Sol 19* Gemini
Luna 0* Leo
An IVxiii 12:06
“Those who regard this ritual as a mere device to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it. Properly understood it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise.”—Aleister Crowley, footnote to ‘The Palace of the World’ in “The Collected Works of Aleister Crowley”, vol. I.
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram1
I. The Qabalistic Cross
1. Touching the forehead, say Ateh (Unto Thee).
2. Touching the breast, say Malkuth (The Kingdom).
3. Touching the right shoulder, say ve-Geburah (and the Power).
4. Touching the left shoulder, say ve-Gedulah (and the Glory).
5. Clasping the hands upon the breast, say le-Olahm, Amen (to the Ages, Amen).
II. The Banishing of the Elements & the Invocation of the Archangels1.
1. Turning to the East, make a pentagram (that of Earth2) with the proper weapon (usually the Wand3). Say (e. vibrate) IHVH.4
2. Turning to the South, the same but say ADNI. 5
3. Turning to the West, the same but say EHIH. 6
4. Turning to the North, the same but say AGLA. 7
(Pronounce: Ye-ho-wau, Adonai, Eheieh, Agla).8
5. Extending the arms in the form of a Cross, say,
6. Before me, Raphael;
7. Behind me, Gabriel;
8. On my right hand Michael;
9. On my left hand Auriel;
10. For about me flames the Pentagram,
11. And in the Column stands the six-rayed
- Repeat I:1-5.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is perhaps the most often taught & used ritual of any kind in the Western Magical Tradition today. Performed as it should be, it utilizes most of the techniques that are the foundation of a large part of the Work in which any practicing magician is likely to engage.
It is the purpose of this paper to explore this ritual in some depth, concentrating not only on historical and technical details, but also on my own Work with the ritual over the years. I have kept analysis of the individual parts of the ritual to a minimum: Others, such as Bill Heidrick & the Ciceros9, have contributed much in this area already. I do intend to go into my own feelings in some depth, since that is all that I really can teach about the ritual.
The present form of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram originated (so far as is known) in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, where it was given in the Neophyte 0=0 Knowledge Lecture. Earlier versions of parts of the ritual can be found in the writings of Éliphas Lévi10 & (according to some) in a Hebrew night prayer.
Although the ritual has both invoking & banishing forms, according to the direction in which the pentagrams are traced, it is usually the banishing form that is practiced the most, & with which I will primarily be concerned in this place.
“Banishing”, as a concept in Magick, goes back thousands of years. The Babylonian magician-healers (the Ashipu & Mashmashu) performed exorcisms of sorts & underwent a specific form of training.11 The general idea is that things as they are are haphazard & ‘impure’, so in order to begin any form of magical operation or meditation one’s environment should be purified, sterilized so to speak, so that only the purpose with which one has begun the operation or meditation can be invoked into one’s environment. To put it in more ‘New Age’ terms: Your aura needs to be cleansed before working any Magick.
A more modern view would be that one needs to be ‘centered’; i.e., before beginning any subjective working in which intense concentration is necessary one needs a method whereby one can become focused as a preliminary. Aleister Crowley cites a perfect example: “Sasaki Shigetsu tells us in his essay on Shinto that the Japanese are accustomed to clap their hands four times ‘to drive away evil spirits’. He explains that what really happens is that the sudden and sharp impact of the sound throws the mind into an alert activity which enables it to break loose from the obsession of the previous mood. It is aroused to apply itself aggressively to the ideals which had oppressed it.” 12 After prolonged use of the Pentagram Ritual one’s associations toward it in this direction can become strong & thus it can become a formidable tool to achieve the aforementioned state of mind.
To add to this, I quote here the explanatory material given in the Golden Dawn Neophyte 0=0 Knowledge Lecture:
THE USES OF THE PENTAGRAM RITUAL
- As a form of prayer the invoking13 ritual should be used in the morning, the banishing in the evening…
- As a protection against impure magnetism, the Banishing Ritual can be used to get rid of obsessing or disturbing thoughts. Give a mental image to your obsession and imagine it formulated before you. Project it out of your aura with the Saluting Sign of a Neophyte14, and when it is away about three feet, prevent its return with the Sign of Silence. 15
Now imagine the form in the East before you and do the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to disintegrate it, seeing it, in your mind’s eye, dissolving on the further side of your ring of flame.
- It can be used as an exercise in concentration. Seated in meditation or lying down, formulate yourself standing up in robes and holding a dagger. Put your consciousness in this form and go to the Make yourself ‘feel’ there by touching the wall, opening your eyes, stamping on the floor, etc.
Begin the ritual and go round the room mentally vibrating the words and trying to feel them as coming from the form.
