On the Dragon in the Ninth Sphere

There’s always plenty of research that goes on in my Work—as it probably should.  After all, much of my practice comes about from my own research, not just novel stuff through experiment but also through the experience of those who have gone before me.  In building upon the Work of others, I (and all others who do the same) get to stand on the shoulders of giants, and can reach up ever higher into the heavens.  So, even if you’re working in a strictly auturgic practice, unless you’re going a purely feral route where literally everything you do is based entirely and only on your own experiments and experience, you still owe a debt to those who have gone before you.  Of course, we can’t always rely on the works of the past to answer questions we have now, and given how things corrode and decay over time (as all things in the world do), we sometimes end up with more questions than answers.

A while back, I was doing research for the sake of coming up with my own prayers for the seven days of the week.  These prayers are specifically weekday prayers, not planetary ones, and were intended to be used more for devotional, almost liturgical purposes than for the sake of communing with the planets, but there are certainly some planetary hints scattered here and there among them.  Besides, many of the texts I was researching, like the Heptameron, explicitly link the days of the week to the planets—and why not?  It’s a useful system, after all, of simple magical timing, and though I didn’t want to make the planetary stuff an explicit focus of the prayers, it still factored in.  It was hard to avoid, at any rate, given that many of my sources did just this.  I ended up settling on a mixture of Islamic supplications to be said for the weekdays combined with a slew of other grimoiric sources, and after about eight months of using them, I find them to be a wonderful addition to my prayer practice.

One of those sources are the various versions of the Hygromanteia, aka the Magical Treatise of Solomon, an important landmark in the development of Solomonic magic and a strong influence in later Solomonic texts like the Key of Solomon.  The various manuscripts of this text date to the 1400s CE, and contain various bits of magical practice such as talisman creation, consecration of items and tools, a variety of different divinatory operations, and the like.  One of the more fun bits of these texts is an explicit description of the ruling angel and demon of each hour, not just of the 24 hours of the day but all 168 hours of the week, along with the best specific purpose to put to each hour (e.g. the fourth hour of Saturday is good for causing fights between lords and is presided over by the angel Abael and the demon Keriak).

There are plenty of other techniques and methods given in the Hygromanteia, but one of which is seen in only two manuscripts.  While I was flipping through my copy of Stephen Skinner’s Ioannis Marathakis’ excellent book on the subject that offers translations of various manuscripts of the Hygromanteia, there was an interesting section I came across about “the dragon in the ninth heaven”.  We’re all familiar by now with the notion of nested heavens in the geocentric view of the cosmos, with the Earth at the center, the seven planets in the seven heavens above the Earth, and the eighth heaven of the fixed stars above the planets, but I’ve been getting more and more interested in a ninth heaven above the fixed stars yet is not quite at the domain of God just yet.  After all, we know of such notions from classical Hermetic writings (e.g. the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth and a latter part of Book I of the Corpus Hermeticum that references it), but it’s never factored prominently in my own practice or cosmology until recently.  This also ties in with a few other draconic things I’m toying with in my own practice, and so I wanted to discuss some of these things a bit and bring up some questions that I hope to return to in the future.

In Marathakis’ book, it’s MS Atheniensis 1265 that gives us the most detail about this celestial dragon in general:

  • On the Head and Tail of the Dragon
    • The “star” called “Head and Tail” (referring to Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis, aka the North Node and South Node of the Moon, found directly across from each other on the ecliptic at all times) moves along with Saturn.
    • The Head of the Dragon rules from the first hour of Saturday night for the next 24 hours until the first hour of Sunday night.
    • The Tail of the Dragon rules from the first hour of Sunday night for the next 24 hours until the first hour of Monday night.
    • Avoid traveling during the time of the Head of the Dragon, as this is a time of much trouble and danger.
    • Avoid traveling by land during the time of the Tail of the Dragon, as this is a time of bloodshed and murder.
  • On the Dragon in the Ninth Heaven
    • There is a single star in the otherwise starless ninth heaven, “in the likeness of a snake”, which surrounds this heaven completely.
    • There are four actions that can take place within this star: opening its mouth in a yawn, moving and clicking its tongue, shaking its tail, and quivering its middle parts.
      • Yawning signifies death, as “the Earth will receive human bodies” (in the sense of graves, especially mass graves, opening up like a hungry maw to be filled with corpses).
      • Clicking its tongue signifies war throughout the whole world, as “the tongue is sword-like”.
      • Shaking its tail signifies hunger taking place on the whole of the Earth.
      • Quivering its middle parts signifies great earthquakes.
    • To determine the action of the snake, observe its position for the solar year starting on the spring equinox.
      • The Moon in Cancer on the spring equinox is the snake yawning (indicating death).
      • The Moon in Leo on the spring equinox is the snake clicking its tongue (indicating war).
      • The Moon in Scorpio on the spring equinox is the snake quivering its middle parts (indicating earthquakes).
      • The Moon in Capricorn on the spring equinox is the snake rattling its tail (indicating hunger).

