Lesser Ritual of Pentagram is used to clear and define mental/astral space, and banish any unnecessary thoughts/feelings from your sphere of sensation (e.g. your aura). This helps the mage leave (mentally/figuratively) the normal physical world and shift mental gears in his perception of reality so that he can access and work with his psychic parts. It is often used to open and close a ceremonial working. (It's used at the beginning of a ceremonial session to perceptually 'leave the normal physical realm', or in other words shift mental gears, and then again at the end of the session to banish the forces invoked during the session and make the transition back to ordinary awareness.)
Don't let the point of the weapon fall once you begin making the pentagrams in the air, as you are trying to create a completed circle. Visualize the pentagrams flaming in front of you as you make them (flaming white or with redish-orange fire etc. Many people see them as neon blue. Crowley advocated that they be seen like natural fire, while Regardie said neon blue - use whichever you prefer). You should draw the pentagrams so that they are about 3 feet (almost a meter) high in front of you and of perfect geometric proportions. The top of the uppermost point should be level with the top of your head or thereabouts.
When drawing the pentagrams, make sure that all of your focus is on drawing them! DON'T let your mind wander while doing so or your pentagrams will not carry with them any force or staying power. I always imagine that all my force of will is poured into any pentagram that I draw during ritual. I draw each one slowly and with determination, while imagining that nothing can get through them (if they're made for banishing or as wards) and/or that they are acting as keys (because of the direction of drawing etc.) to tap into their corresponding planes either for invoking or banishing (depending on which one I'm drawing).
Visualize the 4 towering Angelic figures around you (they can be wearing colors attributed to their element) in each of the quarters. Those 4 figures act as protectors/guardians. By visualizing them, first they will be like thoughtforms/constructs but through repeated and successful invocation, those visualizations will act as astral vessels for those higher archangelic forces to indwell. (Higher-level beings are generally formless and abstract - they don't have arms legs etc. You have to create lower-level astral vessels for them to animate in order to work with you in most cases.) In this modified version of the LRP, it's up to the practitioner him/herself whether or not to visualize actual humanoid figures when invoking the archangels. Some people might prefer to stick with non-corporeal presences while others will benefit more from actually trying to see/feel anthropomorphic beings surrounding them. Either (and both) are useful depending on your purposes. My only suggestion here is that for anyone seeking protection, visualizing actual human-type beings with weapons will tend to be more effective since any energy and/or requests (to the archangels being invoked) sent forth from the practitioner will manifest in a more specific way.
Reminder of Elemental color attributions (for Northern Hemisphere only): Air-yellow-East, Fire-Red-South, Water-Blue-West, Earth-Green-North. The Angelic figures can be visualized in these appropriate colors/quarters, depending on your personal training. For Southern Hemisphere, it is common to switch the attributes of the North and South, so that South corresponds to Earth, and North to Fire.
When casting this or any other 'circle', always remember to move with the Sun during any rituals of invocation. In the Northern Hemisphere, you should start East and move in a clockwise manner (East, South, West, North etc.). In the Southern Hemisphere, you should move in a counterclockwise manner (East, North, West, South etc.).
It is sometimes helpful in charging the pentagrams with energy if you step into the Sign of the Enterer (take one step forward with left foot and extend the arms and pointed hands out in front of you - the symbolic idea is of a person groping for light in the dark) when vibrating the names, and then assume the Sign of Silence (stand with feet together and the left index finger pointed at the mouth) afterward to seal off the current of energy from you. -See Golden Dawn and related systems for more info.
With the performance of the Qabalistic Cross, you're drawing a huge cross of Light through your body and simultaneously activating specific visualized energy centers. In the case of this modified version of the LRP, you'll be making use of the older traditional Kabbalistic practice of visualizing the Sephiroth NOT as orbs of light in the body, but as whole sections of your body. The Human Body itself was used as a device for remembering and meditating on the Sephiroth, which were metaphorical aspects of Allness (or 'God' or Divinity by whatever names you know it). Traditional attributions for Sephiroth to the body are: Kether - Crown of head; Chokmah - Right Hemisphere of Brain; Binah - Left Hemisphere of Brain; Chesed - Right Arm; Geburah - Left Arm; Tiphareth - Torso; Netzach - Right Leg; Hod - Left Leg; Yesod - Phallus (or Genitals); Malkuth - Speech itself. Malkuth is sometimes attributed to the Mouth, and in some systems of traditional Kabbalah, Malkuth can be attributed to the physical realm or 'world of action', or even your mate/wife etc. I prefer to attribute it to the physical realm and my own physical words and actions specifically.
