyrean, Aetherial, and Material Worlds (Majercik 152).

  25. Fr.31 (K.15)

  26. From both indeed the Bond of the First Triad flows,
    not truly first, but where Noetics are defined.

    The word translated “defined” (μετρεῖται) is literally “measured.” “Both” refers to the Monad and the Dyad. Majercik (153–4) interprets this Dyad as the Demiurgic Second Nous, but I wonder if it could be the Indefinite Dyad. The Triad is “not truly first,” because it is the “measurable Triad” of the Second Nous, with His Connective quality (cf. Bond), as opposed to the Triad of the Paternal Monad.

  27. Fr.32 ll.2-3 (K.19)

  28. (S)he is a Worker, Giver of Life-Bringing Fire,
    and fills the Womb Life-Giving of Hekate…

    The word translated “Giver” is Ἐκδότις, the literal meaning of which is “Bride’s Mother”; also “Worker” is ἐργάτις, which is a female worker. All of this suggests Hekate (as in Stanley’s translation), but the sense seems to imply that the Demiurge is meant (as in Majercik 154). Johnston (64–5) says it is the Πατρικὴ Δύναμις (Paternal Power), which is feminine. Κόλπον (here, Womb) may also mean Bosom or Fold (Sinus).

  29. Fr.34 (K.20)

  30. from thence the birth of Variegated Matter leaps;
    thence sweeping Lightning-Storm obscures the Flower of Fire,
    in Coils of Kosmoi leaping; for from thence all things
    begin to stretch forth, down below, the wondrous beams.

    Articles have been written about the meaning of Πρηστήρ, which has been translated “hurricane,” “lightning,” and “water spout accompanied by lightning.” In the context of the Chaldean Oracles a fiery meaning is to be expected, and so my translation, “Lightning-Storm,” reflects associations with πρήσω, which is the future tense of both πρήθω (to blow) and πίπρημι (to burn). Coils (Κοιλώμασι) might also be translated Hollows of Womb (Johnston, 50–1). For more on the “Coils of Hekate” see Opsopaus (AGEDE, “Fire”).

  31. Fr.35 (K.20)

  32. for from Him leap the Thunderbolts Implacable
    and Lightning-Storm-receiving Wombs of Radiant Light
    of Father-born Hekate, and Girdling Flower of Fire,
    and mighty Spirit from beyond the Fiery Poles.

    On the “Lightning-Storm,” see the notes to fr. 34.

  33. Fr.37 (K.23)

  34. In Thought* with vigorous Will Paternal Nous shoots forth
    the Multiformed Ideas, and from one Fount they all
    leap out; for from the Father are both Will and End.
    They were divided by Noeric Fire and shared
    with more Noerics; for before the Cosmos Multiformed
    the Ruler placed the vigorous Noeric Pattern, where
    by cosmic track appeared with shape the rushing World,
    engraved with Manifold Ideas; their Fount is one,
    from which shoot forth divided others, terrible,
    which break upon the bodies of the World, and round
    the awful Wombs are born like swarms of bees,
    which one way, then another, shine around about,
    and are Noeric Thoughts§ from the Paternal Fount,
    which oft from sleepless Time’s peak pluck the Flower of Fire.
    The Father’s first and self-perfecting Fount doth gush
    forth these Primordial Ideas. …

    *Thought (νοήσας) refers to intuitive thinking. †End (Τέλος) refers to fulfillment, completion, effect, and perfection. §Thoughts (Ἔννοιαι) are intuitive thoughts. ‡Cosmic (κατὰ κόσμον) is the reading we find in older editions (e.g. Cory). This seems to make more sense than newer editions (e.g. Majercik), which read κατ’ ἄκοσμον (unordered). If this, the lectio difficilior, is preferred, then translate:

    by track unordered there appeared with shape the rushing World,

    The Ideas issue from the First God (Paternal Nous) with a whooshing sound. Thought is closely related to Nous; Will is closely related to Dynamis (Power, Potential). The Fount is the Father, and the Father’s Will is also the End (the Accomplishment or Perfection). The Ideas must be divided to become articulated; this is accomplished by the Second Nous (the Noeric Fire). These Ideas are shared with the “other Noerics,” the Ideas which inform the material world. The Noeric Pattern (Τύπον) is the Paradeigma, the holistic unity of Ideas in the Paternal Nous. The fiery Forms impress themselves on Primordial Matter, and swarm around the Wombs of the World Soul. In this oracle, Time seems to refer to a Teletarch (perhaps Aiôn), rather than Kronos/Khronos, but it’s unclear. (Majercik 156–8)

  35. Fr.38 (K.24)

  36. The Father’s Thoughts are these, and then’s My wrapping Fire.

    Wrapping” (εἰλυμένον) could also be “enwrapping,” “winding,” even “rolled up” (Johnston, 52, 127).

