Planetary Magick

This article is a rough transcript of the presentation I gave this last weekend at Paganicon 2011. My presentation was somewhat lightly attended, but unfortunately I wound up scheduled against the guest of honor, John Michael Greer, who is a lot more famous than I am. For those who missed the presentation but are nonetheless interested in the topic, here you go.

Planetary magick has long been a substantial component of the Western Mystery Tradition. While in modern Paganism elemental magick seems to predominate, a look through the grimoires of the Renaissance demonstrates that the seven ancient planets and seven days of the week were at that time a more common symbol set for evoking spirits and casting spells, while the elements were more often seen as part of the alchemical tradition. The planetary symbol set is thus highly suitable for advanced magical and mystical operations.

The next two sections of the presentation, Microcosm and Macrocosm and The Operant Field, summarize the information that I already have posted here and here. The presentation continues with a more detailed description of the changes that are made in the ritual forms when shifting from a microcosmic to a macrocosmic perspective.

Macrocosmic Elements: Because the elemental system primarily represents the psyche of the magician, the LIRH also works with the elements. This is necessary because it is into the magician’s field of consciousness that macrocosmic forces must be invoked, and those forces must harmonize with the components of the magician’s personality in order to be accessible to his or her mind and will. However, in order to call in the macrocosmic aspects of the elements two changes are made.

The first change is the direction from which each element is called. The microcosmic elemental arrangement is called the Winds model, so named because it was inspired by the perceived qualities of the winds that blew from the four directions. This is the model with which most witches and Neo-Pagans are familiar – Air in the east, Fire in the south, Water in the west, and Earth in the north. The macrocosmic arrangement, however, is called the Tropical model and is based on attributing the cardinal signs of the Zodiac to the directions. In this arrangement Fire is in the east, Earth in the south, Air in the west, and Water in the north. This is arrangement used by the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. The second change is to use elemental hexagrams rather than elemental pentagrams. The use of the hexagram here further aligns the forces conjured by the ritual with the macrocosmic realm symbolized by the hexagram.

It is also possible to open the equivalent of an Operant Field using more generic Neo-Pagan ritual forms. The casting of the circle would be unchanged, but the Calling of the Quarters should use the Tropical directions and the invoking elemental hexagrams rather than elemental pentagrams. This will probably seem odd the first time you try it, but since it works in the same way as the LIRH the increase in effective magical power should become immediately apparent.

Godhead Assumption: Once the Operant Field is established the next step is to invoke the Godhead – that is, some form of divinity. This step differs a great deal from magician to magician and is deliberately left very open to the will of the particular practitioner. The divinity invoked could be a patron deity, the God and/or Goddess of Neo-Paganism, or even the dynamic ground of creation itself. The goal is to externalize the seeds of divinity that lie within all spiritual practitioners so that they may connect with and/or influence the macrocosmic realm through the medium of planetary forces. Particular standardized methods that I have used in my own work include variations on Israel Regardie’s Middle Pillar Ritual and Aleister Crowley’s Elevenfold Seal from Liber V vel Reguli.

Planetary Attributions: The magical powers attributed to the planets can be found in the “Magical Powers [Western Mysticism]” column of Aleister Crowley’s Liber 777. These powers are based on the Golden Dawn version of the Tree of Life. Each planet has both a mystical and a magical side, the mystical side being represented by the Qabalistic sphere associated with the planet and the magical side being represented by the corresponding Path. Because of this dual nature, planetary magick can be used to produce both practical effects and mystical illumination.

As you can see here, from a mystical standpoint the various visions corresponding to the planets reach much of the way up the Tree of Life and from a magical standpoint the planetary powers encompass most of what people want to do when they get into magick – love spells, healing spells, wealth spells, and even curses. From my own experience fielding questions on magick from readers of my blog, I can tell you that I rarely am asked how to do anything outside of those four areas.

Planetary Days and Hours: The best time to perform a planetary operation is during the day and in the hour attributed to the planet. The planetary days follow the conventional scheme:

Sunday – Sun
Monday – Moon
Tuesday – Mars
Wednesday – Mercury
Thursday – Jupiter
Friday – Venus
Saturday – Saturn

Figuring the planetary hour is more complicated. I normally use an excellent application called ChronosXP that is available as a free download online, but you should also know how to figure it out by hand.

