Back in the 80s and early 90s there was a hush-hush piece of Golden Dawn lore used to separate the wheat from the chaff. It was seldom spoken about and, for some, served as a little piece of GD ‘one-upmanship’, a kinda hidden snobbery that could make you feel superior. It concerned the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. You see, up until then (and still occasionally today), the published instructions for the LRH were wrong.
The published form of the final, water/north form of the LRH showed to inscribe the top triangle first, when in fact it should be inscribed second. Where this mistake crept into the published GD lore is, for me at least, unclear. It was certainly there in the first and second editions of Israel Regardie’s, the Golden Dawn. I imagine it was from this second edition that the mistake was copied by many other writers following the ‘occult explosion’ of the 1970s.
By the time the fifth edition of Regardie’s opus came out, the mistake had been quietly corrected. However, it was still included in first editions of works by such bodacious magicians as Stephen Skinner (Techniques of High Magic, 1977), Chic and Tabby Cicero (The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, 1991) and Donald Michael Kraig (Modern Magick,1988). It was even repeated in Regardie’s swansong, the Falcon Press issued, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, 1995. Subsequent editions of these books have again, quietly, corrected the mistake.
Clifford Bias, in the incredibly dense Ritual Book of Magic (1981), a compilation of more magical rituals and processes you could poke a stick at, all sans inner workings, gives the correct instructions but buggers up the elemental attribution of the hexagrams (or is making some unknown point). That’s as close to a correct instruction I found in the period up to the early 1990s.
Interestingly, Crowley, in the original edition of Magick in Theory and Practice (1929), gives the final form correctly but omits the numbering of the arrows in that form. This suggests to me that perhaps the mistake had already crept into some Order’s instructional papers and Uncle Alick wanted to make the reader work it out for themselves.*
And really, that is the important message from this little tale. The fact that the instructions were incorrect would have become obvious to any adept who had worked out the form for all seven planetary hexagrams. The GD papers give the instructions on how to work out the manner of tracing. As soon as an adept had learnt the LRH for Saturn they would have seen the mistake in the generic LRH instructions.
So why were the mistaken instructions repeated by many authors and teachers for sixty years?
From memory it was clear that Llewellyn publishers were simply using the diagrams of the LRH in Regardie’s second edition for several other books – it saves money. Could a newer author’s wishes to provide a correct diagram have been overridden by editors who couldn’t be fagged getting a new diagram? Possibly, though I feel unlikely – especially when the mistake crossed several publishers.
Or, could the adepts in question have NOT actually work out the Lesser Hexagrams of the Planets? This however, is an essential Zelator Adeptus Minor task and one cannot easily suggest such a failure, can one?
In the case of the Ciceros, being trained by Regardie we can perhaps see a reason: Regardie did not like the traditional hexagram forms and suggested the use of the Unicursal Hexagram, and use of that would not show the mistake at all. Personally, I think the Unicursal hexagram inferior for a number of reasons, which I detail in my book By Names and Images. But, yes this could be a reason. But really, a good Z.A.M. curriculum would be instructive on these traditional forms, Regardie’s personal choices being included or not.
The fact that generations of magicians copied the mistaken instructions happily suggests they just did the LRH as published and never went on and worked out the basic hexagram forms or were copying Regardie’s views without care or thought.
And the real point of all this is simply: do not trust books.
Writers make mistakes. Editors make mistakes. Publishers make mistakes. In the old days printers made mistakes and dropped plates of sigils of spirits and accidently published them reversed. It’s easy to do.
I am reminded of an English edition of Franz Bardon’s Practice of Magical Evocation which detailed methods to evoke, control and work with a range of spirits and demons, all listed under their names, which are terribly important to know if you want to avoid being gobbled up or wot not. This edition included, at the end, an errata slip explaining some of the names of the spirits were incorrect and the reader was advised not to evoke them. Too bad if you had been working through a chapter at a time!
And like I detail in this post, working these things out for yourself from a set of core principles and rules is magical in and by itself. These books that show completed rituals, page after page, for each planet and force are not only wasting trees (or bytes and joules) but are also doing their readers a disservice.
*Crowley’s followers now tend to add the arrows in later editions: for example: http://hermetic.com/93beast.fea.st/files/section1/ABA/Book%204%20Part%20III%20MiTaP.pdf