After performing the ritual, you should remain standing for a few minutes and bask in the invoked energies. It's a good idea to practice this ritual twice a day for 6 months at least. The benefits of doing so cannot be over-exaggerated. Repeated long-term practice will enhance the effectiveness of the visualizations and produce the most profound balancing and enlivening effects on one's energy system.
The Shekhinah is that aspect of Divinity that is manifest in the physical realm around you. Contrary to some modern patriarchal religious views, ancient Judaism/Kabbalah has a good understanding of both masculine (unmanifest) and feminine (manifest) aspects of Divinity/Allness. The terms masculine and feminine appear to get used not to describe supremacy of one physical gender over another, but to describe the relationship between 2 often abstract concepts (such as Sephiroth). When something (such as a Sephira) appears to give or send forth energy, then it is considered masculine. When it appears to receive and give form to energy, then it is considered feminine. All Sephiroth, however, can be considered BOTH masculine AND feminine at the same time (depending on viewpoint) since all of them receive energy and then send it forth to lower Sephiroth.
The Tree of Life is a symbol of the Universe and everything in it. God/Allness is Ain Soph (an unmanifested aspect of the universe - more exalted than the Tree of Life). Kether is the first point of manifestation from the unmanifest and is beyond duality (still a primal unity, though it is manifest). The Sephiroth themselves are aspects of God/Allness. So, the universe can be considered a Unity AND a Plurality depending on how you choose to view it. It's a unity since everything is sustained by the Source, but it's a plurality since there are seemingly many autonomous parts functioning within the One.
In older Jewish magick practice, it is common to use divine names to call upon aspects of Allness/Divinity since it's difficult to call on an abstract undefined Allness (and if you did make mental contact with such a thing it would either be like drinking from a firehose or turn into utter gibberish to the human mind since it's beyond the levels of thought-with-form). If you want a specific effect in magick, you have to visualize a specific goal. Calling on a vague source of energy would only produce a vague result for most people. The Kabbalists were no different in their views (though they often argued whether or not it was permitted to meditate on Ain Soph, the Sephiroth, or divine images). All divine names were often accessed through the name Adonai (see below).
YHVH = the Tetragrammaton (Greek for "four-lettered name"). In ages past this name, often transcribed incorrectly as Jehovah, was considered too Holy to speak out loud. It was thought that whoever could speak this name correctly could perhaps destroy the universe. This is a name often used as the highest title of/for divinity in semi-Jewish forms of mysticism and can be used to represent the entire universe and all things in it. To some, the name is symbolic of the 4 principles in nature and expresses the male and female aspects of the universe (this shows a Qabalistic concept of a 4-fold universe etc. - see info on the Four Qabalistic Worlds). According to a past conversation with one native Hebrew speaker, YHVH might be a combination of 3 words (AHIH - "will be"; Hoveh - "I am"; Hayha - "I was") synthesized together to imply the concept of Eternal Existence. I believe in the book Mysteries of the Kabbalah, Marc-Alain Ouaknin describes it as an archaic form of the verb "to be".
Brief excerpt from Joseph Gikatalia's (1248-1323) "Shaarey Orah" (Gates of Light), found in Aryeh Kaplan's "Meditation and Kabbalah":
"The Unique Name, YHVH, denotes the essence of our Blessed Creator, and everything depends on it."
(I take the term 'everything' to mean all of manifestation.)
Some Hermetic attributions of YHVH: Yod (pronounced "yohd" or almost "yode") = Fire = King/Father. Heh = Water = Queen/Mother. Vav = Air = Prince/Son. Heh (sometimes called Heh-Final, as though it were one of the 'final' letters of the Hebrew alphabet) = Earth = Princess/Daughter. The idea of the cycle of creation expressed is roughly that Fire unites with Water to create Air (i.e. steam) and Earth. Air is the spiritual result of the union and goes upward into spiritual manifestation while Earth is the more material aspect of the union (supposedly) and goes downward into more material manifestation. Fire and Air are masculine while Water and Earth are feminine.
