Our old pal Webster defines invocation as the act or process of petitioning for help or support, a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of a service of worship), or a formula for conjuring.
Maybe Webster was a Witch?
Well, okay, probably not. But these are all pretty good descriptions of what an invocation is in the magickal world.
Specifically, there are two kinds of invocations that are almost always used in Pagan rituals. The first is what we usually refer to as “calling the quarters.”
The other common form of invocation that we use in rituals is somewhat different. After we summon the quarters, we invoke the goddess and the god, or sometimes just one or the other-for instance, on full moons we often only call on the goddess. The main difference here is that while we summon the elements, we ask the gods to join us in our circle. (Politely, if we know what’s good for us.)
After all, they are god and we are just mortals. There is no way that we can order them to do anything.
So we ask them to come our circles. Nicely. God and goddesses invocations are essentially a way of getting their attention and letting them know that we would like very much for them to spend some time with us, pretty please.
A typical goddess invocation used for a full moon ritual might go something like this:
Great Goddess, mother of us all, we ask
you to join us here in our circle as we
celebrate this, your night. Under the glowing
moon, we gather in your name and seek to
use the power that you have given us. We
ask you to join us and aid us in our task.
Welcome, and blessed be.
It is important to be respectful in both kinds of invocations (since the elements are our allies, not our servants) but especially when calling upon the gods. It just makes sense. After all, you wouldn’t call up your parents and order them to come to dinner, even if that tactic actually worked on your younger brother.
You will note that the last definition of invocation is “a formula for conjuring.” Technically, this would mean that any spell or incantation is also an invocation. And you can certainly call them that if you want to; the Pagan Definition Police will probably not show up at your house and haul you away. (This time.) But in general, when we use the term invocation in magick, we are talking about calling the quarters or the gods, not casting a spell.
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