To the
Olympic Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram


The following is an adaptation of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram to the Graeco-Roman Tradition, and so it is called the “Olympic Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.” Such a “translation” is possible because the LBRP is an enactment in a Qabalistic framework of certain shamanic practices that are nearly universal. Once the underlying shamanic cosmology has been identified, it’s relatively straight-forward to reexpress the ritual in the terms of another cosmology, such as the Graeco-Roman. That is, many magical operations are evolved forms of shamanic practices that are nearly universal, at least in the Europe and Asia, but probably also elsewhere. Therefore, if one can recover the original shamanic practice underlying a magical operation, it is relatively straight-forward to “translate” that operation between magical systems or between cultural traditions.

Godwin (Light in Extension, pp. 29-38), on the one hand, recommends against using Greek God-names in the LBRP, but on the other gives a Greek analog to the LBRP which makes use of many of the same associations as mine. I think Godwin’s arguments against constructing a Greek LBRP, based on incompatibility of the systems, lose their force once one sees through the ritual to the underlying shamanic cosmology and practice. Although, as he says, there is no direct evidence that ancient Greeks used anything like the LBRP, it is nevertheless a basic shamanic technique for establishing sacred space and the Cosmic Axis (Eliade, Sham., 184-279), which must have been familiar, in some form, to ecstatic practitioners in ancient Greece and elsewhere.

In any case, the present banishing ritual is based on the Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements, and so is more in the ancient Hellenic tradition than the older Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (OLBRP), which I made available on the internet in 1993. In particular, the older ritual made use of assignment of Elements to the Directions that is used in Ceremonial Magic, Wicca and many Neo-Pagan traditions. However, in this new ritual, Earth is in the West and Water in the North (as opposed to the more familiar Water in the West and Earth in the North). If you find it too difficult to adapt to the ancient Hellenic assignments, then you may prefer the older OLBRP.

The text of the ritual is accompanied by full annotation and references to sources. This information should make clear which aspects of the ritual follow from ancient tradition, which come from more recent magical traditions, and which are a result of my own speculation or arbitrary choice; such information is all too often missing from Neo-Pagan reconstructions. A slightly abridged version of the annotated older OLBRP. was published in The Caduceus: The Hermetic Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1995), pp. 15-34. The original LBRP can be found in Israel Regardie’s Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (Vol. III, pp. 68-70, 94-95), in his Middle Pillar (chs. 3, 10), and in many other books.

I would welcome criticism of this ritual, especially from those who have been using the older version. Criticism/correction of my Latin and ancient Greek composition will also be appreciated. Finally, I beg readers to forgive the Early Modern English, which I’ve used to add dignity to the text.

Gratias vobis ago,
Ioannes Apollonius Opsopaus
(John Opsopaus)

I. The Opening Tau Cross

i. Close thine eyes, and by thy breathing fan the Fire...
Breathing exercises (anapnoê) were common in ancient Greek theurgy and related practices of mystical ascent. Controlled breathing is one kind of askêsis (practice, training) — compare the Yoga practice of tapas — which can generate intense internal heat and awaken the Python (Kundalini Serpent). The serpent and the eagle are two of the most common spirit guides.  The serpent represents the generative life force (the creative warmth), which stirs inert prime matter into activity, while the eagle represents the destructive force; together they are complementary aspects of Divine Being.  Thus we find Apollo the Destroyer in combat with the Delphic Serpent (see below). (Butterworth, Tree, 77, 88, 134-137, 198; Edmonds; Eliade, Yoga, 106-111; Eliade, Sham., 412-414; Knight, 13-14, 71-5)

The connection between Qabalah and Yoga is well documented in, for example, Ponce (Pt. II, Ch. 1).

On the transformation of the Shaman to the Macranthropos (Giant), see Butterworth (Tree, 178) and Eliade (Yoga, 235-6). The Corpus Hermeticum (XI.20b) says:

If then thou dost not make thyself equal to the God, thou canst not know the God; for by like is like known. Leap thou clear of everything corporeal, and make thyself grow to a magnitude like that magnitude which is beyond measure; rise above all time, and become eternal; then wilt thou know the God.

An ubiquitous spiritual practice in the ancient world was adopting the View from Above; it persists in the philosophies of Plato, the Epicureans, the Cynics and the Stoics (Hadot, ch. 9). One achieves Greatness of Soul (Megalopsukhía) and Inner Peace by mentally projecting yourself off of the earth and beyond the spheres, so one may adopt the viewpoint of the Gods, where one may discover hidden correspondences and other secrets of Nature. From this perspective, mundane human affairs shrink to insignificance, both literally and figuratively, and one sees the Universe as it really is. This is the first step towards bringing the motions of the Soul into Harmony with those of the World Soul. Then,

he is surely bound to have thoughts immortal and divine, if he shall lay hold upon truth, nor can he fail to possess immortality in the fullest measure that human nature admits; and because he is ever tending his divine part and fully magnifying that daimôn who dwells along with him, he must be supremely blessed. (Timaeus 90C)
In this way also the Soul is separated from the Body to the greatest degree possible short of death. “To Look from Above” (Ánôthen Epitheôreîn) is included among Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (e.g. VII.47, 48; IX.30, XI.1). Referring to the Stoics, Philo says,
Their bodies remain on the earth, but they give wings to their souls, so that, rising into the ether, they may observe the powers that dwell there... (quoted in Hadot, p. 244)
Goethe is still very aware of the View from Above:
And yet at last the god seems to be sinking;
But new impulse awakes, to light
I hasten on, eternal brightness drinking,
Before me day, behind me night,
Above me heaven, and under me the billow.
(Faust I.1084-8, Priest tr.)
See also Lucian’s Icaromenippus, or the Sky-man (Hupernephelos) and Charon, or the Overseers (Episkopountes).
ij. Draw thou down the Fire of Heaven into thy Heart...
iij. Next guide thou downward the bright Beam...
iv. Direct thou then the beam out from thy heart through thy left...
v. Direct thou then the beam out from thy heart again, but to thy right...

