Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paganicon 2011 - First Time A Great Success

Hexagram Controversy

I wanted to post a short article about my weekend experience with Paganicon, which was the very first pagan convention in the Twin Cities. Overall, I would rate it quite successful, and it is my hope that it will become an annual institution. While it was not anyway near as large as Pantheacon, it was well attended and easily exceeded everyone’s modest expectation. Where Pantheacon is a venue that serves nearly 2,400 people every year, Paganicon didn’t even have 10% of that volume, but it was a more intimate and engaging gathering.

There weren’t crowds of folks and the venues were much more modest, but overall, I was impressed by how well it was organized and staffed. The staff of Paganicon deserve a lot of credit for having put on an excellent convention, and got nearly everything right for the very first time. My hope is that the community and staff will be encouraged to do it again next year, and perhaps for many following years beyond that. It was a great way for pagans and wiccans in the tundra capital of Paganistan to meet and greet, share ideas and knowledge in the middle of what is ostensibly the period of late winter. There may have been snow on the ground and it was quite cold outside, but inside the Double Tree Hotel, it was warm and friendly - almost as if summer had come early. I suppose that having an indoor pool nearby in the atrium helped to give this impression.

Because I had to miss Friday, I didn’t get to hear the keynote lecture given by John Michael Greer, nor was I able to attend the opening ritual and the concert, all of which I was told had turned out quite excellent. A one way trip from my house to the hotel was over 31 miles, so I could only justify going on Saturday and Sunday. I had workshops to present on both days, so that would also allow me to attend some lectures and also socialize with attendees.

I arrived at around 10 am and got registered and found out where everything was located. Then I made it to the panel that I was to take part in. The panel was called “So You Want to be a Pagan Author,” and I was joined with Veronica Cummer, Dr. Murphy Pizza, Corrine Kenner, Barbara Moore and Scot Stenwick. We spent an hour and a half sharing stories about what it’s like to be an occult author. I think that I said it all by declaring that if you want to be a pagan author, don’t quit your day job - it doesn’t pay very much. There was some interesting stories shared, as well as quite a bit of good humor. I enjoyed being on the panel and helped to liven things up a bit by making certain that there were plenty of jokes and laughs to share. The panel lasted until the lunch hour, when everyone broke up to find something to eat.

Lunch was a very idyllic experience, since I ran into two of my dearest friends, and with them, I invited John Michael Greer and Scott Stenwick to share a table at the in-house eatery. I spent my lunch talking, eating and drinking (although not at the same time) with these friends and luminaries, and it was a most excellent time. I found John to be a highly intelligent occultist, worthy of all of the compliments and accolades that he has received.

After lunch, I went to Scot Stenwick’s workshop on Planetary Magick, which I thought was quite excellent, even though sparsely attended. It would seem that Scott had the bad luck of presenting a workshop at the same time that John Michael Greer and Steve Posch were giving their presentations. However, I thought that Scott did a good job presenting his information in an efficient and succinct manner. I also learned some interesting things while attending this workshop. For one thing, I realized how Scott refers to the sphere of planetary magick using a metaphysical perspective, referring to it as the macrocosm, whereas I see it as a psychological operation using classical archetypes. I think that both of these perspectives are not only valid, but describe this phenomenon in a different but complimentary manner. What I distilled from Scott’s discussion was that planetary magick works with the macrocosm, and that the lesser invoking hexagram ritual is the key to opening the magician to that domain. You can find a copy of the transcript for the workshop here.

One of Scott’s most important declarations about planetary magick is encapsulated in the following quote: “The correct method for most macrocosmic work is in fact to combine the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram.” This clears the magician’s personal field of consciousness and then calls the macrocosmic forces into that field. I found this statement to make a lot of sense, although since I don’t use these rituals, I couldn’t verify that statement off of the top of my head. According to Scott, in the typical Golden Dawn planetary working, both the LBRP and the LBRH are used together. One would assume that the magician’s “operant field” would be wiped clean of any macrocosmic influences if these two rituals were used without a corresponding lesser invoking ritual of the hexagram. Scott had a particular issue with the way that these rituals are presented in Donald Michael Kraig’s book “Modern Magick.”

