Journal of the
Western Mystery Tradition
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
by St. J.O.N., 93 `.`
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is the most complete ritual ever devised for preparing the place for magical work. The ritual as described here is used as a general means of opening and closing any ritual, meditation or exercise, banishing inimical influences, invoking helpful spiritual reinforcement to the circle, and strengthening the aura.
The ritual was first revealed by Aleister Crowley in his Magick in Theory & Practice, and has appeared countless times in books published since, especially over the last twenty years. As a result it is probably the best known of all rituals. However, it has suffered from widespread misunderstanding due to the fact that Crowley, although extremely accurate, was very minimal in his treatment of such things. He rather hoped that others would take upon themselves the task of explaining magical technique in more detail, in the same way that the chef leaves the preparation of salad dressing to a kitchen assistant. The nearest Crowley got to the "nitty gritty" of magical techniques was in his book of letters, Magick Without Tears, where among other things he gives detailed descriptions of how to accomplish "Rising on the Planes", a form of astral investigation, and how to improvise a magical temple from whatever happens to be around.
It seems unlikely that anyone could have foreseen the explosion of interest in magick that was to take place through the seventies and eighties, which the English writer and occultist Kenneth Grant dubbed The Magical Revival in the first of his series of "Typhonian Trilogies". As more and more material became subject to mass distribution, it opened the way to a new generation of occultists. With this new generation, brought up on a diet of rock music and video entertainment, to whom sex and drugs were recreational activities rather than the closely guarded secrets of a sacred science, occultism began to be recognised not so much as something a person underwent arduous training for, but rather as another "alternative lifestyle". With the widening popularity of the use of magical techniques as a way to gain personal power, wealth, health and other material ends, many subtleties have been lost along the way. Worse, the reasons for taking up such pursuits in the first place have been twisted slightly, then later bent out of all recognition by second and third generations of occultists. In the present place it may be enough to remind the reader that the very hub of the Great Work has always been Service to Humanity. It was only in comparatively recent times that this has been taken to mean "Service to Myself!"
Now one thing needs to be made clear about the pentagram itself, which is of course integral to the subject of this inquiry. It is a five-pointed star, and as such, it is not only a symbol of Man dominating and controlling the elements, but it is a symbol of Mars, attributed to Geburah or "Severity" by the Qabalists, the fifth emanation upon the Tree of Life. It is therefore a symbol of energy, war, strife, and conquest. It might also be borne in mind that the "five" is a symbol of the hand or womb of the Goddess filled with creative fire, the feminine power that manifests the Will. The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram is far more than merely a means of "getting rid" of things. Aleister Crowley commented in his notes on the ritual that:
"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."
In all the details of the ritual (which will follow shortly), one must be careful not to lose sight of the whole. The ritual, properly performed and with repeated and persistent practice, constructs a complete symbol in the aura or Sphere of Sensation of the practitioner. The idea of using a symbol of the Great Work in this manner is an exceedingly ancient one. In the East there is the holy mountain called Meru, which has its counterpart in Abiegnus of the Rosicrucian or Western Mysteries. There is the Building of the Temple. In times of remote antiquity, cities and gods were interchangeable terms.
First of all - after cleansing oneself of everything and anything that is not essential to the Great Work in hand, and having studied the sacred scriptures (at source) and meditated on them, and having cultivated fiery aspiration and acceptance of the path - all the powers of the mind and imagination are directed towards constructing a suitable symbol of the Universe (be that a God, a City, or a Man). One then places oneself at the centre of that symbol imaginatively, while physically assuming asana. Once the distractions of body and mind have been overcome and concentration perfected through use of the sacred symbol, a miracle may find its beginning there. The symbol properly constructed, the prana is then circulated in the subtle body along with the physical breath in the physical body. Various centres, rooms, chakras or sephiroth are activated, as according to instruction. And if the aspiration of the person leads all the while to That which is Above and Beyond, then perhaps - if God be willing! - an infinitely subtle transference of energy begins to take place.
