The word Abraxas (or Abrasax or Abracax) was engraved on certain antique stones, called on that account Abraxas stones, which were used as amulets or charms. The name is found in the Greek Magical Papyri, and the word may be related to the word abracadabra, although other explanations exist. The name is also found in Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of the Egyptians. Abraxas has also been variously claimed throughout the centuries to be an Egyptian god, a demon, and to represent God and Satan in one entity and the dual nature of its essence.
The initial spelling of the word as seen on stones was "Abrasax" (Αβρασαξ). The spelling seen today probably originates in the confusion made between the Greek letters Sigma and Xi in the Latin transliteration.
The letters of Abraxas (αβραξας), in the Greek system of alphabetic numerology, sum to the number 365, and the Basilideans gave the name to the 365 orders of spirits which, as they conceived, emanated in succession from the Supreme Being. These orders were supposed to occupy 365 heavens, each fashioned like, but inferior to that above it; and the lowest of the heavens was thought to be the abode of the spirits who formed Earth and its inhabitants, and to whom was committed the administration of its affairs.
In addition to the word Abraxas and other mystical characters, they have often symbolic mystical figures engraved on them. The most common of these have the head of a fowl, and the arms and bust of a man, and terminate in the body and tail of a serpent.
On the Abraxas gems, the figure had a Chimera-like appearance (somewhat resembling a basilisk): he had the head of a rooster (or sometimes a king), the body of a man, and legs fashioned like snakes and sometimes depicted with a whip in his hand - a form referred to as the Anguipede.
'Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. He affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Nous; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom; that out of these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, in honor of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood. Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.'
"Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness in the same word and in the same act. Wherefore is Abraxas terrible."
"Abraxas represented the 365 Aeons or emanations from the First Cause, and as a Pantheus, i.e. All-God, he appears on the amulets with the head of a cock (Phoebus) or of a lion (Ra or Mithras), the body of a man, and his legs are serpents which terminate in scorpions, types of the Agathodaimon. In his right hand he grasps a club, or a flail, and in his left is a round or oval shield”
Abrasax is invoked in the The Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica: "IO IO IO IAO SABAO KURIE ABRASAX KURIE MEITHRAS KURIE PHALLE. IO PAN, IO PAN PAN IO ISCHUROS, IO ATHANATOS IO ABROTOS IO IAO. KAIRE PHALLE KAIRE PAMPHAGE KAIRE PANGENETOR. HAGIOS, HAGIOS, HAGIOS IAO."
This mass is mainly plaigiarised from Epiphanius' account of a Phibionite mass, from which Crowley borrowed liberally in writing this rite. Many scholars nowadays only peripherally utilize the church fathers' accounts of the Gnostics as materials for the study of Gnosticism, as primary sources have been available for years, such as the Nag Hammadi Library. The highly biased polemics of the 'heresy hunters' often deliberately mischaracterized Gnostic rituals as orgiastic. Thus Crowley's "Gnostic Mass" contains highly sexual material, as well as references to the author's modern religion of Thelema.
Abraxas is this way connected to the Sun saturn split, where the sun/divine cosmic egg represents the Holy father and Abraxas breaking out of the egg shell denotes saturn, rebellion against the Godhood.
The Abraxas passage in Demian is later adapted in the anime version of Chiho Saito's comic Revolutionary Girl Utena in a verse that is recited by Ohtori Academy Student Council members before meetings:
Abraxas (played by Walter Phelan) appears as a demon in the second season premier of the hit TV series Charmed; the episode is entitled "Witch Trials."
In the German book "Die kleine Hexe" ("The Little Witch") by Otfried Preußler the witche's raven is called "Abraxas".
The second album of the musical group Santana is entitled Abraxas. That album has the following quote from Demian on the album cover: "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...."
The Swedish symphonic metal band Therion has a song named Abraxas.
The band Integrity also has a song called "Abraxas Annihilation" on their album "Humanity is the Devil".
The 1986 point-and-click adventure video game Uninvited features a set of spells that can be cast by the player, all of which end in the word "Abraxas".
Charles Manson referred to himself as "Abraxas", both God and the Devil, in his 1986 letter to his parole board.
In the television series, Babylon 5, "abraxas" is Captain John Sheridan's password to arm the tactical nukes aboard his ship.
The Anglo-German band, Seelenlicht, refer to Abraxas in their song 'Demian' (Cold Spring Records, 2008). One verse runs: 'Our god is Abraxas / Both God and Devil at the same time'.
In the television series The L Word, Abraxas is referred as the demon of lies and deceit