Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I had an interesting question recently regarding the definition of Cazimi (Kasmimi) found in Ben Dykes' wonderful translation of Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae.
"And when it [the Moon] is with the Sun in one degree, so that there are 16' or less between them, both by latitude and longitude (which rarely happens), it is said to be united, and then it is made strong, because it is said to be in the Sun's forge, that is, in his heart. And many of those dealing with the stars, and particularly in my time, agreed in this, that when a planet is distant from the Sun by 16' or less, it is made strong, and it is said to be in the heart of the Sun. Indeed I am in agreement with them, but not purely and simply. Because for a planet to be in the forge or in the heart of the Sun, it is necessary that it be distant from the Sun by less than 16' according to longitude and latitude - and this was the intention of the philosophers. Because if a planet is distant from the Sun by less than 16' in longitude, and according to latitude it is distant by more than 16', nevertheless it is combust, because the distinction between combustion in latitude and combustion in longitude is practically imperceptible." [Bonatti, "Book of Astronomy", trans. Benjamin Dykes PhD, Cazimi Press, 2007. , Treatise 3, Part 2, Chapter 7, page 211.]
Generally in astrology we are concerned only with Zodiacal longitude, the location of planets, stars, etc., in the 360 degree circle of the Zodiac. Latitude, being above or below the ecliptic, doesn't even come into the picture, particularly in the later, less complex Renaissance style of traditional astrology.
Being cazimi, in the heart of the Sun, is basically a conjunction, albeit a special one. It appears that it was not unusual in early traditional astrology to consider latitude in cazimi. Al-Qabisi (Alcabitius), for example, does include longitude in his definition of cazimi. Introduction to Astrology, Ch III, sec 5, trans Burnett, Yamamato, (Warburg 2004) at 93.
This concern with latitude as well as longitude does appear to be a consideration with all conjunctions in Hellenistic astrology as Ptolemy says that conjunctions or aspects are only valid if the planets are both either in North or South Latitude. Tetrabiblos I, ch. 24. This Hellenistic concern with both latitude and longitude in conjunctions seems preserved with the early traditional definition of cazimi.
We have a similar issue with regard to the fixed stars. Unlike the planets, which are basically fairly close to the ecliptic, the fixed stars range all over the sphere of the heavens. They are projected from this 3 dimensional space on to the 2 dimensional space of the ecliptic, which greatly distorts their position. Nonetheless, all traditional astrologers use their projected positions, while precessing their positions.
From a practical standpoint, I have always used cazimi just in terms of longitude, not latitude. How exactly you would "test" this I don't know due to the multiple variables. Getting nor not getting the expected results even multiple times is certainly not definitive proof!
An argument could be easily made that if we are going to use latitude with cazimi, that we really need to use it with all aspects, I'm not sure that there really is any significant difference between conjunction with the Sun and conjunction with other planets.
Ultimately, if the mechanism of astrology is some sort of rays or beams from the
physical planets, then the longitude plus latitude definition makes sense because then the physical bodies of the planets are superimposed. Of course then we have the problem of other aspects, which seem to work perfectly well with just longitude. Plus the question of how to work with the latitude of the fixed stars!
An alternative explanation is that the cycles of the Heavens are an imperfect material manifestation of deeper, more perfect spiritual cycles. In this case it makes sense to be less concerned with the actual physical position of the planets and stars and more focused on their cyclical relationships, as a means to view the underlying spiritual cycle.
In any case, for now I am going to continue to follow Renaissance practice and view cazimi, like all other aspects, as requiring longitude only. With the proviso, however, that if cazimi or any aspect is both in longitude and latitude, that will increase its power.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I was asked recently if the 4th house included "just blood family or the sort of family that can arise between very close friends or family that is self-chosen." At first my tendency is to say family and the 4th house includes relatives by blood or marriage only, which would not include one's friends.
Ok, but why is that and have there been variations on what the 4th house covers in traditional astrology?
In ancient Rome the term familia was more inclusive, since it took in not only members of the family by blood and marriage, but also slaves and others living in the household.
In English the term house, as in House of Windsor, probably approximates the term familia, including relatives by blood and marriage and their retainers and dependents.
So I think we can look at the 4th house in several ways, first as members of your immediate household, people that you live with. This gets a little amorphous with temporary roommates, but even these shorter term situations involve sharing living space.
Secondly, our current social structure is pretty much based on a nuclear family or a smaller set of people sharing living space. We don't have a social set up with broader coalitions of extended families plus their dependents. So this would pretty much define family as blood or relatives by marriage. This is also 4th house. Of course keep in mind that in traditional astrology there are lots of different houses for specific relatives, for example, 3rd is brothers, sisters, cousins.
Oh, being adopted, I should add, the adopted children do seem to fit into the chart in a similar way to children one is actually related to, both in the 4th and 5th house contexts.
Thus my view is that you can refer to those sharing your living space, particularly on a more or less permanent basis, plus one's immediate relatives by blood or marriage as 4th house. Friends, even close ones, that you don't live with have a perfectly good house, the 11th, to be signified by.
