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from the all-the-time-in-the-worlds dept.
Practitioners of planetary magic are well familiar with the Government of Hours. If you're not, here is a brief introduction, to provide a background for some questions that are on my mind.
In the classical Hermetic world view, there are seven planets, based on the seven heavenly bodies whose regular movement against the field of stars can be seen with the naked eye. Going in order from the slowest apparent motion to the most rapid, we have 1) Saturn, 2) Jupiter, 3) Mars, 4) Sol, 5) Venus, 6) Mercury, and 7) Luna. (Since Venus and Mercury are in a closer orbit to the Sun than is Earth, their apparent velocity is not so clear, hence their order in this sequence is occasionally transposed.) This order should be familiar as the planetary attributions of the Sephiroth from Binah down to Yesod, and therefore also the corners of the Hexagram, right?
Now, at least since Babylonian times, the seven planets have been held to rule over the days of the week. This hardly needs elaboration, but for the sake of completeness: Saturday -- Saturn; Sunday -- Sol; Monday -- Luna; Tuesday -- Mars; Wednesday -- Mercury; Thursday -- Jupiter; Friday -- Venus.
The point of the Government of Hours is that the planetary forces are not only attributed to the days, but to the hours as well, in this scheme: the hour after sunrise is ruled by the planet of the day. For example, sunrise on Saturday begins the rulership of Saturn for one hour. The following hour is ruled by the next "fastest" planet, Jupiter, and after that, Mars, and so on. Seven hours after sunrise is the rulership of Luna, after which, it's Saturn's turn again. Following this logic, you can see that 22 hours after sunrise comes Saturn again, then 23 -- Jupiter, and 24 -- Mars. Which means that the first hour of the following day is ruled by the Sun, and that day is (ta-dah!) Sunday.
You'll see that this happy pattern continues around the week. This is in fact the reason that the days of the week are ordered as they are, though almost everyone has forgotten this.
There's one last adjustment to be made to this arrangement. The "hours" we're talking about weren't measured by clocks, but by sundials. So whether observed during the long days of summer or the short days of winter, days lasted 12 hours and nights lasted 12 hours. The way to determine the boundaries of those hours nowadays is to take the distance between sunrise and sunset and divide by 12. For example, as I write this, the sun rises at 5:48am and sets at 8:30pm. To calculate the daytime hours, I determine the distance between 5:48 and noon (6 hrs. and 12 mins.), and add the distance between noon and 8:30 (I hope I don't need to work that one out) for a total of 14 hrs. 42 mins. Then for convenience, I convert that to straight minutes: (14 x 60) + 42 = 882. Dividing by 12 gives me the length of the daytime hours: 882/12 = 73 1/2. So today, one planetary daytime hour equals 1 clock hour and 13 1/2 clock minutes. Therefore, the first planetary hour of the day extended from 5:48am to 7:01:30am, and this being a Thursday, it will have been ruled by Jupiter.
To calculate the nighttime hours, you could similarly determine the distance between sunset and the following sunrise and divide by 12. For practical purposes, though, you can figure that the night hour is going to be an equal distance from the clock hour as the day hour is, but in the opposite direction. Since today's daytime hour is 13 1/2 minutes over, the nighttime hour is 13 1/2 minutes under, or 46 1/2 minutes. So the first hour after sunset starts at 8:30pm today, and ends at 9:16:30pm. Extra credit if you can tell me who the ruler of that hour is.
(Purists will wish to have it pointed out that this last method introduces a bit of error, since the following sunrise is often at a slightly different time. So your boundaries could be off by as much as a minute and a half, I believe. If this bothers you, don't use this method.)
Incidentally, the Government of Hours also supplies you with the precise times to perform Liber Resh. It always amazes me that there are many Resh-keepers out there who conscientiously do Ra and Tum at actual sunrise and sunset, but do Ahathoor and Khephra at clock noon and midnight. I say: use the Sun or the clock, but don't mix them! To me, the proper counterpoints to sunrise and sunset are the midpoints between them, or six planetary hours after sunrise and sunset, respectively.
The great planetary magick wonk Dusan Kuhar once pointed out to me a shortcut for calculating the Government of Hours based on Liber Resh: the planet of the day rules the hour of dawn Resh, one hour after noon Resh, two hours after dusk Resh, and three hours after midnight Resh. With that in mind, it's a lot simpler to track any hour of the day or night.
With the conclusion of this little review, I can come around to my questions.
First, the picky detail question. Dividing the days and nights by 12 has always been the traditional method of determining the hours. But now, with computer technology, and astrology software on our Palm Pilots, it would be a simple matter to calculate the hours by dividing the sun's orbit into 24 18-degree bands starting at the eastern horizon each morning. Would that possibly be preferable?
Second, the historical curiosity. There have been periods of calendar reform where our sequence of days and months have been disrupted. I forget the details, but during colonial times there was grumbling about the government enforcing a date change that made people feel as if they'd been robbed of a period of many days. But has the sequence of the days of the week itself been kept intact? If so, for how long? If the efficacy of the Government of Hours is based on the long-standing regularity of our observed rhythm, it would be interesting to know how long the rhythm has been maintained. If, for instance, the sequence has been observed unbroken by Rabbis and before that the Levitical priesthood, could our everyday pattern of weekdays be an unbroken tradition directly from the Babylonian captivity, if not beyond?
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