The Sun has had its place within astrology and mythologies since ancient times; be it within the ancient Greek pantheon as Helios and Apollo, within Greek philosophy, or even within the Bible itself. In this particular post, I will go into traditional interpretations of the Sun, which are used in planetary magic of the Renaissance.
I. Philosophy of the Sun
Philosophers, theologians, and the like always placed the Sun somewhere into their own philosophy. The philosophy of the Renaissance, which is the model we use for planetary magic, was a Christian occult tradition that was heavily influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy.
First, the Bible lays out the Sun as one of the two lights, which rule day and night – the other being the Moon; and Genesis specifically lays those luminaries out as a creation of God:
“Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth. […] And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:14-18 RSV.
Furthermore, Paul the Apostle confirms that each planet has certain virtues:
“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” 1 Corinthians 15:41 RSV.
Plato uses the Sun in order to illustrate his view on the nature of reality and knowledge; which became known as the Analogy of the Sun. Overall Plato proposes that the Sun is the child of the Highest Good, the creator of the universe; and through the Sun’s light the unseen becomes seen – enlightened. He proposes that the Sun himself has the nature of goodness, but ultimately is not the Good itself; he proposes the hierarchy of God and His creation, which later was fleshed out by Aristotle, Plotinus, and Pseudo-Dionysus:
“Apply this comparison to the soul also in this way. When it is firmly fixed on the domain where truth and reality shine resplendent it apprehends and knows them and appears to possess reason; but when it inclines to that region which is mingled with darkness, the world of becoming and passing away, it opines only and its edge is blunted, and it shifts its opinions hither and thither, and again seems as if it lacked reason. […] But as for knowledge and truth, even as in our illustration it is right to deem light and vision sunlike, but never to think that they are the sun, so here it is right to consider these two their counterparts, as being like the Good or boniform, but to think that either of them is the Good is not right. Still higher honor belongs to the possession and habit of the Good.” Plato, The Republic 508d-509a.
However, the philosophy of the Sun’s nature does not end there. The mythology of ancient Rome and Greece illustrates a further aspect of the Sun, which I would like to highlight; namely his destructive nature. While the Sun has an enlightening nature of the Highest Good, each planet also has a destructive side to it.
No other story can illustrate this “destructive” side of the Sun better than the story of Daedalus and Icarus. The story tells about a father named Daedalus and his son Icarus, who want to flee the island of Crete. Daedalus makes use of his new invention of wings, which are held together by wax. He puts those wings on his son and on himself, and they fly away. However as his son Icarus gets too close to the Sun, the wax starts to melt, and Icarus falls to his death:
“His nearness to the devouring sun softened the fragrant wax that held the wings: and the wax melted: he flailed with bare arms, but losing his oar-like wings, could not ride the air. Even as his mouth was crying his father’s name, it vanished into the dark blue sea, the Icarian Sea, called after him. The unhappy father, now no longer a father, shouted ‘Icarus, Icarus where are you? Which way should I be looking, to see you?’ ‘Icarus’ he called again. Then he caught sight of the feathers on the waves, and cursed his inventions. He laid the body to rest, in a tomb, and the island was named Icaria after his buried child.” Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book VIII, 183-235.
We can now take all of this information and look into the Renaissance. Plato’s philosophy and the Neoplatonic school of thought influenced planetary magic in the sense that during the Renaissance in Europe, scholars considered the stars’ virtues to have a tremendous impact on everything below the stars. Agrippa, one of the most important writers on the occult, starts his De Occulta Philosophia out with an explanation of this Neoplatonic hierarchy – the Great Chain of Being:
“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 principle goes even further into planetary angels, spirits and demons; which all have planetary and elemental rulerships:
“It is the unanimous consent of all Platonists, that as in the originall, and exemplary World, all things are in all; so also in this corporeal world, all things are in all; so also the Elements are not only in these inferior bodies, but also in the Heavens, in Stars, in Divels [devils], in Angels, and lastly in God, the maker and originall example of all things. […] Of the mixtions therefore of these Planets and Signes, together with the Elements are all bodies made. […] That Elements therefore are to be found every where, and in all things after their manner, no man can deny: First in these inferiour bodies feculent and gross, and in Celestials more pure, and clear; but in supercelestials living, and in all respects blessed. Elements therefore in the exemplary world are Idea’s of things to be produced, in Intelligencies are distributed powers, in Heavens are vertues, and in inferiour bodies gross forms.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter VIII.