The Four Elements

The four termini of the cross correspond naturally to the four elements. Their use in this ritual is not anachronistic, since the four elements appear already in Empedocles (c.495- 435 BCE), the Greek Magician-philosopher who promises (DK 31B 111):
You shall learn all the potions [pharmaka] that there are for ills and defense against old age, since for you alone will I accomplish all this. And you shall stay the force of the unwearied winds which sweep over the Earth and lay waste the fields with their blasts; and then, if you wish, you will bring back breezes in requital. After black rain you shall cause drought for men in due season, and then after summer drought cause air-inhibiting tree-nourishing streams. And you shall bring from Hades the strength of a dead man.
On the Elements, he says (DK 31B 6):
Now hear the fourfold roots of everything:
Enlivening Hera, Hades, shining Zeus
And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears.
Theophrastus (372-287 BCE) explained (DK 31A 33) that Zeus is Fire, Hera is Air, Hades (Aidoneus) is Earth and Nestis is Water (although even in antiquity there was disagreement over which was which). Thus, Zeus corresponds to the Heavens, Nestis (Persephone) to the Abyss, Hera to the Way of Air, and Hades to the Way of Earth. Elsewhere (DK 31B 17) Empedocles says,
I shall tell a twofold tale: at one time they grew to be One alone out of Many, at another again they grew apart to be Many out of One - Fire [Pur] and Water [Hudor] and Earth [Gaia] and the immense height of Air [Êer], and cursed Strife [Neikos] apart from them, equal in every direction, and Love [Philotês] among them, equal in length and breadth.
(Strife and Love are discussed below.) The Two Oppositions of the Four Qualities (Warm/Cool, Moist/Dry) also appear in Empedocles (DK 31B 23), and before him in Heraclitus (533-475 BCE), who said (DK 22B 126),
Cold warms up, warm cools off, moist parches, dry dampens.
There are also allusions to the Four elements in other fragments of Heraclitus (DK 22B 31, 76). In the book De Gen. & Cor. (Bk. II) of Aristotle (384-322 BCE) we have the Canonical Doctrine of the Four Elements and the Two Oppositions, which persists in the Magical Tradition. So the Doctrine was established by the Fourth Century BCE and probably at least as early as the Sixth. (See Kirk, Raven & Schofield, Chh. VI, X.) (More on the fundamental potencies of the Elements can be found in my “Rotation of the Elements” and “Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements.”)

vi. Feel thou the Sacred Tau Cross that blazeth inside...
For the meaning of the left arm crossed over the right, see The Platonic Cross in the “Summary of Pythagorean Theology.”

vij. As thou makest this gesture...
The original form of the Caduceus, Hermes’ Wand of Shamanic Travel, was a Tau Cross supporting a Solar Disk and a Lunar Crescent, much like the familiar astrological sign for Mercury. See also John Dee’s description of his “Hieroglyphic Monad,” which places the Caduceus on a twofold symbol of the world (indeed, his diagram is a schematic of the astral configuration accomplished above). Compare also the Ankh. The Tau Cross is Thor’s Hammer, His vehicle of travel (recall how He throws it and hangs on). The ancient Mexicans called the Tau Cross the Tree of Life, the Tree of Our Flesh and the Tree of Nutriment. (Goldsmith, 40-43)  Knight (p. 15) explains that Motion and Life are represented by the two asps or serpents that are placed on either side of the winged solar disk in Egyptian, Phoenician and Carthaginian emblems.

At the World’s Navel the Sun and the Moon always stand stationary (Butterworth, Tree, 1, 93).

viij. Thou standest on the Sacred Mountain ...
ix. Exalted Helen, Leda’s buxom Daughter...
Most of the iconography is from Butterworth (Tree, passim) and Eliade (Sham., 259-279). For a description of a very similar scene, see Nonnos (Dionysiaca XL.443-573).

An appropriate altar is, of course, an Omphalos (in the form of a dome or a truncated cone), which is always on a square base representing the four corners of the Earth. It would also be appropriate to have this surmounted by a symbol of the Cosmic Tree or Pillar (such as a Caduceus). Since at least the Fourth Millennium BCE, two or more concentric rings or dots are a standard symbol for the Omphalos, and for the magic power of the Enlightened, who work at the World Navel. Often this symbol is shown with a truncated cone, a representation of the Omphalos from the side. For fanfares, use a keras (a goat or ram horn trumpet, Hebrew shofar), representing the Cornucopia or Horn of Amaltheia (the goat who nursed Zeus); it dispenses the Sacred Sound (see next paragraph). An appropriate ritual chalice is an Omphalos Patera [phialê omphalotê], a shallow dish with a nipple in the center; it may be filled from the keras. (Butterworth, Tree, Ch. II)

Butterworth (Tree, 113-114) argues that the Horn above the Cosmic Tree produces the Sacred Sound, the Om or Aum of Eastern Traditions, which is the mystic nourishment produced continually by the Sun. This sound can be produced by the Horn of Amaltheia. Higgins (I.106-8) traces the connection between Sanscrit Om, Greek Omphê (the Voice of God) and Greek Omphalos (the Navel), where oracles were delivered. Further, Donnegan (s.v. omphalos) records that some etymologists connect Omphalos with Ompê (Fruit of the Earth). Thus we have the navel as the place of mystical communion, in both sound and substance.

On Gnostic gems is found the sacred name IAO (ἸΑΩ) of the Sun, which the Greeks took to be the name of the Jewish God, since the Tetragrammaton YHUH (using U for the semivowel wau) was often pronounced IAO. The Tetragrammaton has several other interesting connections with Greek religion. For example, it has been claimed that YHUH, pronounced YAUO or YAOU, is just IAO with a definite article. This in turn is Jove, which is pronounced YOUE (Jupiter is a contraction for Jove Piter = Jove the Father). The connection with Zeus (pronounced DZEUS) is harder to see, due to the retention of the initial consonant, but it is apparent from the hard pronunciation of J (as in Jehova), which is phonetically equivalent to DZH. Thus DZEU (Zeu, voc.) = DZHEU (Jeu) = DZHEUO (Jeuo) = DZHOUE (Jove), etc. Finally, consider the ecstatic cry of the Bacchantes, Io Euhoi (ἰὸ εὐοί), which is phonetically YO EUHOI. Dropping the vowels yields YUH, which is three fourths of the Tetragrammaton. The Tetragrammaton YHWH could be vocalized Yohewhoi (YO HEU HOI), which is nearly identical to the Bacchantic yell. These similarities may reveal a Sacred Sound (a “Secret God-Name”) common to many cultures. (See also Godwin, Vowels, Ch. 8.)