First you need to know the times for sunrise and sunset for the day on which the ritual will take place. The hours of the day begin with the day of the planet at sunrise and the hours of the night begin at sunset and run until the following sunrise. To find the length of each hour of the day, divide the total number of minutes between sunrise and sunset by 12. To find the length of each hour of the night, divide the total number of minutes between sunset and sunrise by 12. Therefore, the day and night hours will be of differing lengths depending upon the time of the year. The only two days of the year on which they will be of equal length are the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes.

Once you have the length of each hour calculated you next will need to assign a planet to each hour. This is accomplished by starting with the planet ruling the day for the first hour of the day and then assigning additional planets according to a pattern called the Chaldean Order. This is the order of apparent astrological motion in the sky and corresponds to the most common arrangements of planets on the Tree of Life, moving down the Tree.

Saturn --> Jupiter --> Mars --> Sun --> Venus --> Mercury --> Moon

Whenever you reach the end of the pattern with the Moon it cycles back to Saturn. So on a Sunday the hours would look like this:

Day Hours: 1st – Sun, 2nd – Venus, 3rd – Mercury, 4th – Moon, 5th – Saturn, 6th – Jupiter, 7th – Mars, 8th – Sun, 9th – Venus, 10th – Mercury, 11th – Moon, 12th – Saturn.

Night Hours: 1st – Jupiter, 2nd – Mars, 3rd – Sun, 4th – Venus, 5th – Mercury, 6th – Moon, 7th – Saturn, 8th – Jupiter, 9th – Mars, 10th – Sun, 11th – Venus, 12th - Mercury

Renaissance magicians believed that while the planetary day was auspicious the hour was even more so. Given a choice between performing a ritual on the appropriate day and during the appropriate hour on a different day the traditional choice would be the hour, though it was considered best to strive for both. In my experience the use of the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for planetary workings ameliorates this requirement, especially when working with the operant field framework. The Greater Hexagram ritual allows you to tune your magical space to a particular planet at will rather than waiting for its day and hour to arise naturally, though it should be added that using these forms in addition to the days and hours rather than instead of them tends to produce the best results.

The Greater Ritual of the Hexagram: Following the Godhead Assumption, the next step of any Golden Dawn style planetary ritual is to perform the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram corresponding to the planet with which you are working. In the Golden Dawn context, Lesser rituals are general rites used to set up the basic magical field and Greater rituals are specific rites calling upon particular magical forces.

To perform the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram you start in the east and trace the hexagram of the planet in the appropriate color while vibrating the word of power ARARITA. You then trace the standard astrological symbol for the planet in the center of the hexagram in the color complimentary to that of the hexagram as you vibrate the godname corresponding to the planet. The names shown here are the Qabalistic godnames corresponding to the planetary spheres on the Tree of Life.

You then move clockwise, repeating these actions to the other three directions, and then finally return to face the east. Note that while the color changes depending on whether you are working with a planetary sphere or path the godname remains the same. You then return the to east and make the declaration “Let the divine light descend!” as you visualize light of the sphere or path color descending from above and filling the temple space.

The hexagrams of the planets are obtained by mapping the figure of the hexagram onto the Tree of Life and tracing from the corresponding sphere point, clockwise to invoke and counter-clockwise to banish. The two special cases are Saturn, which is traced from the top point even though Binah, the sphere of Saturn, is actually located on the left-side pillar, and the Sun, which is constructed by tracing all six of the other hexagrams in order down the Tree starting with Saturn because the standard hexagram has no center point.

Angels, Intelligences, and Spirits: Following the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram you then perform the conjuration of the appropriate spiritual entity. Planets are associated with Angels, Intelligences, and Spirits. The names of these entities can be found in Henry Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy and are probably substantially older than even that source.

