The New Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
by Michael Osiris Snuffin (2002)
"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."1
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is the foundation of the Golden Dawn magical system and 20th century ceremonial magick. Yet critical analysis of this ritual shows this foundation to be flawed. Elements of the LBRP are inconsistent with the pattern and structure of Golden Dawn ritual as well as modern magical theory. Many magicians have tried to rationalize these inconsistencies, but none have dared to significantly change the ritual itself--until now.
In this essay I will identify these inconsistencies or “blinds” and correct them to formulate a logical, perfected version of the LBRP. As the basis for my analysis, here is the LBRP as presented in the First Knowledge Lecture of the Golden Dawn2, broken down into four sections for the purpose of discussion:
The Qabalistic Cross
The Construction of the Circle
The Invocation of the Archangels
Before me flames the Pentagram, and behind me shines the six-rayed Star.
Make the Qabalistic Cross as directed above.
1. The Qabalistic Cross
The purpose of the Qabalistic Cross is to establish the magician as the center of the Universe. It uses the concept of Adam Kadmon to identify the Microcosm (the magician) with the Macrocosm (the Tree of Life as a representation of the Universe.) Consider also that in order to construct a circle you must first establish the centerpoint.
The magician is instructed to draw a cross of light upon his body with the oration Ateh Malkuth ve-Geburah ve-Gedulah le-Olam Amen, translated in English as “Thou art the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory for ever, Amen.” The oration is taken from the last line of the Lord’s Prayer, spoken in Hebrew to emphasize its correspondence with the Tree of Life.
The first blind3 appears in the wording of the oration. The use of Ateh, “thou art” identifies the light with a external power, namely, “Our Father.” The same idea is expressed at the end of the oration with “Amen,” which is notariqon for Adonai Melekh Na’amon meaning “Lord, faithful King.” It would make much more sense (especially in light of the New Aeon) for the magician to identify himself with that light considering that he is establishing himself (not God) as the center of the Universe in this ritual.
Because the ritual uses the concept of Adam Kadmon in drawing the cross of light, three of the five words that make up the oration are names of Sephira which correspond to the appropriate location on the body: Malkuth, Geburah and Gedulah. It would thus make sense to exchange Ateh “thou art” with the god-name of Kether, Eheieh, which means “I am.” This identifies the magician with the light and provides a Qabalistic link with the appropriate sephira when touching the forehead.
Amen is exchanged for IAO, a solar formula of resurrection associated with Tiphareth, which is vibrated over the plexus in Crowley’s Thelemic adaptation of the Qabalistic Cross in the Star Ruby4. This change links all five phrases of the oration with the corresponding sephiroth of Adam Kadmon. The revised oration now reads “I am the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory for ever IAO.”
When performing this version of the Qabalistic Cross, the magician not only identifies himself as the center of the universe but also forms a cross of the Elements within his aura. Eheieh is associated with Air, Malkuth with Earth, Geburah with Fire, and Gedulah with Water. IAO represents Spirit at the center of the Elemental Cross.
One further note on the Qabalistic Cross. While the original version instructs the magician to touch the breast when saying Malkuth, modern magicians often touch the groin at this point in the ritual. The latter method makes more sense, as it fully extends the cross of light over the whole body. Also, while the groin is given to the sephira Yesod, it is much closer to the feet where Malkuth resides. The crossbars of the cross of light are visualized as extending into infinity
2. The Construction of the Circle
The Circle defines the area to be controlled by the magician and protects that area from unwanted influences. The space inside the circle, once properly banished through the use of pentagrams and god-names, is considered to be sacred space within which the magician may communicate with and manipulate the energies of the Universe.
As a general rule of thumb, the magician moves clockwise to invoke and counterclockwise to banish. Yet in this banishing ritual we are instructed to draw our circle clockwise. This is the second blind. The correction is simply to draw the circle counterclockwise, moving from East to the North, West, and South.
The circle is warded in each Elemental quarter by a banishing Earth pentagram. This bias against the element of Earth is the third blind, based on the misconception that the material world is evil and inferior to the higher, more spiritual realms. The LBRP only works with one Element when four Elements are clearly defined.
The solution is to banish each element in its appropriate quarter. When using four banishing pentagrams, each is visualized in the color appropriate to the element: yellow for Air, green for Earth, blue for Water and red for Fire. The circle that unites the pentagrams is drawn in white to represent Spirit, the Element that binds and separates the other four Elements.
