Agothos Daimon, ἀγαθός δαίμων, lit. a 'noble/good spirit'

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Agothos Daimon, ἀγαθός δαίμων, lit. a 'noble/good spirit'

Post by MrMacSon »

... originally a lesser deity (daemon) of classical ancient Greek religion and Graeco-Egyptian religion. In his original Greek form, he served as a household god, to whom, along with Zeus Soter, libations were made after a meal. In later (post-)Ptolemaic antiquity he took on two partially distinct roles; one as the Agathos Daimon, a prominent serpentine civic god who served as the special protector of Alexandria; the other as a genus of serpentine household gods, the Agathoi Daimones: individual protectors of the homes in which they were worshipped ...

Agathos Daimon was the spouse or companion of Tyche Agathe (Τύχη Ἀγαθή, 'Good Fortune') ... Their numinous presence could be represented in art as a serpent or, more concretely, as a young man bearing a cornucopia and a bowl in one hand, and a poppy and an ear of grain in the other.

Agathos Daimon was also identified with Zeus Meilichios, as well as with Serapis.

The mythology, application and existence of the Agathós Daímōn (ἀγαθός δαίμων) is a bit of a muddled mess. When one researches the term, six basic premises emerge:
  • The Agathós Daímōn is a Theos, married to the Theia 'Agathe Tyche' (Ἀγαθή Τύχη, ‘Good Fortune’)
  • The Agathós Daímōn [as] an epithet of Zeus, or linked to Zeus Kthesios and/or Zeus Melichios
  • The Agathós Daímōn linked to Hermes Khthonius
  • The Agathós Daímōn [as] a fertility daímōn, tied to the harvest and prosperity from agriculture
  • The Agathós Daímōn [as] a personal guardian spirit, either tied to the person, the family, or the oikos
  • The Agathós Daímōn [as] the personification of a person’s conscious, or even their muse
A few facts first: all sources but the ones where Agathós Daímōn is identified as Theos, represent the Agathós Daímōn as a snake; this applies to both artwork as assumed physical appearance. The Agathós Daímōn was always a positive in one’s life, and was generally seen as the source of personal or familial good fortune. Libations of (unmixed) wine were given to Him with each newly opened case of wine, and, during feasts and symposium, Agathós Daímōn received the first libation. When crossing a snake on the road, it was also customary to pour out a libation, just in case it was a herald of Agathós Daímōn, or Agathós Daímōn Himself. ... ary-study/

... The Agathos Daimon was portrayed in iconography as a serpent, or as a fit and comely youth. This paper conjectures that the serpentine Agathos Daimon was one origin of the Asklepian symbol of medicine, portrayed as the serpent associated of the Homeric Asklepios.

In later Roman times, the Agathos Daimon was transliterated to the agathodaemon, a protective companion spirit both of individuals and of the homes in which they lived. This benign resident spirit featured prominently in Roman art and was a common feature as a protective household spirit in first century homes at both Pompeii and Herculaneum. The agathodaemon motif also featured on Roman coins, such as bronze diobols of Antoninus Plus (138 - 161 A.D.) from Alexandrian mints in Egypt ...

Agathos Daimon and the Asklepian serpent, 2011

Chariton's use of ἀγαθὸς δαίμων in connection with the protagonist Chaereas, who is believed to be dead, [f]irst, reflects a funerary formula peculiar to inscriptions from Caria, and therefore potentially supports the author's declaration to be a native of Aphrodisias in Caria; second, that the use of this funerary formula suggests an awareness of events subsequent to the death of Nero (especially the series of false Neros), which has ramifications for the novel's date, use of imperial history, and ideological thrust; and third, that numismatic evidence from Alexandria supports an association between Chaereas and Nero.

Agathos Daimôn In Chariton's Chaereas And Callirhoe (5.1.6, 5.7.10): Some Ramifications, 2018

Also see ... n_religion
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Re: Agothos Daimon, ἀγαθός δαίμων, lit. a 'noble/good spirit'

Post by DCHindley »

Agathos Daimon is also a technical term in Ptolemaic astronomy (and presumably generally in the field of Greek astronomy) for a calculated spot on the horizon which signified something good will happen if directly (or at certain angles to) overhead at time of conception or the dates & times of certain future events. This calculated point was possibly a vestigial remnant from early astrological practices, and as far as I could see in Greek Horoscopes (Otto Neugebauer & H B Van Hoesen, 1959) used as almost an afterthought, maybe to feel that the initial interpretation has been confirmed by an interpretation of this calculated point.