It is worthwhile quoting once more from Crowley's notes on the ritual, concerning this matter of the aura or Sphere of Sensation:
"Every man has a natural fortress within himself, the Soul impregnable. ... Besides this central citadel, man has also outworks, the Aura. This Aura is sensitive, and must be sensitive. Unless it were responsive to impressions it would cease to be a medium of communication from the non-Ego to the Ego. This Aura should be bright and resilient even in the case of the ordinary man. In the case of the Adept it is also radiant. In ill-health this Aura becomes weakened. It will be seen flabby, torn at the edges, cloudy, dull. It may even come near to destruction. It is the one duty of every person to see that his Aura is in good condition."
It is not only that the mind of the practitioner becomes sensitised to dimensions that were not previously apparent, but that the energy of the universe itself, by degrees, becomes realised as the basis of the self. However, this is also a very dangerous point in the spiritual journey of the aspirant. All too often, this realisation is taken to be a sign of Mastery, when in fact it is but the very beginning.
The regular use of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram may at the very least provide a means of beginning this work of Building the Temple. The careful placing of symbols in the aura may not only help to calm the mind and free oneself of unwanted influences, it may all the while transform the astral-etheric structure latent in the subtle body of the practitioner into a Matrix of the Divine Image. We must at all costs avoid that same territory becoming a chaos of symbols and thought-forms that together do not add up to anything but confusion.
While on this subject, it is worth mentioning that there are very good reasons for choosing geometric forms such as the pentagram. Geometry expresses, as do numbers, which are the basis of the Qabalah, spiritual ideas in their purest, simplest form. To argue against these expressions of simple beauty and truth merely betrays dishonesty. It is for precisely this reason that the pentagram, the "wizard's foot" of old, was chosen as a means of obtaining supremacy over lying, deceitful spirits.
Having explained some of the underlying theory, we can move on to the practice of the ritual itself. For the benefit of the weaker souls who still cling to the superstition of "authentic, original, authoritative" editions, and who hope to find such authenticity in the "genuine" rituals, discovered left behind in the bottom drawer of some worthy old gentleman's antique cabinet, I hasten to mention that the Qabalistic Cross here differs slightly from that given in Magick in Theory & Practice. For this I make no apologies. I was never particularly satisfied with the method involving the use of one hand only (usually given as the right hand, although left-handed ritualists should - as they would if they were engaged in mortal combat - use their left, as their best and most advantageous). The method of using both hands has a very ancient tradition of its own, one only has to examine the ritual gestures and dances of the eastern tradition, as well as shown in ancient Egyptian papyri and on tomb and temple walls. There are zones or chakras in the palms of the hands which link to powerful centres in the brain, and the corresponding centres in the subtle body. There is far more to the familiar prayer gesture widely adopted by Christianity than a mere symbolic act. I must mention, while on this subject, that the idea of ritual being "symbolic" is an erroneous one. Ask any Catholic priest, if possible one from a monastic tradition such as the Benedictine.
Finally, as well as altering the accompanying gestures of the Qabalistic Cross, I have in other places restored the ritual somewhat. Although the idea has gained popularity recently, I have never seen fit to use the Sign of the Enterer in the ordinary banishing rituals. I reserve this sign - which is important enough to warrant an essay all to itself - for more specific invocations that usually follow after preliminary banishings. Another popular idea originating from the writings of Israel Regardie, is that the pentagrams should be visualised in a bright blue, or "gas jet blue" colour. Although I can see nothing wrong in having them in bright blue, I find it far more effective to follow the original instructions in Magick in Theory & Practice, which exhort the practitioner only to ensure that they are seen flaming. Fire, is of course, the natural correspondence of Mars, and therefore of the pentagram.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram: Exoteric Working:
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram: Esoteric Working:
The ritual commences with the Qabalistic Cross: Stand in the centre facing your mystical East. Bringing both hands upwards and out in a wide sweep press the palms of the hands together at the brow of your head, while aspiring powerfully towards the Ineffable Glory. Vibrate the name "Atah", meaning "To Thine, the Essence." See the light striking down to form a sphere of white brilliance above your head.
Next, lower your hands, keeping them pressed together as in a gesture of prayer, to the centre of your breast. Vibrate the name "Malkuth", meaning "The Kingdom of Earth". See the light above your head extending in a beam of light straight down through you towards the centre of the Earth.
