Invocation (2018) 10'

(Sop / pno / vc / fixed electronics)

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Programme note

Invocation intertwines lines from two ancient Egyptian magical hymns. The original hymns are syncretic fusions of Roman-Egyptian polytheistic beliefs and rituals and early Christian and Gnostic beliefs.


One hymn is a supplication to Hecate, an ancient goddess of the night, moon, wilderness, liminal spaces, and protector of the newly-born. Pre-dating Greek mythology, Hecate was originally thought of as a powerful goddess and protector of women with her own cult of worshippers and eunuchs. The hymn is a paean featuring expiatory offerings of foods and sacrifices.


The other hymn is startlingly threatening in tone. It demands that the supplicant’s desires are met, and its lines form a curse. The focus is cold and commanding, and the tone is menacing. The singer insists that if his will is not done, “tomorrow will not come”. With Invocation I wanted to set the hymns' inverse power dynamics within and against each other.


Over time, representations of Hecate shifted, and she eventually came to be a chthonic hag associated with evil, witchcraft, magic, and necromancy. Her name appears on surviving examples of stone tablets inscribed with curses.


While writing Invocation I was thinking about how a powerful pre-Hellenistic goddess could be reduced to a hag commanded by mortal beings.


With thanks to Fresh Squeezed Opera for commissioning Invocation as part of "The Female Gaze".

Gemma Peacocke, Brooklyn, New York

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