The Snake entwined around the Middle Pillar (of three) is seen in Babylonian/Assyrian art. The Serpent is a symbol of Life, Sexuality and Sensuality, as anyone will understand who has ever allowed a Snake to explore them (see also above on the serpent and eagle); it is associated with both sexes (with males by phallic association, with females by earth/water associations). The Snake also represents Wisdom, Power and Eternity, and was associated with Athena, Aesculapius, Hygeia and Hippocrates. (Goldsmith VI)

Typhon, the son of Gaia and Tartaros, is obviously a Chthonic figure; he is a Giant, taller than the mountains and able to reach from sunrise to sunset, who has snakes for legs and a hundred serpent heads on his shoulders. He was defeated by Celestial Zeus, with the complicity of the Chthonic Aigipan (Pan the Goat). Similarly, Python was a son of Gaia, who lived in a Cave by a Spring, or wrapped around a Laurel Tree (N.B), and was later the Oracular Serpent at Delphi and coiled around the Omphalos there. Celestial Apollo slew, not Python, but Delphyne, a female womb-serpent (delphus = womb) also at Delphi. (The Kundalini Serpent is also female.) Another Chthonic figure with serpent connections is Erichthonios, son of Gaia and Hephaistos, and foster-son of Athena; he stands beside Her shield in Phideas’ statue. (Kerenyi, Gods, 26-28, 125-126, 135-137)

Other Goddesses, besides Helen, associated with the Middle Pillar include Artemis, Hecate, Cybele, Demeter, Tyche and Athena (Butterworth, Tree, 102-107).

The image of Three Pillars is common to many cultures, including the Egyptians, Jews, Hindus, Druids, Mayans and Incas. Frequently they are associated with a Triad of Gods, and with a Trio of Qualities such as Wisdom / Strength / Beauty, or Wisdom / Power / Goodness; recall the Three Pillars of the Qabalistic Tree of Life: Might (Geburah or Boaz), Mildness (Shekhinah) and Mercy (Hesed or Yachin). Mycenaean art frequently features Sacred Pillars and Trees, often in threes (see Evans, Myc. Tree & Pillar Cult). (Goldsmith IV, XIX)

The “Black Shaman” and “White Shaman,” which correspond to the Chthonic (Telluric) and Celestial (Uranian) Paths, are known from many cultures; see Eliade (Sham., 184-189) for a discussion. There is in general no implication that the Black Shaman is evil and the White Shaman is good. (However we do have the Myth of Er in Plato’s Republic, 614b & seq., wherein we have two Celestial Openings and Two Chasms in the Earth, but the Bad Souls go down to the left and the Good Souls go up to the right.) Recall also Raphael’s School of Athens, where we see Plato, on the observer’s left, pointing to the Heavens and Aristotle, on the observer’s right, indicating the Earth. Although there is no evidence either engaged in ecstatic practices, we still have the distinction between the Celestial and Chthonic Ways. Pairs of figures, with one pointing up and the other pointing down, are found in Egypt as early as the Sixth Dynasty (Butterworth, Tree, 46-47)

For the Dioskouroi and Helen see Butterworth (Tree III, V). The Dioskouroi were represented by the dokona (δόκονα), two pillars connected by two cross-beams (Burkert 213), which could easily symbolize the Two Ways on the Tree of Life. Burkert thinks it may have been used as a Gate of Initiation. Sometimes the Heavenly Twins are Herakles (Black) and Apollo (White).

It is interesting to note that in the ancient tradition there is no fixed association between the two sexes and the Two Ways. For example, we do not find that Celestial Gods associated with Priests and Chthonic Gods with Priestesses; there are numerous exceptions to both. Nor do we find that only women tread the Way of the Earth, or only men the Way of the Air. Often the Two Ways are associated with two males (the Dioskouroi) or two females (Ashtar and Ashtart = Ishtar). Finally there is an absence of association of positive qualities with one Way and negative qualities with the other. This is all in marked contrast to the Qabalistic Tree of Life, with its strong gender associations. Of course, we may choose to consider the Sun’s side male and the Moon’s side female, but there seems to be little ancient evidence for this in Graeco-Roman antiquity, and it may lead us toward unwarranted gender assumptions.

x. For learn thou this about the Pathway of Ascent...
The Shaman Prometheus journeyed to Heaven to retrieve Celestial Fire in a hollow stem, that is, He gained the Fiery Heat of Kundalini in the Susumna (Central Nadi). For this accomplishment He later suffered by being held to the Pillar on the Cosmic Mountain, which towers over the Abyss, and by being tortured by His Guide Animal, the Eagle (or Vulture). These are the Pains of Askêsis, for Mystics must often subject themselves to suffering; it may also refer to the difficulty of arousing oneself from trance (Butterworth, Traces, 137-145; Tree, 98; David-Neel, 141-166). (See Butterworth, Tree, 47-49, 189, 201-207; see below for Prometheus’ redemption.)
xi. And learn thou this about the Pathway of Descent...
The description of Scylla and Charybdis is in Odyssey XII.73-110. The Sacred Fig Tree (ficus religiosa) symbolizes Life, and so it is the Tree of Life, the Cosmic Tree. Its three-lobed leaves symbolize the male and its fruit the female. The Sign of the Fig, which can be seen as representing either the male or female genitalia, is still a common apotropaic (warding) sign around the Mediterranean. Recall also that the Buddha meditates, conducts rituals, and is enlightened beneath the Bodhi Tree (Tree of Knowledge). I need hardly mention the Serpent-entwined Tree of Knowledge by which both Eve and Adam are enlightened (to the displeasure of the ever-jealous Yahweh).

