Each of the Elemental Weapons of the Hermetic magician represents his expression of the magickal power of the Sphinx that it corresponds with. In practice the two active weapons, the Magick Wand and Dagger express the active parts of the ceremonial expression of the magician’s will. In theory all four weapons have formulae that govern their method of use but the formulae of the passive weapons are expressed in the results that are achieved by the operation of the active formulae. The formula of the Wand is Tetragrammaton and outlines the steps that are taken to invoke the specific sort of heightened consciousness that the ceremony is dedicated to while it’s complimentary weapon is the Magick Disk which operates in Silence and is the ultimate receptacle of the force of the operation. The Cup is the vehicle that preserves the force that is invoked by the ceremony and so its role is also entirely passive and reinterprets Tetragrammaton as a feminine expression. But before any of the other weapons can be called into action it is necessary to use the power that defines the nature and objective of the operation, the Magick Dagger. Like the other active Elemental Weapon, the Magick Dagger is governed by an active formula, in this instance that formula is Pentagrammaton, the Divine Name of five letters from Genesis, Elohim.
In Hebrew Elohim is spelled Aleph, Lamed, He, Yod, Mem and each of these letters is given an Elemental correspondence of Air, Earth, Spirit, Fire and Water. The five letters have also been attributed to the points of the pentagram via these correspondences and so this Divine Name has come to be used to express the definitive power of the Weapon of Air. The power of the Dagger is to discriminate and define the arena of the operation as it represents the element that corresponds to the intellect. For this reason the First part of the formula of the Dagger, which represents the Airy part of the formula, defines the operation and give it a precise title. Once the exact nature of the magickal operation is known the material requirements for its performance can be determined and the second part of the formula of the Dagger is the collection of all of the physical furnishings and other consumables that are to be used in the ceremony at hand. This includes all of the participants that are necessary and all of the effort that it takes to make the correct arrangements of the temple.
The third portion of the Formula of the Dagger is more conceptual as it represents Spirit in the elemental progression of Pentagrammaton. This portion of the formula is the most vital portion as it defines the spiritual force of the operation and necessitates precisely naming which spiritual forces that the magician intends to employ. Having defined the material arrangement that is to be used in the ceremony, this portion defines the nature of the energy that will be used to power the intended operation of magick.
The fourth portion of the Formula of the Dagger represents the element of Fire and so it is best expressed as an action, and that action identifies the defined objective and its delineated area of operation. In practice this portion of the Formula of the Dagger encompasses the banishings that are preparatory to the performance of the focal parts of the ceremony that correspond to the part of the operation that is governed by the Formula of the Wand. Most commonly this part of a magick ceremony is occupied by the Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram, the consummate symbol of Pentagrammaton that makes the crucial connection between the energies that are being invoked and the Elemental Weapons that are being used to direct them. The Lesser Pentagram Ritual in particular is a precise expression of this part of the Formula of the Dagger as its performance celebrates Tetragrammaton, the fiery Formula of the Wand which is why it is permissible to perform the ritual with either the Wand or the Dagger (and even the Magick Sword or the Scourge in extreme situations).
The final portion of the Formula of the Dagger corresponds to the Element Water and in practice this takes the form of a preliminary general invocation. Often this portion has the invoking forms of the Pentagram or Hexagram rituals included as a preparatory to the orison proper to this part of a Hermetic ceremony. Often a simple orison like the Invocation to the Lord of the Universe is simply recited:
“We Adore the Lord of the Universe, Whom Nature has not formed,
We Adore the Lord of the Universe, Infinite and Omnipotent One,
We Adore the Lord of the Darkness and of the Light!”
This is often accompanied by a clockwise circumambulation that symbolises the beginning of the positive movement in the Magick Circle.
The sum total of all of these portions of a Hermetic ceremony equate to the opening of the temple in a Golden Dawn style of ceremony and this very basic frame work is capable of sustaining very elaborate developments that depend upon the nature and objective of the ceremony in total. Obviously a simple preparation for astral travel or Tarot divination isn’t going to benefit very much from a long and elaborate opening while it would be folly to try and perform an evocation of Zazel without adequately preparing the temple at the outset.
Because of the definition that the Formula of the Dagger gives to the Opening Purifications of the working space the letters of Pentagrammaton lend themselves readily to a mnemonic for constructing unique ceremonial openings for all of the magician’s magickal work.
א: The ceremony itself, it’s title
ל: The physical requirements of the ceremony, including the Labor of Preparation
ה: The specific spiritual forces that are employed in the operation
י: the preliminary banishings
מ: the preliminary invocations
These steps are common to the construction of all ceremonies at whatever level of complexity the magician is working with and form an introduction to the four parts of all ceremonial performances that correspond to the Formula of the Wand which makes up the middle third of every Hermetic ceremony.
Because the Labor of Preparation is the first part of every Novice’s Great Work it is most common to learn the Formula of the Dagger at the earliest grades in most Hermetic Schools. Because it forms the basic structure for purifying the Magick Temple it is a suitable place for beginners at magick to begin to practice the art. Even for experienced magickal practitioners the contemplation of Pentagrammaton can reveal new depths to the ceremony that they commonly use to prepare their place of working while a deeper understanding of its interaction with the Formula of the Wand, Tetragrammaton, can make ceremonial performances a much clearer expression of the magician’s will. Together these two fundamental magickal formulae form the basis of all ceremonial structure and so their symbolism is rightly central to the study of Hermetic Ceremonial Magick.