Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tamaghis, Ba'dan, Yass-Waddah, Waghdas, Naufana, Ghadis

Here's a mysterious spell suggested by William Burroughs:

Tamaghis, Ba'dan, Yass-Waddah, Waghdas, Naufana, Ghadis

Repeating the words as one falls asleep is said to reveal the answer to any question in a dream.

Burroughs explains that the words are names of cities that existed one hundred thousand years ago in an area corresponding to the Gobi Desert. Each city has a slightly different character. Tamaghis is city of "contending partisans" where "everything is as true as you think it is and everything you can get away with is permitted." Ba'dan is a city of commerce where "everything is true and everything is permitted." Yass-Waddah is a "female stronghold" where "everything is true and nothing is permitted except to the permitters." Waghdas is a university city where "complete permission derives from complete understanding." Naufana and Ghadis are both "cities of illusion where nothing is true and therefore everything is permitted." Burroughs notes that "The traveler must start in Tamaghis and make his way through the other cities in the order named. This pilgrimage may take many lifetimes" (Cities of the Red Night, 1981).


tanderegg said...

I came across this in The Muqaddimah, a history of the world by Ibn Khaldun. He got it from the Ghayat al-hakim, a book of magic by Maslamah b. Ahmad al-Majriti, a 10th century magician/scientist. Its supposedly Aramaic. Not sure about the cities though.

Zack Funke said...

It is unclear what the words mean, as they weren't explicitly defined in the Ghayat al-hakim. However, the closest translation for them in Aramaic is convincingly similar to the original: "Tmaggeš b‘eddān swādh(?) waghdhaš nawmthā ghādeš" which means, roughly, “You say your incantations [lit. “magianize”— JRR] at the time of conversation(?), and the accident of sleep happens.”

So, it seems like they are not city names, but rather a sort of boring phrase written in a dead language. Beautiful, nonetheless, that we can know their meaning some millennia later.


Eccentric Scholar said...

Thanks, Zack! Marvelous!