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An invocation (from the Latin verb invocare "to call on, invoke") may take the form of:

These forms are described below, but are not mutually exclusive.See also Theurgy.

Supplication or prayer

As a supplication or prayer it implies to call upon God, a god or goddess, a person, etc. When a person calls upon God, a god, or goddess to ask for something (protection, a favour, his/her spiritual presence in a ceremony, etc.) or simply for worship, this can be done in a pre-established form or with the invoker's own words or actions. An example of a pre-established text for an invocation is the Lord's Prayer.

All religions in general use invoking prayers, liturgies, or hymns; see for example the mantras in Hinduism and Buddhism, the Egyptianmarker Coming Out by Day (aka Book of the Dead), the Orphic Hymns and the many texts, still preserved, written in cuneiform characters on clay tablets, addressed to Shamash, Ishtar, and other deities.

A form of possession

The word "possession" is used here in its neutral form to mean "a state (potentially psychological) in which an individual's normal personality is replaced by another". This is also sometimes known as 'aspecting'. This can be done as a means of communicating with or getting closer to a deity or spirit and as such need not be viewed synonymously with demonic possession.

In some religious traditions including Paganism, Shamanism and Wicca, "invocation" means to draw a spirit or Spirit force into ones own body and is differentiated from "evocation", which involves asking a spirit or force to become present at a given location. Again, Crowley states that

To "invoke" is to "call in", just as to "evoke" is to "call forth". This is the essential difference between the two branches of Magick. In invocation, the macrocosm floods the consciousness. In evocation, the magician, having become the macrocosm, creates a microcosm.

Possessive invocation may be attempted singly or, as is often the case in Wicca, in pairs - with one person doing the invocation (reciting the liturgy or prayers and acting as anchor), and the other person being invoked (allowing themselves to become a vessel for the spirit or deity). The person successfully invoked may be moved to speak or act in non-characteristic ways, acting as the deity or spirit; and they may lose all or some self-awareness while doing so. A communication might also be given via imagery (a religious vision). They may also be led to recite a text in the manner of that deity, in which case the invocation is more akin to ritual drama. The Wiccan Charge of the Goddess is an example of such a pre-established recitation. See also the ritual of Drawing Down the Moon.

The ecstatic, possessory form of invocation may be compared to loa possession in the Vodou tradition where devotees are described as being "ridden" or "mounted" by the deity or spirit. In 1995 National Geographicmarker journalist Carol Beckwith described events she had witnessed during Vodoun possessions:

A woman splashed sand into her eyes, a man cut his belly with shards of glass but did not bleed, another swallowed fire. Nearby a believer, perhaps a yam farmer or fisherman, heated hand-wrought knives in crackling flames. Then another man brought one of the knives to his tongue. We cringed at the sight and were dumbfounded when, after several repetitions, his tongue had not even reddened.

Possessive invocation has also been described in certain Norse rites where workers of seidr (Norse shamanism) become as steeds "ridden" by Odin (this being a reference to his eight-legged horse Sleipnir and indeed appears throughout the world in most mystical or ecstatic traditions, wherever the devotee seeks to touch upon the essence of a deity or spirit.

Command or conjuration

Sometimes an invocation mixes a supplication with a commandment in an attempt to obtain a favour from some spirit by commanding that entity to do something under a threatening of some bond placed unto him/her in case the asked favour is not obtained.

The following is a curious example of an invocation found engraved in cuneiform characters on a statue of Pazuzu, used as an amulet to protect people from this demon. Although it seems to be a self-affirmation of the demon's personality, it was believed it could act as a commandment to avoid him hurting people and their goods.

I am Pazuzu, son of the king of the evil spirits, that one who descends impetuously from the mountains and bring the storms. That is the one I am.

Another example is found in the book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches during the Conjuration of Diana, where the Goddess Diana is invoked into a piece of bread:

I do not bake the bread, nor with it salt,Nor do I cook the honey with the wine,I bake the body and the blood and soul,The soul of (great) Diana, that she shallKnow neither rest nor peace, and ever beIn cruel suffering till she will grantWhat I request, what I do most desire,I beg it of her from my very heart!And if the grace be granted, O Diana!In honour of thee I will hold this feast,Feast and drain the goblet deep,We, will dance and wildly leap,And if thou grant'st the grace which I require,Then when the dance is wildest, all the lampsShall be extinguished and we'll freely love!

Self-identification with certain spirits

Invocation can refer to taking on the qualities of the being invoked, such as the allure of Aphrodite or the ferocity of Kali. In this instance the being is literally called up from within oneself (as an archetype) or into oneself (as an external force), depending on the personal belief system of the invoker. The main difference between this type of invocation and the possessive category described above is that the former may appear more controlled, with self-identification and deity-identification mixed together. In practise, invocation may manifest as a mix of many of these categories, for example prayer leading to possession leading to self-identification; see for example this faux traditional Hymn to Astarte (the Songs of Bilitis were originally claimed to be written by a contemporary of Sappho but were written by Pierre Louys in the 1890s):

Mother inexhaustible and incorruptible, creatures, born the first, engendered by thyself and by thyself conceived, issue of thyself alone and seeking joy within thyself, Astarte!Oh! Perpetually fertilized, virgin and nurse of all that is, chaste and lascivious, pure and revelling, ineffable, nocturnal, sweet, breather of fire, foam of the sea!Thou who accordest grace in secret, thou who unitest, thou who lovest, thou who seizest with furious desire the multiplied races of savage beasts and couplest the sexes in the wood.Oh, irrisistable Astarte! hear me, take me, possess me, oh, Moon! and thirteen times each year draw from my womb the sweet libation of my blood!


  1. Aleister Crowley, Magick, Book 4, p.147
  2. Carol Beckwith, The African Roots of Voodoo', National Geographic 188.2 (August 1995) pp.102-113
  3. Robert J Wallis, Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans, p.96 ISBN 0-415-30202-1
  4. Charles Godfrey Leland, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, Chapter 2
  5. From the Songs of Bilitis

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