Monday, July 18, 2016

Thoughts on the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram

A reader contacted me about two weeks ago asking some questions about the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Apparently one of the external sites I link to has a version of the ritual that differs from the version that I use, and that version has a couple of changes that I don't personally like. So since the Lesser Hexagram plays an important role in the operant magical system, I really should have put up a post on it years ago so I could link to my a page of my own and avoid any confusion.

But I suppose there's no time like the present, right?

This article is not as detailed as my presentation on the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, which was written for a Pagan Pride audience that I assumed would include a lot of novice practitioners who might never have even performed a ceremonial ritual. If you are such a practitioner, I recommend that you review my Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram presentation before delving into this one. My suggestions for breathing, visualization, vibration, and so forth apply to this ritual as well, and should be understood before moving beyond the Lesser Pentagram.

To recap, it should be understood that "Lesser" does not mean "lame" and "Greater" does not mean "awesome" in the parlance of the Golden Dawn magical system. "Lesser" means preliminary or general, as the Lesser rituals are used to set up your magical space for performing any sort of ritual whatsoever. Greater means specific, and as such the Greater rituals follow the Lesser rituals and serve to "tune the space" to the corresponding element, planet, or sign for your operation.

The current Golden Dawn system also includes a ritual called the "Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram," but as this nomenclature essentially breaks the original model I have to think that it was a later addition of some sort. A "Supreme Pentagram" is akin to a Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth, in which each of the four elemental pentagrams is traced at the appropriate quarter with the corresponding godname. In terms of the Thelemic rituals, it is most similar to Liber V vel Regulu.


The first thing you will probably notice when you start working with this ritual is that elemental directions are different. That is intentional. In the Western magical system, there are two primary sets of attributions for the directions and classical elements. Both of these are found in Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, so they date back to at least the Renaissance.

The first of these is called the "winds" model, and it is probably the most widely used. In this arrangement, Air is in the east, Fire is in the south, Water is in the west, and Earth is in the north. It is called the "winds" model because it is based on the following arrangement derived from the four classical powers:

The winds from the east are Warm and Moist so Air is in the east.
The winds from the south are Warm and Dry so Fire is in the south.
The winds from the west are Cool and Moist so Water is in the west.
The winds from the north are Cool and Dry so Earth is in the north.

As I mentioned in my Elemental Work posts, John Opsopaus has written a great series of articles on the Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements, which explains in detail how the classical powers combine to produce the four classical elements, and I refer you to that series if you are looking for more information on this subject.

The key takeaway from the origin of the "winds" model is that it is microcosmic in nature. That is, it is based on how the winds feel to the individual experiencing them, which is essentially a subjective focus. The second model is based on the position of the Sun in the signs of the Zodiac throughout the year in the northern hemisphere, and is macrocosmic in nature as the position of the Sun is entirely objective.

The Sun is at its most northward at the summer solstice, in the sign Cancer. Cancer is the cardinal sign of Water, so in this arrangement Water is in the north. It is at its most southward at the winter solstice, in the sign Capricorn. Capricorn is the cardinal sign of Earth, so Earth is in the south. At the beginning of the year, the vernal equinox, it is in Aries. Aries is the cardinal sign of Fire, so Fire is in the east. Finally, at the end of the year, the autumnal equinox, the Sun is in Libra. Libra is the cardinal sign of Air, so Air is in the west.

Note that I have never visited the southern hemisphere, so I never have tried to do my practices there and see how well they work. It may be that as the "zodiac" model depends upon the objective position of the Sun, the elemental directions may need to be reversed. So Air would go in the east, Water in the South, Fire in the west, and Earth in the north. At the same time, in that arrangement Air and Earth do not change position from the winds model, which might be relevant.

This because understanding the dynamic tension between these two models is one of the keys to making the operant field work. Some teachers have recommended that you rearrange the elemental directions in the Lesser Hexagram so that they correspond to those in the Lesser Pentagram, but if you want to use the operant field to its full potential, do not do this. It turns the Lesser Hexagram more microcosmic, which will limit your ability to influence the external world.

Other teachers - most of them, in fact - recommend that you use the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram together as part of your daily practice. Again, if you want to use the operant field to its full potential, do not do this. It creates a banishing field, which basically shuts down both microcosmic and macrocosmic magical forces. There are circumstances where you might want to do that, but as a daily practice it is serious overkill and, again, can limit your ability to influence the external world.