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Re: Agothos Daimon, ἀγαθός δαίμων, lit. a 'noble/good spirit'

Post by MrMacSon »

Thanks, DCH

From Attilo Mastrocinque, 'From Jewish Magic to Gnosticism', Mohr Siebeck, 2005:
  • nota bene

    The term Gnosticism will be used to designate various Christian heresies under the Roman Empire, in the awareness that many scholars have tried to circumscribe and define the actual sphere of Gnosticism and others have demolished their definitions. Consequently, there is now reluctance even just to use the word, lest this be taken as support for the existence of a religious movement called Gnosticism. In this work, the word Gnosticism will be used as a synonym for the heresies addressed by Irenaeus and related heresies of a similar nature ...

    Gnostikoi, or followers of Gnosis, have been described as the followers of Prodicus6; certain libertine sects, the Naassene Ophites and the followers of Justin, the sects led by Nicolaus and the Nicolaites9, the Valentinians and those who instructed the Valentinians, those were trained by the followers of Simon Magus", the Carpocratians, the Basilidians and the Cainites The word Gnostikoi in itself was not a specific term: it meant “the wise ones”, and even the Catholic Clement of Alexandria used to describe himself as Gnostic. The Mithraists called themselves the wise ones', which is very nearly a synonym of Gnostikoi. However, all the heretics opposed by Irenaeus disparaged the work of the creator god and tried to distinguish him from the supreme god. This is an important doctrine, which characterized the galaxy of sects opposed by Irenaeus. [pp.4-5]


In their passionate quest for the true image of the Hebrew god, Bible scholars must have noticed that the word YHWH resembled the Aramaic HYWAH, “animal”. There are traces of this thinking in 'Gnostic' treatises, in which the Hebrew god, Ialdabaoth, together with the other Archons of the planetary spheres, had the form of an animal, especially that of a lion. It was widely believed by Gnostics that the Kosmokrator, the Lord of the World, had the form of a snake. In the Apocryphon of John (NHC 11,1; III, 1; IV,1; BG 8502,2, 10) we read that Ialdabaoth “had the form of a dragon, the face of a lion with fiery eyes darting lightning and flames... and (Sophia) wrapped him in a shining cloud...”. This corresponds exactly to a description of Chnoubis, as does that of the indomitable lion-serpent, to whom however prayers were offered.

We will now examine the Egyptian interpretation of the Gnostic serpent, in the form of the leontocephalous snake Chnoubis/Chnoumis. On gems his name often appears as Chnoumis, undoubtedly because this god was identified with the Egyptian creator god Chnum. In Egypt Chnum was worshipped mainly in Syene as the god of the Nile flood, which began under his influence in the sign of Leo. Furthermore, the vox magica Harponchnoubis is well-attested; it is a variation of Harponchnouphi, a title given to Horus (Har-), in which, clearly, the name of Chnoubis (-chnouphi > -chnoubis) was recognized. Harponchnouphi was also identified with the Agathodaimon, the Egyptian snake with a human head, the Lord of Destiny.

It may well be that a number of magi and amulet wearers perceived Chnoubis as a great Egyptian astral god, but in all probability in other religious spheres his figure was the subject of further speculation, mainly biblical in nature.

The identification of Chnoubis with the Hebrew god explains the title “he who broke (or stifled) the giants”: the divinity of Elephantine, Chnum, was the god who brought the Nile flood, who ruled over water and all liquid elements, and therefore had also sent the Flood. The Bible frequently mentions Yahweh’s dominion over the waters, particularly the Red Sea and the Nile.

