Invoking and Banishing Pentagrams

The next four days in Roderick’s 366 have to do with calling each of the quarters.  In contemporary Eclectic Wiccan practice, there’s obviously loads of ways to do this.  In fact, I’ve even been in rituals where the leaders simply nodded to each of the directions and said something along the lines of “Whassup, Earth?”  Although I found that approach very lazy and disrepectful (not to mention energetically weak), the ritual worked.

On the more Traditional side of the spectrum, though, calling the quarters will involve ritual gestures with your body and magical tools at the compass directions to summon the elemental forces.  The word “summon” there is very intentional.  While Deities should be politely invited into your circle, elementals must be strongly commanded for they are not rational beings and, as such, respond to language very literally.  They must be told what you desire from them in unemotional, clear, and concise language.  There are plenty of stories of rituals where elementals were dismissed with some phrase like “go if you will, stay if you like”…and they chose to stay.  Subsequently, the home of the practitioner flooded, caught fire, sustained damage in a windstorm, developed damage to the foundation, or some other manifestation of having ‘too much of a good thing’ present.

In the case of the elementals, the more symbols you can use to convey your clear meaning, the better.  Therefore, more Traditional-flavored ritual may well use the ritual actions Invoking and Banishing Pentagrams in addition to clear language as a way to reinforce speech with actions.  Since Roderick is teaching a more Traditional Wicca in his 366, he chooses to teach his student about these pentagrams when teaching them to call the quarters.  He says of these symbols:

Each element has a specific pentagram that invokes and banishes its elemental energy.  There are a couple of rules about invoking and banishing elemental pentagrams with which you should become acquainted prior to beginning this practice.

Traditionally, Witches only use invoking pentagrams while they are standing within the magic circle.  This is an important point to consider.  The elemental forces that you summon during calling the quarters are high-voltage energies.  The circle itself, once cast, acts as a buffer to these raw, wild energies.  It is never a good practice to call quarters when you do not have all three layers of your circle cast.

Banishing pentagrams can be done at any time.  In fact, Witches often use banishing pentagrams to dismiss imbalanced energies that they sense in their immediate vicinity.

The thing, though, is that if you just take Roderick’s description and the four pentacle sets he gives, I think you’ll be very confused.  After all, there are five pentacle points–where’s the Invoking and Banishing Pentacles for Spirit?–and, once you begin to commit these pentacles to memory, you’ll also find that the Invoking Pentacle for Air is the same as the Banishing Pentacle for Water (and, conversely, Banishing Air is Invoking Water).  So what on earth is the deal with these pentacles?

The Golden Dawn's elemental associations for the pentacle.

The Golden Dawn’s elemental associations for the pentacle.

Basically, these Invoking and Banishing Pentagrams come straight out of the Golden Dawn system of ceremonial magic.  In this system, the top-most point of the pentacle is assigned to spirit, the upper-left point to air, the upper-right point to water, the bottom-left point to earth, and the bottom right point to fire.  The Golden Dawn system also holds that if an element is to be Invoked, the first line segment of the pentacle is drawn toward the element’s point.  Conversely, if the element is to be Banished, the first line-segment of the pentacle is drawn away from that element’s point.  However, there is one major aspect of the Golden Dawn’s system that ends up forcing the water and air pentacles to be inverses of each other, and that is their ideas around the Invoking and Banishing Pentacles for Spirit.

As you can see from the image below, there are two different Invoking and Banishing Pentagrams for Spirit with one being ‘active’ and the other ‘passive.’  You can also see that the Spirit point doesn’t adhere to the “draw toward for Invocation/away for banishment” rule that the elemental points follow.  The first line segment drawn for the Invoking Active Spirit pentacle, for example, is drawn directly to the air point, not the Spirit point.  As a rule, then, the Invoking lines for Spirit are only generally drawn upwards and the Banishing lines are only generally drawn downwards.  Unfortunately, I do not know why there are two Spirit sets or why neither is drawn to the Spirit point, though I am sure it has some Kabalistic reason behind it.  I do know, though, that the Active set is so named because it is drawn from fire toward air (and vice-versa), and so conjoins the two Active elements.  The Passive set joins the two Passive elements of earth and water together.


In my opinion, drawing these Pentagrams in this way is a fundamental practice of Western magic.  Many practitioners from many other traditions have developed other Invoking/Banishing sets–most commonly starting at the Golden Dawn point for the element desired and drawing the  clockwise for Invoking and counterclockwise for Banishing–but it’s important to know and effectively practice this set, too.  In terms of practice, I think you could do a lot worse than following the exercises Donald Tyson has laid out in his book The Magician’s Workbook (2001.)  His entire chapter on “Projecting the Pentagram” is invaluable for developing excellent invocation and banishment visualization and energy work.  Best of all, that chapter is currently available in its entirety on Google Books.



2 thoughts on “Invoking and Banishing Pentagrams

  1. I’ve been wondering about the oddness with the Air and Water invoking and banishing pentagrams as mirror images of each other for years. Did anyone ever discuss this with you in any detail?

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