With the four Elements banished only the Element of Spirit remains, itself conterminous with the magician and the center of the circle5. Spirit is the Element that both binds and separates the other four Elements and must be present to formulate and balance the Elemental circle of the Elemental quarters.
Four four-letter Hebrew god names are used as words of power to charge the pentagrams: YHVH in the East, ADNI in the South, AHIH in the West, and AGLA in the North. Yet three of the four god-names are clearly associated with the element in the opposite quarter in which they is vibrated. This confusion of the god-names is the fourth blind of the LBRP.
Adonai is associated with Earth through the god-name Adonai ha-Aretz (Lord of Earth) in Malkuth. Eheieh is associated with breath and therefore Air. AGLA is notariqon for Ateh Gibor le-Olam Adonai (“Thou art mighty forever my Lord”), Gibor being of the same root of the fiery sephira Geburah.
The god name YHVH is a special case. This god-name contains all four Elements within itself and could be placed in any quarter, much like the god-name ARARITA in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram. While it is a four-letter Hebrew god name, YHVH does not have any specific affinity to the Element of Water, nor does it begin with aleph like the other three names.
On a more subjective level, my experiments with the LBRP showed that YHVH does not resonate as well as the other three god names when used in their proper quarters. The energy was different, as if I had tried to fit a round peg into a square hole.
A short but intensive investigation revealed an appropriate god name to use for Water: ALVH, Eloah, “God”. Its root is AL, the god-name associated with Chesed and Water. The last two letters are VH, the last two letters of the Tetragrammaton. Eloah was the password of the Practicus Grade of the Golden Dawn, in which the powers of Water are invoked into the aura of the Candidate.
Furthermore, AL=31, a key of the Book of the Law, and VH=11, the number of Magick. 42 (ALVH) = 21 (AHIH) X 2. Eloah is a reflection of Eheieh, and reflection is a primary characteristic of Elemental Water.
The revised attribution of the god-names to the elemental quarters is as follows: AHIH for Air in the East, ADNI for Earth in the North, ALVH for Water in the West, and AGLA for Fire in the South. Vibrate the god-names while giving the Sign of the Enterer, and follow with the Sign of Silence. The first gesture projects a beam of energy into the pentagram, while the second gesture stops the flow of energy by severing the connection between the magician and the pentagram.
3. The Invocation of the Archangels
After the circle is constructed, the magician extends his arms in the form of a tau cross and invokes the Archangels of the Elements in the four directions. The tau cross is a symbol of the four Elements bonded and separated by Spirit. It is also a reaffirmation of the element of Spirit that is invoked through the Qabalistic Cross. It is with the authority of Spirit that the magician invokes the Archangels.
What is the purpose of invoking the Archangels? Some believe that they are the guardians of the circle, evoked outside to protect it. Yet the circle is already well-protected at this point in the ritual with banishing pentagrams and vibrated god-names. The real purpose of the invocation is to fill the Elemental void that has been created inside the circle after banishing the four Elements in the Construction of the Circle.
The Elemental Archangels represent the highest, most spiritualized qualities of the Elements. When the Archangels are invoked into the circle, the Elemental void is filled with spiritualized Elemental energy that serves to purify, balance, and energize the magician. As he invokes each Archangelic energy the magician should be able to feel it manifest in the appropriate quarter. This idea is vividly expressed by Israel Regardie in The Middle Pillar:
“The technique... is to imagine that the emanation from the archangel penetrates and cleanses the personality. That is to say, in the east from behind the archangel Raphael should be felt a gentle wind or breeze, which, permeating the entire body, blows from it every trace of impurity. From Michael in the south, warmth at first of gentle degree should be felt, increasing in intensity to a powerful heat that burns and utterly consumes every blemish which troubled the personality. This purging should be felt as consecrating one to the service of the higher self. The same technique should be applied to Gabriel in the west, except that one is purified with water, while in the north one is invested with the stability and fertility of Auriel, archangel of the earth.”6
Remember that the magician, who is standing in the form of a tau cross, represents Spirit, the fifth Element which balances and binds the other four.
4. The Affirmation of the Circle
The ritual ends with the following oration: “Before me flames the pentagram, and behind me shines the six rayed star.” This places the magician between the symbols of the Microcosm (pentagram) and Macrocosm (hexagram). The intent is to symbolize the unification of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm, which in turn is a symbol for the Great Work, the goal of all magick.
