RITUAL PENTAGRAM SPREAD: THE BASICS

   When consciously attempting to connect with a subtle force associated with the Tree of Life, you must first place the mind in a receptive mode, sensitive to subtle impressions. The mind attracts the subtle force through clear visualization of a picture of a God or a    Tarot archetype. Then the mind calls forth an appropriate corresponding emotion; in other words, you attract a healing force by rousing a feeling of compassion. Then you imagine a ray of appropriately colored light and energy descending upon the chosen symbolic form, the Tree of Life being the key that reveals the corresponding color for each type of force.
   Then you pulse energy between your aura and the symbolic form until your aura is filled with corresponding energy and power. In the process of invocation through the Tarot Pentagram Spread, your imagination and the Tarot archetypes are your links to the unseen forces. The imagination concentrates the will, chooses the correspondences, and manipulates the subtle astral substance behind physical existence. The imagination creates the sympathetic connections that attract the desired energies into manifestation. The trick is using the imagination to draw the forces to you with strong feeling, clear visualization, and focused willpower.
   With the Tarot Pentagram Spread, you invoke unseen subtle forces--represented symbolically by the Tree of Life--that help you manifest spiritual harmony, abundance, and magnificence in your life. Using the Pentagram Spread, you invoke the subtle energies of the "living image" of the central card while including Aces as "foundation cards," and trumps, number cards and court cards as "modifiers" to add power.

MEANING OF THE PENTAGRAM

   Thanks to the media, people nowadays tend to be familiar only with the inverted pentagram used by satanic cults. Many people consequently believe that all pentagrams are evil, which could not be farther from the truth. Every spiritual symbol, like the cross or the pentagram, has the potential to be turned upside down, just as all divine energies can be perverted by unbalanced individuals. The pentagram, believe it or not, is actually a symbol representing the most harmonious force in the cosmos, the Christ-force, the five pointed star combining five elements, or levels of being, in absolute balance. Just as importantly, the pentagram can be used in ritual to bring energy harmoniously down the planes from spirit to matter.

WANDS          CUPS          SWORDS          PENTACLES
Fire                  Water          Air                      Earth
Spiritual          Mental         Astral                  Physical
Yod                  Heh            Vau                     Heh

   In the Tarot, each suit is associated with an element, or level of being: Wands with the element of Fire, Cups with Water, Swords with Air, and Pentacles with Earth. Together, the four Aces and the trump card "Judgement" form the basis of any Pentagram Spread ritual you devise. In the Pentagram Spread, you use five “foundation” cards to represent levels of energy manifesting harmoniously: the four Aces, each representing the root of its element, and “Judgement,” a card associated with the letter Shin and the quintessence of Spirit. The Ace of Wands representing the root of the element of Fire (Yod) should be positioned at the lower right point, the Ace of Cups representing the root of the element of Water (Heh) at the upper right point, “Judgement” representing Aether or Spirit (Shin) at the top, the Ace of Swords representing the root of the element of Air (Vau) at the upper left point, and the Ace of Pentacles representing the root of the element of Earth (final Heh) at the lower left point of the pentagram. The Hebrew letters associated with the four elements form the Tetragrammaton, the unpronouncable name of God (sometimes pronounced as Jehovah, or Yahweh). With the Hebrew letter Shin in the middle, the letters form Yeheshuah, the secret name of Jesus, symbolizing spirit manifested in matter as well as the higher self manifested in the incarnated personality.

Foundation Cards

MODIFIERS

   The cards in the Major and Minor Arcana of the Tarot, which represent divine energies at different levels, can be used as modifiers that support your purpose for invoking a particular living image from the Tarot (see the link below). The twelve Major Arcana cards associated with the zodiac (see chart below) should go first on the Aces since they represent background cosmic energies. Next the cards associated with the planets, which symbolize forces more in the foreground of human consciousness, should be placed on top of the zodiac cards. Then number cards, which reveal different ways the forces manifest, should be positioned last as modifiers. In other words, three cards can be placed on top of each Ace. Any more than three invariably complicates the ritual and dilutes its power. Please remember that modifying cards add power, but effective rituals can be done with only the foundation cards and a primary card containing the living image.

