In the last article in this series, I got into the basic underlying principles of creating an artificial spirit or servitor, and the reasons behind each of the key components. Any technique, regardless of theological tweaks, which gives the artificial spirit or servitor a simple shape, fills it with an appropriate force, names it, gives it a purpose and gives it an expiration date will work just as well as any other that does the same.
I finished by enumerating possible concerns, from a Hellenic Pagan perspective:
- How will Greek deities respond to being called to empower spells?
- How do we respectfully call them to assist in something we might consider self-serving?
- Deities are so much more than the elemental or planetary forces that they wield. How do we avoid minimizing them?
- How do we even start to do elemental correspondences for these deities? No two people will ever agree.
In this article, I will begin to tackle these concerns, and hash out the correspondences that I will use in Hellenic planetary magick, generally.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Why the Planets and not the 4 Elements
Or is it 3? Or 5? or 6?
“Athena is totally air. She’s all thinky and politic-y.”
“Are you kidding? She’s martial! That’s fire!”
“Hephaestos is fire. Hermes totally roasted a sausage in him.”
“First of all, no. Obviously Helios is fire. And secondly, I think that was a euphemism.”
“Hades. Hades is obviously fire.”
“Earth. Hades lives underground. Duh.”
“ZOMG NO HADES IS WEST AND I WILL DIE A MILLION DEATHS IF WEST IS SOME ELEMENT OTHER THAN WATER!!?!”
And so on.
The truth is that no deity is equivalent to any element or planet. An elemental or planetary force is something a deity has in their portfolio. Several deities might have that element or planet in their portfolio. There is overlap in both directions. For some reason, though, with the 4 elements in particular, there seems to be some opinion that there is one set of correspondences for all time and all traditions. There is not. The Wiccan/Golden Dawn correspondences for the elements simply do not work within certain frameworks. No set of correspondences will work perfectly for everything. The best magus, in my opinion, is the agile and flexible magus.
That said, if we want to call some Olympians to help us wield forces, it is much more straightforward to figure out which Greek deity is in charge of which planet, in no small part because planets were named after them, and also after their Roman counterparts.
Commanding the power of the planets. Who should we call, and for what?
To start, here are the 7 ancient planets and the deities that the Greeks named them after.
These are fine, and if a person wanted to call these deities for help with wielding planetary forces, I’m sure that would work. For me, personally, the list is problematic for a few reasons:
- Kronos is in a million pieces. True, he represents the bornless self — a living god without a body. I do not think, however, that he presently has power over much of anything, let alone power over the forces of death and renewal, divisions in time, or the bringing of laws. He might represent that, but he, himself, will probably not be able to respond to any requests related to that.
- I want to stay consistent. If I call Helios and Selene for planetary workings with the Sun and Moon, respectively, then any planetary opening I write will also have to include them. If you read between the lines regarding Kirke, Aeëtes, Pasiphae, Medea and even Ariadne, he represents a wild, untamed, Pre-Hellenic culture. (See: Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States (New York/London: Oxford University Press) 1909, vol. v, p 419f.) Surely, Helios has his dealings with Olympians, but my sense is that there is some tension there, and a set of purely Olympians might be more harmonious.
- That list is a sausage fest. 2/7 are female. Slightly imbalanced, I think.
Believe it or not, Apollon and Artemis are not a slam dunk for god and goddess of the Sun and Moon in place of Helios and Selene. Having power over the Sun and Moon does not feature very prominently in their mythology.
“The name Apollo is Greek; they say that he is the Sun, and Diana [Artemis] they identify with the Moon . . . the name Luna is derived from lucere ‘to shine’; for it is the same word as Lucina, and therefore in our country Juno Lucina is invoked in childbirth, as is Diana in her manifestation as Lucifera (the light-bringer) among the Greeks [….] She is invoked to assist at the birth of children, because the period of gestation is either occasionally seven, or more usually nine, lunar revolutions.” (Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2. 27 (trans. Rackham)
So, here, in one of the histories, Cicero implies that any goddess called to assist with childbirth is as much a goddess of the Moon as Artemis. The references we see are almost exclusively from Histories. In the mythology, references to Artemis as a Lunar deity are scant. Snippets from the Dionysiaca (44. 198) and the Thebiad (10. 365) refer to her as a goddess of the Moon only as one part of a triad, said to be a triple goddess, namely, Artemis-Hekate-Selene.
