Thursday, August 27, 2009

Art of Ritual Magic - Basic Structures and Considerations

Unlike the Golden Dawn system of magic and its offshoots, such as the inspiration for Thelemic magic, the magical system used in the Order of the Gnostic Star is based on a synthesis of ideas found in Wicca and Neopaganism. Ritual ideas from the Golden Dawn were used to extend this lore, but one should not equate use with sameness. This is ostensibly where the practice of ritual magic diverges from classical modern ceremonial magic. Ritual magic uses a magic circle in its rites, whether they are performed in a temple or in an outside grove. Ritual magic also makes extensive use of meditation techniques and other methods culled from the teachings of Hatha, Pranayama, Mantra and Mandala (Yantra)Yogas, and also Franz Bardon. The purpose of these meditation techniques is to master the operations of mind control, to assume deep states of trance and to project pranic energies directly into magical operations.

The use of a magic circle is to establish a focus and a boundary for the energies and operations performed within it. The boundary separates the workers from the mundane world. All that is contained within the circle is considered sacred, and what is without is profane. The boundary is also porous, since individuals and entities may be brought in or allowed to leave during magical operations. Ceremonial magic uses a magic circle for Goetic magic, and it is errected for the sole purpose of protecting the workers from the demonic entities evoked. Traditional Golden Dawn magic did not incorporate a magic circle for its rites, but it did use an enclosed space decorated with talismans and magical signatures, called the Vault of the Adepti.

Perhaps the most important difference between ceremonial magic and ritual magic is the great importance placed on assuming the godhead and performing ritual magic in that guise, and its utter lack in the works and rites of ceremonial magic. The ceremonial magician engages in a great amount of pious religious works and observances, and after a suitable period of preparation and atonement, performs magic as the surrogate representative of the Deity, and not as the person of that entity. The ritual magician also engages in a great deal of devotion, too. However, the ritual magician performs devotions and religious liturgies not to woo or placate a distant or aloof Deity, but to prepare for the invocation and direct assumption of that being. A ritual magician also has the option of blessing substances while assuming the Godhead, and can make use of sacraments so produced - for communion or magical uses.

A ceremonial magician temporarily borrows the perquisites and prerogatives of the Deity to perform magical operations, while the ritual magician performs magic after having directly assumed the spirit of the Deity into his being. There couldn’t be a more striking difference between these two traditions, and they represent a kind of schism in the ideal world of the practice of magic. Of course, these distinctions are based on a pure theory of magic and represent ideals that are not readily observable in the real world. In the real world, magic is practiced in a number of variations, where some Thelemic magicians are more aligned to ritual magic than practitioners of Wicca and Neopaganism, some of whom have taken a rather Christian perspective on Godhead assumption, and have abandoned it for more pious forms of worship.

Ritual magic, as practiced by the Order also makes use of the three Mysteries to build and practice magic in a structured and disciplined manner. These three mysteries are associated with the natural phenomena of the Moon, Sun and the periodic transformation of the Self. A vortex and a gateway is used to establish these mysteries, and these special practices are also used to guide the performance of liturgical as well as magical workings.

The Lunar Mysteries are very much involved with the practice of earth based or talismanic magic, to aid the ritual magician and his fellow workers or clients (family, lovers and friends). The Solar Mysteries are used to divide the year and mark the changing of the seasons, so sacralizing the world with an earth-based spiritual perspective, as well celebrating mile-stones for individuals or groups.

The Mysteries of the Self are represented by period and also profound changes that occur in the practitioner. These can be guided and deliberately brought on by various ritual practices and workings, and they may also spontaneously occur, characterizing that a magician lives a life of continual transcendental transformation. The ritual magician can celebrate or commemorate these occurrences with initiation rituals and ceremonies. However, the Major Arcana of the Tarot is the key and lends its themes to the cycle of initiation used by the ritual magician.

Tarot and Qabbalah are extremely important to ritual magic, as they are to classical ceremonial magic. In ritual magic, the magician is continually crafting the repertoire of rituals, so there is a need for an expertise in Notariqon and Temurah. These are used to build up and explode formula acronyms, to find formula letter substitutions, and to craft sigils, characters and symbolic magical links. The Qabbalah also provides an extensive system of tables of correspondences, which are used to qualify and gather together certain symbology to be used in rituals. The Tarot also lends its symbology and imagery to the building and developing of a magical system. Tarot cards are used for both passive inquiry as well as active resolution. To the ritual magician, a deep knowledge and understanding of the Qabbalah and the Tarot are required for developing new magical rituals, ceremonies and workings, and determining new directives and spiritual goals. One could also include a knowledge of yoga, astrology, alchemy, and forms of sacred sexuality.

Finally, ritual magic makes extensive use of the “energy” theory of magic to build up energy based structures that emulate in their design sacred geometry. Such energy structures are prismatic geometric shapes, seen as dimly perceived auric lines of force. The repertoire of these structures is limited to the four watchtowers, angles, and the three points in the center of the circle. So these structures consist of lines of force, pylons, trigons, circles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, septagons, octagons, spheres, cubes, pyramids, tetrahedrons, hexahedrons, and inner star-form talismans using the septagram, eneagram, undecigram and the quintedecagon. Ritual magic also uses crystals as energy collectors and emitters, solid fluid condensors, magical statues of various godheads and mythic creatures, and various sacramental substances and fetishes.

