Many people ask themselves how to determine what type of herbs or crystal one should use; especially if you want to write your own spells. There are several ways to write your own spells and rituals; but when it comes to ingredients it can get kind of tricky. Especially considering there are more systems than one in order to get your magical properties.
In this post I’m gonna present you one way to determine each and any ingredient for any spell or ritual you’re doing!
Astrology and The Great Chain of Being
During the Renaissance people assumed that everything was ruled its superior, which means that everything is influenced from the above:
“Seeing there is a three-fold World, Elementary, Celestiall, and Intellectual, and every inferior is governed by its superior, and receiveth the influence of the vertues thereof, so that the very original, and chief Worker of all doth by Angels, the Heavens, Stars, Elements, Animals, Plants, Metals, and Stones convey from himself the vertues of his Omnipotency upon us, for whose service he made, and created all these things.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter I.
This princriple is known as The Great Chain of Being, which originates from Neoplatonism. In order to understand how magical properties of materials come to be from a Renaissance view, you will need to understand the general idea of the The Great Chain of Being.
The first important lesson to understand and learn is the one about the four elements; which manifest differently depending if they are in the elemental(our material) world or the celestial(planets and stars):
“There are four Elements, and originall grounds of all corporeall things, Fire, Earth, Water, Aire, of which all elementated inferiour bodies are compounded; not by way of heaping them up together, but by transmutation, and union; and when they are destroyed, they are resolved into Elements. For there is none of the sensible Elements that is pure, but they are more or less mixed, and apt to be changed one into the other: Even as Earth becoming dirty, and being dissolved, becomes Water, and the same being made thick and hard, becometh Earth again; but being evaporated through heat, passeth into Aire, and that being kindled, passeth into Fire, and this being extinguished, returns back again into Aire, but being cooled again after its burning, becometh Earth, or Stone, or Sulphur, and this is manifested by Lightening.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter III.
“There are then, as we have said, four Elements, without the perfect knowledge whereof we can effect nothing in Magick. Now each of them is three-fold, that so the number of four may make up the number of twelve; and by passing by the number of seven into the number of ten, there may be a progress to the supream Unity, upon which all vertue and wonderfull operation depends.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter IV.
If we look at how the elements manifest within the celestial world, and take into consideration how everything is ruled by its superior; then we get a model, which heavily relies on astrology! Everything has a planetary and elementary correspondence. If you are interested in reading about the manifestations within the celestial world more in-depth, I’d recommend reading Agrippa’s chapter on it here.
Now, how do we determine the planetary and elemental properties?
Agrippa writes on this topic the following:
“Now it is very hard to know, what Star, or Signe every thing is under: yet it is known through the imitation of their rayes, or motion, or figure of the superiours. Also some of them are known by their colours and odours, also some by the effects of their operations, answering to some Stars.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIII.
So a material either imitates the “rays”, the “motion” or even the “figure”. Now, what does this exactly mean? Well, thankfully Agrippa gives us an example of this:
“And amongst stones, they which resemble the rayes of the Sun by their golden sparklings […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIII.
So pretty much anything that kind of imitates how the sun looks like could be classified as solary. Agrippa pushes this further on how he classifies plants and herbs as solary:
“Amongst plants also and trees, those are Solary, which turn towards the Sun, as the Marygold [marigold], and those which fold in their leaves when the Sun is neer upon setting, but when it riseth unfold their leaves by little and little.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIII.
Agrippa applies the same schema to the way he classifies materials as lunary:
“Also the stone Selenites (i.e.) Lunary, shining from a white body, with a yellow brightness, imitating the motion of the Moon, having in it the figure of the Moon which daily increaseth, or decreaseth as doth the Moon. Also Pearls, which are generated in shels [shells] of fishes from the droppings of Water, also the Berill [beryl]. Amongst Plants and Trees, these are Lunary, as the Selenotropion, which turns towards the Moon, as doth the Heliotropion towards the Sun, and the Palme tree sends forth a bough at every rising of the Moon […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIV.