Contrary to popular belief, no Greek myth or hymn exists which describes Apollon driving the chariot of the Sun. Latin poets do it all the time, to be sure. All the same, the identification did occur as a sort of double god, Helios-Apollon, or obliquely (in true Apollonian style) by way of descriptors, IE, Phoebos Apollon.
All the same the case can be made. It is, by far, not the most important thing about these deities. You might say that it is something they have in their portfolio. If I can call a set of exclusively Olympians, I’d prefer to do that.
Helios remains the Greek god of the Sun. He IS the Sun. Apollon simply wields significant solar power, and is consequently identified with Helios. I dunno if that distinction is too subtle for me or not. Be that as it may, if I am going to invite guests to a party, I’d like for them to all get along. Apollon and Artemis, therefore, and not Helios and Selene, will be my picks for Sun and Moon.
Let’s move on to the problem of Kronos, and our proverbial sausage fest, shall we?
So, those powers of life and death, of limitation and cohesion. Who actually wields them if not the rather dissipated, child-eating Kronos? There is a deity who decides when the growing season begins and ends, who, like Kronos, is associated with the harvest. To this deity, Zeus and Hades must acquiesce, at least when it comes to the soul which travels between the worlds of life and death. She is Demeter, and, unlike Kronos, she is an Olympian. Demeter certainly seems to have Saturn squarely in her portfolio, and can most certainly answer requests of this nature.
This pick also brings our male/female ratio closer to being balanced, in a gender sense. With a set of 7, it will never be perfect, but 3 out of 7 ain’t bad.
That makes our set as follows: Demeter, Zeus, Ares, Apollon, Aphrodite, Hermes and Artemis.
Again, please do not think that I am suggesting that the above set is the only valid one. My whole raison d’être is to show that there is more than one valid way to skin the same metaphorical cat.
Let’s move on, though, shall we? Now that we’ve figured out Who we will ask to help us empower our would-be planetaried, based on Who most probably has that planetary force in their deific portfolio, and Who will get along with Whom, let’s give some thought to shapes, shall we?
The Planetary Forms
“What is volatile shall be fixed; the shadow shall become a body.” — Prayer of the Sylphs
Making the artificial spirits planetary in nature solves the problem of multiple sets of elements, none of which reflect the Greek Cosmos, but it creates another problem. How do we create a set of three-dimensional shapes for 7 planets, when we have only 5 platonic solids?
Do you know who was a genius, and asked the exact same question? Johannes Kepler.
“By a certain mere accident I chanced to come closer to the actual state of affairs. I thought it was by divine intervention that I gained fortuitously what I was never able to obtain by any amount of toil.” — Johannes Kepler.
Before discovering and mathematically describing the elliptical orbit of planets, Kepler attempted to describe the structure of a Heliocentric solar system, and the relative distances of the planets, by creating a model that used nested platonic solids. The crazy thing is, as far as anyone could tell with the limited observation techniques of the day, it worked almost perfectly. And it was beautiful. Obviously, Kepler eventually abandoned the notion. Still, this gives Kepler’s system of ascribing three dimensional shapes to the planets the same status as Plato’s system of ascribing them to the elements. Both are ultimately quasi-mystical, mathematical, philosophical ideas based on aesthetic elegance that attempt to describe the world as it was understood at that time.
While not actually Greek, it resonates strongly with a Greek philosophical approach. Kepler, like Aristotle, begins with the sensible, and like Plato, fancies the idea that Truth can be found in Beauty.
There are a few issues with using Kepler’s system, though, based on what we’ve decided so far:
- The Sun and Moon are not planets in Kepler’s system. We certainly mean to use them as such.
- I’m a little fuzzy on the platonic solid that he’s using for Saturn. Each of the spheres are circumscribed within a platonic solid. The sphere inside the solid is representative of the location of the orbit. Saturn has no platonic solid. Is it just a lonely sphere?
- Even if we take the sphere for Saturn, and we use the Earth’s position as the Moon’s as well (sensible, both in terms of Greek views about the Moon, and in terms of a Heliocentric model) we still have no shape for the Sun.
- The Kepler system of Platonic solid attributions for the planets was designed, in the first place, as a proof for the Copernican Heliocentric model of the solar system. The Chaldean ordering of planets that we all love so very much is based on the assumption of a Geocentric universe. We probably shouldn’t use those two things together, as they represent a philosophical contradiction. Am I willing to part with the Chaldean correspondences for this system of planetary workings?