This tendency to start fudging the definitions of houses and making classifications on very subjective grounds is very typical of modern astrology. Think about how I have laid out the 4th/11th distinction, basically if you don't live together and aren't a blood/marriage relative, then you get classified as a friend, fairly straightforward.
But how do you determine whether someone is a good enough friend to switch out of the 11th house into the 4th house very close friend category. Always would be a source of confusion and if you can't assign houses properly you can't judge the chart properly.
We have similar fuzzy subjective house assignments, with mothers and fathers. Traditional is very clear, Mothers are 10th house, fathers 4th. I've seen modern astrologers say that the 4th is the "dominant" parent. Wow, how on earth would you ever be sure you had that assigned properly?
More on the 12 Houses in Traditional Astrology
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I had a question recently about what the original, read "best" planetary symbols were. Of necessity there is a good deal of subjectivity involved with magic. We can't hook up our magicometer and see that sigil A produces 1346 milli-potters while sigil B produces only 33.2 milli-potters.
Different people are going to use different sigils and symbols and get different results. There are so many variables involved that it is going to be difficult to determine whether or not the difference in effect was caused by the sigil or by the quality of the election or by the strength of the planet or other astrological factor in their natal chart, or the ritual or the circumstances they were trying to affect with the talisman. "X sigil is best" is going to have to have lots of caveats attached to it, "X is best when I use it" is about as far as you can really go.
However, there are limits. You don't decide that a Saturn sigil would be better for a Jupiter talisman! You don't, as one person related to me, do a lunar mansion ritual on an altar of the orisha Yemoja (the altar caught on fire!).
I like traditional astrological magic. It's a tested system, it has a sound philosophical underpinning. It also gives us a huge range of characters, symbols, sigils and glyphs to work with from our traditional sources.
Let's take a look at the planetary glyphs. Firstly, my interest is as a practitioner, not as a scholar of planetary symbols. What this means is that I want to do the most powerful magic, not publish a paper. In addition, I am convinced of the efficacy of magic in general and am concerned to find the most effective sigil in particular. A scholar is required, if they want to get that paper published, to maintain that magic does not work.
Secondly, my view and this is one that is supported by traditional sources, is that the origin of many of the astrological symbols, and indeed of ritual in general, is in the spiritual realm. Dreams, visions and direct bestowal by spirits or at the very least spiritual inspiration, are the origin of many astrological symbols. The use of planetary tables based on magic squares and the production of sigils using gematria, while very popular nowadays, is an example of a different and more mathematical method of sigil production. However, ultimately this method as well rests on a spiritual basis.
A scholar, on the other hand, again is required by the tenets of the ruling atheistic/materialistic philosophy, to see the origin of astrological symbols in an individual human being, who was the ultimate origin of their creation at some particular historical point since no spiritual beings or spiritual realm exists. The scholar, therefore, seeks the "original" human author of the symbols (or text, ritual or other artifact).
It would be interesting to know the age and human origin of the various symbols in our traditional sources, but to focus on this or seek the "original" symbols is to veer off of the path of the practitioner and to fall into the cul de sac of the scholars.
There are actually a wide range of different planetary symbols available in our traditional sources, all of which are usable on talismans. For example, our translation of Picatrix Books I & II contains on page 103 an interesting set of planetary symbols
The order is odd, from left to right Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Moon, Mars, Sun, Venus.
This set of planetary symbols appears in a slightly different form on the Ouroboros Picatrix volume 1 at page 124 in the Chaldean Order.
There are fascinating sets of planetary and Zodiacal symbols, according to the "astrologers and mages" found in the Brill Latin critical edition of Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk II ch 51. In the Three Books of Occult Philosophy English translation edited by Tyson, there are also lots of different planetary symbols provided.
My view would be that these are all appropriate for planetary talismans. I am certainly open to further sources and to the manifestation of new planetary symbols as well.
For example, Jason Miller in his Sorceror's Secrets at page 153, gives some examples of planetary seals, "that arose during planetary workings with my artist Matthew Brownlee." The seals are beautiful, fluid and contain elements that fit them into the traditional planetary symbols. The manner of their manifestation seems quite appropriate and traditional!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I had someone ask me about the "best" sigils to use for astrological talismans recently. This gives me another chance to riff on one of my themes which is the false opposition between "there's only ONE right answer!" and "every answer is right if it feels right to you."
The only ONE right answer, we might term the "scientific" approach. This arises out the the view that there is a single objective reality that exists independent of any observer. According to this view, subjectivity is basically negative and the task of the heroic, superstition battling, rational (=atheistic/materialist) scientist is to eliminate all subjective considerations and observe objective reality.
The every answer is right approach might be termed the New Age/pop version of existentialism and deconstructive philosophy gives equal weight to everyone's subjective views. Some tenets of deconstructivist philosophy,
"No one can know anything about the true nature of reality. Some deconstructionists have deconstructed the idea that there is a privileged, objective reality "out there", arguing instead that reality is a social construct"
"A central concept of deconstructionism is that language has no inherent meaning."
