Astrological Planning for Rituals
Part I: Planetary Aspects
by Simon Jester
The magician practices his or her Art within a universe of forces, invisible to the five senses, that must be taken into account whenever performing magical operations. Astrology provides an ancient and esoteric key to the nature and disposition of these forces, and yet many magicians fail to properly understand the basic methods one must use in order to take full advantage of the insights that the time-honored Science of the Stars provides. Prior to the advent of the Internet, the precise observations and complicated calculations needed to gain specific kinds of astrological data intimidated most people into going no further in their astrological preparations than determining the time of day, the phase of the moon, and the current position of the rising sun with respect to the Zodiac (i.e., the Sun sign.) These simple determinations are undoubtedly important. However, using only such basic astrological information to prepare for a magical ritual is a lot like trying to use a wall calendar in place of a clock. Too many important details are left out, and the kind of precise information required to fine-tune magical workings is missing.
Luckily, the kind of detailed astrological data one needs in order to more effectively conform magical operations to the forces of the universe is now available online. Observations and calculations that once took hours—sometimes days—are now accessible in seconds. This essay provides a link to one such source of online astrological data and then gives some simple instructions concerning how to use it in magical rituals.
Before proceeding, it's necessary to briefly examine differing attitudes toward astrology's relationship to magic and the ways in which magical practitioners may or may not interact with astrological conditions. The position and relationships of the moon, the sun, and the planets (relative to each other, to the 12 Signs of the Zodiac, and to the earth) are viewed by some practitioners as strict determining factors that set absolute limits on what someone can do during a magical operation. For example, according to this kind of astrological determinism, you must wait for a time when all (or most) of the astrological factors are auspicious before embarking on an enterprise or a magical ritual. For example, if you wish to publish the book you've written and discover that Saturn is in opposition to Mercury on the day you've scheduled a meeting with a possible publisher, a magician who advocates astrological determinism would advise you to cancel the meeting and reschedule for a time when Mercury (the planet of language, communications, and writing) is in a more favorable position. If the same magician designed a ritual to improve romantic harmony and discovered that Mars was in opposition to Venus at the time he or she intended to perform it, the ritual would be postponed until the contentious Mars-Venus opposition passed.
This type of astrological determinism is most often found among Wiccans and many Neo-Pagans because their traditions are shifted more toward the celebratory end of the spiritual spectrum. In such traditions, the emphasis is on honoring and celebrating various deities in their proper times and seasons, and magical operations are planned to coincide with such recurring spiritual events. Observation of traditions, celebration of recurring Holy Days, and following the laws of the Higher Powers are keynotes in these traditions.
Magicians of a Qabalistic, Goetic, or Enochian turn of mind tend to be much more proactive in their approach to dealing with the Higher Powers, and view astrological events as indicators of spiritual conditions that can be dealt with and often modified by various magical means. Astrology does not dictate as many absolute limitations for such magicians, who can perform rituals designed to nullify the negative effects of many inauspicious planetary alignments. This particular tradition contains a fortifying element of Gnosticism which encourages such magicians to view themselves as capable of rising above the power of the planets and stars. After attaining a magically elevated position by means of gnosis gained through meditation and ritual, such magicians become able to exert a degree of control over the influence exerted by astrological factors. Ritual magic (as Aaron Leitch has argued) also embodies significant shamanic traits, and shamanism typically inculcates a warrior-like attitude in its practitioners, who view themselves as being able to negotiate with (and even successfully contend and battle with) many of the spiritual forces that might otherwise oppose mere mortals. To use the example given above, a proactive magician of the shamanic variety would keep an appointment with a potential publisher in spite of an opposition between Mercury and Saturn, and would prepare for it by first banishing Saturn's negative influence and then invoking the assistance of Hermes.
Celebratory traditions observe the workings of the cosmic machinery and conform their actions to them, whereas the proactive traditions aspire to work on the machinery itself and make some adjustments. Naturally, there are still limitations to what most magicians believe they are capable of doing, and no magicians today (except ones who are delusional egomaniacs!) claim the ability to alter the movement of the stars in their courses. But many do believe that negative astrological conditions can be effectively managed and nullified by ritual means and do not let every astrological impediment stand in their way.
Only you can decide which of these two positions is more suitable to your magical Path. But whether you are an astrological determinist or a proactive Gnostic/Shamanic magician, you still need accurate and detailed astrological data. For most purposes, the following link will be most helpful:
Through the Hermetic magic of computer technology, this page will somehow determine the location of your computer and, by clicking on the “Reset to Current Local Time” link underlined at the bottom of the page, you will get astrological data about the planetary positions and their aspects that is relevant to your area. You can use this online software to find out what the astrological conditions were or will be for any date by simply typing in the necessary information and clicking on the “Continue” button.
But now that you've accessed the data, what do you do with it? To begin reaping the benefits of all this readily available information, you must first learn how to interpret it. For magical purposes, the most important table on the page provides data about the planetary aspects.