  37. Fr.39 (K.25)

  38. For, thinking* deeds, the self-produced Paternal Nous
    in all things sowed the fire-heavy Bond of Love,
    so that all things Remain in love through Boundless Time,
    nor fall the Webs wove of the Father’s Noeric Light.
    Through Love the Cosmic Elements Remain on course.

    *Thinking (νοήσας) is the intuitive thinking of the Paternal Nous. †“Webs wove” (ὑφασμένα) is a woven webs or robes. ‡On course (θέοντα): literally, running on in a straight line. The Paternal Nous accomplishes works by intuitively thinking them; He “sows” the Ideas, which are “planted” by the Demiurge. Eros binds or weaves the cosmos into a harmonious web. (Majercik 158–9)

  39. Fr.42 (K.25)

  40. by Bond of wondrous Eros, who from Nous leapt first,
    with Fire clothing Binding* Fire, so to mix
    Source Craters, offering the Flower of His Fire.

    *Binding (Συνδέσμιον) may refer to the enchantment of a Binding Spell or Love Charm. Eros was the first to leap from the Paternal Nous. The Source Craters are the Ideas, which require Eros’ binding Fire for their cohesion. (Majercik 159–60)

  41. Fr.50 (K.27)

  42. between the Fathers is Hekate’s Center borne.

    Between” is μέσσον (messon), which alludes to Mediator, Mean, Middle, etc.

  43. Fr.53 (K.28)

  44.          … after the Paternal Thoughts,
    I, Psychê, dwell, ensouling with My warmth the All.

    The word translated “ensouling” (ψυχοῦσα) seems to be intended as a paradoxical wordplay, for it can also mean “cooling” (since its root meaning is breathing, blowing).

  45. Fr.54 (K.29)

  46. and on the Goddess’ back is Boundless Nature hung.

  47. Fr.56 (K.30)

  48. Of Blessed Noerics Rhea is the Source and Stream;
    for, first in Power, in Wombs Ineffable all things
    receiving, on the All She pours this whirling brood.

    As in Fr. 6, the Noerics (Νοερῶν) are the Intuitive Intellectual things, perhaps the Gods (Majercik, s. com. fr. 160). “Source” (Πηγή) may be translated Fount. “Stream” is ῾Ροή (Rhoê), alluding to Rhea. “Whirling” seems to allude to the spinning Iunges (Johnston, 66–8, 108n49).

  49. Fr.72 (K.)

  50. for now, equipped, all-armored, I have come Divine

    Divine” is feminine, and hence the speaker is a Goddess, probably Hekate. She is all-armored (πάντευχος, panteukhos), a term used by Plato (Laws VII, 796c1) of Athena. She also describes Herself as enoplios (ἐνόπλιος), the usual meaning of which is “armed,” but literally is “bearing hopla,” which are any tools, implements, including those of war; hence I have used “equipped.”

  51. Fr.81 (K.42)

  52. All yield to the Noeric Lightning-storm of the
    Noeric Fire and serve the Father’s cogent Will.

    On the “Lightning-Storm,” see the notes to fr. 34. This, presumably, is the Noeric Fire of the Father, which serves His Will, but it could be that of the Demiurge. The Noeric Lightning-storm comprises the Ideas or Connectors. (Majercik 173)

  53. Fr.91 (K.45)

  54. the Driver of the Dogs of Water, Earth, and Air

    The Dogs are the Material Daimones, who by their nature oppose the Ascent of the Theurgists. Like all Daimones, they are ruled by Hekate, who is their “Driver” (Ἐλάτειρα, Elateira, a feminine form).

  55. Fr.96 (K.47)

  56. since Psychê, by the Father’s Power a Radiant Fire,
    remains immortal, and She is Mistress of Life,
    and holds Full-measures of the Kosmos’ many Wombs.

    The word translated “remains” (μένει, menei) is from the same root as the Remaining or Abiding (Monê) that is the first aspect of emanation. “Full-measures” is Plêrômata (plural of Plêrôma), which could also be “Fulfillments.”

  57. Fr.108 (K.50)

  58. Paternal Nous sows Sumbola throughout the World;
    He thinks the Thoughts, called Beauties Inexpressible.

    The words translated “thinks” and “Thoughts” are noei (νοεῖ) and Noêtaοητά). “World” is literally Kosmos.