In the case of crystals, there are three types used in ritual magic. The first is used as a collector, kept either on or at the foot of the main altar (this is usually a large crystal), the second is used as a controller, and is worn around the magician’s neck. The third is used in a wand, creating a crystal tipped wand that is also known as the trasmutar wand. These three crystals are bound together and work as a single tool. The collector collects and recalls the magical energies used in all rituals performed before it, the controller necklace is used to empower the magician at all times while wearing it, and the transmutar wand directs the powers so deployed. All of these devices and tools make use of a very detailed and elaborate energy theory of magic. The energy theory of magic is equally important to the spirit theory of magic, and in fact they are powerfully blended into a single discipline of ritual magic.

A Generic Ritual Pattern

The generic ritual pattern consists of various ritual actions that are performed at various points in the magic circle. As we have established previously, there are eleven of these points. A ritual pattern consists of the following actions being performed using a grouping of these various circle points to form basic geometric shapes, such as those itemized above.

The ritual actions are to be performed at any of the eleven points in the magic circle (4 WTs, 4 Angles, UP, MP & IP) - device can be drawn with dagger or transmutar wand.

At the periphery of the circle -

• Vibrate a formula letter
• Draw devices (device plus invoking spiral)
• Project colored energy into device
• Intone Keyword
• Express Keyword formula declamation

At the center of the circle -

• Vibrate a formula letter (optional)
• Draw devices (device plus invoking spiral)
• Project colored energy into device
• Intone Keyword (optional)
• Express Keyword formula declamation (optional)

• Draws all circle points together using sword or transmutar wand - so creating the geometric prismatic shape using visualized colored lines of force. Ritual geometric shapes have their ground in the center of the circle.

• Reiterates Keywords (to associated circle points)
• Declaims Notariqon formula - letters of the Keywords are extracted and assembled to form a magical word or formula.
• Expresses ideal associated with the formula assembled word.

The above ritual draws all of the parts of the magical geometric shape into union, giving the final form a magical word or formula that acts as a powerful unifier for the whole rite. Each of the Keywords and their declamations are pulled together to create a new word that represents their semantic union. This ritual mechanism is comparable to the Golden Dawn ritual of the Analysis of the Keyword, but its use is to unite all of the ritual components into a powerful kind of synopsis. Words that are chosen to fashion Keywords and Word Formulas can be of any language, and are typically English, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Enochian, Egyptian, Classical Arabic, or even the mysterious Verba Ignota of the old grimoires.

Devices used in Ritual Magic

There is quite a large repertoire of devices that can be employed in the above generic ritual pattern. I have listed sixteen, but the actual number is probably indeterminable.

Magical Device - Basic Use

Lines of Force: Connecting points to form prismatic geometry
4 Spirals (invoke, seal, banish, unseal): Empowering device, form of resonator
Pylon and Double Pylon: Polarized lines of force - fusion line of force
Equal Arm Cross: Union of all forces
Rose Cross: Solar Powers of Deity - Electric Energy
Rose Ankh: Lunar Powers of Deity - Magnetic Energy
Iron Cross: Martial Powers of Deity
Swastika - left and right: Cosmic Solar Powers - Light and Dark
Trapezoidal Cross: Generates Alternative Reality
Inverted Rose Ankh: Orb of Terrestrial Power
Pentagram: Generates Element Energy - Ascending Godhead
Inverted Pentagram: Generates Element Energy - Descending Sacrament
Lesser Hexagram (3 forms): Symbolizes the three Astrological Qualities
Hexagram (joined triangles): Symbolizes Union of Archetypal Male & Female
Octagram (4 claw version): Draws powers from all points and seals it in place
Pentagramic Cross/Ankh: Generates sacralized energy from Godhead

In addition, the ritual magic used by the Order also has a special ritual structure that is known as an inner ring, or a magic circle within a magic circle. The inner ring is drawn (often with a deosil arc), the opening portal gesture is made, and therein is placed one of the four talismanic paintings. These specially constructed large rectangular talismans (3 by 2 feet) are made of wood that is painted with a flat background (often black), and upon that background a star-form is illustrated in vibrating colors. There are four difference star-forms, and these are the Septagram, Eneagram, Undecigram and the Quintedecagon. An Octagram star-form can also be used (to signify the Lunation Cycle, among other things).

The star-forms have the following uses.

Septagram - to invoke one or all of the Planetary Intelligences
Octagram - to invoke one or all of the Lunation Types (optional)
Enegram - to invoke one of the ten Sephiroth of the Qabbalah
Undecigram - to invoke one of the twelve Zodiacs, also used to forge a combination of a shaped Element power and one of the seven virtues - could also be used to invoke one of the Seniors or Talismanic Elemental.
Quintedecagon - symbolized the fusion of the Octagon and the Septagram - the invocation vortex of magickal evocation.

This should give you an idea of how this system of Ritual Magic works, as it is practiced in the Order of the Gnostic Star. There are other variations of these techniques used in the more advanced and complex ritual workings that the Order has adopted and made use of - yet these should suffice to give anyone a clear idea of how ritual magic is used in the Order.

Frater Barrabbas Tiresius


  1. Traditional Golden Dawn magic did not incorporate a magic circle for its rites

    It should be noted that traditional Golden Dawn magick was designed to be performed in a working space that was generally assumed to be a Masonic lodge. In Masonry, the lodge serves the same function as the circle - to delineate sacred from profane space.

  2. Quite true, although I was describing the dynamics of the Wiccan and Neopagan magic circle, which is different than what is used in the Golden Dawn. Also, I doubt that many Golden Dawn lodge halls are set up like a Masonic lodge today, but originally the GD was an extension of Masonic and Rosicrucian teachings, so it was supposed to be staged in a Masonic hall.