Finish in the East and try to see your results in the Astral Light, then walk back and stand behind the head of your body and let yourself be reabsorbed.” 16
Normally, the chosen weapon for this ritual (despite the fact that the A.’.A.’. instruction ‘Liber O’, from which section O is taken, indicates the Wand) is the Dagger. There are quite good reasons for this.
In the Formula of Tetragrammaton, the Four Elemental Weapons are attributed as follows:17
Yod י – Wand – Fire – Chokmah – Will/Thelema
He ה – Cup – Water – Binah – Understanding/Agape
Vau ו – Dagger – Air – Tiphareth – Intellect/Reason
He ה – Pantacle – Earth – Malkuth – Bodily consciousness, etc
In the ceremony, especially that of banishing, the general idea is to separate, to divide oneself from all that is without. By its very nature, banishing firmly asserts that separateness. The nature of the Reason is also to separate, to divide this from that, A from B, Yin from Yang, etc., as opposed to the all-embracing nature of the Cup, the divine Understanding of Binah (Agape—also the Great Whore) which takes in all without discrimination, seeing ALL as ONE.
The Dagger, which should be double-edged in order to assert its function as ‘that which divides’, is thus the most logical 18 weapon for use in any banishing ritual. To show a parallel from a very different system, I quote from a Tibetan author: “The magic dagger, also called a vajra 19(S. vajrakila; T. rDo-rje phur-pa), is an important ritual tool in the tantric rites of Tibet. Its handle is a vajra and it has a three-edged blade… The dagger is used in Tibet for ritual exorcism and annihilation of harmful and demonic beings, and especially of serpent-spirits.” 20
In the system of the Golden Dawn, the Zelator Adeptus Minor 5=6 fashioned and consecrated a Sword attributed to Geburah (or Mars). Many confuse this with the Dagger yet it is a completely different implement with a completely different purpose. Make the distinction between these two very clear in your mind.
The so-called “Qabalistic Cross”, which precedes and ends the ritual, goes back to antiquity & is primarily what I was referring to in section II. The attribution of the Sephiroth 21 to the parts of the body are given below:
Kether – Sahasrara
Binah – Right hemisphere
Chokmah – Left hemisphere
Geburah – Right shoulder
Chesed – Left shoulder
(Daath) – Throat Visuddhi
Tiphareth – Heart – Anahata
Hod – Right hip
Netzach – Left hip
Yesod – Genitals – Svadistthana
Malkuth – Feet – Muladhara
Going back to section O (I: 1-5), we begin by touching the forehead (Kether) and vibrating AThH22 (pron. ‘AH-TAH) which means ‘unto Thee’ 23, touch the heart 24 & vibrate MLKVTh 25 (pron. ‘MAHL-KOOTH’), which means ‘the Kingdom’. Touch the right shoulder & vibrate VGBVRH 26 (pron. ‘VUH-G’VOORAH’), which means ‘& the Power’, touch the left shoulder & vibrate VGDVLH27 (pron. ‘VUH- G’DOOLAH’), which means ‘& the Glory’.
Clasp the hands over the heart & vibrate LOVLM 28, (pron. ‘LUH-OHLAHM’), Amen 29 (Ah-Mayn).
Not only does this simple rite affirm one as a Microcosm 30, it activates certain Sephiroth/Chakras within the ‘subtle body’ of the operator.
The difference between this & the ‘regular’ Christian Cross is that the left & right points are reversed: God, or rather one’s own divinity, is seen as outside oneself, rather than as oneself. This represents a vast change in the way in which one’s place in the Universe is seen. Consider what the Hindus mean by ‘Namaste’.
As a Probationer 0=0 of A∴A∴ 31 I was taught to bypass the heart and intone Malkuth at the ‘phallus’ or genital area. This makes more sense as this asserts the Yesod-center & continues downward to the feet & thus the Malkuth-center. A counterpart was also given to me when I took the I° of Ordo Templi Orientis (‘Caliphate’) in which I was taught the same but before continuing to the Yesod- center to pause at the heart & intone ‘Aiwass’. This I’ve found myself unable to do for personal reasons but others might find the information useful. I personally feel that one should wait until one has been communicated a name by one’s own Holy Guardian Angel, rather than Crowley’s, but opinions are like assholes…
Traditionally, at each point one visualizes a brilliant white sphere of Light, with each passing from one to the other forming a great Calvary Cross upon the Operator extending from the forehead to the feet, and from shoulder to shoulder. 32
The first thing one notices (or at least the first thing I noticed!) is that the Four Quarters (i.e., North, South, East, West) are attributed to the Four Elements of antiquity in this ritual. Why should a banishing ritual focus on the Four Elements?