He goes on to give examples of planetary properties of minerals, plants and animals for each planet. Of course in order to be able to classify materials just like Agrippa does, one must have a basic idea on the rulerships and nature of each planet! Even on this, Agrippa gives several hints:
“So then Solary things, or things under the power of the Sun are, amongst Elements, the lucid flame; in the humours, the purer blood, and spirit of life; amongst tasts [tastes], that which is quick, mixed with sweetness.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIII.
“These things are Lunary, amongst the Elements, viz. the Earth, then the Water, as well that of the Sea, as of the Rivers, and all moist things, as the moisture of Trees, and Animals, especially they which are White, as the Whites of Eggs, fat, sweat, flegme [phlegm], and the superfluities of bodies. Amongst tasts [tastes], salt, and insipid […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIV.
“Saturnine things, amongst Elements, are Earth, and also Water: amongst humors, black Choller [choler] that is moist, as well natural, as adventitious, adust Choller [choler] excepted. Amongst tasts [tastes], soure, tart, and dead.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXV.
“Things under Jupiter, amongst Elements, are the Aire: amongst humors, blood, and the spirit of life, also all things which respect the encrease [increase], nourishment, and vegetation of the life. Amongst tasts [tastes] such as are sweet, and pleasant.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXVI.
“These things are Martiall[under Mars], amongst Elements, Fire, together with all adust, and sharp things: Amongst humours, Choller [choler]; also bitter tasts [tastes], tart, and burning the tongue, and causing tears […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXVII.
“These things are under Venus, amongst Elements, Aire, and Water; amongst humours, Flegm [phlegm], with Blood, Spirit, and Seed; amongst tasts [tastes], those which are sweet, unctuous, and delectable […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXVIII.
“Things under Mercury are these; amongst Elements, Water, although it moves all things indistinctly; amongst humors, those especially which are mixed, as also the Animall spirit; amongst tasts [tastes] those that are various, strange, and mixed […]” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIX.
Of course in order to study the seven planets in-depth one has to study traditional astrology to some degree. For instance the English astrologer William Lilly breaks down the nature of each planet like this:
“He is naturally Hot, Dry, but more temperate then Mars; is a Masculine, Diurnall Planet, Equivalent, if well dignified to a Fortune. […] Of Colours he ruleth the Yellow, the colour of Gold, the Scarlet or the cleer Red, some say Purple: In Savours, he liketh wel a mixture of Sower and Sweet together, or Aromatical flavour, being a little Bitter and Stiptical, but withal Confortative and a little sharp.” William Lilly on the Sun in Christian Astrology.
“She is Feminine, Nocturnal Planet, Cold, Moyst and Flegmatique. […] Of Colours the White, or pale Yellowish White, pale Green, or a little of the Silver-colour. Of Saviours, the Fresh, or without any flavour, such as is in Hearbs before they be ripe, or such as doe moysten the Brain.” William Lilly on the Moon in Christian Astrology.
“He is a Diurnall Planet, Cold and Dry (being far removed from the heat of the Sun) and moyst Vapours, Melancholick, Earthly, Masculine, the greater Infortune, author of Solitarinesse, Malevolent.” William Lilly on Saturn in Christian Astrology.
“He is a Diurnall, Masculine Planet, Temperately Hot and Moyst, Aiery, Sanguine, the greater Fortune, author of Temperance, Modesty, Sobriety, Justice. […] He governeth the Sweet or well sented odours; or that Odour which in smell is no way extream or offensive. [Of Saviors] Sea-green or Blew, Purple, Ash-colour, a mixt Yellow and Green.” William Lilly on Jupiter in Christian Astrology.
