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?

De Geomanteia: Caput Draconis (looking for someone to share in an adventure)

Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that? I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it. If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity. With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy). This week, let’s talk about this figure:

Caput Draconis

Caput Draconis

This is the figure Caput Draconis.  In Latin, its name means “Head of the Dragon”, also the name for the North Node of the Moon, but is also named “inner threshold” in some Islamic traditions, as well as “coming in of fortune” or “stepping inside”.  If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like heading to doorway with a path leading to it.

First, the technical details on this figure.  It’s associated with the North Node of the Moon, the place where the Moon’s orbit around the Earth crosses and rises above the ecliptic of the Sun, or further into the northern celestial sphere; it’s one of the two places where eclipses happen (the other is the South Node of the Moon).  Due to its benefic nature, it’s associated with Venus and Jupiter, and due to its transitory nature, it’s associated with the sign of Virgo.  The closest qabbalistic association that can be drawn, having effects only on the sphere of the Earth, is with Malkuth.  It has the earth, water, and air lines active with only the fire line passive, and is overall associated with the element of Earth.  It is an odd figure with five points, relating to subjective, inner states of the soul and experienced reality rather than objective, independent, or external situations.  It is a stable and entering, showing it to be slow-moving and long-lasting where it appears.  In the body, it is associated with the right arm, when associated with the body at all, but can also be associated with the mouth and sensory organs that take things in.  Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Laetitia, showing that this figure is not fast-moving, not openly successful, not transient.  Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is Cauda Draconis, showing that this figure is not ceasing, not calamitous, not unfavorable.  Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Tristitia, showing that this figure is similarly slow-moving and self-building through adversity.  Caput Draconis is a figure representing beginnings of all kinds, and is open to any possibility.  Like Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis bodes well for upcoming adventures and undertakings, though with some difficulty at the beginning; it tends to be good with good figures and bad with bad figures, and is unfavorable for ending, closing, or getting rid of a situation.

My meditations on this figure feature mostly the image of being in the cockpit of a racecar, the first time on a track in a race.  Quoth Cake, “reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time. The green light flashes, the flags go up. churning and burning, they yearn for the cup.”  The race begins and you head on out.  Anyone who’s done any kind of racing knows the fear, the anxiety, the rush that goes along with the training and the seconds just before the race, and how it prepares them for what’s actually to come.  There’s reluctance, unwillingness, and concern about whether there’s enough to go on going, not just in racing but in any ordeal or adventure: starting a new semester at school, starting a new job, starting a new relationship, starting a new phase of one’s life.  In the same moment as those fears arise, though, the process that involves those fears begins, and life goes on.

Hatching-DragonJust as a newborn dragon hatching from its egg, Caput Draconis is all about beginnings, births, newness, and possibility.  Will that dragon be a rampaging wyvern razing the countryside, or will it be a wise solitary hermit once it grows out of its drake stage?  It doesn’t matter at this point, because we haven’t crossed that bridge: it’s still just a hatchling, with all the hopes, dreams, fears, and omens that it brings.  How it’ll be raised, on what it’ll eat, with what it’ll observe will all change what this little lizard will be; sure, dragons have instincts, but as greater creatures nurture also has an effect in addition to nature.  With experience, the drake becomes a dragon, and figures its place out in the world.  Just so, Caput Draconis describes all beginnings, all new things, and all hatching of opportunity and possibility into reality.  Over time, the fear, anxiety, and potential energy will become magnanimity and wisdom or terror and regret, not to mention kinetic energy to accomplish tasks unseen or barely hoped for as yet, but just now, things are just new.  Good things starting off tend to get better, while bad things tend to get worse; still, things can be fixed for the better in their beginning, so Caput Draconis is much more good than bad, often being ranked as among the most fortunate of figures in geomancy.

Unlike Tristitia, seen as a peg nailing and holding things to the ground against their will, Caput Draconis can be seen as the image of a seed being planted in the earth.  Although seeds are elementally ruled by Fire, Caput Draconis has that one element passive, indicating that the process from seed to tree is just beginning: its earthy, material basis is set in the ground; its spiritual, watery nature is beginning to flow; its active, airy nature is beginning to interact with the rest of the world.  However, though it has all the resources available to act, it still needs the input of energy, drive, will, and Fire to become complete.  Because of this stable, slow pace of growth, Caput Draconis is given to the element of Earth as a whole.  Plus, due to its transitory nature, it’s also associated with the mutable earth sign of Virgo, known for being detail-oriented, micromanaging, and resource-gathering to maintain and perfect things from inception to finalization.

When Caput Draconis appears in a reading, it usually indicates things starting off or something new having begun.  Children being born, health improving, a new job, or a new lover are all reasonable things to expect with this figure depending on its placement, and it brings in the influence of Venus and Jupiter to a minor degree.  Though things may be difficult, things also look good at the very outset, and will likely be better when seen all the way through.  It isn’t good to have around when things need to finish, die off, or gotten rid of, but beyond that, Caput Draconis is definitely one of the good figures.  Sneak it into banners, logos, or business cards for startups or new businesses for good luck, or engrave it into the cornerstone of a new building to ensure its future prosperity.  So long as something’s starting off or something is desired to begin, Caput Draconis is a good figure.