Abraxas (Abrasax, Abraxis) is the gnostic name for the demigod who rules the 365th (highest and ﬁnal) aeon, or sphere, ascending to the unknowable God. Christian Demonologists put Abraxas in the ranks of Demons.
Abraxas also was the name of a sun mounting an ouroboros (a snake biting its tail) held by the highest Egyptian goddess, Isis, the creator of the Sun and mistress of all the gods. Isis mythology found its way into Gnosticism. In addition, Abraxas was associated with the Mithraic mystery religion of Persian origin, the chief rival of Christianity in Rome in its ﬁrst 400 years. As did Gnosticism, Mithraism featured a complex astrology and numerology. Numerical values of Mithra’s and Abraxas’ names each total 365.
The Gnostic Abraxas created the material world and also had Demonic qualities. He is the supreme power of being, in whom light and darkness are both united and transcended. Orthodox Christians viewed Abraxas as a Demon. In turn, Abraxas became a favorite deity of heretical sects of the Middle Ages.
Gnostic talismans made of carved opal show Abraxas as a ﬁgure with a human body, the head of a rooster (or occasionally a hawk), and Serpent legs. His hands hold a shield and a whip, the shield usually inscribed with the name Iao, reminiscent of the Jewish four-letter name of God. He is often mounted on a chariot drawn by four white horses, with both Sun and Moon overhead.
The rooster represents wakefulness and is related to the human heart and the universal heart, the Sun. The human torso embodies the principle of logos, or articulated thought. The snake legs indicate prudence. The shield is symbolic of wisdom, the great protector of divine warriors. The whip denotes the relentless driving power of life. The four horses symbolize the four ethers by which solar power is circulated throughout the universe.
The seven letters of the name of Abraxas represent the seven creative powers and planetary spheres, or Angels, recognized in the ancient world. The letters add up to a numerological value of 365, the number of days and powers of the year.
Carl G. Jung called Abraxas the “truly terrible one” because of his ability to generate truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness with the same word and in the same deed. In Jungian psychology there is no easy way out of psychic conﬂict; one must not only ﬁght on the side of the angels but occasionally join the host of the Fallen Angels. According to Jung, fear of Abraxas is the beginning of wisdom, and liberation, or gnosis, is achieved by not resisting.
- Hoeller, Stephan A. The Gnostic Jung and the Seven Sermons to the Dead. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest Books, 1982.
- Hyatt, Victoria, and Joseph W. Charles. The Book of Demons. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974.
- The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 & 2. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. 1983. Reprint, New York: Doubleday, 1985.
Abraxas Name of a god or Demon found on Gnostic gems and amulets from the second century c.e. Abraxas’s name was used in various magical rites. The name denoted the Supreme Being, the source of 365 emanations, the sum of the numbers represented by the Greek letters to which numerical equivalents had been assigned. The god appears on amulets with the head of a cock or a lion and the body of a man with legs that terminate in scorpions, holding in his right hand a club or flail and in his left a round or oval shield. The word abracadabra, according to some scholars, is derived from Abraxas. He appears in The Book of the Angel Raziel, a mystical work. In Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian (1917), Abraxas is used as a symbolic representation of the realm “beyond good and evil.”
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Abraxas: (or Abracax). The Basilidian (q.v., ) sect Gnostics, of the second century, claimed Abraxas as the supreme god, and said that Jesus Christ was only a phantom sent to earth by him. They believed that his name contained great mysteries, as it was composed of the se Greek letters which form the number 363, which is also number of days in a year.
Abraxas, they thought, under his command 365 gods, to whom they attrib 365 virtues, one for each day. The older Mythology placed him among the number of Egyptian gods, demonologists have described him a – a demon, with head of a king and with serpents forming his feet. Represented on ancient amulets, with a whip in his. It is from his name that the mystic word, Abracad (q.v.) is taken.