The answer is simple: Everything conceivable can be attributed to these Four. For example, the Four Elements can be conceived as an extension of the the Three Qualities (Sulphur, Mercury, & Salt) of the Alchemists or the Three Gunas of Hinduism 33(Rajas, Sattva, Tamas). Or, to put it Qabalistically, IHV extended to IHVH. 34
The Signs of the Zodiac, the cards of the Tarot, the planets—virtually all things can be reduced to these Four in some way.35 Thus banishing only these Four can include all that is!
The Fifth is the ‘Element’ of “Spirit”, which seems to interpenetrate & bind the other Four together36. In the Hindu system we have the Four Tattwas37with a Fifth, ‘Akasha’, that seems to serve the same function. In the Qabalistic system they are as follows:
Spirit – Akasha – Tiphareth – ש
Fire – Tejas – Netzach – י
Water – Apas – Hod – ה
Air – Vayu – Yesod – ו
Earth – Prithivi – Malkuth38 – ה
What happens is this: Beginning in the East the Operator banishes the Element of Air. He then turns to the South, which is deosil, or clockwise. But why? Isn’t this the traditional direction for invoking? Yet we see that first he invokes the ‘Archangel’ Raphael by vibrating the corresponding Divine Name IHVH39 He banishes by the form of pentagram chosen, yet invokes by the direction taken afterwards. This is supported by Jung: “… a leftward movement indicates movement towards the unconscious, while a rightward (clockwise) movement goes toward consciousness.” 40
According to Crowley41, one is supposed to be standing at the intersection of the Paths of Samekh (ס) & Pe(פ)42facing Tiphareth. This puts Tiphareth before you, Yesod behind you, Netzach on your right hand, & Hod on your left. You are facing East.
Or at least, that is how it seems. We must remember from section V that the old method of viewing the Tree of Life was just as we look at it on paper: The Universe is apart from us; yet instead a mirror-image as it were it is applied to ourselves: For example, Geburah is on our right shoulder, not the left, & so on. Thus, though Tiphareth is still before us & Yesod behind us, Hod is on our right, & with its Mercurial nature might be said to imply the fluidity, the very changeability, of Fire; & on your left is the Sephirah Netzach, to which is attributed Venus, the Goddess of Love. Germination stems from the consummation of that Love, & (to me) this implies Ceres or Demeter, Goddesses of the Earth. Yesod, of course, is attributed to the Moon which in old legends was said to shed dew at night, plus it controls the tides: Thus Water.
To Tiphareth is attributed the Vau of Tetragrammaton43, or Air. 44 In the East the Operator traces the pentagram & vibrates 45 the Divine Name IHVH, at the same time visualizing strongly the ‘Archangel’ Raphael vast & far in the distance. Keeping the point of the Dagger in the center of the Pentagram, he traces a line around to the South, where he vibrates the Divine Name ADNI, at which time the Archangel Michael appears. He continues to the West, doing the same but vibrating the Divine Name AHIH, seeing Gabriel, & on to the North where he vibrates AGLA & sees Uriel 46, returning to the East. What is left is a circle of Light studded at the Four Quarters with blazing Pentagrams, while off in the distance, vast & forbidding, are the figures of the Archangels. The attributions of the Archangels are due to tradition & may be found in “The Golden Dawn” 47 as well as “777”. 48
The Operator provides the center of the Circle, &, as Jung 49 says regarding the point which is the center of the circle: “The point is most akin to the nature of light, and light is a simulacrum Dei.” 50 Remember, too, that the ancient Alchemical symbol of the Sun was a point within a Circle. 51
The Formula of Vibration may be found in ‘Liber O’ as well as in “The Golden Dawn”.
After the banishing of the Elements & the Vibration of the Divine Names, the Operator vocalizes aloud the appearance of the Archangels. This acts as a formal statement that he has achieved his purpose. Yet this sets into action another process: By the formation of the Circle & the formulation of the Pentagrams is created an infinite Column 52 extending above & below. The Circle in which he stands now forms the perimeter of a Hexagram in the Center of which he stands. 53
He then repeats the Qabalistic Cross 54, but this time it is not a statement of intention but a statement of achievement: In this case it is actualized, rather than purposed.
Throughout this essay I have tried to stick primarily with the usual instructions given to those new to this ritual; instructions which the magician is expected to build upon on his or her own. Yet I can really only advise on that which stems from my own experience, not that of others. Therefore I have decided to give a few pointers from my own experience, which goes back about 10 or 11 years at the time of this writing.
I’ve thought for some time that at the ‘Kether-point’, when one intones ‘AThH’, that perhaps on an advanced level one might should instead use the Divine Name ‘AHIH’, which is the Hebrew for “I am”. This implies an identification between one & one’s Holy Guardian Angel. This is only a thought, & one which perhaps others might wish to carry further.
