Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
by Simon Jester
By now you should be comfortable drawing the pentagrams and casting magical circles of light. It's time to learn the steps of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. This is probably the one magical ritual that is most frequently performed worldwide today. As far as historical research can determine, the LBRP dates to the late 19'th century when this ritual was used by initiates of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. In its present form, the ritual itself was probably composed by Samuel Liddell Mathers (better known as MacGregor Mathers) whom historians credit with the writing of most of the Order's rituals. However, there are hints in the works of Eliphas Levi indicating that some form of the LBRP probably had an earlier origin.
There are numerous variations of the LBRP available online, but what follows is the most commonly used form. It should be performed at least once each evening, preferably prior to engaging in meditative or other esoteric practices, in order to cleanse the consciousness of the magician and the area in which he or she works of negative influences. But the LBRP is much more than a simple banishing ritual. It also has a deeply initiatory aspect that will be discussed more fully in our next blog entry. In the meantime, here is the version of the LBRP that I use:
1. Face east and perform the Qabalistic Cross.
2.Imagine that your fingertips (or ritual knife, if you have one) are like a flame-thrower and that you can shoot a beam of fire from them. Use this beam of hot, burning energy to draw the Earth Banishing Pentagram, as explained in the previous blog entry, and visualize it blazing in a bright yellow color in the air before you. Thrust your knife or fingertips into the center of the pentagram and charge it by saying: "YHVH." (Pronounced "Yod-Heh-Vau-Heh." This is the Tetragrammaton, the Four Lettered Name of God.)
3.Keeping your arm extended, start turning to your right, visualizing that the stream of fire erupting from your fingertips (or knife) is beginning to form an encircling line of bright white light extending from the pentagram you have just drawn. Stop turning when you are facing due south and draw the Earth Banishing Pentagram with glowing red lines. Thrust your knife or fingertips into its center and charge it by saying: "Adonai." (Pronounced "Odd-Oh-Nigh." This is the Hebrew word for "Lord.")
4.Keeping your arm extended, make a quarter turn to the west, visualizing that the line of burning white light you are forming is lengthening as you move. At a point due west, stop and form the Earth Banishing Pentagram with lines of electric blue. Charge it as before, this time saying the Name: "Eheieh." (Pronounced "Eh-Hee-Yay." This is Hebrew for the phrase "I Am," the Name of God given to Moses in his vision of the Burning Bush.)
5.Keeping your arm extended, make a quarter turn to the north, visualizing that the line of burning light is moving from the center of the western pentagram toward the north. Stop when facing due north and form the Earth Banishing Pentagram with green lines. Charge it as before, this time saying: "AGLA." (Pronounced "Ah-Gah-La." This is a notariqon, a kind of Qabalistic acronym formed from the first letters of the phrase "Ateh Gibor Le-olam Adonai," which translates "The Lord is mighty forever.")
6.Turn back to the East, and complete the circle of burning light that connects all the pentagrams around you.
7. Stand with feet wide apart and arms extended so that your body
forms a pentagram shape. You now call upon the Four Archangels
of the cardinal directions by saying the following"
"Before me, Raphael." (Pronounced "Ra-fi-el.") Raphael is the Archangel of the Sephira Tiphereth and the element of Air. He is traditionally visualized as a winged being wearing yellow robes and surrounded by bright yellow light. His right arm is uplifted and he holds a raised sword in his right hand.
"Behind me, Gabriel." (Pronounced "Gah-bree-el.") Gabriel is the Archangel of the Sephira Yesod and of the element of Water. He is traditionally visualized as a winged being in blue robes surrounded by blue light. He holds a silver chalice in his right hand.
"At my right hand, Michael." (Pronounced "Mee-ki-el.") Michael is the Archangel of Fire, and is usually portrayed as a fiery figure robed in bright red with an upraised flaming wand or sword in his right hand. He cups a bright flame in his left hand.
"At my left hand, Uriel." (Pronounced "Your-ee-el.") Urial is the Archangel of the element Earth. He wears green robes, carries an assortment of flowers and plants with his left arm and holds his right hand up, palm outward. In the center of his palm appears an open eye of greenish color. He stands upon a boulder and beyond him appear green fields and forests.
