On Geomantic Cycles

A while back on the Facebook community I manage for geomancy, the Geomantic Study-Group, someone had posted a proposed method to obtain four Mother figures for a geomantic reading based on the time and date of the query.  The poster based this proposal off of the Plum Blossom method of I Ching, where (as one of several possible formulas) you take the date and time and numerologically reduce the numbers to obtain trigrams; in a sense, such a method could theoretically be done with geomantic figures, and so the poster called this a type of “horary geomancy” (though I’m reluctant to use that term, because it’s also used by Gerard of Cremona to come up with a horary astrological chart by geomantic means, as well as by Schwei and Pestka to refer to geomancy charts that have horary charts overlaid on top).  He proposed three methods, but they all revolved around using the time of the query in astrological terms.

The proposed idea went like this:

  1. Inspect the planetary ruler of the hour of the query.
  2. Inspect the planetary ruler of the weekday of the query.
  3. Inspect the planetary ruler of the Sun sign of the query.
  4. Inspect the planetary ruler of the year of the query.
  5. Transform the planets above, “taking into account rulerships by day or by night”, into geomantic figures, which are used as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Mothers for the resulting chart for the query.

Seems straightforward enough!  I mean, I’m already familiar with the basics of horary astrology, I keep track of date and time cycles according to Greek letters, and I’ve flirted with using the Era Legis system of timekeeping as proposed by Thelema, and it’s even possible to extend the planetary hour system into planetary minutes and even seconds; having a geomantic system of time, useful for generating charts, seems more than fitting enough!  Besides, there’s already a system of geomantic hours based on the planetary hours which can probably be adapted without too much a problem.

I was excited for this idea; having a geomantic calendar of sorts would be a fantastic tool for both divination and ritual, if such a one could be reasonably constructed, and better still if it played well with already-existing systems such as the planetary week or planetary hours.  That said, I quickly had some questions about putting the proposed method from the group into practice:

  1. What about the assignment of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis?  Do we just occasionally swap them in for Venus/Jupiter and Mars/Saturn, respectively, and if so, how?
  2. Each planet has two figures associated with it; how do you determine which to pick?  “Taking into account rulerships by day or by night” isn’t always straightforward.
  3. How do we determine the planetary ruler of a given year?
  4. Is it possible instead to use the already existing cycles, such as the geomantic hours of Heydon, the rulerships of the lunar mansions, or the Cremona-based or Agrippa-based rulerships of the signs?

When I raised these questions (and a few others), I didn’t really get anything to clarify the method, so this particular conversation didn’t go anywhere.  This is unfortunate, because these pose some major problems to using a strictly planetary-based method of coming up with a geomantic cycle:

