The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBR)
is one of the chief rituals of
Western Magick. It has been with us at least since the Golden Dawn of the nineteenth
century, and it has penetrated into all the many Golden Dawn spinoffs, including
Neo-Paganism. Yet there is still no widely available, clear instruction. The directions of
the magical orders are mere mnemonics for those who are assumed to have personal
instructors. To formulate my personal approach to the ritual, to aid any others who may
be considering practicing the LBR, and to satisfy the idle curiosity of any gawking
onlookers, I have put together this short discussion of the ritual and its symbolism and
A. Intent of the Ritual
Ritual is a form of moving meditation and the LBR is a tool to facilitiate meditation. The
real action of a magick ritual takes place in the mind, in my view, but not all ritualists
would agree. Many would say that the effect of the LBR is to create a fortified and
cleansed area on the astral plane, which they think is as real as Hoboken, if not more
so. It doesn't really matter in practice as the only effect we know is the one in our
The experience of a proper LBR is pleasurable
and soothing, yet energizing and
empowering. One is made at home in the mystical realm, protected from lurkers and
phantasms by strongly imagined wards. This solace from mundane experience is a
precondition for more serious works of meditation or ritual, but it can also form a healthy
part of the life of the mind by itself.
B. The Ritual
I'll just reprint the description of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram from Liber
O, a publication of the occult order A.·. A.·.
i. Touching the forehead say Ateh (Unto
ii. Touching the breast say Malkuth (The Kingdom),
iii. Touching the right shoulder, say ve-Geburah (and the Power),
iv. Touching the left shoulder, say ve-Gedulah (and the Glory),
v. Clasping the hands upon the breast, say le-Olahm, Amen (To the Ages,
vi. Turning to the East, make a pentagram (that of Earth) with the proper weapon
(usually the Wand). Say (i.e. vibrate) IHVH.
vii. Turning to the South, the same, but say ADNI.
viii. Turning to the West, the same, but say AHIH.
ix. Turning to the North, the same, but say AGLA.
[Pronounce: Ye-ho-wau, Adonai, Eheieh, Agla.]
x. Extending the arms in the form of a cross say,
xi. Before me Raphael;
xii. Behind me Gabriel;
xiii. On my right hand Michael;
xiv. On my left hand Auriel;
xv. For about me flames the Pentagram,
xvi. And in the Column stands the six-rayed Star.
xvii-xxi. Repeat (i) to (v), the "Qabalistic Cross."
C. Preliminary Acts
There are a number of necessary preconditions in any cleansing ritual. Not the least
important are the physical conditions.
It's not a good idea to just launch into this
thing from a standing start. You should start by
evacuating any bodily wastes. Heavy food in the digestive tract is bound to interfere, so
don't pig out right before practice. If your nose is clogged, clear it. (There are some
gross yogic techniques for doing this if necessary.) Remove any serious muscle
tensions; I do this in two ways, by stretching and by sitting quietly for a few minutes. If
you do hatha yoga, this would be a good time to sit in a pose like vajrasana or lotus.
It's best to bathe or shower first, and put on
special clothes worn only during ritual, but
those are optional considerations.
It's very useful to have a room in your home that
is either set aside for ritual, or can be
transformed into a suitable room readily. In 1984, I shared my ritual room with my lover,
who uses it for typing. This was a fortunate arrangement, since we both want the room to
be simple, uncluttered, and non-distracting, and all I had to do is hide the typewriter and
throw a cloth over the desk. If you can't arrange something like that, make sure you at
least have enough free floor space in the center of the room you're using for freedom of
D. Ritual Gestures
You should refer to the ritual above while reading this section.
The "Qabalistic Cross"
The "Qabalistic Cross" (steps i-v) is a self-consecration.
The magician becomes a
sanctified instrument for the execution of the rest of the ritual. This can't be an empty
exercise; linger on each phrase for as long as it takes to form some strong, albeit brief
concentration on the meaning.
Think of the short prayer of the Qabalistic Cross
as a baptism, using light rather than
water. Imagine that your body has "centers" which you are bringing to life by anointing
them with your hand. There are five such "centers". At the end of the Cross, remain for a
moment in that posture, upright, hands clasped, feeling the Cross within yourself,
yourself as the Cross. This should bring on a purified perception of the body.
The Cross addresses a second person, a "thee".
Who is this mysterious person?
"Thee" is your own "higher self", by some readings. If you prefer monotheistic
symbolism, read "God[dess]" for "thee". Even for monotheists, the consecration is of
yourself, although "by the power of God". The two symbolisms can be mapped easily
onto each other; it's an issue of God within or God without.
