Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram: Thoughts and Theology

Circulus Pentagrammatum et Stella Radiorum Sex

For ritual magicians of practically any stripe, it’s common practice that the first rite they learn is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, often abbreviated as LBRP. If not the first thing, then very close to it.

But what is the LBRP? Where does it come from?

It’s common knowledge that the LBRP is used for purifying, warding, and practice with ritual and visualization, so I won’t discuss what it does. What I will discuss is where it comes from and the issues I have with some of its components.


Where It Comes From

The LBRP as we know it originated in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, where it was the first ritual exercise given to new initiates in the Neophyte grade. It’s effectively a weird composite made from three parts with their own long histories: the Sign of the Cross, the Caim Prayer, and a Jewish Nighttime prayer.

The Sign of the Cross

The Sign of the Cross needs little explanation, as it dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. Christians used the sign of the Cross to bless and to invoke blessing, and the Sign is still in use today. The version used in the LBRP follows the Eastern Orthodox practice, where the horizontal bar is made by touching the right shoulder first, and then the left.

The LBRP likewise has the operator make the Sign while saying a Hebrew formula reminiscent of the so-called “Protestant ending” to the Lord’s Prayer. Modern occultists call this the Kabbalistic Cross:

Forehead: אַתׇּה (Atah, “Thou art”)
Breast: מַלְכּוּת (Malkus, “Kingdom”)
Right Shoulder: וַגְּבוּרׇה (Va-Gevurah, “and Power”)
Left Shoulder: וַגְּדֻלׇה (Va-Gedulah, “and Glory”)
Clasp Hands: לְעוֺלׇם אׇמֵן (Le-Olam. Amen. “forever. Amen.”)

Praying the Caim
Next follows the Caim Prayer. Also called “praying a caim,” this is a protective prayer going back to ancient Celtic Christianity and still used in Celtic churches and Celtic-oriented ISM jurisdictions (i.e. denominations in the Independent Sacramental Movement).

The central concept of the Caim prayer is the “caim,” or the protective circle one makes around himself while praying. One example of such a prayer starts by pointing in front of you and towards the ground, then turning clockwise (making a circle with your finger).

caim-prayer1

At each cardinal point – or the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions on the circle – you voice your prayer:

12 position, “Circle me Lord, Keep protection near, And danger afar.”
3 position, “Circle me Lord, Keep light near, And darkness afar.”
6 position, “Circle me Lord, Keep peace within, Keep evil out.”
9 position, “Circle me Lord, Keep hope within, Keep doubt without.”

Back at the 12 position can finish your prayers with:
May you be a bright flame before me
May you be a guiding star above me,
May you be a smooth path below me,
And a loving Guide behind me,
Today, tonight, and forever.

In the classic LBRP, the caim is made either by pointing straight in front of you with your finger or while holding a dagger. You visualize the circle in blue flame (like a gas stove) while tracing it.

139512_f260

At each quarter-point you pause to trace a “banishing earth” pentagram in the air in front of you, then point to the center and say a Divine Name or “Word of Power.”

East: י ה ו ה (Yod Heh Vav Heh, the four letters of God’s name).
South: אֲדֹנָי (Adonai, Hebrew for “Lord”)
West: אֶהְיֶה (Eheieh, Hebrew for “I Am” [see Exodus 3:14])
North: אָגָלָא (AGLA, a Hebrew acronym for “Thou Art Mighty Forever, O Lord”)

[NOTE: I first heard אָגָלָא pronounced as “Ah-Gah-Lah,” hence the vowel-points given here. Others pronounce it אָגְלָא or “Ag-lah.” The choice is yours.]

After tracing the last Pentagram and saying the last Name, you would return to the East, completing the circle. You would now be surrounded by a blue flaming circle, with each of the four directions marked by a flaming pentagram. This completes the Caim.

pentagrams

Borrowing from Jewish Prayer
The next section of the LBRP is taken from Jewish prayer practice, and it’s been written elsewhere that Jewish people may be offended by countering it. I have no firsthand experience of this, thus am sharing this information without comment.

The original form of this prayer is found in A First Step: A Devotional Guide by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, published in 1973, and reads as follows:

In the name of YHVH the God of Israel:
At my right hand Michael
At my left Gabriel
Ahead of me Oriel
Behind me Raphel
Above my head the Sheckinah of God!