Still keeping your hands pressed together, place them against your right shoulder, vibrating "Ve Geburah", meaning "Divine Strength". See a beam of light travel towards the ends of the Universe from below your right shoulder.
Next place your hands to your left shoulder vibrating "Ve Gedulah", meaning "Magnificence". See the beam of light travel towards the ends of the Universe from below your left shoulder. Then cross both arms over your breast vibrating "Le-Olahm" meaning, "To the Ages of Ages".
Finally, clasp your hands together firmly at your breast, vibrating "Amen". See yourself at the centre of a great cross of white light. This completes the first part of the ritual.
The next part of the ritual is the drawing of the pentagrams in each quarter: Still facing Mystical East, with a dagger or the first two fingers of your hand, trace a full sized pentagram in the air before you. It should appear flaming, very bright.
Begin the pentagram from outside your left hip, trace a line up to a point that is level with the top of your head, then down (like a capital letter "A") to outside the right hip. Then straight up diagonally to outside of your left shoulder, and horizontally across to outside your right shoulder. Do not forget to form the last diagonal to rejoin the line where you began it. See the pentagram burning and flaming before you. Bring the point of your dagger (or finger) to the centre and vibrate the Divine Name "Yod He Vau He." See the star energised.
Next, without lowering your arm, turn ninety degrees, keeping your arm straight, to the right so that you face South. As you do see a line of brilliant light connecting the centre of where your second star in the South is about to be drawn.
Repeat the tracing of the pentagram as before, but this time vibrate the Divine Name "Adonai" as you point to the centre.
Without lowering your arm (it is not lowered throughout this ritual) turn ninety degrees right again to face West, tracing the circle of light as you go. Draw the pentagram and energise it with the Divine Name "Eheieh".
Turning ninety degrees to the North, continuing the circle of light, draw the pentagram as before, vibrating the Divine Name "Agla" pointing to the centre.
Turn ninety degrees to return to the East, and so completing the circle about you. You should now see a circle of brilliant light around you, studded with four bright flaming pentagram stars.
The third part of the ritual proceeds with the Evocation of the Archangels. Spreading your arms palms upwards, in a Tau or T-cross posture, say: "Before me, Raphael!" (You should vibrate the names of the Archangels sonorously.) "Behind me Gabriel, on my right hand Michael, on my left hand Auriel! For about me flames the pentagram, and in the column stands the six-rayed star!"
The Archangels should clearly be seen about the circle. As an example, Raphael may be seen with colours of yellow and violet, with the element of Air in golden rays pouring from the East. Gabriel with colours of blue and orange, the elemental Water pouring in and purifying from the West in blue rays. Michael in scarlet and emerald, with the Fire element radiating in from the South energising with red rays. Auriel in the colours of Malkuth, the stabilising Earth rays emanating from the North in fertile green. Pronounce the Archangel names "Rah-Fah-el, Gah-bree-el, Mee-kah-el, Or-ee-el".
Now see yourself surrounded by a circle of light studded with four flaming pentagrams, with the Archangels (very tall, towering) guarding the quarters. Above you and below you appears the six-rayed star, the golden hexagram. It is the floor and roof of the palace for the Indwelling Spirit that you have built.
The ritual is completed by repeating the performance of the Qabalistic Cross exactly as you did at the beginning, and vibrating the words of power. In addition to the steps as described, you should be standing with the right heel in the hollow of the left foot. (Reverse this if left-handed.) As you point to the centre of each pentagram and vibrate the Divine Name, take one step forward. Recover the step before taking the point round to the next station of the circle, so that you remain in the centre.
Theoretically, you are standing at the intersection of the Paths of Samekh (Path 25 and Sagittarius) and Pe (Path 27 and Mars). You face Tiphereth, the Sphere of the Sun, with Netzach (Venus) on your right and Hod (Mercury) on your left. Behind you is Yesod, the Sphere of the Moon.
Said Aleister Crowley, about the completion of the circle with the Archangels and pentagrams: "You are thus standing in a column which is protected by microcosmic invocation. The consequent result, being macrocosmic response, is that without any effort on your part the hexagram or sixfold star appears both above you and below you. (Note the equilibration 5=6.) In this way you are completely shut off from the outer and Qliphotic parts of the Universe."
