23 February 2016

SSBH: Planetary Magic

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Welcome to the very first installment of the Strategic Sorcery Blog Hop, hosted by Jason Miller's Strategic Sorcery Facebook group. If everything goes as planned this should become a monthly venture, in which different bloggers from the community all write on the same topic and link to each other so that readers can literally "hop" through the posts in a chain. You can use the links above and below each post to navigate through all the participating blogs.

This month's theme is planetary magic. So far on this blog whenever the topic of planets have come up it has been through the lens of Frater Rufus Opus' amazing Seven Spheres. That book, and by extension his system of Trithemius-style conjurations, has definitely become a major player in my practice. The system works very well for me, the Hermetic initiations have sincerely changed my life for the better, serving as catalysts for further, even grander changes, and above all the relationships I've developed with the spirits involved, namely the seven archangels, are continuously unfolding in depth and love. I was originally going to write a little on my thoughts about the Chaldean order, planetary hours, and related concepts, but in the end decided there's no reason not to focus on the most integral crux of my entire practice and philosophy: the spirits themselves.

Animism has always been something I've been incapable of parting with. Just as I spoke to plants, animals, rocks, cloud formations, the winds, my books, and all sorts of other things I couldn't help but see as possessing varying degrees of "ensoulment" and animation as a child, so too do I continue now as a young sorceress. I talk to my ritual tools before and as I handle them, ask the drawings on tarot cards to clarify my intuitions, and negotiate with the spaces I set up and create. Growing up I was constantly moving around, which meant I often had to say goodbye to the land spirits I had worked and talked with over that year or two year period. While the spirits that make up my inner court remain by my side regardless of where I go, it is in the nature of those local genii to be intimately tied to locations and environmental matrices. One particular power, however, that has always been there in the sky for me, both utterly beyond its physical nexus and completely of it; constantly guiding, shaping, and inspiring my craft; is the Lady Moon herself.

I first encountered her spiritually as a female goddess-figure who introduced herself as Џина to me (this later became Diana when I learned how to speak English). Despite the name I never truly worked with her in a Roman pagan context, it was always coming from an intersection of Balkan folk sorcery and direct contact with the spirit herself. This being, regardless of the names she uses with me and the witches she chooses to move through to reveal different aspects of herself to me by, has always been the moon, of the moon, and beyond the moon. But what kind of moon—or rather, who's moon—is she?

To go back to Hermetics and the seven classical spheres: under that paradigm, the moon, like the sun, is considered a planet. The moon receives the rays of all the planets and reflects them directly to us here on Earth. It's a gateway to both our own subtle senses and powers and those of the other planetary forces above. Gabriel is the archangel that tends to be assigned to this sphere, and they are the one I worked with using the Seven Spheres system. For Hermetic gods as opposed to angels, it's generally Selene. So what do these different lunar beings mean for me in the context of planetary magic?

Personally, I think the names we use for the planets are incredibly useful for describing these particular kinds of pervasive forces within mythology and magic. They are in numerous paradigms very intimately tied to the actual observable planets themselves, but I don't think those giant hunks of gas and rock out there really are more war-like, kingly, or quick/intelligent than each other. Mercury is fast, Venus looks beautiful, Mars is blood-red and so on, and those attributes are just as important to planets as they are for determining why certain plants are associated with certain magical and medicinal virtues as opposed to others, both in part of the way they look and act as well as their respective histories within their socio-cultural frameworks. At the same time I think there really are certain "forces" that are distinctly what we would call Jovian or Venusian and so on that permeate throughout our chain of manifestation. Certain spirits definitely seem to align themselves to some more than others, and the planets are usually the best way to express those alignments.

Going back to the moon, I've worked with the three beings I mentioned (Diana, Gabriel, Selene) separately in different lunar workings. They definitely express different "flavours" of that underlying lunar current through the more focused lens of their own mythology. When it comes to communing with those powers, one of the foremost factors has simply been my own relationship with them. By this I don't just mean closeness or experience; it also has to do with a certain kind of attitude. The way that I relate to Gabriel and the way that I work with them during these Trithemius-style conjurations is very distinct, for example. This Gabriel is in turn different from the one I've evoked in elemental-themed angelic magic where they stood in the office for water. In my experience with them they've likened the situation to being the same person but putting on different roles. Some of my roles include daughter, best friend, student, and freelance writer, and I'm definitely different in each one. One of my family friends is a judge, and I definitely would never walk up to him in a courtroom and joke around like we do at neighbourhood gatherings. When it come to gods and spirits, respecting those nuances is key.

So it is with the beings that hold certain planetary offices in the various traditions. I don't swap them around like they're interchangeable if I'm working very specific sorcery. That said I've worked with both Gabriel and Selene in very similar ways using two week planetary rotations, but that had a lot to do with the other planetary beings involved. Gabriel works fine among the other archangels. When I was initially going through Seven Spheres, I spent a lot of time soaking in the rays of each planet by simply carrying the talisman I consecrated and walking with each of the spirits. I've conjured them numerous times since and each experience has taught me something different about the angels, as well as how they interact with each other.

One thing I really want to stress is that respecting the spirit means not forcing it to fit neatly into your paradigm, and that definitely applies to planetary powers! Not every pagan deity is going to be easily categorized by planet, nor should they be. Often times you can't just assign a day to a god based on perceived planetary affinity—instead look for traditional times of veneration and feast days. This is one of the reasons why I tend to avoid relying heavily on tables of correspondence. Few things can be sorted so organically into these schemes even within their own pantheons.

So to wrap this up: get to know the spirits behind (and in front) of those planets! Work with them and walk with them. See how the force of the planetary current flows and expresses itself through them just as it does through you. I would have missed out on a lot if I had just thought to myself: "well, I already work with Diana, so there's no need to work with any other lunar goddesses or beings". That doesn't mean I should pursue shallow relationships and pick through pantheons like they're buffets.

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