A magico-mystical word occurring in Hellenistic papyri and found also, along with other symbols, on ancient and medieval amulets. The numerical values of the Greek letters making up the word Ἀβράξας or its variant Ἀβράσαξ (Ἀ = 1, β = 2, ρ = 100, α = 1, ξ = 60, α = 1, ς = 200) give a sum of 365. This figure corresponds to the total number of days in the solar year. In the Gnostic system of Basilides the term is employed also to designate the First Principle or Supreme Being, the ultimate source of the 365 heavens. Some scholars consider that there is a connection between Abraxas and the magic word abracadabra, but the relationship is disputed.
Bibliography: h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 1907–53) 1.1:127–155, with illustrations. m. hain, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 1:66.
[m. r. p. mcguire]