8.After saying these invocations, move your feet together and keep your arms extended in a cross-form. Say: "About me flame the pentagrams, and in the column shines the holy six-rayed star." Imagine the four pentagrams in their various colors blazing around you and see a column of light descending from above your head down to your feet. Directly in front of you, just above your chest and within the column of light, imagine that a glowing six-pointed hexagram is formed.
9.After visualizing the various symbolic elements of the ritual arrayed around you, conclude the LBRP by once more performing the Qabalistic Cross.
Visualizing the Archangels—During the banishing ritual, imagine the Archangels standing just outside the magic circle, behind their respective pentagrams. They are facing outward and away from you, watching out for possible intruders and guarding you from the unwanted influences and negative forces that you have banished from yourself and the circle. Imagine that they are holding these baneful forces at bay & preventing them from reentering your protected sphere of magical influence.
There are, of course, other legitimate ways of visualizing these protective beings than the images suggested here. You may see them standing within the circle immediately in front of their respective pentagrams. They may either face toward the outer darkness or toward the magician at the center. Traditionally, the Archangels face outwards during a banishing ritual and toward the center during invocations, but use the imagery that works best for you. You are attempting to clear your mind and your immediate area from distractions, negative forces, and illusory misconceptions in order to attain a moment of psychic clarity in which to contemplate the relationship of yourself & the cosmos as it really is. To use an analogy from popular cinema, during the LBRP you ritually unplug yourself from the Matrix, and, as in the movie of that name, you free yourself from the prison-like delusions of your everyday consciousness. Therefore, visualize things in a way that best helps you accomplish this end.
The actual appearance of the Archangels, like their physical positions relative to the magic circle and the pentagrams, is also subject to variation. You may visualize these being as traditional angelic forms with wings, robes, & halos. You may choose to be iconoclastic and imagine them as vertical rays of light colored in the appropriate hues associated with the four classical elements (yellow, red, blue, & green.) Go online and do an image search in order to find artistic representations of angelic beings. This will help augment your "image bank" with additional data and greatly enhance your ritual visualizations. As with other aspects of the LBRP, use the imagery that best attunes you to the altered state of consciousness that is the real goal of the ritual.
Whatever imagery you eventually decide to use, remember to involve as many of your five senses as you can when performing the LBRP and seeing the Archangels. Raphael is the Archangel of Air, so feel a mighty wind blow through your circle as you visualize him. Hear it roar about you and smell its fresh odor. Then fill your lungs by taking a deep breath and experience the air that is also a part of yourself. Imagine that all the confusion, the worries, and the anxieties are blowing out of your thoughts like dust.
When imagining watery Gabriel, feel a spray of water against your back and hear the sound of a thunderstorm or the rush of waves behind you. Smell the scent of rain or the ocean in the air and think of the liquid blood that courses through your body. Imagine that your emotions are like a vast lake that is growing calm, still, reflective.
Feel the heat of fiery Michael and the radiant warmth of your own warm-blooded body. Imagine that you can hear the roar of flames and smell the pungent scent of smoke when you visualize him. Allow your mind to dwell upon the white-hot light of your spiritual aspirations and your crucible-like desire to create a better Self.
As you visualize Uriel, the Archangel of the Earth element, become conscious of the solid floor beneath your feet. Smell the earthy scent of freshly tilled soil and remember the taste of green vegetables, fresh fruits, and all the other bounty that grows from the good green earth. Feel the firmness of your bones as they support your weight and think of all the stable elements in your life: your language; the recurring cycles of hunger, thirst, sleeping and waking; the force of gravity itself; and your ever-present sense of self-conscious awareness.
Variations on the Hexagram—The LBRP ends with the visualization of a hexagram, and this is a very important symbolic conclusion to the ritual. It symbolizes the attainment of a higher state of consciousness. In the LBRP, you move from the pentagram, which symbolizes spiritually awakened human nature, to the hexagram, which symbolizes the perfect union of the upper and lower worlds. By progressively combining these two star shaped symbols, the LBRP makes a statement about human potential. It asserts that human nature is potentially capable of attaining the highest spiritual levels and of thereby acquiring great magical powers. By becoming the pentagram—i.e., a Being who consciously places the Four worldly elements under the control of the Spirit—the magician simultaneously incarnates the hexagram. He becomes a Being in whom God manifests on earth and through whom the Divine Will can become actualized in an unimpeded fashion; an open channel through which Divine energies flow freely into our troubled world.