There’s also MS Gennadianus 45, which gives basically the same information as above, albeit in an abbreviated format, and with a switch: this manuscript says that the Moon in Scorpio is the snake shaking its tail (hunger) and the Moon in Capricorn is the snake quivering its middle parts (earthquakes).

Marathakis also identifies another manuscript, MS Atheniensis 115, as also talking about the predictions related to this dragon, but does not give a translation for this particular part , as he only gives excerpts of this manuscript in his book as it’s otherwise basically the same text as MS Atheniensis 1265.  However, he also identifies similar passages in the following manuscripts, all of which are in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and thus all of which are digitized online:

Unfortunately, my ability to read medieval Greek is poor, so I can’t really attest to what these other texts have, and whether they agree with MS Atheniensis 1265/115 or with MS Gennadianus 45.  Given the prominence and extra explanation of the Athens manuscripts, we’ll go with them.

So, seeing what we see from the Athens manuscripts, what can we note?

  • That the Head and Tail “moves along with Saturn” is an odd observation to make.  The nodes complete a revolution every 18.6 years, while Saturn makes a revolution every 29.4 years.
  • The sole star in the ninth heaven is somewhat ambiguous.  We might be inclined to interpret this as the lunar nodes generally, but this may also well be a reference to the constellation Draco or to its primary star Thuban (α Draconis).
  • The words “snake”, “serpent”, and “dragon” are all interchangeable as far as this goes, it’d seem.  They’re all fundamentally referring to the same thing in this case.
  • Personally, I like the MS Gennadianus 45 association of Capricorn relating to earthquakes (Capricorn being a sign of Earth) and Scorpio relating to hunger (since classically the constellation Scorpio was considered to be the body and tail of the Scorpion, with Libra being its claws).  But, without knowing the origin of this whole technique, it’s not clear whether this is a better-preserved version, or whether this sort of logic is just appealing though spurious on my part.

Beyond these observations, there’s an even more important one I want to make.  That the position of the Moon in these four zodiac signs only matters for Cancer, Leo, Scorpio, or Capricorn is weird; there’s not a lot tying these signs together, when we might expect an equal balance between all four elements from one of the three quadruplicities (cardinal, fixed, mutable).  However, note the ruling planets of these four signs: we have the two luminaries of the Sun (Leo) and Moon (Cancer), and the two malefics Saturn (Capricorn) and Mars (Scorpio).  The Sun and Moon are crucial for eclipses in general with respect to the lunar nodes, which were altogether considered dangerous, and the malefics are, well, the malefics.  It’d make sense, then, that we don’t see associations for calamities regarding the signs ruled by the benefics (Jupiter for Sagittarius and Pisces, Venus for Libra and Taurus) or for the neutral planet Mercury (Virgo and Gemini).

Even then, I don’t particularly think that the choice of calamity for these signs is necessarily planetarily-based.  I mean, consider that the “snake clicking its tongue” indicating war is given to solar Leo, when it would make more sense to be given to martial Scorpio.  Also, if it were planetary, why wouldn’t Aries also be a sign of the snake quivering its middle parts, or Aquarius rattling its tail?  Also, it’s weird to me that shaking the tail would be a sign of hunger and quivering the middle parts a sign of earthquakes; I mean, I get the quivering bit, sure, but seeing how the stomach and belly are in the middle part of the body, I feel like that’d be a more natural association for hunger, with the tail (being the foot) indicating earthquakes (also think of the loudness of the rattlesnake which can be associated with the din of buildings shaking and falling down).

Given the importance of the Moon here, we might consider that this is a relic of lunar mansion forecasting.  In that case, the most reasonable lunar mansions that could be found in these signs that make sense would be these:

  • Al-Ṭarf (12°51′ to 25°42′ Cancer)
  • Al-Zubrah (8°35′ to 21°25′ Leo) or Al-Ṣarfah (21°26′ Leo to 4°17′ Virgo)
  • Al-Qalb (8°34′ to 21°25 Scorpio)
  • Sa`du al-Bul`a (12°51′ to 25°42′ Capricorn)

It’s convenient that we can find lunar mansions in these signs that could generally be interpreted to be like the calamities these manuscripts suggest (especially Al-Qalb, the talismanic image of which is “an adder holding its tail above its head”, which is definitely a point in favor of Scorpio being the snake shaking its tail).  However, this could still just be a fancy coincidence, I suppose.