Prometheus is befriended by Black Shamans: Oceanus and His Daughters and Herakles. Herakles is a Black Shaman, as shown by the animal form he adopts: the Lion. We recall also that He replaced Atlas (who is a Black Shaman, like His daughter Calypso, who lives at the Navel of the Sea) in His station at the Axis Mundi. Herakles’ club is a dead limb from the Tree of Life, which grows on the cliff over Charybdis, the Way Down. He uses his bow and arrow — common symbols for ascetic discipline — to slay the Eagle that torments Prometheus. Further, when Herakles went to get the Oxen of Geryon, he raised his internal heat by his ascetic practices (tapas), and then took his bow (Mind) and shot his arrow (Self) at the Sun (Celestial Illumination). During this same Labor he raised the Twin Pillars (N.B.) of Herakles. (Butterworth, Tree, 9-10, 133-134, 201-207)

Similarly, Tantalus was a Black Shaman stuck in the Underworld (unable to return from trance?) and unable to reach the Tree of Life (Butterworth, Traces, Ch. IV).

The Kuklopes (Cyclopes), who are known as Sons of Poseidon, seem to be like Zen Masters. They see from their brow (the Ajna-Chakra) and visit the Underworld. Note that “Cyclops” derives from kukl-ôps = wheel-eyed = chakra-eyed; they are Giants (Macranthopoi), like all Shamans. Recall that Odysseus visits the Cyclopes after his stop at the Land of the Lotus-Eaters. Odysseus and his comrades are unwilling to put up with the “soul-devouring” discipline of the Polyphemus, so they close his brow-eye with wine, and extinguish his illumination. When Odysseus called himself “Nobody” (Outis) he may have been mocking the Cyclopes practice of uniting their Ego with the World. They made the Keraunos (Thunderbolt, cf. vajra), which they later turned over to Zeus; it represents the (originally Chthonic) powers symbolized by the “Blazing Blossom” (the Lotus) and perhaps Lightning issuing from the Earth. (See below on the Vajra Thunderbolt.)  The Cyclopes were later the assistants of Hephaistos, the Master of the Fiery Discipline (cf., tapas). (Butterworth, Tree, 130-133, 172-178)

When he visits Prometheus, Odysseus takes the Twelve Best of his companions, and Butterworth (Traces, 130; Tree, 167, 174-175) observes that a Master with Twelve Disciples is a traditional size for covens and other mystical groups.

Interestingly, Pausanias (II.xxiv.3-4) describes an ancient wooden statue of Zeus at Argos, said to have been brought from Priam’s Troy, which shows Zeus with a Third Eye in His forehead. Although we normally associate Zeus with the Celestial rather than the Chthonic Path, Butterworth (Tree, 170-171, 177) observes that this figure represents Zeus Chrysaoreus, who rules both the Heavens and the Abyss (and so corresponds to both the Olympic Zeus and Poseidon); this deity is equivalent to the mysterious Chrysaor, who emerged with Pegasus from the severed neck of Medusa, a shamanic figure. (Pausanias suggests that the Three Eyes correspond to the Three Worlds, which we may call Heaven, Earth and Abyss.)

xij. But the Wise One knoweth this great truth...
At one time the two approaches were in conflict, but they were later reconciled by the Olympian Movement (Butterworth, Tree, 130).

It is interesting that the Bull, Lion and Eagle were all associated with the Serpent Power (Butterworth, Tree, 152-153). This association recalls the Four Sacred Animals (Bull, Lion, Eagle, Man) of the later esoteric tradition. Perhaps originally the Four Sacred Animals were the Chthonic Bull and Lion, and the Celestial Eagle and Winged Horse.

After 1000 BCE Babylonian amulets are found with a cross indicating the four directions (see below); a symbol is in each of the angles (De Vogel, 294).

Shaman staffs, such as Hermes’ caduceus, often have a cross bar. The staff probably symbolizes the Tree of Life, and the crossbar its branches (Butterworth, Traces, 150). Hermes is, of course, the Psychopompos, the Spirit Guide, and is found in the vicinity of both Calypso’s and Circe’s caves at the Navel (Butterworth, Tree, 118). He visits with equal ease the Heavens and Hades.

Orphic grave tablets tell the “Child of Earth and Heaven” that to the left and right are both a cypress-tree and a well. On the supplicant’s left is a white-cypress, associated with day and the Sun; to the right, a dark cypress, associated with the Moon. (Butterworth, Tree, 215-216)

The order of the Tau Cross is: Fiery Pillar (top-bottom, center), Moon (left), Sun (right), back to center. Similarly, in meditating on the triangle in the pericarp of the Sahasrara Chakra, the Yogi begins with the Fire Bindu in the center, follows the Line of Fire to the Moon Bindu (left), follows the Line of the Moon to the Sun Bindu (right), and follows the line of the Sun back to the Fire Bindu (Avalon 490-491). This structure is also preserved in the Crucifixion on the back of the Lotharkreuz in Aachen. See Butterworth (Tree, pp. 175, 215-223, pll. xxix-xxxi).

Right & Left

There is a problem telling the orientation of Right and Left. Butterworth (Tree, 216-7) claims that when you look at the Tree, the Moon Path is on the Right and the Sun Path is on the Left, but that taking the Tree within you puts the Moon Path on the Left and the Sun Path on the Right. He says this agrees with the orientation of Hatha Yoga, which is described from the Yogi’s viewpoint and puts the Ida-nadi (Moon Channel) on the Left and the Pingala-nadi (Sun Channel) on the Right. (Actually the Sun and Moon Channels spiral around Sushumna — the Spine — but the Moon Channel terminates at the left nostril and the Sun Channel at the right. Kundalini Yoga may have been known in western Asia as early as the second or even third millennium BCE; Butterworth, Tree, 166-167, 192) Butterworth also supports this orientation with artifacts, including the Lotharkreutz, but admits that other artifacts reverse the orientation, and in some cases it’s not obvious what is the front and what is the back.

