Monday, February 13, 2017

Pentagrams, Traditions and Pagan Evil

I've recently noticed a modification or reworking to a practice that has been around for a long time. The invoking and banishing pentagrams have been used in magick, as a result of ceremonial influence, for about the last 150 years. However, I've recently noticed that there has been a new form of invoking and banishing pentagrams circulating on the internet. I'm not entirely sure why someone decided that reinvention was necessary, but I decided to explore the topic.

The earth banishing pentagram is more commonly known from its use in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram ("LBRP" for short). The LBRP is a kind of energetic prayer, which incorporates visualization, body movements and vocal intonation. It originated as a Jewish prayer and many original elements are still present. Personally, I don't do the LBRP ever, for the same reason I don't do the Tibetan prayer to the dead or the Christian mass. They simply are not my religion. The Golden Dawn may use magic, much like many pagan traditions (including my own), but that doesn't mean it is a pagan religion. 

It stands to reason that if there is a pentagram that banishes, there must be one for the reverse of that, which is accepted to be invocation. It also follows that there must be a pentagram for each of the other elements also. So we find that there is both an invocation and banishing pentagram for each of the elements. All of them have a traditional drawing technique used to create them. The techniques come from the Golden Dawn by way of Eliphas Levi. Both Levi and the GD by extension, base much of their magical principles on the Kabbalah. I have been unable to determine if the techniques for drawing the pentagrams extend back into Kabbalah, or if they began in the late 19th century with the western mystery schools already mentioned. 

A digression: banishing is not the opposite of invocation, though it can function to do something similar. The word "invocation" comes from the Latin meaning "call upon" (not "call in"). An invocation is a means of speaking to a being, to ask, or perhaps to implore, its attention. Only its attention or consideration is being called, not its presence. To achieve the presence of a being, you must do an evocation, which comes from the Latin for "call forth." To evoke a deity is to bring it into your presence, so banishing is completely the opposite of evocation.  Incidentally, those who are drawing into themselves the presence of the Goddess every Full Moon are not invoking or evoking, they are actually introvoking ("to call within"). Digression finished; back to the pentagrams.

The traditional method of drawing each of the invoking and banishing pentagrams can be seen in this graphic from an article over at

For the sake of reference, let's also glance at the placement of the elements at each of the points of the pentagram:
Catherine Beyer

From these graphics, one can see that an invoking pentagram always moves toward the invoked element, while the banishing pentagram always moves away from the banished element. This is an obvious (to me) logic behind the directions of the drawing motions. This also means by consequence that the Air invoking pentagram is the same as the Water banishing pentagram and vice versa. Because each point on the pentagram is made up of two lines, you may be asking why the particular lines are used to start each type of pentagram. For me, the line that intersects with Spirit is the default one to start each motion because it is more elevated (spiritually, not just literally). So even though one could do an earth invoking pentagram by beginning at water, beginning at spirit is more accepted.

The new drawing technique I have seen must have some reasoning behind its pattern. Since the human mind loves patterns and order, as opposed to chaos, when it can't find understanding, it will remake the world around it to fit into a comfortable pattern.

The new method I've seen capitalizes on the fact there are two lines converging at each point. The theory behind it's pattern (I speculate) must be based on the idea that one of the lines is an invocation line and one is a banishing line. In this new method, both the invoking and banishing pentagrams begin at the element of interest. The invocation drawing then progresses around the figure clockwise, while the other progresses counter-clockwise (or the reverse of this in the Southern hemisphere). I get the idea behind this, but it leads me to two points (rants, actually) that I feel might need to be explored.

The first is the idea that anyone can remake the accepted format for these drawings. Yes one can do anything one wants in the comfort of one's own circle and tradition. This is the Scott Cunningham philosophy and it is a wonderful one. However, once one steps outside of one's own circle to begin interacting with the greater world (the internet is a venue that does this), one needs to consider what one is teaching to others. It is irresponsible and even dangerous to listen to that inner voice that says, "I'm going to circulate my own way as if it's the right way until enough people start doing it my way, because I think the traditions need to be changed."