I can't say that I have the data to emphatically assert that those teachers are wrong, but this is what I will say - try both my way and theirs for a period of time and see what works the best for you. I am willing to bet that most of you will prefer my version, because so far that's what I've seen. Most people I have taught strongly prefer the operant field method, as it lets them start getting practical results more quickly.

So here is how you perform the ritual itself. You should always perform the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram before the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Once you have concluded that ritual, you begin and end the Lesser Hexagram with the Keyword Analysis, which contains the L. V. X. signs. These were the Minor Adept signs in the original Golden Dawn system, and they correspond to the central sephira Tiphareth.

The Keyword Analysis is performed as follows, according to Aleister Crowley's Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae.

(i) Stand upright, feet together, left arm at side, right across body, holding the wand or other weapon upright in the median line. Then face East and say:

(ii) I. N. R. I.
Yod. Nun. Resh. Yod.
Virgo, Isis, Mighty Mother.
Scorpio, Apophis, Destroyer.
Sol, Osiris, Slain and Risen.
Isis, Apophis, Osiris, IAO.

(iii) Extend the arms in the form of a cross, and say: "The Sign of Osiris Slain."

(iv) Raise the right arm to point upwards, keeping the elbow square, and lower the left arm to point downwards, keeping the elbow square, while turning the head over the left shoulder looking down so that the eyes follow the left forearm, and say: "The Sign of the Mourning of Isis."

(v) Raise your arms at an angle of sixty degrees to each other above the head, which is thrown back, and say: "The Sign of Apophis and Typhon."

(vi) Cross the arms on the breast, and bow the head, and say: "The Sign of Osiris Risen."

(vii) Extrend the arms again as in (iii) and cross them again as in (vi), saying: "L. V. X., Lux, the Light of the
Cross."

There's a lot to unpack here, and I am not going to delve into all of it. For example, the image at the top of this article shows the L. V. X. signs mapped onto the paths of the Tree of Life. That's a lot of material to cover, and you probably will get more out of it researching it yourself based on your understanding of Hermetic Qabalah. This article is more of a how-to or need-to-know piece that explains how the ritual is performed rather than addressing all of its deep symbolism.

So essentially, this short passage recounts the Osiran myth, in which Osiris is slain by his brother Set and resurrected by his wife Isis. Note that Set is NOT the same entity as Apophis and Typhon, though they are sometimes conflated by modern practitioners. In Egyptian mythology Apophis or Apep was the serpent who lay in wait below the horizon and attempted to devour the Sun each night as it passed through the underworld.

The identification of Apep with Set is particularly ironic because it was in fact Set who guarded the bark of Ra against this mighty serpent, and thus helped to prevent the Sun from being devoured every night. So Set and Apep were in fact adversaries. Typhon is a Greek deity who like Apep symbolized chaos, which is why the two are conflated in this sign. In the context of the Osiran myth, Apophis and Typhon therefore alludes to Osiris passing into the underworld symbolized by Apep, rather than to the identity of his murderer.


These images show the four L.V.X. signs that are given during the Keyword Analysis at the appropriate points. I perform the Keyword Analysis pretty much as shown here, with one major modification. I do not say "the sign of" when giving the four signs. I feel like doing so robs the ritual of much of its dynamic character. So I give the Sign of Osiris Slain and just say "Osiris Slain," the Sign of the Mourning of Isis and say, "The Mourning of Isis," and so forth.

Once you have finished the Keyword Analysis, you begin in the east and move clockwise, tracing the hexagram of each element to the appropriate direction as you vibrate the keyword ARARITA. This word essentially means unity, and is derived from a Notariquon or acronym alluding to the Hebrew phrase Achad Rosh Achdotho Rosh Ichudo Temu rahzo Achad, meaning "One is His Beginning; One is His Individuality, His Permutation is One."

The elemental hexagrams are constructed from two triangles. The upward-pointing triangle represents Fire and the downward-pointing triangle represents Water. So Fire is Fire over Fire, Earth is Fire balanced with Water, Air is Fire over Water, and Water is Water over Fire. That being the case, these are the colors in which they should be visualized.


