Abraxas was the name of the god mentioned in Hermann Hesse's book Demian. It was a fabulous book about a boy named Emil Sinclair and his youth. Abraxas was apparently, as described in the book, a god which embodied both good and evil. See also Mark of Cain.

A term used by the Basilideans, a Gnostic sect of the second century, designating the Supreme Being or god whom they worshipped and from which Jesus Christ emanated. They read great mysteries into the name on account of its containing seven Greek letters which, when computed numerically, equal the number 365, which is the number of days in the year. Taking that last item a step further, Abraxas was further believed to command 365 gods, each possessing a virtue, that there was a virtue for each day of the year.

Abraxas' origin has been traced earlier, to the Egyptian pantheon. Some demonologists describe him as a demon with the head of a king and feet formed from serpents. On amulets he has been represented wielding a whip.

The name Abraxas is widely recognized as the origin of the mystic word abracadabra. Many stones and gems were cut with his symbolic markings (including a human body with snakes as limbs and fowl or lion heads) which were worn by the Basilideans as amulets which frequently also bore the number 365.

The title of a 1970 Santana album (CBS Records):

  1. Singing Winds, Crying Beasts (instrumental, w. Michael Carabello)
  2. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen (Peter Green, Gabor Szabo)
  3. Oye Como Va (Tito Puente)
  4. Incident at Neshabur (instrumental, w. Alberto Gianquinto and Carlos Santana)
  5. Se a Cabo (mostly instrumental, w. Chepito Areas)
  6. Mother's Daughter (Gregg Rolie)
  7. Samba Pa Ti (instrumental, w. Carlos Santana)
  8. Hope You're Feeling Better (Gregg Rolie)
  9. El Nicoya (Chepito Areas)

Although you usually hear only "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" played on the radio, this is one of those "Every song is great" albums. I still can't put the record on without listening to it all the way through.

"We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas..."

This is the excerpt from Herman Hesse's Demian which appears on the inside cover of Santana's album, Abraxus.

There was a certain element of hopefulness, a "becoming" inherent to the work of Hesse, that appealed to the youth of this generation, and the spirit of this time.

The band Steppenwolf, another big-time rock band in the '70s, also took an obvious influence from Hesse; Hesse's Steppenwolf was published in 1927.

A*brax"as (#), n. [A name adopted by the Egyptian Gnostic Basilides. It was used to signify the supreme deity as ruler of the 365 heavens of his system.]

A mystical word used as a charm and engraved on gems among the ancients; also, a gem stone thus engraved.


© Webster 1913.

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