Invoking and Banishing by the First Gate - The Gates of the Elements - The Practice of Druid Magic

The Druid Magic Handbook: Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth - John Michael Greer 2008

Invoking and Banishing by the First Gate
The Gates of the Elements
The Practice of Druid Magic

Learning and practicing the exercises in chapter 3 will build a firm foundation for the rest of your magical work. The first step beyond the basics starts, ironically enough, by returning to one of them. The Sphere of Protection ritual contains a middle section, the Calling of the Elements, that you should learn and practice once you can do the Elemental Cross and Circulation of Light easily and effectively from memory.

The Calling of the Elements consists of seven separate parts, working with the seven elements of air, water, fire, earth, spirit above, spirit below, and spirit within. The ritual calls for you to invoke all seven elements, and banish the unbalanced aspects of four of them. Invoke literally means “call in,” and banish means to send away. In terms of the theory of magic introduced back in chapter 1, to invoke is to fill the nwyfre of your own enaid with the resonance of a symbol, and to banish is to close your enaid against a symbol so that it finds no response in you. This is one of the essential skills of practical magic; it builds abilities you can put to use in many other ways.

Invoking and Banishing by the First Gate

Like the Elemental Cross, each of the seven invocations and four banishings in the Sphere of Protection ritual combines symbolism, gesture, voice, and imagination to formulate an intention. In this first Gate, we'll go through them one at a time.


Image In the traditions of modern Druidry, the eastern quarter of the world is above all else the place where the Sun rises, and this symbolism of light spills over into air, the element assigned to the east. Morning, springtime, and every other image of newborn light and life correspond to this Gate, and so does inspiration and illumination of every kind. Another symbol of air is the one shown here: a circle with a line extending up from its top. This represents air being born from the infinite potential of spirit.


Face east. Using the first two fingers of your right hand, trace the symbol of air in front of you. Start where the circle joins the line, tracing the circle in a clockwise direction, and then trace the upward line. This is the invoking form of the symbol. Hold your hand still for a time, and then trace the symbol of air in its banishing form; first trace the circle in a counterclockwise direction, and then draw the upward line.


Like the Elemental Cross, the invocations and banishings in the Calling of the Elements can and should be changed to use the symbols that define the universe for you. If you are comfortable working with gods and goddesses, or other personalized spiritual powers, choose one that corresponds to the element of air.

In the Welsh Druid lore that provides so much of the magical symbolism in modern Druidry, the god Hu the Mighty fills this role. The “Great Druid God” of AODA tradition, Hu is the active power of divine creation in the world. His name is pronounced with the Welsh u; to pronounce this, purse your lips as though you meant to say “ooooh,” and then—without changing the position of your lips—try to say “eeee” instead. An Irish god appropriate to this element is Aengus Og (pronounced “AHN-gus OHG”), the youthful god of love and life, while Christian Druids usually invoke Saint Raphael the Archangel as the regent of air.

These names can be spoken in the ordinary way, but what occultists call “vibration” makes a more magically effective method. Vibration, in occult jargon, is a special way of chanting magically powerful names and words. To learn it, try it with a simple vowel tone like “ah” or “oh.” Draw in a deep breath, and chant the sound, stretching it out until you run out of breath. As you make the sound, try changing the shape of your mouth and the quality of the tone until you get a buzzing or tingling feeling in your throat and chest, or elsewhere in your body. The effect may be slight at first, but practice will make it stronger. It will also bring the ability to focus the vibration at various points of the body, and in time to focus it outside the body as well.

In ritual work, vibrate the name of the god, angel, or other spiritual being ruling the element or other symbolic pattern you invoke, and speak any other words you wish to use in a more ordinary voice. For example, invoking air in the east, I say, “By the hawk of May in the heights of morning, and in the great name Hu, I invoke the air, its gods, its spirits and its powers.” The name of Hu is the only word I vibrate, and I extend it to a full breath, letting the vibration resonate all through my enaid. I then say, “May I receive the blessings of air,” and when I receive those blessings, I say, “I thank the air for its gifts.” When banishing, I say, “And with the help of the powers of air, I banish from within me and around me all unbalanced manifestations of air. I banish them far away from me.”

If you prefer to invoke the elements in an impersonal form, simply leave out the divine name and the vibration. While invoking, for example, you can say words like these: “By the hawk of May in the heights of morning, I invoke the air, its gods, its spirits, and its powers. May I receive the blessings of air this day.” Pause to receive the blessings, then say, “I thank the air for its gifts.” When banishing, say words like these: “And with the help of the powers of air, I banish from within me and around me all unbalanced manifestations of air. I banish them far away from me.”


As you trace the invoking air symbol, imagine that your fingers are drawing it in the air in front of you in brilliant yellow flame. When you finish and point to the center, imagine the circle filled with paler, transparent yellow flame. Then, as you speak the words invoking the powers and blessings of air, concentrate on air. Picture before you a morning sky, modeling the image on what dawn looks like in the land where you live. Feel the wind and smell the fresh morning air, again using your memories of real mornings. As you imagine this, feel the powers and blessings of air flowing into you. Imagine that the yellow light of air flows into your body through your solar plexus, and feel that you have become so light and nimble that you could dance on the winds.

