Why the Pentagram and the Five Elements?

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Why the Pentagram and the Five Elements?

 

The Pentagram as a symbol, has been in use for at least 5,000 years.

 
From the Onmyodo Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

From the Onmyodo Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

In ancient Greece, Pythagoras considered the pentagram as a symbol of perfection because it is composed of five geometrically perfect A’s. Through his travels, he influenced Tantric arts and early Hindu and Buddhist writing which can be seen in the Japanese magickal system of Onmyodo.

Greek astronomers observed that in an 8 year span of time, the path of Venus forms a pentagram as it orbits the sun. The Earth also creates a natural pentagram in its orbit around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is 360 degrees and 365 revolutions or days within the orbit. The only number that evenly divides both 360 and 365 is 5. This gives the ratio 72/73 or, 72 degrees per 73 days. Each of these points marks 1/5 of the orbit. If you connect the dots it creates a pentagram.

Figure from James Ferguson’s 1799 book Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles

Figure from James Ferguson’s 1799 book Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles

In Hermetic magick the pentagram represents the microcosm, meaning “small world,” or personal sphere. Microcosm is a combination of the psychological and spiritual dimensions of a particular individual. This is distinct from the macrocosm, meaning “large world,” or transpersonal sphere that includes people, places, or things that from the microcosmic perspective seem separate from any particular individual.

The Five Elements

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Each of the five points of the star indicate one of the five elements of Spirit, Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Elements are a way of describing the properties of everything outside and inside of us. For example, any fluid is primarily of the water element. Anything gaseous would be primarily air element and so on. In this way, the five elements describe essentially everything including your mind and emotions. By knowing the Five Elements, you bring the powers of change and creation into your hands. However, to wield this power, it helps tremendously to heal your own deficits first. 

By working with the pentagram as a symbol you are in essence training yourself to relate to and "master" each of the five elements. We experience difficulty in our lives and relationships whenever the five elements are out of balance. Each of the elements are mapped to domains of life ranging from finance, relationships, health, communication, spiritual development and so on. By looking at what is not working in our lives, we have an element to begin cultivating further, and in doing so, create changes that make for a more complete life. 

The Rituals of the Pentagram

The rituals of the pentagram in Western mysticism are fundamental training to relate to the energies of the five elements. There are two primary rituals, the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram. In one practice, we do both. "Lesser" is not a pejorative term and "greater" in this context does not mean better. Lesser rituals are to attune you to a more general sense of the energy while 'greater' rituals attune you more specifically. Lesser rituals also work on you internally, as in your own psyche and emotions. Greater rituals are to begin working on the outside world, or what is referred to as practical magick. 

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Most rituals will have both a banishing form and an invoking form. Banishing clears away and invoking calls in. The rule is if you are banishing, you draw the pentagram starting at that point and move away from it, ending the pentagram at the same point from which you began. So if you banish earth, you begin drawing the pentagram from the lower left, drawing away from the point associated with elemental earth. It is not usual practice to banish any element other than earth. 

Similarly, when you invoke an element, you begin drawing the pentagram at a point opposite the element and draw towards it. To invoke Earth or Fire you begin at the upper most point of Spirit and towards either the lower left (Earth) or the lower right (Fire). To invoke Air, you begin at Water, to Invoke Water, you begin at the Air point. 

We primarily work with the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP) and the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram (GIRP) which provides the essential training in core skills of magickal practice. The two rituals establish in your mind and subtle body the different permutations of how to draw a pentagram when you wish to banish or invoke any one element. When you practice daily over time, you will clear and strengthen your aura and gain awareness of magickal energies at work all around you.

Adrian Cox