Each planet has a solar cycle (phase cycle), that is, the period from one solar conjunction to the next. The most obvious such cycle is that of the Moon. I’m going to start with the Moon and then consider how the cycles of other planets may differ. I am doing my own synthesis here, with regrets that I may have missed some opportunities to document the traditional sources of my considerations.
I think of the Moon and Mercury as messenger planets, much more so than the others. While Mercury devotes much of his attention to the upper spheres, it’s the Moon’s job to accumulate the sympatheia from all the other bodies and transmit the results to Earth (this is implied in Picatrix and probably many other sources).
The Moon accepts an influence from another planet by each aspect, and from the major stars primarily by conjunction. My hermeneutic idea is that these influences remain with the Moon, especially the most recent ones, until the dark moon (combustion). They are part of the Moon’s influence, conditioning her1 significations.
As the Solar influence increases, the other sympatheia  are transmuted, transmitted to the Sun; then as the Moon enters cazimi (perfect conjunction with the Solar disk), there is a window where those influences are loudly beamed to us, could we but hear them. After this, the second half of combustion is devoted to resetting the Moon to her pristine state, so that when we see the first crescent each month, in a sense we are truly looking at a “new” Moon.


This indicates that during the Dark Moon, it is more productive to do receptive, contemplative things. The Moon isn’t listening to you while she’s sunbathing!

Gary P. Caton has pointed out that the cycles of Mercury and Venus have a characteristic that the other planets do not share: the alternate inferior and superior conjunctions. He said that when Mercury enters superior conjunction, it is communicating more to the upper spheres, and at inferior conjunction, when it is between the Sun and Earth, more to Earth. Obviously, the planets from Mars on up do not have an inferior conjunction, and the Moon does not have a superior one. One of my projects is to test Gary’s idea. What I’m thinking about it now (and for all I know, he may agree with this) is that there is always some signal coming through to Earth, but it’s necessarily stronger at an inferior conjunction. This would normalize the traditional doctrine of cazimi with Gary’s promising idea without losing the virtues of either.
Next up: to consider how this plays with traditional significations of the phases of the Moon.

1. With all due respect to the traditions that have a male Moon (including my ancestral Cherokee), my intuitive read resonates more with male Sun/female Moon. I once asked a Yu’pik storyteller about this, since his people tell female Moon stories while the neighboring Inuit have a male Moon. He said they liked to give each other good-natured grief about having it wrong, and then go back to trading stories.

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Occult or Not?

Some recent online discussions, notably this one about Freemasonry, have resonated with a topic I’ve spent a lot of time on: the tides of intellectual fashion in how we think about our place in the Cosmos, and particularly about the traditional “occult” arts.

There’s been a basic disconnect going back to the Classical era, when Plato the Adept and Aristotle the Empiricist ground each other’s gears in Athens.


(Detail from “The School of Athens” by Raphael)

“Philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato,” but of course, there have been many challenging “footnotes,” of which the work of Aristotle was the first. In that challenge, it’s possible to see the outline of many of the later conflicts, which caused shifting tides of opinion which were reflected in major historical events.

Many of the philosophers that modernity knows as Neoplatonists adopted a very sensible compromise with Aristotle: they assigned his work as a qualifying curriculum for those who aspired to learn what the Divine Plato was really teaching. If you could master a certain amount of mathematics, logic, rhetoric, and ethics, then you were ready to engage in dialectic with the professors of Platonism, and maybe have some serious initiations along the way and ultimately have the experience of the Divine for yourself.

If you read the history of the Roman Church, you can see that its tides of dogma and apologetics were also footnotes, with many Church Fathers championing Aristotle, but insistent voices from the wings reminding them that, for all his virtues, Aristotle was, well, earthbound.

The Renaissance came to the West with the rediscovery and translation into Latin of the Platonic dialogues and the Corpus Hermeticum.

This would be about the same time as the first Tarot decks showed up. The popularity of alchemical and mystical emblem books was widespread, as a supplement to more prosaic forms of literature. This in fact explains how the Tarot ended up becoming a book of Hermetic wisdom, when most of the people designing decks were just making artistic follies out of the available material. For more on this fascinating topic, I refer you to Robert M. Place, who I believe has come as close as possible to cracking this particular code.

What this is pointing to is a duality in human thought and experience, between literal and symbolic thinking (what we used to refer to as left-brain vs. right-brain processing, before the brain laterality hypothesis got exploded). This is a dichotomy that produces certain kinds of blindness that tend to poison discourse. There aren’t that many people who are so symbolic-minded that they don’t process literal discourse well, although I have known some. The more common problem is that people get locked into literalism and devalue other modes of thought. This can be seen in religious zealotry, anti-religious zealotry, and scientism.

