The Luck of the Times: A Ritual
WE FACE interesting times, that old curse we so often hear about. I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. Inspired by a social media comment made by the inimitable Dr. Bones, I’ve also been thinking about luck. Now seems a very good time to be thinking about luck and what we might do to increase our own. This is not a post about greed, about occult get-rich-quick schemes and lucky lottery tickets, but rather about people in desperate and dangerous times finding ways to ride the tides of chaos, keeping themselves and their families safe, and seeking where possible to direct those tides towards the desperately needed changes the world requires. Times of danger are also times of change, whether for worse or better, and where there is change there is hope.
But, to work for the earth and all its people, to live and fight we must survive and be strong. For this reason I offer the following reflections and a model of a ritual for luck and protection. It may just be that reflecting on luck has more to tell us about our current situation than might be immediately apparent.
Trinities and Possibilities
TO UNDERSTAND the concept of luck it might help to understand the tightly interrelated and opposing ideas out of which the idea comes. The Greeks, Romans, and even contemporary English speakers can understand luck in terms of three main concepts. For the Greeks these were Ananke, Moirai, and Tyche – each idea is also a name for a goddess or group of goddesses. Ananke was Necessity, a goddess and force that no other divinity could change which likewise was beyond the power of humans to alter. Moirai, represented by the famous three goddesses of fate, means “portion” and has the sense of a specific Ananke or Necessity as it applies to a given person or thing. Necessity (Ananke) dictates that Troy will have an apportioned time and then fall, this is its portion or Fate (Moirai). Finally there was the goddess Tyche, whose name is taken from the word for “to fall” in the sense of “to befall or occur”. Tyche has the sense of “chance” which can also be understood as Luck.
For the Romans the main ideas were Fatum, Destinata, and Felicitas or Fate, Destiny, and Luck. Fatum or Fate originally meant something like “that which has been spoken” and Destinata or Destiny meant something that was “established” and “made firm”. Both fate and destiny tended to have a negative sense but fate was unchangeable and predetermined while destiny was what had been established through our actions and thus wasn’t set in stone until it finally occurred. Felicitas or Luck, on the other hand, tended to have a positive sense and maintains some echoes of the Greek’s idea of chance. Luck was, as we might also think of it, chance events that go in a fortunate direction.
In working with Luck, then, it will be the goddesses Tyche and Felicitas with whom we will be concerned. But in understanding these goddesses we must see them as the counter-thrust to larger forces, the crushing forces of Necessity and Fate. Luck works in the small things, the chance fall of a stone, the twisted ankle, the missed train, yet can have large scale effects. It works at a level of the Possible beneath the gaze of the world determining forces of Necessity and Fate. Many things we cannot change, at least not now, but those we can change fall within the realm of Luck.
The Rule of Time
WITHIN the ancient Hellenistic Orphic cults the first god, who also represented the universe and growth, was named Phanes and was born from an egg wrapped in a serpent. The egg represented Chronos, the god of time, and the serpent was Ananke. Sometimes Time in this story is also identified with Aion, a point that will be important later. Necessity and Time were partners giving birth to the universe, and so we cannot understand the forces of Fate without also understanding those of Time. This is not too surprising, but what is perhaps surprising is that Luck similarly had close connections with specific temporal ideas that I wish to pursue here.
For years I have felt a close connection with the god Janus, the two faced Roman god of doorways, boundaries, beginnings, endings, and time. He is also the patron god of our current month of January. It is his image stamped upon a coin that can be found at the beginning of this essay. His two-faced form was one he shared with later depictions of Fortuna or Felicitas from the medieval era. There is also, in this multi-facing form, a similarity to the famous depictions of the goddess Hecate as three-headed or three-faced – a characteristic she shares with less well-known images of Chronos.
Janus, Hecate, and Chronos all share connections to time, while Janus and Hecate in particular share identifications with liminal places such as crossroads, boundaries, and doorways. Each in their own way mark a divine attention to the past, future, and present. However, unlike Chronos or the Roman Saturn, Janus is not a ruling king or overthrown tyrant but rather a passageway. This middle place, this crossroads and doorway, marks the moment where the fall of chance and luck, or Tyche/Felicitas, reigns. If Chronos/Saturn and Ananke represent the rule of time and necessity in the dominant order, Janus and Hecate point towards the power to subvert that order or find oneself beneath or behind it, hidden and working in its cracks.