There are several important variations for the visualization of the hexagram at the conclusion of the LBRP. The original Golden Dawn version has the magician visualize the hexagram behind him-or-herself. Sometimes, two hexagrams are visualized, with one before and the other behind the magician. Crowley's version involves imagining a hexagram above and below the magician, with the column of light between them being hexagonal in shape. Each of these variations has a specific numerological rationale. By imagining a single six-pointed star, either behind or in front of the magician, and adding its six points to the twenty points made by the four pentagrams, we end up with a total of 26 points. Through the science of Gematria (which may be defined as Qabalistic numerology) we learn that the Divine Name YHVH also adds up to 26, and so this is an especially magical number. If two hexagrams are imagined, the total number of points visualized in the LBRP becomes 32, which is the number of Paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life (10 Sephiroth + the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.)
I personally prefer Crowley's method of visualizing the hexagrams because it adds an extra dimension of protection into the LBRP. In his version, you are surrounded horizontally by four pentagrams and protected from above and below by the hexagram. You've got all the bases covered, so to speak! However, this is sometimes difficult for the beginner to visualize. If this is the case, start out with the more Golden Dawn oriented single hexagram visualization. Later, when you are more skilled at visualizing ritual components, try the Crowley version and see which works best for you.
Vibrating the Names of Power—Most magical texts instruct the magician to "vibrate" the magical Names used in a ritual. There is a lot of conflicting opinion on exactly how to go about doing this. Technically speaking, "vibrating" a Name or word means that you slowly and completely pronounce its every syllable in a singing fashion. Some practitioners have evolved a very melodic method of doing this, and the results (depending on the quality of the singing voices involved) can be either pleasing or hideous. When done well, such a method can produce a sound quite similar to a hymn or a Gregorian plainchant. When done poorly, this sounds simply awful and actually can be very distracting and detrimental to the overall effects of the ritual. Other practitioners go for a somewhat monotonous, low drone. Their goal is to feel the sound vibrating through their chest cavities and their bodies. This is actually what is intended, I believe, but again—unfortunately—the quality of this procedure depends on how good your voice is. The results can be either sublime or ridiculous.
The following example of a vibrational chant is done by Rikki LaCoste and may be found at Psychopomp.org. It's really beautiful and worth hearing. This fellow uses an ancient Asian technique known as Tuvan Throat Singing and his results are profoundly haunting and effective, like the best Tibetan temple chants:
There are a few annoying background sounds, but, otherwise, this is ritual vibrating done at its best. Sadly, Western ears are not attuned to magical vibration, nor do many of us have the vocal talent required to produce tones as deep, sonorous, and strangely moving as Rikki LaCoste. Most of us only end up making weird sounds. But there is nothing wrong with that, providing that the sounds you make tune you into the correct magical frequency.
The question you have to ponder is this: what method works for you? Most beginners (or neophytes, as they are referred to in the Hermetic Tradition) are way too self-conscious and unsure of their magical skills to effectively vibrate like Rikki LaCoste. My advice is this: at the beginning, when learning the philosophy and basic rituals employed by the Western Hermetic Tradition, postpone learning to vibrate like a Tibetan monk until after you learn the basics. Meanwhile, temporarily employ a method of ritual pronunciation that I refer to as The Shakespearean Method.
The Shakespearean Method requires only that you pronounce magical words in a dramatic and projective manner, like an actor playing Othello or Desdemona. The real key here is that you speak differently than you do when conducting normal, everyday conversations. Your manner of speaking should reinforce the fact that you are doing something extremely important and special. The feeling you get when speaking is the most significant detail, so speak in a way that makes you realize you are engaged in a ritual designed to elevate your consciousness to a higher reality.
In the meantime, don't give up on vibrating Names of Power like a pro. The theory behind such vibratory vocalizations adds a very rich dimension to ritual practice that you will certainly want to incorporate into your own rituals one day. So, whenever you find yourself alone and there is no one within earshot for you to annoy or terrify, practice vibrating some Names of Power like the two magicians in the examples given above. You may find that you have an innate talent for this technique and might be able to use it effectively earlier than you originally thought.