Why is the Pentagram upside-down?

The pentagram is a key part of the geometric extensions that are used in rituals. Anyone considering taking up practical work should have fulfilled the first two limbs of yoga, Abstentions and Observances, as set down by Patanjali.[1] Practical work is the third limb of yoga, not the first.

Ordo Astri Symbol: Star and Snake Mandorla or Vesica PiscisThe Symbol of the Order: Is the star upside-down? The answer to that question all depends on where we are viewing it from. Aspirants should begin by thinking and meditating upon this symbol and its meaning.

In broad terms, it is necessary for every Student to gain an intellectual understanding of the work. This involves getting a wide range of reading in the esoteric field. If the person wishes to take up a course with us, then we naturally expect them to make an in-depth study of our works. In ritual, the purifications come first, then the consecration. One must be prepared to spend long hours completely alone, reading, studying and thinking, away from all distractions. That is the greater part of purification. Only then is the person in any way prepared for the practical work. Theurgy requires utmost consecration, or dedication: the reserving of all energies for the special purpose.

Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram: Invoking Spirit

Averse Invoking Pentagram: Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram

To perform ritual we must at all times know what we are doing and why we are doing it. The magician must be prepared to study a little of astronomy, or at least, the geocentric framework that astrology is based on. The hermetic practitioner will want to know a great deal about the Qabalah, for that is the basis of ritual and ceremonial magick. Occult Science includes astrology, hermetic philosophy, religion, mysticism, meditation, ritual and divination. The aspirant is not required to speak fluently in classical Greek, or to know how to form Latin verbs. They will need to learn something of how these languages work. They will write the characters of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets and commit their numerical value to memory. Before all else they will begin by studying the diagram called the Tree of Life and the philosophical basis of the Hermetic Qabalah.[2]

The Pentagram: Averse and Aright

The question of the so-called averse pentagram has been frequently asked. It is all down to the mechanics of ritual, and has been explained in the Introduction to Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light.[3] One must understand the cosmological basis of rituals.

Dual Pentagram or Elevenfold Star of Union

Dual Pentagram: Star of Union, or Eleven

Ten is the number of Malkuth and of  the sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The point in the centre is the seed of eleven, the number of magick and of change. In this symbol, all dualities are resolved.

It is not a question of geometry; it is a question of perspective. Imagine we were to enter a room, square in shape. Upon the floor is painted or tiled a large circle, and within that is a pentagram star with the five points touching the edges of the circle. One of the points of the pentagram is pointing at our feet. Which way up is the pentagram? Then imagine that we walk straight across the room to the other side and turn around, facing the door by which we entered. Look at the pentagram again. Which way up is it now, do we think? Has the pentagram changed, or is it our relative position that has changed?

There is another important consideration. Do we think it is possible for a geometric form to possess moral qualities, objectively speaking? If we think the answer is ‘yes’, then it is better if we steer well clear of occult practices. Such a person will get into one hell of a mess, and very quickly. The Devil never needs to be evoked by the incantations and gestures of any magician, as Goethe portrayed in his version of Faust. The Devil is at all times present—and more than willing to enter into a bargain.

The rites and ceremonies of the historical Golden Dawn were solar, and terrestrially based. The ritual circle was defined by the ‘four winds’, so that East represents Air, West represents Water, North represents Earth, and South represents Fire. However, the rites and ceremonies of the O∴ A∴ are stellar. Our ritual circle is zodiacal. We place Aquarius (Air) in the North, Leo (Fire) in the South, Taurus (Earth) in the East, and Scorpio (Water) in the West. The magician ‘standing on the sun’ is the simplest way of explaining the cosmic configuration of our ritual circle and pentagrams. From the solar perspective, the ‘averse’ pentagrams made on earth are ‘aright’. One may regard the Tarot trump, The Hanged Man XII: it is the magician, in fact, that is upside down. In the Thoth Tarot trump, the shape of the arms and crossed legs of the adept forms the symbol of the Golden Dawn Cross and Triangle. Yet the same attitude is simultaneously that of Typhon Inversus.

In many traditional systems the magician paces out the circle deosil, following the course of the sun as it appears from the earth. In our system the magician orbits the solar centre of the circle widdershins. The terrestrial point of view of the magician is raised to that of the sun in the midst of the solar system—the pentagrams of the zodiac and four elements are therefore turned upside down. We orient the Temple to the North, the place of the immortal or imperishable constellations. In the historical Golden Dawn, the North was regarded as the place of greatest darkness. The North is in fact the place of greatest power, and is a gateway for that power to enter into the ritual sphere of operation. Far from emphasising material or ‘evil’ forces, the North Star is the key to effective theurgic operations.

