Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
Author: Irish Order Of Thelema – Brian
The following primarily addresses the rituals of ritual magick and Thelema, but the basic principles still stand ‘true’ to other practices in Witchcraft and more ‘popular’ traditions.
When I first joined a magickal Order (The Irish Order Of Thelema) I heard about the importance of banishing. In every book I have read on ritual magick I have seen ‘banish’ written everywhere. Banishing is one of the most common ritual actions in the magickal stream of the western mystery tradition, helping to clear the mind or subtle self from disturbances. Rituals such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of The Pentagram also open us to higher ideals. It helps to equilibrate the initiate. It is also used by a wide cross section of the esoteric community, from Witch to magus.
But if we go back to the origins of this, perhaps the most widespread banishing ritual, we find that the Golden Dawn didn’t have a ‘lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram’. They had a lesser ritual of the pentagram that had both banishing and invocatory forms.
Ritual magick seems to have gone mad with magicians banishing in the morning, in the evening, before a ritual, after a ritual, yet many have forgotten about the invocatory forms of magick and pentagram rituals.
There is more to this magick business than just ‘getting rid’. Perhaps we want energy to continue echoing on after a ritual, and banishing all over the place often nullifies the work being done in the first place. Why would one invoke a much-needed influence, only to shoo it away afterwards. A generally fearful outlook has led to excessive ritual hygiene through banishing. This also stems from a lack of understanding of basic ritual dynamics.
This point (not banishing al the time) is particularly applicable to those who take the developmental path of the technical or ‘ritual’ magician, who desire development through ritual means beyond the subtle hygiene of banishing.
Invocatory pentagram rituals invoke a full set of forces upon the magician. In the case of the pentagrams we are working with the Greek elements, being earth, water, air, and fire. A fifth element is often added called Aether (meaning eternity and often referred to as ‘spirit’) . This invoking has the effect of introducing initiatory forces into the life of the magician.
Initiate means to begin, and like beginning anything else, working with invocatory magick opens new opportunities and experiences for growth and development.
Many rituals, such as the opening by Watchtower (sometimes wrongly described as banishing by watchtower – sic) , work actively with the Gods, angels and elements as initiating forces. As such, the emphasis is not on pushing away and protecting, but in opening safe gates to initiatory forces. This is also true of the ritual Liber Samekh, and in a different form in the lesser invoking ritual of the pentagram.
One Golden Dawn document suggested banishing at night and invoking in the morning. Even if this is all that you do, this suggestion has quite some merit. By invoking initiating forces at the beginning of the day, we are walking and working in the world as an expression of our work with invocation. What if this does not close off and push away, as in banishing, but creates an open mindset for initiatory experiences in real-life scenarios? The path of karma yoga, or experience of the eternal through action, is one of living in the world and is necessary in the Western tradition. Invoking in the morning is best experienced through experiment. I feel it gives a very different experience of the day for me. But why take my word for it when you can find out for yourself.
Likewise, I agree with the practice of banishing at night. Many people carry what they have experienced during the day on into their beds, and sleep disorders are prevalent. Banishing in the evening allows a stilling and resolution of what has gone on during the day. A mental or journal review of the day also helps to achieve a sense of rest, centre and ability to sleep by digesting the day. In the still space of sleep, when properly created, images can freely arise that can have significance in the initiatory journey of the magician. As with any element of life, magickal or seemingly mundane, resultant images should be recorded.
Having spoken about the importance of invocatory as well as banishing work I would like to return to the topic of banishing.
In general a good hygienic banishing practice is a useful skill to have to maintain good boundaries and as a means to come to a centre. There are several more simple banishing rituals that can be used in a hurry, or at times when you cannot stand up and perform a full ritual banishing.
Some Simple Acts Of Banishing
The following are some simple methods of banishing and cleansing. Many are brief and can be used as needed to clear. More elaborate methods, such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual Of the Pentagram are still recommended as a practice for more austere measures, and because they contain elements which can be considered important beyond the immediate banishing.
There are a number of clearing statements in ritual magick. For those of a Golden Dawn background, the most obvious example is ‘Hekas, hekas este bebeloi’. This is proclaimed before a temple opening and for all of its fanciness and Greek, it just means ‘Away, away all spirits’ or ‘far, far away be all profanity’. Essentially it is a statement of magickal intent, to work within a purified and banished space. This may or may not be followed by further ritual banishing depending on the intent of further work. I often use such ‘clearing statements’ when I feel presences around me and which has no impact or is no insult to such beings as the geni loci or benevolent spirits, to whom a command to the ‘evil’ or ‘profane’ obviously doesn’t apply.
Other such proclamations also exist. The Latin equivalent is a particular favourite of mine, being ‘Procul, O procul este profani’. The origins of this come from Virgil who uses it in his epic poem The Aeneid when the Sybil of Cumae is about to deliver prophesy. It addresses specifically those ‘unworthy’ to hear the words of the Gods. The English word profane is derived from the Latin profanus, meaning in front of (pro) the temple (fanum) . The profani were thus those ‘unworthy’ of entering the temple. This phrase is used by Aleister Crowley in his ‘Liber Israfel’ as a preliminary statement. I find it appropriate for most contexts, and it would even be quite apt above the door of a temple, lodge room or other sacred space.
Finally, and again in Greek and from Aleister Crowley we have the command ‘apo pantos kakodiamonos’. This, like the Latin, or like the other Greek statement, banishes profanity or evil. In dealing with the term ‘evil’, we must understand this as an operative rather than a moral judgment, which is to say, it refers to beings or forces contrary to the work one should carry out (the magicians will) . It is also relative, as what is unconstructive in one situation may be just what you need in another. The word diamonos means genius, and has been used by several prominent occultists to refer to ones higher being, or higher self, or an associated higher intelligence or ‘guardian angel’.
Clearing statements are normally proclaimed using the sign of the enterer (with both arms thrust forward at an upward angle and the upper body also projected forward) followed by the gesture of the Godform Harpocrates, who has the finger on the lip in a gesture of silence. Images of the various signs are included in the appendices.
Latin and Greek are used as ‘unfamiliar’ languages, which thus do not have the same casual meaning as our native tongue. Latin and Greek are wonderfully effective, but sometimes nothing will be quite so effective to clear a room as an emotion and intent filled utterance of ‘get the f*#k out’ in your own language. Try it out with full projected intent – you’d be surprised how effective a few choice, intent filled words can be for clearing anyone or anything from a room.
Visualisation, The Magickal Imagination and Protection Magick
The sensory experience of what is before ones sight, and that which is held as an inner, vivid image are experienced as being equally ‘true’ in the human brain.
There is also a hypothesis in the western mystery tradition that inner worlds or images have an outer, yet non corporeal reality in the ‘astral’, a subtle, non-physical aspect of reality. This in turn can cause change in accordance with will, either within oneself or towards others. A scientific and experimental approach is necessary to confirm or disprove such a hypothesis.
At very least we can speak of visualisation work as having a psychological effect, as a form of image based meditation, which banishes unwanted influences from the mind and offering an experience of clarity. When feeling disturbed by psychological or subtle influences, visualisation work can be done with images of protection and deflection such as a shield, a brick wall, or a bubble. The experience of the reality of this by the individual creates this reality within the individual.
Such simple banishings and protective magicks are a good preliminary practice. Practical experiment is recommended before proceeding to some of the other rituals (invoking or banishing) mentioned above.