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: Cauda Draconis (he ceased his fearless roar)

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:

Cauda Draconis

Cauda Draconis

This is the figure Caput Draconis.  In Latin, its name means “Tail of the Dragon”, also the name for the South Node of the Moon, but is also named “outer threshold” in some Islamic traditions, as well as “going out of fortune” or “stepping outside”.  If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like leaving a home or a trail leading off into the distance.

First, the technical details on this figure.  It’s associated with the South Node of the Moon, the place where the Moon’s orbit around the Earth crosses and sinks below the ecliptic of the Sun, or further into the southern celestial sphere; it’s one of the two places where eclipses happen (the other is the North Node of the Moon).  Due to its malefic nature, it’s associated with Mars and Saturn, and due to its transitory nature, it’s associated with the sign of Sagittarius.  The closest qabbalistic association that can be drawn, having effects only on the sphere of the Earth, is with Malkuth.  It has the fire, air, and water lines active with only the earth line passive, and is overall associated with the element of Fire.  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 mobile and exiting figure, showing it to be dynamic, fast-moving, and fleeting in influence.  In the body, it is associated with the left arm, when associated with the body at all, but can also be associated with the excretory functions of the body.  Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Tristitia, showing that this figure is not slow-moving, not openly sorrowful, not lasting.  Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is Caput Draconis, showing that this figure is not beginning, not favorable, not open to dealing with possibilities.  Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Laetitia, showing that this figure is similarly fast-moving and widely effective though fleeting and ephemeral in nature.  Cauda Draconis is a figure representing endings of all kinds, and shuts the door to anything new happening.  Like Fortuna Minor, Cauda Draconis doesn’t bode too well for upcoming adventures and undertakings, though is good for wrapping things up and getting out of a situation; it tends to be bad with good figures and good with bad figures, and is unfavorable for starting or beginning anything new.

Picture in your mind’s eye, if you will, an ending.  Doesn’t matter to what, dear reader, just picture an ending related to whatever it is you’re doing.  Semester finals, towers falling, turning in a finalized project report, finishing an annual race on a cloudy day at dusk.  Picture the feelings those images bring: relief that it’s over, regret over things done or left undone, a faint hope for a beginning that one doesn’t have time for yet.  Cauda Draconis is one of geomantic figures whose meanings is really simple: it’s an end.  It doesn’t matter to what, dear reader, it’s just an end.  Nothing more can be done or said about it.  But that wouldn’t make for a very interesting blog post, so let’s continue.

Dead Dragon and Soldier

The thing about endings is that they happen.  Everything that has a beginning has an end, and there’s very little in the cosmos that doesn’t have a beginning (really, just One Thing).  Still, people tend to get used to things being around and, you know, not stopping being around.  Things coming to an end usually has a bitter, sour, or just bad taste to it: we don’t want vacations to end, we don’t want to move from our childhood home, we don’t want to break off relationships, we don’t want businesses to sell out when they go south, we don’t want people to die.  Then again, there are things that we do want to end or come to an end: we want to get rid of illnesses, we want to end wars, we want to to leave bad jobs.  Ending something can be both good and bad, but even in the good times, there’s usually some amount of bad (leaving a bad job means, more often than not, a period of unemployment, and ending one war often involves huge battles or leaves resentment on one side ripe to start another).  The stage in the great cycle of things is that an ending is just that: one stage in a cycle.  One thing ends, another thing begins.

While the process of something ending can take a while, the end itself happens in a flash.  There is no sloth or slowness with Cauda Draconis, and this is related to its elemental structure and ruling element of Fire.  There’s no earth in the figure’s structure, nothing to weigh it down, contain it, or give it any lasting form.  It has the instability of Water, the flow of Air, and the volatility of Fire, all things that move, all considered the elements that act on Earth to mold and shape it.  But without Earth, these other three elements fly apart into their own separate spheres.  This explosive nature is what gives Cauda Draconis its association with Fire, and also its astrological correspondence of Sagittarius (being the mutable fire sign).  This is in direct opposition to Caput Draconis, which is much slower and all about the buildup to something, which focuses on Earth and resource-gathering.

One of Cauda Draconis’ names is “outer threshold”, as in the outer stoop of one’s home facing outward.  This is shorthand for the notion of fortune, luck, or opportunity leaving one’s domain, unable or unwilling to enter.  In that case, if one took pairs of active lines from Cauda Draconis (fire, air, water) to make individual geomantic figures, one would have Fortuna Minor (fire and air) indicating that no more can be done on one’s own, Coniunctio (air and water) indicating that a change in direction and decisions are needed, and Amissio (fire and water) indicating that what’s gone is gone and no more can be obtained.  Cauda Draconis is, next to perhaps Via and Rubeus, the most mobile or flighty of all the figures, and it being associated with Fire gives it a disastrous, calamitous force.  Relating it to the malefic planet Saturn, the planet of limitations and definitions that define the end or terminus of something, it’s the kind of boundary that blocks things off from growing, from importing, or from improving.  What you have is what you have, and that’s all there’s going to be.

When Cauda Draconis appears in a reading, get ready for things to wrap up unless you want them wrapped up for you.  Again, the keyword here is ending.  Things are coming to an end one way or another.  If things are good now, prepare for a good dose of BS and nasty crap to deal with before it’s over; if things are awful now, cheer up because they’ll be brought to a sweet close.  In matters of health, Cauda Draconis indicates a change for the worse, and can potentially indicate death if the first and eighth houses indicate similarly in an astrogeomantic chart.  Speaking of the first house, “traditional” lore says that if Cauda Draconis appears in the first house (representing the querent), the chart should immediately be destroyed and the reading abandoned, at least temporarily.  While it’s certainly not the most favorable of omens, it’s nothing that bad; it usually indicates that the querent has already made up their mind and won’t be open to any new ideas or possibilities, in effect rendering the reading worthless instead of sinister.  In magic, Cauda Draconis is fairly malefic and combines the forces of Saturn and Mars, very good for cursework, banishing, or clearing nasty stuff out.