There are similar problems with Qabalah depending on whether the Tree is faced externally or visualized internally. Regardie (III.1) says that to the observer, the Pillar of Mercy is on the Right and the Pillar of Strength on the Left, but that when you internalize the Tree, your Right side becomes Strength and your Left Mercy. On the other hand, Ponce (137-141) argues that the Tree is properly applied to the Primal Man facing away from the observer, so that on the Left is the Pillar of Strength (Dark, Passive) and on the Right the Pillar of Mercy (Light, Active).

In the foregoing I have placed Left and Right so that the system of correspondences is consistent with Yoga as interpreted by Butterworth and with the Qabalah as interpreted by Ponce. So in the Tau Cross the Moon/Earth Path is on the practitioner’s Left and the Sun/Air Path is on the Right. In this way the order of the Tau Cross (Heaven, Abyss, Moon/L, Sun/R) agrees with the triangle in the pericarp of the Sahasrara-chakra (Fire Bindu, Moon Bindu, Sun Bindu). Fortunately, this orientation also preserves the order of the Qabalistic Cross in the Golden Dawn Tradition (Kether, Malkuth, Gedulah/L, Geburah/R), since it’s from the perspective of an observer facing an altar (Regardie III.94); though Regardie (III.2), inconsistently, and other sources gives Geburah/R, Gedulah/L, and still others have Gedulah/R, Geburah/L.

Observe that, for most people, the Right is the Active Hand and the Left the Passive Hand, that is, the Initiating Sun and the Responding Moon. Further, if we face North, the Ascending Path is in the East and the Descending in the West, or if we face East, the Celestial Path is in the (warm, sunny) South and the Chthonic Path in the (cold, earthy) North. (On the other hand, the Paduka-Pancaka (v. 4, Avalon 490-491) puts the Fire Bindu in the South, the Moon Bindu in the Northeast and the Sun Bindu in the Northwest.) Finally, this orientation agrees with a Greek tradition that distinguished Left and Right Gods; the Left Gods are the Di Inferi (Lower Gods) and the Right Gods the Di Superi (Upper Gods), though apparently the Romans followed the Etruscans in reversing the associations (Weinstock 1946). In any case, I don’t consider the issue settled, and readers should conduct their own experiments; all the correspondences stay the same, just switch Left and Right.

Trivium & Quadrivium

Images of the Triple Hecate often show Her holding a Serpent (a Earth symbol) on one side and a Sword (an Air symbol) on the other. The Romans called Her Trivia, which refers to the threefold meeting of paths (Trivium). In Her triple images we can see the Cosmic Tree with its threefold trunk: the central Axis flanked by the Way of the Earth and the Way of the Air. Though one can’t assume that left and right haven’t been reversed in reproductions, the images I have of Hecate show Her holding the Serpent on Her right side and the Sword on Her left (though some have both on both sides).

The Trivium represents the three Ways we may go at any given time: the Celestial Way, the Mundane Way and the Chthonic Way, which correspond to the Three Planes on which we may move: Heaven, Earth and Hades (Overworld, Midworld, Underworld). The Three Ways correspond to the Three Principles of Alchemy: Sulphur (Anima), Salt (Corpus) and Mercury (Spiritus), respectively. (In other contexts, Mercury is the Active Mediator between Sun and Moon.)

Each Plane is divided into Four Quarters: the Four Quarters of Heaven, the Four Quarters of Earth, the Four Quarters of Hades. A crossroads or fourfold meeting of Paths is called a Quadrivium, and one Path leads to each Quarter. So the Trivium and Quadrivium together determine the possible Paths we can follow (Seven Ways total giving Twelve Paths in combination).

Interestingly, the traditional Pagan Curriculum (continued through the Renaissance) comprised the Trivium (Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Harmony, Geometry, Astronomy), yielding the Seven Liberal Arts. Their Planetary Patrons were as follows: Luna: Grammar, Mercury: Dialectic, Venus: Rhetoric; Sol: Arithmetic, Mars: Harmony, Jupiter: Geometry, Saturn: Astronomy. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to establish the correspondences to the Worlds and Quarters.

Qabalah divides the Hebrew alphabet into three groups (Ponce I.2): Three Mothers, Seven Doubles (Dyads) and Twelve Singles (Monads). The Three Mothers are Aleph, Mem and Sin. These are traditionally associated with the elements Air, Water and Fire, respectively. Therefore we have the three Cosmic Planes: Fiery Heavens (Sin/Fire), Watery Abyss (Mem/Water) and the Upward Path between them (Aleph/Air), though the Downward Path (Earth) is either missing or assimilated with the Upward (as the single Axis). Alternately, since Aleph is the Mother of the Aspirates, Mem is the Mother of the Mutes, and Sin is the Mother of the Sibilants, we might expect Earth to be associated with a vowel that is the Mother of the other Vowels (which the Hebrew alphabet didn’t write).

The shamanic cosmology is better represented by the Seven Dyads, which are: Beth/Gimel = Above/Below, Daleth/Koph = East/West, Pe/Resh = North/South, and Tau = Center. Thus we have Three Planes (Above, Center, Below) and Four Quarters (NSEW), which correspond to the Seven Ways of the Trivium + Quadrivium. Interestingly, Tau is the center, as in the Tau Cross. The remaining letters comprise the Twelve Monads, which traditionally correspond with Zodiacal Signs, though we may also expect them to correspond to the Twelve Paths generated by the Seven Ways.

