Ritual Protocol for The Wyoming Valley Society for Esoteric Studies
P.O. Box 2920, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18703-2920
Mark Stavish, M.A.
Copyright 1998 Mark Stavish
3 May 1998
The Purpose of Ritual
The Wyoming Valley Society for Esoteric Studies is a teaching organization that respects the freedom of its members. As such, the rituals used represent a collective act of worship using the same personal rituals of magic on a group level. The Society offers no initiations, makes no attempt to create or form an egregore, or creates rituals secret and private to it. All that the Society does can be found in the standard works on British and Continental esotericism.
Through group work, the proper conditions can be created, wherein each participant receives Light and Illumination according to their ability and need. Thus, true, or interior initiation1) can be achieved, free from the problems of a formal and highly structured lodge setting.
This distinction is important, as it is the only thing that really distinguishes the Society as a teaching organization, from esoteric lodges which are by definition initiatic. “A lodge, in the present context, is a group of people that come together to prepare and perform initiations. An initiation can be seen as a formal process for bringing about specific long-term changes in human consciousness.”2)
The purpose of ritual is to create a dramatic and emotional climate wherein the dry symbolism of occultism can come to life. Through color, sound, movement, and imagination, symbolism takes on a meaningful existence and becomes a living language of the soul. In short, symbolism without ritual is like learning a foreign language without moving your lips. You can learn to read it, and communicate to some degree, but fluency and direct experience will escape you.
It is important to note, that ritual is only a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Once the proper inner state is established, and the work of spiritual repair completed in a particular area, rituals will no longer be needed, as they will be replaced with direct experience. The true adept has no need of ritual, as can be seen in the works of Christ, Boehme, St. Martin, and many others, known and unknown.
Thus, the purpose of ritual, as applied in the Society, can be summarized as the following:
1. To learn the basic structure of ritual and its proper application for personal use.
2. To increase the understanding and ‘fluency’ in the use of symbols.
3. To contribute to the collective unfoldment of group members, for greater efficiency, in their personal work.
4. To create psychic and emotional conditions wherein heightened states of awareness are experienced, or interior initiation.
5. To use ritual as a means to achieve personal repair, so that they themselves become obsolete, and are replaced by direct experience.
Thus, individual and group work are not seen as distinct, but instead, complimentary. By using the same rituals in both settings, members are able to become better at them on both a personal and collective level. Experiences from group work may be taken home and stimulate a new level of activity, and vice versa.
To establish a proper atmosphere and maximize our time together, the following protocol has been established for members of the Society and visiting guests. Please read the following material and adhere to it as strictly as possible.
Prior to the beginning of ritual, and while robing, please keep all chatter and conversation to a minimum. Focus on the intention of the upcoming ritual, if it is something special and announced in advance, or simply focus in the meaning of the Great Work and ask that the event to follow assist you in your unfoldment. The period of time while robing should be one of silent meditation, prayer, and reflection.
While specific robing prayers exist3)) and will be supplied, they need not be used dogmatically. The nature and intention of taking the time between lecture and ritual to move from a more mundane state of consciousness, to a more focused and inner state is what is important. Our ritual robes and tools are to help us make this transition.
No one should be wearing any jewelry during ritual, except something consecrated to the work, such as a Rose+Cross, ank, or something similar. Please remove all metal from your pockets as well, such as keys, and coins. Metal should be minimized in the ritual circle4). Beepers, and watches with alarms, must be turned off while in ritual.
If possible, all members should be robed in white robes with hoods and black cords. The hoods5) are worn up while in ritual and are symbolic of the fading of the personality, and the anonymity. Soft, neutral colored shoes should be worn if possible.
There is no limitations on what you can wear in ritual, so long as it is covered by a robe. Appropriate dress is requested for the lecture portion of the program.
Perfume and cologne should be used sparingly so as to not conflict with any incense being used.