When you thank the air and trace the banishing form of the symbol, release the imagery of air. Concentrate on the idea that all airy imbalances in your life are swept away by the winds and lost in the vastness of the skies. Take as much time as you need on this visualization.


The basic intention of each of the seven invocations and four banishings in the Calling of the Elements is the same. When you invoke, you attune your enaid to one of seven great symbolic patterns and take on its qualities. These are the blessings you call into yourself. When you banish, you define the way your enaid participates in the elemental pattern to remove all unbalanced and harmful influences from yourself and your life, sending them back to their proper place in the cycle of things.

You don't need to force the element to do these things, and it's a serious mistake to think of magic in terms of commanding and forcing nwyfre to obey you. The seven elements aren't entities outside you that need to be controlled. Equally, they aren't parts of yourself that you can boss around. Instead, the elements are relationships that connect you with the world. When you invoke, you simply attune your enaid to focus on a particular set of relationships, then set that corresponds to one of the elements. When you banish, you use that relationship to redefine the problematic parts of your life. The ritual itself expresses these intentions, and trying to make the intentions happen by willpower is like trying to make a river flow faster by pushing the water.

For the next two or three weeks, include this section in your daily practice. Perform the Elemental Cross, then invoke and banish by air, then perform the Circulation of Light. Practice it until you have this phase of the ritual by heart, and can feel the air respond to the ritual. During the time you spend on this, pay attention to any symbols relating to air that show up in other aspects of your life. You can also work with air using the following method.

Receptive Working

Air in all its different moods and movements forms a reservoir of nwyfre on which you can draw. Choose a condition of the air that expresses a quality you would like to develop in yourself. If you have a hard time settling your mind and centering yourself, choose the still air before sunrise; if you feel that you lack strength, choose a time of strong wind; if you feel burdened and stuck in a rut, choose a time when the breeze is light and dancing, and so on.

When the air has the quality you need, go outside and stand in a place where there is as much open air as possible around you. If the wind is blowing, face into it; otherwise, face east. Focus your attention on your solar plexus. This area is to magical energies what the nose and mouth are to physical air. You breathe energies in and out through your solar plexus all the time without noticing it. This practice teaches you to notice it and make use of it.

Imagine, as you stand there in the open air, that you are drawing the quality you need out of the air into yourself with each breath. If you're seeking stillness, and you're standing outside in the perfectly still air of a winter dawn, imagine that with each breath you draw in, you draw stillness in through the solar plexus. As you breathe out, imagine that stillness spreads out from the solar plexus to fill your whole body. Do this three or nine times, concentrating on what you are doing, then thank the powers of air in your own words. This completes the exercise.

Active Working

When the air doesn't express the quality you wish to develop in yourself, you can charge the air with your intention and then breathe it into yourself. Do this by imagining the air around you filled with a color that expresses your intention, as given in Table 4-1. This color helps to anchor a mood or feeling, and the mood or feeling combines with the spoken intention to bring you into resonance with patterns in the nwyfre that will help you accomplish your goal.

Table 4-1 Color Symbolism


Before you perform the ritual, work out a single word or phrase or, at most, a short and simple sentence that expresses your intention. To help yourself focus your mind more clearly in meditation, for example, you might use “clarity,” “perfect focus,” or “My mind is clear of unwanted thoughts.” Take your time, think through the implications of what you want, and stay clear of ambiguity. One of the rules of magic is that you get what you ask for, whether or not what you ask for is what you actually want! It's also best to phrase an intention as a statement of the situation you desire, in the present tense—“My mind is clear” rather than “My mind will be clear” or “I want my mind to be clear”—so that your intentionality focuses on a present reality, not a hope for the future or an unfulfilled desire.

For now, choose an intention that involves shaping your thoughts, feelings, or attitudes rather than your physical body or anything outside yourself. Magic can transform anything in the universe of human experience, but it takes practice and a fair amount of skill to get definite results when working magic on physical matter or other people's minds. Working magic on yourself is easier at first, and the results usually make themselves known to you sooner and more dramatically, too. Later on, when you've built skill and confidence, you can reach further.

Once you have chosen your intention, imagine that the air around you is filled with the color that corresponds to the intention most closely. Repeat the purpose silently three times, imagining it echoing through the air around you, and imagine that the air around you becomes an ocean of the appropriate color—in this case, yellow, the color of clarity. At the same time, imagine it filled with a mood or feeling appropriate to your intention—in this case, with a sense of perfect stillness and clarity.

Then imagine that you're breathing the yellow light and the clarity into your body with each inbreath, and breathing it out with each outbreath, through your solar plexus. As you breathe in, imagine the color and the feeling flowing into your body and filling it completely, so your whole body glows with the color. As you breathe out, imagine every trace of the color and mood flowing out of you, so your body is empty of both, but the space around you is filled with them. Do this for as long as you wish.

One useful application of this technique is as a preliminary step for meditation. While doing the rhythmic breath, imagine yourself breathing in and out an appropriate color. Pale orange and yellow are the colors most often used for this, because they foster calm and concentration. Give them a try and see how they affect your meditation practice.