The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
The Pentagram Ritual is used as the instigator of the magical state of mind. The way it is used by the group here is actually as a banishing ritual so it is used to banish the mundane world at the start of a ritual and to banish the magical world at the end. Sometimes it is not appropriate to banish at the end (so a bell might be sufficient to mark the end of the ritual) if you have evoked something you wish to retain.
Basically use this as you see fit and enjoy it. The more you use it (or your own customised version) the better it works. If you get used to performing it at the beginning of a ritual you will find that it evokes the feeling of being a magician.
IMMEDIATELY ON reading or seeing this ritual performed it appears to have origins in Judaeo Christian sources. Many of the words are in Hebrew while the Cabalistic Cross (parts 1 to 5) are so much like the Catholic "Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch" that it has to have its origins in Christianity. However, according to Ronald Hutton, this is probably because it originated during the period when the practise of magic was heavily influenced by early Masonic traditions. He suggests that throughout history Masons have at least paid lip service to Christian ideas for the sake of appearance if nothing else. However, as complexity magicians we steal from anywhere, so this isn't considered a problem even for an atheist complexity magician like myself.
One thing to bear in mind is this. Crowley advocated learning this ritual by heart. In fact he advocated knowing it so well, and through mental exercises, that you see the flames of the circle burning around you. Whether or not you go to this trouble is up to you. Personally I have never had a clear visual hallucination with or without chemical stimulus, but I do know the words! There is really nothing worse than a magician performing a piece of ceremonial magic without knowing what comes next in the ceremony and that includes the next line. It might be permissible to have notes to refer to for less familiar rituals such as the Hexagram, but not with the Pentagram. This is all about becoming a magician in the true mediaeval (perhaps fictional) sense. Performing this ritual should make you feel like you have complete power over the universe around you. That only comes with familiarity.
A note on drawing the pentagram
The Pentagram drawn in the air can be done in two ways, clockwise for banishing or anticlockwise for invoking. The pentagram drawn should be upright, that is with a single point at the top.
For invoking start at 1 then draw down to 4 and so on round through 2, 5 and 3 before returning to 1.
For banishing start at 4 then draw up to 1 and so on round through 3, 5 and 2 before returning to 4.
Referring to Crowley's Magic on this he is less than clear as he draws arrows showing the directions from 1 to 4 for invoking or from 4 to 1 for banishing. He does not say that this indicates the point of origin or just the direction. However, we have been doing it like this for years and to be perfectly honest it really cannot matter so do whatever makes you feel good. See the note on feeling right below to clarify this point.
The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
This is taken from Crowley's Magick, who no doubt got it from MacGregor Mathers, who in turn got it from Eliphas Levi. This is a standard opening ritual that serves to create the magical space and the magician's frame of mind.
The magician stands at the alter or in some suitable position, perhaps facing any other magicians present:
Abbreviated Pentagram Ritual
For situations where a short ritual is being performed it may be appropriate to abbreviate the Pentagram Ritual. The Pentagram itself is quite involved and with a short ritual you may find that the performance of the full Pentagram Ritual at the beginning or end completely overshadows the content of the rest of the ritual. In such a case an abbreviated version is appropriate. On the other hand there may be occasions when the full and abbreviated versions are wanted in the same ritual. For instance the full version may be appropriate at the beginning and the abbreviated version (or just a bell) is best at the end when you want to maintain an atmosphere that has been built up during the ritual. On other occasions you may want a short version at the beginning but really need a big finish and go for the contrast of ending on a full gutsy rendition with the names fully vibrated at the top of your voice.
Comparing this with the full version above, or to Crowley's text you will be able to see how this has been abbreviated. Experiment with which bits to leave out until you find a version that suits you or feel free to mix and match and have lots of options up your bat wing sleeves.
A note on feeling right:
For situations when you want to abbreviate it further you could just speak the words of parts 1 to 5 or just part 6. If you have done the complete Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram a few times then this should be enough to evoke the essence of the more complete version. The point of this, and perhaps any aspect of magic, is that you should feel satisfied that what you have done is enough. If you feel you need to do the complete version, or even some other form, from one of Crowley's other (or anybody else's) works, then that is what you should do. Go with your feelings until you feel you have done enough.
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