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.