TIMING THE RITUAL
One of the considerations for performing magickal work is timing. Magick and energy work may be perfomed at any time but, by planning a ritual to coincide with the times of the day, week and year that are beneficial, we can enhance the effectiveness of the work. We may choose to plan well in advance for a special piece of magickal work or may choose to make the most of the available energies when we have the time or need to do magick. If you have made a study of astrology, you will be aware of many more intricacies and influences of the planets, however those who are less versed in astrology can still consult an ephemeris and a table of correspondences to take advantage of the keys or links that will add to the magick.
Generally speaking, we aim to work with the flow of events around us, such as weather, or the larger solar and year wheel cycles, the seasonal tides, the phases of the moon and the planetary influences of the month or days of the week.
Solar Cycles and the Wheel of the Year
We can start by being aware of the position of the sun. The sun defines our planetary system by giving us life, warmth and energy, and the rotation of the earth gives us cycles of day and night. Some magickal traditions celebrate the stations of the day, observances which are held at Sunrise, Noon, Sunset and Midnight, while others break the day into more (or less) parts for their observances. Our Gregorian calendar year of 365 days divides into 12 months (and 12 astrological influences), into four official seasons and this period of 12 months is referred to as a "Golden Year". Into each Golden Year, a Silver Year of thirteen moons is counted (either 13 full moons or 13 new moons). The secular seasons begin on the 1st days of March, June, September and December, while the Solar Cycle seasons begin with the Equinoxes and Solstices.
At the equinoxes, daytime and night-time are equal, at summer solstice it is the longest day, and at winter solstice it is the longest night. It is an interesting meditation to contemplate regional conditions in your location in time and space, as well as the opposite conditions on the other side of the world. At longest day in Seattle, it is a day after shortest day in Sydney (given the 16-18 hr time difference and daylight savings), and in Sydney on longest day, it's almost shortest day in Seattle. For the sake of the meditation, you can easily imagine them to be happening at the same time, but I didn't want to give you information that isn't really accurate <grin@gt;
It is also important to pay attention to the place where you live, and the local growing seasons and amounts of relative daylight. Living in the world and paying attention to your surroundings is always preferable IMHO to taking your observances second-hand from the a dusty tome or an internet site. Of course there are also many good and valid reasons to choose to do your magick separate from the world, and in those cases, local conditions only matter if they are going to be distracting. For example, the middle of a tornado, storm, warzone or cyclone can be just a tad energetic to work through, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Regions close to the equator have mostly two main climactic seasons (the Wet and the Dry), and as we move to more temperate regions, local geographical areas appear to experience three or four seasonal periods, and some experience five. At the poles, of course, there are degrees of relative cold, and when we go into space, we'll have an entirely different set of choices to make.
In consulting either the Solar Table or the Planetary Table, we become more closely acquainted with the Astrological Signs, the planets and elements associated with them and the times of year ruled by those powers.
Cycle of Seasons
Some magickal systems, philosophies and traditions observe the equinoxes and solstices as the main pivot times of the year, the times of ebb and flow. Qualities and key attributes are linked to the seasons, and the seasons are often also seen as a metaphor for cycles in our lives. The inner cycles might not match with the outer cycles in the world, but the metaphor of cyclical change and return is a powerful one. However, if we choose to internalize the cycle of the seasons, we can harness the energy of the season and move with it.
The seaons are also often tied to the stages of our life - spring is our youth - summer our young adulthood and strength - autumn then becomes our time of maturity - and winter is the time of the elder, and finally the embrace of death.
Eastern esoteric systems use a different set of keys for the seasons, and the Hindu Tattvic Tides, while not in complete alignment with the Western seasonal tides, can also be useful markers for magickal timing. I've found that paying attention to the Tattvas and the Tattvic Tides adds nuances to my magickal practice that I would miss if I ignored this system, so I'll list that information as well and you can make up your own mind which set of tides works for you.
