In early 2021, I accepted a magical art commission.
There is a ritual that many modern magicians perform known as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, wherein they define a space that is both of this reality and outside of it. A space where Magic is easier to perform. Perhaps a space where the magician’s imperfections are carved away, little by little, every time they enter it.
A major part of this ritual involves visualizing four angels: RAPHAEL before you, GABRIEL behind you, MICHAEL on your right hand, and AURIEL on your left. The client wanted help doing this, and felt that they would find it easier if they were given the shape of dragons.
I was given a page of the text of the version of the rite they were working from. (There are a lot of different versions floating around; the original was cobbled together from diverse sources in the late 1800s by members of the Order of the Golden Dawn (no relation to the modern Greek neo-Nazi party), and ever since their secrets were made public, the variants have bloomed – both small tweaks within the same religious framework, and big tweaks like swapping out Arch-Angels with Hebrew names for members of pretty much any pantheon you might prefer.) This particular one was from the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn.
Beyond that, the only direction I was given was “flat colors rather than full shading” and “needs to fit on a letter-size page”. This could have been enough to start with. But I wanted more. So I broke out my copy of Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Reference Tables, dug through Israel Regardie’s The Middle Pillar, flipped through Damien Echols’ High Magick, pondered a few versions found online, and a half dozen other books. And I started taking notes, writing down ideas, and making sketches. In a little sketchbook with dragons embossed on its leather cover that my in-laws had given me this past Christmas – it felt like a book for a Project, and this was obviously the right one.
I pretty quickly settled on the idea of building each Archangel Dragon upon the skeleton of their sigil. I worked them out myself with the Golden Dawn’s Rose Cross sigil method. It took me a little longer to read the OSOGD’s version of the rite and pick up the repeated mention of colors “flashing” on the angel’s robes; this word is used in other places in Golden Dawn instruction to refer to very intensely-contrasting color pairings that tend to clash and vibrate in your eyes.
I set up an Illustrator file. With all those sigils. And a couple more, because the variant of the LBRP/LIRP I like the most adds in an additional angel above and below you. I hadn’t decided if I was going to do them yet but I figured I’d leave the option open.
I started doing the Ritual of the Pentagram regularly. The Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram in the morning, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram in the evening, as directed by my copy of the Golden Dawn material, rather than doing the LBRP twice daily as almost everyone tends to tell you to do it now. Some of those ideas on how to approach this project were sitting there in my mind as I woke up, ready to be written down in the dream journal I’ve kept by my bed for a few years now. If I’m going to make images designed to be used as magical tools, I feel it is part of my job to do my best to make them potent. And part of that involves inviting the subject into my life, maybe to pose for my third eye, or maybe to just spend a little time sitting behind me while I work and casually dropping ideas into my head.