  1. The issues in assigning the nodal figures to the planets is the biggest issue.  They simply don’t quite “fit”; even if you reduce the 16 figures into pairs, it’s hard to get eight sets mapped into seven planetary “bins”.  We see this quite clearly when we look at Heydon’s geomantic hours, where the nodal figures are sometimes given to the benefic or malefic planets (though I can’t determine a method), and on Saturdays, two of the hours of the Sun are replaced by the nodal figures (which is, itself, shocking and may just be a typo that can’t be verified either way).  Unless you expand a cycle of 24 hours or seven days into a multiple of 8 or 16, you’re not going to end up with an equal number of figures represented among the planets.
  2. Given that each planet has two figures (ignoring the nodal figure issue from before), you can decide that one figure is going to be “diurnal” and the other “nocturnal”, or in planetary terms, “direct” or “retrograde”.  Different geomancers have different ways to figure out which of a planetary pair of figures are one or the other, so this might just be chalked up to individual interpretation.  Still, though, when would such a diurnal/nocturnal rulership actually matter?  Finding the figure for a planetary hour, using diurnal figures for diurnal hours and nocturnal figures for nocturnal hours?  Finding the figure for a weekday, using the diurnal figure if daytime and the nocturnal figure if nighttime, or alternating whole weeks in a fortnightly diurnal-nocturnal cycle?  Determining what figure to use if the Sun is in Leo or Cancer?
  3. Multi-part problem for the issue of finding the “planetary ruler of a year”:
    1. By inspecting the mathematics of the different kinds of planetary cycles that are established in the days of the week and the hours of the day, we can extend the system down into the minutes of the hours and the seconds of the minutes.  However, scaling up can’t be done along the same way; what allows for the planetary hours to work is that 24 does not evenly divide by 7, nor 60.  Because there’s always that remainder offset, you get a regularly repeating set of planets across a long system that, when aligned with certain synchronized starting points, allows for a planetary ruler of a given hour or day.  However, a week is exactly seven days; because there is no remainder offset, you can’t assign a planet ruling a week in the same way.  If you can’t even cyclically assign a planetary ruler to an entire week, then it’s not possible to do it for greater periods of time that are based on the week.
    2. There is no method of cyclically assigning a planetary rulership to a year the way we do for days or hours.  The poster alluded to one, but I couldn’t think of one, and after asking around to some of my trusted friends, there is no such thing.  You might find the ruler of a given year of a person’s life, or find out what the almuten is at the start of a solar year at its spring equinox, but there’s no cyclical, easily extrapolated way to allocate such a thing based on an infinitely repeating cycle.
    3. We could adopt a method similar to that in Chinese astrology: use the 12-year cycles based on the orbit of Jupiter, which returns to the same sign of the Zodiac every 11.8618 years (or roughly every 11 years, 10 months, 10 days).  In such a system, we’d base the planet ruling the year on the sign where Jupiter is found at the spring equinox.  This is both a weird import into a Western system that isn’t particularly Jupiter-centric, and is not quite exact enough for my liking, due to the eventual drift of Jupiter leading to a cycle that stalls every so often.
    4. It’s trivial to establish a simple cycle that just rotates through all seven planets every seven years, but then the problem becomes, what’s your starting point for the cycle?  It’s possible to inspect the events of years and try to detect a cycle, or we can just arbitrarily assign one, or we can use mythological calendrics (a la Trithemius’ secondary intelligences starting their rulerships at the then-reckoned start of the world), but I’m personally uncomfortable with all these options.
  4. Different existing cycles, different problems for each:
    1. John Heydon’s geomantic hours from his Theomagia (which are the first instance I can find of such an application of the planetary hours) are a mess.  Even accounting for how he reckons the figures as “diurnal” or “nocturnal” and their planetary rulers, the pattern he has breaks at random points and I can’t chalk it up necessarily to being typos.  Additionally, there are 168 hours in a week, but this doesn’t evenly divide into 16, meaning that within a given week in Heydon’s (quite possibly flawed) system of geomantic hours, some figures will not be given as many hours as others.  If we went to a fortnight system of 14 days, then we’d end up with 336 hours which is evenly divisible by 16 (336 hours ÷ 16 figures = 21 hours/figure), but Heydon doesn’t give us such a system, nor have I seen one in use.
    2. The system of lunar mansions from Hugo of Santalla’s work of geomancy ultimately formed the basis for the system of zodiacal rulerships used by Gerard of Cremona (which I’m most partial to).  However, of the 28 mansions, seven have no rulership, and five are duplicated (e.g. mansions 25, 26, and 27 are all ruled by Fortuna Minor).  Moreover, this system of attribution of figures to the mansions is apparently unrelated to the planetary rulership of the lunar mansions (which follow the weekday order, with the Sun ruling mansion 1).  It may be possible to fill in the gaps by closing ranks, such that the unruled mansion 7 is “absorbed” by Rubeus which already rule mansion 6.
    3. There’s another system of lunar mansion rulership assigned to the figures, described by E. Savage-Smith and M. Smith in their description of an Arabian geomancy machine relating to directional correspondences, which uses the similarities between graphical point representation of the figures and certain asterisms of lunar mansions to give them their correspondence.  However, it is likewise incomplete, moreso than Hugo of Santalla’s assignments, and is likely meant as a way of cementing geomancy into Arabic astrological thought (though the two systems do share three figure-mansion correspondences, but this might just be coincidental overlap).
    4. Hugo of Santalla’s system of lunar mansions and geomantic figures was eventually simplified into a set of zodiacal correspondences for the figures, such as used by Gerard of Cremona.  I like this system and have found it of good use, but Agrippa in his On Geomancy says that those who use such a system is vulgar and less trustworthy than a strictly planetary-based method, like what JMG uses in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  Standardizing between geomancers on this would probably be the riskiest thing, as geomancers tend to diverge more on this detail than almost any other when it comes to the bigger correspondences of the figures.
    5. Even if one were to use Agrippa’s planetary method of assigning figures to the signs of the Zodiac, you’d run into problems with the whole “diurnal” and “nocturnal” classification that different geomancers use for the figures, which is compounded with the issue of nodal figures.  For instance, according to Agrippa, Via and Populus are both given to Cancer; Carcer and Caput Draconis are given to Capricorn; and Puer, Rubeus, and Cauda Draconis are all given to Scorpio.  I suppose you might be able to say that, given a choice, a nodal figure is more diurnal than the planets (maybe?), but how would you decide what to use for Scorpio, if both figures of Mars as well as Cauda Draconis are all lumped together?

