I have to admit, being a Virgo has both its up and downside. The upside is that you are quite in tune with how everything should be done and you have the generosity to share with others that inherent wisdom. The downside is that frequently, they don’t give a shit and do what they want and get it all jacked up, then WHO do they come to when they want it fixed? *sigh* That’s right, the Virgo. Usually, we’re decent enough to just sigh heavily and push them aside, instructing that they get their helmet on and pay attention before they hurt themselves while we explain where they’ve screwed it all up and how if they’d *only* listened the first twelve times we tried to warn them, they’d not be in this mess. So let’s just do it right this time from the beginning and learn, learn, learn the art of invoking without mucking it up and pissing off things that are bigger than you or losing control of mischievous little critters that are smaller than you.
Note: Interlaced in this discussion are thoughts from my one of favorite Witchy-writers, Silver Ravenwolf (sure, she and I part ways in some areas of belief, but hey, she’s GOOD and honestly, who doesn’t part ways at some point?), who has an excellent and informative discourse on this very subject in her book, To Stir a Magick Cauldron, sequel to her other wonderful book To Ride a Silver Broomstick.Both are excellent investments to stock your magick library or hey, Amazon.com is your buddy, your pal}
“Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North
Angel Uriel, Element of Earth, Beloved Gnomes,
High Priestess of Coven of the Cosmic Self,
Do summon, stir, and call ye forth
To witness this rite and guard this sacred space.
In the name of the Mighty Goddess and Her Consort
Be with us now!”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I thought so too. I wrote that for a ritual many (many)years ago. It was one sixth of the invocations at a major ritual performed September 21, 1984 (quick, what ritual would that be?). It was the first formal ritual that my coven performed for the Mother Circle after our hive-off at Candlemas. I was afraid I would forget the beautiful words I had written, so I said them in about 20 seconds’ time and my hands were sweating so badly that I had to keep re-gripping my athame to avoid turning my foot into a shish-cabob. Even though I had presided over a number rituals, formal and informal, and I was among friends, this was the first one by my personal group for our elders. Everyone glowed and told me what a wonderful job I had done, but on closer examination years later, I can see where my lack of experience showed through.
So what was wrong with the invocation? Let’s start with the cadence. Not only was I very nervous (I terrified that I would omit a Watchtower or Angel or other Significant Entity), I also knew that I had put together some really cool words and I wanted everyone to hear what I had so painstakingly written. Because I was involved with all that, I did not take the time to use my powers of visualization and SEE what I was calling. I forgot that the magickal associates that I was invoking were not just nice words that I had written on a 3X5 index card. They were a very real part of my life and they deserved more respect than to have their invocation spouted off like an auctioneer hawking a lamp. When a person is invoking, they should pause, center up, and although their words should be heard by everyone in the circle, they should be issued directed to the energy/entity that they are calling; not to the public in their circle.
Who was I calling? Just about everyone, from the looks of things. The North quarter was pretty crowded that sabbat. First mentioned is the Guardian of the Watchtower of the North. What are Watchtowers and who are their Guardians? Watchtowers are exactly what they sound like: towers. When we Celts were in tribes, the tribal castles often had four towers, one in each of the directions. The towers were connected by wooden bridges or stone walls running between the four corners of the castle or fortress that was being guarded. Guardians of the Watchtowers were placed in each of the towers to watch the four directions surrounding the castle/fortress and to issue forth a warning were it to come under attack or be compromised in any way. So when you invoke Guardians of the Watchtowers, you are actually creating a square inside the circle you have cast with each corner of the square being occupied by a Guardian specific to that quarter.
A Guardian of a Watchtower of old was one bad motherf (“Shutcher mouth!” “I was jus’ talkin’ ‘bout da Guardians of th’ Watchtowers!”s) To simplify, the Guardians of the Watchtowers were the biggest, baddest SOB’s on the block, so to our manner of thinking, these would be the American Gladiators with various and assorted wicked weapons who are guarding our circle and sacred space, keeping it safe from intrusions both magickal and mundane. For that reason, your Guardians of the Watchtowers would be looking OUT into the world with their backs to what’s going on in the ritual. Obviously, it would not be a good idea to call Watchtower guardians to “witness this rite and guard this space”. They could do a bang up job of guarding the space and would certainly enjoy witnessing the rite, but it would be difficult for them to do both at the same time without spinning like a top. They hate that, so let’s not confuse and piss off the big guys.