Note also that you always trace the upright (Fire) triangle first. Some books and other sources show the upper triangle always being traced first, which is incorrect. It only makes a difference for the Water hexagram, but you should be aware of it for that reason alone. Also, a number of commenters have noted that the hexagrams resemble their corresponding elemental weapons, and this can be a useful mnemonic. Fire would be the wand, Earth the pantacle, Air the dagger, and Water the cup. If you look at the shapes closely, you can see how they line up.

One of the common variations that I find on Thelemic sites is that the upright triangle is shown in blue while the downward-pointing triangle is shown in red. This is from Aleister Crowley's commentary on "The Holy Hexagram" in The Book of Lies, in which he discusses the inversion of the "hexagram of nature" in the Holy Hexagram or "hexagram of magick." However, I am of the opinion that this commentary refers to the Star Sapphire and NOT to the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram.

It should be noted that this ritual has been subjected to a number of variations particularly by Thelemites, as the Thelemic system is not based on the formula of the Dying and Reborn God as the original Golden Dawn system was. So far, though, no one version has emerged as the definitive "Thelemic" version. My magical working group developed our own, which uses a completely different keyword analysis and employs the unicursal hexagram as the elemental figure. You can find that ritual here, but I recommend learning the original before playing around with different versions.

Some teachers argue that you should be able to trace "Planetary Lesser Hexagrams" by attributing the planetary points to all four elemental forms of the hexagram used here. I completely disagree with this usage, as the lesser hexagrams are elemental in nature, not planetary. If you want a planet, you should instead use the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for that planet. Furthermore, it's not even clear to me what you would use a "Lesser Planetary Hexagram" for that you couldn't do with the Greater rituals at least as efficiently.

At any rate, once you have completed tracing all four hexagrams, you return to face East, completing the circle, and repeat the Keyword Analysis. The ritual is then complete, and in conjunction with the Lesser Pentagram should have opened a magical field based on the banishing/invoking orientations of the pentagrams and hexagrams. The operant field, the version that I mostly use in both my daily practice and my practical ceremonial work combines the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram.

So now that this is up, my next task is to look for links to the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram on the site and point them here. There are almost 1500 articles, so wading through them will take some time. But this is the definitive version as far as I'm concerned, so if you see me talking about the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram anywhere else, this is what I have in mind.

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10 comments:

master bates said...

@Scott, which version of the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram do you use? I notice that some use the name of the angel associated with the planet as well as it's god name and others all 4 names of the 4 levels.

Scott Stenwick said...

My Greater Ritual of the Hexagram is vibrating ARARITA with the appropriate hexagram in the appropriate color, then vibrate godname with symbol in flashing color. It doesn't need to be more elaborate than that.

If you're working through a spiritual hierarchy you do that in the conjuration, not the hexagram ritual. So for a planetary operation with the Agrippa Intelligence and Spirit, you would vibrate [Godname] with the Greater Hexagram. Then, in the conjuration:

[Angel], I conjure you by [Godname].
[Intelligence], I conjure you by [Angel].
[Spirit], I conjure you by [Intelligence].

You can stop at any point in that sequence when you reach the entity you want to work with. And none of it goes in your Greater Ritual of the Hexagram.





Unknown said...

Thank you for your explanation of why you trace the fire triangle first. That makes sense to me. When facing north, I've been doing it the other way because of the instructions in Kraig's Modern Magick. I love that book and it has really helped me, but have noticed that virtually every other source has you tracing the lower (fire) triangle first when facing north. Now I know why.

Scott Stenwick said...

That would be because the one source sold over three hundred thousand copies. That is an unbelievable number for a magick title. The problem is that anything Kraig didn't quite get when he wrote it gets passed on to a potentially huge number of students.

Much of the material in Kraig is basically correct, and he does explain it well. But you also can't just assume that his methods are right whether they make sense or not.

L.H.O.N said...

Hello Scott, I wonder if you ever thought about it: If you want to work with a specific energy, like in the model of Fifty Gates of Qabalah (but with rituals aproach) where you access some energy like "Gueburah of Tiferet", "Yesod of Hod", or another, but not working on the Whole sephira, only on the Aspects Within (on the tree inside them), maybe in this case make sense to do The lesser and the Greater Ritual of Hexagram with diferent planets (this is something i'm thinking a lot, but not tested yet), with one reflecting the Outer Sephira and another the inner Sephira.