In all honesty, given my qualms with trying to find ways to overlay planetary cycles with geomantic ones, I’m…a little despairing of the notion at this point.  The systems we have to base geomantic cycles on are either irregular or incomplete, and in all cases unsatisfactory to my mind.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have heard that some geomancers have used the geomantic hours to good results, but I’ve also heard that some geomancers can get the methods of divination for numbers and letters to work; in other words, these are things that everyone has heard of working but nobody seems to have actually gotten to work.  And, I suppose if you don’t think about it for too long and just take it for granted, perhaps you can get the geomantic hours to work!  After all, I’ve found good results with Hugo of Santalla’s figure-mansions correspondences, even if they’re incomplete and unbalanced, without anything backing them up.  (I never denied that over-thinking can be a problem, much less a problem that I specifically have.)

Further, I’m not saying that geomantic cycles don’t exist; they very likely do, if the elements and the planets and the signs all have their cycles in their proper times.  The problem is that so much of these other cycles we see are based on fancier numbers that are either too small or infrequent (4 elements, 7 planets) or don’t evenly divide into 8 or 16 (like 12 signs, 27 letters in an alphabet), or they simply don’t match up right.  For instance, it would be possible to create a new set of geomantic hours where each figure is present in turn over a course of 16 hours, then repeat the cycle; this leads to returning to the same figure at the same hour of the day every 48 hours, starting a new cycle every third day.  This doesn’t match up well with a seven-day week, but rather a cycle of two weeks (as hypothesized above, since 14 days = 336 hours, and 336 is divisible evenly by 16).  However, such a system would break the correspondence between planets and figures because of the “drift” between cycles of 16 and 7.

So…in that line of thinking, why not rethink the notion of geomantic cycles apart from tying them to planetary ones, and start from scratch?

We’re accustomed to thinking of magical cycles in terms of seven planets, but we could just as easily construct cyclical time systems in terms of four (which can be divided four ways within it), eight (divided into two), or sixteen units.

