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eight bits

Understanding the sator-rotas square

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eight bits

The oldest (so far) sator-rotas word squares were found in the ruins of Pompeii, and so date no later than 79 CE. Other examples are found in a variety of ancient and medieval sites, and in "magical" texts as well.

S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

or that "rotated" 90 degrees:

R O T A S
O P E R A
T E N E T
A R E P O
S A T O R

Attempts to explain the square have focused on trying to make a simple sentence of the five Latin words, which efforts generally stub their toes on arepo, which is not a known Latin word. Nevermind, it can be a proper name, or a loan word, or ... something. The translations offered range from the mundane ("A farmer named Arepo carefully guides the wheels" [maybe of his plow]) to the cosmic ("The Creator oversees the works of the universe").

Mmm...K. There's no real reason to suppose that the square was intended to be translated as a sentence about Arepo. Another word square also found at Pompeii

R O M A
O L I M
M I L O
A M O R

could be a kind-of sentence addressed to somebody named Milo ("O Milo, Rome was love once"), but Roma amor was a well known palindrome, maybe somebody was playing around with it one day, came up with the square, and what more needs to be said?

People sense that sator-rotas is more meaningful than that, damn it!

That intuition is probably correct, but the key to undersatnding is not to translate the five words awkwardly, but to treat them as a meaningful unit: a concrete poem that pairs with a linear palindrome. The subject of the poem is the square itself, and by extension, a suggestion about how to go about constructing five-by-five word squares in general.

Read all about it at:

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2020/10/18/sator-rotas/

 

Edited by eight bits
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Abramelin

For what people may have used these socalled magic squares, read "The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage".

I always liked this one:

ROLOR

OBUFO

LUAUL

OFUBO

ROLOR

"To fly in the air and travel any whither in the form of a crow (or raven)."

http://www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_jones1/chap17.html

 

 

Edited by Abramelin
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Abramelin

A bit more:

https://www.sacred-texts.com/grim/abr/abr083.htm

No. 9. This has a strong likeness to the well-known SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS. It is a Square of 25 Squares. SALOM = "Peace". AREPO = "he distils". LEMEL = "unto fulness". OPERA, "upon the dry ground". MOLAS = "in quick motion," or perhaps better "stirring it up into quickness, i.e., life". The former sentence is capable of a rather free Latin translation, thus:--

SATOR = The Creator.
AREPO = Slow-moving.
TENET = Maintains.
OPERA = his creations.
ROTAS = As vortices.

Edited by Abramelin
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eight bits
2 hours ago, Abramelin said:

ROLOR
OBUFO
LUAUL
OFUBO
ROLOR

S. L. MacGregor Mathers, editor of a definitive edition of The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, was quite the collector of word and number squares.

It is interesting in a "Darwinian" sense that sator-rotas is so widely known and found in so many times and places compared with other word squares. Your example may illustrate why sator-rotas takes off as a meme (in Richard Dawkins' sense) while others don't.

After this post, I'm not going to remember your example. At most I might remember rolor and the curiostiy that this square uses a palindrome for its perimeter, rather than an anadrome pair. But I don't recall rolor as an actual Latin word nor could I find it at

http://www.latin-dictionary.net/search/latin/rolor

but

R O L O R
O _  _ _ O
L _  _  _ L
O _ _  _ O
R O L O R

just isn't enough of a cue for the other three non-words.

(Then again, had I recited the thing and turned into a raven, then I'd remember it just fine, lol).

ETA (your second post came while I was answering your earlier one):

Quote

The former sentence is capable of a rather free Latin translation

Yes, that's the problem with the "five word sentence" theories of sator-rotas and your salom-molas variant. Arepo is a wild-card, it can mean anything the translator wants it to mean. Personally I think it emerges organically out of the almost perfect, and ordinary Latin near-square:

S A T O R
A _  E _ O
T  E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S

in the same way that TROBA emerges from the English example in the blog post. It is delightful that Troba actually turns out to be the name of something that exists in the English-speaking world (although 2000 years from now, is any scholar of then-paleo English going to recognize that?) and it "sounds like" something that might be a word in some living language (Catalan? Seriously? Meh, maybe better to claim it's a near miss for the Spanish-langauge musical tern trova).

 

Edited by eight bits
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Abramelin

Just a quick respons:

A lot of the words used in "The book of.." are a kind of mutilated Hebrew and Latin.

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XenoFish

I never could wrap my mind around magic squares.

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eight bits

There's a second installment at the Uncertaintist about the sator-rotas square.

The first installment emphasized the sort of understanding that would have appealed to well-off educated Latin speakers. They're the kind of folks who had the leaisure to play around with word games and probably the sort who came up with this plaything and passed it around among themselves.

This new installment is about the charms of the word square that can be appreciated mainly by ear, with a level of literacy no more advanced than knowing the alphabet. Some of the appeal may have been bafflement for fun or profit rather than understanding.

It's not either-or. Both apsects of the diagram are really there on the page (or carved into the wall), and the square has been appreciated through the ages, both up-market and down.

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/2020/10/31/sator-rotas-part-2/

 

 

 

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