I am a magician.
No, I don't make bunnies appear at birthday parties for nine-year-olds. Nor do I make playing cards appear by the score or put women assistants in boxes and saw them in half.
I perform real magical rituals that make my life and the lives of the people I care about better. I use sources such as The Golden Dawn and The Middle Pillar by Israel Regardie, Modern Magick and Modern Sex Magick by Donald Michael Kraig, Magick in Theory and Practice and The Equinox by Aleister Crowley, Planetary Magick and the Practical Guide to Creative Visualization by Denning and Phillips, Practical Color Magic by Ray Buckland, Liber Null by Peter Carroll, and many others.
For over ten years I have practiced all sorts of magic, from natural magic to ceremonial magic, from creative visualization to chaos magic. I have made talismans for health, wealth, and safety. I have communicated with the spirits named in the classic grimoires. I have danced with Witches, had Mass with Thelemites, participated in Equinox rituals of the Golden Dawn and worked in the Chaosphere with Chaotes.
Currently, there is a TV series where the stars, supposedly Witches, simply say the words of a spell and magic happens. While that makes for relatively interesting television, it isn't the reality of magic. Real magic requires practice and understanding as well as the development of various techniques and abilities. Magic doesn't just "happen." After performing the magical work—be it spells, rites, or some other methods—the result of the magic occurs by normal means. For example, if I do a ritual for some more money, it doesn't mean that a pile of gold will suddenly appear at my feet. Rather, it means that I may get a raise at work or get additional customers who pay me more, win a contest, or get a gift. These things might not have happened if not for the magic.
Besides some of the more decorative but often not very useful results of doing things such as communicating with spirits, the practice of magic can be very practical. Magic can nudge the forces of nature to your favor. It encourages others to act faster and understand your point of view. It can speed healing and enhance intuitive financial abilities.
Some people exercise their bodies when they finish work or school. Others exercise their minds with reading or their spirit with religion. I choose to exercise and extend all of my potentials by the practice of magic.
The results of my magics were phenomenal. I had great success as an entrepreneur, a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend, a fat bank account, and a wonderful sense of peace and happiness in my life, which was only amplified by my ability to help others with magic.
You will notice that I wrote, "were." Several months ago things started to slow down. No matter what I did, events in my life started to fall apart. The value of my investments, which had generally been immune to the vagaries of the stock market, started to go down. My girlfriend and I started having arguments. I worked a healing ritual for a friend and it didn't seem to have any effect.
For some reason my magic was failing.
A SEARCH FOR THE CAUSE
Virtually every book on real magic advises practitioners to keep records of their rituals. I had taken this advice to heart and, in retrospect, it was my salvation. If you are new to magic, or even an old-hand at ritual, I would encourage you to keep some sort of a magical diary. A few years ago a friend told me she had a "floppy disk of shadows." Today that might be a "Zip disk of shadows." But whether you keep your magical record in handwriting in a blank book or on a computer or some other device, I always recommend that people practicing magic keep a journal of their work.
Perhaps setting such a record up on a computer is a good idea because you can easily do searches in the file. Reading through ten years of handwriting, as I had to do, was quite daunting. But it was something I knew I must do if I wanted to get my life back to normal and bring back the efficacy to my magic.
I quite literally spent several weeks looking for something in my magical records that might have caused my current difficulties. Virtually all of my current rituals were not succeeding, so it was not that I was more successful in one type of magic over another (some people are naturally more talented in certain fields). I had done rituals when I was happy, sad, energetic, exhausted, calm, angry, and just about every other emotion you could think of. I had worked rituals during all sorts of weather conditions. These did not seem to have an effect on my magic, either.
As I read my record I saw that at first I did magic mostly for myself. But as the magic worked and I needed less and less work on myself, the number of rituals I did at the request of others increased. Both types of magic had worked quite well. Now, neither type was successful.
When you are going from written journals, it is quite difficult to see long-term patterns. But after weeks of study, I noticed that my rituals had started to develop similarities in style, timing, emotions, and even the way I had recorded the rituals in my diary. This was my only clue as to what had happened. I started to guess that my magical work had fallen into a rut, taking my energy and magical abilities with it. If I was going to reach and exceed my previous levels of success, I would need something new.