  • Consider the synodic period of the Moon, which can be said to have eight phases: new, crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, disseminating, third quarter, and balsamic.  We could attribute each phase two figures, and then sync the cycle to, say, the new moon (when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction) or to the first quarter moon (when the Sun sets as the Moon is directly overhead), giving a synodic month 16 geomantic “stations” each lasting about 1.85 days.
  • Those with a neopagan background are used to thinking of the year as an eight-spoked Wheel, where the year is divided by eight sabbats, which are four quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) and four cross-quarter days; each period between one sabbat and the next could be split into a geomantic “season” lasting roughly 22 or (sometimes) 23 days long.
  • Alternatively, a year of 365 days can be broken up into 22 “months” of 16 days each, leading to 352 days, meaning three or four intercalary/epagomenal days at the end of the year or spread around for, say, the quarter days.
  • Within a single day from sunrise to sunrise, we can divide the day into four segments (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) divided by the stations of the sun (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight), and each segment can be further subdivided into four geomantic “hours”, leading to a total of 16 geomantic “hours” within a day which would, assuming a day of equal daytime and nighttime, have each “hour” equal to 90 minutes.
  • Years can be broken down into cycles of four years, every fourth year requiring a leap day; this could lend itself to a cycle of 16 years (one geomantic figure per year), or even to a cycle of 64 years (comprising 16 leap days), each of which can be used as a way to define larger-time cycles.

Such a four- or eight-fold division of time and space isn’t unheard of; we commonly reckon a year (at least in most Western Anglophone countries) as having four seasons, the Greeks broke up cycles of years into four-year Olympiads, the ancient Romans divided up the night into four watches (while using twelve hours for the daytime), and there are discussions of a Hellenistic system of astrological houses called the octotopos/octotropos system which uses eight houses instead of the usual 12, so it’s possible to dig that up and rework it to accustom a geomantic method where the number 16 could be applied to work better than mashing it onto a system where the number 7 is more prominent.  That said, finding such a system that’s thoroughly based on 4, 8, or 16 is difficult, as it’d be pretty artificial without including the moon (which repeats in patterns of 12 or 13) or whole number divisors of 360, and considering how thoroughly cultural transmission/conquering has established the 12-month year across most of the world, often obliterating and subsuming earlier systems that may not have left much of a trace.  But, again, if we’re gonna just up and make one from scratch, I suppose it doesn’t need to be grounded in extant systems, now, does it?  Even if it’s artificial, if it’s a cycle that works, such as by associating the different motions of the sun and sensations of the day with the figures, or by linking the changes in the seasons with the figures, then that’s probably the more important thing.

Unlike my older grammatomantic calendars, where the order of the letters provided a useful guide to how the system should “flow”, the geomantic figures have no such inherent order, but can be ordered any number of ways (binary numeral equivalence, element and subelement, planetary, zodiacal order by Gerard of Cremona or by Agrippa, within one of the 256 geomantic emblems, the traditional ordering of odu Ifá which we shouldn’t ever actually use because this isn’t Ifá, etc.).  Or, alternatively, new orders can be made thematically, such as a “solar order” that starts with Fortuna Maior at sunrise, continues through the figures including Fortuna Minor at sunset, and so forth.  This would be a matter of experimentation, exploration, and meditation to see what figure matches up best with what part of a cycle, if an already existing order isn’t used as a base.

I do feel a little bad at not offering a better alternative to the problem that the original poster on Facebook posed, instead just shooting it down with all my own hangups.  Over time, I’d eventually like to start building up a geomantic calendar of sorts so as to try timing things for geomantic spirits and rituals, but that’ll have to wait for another time.  Instead, going back to the original problem statement, how can we use time to come up with four Mothers?  Well, perhaps we can try this:

  1. Consider four lists of geomantic figures: binary (B), elemental (E), planetary (P), and zodiac (Z).  Pick a list you prefer; for this method, I recommend the simple binary list (Populus, Tristitia, Albus…Via).  Enumerate the figures within this list from 0 to 15.
  2. Look at the current time and date of the query being asked.
  3. Take the second (1 through 59, and if the second is 0, use 60), minute (ditto), and hour (1 through 23, and if 0, use 24).  Add together, divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 1.
  4. Take the day of the year (1 through 365 or 366), divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 2.
  5. Take the year, divide by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 3.
  6. Add up all the digits of the current second, minute, hour, day, and year.  Divide this number by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 4.
  7. For each key, obtain the corresponding Mother by finding the figure associated with the key in the list you choose.

