EVOCATION IS THE ACT OF CALLING OR SUMMONING A SPIRIT, DEMON, GOD OR OTHER SUPERNATURAL AGENT, IN THE WESTERN MYSTERY TRADITION. COMPARABLE PRACTICES EXIST IN MANY RELIGIONS ANDMAGICAL TRADITIONS.
EVOCATION IN THE WESTERN MYSTERY TRADITION
The Latin word evocatio was the “calling forth” or “summoning away” of a city’s tutelary deity. The ritual was conducted in a military setting either as a threat during a siege or as a result of surrender, and aimed at diverting the god’s favor from the opposing city to the Roman side, customarily with a promise of better-endowed cult or a more lavish temple. Evocatio was thus a kind of ritual dodge to mitigate looting of sacred objects or images from shrines that would otherwise be sacrilegious or impious.
The calling forth of spirits was a relatively common practice in Neoplatonism, theurgy and other esoteric systems of antiquity. In contemporary western esotericism, the magic of the grimoires is frequently seen as the classical example of this idea. Manuals such as the Greater Key of Solomon the King, The Lesser Key of Solomon (or Lemegeton), the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage and many others provided instructions that combined intense devotion to the divine with the summoning of a personal cadre of spiritual advisers and familiars.
The grimoires provided a variety of methods of evocation. The Spirits are, in every case, commanded in the name of God – most commonly using cabalistic and Hellenic ‘barbarous names’ added together to form long litanies. The magician used wands, staves, incense and fire, daggers and complex diagrams drawn on parchment or upon the ground. In Enochian magic, spirits are evoked into a crystal ball or mirror, in which a human volunteer (a ‘seer’) is expected to be able to see the spirit and hear its voice, passing the words on to the evoker. Sometimes such a seer might be an actual medium, speaking as the spirit, not just for it. In other cases the spirit might be ‘housed’ in a symbolic image, or conjuring into a diagram from which it cannot escape without the magician’s permission.
While many later, corrupt and commercialised grimoires include elements of ‘diabolism’ and one (The Grand Grimoire) even offers a method for making a pact with the devil, in general the art of evocation of spirits is said to be done entirely under the power of the divine. The magician is thought to gain authority among the spirits only by purity, worship and personal devotion and study.
In more recent usage, evocation refers to the calling out of lesser spirits (beneath the deific or archangelic level), sometimes conceived of as arising from the self. This sort of evocation is contrasted with invocation, in which spiritual powers are called into the self from a divine source.
Important contributors to the concept of evocation include Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Francis Barrett, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Franz Bardon and Kenneth Grant. The work of all of these authors can be seen as attempts to systematize and modernize the grimoiric procedure of evocation. Only more modern authors, such as Peter Carrolland Konstantinos, have attempted to describe evocation in a way independent enough from the grimoiric tradition to fit similar methods of interaction with alleged supernatural agents in other traditions.
However, the most enthusiastic and romantically inspired figure in the field of evocation/invocation arts and overall a devotee of the Western mystical tradition is known today by the name of Carol “Poke” Runyon, the Grand Magus of O.T.A. and the author of several books, who attempted to describe particularities of ceremonial working in order to summon spirits to “physical appeareance” and even provided a video as an example of going through a real process of “Solomonic Magick” which is an alternative name for Goetia or simply a complex of techniques to conjure lesser deities of a lower astral realm (demons) to the temple of the magician.
Native American ”conjuror” in a 1590 engraving
Conjuration in traditional and most contemporary usage refers to a magical act of invoking spirits or using incantations or charms to cast magical spells. In the context of legerdemain, it may also refer to the performance of illusion or magic tricks for show. This article discusses mainly the original and primary usage, describing acts of a supernatural or paranormal nature.
The word conjuration (from Latin conjure, conjurare, to “swear together”) can be interpreted in several different ways: as an invocation orevocation (the latter in the sense of binding by a vow); as an exorcism; and as an act of producing effects by magical means.
The word is often used synonymously with terms such as “invocation” or “evocation” or “summoning”, although many authors find it useful to maintain some distinction between these terms. The term “conjuring” is also used as a general term for casting spells in some magical traditions, such as Hoodoo. In that context, amulets and talismans are often kept in a “conjure bag” and “conjuring oils” may be used to anoint candles and other magical supplies and thus imbue them with specific magical powers.
Alternatively, the term “conjuration” may be used refer to an act of illusionism or legerdemain, as in the performance of magic tricks for entertainment.
One who performs conjurations is called a conjurer or conjuror. The word (as conjuration or conjurison) was formerly used in its Latin meaning of “conspiracy”.