We find similar alphabetic correspondences in the Graeco-Roman Tradition.  The Seven Planets coorespond to the seven Greek variables ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ (alpha, epsilon, eta, iota, omicron, upsilon, omega) and, by analogy, with the five Roman vowels and their associated semivowels AEIOUJV (Godwin Mys. Sev. Vow.; Agrippa I.lxxiv).  The order is generally taken to be Moon - Mercury - Venus - Sun - Mars - Jupiter - Saturn, but there is also evidence for the opposite order (which Agrippa uses) and for other orders (see Godwin, op. cit., and Agrippa/Tyson, p. 226, for a discussion).  The Zodiacal Signs correspond to the Greek simple consonants ΒΓΔΖΚΛΜΝΠΡΣΤ (Roman BCDFGLMNPRST),  in their natural order starting with Aries.  The Five Elements correspond to the Greek double consonants ΘΞΦΧΥ (theta, xi, phi, chi, psi) and to Roman KQXZH (Y is not used, since it is not properly a Roman letter); Agrippa assigns them in the order Earth - Water - Air - Fire - Spirit.  Certainly, more research is needed, especially to understand these correspondences in the Graeco-Roman Tradition.  (Agrippa/Tyson I.lxxiv; Dornseiff, 81-4)

Circulation Through the Tree of Life

I’ll digress briefly on a well-known exercise, the “Circulation through the Tree of Life” (Regardie, III.59-60), and its relation to the Elements and Ways. Aristotle (De Caelo IV, 311a-b) distinguishes three Simple Motions: Upward, Downward and Circular (Celestial Rotation). Upward and Downward Motion pertain to the Four Elements (the substance of the Mundane Spheres); Circular Motion pertains to Aithêr, the Fifth Element or Quintessence, the substance of the Celestial Spheres.

Downward Motion follows the sequence Fire, Air, Water, Earth, that is to say, the Practitioner’s Head, Right Hand, Feet, Left Hand. This is exactly the opposite direction used in the first part of the Circulation exercise, which flows from the Head, down the Left Side, around the Feet, and up the Right Side. However, it agrees with Plato’s Cycle: Fire condenses into Air, Air liquifies into Water, Water solidifies into Earth, and Earth sublimates into Fire. In this exercise we are drawing Power from both Extramundane Worlds. The circulation draws the Celestial Fire down the Sun Channel into the Way of Air, and it draws the Abyssal Water up the Moon Channel into the Way of Earth. Exhalation corresponds to drawing down, inhalation to drawing up. It will be helpful to see the Elements going through the transformations of Plato’s Cycle, with the rotation driven by the streams of Heavenly Fire and Abyssal Water. This part of the exercise helps establish the Sun and Moon Channels. Upward Motion follows the sequence Earth, Water, Air, Fire, which in Plato’s Cycle is: Earth dissolves into Water, Water vaporizes into Air, Air rarefies into Fire, and Fire condenses into Earth, known in Alchemy as the Rotation of the Elements (Burckhardt, Ch. 6; see also my “Rotation of the Elements”). We can make this correspond to the second part of the exercise, if we turn to our Left (North), so that the Moon Pillar is in front of us, and the Sun Pillar behind, then the order of circulation is: Chest, Feet, Back, Head. Exhalation corresponds to descent, inhalation to ascent. Again, it is helpful to visualize the transformations of Plato’s Cycle, driven from Above and Below, as before. This further strengthens the Sun and Moon Channels, but facilitates the Journey on them (up for Sun, down for Moon), whereas the preceding circulation facilitated the Return (down for Sun, up for Moon).

In the last part of the exercise, the Energy spirals upward around the Body, beginning in front of the Right Foot, spiraling to the upper left, until it bursts from the Head to flow down all sides to the Feet. This obviously corresponds to Circular Motion and to the Fifth Element (Spirit, Quintessence, Aithêr). Some versions do not have the Energy spiral, but simply rise vertically up the Spine, until it bursts from the Head, like Athena from Zeus’s head. The basic pattern is still Circular (or Spherical), however, since the Energy flows back to the Feet on all sides. In both case you draw Sustenance from the Abyss and raise the Serpent Power to the Top of the Cosmic Tree, where its Abundance pours down again upon the World Navel.

According to Regardie (III.59-60), the purpose of the Circulation is to build up a three-dimensional Tree of Life with Five Pillars. However, as we’ve seen, the traditional Tree, in Qabalah and elsewhere, has three Pillars. Thus I’ve used the second part of the Circulation to open the opposite directions in the Moon and Sun Channels.

II. Pentagrams of the Quarters

xiij. This is the way to draw the Shining Pentagrams...
xiv(a). In Greek the Pentagram is called “Hugíeia”...
xiv(b). In Latin “Salus” is the Pentagram’s old Name...
xiv(c). Although the English labels on the Pentagram...
The pentagram and hexagram were both used for protection in ancient Greece (V cent. BCE). In Babylon, five-, six- and seven-rayed stars were all used. The Pentagram appears in the earliest writing of Mesopotamia (precuneiform pictographic writing), c. 3000 BCE, as the Sumerian sign UB. Its meaning in the cuneiform period (by 2600 BCE) seems to be a Heavenly Quarter and also the four Directions (forward, backward, left, right); the fifth direction was “above.” The four directions corresponded to the planets Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn, with Venus the Queen of Heaven (Schekina) above. These are the “Smaller Planets” (omitting Sun and Moon). Ishtar (Venus) was represented by the Eight-rayed Star (Elam). See De Vogel (App. A) and Black & Green (s.v. Star).

Pythagoras may have become acquainted with the Pentagram during his sojourns in Egypt and Babylon (perhaps 554-533 BCE); in any case Pythagorean Initiates used it as a sign of recognition (Iambl., Vita Pyth. XXXIII). They called the Pentagram “Hugieia” (Ὑγίεια), which is usually translated “Health,” but has more the sense of Soundness or Wholeness. The Pentagram was still used with this meaning in Paracelsus’ time (c.1493-1541). The Pythagoreans also used “Be sound/whole!” as their greeting (Scholia in Aristoph., Nubes 609; Lucian, Pro lapsu 5). In fact Bonner (p. 177) notes that Hugieia is a fairly common inscription on amulets, and that Perdrizet thinks it and similar inscriptions are Oriental in origin (the word, of course, is Greek).

