An invocation (from the Latin verb invocare "to call on, invoke") may take the form of:
These forms are described below, but are not mutually exclusive. See also Theurgy.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 shall Know neither rest nor peace, and ever be In cruel suffering till she will grant What 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 lamps Shall be extinguished and we'll freely love!
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!