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Pa Kua See Bagua.

Paganism The notion of paganism, as it is generally understood today, was created by the early Christian Church as a label Christians applied to others.  The term paganism was first used in the 4th century CE by early Christians for populations of the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism.  Alternate terms in Christian texts for the same group were Hellene (an ethnic group mostly native to Greece, Cyprus, southern Albania, Italy and Turkey) and ‘gentile’ (meaning of or belonging to a clan or a tribe).

Pagan and paganism were scornful terms for the same polytheistic groups, implying inferiority and the ‘religion of the peasantry’, and for much of its history it remained a derogatory term.  During the Middle Ages, it was a term that applied to any non-Abrahamic or unfamiliar religion, presuming a belief in false gods.  In the 19th century, paganism was adopted as a descriptive term by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world.

People did not call themselves pagans to describe the religion they practised until the 20th century, when it came to be applied as a self-description by practitioners of pagan or neopagan movements who incorporate beliefs or practices such as nature worship.

Pagoda Basically, an architectural symbol of the Buddha and of heavenly ascent through progressive stages of spiritual enlightenment.  A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves, built in traditions originating as stupa in historic South Asia and further developed in the east of the continent, or with respect to those traditions, common to Nepal, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia.  Some pagodas are used as Taoist houses of worship.

Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near bhikkhu monasteries.  The term may refer to other religious structures in Vietnam and Cambodia due to French translation.  The English term pagoda is a more generic term referring to a place of worship, although pagoda is not an accurate word to describe a Buddhist vihara.

The modern pagoda is an evolution of the stupa which originated in ancient India.  Stupas are a tomb-like structure where sacred relics could be kept safely and venerated.  The architectural structure of the stupa has spread across Asia, taking on many diverse forms as details specific to different regions are incorporated into the overall design.

Palm Branch The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life originating in the ancient Near East and Mediterranean world.  The palm (Phoenix) was sacred in Mesopotamian religions, and in ancient Egypt it represented immortality.  In Judaism, the lulav, a close frond of the date palm, is part of the festival of Sukkot.  A palm branch was awarded to victorious athletes in ancient Greece, and a palm frond or the tree itself is one of the most common attributes of Victory personified in ancient Rome.

In Christianity, the palm branch is associated with Jesus' triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, when, according to John's gospel, "they took palm branches and went out to meet Him".  Consequently, palms are not mentioned in any of the other three canonical gospel accounts.  The palm seems to have been adopted into Christian iconography to represent victory, i.e. that of martyrs, or the victory of the spirit over the flesh, i.e. a symbol of resurrection.

Since a victory signals an end to a conflict or competition, the palm developed into a symbol of peace, a meaning it can also have in Islam, where it is often associated with Paradise.

Pan In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs.  He has the hindquarters, legs, and horns of a goat, in the same manner as a faun (his Roman counterpart was Faunus) or satyr.  With his homeland in rustic Arcadia, he is also recognised as the god of the fields, groves, and wooded glens, and because of this, Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring.  The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism and impromptus.

The word 'panic' is attributed to this god, his unseen presence arousing panic in those who traversed his realm.

Paten In magic, a magical weapon is any instrument used to bring about intentional change.  In practice, magical weapons are usually specific, consecrated items used within ceremonial ritual.  There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes or does not constitute a magical weapon -- if a magician considers it to be a weapon, then a weapon it is.

However, there does exist a set of magical weapons with particular uses and symbolic meanings.  Some such common weapons/tools include the Dagger/Sword, Wand/Baton, Cup/Chalice, Paten/Pentacle/Disc, Holy Oil, Lamp and Bell.

A paten is a plate, typically made of gold or silver, used for holding the bread during the Eucharist and sometimes as a cover for the Chalice.

Peace Pipe The sacred ornamental pipe of native North Americans, usually with a reed stem carrying eagle feathers symbolising the union of nature and spirit, earth and sky, man and god.  The pipe was more generally known as a sign of hospitality.  Native American ceremonial pipes are usually used in prayer ceremonies.  They were often called ‘peace pipes’ by Europeans, or others whose cultures do not include these ceremonial objects.  However, the smoking of a ceremonial pipe to seal a peace treaty is only one use of a ceremonial smoking pipe, by only some of the nations that utilise them.

