Shem HaMephorash

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Shem HaM'phorash (Hebrew: שם המפורש, also Shem ha-Mephorash), meaning "the explicit name," is originally a Tannaitic term describing the Tetragrammaton.[1] In Kabbalah, it may refer to a name of God composed of either 4, 12, 22, 42, or 72 letters (or triads of letters), the latter version being the most common.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

12-, 22-, and 42-letter names

Early sources, from the Mishnah to Maimonides,[9] only use "Shem ha-Mephorash" to refer to the four letter Tetragrammaton.[1]

b. Qiddushin 72a describes a 12-letter name (apparently a mundane euphemism,[10] YHWH-EHYH-ADNY[11] or YHWH-YHWH-YHWH[12]) and a 42-letter name (holy but unknown;[13] Hayy Gaon says it is the acronym of the medieval piyyut Ana b'Koach[14]).[5]

A 22-letter name appears in Sefer Raziel HaMalakh,[5][7] without interpretation, as אנקתם פסתם פספסים דיונסים (Anaktam Pastam Paspasim Dionsim).[15] Its origins are unknown, with no connection to Hebrew or Aramaic being found, and no agreement on any particular Greek or Zoroastrian origin.[5]

The 72-fold name

In Judaic Kabbalah

Main article: Kabbalah#History of Jewish mysticism.

The "72-fold name" is highly important to Sefer Raziel HaMalakh.[16][7] It is derived from Exodus 14:19–21,[2][4][16][6] read boustrophedonically[3][17] to produce 72 names of three letters. This method was explained by Rashi,[18] (b. Sukkah 45a),[19] as well as in Sefer HaBahir (c. 1150~1200).[20] Kabbalist legends state that the 72-fold name was used by Moses to cross the Red Sea, and that it could grant later holy men the power to cast out demons, heal the sick, prevent natural disasters, and even kill enemies.[6]

According to G. Lloyd Jones,

To overcome the problems posed by the doctrine of God's transcendence, the early Jewish mystics developed an emanation theory in which the alphabet played an important part. They taught that the universe was divided into ten angelic spheres each one governed by an intermediary or emanation of the divine. There were seventy-two inferior angels through whom the intermediaries could be approached. Contact with this celestial world was achieved by manipulating the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. [...] This invocatory technique may be traced through the works of Joseph Gikatilla to the famous thirteenth-century Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia.[21]

Liber Semamphoras (aka Semamphoras, Semyforas) is the title of a Latin translation of an occult or magical text of Jewish provenance attributed to Solomon.[22] It was attested in 1260 by Roger Bacon,[23] who complained about the linguistic corruption that had occurred in translating Liber Semamphoras into Latin from Hebrew.[24] It is heavily indebted to Sefer HaRazim through its Latin versions, Liber Sepher Razielis idest Liber Secretorum seu Liber Salomonis, and seemingly replaced the more explicitly magical text Liber magice in the Razielis.[25]

In Christian Kabbalah

Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522) considered these 72 names, made pronounceable by the addition of suffixes such as 'El' or 'Yah', to be the names of angels, individuated products of God's will.[26] Reuchlin refers to and lists the 72 Angels of the Shem Hamephorash in his 1517 book De Arte Cabbalistica.[27][28] According to Bernd Roling,

After deriving a Shem ha-mephorasch of the 72 angelic names from the biblical verses of Exodus 14,19ff., Reuchlin makes a statement concerning the metaphysical significance of the names. [...] The names of the angels are products of the will of God. They are substantially based on the tetragrammaton, and through this connection they illumine and enhance man's spiritual return to God. [...] With the insertion of divine names such as 'El' or 'Yah', angelic names become pronouncable, and God himself (being nature) is the basis of angelic individuation.[26]

Reuchlin's cosmology in turn influenced Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa[3] (1486–1535) and Athanasius Kircher[29] (1602–1680).