And I dreaded the thought.
I had been doing magic for a decade, and now I was convinced that I would have to learn yet another system to get me out of these magical doldrums. I decided to waste no time, bite the proverbial bullet, and see if I could find something that would help.
I went to a New Age bookstore. It's one of those large, airy places painted in whites and pale blues rather than a dank and dusty dungeon which so many think is expected of an occult shop. This shop has lots of statuary, mobiles for hanging from ceilings, and other knick-knacks which seem to attract a certain type of clientele. If that keeps them in business it's fine with me, because in the back of the store they have a significant section of magical tools—wands, special incenses, robes, chalices, etc.—and books on Witchcraft and ceremonial magic.
As I looked through the shelves I saw a book that I had not previously noticed, A Time For Magick by Maria Kay Simms. The front cover said that this book is about "planetary hours." I knew a bit about them but had never paid much attention to them because astrology had never interested me. The back cover said that this book "shows you how to work toward your magickal, spiritual, or mundane goals in harmony with the movements of the planets...learn easy techniques for planning ahead with astrology... [and] learn to conjure planetary energies..."
I thought about this as I paged through the book. Perhaps doing the same type of magic which had been successful for me before, but adding to it would be better than practicing a new system. Perhaps working with the planetary hours was all that I needed to get me going again. I purchased the book and started studying it that night.
THE NATURE OF THE PLANETARY HOURS
A Time For Magick explains that "The use of planetary hours is an ancient technique that can be dated back at least to the time of classical Greece, between 400 and 300 b.c.e. Interestingly, it is a technique that has been largely ignored by modern astrologers." (p.4) Astrologers would set up an entire chart for a time in the future (when a ritual might be done, for example) and interpret it. This is known as electional astrology. However, there is more to it than this. "The art of electional astrology is complex, involving many interrelationships of various factors in the chart, and the rules are very strict. No matter how great the election chart is, you still have to take into account what's going on in your own natal chart as well." (p.3) Since Ms. Simms is a well-known astrologer and currently the Chair (president) of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, I'm content to take her word for it.
The author says that "One major point in favor of using planetary hours is that it is a lot easier and a lot less time-consuming to consult an hour table than it is to learn how to set up a good election chart." (p.5) Of course, this doesn't describe what the planetary hours are and what an "hour table" is.
According to her, "Each day has a planetary ruler for which it is named. Sun-day is, of course, named for the Sun. Monday is Moon-day. Tuesday is derived from the name of Tiw, the Teutonic god of war, and it corresponds to Mars in Latin. Wednesday is Woden's day, which corresponds in Latin to Mercury. Thursday is Thor's day, corresponding to Jupiter. Friday is derived from Freya, Teutonic goddess of love, corresponding to Venus. Saturday is Saturn's day.
"Obviously, an easy step to take in planning the time of your ritual or spellworking would be to choose the day of the week that best corresponds to the nature of your intent. Most anything you might want to do fits into one of the seven planetary themes." (p. 12-13)
Of course, this doesn't yet go into the notion of the hours, just the days. She continues to explain that, "The ancients also considered each hour of the day and night to fall under the dominion of one of the seven planets. The day started at sunrise with the hour ruled by the same planet that ruled the day. From then on, the next six hours were ruled by the six other planets in a sequence that repeated until sunrise of the next day, when the planet of the hour would again be the planet of the day." (p.13)
The order of the planets in this system goes as follows, starting on Sunday at sunrise:
This cycle repeats. But since there are seven planets in this system and 24 hours in the day, and since seven doesn't go evenly into 24, each sunrise will start with a new planet. With this system, the hour of sunrise will automatically be associated with the planet of the day. Thus, Monday at sunrise begins with the Moon and the cycle is as follows:
The book includes a clear table of the hours for each day of the week, thus explaining the "Hour Table." If you're anything like me you'll want to make a copy of it for easy reference.