See more about Living Images.

The Zodiacal, Planetary, and Elemental Associations of the Major Arcana Trumps

   When conducting a ritual using the Pentagram Spread, first place the card that best represents the ritual purpose in the center of the star. Then lay out the foundation cards, the Aces and Judgement, at the points of the pentagram. Next, on the points of the star, lay out any modifying cards in this order, if you feel they add power to the ritual:

1) a card signifying a zodiac sign
2) a card signifying a planet
3) a number card or court card

First Modifier: Zodiac Cards (Arranged in Triplicities)

   In astrology the twelve zodiac signs are grouped into four elemental triplicities. In other words, three of the signs are associated with the element of Fire, three with Water, three with Air, and three with Earth. You should always place a zodiac card on its own Ace. For instance, The Emperor, Strength and Temperance (Ares, Leo, and Sagittarius respectively) are associated with Fire, so they should only be placed on the Ace of Wands. The Chariot, Death, and The Moon (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) are associated with Water and should only be used on the Ace of Cups. The Lovers, Justice, and The Star (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) are associated with the Air element and should only be placed on the Ace of Swords. Finally, The Hierophant, The Hermit, and The Devil (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn) are associated with Earth and should only be placed on the Ace of Pentacles.

Second Modifier: Planetary Cards

   In the system of Golden Dawn correspondences, each number card, or Minor Arcana card, from the Twos to the Tens, is assigned ten degrees of the zodiac, called a decan, or decanate, each of which is ruled by a planet. The number cards are also associated with the ten sephiroth (spheres) on the Tree of Life. For instance, the Aces, described as the roots of the powers of the elements, are all assigned to Kether, the first sphere on the Tree; the Twos to Chokmah, the second sphere; the Threes to Binah, the third sphere; and so on down to the Tens in Malkuth, the tenth sphere. To avoid conflict it is best, unless you know a great deal about astrology, to stick with the decan correspondences of the number cards when using planetary modifiers. Please note that since the zodiac cards are not being laid out in a zodiacal circle, you do not need to worry about creating adverse aspects.

The decan correspondences of the number cards.

Third Modifier: Number Cards

   Remember: the meaning of each number card is derived from its element, the combined planet and sign of its decan, and its location within a sephira (sphere) on the Tree of Life, seven spheres of which are associated with a planet.

Astrological Associations of the Spheres (Sephiroth) on the Tree of Life:

Sphere 1, Kether: the first swirlings (the primal state of manifestation)
Sphere 2, Chokma: the Zodiac
Sphere 3, Binah: Saturn
Sphere 4, Chesed: Jupiter
Sphere 5, Geburah: Mars
Sphere 6, Tiphareth: The Sun
Sphere 7, Netzach: Venus
Sphere 8, Hod: Mercury
Sphere 9, Yesod: The Moon
Sphere 10, Malkuth: the Four Elements


   (At the risk of stating the obvious, the number cards should only be used with the Ace of their own suit. In other words, place a Pentacle only on the Ace of Pentacles, not on the Ace of Cups, the Ace of Swords, or the Ace of Wands. Mixing them only creates conflicts and results in confusion.)

Active and Passive Invoking Pentagrams

INVOKING ENERGIES

   Fire and Air are active elements and Earth and Water are passive elements. Therefore, the invoking ritual for Air and Fire is slightly different than the one for Earth and Water. This requires you to decide which element you are focusing on, which is simple if you are invoking a number card, court card or zodiac card, but more subjective if you are invoking the energy of a planet. As you can see in the chart below, except for the Sun and the Moon, each planet rules two zodiac signs, one sign in an active element and one in a passive element. When invoking a planet, you must decide, based on your ritual purpose and the modifiers you are using, if the ritual is more in an active element of Air and Fire or a passive element of Earth and Water.