The "vanilla" version of the Cross is not what
most Thelemites use. Instead, go "Atoh"
(touch brow), "Aiwass" (touch breast), "Malkuth" (touch genitals), and then the arms as
normal. "Aiwass who?" That's a name Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel called itself by. If
you attain to the Knowledge and Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel (as it is so
quaintly called), use its name instead of Aiwass. Don't expect this attainment to happen
tomorrow or next week; inthe Golden Dawn and Thelema, it's a major attainment, the
center of the path. But then, you're the only real judge of it.
The Banishing Pentagram of Earth
This pentagram is a five pointed star, point up. To draw it, start from the lower left-hand
corner (your left), go up to the top point, and continue from there. The index finger is a
common tool for drawing the stars; it's a very natural way of writing symbols in the air. A
good wand can be hard to find.
Note that you do not draw the stars at the end
of your finger, but project them outwards
as if your finger was a laser, with the stars being drawn by the beam onto an outlying
vertical plane - perhaps a few inches short of the wall, or on the wall, or just in a
convenient expanse of air. Over time I've come to draw them at the outermost reaches
of space, at the thrones of the Guardians of the Watchtowers at the four quarters of the
earth, in the flat-earth Christian cosmology employed by the Renaissance magicians
Dee and Kelley. This approach sanctifies the entire earth rather than just the room.
Drawing the pentagram will be easy or hard for
you, depending on whether you are
good at visualization. I'm not, so it's hard. (I'm getting better with practice, though.)
Ideally, the stars should be of flame, drawn in the air, but early on a faint outline is no
cause to complain. It's not a good idea to use drugs to increase your visualization
abilities on a routine basis. If you are experienced with drugs, it may be useful to employ
them for an LBR every once in a while just to show you what it could be like.
The pentagram can be a potent symbol. Recall Leonardo's
image of the microcosm,
i.e., the individual human. The central pentagon represents the torso, the top point the
head, the other four points the limbs.
For a religious humanist, the individually named
pentagrams are essentially aspects of
the higher self, given life/breath by the vibrations of the god-names. For a theist, the
pentagrams are anthropomorphic manifestations of deity, summoned by the vibration of
The Vibration of God-Names
In the LBR, the vibration of the god-names "charges" or "enlivens" the pentagrams in the
air. This is difficult to describe, but easy to recognize. There is a feeling of presence in
one of these charged warding images - though not necessarily a feeling of true
externality or separate intelligence.
We are told to "vibrate" the names. The description
and illustration of the "vibration"
given in Liber O have been known to mislead people into hilarious postures. What the
picture most resembles is the skulking monster from the movie The Mummy. To the
modern eye, it is remarkable how truly unclear a photograph can be.
I didn't learn how to vibrate a god-name until
I signed up with yet another occult order
and was taught it in person. I wouldn't wish membership in an occult fraternity on anyone,
so here is a description which I hope will be adequate in print.
Vibration phase i - The Sign of the Enterer (1-4)
1. Stand upright. Blow all the air out of your lungs. Hold your arms straight out at your
2a. Close your eyes and inhale nasally, imagining that the breath is the name. The exact
nature of this imagination differs from person to person. Thus, you imagine yourself
inhaling the name into your lungs.
2b. As you inhale, sweep your forearms smoothly and deliberately up so that your fists
rest on your temples.
3. Imagine the breath moving down through your torso slowly, and through your pelvis,
your legs, and finally to the soles of your feet. (Don't do this so slowly that you are hurting
for air when the name reaches your feet!)
4a. The instant the inhaled vibrational name hits the soles of your feet, imagine it rushing
back up and out.
4b. Simultaneously, throw yourself forward, thrusting your left foot forward about twelve
inches (or thirty centimeters) and catching yourself on it. Your hands shoot forward,
together, like a diver or like Superman taking flight. You bend forward at the waist so
that your torso winds up parallel to the floor.
4c. The air in your lungs should be blown out through your nose at the same time, but
imagine the name shooting out straight ahead.
Steps 3-4 are known as the Sign of the Enterer,
or of Horus. This symbolizes powerful
active energy. The Enterer should be something of a "rush". The vibrational name is
projected outwards into more tangible manifestation - in this case, in the pentagrams of
the LBR, which are charged by the force of the projected god-names.
Vibration phase ii - The Sign of Silence (5)
5. Finally, withdraw into a standing position, left arm hanging at your side, right
forefinger on lips, left foot pointing ninety degrees out from the body.
Step 5 is called the Sign of Silence, or of Harpocrates.
This Egyptian god was
mistakenly believed (at the turn of the century) to pertain to silence, because his finger
or thumb was touching his lips. This gesture is now believed to be a symbol of
childhood; this correction appears in the World card of Crowley's Book of Thoth Tarot
deck. Harpocrates was the god of the Sun at dawn, and so symbolizes wonder, beauty,
potential, growth. So, step 5 may be done in this academically corrected light instead.