Various types of ceremonial pipes have been used by different Native American cultures -- the style of pipe, materials smoked, and ceremonies are unique to the specific and distinct religions of those nations.  Similarly, the pipes are called by names in that culture's own Indigenous language.  For example, the specific type of pipes smoked in Catholic conversion rituals, first in Illinois and then in Mi'kmaq territory, were known as Calumets.  Mi'kmaq Territory consists of all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick (North of the St John River), the Gaspe of Quebec, and is surmised by many that it included part of the State of Maine and part of Newfoundland.

Peace Sign See Cross of Nero.

Pelican Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that make up the family Pelecanidae.  They are characterised by a long beak and large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped-up contents before swallowing.  They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans.  The bills, pouches, and bare facial skin of all species become brightly coloured before the breeding season.

The Pelican is an exclusively Christian symbol that denotes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and is representative of atonement and redemption.  The pelican is said to pierce its breast to feed its young ones with its blood and save them from starvation.

As the embodiment of self-sacrifice, the bird came to be likened to Christ readily giving up his life and blood for the spiritual nourishment of other people, and thus became the ideal symbol for reparation and salvation.  The noble deed of the pelican has also made it a symbol of charity, generosity, nurturing, resourcefulness, responsibility, humility and companionship.

Pentacle Wiccans usually enclose the Pentagram within a Circle (representing eternity), when it becomes a Pentacle.  This encompassing circle is considered to keep out any unwanted energy, and also serves to keep the energy of the participants inside when performing a Magical Rite while working within its border.

It is the ritual altar tool used by Wiccans, Neopagans, and a variety of Ritual Magicians to represent the element Earth.  The term 'pentacle' has also been used as a generic term for any magical seal enclosed within a circle.  Pentacles is a suit in the Tarot.  See also Paten.

Pentagram A pentagram is a five-pointed star commonly associated with Wicca, Ritual Magic, Satanism, and Freemasonry.  However, it was not until the 20th century CE that the pentagram became associated with Satanism, probably due to misinterpretation of symbols used by Ceremonial Magicians.  When drawn, it should be done in one continuous line, i.e. without beginning or end.

The pentagram has a long and complex history as a religious symbol.  Wiccans and other Western Pagans or Neopagans are the main groups using a pentagram as a religious symbol.  The points of the star are normally interpreted to refer to Earth, Air, Water, Fire and spirit (Aether).

The pentagram was and still remains one of the most potent, powerful, and persistent symbols in human history, and has been important to most ancient cultures.  As a five-pointed star with a single point uppermost, the pentagram represents the human being; in many symbolisations, the top point represents either the human head or a non-human Spirit.

Some say that the pentagram is mystical because the number 5 is mystical, 5 being a prime number, the sum of 1 and 4, as well as of 2 and 3.  According to the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, 5 was the number of man because of the fivefold division of the body and the ancient Greek division of the soul.  The pentagram was held as sacred to Hygeia by the Pythagoreans (Hygeia was the goddess of healing).  Her name (HGIEiA) is actually an anagram in Greek for the elements Water, Earth, spirit, Fire, and Air.

When crucified, Jesus Christ reputedly had 5 wounds (not counting those inflicted by the crown of thorns) and he is alleged to have distributed 5 loaves of bread to 5 thousand people.  We all have 5 fingers on each hand, 5 toes on each foot, and 5 senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste).  Admittedly, some 'blessed' individuals do have a sixth sense, while others more unfortunate are born with six or more fingers or toes on each hand or foot.  See also Inverted Pentagram.

Petrine Cross See Cross of St Peter.

Philosopher's Stone The philosopher's stone, also known as the ‘Powder of Projection’, is a legendary alchemical substance capable of turning base metals such as lead and mercury into gold or silver.  It is also called the elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and for achieving immortality -- for many centuries, it was the most sought goal in alchemy.  The philosopher's stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolising perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss.  Efforts to discover the philosopher's stone were known as the Magnum Opus (‘Great Work’).

Alchemy is a philosophical tradition practiced throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, which aimed to purify, mature, and perfect certain objects.  Common aims were chrysopoeia1, the transmutation of 'base metals' into 'noble metals' (particularly gold); the creation of an elixir of immortality; the creation of panaceas able to cure any disease; and the development of an alkahest, a universal solvent.  The perfection of the human body and soul was thought to permit or result from the alchemical magnum opus and, in the Hellenistic and western tradition, the achievement of gnosis.  In Europe, the creation of a Philosopher's Stone was variously connected with all of these projects.