ZODIAC SIGNS AND RULING PLANETS

ARIES: MARS
TAURUS: VENUS
GEMINI: MERCURY
CANCER: MOON
LEO: SUN
VIRGO: MERCURY
LIBRA: VENUS
SCORPIO: MARS
SAGITTARIUS: JUPITER
CAPRICORN: SATURN
AQUARIUS: SATURN
PISCES: JUPITER

   When laying out the cards, first visualize a pentagram on your alter or table and lay down the primary card with the energies that you are invoking in the center of your pentagram. Then if you are invoking energy from either the suit of Wands or Swords, start with the Fire element and move toward the Air element, placing the Ace of Wands in the lower right hand corner and then the Ace of Swords in the upper left hand corner, continuing with the Water element and so on in a continuous motion until you complete the star. Then tap each card in the same order, making sure to tap the Ace of Wands at the lower right point a second time to complete the pentagram--or draw a complete star above the layout in brilliant white light (in your mind's eye) in the same order. Then say, "The Pentagram is complete." All subsequent cards should be placed in the same order. If you are invoking the energies from a card in the suit of Pentacles or Cups, start with the Ace of Pentacles in the lower left hand corner and move toward the element of Water in the upper right hand corner, placing the Ace of Cups, continuing until you complete the star. Then tap the cards or draw the pentagram in the same order above the layout and say, "The Pentagram is complete."

   When it comes to laying out the cards, a little advanced planning is always helpful. Remember to arrange the cards in an order that enables you to perform the ritual without worrying about the placement of the cards, especially if you are using a lot of modifiers. You can, for instance, make separate piles, one for the primary card and the foundation cards, with the primary card on top; one for the zodiac modifiers; one for the planetary modifiers; and one for the number cards--all in the order of placement. Remember that the type of invoking pentagram you are using, either active or passive, affects the lay out of the cards since you will either be starting with Wands in the position of the Fire element in the lower right hand corner and moving to the upper left-hand corner, or with Pentacles in the position of the Earth element in the lower left-hand corner and moving in the opposite direction. This may all sound extremely complicated, but once you've mastered the basics, which is much easier than may appear at first, you shouldn't have any problems. One of the purposes of this layout is to help you with memory and concentration. Both are extremely important in invocation and in the Great Work in general, especially when it comes to the more advanced rituals.
   Remember, when consciously attempting to connect with a subtle force associated with the Tree of Life, you must first place the mind in a receptive mode, sensitive to subtle impressions. The mind attracts the subtle force through clear visualization of a picture of a God or a Tarot archetype. Then the mind calls forth an appropriate corresponding emotion; in other words, you attract a healing force by rousing a feeling of compassion. Then you imagine a ray of appropriately colored light and energy descending upon the chosen symbolic form, the Tree of Life being the key that reveals the corresponding color for each type of force.
   Then you pulse energy between your aura and the symbolic form until your aura is filled with corresponding energy and power. In the process of invocation through the Ritual Pentagram Spread, your imagination and the Tarot archetypes are your links to the unseen forces. The imagination concentrates the will, chooses the correspondences, and manipulates the subtle astral substance behind physical existence. The imagination creates the sympathetic connections that attract the desired energies into manifestation. The trick is using the imagination to draw the forces to you with strong feeling, clear visualization, and focused willpower.

Review simple invocation.

EXAMPLES

   Thirty-six of the number cards (all except the Aces) contain decan correspondences. Here is an example that shows the symbolic associations of the Four of Wands.

Four of Wands: Lord of Perfected Work
Decan: Venus in 21 - 30 degrees of Aries
Tree of Life Association: Jupiter in Chesed (Fourth Sphere)


The Four of Wands.

Example One: Decan Correspondences of the Four of Wands

   Notice that the decan correspondence for the Four of Wands is "Venus in Aries" and the Tree of Life correspondence is "Jupiter in Chesed." Aries is a zodiac sign within the Fire triplicity, so the zodiac card The Emperor (see chart above), as well as the related planetary card and the number card, should be positioned in the lower right hand corner of the pentagram, the point associated with the element of Fire. The Four of Wands contains the influence of two planets: Venus and Jupiter. The Emperor and Empress work well together on many levels. It is generally best to stick with the decan planetary correspondence of the number card, but using Jupiter as a planetary modifier is also acceptable.

