Monday, August 8, 2016

Lesser Versus Greater Pentagrams

One of the bits of magical lore I've heard bandied about from time to time is the allegation that performing the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram will make you poor. For years, the only people I heard it from were people I didn't particularly respect as magicians, and since it's so diametrically opposed to my own experience, I figured that they must be wrong. Then I heard it this last year from somebody I do respect, so I decided to dig into the symbolism a little more.

In the operant model of magick, the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is a microcosmic banishing. That is, it acts on the psyche of the individual, not on the outside world. It can sort of banish spirits by cutting the connection between the spirit and your personal aura, and since magick is a non-local phenomenon, this can feel like sending said spirit away. If the spirit wants, though, it can try to connect again. It isn't precisely "banished."

Since the LRP is microcosmic, it won't send anything in the external world away. You're not going to attract more expenses or lose job opportunities just because you're doing the LBRP. However, one of the things I did realize when I thought about it further is that the ritual does tend to cultivate a state of mind that "transcends" mundane reality. Perhaps this could contribute to the practitioner not taking advantage of opportunities that he or she otherwise might, for example.

The core of the argument for the LBRP making people poor stems from the direction in which the pentagram is traced - it corresponds to the direction for banishing the Earth element. Since Earth is related to things like material success and wealth, the contention is that you shouldn't be banishing Earth all the time. But I'm not convinced that the "Lesser Pentagram" is the same as the "Earth Pentagram," even though they are traced in the same direction.

There's precedent for this in the Golden Dawn pentagram system. Banishing Air/Invoking Water and Banishing Water/Invoking Air are traced the same direction, but they differ by color and godname. The godname for Earth is Adonai, which is only used for one of the four quadrants in the LRP. So at least the other three differ for sure. As far as pentagram color goes, the color for Earth is generally black or green, depending on which attribution you prefer.

Neither of those colors are indicated in the description of the Lesser Pentagram. According to Liber O, the figures should "be practised until the figures drawn appear in flame, in flame so near to physical flame that it would perhaps be visible to the eyes of a bystander." There's a tradition out there that suggests tracing the Lesser Pentagram in blue flame, though based on my reading of this I've always visualized it in orange, like you would see in a fireplace.

And, in fact, as I looked into it further, there's a deeper justification for visualizing in orange based on the Tree of Life as found in Liber 777, besides the fact that performing it totally didn't make me poor. In the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, the colors are allocated thus:

Active Spirit - Lavender
Fire - Red
Water - Blue
Air - Yellow
Earth - Green
Passive Spirit - Violet

So if we map these onto the sephiroth, we find this:

Lavender - Daath (not a sephira, but rather a point on the Tree)
Red - Geburah
Blue - Chesed
Yellow - Tiphareth
Green - Netzach
Violet - Yesod

So what's missing? The last point that forms the planetary hexagram is Hod, which is associated with orange. So if we want the Lesser Pentagram to differ in color from all the others, orange really does seem to be the way to go. It gives us a full set of colors that do not overlap.

I still don't know what's going with people whose financial circumstances decline when they start doing the LBRP, assuming that this is even a thing. It might be total coincidence, because people's fortunes do change over time and sometimes a downturn will wind up happening at the same time as a person starts working magick. But maybe what's going on is that by visualizing the pentagram in green or black rather than so they "appear in flame" and are getting an effect that leans towards the Earth element.

One thing I will say is that doing nothing but banishing is a bad way to practice. You're never going to get enlightened by doing nothing but the LBRP, or it will take a very long time, not because the LBRP is a bad ritual but because it's part of a larger system with more than one component. For this reason I recommend students start by learning the operant field, so that on a daily basis they are performing a microcosmic banishing and a macrocosmic invocation.

Incidentally, if you did want a ritual series that would make you poor, according to the operant model it would be the LBRP/LBRH (to set the focus to macrocosmic) and follow that opening with the Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram for Earth. If you flip that, using the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram for Earth, you have a ritual set that should improve your financial circumstances - and presumably the latter has a lot more appeal than the former.

So I'm going to start recommending to students that they trace the Lesser Pentagram in orange flames. This clearly differs from the other elemental pentagrams, and since Hod is ruled by Mercury, it seems particularly appropriate to Hermetic magick.

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Anonymous said...

Orange-Hod seems to fit perfectly in the operant field since Mercury is about thoughts. So the practitioner would banish their inner chatter of thoughts to allow their will to focuse more clearly. I usually visualise the LBRP in blue gas-burning flame and the Water pentagram in deep blue, to differentiate between the two, but i think I'll give it a try with orange.

Anonymous said...

This just came to me. If someone were to be in a financial downturn, that would mean that the universe allows that to happen and even provides it. So won't the Operand Field increase the financial downturn, since it brings in more of what the universe has to offer? If so, I guess it would have to be followed with a GIRP of Earth in the daily practice, or else it would only result in more poverty.

Unknown said...

I didn't even know this was a thing! I've always drawn pentagrams in white, having interpreted Liber O to mean a searing white-hot flame.

It used to surprise me that white flame worked so much better than blue, considering that blue flames are hotter -- but in light of what you've written here, it makes more sense now.

The only question now is whether it makes sense to draw a microcosmic symbol in Kether's color. So with that in mind, I look forward to trying campfire orange over the next week for comparison.

Scott Stenwick said...

All the sephiroth, including Kether, have both microcosmic (Adam Kadmon) and macrocosmic aspects. The former is what you are working with when you do the Qabalistic Cross, so it seems to me that a white pentagram is not necessarily a problem. It's all about what you're trying to represent.

jmagus007 said...

Scott. Thank you for posting this. It really puts things in a different, more positive light. :-)

Unknown said...

The results from this trial were pretty interesting!

White pentagrams work better when I'm doing the Qabalistic Cross the way I usually do, where it's effectively an energy work practice of drawing the LVX into the energy body and circulating it to the five points of the Cross.

Orange pentagrams work better when I do the QC by the book: simply touching the 5 points and vibrating the Hebrew. In other words, paying no mind to the process of invoking and circulating LVX.

The energy practice gives stronger results overall. There's a definite sense that I'm making the pentagrams out of the very same energy that I invoked in the QC. So it makes sense that starting things out with a strong QC lays the foundation for strongly manifesting the pentagrams.

That said, energy practice can be tiring and sweaty -- but vibrating is easy as pie. The by-the-book option gives about 80% of the results for 20% of the effort.

Philip said...

I've heard that the LBRP banishes bad things in your life. So the jobs or relationships you lose because of the LBRP were bad for you even if you didn't realize it.

Scott Stenwick said...

The LBRP is a microcosmic ritual so it does not work that way. It works on your sphere of sensation, not on the exterior world. So it might make you more fed up with a job that is out of harmony with your will, but it won't directly affect anything beyond your own psyche.