In English, the term is often limited to descriptions of European Alchemy, but similar practices existed in the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, and the Muslim world.  In Europe, following the 12th century CE Renaissance produced by the translation of Islamic works on science and the Recovery of Aristotle, alchemists played a significant role in early modern science, particularly chemistry and medicine.

Islamic and European alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental methods, some of which are still in use today.  However, they continued antiquity's belief in four elements and guarded their work in secrecy including cyphers and cryptic symbolism.  Their work was guided by Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology, and religion.

1 In Alchemy, the term chrysopoeia means transmutation into gold.  Symbolically it indicates the creation of the philosopher's stone and the completion of the Great Work.

Phoenix The most famous of all rebirth symbols, the phoenix is a legendary bird that endlessly renews itself in fire.  Associated with the Sun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.  According to some sources, the phoenix dies in a show of flames and combustion, although others claim that the legendary bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

The ancient Egyptians linked the myth of the phoenix with the longings for immortality that were so strong in their civilisation, and from there its symbolism spread around the Mediterranean world of late antiquity.  The Egyptian phoenix (the Bennu) was also associated with the creation; it was an ancient Egyptian deity linked with the Sun, creation, and rebirth, which may have been the inspiration for the phoenix in Greek mythology.  It was thought to be the Ba of Ra and enabled the creative actions of Atum.  It flew over the waters of Nun which existed before creation, landing on a rock (Ben ben) and issuing a call that determined the nature of creation.

The Bennu was considered a manifestation of the resurrected Osiris and the bird was often shown perched in his sacred willow tree.  At the end of the 1st century CE Pope Clement I of Rome became the first Christian to interpret the myth of this bird as an allegory of the resurrection, and of life after death.  The phoenix was also compared with undying Rome -- it appears on the coinage of the late Roman Empire as a symbol of the Eternal City.

Phosphorus Phosphorus is a solid, non-metallic element existing in at least three allotropic forms, one that is yellow, poisonous, flammable, and luminous in the dark, another that is red, less poisonous, and less flammable, and a third that is black, insoluble in most solvents, and the least flammable.

Alchemists often used light as a symbol of the spirit, therefore they were especially interested in light that seemed to be trapped in matter such as phosphorus.

Phosphorus spelt in this manner is the noun relating to the chemical element.  Spelt as phosphorous it is an adjective relating to phosphorus.

Phurba The Phurba is a special triple sided Tibetan ritual dagger or stake, patterned after an ancient Vedic tool which originated as a ritual stake used to tether sacrificial animals.  It is used 'ritually' to create stability and areas of protected space, often staked into the ground in Circles prior to rituals.

Only those initiated into its use may possess a Phurba, all others are forbidden.  See also Athame and Dagger.

Pisces In many cultures, it is believed there is a link between the position of the Sun, the Moon and other planets at the time of a person's birth.  This position gives individuals certain personality traits, as well as predicting events which are likely to occur in their life.

Pisces makes up one of the twelve 'houses' or signs of the astrological wheel.  Each of the twelve houses represents the position of the heavens at the time of a person's birth.  Besides their birth sign, e.g. Pisces, an element is attributed to a person at birth, either Earth, Fire, Water or Air:

Symbol: Fish
Dates: 18 February – 20 March
Constellation: Pisces
Zodiac Element: Water
Sign ruler: Neptune
Detriment: Mercury
Exaltation: Venus

The Pisces symbol or glyph of two fish facing in opposing directions, i.e. swimming away from each other, represents coming and going, the end of one phase in life and the beginning of another as well as past and future.  It is believed that each one of the zodiac signs represents a particular part of the human body -- the zodiac symbol for Pisces relates to the feet.

Those born under the zodiac symbol of Pisces are considered to have the following personality traits: compassionate nature; find it difficult to make up their mind; imaginative; generous; helpful; sensitive; dreamy; artistic.

Platinum Platinum is a chemical element which is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silvery-white transition metal.  Alchemists believed platinum to be an amalgamation of gold and silver.