Starting the Ritual
Once the ritual area is established, and the altar set, no one should enter the circle before the announced time. This time can be established by a gong, bell, rapping with a mallet, or pole, or a verbal announcement by the officers.
All members will enter by the Northwest corner in single file. Those with the most ritualistic and/or esoteric experience, and visiting dignitaries will sit in the Southeast corner; those with the least, opposite in the Northeast corner. Presiding Officers will enter after the members, also in single file, circle around the altar once, and ‘peel off’ to their stations. All movements, except for the circumambulations,6) are to be at right angles.
Movement at right angles is symbolic of the ‘squaring off’ or making clean and straight the elements of the personality and character so that it might better reflect the ‘rightness’ of Cosmic, or Divine, Consciousness. The circle represents the movement of Divine energy back towards itself (see the symbol of the Ouroboros), as well as the unseen spiral of force that is constantly moving energy into and out of being. Circumambulation is a very potent means of quickly bringing energy into a ritual area, as well as a means of releasing it. Since the energy being directed is concentrated around the altar, it is the altar then, that becomes the focal point of the circumambulations by participants.
The Officers will enter in the following manner: North, West, South, East, and presiding Master/Adept/Hierophant.
This combination of the traditional Egyptian rectangular temple plan, as used in Masonic and Rosicrucian societies, and the magical circle seems to appear for the first time in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and is perpetuated by its successor organizations.
Traditionally three passes, or circumambulations are made in the ritual circle, although more can, and are often made. However the number should be chosen ahead of time, and have a symbolic significance. Three is used because that is the number of coils in the ‘dragon’ or ‘serpent’ of ancient lore. Long the traditional symbol of the ‘secret’ or ‘hidden fire’, the serpent is unraveled and made to ‘stand straight’.7) This symbol of the Serpent on the forehead of the crowns, symbolic of awakened Divine Consciousness, of the Egyptian Pharaohs has been preserved in the magical crown of some magical orders.
When making the circular passes around the circle, or altar, it is customary to imagine oneself being elevated, as well as a counter-spiral of light being pulled down into the circle and being anchored at the central focus point of the altar. Thus, two spirals are in motion, that of the participants who seek to elevate themselves, and that of the counter flux of energy, being drawn down, to make itself manifest.8)
One of the finest examples of this three coiled symbolism of the serpent in a ritual circle can be found in The Book of the Goetia,9) in which the various Divine Names are written around the circle in the shape of a serpent. The labyrinths in old cathedrals, such as Chartres, are also good examples of mystical contemplative practices using coils as a means of accessing inner states.
“The Egyptian initiates were called scarabs; these insects apparently push along their eggs, which contain their own regeneration. The path of this alchemist is a double spiral, representing the alchemist’s alternate dissolution and coagulation, the expansion and contraction of the spherical vortex, and the phases of the subtle energies. ‘The spiral progress if the mundane spirit’ passes from his source through all the planetary spheres (or psychic centers) to arrive perfected at the centre; from there he expands, sees the centre from the ‘outside’, and spirals unto the upper world, back to his divine source. (The key to alchemy according to the Egyptians, from Athanasius Kircher’s Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Germany, 1652-54)10)
Since the magicians in personal as well a collective practice often identify themselves with their patron god Thoth-Hermes,11) it is interesting to note that Hermes is called in one magical Exordium, “The Piercing of the Coils of the Stooping Dragon.”12)
The officers in the temple represent the mediating forces of certain energies. While in private work, each must mediate all of the energies of the ritual, in group work, specific patterns are allocated to each person. General group members not given a specific energy to mediate, may participate at appropriate times of the ritual, as designated by the presiding Master/Adept/Heirophant.
The Master generally sits in the East. When this is not permissible however, the Second Adept or Deputy Master will sit there. Thus, it is not uncommon for two (or three) chairs to be place in the East. If three chairs are used, the Master will sit in the Southeast one, the Deputy Master in the Northeast one. When the Master begins the ritual, the deputy Master will move to the central chair, directly in the Eastern Quarter.