There are as many visualization patterns for Guardians of the Watchtowers (or “Watchtowers” for short) as there are practitioners, here are some guidelines if you want to be snooty and historically correct. As stated above, Watchtowers are there to guard, so they are definitely considered to be Warrior Energy. They would normally be dressed according to the pantheon in which you are working, so think “Braveheart” if you are of the Celtic tradition, the Pharaoh’s army in “The Ten Commandments” if you are of the Egyptian tradition, etc. If you don’t want to summon traditional Watchtowers (and Goddess knows I hate being predictable), they are still more than willing to guard your circle regardless of the style of dress in which you visualize them, including the afore mentioned American Gladiators attire. These guys and gals spend a great deal of time working out at the cosmic gym, so they have no qualms about guarding your circle starkers if that is what you choose. They are not shy. Remember that they are guarding the circle (have I mentioned this enough?), so you will want to call them in after you have cast. As you invoke them, visualize them stepping into position, arms crossed or brandishing weapons, muscles bulging and teeth a flashin’. You could visualize just the guardians stepping grandly into your circle, then doing a grand about face to look out into the worlds, or you could even mentally construct (what? A watchtower, they all cried) yes, a watchtower at each of the four corners for them to crawl into and man until the circle is over and you have dismissed them. My circle in England actually had a special group ritual where we very visually constructed the watchtowers at each point and then left them in place permanently. When we began a ritual, we would invoke the guardians to step into the towers.
The next invitee in our (OK, my) botched invocation is the Archangel Uriel (also spelled Auriel). Angels, Ancestors, Patrons or Deity, are the usual entities that you would ask to ‘witness your rite’. When working with Angel energy, it is a good idea to research the Angel you are calling. Without getting deeply into the nine different choirs of angels and the differences between Seraphims vs Archangels vs Cherubim (who aren’t exactly the cutesy babies decorating everything trendy; they have four faces, four wings and ‘cute’ isn’t exactly a word you’d think of when you see them), suffice it to say that you should be familiar with what you are calling up. Angelic powers are dualistic, which means they are not always 100% good guys. We think, because of the number of incidents reported in which Angels have helped people (which are probably nearly all valid cases), coupled with the ‘Guardian Angel’ fad that has hit New Agers with a vengeance, that all Angels are Goody Two-Wings standing around the clouds just festering to hear one of us call out in need so they can jump into a human form and come pull our truck out of the snow. In most cases, that isn’t quite it. To put a quick cap on what could become a lengthy dissertation (now really, you don’t think I’d get wordy, do you?), we can sum up the calling of Angels into your circle quite simply. If you are dealing with the Big Four (Uriel, Raphael, Michael and Gabriel) and you call/invite them very respectfully and get them in their appropriate quarter and thank them politely for attending and witnessing your rite when you are finished, you can’t really go wrong. If you go beyond these four, research your Angels and know what you’re dealing with. When used carefully and respectfully, Angels can lend a very invigorating energy to any circle.
Next is the calling of the Element of Earth. Calling in the energy of an element is not the same as calling in an elemental (discussed in the next paragraph). An element is something that you can perceive with one or more of your five senses. It exists in our physical level. When you pick up a handful of earth, you can feel its texture, smell its earthy scent, and could taste it should you choose to. An element is a physical representation of the energy of that quarter and embodies that energy. Those energies may be used to provide assistance in a great number of spells and meditations. For instance, we would call upon the energy of the element of Earth if we wanted something to “grow” into fruition. We would go to the element of Air if we wanted to have the winds of change blow into our lives. Using the physical representations of these energies helps us to better focus on the use of those energies. Unlike other energies that we might invoke, the Energy of an Element is not attributed the power of a thinking process. Energies of the Elements are energies that we use toward a specific end and may be invoked before or after the circle casting, whichever you choose.
Also to be considered is the balancing that the calling of the Energies of the Elements provides. Envision the circle in your mind. See that South balances North, so the fire balances the earth and the energies of passion are balanced with the energies of grounding. Likewise, the West balances the East and vice versa. Water balances the Air and intuition balances intellect, respectively. If the practitioner is in the circle center, s/he is then standing at the axis of a perfect balance between the four energies.