In 1686, Andreas Luppius published Semiphoras und Schemhamphoras, a German translation of the earlier Latin text, Liber Semiphoras (see previous section), which Luppius augmented heavily with passages from Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia and other sources.[22]

In Hermetic Qabalah and Goetia

Blaise de Vigenère (1523–1596), following Reuchlin,[30] featured the 72 angels in his writings.[31] De Vigenère's material on the Shemhamphorash was later copied and expanded by Thomas Rudd (1583?–1656),[31][2] who proposed that it was a key (but often missing) component to the magical practices in the Lesser Key of Solomon,[17] as a balancing force against the evil spirits of the Ars Goetia[8] or in isolation.[32] Skinner and Rankine explain that de Vigenère and Rudd adopted these triliteral words with '-el' or '-yah' (both Hebrew for "god") added to them as the names of the 72 angels that are able to bind the 72 evil spirits also described in The Lesser Key of Solomon (c. mid-17th century).[a]

Blaise de Vigenère's manuscripts were also used by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854–1918) in his works for the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.[8] Mathers describes the descent of power from Tetragrammaton through 24 thrones of the Elders of the Apocalypse, each with a crown of three rays:

Four is the number of the letters of the Tetragrammaton. Four is also the number of the letters of the name ADNI which is its representative and key. The latter name is bound with the former and united thereto, thus IAHDVNHY forming a name of 8 letters. 8 X 3, the number of the Supernal Triad, yields the 24 thrones of the Elders of the Apocalypse, each of whom wears on his head a golden crown of three rays, each ray of which is a name, each name an Absolute Idea and Ruling Power of the great name YHVH Tetragrammaton.

The number 24 of the thrones multiplied by the 3 rays of the crown which equals 72, the name of God of 72 letters, which is thus mystically shown in the name YHVH, as under: (Or as the book of Revelation says: “When the living creatures (the four Kerubim the Letters of the Name) give glory to Him, etc. the four and twenty elders fall down before Him and cast their crowns before the Throne, etc.” (that is the Crowns, which each bear 3 of the 72 Names, and these 72 names are written on the leaves of the Tree of Life which were for the healing of the nations.)

These are also the 72 names of the ladder of Jacob on which the Angels of God ascended and descended. It will presently be shown how the 72 Angelic names are formed from the 72 Names of the Deity, and also how their signification is to be found. The 72 Names of the Deity are thus obtained. The 19th, 20th, and 21st verses of the XIV Chapter of the Book of Exodus each consist of 72 letters...[33]

Contemporary books on Hermetic Qabalah which discuss the subject include Lon Milo DuQuette's The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Ben Clifford.[34]

Angels of the Shem HaMephorash

According to Valentina Izmirlieva,

The earliest extant text that documents a reconstruction of shem ha-mephorash on the basis of this passage (Exodus 14:19-21) is the classic Kabbalistic work Sepher ha-Bahir [Book of Bahir], first made known in manuscript form in Provence between 1150 and 1200.[35]

She further states that,

The complete reconstruction of the name is available in a number of sources in English; see, for example, the critical bilingual edition of Johannes Reuchlin's famous treatise On the Art of the Kabbalah (1517) in Reuchlin, Art of the Kabbalah, 263.[27]

Reuchlin describes the process of generating the names thusly:

Take the three verses beginning vayisa, vayabo, and vayet, and write them out one by one in a vertical column in the Kabbalistic manner from right to left such that the letters of each word follow in one from another from top to bottom without a break. Then take the first letter of the first verse, which is called Vav (V); next working the other way take the last letter of the second verse, hay (H) and lastly go to the beginning of the third verse which you will find is Vav again. When you link up these three letters in this order the first angel's mnemonic V-H-V is obtained, the second angel is Y-H-Y, and the third is S-Y-T. So too with the rest, whenever they are set out three by three, with the three columns properly kept straight and tidy, some sort of sign that explains the Tetragrammaton will be produced.[36]

He continues:

... So to us, God is best because he is merciful, and greatest because he is strong, and this is represented by these two divine names, Yah and El. And if you join one of these to any of the seventy-two names you will make an impressive and striking word. You must always pronounce it with three syllables and the aspirate, written in Latin with the designation "h." It must come out from the bottom of the chest as if there were a double breathing of the Latin letter "h". In all cases Yah will be pronounced just by the consonantal "y." El is the same. Both are pronounced as monosyllables even when in a name composed of parts, and in both cases the accent falls in the same place.