As a comprehensive symbol of the four elements and spirit brought into harmony, the pentagram can be used to ritually invoke or banish not only earth but any of the other elements, or spirit. The Banishing Earth Pentagram alone, however, is used in the Lesser Banishing Ritual. It is very bad practice to invoke or call in spiritual force without first performing the necessary banishings.
The Archangels are evoked by the clockwise direction of the circle you make when you join up the pentagrams. Any spirits called to the circle during a more elaborate ritual where elemental force is employed, are thanked and allowed to depart gracefully before any banishing pentagrams are drawn. Traditionally they are blessed in the name of their Ruler, Archangel, or the Deity Name.
When you perform the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, you begin by aspiring to the highest concept you can imagine, by the vibration of Atah, "To Thou, Essence." This is then affirmed on Earth with Malkuth, and in the balance of forces that rule the universe, Geburah and Gedulah. It is then affirmed in Eternity as Le Olahm, Amen - "To the Ages of Ages, so be it."
You have, with the Qabalistic Cross, placed yourself at the centre of the Universe, having first brought the divine presence into your heart, mind and body. Next you go on to cleanse the four quarters of the Universe with pentagrams of fire, affirming Man as the mirror of the Divine Image and with the ability to control the elements through spirit, the topmost point. The deity names are sent thundering through to the Ends of the Universe and back again. Your Magical Universe is then defined by the marking of the circle of light, another reminder of Spirit, and of Kether the Godhead, the Crown of the Tree of Life.
The drawing of the four pentagrams automatically invokes spirit, the fifth point, and so raises the microcosmic consciousness to the level of the macrocosm, having completely sealed the circle against the Outer Darkness, the World of unbalanced forces called Qliphoth. This Hebrew word means literally, "Shells". (Those who court the favours of Venus should do well to remember that she is often depicted as riding upon one!)
Malkuth is shown divided into four sections of colour on the Tree diagram: citrine, russet, olive and black in the colours of the Queen Scale. The black part, representing the Dead End of Matter, the point of maximum inertia in the Universe, abuts onto the World of Shells, the husks or discarded astral remnants that souls departing the earth plane have left. This world is also inhabited by many other undesirable waste products of the Universe, including thought forms of a very low order.
Entering into a full discussion of the nature of the Astral Plane is beyond the scope of this essay. However, many "spirits" contacted by psychics and mediums, let alone ouija board dabblers and ghost-hunting enthusiasts, are not, in fact, human souls. "Channelling" used to be called Mediumism and Spiritualism or Spiritism. The Hermetic Art does not condemn these practices in themselves, but it insists that one knows exactly what one is doing and why one is doing it.
Now, with the power of the pentagram and the Ineffable Name, you have sealed yourself off from the outer world, the profane world of ignorance and darkness, from the false and the unseemly. By this act you have called into operation the macrocosm, as the Greater Voice responding to the Lesser. Therefore, above you and below you, as if you stood in a vertical column, appears the six-rayed star of the cosmos, the hexagram of two interlaced triangles.
If you were to count all of the points of the pentagrams and hexagrams, you would have thirty-two, the total number of the Sephiroth plus the twenty-two paths of the Tree of Life. You stand in a Palace built for the Indwelling Glory, the Shekinah, the Soul of God. Light spelled in Roman numerals LVX adds up to sixty-five, and so does the Divine Name of Malkuth Adonai (ADNI). Six is the macrocosm, the Divine Being, and five is the number of man in the Lower World. The union of these two is the object of the Great Work.
In the ordinary case, by cleansing and banishing your sphere, you would have left inside that sphere a kind of vacuum. This is not a good thing to do, for in nature anything left empty does not stay empty for long! So you continue, and by the clockwise direction of your movement you evoke the Archangels, guardians drawn from the Briatic World of Creation. Correspondingly a spiritual brightness appears in the aura as the four elements are brought into perfect balance.
Your position in the centre constitutes spirit, and by adding Above and Below to the four elemental directions in space, the six of the macrocosm is once more confirmed. Finally you repeat again the Qabalistic Cross which places the flame of the Eternal in your heart, the centre of the Magical Universe. And this procedure, when well practised, can be completed perfectly well in all of two minutes of your time!