One of the oldest beliefs - found in Enochic literature - on which Gnostic doctrine is based has its origin in an interpretation of a passage in Genesis 6.4, which tells the story of the angels, who were the sons of God and had lain with women and generated children; these children destroyed men and spread evil, so that God repented of his creation and sent the Flood. The angels’ children (the Nephilim) are referred to by the term גבור גבר : GiBoR, GiBWR, which indicates a hero or a great man, but is translated in the Septuagint as γίγας, “giant”, when it occurs in the phrase εχείνοι ήσαν οι γίγαντες οι άπ’ αίώνος, which could also be taken to mean “giants born of, or descendants of the Aion”. The Septuagint also translates Nephilim as γίγαντες. The myth of the birth of the giants and their destruction by God flourished to an extraordinary degree in late-Hellenic Judaic literature (especially in the books of Enoch), in Gnosticism and later in Manichaeism. A biblical Gigantomachy in the East was imagined, coinciding with the destruction of the tower of Babel.

... the destroyer of giants was the god with the form of a snake. As we have read in the passage from Irenaeus describing Ophitic doctrine, in which the heresiologist asserts that the serpent, son of Ialdabaoth, but also an instrument of the divine Mother, introduced Adam and Eve to gnosis in the Garden of Eden, so that Jaldabaoth was angered and drove out the first men and also the serpent ...

In the Ophite myth the Serpent surrounded himself with demons, his children, and caused harm to humankind. He was, therefore, the Devil, according to Irenaeus. In the speculations of Hebraizing magi sympathetic to Ophite ideas and worshippers of Chnoubis, the repentant creator of the Bible became the serpent that “broke and stifled” the giants, who were the angels’ children. In Gnostic texts the serpent is the creator’s disobedient son, while in Judeo-Egyptian doctrine Chnoubis is the creator himself, who sent the Flood to destroy the whole of creation, except for the few righteous men, by water.



§ 54. The snake-headed god

One category of magical gems, on which very little research has been done, depicts a snake-like god with human legs. It is linked through the accompanying inscriptions to Aberamentho, a name that some 'Gnostic' groups - as we shall see - gave to Jesus Christ. We know of two iconographic variations on this serpentiform god. In one (on four gems) the god has a man’s legs and a snake’s upper body, while in the other variation, in an Egyptianizing style (on 8 or 9 gems), the same god has a man’s form and is wielding an ankh and a was sceptre; or is sitting on a throne and has a snake’s neck and head, in two cases with long hair. On one gem with the first type of iconography, he [Aberamentho] is standing on a cosmic globe and identified with Iao and the Agathodaimon, the Alexandrian snake-lord of destiny. This god is also depicted in some ancient Egyptian bronzes and a papyrus in the act of adoring the sun god.

The gems with the second type of iconography were produced in Egypt and incorporate Egyptian mythology, since the god appears beside Harpocrates on the solar barque or in an attitude of adoration with the baboon.

In both iconographies we find the words Ρψφ and Αερθεμινω. The latter is an attribute of Seth and is accompanied by the logos Αβεραμενθω [Aberamentho], which appears on the reverse of a gem with the second type of iconography. This is a palindromic logos, and is pronounced Αβεραμενθωουλερθεξεθρελνοωθνεμαρεβα; it starts with Αβεραμενθω, a word formed from Αβερ(ρ) and Αμενθ(ω), in which
Amenth- indicates the West and the kingdom of the dead in Egyptian thinking.

§57. Jesus Aberamentho

In the Gnostic treatise Pistis Sophia Αβεραμενθω is identified with Jesus. It is unlikely that the author of the Pistis Sophia intended to link Jesus through that magic name to the world of the dead, Amente, in referring to his descent into Hell. By using the name Aberamentho the author attributed to Jesus all the theological concepts encapsulated in the palindrome: he was the sun god who manifests himself in various forms in the four sectors of the cosmos, according to a doctrine also held by the Peratae. Besides, in the Pistis Sophia among the ‘barbaric’ words uttered by Jesus to the Father, we find “Zakourax Akouris”, which are the well-known magical voces meaning “pure light” and “flow of light.”

Moreover, in the Pistis Sophia Christ also pronounces the vox magica ΘωβαρραΒαυ, which recurs in various magical documents and in Hebrew means “the deposit is good”. Probably the author intended to make him invoke the Holy Spirit, which St Paul described as the “earnest” given by God to humankind.

To conclude, Jesus was merged with the magical Egyptianizing god known as Aberamentho because he was a serpentiform god residing in the celestial pole in the extreme North, and was also a solar deity.

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