The Pythagoreans apparently labeled the points or angles of the Pentagram with the Greek letters ΥΓΙΕΙΑ. Allman (p. 26) shows them on the points arranged counterclockwise from the top thus: Υ, Γ, Ι, ΕΙ, Α. The fact that ΥΓΙΕΙΑ has six letters is an inconvenience, and Allman observes that the Pythagoreans wrote upsilon, gamma, iota, theta, alpha at the points (ΥΓΙΘΑ), perhaps because an adjacent epsilon and iota (ΕΙ) look something like a theta (Θ). Chasles (1875, p. 478-479) likewise lists these five letters, quoting Alstedius (Encyc. univ., 1620) and Kircher (Arithmologia, 1665).

Budge (Amul. & Superst., 232-233), in an exhibition of uncharacteristically sloppy scholarship, says that the “shield of Solomon” (i.e. the Hugieia Pentagram) is inscribed with the Greek letters ΙΓΙΡΑ “meaning something like ‘wholesome’, ‘good for health’,” though there is no such Greek word. Looking at the figure in his book we see an upright pentagram surrounded by two rings; between the rings and aligned with the angles between the pentagram’s points are Greek letters reading clockwise: ΥΓΙ?Α. The mysterious fourth letter is unidentifiable, but the figure is from Agrippa’s De occulta philosophia (Lib. III, cap. xxxi). The letter is still not entirely clear in editions of Agrippa (Brill, 1992; Llewellyn, 1993), but its appearance is consistent with a common medieval abbreviation for ει (which looks vaguely like θ, but more like a dollar sign made without lifting the pen). (Francis Barrett translates the relevant part of Agrippa in The Magus, Bk. II, Ch. XVII, but does not include the figure.)

So we can conclude that the Pythagoreans labeled the Pentagram with the letters Υ, Γ, Ι, ΕΙ, Α, reading clockwise (or perhaps counterclockwise), placing them on the points starting at the top (Alstedius, Kircher), or in the angles starting at the top right (Agrippa).

Now, of course, when one draws a Banishing or Invoking Pentagram of any kind, one does not visit the points in either a clockwise or counterclockwise order. One might suppose that some Great Secret is revealed when the Pentagram is labeled as above, but the letters visited in an invoking or banishing order. But if that is the case, I have not been able to penetrate the Mystery. The resulting sequences of letters do not seem to spell anything, let alone anything interesting. Therefore, I’ve decided that it’s more meaningful, in a Banishing or Invoking Pentagram, to call off the sounds in their natural order, but other approaches might be worth some experimentation.

The singing of the sounds, especially the vowel sounds, creates compact entities in the Spectral Realm. The longer they are continued, the denser (more compact) their Spectres. Their Power is collocated in the Spectral Realm with that of all similar sounds, no matter when they were made, or where. Thus connections and causal relations are established across Space and Time. This is a consequence of the Mathematics of Harmony (Fourier Analysis).

When it comes to intoning the name of the Pentagram, HUGIEIA is especially appropriate, since it is almost entirely vowels, and the G is easily extended as a velar fricative. The Latin version, SALUS, is not as good, but the sibilant S and liquid L are easily prolonged. For the English version, though SOUND and WHOLE both have five letters, they do not have five sounds. But WHOLENESS does (vowels: O, E; liquid: L; nasal: N; sibilant S), and corresponds better with HUGIEIA and SALUS, being a noun rather than an adjective.

I’ve kept the usual Earth Banishing Pentagram (lower-left to top) for this “Lesser” ritual, though I know of no ancient warrant for the usual association of the Five Elements with the points of the Pentagram.  See “The Pythagorean Pentacle” and “The Pentagram and the Elements” for a discussion.

xv. Now go thou to the East and make the Pentagram. ...
Zeus’s Keraunos (Thunderbolt) is a complex symbol, nearly identical in shape to the Tibetan dorje (Hindu vajra) thunderbolt. The round center represents the World Navel. The radiate branches at each end represent the two halves of the World Tree, the upper Branches growing from the Earth up to the four quarters of the Heavens, and the lower Roots growing from the Earth down to the four quarters of the Abyss. Thus it represents the power of the Twofold Path for Growth and Illumination. The center (cf. the Lotus or Bindu) represents the Earthly potential for Growth out of the Void, while the ends represent the power of Celestial and Chthonic Lightning, both illuminating and destructive. The reconciliation of the Celestial and Chthonic Paths was achieved in the 9th cent. BCE by the Olympian Movement (Butterworth, Tree, 130-133), and the Lightning + Flower combination is thereafter common is Greek art. The Keraunos was made for Zeus by the Kuklopes (Cyclopes), Underworld Masters of Fire, who are Giants who see from their brows (cf. the “third eye” or Ajna-Chakra). (See Butterworth, Tree, VI, IX; Goldsmith 100-105, 175.)

The Growth and Destruction symbolized by the Keraunos is the Law (Logos) of the universe, governed by Zeus. As Heraclitus says, “Keraunos steers all things,” and Hippolytus explains, “by Keraunos he means the Eternal Fire, ... and he calls it Need and Glut” (DK 22B 64, 65). Heraclitus also says (DK 22B 20), “The World Order — the same for all — no one of Gods or people made, but it ever was and is and shall be: Fire Everliving, being kindled in measures and in measures being extinguished.” He says it is the basis of the Cosmos: “All things from Fire arise and into Fire resolve; all things come to be in accord with Destiny, and through opposing currents existing things are made a harmonia (structure)” (Diog. Laert. ix.7)

Similarly Empedocles, in a passage previously quoted, makes Strife (Neikos) and Love (Philotês), that is, Destruction and Growth, the two great motive forces of the Universe. He also says (DK 31B 17),

And these things never cease their continual interchange, now through Love all coming together into One, now again each carried apart by the hatred of Strife.
Compare also: Horus the Creator, Set the Destroyer and Shu the Mediator; Brahma the Creator, Shiva the Destroyer, Vishnu the Preserver.