Even the story of Icarus translates well to a certain meaning within Renaissance astrology (which is why I picked it for this post); through something traditional astrologers call “combustion”, which is something I will go into later in this post.
II. Renaissance Astrology
Renaissance astrology as a whole only works with the seven traditional planets and thus is part of traditional astrology. The astrological interpretations of those planets are vital for planetary magic since planetary magic as a whole manifests the planetary energies on earth via ceremonies and rituals. So if you do a solary ritual when the Sun is in a bad spot astrologically speaking, then you get the effects of a bad positioned Sun.
William Lilly writes about the Sun’s astrology:
“The Sun is placed in the middle of all Planets, and is called amongst the Ancients, both Poets and Historians, Sol, Titan, Ilioa, Phebus, Apollo, Pean, Osyris, Diespiter. […] It’s needlesse to mention his Colour, being so continuallly visible to all mortal men. […] He hath onely the Sign of Leo for his House, and Aquarius for his Detriment. He is Exalted in the 19 degree of Aries, and receives his Fal in 19 Libra. […] The Sun governeth the fiery Triplicity, viz. Aries, Leo, Sagittarius by day.” William Lilly on the Sun in Christian Astrology.
Of the Sun’s nature Lilly writes:
“He is naturally Hot, Dry, but more temperate then Mars; is a Masculine, Diurnall Planet, Equivalent, if well dignified to a Fortune.” William Lilly on the Sun in Christian Astrology.
Of the Sun’s traditional signification Lilly writes the following:
“He signifieth Kings, Princes, Emperours, &. Dukes, Marquesses, Earles, Barons, Lieutenants, Deputy-Lieutenants of Countries, Magistrates, Gentlemen in generall, Courtiers, desirers of Honour and Preferment, Justices of Peace, Majors, High-Sheriffs, High-Constables, great Huntsmen, Lieutenants, Deputy-Lieutenants, Stewards of Noble-mens houses, the principall Magistrate of any City, Town, Castle or Country-Villiage, yea, though a petty Constable, where no better, or greater Officer is; Goldsmiths, Brasiers, Pewterers, Coppersmiths, Minters of Money.” William Lilly on the signification of the Sun in Christian Astrology.
And finally, Lilly also writes on the manners and actions of both a well-dignified and ill-dignified Sun:
“Very faithfull, keeping their promises with all Puncutuality, a kind of itching desire to Rule and Sway where he comes: Prudent, and of incomparable.Judgment; of great Majesty and Statelinesse, Industrious to acquire Honour and a large Patrimony, yet as willingly departing therewith again; the Solar man usually speaks deliberately, but not many words, and those with great confidence and command of his own affection; full of Thought, Secret, Trusty, speaks deliberately, and nothwithstanding his great Heart, yet is he Affable, Tractable, and very humane to all people, one loving Sumptuousnesse and Magnificence, and whatever is honourable; no sordid thoughts can enter his heart.” William Lilly on a well-dignified Sun in Christian Astrology.
“Then the Solar man is Arrogant and Proud, disdaining all men, cracking of his Pedegree, he is Pur-blind in Sight and Judgment, restlesse, troublesome, domineerning; a meer vapour, expensive, foolish, endued with no gravity in words, or sobernesse in Actions, a Spend-thrift, wasting his Patrimony, and hanging after an other mens charity, yet thinks all men are bound to him, because a Gentleman born.” William Lilly on an ill-dignified Sun in Christian Astrology.
Overall the Sun was important within Renaissance astrology and planetary magic, because it signifies vitality – which also makes him a planet of healing and it signifies certain people in one’s birth chart (traditional natal astrology deserves a post of its own). When we take into account that the Sun rules the fiery triplicity – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius – and his cases of good and bad dignification, then we get a decent idea of how the Sun’s energies will manifest in planetary magic.