Francis Barrett’s The Magus is mostly a reworking of Agrippa that was done at the end of the Eighteenth Century. In this work, Barrett explains that you should use the Intelligence or a planet for good and the Spirit of a planet for evil. I had thought originally that this idea started with Barrett, but Agrippa does in fact include a similar though less pejorative statement. What I've found in working with these entities is that this classification is in error, perhaps reflecting a bias against practical magick. The real difference between Intelligences and Spirits is functional.

The Intelligence is conjured in order to interact with the state of consciousness associated with the planet, either for meditation or divination. When taking a mystical approach to working with a particular planet, it is the Intelligence that you will want to summon. The Spirit of a planet is used for accomplishing practical ends. When taking a magical approach to working with a planet it is the Spirit that you should be summoning. Keep in mind, though, that for such operations it is necessary to summon the Intelligence first because the Intelligence directs the action of the Spirit. A Spirit summoned on its own is more like a blind force that can prove difficult to control by magical means. This force is not likely to turn into a poltergeist and wreck your house or anything like that, but the operation that summoned it will probably be wasted.

The planetary Angels incorporate the qualities of both the Intelligence and the Spirit but are more general in their function. They are appropriate for rituals that would otherwise call for activity from both the Intelligence and Spirit, such as a ritual in which you need to find out some unknown piece of information and then perform a particular action based on it, or for a mystical operation in which you seek to somehow integrate the totality of a planet’s nature.

This table shows the planetary Angels, Intelligences, and Spirits:

Specific sigils are associated with the Intelligences and Spirits. Also, there is a particular character related to each planet. The character of the planet represents everything related to its sphere of influence, encompassing the Angel, Intelligence, and Spirit. The character of the appropriate planet should be placed upon the altar for any planetary operation. The sigil of the Spirit or Intelligence is then drawn onto another sheet and placed over the sheet depicting the character. The Angel of a planet may be summoned using the character alone and does not require an additional sigil, though there are various methods by which such a sigil could be constructed. The characters and sigils for the planets are as follows:

Since the characters of the planets are used over and over again when working this sort of magick, it is a useful practice to build a set of seven planetary tablets depicting the character and other particulars related to each planet. These can be constructed using appropriate colors and incorporating the various names of power, but should not include the sigils of the Intelligence or Spirit. We constructed our own sets of these years ago when we did our first series of planetary workings and they have served us well ever since.

A simple way to make a tablet for a planet is to take a regular sheet of paper and print or draw onto it a large rendering of the character for the planet in question. The character itself is what’s required, not any particular artistic rendering of it. The reason that the sigils of the Intelligence and Spirit should not be drawn onto the tablet is because these two classes of entities represent specific aspects of the planet’s nature. The character, on the other hand, represents the totality of the planet’s sphere of influence, which is what the tablet should ideally represent. Another option is to use the Tarot cards shown in the first table corresponding to the planets as tablets, so long as you don’t mind their small size relative to a full sheet of paper.

For straightforward evocation, the sigil may be drawn onto a smaller piece of paper and positioned on the tablet so that it is visible to the magician in some fashion. There are many different ways that this can be done, suited to your own particular style of working. The sigil that should be used for this purpose is for the “terminal” entity that you will be summoning. So even though you need to summon the Intelligence in order to control the Spirit you just would want the sigil of the Spirit drawn out if it is to the Spirit that you will be delivering your charge. If you are summoning the Intelligence on its own you would use the sigil of the Intelligence. To summon the Angel you don’t need any sigil besides the character of the planet.

The Conjuration: Conjurations can be found in many forms throughout the Renaissance tradition of grimoire magick, which is the milieu out of which the names and sigils of the Intelligences and Spirits arose. Some magicians delight in conjurations that are both elaborate and poetic, whereas others prefer a simpler and more direct approach. I tend to be of the latter school, and thus the conjurations I use are shorter and more to the point than those of many ceremonialists.

There are two key factors that you need to consider when constructing a basic conjuration. The first is the spiritual hierarchy to which the Angel, Intelligence, or Spirit belongs. According to the framework of Hermetic Qabalah the hierarchy is fourfold, representing the four Qabalistic worlds.