The East represents the Elemental Air, and the powers of the mind and intellect. It helps give us clarity of vision and purpose. As such, the Officer of the Eastern Quarter needs to build up and image of a brilliant yellow pentagram behind them. It is circles with stone tracery (to contain the energy, and act as a literal gateway). The sense of and feeling of air in springtime is strong, and the colors of a sunrise, or sunset (yellow, with violet highlights) is imagined. A perpetual soft, warm breeze should be felt. Its kerubic sign is Aquarius, and is imagined in violet.
The archangel is Raphael, and is imagined in robes of the foregoing colors, with massive sweeping wings, and a staff13) before him.14) The image is imagined as standing behind the Officer, coming out from the other side of the pentagram, to assist in the ritual.
Later on, when experience in attained, each Officer must use the technique of “Assumption of the Godform” to experience the ritual from the perspective of the Archangel. That is, not just call the energy and assist it, but become it, and its representative form.
The South is the realm of Fire, and represents the purifying Element in nature. It is the most potent of all of the Elements, and through it, mastery of the other three is achieved. It is dynamic force and purification, and as such, is often seen as the Inner Guardian of the Temple. If there are enough members, and a second chair is used, then that chair is occupied by an Officer designated as Inner Guardian, or Warden.15) There purpose is to ensure that the Temple and altar are not defiled in any manner. However, most cases, only one Officer will be needed, and can combine the roles.
The image created by the Officer of the Southern Quarter is done in the same fashion as the east, only the Pentagram flashes to brilliant cherry red, and the complimentary color for the kerubic sign is green. The image is one of intense heat, brilliance, and flame. Oranges, reds, and traces of yellow, and green, dominate the scene. Mikael, the Archangel of the Quarter is massive, and wears a robe of matching color. He bears a Sword, point down, and if you like, dominating a winged dragon, serpent, or Ouroboros.16) The South is summer, and the heat it radiates should approximate the feeling of being exposed to the sun at its most intense time on a summer day.
As with the East, the archangel is seen as standing behind the Officer, coming our of the world behind the Pentagram, to assist with the ritual, and overshadows the Officer of the Quarter. Later on, the Officer must take on the perception of Michael.
The West is our psychic and emotional nature, and has an affinity for physical water as well. The Quarter is often seen as passive, or feminine, but in reality is androgynous, and every one must take their turns at all four quarters to be balanced in the Work.
The Pentagram changes to brilliant blue, and the sense of a waterfall, a running stream, clear, clean, crisp, refreshing water is what is imagined. The sense of this being a reflection of our psyche and a means to peer into our ‘watery’ unconscious is present here. Gabriel is imagined as a vast figure, with massive wings, dressed in robes of blue, and a hint of violet, with orange highlites. These are also the colors of the watery world of the Western Quarter. Gabriel holds a chalice, sometimes silver, typical of ‘grail’ chalices, that ever overflows with the psychic waters of life.
The kerubic sign of the West is the Eagle’s head of Scorpio, and is imagined in brilliant orange. This is Autumn period of the circle.
The North is solidity, stability, fecundity, and fertility. It is among the most complex of the four Elements, and even has a hidden, or ‘secret fire’ (kundalini) aspect to it. The solidity of Earth gives fruit and manifestation to our esoteric activities and anchors us so that we can access greater energy from the Invisible. The stronger, deeper, and broader our foundation, the greater the heights of our Work.
