The Challenge of Language
As readers probably know, there are specialized words in the LBRP, and in the first section of the LBRP known as the Kabalistic Cross, that are in Hebrew. There are many challenges with pronouncing them “correctly”:
- Hebrew is at least 2,600 years old and its antecedents are much older. It has evolved over time in sound and appearance. Nobody knows exactly how ancient Hebrew was pronounced.
- Different areas of the world and different communities pronounced words differently.
- At least one author has proposed that some words were actually ciphers for other words.
- Non-trained “linguists” made gross assumptions and errors that continue to this day.
So let’s go through the words and I’ll try to explain how they should be pronounced to the best of my knowledge.
Ateh: Well, at least that’s the way it’s spelled by the Golden Dawn. As a result of people trying to pronounce the English transliteration rather than going to the original Hebrew, I’ve heard people pronounce this word Ah-teh, Ah-tay, Ah-tay-yee, Ah-toh, and even Ah-tor. (How they came up with the “r” sound I’ll never know!). Since we don’t know exactly the way ancient Hebrew was pronounced, in my book, Modern Magick, I decided to go with the modern Ashkenazic pronunciation, as is spoken in the majority of Synagogues around the world. Because so many people use these pronunciations, they have developed a life and power of their own, and by using these pronunciations you tap into that energy. Therefore, I suggest using the pronunciation: Ah-tah.
Malkuth: The sticky problem with pronouncing this word is with the last letters, an English version of the pronunciation of the Hebrew letter Tav. The “th” is correct, but we rarely have this version of the th in English. It is found in Sanskrit, where, for example, the word Hatha, as in Hatha Yoga, is not pronounced “hath-uh” or “hawth-uh.” Rather, it is correctly pronounced “hot-ha.”
A completely English understanding of this can come if you look at the word “hothouse.” It’s pronounced “hot house,” not “hoth house” or something similar. So if you take the word “hothouse” and delete all of the letters other than the central “th” (
hoth ouse), you get the idea (I hope!) of how this should sound. It’s like the sound of the “t” followed by a short exhalation.
In some forms of Hebrew it was pronounced like an “S,” and in one of his books Regardie suggested using that pronunciation. In modern Hebrew they get around all of these potentials by simply pronouncing it as a hard “T.” That’s why I suggest that the word should be pronounced: Mahl-koot.
Ve-Geburah: This word is filled with challenges. The first letter, separated from the rest of the word by a hyphen, is the Hebrew Vahv. It sounds like a V…or a U or an O or even a W. Most Western Occult “scholars” see Vahv, think “V,” and that’s it. I have heard people pronounce the “Ve” Veh, Vee, Vay, or other ways. In fact, there is no vowel actually attached to the Vahv, so it is really just a short V sound. Picture V with an apostrophe after it. I spell it out “vih,” but the “ih” should be very short. That’s easy, isn’t it? Well, not exactly.
According to the rules of Hebrew grammar, it should be pronounced “Ooo,” as in the letter “u.” Sorry if I shocked you.
The next problem is the letter “b,” associated with the Hebrew letter Bet. Depending upon grammar and spelling, the Bet becomes a Vet and sounds like a “v.” And that’s what happens in this case. So according to modern Hebrew, it should be pronounced Ooo-geh-voo-rah.
But so many people use a variation of the spelling seen in Regardie’s book, that in Modern Magick I depart from the correct form of modern Hebrew and blend it with the sounds Regardie wrote. I suggest you use Vih-G’boo-rah.
Ve-Gedulah: Once again, the beginning “Ve” should be “Ooo,” but to link to all the practitioners of this ritual, I prefer to use the “Vih” sound. Some people mispronounce the “u,” making it a “long” u (technically known as a diphthong). Thus, they pronounce it “ged-you-lah.” To pronounce it that way you’d have to add a Yud to the word, changing the spelling and meaning. In sum, I suggest you use Vih-Geh-doo-lah.
Le-Olam: Here the “Le” can be confusing, leading to people pronouncing the word “Lay-oh-lahm.” It should be: Lih-Oh-Lahm.
Amen: Is not pronounced “Ai-men.” I have also heard Jews pronounce it Ah-main, Oh-main or even Oi-main. It should be pronounced Ah-mehn.
So there you have it. I’ve discussed the meaning of the words previously, as well as what to visualize when working with them. Now you know the correct pronunciation. There’s just one thing left.
Vibration of Words
Vibrate words so the whole body throbs and the vibration goes to the ends of the universe.
Original photo by Nina Aldin Thune
According to Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, certain words of the LBRP “should be pronounced inwardly in the breath vibrating it as much as possible and feeling that the whole body throbs with the sound and sends out a vibration directed to the ends of the quarter.” To more fully explain this, I wrote the following in Modern Magick:
It has long been an occult secret that all matter and all energy is made of vibration. Today many scientists depend on this being a fact in their research. If we follow the assumption that all matter is vibratory energy, then magick becomes a type of science which allows a person to affect vibrations. It becomes very valuable for us to develop an understanding of how to control vibratory energy.
