Astrological Timing in Spagyric Pharmacy

Astrological Timing in Spagyric Pharmacy

Lets face it, astrology has kinda gotten a bad rap over the last century, viewed by most as either a joke, woo-woo superstition, or downright false due to misunderstandings between the difference of astronomy and astrology, star constellations, seasons, and the cardinal cross of the equinoxes and solstices. It’s interesting that historically, some of the most brilliant thinkers were guided by astrology, along with a close position next to people of power for their ability to provide guidance and insight others could not see. 

Astrology also holds a special place in the history and practice of medicine and is central to the practice of real alchemy. Indeed, modern alchemist Robert Bartlett states that the production of true alchemical medicines is not possible without the use of astrology. Nicholas Culpeper notes that the practice of physick (medicine) without the use of astrology is like a lamp without oil. 

For the modern day herbalist, the use of medical astrology can aid in the assessment of the whole person, excesses and deficiencies, weaknesses and strengths in the body, as well as the connections between the body, mind, emotions, and soul. And for the alchemist, it is used as a means for potentizing their remedies, enhancing their physical and esoteric influences.  

Energetic Qualities of Time

One way we can look at astrology is simply as a means for understanding the energetic qualities that are flowing through a particular place at a particular time. Many traditions around the world have recognized that time is not a linear phenomenon as most of us think of it (ie just past, present, and future), but rather there is a pattern to it, it is circular as it moves through different cycles and rhythms. We see this simply reflected in the cyclical changing of the seasons and even the passing of each day and night. In this way, these traditions have systems that ascribe certain qualities to certain seasons and times of day.

For example, Chinese Medicine sees that the different seasons have different elemental qualities, and break down the hours of the day into their particular organ systems, showing when they are most active and at their peak. Similarly, Ayurveda understands the seasons and times of day through the lens of the three doshas, which are similar to the three philosophical principles of alchemy. Regardless of what system is used, at the root of this is that there are specific energetic qualities of time that flow through space and influence not just humans, but nature as a whole. 

It’s commonly misunderstood that only TCM and Ayurveda have an energetic understanding of time in their medical tradition, but the West has one as well, but rather than looking at five elements or three principles, it looks at the seven planets. This is what has been used in alchemy and other hermetic arts for a very long time to understand the spirit and energetic qualities of time within a particular place. These qualities then influence the qualities and characteristics of our body, mind, and in the alchemical perspective, nature as a whole, in particular plants. 

Planetary Correspondences in Plants

Before digging into how planetary timing is used in alchemy and spagyrics, it’s worth taking a quick digression to talk about the connection between plants and planets. This is central to alchemical philosophy and the practical application of spagyric remedies. While we can categorize medicinal plants in a wide variety of ways, such as by their actions, organ affinities, tastes, energetics, or botanical characteristics, in alchemy it is done based on their relationship and embodiment of specific planetary qualities. 

This is understood based on medical astrology, which sees the planets as governing certain systems, organs, and tissues of the body, specific energetic patterns—such as heat, cold, tension, relaxation, dampness, and dryness—and pathological patterns that make us sick. In fact, the qualities and characteristics that a planet represents on the psychological, emotional, and spiritual levels are the exact same as what they are physically, for there is a core pattern within each planetary archetype that manifests on each level of our being. 

In this way, plants are understood to be “ruled by” or in correspondence with certain planetary archetypes. The intense sharpness and inflammation caused by touching a Nettle leaf is distinctly Martian, along with its affinity for the blood, prostate, inflammation modulating properties internally, and presence of iron. We can see Saturn in the rings of a Horsetail, as well as how it builds structural tissues of the body through the presence of silica. Each plant has a primary planetary correspondence based on its habitat, morphology, taste, affinities, actions, energetics, and unique virtues. It is this that informs and guides how it will be processed spagyrically. 

Planetary Timing Mechanisms

There are two levels of planetary timing mechanisms used throughout the Hermetic tradition and alchemy: days of the week and hours of the day. The seven days of the week correspond to the seven inner planets that are visible with the naked eye. Indeed, many of the names for the days in other European languages show a direct relationship here, such as lunes (Spanish) being similar to luna, or the moon, mercredi (French) being similar to mercury, etc. The table below breaks down the days of the week and their planetary correspondences. 









































The planetary days of the week are considered to be the general energetic quality of the day itself, which is calculated from sunrise of one day to sunrise of the next (rather than midnight to midnight). While these are a good place to start, it is the planetary hours that are most important in alchemical works, for they provide the more specifically focused energy flowing through particular times in a more concentrated manner. 

While there are a few different planetary hour timing mechanisms, we prefer to work with what’s called the “flexible” system, which is based on the precise timing of sunrise and sunset in your unique location. There are 12 daytime “hours” and 12 nighttime “hours.” I place “hours in quotations because depending on the time of year, they will not be 60 minutes long. For example, in the winter, there is much more night than day, therefore the planetary hours from sunset to sunrise will be longer than 60 minutes, the daytime hours will be less than 60 minutes. The reverse is true during the summer months. 

The basic way the math works, is one calculates the number of minutes from sunrise to sunset, and from sunset to sunrise the next day. Today the sun rose at 6:10 am and will set at 8:05 pm, which is 835 minutes of sunlight. This is divided by 12 to give us the length of the daytime planetary “hour,” which is about 70 minutes. The sun sets at 8:05 pm tonight and rises tomorrow at 6:08 am, giving us 10 hours and 3 minutes of night, or 603 minutes. Dividing this by 12 gives us 50 minute nighttime hours. 

At the moment of sunrise begins the first planetary hour of the day, which is governed by the planet that “rules” that day. For example, today the sun rose at 6:10 am, and it’s Tuesday, so that was the first Mars hour of the day, which lasted 70 minutes, or until 7:20 am. The order of the planets and hours in this system follows the “lightning flash” pattern on the Qabalistic tree of life, which is as follows: Saturn>Jupiter>Mars>Sun>Venus>Mercury>Moon.

Interestingly enough, if you lay this out, the final hour of today, which will be from 5:18 am - 6:08 am (tomorrow morning by most normal timing standards) is under the rulership of Venus. The next hour starts at 6:08 am at sunrise, which is Mercury, the ruler for the next day of the week Wednesday. Thus it always lines up this way. 

This is how the planetary qualities are assessed in their influence on time, and paying attention to the pattern is nothing short of fascinating. Mars hour hits and suddenly you get a burst of energy and want to exercise. Saturn hour comes and you have a super disciplined block of productive time. The Moon hour comes and you just want to be mellow and spend time with your family. Paying attention to planetary hours is in my opinion one of the best ways to learn astrology because you learn to actually see it and experience directly in your daily life. 

Divine Timing in Spagyrics

The way this applies to spagyric medicine making is that the plants are first, harvested on the planetary day and hour of the planet that rules that plant. That way it is being gathered at its peak potency. While there are a few different times of day that any planet will govern, when it comes to harvesting it is most preferable to harvest during the hour of sunrise. There’s a practical reason here, as it gives you the other later hours to do the spagyric work, as well as the fact that many volatile plants are best harvested prior to it getting too hot outside which will drive off essential oils to an extent. 

All spagyric preparations are done in accordance with this astrological timing, but the most important ones are those that involve volatilizing the plants, most notably here is distillation of Sulfur (essential oils), and rectification of Mercury (alcohol). This is because the distillation apparatus is seen as a microcosm of nature, with the upper portions of the glassware being a reflection of the sky in the macrocosm. Thus whatever planetary forces are strongest in that moment are being directly imprinted into the volatile distillates. This is primarily how planetary energies are gathered in spagyric preparations. 

Distilled water is a vital ingredient in many spagyric preparations, thus one can have seven planetary distilled waters on hand for mixing custom menstruum for tinctures, the dissolution of calcined salts, and other works that involve water. 

The last step of the process, cohobation, is always done at the indicated planetary day and hour. In the spagyric process, this is essentially the rebirth of the plant, the reuniting of its soul, spirit, and body. In this way, it is reborn and has in a way, its own natal birth chart. Most practitioners don’t go to the extent of casting a full chart for their spagyrics, but rather look at it more simply as having a strong influence of the ruling planet by putting it all together at the peak planetary day and hour. Other methods can be used though, such as the Moon being conjunct the indicated planet, or the Moon residing in a sign that is related to the ruling planet. An example of this would be cohobating a Nettle spagyric when the moon is in aries or scorpio, both of which are related to mars. 

Everything in alchemy is a balance of philosophy and practice, science and spirit. Astrological timing mechanisms are focused more on the subtle side of the process, attending to the invisible energies that influence the final product and thus their subtle effects upon the astral body of the person that takes it. This is one way spagyrics have their sometimes drastic and unexplainable effects, such as influencing dream activity, synchronistic life events, and most importantly, deeper levels of healing on the soul and spirit.