The Officer of the Northern Quarter is to imagine a brilliant green pentagram, when the charging occurs. The kerubic sign of Taurus is imagined in the center of the pentagram in red. The colors of the North are varied according to the different schools, as are the symbols associated with it. Dark greens, earth tones, the color of wheat, are all what are used in the North. It is felt as a strong, slow, moving mass of matter, and imagined as a great fertile field of all human activity. The joy of life, along with the stability of life, are part of this realm. This is the final quarter, or Winter phase of the circle when it is used to represent the seasons of the terrestrial year according to European tradition.17)
Auriel is imagined in matching robes, with a sheaf of wheat at her feet, and holding a disk of earth. This is to be imagined as a circular shield, reflective like a mirror, with a Star of David18) engraved on it. Just as Water reflects out inner state, the Earth reflects out inner state, as made manifest in the outer world.
The Pentagrams are to be imagined as being connected with a brilliant bluish-white line, forming a circle, which for some, seems to fade into a sense of their being a bluish-grey wall, or curtain around the area of working, when the preliminaries are complete.
It should be noted that some schools eschew all forms of anthropomorphism and instead imagine the Archangels of as vast and intelligent fields of Elemental imagery. Others see them as towering crosses formed of the Hebrew letters of their names (see: handouts for an example of this). The latter technique tends to bring in a more pure Elemental energy, as it is less associated with our ‘human’ preferences.19)
Kerubic signs represent the protective aspects of the fixed zodiacal signs in their Elemental attributes. All of the signs given are ‘fixed’, or steady and unchanging in astrological language. The Kerbubs are the guardians of the Tree of Life in the Biblical Garden of Eden, and prevent any unworthy, or unprepared beings, from attempting to return to Unity prematurely. In this sense, they act as Guardians on the focal points of our circle (and psyche), and assist us in traversing from the visible realm of Malkooth to the invisible world of Yesod.
“The Kerubim, “the Strong Ones,” are the living Powers of Tetragrammaton (YHVH) on the Material Plane and the Presidents of the four Elements. They operate through the Fixed of Kerubic Signs of the Zodiac.”20)
The altar is placed directly in the center, or slightly East of center (so the Master is directly center) of the circle. It is considered ‘dressed’ or ready for use when it is in this position, and nothing should be placed on it that is not needed for the ritual at hand. An altar can be ‘dressed’ but if not ready for immediate use, set slightly askew, or have the candles off center, so at to be not ‘on’ if you will. When the altar is placed in the center, and candles returned to their normal position, it will be like flipping the switch of an electric lamp and setting the current in motion. This is most important in rooms used exclusively for ritual work.
The altar is dressed in white, with two candles, and will have the needed tools placed upon it as we progress through the course.
It is not uncommon in Continental esotericism to have two altars, one in the center, the Cubic Altar,21) and the other to the East, or Table of Sacrifice, identical to the old Catholic Churches.
Candles will be lit prior to and/or during the ritual, and are to be snuffed or pinched out at the end. They are never to be blown out, as such is considered sacrilegious, and symbolic of the ‘snuffing out’ of the Light. During the ritual act of excommunication, the symbols of Bell, Book, and Candle are used. The Bell announces the exclusion of the fellow from the Church; the Book (Bible) is shut, signifying the silence of God’s Word; and the Candle is blown out, to show that they are beyond God’s light and in the grips of Darkness. As such, a snuffer or the fingers are used to extinguish (i.e. transmute) the flame.
The Working Tools or Weapons of Magic
The principle ceremonial tools used in magic are the Elemental Tools, also known as Weapons, which correspond to the Four Quarters and their associated powers, attributes, and qualities. While these tools technically belong to the Adeptus Minor grade of most esoteric orders that use them, they are explained here since they may be seen occasionally in some rituals.
However, in the curriculum of the Society, they will not be made or consecrated for use until the third year. The reason for this is simple: while the weapons, or tools, could be made early on, the students understanding of them at that point would be limited. As such, these limitations would show up in the construction and use of the tools, resulting in the need to make new ones later on, or to re-consecrate them as their skills developed to the appropriate level.
