You’ve made your preparations and prepared your sacred space – Now you are ready to call in the Divine and the powers you will be working with!
Invocation vs. Evocation
There’s a lot of discussion in the Pagan sphere about the differences between invocation and evocation, and a lot of contradictions as well. Some say invocation is calling in something from outside of yourself (like a deity) while evocation is calling forth something within you (like your own personal power). Others say that evocation is used to call the presence of a Deity/Energy/Spirit into the circle with you, while invocation is an invitation to call the Deity/Energy/Spirit into your body and speak through you. The dictionary is no help either because each of the words “invoke/evoke” is listed in the definition for the other.
Personally, I tend to use invoke/invocation for spiritual matters. To me, evoke carries more of a literary context, such as writing evoking certain emotions. I don’t have a particular word for calling energy from within me – It’s something that I usually just automatically do if the ritual calls for it and I don’t use words to do it. If I am open to channeling/possession by a deity, I am very specific in the wording I use for that – “Aphrodite, I invite you to speak through me” or something similar depending on the ritual purpose and situation.
What is an Invocation?
An invocation is a call to a specific Deity/Energy/Spirit in ritual. This can be to ask for guidance, for a prayer or blessing, to assist in a magickal working, to honor them and perform offerings, or for channeling. An invocation is performed with respect and reference, and is always a request and never a demand.
Let’s look at the invocation for Aphrodite that I used for my ritual of Radical Acceptance, Fierce Love, and Divind Surrender as an example. An invocation can include a few different parts, which might be in any order. I’ll color code the parts of the invocation to give you a better idea of where and how the different parts of an invocation can show up.
Some elements may include:
– The Call (Red)
– Naming of the Deity/Energy/Spirit (Purple)
– Inclusion of Epithets and/or Spheres of Influence (Blue)
– Request (Orange)
– Formal Invitation (Green)
O Glorious Aphrodite,
Goddess of Light and Dark,
You who are tenderness and compassion,
You who are fury and strength,
You who walk the line between the sacred and the profane,
We call to you.
Goddess of Love and Emotion,
Please help us to find our truest selves.
Bless us with courage to face our fears,
With bravery to stand for what is right,
With perseverance to overcome any trial,
With hope to dream of a brighter future,
And with love to share with all beings.
O Far Shining Goddess,
Hold us tightly in your loving embrace.
Hail and welcome, Aphrodite!
The Call of the Invocation determines how you want the deity to show up in your circle. A call can be for presence, for blessings, or for channeling. The call is usually at the beginning of the invocation (though it is a little delayed in the example above) and can frequently be combined with the Naming of the Deity.
Some examples of phrasing you might use:
- I call to you
- I invite you to my circle
- I request your presence
- I invite you to speak through me
- I honor you this day/night
- I pray to you
- I give thanks to you
- I come to you
- I sing your praises
- I invoke you
Sometimes your Call may also interweave with your Request, and may not have its own specific line:
- I ask for your blessings
- I humbly ask for your guidance
- Et cetera…
Naming of the Deity/Energy/Spirit
Including the Naming of the Deity/Energy/Spirit in your invocation is like writing an address on a postcard – It is so your words reach their intended destination. Because of this, I suggest including it fairly early within your invocation – so that all of your beautiful words that follow reach the Deity/Energy/Spirit in real time.
What you call the same Deity/Energy/Spirit may also change depending on the context of your ritual. For Aphrodite, I usually stick with the Greek pronunciation (Aph-ro-DEE-tee) instead of how it is usually pronounced in English (Aph-ro-DYE-tee). I picked that pronunciation up in my Greek studies and it feels more natural to me. However, if I am leading a ritual for a group, I will sometimes go with the English pronunciation, since that is most likely how the others in the circle relate to Her. My purpose in leading group ritual is to connect others to Aphrodite – That won’t work if no one knows who I am talking about, or if it takes them out of the ritual headspace to translate the pronunciation difference.
As long as your intention is there, either pronunciation is fine. You don’t need to study your Deity’s language of origin in order to call on them or work with them (though it is fun and can provide cultural context).
What you call your Deity may also depend on your particular relationship with them. I call Asclepius by His Italian name most of the time (Asclepio) because I met Him while studying abroad in Italy. That is part of our personal history that is very important, and it feels the most authentic to call Him by that name. Again, I will use the English version if I am leading a ritual for others.
Inclusion of Epithets and/or Spheres of Influence
This is where you can get creative with flowery language and really highlight the aspects and characteristics of the Deity/Energy/Spirit that you want to call into your ritual. You will likely want to use different epithets and/or spheres of influence to align with the purpose of your ritual, and these may change depending on context. You may have a few epithets and/or spheres of influence that resonate with you very strongly that you use frequently – Perhaps they are the aspects of the Deity/Energy/Spirit that drew you to them in the first place. As with most things, I encourage trying out a variety and seeing what resonates best with you.
