Of all the ritual tools I possess, the most important one isn’t even really a tool at all, since it’s intangible. I have a hard time calling it a technique, since it’s not really a skill and it’s something I have to work with in order to make use of, like a resource. It’s the matter of timing, and it’s crucial to much of my magical and devotional works. Whether it’s being as specific as timing something to a 30min window for a rare astrological election or just being lazy and doing something at some point during a week of the waxing moon, timing is something that can easily make or break a good ritual, so it’s important to understand the rules of occult timing properly for any magician. Any ritual, heck, any activity whatsoever can be augmented and benefitted from looking at a clock and using a few mental rules or simple charts, from conjuring one of the cosmic leaders of creation to organizing your wardrobe; it pays, sometimes handsomely, to learn how to time things magically.
By far, the most common system I’ve seen of occult timing is the system of planetary days and hours, which is such common knowledge among Hermetic magicians and traditional astrologers that I don’t see a need to rehash it in full here. Suffice it to say that each of the seven traditional planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) are each associated with one of the days of the week (Sunday with the Sun, Monday with the Moon…). Each planetary day starts at sunrise, and there are 12 diurnal hours (1/12 of the total time between sunrise and sunset) and 12 nocturnal hours (1/12 of the total time between sunset and the next sunrise); each of these are assigned one of the planets, as well, in a repeating order. Times when the planet of the hour matches the planet of the day are exceedingly good for working with that planet, such as conjuring the angel or daimon presiding over the planet, while combinations of different planetary hours with different planetary days can yield interesting and refined times for specific acts (a la Jason Miller’s Advanced Planetary Magic). This system of hours and days may look complicated, and if you’re having to calculate it all out by hand then it can be a headache at times, but there are plenty of tools to help you calculate planetary hours, so you don’t really have an excuse to be ignorant of them. This system has been used for over a thousand years, and comes up time and time again (sorry I’m not sorry) throughout Western occult literature, so it behooves you, dear reader, to become familiarized with the system if you’re not already.
Remember, however, that you can’t have the planetary hours without the planetary days, and the planetary days is a repeating cycle of seven. Seven is quite a popular number in occulture, spirituality, religion, and mysticism, and the system of planetary hours/days is a complete system on its own that can augment anything and benefit anyone. The problem I have, however, is that I’m starting to use a totally different cycle of timing, my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar for Hellenic and mathetic rituals. This is a cycle of 29 days (in a hollow month) or 30 days (in a full month) following the passage of the Moon in its synodic month, where there are three decamerons of 10 days, with the final decameron having 9 days if it’s a hollow month. In each decameron, eight of the days are associated with one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, one of the days is given to one of the three obsolete Greek letters, and one of the days is unlettered (with this being the omitted day in hollow final decamerons). I’ve been using this calendar for great effect lately in doing my mathetic letter meditations, scrying sessions, and rituals with the Greek gods above and below, and it’s a system I plan to continue using and refining as I continue developing it and my own mathetic practice.
The issue arises when I try to combine the two systems; it doesn’t really work. Neither 29 nor 30 are multiples of 7, so they don’t really overlap except in complete cycles of each other (so thirtyish weeks or sevenish lunations, and the lack of specificity and exactitude here bothers me). Add to it, the grammatomantic calendar doesn’t prescribe offerings and sacrifices on the days associated with the seven vowels, instead giving them to the seven planets themselves. Thus, the first day of the lunar month, the Noumenia, is given to the letter Α, and thus to the planet of the Moon, regardless of what the day of the week might say it is; same case for the fifth day being given to Ε and thus to Mercury, and so forth. Thus, the grammatomantic calendar affords another kind of planetary association to the days, though much more spread out than the system of planetary days. It’s not something I’ve fully explored yet, being used to the system of planetary days and hours, but I plan to in the near future.