The necessary rituals used in their consecration require about three years of work prior to their use in this context.22) After their creation they are generally wrapped in silk (colors matching their Elemental affinity) when not in use. They are also never to be touched by anyone other than the student who created and uses them, or to be seen by the ‘profane’, or someone who is not a student of the Great Work.
The Dagger- Reason and intellect. The application of the mind to carve and etch the magic figures and sigils which give us a means of entering into the Invisible, or for it to become visible to us in the world of Duality.
The Wand - This is the human will, which seeks to unite with the Divine Will. It is the means by which all magic is accomplished and the Great Work achieved. “The Magickal Will is in essence twofold, for it presupposes a beginning and an end; to Will to be a thing is to admit that you are not that thing.”23)
The Cup - Our human understanding, emotions, and reflective qualities. “As the Magick Wand is the Will, the Wisdom, the Word (Creative power) of the Magician, so is the Magick Cup his Understanding.”24) It is ‘the vehicle of Grace’.25)
The Pantacle (or Disk) - This is the body of the Adept, and the material world in which they live. It is the earthly expression of attainment, and the symbol of perfection - the Great Work achieved - “..and the Pantacle shall be his body, the Temple of the Holy Ghost.”26)
Also used are, the Bell, Book (Holy Scripture), Sword, Great Wand, Holy Oil, Holy Water, Incense, Triangle of Art (or Evocation), Lamen (or Rose+Cross). Other tools may also be employed, but these constitute the basic and most fundamental ones for beginning and advanced works.
It is important to note, that depending on the intention and symbols applied to the Elemental Quarters, the basic Pentagram rituals can be used as either means of opening our vision to the hidden ‘etheric/astral’ world immediately behind our material one (i.e. Elemental), or they can take on the roles of the lower spheres of the Tree of Life,27) and become a means of entering and mastering the Qabalistic World of Yetzirah.28)
Generalities of Ritual
Each ritual will consist of:
- An Opening, or general banishing.
- An invocation.
- A meditation.
- A Closing, or release of the powers invoked.
While in ritual, all members will be able to perform the following:
- Foursquare breathing
- The Qabalistic Cross
- Invocation of Divine Names at the Quarters
- Assist in the construction of the Archangels at the Quarters.
- Invocation of Names for the general meditation, as well as actively visualize the subject of the meditation.
- Assist in the ‘winding down’ of the energy via visualization.
The degree of participation will increase over time as the nature of the rituals being performed changes slightly. For the first year, familiarity is being developed, and the fundamental Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram forms the basis for our work. In the second year, the Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram is introduced, along with the Hexagram rituals. In the third year, “Opening by Watchtower”, in both its basic and advanced forms, form the basis of the work.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is used to purify and strengthen the aura while teaching the basics of ritual. The Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram is used to introduce the most basic concepts of Enochian magic, while giving the student a means to act powerfully on a single Element (i.e. Earth, Air, Water, Fire, or Spirit) if they chose. The Hexegram Rituals allow for a clearing of unwanted ‘planetary’ or psychic energies of a specific nature, as well as to invoke them and make them a potent part of our daily consciousness. Opening by Watchtower allows for the harmonization of the Elements on a higher level, as well as opening the means for a personal initiation into Tiphareth, or the first genuine level of adepthood (Adeptus Minor). This last ritual is a progressive one, that entails learning all of the previous rituals by heart, and working through them in single collective rite. In addition, the energy contacted in this ritual is brought in according to the order of creation as outlined in the Sepher Yetzirah, or the Hebrew “Book of Creation”, and not the usual “Elemental” manner of the earlier rites.
All of the above rituals can be found in modified form in John-Micheal Greer’s Circles of Power. The originals are in Regardie’s Golden Dawn, the Cicero’s Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition, and their Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple.
It is often considered ‘poor magic’ to make known the exact nature of a groups rituals. However, such secrecy is often for reasons less than noble. The Society feels that openness will attract the right people to its fold, and that it is a greater guarantee of success than any occult benefits derived from secrecy.