Unfortunately, the ancients didn't have accurate watches or clocks. Their "hours," and the hours used in the planetary hour system, are not the same as our 60-minute hours. To find the length of the hours you must take the time from sunrise to sunset and divide that into twelve equal hours. Similarly, divide the time from sunset to sunrise by twelve to determine the length of the planetary hours of the night. On the equinoxes, all of the hours do work out to be 60 minutes long. But in the summer the planetary hours of the day are longer than sixty minutes (while the planetary hours of the night are shorter). The reverse is true for the winter.
This may sound a bit complex, but it is not. The instructions for determining the planetary hours, and easy-to-understand charts for this determination, are included in the book. This book, in fact, is an extension of the long out-of-print classic, the Improved Perpetual Planetary Hour Book by Llewellyn George. The tables from that book are reprinted here so you don't have to do any math at all.
I'm not going to go into the nature of the planets in this article. Many of you reading this will know them already. If not, there are dozens of books that go into great depth on the subject. This book includes all of that information plus the tables, charts, and techniques that can illustrated how to use the planets and the planetary hours for magical purposes.
The word praxis is one of my favorites. It means putting what you have learned into practice. I really don't want to spend a great deal of time studying things which I can't make use of. Sure, such information is nice to read about and may come in useful if I ever get on the Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire game shows. But far more important to me is the way I make use of what I learn.
For example, I wanted to do a healing ritual for my father who had pneumonia. Now, I know that healing is associated with Mercury. So the best time to do it would be on the day of Mercury during the hour of Mercury. This would mean Wednesday at sunrise, seven hours later, three hours after sunset, or three hours before sunrise on Thursday (these are, of course, planetary hours). But it was already Friday and I didn't want to wait several more days to do this ritual. In Kraig's Modern Magick (concerning planetary hours and talismans), I found the answer to this problem. He writes that the best time is "On the day and in the hour associated with [the] appropriate planet." He adds that it would also be excellent to do the work "On any day, in the hour of the appropriate planet." (p.348)
Since it was Friday, I could see that the hour of Mercury fell four planetary hours after sunset. That's when I did the ritual. Simms, quoting Llewellyn George, writes, 'When choosing a certain planetary hour for any important affair, allow about fifteen minutes of the hour to elapse before commencing operations, and then the affair will be safely started under the desired influence. The strongest or most important part of a planetary hour is approximately the center.'
"In the pre-computer days of hand calculations, fifteen minutes was a fair safety net." She adds that the use of tables was never more than three minutes off exact computer calculations, so "it's probably safe to cut things a little closer than that. Still, I won't dispute Llewellyn George's wisdom that the strongest part of the planetary hour is its center. If your math is a little off, the center of the hour is also definitely the safest!" (p.94)
Well, I thought about this a bit and want to clarify some of it. George wasn't just talking about magic, he was talking about using the planetary hours for any purpose, magical or mundane. Another of the books started by him and updated each year is the Moon Sign Book. In it you are ideal dates for everything from going fishing to getting your hair cut. Indeed, even with the use of the planetary hours, it is good to work with the phases of the Moon.
Specifically, perform a ritual during the growing or waxing phase of the Moon when you want to get something (more money, more health, etc.) and do the rite during the diminishing or waning phase of the Moon when you want to get rid of something (illness, poverty, bad habits, etc.). This is also described in A Time For Magick.
But what do you do if a ritual is going to last longer than an hour? My feeling is that the influence of a planet grows during the first half of the hour, peaks at its middle, and wanes during the last part of the hour. Therefore, it makes sense to me that you should have the high point of the ritual fall near the center of the hour of choice. This may require you to start your ritual before the actual planetary hour. (Please see below for more on this.)
That is what I did. I started just before the hour of Mercury on a Friday, reached a high point at the middle of the hour, and finished before the hour ended. I am happy to report that my father left the hospital the following Monday, three days ahead of the doctors' prediction of when this would occur (he is in his late 80s and has many other ailments, so they were surprised at his rapid recovery). Now, several months later, he is actually better and more spry than he was before he went into the hospital. I am very pleased.
Likewise, I am very pleased with the results of other magics worked with the planetary hours. Now, in a "down" stockmarket, my investments are either up or holding steady. Everything is going smoothly with my girlfriend. In fact, we're now engaged to be married. Things are going better than ever, and I'm having the time of my life.