If we wanted to go with an even more stellar theory, we could inspect the ecliptical positions of the most important stars in the constellation, accounting for precession and star motion, but even then, that doesn’t get us much; even in the year 500 CE, Thuban (which we’d expect to be more to the middle or tail of the constellation) is in Leo, Rastaban (β Draconis) and Eltanin (γ Draconis) (both at the head of Draco) are around the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius, and Giausar (λ Draconis) as the tail star of Draco is at the end of Cancer.  While this doesn’t seem all too bad, we just don’t really see any specific star in Capricorn, or any part of the constellation at all in Capricorn (given that the head of Draco can be found at the Scorpio/Sagittarius cusp and its tail in Cancer, preceding through the signs through Leo).

Even if we put aside the issue of why we’re looking at these signs at all, why are we even looking at the Moon, considering the obviously known existence of the North and South Nodes of the Moon?  I mean, given the slowness of these points and their general destructive nature (or, if nothing else, a nature indicative of great change and upheaval), it’d make more sense to look at their position instead of the Moon.  At the same time, many of the texts that Marathakis references include plenty of timing for magical acts according to the Moon, based on its general zodiacal position or the particular day of the lunar month, sometimes on its own, sometimes as part of other placements (e.g. Sun in Virgo, Moon in Cancer) for talismanic work.  Plus, the lunar nodes move much more slowly through the Zodiac than the Moon (about every 1.5 years or a bit more than 18 months for the nodes to move one sign), and it’s not clear which node we should focus on, whether using either one (e.g. if either node is in a given sign) or just one, or whether we would split the nodes such that we’d account for Cancer and Leo (which describe more head-related actions) to Caput Draconis specifically and Scorpio and Capricorn (which describe more body- and tail-related actions) to Cauda Draconis.

Ah well.  There are too many questions here without enough information to answer them.  Instead, let’s take a more practical approach and consider what the next few years will look like according to this.  Looking ahead to this year and the rest of the decade:

  • March 19, 2020: Moon at 13° Aquarius
  • March 20, 2021: Moon at 16° Gemini
  • March 20, 2020: Moon at 29° Libra
  • March 20, 2023: Moon at 18° Pisces
  • March 19, 2024: Moon at 3° Leo
  • March 20, 2025: Moon at 6° Sagittarius
  • March 20, 2026: Moon at 20° Aries
  • March 20, 2027: Moon at 1° Virgo
  • March 19, 2028: Moon at 23° Capricorn
  • March 20, 2029: Moon at 26° Taurus
  • March 20, 2030: Moon at 11° Libra

Based on this, it seems that the solar year starting at spring equinox 2024 will be marked by war, and in 2028 by hunger (or earthquakes).  Or, I suppose, marked as exceptionally bad for those things.  I guess it’s something to keep an eye on, yes?

Colors of the Planets

The core components of much of the ritual I do is simple: a candle lit for God and prayer.  Everything else is, strictly speaking, optional.  Yes, even incense, especially when simply performing prayer and adoration of the Divine, as Hermēs tells his students towards the end of the Perfect Sermon:

[Asclepius said:] “Let us suggest to father, Tat,—what he did bid us do,—that we should say our prayer to God with added incense and with unguents.”

Whom when Thrice-greatest heard, he grew distressed and said: “Nay, nay, Asclepius; speak more propitious words! For this is like to profanation of [our] sacred rites, when thou dost pray to God, to offer incense and the rest. For naught is there of which He stands in need, in that He is all things, or all are in Him. But let us worship, pouring forth our thanks. For this is the best incense in God’s sight, when thanks are given to Him by men.”

So, really, even perhaps my candle lit for God, a sacred flame I have burning at my main shrine whenever I do any sort of temple work, could be considered extraneous; I prefer, following usual ancient practices, to always have a sacred lamp lit with a sacred fire, so that I never pray or work in darkness.  But, when performing pure theurgy, Hermēs suggests that prayer is the only required element—indeed, the only element that should be used.

But that’s really only applicable for God and the highest-of-the-high practices I engage in.  And there are a lot of other gods and practices I engage in, and other components, like incense, are pretty damn useful.

I don’t think I’m making a controversial claim for when I say that everything present in a ritual should be present to further that ritual’s application and efficacy; having extra elements or components there that either aren’t used or aren’t related to the ritual shouldn’t be there in the ritual itself.  This is far from encouraging minimalism, of course; with this maxim, you can get as complex and as complicated, as embellished and exaggerated as you like, by throwing in element after component or tool after supply into a ritual.  Sometimes, that can be extremely helpful; other times, not so much.  But this goes far beyond simply the choice or variety of incense and libation; everything in a ritual, down to the thread used to hem your robes (or sweatpants), can be engineered towards a particular ritual.  After all, if you want to take a more psychological or semantic approach to ritual, everything in a ritual is a symbol, and all symbols have meaning.  And color symbolism is huge in many kinds of occult and spiritual work.

