Planetary Magick

Ancient Magick of Time and the Music of the Spheres

by Cedar Stevens

Planetary Magick is the next system to layer onto one's practice, after mastery and understanding of Solar, Lunar and Elemental Magick. If you have a yearning for an ancient link to magickal practice, it is more likely to be found through the seven "fixed stars" or planets than by any particular witchcraft tradition or magickal system, most of which date to the 1950's or Medieval times.

In ancient times, the movements of the "planets" were easy to observe as different from the stars. Most of the stars rotated in unison, over the course of the night, but seven heavenly bodies could be counted in different rhythms. Fastest moving among them is the Moon, whose orbit has a periodicity of about 29 days. Faint, but still observable much of the year also, Mercury travels its path every 59 days (or 88 days, it used to be believed). Venus at 243 days, the Sun itself at 365 days, Mars at 687 days, Jupiter at 12 years and elder Saturn takes 29 years to complete its circuit, from an Earthling's perspective.

From Sumerian times, these unique heavenly bodies were seen as representations of the gods, if not gods themselves. And through the ages, the names of these planets have changed, but the roles of the gods they have been named for have changed very little. For example, in ancient Sumer, Enki was the name for the planet we now call Mercury, and they are both gods of information and communication. The Babylonians called the planet Mars by the name Nergal, who was also god of war. Our beloved planet Venus was Aphrodite in Greece, Astarte in Phoenicia, Ishtar in Babylon, and Inanna in ancient Sumer, love goddesses all of them. Solaris or Helios is the Sun god, Iuppiter or Jupiter is a god of kingship and growth, Selene or Luna is goddess of the Moon.

The association or correspondences of these gods with the planets is discernible from their colors, movements, or time signatures. Saturn, with its lengthy period, was associated with elder or death gods, gods of the underworld or harvest, master of time, architect of destiny. Mercury, with its speedy cycle and quick changes of direction were related to the messenger god.

Some astrologers and magicians have added Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto to the classic seven planets. These planets are not discernible to the eye without telescopes, and therefore they are not as familiar to humanity, and they have fewer Earthly correspondences. Neptune is viewed as a higher frequency of Venus, Uranus likewise is an octave over Mercury, and Pluto is the dark reflection of the Sun. Their distance from our planet makes magickal correspondence much more tentative and not especially useful to most practitioners.

Most important for the modern practitioner is that, since the times of the most ancient western civilizations, these planets or deities have determined one of the most basic conventions of social organization: the seven day week. Each day is said to be "ruled" by one of the seven planets, and further, each hour of the day and each hour of the night are ruled by the same succession of planetary deities. We have lost a bit in the translation of the names of the week to the Germanic roots. The Norse gods are not associated with the planets themselves, though their diety functions are still correspondent to the ancient rulers. The Latin names of the planets and the days still correspond exactly.

Note that our familiar workweek begins on Monday, ruled by the quickest planet, and ends on Saturn's slow day, the day of rest. More recent calendars have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, or alternatively had Sunday begin the week. Over time, and even in our current datebooks, which of these three days is the start of the week has rarely enjoyed consensus. If you consider the matter you could derive logical arguments for all three cases.

Our reckoning of the day as beginning at 12 am (the middle of the night) is a new convention. For millennia, the day began with sunrise, and the night began with sunset, and the planetary hours commenced their count at sunrise. The order of the hours follows the periodicities of the planets: slower, elder Saturn begins the week (or used to do) and the quickest planet, the Moon is the last, repeating eternally in the pattern:

Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon

But this is not the order of the days of the week! Which is of course:

Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

The explanation is that in Babylonian times, the day was divided into twenty four hours (Sumerians used a twelve hour day) with twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. If you begin at sunrise on Saturday with the first hour being ruled by Saturn, 24 hours later you will end up at dawn the next day with the hour of the Sun. That being the planet governing at the time of sunrise, that planet governs and names the new day, Sunday. Beginning with Sun ruling that first hour of the day it rules, if you tick off another 24 planetary hours in that order: Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, etc., you will arrive at Moon at dawn of the next day, Monday. After another 24 hours you will arrive at dawn at the next day, Tuesday. Repeat this pattern and you will derive the order of the days of the week.

It is easy to think of time and days of the week proceeding this way, a function of the relationship of the number seven with the number twelve, and indeed, this relationship is expressed elsewhere, most notably in music in the relation of the chromatic to the diatonic scales. Mystics, alchemists, and early philosophers were always seeking to understand, and emulate in law, architecture, art, and social convention, the music of the spheres, a way to harmonize human activities with the movements planets of our solar system and then hopefully, further into the heavens. (You might note that the next tier of magickal practice after the seven-planet realm is the astrological zodiac, which is a system of twelve.)

One problem is that nature does not always fit the philosopher's ideal mathematics. We have here the inconvenience of unequal day length caused by the seasons. With the advent of uniform timepieces, the convention has moved toward the fixed hour. But in ancient systems, the length of the hour changed according to the length of the day. Around the equinoxes, September 22 or so and March 22 or so, the hours of the night and day are equal, and this is where convention set the fixed hour. Somewhere along the way, the rigid application of fixed hours made it expedient to even change the time of the beginning of the day to the darkest hour of night!

In Natural Magick, we follow Nature and ancient customs. Wednesday morning begins at Dawn on Wednesday, and it lasts all day and all night until the Sun rises upon the next day. If that Wednesday is near the Winter Solstice, the hours of the day are shorter, and the hours of the night are longer. We go through the exercise of calculating the relative length of the hours through the seasons in order to precisely time magickal operations, especially those that are related to the planets. A bit of algebra and interpolation is applied to our magick. This brings us closer to the magick of the Spheres and the practices of ancient magickal systems. Not to mention, it reminds us that we did once pass Algebra in high school!

With this we introduce the Natural Magick line of Planetary oils. Each of these oils is made on the day ruled by the planet and in the hour of that day that is ruled by the planet. Five of the seven planets are made during the day in the waxing Moon. Moon is made at night under the crescent Moon in the hour of the Moon. Saturn is made on the first Saturday after the Full Moon, in the Saturn hour of the night, to fully capture the elder and dark aspect.

Each oil is potentiated with a mineral which corresponds to the power of the planet concerned:

Each bottle of oil has a 4mm bead of the same stone as a focus. As each oil is made, I use the following binding spell: This is the Day that you were made
This is the Hour that you were born
This is the moment of your creation
To magick of ___________, you are now sworn.

Each of the planets and the gods that govern them has resonance with different parts of our Selves. In a sense, by honoring each of the planets in a ritual way, we are dissembling, re-assimilating, and reclaiming each part of our Selves, the whole and separate parts of which issue forth from the Music of the Spheres.