Much later, I looked over David Griffin’s “Ritual Magick Manual” and found that the typical Golden Dawn Planetary working did indeed perform the LBRP and the LBRH together, but only as part of the purification stage of the working. The lesser invoking ritual of the hexagram and the superior form of the hexagram are used once the lotus wand is unwrapped and the Qabbalistic Cross is performed. This, in my opinion, wouldn’t necessarily weaken the working, since the intention is to clear the magician’s operant field of all influences, microcosmic and macrocosmic. I also looked over Regardie’s book “The Golden Dawn” and found that it was kind of vague and ambiguous as to how exactly to apply the lesser hexagram invoking and banishing rites (volume 6), but perhaps there is another ritual where the methodology is completely encapsulated. When I examined Donald Michael Kraig’s book “Modern Magick,” I did indeed find the LBRP and the LBRH tightly coupled together for a basic regimen of work, and that would certainly be problematical, since the same working has meditations and a Tarot reading. Closing one completely off from the macrocosmic influences would certainly hamper any kind of clairvoyant operation. However, Kraig’s book doesn’t have any planetary or zodiacal magickal workings or techniques in it, so one could assume that it is a more basic work than David Griffin’s work.

After doing this research, I can see where Scott would have a problem with Kraig’s book, but it would seem that a proper working of the Golden Dawn tradition for planetary magick would follow a formulation that seems both logical and practical. I suppose that one could omit the LBRH in a planetary working, but it would seem that the intention is to completely clear one’s field of all influences just prior to performing a specific invocation. This is a moot point for me, of course, because I don’t even use the lesser pentagram or hexagram rituals in my elemental or planetary workings. Instead, I work with a consecrated magick circle, which appears to clear the environment of any and all unwanted influences prior to performing a working.

Since my class was the next venue for the same classroom as Scot’s class on planetary magick, attending his class gave me an opportunity to quickly set things up for my class. My class for that period was on Elemental Magick, and it’s one that I have taught previously. I had nearly a full classroom of attendees, and the presentation went pretty much without any glaring mistakes or omissions. I had to spend a bit of time explaining some of the ritual structures in greater detail, and on a few occasions I briefly got a bit tongue-tied, but overall, the class went very well and the attendees seemed to comprehend what I was talking about.

After my class was completed, I got together with my two friends and we made plans for our afternoon. I had been invited to dinner with some other friends that I hadn’t seen in many months, so that seemed like a good thing to do. I had to leave the convention to attend this soiree, and since it would last most of the evening, I wouldn’t be returning. This meant that I would miss the panel on Hedgewitch Craft, organized by Veronica and her fellow authors, who had helped to write the anthology by the same name. Regretfully, I could not do both things at the same time, so off I went for dinner and some socializing.

The next day, I arrived a lot earlier to present my class on the Twenty-two Steps of the Cycle of Initiation. I was wondering if anyone would make it to this early class, but I was pleasantly surprised when around a dozen people showed up for the class. I was able to present it without any problems or issues, and I believe that the attendees got a lot out of the material that I presented. So I was pleased with it and felt that I had comported myself in a thoughtful and knowledgeable manner.

As a side note, I won’t ever again be presenting these two workshops in their current format. Instead, I will be converting them to Powerpoint presentations. I think that this will be more helpful, both for the attendees and myself, since I can dispense with drawing things on a white board or having to look at one of the handouts while I am teaching. I will also be able to leave my outsized Rider Tarot deck at home, and I can also show other Tarot Trump cards as examples for my class on the Tarot. I think that this is a winning scenario, so all I have to do is to find a nice background theme template to complete this transition.

I also attended Steve Posch’s class “Amber Road,” which I thought was a truly excellent and compelling class. Steve has been examining samples of a massive collection of prose poems found in Latvia, called “dainas” [songs]. These songs are from the 19th to the early 20th centuries and encapsulate a very pagan way of looking at the world. For those who might not be knowledgeable about that area of Europe, the Baltic states (of which Latvia is a member) were the last to convert to Christianity, and even then, pagan sentiments and beliefs persisted until the early 20th century. These songs represent the old pagan way of looking at the world and life in general, and therefore, can act as important pointers and lore generating speculation about our own paganism, telling us what we might have gotten right, and what is still missing. I found the translated poems to be beautifully inspiring and seemed to open a window on world that time and progress had all but forgotten. I thoroughly enjoyed this class, conducted as it were by Steve, who is himself an accomplished poet, pagan ritualist and a natural sage. Everyone who attended was captivated by Steve’s rendition of the poetic songs and his analysis of the same. It was a very good presentation, and a perfect way to end my Paganicon experience.