With my renewed Hermetic practice I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, I’ve been mulling over how I would want to make a new set of planetary talismans.  I have an old set from when I was doing Fr. Rufus Opus’ Red Work course, which I’ve used ever since, and have been solid tools in their own right.  Materially, they’re just halves of wooden craft yo-yos that I took apart; taking them apart left a hole in the underside of them, which I filled with the appropriate planetary metal, and after I did that, I woodburned the name and seal of the planetary angel and used the planetary characters from the Magical Calendar (originally(?) used for the Table of Practice from the Ars Paulina of the Lemegeton) around the sides.  The effect was pretty nifty, if I do say so myself.

For these talismans, I painted each talisman in an appropriate planetary color: purple for the Moon, orange for Mercury, green for VEnus, yellow for the Sun, red for Mars, blue for Jupiter, and black for Saturn.  Of course, “appropriate” here could be debated; the source for these colors is largely taken from Golden Dawn practice using their Queen scale of colors for the sephiroth of the Hermetic Tree of Life.  Of course, the Queen scale—perhaps the most commonly known and used—is just one of four scales; there’s also the King scale (indigo, violet purple, amber, clear pink rose, orange, deep violet, crimson), the Prince scale (very dark purple, russet red, bright yellowish green, rich salmon, bright scarlet, deep purple, dark brown), and the Princess scale (citrine flecked azure, yellowish brown flecked gold, olive flecked gold, golden amber, red flecked black, deep azure flecked yellow, grey flecked pink).  The link above gives an appreciable examples of all these colors (which, rather than being vague suggestions, were actually meant to be quite exact and specific), as well as for the other sephiroth and each of the paths on the Tree of Life.  Complicated, to be sure, but if nothing else, the Golden Dawn takes complication and turns it into an art form.  Plus, those who have ever read Alan Moore’s comic series Promethea (still a great primer on popular modern Western Hermetic mystery cosmology from a Golden Dawn/Thelemic standpoint) will find these colors for the planets incredibly familiar, as the artist specifically used these color scales for the sephiroth as Sophie Bangs (and Promethea) ascends through them from Earth/Malkuth to God/Kether.

But…well, I’m not a Golden Dawn magician.  Like, I’ve never done the LBRP, or any [LG][IB]R[PH] type of ritual, or a Middle Pillar, or whatever.  While these colors (or at least the Queen scale colors) are incredibly common, and incredibly useful, this surely can’t be the only magical color system for the planets, and while I don’t want to fix what’s not broken, I do want to try distancing myself from Golden Dawn stuff and see if other systems work, hopefully as well if not better.  To that end, I’ve been looking into what other options there might be in the usual magical literature we typically consult from the pre-Golden Dawn days, like Agrippa et al., and seeing what such color symbolism might already have been present in classical or antique times.

For the usual grimoires we might turn to, we can find color lists in the following texts:

Plotting them out and comparing them, we can get a color table like the following:

Planet Key of Solomon Key of Knowledge Agrippa

Colors

Agrippa Planets Agrippa Clothes
Saturn black black black, earthy,
leaden, brown
dull blue black
Jupiter celestial blue green sapphire, “airy colors”,
green, clear, purple, darkish, golden,
mixed with silver
pale citrine blue
Mars red red (“vermilion”) red, burning/fiery/flaming colors,
violet, purple, bloody/iron colors
fiery red red
Sun gold, yellow, citron rich yellow (“saffron”),
green
gold, saffron, purple, bright colors yellow or
glittering red
yellow, gold
Venus green azure, violet white, pale colors,
eye-catching colors,
ruddy between saffron and purple
white and shining,
or red
white, green
Mercury mixed colors yellow-orange
(“eggyolk”)
glittering mixed and changing
Moon silver or argentine earth white
(“white lead”)
“fair” (pale white) green, silver

I’m sure there are plenty of other Western Renaissance and medieval sources for attributing magical colors to the planets, but this is already lining up to be kinda uniform, and we can see how such a color system informed the Golden Dawn set—at least as far as the Queen scale is confirmed.  But the use of color symbolism for the planets is much older than this; it’s not like colors are a new thing for magicians or people generally.  As many of my readers know, using rituals and information from the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM) is one of my favorite things to do, so I thought about looking back to classical and pre-modern sources in the West for more information.  Happily and fortuitously, Tony Mierzwicki in his Graeco-Egyptian Magick has basically already done the work for us there.  I’ll summarize his findings and sources:

  • PGM CX.1—12, some sort of astrological divination that uses mineral or metallic objects: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, obsidian; Mars, yellow-green onyx; Venus, lapis lazuli streaked with “gold” (pyrite); Mercury, turquoise (καλλάϊνος, literally “like a precious stone of a greenish blue”, turquoise or chrysolite, or even the famous blue-green Egyptian faïence); Jupiter, “a dark blue stone, but underneath of crystal” (“ὁ δὲ Ζεὺς ᾔτῳ κυάνου λίθου ὑπὸ δὲ κρυστάλλου”, possibly amethyst).  Mierzwicki gives the “apparent colors” for these planets then as: Sun, gold; Moon, silver; Saturn, black; Mars, yellow-green; Venus, blue; Mercury, blue-green; Jupiter, dark blue and clear (or indigo/dark puple and white).
  • Mierzwicki also matches PGM CX.1—12 with evidence from the seven-stepped zigurrats of Ecbatana and Khorsabad, according to Herodotus and archaeological evidence, respectively: gold/gold, silver/silver-grey, orange/orange, blue/blue, red/reddish-purple, black/black, white/white.  Mierzwicki gives these the planets Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter, respectively.

It’s important to note that red is generally a taboo color in PGM and Egyptian stuff generally, as it’s considered to be a color associated with Set, and thus Typhōn.  This is why so many PGM rituals call for “lamps that are not colored red”, and might explain the lack of red in the above PGM text, which appears to be currently the only one known that links particular colors (well, stones and minerals) to the planets.  However, scanning through the rest of the PGM for bits and pieces that are color-related, we can also get the following:

  • PGM XII.270ff:  heliotrope (green chalcedony with small spots of red jasper) for the Sun
  • PGM V.213ff: “costly green stone” (“σμάραγδον πολυτελῆ”, “expensive emerald”) for a scarab ring to speak with the Sun
  • PGM VI.2622ff: purple used to color a skin that encloses a phylactery for calling upon the Moon
  • PGM V.370ff: purple used for a cord to wrap up hair as a sacrifice to the Moon (well, really, Hermēs, but here meaning Thoth as a lunar god)
  • PGM IV.2891ff: white used for a dove as an offering to Venus
  • PGM IV.3209ff: white used for a saucer and wax for a saucer divination under Venus
  • PGM VII.478ff: white used for a dove, the droppings of which are used in a ritual to Eros, connected to Venus
  • PDM xiv.920ff and 933ff: white is the color of a stone called “foam of the moon”, like galbanum or glass

So, not a lot, as it turns out.  But at least we have something we can plot out in another table:

Planet PGM CX.1—12 Babylonian Other PGM
Saturn black black
Jupiter dark blue/purple and white white
Mars yellow green (or red) red
Sun yellow, gold yellow, gold green
Venus rich blue blue white
Mercury light blue-green orange
Moon white, grey, silver silver purple, white

Funnily enough, in the process of writing this post, one of my mutual followers on Astrology Twitter, @jaysunkei, posted a surprised tweet about planetary colors, especially that for the planet Mercury, which started off a whole bunch of conversations about different texts and traditions of colors, including those listed above:

The stuff posted in that Twitter thread gives us even more options to work with based on a variety of astrological sources as well as cultural ones (cf. David McCann’s article The Astrology of Color on Skyscript.co.uk and this article about colors and planets through different cultures and time periods):

Planet Picatrix Al-Biruni Ibn Ezra Lilly Sepharial
Saturn black, dark black, dark black, dark white, pale, ashy, black, dark black, dark
Jupiter green brown, white green purple
Mars red red red red red
Sun yellow orange red yellow, red, purple orange
Venus light blue, light green white, yellow light green light blue, light green, white light blue, light green
Mercury blue purple, mixed colors blue, grey, mixed colors blue, grey, pink, yellow
Moon orange, yellow blue, orange, yellow green, white green, orange, yellow, white green, orange, yellow, white

In the end, it looks like we have a lot of options to pick from, all based on different authors and time periods and cultures and styles of working, some more astrological than magical, others more magical than astrological, some more grounded in the Earth and some more grounded in Heaven.  There are a few commonalities, sure, and if I were to summarize some of the most common colors to make a “general” color scheme for the seven planets, I’d go with the following:

  • Saturn: black.  Everyone seems to be in agreement with this one, although this could be expanded to any super dark, dull color, more like a hue.
  • Jupiter: blue or purple.  Blue seems to be more common than purple, but both are considered “royal” colors, which fits in nicely with Jupiter’s significations.  Still, blue seems to be more common.
  • Mars: red.  This is pretty common across everyone, shockingly enough.
  • Sun: gold or yellow.  Gold, of course, is ideal for the Sun, but that’s more a metal rather than a color; a rich yellow, tending slightly more towards orange than green, would be better if a simple color is preferred.
  • Venus: primarily green, secondarily white.  Green seems to be more common than white (though “green” here is probably best described as a “light blue-green”, like teal, aquamarine, spring green, cyan, Persian green, jade green, or turquoise), though white is also a common option.  However, white can also be used for the Moon, so be careful here (more on this below).
  • Mercury: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Mercury’s colors are all over the map, and I think the best way to describe Mercury’s color is “plaid”, meaning any set of mixed, changeable, shifting, or interwoven colors.  Barring that, however, orange seems to not be a bad choice, as this is sometimes considered to be a “muddled” or “mixed” color itself, compared to the more pure yellow or red.
  • Moon: silver or white.  Silver is preferred, but this is more a metal than a color, so the best way to describe this in terms of simple colors is just white.  However, white is also an option for Venus; if white is chosen for Venus, use silver for the Moon, and if white is used for the Moon, use green for Venus.