Yes, yes I am willing to part with the Chaldean ordering. The truth is, if an ancient Greek person honestly believed that the true fact of the universe was Heliocentrism, they would NEVER have used a Geocentric framework in their mysticism. They honestly believed that the Earth was at the center of everything, because everything they could see pointed to that as an indisputable fact. I am not going to suggest that we throw all things based on the Chaldean ordering away. Rather, I am going to suggest that it’s ok not to use the Chaldean ordering if it isn’t contributing something way more important than the basic harmony between the mystical world as it exists inside of us and natural world as it exists in reality. The purpose, for me, is manifestation.
If we are aiming our magick at a world wherein the Sun is not at the center of the solar system we will probably not actually hit the world we live in.
Moving on to point two: believe it or not, Kepler described two of the Kepler-Poinsot polyhedra. These were the large and small stellated dodecahedra.
This, the small stellated dodecahedron, has absolutely no mathematical or mystical connection to the Sun, or the force of the sun, but it is SUPER COOL LOOKING. The sun is a star, and this shape, to me at least, conveys that feeling. Like the sun, it radiates in every direction, but unlike the large stellated dodecahedron, it is simple enough for me to visualize.
Cutely, it visually integrates the 5-pointed and 6-pointed stars. Looked at from one angle, a pentagram is clearly visible. Yet, looked at from another direction, it has equal points extending from the top and bottom. 5=6?
Or, if you prefer, consider the pentagram as a pictogram for the human body, and consider the central projection: power radiating from the heart.
Mostly, however, this is smoke and mirrors, and the truth is that we could use any shape for the Sun, so long as we weren’t re-using other shapes within our planetary set.
So, here is my tentative list of shapes for planetary spirits.
The Philosophy Behind Respectfully Calling Deities For Help With This
Returning to an earlier point, deities are bigger than planetary forces. I’m of the opinion that titles and epithets exist to help us navigate the mystical landscape of a being who is fundamentally far too big for any of us to wrap our heads around. When calling a deity for help with a particular thing, therefore, it is very helpful for us to call them by the titles or epithets most related to that purpose, while simultaneously acknowledging that they are much more than just that.
Philosophically, in my mind, Theurgy is the process of creating a bridge between Heaven and Earth. When we call a deity, it is much like reaching out to a person with the intent of grabbing their hands…. except that when we enter their world, we are like people newly blind. The gods can help us to see, within limits. If they showed us everything all at once, we would die instantly (like poor Semele). Unless we open our mouths and name the thing we are looking for, they don’t know which thing to show us. Once we name the thing, and they show us, we can connect to it, and benefit from it.
So, when I am calling Aphrodite, looking for the planetary force of Venus as it pertains to her, specifically, I need to be clear on what aspect of her I am asking her to reveal to me.
So, what do I mean, exactly, when I say “the planetary force of Venus” in this context? What do I want the force of Venus for? Is it for finding a lover? A friend? My own inner femme chick? People can mean pretty vastly different things by this. It’s important, therefore, before starting to choose epithets, to figure out exactly what I am looking to do with each force. I’ll spell out how I am thinking of them, and what epithets I am consequently using so that you, as your own independent magician, can take the process rather than the product and apply it to your own working.
- Sun – Healing, Health, revealing the Truth
- Mercury – The exchanging of money and objects, words, or locations.
- Venus – Beauty, Love, Friendship
- Moon – Instinct, Procreation, Natural stuff.
- Mars – Courage, Ambition, Overcoming my enemies
- Jupiter – Leadership, Influence, Politics
- Saturn – Ending iniquity, Putting the foot down, Bringing projects to successful conclusion (reaping), all things in due course (seasons).
With that in mind, I will choose a set of three appropriate epithets (at least, as appropriate as I can manage), mostly from Homer, but also from a few more rustic and obscure Greek sources.
Now, these can be worked into an invocation, which can serve as the preparation for my work. Thus, a sample invocation might read:
“Xaire, Aphrodite, whom the forces of Venus obey: all of the daimons and spirits of Venus give honor to Aphrodite. Nymphs renowned for their beauty and desired by all gods bow to Aphrodite Numphia, who presides over every bridal bed. Aphrodite Pandemos is known to touch the hearts of all people, and those whose beauty is not their own give homage to the richly-crowned and well-girdled goddess, Aphrodite Eustephanos. As you are a goddess of all these things, today I beseech your aide in an act of magick. Teach me how to wield Venutian power, and lend me wisdom in the ways of friendship and love, that I may always wield them wisely.”
In Part III, I will weave all of this into a coherent ritual, and also include instructions for dismantling the artificial planetary spirits.