It is one of the rarer elements in the Earth's crust, and occurs in some nickel and copper ores along with some native deposits, mostly in South Africa, which accounts for 80% of the world production.  Because of its scarcity, only a few hundred tons are produced annually, and given its important uses, that makes it highly valuable and a major precious metal commodity.

Pluto The dwarf planet Pluto is represented by a monogram made up of P and L, the first two letters in Pluto, which are also the initials of Percival Lowell (1855 - 1916 CE), who predicted its discovery (which happened 14 years after his death).

In Roman mythology, Pluto was the Roman god of the Underworld, or the dead -- in Greek mythology his alter-ego was Hades.  Romans were afraid to say Pluto's name because they thought he might notice them, as a consequence of which they would die.  Pluto was sometimes confused with the Greek god, Plutus, the god of wealth, which is not surprising since the names sound alike, and wealth, such as gold, silver or jewels, are found underground, where Pluto ruled.

When someone died, they travelled down to the Underworld, but on the journey they had to cross the River of the Dead, the Styx.  Everyone was buried with a coin, to pay the ferryman, Charon.  Having eventually arrived, they then had to get past Cerberus, a fearsome dog with three heads, which would only let the true dead through.  Finally, they had to appear before the Judges of the Dead.

An interesting point to note is that the largest of the planet Pluto's five moons is called Charon, after the ferryman on the River Styx.  In astrology, Pluto is the ruler of Scorpio.

Poisoned Cup (Cup of St John) The poisoned cup is an emblem of the Catholic saint John the Evangelist.  The symbols stem from the popular miracle story whereby at John's blessing, the poison in a cup of wine intended for his consumption is transformed into a serpent.

Interestingly, the image of a serpent rising from a cup is described in a vision of Isis in the Golden Ass of Apuleius:

"In her left hand was a golden cup, from the top of whose slender handle rose an asp, towering with head erect and its throat distended on both sides."

Pomegranate The majority of the world's great religions have sanctified the pomegranate and attributed multiple meanings to it.  The mythology of ancient Greece regarded this fruit as the symbol of life, marriage and rebirth in the abduction story of Persephone by Hades (Pluto in the Roman version), the god of the Underworld.

We learn in the Bible, Exodus 28:33-34 states that images of pomegranates be woven into the hem of the me'il, a robe worn by the Hebrew High Priest.  Pomegranates are also to be found in the Bible in 1 Kings 7:13-22, where the fruit is depicted on the capitals of the two pillars which stood in front of the temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon.  King Solomon is reputed to have designed his crown based on the 'crown’ of the pomegranate.  The significance of the Jewish pomegranate is further exemplified by its appearance on ancient coins of Judea, one of only a few images that appear as a holy symbol.

Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness because it is said to have 613 seeds, which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of the Torah.  For this reason and others, it is customary to eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  The pomegranate represents fruitfulness, knowledge, learning, and wisdom.

Pontos Riscados In Brazilian Candomble and Umbanda religious practices, Pontos Riscados are Sigils used in ritual to invoke the Orixas (gods).  There are different riscados for each aspect of an Orixa.

These symbols are drawn on the ground during an invocation of an Orixa with coloured chalks called pembes.  The symbols bear a strong resemblance to the Goetic sigils used in Ritual Magick, from which they are derived.  They are related to the Veves of Vodoun and the Firmas of Palo.

Poppy Poppies are herbaceous plants, often grown for their colourful flowers.  One species of poppy is the source of the crude drug opium which contains powerful medicinal alkaloids such as morphine, and which has been used since ancient times as an analgesic and narcotic medicinal and recreational drug.  It also produces edible seeds.  Following the trench warfare in the poppy fields of Flanders during World War I, poppies have become a symbol of remembrance of the soldiers who have died during wartime.

Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: sleep because the opium extracted from them is a sedative, and death because of the common blood-red colour of the petals.  In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead.  Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolise eternal sleep -- this symbolism was evoked in the children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which a magical poppy field threatened to make the protagonists sleep forever.

In art, the poppy is an emblem of the Greek gods of sleep (hynos) and dreams (Morpheus)

Poseidon Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, rivers, floods, droughts, and earthquakes, is a son of Cronus and Rhea, and the brother of Zeus and Hades.  He rules one of the three realms of the universe -- as king of the sea and the waters.  His Roman counterpart is Neptune.

