A year and some change ago, I wrote a brief tractate on the origins, structure, and potential theological issues inherent in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, along with suggestions for solutions. Today I’d like to add a few notes to that post, things discussed over the past year.
As you might remember, the structure of the rite consists of three parts: 1. Sign of the Cross, 2. Constructing a Caim, and 3. Calling the Archangels. The ritual is then closed by repeating the Sign of the Cross.
Before we begin, I’d like to say this post assumes that you’ve already read the previous post on the subject. That’s where you’ll find my sources and theological commentary, while this post can be considered as notes and marginalia.
Everything I say here can apply to the Invoking as well as to the Banishing Ritual, an omission made in last year’s post.
The Sign of the Cross
Not many people have contacted me regarding the Sign of the Cross, though I received one message defending the Golden Dawn’s “right to left” practice, on the grounds that the Sefiros (Gevura and Ḥesed) are located on the body as though we were looking at a person, not as they’d be on ourselves. My own reading on Kabbalah suggests it’s an open question; the success of magicians using both schemata furnishes empirical evidence suggesting the “side of body” question is effectively an adiaphoron. This means that while I favor the scheme of distributing the Sefiros as they would be on my own body (i.e. Gevura to my left, Ḥesed to my right), ultimately I side with the Aesch-Mezareph: “But if anyone hath placed those things in another order, I shall not contend with him, inasmuch as all systems tend to the one truth.”
Now my actual response to this message was “We’re Catholics first and everything else comes second,” a response I stand behind though I regret my tone may have been too harsh. Because even though that’s the methodology that should be followed by a Catholic (who wishes to remain Catholic), the reality goes back to the question being an adiaphoron. The individual is always free to use right-to-left or left-to-right as he or she prefers in private practice, while in group ritual the form used by the group should be employed.
Constructing the Caim
This is probably my greatest departure from what I wrote last year, namely in that I no longer use the Hebrew Names after tracing the pentagrams and replacing those names with the Trisagion. The idea for this originates in a post on the Catholic and Orthodox Esotericism group last November, and it makes sense as building the Caim is indigenous to Celtic Christianity, therefore we’re effectively repatriating the practice.
Starting late last year, I began practicing the LRP using the Trisagion in place of the Hebrew Divine Names and have continued the practice to this day. The results are much like my work in the Middle Pillar/Rousing of the Citadels, where I replaced the Hebrew Names with the Our Father: clearer visualization, faster response time, and the resulting circle is noticeably more “real” and palpable. I’m finding that the further I remove elements of Kabbalah and Hermeticism from my work, the better my results tend to be. Everyone’s mileage may vary and that’s fine, though I find this is what works best for me personally.
Many of my readers may immediately object: “But the Hebrew names are channels of divine power!”
No, they’re not. There’s precedent for this in the Aurum Solis rite of the Setting of the Wards of Adamant, so I’m not the only person wandering off in this direction.
I’m an empiricist, not a “true believer,” and the fact I’ve gotten better results without using the Hebrew Names tells me they’re just words, no more or less inherently powerful than any other. The only thing making these Names into channels of power is either the egregore they’re plugged into, or that your subconscious is conditioned to perform certain tasks when your vocal cords pronounce them. This is one part of magical practice where the “psychological model” remains valid.
Again, I seek to impose my practice on no-one, and there’s room for subjectivity in this regard: if the Hebrew works better for you, then by all means retain the Hebrew. The only thing I’d care to impose is an emphasis on results, a willingness to find other options when something doesn’t work for you, and getting out from under overly dogmatic thinking.
As to the actual method I’m using, it’s very straightforward: the Trisagion is said in Greek, with one phrase said at each quarter. When the circle is complete, I repeat the entire Trisagion in Latin, like so:
East: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός
South: Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός
West: Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος
North: ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς
This mirrors how the Trisagion’s wording is distributed when Orthodox make the Sign of the Cross to it, and tacitly links the Caim (circle of protection) and the Pentagrams (representations of Christ’s Blood) to the Improperia of the western liturgy of Good Friday, as that’s the only time when the Trisagion is noticeable in the preconciliar Missale Romanum.
What this means is that instead of chanting off names because somebody told us they’re “powerful,” we’re instead forming tangible links – already extant in the liturgy for centuries – plugging the power of Jesus’ blood (by which we command the Spirits and the Elements) into the reality of the circle we’re casting around our person. When I say I’m getting better results this way, it’s because this is the network of symbolic and theological concepts I’m accessing.
When I return to the East for a final time, it’s always bothered me that nothing is said at this point to signify completion of the circle. So at this point I point to the center of the pentagram and recite the entire Trisagion in Latin:
Sanctus Deus, Sanctus Fortis, Sanctus Immortális, Miserére nobis.
Saying the Trisagion in Latin right after the Greek is another feature of the Good Friday liturgy, and in fact the link to Good Friday is intentional: my original thought was to say the “Per lignum servi facti sumus,” also from the Good Friday liturgy, but quickly found I couldn’t remember the whole thing when it came to actual practice.
Invocation of the Archangels
When I wrote the LRP blog post last year, one of the comments expressed a concern over how a Catholic could call on Uriel, since Catholicism officially prohibits the calling on any angel whose name isn’t explicitly mentioned in Scripture (for Catholics this means only Raphael, Michael, and Gabriel). For anyone else finding this a quandary, we’ve a few suggestions here.
First, understand that the invocation does not have to be Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Uriel. For precedent we need look no further than the Aurum Solis “Hebrew” version of the Wards of Adamant, which replaces these names with Ruachiel, Ashiel, Miel, and Auphiriel – “Air/Fire/Water/Earth of God” – respectively. In the Greek or “Sub Rosa Nigra” version of the rite, these names are changed yet again: Soter, Alastor, Asphaleos, and Amyntor (Mysteria Magica, pp. 11-20).
In essence the Calling of the Archangels is a calling for Guardians to fortify the Caim you just set up by tracing the Pentagrams and completing the Circle. With this in mind, I’m going to say two things:
I retain Uriel’s name in my own practice of this ritual. The prohibition is not a law of God, but a law of man addressed to a particular circumstance of the time and place in which it was enacted.
If you’re uncomfortable with calling on Uriel, it’s possible to substitute his name with that of another angel (I would recommend your guardian angel), or with another set of beings altogether.
One suggestion for a replacement would be to call on the four Cherubic Animals who symbolize the Four Elements and the Four Evangelists: Man (Air/Matthew), Eagle (Water/John), Lion (Fire/Mark), and Bull (Earth/Luke).
Another suggestion would be to invoke four “Warrior-Saints” to stand watch around your circle. Suggestions here (in no particular order) would be St. George, St. Joan of Arc, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Victor of Milan, St. Martin of Tours, St. Olaf Haraldsson, or any other Saint who took up arms.
Establishing the Center of the Circle
This takes place right after the Calling of the Archangels, but I’d like to treat it separately as it serves a separate function. The original wording for this part is “About me flame the Pentagrams and behind me shines the Six-Rayed Star!”
A later version of this (I believe it’s attributed to Crowley) reads “… in the column shines the Six-Rayed Star!”
I’ve discussed both of these formulae in last year’s blog post, and take issue with neither of them.
For myself, I’ve come to use a formula making this more explicitly Christological:
“Circumscríbor cum pentagrammátibus flammántibus: et super me, infra me, et intra me potéstas Dómini nostri Jesu Christi lucet!”
This translates: “I am surrounded by the flaming Pentagrams: and above me, beneath me, and within me shines the power of Jesus Christ our Lord!”
As I see it, the Calling of the Archangels serves to call guardians to keep watch over the Caim you’ve created, while the Establishing the Center serves to fortify and strengthen the Caim itself, at least to fortify it in the operator’s mind.
As I draw this to a close, I want to make it clear I’m not looking to impose any one particular method of practice into any person other than myself. These notes are meant to be used insofar as they find themselves helpful, but are by no means intended to be an dogmatic declaration of some Universal Truth.
What I do find from my own personal experience with magical work, is that the closer I bring the methodology to the Liturgy or at least into a mode that’s theologically compatible, the better the work’s results tend to become. This could have to do with the Church being the “current” into which I was initiated, or it could have to do with quirks in my personality. Truth is I don’t know and may never know the answer for sure.
All in all, though, my hope is that this post finds itself helpful, and I encourage you not to accept any practice at “face value” (even my own works) but to pick it apart, get to the nuts and bolts of what makes it tick, and figure out if there’s a way you can better adapt it to your own workings. Obviously this is easier for private workings than for group ones, as the group needs to be able to speak a common “ritual language” to work together as a coherent unit; this is a much bigger subject though, and outside the scope of this writing.
God bless, and be well . . . I’ll write more for you soon!