  1. The Godname is attributed to the archetypal world of Atziluth and rules the Angel.
  2. The Angel is attributed to the creative world of Briah and rules the Intelligence.
  3. The Intelligence is attributed to the formative world of Yetzirah and rules the Spirit.
  4. The Spirit is attributed to the material world of Assiah.
In our original planetary ritual series we used four conjurations that navigated the entire hierarchy to get down to the Spirit, but this is not strictly necessary. You should have already tuned your ritual space to the appropriate Godname with the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram, so there’s no need to call upon the Godname again except as a controlling name for summoning the Angel. Conjuring the Intelligence is similar, in that the Angel name is used as a controlling name for the Intelligence but not actually summoned. The Spirit is a special case in that the conjuration must be twofold. First, the Intelligence is summoned by the name of the Angel, and only once this is done is the Spirit summoned by the name of the Intelligence.

The following examples should clarify these instructions. The words in all capitals should be vibrated or intoned to the best of your ability:

The Angel of Jupiter, Sachiel

Oh glorious and mighty SACHIEL, you who command and rule over the intelligences and spirits of TZEDEQ, behold me, and in the name of the same your God, the expansive and merciful EL, attend and appear before me now.

The Intelligence of Jupiter, Jophiel

Oh glorious JOPHIEL, brilliant intelligence of TZEDEQ, behold me, and in the name of SACHIEL attend and appear before me now.

The Spirit of Jupiter, Hismael

Oh glorious JOPHIEL, brilliant intelligence of TZEDEQ, behold me, and in the name of SACHIEL I summon you that I may call upon your spirit HISMAEL to attend and appear before me.

(Pause until the presence of Jophiel is perceived before continuing)

Oh mighty HISMAEL, strong spirit of TZEDEQ, behold me, and in the name of JOPHIEL attend and appear before me now.

Once the conjuration is complete you and any other magicians with whom you are working begin to chant the name of the Angel, Intelligence, or Spirit until the entity is perceived upon the altar, generally above the tablet. Chanting in this manner is not included in any of the old grimoires, but my working group has found it to be a very effective method. Often we have sensed physical cold spots over our tablets that develop along with the chant, and on a number of occasions we have measured tangible electromagnetic fields with an EMF meter during our latest series of operations.

It is important to note that relatively minor physical effects like these are all that you are likely to experience in terms of material phenomena. Several recent authors on grimoire magick, most notably Joseph Lisiewski in Ceremonial Magick and the Power of Evocation claim that unless you get things like poltergeist phenomena in the temple the evocation is a failure and must be abandoned. This idea bears little resemblance to my experience over the years with this style of magick. There have been cases in which I sensed little in the temple besides a vague presence and my charge was accomplished perfectly, and similarly there have been cases in which I sensed a clear physical manifestation and my charge was not accomplished. So far there seems to be little correlation between the phenomena occurring in the temple during an operation and whether or not that operation succeeds, regardless of what traditional grimoire practitioners insist. Success – the accomplishment of your charge – is your proof, parlor tricks are not.

The Charge: Once the entity you are summoning has appeared the next step is to deliver your charge. This simply means the task you want the entity to accomplish, the questions you want it to answer, or the state of consciousness that you want it to induce. These should be stated in a simple, literal, and to the point manner. An important principle to keep in mind is that magick will always follow the path of least macrocosmic resistance. This means that (1) the evoked entity will tend to follow the literal meaning of your statement and (2) that you should never specify a particular means by which your charge must come to pass unless that means is absolutely essential to the function of the spell.

The first point there is likely the origin of old stories about hostile evoked entities twisting the wording of magicians’ charges. In my experience this has little to do with hostility and much more to do with the entity trying to find a way to fulfill the charge within the range of probability that it can influence. If you give the spirit a charge like “bring me a car by this time tomorrow” that’s a very unlikely event, at least if you mean a car that you can drive around and which you will be able to keep. So the spirit might arrange for a thief to abandon a stolen car in front of your house after a joyride, arrange for someone to give you a broken-down car that would need to be repaired, or even arrange for a small child to lose a toy car someplace on your property for you to find. In all these cases the entity brought you a car – just not the sort of car you wanted. So when it comes to defining what you want the spell to do you need to be very specific.