Traditions exist for three reasons. The first is that they build power around a coherent idea that does not change. They create an "egregore." This is a body of aetheric power that exists to give a thought form a kind of non-corporeal life. Creating a egregore takes a great deal of energy. The more energy put toward a egregore, either by a greater number of people or people over time (or both), the greater its power. This is why ancient charms work and must be crafted according to specific instruction. This is why a spell has specific words in it and certain herbs. The egregore is like a boat designed to carry you successfully across a chaotic sea of magickal energy. Why would anyone want to start building a boat from scratch when there are plenty of free boats already made and known for their success?

The second reason traditions are followed is because they work. A person, or multiple people, over the course of decades, tried a tradition and tweaked it until it produced the best possible results. The tradition has then been passed down to you as a formula for instant success. Changing it is nothing short of starting from scratch. Again, why would you want to rebuild the boat when there is one that already works very well?

The third reason is that traditions unify people. They create constancy over time and between people so that they can share in the comfort that a familiar practice provides. Consider a recipe that one of your parents might have made while you were growing up. Maybe it was a lasagna, or pancakes on the weekends. Wouldn't it be great to make that recipe for your own kids so you can share with them the comforting feeling you felt when you were their age? Wouldn't it be great for them to make the same recipe for their own kids so the same sharing can happen with their own kids? The tradition has bound you to your kids and to your grand kids, in turn. This is why traditions are important. They are supposed to unify us, not restrict our sense of selves. Traditions allow workings with others to have the comfort that comes from predictability and consistency. If you are a solitary practitioner who has never experienced traditional coven work, you have missed one half of the spiritual lessons of Wicca. We are not alone on this Earth or in this life, so working with others is part of our existence. Traditions turn a mere group of people into a Ritual Body. Also, by moving a practice into tradition, it becomes reflexive, because it becomes stored into the long term memory. This means that the conscious mind can focus on other things while the subconscious mind executes the practices of tradition unconsciously, much like the muscle memory of a martial art. Don't you find it easier to cast a circle when the words are committed to memory than when you have to read the casting from a page? Doesn't it feel more fun - even more meaningful - to be in a flash-mob when you know the dance? This is why children have patty cake games, handshakes, jump rope rhymes, or pop-culture poems that they repeat with their friends. This is why line dancing is so popular. There is an attraction to be "in the know" with the words, the dance, the actions that make one feel a part of the group energy.

My second rant inspired by redrawing these pentagrams is the idea of deosil and widdershins. Most of contemporary paganism has incorrectly evolved the idea that deosil (mimicking the circling direction of the sun) is for positive magic, while widdershins (the opposite circle from deosil) is only for negative magic. This is all complete BALONEY and is utterly anti-pagan. Contemporary pagans need to wake up to the idea that they are being surreptitiously Christianized. It is leading to a generation of pagans who are spooked by some crazy idea of retribution. If you truly believe as a pagan, you don't believe in the Devil or some ominous darkness that will come get you if you do a spell of harm. I will admit, that this is a difficult concept from which to free oneself these days.

Deosil doesn't not mean "goodness and light" and widdershins doesn't mean "evil, darkness and harm." Each direction is simply an energetic polarity, much like the north and south pole of a magnet or the + and - of an electrical wire, not the moral polarity of good and evil. There are appropriate times to use each polarity based on how one wishes to drive the energy of the circle. But at no point does widdershins generate evil. What generates evil is an evil intent, which can be used regardless of the direction the circle is cast. (I may have to explore the pagan idea of morality in another post; it tends to make most people upset.) Witches, please stop this rigid policing of circles and spells to be conducted only deosil, because anything else is evil.

Suffice it to say, there is no reason to be redrawing the invocation and banishing pentagrams. The traditional ones (given above) work fine and exist within the body of a solid and powerful egregore. Adherence to the deosil=goodness falacy should not motivate turning one's back on a working body of practice.