So there are seventy-two sacred names. They are (in one word) the Semhamaphores that explain the holy Tetragrammaton. They are to be spoken only by men dedicated to God and must be pronounced thus in fear and trembling through invocations of the angels:[28]

Reuchlin then lists the 72 names.[28]

(per Reuchlin)
Biblical verse
(per Rudd)
Demon ruled
(per Rudd)
1. Vehuiah Psalms 3:3 Bael
2. Ielial Psalms 22:19 Agares
3. Sitael Psalms 91:2 Vassago
4. Elemiah Psalms 6:4 Gamigin
5. Mahasiah Psalms 34:4 Marbas
6. Iehahel Psalms 9:11 Valefar
7. Achaiah Psalms 103:8 Aamon
8. Cahethel Psalms 95:6 Barbatos
9. Haziel Psalms 25:6 Paimon
10. Aladiah Psalms 33:22 Buer
11. Laviah Psalms 18:46 Gusion
12. Hahaiah Psalms 110:1 Sitri
13. Iezalel Psalms 98:4 Beleth
14. Mebahel Psalms 9:9 Leraje
15. Hariel Psalms 94:22 Eligor
16. Hakamiah Psalms 88:1 Zepar
17. Loviah Psalms 8:9 Botis
18. Caliel Psalms 35:24 Bathin
19. Levuiah Psalms 40:1 Saleos
20. Pahaliah Psalms 120:1-2 Purson
21. Nelchael Psalms 31:14 Morax
22. Ieiaiel Psalms 121:5 Ipos
23. Melahel Psalms 121:8 Aim
24. Haiviah Psalms 33:18 Naberus
25. Nithhaiah Psalms 9:1 Glasya-Labolas
26. Haaiah Psalms 119:145 Bune
27. Ierathel Psalms 140:1 Ronove
28. Saeehiah Psalms 71:12 Berith
29. Reiaiel Psalms 54:4 Astaroth
30. Omael Psalms 71:5 Forneus
31. Lecabel Psalms 71:16 Foras
32. Vasariah Psalms 33:4 Asmodeus
33. Iehuiah Psalms 94:11 Gaap
34. Lehahiah Psalms 131:3 Furfur
35. Chavakiah Psalms 116:1 Marchosias
36. Manadel Psalms 26:8 Stolas
37. Aniel Psalms 80:3 Phenex
38. Haamiah Psalms 91:9 Halphas
39. Rehael Psalms 30:10 Malphas
40. Ieiazel Psalms 88:14 Raum
41. Hahahel Psalms 120:2 Focalor
42. Michael Psalms 121:7 Vepar
43. Veualiah Psalms 88:13 Sabnock
44. Ielahiah Psalms 119:108 Shax
45. Sealiah Psalms 94:18 Vine
46. Ariel Psalms 145:9 Bifrons
47. Asaliah Psalms 92:5 Vual
48. Mihael Psalms 98:2 Haagenti
49. Vehuel Psalms 145:3 Crocell
50. Daniel Psalms 145:8 Furcas
51. Hahasiah Psalms 104:31 Balam
52. Imamiah Psalms 7:17 Allocer
53. Nanael Psalms 119:75 Caim
54. Nithael Psalms 103:19 Murmur
55. Mebahaiah Psalms 102:12 Orobas
56. Poiel Psalms 145:14 Gremory
57. Nemamiah Psalms 115:11 Ose
58. Ieialel Psalms 6:3 Auns
59. Harahel Psalms 113:3 Orias
60. Mizrael Psalms 145:17 Vapula
61. Vmabel Psalms 113:2 Zagan
62. Iahhael Psalms 119:159 Valac
63. Anavel Psalms 100:2 Andras
64. Mehiel Psalms 33:18 Flauros
65. Damabiah Psalms 90:13 Andrealphus
66. Mavakel Psalms 38:21 Cimeries
67. Eiael Psalms 37:4 Amduscias
68. Habuiah Psalms 106:1 Belial
69. Roehel Psalms 16:5 Decarabia
70. Iabamiah Genesis 1:1 Seere
71. Haiaiel Psalms 109:30 Dantalion
72. Mumiah Psalms 116:7 Andromalius