What I came away from both attending workshops and being a presenter is the notion of just how diverse, deep and really evolved is our local community. Even though it was far smaller than Pantheacon, it was never-the-less just as deep, significant and enjoyable. It’s my hope that there will be more venues like this in the future.

Frater Barrabbas


  1. I think that both of these perspectives are not only valid, but describe this phenomenon in a different but complimentary manner.

    I was thinking along the same lines earlier today that this simply represents the dual nature of the planets - sphere versus path. The sphere aspects represent states of consciousness and could certainly be viewed as archetypal, while the path aspects represent practical operations. My main problem with the idea that the planets are purely archetypal is that I don't really understand how an archetype can produce a probability shift on a bunch of lottery balls. My best experimental results for that are from working with the path of Jupiter.

    Starting rituals with the LBRP/LBRH isn't necessarily a big problem if you're (A) only doing one working at a time or (B) anchoring everything you conjure into talismans rather than binding them into your personal sphere of consciousness. It's closing with that combination that's a big problem because it shuts down the force you just set in motion. Also, it should not be part of your daily practice if you want your abilities to develop quickly and/or maintain any ongoing spell effects from day to day. As I recall Kraig recommends both of those, though I haven't looked at his book in a while.

  2. I do wish I saw more conventions covered in so much detail. Not as much as I wish there were a decent convention or two in my neck of the woods, though!

  3. The standard protocol in the Golden Dawn tradition generally opens and closes with the LBRP and LBRH. This is especially important with Planetary or Sephirotic forces invoked by the Greater Invoking Ritual following the initial LBRP and LBRH.

    It is always interesting to read how modern magicians deals and uses these rituals. I can understand the logic behind the LBRP and LIRH formula, although I would always insert a LBRH in between them, and also end with a repetition of the LBRP & LBRH. The pentagram is the symbol of the Microcosm while the Hexagram is that of the macrocosm.

    The reason for starting with banishings is to clear the working space from any undwanted Energies, both Elemental and Planetary. The reason for the closing banishings is to close the portals to these forces which, if left opened, could inflate the Sphere of Sensation (Aura / Energetic Body) in an uncontrolled manner.

    In Hermetic and Qabalistic Magic, according to the Golden Dawn Tradition, the Sphere of Sensation is infulsed and activated with the forces invoked during a short and set time frame. Even if you "shut down" the forces, this will still leave you with a charged and activated Sphere of Sensation; only the free flow from the realms of the invoked forces are hindered. The logic behind this is that a system will always be changed, even after the force that did the changing has been removed.

    The path of initiation is a steady and slow process of gradual unfoldment and development, like in alchemy. If you leave open the doors between the subtle planes and the manifest matter you risk serious strain both to the nervous system and finlating your psyche or ego.

    Regarding the effectiveness of spell effects who could be hampered, this is easily and technically solved with the use of Talismans, which are wrapped afterwards. Wrapping a Talisman signals that it is left unaffected by the banishings.

    In Licht, Leben und Liebe,

  4. The logic behind this is that a system will always be changed, even after the force that did the changing has been removed.

    That's true, but if you allow the conjured force to operate for a longer period of time you can increase the outcome of your probability shifts substantially when working with any system that follows the dynamics of chaos theory - that is, most natural systems.

    Wrapping a Talisman signals that it is left unaffected by the banishings.

    That holds up to my own experimentation as well. So my recommendation would be that if someone wants to use the LBRH as part of the opening and closing procedures for their rituals they should be sure to use talismanic anchors in this manner for all of their spells.

  5. Hi there! I'm glad you had such a great time, and we're definitely already looking forward to next year's plans. Would it be possible for me to link to this post from the Paganicon website, to give people an idea of what we're about? (You can also find a copy of John Michael Greer's keynote, as a number of people asked us to make it available, and he generously agreed.)

    I'll check back here, or you can drop me a note at .