So where does that leave the little elementals? They ain’t real bright but they are usually willing to help. Because they aren’t so sharp, you will need to summon them into a protected, cast circle, tell them where to stand and exactly what you want them to do. They are like little children and will get bored pretty fast if you have them there for a serious ritual that is hours long. Then the salamanders are giving folks in the south quarter a hot foot, gnomes will start playing football with healing crystals and the like. Bring in elementals only when you are going to give them something to do. For instance, they are wonderful at finding things. If you need a new chalice or a particular candle stick, you could call the critters. Tell them what you are looking for or, better yet, show them a picture, then send them on their way, heavy with provisos about returning to their magickal realms once they have completed their mission, harming none on their way, etc. What you need will then turn up right in front of your face at a flea market/thrift shop/garage sale or someone will give it to you as a gift. Elementals will happily work for pennies, jewelry, sweets, and such. Once you have found what you were looking for, leave the offering in your circle or on your doorstep for them to find. Be sure to pay them or whatever they have located for you may disappear, probably with something small that is dear to you collected as interest.
The rest of the invocation is pretty much safe. It is usually a good idea to identify yourself by your magickal name either at each invocation as I did or after the casting of the circle and before the invocations begin, such as: “I, Brigid of Anglia, now stand between the worlds in a place that is not a place, in a time that is not a time.” This finalizes your transformation into your magickal self before your rite begins.
In the invocation of the Goddess and God, many things are to be considered. Since the invocation given here is only for the North Quarter, Deity is not addressed except to party off of their title when I was calling this crowd into the North. As with the Angels, know who you are calling, warts and all. Research the pantheon that you are using and understand the personality of any Deity that you intend to invoke. Yes, it is fine to have a very basic “Goddess” image of warm and soft and mommy-like if that is what rings your bell. You do not have to call a specific name if you have a firm image in mind. But if you do name a particular God/dess, know who you are asking for and the particulars of their identity. If you do not know a lot about Hathor and you are invoking her because you heard she is good with scrying mirrors, you might be a little startled when a winged cow plops into your circle center. If you are wanting to have a sweet little meditative circle and you draw a name out of the hat for God energy, Bacchus will be gleefully pleased to preside and provide some truly X-rated visions that your group may not be ready for. There are three words to guide the invocation of specific Deities: Research, research, research! Some God/desses have particular incenses or herbs to be burned in their honor, some enjoy certain color schemes used in the circle, etc. For instance, Aradia prefers that seekers come to her skyclad (not shyclad!). Since She is the Queen of Witches, She wishes there to be nothing between ye and She and also appreciates the truth and boldness of nudity. Flora loves flowers and all things of beauty. Titania is honored with mugwort. They appreciate the additional effort just as we would: As above, so below. Knowing a Deity’s preference and using specifics to make them feel more honored and greatly heighten the experience you share when you call them in.
Notice I said, “call them in”. How you bring Deity, Watchtowers or any other magickal presence into your circle is a matter of cosmic etiquette. Here are the basic guidelines to avoid the occasional faux pas and receive maximum, nonhostile assistance from the other worlds:
*You summon elementals and element energies. This includes all forms of elemental energies such as gnomes, fairies, salamanders, undines, brownies, leprechauns, sylphs, gremlins or any kind of low level critters, as well as Energies of the Elements. Think of it as anyone/thing on a lower evolutionary level than yourself.
*You stir the ancestral dead, ancient ones, wise ones and anything else that has actually been incarnate before.
*You call and politely request the presence of anything on a higher evolutionary level than you are yourself. This includes Goddesses, Gods, Angels, Dragons, Guardians of the Watchtowers, etc. They should all be addressed with the reverence and respect deserving of their status (the status of being able to squash you like the bug that you are). I have heard practitioners summon dragons, Angels and even Deity and have watched as They sometimes came smirking into the circle, elbowing each other in the ribs and joking about the pissant that’s trying to tell Them what to do. Other times, They offered the cosmic equivalent of ‘kiss my butt” and refused to show. It all comes back to the basics that you learned in kindergarten: Be polite to your elders and don’t boss around the big guys. A side note: I do not recommending calling Dragons until you have worked with them in meditation a few times. Dragons are a very specific type of energy that takes some getting used to and I have found them to be more particular in regard to protocol than almost any other entity. Dragons are extremely intelligent, highly evolved creatures and are not to be taken lightly.
