Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No, You're Not Using "Invocation" Improperly

I came across a discussion recently on a Facebook forum in which a commenter was chided for using the term "invocation" improperly. The commenter had used the term just like I and most other ceremonialists I know use it, to refer to the calling up of a spirit into one's field of consciousness, and this was deemed wrong because "invocation" means "prayer or supplication."

I don't know if this is a meme that certain magicians have recently started throwing around, but in case it is I'm going to head it off right here. Invocation can mean "prayer or supplication," but like most English words it has more than one definition. From the listing:

1. the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like; supplication.

2. any petitioning or supplication for help or aid.

3. a form of prayer invoking God's presence, especially one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony.

4. an entreaty for aid and guidance from a Muse, deity, etc., at the beginning of an epic or epiclike poem.

5. the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation.

6. the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation.

7. the act of calling upon or referring to something, as a concept or document, for support and justification in a particular circumstance.

So definition #5, "the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation," and #6, "the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation" both refer to calling upon and/or conjuring up spirits. And anyway, I really don't see the point of being overly dictionary-pedantic about the word as a technical magical term. "Invocation" has been used this way by magicians for more than a century, dating back to Aleister Crowley's works and before that the original Golden Dawn schema.

After all, when magicians use terms like "energy" - ala "energy work" - we're not talking about the physics definition of the term. There are a whole lot of other similar examples as well, and the entire reason that the dichotomy between "invocation" and "evocation" exists in ceremonial magick is that it's useful to be able to distinguish between summoning a spirit into a containment structure like a triangle and summoning a spirit into your field of consciousness.

I suppose we could make up new nonsense terms that would let us distinguish between the two methods and appease the pedants, but why bother? "Invocation" and "evocation" already work fine, especially as terminology that most ceremonial magicians understand. And as I see it, that's the entire point of language - to communicate with others precisely and efficiently. Anything else is just pointless posturing.

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