The problem, as you might have guessed, is that these systems don’t overlap very often. For instance, if the Noumenia is the day associated with the Moon, and we’d like to find Noumeniai that are on Mondays to link the planetary day of the Moon with the grammatomantic day of the Moon, the next one is coming up on Monday, December 22, 2014; the next one after that is Monday, September 14, 2015, nine months apart! Add to it, the system of planetary days and hours is pretty much a solar system, timed according to the rise and set of the Sun in patterns of seven. The grammatomantic calendar (which I really need to find a shorter name for, perhaps γραμματημερολογιον, “grammatēmerologion”?) is lunar and follows its own patterns, which are frustratingly irregular by solar notions of the passage of time. The two systems, simply, aren’t compatible to be mixed like that.
This only gets worse once we start reckoning letters for periods longer than a day. For instance, the lunisolar grammatomantic calendar can give a letter to every lunar month, as well, but note that, because of the mismatch between the number of days in a synodic month and the number of days in a year, some years will have 12 months (hollow years) and some will have 13 (full years). If we assume that every year has 12 months, then we assign every month in a two-year period one of the Greek letters in order, with the thirteenth month in a year receiving no letter. How do we figure out which years need 13 months and which only need 12? We look to the Metonic cycle of 19 years, 12 of the years being hollow (12 months) and seven of the years being full (13 months) in a particular order. If we use a dual Metonic cycle of 38 years, then we have 24 hollow years interspersed with 14 full years. We can assign all the hollow years in the dual Metonic cycle a Greek letter in order, leaving the full years unlettered. However, with a month of 29 or 30 days, a year of 12 or 13 months, and a cycle of 38 years, none of this can be easily matched up with a system of seven days. Thus, if one dual Metonic cycle starts on a Monday (year Α, month Α, day Α all falling on a Monday), the next time that will happen is in approximately (but maybe not exactly!) 266 years, which is 7 × 38. A rare occurrence, indeed!
In that light, let me qualify my previous statement: the system of planetary days and hours, on its own without considerations of other systems of time, can be used by anyone to benefit everything, given a more-or-less Western or Hermetic understanding of the cosmos with seven planets. The grammatēmerologion system uses the same seven planets, but is otherwise incompatible with the system of planetary days and hours. Thus, they can’t really be used in tandem except by happenstance unless you have months (at a minimum) or centuries (if you want the whole shebang) to wait for a syzygy of letters and planets and days to occur. I admit that I’m a little grieved by this, but I can’t say I’m completely surprised by the result.
So where does that leave us? Honestly, my best solution is that it doesn’t matter. So what if the systems don’t match up right? They don’t need to! They’re independent systems working on their own; there’s nothing wrong with that. The system of planetary days and hours, of course, is definitely vetted and used across Western occulture, and it’s both simple and highly refined to achieve powerful results all on its own. The grammatēmerologion system works, although it is experimental and used pretty much only by me and my household, yet calls upon the same forces. So what if it calls for lunar rituals on a Tuesday? According to the grammatēmerologion system, we don’t even have Tuesdays or any of the other days of the week; we have decamerons of ten days each based on the phase of the Moon, not (what might plausibly be argued) artificial cycles of seven days. A debate between the theoretical efficacy of planetary days and hours versus that of grammatēmerologion is akin to arguing which set of elements is better to use, the Empedoclean/Western set of four or the Chinese system of five. Arguing about it doesn’t make sense, since there’s no common ground to link the two together and compare or contrast against.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’ll break out my conjuration tools and call down Gabriel at sunrise on a Tuesday just because it happens to be the first day of the lunar month. Planetary conjurations in the Trithemian-Solomonic-Hermetic system make use of the system of planetary days and hours, and I’m not one to force Gabriel to work with a system that he (nor the enclosing system he finds himself in) hasn’t vetted or agreed to. Yes, I can just conjure Gabriel during a planetary hour of the Moon on a Tuesday, but that’s still relying on planetary hours and days. Rather, in order to stick with the grammatēmerologion system in mathetic ritual and that system alone, a different approach to working with the planetary energies and forces is suggested here, one that can work with the seven planets as understood in Hermeticism as well as not being tied to the system of planetary days and hours as much of Solomonic work tends to be. That’ll afford a deeper area of research, which can easily tie into my devotions as well as other offerings and sacrifices made throughout the rest of the grammatomantic lunar month.