Planetary Hours and Astrology

Khem Caigan engages me here and here on the topic of planetary hours. Let me revisit the original post for my statements on the topic:

The planetary hours are a sort of poor man’s astrology, perhaps conceived of as an early effort to integrate planetary influences into magic practiced by people with no astrological traning themselves. The idea is pretty simple; each day and night is divided into twelve hours each, and each hour is attributed to a particular planet. The first hour of each day is attributed to the planet, or the corresponding deity, for which the day is named. Thus, the first hour on Sunday is that of the Sun, the first on Thursday (Thor’s day) is that of Jupiter, and so forth. Of course, this leads to situations where the planet named is nowhere in the sky during the proper hour.

Khem takes issue with my “poor man’s astrology” statement. As I read his response, his justification is that calculating planetary hours has its complexities, that calculating a horoscope can be easier for experienced astrologers using the proper references and tools, and that difficulty doesn’t matter to true craftspeople and seekers after wisdom.

I can see the truth in all of this. Still, the question remains: What is more complex?  Is it to divide the day or night into twelve equal parts and associate planets with them using a predefined list?  Or, is it to locate the planets in the sky at a precise time and define their relationships both with regard to each other (trine, sextile, combust, etc.) and to the twelve houses, afterward interpreting the significance of those relationships to the object of the chart? I see no evidence that the first one is harder, or even comparable in complexity than the second.

Further, one can use the planetary days and hours with no calculation at all. If a magician wants to perform a ritual during the day and hour of Venus, for example, all he or she needs to do is wait for dawn on Friday. The exact length of that hour might be problematic if the rite is intensive, but it can still be used.

Thus, though we disagree on some of the particulars, I think my point still stands. If I might lay it out:

  • The usage of planetary hours does not require the same level of experience, expertise, or resources needed to create an astrological chart for a given time and place.
  • This means that a spell calling for astrological days and hours is accessible to a broader category of practitioners than one that requires the use of an astrological chart.
  • This opened the door for more people to make use of planetary influences.

If I had to disagree with my past self on anything, it’s whether the system of planetary hours came about as a system of “poor man’s astrology.”  I think that’s how it likely functioned within magic of the grimoire period, but I’m not certain as to how exactly it came about.  I’d best explore some of Khem’s links and find out.

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Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 9:27 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. I’ve not had time to look at the various sources in Khem’s blog entries, so perhaps I’m missing something, but fundemental to the conception of planetary hours as “poor man’s astrology” is the basic fact that (often) the planetary hours have no relation to what is happening in the heavens. We might start a Mercurial ritual at sunrise on Wedensday, but in the heavens Mercury might actually be in a ‘bad’ position. Khem seems to state it himself: “The Lord of the Hour is not necessarily the Lord of the Ascendant, for example.”

    So, what is the great controversy here? Granted, calculating the hours is probably has much effort as using an almanac to draw up a chart. However, unlike planetary hours the chart requires far more skill to interpret. The planetary hours are unambiguous – anyone can use them to determine a ritual timing, whereas the chart requires a lot of skill to interpret (calculating dignities, etc) and to be 100% sure that you’ve chosen a good election is something of a skill.

    Still, it’s perhaps unfair to say that the planetary hours have no relation to the heavens. The first planetary hour of the sun will coincide with the sun rising, and due to it’s constant proximity to the sun the first hour of Venus might be ‘correct’ more often than for the other planets. Two out of seven ain’t bad!

  2. Hello,

    Just to add to a small point Phil said: one shouldn’t overlook the availability of almanacs that have been around for as long as we’ve been agricultural. Even the Babylonian’s manufactured almanacs (probably on the same mud tablets the original necronomicon was printed on! heh). Almanacs during the heyday of the grimoire tradition were fairly common place.


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