  59. Fr.116 (K.52)

  60. For body-minded mortals reach not the Divine,*
    but those who naked hasten upward to the heights.

    *The Divine is τὰ Θεῖα (ta Theia). The naked ones (γυμνῆτες) are those souls who have left their bodies behind, as opposed to those focused on the sensible world (σῶμα νοοῦσιν). Hastening (σπεύδειν) is a common term for the flight from the body.

  61. Fr.133 (K.55)

  62. First, let the Priest himself, who governs Works of Fire,
    be sprinkled with cold waves of the deep-roaring sea.

    The Priest is the Theurgist and the “Works of Fire” are the theurgic operations.

  63. Fr.141 (K.56)

  64. The sluggish mortal, nodding here,* is God’s Release.

    *“Nodding here” (ἐς τάδε νεύων) is nodding or inclining toward these things, that is, our world; this is a common meaning of νεύειν in the Oracles (Majercik, p. 194).

  65. Fr.142 (K.56)

  66.          … for you these bodies have been bound
    upon autoptic apparitions …

  67. Fr.148 (K.58)

  68. But when you see the very holy Shapeless Fire,
    which shines by leaps and bounds throughout the whole world’s depths,
    attend the Fire's Voice…

  69. Fr.150 (K.58)

  70. change not the Names Barbarian

    The “Barbarian Names” (Ὀνόματα Βάρβαρα) are the magic words (voces magicae), secret names, and other spoken sunthêmata.

  71. Fr.153 (K.59)

  72. for Theurgists fall not among the Fate-bound Herd.

    The Fate-bound Herd (Εἱμαρτήν Ἀγέλην) are the ordinary people subject to Fate.

  73. Fr.211 (K.9, dubious)

  74. The Recipient’s wretched heart supports me not.

    The meter is not that of the genuine Chaldean Oracles.

  75. Fr.224 (dubious)

  76. But execute the Image as I shall instruct:
    you make the frame of rue that’s wild, and decorate
    with little living things, the lizards ‘round the house,
    and rub a mix of storax, myrrh, and frankincense
    with these same animals, and in clear sir beneath
    a waxing moon, complete it, praying with this prayer.

    The word translated Image (Ξόανον) referred originally to the most holy and ancient wooden images of the Gods. Hecate is speaking in this Oracle; the prayer has not survived.

  77. Fr.225 (dubious)

  78. At last release the Lord; no more the mortal holds the God.

    The mortal does not “make room” (χωρεῖ) in his soul for the God any more. “At last” may be omitted for the sake of the meter.



II. Sources

Burkert, Walter. Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism, tr. Edwin L. Minar, Jr. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Butterworth, E. A. S. Some Traces of the Pre-Olympian World. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1966. Helen, the Tree, etc.

Butterworth, E. A. S. The Tree at the Navel of the Earth. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1970. The Tree, Helen, etc.

Johnston, Sarah Iles. Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate’s Role in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990.

Kerényi, Carl. The Gods of the Greeks. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979. General mythological reference.

Kerényi, Carl. The Heroes of the Greeks. London: Thames & Hudson, 1959. General mythological reference.

Kingsley, Peter. Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. A comprehensive, profound study of the roots of the Pythagorean Tradition.

Kingsley, Peter. In the Dark Places of Wisdom. Inverness: Golden Sufi Center, 1999. Especially concerned with the role of Parmenides in the Pythagorean Tradition

Lamberton, Robert. Homer the Theologian: Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Majercik, Ruth. The Chaldean Oracles: Text, Translation, and Commentary. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989.

Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth. London: Thames & Hudson, 1989.

Opsopaus, John. Guide to the Pythagorean Tarot: An Interpretation Based on Pythagorean and Alchemical Principles. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2001. See also omphalos.org/BA/PT.

Opsopaus, John. “Liber de Octo Mutationibus: The Book of Eight Changes: Universal Cycles and the Trigrams.” 1995. Available at omphalos.org/BA/LOM.html.

Opsopaus, John. “Orphica Holodemiurgia.” Available at omphalos.org/BA/Holodemiurgia/ann. The annotations contain additional information on Aiôn, Time, the Celestial Spheres, etc.

Opsopaus, John. “The Ritual of the Labyrinth: Ta Hiera Laburinthou.” 1997. Available at omphalos.org/BA/HL.

Plato. Plato’s Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato, translated with a running commentary, by F. M. Cornford. New York: Humanities Press, n.d., c.1937.

Woodhouse, C. M. Gemistos Plethon: The Last of the Hellenes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.





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