Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Question of Time

Astrognosis; a Question of Time
The magician’s first question is ‘how?’ ‘How do I violate probability or organise coincidence to work in my favour? But the how is not the whole. Deeply entangled within the how are the where and the when.
At different times both magicians and magical scholars have formulated answers to these questions but their formulae have never been balanced and have invariably been too self-opinionated or too reliant on traditional theories to be of use to other people.
The how has been answered in a thousand ways too well known to the reader to restate here.
The where has never been satisfactorily answered. The magician chooses between his living room, his temple, or a quiet place in the woods; a lonely graveyard or, if he put credence in that kind of thing, a confluence of ley lines or an ancient earthworking. The rule here seems to be that he should use the most atmospheric place he can find for an important working and the most convenient for a routine one.
The question of time is altogether more thorny. Presupposing the question ‘is the time important?’ to have been answered affirmatively, a conclusion that many magicians of the spontaneity school would repute, a pan-dimensional problem is opened up. Not only does the correct time need to be selected but also the correct time for a particular act of magick. The following possibilities might be taken into consideration.
1) Should it take place in the hours of daylight or darkness ?
2) Is the day of the week of any importance?
3) Is the date of any importance?
4) Is the phase of the moon as critical as some authorities have implied?
5) Is it necessary to take the astrological situation into account?
There are several ways of classifying the hours of the day and the days of the week under planetary headings ranging from the traditional and apparently arbitrary ‘doctrin of signatures’ to the more modern, but still arbitrary, system which uses atomic numbers in conjunction with the older method of attributing all things to planetary categories.
The first method assigns a planet to each day of the week, whence the names. Thus we


The hours of the day and night are calculated by dividing the periods of light and darkness by twelve and then naming the first hour by the planet of the day and following the sequence. The absurdity of this system is that on any given day the likelihood of that planet exerting any effect on the earth is minimal. However, if an arbitrary system is to be used as an indication of the best time to perform a working, randomity often functions on our behalf, this is as good as any and it does allow for emotional and atmospheric connections to be made.
The other method of attribution comes to the same conclusion concerning the order of the days of the week but presumes from the first that the ancient notion of making a connection between a particular metal and a particular planet is correct without attempting to justify this. It reasons as follows:- each planet signifies a metal and each metal has an atomic number. Arranging these a la periodic table with the lowest number first, the following list is obtained.

Mars iron 26 Surmounting these on a seven-pointed star
Venus copper 29 following the universal line and with the
Moon silver 47 order of the atomic numbers a figure is ob-
Jupiter tin 50 tamed which gives the order of the days of
Sun gold 79 the week, reading clockwise.
Mercury mercury 80
Saturn lead 82