So, for instance, say I ask a query on September 25, 2017 at 9:34:49 in the evening.  According to the method above, starting with the actual math on step #3:

  1. Since 9 p.m. is hour 21 of the day, 49 + 34 + 21 = 104.  The remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 8, so K1= 8.
  2. September 25 is day 268 of year 2017.  The remainder of 268 ÷ 16 is 12, so K2 = 12.
  3. The remainder of 2017 ÷ 16 is 1, so K3 = 1.
  4. 49 + 34 + 21 + 268 + 2017 = 2389, and the remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 5, so K4 = 5.
  5. Using the binary list, (K1, K2, K3, K4) = (8, 12, 1, 5), which yields the Mother figures Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Tristitia, and Acquisitio.

While this is not a perfect method, since the number of days in a year is not perfectly divisible by 16, the possibilities of each figure appearing as a Mother are not exactly equal to 1/16, but the process is decent enough for pretty solid divination based on time alone.  Instead of using purely date/time-based methods, you could also use the birth information of the querent alongside the date and time of the query, use the figures for the current geomantic hour/lunar mansion/Sun sign of the Zodiac, or numerologically distill the query by counting the number of letters or words used or by using gematria/isopsephy to distill and divide the sum of the content of the query.  So, I a method like what the original poster was proposing could certainly work on strictly numerical principles alone, just not on the astrological or planetary cyclical methods proposed.

As for geomantic cycles, dear reader, what do you think?  If you were to link the geomantic figures to, say, the phases of the moon, the eight “spokes” of the neopagan Wheel of the Year, or the flow of light and darkness across a day reckoned sunrise-to-sunrise, how would you go about creating such a cycle?  Have you used the geomantic hours, and if so, have you run into the same problems I have, or have you used them with good effect, in lieu of or in addition to the normal planetary hours?


Grammatomantic Ritual Calendar vs. Planetary Hours

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.

Seven Archangels…but which?

As you might expect, dear reader, the number seven is kinda mystical.  Seven planets, seven days of the week, roughly seven days for one phase of the Moon, seven orifices in the human face, seven Greek sages, seven virtues, seven vices, and so forth.  It’s the fourth odd number and fourth prime number, and there are three ways to sum up lesser numbers to add to seven (6+1, 2+5, 3+4), and three and four are also important numbers in their own rights.  So many attributes have been given to the number seven explaining much of its mysticality, and while I admit that much it might (read: definitely) be stretching things to fit a particular number of associations and categories, seven gives us a lot to work with without being too much.

This is especially important when it comes to working with angels, and archangels in particular.  Archangels, as the name implies, are the princes of the angels, the big guys among the big guys, and by working with them we can more effectively work with their subordinate angels and other spirits, not to mention the rest of the cosmos.  In Western Christianity, notably Catholicism, there is only valid and proper devotion able to be given to three archangels in particular: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the only three named angels in the Old and New Testaments.  Of course, other varieties of Christianity, official and folk, have venerated many more angels than just these three, each with their own names and attributes.

Such groups of archangels come either in groups of four or groups of seven.  Four archangels makes sense: four elements, four corners of the world, and so forth.  In Western occultism, we usually consider these four to be Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel; in Arabic lore, they’re Mikhail, Jibrail, Israfil, and Izrail (with the first three being the Arabic versions of the names and the last one being Azrael, usually known as the angel of death).  Four is a pretty solid number, but as noted before, seven is often more preferred for its mystical nature.  Add to it, we find references to “seven archangels” in scripture, particularly in Enoch I, and since then lists of seven angels have been common throughout Western religion and occulture.  However, with the exception of the “big three” angels named before, these lists often differ significantly, and it’s hard to figure out which angel has what qualities without relegating oneself to a particular book or mini-tradition.