“He is Masculine, Nocturnall Planet, in nature hot and dry, cholerick and fiery, the lesser Infortune, author of Quarrels, Strifes, Contentions. […] He delighteth in Red colour, or yellow, fiery and shinning like Saffron; and in those Savours which are bitter, sharp and burn the Tongue; of Humours, Choller.” William Lilly on Mars in Christian Astrology.
“She is a Feminine Planet, temperately Cold and Moyst, Nocturnal, the lesser Fortune, author of Mirth and Jolity; the elements, the Ayre and Water are Venerial; in the Humours, Flegme with Blood, with Spirit, and Genital seed. […] In colours she signifieth White, or milky Skie-colour mixed with brown, or a little Green. In Savours she delightes in that which is pleasant and toothsome; usually in moyst and sweet, or what is very delectable; in smels what is unctious and Aromatical, and incites to wantonnesse.” William Lilly on Venus in Christian Astrology.
“We may not call him either Masculine or Feminine, for he is either the one or other as joyned to any Planet; for if in Conjunction with a Masculine Planet, he becomes Masculine; if with a Feminine, then Feminine, but of his own nature he is cold and dry, and therefore Melancholly; with the good he is good, with the evil Planets ill. […] Mixed and new colours, the Gray mixed with Sky-colour, such as is on the Neck of the Stock-dove, Linsie-woolsie colours, or consisting of many colours mixed in one. Of Saviours an hodgepodge of all things together, so that no one can give it any true name; yet usually such as doe quicken the Spirits, are subtil and penetrate, and in a manner insensible.” William Lilly on Mercury in Christian Astrology.
He also goes way more in-depth when it comes to astrology in general than Agrippa does; since Lilly’s work Christian Astrology is a big work just about astrology (which I recommend to anyone interested in astrology).
Of course on of the first things in terms of usage is magic! Going by this schema we can classify any plant, mineral, metal, gemstone and animal! This also means that we can make incense as according to their planetary properties. For instance I can burn laurel leaves in order to get a solary effect; or I can burn a jovial(under Jupiter) herb in order to banish a saturnine spirit.
And like that we can also determine what ingredients we can use for certain spells, talismans and rituals; just like the occultists of the Renaissance did!
Going by this schema we can classify any plant, mineral, metal, gemstone and animal! This also means that we can make incense as according to their planetary properties. For instance I can burn laurel leaves in order to get a solary effect; or I can burn a jovial(under Jupiter) herb in order to banish a saturnine spirit.
We can simplify this principle as well. If you paint your walls in a specific color, you might be more in the mood of the planet it falls under. For instance the colors of Venus, Jupiter and Sun usually spark a more upbeat mood; while Mars can spark an aggressive mood and Saturn(black and grey) can spark depressive or sad moods.
When we apply this to crystals and jewelry, you can wear a specific crystal to get a certain effect or counteract a bad habit. Or you could wear silver(lunary) in order to ward off sublunary spirits from yourself. This principle can even go into counteracting bad placements in your own natal chart!
Okay, but what if something seems to be under more than one planet?
Fear not; that’s completely normal. Even though we have a lot of materials that specifically fall under one planet, like pearls in general fall under the Moon; a lot of materials will fall under more than one planet!
For instance very dark, almost black, pearls do exist (tahitian pearls). Depending on their color, they will fall under both the Moon and the planet the color falls under!
Occultists in the Renaissance used this principle of The Great Chain of Being and planetary properties in order to invoke certain spirits, create and consecrate(with planetary incense) planetary talismans and even to treat certain habits or sicknesses.
Today we can apply this same principle for either the daily life or magic as well. We can apply the planetary properties of Venus for love, beauty and fertility spells; as well as the properties of Jupiter for spells concerning money, abundance or some sort of fair play and justice.
I personally apply those planetary properties, as well as the planetary hours and angels as often as I can; be it by wearing certain types of jewelery and crystals or actively casting a spell. Let me know if you make use of planetary properties within your own practice!
I hope anybody reading this got something out of this post. Thank you for reading!