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Oliver St. John is the author of books on Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v. New articles and essays are posted at Tantrika Books.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Magick of the Planetary Hours

In 777 we find ‘correspondences’ of many classes of being with the various types of operation, so that we know what weapons, jewels, figures, drugs, perfumes, names, etc. to employ in any particular work. But it has always been assumed that the invoked force is intelligent and competent, that it will direct itself as desired without further ado, by this method of sympathetic vibrations. The necessity of timing the force has been ignored; and so most operations, even when well performed as far as invocation goes, are as harmless as igniting loose gunpowder.
Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XIV
The Chaldean system of planetary hours is sometimes used for the timing of magical operations such as the consecration of talismans. The order of planets and ruling angels for the days of the week and the hours of each day are the same as the order of planets or chakras on the Hermetic Tree of Life. The hours and days follow the order of the Lightning Flash: Saturn (Binah), Jupiter (Chesed), Mars (Geburah), Sun (Tiphereth), Venus (Netzach), Mercury (Hod) and the Moon (Yesod). Once we arrive at the Moon, corresponding to the sephira of Yesod, the cycle begins again at Saturn or Binah. The order of the planets or mundane chakras on the Hermetic Tree is worked out according to the speed of the planets, relative to the earth. Saturn is the slowest moving while the Moon is the fastest.

The Hermetic Tree of Life
The Hermetic Tree of Life from Hermetic Qabalah by Oliver St. John

Apart from the timing of more or less significant magical operations, such as the consecration of a talisman, the planetary hours system is a means of reserving particular hours in the day for the preparations that are necessary for such workings. The ordering of time according to the sevenfold Hermetic principle also encourages spontaneous magical acts and observances at all times of day and night, without the need to plan weeks or months in advance.

The example I give below is that of the hours of Mercury. Taking the trouble to work out the hours arithmetically is a good place to begin a fruitful relationship with Tahuti, the god of Mercury.

To consecrate a talisman of Mercury we need to do this on Wednesday, the day of Mercury. The angel to invoke will be Raphael, the angel of Wednesday, Mercury, and the hour of Mercury. Next, we need to find the time of the planetary hours of Mercury and Raphael, so that we begin our ritual at the most auspicious time.

Table of the Planetary Hours of Mercury and Wednesday

A planetary day begins at sunrise—which is locationally sensitive—and ends at sunset, when the hours of night commence. The day hours and the night hours are simply divided into 12 sections each. Planetary hours are not, therefore, the same as ordinary clock-time hours. While a clock-time hour is always 60 minutes, a planetary hour varies in length according to the time of year, and is only 60 minutes long at the spring and autumn equinoxes. At the summer solstice, the planetary hours of day will be considerably longer than the planetary hours of night. At the winter solstice this is reversed, so the planetary hours of day will be shorter than the hours of night. Assuming we are wanting to find planetary hours for the day:

1. Find your local time of sunrise and sunset.

2. Count how many hours there are between sunrise and sunset.

3. Divide that number by 12 (convert the hours into minutes to make this easy).

4. The result of that division by 12 is the length of a planetary hour by day.

5. Now that you know the length of the planetary hour, all you have to do to get the 8th hour corresponding to Mercury on a Wednesday is to multiply the planetary hour by 8, convert that to clock-time and subtract one planetary hour to find the time that the hour of Mercury begins. Using this method, you may also construct a table of the hours for the day and night in question, including the time that each planetary hour begins.

Example: Calculating the Hours of Mercury

Let us say we want to do an operation of Mercury on Wednesday 22nd May 2013. The Sun is in Gemini, a good position, since Mercury rules Gemini. We are not going to look at other astrological factors, though, for reasons I shall explain later. We might want to take into consideration the phase of the Moon, however. If this is a constructive working, then we need the Moon to be waxing towards the full. We are in luck; the Moon is indeed waxing in Libra for most of the day. There is one other astrological factor we need to be aware of. If Mercury happens to be retrograde, then we need to wait until the little devil goes direct again—unless the ritual or talisman is an operation concerned with the past. Fortunately, Mercury is not retrograde at this time, so we can go ahead.