Lots of options, indeed, and of course the above isn’t exhaustive; there’re also Mesoamerican and Native American traditions, Chinese and Indian/Vedic systems, and other systems of astrology and magic out there that have their own color associations with the planets and stars, too.  But, even with this much, at least we can make things look nice for ourselves and our works.

Two new translations from Latin on medieval astrology!

While browsing through my computer for old files for something I was trying to look up, I came across some old translations that had been sitting there, untouched and unloved.  I meant to compile a few more and publish it as another ebook, but I don’t have the original book to translate from anymore (it’s a hard-to-find critical edition from a university library), so so much for that idea.  Instead of just letting them languish and gather electronic bit dust on my hard drive, I decided to polish them up a bit and let them shine on some distant server’s hard drive instead for the whole world to see.

These two translations are from the text Hermes Trismegistus, Astrologia et divinatoria (Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Medievalis 144C, Brepols: Turnhout, 2001), which is also the very same collection of manuscripts, texts, and other critical editions that gave me the Lectura Geomantiae and the Liber Runarum, medieval texts on geomantic divination and runic magical practice, respectively.  Now joining those two translations, I now present to you the following two:

  • Liber De Accidentibus (“The Book of Accidents”).  This translation consists of a collection of astrological aphorisms and rules about particular astrological arrangements or phenomena and how they may be used in forecasting, as in mundane or horary astrology.
  • De Amicitia vel Inimicitia Planetarum (“On the Amity and Enmity of the Planets”).  This translation describes a simple form of mundane astrology based on the planetary rulers of particular parts of the world and how their motions through the signs ruled by other planets impact or affect those areas of the world.

You can find these pages up under the site menu: Occult→ Liber Divinationis → (pagename), where I’ve also bundled the Liber Runarum page with them under the overall heading Liber Divinationis, or “The Book of Divination”.

I hope you enjoy, and maybe even find them useful in some small way!

My View on the Modern Planets (and Human Nature, Too)

Last night on social media was kinda interesting.  Not too long ago, one of my favorite traditional/Hellenic astrologers Chris Brennan whom I follow on Twitter retweeted the following:

To which I replied publicly that simplicity is the highest form of elegance, with this simple diagram I made for my geomancy book:

Even if I made this specific image, the diagram itself is a traditional one that’s been in use for hundreds of years in Europe and the Middle East as a teaching aide to demonstrate the balance and symmetry of how the planets are assigned to the twelve signs of the Zodiac: the luminaries go to the brightest times of the year (in the Northern hemisphere), then the planets are assigned in their usual solar system order outwards, such that dark Saturn is given to the signs Capricorn and Aquarius, the darkest times of the year (again, in the Northern hemisphere).  All this diagram shows is exactly what @dahlia_anara posted in a graphical format.  Growing up, it was a mystery as to why the planets were given to the signs, but then, this sort of diagram seems to have been all but forgotten in modern texts; had I known about it in my early baby-ccultist days, this would have made everything make a lot more sense a lot earlier on.

For some reason, my sharing this image turned kinda viral, and some people were even put at peace by just seeing it; while it’s nothing more than a teaching diagram, it does reflect an underlying balance of the astrological cosmos, so I can get it.  Of course, with it being shared and favorited by so many, it did spark a few discussions and conversations, one of which was about why Saturn is the planet that gets that last position and not, you know, any of the planets that have since been discovered in modern times past Saturn.  This, of course, touches on an important, lively, and active debate (which doesn’t always remain good-hearted) on the approaches of modern astrology versus traditional astrology, and of course, I know you know that when I have Thoughts and Opinions, I let them be known.

Before I continue, let me preface this with the following disclaimer: what follows is my own personal view of astrology and its symbols that reflect my own practice and understanding of the cosmos, as informed by my studies, experiences, and works in astrology, geomancy, and other subjects.  Because I recognize that my practice is not your practice, and that my views are not necessarily representative of universal truths, you’re still free to hold any well-reasoned, well-researched, informed, and sound opinion, research methods, or approaches to astrology you want.  Understood?  We good?  Good.

