Summary of an Elect Cohen Ritual
Pages 21 to 25 of "Eliphas Levi and the French Occult Revival"
by Christopher McIntosh
Before the ritual the participants would have fasted for eleven hours. The fast was a well-established custom in magical rituals and, according to Pasqually, helped to free the soul and enable it to communicate with the "centre of truth".
The time at which the ceremony took place was usually regulated by celestial considerations, for Pasqually believed in an idiosyncratic type of astrology. "The bodies of the universe," he declared, "are all vital organs of eternal life." Particularly influential were the moon, because of its proximity, and the sun, because life on earth was dependent on its light. Pasqually therefore chose the equinoxes for his most important rituals, and also regarded the crescent moon as propitious. These conditions encouraged the good spirits whose support was necessary for magical operations. One must, at all costs, avoid the demonic influences and evil intelligences that populate the astral domaine.
René Le Forestier, in his La Franc-maçonnerie occultiste au 18e siècle et l'Ordre des Elus Coëns, has pieced together a fascinating picture of the rituals practised by Pasqually's sect.
The simplest of these was the "daily invocation" for which the adept had to trace a circle on the floor, at the centre of which he placed a candle and wrote the letter W. He then stood in the circle, holding a light to read his invocation which began: "O Kadoz, O Kadoz, who will enable me to become as I was originally when a spark of divine creation? Who will enable me to return in virtue and eternal spiritual power...?"
The more important rituals, however, took the form of a series of invocations which were perfoimed over three consecutive days which had to fall between the new moon and the end of the first quarter. The details of the ritual, such as the tracing on the floor within which the adept operated, changed periodically as Pasqually was constandy revising the procedures and introducing new ones. A fairly constant feature, however, was the method used to produce a pungent aroma during the ceremony. The adept carried a small earthenware dish containing hot coals on which he periodically scattered a mixture containing the following ingredients: saffron, incense, sulphur, white and black poppy seeds, cloves, white cinnamon, mastic, sandarac, nutmeg and spore of agaric.
worn by the operator was probably also constant. Jacket, breeches and stockings
were black. Over these he wore a long white robe with red borders, and over
this were hung a blue ribbon, a black ribbon, a red sash and a green sash.
As an example of the procedure carried out by the adept over three days,
the following is an outline of the method proscribed by Pasqually in 1768.
Every morning the adept began his day by reading the office of the Holy
Spirit and when evening came he entered the privacy of his room at about
ten o'clock. There he read some psalms and litanies from a missal and, having
done this, was ready to draw the ceremonial tracing on the floor with a
chalk. At the eastern side of the room he traced an approximate quarter
segment with the point facing west, and then drew a line across the segment
forming an isosceles triangle with the two radii. In the triangle he drew
a small circle divided by a cross. Then he drew at the western side of the
room a larger circle known as the "circle of retreat" which was
separated by two feet from the point of the segment. In this circle he drew
the capital letters LAB and along the western branch of the cross in the
small circle he put the letters RAP. This completed the tracing (see diagram
The operator then placed eight candles in the tracing: three at the point of the triangle, one beside the letters RAP, two at each end of the arc of the segment, one at the centre of the base of the triangle and one at the centre of the circle of retreat. He also wrote certain other mystical names.
The adept was then ready for the operation which had to begin at midnight precisely. When the twelve strokes began to sound he took off his shoes, removed the candle from the circle of retreat, lit it and placed it outside the cirde on his right. He then lay down in the circle, face downwards, his forehead resting on his two fists. Having remained for six minutes in this position, he stood up and lit the candles in the segment. These he rearranged so that the one beside the letters RAP and the one at the base of the triangle were placed outside and opposite the centre of the arc. Then he knelt down in the segment, right knee on the ground and hands fiat on the floor so that the tips of the forefingers came together at a right angle. Remaining in this position he repeated each of the names inscribed in the tracing, inserting them into the following formula which he recited three times for each name: "In quali die. . . invocavero te, velociter exaudi me." He then asked God to accord him the grace which he desired of "a sincere heart, truly contrite and humble".
Taking the dish containing the glowing coals, he threw on to it a large pinch of the aromatic mixture and walked around the segment. Finally he sat down with the dish in the circle of retreat and settled down to a period of meditation.
On the first night the adept was only supposed to leave the circle between 1.30 and 2.00 in the morning. When he was finished he rubbed out all the figures traced on the floor, repeating as he did so invocations for the signs representing the good spirits and banishing formulae for those representing the bad. When all traces had been effiLced he retired to bed. The banishing of evil spirits and the invocation of good ones was an important part of Pasqually's rituals. Another ceremony, called the "Work of the Equinox", included the following address to the evil demons:
"I conjure you, Satan, Beelzebub, Baran, Leviathan: all of you formidable beings, beings of iniquity, confusion and abomination, hearken and tremble at my voice and commandment; all of you great and powerful demons of the four universal regions and all of you demoniacal legions, subtle spirits of confusion1 horror and persecution, hear my voice and tremble when it sounds among you and during your cursed operations; I command you by the one who has pronounced eternal death on all of you."
followed an address to each of the four main demons already mentioned beginning
"On you, Satan, I impose excommunication, I tie and restrict you to your formidable region in the name of the Most High, God, the Eternal Avenger and Rewarder. . ."
then came an invocation of the good spirits. All this was carried out within a tracing similar to the one used for the ceremony already described.
None of these rituals, however, was done primarily for the purpose of calling up particular spirits. The main aim was of a higher order, namely communication with what Pasqually called the "Active and Intelligent Cause". "By this fact," says A. E. Waite, "the school of Martines de Pasqually is placed wholly outside the narrow limits and sordid motives of ceremonial magic."
in these ceremonies was not the only thing required of the Elect Cohen.
He was also required to follow certain rules of behaviour. For example,
he was forbidden ever to consume the blood, fat or kidneys of any animal
or to eat the flesh of domestic pigeons. He was not allowed , except with
moderation , to indulge the senses and had to eschew fornication .