His wedding with Amphitrite is often presented as a triumphal procession.  In art he is depicted as a mature man of sturdy build, often with a luxuriant beard, and holding a trident.  His sacred animals include the horse and the dolphin.  In some stories he rapes Medusa, resulting in her transformation into a hideous Gorgon and also to the birth of their two children, Pegasus and Chrysaor.

Potassium Potassium is a chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19.  It was first isolated from potash, the ashes of plants, from which its name derives. Potash (potassium carbonate) was widely used in Alchemical processes.  In the periodic table, potassium is one of the alkali metals.

In Nature, potassium occurs only in ionic salts.  Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal which oxidises rapidly in Air and reacts vigorously with Water generating sufficient heat to ignite hydrogen emitted in the reaction, and burning with a lilac-coloured flame.  It is found dissolved in sea water which is 0.04% potassium by weight, and is part of many minerals.  Potassium is chemically very similar to sodium.

Potassium is found in the foods we eat.  It is also an electrolyte which conducts electrical impulses throughout the body assisting in a range of essential body functions.  It is not produced naturally by the body, so it's important to consume the right balance of potassium-rich foods and beverages.

Powder of Projection See Philosopher's Stone.

Prayer Beads See Rosary Beads.

Prayer Wheel A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton.  Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel.  Dakinis (Tantric priestesses of ancient India who ‘carried the souls of the dead to the sky’), protectors and very often the eight auspicious symbols Ashtamangala are also sometimes depicted.

At the core of the cylinder is a 'Life Tree' often made of wood or metal with many thousands (or in the case of larger prayer wheels, millions) of mantras wrapped around it.  According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition based on the lineage texts regarding prayer wheels, spinning such a wheel will have much the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.

Praying Hands See Hands in Prayer.

Priestly Blessing See Birkat Kohanim.

Prieuré de Sion / Priory of Sion The Prieuré de Sion, translated as 'Priory of Sion', was a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 CE by Pierre Plantard (1920 - 2000) as part of a hoax.  In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for the organisation, describing it as a secret society founded by Godfrey of Bouillon (1060 - 1100) on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion.  In Plantard's version, the Priory was devoted to installing a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe.  This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the 1982 pseudohistorical book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and later claimed as factual in the preface of the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code.

After becoming a cause célèbre from the late 1960s to the 1980s, the mythical Priory of Sion was exposed as a 'plaything' created by Plantard as a framework for his claim of being the Great Monarch prophesied by Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame (1503 - 1566)).  Evidence presented in support of its historical existence and activities before 1956 was discovered to have been forged and then planted in various locations around France by Plantard and his accomplices.  Nevertheless, many conspiracy theorists still persist in believing that the Priory of Sion is an age-old cabal that conceals a subversive secret.

The Priory of Sion myth has been exhaustively debunked by journalists and scholars as one of the great hoaxes of the 20th century.  Some sceptics have expressed concern that the proliferation and popularity of books, websites and films inspired by this hoax have contributed to the subject of conspiracy theories, pseudohistory and other confusions becoming more mainstream.  Others are troubled by the romantic reactionary ideology unwittingly promoted in these works

Primordial Hill / Mound The primordial hill symbol seen in Egyptian inscriptions is one of the oldest of symbols they used.  The Egyptians were convinced that during creation this hill or mound (known as Ben ben) rose out of the sea of chaos to create dry land.  The idea of this hill rising had a profound effect on the Egyptians, the shape being used for everything from temple layouts to the possible inspiration behind the pyramids -- the top stone of a pyramid is known as the Ben ben stone.

This mythical stone is reputed to have been housed in a shrine within the compounds of the temple dedicated to the deity Atum in Heliopolis.

There are several accounts of the creation of the world in ancient Egypt's mythology.  One of these had its origins in the city of Heliopolis.  According to this version of the creation story, the universe was brought into being by Atum.  In the beginning, there was nothing but darkness and chaos.  It was out of the dark primeval waters of Nu/Nun that the Primordial Hill/Mound, known as Ben ben arose, on top of which stood Atum.  According to another interpretation, the Ben ben stone was the Primordial Hill on which Atum first landed.