We find a clear tension here between the constraining time, the large cycles like the coils of the snake around the cosmic egg, of Ananke or Necessity and the open time of the moment of opportunity. There is a deep truth to the idea that luck is about being in the right place at the right time, luck is the crossroads of place and time – the outcome of their proper conjunction. When the times are out of joint, when we are cast out of place, luck is a haven – a crossroad respite from dangerous roads. Janus, the lord of doors, was the patron of a pair of gates in Rome which were kept closed in times of peace and only opened in times of war. The poet Virgil suggested that the gates of Janus had the power to keep the forces of war and destruction, the power of fury, locked away from the human world. In the ritual with which I will close this essay I will start, and implicitly end, with Janus in the expectation that within our own lives he might keep the forces of fury from us even when they are unloosed upon the world around us.
Luck of the Times
THE Roman goddess Felicitas had several names and forms, but when I first started to contemplate crafting a dedicated ritual to Luck it was one particular manifestation of the goddess who called out to me, Temporum Felicitas or “Luck of the Times”. I had the feeling that the luck I was seeking was a luck of our specific time, a luck to be found within this time with all its unique dangers and challenges. I have written an invocation of Temporum Felicitas that will be included in the ritual at the end of this essay, but to fully engage with the Luck of the Times a bit more investigation and ritual context for this connection between luck, time, and place may be useful.
We have few fragments of Ancient Greek or Roman ritual and official state worship is hardly the type of material I have in mind, but we do have the extensive collection of syncretic rituals of what were likely private magicians spanning roughly the period of the second century B.C. to the fifth A.D. that we call The Greek Magical Papyri. These contain spells, rituals, prayers and so on that represent a wildly eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hebrew religion with strong aspects of Orphism and Neo-Platonic Theurgy amongst other traditions as well. One of the most important goddesses in The Greek Magicial Papyri is Hecate but we aren’t going to explicitly concern ourselves with the extensive rituals to her. Instead, we shall look at some of the appearances of the goddess of luck, Tyche, and her connection to place and time as well as a third important point that will appear along the way.
Here are some selections from a particularly illuminating ritual from The Greek Magical Papyri edited by Hans Dieter Betz and translated by Hubert Martin Jr.:
Hail, Tyche, and you, the daimon of this place, and you, the present hour, and you, the present day – and every day as well. Hail, Universe, that is, earth and heaven… You are the father of the reborn Aion… you are the father of awful Nature Thortchophano… O master of all, holy Scarab… (PGM VII. 505-528)
Here we find Tyche called along with the spirit (daimon) of a place and the spirit of a given hour, day, and time in general. Later we find this conjunction of place and time through Luck/Tyche called the father of Aion, or the universal eternal time represented by Chronos as well as “awful Nature” which is represented by a name, originally written in Coptic, that ends with the root “phano” that may indeed by connected to the god Phanes. This is all the more likely as the ritual ends by calling this unique conjunction the “holy Scarab”, a representation of the Egyptian god Kephri who represents change and all becoming much as Phanes is known as well as the god of generation and growth.
Here is a another invocation from the Papyri, this one translated by Morton Smith:
Give me all favor, all success, for the angel bringing good, who stands beside the Goddess Tyche, is with you. Accordingly, give profit and success to this house. Please, Aion, ruler of hope, giver of wealth, O holy Agathos Daimon, bring to fulfillment all favors and your divine oracles. (PGM IV. 3125-3171)
This ritual is meant to be preceded by the crafting of a statue of a three-headed god, likely representing either Chronos, Hecate, or both though syncretized with aspects of Egyptian gods such as Horus. Again in this piece we find connected Tyche, goddess of Luck, and Aion, or time, through the concept of the Daimon or Agathos Daimon to which we now turn our attention.
Luck and the Agathos Daimon
EACH OF THE rituals we have looked at in The Greek Magical Papyri connect Tyche and the idea of the Agathos Daimon, or “Good Daimon/Spirit”. Indeed the first ritual we shared selections from is dedicated to “meeting with your own daimon”. Throughout the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods having good luck or good fortune was understood as having a “Good Daimon”. Socrates famously had such a daimon who would counsel him when not to do something, thus allowing him to avoid dangerous or unwise actions. This idea of the “Good Daimon” would later become the idea of a guardian angel, and we already see this process developing in the second ritual’s mention of the “angel bringing good”. It is important to stress, as an aside, that the term “angel” need have nothing to do with monotheism whether of a Hebrew or Christian variety. The term is drawn from the Ancient Greek term for “messenger” and the daimon of Ancient Greece is a clear precursor of the later manifestations of the idea.