Simply put, I don’t think the use of the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) and asteroids (Ceres, Pallas, Chiron, etc.) are necessary to the practice of astrology, and while they may have some use, they’re by no means of large importance to me for several reasons.  The most physics-based of these is that many of these objects move so slowly through the Zodiac that they’re not of incredible importance for individual persons.  While the Moon changes her signs every two or three days, and Saturn just over every two-ish years, the trans-Saturnians shift their degrees and signs so much more slowly that two people born in the same seven- or twenty-year period will have identical or similar locations.  For mundane astrology, this is potentially useful, because these slow-moving planets are more helpful in defining whole generations of people or zeitgeists rather than how individual people form in their own individual lives; once the zeitgeist established by the slow-moving planets is understood, one can inspect the relationships that the planets from Saturn on down with the slow-moving ones to see how one relates to such a zeitgeist.  In both a phyiscal and spiritual sense, the slow-moving trans-Saturnian planets occupy a place between the planets proper and the fixed stars; yes, they still shift like planets do, but slowly enough to be imperceptible on a reasonable timeframe, much like the light of the fixed stars.

Of course, this is all on top of a more fundamental astrological reason why I don’t find the use of these modern planets particularly helpful: astrology was already complete before the formal discovery of Uranus in the late 17th century ce.  In the seven thousand or more years that astrology has been practiced since the earliest foundations of Egypt and Sumer were laid, we’ve had more than a little time to see, plot, experiment, test, and record our observations and theories with the stars, and though refinement and elaboration, astrology became as complete an art of science (in the old sense of “knowing things”) as anything ever could.  The methods of astrology that have been passed on down to us are elegant, balanced, and established on numerological and divine harmonies that together form a complete, interlocking system.  The system already works, so as the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Writing this post also reminds me of a similar post I wrote from the very earliest days on this blog, back from when I was still in college.  The points in there are basically the ones I’m raising in the present post, but there’s one bit I wanted to highlight as well:

We’ve had 6,000 years to build up our knowledge of the intra-Saturnians, while we’ve had just over 200 for Uranus, 150 for Neptune, and not even a full century for Pluto. Finding the full meanings for these planets will take a lot more time than we’ve given it, and finding appropriate uses for them will take even longer. I’m not arguing for a static and legalistic school of astrology, but I don’t think that astrologers have been doing the right thing for their art for the past two centuries. We should be using traditional astrology as a stronger foundation than we are, but instead we’re assigning meanings to the planets “because it feels right” or “because it’s intuitive”. What happened the last time you tried to prove an answer on a test, or a fact to a judge, with “because it feels right”?

Bear in mind that these planets are only very recently discovered and, while we can tap into our millennia’s experience of astrology to more quickly divine and refine the significations of these outer planets or asteroids, what we do know about them pales in comparison to what we know of the older symbols we’ve been using from the start.  Again, from my older post:

However, even until the early 20thcentury astrologers had not reached a consensus; Alan Leo wrote in 1909 that “Uranus has been given no sign by astrologers, though Aquarius has often been suggested”. As for Raphael, there is evidence to believe that he may have been writing just to get published: he wasn’t a good astrologer by anybody’s measure, and was more of a magician selling charms than an astrologer. He often didn’t provide reasoning or logic for his claims, and what he argues against is often borne out instead in practice (like the use of terms).

So, even over a century after Uranus’ firm discovery that it was a planet, astrologers still hadn’t figured out what to do with it in its entirety.  Trying to incorporate new symbols into an ancient system is difficult and time-consuming, especially for the first few introductions when the process of incorporation is still poorly understood, but at the same time, it bears remembering that the occult community wanted to keep up-to-date and “scientific” by bringing in whatever theories and discoveries they could from modern science to make their own arts seem more respectable and well-grounded.  Trying to bring in Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, the asteroids, and everything else modern science says exists into the art of astrology was an attempt at doing just that, but they ended up shattering some of the symmetries and balances that kept the system in check and functional in the process.

Plus, like I said before, astrology was already a complete system long before what we know as “modern astrology” came onto the scene.  Consider: while modern astrologers often give Uranus the ownership of electricity, computers, astrology, and change, all these things already had ownerships in the old system: Mercury ruled all sciences and arts of the mind, including astrology and alchemy, as well as devices and means of communication, like computers; Mars would have ruled over power generally, and Jupiter (through his mythological connections with thunderbolt-throwing Zeus) would have been a natural fit for electricity generally, with Mercury (again) for circuitry and wiring; the Moon rules over changes in general, along with the flighty nature of Mercury.  To shuffle these things from the old planets to the new doesn’t really do much except introduce duplication into the system generally; at best, we can use the outer planets for very specific needs, like specifically giving Neptune to the seas and to seafaring specifically even if these would have been naturally ruled over by the Moon and Mercury, but at worst, this serves to bring confusion into the system of correspondences and obscures the logic of why certain planets have domains over the things they do.