Following the five points above, I find that my local time of sunrise and sunset will be 5.30 am and 9.08 pm. The planetary day is therefore 15 hours and 38 minutes long. I convert this into 938 minutes and then divide by 12, which gives me a planetary hour of 78 minutes. The 1st hour on a Wednesday is always the hour of Mercury, but if I don’t want to be doing my ritual at 5.30 in the morning then I need to find the 8th hour of Mercury. I multiply: 78 x 8 = 624 minutes, which is 10 hours and 24 minutes after sunrise. Adding this to the time of sunrise (5.30 am) gives me a time of 3.54 pm. I remember to subtract one (planetary) hour of 78 minutes to find the time the 8th hour of Mercury begins. My ritual needs to begin at 2.36 pm.

There is a simple rule if we want to find the planetary hour by night. The planetary day hour added to the planetary night hour always results in 120 minutes, so in this case we simply subtract 78 minutes from 120 to find that the length of the planetary hours by night is 42 minutes.

So long as we are consistent, and work with and understand the rules of whatever system we are using, the tendency is that our magical operation will be successful. Of course, if the goal requires a material outcome, then we need to be careful what we ask for—because we might get it. And, as with a divination, the terms must be precisely worded, so there is no room for ambiguity.

Angels of the Planets and Days

Michael is the Angel of Sunday and the Hours of the Sun
Gabriel is the Angel of Monday and the Hours of the Moon
Zamael is the Angel of Tuesday and the Hours of Mars
Raphael is the Angel of Wednesday and the Hours of Mercury
Sachiel is the Angel of Thursday and the Hours of Jupiter
Anael is the Angel of Friday and the Hours of Venus
Cassiel is the Angel of Saturday and the Hours of Saturn

The first hour following sunrise on Sunday is ruled by the Angel of the Sun. The first hour following sunrise on Monday is ruled by the Angel of the Moon—and so on.

Objections to the use of Planetary Hours

It was expressed with utmost forcefulness in the book of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage that tables of planetary hours—associated in those times with fortune tellers, necromancers, psychic mediums and the like—are abhorrent to the aspirant of the High and Sacred Magick. S. L. MacGregor Mathers, who translated Sacred Magic, is thought to have adopted this view. Aleister Crowley, who held Sacred Magick in high esteem—though never completed the magical operation—also adopted the view. The ‘real’ planetary hours are when the planet is actually visible in the heavens, preferably somewhere between the Ascendant and the MC or Midheaven in an astrological horoscope. The argument is that planetary hours are a purely arbitrary notion, and bear no relevance to the actual positions of the planets.

The principle objection of the 15th century mythical mage Abramelin was that people used tthe tables of hours superstitiously and did not know what they were doing. That applies to anything in magick. We need to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. The table of planetary hours then becomes a powerful and practical method of organising time; it is a discipline that consecrates particular days and hours to a sevenfold symbol of the universe.

Applying the rules of astrological dignity means that with some planets we may have to wait several years until the right conditions come about. And that is where those ‘abominable’ tables of planetary hours begin to be an attractive proposition. Our days of the week are seven, and we still name them after seven gods or “spirits before the throne”. We live our lives according to arbitrary parameters. There are many systems of astrology, all equally valid, yet each one brings forth different results. All conceptions of mind are an imposition upon the infinite. Dividing our time to reflect the Hermetic scheme of things is a work of magical creativity, of imposing a will to produce order from chaos, As above, so below. The tables of hours are based on the Pythagorean model of the Tree of Life, which continues to form the basis of Hermetic magical working. Moreover, the time-sensitive planetary hours—where the hours of day increase from spring equinox to summer solstice and diminish from autumn equinox to winter solstice—are a means of anchoring occult practice in nature.

The virtue of the system is its simplicity. It is never possible to get all the conditions of the universe to agree; an astrological horoscope will always include favourable and unfavourable factors, and we have to weigh and balance these before we can make a judgment. There are countless other factors in the universe besides astrological ones. The Chaldean system ensures that in an uncertain and ambiguous universe there will be one or two things at least that are absolutely reliable. The system of planetary hours is an excellent example of applying Hermetic principles to everyday life. We cannot take account of every factor in the universe each time we decide to act, we simply need to choose the parameters for our operation and stick by the principles involved.


This article is from The Art of Making and Charging Magical Talismans, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2017