Also, I usually visualize a brilliant white sphere at the Kether center, a purple one at the Yesod center, a green one at Malkuth, a red one at Geburah, a blue one at Chesed, & finally, on this great Calvary Cross pointed with colored spheres of Light at its various points, composed itself of very brilliant white Light, there blooms a Rose at the center where one intones ‘Le-Olahm, Amen’.
As for the Divine Names, I’ve come to approach this in my own way as well: I’ve noticed that each is composed of four Hebrew letters. There is a way to pronounce these that makes each have three syllables, which is again a way of stating that which was discussed in section VI. IHVH I pronounce as ‘Yeh-ho-wah’; ADNI as ‘Ah-doh-naee’; AHIH as ‘Eh-heh-yeh’; & AGLA as ‘Ah-guh-lah’. We thus come back to the Four stemming from the Three: Divine Names of four letters pronounced with three syllables each.
There are many ways to visualize the Archangels. Some make a ‘picture’ using Yetziratic 55 correspondences from the Qabalah, some just see giant figures, etc. For myself, I tend to visualize them as vast, towering, figures, robed in the traditional color ascribed to the Element. The termination ‘AL’ I take to be great Wings behind them, & in the left hand of each a set of scales. 56 In their right hand they hold the Elemental Weapon appropriate. Thus Raphael has yellow robes with a great Sword, Michael red robes with Wand, Gabriel blue with Cup, and Uriel black (sometimes green) with a Disk.
The matter of Vibration is more complex. In the First Knowledge Lecture given to the Neophyte of the Golden Dawn it says “The NAMES should be pronounced inwardly in the breath vibrating it as much as possible and feeling that the whole body throbs with the sound and send out a wave of vibration directed to the ends of the quarter.” This is only a preliminary instruction. The full formula wasn’t given until the Zelator Adeptus Minor 5=6 grade in an explanatory lecture on the Neophyte ceremony called “Z.1” 57. It states:
“Let the Adept, standing upright, his arms stretched out in the form of a Calvary Cross, vibrate a Divine Name, bringing with the formulation thereof a deep inspiration into the lungs. Let him retain the breath, mentally pronouncing the Name in his Heart, so as to combine it with the forces he desires to awake thereby; thence sending it downwards through his body past Yesod, but not resting there, but taking his physical life for a material basis, send it into his feet. There he shall again momentarily formulate the Name—then, bringing it rushing upwards into the lungs, thence shall he breathe it forth strongly, while vibrating that Divine Name. He will send his breath steadily forward into the Universe so as to awake the corresponding forces of the Name in the Outer World. Standing with arms out in the form of a Cross, when the breath has been imaginatively sent to the feet and back, bring the arms forward in ‘The Sign of the Enterer’58 while vibrating the Name out into the Universe. On completing this, make the ‘Sign of Silence’ 59 and remain still, contemplating the Force you have invoked.
This is the secret traditional mode of pronouncing the Divine Names by vibration, but let the Adept beware that he applies it only to the Divine Names of the Gods. If he does this thing ignorantly in working with Elemental or Demonic Names, he may bring into himself terrible force of Evil and Obsession. The Method described is called ‘The Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar’.” 60
This implies that ONLY the Divine Names of the Quarters are to be vibrated in this manner (should you choose to utilize it) while the Names of the Archangels, etc., are to be vibrated in the ordinary manner.
Thus far concerning the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. In the Golden Dawn another, more complex ritual called the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram was given, for the specific invocation of the Elements, or to invoke or banish Zodiacal Signs according to which triplicity they belonged.61 Another, one might say “higher frequency”, all-purpose banishing pentagram ritual was written by Aleister Crowley for the A∴A∴ entitled ‘Liber XXV: The Star Ruby’, of which there are two forms: An earlier & a later.62
Another, more controversial, pentagram ritual is also an ins A∴A∴ instruction: ‘Liber V vel Reguli’. On this I have no comment at the moment.
The impact of this ritual is great, going even into the Neo-pagan community in some form or another. Once adopted & used for any amount of time, it is unlikely you will ever cease to find something new. I nearly always come away with a more profound understanding of this wonderful rite, as of myself. 63
SUGGESTED BOOK LIST
“The Law is for All”, by Aleister Crowley “The Holy Books of Thelema”
“The Equinox III:10”
“The Equinox IV:1 Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers” “The Equinox IV:2 The Vision and the Voice”
“Liber Aleph: The Book of Wisdom or Folly”
“Magick: Liber ABA, Book IV”, by Aleister Crowley, et al.