The Scarlet Letter
Volume II, Number 3 | Feburary 1995
Column: Heretics For Tea & Crumpets
An Heterodox Position on Banishing
by Dionysus Soter, Deacon E.G.C.
In a discussion with Anthony, a local houngan, he made the remark that a ceremonial banishing before a Voudon rite would be unsound magical practice, and likely to be taken as an affront by the Loa. Practitioners of Voudon cultivate a special relationship with the entities called Loa, and the personal nature of that relationship precludes banishing. Banishing prior to invocation clears the "space" (temple/magician) and establishes a guardian function to admit only desired entities into the working. To use a metaphor endemic to Voudon, banishing before invoking the Loa would be like asking one's parents to identify themselves with their driver's licenses before admitting them as dinner guests.
Obviously (or not so obviously, according to some magicians), the Gnostic Mass is not a Voudon rite. But it shares important features with such workings. In the Mass, the Priest and People invoke their own divine beings, as declared upon communication, "There is no part of me that is not of the Gods." This higher level of intimacy with the entity invoked keeps the banishing from being rude, but also makes it even more unnecessary.
The Mass, like a Voudon ceremony, is a dramatic ritual. Dramatic ritual is of another order than ceremonial work, although it often applies ceremonial means to its ends. Note that the Mass in Liber XV is composed of six distinct ceremonies that work in combination to produce the desired effect. In Part 3 of Book Four, the chapter "Of Dramatic Rituals" notes that the parties to such ritual "should all be initiates of the same mysteries, bound by the same oaths, and filled with the same aspirations." In the Mass, the Creed serves to apply this criterion. Note that the structure of the first portion of the Ceremony of the Introit corresponds rather neatly to a lesser pentagram banishing:
It is certainly conceivable that an adroit Deacon could capitalize on this structure by facing East for the first article of the Creed, North for the second, West for the third, South for the fourth, and East again for the remainder of the Creed, making the step of a Man & a Brother in each direction, with the Sign given with the name in each article.
As implied by the fact that it was added to my missal, a banishing is not specified in Liber XV. Certainly a banishing of any sort prior to the admission of the People to the temple is a suitable and helpful action, contributing to the spiritual preparation of the Deacon and the space. But placing it amidst the explicitly delineated motions of the Ceremony of the Introit could be seen as an interruption of the process.
In my earliest training in the Church, I was told by my brothers that certain Thelemic rituals were of a nature that precluded banishing after the ceremony. The rituals specifically indicated were the Mark of the Beast (from Liber V) and the Gnostic Mass. The reason given was that these rituals particularly are intended to foster the spread of thelemic magical force through the world at large. The Mass does so through a eucharistic process, i.e. it converts the mundane into the divine. The Creed defines "the Miracle of the Mass" as the process by which "meat and drink are transmuted ... into spiritual substance." The Mass can transmute the psychic debris of the Old Aeon into the vital spirit of the New, so energies that might need to be excluded from other rituals through banishing can be included and transformed by the Mass.
As a Deacon, I plan to continue banishing before the Mass, according to the expressed desires of my Priest or Priestess. I don't think that a Star Ruby after admitting the congregation prevents the Mass from being effective, and I don't mind flexing my ceremonial ability as a Deacon. But I offer these sincere speculations to my brothers and sisters in the Church for their consideration.