To give several lists of seven archangels, I present the following table, which (besides Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is not meant to directly associate or imply an association between the other angels across traditions.  The first column is taken from Agrippa’s Scale of Seven (book II, chapter 10), which he associates with the seven planets.  The second column is given from the works of Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite, a Christian theologian and philosopher, and the names of which are common in many folk and Hispanic magic circles.  The third columns gives name from the Christian Gnostic and Orthodox traditions, which are popular in more ecclesiastic and personal practices in the eastern part of Europe.  The fourth column gives the names of the seven archangels from Enoch I, and the last gives the names attributed to the archangels from Pope Saint Gregory I “the Great” from the 6th century.

Enoch 1 Gregory
the Great
1 Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel
2 Raphael Raphael Raphel Raphael Raphael
3 Haniel Chamuel Barachiel Remiel Simiel
4 Michael Michael Michael Michael Michael
5 Kammael Chamuel Uriel Uriel Uriel
6 Tzadqiel Zadkiel Sealtiel Raguel Orifiel
7 Tzaphqiel Iophiel Jehudiel Saragael Zachariel

There are still other lists, but I feel like the ones given here are probably the most important.  That seven archangels is such a common thing across writers speaks to an older tradition, such as that of the amesha spentas in Zoroastrianism, or the Babylonian view of seeing the seven planets as gods in their own right.  Other scriptural references include seven candles, seven kings, seven churches of the world, and the like throughout Revelation, suggesting that the cosmic rulership of seven parts is something that pervades much theological and occult thinking.

In my practice so far, I’ve been working with Agrippa’s planetary angels, since I was introduced to them by means of the planets themselves in Fr. RO’s Red Work courses, as well since the whole Hermetic viewpoint likes putting cosmic rulers on things in the cosmos and the Abrahamic angels work well for that kind of thing.  However, I’ve been going to a number of botanicas lately, and I often find candles and statues for angels besides these seven planetary ones, notably ones to Iophiel (whom I know as either the intelligence of Jupiter or angel of the fixed stars), Chamuel, and Uriel.  Add to it, through my good friend Michael Strojan, I’ve encountered yet another set of angels that include Jehudiel, Sealtiel, and Uriel.

It gets awfully confusing, I’ll admit, but I have started to work with this latter set of seven angels from the Christian tradition.  Basically, the method is more-or-less devotional: assign one angel to each day of the week, and make prayers towards that angel.  I got a set of statues off Amazon for these seven angels, and set them up around my primary devotional altar along with a glass of water and a candle.  On their respective days, I light a candle and some incense for them, give them a new glass of water, and make prayers for them based on prayers such as novenas or chaplets for the angels, if one exists, or I just go by their general associations and make prayers for their intercession along those lines.

But, of course, linking the archangels to the days of the week, too, can be difficult.  Apparently, there are two ways to do this: the standard way, which is common by many Eastern Christians, and another way that Mr. Strojan showed me, where it links the angels to different days based on their divine offices and attributes.  I prefer to use the office-based attribution system, since it’s closer to the planetary method I’m already familiar with.  I haven’t gotten any complaints from the angels themselves, either.

Day Standard Office
Sunday Michael
Monday Gabriel
Tuesday Raphael Uriel
Wednesday Uriel Raphael
Thursday Sealtiel Jehudiel
Friday Jehudiel Barachiel
Saturday Barachiel Sealtiel

Of course, nothing stops me from working with these angels in a more magical framework, either.  I’ve noticed my rituals involving Michael of Fire or Michael of the Sun getting stronger and easier as I’ve been doing more work and offerings to the archangel Saint Michael, and ditto for Raphael of Air/Mercury and Gabriel of Water/Moon, and last I checked, devotional Christians don’t have seals yet for these archangels.  It’d be an interesting project to involve these angels in magical ritual in addition to devotional practice, though Mr. Strojan has told me that in working with any of the seven archangels, you effectively work with all of them; they work together as a cohesive group.

So, what do these particular angels rule over, and what are their attributes?

