Proclus the great 5th century CE neo-Platonist and theurgist (occultist) says in the Platonic Theology
This unusual ritual of burial of the body leaving the head exposed, in order to achieve some sort of symbolic separation of the head from the body, so as to partake of heavenly mysteries, lacks good parallels.But the entire, quietly stable, and simple visions, are unfolded to souls supernally from the supercelestial place, through the connectedly-containing Gods. For the mystic impressions of intelligibles, shine forth in that place, and also the unknown and ineffable beauty of characters. For muesis and epopteia are symbols of ineffable silence, and of union with mystic natures through intelligible visions. And that which is the most admirable of all is this, that as theurgists order the whole body to be buried, except the head, in the most mystic of initiations, Plato also has anticipated this, being moved by the Gods themselves. “For being pure,” says he, “and liberated from this surrounding vestment, which we now denominate body, we obtained this most blessed muesis and epopteia, being full of intelligible light. “For the pure splendor [which he mentions] symbolically unfolds to us intelligible light. Hence, when we are situated in the intelligible, we shall have a life perfectly liberated from the body. But elevating the head of the charioteer to the place beyond the heaven, we shall be filled with the mysteries which are there, and with intelligible silence
However we know that Harran (in modern Turkey) had a pagan mystical tradition which survived into the early Islamic period under the name of the Sabians. There is some circumstantial evidence that this tradition was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. See http://wiccanrede.org/2014/05/harran-la ... sm-part-i/ but treat with caution.
We have only the accounts of their opponents but they include the following strange story.
When al-Ma’mun meets the Harranians he asks if they are Magians. When they deny he replies: Then you are unbelievers, the slaves of idols, Adherents of the Head . an-Nadim continues to describe how a human man with an appearance like that of Mercury was seized upon with trickery and deception... He was placed in oil and borax and was prepared in a special way. The head was pulled off and then the tongue spoke like a kind of medium. an-Nadim: It has been confirmed at length in their book entitled al-Hatifi
This is an opponents account, and if we treat it as to some extent a libellous misunderstanding, then the idea of the head separated from the body so as to become a medium of the heavenly gods does seem significant. Possibly the Sabians pretended to separate a volunteers head from his body and then received replies to their questions from the (apparently) disembodied head.His condition was such that if his head was pulled it could be lifted without tearing what it was fastened to...This they did every year when Mercury was at its height They supposed that the soul of this individual came to his head because of his resemblance to Mercury. It spoke with his tongue relating what was happening and replying to questions.
Are these two rituals connected or is it just parallelomania ?