III. Application of Astrology
Now what we have learned is that the Sun is a planet of fiery nature, a planet of royalty, honor, glory, and vitality (healing). Those are all things that manifest within the uses of the Sun’s energies within planetary magic. Agrippa broke down some rulerships of the Sun, which can be used within planetary magic:
“So we know that Solary things respect the heart, & head, by reason that Leo is the house of the Sun, and Aries the exaltation of the Sun. […] Know therefore that according to the doctrine of the Arabians, the Sun rules over the brain, heart, the thigh, the marrow, the right eye, and the spirit; also the tongue, the mouth, and the rest of the Organs of the senses, as well internall as externall; also the hands, feet, legs, nerves, and the power of imagination.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXII.
“Moreover whatsoever is found in the whole world is made according to the governments of the Planets, and accordingly receives its vertue. So in Fire the enlivening light thereof is under the government of the Sun, the heat of it under Mars.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXX.
Agrippa classifies certain materials as solary, because they work against poisons or even helped eyesight – remember the Platonic philosophy here – or helped to gain honor or riches in some way shape or form:
“Aetites which hath power against the Falling-sickness, and poisons: so also the stone, which is called the eye of the Sun, being of a figure like to the Apple of the eye, from the middle whereof shines forth a ray, it comforts the brain, and strengthens the sight; So the Carbuncle which shines by night, hath a vertue against all aiery, and vaporous poison. […] The Hyacinth also hath a vertue from the Sun against poisons, and pestiferous vapours; it makes him that carries it to be safe, and acceptable; it conduceth also to riches, and wit, it strengthens the heart; being held in the mouth, it doth wonderfully cheer up the mind. […] those under the Sun to glory, victory and courage.“ Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book I, Chapter XXIII.
Specifically in the context of magic Agrippa writes about the Sun:
“The Sun giveth light to all things of it self, and gives it plentifully to all things not only in the Heaven, Aire, but Earth and Deep: whatsoever good we have, as Iamblichus saith, we have it from the Sun alone, or from it through other things. Heraclitus cals the Sun the fountain of Celestiall light; and many of the Platonists placed the soul of the world chiefly in the Sun, as that which filling the whole Globe of the Sun doth send forth its rayes on all sides as it were a spirit through all things, distributing life, sense and motion to the very Universe. Hence the ancient Naturalists called the Sun the very heart of heaven; and the Caldeans [Chaldaeans] put it as the middle of the Planets.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book II, Chapter XXXII.
However, though the Sun is a planet of royalty and greatness – he is also destructive. If any planet gets too close to the Sun, it might get burned just like Icarus did. Within astrology this is called “combustion” and it occurs whenever a planet is within around 8 degrees to the Sun. If a planet goes combust, all the energy of that said planet will be nulled. It gets burned away while it is within those 8 degrees. This is something to keep in mind whenever you are planning a planetary ritual, spell or talisman!
IV. Spirits and Invocation
I need to make this clear, before going into planetary spirits: Don’t attempt the invocation of a planetary spirit if you are A) new to Renaissance magic, or B) new to traditional astrology. Several of these books curse unseasoned practitioners as well as blasphemers of the God of Israel; while the Arbatel even states that the Olympic spirits will send demons after inexperienced, disingenuine, and blaspheming practitioners; which I have seen happen with my own eyes. So don’t attempt the invocation of planetary spirits for your own sake and safety; and especially don’t attempt them if you’re opposed to working with the God of Israel.
“But whosoever shall attempt this and not be purified, doth bring upon himself judgement, and is delivered to the evil spirit, to be devoured.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book III, Chapter VI.
“Accursed be he who undertaketh our art without having the qualities requisite to thoroughly understand our Key, accursed be he who invoketh the name of God in vain, for such an one prepareth for himself the punishments which await the unbelievers, for God shall abandon them and relegate them unto the depths of Hell amongst the impure spirits.” The Key of Solomon, Chapter XVIII (Mathers Edition).
