The object of performing a magick ceremony is to create a holistic symbol of your objective that combines all of your physical senses with your will in a singular expression. Correctly performed, a magick ceremony is a unique event that marks a moment in time as the beginning of a new current of will, the point at which the magician first moved towards attaining his set objective. Every aspect of his expression needs to be focused on achieving that objective if there is to be any chance of the magickal operation succeeding. That means that every word spoken and every gesture that is made, no matter how trivial, should in some way contribute to the symbolic meaning of the moment that is being so carefully defined by the magickal performance.
The magick gestures are the physical expression of the magician’s will within the Magick Temple and so it is important to consider the symbolism that they imply and how that contributes to the overall performance of the ceremony. Generally there are three types of magickal gesture that will be a part of the overall ceremony, the Magick Signs that represent the elements or the divine forms that the magician wishes to invoke, the inscription of the lineal figures like the pentagrams with their sigils and the most often misunderstood movement, the circumambulations.
The Magick Signs
The most obvious class of magickal gestures are the various Magick Signs. The most common of these signs are very direct symbolic gestures that represent the actions that are possible for the magician to take in the magick circle. The most basic of this class of symbolic magickal gesture are the Magick Signs of Heru, the Sign of Silence and the Sign of the Enterer. At their most basic these magick signs represent the two most elementary possible expressions of the magician’s Will- to go and to not go.
The active sign, called the Sign of Horus or the Sign of the Enterer is the classical magickal sign that expresses the magician’s exertion of his will at the moment when he is projecting that will onto the central symbol of the operation. Reaching out in front of himself, the magician focuses his will on the objective of the ceremony by defining the direction that he is moving in. In the Golden Dawn Neophyte ceremony this magick sign is said to represent the novice reaching out to find his way in the darkness but its practical application is so much more exact than a mere groping in the darkness. Combined with the supreme Word of a magickal ceremony this sign is a potent method for bringing the energy that has been invoked by a ceremony into a singular point of focus such as manifesting the magickal charge in a talisman.
The counter sign to the Sign of the Enterer is the Sign of Silence, more properly called the Sign of Harpocrates. This sign represents the cessation of all action by the magician and so it is always used to indicate that the projection of the magician’s Will that was expressed in the use of the Sign of Horus has come to an end. As such the Sign of Silence is used to mark the exact moment that the change indicated by the magickal operation takes place. This sign is also useful in itself when used by a properly prepared magician as a means of invoking Silence and as a defense against the influence of any averse force. Even the Gods must acquiesce to the will of the magician when he uses this sign to its fullest potential.
The Hermetic schools of magick like the Golden Dawn and the Argentium Astrum use magick signs to mark the advancement through their grades with a sign being shown to candidates as they pass each level of initiation. These signs have alternative meanings as they are also attributed to the Elements as well as representing the formula of initiation itself.
The four lowest grades in the Hermetic schools of magick are attributed to the four elements and the magick signs that correspond are the strongest link that the novice makes with the corresponding Sephiroth. These signs are the recognizable forms of the Egyptian Gods that are most strongly connected with the four Elements and form an important part of the performance of the Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for each of the Elements.
The Adept signs of the hermetic schools of magick express the stages of the Formula of Initiation, IAO. These signs, called the L.V.X. Signs are always performed in the sequence that celebrates the cycle of life, death and rebirth that is at the heart of the Adept Initiation ceremony and these signs form an integral part of the Hexagram rituals that are used to invoke the planetary forces into the Magick Circle that has been defined by the Pentagrams and their attendant magick signs.
There are many more magick signs than this such as the N.O.X. signs which form a counterpoint to the L.V.X. signs and a resourceful magician should be creating his own signs that express the essential nature of his own Great Work. Other symbolic gestures that are useful like stamping the feet or making the knocks and knells upon the altar or the bell are used to emphasize significant moments in the ceremony while the various ways that the magician brandishes his Magick Weapons represent the different ways that he is manipulating the magick force of the operation.
Inscription of the Lineal Figures
The class of gestures that most people would immediately associate with ceremonial magick is the inscriptions. Magicians use various lineal figures and sigils to define the nature of their operations and these are often inscribed in the air around the Magick Circle or over the talismata to form a focus of a very specific sort of force. The implements that are most commonly used are the active Elemental Weapons, the Wands, the Magick Sword or the Magick Dagger but it is also possible to make these inscriptions using a stick of lighted incense or even with the fingers, using the Sign of Benediction to indicate the significance of the gesture.
As with the use of all of the gestures, visualization is especially important for the successful use of this class of gestures as it is vital for the magician to form the image of the figures that are being inscribed in the astral light as he manipulates it to match his intention and express his True Will. Combined with a strong visualization along with a precise and direct conjuration the inscriptions is the most legible class of gestures and perfection in this practice is essential for proficiency in ceremonial magick.
The most important Magick Gesture is the circumambulations. Every motion in the Magick Circle has an essential symbolic meaning and the most fundamental of these is the direction in which the magician moves. In the Hermetic temple a clockwise motion symbolizes increasing or invoking a force and moving counterclockwise implies that a force is being diminished or banished. The reason for these directions being defined as active and passive is that as the magician stands at the operator’s station behind the altar facing to the east he represents the Tree of Life with the active Pillar of Severity on his right and the passive Pillar of Mercy to his left. Thus to invoke his magick power he moves with the Pillar of Severity and to banish he moves towards the Pillar of mercy.
Equally as symbolic in the Magick Circle is the movements that the magician makes between the Stations of the Temple. To take the Station of the Hierophant is to assume command over the Elements in the Outer Temple while to assume the place of the Hegemon is to tread the point of balance between the light and the darkness in the Magick Circle. While the magician is circumambulating via the Gates of the West and the East in the Role of the Kerux he is celebrating the natures of these stations and invoking their symbolic power of expression into his magickal ceremonies.
It is possible to perform an entire ceremony of High magick based on the use of gesture alone and the finest example available is Liber Tau DCCCXXXI, Equinox Vol. 1 No. 7. In this ceremony the magician uses gestures, inscriptions and circumambulation via a set of predetermined stations to sequentially banish (or aversely to invoke) each of the Sephirotic Forces in turn as an invocation to the Goddess Nuit with the objective of raising their own consciousness of the spark of purest will within themselves, Hadit.
The Magick Gestures are among the most potent weapons in the armory of the ceremonial magician and perfecting the signs, grips, steps, inscriptions and circumambulations is a large part of the work of the Neophyte Grades where they are first explained. To make the fullest use of these magick skills it is important to take the time to consider the meanings inherent in them so that the understanding of their use has become a part of the greater discipline of the magician. Once perfected the gestures will serve the magician in all of his work and upon all of the planes where he is called to operate.