[NOTE: The Shekhinah or Sheckinah (Hebrew, שְׁכִינָה) is God’s divine presence throughout all creation. Many occultists confuse the Shekinah with the Holy Spirit, yet such is not the case: theologically the Shekhinah is best understood as an artifact of perichoresis (described in my post on magical theology), while the Holy Spirit is the one doing the perichoresis. But then, most occultists aren’t trained in Systematic Theology.]

In the LBRP, this prayer is revised to fit the Golden Dawn’s conception of the four Directions, the four Elements, and the four Archangels governing them: Raphael (Air, the East), Michael (Fire, the South), Gabriel (Water, the West), and Uriel (Earth, the North). Meaning that in the LBRP you face East once completing the circle, raise your arms to your sides, palms upwards (so your body resembles the shape of a cross), and say:

Before me is Raphael!
Behind me is Gabriel!
At my left hand is Michael!
And at my right hand is Auriel!
About me flame the Pentagrams and behind me shines the Six-Rayed Star!

You then complete the ritual by again making the Sign of the Cross.

As you say the names, you visualize the Archangels standing just outside the circle, facing outwards and guarding from intrusion or attack.

In later versions, the last line is changed from “behind me shines” to “in the column shines the Six-Rayed Star,” with some versions encouraging you to visualize a golden six-rayed star shining from within your heart. My understanding is that this is a reference to the Kabbalistic Sefira of Tifares (“Beauty,” the sixth Sefira on the Tree of Life), which relates to the Sun and harmonizing the energies of the Tree, and which Christian Kabbalists – The LBRP was originally written by Protestant Christians – classically associated with Jesus as the Redeemer of the universe and point of contact between God and man. In modern times non-Christian magicians may say the same words but presumably without any of the “Jesus symbolism.”


Theological Issues

Thus far we’ve discussed the LBRP in its original form and where it comes from. Now I’d like to discuss theological issues before moving on to the revised version that I use and teach.

My main issue has to do with the words of the so-called “Kabbalistic Cross.” On the one hand, the Hebrew is grammatically sloppy and sounds ugly. It reads like some dude tried translating the Protestant Ending into Hebrew and used Hebrew words combined with the lack of articles found in Classical Latin grammar.

On a deeper level, the formula as-written betrays a teaching of pantheism, the belief that God is indistinguishable from his creation, that God is immanent but not transcendent (classical theology teaches that God is both immanent and transcendent). Now readers can debate about whose theology, and I’ve no intention to knock anyone’s path here. Yet this blog is geared toward Christian magicians and therefore makes its points through the lens of mainstream Christian theology. All are invited to see how this project unfolds.

Back to the formula. By saying “Thou art Kingdom,” this has a definite meaning in the Kabbalistic paradigm in which the Golden Dawn composed this ritual. Here, “Kingdom” is the Sefira of Malkus, which represents the physical plane and the entire created universe. Hence “Thou art Kingdom” is theologically a confusion of Creator and creature, effectively saying “Thou art thy creation.”

Immanence and Transcendence
The classical theological position affirms that God is immanent, meaning that “God is everywhere present in created space” (Ott, Fundamentals, Bk. I, P. I, S. III, Ch. 1, §19). This root of this teaching is found in several Scriptural passages, such as Psalm 139:7-10:

7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.

Also Jeremiah 23:24:

24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.

And Acts 17:27b-28:

27b indeed [God] is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

God’s immanence is affirmed time and again by the Christian writers from every era, from the Early Fathers down to the present time. And not just by Catholics: Luther, in his Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ – Against the Fanatics, admits that

“[God] is present in all creatures, and I might find him in stone, in fire, in water, or even in rope, for certainly he is there” (Luther’s Works, 36:342).

We can safely say that God’s immanence is the unanimous opinion (or at least near-unanimous opinion) within mainstream Christian theology.

Yet mainstream Christian theology also affirms God’s transcendence over and above the created universe. Scripturally God’s transcendence is shown by pointing out that he created the universe in the first place in Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.

We also see that that God is exalted above the earth and above all gods in Psalm 97: 9:

9 For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

God’s thoughts and ways are described as higher than human thoughts and ways in Isaiah 55:8-9:

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And finally, St. Paul clearly describes both God’s immanence and transcendence in Ephesians 4:6. He tells us there is:

one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

What we have, therefore, is a picture of God who is present throughout creation while at the same time distinct from it, above it, and having power over it.