  • Michael, “who is like God”.  Often shown conquering a dragon with lance or sword.  Spiritual leader to holiness, spiritual offense and defense, protection from harm and evil, courage, preservation from danger.
  • Gabriel, “strength of God”.  Shown with horn, scroll, shield, scepter, or light.  Wisdom, revelation, messages, nurturing the young, and communication.
  • Uriel, “light of God”.  Often shown with a set of scales, flaming sword, or flame.  Protection, enlightenment, illumination, and resolution of conflict.
  • Raphael, “medicine of God”.  Shown with a crook and container of medicine, such as a gourd of salve.  Healing, health, wholeness, guidance, exorcism, and guidance.
  • Jehudiel, “praise of God”.  Shown with a sword, staff, or three-pronged whip, often crowned or holding a crown.  The angel of work, labor, employment, leadership, and government, especially as it pertains to one’s True Will and the Will of God.  By working, we praise God, and by praising God, we reap the power and station given to us.
  • Barachiel, “blessing of God”.  Shown holding a white rose or white rose petals, or a basket overflowing with bread.  Blessings of all kinds, luxuries, wealth, nourishment, growth, harmony, love, humor, success.
  • Sealtiel or Selaphiel, “prayer of God”.  Shown in devotion or contemplation, sometimes with arms folded or clasped together in prayer, sometimes with a thurible or censer.  Focus in devotions and prayers, concentration, steadfastness and resolution in prayers and all worshipful acts, as well as wisdom and skill in magic, exorcisms, and all divine arts.

A recent botanica trip even led me to buy a particular Siete Angeles candle with the names of the seven archangels on them.  Unusual about this candle, however, was that it had both the lists from the Gnostic tradition and Pseudo-Dionysus’ writings, and linked them together!  Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel were the same between the two, while Chamuel/Samuel was associated with Barachiel, Sealtiel with Zadkiel/Zafkiel, and Jehudiel with Iophiel.    While it’s awesome that these angels are associated in such a way, at least at a high level, the Ps.-Dionysus angels and the Gnostic angels often have different attributes that make them highly distinct.  I’ve even found weekday associations of the Ps.-Dionysus angels, but even these differ from practice to practice.

In the end, forming a practice to the seven archangels boils down to picking a particular set of seven angels, divvying up the duties of the world amongst them, assigning days of the week to them in a way that more-or-less makes sense, and working with them on their respective days.  Anyone who works with the seven archangels will recognize the same seven under different names here and there, but it’s hardly incorrect or wrong to pick one set over another.  Mixing angels from different groups may not be great, since that muddles the different traditions in which they work, but working out correspondences between them may be useful.  For instance, by associating Jehudiel with Thursday, I also can associate Jehudiel with Jupiter and Tzadkiel in Agrippa; while I don’t consider the seven planetary angels to be the same as the seven archangels, I can see how the nobility, grace, and fatherliness of Jupiter can easily fit into Jehudiel’s practice and image.  Likewise, with Barachiel on Friday, I can associate Venus and Haniel with Barachiel, and seeing how the luxuries, joys, pleasures, and goods of both work together.

Time Yo Shit

By now, you’ve probably heard me and plenty other magicians talk about planetary hours and days.  In fact, a lot of the stuff I need to do needs to be timed to a specific hour to boost the efficacy of some working or other.  Although a lot of modern occultists don’t bother with the details, maybe paying some mind to the phase of the Moon or the planet ruling the day of the week, the use of planetary hours and days is something that’s still fairly tied up in traditional or ceremonial work.  However, it’s still a powerful tool that anyone can use, even if they’re not doing something specifically magical.  Although you could feasibly do a magical act at any time, you generally want time on your side to make things flow easier and more effectively.