Sabbats and Festivals
The wheel of the year, the sabbats and pagan festivals, extend the cycle of the seasons even further. It is interesting to speculate that Gerald Gardner borrowed the idea of the eight spoked wheel from Buddhist philosophy, using it as a way of organizing information and key associations. His many years' exposure to Buddhist culture would certainly have acquainted him with this mandala, and it's not too great a step to suggest that the Craft material he was restructuring after his return to England then became associated with that wheel. In any case, the Gardnerian wicca taught by him, together with its Alexandrian offshoot, uses the a Wheel of eight festivals (called sabbats) to divide the year. The wheel has other associations such as eight tools and eight paths, but we'll cover that in another article. For now, think of the eight spokes of a Great Wheel, forever turning, with each Sabbat or Festival being a spoke of the wheel. When we celebrate a festival, it is often called "turning the wheel" and we put our magickal intent behind the action, deliberately marking our connection between our lives and the Great Wheel.
The Eight Sabbats
The most common set of sabbats are celebrated at the following times each year (see green color for Southern Hemisphere)
It is as well to note that the Solstices and Equinoxes are often known as the lesser sabbats, and the cross-quarter days (Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas) are known as the greater sabbats, or fire festivals and are celebrated with bonfires on top of the hills in some places. When people talk about there being times when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, they are often referring to one of these eight festivals. Particular emphasis is often given to Beltane and Samhain as gateways between the worlds, and they can be seen as the portals between the light and the dark times of the year. Samhain to Beltane is the dark of the year and Beltane to Samhain is the light half of the year.
The Great Sabbats can also be linked to the Fixed Signs of the Zodiac, and for pagans who celebrate them in this way, they are celebrated at 15 degrees of the fixed signs (about a week later than the dates above). There is also a corona effect in place around each of the sabbats, and the energy of the sabbat begins before the peak of the tide, and surrounds it on the other side to a certain extent. You could say that we are always in the shadow of the closest sabbat, or poised between them, with the energies waxing and waning in influence.
There are a lot of different holidays and pagan festival days between the sabbats, and there are many different stories linked to them, likely as many different ones as there are pagan traditions or individuals.
While not all pagans celebrate eight sabbats, and of those who do, not necessarily these set of festivals, it's a good basic set to work with (or around). The big pagan festivals held around the United States, in Europe and England, and in Australia generally gather at or around the time of one of the Sabbat/Festivals above. Check your local pagan bulletin board, magazines or bulletin boards for details.
We can also be aware of the phase and part of the heavens the moon occupies. By looking at the sky or (in places like Seattle, where the sky is often obscured) by obtaining a calendar with the moon phases on it, you can be aware of the phases of the moon. As we move through the phases, our energy waxes and wanes along with the moon, making it relatively straightforward to time our magick accordingly.
From New Moon through the Waxing moon, the energy is increasing (good for building energy, creative magick, workings for increase), culminating in the Full Moon (the best time for all full energy lunar workings), and ebbing again during Waning Moon (good for sending things out from you, for making things decrease), and reaching the end of the cycle at Dark Moon (a time for scrying, bindings, releases, cutting ties), which ending brings us full circle back to New Moon and the cycle starts again. For more associations for the moon consult the Key of the Moon.
Macrocosm and Microcosm
There are both larger and smaller units of time which pagans, occultists and magicians might choose to pay attention to. The larger cycles are things like the Procession of the Equinoxes, the Great Year (when solar and lunar cycles align), cycles of millenia and aeons. Temples like Stonehenge are aligned with some of these larger cycles.
Smaller cycles are the planetary cycles which rule the days and the hours, and elemental cycles, but these must wait for another article.
In the practicum section of Shadowplay, we have begun to assemble a set of resources to assist you in timing your rituals. These will include tables of correspondences (Keys), a planetary hour calculation utility and other research materials.
Please email me to share the ways you choose the timing for your rituals. I'd like to expand this section into a forum so we can all benefit from each other's experience.
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