The connection between the Good Daimon and being fortunate was so tight in Ancient Greece that one of the common terms for things going well, usually translated currently as “happiness”, was Eudaimonia. This term consists of “Eu”, meaning good much like “Agathos”, and the familiar “daimon”. To be happy or fortunate was to be “Good-Daimoned” or “blessed with a Good Spirit”. The Eudaimones were also understood to be a class of spirits amongst which the Agathos Daimon was sometimes selected out as a particular powerful or ruling entity. There are, as it were, the good daimon and then the one really good daimon.
In regards to our project, it is worth noting some insight Aristotle provides us concerning the concept of Eudaimonia. If we seek luck in the face of fury and strife, a luck that will enable us to fight while keeping those we love as safe as possible, Aristotle’s concept of Eudaimonia has something of interest to offer. When discussing Eudaimonia as the highest goal of human life and, ultimately, the goal of his investigations of virtue, Aristotle claims that the highest good must also be the most durable. In the course of this discussion Aristotle points out that being Eudaimon – happy, lucky, or blessed – does not mean being immune to hardship, tragedy, or danger. It means, rather, being best able to weather the storm and maintain balance throughout periods of hardship and strife. To be Eudaimon does not mean not facing danger, it means being best able to win in the confrontation.
Rituals for luck and success in The Greek Magical Papyri make clear that to be lucky is closely connected to being in touch with one’s Agathos Daimon. One reason this is so is that the realm of the Daimon is where something like Luck connects up with place and time. What would later come to be known as genii loci, or spirits/geniuses of a given location were first conceived in Ancient Greece as daimon of given places (indeed “genius” in the classical sense of genii loci is another possible translation of the greek daimon).
Similarly, every moment and time has its own spirits for that time. We see this in the astrological zodiac, the grimoire idea of specific hours of the day corresponding to given planetary or divine forces, and the 36 Decans to name just a few examples. Any specific place and time was alive with particular daimones. To understand luck, or the power of Tyche or Felicitas, is to find the way that each place and moment gives rise to its own unique daimonic spirit who can work within the cycles of great destiny to turn the immediate moment and place to one’s own advantage. To call to Tyche is to called to the Agathos Daimon of “…this place, and you, the present hour, and you, the present day – and every day as well..”. All luck must be luck of the times and, as such, Temporum Felicitas might just as well be identified with Agathos Daimon as the good spirit of the moment.
A Ritual for Luck in Dark Times
To briefly summarize, we have consider Luck as a counterforce to both Necessity and Fate, it is the ability to change the immediate to our advantage in the face of larger patterns and world changes. Luck in this sense involves its own aspect of time as well, captured by the liminal time gods of change and choice such as Janus or Hecate in contrast with the temporal gods of universal patterns and unchanging fate such as Chronos, Saturn, or Aion. Indeed, in one mention of Aion that will arise in the ritual his rank is inverted as he is identified as the child of the moment rather than its ruler. In the ritual that follows we will be calling primarily upon Janus, Tyche, the Agathos Daimon, and Temporum Felicitas. You should, of course, feel free to add or detract as you see fit, using any of these elements as they suit your purposes and adding what works best for you. I’ll add italicized notes between each spoken aspect of the ritual but feel free to ignore these if you like. In this New Year I wish you Luck, Courage, and Hope.
I keep the trappings of this ceremony fairly simple, usually using one candle and some incense. The candle I coat in an oil I have made for the purpose of opening possibilities and bringing luck. The incense is similarly one I have made myself for luck but you should feel free to use any oil and incense that your practice suggests is appropriate, or none at all. It should also be noted that this is meant to be a repeated ceremony which builds in power over time. Consider, for example, performing it weekly, at each quarter of the moon, or monthly. I light the candle and incense to begin. The first part of the ceremony consists of a simple call to Janus. You should feel free to use mine, write your own, or find one you like.
Janus of the double door,
Janus of the turn of time,
Bless this beginning
And make the way clear
To grant me luck in this time.
Veni Pater Iane!
The following two invocations from the Greek Magical Papyri which we have already discussed in part are now read (or recited from memory) along with the lengthy collection of holy words or names they contain. Different people have different styles, so you should feel free to cut out these names and words or use them as you see fit. Keep in mind, as well, that rituals both preceding and following these invocations in the Papyri themselves have been removed. Feel free to look to the full rituals themselves if you are interested in either more context or a fuller more involved ritual process. For example, one of the rituals involves, as mentioned, the crafting of a statue which is then empowered and called upon through the prayer. You might wish to create such a statue or use one you have or find that is appropriate to embody the Luck of the Times.
It is also worth noting that this first call can be turned into a rather extensive and potent ritual in and of itself. If you have a connection to the geni loci of your area placing a call to the specific spirit where the text states “daimon of this place” and then adding a call to the god or spirit of the “present hour” where this is mention and then one to the spirit of the “present day” adds rather a lot of power to this work (here consider, for example, the planetary alignments of the hours, the Decan within which the day falls, and so on).
(PGM VII 505-528)
Hail, Tyche, any you, the daimon of this place, and you, the present hour, and you, the present day – and every day as well. Hail, Universe, that is, earth and heaven. Hail, Helios, for you are the one who has established yourself in the invisible light over the holy firmament ORKORETHARA.
You are the father of the reborn Aion ZARACHTHO; you are the father of awful nature THORTCHOPHANO; you are the one who has in yourself the mixture of universal nature and who begot the five wandering stars, which are the entrails of heaven, the guts of earth, the fountainhead of the waters, and the violence of fire AZAMACHAR ANAPHANDAO EREYA ANEREYA PHENPHENSO IGRAA; you are the youthful one, highborn, scion of the holy temple, kinsman of the holy mere called Abyss which is located beside the two pedestals SKIATHI and MANTO. And the earth’s four basements were shaken, O master of all, holy Scarab, AO SATHREN ABRASAX IAOAI AEO EOA OAE IAOIEO EY AE EY IE IAOAI.
(PGM IV 3125-3171)
Give me all favor, all success, for the angel bringing good, who stands beside the Goddess Tyche, is with you. Accordingly, give profit and success to this house. Please, Aion, ruler of hope, giver of wealth, O Holy Agathos Daimon, bring to fulfillment all favors and your divine oracles.
BICHO MOUR SOUMARTA
BICHOBI SOURPHEO AKERMORTHOOUTH
CHOBIBEU MOURETH ANIMI
NASSOUNAINTHI ANIMOKEO MIMNOUER
NOUNAITH ARPAER IERI
At this point a pause may be appropriate, as Tyche or the Agathos Daimon may have something to communicate. An appropriate way to work this into the standard ritual is to pause here to burn a bit more incense and sit in silent contemplation, or pray silently or aloud to Tyche and one’s Agathos Daimon.
We now move on to call to Temporum Felicitas overtly. What follows is a call I have written expressly for this purpose. “Veni” is Latin for “come”.
Call to the Luck of the Times
Veni Temporum Felicitas!
Veni, Veni Felicitas!
You, light in the moment of darkness,
You, flame in the face of fear,
Come, luck in the time of trial.
Come, luck in the flow of fate.
Empower us to fight
The order of the day
And turn the blow
Twist the attack
Of those who would enslave us.
Veni Temporum Felicitas!
Veni, Veni Felicitas!
Come, you darkness to prying eyes.
Come, chance failure to vicious plans.
The lucky fall, the unseen gap,
The sudden call, the binding’s snap.
Lucky the day
In the face of the year.
Lucky the forgotten
In the flow of history.
Stand with us.
Luck of the times,
Empower our days!
Again one may pause here to listen, pray, or commune as seems appropriate. Finally, close by thinking once more of Janus god of opening and closing with the following brief Latin prayer taken from Livy.
Di immortales faciant, tam felix quam pia.
May the immortal Gods make it so, as lucky as it is pious.
Kadmus is a practicing ceremonial magician with a long standing relationship to the ancient Celtic deities. His interests and practice are highly eclectic but a deep commitment to paganism is the bedrock upon which they all rest. Kadmus is also a published academic with a Ph.D. in philosophy teaching at the college level. You can find some of his reflections on the occult at StarandSystem or look him up on twitter at @starandsystem.
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