   Here is another example that shows the symbolic correspondences of the Four of Cups.

Four of Cups: Lord of Blended Pleasure
Decan: The Moon in 21 - 30 degrees of Cancer
Tree of Life Association: Jupiter in Chesed (Fourth Sphere)


The Four of Cups.

Example Two: Decan Correspondences of the Four of Cups

   The decan correspondence for the Four of Cups is "The Moon in Cancer" and the Tree of Life correspondence is "Jupiter in Chesed." Cancer is a zodiac sign within the Water triplicity, so the zodiac card The Chariot (see chart above), as well as the related planetary card and the number card, should be positioned in the upper right hand corner of the pentagram, the point associated with the element of Water. As a modifier, The Chariot (Cancer) should be placed on the Ace of Cups, followed by The Moon and the Four of Cups. The Four of Cups contains the influence of two planets: The Moon and Jupiter. The Moon and Cancer are extremely compatible symbolically, but using Jupiter as a modifier is also acceptable.

   The following is another example that shows the symbolic correspondences of The Six of Swords.

Six of Swords: Lord of Earned Success
Decan: Mercury in 11 - 20 degrees of Aquarius
Tree of Life Association: Sun in Tiphareth (Sixth Sphere)


The Six of Swords.

Example Three: Decan Correspondences of the Six of Swords

   The decan correspondence for the Six of Swords is "Mercury in Aquarius" and the Tree of Life correspondence is "The Sun in Tiphareth." Aquarius is a zodiac sign within the Air triplicity, so the zodiac card The Star (see chart above), as well as the related planetary card and the number card, should be positioned in the upper left hand corner of the pentagram, the point associated with the element of Air. As a modifier, The Star (Aquarius) should be placed on the Ace of Swords, followed by The Magician and the Six of Swords. The Six of Swords contains the influence of two planets: Mercury and The Sun. Aquarius and Mercury work extremely well together, but using The Sun as a modifier is always beneficial.

   Here is one more example that shows the symbolic correspondences of the Eight of Pentacles.

Eight of Pentacles: Lord of Prudence
Decan: Sun in 1 - 10 degrees of Virgo
Tree of Life Association: Mercury in Hod (Eighth Sphere)

The Eight of Pentacles.

Example Four: Decan Correspondences of the Eight of Pentacles

   The decan correspondence for the Eight of Pentacles is "The Sun in Virgo" and the Tree of Life correspondence is "Mercury in Hod." Virgo is a zodiac sign within the Earth triplicity, so the zodiac card The Hermit (see chart above), as well as the related planetary card and the number card, should be positioned in the lower left hand corner of the pentagram, the point associated with the element of Earth. As a modifier, The Hermit (Virgo) should be placed on the Ace of Pentacles, followed by The Sun and the Eight of Pentacles. The Eight of Pentacles contains the influence of two planets: The Sun and Mercury. (In classical astrology, the Sun was considered a planet.) The Sun and Virgo work well together, but using Mercury as a modifier is a powerful alternative when combined with Virgo.

THE PERSONAL ASSOCIATION CHAIN

   A layout based on a personal association chain is less formulaic and allows for more freedom but requires greater familiarity with the cards. The landscape of the Tarot features a pictorial language of symbols, much like the symbolic imagery of a dream. Whenever you are dealing with an array of Tarot cards for any reason, you encounter a symbolic association chain, which is partly transpersonal and partly personal. The transpersonal aspects are classified clearly in astrological and elemental terms, but many of the personal aspects are classifiable only in psychological terms because they relate to the particular history and character of the individual. Since we can identify the type of cosmic energy at play, the transpersonal aspect is essentially objective, but the personal remains primarily subjective. A symbol dreamed by one person might have a different meaning in the context of someone else’s dreamscape even though it still retains some of the basic meanings. A bear in a dream, for instance, might be threatening to one person and attractive to another. That is why a divination might stray from the transpersonal classifications to shed light on the personal level: The Tarot reader is focusing on how the archetypal energies are uniquely affecting the individual.
   Dreams often work in symbolic association chains, which only the individual can truly interpret based on his or her own history. Since the Tarot cards are like symbols in a dream, you can create your own association chain of Tarot living images for the purposes of ritual, recognizing the dual nature of the cards: personal and transpersonal. Any Pentagram Spread layout that you devise will have an objective, transpersonal aspect and meanings that remain uniquely your own. Anyone else reading the spread will inevitably have some of their own personal interpretations. In this type of spread, you must give yourself the freedom to allow uniquely personal meanings while respecting the transpersonal symbolism of the cards, including the astrological and elemental correspondences and the placement of the Tarot cards on the points of the pentagram.