Whoa! Why am I getting so philosophical? We just want to know what the best sigil, prayer, spell, system of correspondence, etc., is?
What I am getting at is why it is so natural and obvious to ask "which is the best" and also the why the "natural" and seeming only alternative to one best is everything is best.
The idea of objective reality and objective facts about that reality are a key tenet of modern science.
"Objectivity in science is often attributed with the property of scientific measurement that can be tested independent from the individual scientist (the subject) who proposes them. It is thus intimately related to the aim of testability and reproducibility. To be properly considered objective, the results of measurement must be communicated from person to person, and then demonstrated for third parties, as an advance in understanding of the objective world."
Wikipedia, Objectivity (science)
Part of the desire for objectivity is tied up with the desire of science to eliminate "superstition" ie spiritual causality and the existence of the spiritual.
As useful as objective measurement may be, it is clearly only applicable to a small portion of our experience and certainly in my opinion, the least important parts of experience. Being in love, for example, is not quantifiable or measurable, the object and specific experiences that cause love vary greatly from person to person and yet love is among the most important experiences one can have.
Deconstructivism recognizes the limitations of objectivity and scientific reason and expresses very clearly the meaninglessness of atheistic/materialism. But clearly meaninglessness and an inability to make valid distinctions are not a basis for human existence!
What's the alternative to "only one" or "every view is equally valid (or false)"?
Let's take up the example of love again. It clearly exists and our traditional philosophers agree that it is a potent spiritual force. "Eros is a mighty daimon" says Plato in his Symposium. Yet everyone's experience of love is highly subjective and individual. Not what everyone terms love, however, is love.
That reality includes the spiritual, that subjectivity is an important part of reality as the observer participates in and helps create reality, but reality is not entirely reliant on the observer, all posits a middle path between "one" and "every" valid reality. The key missing from scientific objectivity and from deconstructivist thought, however, is the existence and primacy of the spiritual.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I recently had a question about making an astrological talisman and was asked if it was sufficient to have a strong intention while making the talisman, but without actually doing an invocation or other consecration of the talisman.
Ok, let's be careful here and parse through the various issues raised.
First our traditional sources are pretty clear that you want to actually speak and do an invocation at the creation of an astrological talisman. Agrippa says, "Moreover in making the image they advise that prayer for the effect for which it is made, be used. All which Albertus Magnus in his Speculo affirms" Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk II ch 49 and "Moreover together with the foresaid Images, they did write down also the names of the Spirits and their Characters, and did invocate and pray for those things which they [wished] to obtain." Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk II ch 46.
Of course Agrippa also emphasizes the importance of intention and confidence in doing magical work. "The Philosophers, especially the Arabians, say, that mans mind, when it is most intent upon any work, through its passion, and effects, is joyned with the mind of the Stars, and Intelligencies, and being so joyned is the cause of some wonderfull vertue be infused into our works," Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk I, ch 67. Often when Ficino or Agrippa refer to Arabian philosophers they are referring to Picatrix, and this sounds very much like the "Perfect Nature" passage in Picatrix Bk III, ch 6.
However, Agrippa goes on to say, "It being shewed that there is a great power in the affections of the soul, you must know moreover, that there is no less Vertue in words, and the names of things, but greatest of all in speeches, and motions" Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk I ch 69.
And further Agrippa says,
Besides the vertues of words and names, there is also a greater vertue found in sentences, from the truth contained in them, which hath a very great power of impressing, changing, binding, and establishing, so that being used it doth shine the more, and being resisted is more confirmed, and consolidated;
Which vertue is not in simple words, but in sentences, by which any thing is affirmed, or denyed; of which sort are verses, enchantments, imprecations, deprecations, orations, invocations, obtestations, adjurations, conjurations, and such like.
Therefore in composing verses, and orations, for attracting the vertue of any Star, or Deity, you must diligently consider what vertues any Star contains, as also what effects, and operations, and to infer them in verses, by praising, extolling, amplifying,
And setting forth those things which such a kind of Star is wont to cause by way of its influence, and by vilifying, and dispraising those things which it is wont to destroy, and hinder, and by supplicating, and begging for that which we desire to get,
And by condemning, and detesting that which we would have destroyed, & hindered: and after the same manner to make an elegant oration, and duly distinct by Articles, with competent numbers, and proportions.
Moreover Magicians command that we call upon, and pray by the names of the same Star, or name, to them to whom such a verse belongs, by their wonderfull things, or miracles, by their courses, and waies in their sphere, by their light, by the dignity of their Kingdome, by the beauty, and brightness that is in it, by their strong, and powerfull vertues, and by such like as these.
Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Bk I, ch 71
So the creation of a talisman really consists of many factors. The proper timing, plus ritual, plus materials and design all combine to create the maximum power in a talisman.
Here is more on Astrological Talismans