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 God, 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.
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.
Possessive invocation has also been described in certain Norse rites where Odin is invoked to “ride” workers of seidr (Norse shamanism), much like the god rides his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Indeed, forms of possessive invocation appear throughout the world in most mystical or ecstatic traditions, wherever devotees seek to touch upon the essence of a deity or spirit.