Monday, June 25, 2018

The Greater Ritual of the Pentagram

Last week I was corresponding with a reader who was trying to work out how to do the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram from online sources. Apparently, these are a lot more confusing than they need to be, so I figured that for today's magick post I would put up my own explanation of the ritual so that I can point people here and not expect that they can just work it out from other stuff on the Internet that I have no control over. I'll be adding this to my list of ritual instructions as well.

The first and most important thing that you need to understand about the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram is that, as I've written here in a number of places, "Greater" does not mean "awesome" and "Lesser" does not mean "lame." There's a lot of information online from people who treat the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram as a "better" Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram - and that is entirely wrong. The two rituals do two completely different things that should not be conflated.

The Lesser rituals are general or foundational. They are used to set up the base "field" in which you work magick, even when you are working from more traditional methods than my operant field technique. The Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, like the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram, is used to tune that magical space to a particular force or quality. The Greater Ritual of the Pentagram has five traditional forms, four of which correspond to the paths of the four elements and one which corresponds to the sephira of all four elements, Malkuth. Like the planets, the elements can be attributed both sephirothically and by path, but unlike the planets all four elements correspond to the tenth sephira.

This is especially important when you realize that some people use the version of the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth (that is, with all four elemental pentagrams traced to their corresponding directions according to the winds model) as an "upgrade" to the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. But this is not the case. The magical power associated with Malkuth is "The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel, or of Adonai." The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is general and foundational, and therefore it is not attributed to a traditional power or vision.

This is not to suggest that the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth is a bad idea for daily practice. Aleister Crowley's Liber Reguli is basically a souped-up Greater Ritual of the Pentagram, and Crowley did teach that beginning students should focus on HGA work. This is very likely the intent of Reguli - to cultivate the vision of the HGA as a preliminary for doing the full HGA invocation found in Liber Samekh. The Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth can be used in this way as well, but not as a replacement for the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.


The way I teach magick, you would use the following daily practice sequence to obtain the Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel or of Adondai:

1. Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or Star Ruby
2. Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram or Star Sapphire
3. Middle Pillar or Elevenfold Seal
4. Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth
5. Meditation.
6. Qabalistic Cross.

Note that whether you use the Thelemic forms or not, the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram is always done the same way. It should also be pointed out that one of the benefits of practicing the Malkuth version is that it teaches you all four of the elemental pentagrams. The other four forms of the ritual are for use with each of the four classical elements. To tune your space to an element, you trace the corresponding elemental pentagrams to all four quarters, starting in the east and moving clockwise.

The Malkuth version of the ritual is performed as follows in the invoking form. All illustrations are from Aleister Crowley's Liber O vel Manus et Sagittae, which is also where you can find this straightforward version of the ritual, and the pentagrams were colorized by me using my mad Microsoft Paint skills.

1. OPENING: If you are performing this ritual as part of sequence that includes the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, you do not need to open with the Qabalistic Cross and you can jump right to Step 2. This is much like how you do not need to open the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram with the Keyword Analysis if it follows the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. If you are performing this ritual on its own (which you will rarely do), open with the Qabalistic Cross.

2. AIR ELEMENT: In the east, trace the Invoking Pentagram of Active Spirit in bright (electric) purple and vibrate AHIH (Eheieh).


Make the Sign of Rending the Veil by extending your hands in front of you and moving them apart as if opening a heavy curtain.


Then trace the Invoking Pentagram of Air in yellow and vibrate YHVH (Yahweh or Yeh-ho-wau).


Make the Sign of Air by holding your arms up and out, elbows bent at right angles, and wrists bent as if holding up the sky. The corresponding godform is Shu.


3. FIRE ELEMENT: Turn to the south. Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Active Spirit in bright (electric) purple and vibrate AHIH (Eheieh).


Make the Sign of Rending the Veil by extending your hands in front of you and moving them apart as if opening a heavy curtain.


Then trace the Invoking Pentagram of Fire in red and vibrate ALHIM (Elohim).


Make the Sign of Fire by forming an upright triangle with both hands and holding this triangle to your forehead. The corresponding godform is Thoum-aesh-neith.


4. WATER ELEMENT: Turn to the west. Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit in dark (deep) purple and vibrate AGLA (Agla, just like it looks).


Make the Sign of Rending the Veil by extending your hands in front of you and moving them apart as if opening a heavy curtain.


Note that some sources will tell you to make the Sign of Closing the Veil here for Passive Spirit, but this is incorrect. Rending the Veil is for invoking and Closing the Veil is for banishing.

Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Water in blue and vibrate AL (El).


Make the Sign of Water by forming an downward triangle with both hands and holding this triangle to your navel. The corresponding godform is Auramoth.


5. EARTH ELEMENT: Turn to the north. Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Passive Spirit in dark (deep) purple and vibrate AGLA (Agla, just like it looks).


Make the Sign of Rending the Veil by extending your hands in front of you and moving them apart as if opening a heavy curtain.


Trace the Invoking Pentagram of Earth in black or green and vibrate ADNI (Adonai).


Make the Sign of Earth by taking a step forward while you hold your right arm out and up and your left arm back and down. The corresponding godform is Set.


6. CLOSING: Return to face the east, completing the circle. If you opened with the Qabalistic Cross repeat it, but otherwise you're done.

The banishing form uses all banishing pentagrams in the same order, and the Sign of Closing the Veil which is performed by holding your arms out and forward and then bringing your hands together as if closing a heavy curtain. Otherwise it is identical. With the way I teach magick, you won't be using the banishing form very often. If you are conjuring a spirit you want the invoking form, and it is far more effective to work with protective spirits than it is to banish specific energies. Since the elemental spirits rule their respective energies, they have the power to both increase and decrease the effects of those energies.

Much of the difficulty working out how to do this essentially simple ritual is that over the years people have come up with more and more elaborate versions of it, adding elements like Enochian godnames and various additional figures, such as in what is now called the "Supreme Pentagram" - a version that is basically a more-souped-up GRP that as far as I can tell you don't actually need to get good magical results. Before you start working on any of the enhanced version, make sure you know the simple one above. Then you can experiment for yourself and see if those enhancements make much difference in terms of real results.

UPDATE: After discussion on the Ceremonial Magick School group this week and a good conversation at last Tuesday's ritual workshop, there are a couple of other points I can make with respect to the "Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram." Liber Samkeh includes a couple of the elements that are also found in the Stella Matutina SRP. One is the replacement of Rending and Closing the Veil with the LVX signs for the spirit pentagrams. This makes sense in the context of Samekh, as the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel is closely related to the state of consciousness associated with Tiphareth (to which the LVX signs allude). It seems to me this is less appropriate for a pentagram ritual that is designed to call on specific elements. The moon (Yesod) rules the elemental realm, not the sun (Tiphareth).

In the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, the LVX signs are used because the sun rules the macrocosm, whereas the moon rules the microcosm. Ideally you want to be "stepping into" Tiphareth when you do the Lesser Hexagram so that the magical operation you are undertaking aligns with the macrocosm, and in the case of daily practice, so that your ongoing magical work can move beyond the level of simply working with your own mind and subtle body. But again, this does not make it very clear why you would want to be stepping into Tiphareth with the spirit pentagrams when what you are trying to do is work with the elements.

The other point I noticed is that one of the differences between how I teach magick and how most of the Golden Dawn orders teach is that I use hexagram rituals for the signs of the zodiac, as outlined in Crowley's Liber O. The most common GD teaching is to use pentagram rituals for zodiac signs. I can say from personal experience that using the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for the signs of the zodiac works very well. But perhaps you see things in the SRP like the tracing of the kerub images (which allude to the fixed signs of th zodiac) precisely because in the GD (or more properly, Stella Matutina) system the pentagram ritual, not the hexagram ritual, is expected to do double duty - for both elements and signs.

That might be why this astrological element was added to the ritual, if the original GRP found in Liber O proved less effective for zodiac signs. Personally I wonder if it might not make the most sense to use pentagram rituals for the microcosmic aspects of zodiac signs, like the specific personality traits emphasized in modern astrology, and use the hexagram rituals for the macrocosmic aspects of those same signs, such as the astrological forces emphasized in Renaissance astrology. Conjuring astrological spirits would fall under the latter, and that's most of the zodiacal magick that I do. After all, the macrocosm contains the microcosm, and most of what I do is practical magick.

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4 comments:

enokiano1 said...

Hi Scott

I know that you do not mix the Enochian names with the pentagrams, but the thing is that it works very well, the question Scott is the following one imagines that you do the RSIP with Enochian and Kabbalistic names, once you have projected your Will to the Angels, you would do as in the operational field? that is to say only the cabalistic cross without carrying out other exiles like the superior ritual of banishing of spirit and of the element,I mean the Enochian angels or cabalistic angels are not hostile and we could do as in the operational field,what do you think Scott?

Scott Stenwick said...

One of the main reasons that I do not mix those is that my Enochian system is based on the Dee attributions, not the GD ones. My elemental attributions for the Kings, therefore, don't match, and that makes it difficult to use with my system. If you do in fact do GD Enochian, I can see where it could be effective. I just don't want to learn two different systems for doing the same thing.

I would use the SIRP just like I use the GIRP. I think it's kind of telling that there's a document out there that (I think) is from the Stella Matutina. It's just called "The Ritual of the Pentagram" and the only version it discusses is the SRP. So I think it's reasonable to suggest that the Stella Matutina might have replaced the GIRP with the SIRP, which implies that they do the same thing.

And yes, I would end a ritual employing the SIRP exactly the same. I would dismiss the spirits with the license to depart, and then close with either another LBRP (if I want to bind the effect into a talisman or send it out into the world to accomplish something) or just another Qabalistic Cross if I want some of the effect to be anchored to my sphere of consciousness.

Unknown said...

Hello Scott,

Just wanted to say that I've gotten so much practical information and clarification from your writings, especially on the planetary workings. Thank you for providing such detailed explanations!

One question - Shouldn't the last two passive pentagrams of spirit be followed by the closing of the veil, rather than the opening of the veil as in the first two active pentagrams?

From Liber O: "Extend the hands in front of you, palms outwards, separate them as if in the act of rending asunder a veil or curtain (actives), and then bring them together as if closing it up again and let them fall to the side (passives)."

I haven't yet attempted this one so would appreciate knowing the distinction.

Scott Stenwick said...

Having experimented with both versions, I found that it makes more sense to rend the veil for invocations and close the veil for banishings, regardless of active versus passive. Feel free to try both versions and see what works best for you, though. What I publish here is what I have found works the best for me, but I don't have anywhere near a large enough sample size to say whether it works that way for everyone.

After obtaining my experimental results, I rationalized it thus - how does it make sense to close the veil when you are invoking an element? It seems a lot more logical to me that when you are invoking energies of whatever sort you want the channel of manifestation, the flow of mezla, or however you want to think about it to be open rather than closed. I'm not sure how teachers who do it the other way explain why they do it that way.