You might also want to consider the wording used when dismissing any energy/entity invited to your circle. The same basic protocol is employed as when invoking, so it would be appropriate to specifically send elementals on their way back to whence they came with a thanks and a pat on the back. Others should be very graciously thanked for their attendance and/or protection and wished well. Some appropriate dismissals would be “may there be peace between us now and always” or “stay or go as is your choosing, knowing that you are always with us in our hearts”. You would not want to banish Angels, dragons, Deity, or even your Watchtowers. Experiencing a life devoid of these special beings because you banished them would indeed be sad. Energies of the Elements may be invoked to increase the intensity of their presence, but rather than send them back, you would ask that their energies be returned to their usual working level. They would certainly not be banished since they exist in our physical world on a day to day basis. Since the strength of the Energies of the Elements can certainly make themselves known when worked with intently, we do want to keep their energies at a normal level when we return to mundane life.
In addition to knowing who or what you are calling, decide before the ritual is performed what you want that energy/entity to do once it arrives. That doesn’t mean that they won’t ad lib and be spontaneous, laws no. It means that your intentions are clear. Are you inviting Deity into your circle to bring their energy, witness your ritual and applaud afterwards or are you drawing the God/dess into your partner to manifest? Big difference. If you want Angels and Ancestors both to witness your rite, tell them so. Do not haphazardly call everyone you can think of into your circle without knowing why you are bringing them there. You won’t impress anyone with you expansive knowledge of anyone and everything affiliated with a particular quarter.
A last touch on invocation that bears mentioning is something that I only learned about recently, which is the invoking of the Four Cities of the Tuatha de Danaan. The cities are not considered to be or ever have been real cities. The traditional invocation says, “There are four cities that no mortal eye has ever seen, but the soul knows.” The cities are considered to be places along our spiritual path, each of which bring their own lessons to learn. It has been speculated that they represent the four levels of initiation: Dedication, 1st level, 2nd level and 3rd level. Gorias is in the East and is symbolized by the dividing sword of Nuada, which keeps away all ill from a ritual (or our lives). Findias is in the South and is symbolized by the Spear of Lugh Longhand, which directs our energy toward our specific work. Murias is in the West and is represented by a hallow which is the Dagda’s cauldron that is filled with water and fading light, housing all dreams of God/esses and Mortals. Lastly, Falias is in the North and is represented by the stone of death, crowned with pale fire and is held in the hands of Dana, Lady of Earth. If we break this down to the above mentioned cycle of life lessons, Gorias is the dividing sword that separates us from our mundane life when we step onto the path of Paganism. Because it keeps evil from our lives, it represents also the protection of the God/dess as well as the knowledge of spellwork that can be used in defense and manifestation. Findias as the Spear of Lugh accurately portrays 1st level when we learn to direct our energies to the specifics of ‘duty to self’. Murias in the West represents the vast darkness of the cauldron that takes us from second to third level, as well as the emotion involved with ‘duty to others’ that is worked through during second level. Falias as the stone of death takes us through the Crone aspect of craft life as we move toward physical death and we come back to the dawn of new life upon re-entry to the East. The cities can provide a wonderful foundation upon which to explore the mysteries of craft life, spiritual and karmic progression, and cycles of the physical life.
So how could the original invocation have been done differently? How about this:
I, Astrid, request the presence of the Guardian of the Watchtower of the North.
I ask that you take your place to guard and protect this circle from all dangers seen and unseen.
Beloved Uriel, Angel of the North, I invite you to bear witness to this rite and lend your energy as you deem fit.
Energies of the North, I ask that you bring your gifts of grounding and healing to this circle.
Please be with us now!
As they say, “Keep it simple, Sweetie.” In my own rituals, I summon Elementals if I have something specific for them to do. I call in the Energies of the elements to balance out the circle and lend their special energies, especially when I am casting a circle in which to perform spell work, if I want to explore a particular quarter energy in meditation, or any other low level, practical magick workings. When I am conducting a formal ritual, I request the presence of Watchtowers, Angels, and Ancestral Beings. I invoke Deity appropriate to the work being accomplished in the circle, astrological significance, and my usual pantheon. I would not invoke a Mother Goddess aspect into a Samhain circle, for instance, or Bacchus to a child’s Wiccaning. I would call upon the Crone for Samhain, leave Bacchus for the adult party rituals and so on. A great deal of invocation etiquette can be summed up in saying: Mind your manners, use common sense, and research your aspects.
Note: The photo shown is from the wonderful site by the Woodinville UUC