Epithets usually have a historical basis, and can be in the Deity’s language of origin or your native language. In the example above, I use “Far-Shining Goddess” for Aphrodite, which comes from the epithet Pasiphaessa; and “Goddess of Light and Dark” from the epithets Dia and Melaenis. I often use loose interpretations for the translation into English and how epithets show up in my rituals. I am not a reconstructionist, and I frequently adapt things to better match how Aphrodite shows up for me in the present day, in my modern Pagan practice.
Some of my other favorite epithets (and how I use them, if different than the translation) for Aphrodite include:
- Κυπρια – Kypria – “Of Cyprus” – Lady of Cyprus, Goddess of Cyprus
- Μελαινις – Melaenis – “Of the dark/night” – Goddess of Dark(ness)
- Πανδημος – Pandemos – “Common to all the people” – Goddess of All, Goddess of the World
- Ουρανια – Ourania – “Heavenly/Of the sky” – Aphrodite Ourania, Goddess of the Sky
- Ποντια – Pontia – “Of the sea” – Goddess from the Sea, Goddess of the Sea
- Φιλομμειδης – Philommeidês – “Laughter/Smile-Loving” depending on translation
- Αφρογενεια – Aphroyǽneia – “Foam-born” – Foam-born Goddess
- Χρυσεη – Khryseê – “Golden” – Golden Aphrodite, Golden Goddess
- Δια – Dia – “Divine, Shining” – Goddess of Light
- Ευστεφανος – Eustephanos – “Richly crowned” – Golden-crowned Goddess
- Χαριδώτης – Kharidóhtis – “Giver of joy” – Goddess of Joy/Happiness/Pleasure
- Μάκαιρα – Mákaira – “Blessed”
- Σεμνή – Sæmní – “Holy, Exalted” – Holy Aphrodite, Glorious Aphrodite
- “… κρατέεις (are sovereign) τρισσῶν (triple) μοιρῶν, (parts)” (Orphic Hymn 55) – Sovereign of the Three Realms – “She who rules the sky, the earth, and the sea” – Goddess of Land, Sea, and Sky
Spheres of Influence
These are a little different than epithets as they don’t have to follow a particular language structure, and may or may not have a historical basis. Aphrodite has a wide range of spheres of influence! In the above example, I use: light, dark, tenderness, compassion, fury, strength, sacred, profane, love, and emotion. The spheres of influence may naturally have some overlap with certain epithets.
Here are spheres of influence that I incorporate frequently:
- Relationships (Romantic, Friendship, Family)
- Emotional Healing
Your request is tied to the purpose of your ritual. These are the specific things that you want to ask the Deity/Energy/Spirit for. In the above example, the request is for help, blessings, and presence. Be specific with what you are asking for! Saying only “Please bless me” is vague and may encompass a wide range of blessings that aren’t the focus of your ritual or the specific outcome you want. Of course, you also don’t want to overly prescribe how your goal will happen – there may be pathways to success that are unexpected and even better than what you imagine. Try hitting the sweet spot between vague and detailed – Ask specifically for what you want, but don’t limit how it can be achieved.
This request is different from magick or spellwork that may be a part of your ritual, but you may include requests to the Deity/Energy/Spirit for help with your magick or with your specific goal. For example, for a magickal working to get a job, you could request that Aphrodite bless you with confidence during your job interview.
This is similar to your Initial Call, but it comes at the end of your invocation and tends to be a bit more formal. Depending on your tradition, you may have a typical phrase that is used here. If you are part of a group ritual, this part is usually a call and response. In the example above: “Hail and Welcome, Aphrodite!” would be said by the ritual leader, and participants would respond with “Hail and Welcome!”
A Note About Intention
At each one of these parts, you want to put your intention and energy behind your words as much as you can. Don’t stress about getting the words exactly right! As long as you are respectful and intentional, your invocation should be well received.
As a part of a reciprocal relationship with the Divine, I like to include an offering to whomever I might be calling in a ritual. This can be as simple as a lit candle or sharing some of your dinner or drink. This can also be more elaborate, such as offerings of fresh flowers, artwork, herbs, crystals, or other items (see my post on Creating Sacred Space and An Altar for Aphrodite: Elements and Offerings for some ideas). This is a respectful exchange and good hospitality – You are inviting a Deity/Energy/Spirit into your circle. Just like with human guests, you want to make sure they are comfortable and feel welcome.
I will usually incorporate the offering after the Formal Invitation. I will light the candle then, or if I have another type of offering, I will usually say something like, “Aphrodite, I honor you with this offering of ____________.”
Now you will move on to the Purpose of your ritual, which will be covered in my next post!