In form and nature the Keraunos is a “Blazing Blossom” or “Fiery Flower,” again representing Growth and Destruction. In the Second Olympian Ode, Pindar says (Houghton tr.):

And such as thrice have dared,
abiding either side of death,
To keep their souls aloof from evil doing,
Proceed the road of Zeus to Kronos’ tower,
Where ‘round the islands of the blest,
the Ocean breezes blow,
And the Blossoms blaze with gold ...
See Butterworth (Tree, 205, 224-225) on the Keraunos as an “efflorescence of flame.” As such it is an androgynous symbol, for the Flame (or Jewel) is masculine and the Water (or Lotus) is feminine (Goldsmith 8-9).

Hera’s Cuckoo-bearing Sceptre represents the Celestial Spirit nesting on the top of the World Tree. (Zeus first came to Hera in the form of a Cuckoo.)

xvi. Now with thy Staff forge thou the Fiery Ring...
Hestia’s Burning Circle represents the Protection of the Hearth Fire or Camp Fire. The Eternal Fire of Hestia / Vesta represents Eternal Life (Oxf. Cl. Dict., s.v. Hestia).
xvij. Then to the West...
This is the Torch by which Demeter tried to find Persephone; it illuminated Her odyssey, during which She rode in a chariot conducted by winged serpents.

Hades’ name may mean “the Unseen” (Ἅιδης < ἀιδής).

xviij. Then to the North...
Poseidon’s Trident represents the Cosmic Tree, as shown by the crossbar below its prongs (Butterworth, Traces, 150), which in turn represent the Tree’s three roots: the Sun, Moon and Fire Channels (Pingala-nadi, Ida-nadi, Susumna) in which Prana moves (Butterworth, Tree X).
xix. Draw thou the Fiery Ring back to its beginning...
The foregoing invokes Deities of the First Olympian Generation: Jupiter, Vesta, Neptune and Ceres are all children of Saturn and Ops, as are Pluto and Juno.

When projecting the Four Weapons through the Pentagrams, the practitioner might find it helpful to make an appropriate gesture: as though throwing a dart for Zeus’s Keraunos, as though throwing a frisbee for Hestia’s Burning Ring, as though throwing a javelin for Poseidon’s Trident, as though throwing a knife for Demeter’s Torch.

III. Wards of the Quarters

xx. Now raise again thy arms to make the Sacred Tau...

xxi. West: Now focus thine attention to thy back...
Apollo and Artemis, the “Shining Twins” form a complementary pair for the Wards of the East and West.
xxij. South: Now focus thine attention to thy right...
Mars was also an Italic vegetation God, and so might be evoked in the North.
xxiij. North: Now focus thine attention to thy left...
In addition to being a Vegetation God, Dionysos is associated with the Nether Regions, which are in the North. Also, Dionysos was born from Zeus’s thigh, much like Athena, the Ward of the South (who was born from Zeus’s thigh or brow).  Dionysos is male, but with female traits, as Athena is female, but with male traits; that is, They are both somewhat androgynous.

Pan may seem an unlikely Ward, but when Athens honored Him and asked Him to help defend them from the Persians, he did so (Herodt. VI.105.2-3).

xxiv. Direct thy mind to every Quarter in its turn...
The foregoing invokes Deities of the Second Olympian Generation: Apollo, Mercury, Diana, Venus (according to the Iliad), Minerva, Mars, Vulcan, and Bacchus are all offspring of Jupiter and/or Juno. Pan is a son of Mercury. For Wards, I’ve tried to select Deities that are Protectors. On the other hand, I see no reason to limit oneself to a fixed set of Wards; there are many Gods and Goddesses that might be invoked in particular circumstances; also I would expect the practitioners to call upon any Gods with whom they have a special relationship.

The Gods suggested above correspond approximately to the Archangels usually invoked in the LBRP. East: Raphael (air, eagle), who presides over human spirit (cf. Apollo, Hermes). West: Gabriel (water, man), who presides over Paradise & Cherubim (cf. Aphrodite, Artemis). South: Michael (fire, lion), who is militant, and presides over human virtue (cf. Athena, Mars). North: Uriel (earth, calf), who presides over clamor and terror (cf. Pan, Dionysos). See also Spence (Enc. Occult., s.v. Angels), Agrippa (II.7) and Barrett (I.ii.xix, p. 112, II.iv, p. 135).

IV. The Macrocosm in the Microcosm

xxv. Now spread thy arms apart...
xxvi. Permit the two opposing Serpents to ascend...
Traditionally the Hexagram symbolizes the Unity of Opposites and the Balance of the Four Elements. The Four Elements result from the Opposition of Activity (Fire, Forma, Sulphur, Spiritus) and Receptivity (Water, Materia, Quicksilver, Anima). In Alchemical terms, it is the Fluid Fire (Water makes Fire nonburning, and so Air-like) and Fiery Fluid (Fire makes Water stable, and so Earth-like). In other words, the Celestial Fire stabilizes (draws up) the Watery Abyss to yield the Way of the Earth, and the Watery Abyss tames (draws down) the Celestial Fire to yield the Way of the Air. (See Burckhardt, pp. 74-75.)

The Hexagram shining within the Body (Salt) signifies the Perfect Union of Spirit (Sulphur) and Soul (Mercury), which is the “Living Gold,” the goal of Spiritual Alchemy. That is, the Celestial and Chthonic Worlds meet in the Mundane World.

xxvij. The Pentagram doth signify the Microcosm...
Kircher (Arithmologia, 1665), quoted by Chasles (p. 478) observes that the pentalpha and hexalpha (i.e., the pentagram and hexagram) were the two most common magic sigils.

V. The Closing Tau Cross

xxviij. Repeat thou once again the Tau Cross...
For the meaning of the left arm crossed over the right, see The Platonic Cross in the “Summary of Pythagorean Theology.”
Alchemy calls these divisions the Two Seeds, the Three Principles and the Four Elements. The goal of Alchemy is the One Fruit, the Tincture or Living Gold (from a 1766 Nuremburg MS).  
xxix. Thou hast secured thyself a Sacred Space...
Heraclitus says (DK 22B 60), “The way up and down are one and the same.”


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Last updated: August 17, 2006