This points to my last, and most fundamental, complaint about modern astrology, and especially the viewpoints of many who use it (badly).  Many often say that, as humanity has continued in its existence, we have undergone processes of spiritual evolution, and so need more and newer planets to reflect that, being such progressed, evolved beings now than we were.  The only evidence I can see that agrees with that is the development of what John Michael Greer calls the “civic religion of progress”, which is a very modern, very peculiar cultural notion that humanity can only change in one way: onwards, upwards, and strictly for the better, that all change is inherently better than what we had before.  As JMG points out, consider smartphones: they may get more complex and support more functionalities, but they get more costly and damaging to make, often more fragile, with more restrictions and burdens on them than what we had in the past.  This isn’t progress, even if it is change.  I look around at the world generally, and I see that a lot has changed: we have more and more accessible and cheaply-made clothing, more cars and means to move, more weapons and more explosive or damaging types of them, more means of communication, and so forth, but underlying all that?  I see the same humans underneath it all that have been around since the first human could be recognized as such.

Yes, we have developed elegant, complex, and abstract philosophies, governments, civilizations, technologies, but these are all window decorations to the real humans who, after all these countless myriads of years, still need to breathe, eat, sleep, shit, fuck, love, fight, kill, speak, learn, wonder, wander, live, and die.  I read ancient Greek, Chinese, and Mesoamerican philosophers, historians, and graffiti artists who bicker and complain about the same damn things that we bicker and complain about nowadays on the Internet about our fellow man.  The names and places we know, the media and languages we use, the projectiles we use to kill and hunt, the clothes we wear and rip and mend may have all changed over the years, but our underlying understanding of the human condition and what it means to experience humanity has been relatively unchanged the world over.  In short, humanity has remained more-or-less unchanged since we first came around, changing on the whole neither for the better nor worse.  That’s why, even in our modern and “evolved” time, we still turn time and again to the help and wisdom of our ancestors and to traditional, indigenous, and truly ancestral systems of knowledge, because not only have all those who have gone before us experienced everything we do now, they also had more time to process, understand, and correlate everything, and have since joined all the others who have done just that.

Spiritually evolved as a species my sedentary ass; individuals can certainly get to the point of spiritual development where they undergo such fundamental changes, but by that point, they’re no longer human and no longer bound to this mortal coil of humanity (cf. Buddha, Christ, spirit guides, orisha, etc.).  Plus, consider that, biologically speaking, sea sponges are just as evolved as humans are; trying to claim that humans as a whole are now “spiritually evolved” in a way we weren’t before is just forcing the notion of progress onto humanity simply because time has elapsed, ignoring what it is we are, what it is we do, and where it is we live.  But, yanno, if all you do is sit in a classroom all day without paying attention to the teacher or doing the classwork, you’re not going to get better grades by virtue of just sitting at your desk longer than anyone else.  It takes Work to get better, and not everyone does that Work, much less our entire species, and much less than that in an automatic process.

In that light, it makes even more sense how complete the system of astrology really is without having to bring in the modern planets and points in the sky.  If humanity hasn’t appreciably changed, as I claim and see that it hasn’t, then why should we need to change the models and systems of our realities to reflect some misguided sense of progress and evolution that hasn’t happened?  Astrologers have gotten along fine and have gotten accurate results in prediction and understanding people for thousands of years without incorporating them, so I see no reason to change the system, break its balances, and introduce needless confusion into the mix.  There’s plenty that can be innovated, discovered, or invented in the systems of traditional astrology without having to make it “modern”, just as how geomancy can be extended in its techniques and skills and understanding without bringing in new figures or elements into the mix.

Now.  All that said, do I think the modern planets and asteroids have no use at all?  No, I don’t.  I don’t think they’re necessary to practice astrology or magic, since everything they could represent is already represented by the main seven planets, but they can offer insights and specific details that can be helpful.  When I look at a horoscope, I treat the outer planets and the asteroids like I do fixed stars: I give them a very tight orb, and I don’t consider aspects unless they’re exact or approaching an exact degree.  When I interpret them, I first use the main seven planets to get an idea of what the chart as a whole is about, then I look at the outer planets and asteroids (when they matter!) to get a deeper idea of what the seven main planets are talking about.  I don’t look at an aspect between, say, Mars and Neptune and go off about this relationship willy-nilly; I first look at how Mars, Venus, and the Moon act, and see what such a relationship between Mars and Neptune clarifies amongst all that to see what specifically is meant.  That, I feel, is a more responsible way of using the modern planets, but again, the only benefit it affords is a specific insight to a specific detail to other factors already present and more clearly visible in the horoscope.  Helpful?  At times, sure.  Necessary?  By no means.

And, of course, don’t forget that “more evolved” or “newer” doesn’t necessarily mean “better”, and that the more things change, the more too do things stay the same.  Just as Ecclesiastes 1:9 says: “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”