In literature and myth

Shem HaMephorash figures in the legend of the golem, an animated anthropomorphic being in Jewish folklore that is created entirely from inanimate matter (usually clay or mud). The earthen figure is then animated by saying the Shem Hamephorash over it.[40]

Jorge Luis Borges refers to this legend in his 1941 short story, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths).[41]

See also


  1. Skinner and Rankine's explanation (in Rudd 2007, pp. 71–73) of how the triliterals are produced corresponds with the explanation given in McLaughlin & Eisenstein n.d., and the Hebrew names they give in their tables (pp. 366–376, cf. pp. 405–407) also correspond with the triliterals in the table given by McLaughlin & Eisenstein.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Bacher (n.d.).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Asprem (2012), p. 33.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Cavendish (1967), p. 119.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Melton (2001), p. 1399.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Trachtenberg (1939), pp. 90-98, 288ff.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Burton & Grandy (2004), p. 69.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Savedow (2000), p. 18.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Rudd (2007), pp. 14, 39-44, 67-73.
  9. "Guide for the Perplexed, Part 1 61:2". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  10. "Guide for the Perplexed, Part 1 62:2". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  11. "Ben Yehoyada on Kiddushin 71a:2". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  12. "Sefer HaBahir 10". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  13. "Guide for the Perplexed, Part 1 62:3". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
  14. תשובה אל יוסף בן ברכיה ותלמידי יעקב בן נסים בעניין שמות והשבעות, קונטרס "הדר עם הנכרי בחצר"
  15. Trachtenberg (1939), p. 93.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Trachtenberg (1939), pp. 90–98, 288ff.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Rudd (2007), pp. 14, 39–44, 67–73.
  18. McLaughlin & Eisenstein (n.d.).
  19. Guggenheimer (1998), p. 300.
  20. Kaplan (1989), p. 42.
  21. Jones (1993), p. 21.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Butler (1998), p. 158.
  23. Boudet (2002), p. 864.
  24. Véronèse (2012), pp. 60–61.
  25. Page (2012), p. 82.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Roling (2002), p. 261.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Izmirlieva (2008), p. 195, n. 57.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 Reuchlin & Goodman (1993), p. 273.
  29. Hanegraaf (2006), p. 625.
  30. Ballard (2007), p. 137.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Skinner & Rankine (2010), pp. 39-40.
  32. Rudd (2006), pp. 43-50.
  33. Mathers (2021).
  34. DuQuette (2001).
  35. Izmirlieva (2008), p. 110.
  36. Reuchlin & Goodman (1993), p. 265.
  37. Rudd (2007), pp. 408-412.
  38. Skinner (2006), pp. 41-48.
  39. Rudd (2007), pp. 366-376.
  40. Scholem (1974), pp. 200-201.
  41. Boldy (2013), p. 89.