I've never did the Lesser hexagram with other planets association (only the general).

Did you ever work with this model of work with especific energy? How would will be your aproach? Thanks and regards

Scott Stenwick said...

I have not done any work along those lines, but I am willing to share a few thoughts on it.

I don't use the Lesser Hexagram with "different planets" because to me that makes no sense. The hexagrams in the Lesser ritual are elemental, not planetary, and as I see it the LRH is specifically a general ritual. I don't think it's designed to work with planets at all - LRP = microcosmic elements, LRH = macrocosmic elements. There's the allusion to the Sun as ruler of the macrocosm and as IAO, but that's in the Keyword Analysis, not the hexagrams.

There also is an issue with trying to do the Greater Hexagram multiple times with different planets. Basically, for the most part it doesn't work. The GRH tunes the space to the energy of one planet, but then if you tune the tuned energy to another planet that generally cancels out. I experimented with that for a long period of time at one point, but nothing I did with multiple GRH's worked. It's like taking a flashlight and putting a red filter over (the first GRH) and then putting a blue filter on top of that (second GRH). You don't get much light through both.

If I were approaching this mystically (which as far as I can tell seems to be all you could do with a method like this) I probably would skip the GRH entirely. That's my usual practice when working with multiple energies that don't pertain to a single planetary force.

Unknown said...

Greetings Scott!

What is your opinion on inscribing "I.N.R.I" into the air, in reverse order, during the beginning of the keyword analysis? I've noticed some documents recommend it while others make no mention of it. Would you consider this an unnecessary practice? If recommended, should I be inscribing the letters in Hebrew? Truly appreciate your insight!

On a side note, thank you so much for providing all of the amazing content on your website! I only discovered it a couple weeks ago, but I find myself here daily, using it as a study resource. You bring a fantastic level of clarity and understanding to subjects that have otherwise seemed vague. I really enjoyed your presentation on Thelema Now, as well. Thanks a ton for your instruction and providing a clear road map for the self-initiate.

best regards,

Ryan

Scott Stenwick said...

Inscribing INRI during the Keyword Analysis is not a method that I personally use, but I also would not expect it to cause any problems or issues with the ritual.

It seems most logical to me that if you were going to do it that way, though, you would inscribe the English from left to right and the Hebrew from right to left. I wouldn't reverse the INRI just because you are transliterating to Hebrew - it is, after all, written in the Latin alphabet first.

But I don't know - maybe it works best if you trace it in reverse. I haven't worked with it, so it's hard to say whether the above is practical advice or just speculation on my part.

I'm glad you've enjoyed the website and my presentations. I try to keep it all interesting! Thanks much.

MNQ said...

In speaking of the Operant Field and "preliminary" work to performing other greater works of magick, ie. Evocation, I see here you use LBRP, but then LIRH. In my method, I have used (as was suggested to me by a fellow magician) LBRP and LBRH. I then perform an Invocation or series of Invocations (changeable based on the nature of the work). My question is why do you use the LIRH after LBRP? Why wouldn't you continue the Banishing by doing an LBRH? And then invoke (even maybe by specific planetary invoking Hexagram ritual). I realize the Pentagram is microcosm and the Hexagram is macrocosm (representative), but shouldn't both be banished before proceeding?

Scott Stenwick said...

I know that is what the traditional Golden Dawn orders teach, but the short answer is that in practice it works better - as in, it generates larger and more substantial probability shifts based on years of empirical testing.

As I always say here, if your method works for you, keep doing it. The first rule of magick is that if it works, it works. So that's the standard disclaimer. I don't have enough to data to say with certainty that my methods work better for everyone, though many of the magicians I have shared my idea with have reported better results.

My working hypothesis as to why this works better is as follows. The LBRP clears out space in your own sphere of sensation - whether you want to call that your aura or your consciousness or whatever. The LIRH then invokes the forces of nature into that space so that they can mingle with your sphere of sensation, joining microcosm and macrocosm into a contiguous "field." That's why I call it an "operant field."

My suggestion to you would be to try it and see. Do several pairs of operations for the same reasonably easy to obtain result, and record what happens. When I did this I found that my rituals were more effective, but if you don't, I suggest you stick with the banishing method that you have been using. In the end, it's all about what works best.