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Planetary Hours, part two

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Jul. 24th, 2008 | 10:01 pm
music: Maddy Prior - Sheath & Knife

Dan writes : Even if the calculation of the planetary hours is a technique requiring some calculation, doesn't that pale in comparison with the requirements to draw up an astrological chart for a given time and place?

Khem responds : Ever hear that old chestnut, "The life so short; the craft so long to learn" ?

Asking any craftsperson or artist if what they do is difficult is to miss the point altogether.

Of course it is difficult - the point is that it satisfies the soul.

I also suggest that you try asking some of the astrologers at a SCA tournament how they cast their charts all day long - like as not, they'll tell you that it's all about the training and the tables.

As James Evans writes in his History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy, "The tedium involved in a strict calculation can be reduced with the aid of planetary tables."

A handful of astrologers still employ astrolabes or some other tool for taking a sight, for the same reason that some navigators still use a sextant (or even an astrolabe) instead of GPS - pride of craft.

Here is an example of what I mean :

The Tools of the Trade:
An Astronomer's Notebook

And here is a link to an article about a table with some stone markers that could be moved around on it to cast horoscopes for clients that was used by itinerant astrologers working the streets many centuries ago :

James Evans - The astrologer's apparatus: a picture of professional practice in Greco-Roman Egypt
in : Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol. 35, Part 1, No. 118, pages 1 - 44, 2004.

Note the resemblance to the game of Astrological Chess described by Alfonso X in his Liber Acedrex :


And here is a link to a page that has a better diagram of such a table :

Medieval Cosmology

Anyway, to return to your question :

The same procedures that generate the planetary hours for a given day of the year and for a given degree of latitude also provide a way to slice the local horizon into Houses.

Dividing the local horizon into Houses is a necessary step in casting the chart, so generating the planetary hours, or lifting them from a 'Handy Table' for your area, brings you that much closer to completing a chart.

It might be more difficult for an operator to cast a chart if they were working in a complete social vacuum, but this was never the case for the periods in question - there was a community of artisans to draw upon that shared their astronomical concerns and technologies.

The Almagest and the Handy Tables, for example, provided templates for the spawning of local Almanacs and Ephemerides, even for those not living in coastal towns with their ready access to nautical tables ( the overlap of astronomical and nautical concerns go hand-in-hand ).

Dan : The discussion here begins with planetary hours, then moves to houses. Speculations about Ptolemy aside, however, Placidus' system for calculating the houses post-dates the planetary hours by centuries (the discussion in the Hygromanteia being a key example), so it's uncertain how much his system validates planetary hours.

Khem : You have it the other-way round, Dan - it is the procedures for deriving the planetary hours that lend validity, as well as an historical precedent, to the Placidus Houses - as well as providing the scheme for the names of the days of the week in the first place.

See Chapters 19-21 of Paul of Alexandria's Introduction, or Eisagogika, (c.378CEV) for his explanation of how to calculate the day of the week and the planetary hour.

See also :

Solomon Gandz - The Origin of the Planetary Week or The Planetary Week in Hebrew Literature
in : Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 18, (1948 - 1949), pages 213-254.

Solomon Gandz - The Division of the Hour in Hebrew Literature
in : Osiris, Vol. 10, 1952, pages 10-34.

Dan : Besides, the chief problem with the planetary hours is not that someone is dividing up the day and night, but in the attributions of those periods to planets that have no relation to their position in the sky. Would it be possible to expand upon this aspect of the system?

Khem : The problem, if there is one, is the ongoing problem of non-practitioners misunderstanding the procedures or deliberately distorting them for purposes of their polemic.

A planet's rulership of an hour is just one of the factors to be considered when examining a chart, along with its rulership of a sign, its place of exaltation, its face or decan, and its term.

The Lord of the Hour is not necessarily the Lord of the Ascendant, for example.

And the horological utility of this system derives from its ability to adjust the 12 planetary hours of the Day and Night across the Seasons, additionally enabling one to correct a Table with supplemental direct observations of celestial bodies (Sol/Luna/Planets/Stars) in order to better determine Where and When the observer/operator is.

Here are a few texts that I recommend :

James Evans - The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy.
Stephen McCluskey - Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe.
John Heilbron - The Sun in the Church : Cathedrals as Solar Observatories.
James Holden - A History of Horoscopic Astrology.
Ralph Holden - The Elements of House Division.
Dona Marie Lorenz - Tools of Astrology : Houses.
Hewitt Schlereth - Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell.
Dennis Fisher - Latitude Hooks and Azimuth Rings : How to Build and Use 18 Traditional Navigational Instruments.

And here are a few more references :

A Treatise on Planetary Hours
How to cast Judgment in Horary Questions
by the relationship between the Lord of the Hour
and the Radical Ascendant
by Andrew J. Bevan, QHP, DMS Astrol. (c) 1994

"The Significations of the Planetary Hours are very Ancient...and may be of good use, though they are not of such Efficacy as well-grounded Elections, from an apt posture of the Heavens..." ~ Henry Coley, Clavis Astrologiae Elimata, 1676,
page 273.

Henry Coley's Key to the Whole Art of Astrology is freely available for download as a .PDF from Paulo Alexandre Silva's Astrologia Medieval site :

See also the section on the astronomical day in the entry for the Calendar at Britannica Online :

- the section on 'counting hours' and 'Babylonian' hours on Answers.com :

- and the entry for hours at 'Sundials on the Internet' :

There is also a very nice specimen of an astrolabe that incorporates the planetary hours and the zodiacal signs here :

And an example of a water clock that measures the unequal hours here :

The Astrolabe
An instrument with a past and a future

Calculating Planetary Hours
Liorah Chanah

Calculating Halachic Hours
Liorah Chanah

And here are some links to related freeware :

Free Planetary Hours Software for Windows

Halachic Times Calculator

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Comments {3}


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from: phygelus
date: Jul. 26th, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)

Great stuff. Evans is a particularly grand resource I can't recommend highly enough.

I've never seen the astrological chess or table apparatus before.

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biblical and magickal incense how-to?

from: whelky_tartar
date: Sep. 11th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)

..Just curious if you could recommend any good resources(books or web content) for making incense? I've seen posts you've made come up in the past while googling around for magical incense recipes, and I trust your aesthetic sense, so I'm just curious what you would recommend. Thanks and Bests.

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Determining Planetary Day

from: jeejoo3
date: Dec. 1st, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)

Planetary Hours are easily enough to determine given the Day of Week and local Sunrise/Sunset times. But I have been concerned and wondering about the accuracy of our current calendars and Days of Weeks. How can we be certain that our Monday, etc on our calendars is the correct one for a given day number?

Especially with all the Julian to Gergorian calendar shenanigans that went on...

Is there some way to astrologically calculate or sync up the seven day rotating Days of Weeks so that we have something 'heavenly' to validate against?

As it is now we have no assurance it isn't arbitrary at this point or if we got off sync at some point along the way.

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