Coincidence, happenstance, or an indication of divine order this serves to endow an arbitrary system with more meaning than it might otherwise have but there is here a further absurdity in that there are ten planets including sol and luna, not seven. A decimal system of dating would in many ways be more convenient than the present one but would detract from the week as a quarter of the lunar cycle which is more apparently important than any other indicator of periodicity for reasons given below. However, the year can be divided into thirty six decanates using the planets in the sequence of the days of the week with the more recently discovered planets interspersed between them thereby endowing each group of ten days with a set, but again arbitrary, planetary attribution which may be found useful, especially in works of sorcery. In addition to this the decans have traditionally been associated with the minor arcana of the tarot, the signs of the zodiac to the elements and so on, making the choice of time of the year very easy for workings which rely on this kind of jugglery with symbolism.
In considering the moon more definite observations can be made beginning with man’s first excursions into astrology during the shamanistic period.
The era of the shaman began long before man became hunter with the interpretation of signs, signs which signaled the availability of food. Here is a possible interpretation of the origin of the zoomorphic gods. Man was never equipped to hunt and until the basis of a hunting technology had been evolved his only method of obtaining meat was by stealth or by scavenging remains left by better adapted animals. The lion, the vulture, the hyena and so on therefore became totemic of surfeits of meat. The snake, the cat and the crocodile became the types of stealth by which small or young animals might be stolen. (A parallel to this is the way in which chimpanzees organize raiding parties against neighbouring tribes of their own kind, the chief male always receiving the prize of the young captives brain).
Over the centuries, as his technology of the hunt began to develop, man’s attitude towards the totemic animals must necessarily have changed. He no longer needed signs of this nature to follow. He now needed to avoid the danger- animals, as he had always done, and to observe the periodicity of the arrival of the animals he sought to kill.
The Shaman whose power over the others of his tribe was a result of his ability to interpret signs, would probably not discard totems which had become part of the group mythos even when their practicability was lost and so the signs from the previous period began to form the basis of an unsophisticated magick being of a primitive symbolic nature rather than expressive of a practical approach to the location of meat.
Coincident with this new signs were gaining in importance. Rather than being seen as mere meat, often previously unrecognisable by the time man arrived on the scene, prey was now observed in its living, animal form and the animals themselves became totemic. It was probably at this time that the notion of sympathy began to develop and the shamans next step would be to identify with the animal being hunted.
But how did such an idea come about ?
Sympathy, an apparently illogical connection between disconnected or disparate occurrences, must have first been observed between the lunar phases and the female cycle. In societies living close to nature the menstrual period is coincident with the dark days of the moon and in all societies the gestation period is of ten lunar cycles, the lunar reckoning being more easily observable and recordable than the solar.
According to archeologists who have studied their early epoch, by 40,000 years ago man was already logging the phases of the moon and the positions in which they occurred relative to his own position. Stone almanacs dating from this period have been well documented. They demonstrate that man was recording the phases of the moon 25,000 years before the advent of painting, arithmetic and writing.
It is reasonable to conjecture then that the observed sympathy between woman and the moon and the mystery of the phases of the moon with its cyclic death and rebirth and growth to fullness initiated far more than mere human curiosity. The importance of the moon in astrology and in magick has never been superceded. Its phases have been renamed and resignified throughout the ages and it was through observation of the moon and not the sun, if the etymological record is to be believed, that the dualistic concept of a battle between dark and lightness was formulated into symbolic perfection in the image of the Goddess Fifteen, Ishtar or Venus.
Given that man first began to study the moon 40,000 years ago our knowledge of her effects on the earth and on man is lamentably small. In his arrogance man visited our sister in orbit, brought back a few pieces of rock for scrutiny, and declared that she had been conquered. But what do we know about the effect the moon has on us? As a matter of fact. . .
. . . more people are committed to asylums at the time of the full moon than at any other time.
. . . the moon is responsible for the action of the tides, spring tides with the new or full moon, reap tides with the first and last quarter. As a consequence of the friction caused by tidal flow the period of the earth’s rotation is increasing by 1/1000th of a second per century. Man is not long risen from that primeval sea.
. . . if a female’s cycle is coincident with the phases of the moon she is at her most fertile at the full moon. It is likely that sexually attractive pheromones e may be exuded by her at that time although these have not as yet been isolated.
. . . a woman who is out of phase with the moon can reachieve synchronization with it by sleeping in a place where it can shine on her.
. . . sharp instruments exposed for long periods to the strangely polarized light of the moon become measurably less sharp.
. . . recent researches have established that crops sown in accordance with the phases of the moon give a better yield than control groups.
and as a matter of conjecture there is an occult tradition which states that magick cannot be successfully performed during the dark days of the moon. Many societies have taboos against intercourse during the menstrual period, maybe for stated reasons but more likely that magical power be generated or released when the taboo is broken. As a counterpoint to this, there is an astrological tradition which states that horary charts cannot be cast when the moon is in Scorpio and implicit in this is the idea that magick performed during this period is bound to fail. If this were true then negative magick worked during a negative period would produce a positive result!
There is another problem with which the magician must contend which is that quite evidently the moon has a greater effect on the reactions of some individuals than on others. It also appears that the moon exerts a more obvious influence on those people who are aware of it, its phases and its position.
SUMMARY: It is evident that the moon exerts an influence on the earth and its people but that influence is so various as to defy generalisation. It has also been demonstrated within recent years that a planet rising over the horizon exerts an influence, sometimes markedly, on the people born at that time.
Again no rule can be distilled from the available data.
The pragmatist must experiment in his own way, carefully recording lunar and planetary aspects and positions and thereby come to conclusions which are as personal as his methods of performing magick. Alternatively he could organize a routine of lunar observation, recording his emotional impressions, and thereafter perform magick during those phases or aspects in which he feels most powerful.
As a further alternative he might care to experiment with other people’s astrognostlc techniques. See, for example, Francis Barret’s ‘Celestial lntelligencer’ or Crowley’s ‘De Arte Magica’.
Above all, the actor in the Theatre of Magick should not lose sight of the fact that it is his function to create atmosphere, of such electricity as to enable him to alter consciousness at will. The stars may not be important to him, may not even be poemial to gnosis, gnosis being the stable-datum without which magick cannot be performed.


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