Works cited

  • Asprem, Egil (2012). Arguing with Angels: Enochian Magic and Modern Occulture. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9781438441924.
  • Bacher, Wilhelm (n.d.). "Shem Ha-Meforash". Jewish Encyclopedia. The Koppelman Foundation. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  • Ballard, M. (2007). De Cicéron à Benjamin: Traducteurs, traductions, réflexions (in français). France: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion. ISBN 978-2859399856.
  • Boldy, Steven (2013). A Companion to Jorge Luis Borges. United Kingdom: Tamesis. ISBN 978-1855662667.
  • Boudet, Jean-Patrice (2002). "Magie théurgique, angélologie et vision béatifique dans le Liber sacratussive juratus attribué à Honorius de Thèbes". Mélanges de l'école française de Rome (in français). 114 (2): 851–890.
  • Burton, Dan; Grandy, David (2004). Magic, Mystery, and Science: The Occult in Western Civilization. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0253216564.
  • Butler, Eliza Marian (1998) [1949]. Ritual Magic. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271018461.
  • Cavendish, Richard (1967). The Black Arts. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0399500350.
  • DuQuette, Lon Milo (2001). The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Ben Clifford. Weiser Books. ISBN 978-1578632152.
  • Fanger, Claire, ed. (2012). Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 978-0271051437.
  • Guggenheimer, Heinrich (1998). The Scholar's Haggadah: Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Oriental Versions. Jason Aronson, Incorporated.
  • Hanegraaf, Wouter J., ed. (2006). Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism. Leiden: Brill.
  • Izmirlieva, Valentina (2008). All the Names of the Lord: Lists, Mysticism, and Magic. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226388724.
  • Jones, G. Lloyd (1993). "Introduction". On the Art of the Kabbalah (De Arte Cabalistica). University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803289468.
  • Kaplan, Aryeh (1989). The Bahir: Illumination. United States: Red Wheel Weiser. ISBN 978-0877286189.
  • Mathers, Samuel Liddell MacGregor (2021). "Golden Dawn Lectures: Shem HaMephorash and The Seals of the Shem HaMephorash" – via G∴D∴ Library.
  • McLaughlin, J. F.; Eisenstein, Judah David (n.d.). "Names of God". Jewish Encyclopedia. The Koppelman Foundation. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  • Melton, J. Gordon, ed. (2001). "Shemhamphorash". Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. M–Z (5th ed.). Gale Group. p. 1399. ISBN 978-0810394896.
  • Page, Sophie (2012). "Uplifting Souls: The Liber de essentia spirituum and the Liber Razielis". In Fanger, Claire. Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 79ff. ISBN 978-0271051437.
  • Reuchlin, Johannes; Goodman, Martin (1993). On the Art of the Kabbalah (De Arte Cabalistica). University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0803289468.
  • Roling, Bernd (2002). "The Complete Nature of Christ: Sources and Structures of a Christological Theurgy in the Works of Johannes Reuchlin". In Bremmer, Jan N.; Veenstra, Jan R. The Metamorphosis of Magic from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period (PDF). Leuven: Peeters. pp. 231–66. Retrieved 2021-07-05 – via University of Groningen.
  • Rudd, Thomas (2006). McLean, Adam, ed. Dr. Rudd's Treatise on Angel Magick (reprint ed.). Weiser Books.
  • Rudd, Thomas (2007). Skinner, Stephen; Rankine, David, eds. The Goetia of Dr Rudd. Golden Hoard Press.
  • Savedow, Steve, ed. (2000). Sepher Rezial Hemelach: The Book of the Angel Rezial. Translated by Steve Savedow. Weiser Books. ISBN 978-1609253189.
  • Scholem, Gershom (1974). Kabbalah. Israel: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Company. ISBN 9780812903522.
  • Skinner, Stephen (2006). The Complete Magician's Tables. Golden Hoard Press.
  • Skinner, Stephen; Rankine, David (2010). The Goetia of Dr Rudd: The Angels & Demons of Liber Malorum Spirituum Seu Goetia Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis : with a Study of the Techniques of Evocation in the Context of the Angel Magic Tradition of the Seventeenth Century. Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 978-0738723556.
  • Trachtenberg, Joshua (1939). Jewish Magic and Superstition. Behrman's Jewish Book House – via The Internet Sacred Text Archive.
  • Véronèse, Julien (2012). "Magic, Theurgy, and Spirituality in the Medieval Ritual of the Ars notoria". In Fanger, Claire. Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries. Translated by Claire Fanger. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. pp. 37–78. ISBN 978-0271051437.

Further reading

External links