The recent discussion over on Martin's Golden Dawn Group yahoo forum about the Watchtower Ritual have sparked a curiosity about what must be included in a ritual for it to be a Golden Dawn ritual and what needs to be excluded.
When it comes to layers that must be kept out, I have yet to think of anything that automatically would make a ritual non-Golden Dawn. Maybe my imagination is not that good, or maybe I am just too liberal to see the obvious. I am sure that my readers will point out things that I have completely over-looked.
But when it came to things that must be included, I instantly had a short list: Godforms, Elements, and the Tree of Life. To this short list, I have added a few things based on further thought and a brief conversation with one of my friends (I think he is a friend...maybe he is more of a thorn in the side...wait, thorn in the side is my definition of friend).
Godforms are a must have in Golden Dawn ritual. The absence of them in the Regardie Elemental Grade material disturbs me, but is understandable when placed in the historical context. Whether I use Pat Zalewski's, David Griffin's, or someone else's model is largely a matter of taste and depends on exactly I am doing at any given time, but every ritual I do needs its godforms.
Elements are another necessitity in my mind, though I will admit that there are a couple of rituals where I am a little fuzzy about what is going on the elemental level. I also think that the elements are given more attention than they desire occasionally; for instance, the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is more sephirothic than elemental in my less-than-humble opinion. Nevertheless, when trying to figure out what is going on in a Golden Dawn ritual, I look to see what role the elements are playing.
The Tree of Life is probably the most important item on my short list. It is like the control dial of the radio for me. It may not be the important in the larger scheme of things, but it is the layer I like to think that I understand the best.
For me, these parts (layers) and others are like Landmarks. If they are not present, then there is a good chance that it is not actually a Golden Dawn ritual that I am looking at. Now, there will be some that who object to my use of the term Landmark here, inisting that Landmark refers merely to administrative and lineage issues; but I say that it is the rituals that contain the Landmarks and not the Charters, Warrants and Bylaws. Besides they function as Landmarks for me, myself being one of those people who judge whether a group is Golden Dawn or not based on their ritual and not who a group is connected to.
Of course, someone will point out that being one of those silly people who give directions like "Turn left at the pink house; if you drive by the police station, you have gone too far" and expect other people to navigate the same way, that my whole definition of Landmark is completely wrong. But it is mine, and I am not about to change my definition just to make someone else happy.
If you want to know why the term Landmark makes sense to me for describing the essential layers of the rituals, consider this: when you hear the godname Shadai El Chai in a ritual, do you know where you are? I do not think that I need to say any more.