Two of Pentacles: Lord of Harmonious Change
Decan: Jupiter in 1 - 10 degrees of Capricorn
Tree of Life Association: Zodiac in Chokmah (Second Sphere)


   A Pentagram Spread with a personal association chain can include modifiers based on decan correspondences, but does not rely on them. Only modifiers that are meaningful on a personal level are necessary. This, as I mentioned, requires great familiarity with the cards. In the following spread, for instance, I chose cards related to the spirit of the Two of Pentacles and positioned only one modifier on top of each foundation card.

The Two of Pentacles.
The Queen of Wands.
The Fool.
The Six of Cups.
The Page of Pentacles.

   The Fool evokes creative freedom, adventurousness, temerity, resilience, flexibility, courage--the abilities both to go with the flow and to let go--but suggests that others might view actions based on these characteristics as foolishness or madness. The Two of Pentacles (directly connected on the Tree of Life to the path assigned to The Fool) for me reveals the fool caught up in the dance of life, maintaining harmony and balance through a sense of the infinitude within, represented by the lemniscate, a symbol of eternity. In my ritual, I chose to emphasize the great concentration and focus of the figure in the Page of Pentacles, whereas another person might interpret that focus as obsession or an inability to let go. I chose the Queen of Wands because of her openness and her ability to radiate and attract joy, and I chose the Six of Cups for its suggestion of openness and trust in relation to strangeness and “otherness.” I’m sure other people would give these cards different personal meanings, both negative and positive, based on their experience. These cards for me contain transpersonal meanings and an association chain of highly personal meanings related to various struggles, and I chose to emphasize particular qualities in the cards based on my personal interpretations. Once you become familiar with the cards, most Pentagram Spreads will undoubtedly contain modifiers with decan correspondences as well as single modifiers that are highly personal.

INVOKING THE GODS WITH A PERSONAL ASSOCIATION CHAIN

   The Tree of Life represents types of cosmic energy as spheres, or “sephiroth,” and throughout history the Gods and Angels of different cultures have come to represent aspects of those types of cosmic forces. In other words, each culture, depending on its needs, has emphasized different aspects of the cosmic forces through the Gods and Goddesses it has worshipped. Ptah and Chronos and Saturn, for instance, all represent aspects of the third sphere on the Tree known as Binah, or “Understanding.” Hathor, Aphrodite, and Venus represent aspects of the seventh sphere known as Netzach, or “Victory.” Like the Tarot archetypes that we are familiar with, the Gods have been fashioned in each culture to help individuals understand and channel those forces into the soul. This is possible because each one of us is a reflection of the cosmic Tree--We each contain the same forces, but usually in a latent state. When we tune our minds to the forces represented by the Gods (and Tarot images) on the Tree, we stimulate those forces within us and can then manifest them in daily life.
   Even though the Gods of different pantheons within each sphere reveal cultural differences, they share essential characteristics based on the types of forces. In other words, you can become more creative by invoking the forces of the sphere of Venus, more intellectual by invoking the forces of Mercury, more psychic by invoking the forces of the Moon, more energetic and courageous by invoking the forces of Mars, and so on.
   The Tree of Life and the Tarot together form a key to understanding the significance of the Gods and their relationships to each other and to the individual human being. Understanding the relationships helps you to form an association chain of meaning based on the Tree. With the Pentagram Spread, you can create a personal association chain for invoking the powers of the Gods. Knowing where they fit on the Tree of Life is important (see link below), but focusing on a basic theme related to associated Gods or Archangels is the key to effective invocation.