At the same time, the second point means that you should be as deliberately vague as you can be about how you want the spell to come to pass. If you charge the spirit with bringing you a sum of money, for example, you don’t want to specify “by winning the lottery” or “as a gift from so-and-so” because defining the means in that manner makes the outcome much more unlikely. Most people have more ways available to them than they generally consider for money to come into their lives, especially when struggling with finances that seem dire. If you simply charge the spirit to bring you the sum of money all possible paths by which the money could come will be open. Limiting certain particular means may be practical, such as for example adding the caveat that the spirit should not damage your property in such a way that you will get the money through an insurance settlement and have to pay it right back out again, but you want to do this sparingly so that as many paths can be open as possible.

One thing I always avoid in my charges is the dubious notion of “harming none.” As anyone who has ever debated the Wiccan Rede knows this is a very slippery term. Its vague definition can derail an otherwise decent charge very quickly. The problem is this: let’s say that you cast a spell to bring you a sum of money and happen to be invested in a particular stock. One of the ways by which the money could manifest would be for the stock price to rise high enough for you to sell it and make a profit of the amount you want. The trouble is that if you put into the charge something like “causing no harm to anyone else” you’ll be cutting off that pathway. The stock market doesn’t create very much wealth and for the most part just moves it around. Whenever you make money on a stock a substantial portion of it comes at the expense of other investors. Even though most of these are huge institutional funds that can easily absorb such losses, this could still be seen as constituting “harm.” Similarly, let’s say you cast a spell to influence the numbers in a lottery drawing. If you win because of your spell, it likely means that the person who would have won if you hadn’t cast the spell will not. That could still be seen as constituting “harm.”

I prefer more descriptive terms such as “damage” and “injury,” such that my “harm none” phrase would be something more like “without damage to my property or injury to any person.” Also, before you jump to the conclusion that you should add in there something about preventing damage to the property of any other person think through what you’re doing very carefully. All sorts of things can affect the property of others that you do not usually consider. Let’s say that you’ve reduced the price of your house and it’s still not selling, so you do a spell that gets it sold. If the house sells for less than the average appraisal price on your block it means that your neighbors will see their property values drop. In effect, that’s “damage” to their property in a literal sense, but it is also in no way your responsibility nor should it be.

Obviously these sorts of phrases are irrelevant if you’re talking about casting a curse, since the very intent of such a spell is to cause damage and/or injury. The idea of “harming” no one besides the target of the spell should also be avoided, again because of its vagueness. It should be clear that people have interconnected social relationships such that causing injury to a particular person “harms” their friends and family members, even though this harm is indirect and thus of a much lesser degree. For example, if you cast a curse on someone and they break their arm their family members will likely be inconvenienced because your target will be unable to help with housework for some time while the arm heals and will probably have to pay out medical bills. Also, depending on your target’s job his or her co-workers may very well be inconvenienced in a similar manner by this loss of function.

The concept of magical ethics is strongly related to the nature of the charge. Some authors have spent a great deal of time discussing this subject, but it actually is quite simple. Anything that is ethical using mundane methods is similarly ethical using magical methods. There is no difference from a philosophical perspective. Some people like to throw around the idea that, for example, using magick to get ahead at your job is “cheating,” but the sentiment behind this statement is just as ridiculous as making the same claim regarding the use of your skills and intelligence. Similarly, if you find yourself in a situation in which you feel it would be ethical for you to assault someone it is likely just as ethical for you to curse them. But it is important to understand that these considerations are left up to the magician as a sovereign individual.

The idea of the “Threefold Law” is irrelevant to magical ethics since it is a mere superstition rather than a technical principle. Magical spells are not going to rebound on you unless you cast them spectacularly badly, and even then the rebound won’t be “threefold.” A similar point can be made for the Western New Age idea of “Karma” which in fact bears little resemblance to the concept of the same name originally appropriated from Buddhism and Hinduism. There is no force in the universe that is going to punish you for acting unethically, and similarly no force that will reward you for acting ethically. Even if this were so, an ethic based on fear is no different than that of Christian groups who preach that you need to be a nice person because otherwise God will torture you for eternity. For a choice to be meaningful it must be made on its own merits, not under any form of duress. But none of these means that you should act without considering the ethical consequences of your spells – in fact, as the decisions are wholly up to you it seems to me that you should consider them all the more carefully.