Solution 1: Fixing the Cross
This is the “long version” of why I take theological issue with the line “Thou art Kingdom.” While an immanentist or a pantheist can say it with no problem, the denial of God’s transcendence has no place either in Judaism or Christianity. This is why it’s better to return to the original wording of the Protestant Ending, “For thine is,” which in Hebrew would be כִּי לְךָ (Ki Lekha).

The remainder of the Cross needs only minor correction, namely placing the Hebrew definite article ה (Ha-, meaning “the”) in front of the words and placing the Sign of the Cross in the Latin style, where the horizontal bar is made from left to right.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but I suspect the Golden Dawn founders prescribed the Orthodox (also called the “Greek” or “Oriental”) version of the Sign of the Cross because of their claims to being part of the Rosicrucian tradition; the Rosicrucian founding documents (the Fama and Confessio Fraternitatis) are vehemently anti-Catholic and claim to acknowledge the Patriarch of Constantinople as “our Christian head.” However, from a practical standpoint this betrays the symbolism as in Kabbalah Gevurah (Severity, Power) and Chesed or Gedulah (Mercy, Glory) correspond to the left and right shoulders, respectively.

Fortunately, this is an easy fix for anyone who doesn’t have an overly emotional investment in Golden Dawn “purism,” or in a sense of ritualism that confuses validity of effect with adiaphora of practice. Here’s what we’re looking at as a “corrected” version of the Cross, which I call the “Doxological Cross” in acknowledgement that its words are doxological:

Forehead: כִּי לְךָ (Ki Lekha, “For Thine is”)
Breast: הַמַלְכּוּת (Ha’Malkus, “the Kingdom”)
Left Shoulder: וַהַגְּבוּרׇה (Va-Ha’Gevurah, “and the Power”)
Right Shoulder: וַהַגְּדֻלׇה (Va-Ha’Gedulah, “and the Glory”)
Clasp Hands: לְעוֹלְמֵי עוֹלָמִים אָמֵן (Le-Olamei Olamim. Amen. “forever and ever. Amen.”)

For those of you who wish to recite the Cross in Latin or Greek, both versions follow:

Latin: Quia tuum est – regnum – et potéstas – et glória – in sáecula. Amen.

Greek: ῞Οτι σοῦ ἐστιν – ἡ βασιλεία – καὶ ἡ δύναμις – καὶ ἡ δόξα – εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. ᾽Αμήν.

The Latin version is taken verbatim from the Roman Catholic Church’s “Novus Ordo” version of the Mass (I dislike the terms “ordinary” and “extraordinary form”), and the Greek version is adapted from the Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which uses a somewhat longer version:

Ὅτι σοῦ ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ δόξα, τοῦ Πατρός καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, νῦν, καὶ ἀεί, καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. ᾽Αμήν.

For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The reason is that our magical practice is a reflection of our private spiritual life, and there’s much to be gained from maintaining every possible connection between our private spiritual lives and the spiritual current flowing from the liturgy of the Church.

Other Theological Issues
The remainder of the LBRP has very few theological issues from an orthodox Christian standpoint. Three of the names used while praying the Caim are names of God as found in the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth is an acronym (technically called a “notarikon”) expressing a theologically orthodox statement and whose words – אתָּה גִבּוֺר לְעוֺלֺם אֲדֹנָי – come from the Jewish daily prayer of Tefilas Amidah (Hebrew English).

The use of the Pentagrams is in no way a problem for Christian magicians, as explained thoroughly in my blog post from a week and a half ago. Feel free to peruse that post if you have any questions. There’s no issue with the Sign of the Pentagram being used to invoke or to banish, as the Sign of the Cross is likewise used to invoke and to banish; theologically I see this question as adiaphora or “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

The only remaining potential issue is the curious phrase “Behind me shines the Six-Rayed Star.” Gareth Knight claims this phrase is “an aspiration one, for it applies in fact only to the Adept beyond the Tiphareth grade” (A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, Vol. I, Ch. XXII, n. 19). His reference to the “Tiphareth grade” refers to the Golden Dawn’s system of “grades,” which were mapped to the Sefiros of the Tree of Life and the grade “Adeptus Minor” – the practicing magician – was linked to Tifares.

While the Golden Dawn grade system doesn’t apply to our discussion, we can apply the reference to Tifares – whose magical images are The Child, The King, and The Sacrificed God – to a symbol for Christ as we’ve already discussed above. Likewise the symbol of the Six-Rayed Star applies to Jesus as well, the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”

In this sense we can retain the wording without problem, with “Behind me shines” representing that “Christ has got my back,” and those who choose the later version of “In the column shines” can understand it as “Christ is working through me.” Both understanding are valid, and those with questions are recommended to meditate on Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.


Conclusion: The Revised Ritual

If you’ve survived my rambling thus far, I’d like to present the version of the ritual as I actually use and teach it. I’ve already presented it in The Magic of Catholicism and its ecumenical counterpart Ritual Magic for Conservative Christians, so some of you may already be familiar:

1. Stand in the center of the room, facing east. Begin by making the sign of the Cross. As you touch each point, say or vibrate the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or English:
Forehead: כִּי לְךָ (Ki Lekha, “For Thine is”)
Breast: הַמַלְכּוּת (Ha’Malkus, “the Kingdom”)
Left Shoulder: וַהַגְּבוּרׇה (Va-Ha’Gevurah, “and the Power”)
Right Shoulder: וַהַגְּדֻלׇה (Va-Ha’Gedulah, “and the Glory”)
Clasp Hands: לְעוֹלְמֵי עוֹלָמִים אָמֵן (Le-Olemei Olamim. Amen. “forever and ever. Amen.”)

2. Go to the east wall of the room. Hold out your right hand and draw a banishing pentagram, visualizing it in blue flame.

[NOTE: If it’s easier for you, you may also visualize it as a beam of light, similar to the blade of a lightsaber.]

Once the pentagram is drawn, point your hand at the center and declare or vibrate: Yod Heh Vav Heh.

3. Holding your arm out, walk in a circle toward the south. As you walk, visualize an arc of blue flame being created.

4. At the south wall, draw the pentagram again, this time saying: Adonai.

5. Repeat the process moving toward the west. Eheieh.

6. Repeat the process toward the north. AGLA.

7. Return to the East with your arm outstretched, completing the arc of blue flame. What you should now have visualized is a circle of blue flame studded with a blazing pentagram at each of the cardinal points.

8. Return to the center of the circle, facing east, and stretch your arms out to your sides with palms upward, such that your body is in the shape of a cross.

9. Visualize the Archangel Raphael forming outside the circle at the east, and declare or vibrate: Ante me stat Ráphaël. (Before me is Raphael.)

10. Visualize the Archangel Gabriel forming outside the circle at the west, and declare or vibrate: Post me stat Gábriel. (Behind me is Gabriel.)

11. Visualize the Archangel Michael forming outside the circle at the south, and declare or vibrate: Ad déxteram meam stat Míchaël. (At my right hand is Michael.)

12. Visualize the Archangel Uriel forming outside the circle at the north, and declare or vibrate: Atque ad sínistram meam stat Uriel. (And at my left hand is Uriel.)

13. Lastly, visualize all this around you, and a brilliant gold-white six-rayed star at your back. Say:
Circumscríbor cum pentagrammátibus flammántibus, et post me stella radiórum sex lucet! (About me flame the pentagrams, and behind me shines the six-rayed star!)

[NOTE: For those who wish to say “In the column shines,” the Latin would be: “… et in colúmna stella radiróum sex lucet!”]

14. Close the ritual with the Sign of the Cross, as given in step 1.

OPTIONAL: In place of the invocations in steps 9-13, you may substitute the following formula adapted from The Magic of Effective Prayer. Say it slowly and with forceful intention, visualizing each Archangel as you mention their names.

Almighty Living God, in a spirit of thanks I come to you. And I ask that you place your holy angels to guard and protect me:
Raphael before me,
Gabriel behind me,
Michael at my right hand,
And Uriel at my left.
May your love and protection surround me as a circle of flaming stars, and above me and below me, within me and without me, may the power of your Son envelop and increase me as I seek to live each day in your name. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


So there you have it. My thoughts on the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, its origins and theological concerns described in detail, and a revised form (in fact only slightly revised) putting those theological concerns to bed.