As Tetragrammaton is the Name of Deity in four letters, Pentagrammaton is the Name expressed in five. Y.H.V.H. plus Shin (Spirit of the Primal Fire = 300, you may wish to check further correspondences) is written Y.H.Sh.V.H., Yeheshuah, which is why "Jesus" or Yeheshuah was the Son of Man and the Son of God in The Bible.
In Qabalah, Y.H.Sh.V.H. is the representation of the Holy Spirit of Man informing the four elements of Nature, for Man is the Initiator of the Elemental Kingdom. The elements of the soul, the Nephesch, are redeemed by the Spiritual Fire, which is the formula of the recreation of the Divine World on earth, the Kingdom.
1. Magick in Theory & Practice has appeared in numerous editions since 1930 e.v., the most recent being Magick, Book 4 Parts I-IV, Samuel Weiser, York Beach ME, USA, 1997 e.v. The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and other elementary magical techniques appeared in the Appendices, in an official instruction paper of Aleister Crowley's magical Order of A.`.A.`., entitled Liber O.. The Magical Revival was first published by Frederick Muller, Great Britain 1972 e.v., and more recently by Skoob Books, London. It formed the first of three "Typhonian Trilogies," the final volume of which is entitled "The Ninth Arch" and is due to be published in the not too distant future, "once certain magical requirements have been fulfilled." Kenneth Grant was personally trained in magick by Aleister Crowley, in the final years of Crowley's life. Grant went on to reconstruct the Ordo Templi Orientis as a magical body or vehicle for the inner plane Order of A.`.A.`., abolishing the Freemasonic style ceremonies and reestablishing links with the praeter-human agencies that Crowley spent his life working with.
6. Nonetheless, as a literary device - the ancient manuscript that turns up at an auction or slipped between the pages of some book - this method has proven success. The "Necronomicon," the "Rosicrucian Manifesto," Zanoni, and the "Cypher Manuscript" that enabled the construction of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn are but a few legendary examples. Those who argue against the authenticity - or otherwise - of such things are completely missing the point. The only authenticity worth bothering about is the condition of one's own Soul in its relations with God.
8. There has been a great deal of unnecessary confusion over these magical instruments. There are two methods of proved effectiveness, the first method is as was taught in the R.R. et A.C. (the Inner Order responsible for manifesting the Order of the Golden Dawn) by MacGregor Mathers and others. Here, the magical wand, cup, dagger and pentacle are attributed to the corresponding elemental paths on the Qabalistic Tree, namely path 31 (fire), path 23 (water), path 11 (air) and path 32 (earth). Each weapon was only ever used to control its own element, unless in the case of an invocation involving more than one element, as in "Fire of Water," where a wand may be brought in as a secondary instrument to the cup. The second method is that developed by Aleister Crowley. Here, the wand, cup, dagger and pentacle are corresponded to the elemental sephiroth on the Qabalistic Tree, namely Netzach (fire), Hod (water), Yesod (air) and Malkuth (earth). In this system, only the wand is used for invoking anything. The dagger is used for all banishing, except where a sword is used for the same. The cup and the pentacle are purely symbolic, and never take an active, dynamic role in ritual, as they both represent passive elements. So in Crowley's system, a wand would still be used to invoke water, or any other element, astrological sign, planet and so forth. Both these systems work very well, so long as the person sticks to either one or the other and does not confuse things.
9. There has been a great deal of confusion over "where" the hexagram should be placed. In fact, there are two hexagrams, one above and one reflected below. How else would the aura be sealed? The four walls of your palace are composed of the microcosmic pentagram, the ceiling and the floor are composed of the macrocosmic hexagram, thus declaring the essential formula of 5=6, Man is equal to God. So it is that the circle must be squared at every step, grade or level along the way.
11. The four scales of colour are a Qabalistic idea, and pertain to the Four Worlds: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah. They are given in the tables in Aleister Crowley's The Book of Thoth, as well as in his celebrated Liber 777. They have much relevance to the Tarot and other practical workings. Both books mentioned are published by Samuel Weiser, York Beach ME, USA, and have been in print more or less continuously for some time, to date.