The Golden Dawn has a reputation for doing long-winded rituals and forcing practitioners to do lots of daily ritual work. The web groups generally insist on a mix of lesser banishing rituals of the pentagram, lesser banishing rituals of the pentagram, watch towers (or Supreme Invoking pentagram), Ritual of the Hexagram and Middle Pillar.
However, many people are surprised to discover that this approach to GD magic emerged directly from the bottom of the psychological model touting writers whose involvement with the Golden Dawn was small. For them to get away with all this some things have been overemphasised.
So here is my list of over-rated modern Golden Dawn rituals. It does not mean you should forget all about them, but be aware they are less important to a practising GD adept.
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram
As I have written many times, the Golden Dawn rarely performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and Annie Horneman worried about paranoid members who performed the ritual too much. She thought it reduced their magnetism. The ritual of the pentagram (which is now called the invoking) was used daily and before every ritual to build a form of a magic circle. However, even then it was designed for outer order members only. Mathers said it was only to provide a basic level of protection for noobs (I am paraphrasing). By the time of the Stella Matutina, the lesser ritual of the pentagram was seen as a method of keeping lower astral nasties away from space by increasing the vibration of the space. Since most of the bad stuff you get which contaminates a ritual comes from this level a lesser ritual of the pentagram is worth doing. The banishing is incredibly less important. Its use came in during the 1970s and was touted by students of Israel Regardie as a method of cleaning out their sphere of sensation for future work. In this function, it has limited effect and its long term effects seem to confirm Horneman’s theory correct.
The Middle Pillar
The Middle Pillar, as used by modern magicians, was largely developed by Israel Regardie. The Golden Dawn had its equivalents but these were rarely used. Some modern magicians see it as a form of Tantra and raising kundalini which it isn’t. In fact any magical effects seem to start to wear off after about six weeks. As an exercise, it is good for centring a person’s sphere of sensation in the initial phases of training. It allows the student to associate divine names etc with parts of the body and has a use. But after this six weeks period this has become second nature and is less useful. Its power really depends on how unbalanced you are. One person found that for two weeks the Middle Pillar gave them the runs. Much of the work of the middle pillar duplicates the neophyte ritual so I tend to suggest that people dump it after two or three months.
The Opening by Watchtower
If you could make a ritual dull, slow and unnecessary Israel Regardie managed it with his rewrite of the fairly obvious and simple supreme pentagram. Yes the GD did have something similar based on the Vault ceremony, but its use was not really that necessary. Regardie made considerable claims for this ritual. The worst was that it was a form of self-initiation which meant that the Golden Dawn’s Outer Order could be skipped completely (he had a low opinion of those rituals). However, the various people who tried this approach saw negative effects and found themselves incapable of balancing the elemental forces. One of Regardie’s students who followed this approach Pat Behmin was as mad as a box of frogs , an alcoholic, neurotic who was desperate for attention. Traites which might have been dealt with if she had gone through the elemental grades properly. It is much better just to do the supreme ritual of the pentagram and then purify and consecrate.
Lesser “broken” hexagrams
While I see a point for the Saturn-based lesser banishing ritual of the hexagram soon after someone is initiated into the 5-6 the other six “broken hexagrams” are largely pointless. The idea is that they flavour a magic circle with planetary force, but generally I find that a single “supreme hex” in the centre of the temple is enough. It is important to note that lesser planetary hexs have no function in ANY Golden Dawn initiation rituals. One would think if they were important they would have been seen in the 6-5 or 7-4 initations or even drawn somewhere in the outer order. Yet their lack of a mention means that they were not properly integrated into the GD system. It is not surprising in some ways as to do a lesser hexagram of the sun you have to draw four of the bloody things in each quarter. Certainly, I don’t think they have much use in daily practice. The lesser banishing ritual of Saturn has a use similar to that of the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram and is good if you are doing a ritual to overcome your limitations.
The Rose Cross ritual
This is a ritual which is largely useless. It uses the IAO formula to build a Tiphareth sphere which is designed to keep badness out. It appeared late in the GD history and has been justified in that it is supposed to provide a higher level of protection or (somewhat silly) invisibly from more powerful entities. The idea was that pentagrams “light up on the astral” (which they don’t) while Tiphareth provided a quiet environment in which to work. Firstly there is no reason to believe any of this. The GD did value invisibly and had a ritual which did that. However, anyone who thinks a solar ritual will hide them from anything knows every little about magic. Personally, I think the Rose Cross ritual helps seal their sphere of sensation after a traumatic 5-6 initiation or when you need to be surrounded by Tiphareth symbolism. This is a rare situation.