Atum looked around, and realised that there was nothing around him but darkness and chaos, and consequently he was all alone.  Desiring companionship, Atum began the work of creation.  In some versions of the myth, Atum masturbated, and through this act, created Shu (the god of air) and Tefnut (the goddess of moisture).  In other versions of the myth, these deities were created by Atum's copulation with his own shadow.  Shu and Tefnut left Atum on the Ben ben stone, and went away to explore.  After some time, Atum became concerned for his children, so removing his eye, he sent it in search of them.  When Shu and Tefnut returned with their father's eye some time later, the deity, seeing the safe return of his children, wept tears of joy.  These tears fell on the Ben ben stone upon which Atum stood, and were transformed into the first human beings.

Process Church of the Final Judgement The Process Sign is the emblem of the Process Church of the Final Judgement, a short-lived sect inspired by Scientology.  The symbol, created for the now defunct Church, is meant to mimic the Hindu Swastika and its cosmic whirling.  The shape suggests a letter 'P' viewed from four directions, and represents the four 'persons' of the Process God -- Jehovah, Jesus, Satan, and Lucifer, as well as the four 'archetypes' believed to drive human behaviour.  These 'persons' are divided into two sets of polar opposites represented by the four-armed cross.

Process doctrine theorised that humans and human nature were separate from an infinite, supreme God.  When the universe was created, God became separated into the four personalities previously mentioned.  The Church used a combination of Scientology techniques and ritual to reconcile archetypes within believers, with the ultimate intent of erasing the separate existences of the four persons.

Another version of the 'Unity Cross' was a variation on Ophite2 Gnostic imagery of a crucified serpent.  The symbol of the serpent of the cross in the Process is an emblem of opposites reconciled (Christ and Satan) through love.

2 The Ophites or Ophians were members of a Christian Gnostic sect depicted by Hippolytus of Rome (170–235) in a lost work, the Syntagma.

Prosphora A prosphoron (offering) is a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox Christian and Greek Catholic (Byzantine) liturgies.  The plural form is prosphora.  The term originally meant any offering made to a temple, but in Orthodox Christianity it has come to mean specifically the bread offered at the Divine Liturgy.

Pschent The pschent was the name of the Double Crown worn by rulers in ancient Egypt, and generally referred to as the 'Two Powerful Ones'.  It combined the Red Deshret Crown of Lower Egypt and the White Hedjet Crown of Upper Egypt.  The Pschent represented the pharaoh's power over the whole of a unified Egypt.  Narmer (Menes), the founder of the First Dynasty around 3100 BCE, was the first man recorded wearing this crown.

The pschent bore two animal emblems: an Egyptian cobra, known as the Uraeus, ready to strike, which symbolised the Lower Egyptian goddess Wadjet, and an Egyptian vulture representing the Upper Egyptian tutelary goddess Nekhbet.  These were fastened to the front of the pschent and referred to as the 'Two Ladies'.  Later, the vulture head was sometimes replaced by a second cobra.

Ptah In Egyptian mythology, Ptah is the demiurge of Memphis, the god of craftsmen and architects.  In the triad of Memphis, he is the spouse of Sekhmet and the father of Nefertum.  When Memphis became the capital of Egypt in c. 3100 BCE, Ptah became the ultimate creator who made everything including the gods of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis and the Ennead of Heliopolis, and was given the epithet 'He who set all the gods in their places and gave all things the breath of life'.

Ptah is depicted as a man wrapped in a tight white cloak carrying a staff.  In one creation myth he is the Creator god par excellence, and considered to be the demiurge who existed before all other things and who, by his wilfulness, 'thought' the world.  It was first conceived by Thought, and realised by the Word.  Ptah conceives the world by the thought of his heart and gives life through the magic of his Word.  That which Ptah commanded was created, within which the constituents of nature, fauna, and flora, are contained.  He also plays a role in the preservation of the world and the permanence of the royal function.

Pylon A Pylon, other than a steel tower from which electrical wires are strung, is a specific type of gate built at the entrance to a New Kingdom Egyptian temple.  The shape of the pylon was modelled after the djew, the sacred mountain of the horizon.  A pylon is two squarish inclined towers with a gate between.

The temple would be situated so that the rising sun would be framed between the towers.  Banners would be flown from the top of the towers.  The entrance was generally about half the height of the towers.  Contemporary paintings of pylons show them with long poles flying banners.

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