Aspects are actually geometrical relationships that arise between the planets as they revolve around the wheel of the Zodiac. Imagine a large circle drawn on a piece of paper. Around the circumference of the circle are the twelve signs of the Zodiac. At the center is the earth. This geocentric diagram is the basis of all astrological charts, and the positions of the sun, the moon, and the planets (as they appear from the centralized earth) are indicated on it. If you look toward the sunrise on a given date and see the constellation of Leo, then you will say that the sun is in Leo. If you look toward Virgo from the surface of the earth and see the planet Venus, then you will say that Venus is in Virgo, and will draw the sign for Venus next to Virgo on the circular diagram. If you saw Jupiter close to Venus, and were able to determine that the two planets were within 6 degrees of each other, then you would say that Jupiter was in conjunction with Venus in Virgo. Any planet observed to be directly across from these conjuncted planets (within a 6 degree leeway of 180 degrees) would be said to be in opposition to Venus and Jupiter. The amount of distance in degrees (within 6 degrees) that falls between planets will determine the nature of their aspects, and there are several other important aspects in astrology, such as the semi-sextile (planets are within 30 degrees of each other) the sextile (planets are within 60 degrees of each other) the square (planets are within 90 degrees of each other), the trine (three planets are within 120 degrees of each other), and the quincunx (planets are within 150 degrees of each other.)
Each of these aspects has a specific impact on conditions here on the earth. Conjunctions are usually regarded as beneficial, as are semi-sextiles, sextiles, and trines. Squares, quincunxes, and oppositions are typically seen as negative in nature. From the viewpoint of practical magic, a knowledge of the particular aspects that are in effect at a given time will help you to decide the nature of the ritual operations that need to be performed. If you're a strict astrological determinist, the aspects will dictate whether or not you even perform a ritual or choose to wait things out until the planetary energies you're working with realign in more beneficial ways.
Now let's make all of this more concrete by seeing how it factors into the planning of magical rituals. Let's say you want to invoke the Lunar powers of Yesod (the sephira that controls rhythmic patterns, including habits) in order to help break a bad habit like smoking. You begin by determining the position of the moon and find that it is in Pisces, a water sign. Since the moon has both aerial and aqueous characteristics, you conclude that this position is beneficial. However, you discover that the moon is also in opposition to Mars, a fiery planet that governs emotions like anger and irritability, and one which is also associated with tobacco. If you are an astrological determinist, you will conclude that this is a bad time to perform your ritual because the Martial energies will cause you to become too irritable should you try to give up smoking at this time. You decide to postpone your Yesod ritual until Mars is no longer in a negative aspect with with Luna. If you are more proactive, and have learned that inauspicious aspects can be countered effectively with magic, you will preform the Lesser Ritual of the Banishing Pentagram for the element of Fire (Mars is a fire planet) followed by a Lesser Ritual of the Banishing Hexagram for Mars and its Qlippothic Demons. Then you will invoke the moon with the Greater Ritual of the Invoking Hexagram and proceed with your petitions to Shaddai El Chai, Gabriel, and the Kerubim.
Another example: You want to do a Pathworking on the Path of Heh which corresponds to Aries, a Fire sign ruled by the planet Mars. However, Mars is currently square Mercury and in opposition with Saturn. The square between Mars and Mercury indicates that various intellectual distractions will have to be overcome during your Heh Pathworking: wandering thoughts, poor concentration, various interruptions, etc. The Saturn opposition to Mars could be interpreted to mean that the wandering thoughts produced by the Mercury square aspect will be of a negative, doubt-filled and worrisome nature capable of eroding the fiery self-confidence usually produced by Mars. Again, strictly deterministic magicians would wait till these problematic aspects pass before performing any operations involving the Path of Heh. But more proactive practitioners would banish Earth and Water with the Pentagram rituals and then banish the negative Mercury/Saturn energies with the Lesser Hexagrams of both planets. This would be followed by a Pentagram invocation of Fire and a Greater Hexagram invocation of Mars.
A final example: You want to do a ritual designed to bring about a favorable settlement in a lawsuit you've filed. You consult the Planetary Positions page to which I provide a link above, and see that the sun happens to be in Sagittarius, a Sign ruled by Jupiter. Jupiter (a beneficial planet for legal matters) is exalted in Cancer, and also happens to be in conjunction with Mars. Even the most rigid of astrological determinists would confidently proceed with their ritual at such a time, and would use the Greater Hexagram to invoke the aid of the forces of Jupiter.
As you can see, planetary aspects can be used to help determine the kinds of rituals that you will perform at any given time. Just imagine that the planets are the rulers of different kingdoms. Like kings and queens throughout history, they become allies of certain rulers and oppose others. Sometimes they work harmoniously together and form conjunctions, semi-sextiles, sextiles, and trines. At other times the planetary kingdoms go to war and form squares, quincunxes, and oppositions. Magicians use astrology to keep track of these ever-changing astro-political relationships and design their rituals according to the kind of political protocol that will be most expedient to their needs at any given moment.
What has been presented here is, of course, very simplified, and learning how to be an effective ambassador in the astral worlds takes a lifetime of practice. There are times when even proactive magicians decide to wait before taking action, and there are many other complex factors besides planetary aspects that should be considered when designing magical rituals. My next blog entry will discuss one of these considerations (the planetary dignities.) But for now, familiarize yourselves with the various aspects and go to the Planetary Positions page in order to find out what the current aspects are. Try to start using this data in your ritual work, and if you have any questions please feel free to write to me at this Myspace page. Performing rituals in conformity with the actual astrological conditions of a given moment marks the great divide between those who are simply learning rituals and those who are using them effectively in magical operations. Although this procedure is complicated and requires some degree of study and preparation, you will be amply rewarded for your efforts. The area contained by the magic circle that you cast will marvelously expand to encompass the moon, the sun, and the whole infinite universe of sparkling stars, and you will find yourself at the very center of the cosmos.