Aleister Crowley modified this oration to read “For about me flames the Pentagram, and in the Column stands the Six-rayed Star.”7 Crowley visualized two hexagrams, one above him and one below him. “It flames both above and beneath the magus, who is thus in a cube of 4 pentagrams and two hexagrams, 32 points in all.”8 The argument for this arrangement is that 32 is the number of paths on the Tree of Life and the enumeration of AHIHVH, a god-name formed by combining AHIH and YHVH that symbolizes the unification of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm.
The column is the shape of the space that is created in the LBRP. The circle actually defines a column that extends vertically above and below the magician. It does not manifest as a cube or sphere, due to the passive construction of the hexagram. The hexagram is simply visualized and not drawn or charged with god-names like the other elements of the circle, and therefore does not carry the same warding power as the pentagrams in the ritual.
Furthermore, there is no need to ward the area above and below the circle. The construction of the circle banishes the four Elements; thus the column is comprised of the Element of Spirit. This column of Spirit extends into the infinite above and the infinite below, making it unnecessary to ward the vertical directions.
What is significant about Crowley’s interpretation is his identification of the Pentagram in the Affirmation with the Elemental pentagrams established in the quarters. This identification serves to affirm the ring of pentagrams that have been formulated to protect and define the circle. In effect, it identifies the circle as the Microcosm of the magician. In turn, visualizing the hexagram at the Tiphareth center establishes the Macrocosm within the Microcosmic circle. As before, this unification is a symbol of the Great Work, yet this interpretation is more complete in that it includes both elements of the ritual, the circle and the center.
To reflect these concepts, the Affirmation of the Circle has been revised to read “About me flames the pentagrams, and within me shines the six-rayed star.” With the utterance of first phrase, the magician focuses on the ring of pentagrams that surrounds him; and with the last phrase the magician visualizes a unicursal hexagram centered on his plexus.
As a final note, I prefer to use a unicursal hexagram instead of a traditional hexagram because the lines of the former figure cross the Tiphareth center of the hexagram, while the latter figure does not connect with Tiphareth at all.
When all of the flaws of the LBRP are corrected and the elements of the ritual are properly balanced, a New Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram emerges:
1. Facing east, touch the forehead and say Eheieh (I am).
2. Touch the groin and say Malkuth (the Kingdom).
3. Touch the right shoulder and say ve-Geburah (and the Power).
4. Touch the left shoulder and say ve-Gedulah (and the Glory).
5. Clasp the hands upon the breast and say le-Olahm IAO (Forever, IAO).
6. In the East, trace the banishing pentagram of Air. Vibrate Eheieh.
7. Turn to the North and trace the banishing pentagram of Earth. Vibrate Adonai.
8. Turn to the West and trace the banishing pentagram of Water. Vibrate Eloah.
9. Turn to the South and trace the banishing pentagram of Fire. Vibrate AGLA.
10. Turn to the East to complete the circle. Extend the arms in the form of a cross and say:
11. Before me Raphael.
12. Behind me Gabriel.
13. On my right hand Michael.
14. And on my left hand Auriel.
15. For about me flames the pentagrams.
16. And within me shines the six-rayed star.
17. Repeat the Qabalistic Cross (parts 1-5).
I have been performing the NBRP daily for many months and found it to be very potent and effective, more so than the original LBRP. The NBRP not only creates a foundation for magical work, but also balances the Elements within the aura of the magician. (Interestingly enough, this is also the purpose of the Outer Order initiations of the Golden Dawn.) I have also used this ritual to prepare my temple for evocation with great success. I welcome and encourage any feedback or criticism on the NBRP; please contact me through this website.
1 Crowley, Aleister "The Palace of the World." Quote taken from Liber ABA, page 745, footnote 507.
2 The Golden Dawn, page 53. The LBRP originated with the Golden Dawn and thus the Order's version shall be used here.
3 As a noun, "blind" means not only "something put forward for the purpose of misleading" but also "something to hinder sight and keep out of light."
4 Liber 25: The Star Ruby
5 This concept is clearly demonstrated in the Opening by Watchtower ritual.
6 Ibid, page 62.
7 Liber O.
8 Crowley, Aleister "The Palace of the World." Quote taken from Liber ABA, page 746, footnote 522.
Copyright (c) 2010 Michael Osiris Snuffin
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