If you look at the history of the Rosicrucian movement and the subsequent Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment tendencies1, for example, you can see that the original Rosicrucian literature, influenced by Humanism as well as the likes of Paracelsus, Dee, Kelley, Pico, Fludd, and Ficino, was a corrective to Christian dogmatism that contained a balance of spiritual and empirical elements. This sort of balance apparently isn’t stable, as the spiritual side tends to produce charlatans as prolifically as shaved ram’s horn produces asparagus2, and the empiricist over-correction led by the likes of Comte and Mersenne pushed the Hermetic sciences off the stage for about a century.

The same tendencies are obvious in the history of astrology. For that matter, occultists are still debating whether alchemical literature is just coded spiritual practice, or if there’s value in setting up a lab.

Today, we still need to cultivate our balance, and I see the so-called occult revival as playing an important role in that, at least until we swing too far the other way. We can’t have only Plato or only Aristotle, or only symbolism or only literalism, and remain healthy.

  1. I have not read all the source material on this yet, but I believe my overview is correct.
  2. Yes, that was an occultist in-joke.
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First Impressions are…

So,  I just got Robson’s The Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology,  since that seems to be the go-to book.

There are some statements in the Preface that make it abundantly clear that the author was not au courant with the science of his day (1923), so you might want to just skip the Preface on this one.

I see it also leaves out Alkaid, which is odd, since that’s a Behenian star. However, considering that the book covers 110 major stars, it’s not so surprising that something got left out.

Still,  it looks useful,  and will do until someone else writes a more authoritative book.

Just a Delphic selfie

Skeptical Frater is skeptical

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Looks like a cobweb blog,  doesn’t it? I got out of the book reviewing business because I was reading too many books that,  whatever their merits for someone else,  weren’t what I needed to be reading.

In the meantime,  I have been doing my own practice and study,  continuing to lead the monthly study group,  and so on.

This post is a teaser for a new direction coming soon: still magic,  but also lots of astrology content. At least until a comet wipes us out,  and while everyone else is dying of flooding,  cold,  or whatever,  the remaining astrologers die of irony…

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An Execration

Performed in due form by the Namen of Temple Zagduku before the shrines of Lilith, Inanna, Ereshkigal, Utu, Ea, and Ningishzida, on 2015-04-19 in an hour of Venus, appropriate for Inanna destroyer of mountains.

I don’t usually curse, although I have and probably will again, but if these walking turds aren’t worth a curse, then nothing is.

Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous

As I mentioned here (where I offered a “first effort” in this regard), today is World Heritage Day, when several people (including Galina Krasskova) have done formal rituals against the bastards who think their role upon earth is to destroy the history of the devotions of their ancestors. I will not say their name in my preamble statement here, because I think it is more effective to be silent about them whenever possible, and to reserve my saying of their name for the venom it deserves, which will be mustered below.

Execration of the Impious

May the poisonous spit of ten million cobras
be heaped upon the name of Daesh
and upon the heads and eyes and hearts
of everyone who masses under their banner.

May they who destroyed Nimrud and Hatra,
and who have threatened to bring low
the pyramidal jewels of Egypt’s crown
have their name ground…

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How About an Illustrated Hardcover Picatrix?

Review copyright 2015() Freeman Presson, all rights reserved

You can still get the the paperback Picatrix on Amazon, but there is now a hardcover edition of the same thing with a wealth of small (6.5cm x 6.5cm), monochrome talismanic pictures by Nigel Jackson. It’s discounted to $42 for early birds until it goes up on Amazon, at which time it will sell for the $60 it’s easily worth.

Mine arrived earlier today. It’s completely sound and as advertized.

There are other editions, too, including some high-end stuff.

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Hamlet’s Mill FINALLY in print again!

(P)review copyright 2015() Freeman Presson, all rights reserved

I had been pestering Godine about the re-release of this book for…I won’t say how long (but I’ll show you the video if you want). You see, I have a very peculiar relationship with this book. I was at MIT (where de Santanilla was teaching)  when it was first out. I walked right by a big display of the book at the Tech Coop. I thought, “Oh, that’s the book Jerry Lettvin told me to read. I’ll do that when I have money.”

Fast-forward forty years after I forgot to go back and get the book, and Poke Runyon is telling me to read it. Only by now, it’s rare and OOP, and I’m short of funds again. I wait. I look up the last known publisher and write them an email; find out they’re planning to reprint. I make a fool of myself announcing the release date. Then it’s deferred. I make a fool of myself announcing the new release date. And again. And again.

Today, I am only a bit into chapter II, and this book is already on my desert-island list.

I’m also glad that I read E. M. W. Tillyard’s classic The Elizabethan World Picture first, for confirmation of just how Hermetic the world-view was until well after the time of Shakespeare.

Amazon has a very low price on the book now. Jump on it: Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth

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