However, the "hush" gesture of the Golden Dawn
Sign of Silence is adequate for the
modern occultist, even if deprived of A Divine Identification. It is a common gesture, at
least in European/American culture, meaning silence. Silence balances the ultra-active
Sign of the Enterer better than does the more scholarly positive/active "Sign of
Harpocrates the Rising Sun", and silence is surely no alien concept to mystics.
You'll note that "Ye-ho-wau" is given as the pronunciation
of YHWH. Modern scholarship
has a different take on the pronunciation of the Big Guy's name. I use "Yahweh" rather
than the "Ye-ho-wau" of Liber O because that's what the Catholic priests of my youth
taught me to say, and I've never been able to shake it off. Use whatever pronunciation
you prefer, or a different name altogether.
The pentagrams are given form by the drawing, life by the vibration, identity by the
four-part prayer of steps (x) to (xiv). Some people do very elaborate visualizations of
angelic guardians on each of (xi) to (xiv). Because of my tragic personal deficiencies, I
am content with strong feelings of presence, identity, and divinity in each of the four
A horizontal cross is built up step by step as
you say, "Before me Raphael", etc, with
you at the center; and the position of your arms forms a vertical cross, a renewal of the
Qabalistic Cross from the start of the ritual. You may feel a peculiar rising and
expansion when both of these crosses are formulated. One has become the center of
the geometry of the space, and it is like a world in itself, cut adrift from the mundane
currents of everyday experience.
Steps (xv) and (xvi) are when the real banishing
takes place, during "For about me
flames the pentagram, and in the column stands the six-rayed star." A great pulse of
force is emitted during these steps, imposing the personal will on the space and
clearing it of all hostile influences.
After this is done, the invoked "archangels" maintain
the banishing effect, guarding in all
four directions. Of course this talk of angels is nonsense - the importance lies in the
psychological effect. Whether there "really is" an archangel standing there keeping out
inimical spirits is not important. The "feeling of cleanliness" is what matters.
The final Qabalistic Cross is an affirmation of the completeness and symmetry of the
ritual, and also a new self-consecration. This is more efficacious than the previous
Cross because it is done in a banished environment.
E. Comments on the Ritual
With practice, you will no doubt come up with your own style of performance, and your
own different symbolism for ritual acts. Different people do rituals as differently as actors
play parts, even though the lines and motions may be fundamentally the same. (The
alternative is an authoritarian, dogmatic horror which is alien to the deep occult
understanding of religion, but is still common in magical groups.) Slavish imitation will
get you nowhere in Magick - except, perhaps, to a high spiritual degree in some
The Christianity - or at least angelic monotheism
- of the ritual symbolism may give
pause to some. Many of us involved in occultism have negative feelings about
Christianity. These may be somewhat justified, but there are a few saving graces here.
First, as with any ritual, you should feel free
to make it yours, to mess around with it. If
you don't start to at least play with the styles of a ritual after a while, you are probably not
doing it very well. It is perfectly legitimate to substitute cognate symbols at any time.
However, the saying in the martial arts is that one first learns another's style, and after
mastering it, moves on to create one's own. For a beginner, it will be easiest simply to
use an existing ritual form in order to explore the meaning of a banishing ritual.
Given experience with the ritual, which transcends
any mere set of symbols, one may
devise a form more in keeping with the emergence of one's personal style. For
instance, Neo-Pagans use various highly reified forms of the same basic ritual in many
of their traditions, but with non-Christian deities, spirits, and heroes at the quarters.
Aleister Crowley wrote a new version, the Star Ruby, which used the names of deities
and officers from his "Thelemic" system rather than monotheist gods and angels.
In any case, of those people who abhor Christianity,
how many have looked at some of
the practices of historical pagans in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas? No
religion should ever be "accepted" by an occultist. When using any religion's symbolism,
the adept should cut to its sacred poetical core, and discard the political dross. By this
standard, Christianity looks hardly better or worse than any other religion. Without this
selection process, and by factoring in historical excesses and power plays, almost all
known religions look as bad as Christianity. In other words, those who happily use
Norse gods, Arthurian heroes, Taoist immortals, Voudoun loas, or what have you in
rituals, but never touch a Christian angel, are guilty of the same narrowness they impart
to the Christians.
Having performed the banishing ritual, one is
now ready to do a formal invocation, an
evocation, a meditation, or whatever the overall spiritual purpose may be. The LBR is a
preliminary ceremony, although it has a beneficial effect in itself. It can profitably be
done as a stand-alone ritual, but you should move on. Its mastery is a first step to
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