The invoking and banishing pentagrams come from the ceremonial traditions to bring in an elemental force into the circle or working. In the witchcraft traditions we wouldn’t really call this invoking, rather we would call this evoking because we are not calling this energy into our body but rather our magick circle. But in the ceremonial traditions they view the circle as an extension of their body, so when they’re calling something into the circle they’re invoking it. The invoking and banishing pentagrams can be seen as “keys”, but I see them more as portals. The invoking pentagrams open up a portal for a specific elemental energy to come through and the banishing pentagrams close a portal’s flow of a specific elemental energy.
In ritual these pentagrams are drawn when calling upon elemental guardians who will be in charge of the portals and controlling via their own discernment how much energy to allow through that portal based on their own expertise of that element and the working itself. These pentagrams can also be used without calling upon a guardian if you aren’t performing a ritual to control the elemental energies of a place or object. When we speak of the five elements – Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit/Aether – we are not necessarily talking about literal elements of nature, which can be a common misconception for people. We are talking about the different forms of energy that compose the Universe at a subtle energy level.
The elements rather, are names of different types of energy – and these energies are symbolized by their earthly counterpart to explain how that energy works and to try to describe their quality. This is because as humans, we do not have a very precise way to describe energy as we perceive it, as our vocabulary for it is very underdeveloped. This is true also for things like taste and smell if you think about it. Think about how people describe complex tastes such as wine. They’ll use words like “earthy”, “fruity”, “buttery”, “toasty”, “flamboyant”, “sharp”, “oaked”, “charcoal”, “velvety” and many others. This is because the brain doesn’t have precise words within our language for what it’s experiencing so it tries to reference words that somehow describe the quality of what they’re tasting the best it can.
For example, I will try to explain the element of Water to the best of my ability: Water is an energy that has a flowing feeling to it and a cooler temperature about it without being as cold feeling as the element of Earth but a heaviness like Earth yet a weightlessness like Air. The fact that water flows, is cooler, has a heaviness to it yet a weightlessness (sort of like being submerged) is why the word “Water” is such a good description of it. But notice how hard it is to try to explain the element without referring to the other elements? This is because my brain is trying to make sense of descriptions of qualities of energy that do not exist. We can see the elements on various levels, including even the physical, but also various levels of existence such as qualities of being human (mind, body, feelings, desire) and also we find that certain spirits seem to have a nature that aligns more with a form of an element or various elements.
Before invoking a pentagram, it’s important to really connect with each element first on a deep level and understand how that energy feels. Once you’re properly attuned to that element you can then summon that feeling from within you and channel it out through your finger, visualizing a white, blue or white-blue energy “painting” upon the air before you – or you can visualize your finger erasing or “sucking in” that light energy to banish the pentagram. Aside from any words or tones of evocation, just like when casting the magick circle, conjuring up the feeling of the energy and visualizing the energy are both very important “keys” to these pentagrams as much as meaning what you are saying.
A great way to practice visualizing your ability to channel and “paint” with this energy upon the air is to enter into the mindful meditative state, conjure the feelings desired, open your eyes and draw a foot-sized “O” of Light in front of you with your projective hand and then suck it back into your receptive hand like a vacuum sucking up smoke in the air. Keep doing this until you can clearly see and hold the image of the “O” you drew in front of you with your eyes open. Alternate this exercise by doing it with your eyes closed and then your eyes open.
Here is a video I made to help simplify and understand how to remember which pentagrams are which: