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

*Supplication or prayer.
*A form of possession.
*Command or conjuration.
*Self-identification with certain spirits.

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 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 Egyptian "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. [Aleister Crowley, "Magick, Book 4", p.147]

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 Geographic 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. [Carol Beckwith, "'The African Roots of Voodoo', National Geographic 188.2 (August 1995)" pp.102-113]

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 [Robert J Wallis, "Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans", p.96 ISBN 0-415-30202-1] .

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! [Charles Godfrey Leland, "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches", Chapter 2]

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 traditional Hymn to Astarte:

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! [From the Songs of Bilitis]


External links

* [ World Prayers Invocations]
* [ Invoking Babalon (a collective account]
* []
* [ Deification Doctrine in Iamblichus and Three Eastern Christian Fathers]
* [ Origins of Voodoo]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • invocation — [ ɛ̃vɔkasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1170; lat. invocatio ♦ Action d invoquer; résultat de cette action. Invocation à la divinité. Formule d invocation. ⇒ invocatoire. Église placée sous l invocation d un saint, sous son patronage, sa protection. Invocation… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Invocation — In vo*ca tion, n. [F. invocation, L. invocatio.] [1913 Webster] 1. The act or form of calling for the assistance or presence of some superior being; earnest and solemn entreaty; esp., prayer offered to a divine being. [1913 Webster] Sweet… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • invocation — Invocation. s. f. v. Action d invoquer. Aprés l invocation du saint Esprit. croire l invocation des Saints. c est une chose horrible que l invocation des demons, des esprits malins. le Magicien aprés avoir fait ses invocations. On appelle,… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • invocation — in·vo·ca·tion /ˌin və kā shən/ n 1: a calling upon for authority or justification 2: an act of legal implementation an invocation of the contract clause Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • invocation — late 14c., petition (to God or a god) for aid or comfort; invocation, prayer; also a summoning of evil spirits, from O.Fr. invocacion (12c.), from L. invocationem (nom. invocatio), noun of action from pp. stem of invocare to call upon, invoke,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Invocation — (v. lat.), Anrufung, Anflehen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Invocation — Invocation, lat. deutsch, Anrufung; Invocavit, lat. = er hat angerufen, Name des 1. Fastensonntags vom 15. Verse des 91. Psalms, mit welchem an diesem Tage die hl. Messe beginnt …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • invocation — фр. [энвокасьо/н] invocazione ит. [инвокацио/нэ] воззвание, призыв …   Словарь иностранных музыкальных терминов

  • invocation — [n] prayer abracadabra*, appeal, beseeching, calling, command, conjuration, entreaty, hocus pocus*, hoodoo*, mumbo jumbo*, petition, rune, summons, supplication, voodoo*; concepts 48,278,368 …   New thesaurus

  • invocation — ► NOUN 1) the action of invoking. 2) an appeal to a deity or the supernatural. DERIVATIVES invocatory adjective …   English terms dictionary

  • invocation — [in΄və kā′shən] n. [OFr < L invocatio < pp. of invocare: see INVOKE] 1. the act of calling on God, a god, a saint, the Muses, etc. for blessing, help, inspiration, support, or the like 2. a) a formal prayer used in invoking, as at the… …   English World dictionary