ADNI = Adonai (Ah-DOH-nigh) = "My Lord." Often used in reference to one's higher self or spiritual divine essence, or the core of one's being.
In some forms of traditional Jewish Kabbalah, this name is sometimes seen as a vessel or 'storehouse' of YHVH (or the supreme spiritual essence of all things), and is the name used to access all other forces. It corresponds to the lowest sephira Malkuth, and no other name or force may be accessed except through this name. This could be indicative of having the human ego call upon the higher-self/HGA aspects (or higher spiritual component of one's self) first in order to access anything beyond one's self.
AHIH = Eheieh (Eh-HEH-yeh) = "I will be." Often used in reference to Kether (see Qabalah), or the crown chakra.
AGLA = (Ah-Geh-LAh) = the abbreviated letters of the Hebrew sentence "Ateh Gibor Le-olahm Adonai" = "Unto thee be the power to the ages my Lord." I've seen an alternate translation as "Thou art great forever my Lord."
Don't get hung up on the steps of a ritual. The temptation for the beginner is to see a ritual as just a series of steps without realizing how they interconnect or what they're trying to accomplish. (Remember, it isn't the ritual itself that makes a working effective, it's your intent while DOING the ritual and your ability to work with energy and consciousness that make it effective or not.) It takes some practice and knowledge of theory to do it, but you should endeavor to see through to the essence of a ritual, and look at it for the ways in which it uses the rudiments of energy working. Look for the patterns ;)
1. Activation and grounding of pranic tube through Q-cross. The Qabalistic Cross opens up psychic centers (it's a cut-down version of the Middle Pillar exercise) and also invokes the highest aspect of divinity the mage knows of (Kether - supreme manifested unity below Ain Soph - in some ways, the point source of all - the first manifestation of the universe from nothingness/AinSoph etc.- see Qabalah) to preside over the working.
2. Creation of circle (technically a SPHERE - if you just build a psychic/astral 'circle' then that isn't covering all the possible means of entry into your aura now, is it?) and banishing of unnecessary elemental energies (in the form of actual energies and/or stray thoughts/emotions). This is the part in the LRP where you draw the pentagrams and connect them all with a continuous circle of light/energy.
3. Invocation of Angelic Guardians. This takes the place of the older method of calling forth lesser entities to protect the exterior of the circle. In this method of calling forth angelic beings, you are simultaneously creating thought-forms (see my article on creation of spiritual servitors/constructs/thought-forms) from your own energy for the purpose of guarding your 'circle' (which is REALLY a SPHERE that surrounds you, not just a circle) AND you are also invoking angelic forces to dwell in those thought-forms and make them even more potent. It's like you're creating the astral vessels (the form) for those more abstract angelic beings to dwell in temporarily whenever they're needed. Abstract beings need a form in which to interact with you, and often the magickian has to supply this through visualizations (visualizations occur on the astral/emotional/watery level of the subconscious and on the same frequencies as dreams, by the way). The LRP works by banishing elemental energies from within and around you primarily. It's a GREAT exercise for learning to banish unwanted thoughts and energies from your consciousness. After a while you will have built that ability into yourself through repeated practice, and you'll have a natural ability to recreate the same feelings/effects of the LRP without having to perform it (although it's still good practice to perform it regularly and maintain your psychic 'muscles' for banishing).
Repeated practice is necessary in order to make this (and other similar ceremonial workings) effective. You have to build the meaning/intent/ability into yourself over time. Repeated practice reinforces this - you can think of it as psychic weight-lifting. You can't just do it for a couple weeks and expect to achieve or maintain results.
Supposedly it was thought by some G:.D:. adepts (whoever was responsible for the format of the LRP) that most negative or 'evil' influences existed only on realms on the level of Earth/Malkuth and below. Hypothetically, banishing Elemental Earth (according to the student's knowledge and use of Qabalah) would cover any sort of negative entity or undesireable force. If nothing else, it would banish the condensing/coalescing force that negative forces would need for possessing a form in which to manifest. Basically, the LRP performed with only Banishing Earth Pentagrams functions as an anti-manifestation banishing ritual. It would also be suitable for beginners in this format since most lodges start with the element of Earth in their teachings and (elemental) grade initiations.