Time limits should also be a part of every charge. The reason this is important is that if no time limit is given the entity can keep trying to shift probability in accordance with your charge forever. Angels, Intelligences, and Spirits are all immortal. The problem with doing this is that whenever an entity is working on your behalf there is a noticeable reduction in the amount of power you have available for other operations. A magical effect is not accomplished only by an entity but rather arises from the relationship between the entity and yourself. If you get into the habit of sending spells out without time limits the various charges that you have running can in effect drain your magical power down to nothing long after the charges themselves become irrelevant. Charges to bring you something within, for example, a week will always terminate at the end of that week whether or not the entity called upon to accomplish it was successful in doing so or not. Otherwise your charge will only terminate once the intent is accomplished, which could take a very long time.

The License to Depart: Once you have delivered the charge the next step of the ritual is to license the Angel, Intelligence, or Spirit to depart from the temple and go about their business, whether this consists of simply returning to the place from whence they came or setting your will in motion. You dismiss the entity using the same controlling name as in the Conjuration, and it can be more or less wordy as you choose. This example is for Sachiel, the Angel of Jupiter, whose controlling name is the Godname, El.

O thou SACHIEL, praise and honor be unto thee for the splendor of thine office and the majesty of thy being. And the blessing of thy God, the expansive and merciful EL. Because thou hast diligently answered unto our demands, and hast been very ready and willing to come at our call, we do here license thee to depart unto thy proper place; without causing harm or danger unto man or beast. Depart, then, I say, and be thou very ready to come at our call, being duly exorcised and conjured by these sacred rites of magick. AMEN.

Note that “harm” is used here in the License to Depart whereas I recommended against making it part of the Charge. The difference is that the License only applies to the moment during which the entity is vacating the temple and has no bearing on the Charge itself.

Closing the Temple:Once the entity has been given the License to Depart a planetary rituals should be closed with either the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram or with the Qabalistic Cross depending upon the nature of the Charge. For operations that are concluded as soon as the temple is closed the full banishing pentagram ritual is most appropriate. For operations that are expected to continue for some interval of time following the closing of the temple the Qabalistic Cross on its own is most appropriate. There is a bit of a gray area here, as an operation that will occur solely in the macrocosmic realm can also be closed with the banishing pentagram ritual, but most of the time when you’re performing a ritual for a specific practical purpose the desired outcome has at least a few microcosmic components.

Some sources claim that you need to “undo” your entire conjuring procedure by performing the Greater Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram for the planet and then the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram before wrapping up with the banishing pentagram ritual, but I recommend strongly against using this procedure. Since the hexagram represents the macrocosm, using banishing hexagrams in the context of an operation that you expect to continue running after you close the temple completely defeats the purpose of performing an operation in the first place. The problem is that if you banish the macrocosmic forces associated with the rite you are also shutting down whatever macrocosmic forces you set in motion with the charge.

The use of the LBRP/LBRH to open and close rituals, as taught by Regardie and passed on by popularizers like Kraig, is likely one reason that some magicians who go back to the old grimoires seem to get better results by following those procedures rather than what they have been told the Golden Dawn forms should be. The “banish-banish,” or as I call it the Banishing Field, shuts down all ongoing magical effects in both the microcosmic and macrocosmic realms. In short, if you do a spell that way it runs for the moment between the delivery of the Charge and the closing of the rite. It should be clear that this is profoundly suboptimal. I have experimentally determined that using the Operant Field to open and the LBRP or Qabalistic Cross on its own to close results in much more effective practical workings that if anything can exceed the probability shifts produced by the old grimoire formulas without more modern techniques or methods.

Conclusion: The power of planetary magick is substantial, but despite this many magicians overlook it as part of their regular practice. It is my hope that this presentation will prompt more of you to do so, whether you decide to use it for practical ends, enhanced realization, or both. I believe that this highly effective system constitutes an important component of both spiritual development and material success for anyone working with the Hermetic tradition and those related to it, and I strongly recommend it to all such practitioners on that basis.  


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