Attributions of the Pentagram

The symbolism of our reversed pentagram is identical to the symbolism of the pentagram that originated with the Golden Dawn. They in turn took the idea from Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic. That is to say, each point is attributed to Spirit, Air, Fire, Water and Earth respectively.

Attributions of the Pentagram

Attributions of the Pentagram (elemental)

It was Eliphas Levi that first introduced the idea that the pentagram with point downwards was a symbol of the ‘Sabbatic Goat’, or ‘Baphomet’.[4] It is from there that some members of the Golden Dawn began to view the downwards-pointing star as something to be feared. Before Eliphas Levi published his formulation of the pentagram (1856), there was no particular rule about which way up a pentagram might be. Levi was a very subtle magician—infinitely more so than many who presume to know better.

Dual Pentagram StarEvery pentagram contains its reverse. In that sense, there is no such thing as an upright or averse pentagram, as all contain the inverse mirror. The pentagon symbolises whirling or spiralic force. The pentagram contains that force.

The pentagram also expresses the phi ratio (φ), the Golden Mean. The Greek letter phi sums up the mathematical and geometrical formula of the pentagram. The ratio between the shorter lines of the pentagram to the longer parts is called the Golden Proportion. From this is derived the Golden Mean. It is built into the architecture of mystery temples, churches and the pyramids of Egypt.

The Pentagram: Golden Mean Spiral of Phi Ratio

1 + √52 ≈ 1.61803399 (or φ)

When the phi ratio is expressed as a spiral, it can clearly be seen that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for the throne or seat of a god, the iset, was drawn to express the perfectly irrational proportions of the Golden Mean.

The Pentagram and Holy Guardian Angel

For us, the averse pentagram, with the point of Spirit below the other four elemental points, is the descending grace of the Holy Guardian Angel. We can achieve nothing entirely alone. Love is the law, love under will. There are two currents, the descending lightning and the ascending serpent. The serpent is awakened through the descending stream. It is the polar attraction between Kether and Malkuth that works the miracle.

The Pentagram and the Wars in Heaven

When a person is so heroic as to want to join us in the Great Work, we take it for granted they will want to inspect the armorum. They will want to know and understand how everything works. There are no directions in space other than those we posit by arbitrary appointments. Geometric forms do not possess moral qualities. However, life is packed to the brim with good and evil to the extent that all virtues contain latent evil, and all vices contain latent good. The world is now in universal agreement that smoking tobacco is harmful to the physical being. It took an Oscar Wilde to point out how even such an evil thing must, by the immutable law of nature, also contain something of the good in it. Thus he declared, through a character in the play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, that smoking has a thoroughly demoralising affect.

Baphomet as drawn by Eliphas Levi: Hermetic Light

Baphomet as drawn by by Eliphas Levi

The last word should be left to Eliphas Levi, who perhaps inadvertently started the uproar of moral indignation over geometric forms—something that Euclid and his ancient Egyptian tutors would no doubt have found quite bewildering. Levi’s attribution of the ‘Baphomet of Mendes’ was not a correct one, and probably owes to confusion between the ram-headed god of Mendes and the unidentifiable chimera of Khem.[5] However, Levi was never one to be dogmatic over attributions, much to the horror of scholastic pedants. Of the equation between the reversed pentagram and the ‘Sabbatic Goat’ or ‘Baphomet of Mendes’:

A pantheistic and magical figure of the Absolute … The goat’s head, which is synthetic, and unites some characteristics of the dog, bull and ass, represents the exclusive responsibility of matter and the expiation of bodily sins in the body. The hands are human, to exhibit the sanctity of labour; they make the sign of esotericism above and below, to impress mystery on initiates, and they point at two lunar crescents, the upper being white and the lower black, to explain the correspondences of good and evil, mercy and justice. The lower part of the body is veiled, portraying the mysteries of universal generation, which is expressed solely by the symbol of the caduceus.

Honi soit qui mal y pense. Lords, ladies, gentlemen and fellow asses! The road is clear for those who wish to travel. Now we can all get on with some real work.


