Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bathala's Pentacle

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."

Aleister Crowley was notorious for "bastardizing" words of magic and names of gods: from ABRACADABRA to ABRAHADABRA, from AUM to the awkward-looking AUMGN, from the Egyptian god Heru-Behdety to the Thelemic god Hadit. All of these name-changing were not done on a whim though; the new spellings were conscientiously formulated in order to give the words more meaning and power.

It's important to remember that the names of the gods are not their actual names, but titles given to them with respect to the archetypal forces they represent.

Sa Ngalan ni Bathala (In Bathala's Name)

The name of the supreme god of the ancient Tagalog people, Bathala, is traditionally spelled with three baybayin characters: B H L. Bathala's name, spelled thus, is in and of itself a symbol embodying a classical, naturalistic philosophy:

The bosom-shaped Ba stands for babae (the feminine/passive principle), while the phallic- or lightning-shaped La stands for lalake (the male/active principle). Together they are joined by the syllable Ha, an S-shaped glyph, similar to that which conjoins the Yin and Yang in the Taijitsu symbol. I would like to think that this Ha stands for hangin - the air that we breathe - which is also the essence of life. Hangin in this sense is similar to that concept of the universal, life-giving energy known in various philosophies as prana, ch'i, ashé, mana, élan vital, et cetera [1]. For this reason I personally associate the baybayin Ha with Halmista, the god of  magic of our ancestors.

In many mystical traditions, each character that comprises the name of god is associated to one of a set of universal concepts, so that the name of god taken as a whole signifies the unifying and all-encompassing principle. Examples of these are the Kabbalistic YHVH, the Gnostic IAO, and the Pythagoreans' YGEIA [2].

Fortunately babayin, like Hebrew letters, due to its apparent lack of vowel characters, are very capable of mystical wordplay [3]. As a supplement to B H L which symbolizes the heavenly forces, I formulated the spelling B' A T H L to illustrate the earthly forces (the realm of the elements). Each of the baybayin character stands for one of the classical elements of Western Esotericism or the Hindu Tattwas. Note that the order of the elements, fire-water-air-earth, corresponds to the four worlds of the Kabbalah:

B - binhi - akasha or the cosmic egg, the quintessence
A - apoy - fire, tejas
T - tubig - water, apas
H - hangin - air, vaju
L - lupa - earth, prithivi

Tala ni Bathala (The Star of Bathala)

The five-pointed star, a timeless symbol of cosmic order, and the pentacle, a tool used by Western esoteric traditions to represent the material plane, is an apt symbol for Bathala as lord of the earth. On the pentacle, the five characters of the name B A T H L is assigned to each of the five points of the star in a clockwise manner. The pentagram is surrounded by hangin (the baybayin Ha) depicted as flowering vines, to symbolize its life-giving essence and all-permeating quality.

Bathala, the god who is neither male nor female, is the laws and forces of nature themselves. To submit oneself to Bathala is to let the natural course of things unfold. In our modern culture, we are taught to become tough and to persevere and are often advised against yielding and letting go. But I am Pagan. I have my faith in nature. As we Filipinos say: "Bahala Na."

Or in the older tongue...

Bathala Nawa!

[1] In the Hebrew language, air, breath and spirit uses the same word: ruach
[2] YHVH and YGEIA, are associated with the four classical elements earth, air, fire and water, with idea being the fifth element in YGEIA. IAO comprises of the first, last, and middle vowels of the Greek alphabet.
[3] The literal Kabbalah is a practice wherein Hebrew letters are manipulated to find or develop new meanings from an existing word.

More Reading:
[3] Reviving Baybayin:
[4] Modern baybayin fonts:


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