See you next post, and God bless!
Agostino

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About Agostino

Originally from Queens, N.Y., and having grown up in Dayton, OH, Agostino Taumaturgo is a unique figure. He is the product of the unlikely combination of coming from a Traditional Roman Catholic background and a spirituality-friendly home. It was in this home that Agostino first learned the basics of meditation, prayer, and spiritual working. In time Agostino completed his theology studies and was ordained to the priesthood and was later consecrated a bishop. He has since left the Traditional movement and brings this knowledge to the “outside world” through his teaching and writing, discussing spiritual issues and practical matters through the lens of traditional Christian theology.
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8 Responses to Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram: Thoughts and Theology

  1. Pingback: Chakras, the Middle Pillar, and the Lord’s Prayer | THAVMA: Christian Occultism and Magic

  2. Haelos Dagaz says:

    I enjoy your rendition, and it makes a lot of sense. Check out my post on the Lesser Pentagram rituals and let me know your opinions of my method.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. José Humberto says:

    I am a traditional Catholic and I am studying the LBRP in order to adapt it, so that it does not conflict with my religious convictions. However, I’m having problems with the part of Uriel [or Auriel] archangel, since it is cited only in apocryphal gospels, and veneration to his figure is not admitted by the Roman Church. Any idea of what can I do about it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agostino says:

      Hi there! There are numerous versions of the LBRP, and not all of them invoke Raphael-Gabriel-Michael-Uriel. In fact the rite’s pretty flexible.

      One thing you can do is invoke your Guardian Angel instead of Uriel (“And at my left hand is my Angel Guardian!”). Another thing you can do is find four warrior-Saints and invoke their names instead of the Archangels. Suggestions would be St. Olaf, St. George, St. Joan of Arc, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Victor of Milan, St. Martin of Tours, or any other Saint who took up arms.

      I also tend to use an alternate version of the LBRP (I’ve made some changes since writing this blog post), and may do a post sharing that along with these suggestions in the near future.

      Like

      • José Humberto says:

        Thank you for your suggestions!

        Yesterday I was searching for references to number four in the bible and found the 4 animals mentioned in the book of Revelation. They are around the divine throne and are quite similar to the four archangels of the LBRP. These animals also appear in Ezekiel’s prophecies in the Old Testament, but in different order. I chose to follow the book of Revelation, since Christianity has its basis in the New Testament, having very few conections to the Old Testament; and by the fact that Ezekiel was a Jew, not a Christian.

        I have also discovered that the Catholic tradition, based on the teachings of St. Jerome and St. Gregory, attributes each of these four animals from the book of Revelation to the four Gospels (St. Matthew = the animal with man’s head; St. Mark = the animal with lion’s head; St. Luke = the animal with eagle’s head; St. John = the animal with bull’s head). The four animals hold the throne of the Christ in Heaven, while the four evangelists hold the word of Christ on earth, so in a Catholic context, I think the four archangels can be perfectly substituted by these four animals or by the four saints.

        I am carefully reconstructing the LBRP in Latin (inspired by the Tridentine Mass), so as not to alter its cabalistic foundations. I’ll post when it’s ready.

        Like

      • Agostino says:

        Yes, yes to the four “Cherubic Animals” and the Four Evangelists. That’s a great idea and a good call.

        Seems to be a synchronicity here, too, since what you’re saying about basing your work in the NT is like taking the advice out of a post on my personal Facebook the other day, about why Novus Ordinarianism does itself no favors when trying to emphasize a Jewish identity. I’ve been thinking of converting that to a blog post, so you might see it here soon.

        Definitely interested in your reconstruction of the LBRP once it’s finished. If it helps, I’ve replaced the Hebrew Divine Names with the Trisagion said in either Greek or Latin (invoking the Liturgy of Good Friday). Say “Agios o Theos” at the pentagram in the east and work your way through the circle. Once you’ve returned to the East again, say the entire Trisagion in Latin up to “miserere nobis” inclusive, before invoking the Four Beasts/Evangelists.

        I’ve found that this helped made the rite flow more smoothly and work better for me . . . so I wouldn’t worry too much about keeping “cabalistic foundations” if it comes to a conflict between keeping those foundations or aligning with the Liturgy.

        Like

  4. Pingback: Magic for People Who Can’t Visualize | THAVMA: Christian Occultism and Magic

  5. Pingback: Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, Revisited | THAVMA: Christian Occultism and Magic in General

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