Gods and Archangels on the Tree of Life.

   When using the Tarot to invoke the Gods during a ritual, stick with one pantheon, such as the Egyptian pantheon. In other words, do not mix Gods from the Egyptian, Greek or Roman pantheons together. Feel free to invoke the Gods of other cultures if your soul resonates with them.
   Unless you are good at impromptu speaking, it is helpful to compose a prayer or poem to each God or Goddess beforehand. You should know beforehand the color correspondences of the main card you are focusing on so that you can effectively connect with the living image. The example below shows a personal association chain, with Gods from the Egyptian pantheon, focused on forces related to the Two of Pentacles.

Two of Pentacles' Color Correspondence: white flecked with red, yellow, and blue.

Gods of the Egyptian Pantheon Associated with the Two of Pentacles:

Earth (Pentacles)
The Devil (Capricorn): Min
The World (Saturn): Ptah

Water (Cups)
The Chariot (Cancer): Khepera
The Magician (Mercury): Thoth
The Three of Cups (Mercury in Cancer)

Air (Swords)
The Fool (Air): Harpocrates

Fire (Wands)
The Queen of Wands: Sekhmet

   These prayers to specific Egyptian Gods purposely contain repetition, which continually emphasizes the main themes of the ritual and ends up having a powerful effect on the subconsious mind, like affirmation.

Min

Great Min, God of fertility,
creator of all things,
reveal the power of the Source
within the world, show me
the power of creation
within my soul
so that I may know
abundance and harmony
and live in my higher self,
serving thee and the one God
for the highest possible good.

Ptah

Great Ptah, lord of eternity,
who existed before all things,
conceiving the world
by the thought of your heart,
giving life through the magic
of your Word, show me
the power of your Word
in my heart and mind,
the magic of the dance
of creation, the eternal
within myself and all things
so that I may live in my higher self
and continue the act of creation
in each divine, eternal moment.

Khepera

Great Khepera, God of rebirth,
God of regeneration,
reveal the light of morning,
the divine light of creation,
the light of the Source
in my heart so that I may live
in my higher self,
knowing the eternal light,
serving thee and the one God
for the highest possible good.

Thoth

Great Thoth, God of wisdom,
God of magic, God of healing,
Heart of Ptah, tongue of Ra,
cleanse me, purify me,
heal me completely so that I
may live in my higher self,
knowing the dance of life,
the harmony and magnificence
of the eternal Source, so that I
may serve thee and the one God
for the highest possible good.

Harpocrates

Great Harpocrates, Eternal Child,
Spirit of wind, spirit
of morning after the terrors
of night, reveal the light
of the eternal Spirit,
the breath of the Source
within my breath,
so that I may live
in my higher self,
knowing the infinitude within,
serving thee and the one God
for the highest possible good.

Sekhmet

Great Sekhmet, Goddess
of Fire, whose breath
created the desert,
daughter of Ra, consort of Ptah,
divine arbiter of Ma’at
in the Hall of Judgment,
Great Goddess, cleanse me,
purify me, reveal thy light
to show me how to be open,
how to attract and radiate joy,
so that I may know
the magnificence of Fire
and live in my higher self,
serving thee and the one God
for the highest possible good.

   You can, of course, use only foundation cards without any modifiers in a Pentagram Spread. I have provided many examples of different Pentagram Spreads for you to examine and use (and please note that much of this material is repeated for review), but the ultimate goal is for you to incorporate the Pentagram Spread in rituals containing great spiritual power. In fact, I designed the Pentagram Spread specifically for use with an advanced ritual known as the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram (which I have included here). Invoking the energy of a living image works extremely well in this advanced ritual whether you are using only foundations cards or a full array of modifiers.

Invoking living images.
Invoke the Sun.
Invoke Jupiter.
Invoke the Queen of Cups.
Invoke Jupiter.
Invoke Mercury.
Invoke Saturn.
The Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram.