Chapter 14 - Of Chants - part d
Words which do not fit into the common language, with strange sounds, are known as barbarous words, and have a long history of magickal use. In his classic work Magick, Crowley observed of barbarous words that:
“The long strings of formidable words which roar and moan through so many conjurations have a real effect in exalting the consciousness of the magician to the proper pitch.”
The Greek playwright Euripides first mentioned the phenomenon of witches using barbarous words of power in his play Iphigenia among the Taurians, written around 414-412 BCE, when he had Iphigenia preparing the sacrifice of Orestes, as she “shouted barbarous words, as a true witch”. The use of barbarous words also played a significant role in the Greek Magickal Papyri, where they were used as a major component of the voces magicae of the spells. Interestingly barbarous words also continued into Christian magick, as seen in Coptic magickal papyri dating from the first through to the twelfth century CE.
So why do Wiccans use barbarous words and names in ritual? The Greek philosopher Iamblichus, in response to a question by Porphyrii, gave what we think is a good explanation of the benefits and purpose of barbarous words in his book On the Mysteries when he wrote around the end of the third century CE:
“But you ask, ‘Why, of significant names, we prefer such as are Barbaric to our own?’ Of this, also, there is a mystic reason. For because the Gods have shown that the whole dialect of sacred nations, such as those of the Egyptians and Assyrians, is adapted to sacred concerns; on this account we ought to think it necessary that our conference with the Gods should be in a language allied to them. Because likewise, such a mode of speech is the first and most ancient. And especially because those who first learned the names of the Gods, having mingled them with their own proper tongue, delivered them to us, that we might always preserve immoveable the sacred law of tradition, in a language peculiar and adapted to them. For if any other thing pertains to the Gods, it is evident that the eternal and immutable must be allied to them.”
As well as barbarous words, words from a foreign language, particularly one with an associated magick, have also been perceived as having power. This is referred to in the Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster, translated and published by Wynn Westcott of the Golden Dawn in 1895, with a strict imprecation:
“When you see the lunar spirit approaching, offer the stone called Mnizouris, while you pray. Do not alter the foreign names!”
The Enochian words received by Dr John Dee in the late sixteenth century are another good example of a language that sounded like barbarous words, and is often used with great effect and potency by modern magickians. Enochian has its own language and linguistic structure, and has the coherence one would expect from any language. Whilst the true meaning and origins of this language remain a mystery, the pronunciation of the words has been believed since the time of Dee to be a powerful magickal act. Gerald Gardner was certainly both impressed and familiar with Enochian, mentioning its use in The Meaning of Witchcraft:
“Words in an unknown tongue, especially ‘Enochian’, as used by Dr Dee and Edward Kelley (and later Aleister Crowley), or a string of words of unknown meaning, ‘the barbarous names of evocation’, have the best effect; though to use them effectively you must learn them by heart”
The Wiccan tradition makes use of barbarous words, and there has been much debate about the chant first seen in this context in High Magic’s Aid and subsequently reproduced in the Book of Shadows and elsewhere. This chant is commonly referred to simply as the Bagabi or the Bagabi Rune:
“Bagabi laca bachabe
Lamac cahhi achababe
Lamac lamac Bachalyas
Lagoz atha cabyolas
Samahac et famyolas Harrahya.”
Over the years there has been much debate about the origin and nature of the Bagabi. It can be traced to a thirteenth century play called Le Miracle de Théophile written by a French troubadour called Ruteboeuf. The chant was given as a barbarous invocation used by the magician of the story to invoke the devil (the story of Theophilus is discussed further in the next chapter The Sabbats). The use of it was recounted in subsequent books during the nineteenth century, including Histoire des Francais des divers etats published in 1853:
“Par exemple, dans le miracle de Theophile, qui ne tremble quand le sorcier Salatin appelle le Diable par cette terrible incantation:
Bagahi, laca, bachahe!
Lamac, cahi, achabahe!
Lamac, Lamec, Bahalyos!”
And as illustrated here by its use in the novel The Day He Died in 1947, the chant was not at all obscure at the time that Gardner emerged with his witch cult in the early 1950’s:
"Karrelyos - Lamac lamec Bachalyas," he chanted his voice rising and falling rhythmically."Cahagy sabalyos, Baryolas, Lagoz atha Cabyolas...
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.