Notes

1. Our comment, Yoga and the Dweller on the Threshold, may be read here at Ordo Astri.
2. The Hermetic Qabalah is explained in clear, simple terms in the book required for our practical course: Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course.
3. The cosmological explanation of the pentagrams and our ritual basis is given in the Introduction to Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light and is more fully revealed through the nine volumes that follow. The phi ratio and Golden Mean is discussed in the Dominus Liminis section.
4. For Eliphas Levi’s full description of his drawing of the ‘Sabbatic Goat’, see the ‘Explanation of the Figures’, pp. xiv Transcendental Magic.
5. The confusion between the ram-headed god of Mendes (Ba-neb-djedet) with a goat probably owes to the Greek traveller Herodotus. In a rather complicated account in his Histories, Herodotus describes the god of Mendes as goat-headed. Much popular fiction associating the worship or sacrifice of goats with ‘devil worship’ arises from this account. It is possible that, if Herodotus did indeed travel to Mendes, the local Egyptians were pulling his leg! [Herodotus, History, Book II pp. 42, Robin Waterfield translation.]

© Oliver St. John, 2018

The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is presented in several of our publications. It is also posted at Ordo Astri here.

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Nephthys, Goddess of Night

In the Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, the main entry for Nephthys, ‘Lady of the Temple’ (neb-hwt), can be found under the number 71 (NBTI). Her name is derived from the ancient Egyptian root neb, meaning ‘mistress’, and hwt, ‘temple enclosure’. Thus she is the Lady of the House and the archetypal temple priestess. She is the principle (neter) of eternal life in transition. Her powers of protection are thus given to the sun barque of Ra upon entry to the Duat at dusk or twilight, at the commencement of the journey through night.

Nephthys, as drawn by Jeff Dahl

Egyptian Goddess Nephthys as drawn by Jeff Dahl

The words and spells of Nephthys are vital for passing safely through the underworld, for demons tremble in fear at her utterance. At dawn, Ra is greeted by Isis. It is said in the Pyramid Text Utterance 222, line 210:

Ascend and descend; descend with Nephthys, sink into darkness with the Night-bark. Ascend and descend; ascend with Isis, rise with the Day-bark.

(Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, R.O. Faulkner, Oxford University Press 1969.)

Qabalistically, Nephthys is referred to Geburah, the 5th sephira of the Hermetic Tree of Life, and is the counterpart to Isis, who is placed in Gedulah. The pair embodies the Pillar of Force (Isis) and the Pillar of Form (Nephthys). The sisters are the inner power of the Sun and the Moon respectively and are the personification of the waxing and waning Moon (on each side of the Tree). Nephthys, as the waning Moon, symbolises the dissolution of the mind-ego complex and its identity with the personality. This is necessary before the word of the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth can be received. Thus Aleister Crowley said, of the number 71 (in his 777): “A number of Binah. The image of nothingness and silence which is a fulfilment of the aspiration.”

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Ritual Magick – The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light

Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (2017 Edition) was taken out of circulation for a few months this year. This was due to technical problems with the global distribution network. We are very happy to announce that Ritual Magick is now back online as of November 10th, and has received further additions and improvements.

Ordo Astri Books: Ritual Magick - The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic LightThis work has come about through the time-honoured method of making contact with occult intelligences. Whether these are considered to be divine, angelic, or praeterhuman, it is the object of magick to get directly in touch with them. The question of timing is vital in magick. The Holy Guardian Angel, Bornless Spirit or Primordial Wisdom is both the seed and the fruit. To the Bornless Spirit all phenomena arise spontaneously and have no cause and effect—no linear chain of circumstances where one thing leads to another. Yet for the magician, struggling through denser worlds of manifestation, the results of the Hermetic Great Work are perceived as they reify in matter, time and space.

Publishing the rites and ceremonies of the O∴ A∴ was all a matter of time. Countless magical operations and the subsequent reworking of methods means the system of magical Initiation revealed in Ritual Magick has been refined over time. Since the book was first published (2010) we have seen a great expansion of interest in our work. Since then the book has been thoroughly revised, corrected and updated to reflect more accurately how rituals are actually done by individuals and groups. There is now an entire volume of Enochian Magick. Diagrams have been added, including temple floor plans for pathworking in the grades. The inclusion of advanced operations such as Goetic Evocation and a full ceremonial Mass of Hormaku consummate this work.

In this Sixth Edition, the Enterer of the Threshold temple floor plan for the Neophyte Initiation is presented. This ritual marks the vital transition between the Probationer and Neophyte, the outer world of Darkness and interior world of Illuminated Souls. It is the laying of the foundation for the Golden Dawn in the Outer, the Building of the Pyramid.

Preface to the Sixth Edition, Ritual Magick, November 2017 e.v.

Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light (available now from the author’s website). Read description here on the Ordo Astri website.

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