There is a physical phenomenon known as “harmonic resonance.” This simply means that if one object vibrates powerfully enough, another object nearby will start to vibrate (or resonate) with the first if the second object has a natural vibratory rate in harmony with the first. As an example, if a violin note is played near a piano, the piano strings which have certain harmonic relationships to the violin note will sound without being touched; they will start to resonate. Thus, if you can control the vibration rate of one object, such as yourself, you will be able to cause certain reactions in other objects, such as those which exist on other planes of existence. Therefore, an understanding of how to vibrate words is essential for a magician.
There have been some incredibly complex ideas presented as the “secret” of vibrating words in the Kabalah. Some involve a convoluted system of bringing the sounds, through visualization, to different parts of the body. While nice, I have never found any practical use for this system, and it makes me think that it is one of the famous sets of ridiculous additions or “blinds” that have become attached to magick in order to keep the secrets away from those who either don’t have a teacher or don’t want to study and practice.
In my experience, and the experience of my many students, there are two really valuable methods of vibrating words, commonly known as the two vibratory formulae. The first is an internal (invocatory) formula. In this formula you cause a certain part of your body (actually part of your astral body) to vibrate. This is exemplified in the Kabalistic Cross part of the LBRP. Let’s just look at the word AH-TAH. What you should do here is fully inhale until there isn’t room for one more drop of air. Then use the entire exhalation to vibrate the word. Thus, the word is elongated: AAAAHHHHHHH-TAAAAAAAHHHH. It should be vibrated loudly in an almost chant-like tone of voice. The pitch is usually higher than the normal pitch of your voice. It is almost shouted. Most importantly, you should feel it vibrate or resonate within your head. Likewise, MAHL-KOOT should be felt in the groin, VIH-G’BOO-RAH in the area of the right shoulder, etc.
The second vibratory method is the external (evocatory) formula. With this formula the intent is to excite the atmosphere (actually the so-called astral plane) around you. This is exemplified in the Formulation of the Pentagrams section of the LBRP. The method is quite similar to the invocatory formula. You inhale fully, and as you exhale you loudly vibrate the appropriate words, in this case, God names. Here the God names are stretched out as: AAAAAAAHHHH-GLAAAAAHHH. You should use the entire exhalation in sounding the God name or words when doing the evocatory vibratory formula. The big difference between the two formulae is that in the evocatory formula you should sense that the entire universe in front of you is resonating in harmony with your vibration. Your entire body and the entire universe should be experienced as vibrating to your call. The invocatory formula causes your body, mind, spirit, astral body, aura, etc. to vibrate in resonance with your voice.
There are some minor variations on these two basic formulae such as seeing the words you wish to vibrate in flame before you and making the vibration charge and empower those flames.
Some student-magicians do not have the luxury of a place where they can loudly, firmly, and authoritatively vibrate the God names and words of power. In fact, they need to keep their work a secret. This is difficult to do if you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls!
If you find yourself in such a position, you may use what is disguisedly called the “Great Voice.” That is, you may do the vibratory formulae silently or very quietly, perhaps at the level of a whisper or quiet conversation. However, if you do so, you must still experience the vibratory phenomena. You must feel the various parts of your body vibrate when doing the invocatory vibratory formula. You must sense the entire universe resonating in harmony to your use of the evocatory formula. In other words, you must have the same results whether you vibrate loudly or in the Great Voice.
If you must use the Great Voice regularly, I suggest that you find a place to practice using your full, loud voice several times. Find a place where you can be alone to do this. When everything around you seems to “change” slightly, you will know you are vibrating the words correctly. These changes are not physical ones, but the area will “feel” different. If you practice by using the LBRP (a good idea) the area will feel cleaner and fresher. Some people notice an increase in the amount of natural, ambient light. You may also find that you will have to adjust the pitch of your voice either up or down in order to make everything vibrate correctly. When you hit the pitch which is correct for you, you will know it! Your voice will sound much louder and more commanding, and the air will seem to be alive with crackling energy. Then you will know what is meant when it is said that “the voice of a true magician is an awesome thing to hear.”
As a comparison, if you have ever been singing in a tile-covered shower stall, you will notice that your voice sounds normal, but at some pitches it suddenly booms out much louder and sounds fuller. That is the building literally resonating with your voice. That is the way you should feel when you vibrate a word.
With this I conclude the direct instructions in the Kabalistic Cross section of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. If you have any specific questions about this part of the rite, please send them in as a comment so I can reply. If you have questions about the entire ritual or about another section, please hold them until I finish this series of blog posts.