In order from most powerful to least powerful timing:

  1. Astrological election
  2. Planetary hour and day
  3. Planetary hour
  4. Planetary day
  5. Anytime

Using a proper astrological election for a planet is hands-down the best, since it’s tied directly to the strength of the planet and not just to a natural rhythm (though proper planetary elections also involve their proper planetary day and hour).  However, this only really works when you can get an election and, moreover, get a good election.  For instance, Jupiter won’t have another decent election until at least late next year, since it’s in Gemini right now (Jupiter’s detriment), and elections of Saturn can be far and few between.  Because of this, astrological magic can be difficult, and it often suffices to use the natural rhythm of the heavens as they’re in flow on Earth.

You’ll notice I have planetary hour alone preferred over planetary day alone; one might think that the planetary day would be more powerful, but it’s not really the case from what I’ve seen and experienced.  If you consider the force of a planet like light, the planetary day gives an ambient and unfocused light, while the planetary hour provides a sharp, focused, and appropriately hued beam.  It’s the difference between setting a glass of water in sunlight to warm up, and aiming an array of mirrors in sunlight at a water tank to make it explode.  One can use the scattered, dissipated energy of the planet (planetary day), but it’s better if you have some sort of focus (planetary hour), and best if the ambient light is of the same hue as the focus (planetary day and hour).

However, just as some colors work well together and form a new and appropriate color when mixed, some planets are complementary or can combine to produce a force appropriate to a specific working.  This means that a planetary hour on another planet’s day can still work, especially if the two planets are in affinity with each other.  Planets that are generally in affinity with each other are:

  • Saturn with Jupiter, the Sun, Mercury, and the Moon
  • Jupiter with Saturn, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon
  • Mars with Venus
  • The Sun with Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus
  • Venus with Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Mercury, and the Moon
  • Mercury with Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus
  • The Moon with Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus

Of course, if you have a good reason, you might be able to swing a pair of planetary days and hours that are otherwise badly related to each other.  For instance, if you wanted a good time to inscribe the Seal of Solomon, a mixture of Mars and Saturn (hour of Mars on a Saturday or vice versa) wouldn’t be bad.  Although these planets are not in affinity with each other, they’re both involved explicitly with the Seal of Solomon and their powers combined help with binding and restricting a spirit.

Also, while useful for timing generally, this doesn’t particularly matter much for sublunar or nonplanetary forces, simply because they’re not planetary.  As such, something to be done under the auspices of Fire can be done pretty much anytime.  However, these other forces can still benefit from the planetary hours, based on their correspondences with them.  A few I’d use would be, generally based on Agrippa’s correspondences:

  • Fire under Mars and the Sun
  • Air under Jupiter and Venus
  • Water under Saturn and Mercury
  • Earth under the Moon
  • Light under the Sun or Moon (the luminaries)
  • Darkness under Saturn (the furthest and darkest planet)

Then again, these forces don’t have to be set in stone.  If I wanted a good time to do something related to communication, I’d either use an hour of Mercury (which rules communication) or an hour of an airy planet, Venus or Jupiter (which both rule good communication as well as air).  Things get a little more unclear when you start mixing up planets and elements, as noted before, but things can still work well.

Then, of course, there’s another system of hours which use geomantic figures ruling the individual hours.  I’ve found lists in John Michal Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy as well as John Heydon’s stupidly dense Theomagia, and they’re largely based on planetary hours (an hour of Venus is usually translated into an hour of Puella or Amissio), but the pattern there, if any, is unclear.  I haven’t found much of a use for it, preferring the simpler and more regular planetary hours, on which the geomantic hours are based anyway.

Now, here’s the kicker about all this.  Magic is about making shit work how you want it to work, and it’s not strictly dependent on timing.  Like I said before, timing helps, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of magic.  Magic provides you with the tools to make any time work, whether it’s by harnessing the proper powers that are strong at the right time or by finding powers and spirits that work in a radically different way than you expected to accomplish something to get the same goal accomplished.  The less of a benefit you have from timing, the more you’re going to have to look elsewhere to find other and subtler relationships to do something.  In general, timing helps, and it helps a lot.  Unless you like to make things difficult for yourself, or unless you’re in an emergency when you’ve got to get shit done ASAP, try to go with the rhythm that already flows and you’ll be set.