Planetary Hours

by Olivia Barclay, Q.H.P.

An article from Olivia Barclay's "Horary Astrology Rediscovered" (Whitford Press).

From antiquity there has been a condition upon which the validity of a chart depends, and which I have not so far mentioned, and that is upon planetary hours. Is it stretching the bounds of credibility too far to suggest that not only a moment, but an hour has its quality? Zadkiel omitted planetary hours entirely throughout his book Introduction to Astrology which purported to be the work of Lilly. But since Lilly, whose infallibility is second only to Perry Mason's, used them, I shall be at pains to explain them.

Before our present generation the consideration of planetary hours had always been an integral part of astrology. They were used in other ways besides determining the validity of a chart. If, for instance, the ruler of the hour is angular, a person or object looked for is within the house of the querent just as much as if the ruler of the second house is angular. In questions of theft the ruler of the hour can symbolize the thief. Ancient aphorisms tell us about planetary hours. Lilly's first aphorism reads, "See the Question be radical, or fit to be judged, which is when the Lord of the ascendant and hour be of one nature or triplicity." (*1) Zadkiel changes this to "See the Question be radical and fit to be judged." (*2) This is a typical example of the way Zadkiel treats the work of Lilly. Perhaps he was afraid that mention of planetary hours would associate astrology with superstitions that used to be held. In the seventeenth century medicines were given at appropriate hours, and herbs were collected according to the proper hours. Nowadays, surely, astrologers can used them again to help us in our work.

The use of planetary hours is Western. I believe the Hindu system of astrology does not use it.

Everyone associates the days of the week with the planets: Sunday with the Sun, Monday with the Moon, Tuesday with Mars (French Mardi, Northern Europe Tui), Wednesday with Mercury (French Mercredi, Northern Europe Woden, as Wode, the blue-staining plant), Thursday with Thor or Jupiter, Friday with Venus (French Vendredi, or Northern Europe Frigg or Freya), and of course, Saturday with Saturn.

A day was considered to start at daybreak, at sunrise; the hours were of uneven lengths - except at the equinox. The time between daybreak and sunset was divided into twelve equal periods, called hours. Thus, a summer day had long hours and a summer night short hours. A winter day had short hours and a winter night long hours. Each day begins with the hour of the planet after which it is named. For example, the first hour on Monday is the hour of the Moon. Each hour belongs to a planet in a never-ending sequence. Even between one day and the next the sequence is not broken.

Figure 1: The Sequence of Planetary Hours
The order of the sequence is: Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun
So, Sunday's hours are: Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury
Continuing on Monday: Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter
Continuing on Tuesday: Mars Sun

Notice that when each day starts it is the turn of the hour of that day! Then refer to Ptolemy's Tables of Dignities and look at the faces of the planets. You will see that the same sequence is repeated here. Look at the faces of Aries (Mars, Sun, Venus) then Taurus continues (Mercury, Moon, Saturn). Consider now the antiquity of this arrangement. The sequence is Egyptian. If Earth is substituted in the place of the Sun the sequence looks more familiar.

We are told that a horary chart is not valid unless the planetary hour harmonizes with the Ascendant or ruler of the Ascendant, but I am coming to the conclusion that this means a chart may not be a happy one without the above proviso. This mattered a great deal in the days when an astrologer was thrown over the cliff if his solution was not what an emperor wanted to hear, as in the time of Thrassyllus. Certainly the best charts do have this harmnization. It can be expressed in the following ways.

  1. The ruler of the hour should be of the same triplicity as the Ascendant. To discover this, look at Ptolemy's Tables of Dignities. For instance, if Saturn is ruler of the hour and the day chart Ascendant is Gemini, this harmonizes because Saturn rules the air triplicity in the daytime, (a connection many astrologers might overlook!) Or, if the planet of the hour was Mars and the Ascendant a water sign, this is in accord because Mars rules the water triplicity.
  2. The ruler of the hour should be the same as the ruler of the ascending sign, as with Sagittarius rising and Jupiter the ruler of the hour.
  3. A chart is said to be valid if the hour and the Ascendant are of the same nature. This needs a little explaining. In old astrology books the signs were described as follows. (I always wondered why.)
Figure 2: Attributes of the Signs and Planets
Aries hot and dry Taurus cold and dry Gemini hot and moist Cancer cold and moist
Leo hot and dry Virgo cold and dry Libra hot and moist Scorpio cold and moist
Sagittarius hot and dry Capricorn cold and dry Aquarius hot and moist Pisces cold and moist
The planets, too, were given such attributes
Sun hot and dry Venus cold and dry Mars hot and dry Jupiter hot and moist
Saturn cold and dry Mercury cold and dry Moon cold and moist

If Leo ascends in a nighttime chart, and the Moon is ruler of the hour, one would consider that Jupiter is ruler of the triplicity, and if the Moon is in trine to Jupiter, that would be considered valid, according to conclusions reached by studying Lilly's example charts.

If you decide to use planetary hours it is a good idea to make a table for reference. This table must suit the vicinity in which you live, because periods of time between sunrise and sunset vary according to locality.

Raphael's Ephemeris gives the times of sunrise and sunset for all Sundays between 60 North and 50 South. This time then is divided into twelve equal periods to give the hours of daylight. In summer they will be long, and in winter short. Next, the time between sunset and sunrise is divided into twelve equal periods, giving the hours of the night. These will be short in the summer and long in the winter. It is interesting that the last hour of the night rules the night, just as the first hour of the day rules the day. Hence, the violence that is common on Saturday nights, when Mars rules the night. The order of the hour continues, day or night, never varying.

In my example of the Satellite chart, (Figure 4.1) the Moon ruled the hour and the Ascendant, because it was a nighttime chart, and the Moon ruler the night triplicity of Virgo.

There is no doubt that charts with the ascending sign and its ruler blending with the planetary hour more apt, although this is something only a good horary astrologer can recognize. Our natal colleagues may remain cynical, even as the general public is cynical about nativities. But since we know that the quality of one hour differs from that of another, we realize how past generations understood the integration of life with the movement of the inner planets in particular, and the rest of the Universe in general. We must hold fast to these truths before some ludicrous "astrologer", intent on including the outer planets wherever possible, invents Uranusday, Nepruneday, and Plutoday, and puts fifteen hours in a day!

(*1) William Lilly, Christian Astrology (London: Regulus Publishing Co. Ltd., reprinted 1985), p.298. Originally published 1647.
(*2) Zadkiel, An Introduction to Astrology by William Lilly. (Hollywood: Newcastle Publishing Co., Inc., 1972), p. 186.

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1996 Olivia Barclay
2004 Qualifying Horary Diploma Course