“The true and divine Magician may use all the creatures of God, and offices of the Governours of the world, at his own will, for that the Governours of the world are obedient unto them, and come when they are called, and do execute their commands: but God is the Author thereof: as Joshua caused the Sun to stand still in heaven. They send some of their Spirits to the Mean Magicians, which do obey them onely in some determinate business: but they hear not the false Magicians, but expose them to the deceits of the devils, and cast them into divers dangers, by the Command of God.” 17th Aphorism of the Arbatel.
Now, that we got that out of the way, we can continue. There are several types of spirits ascribed to the Sun; traditionally the angel Micheal is the planetary angel of the Sun; who can be called upon during planetary rituals or whose energy can be used for solary talismans. All those solary spirits are evoked through a ceremony and ritual with the help of the proper astrological timing, as well as solary incense and the respective character and sigils of that particular spirit. Incense is burned during those rituals in order to attract the planetary spirit; it functions like an offering.
Agrippa lists a few of those planetary characters in Book I of De Occulta Philosophia.
The Heptameron lists the following characters for Michael, as well red sandalwood as the solary incense to be used during the ritual:
Other than Michael (and sometimes Raphael), there are more spirits than just one angel ascribed to the Sun. For instance, the Olympic spirits of the Arbatel de Magia Veterum are planetary intelligences, who are invoked during a ritual and are said to teach wisdom. The Olympic spirit of the Sun is called Och. According to the Arbatel, Och can be called upon for the following:
“Och governeth solar things; he giveth 600 yeares, with perfect health; he bestoweth great wisdom, giveth the most excellent Spirits, teacheth perfect Medicines: he converteth all things into most pure gold and precious stones: he giveth gold, and a purse springing with gold. He that is dignified with his Character, he maketh him to be worshipped as a Deity, by the Kings of the whole world. He hath under him 36536 Legions: he administreth all things alone: and all his spirits serve him by centuries.” 17th Aphorism of the Arbatel.
The Arbatel also lists the seal or character of Och, by which Och can be invoked:
This particular planetary character was also found in earlier grimoires, such as the Picatrix.
All of those characters can either be used on a talisman (which is then consecrated to the spirit and the Sun), or they can be used for a ritual – to call on these spirits and invoke them for various purposes.
There are several talismans of the Sun found in various magical texts. Agrippa for instance lists the planetary squares – which are made by binding a planetary spirit’s energy to it – while other texts list different types of planetary talismans.
Overall a solary talisman can be made out of the proper solary material or parchment, and by inscribing or engraving a proper image or solary character (traditional astrological symbols also count!) on that said material within the right planetary hour and day; which then gets consecrated at the proper time (this is when your planet, the Moon and Mercury need to be well-dignified).
Of the images of the Sun, Agrippa writes:
“From the operations of the Sun, they made an Image at the hour of the Sun, the first face of Leo ascending with the Sun, the forme of which was a king crowned, sitting in a chair, having a Raven in his bosom, and under his feet a Globe; he is cloathed in Saffron coloured cloathes [clothes]; They report that this Image rendreth men invincible, and honorable, and helps to bring their businesses to a good end, and to drive away vain dreams; also to be prevalent against feavers [fevers], and the plague; and they made it in a Balanite stone or a Rubin, at the hour of the Sun, when it in his exaltation fortunately ascendeth; They made another Image of the Sun in a Diamond, at the hour of the Sun, it ascending in his exaltation; the figure of which was a woman crowned with the gesture of one dancing and laughing, standing in a Chariot drawn with four horses, having in her right hand a looking glass, or buckler [clypeum], in the left a staffe, leaning on her breast, carrying a flame of fire on her head; They report that this Image rendreth a man fortunate and rich, and beloved of all; and they made this Image, on a Corneoll stone at the hour of the Sun ascending in the first face of Leo, against Lunatick passions which proceed from the combustion of the Moon.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book II, Chapter XLI.
Other types of solary talismans can be found in The Key of Solomon. A few examples of how a Solomonic Practioner invoked the energies of the Sun for their talismans:
“The third pentacle of the Sun.– This serveth in addition (to the effects of the two preceding) to acquire kingdom and empire, to inflict loss, and to acquire renown and glory, especially through the name of God, Tetragrammaton, which therein is twelve times contained.” The Key of Solomon (Mathers).
“The fourth pentacle of the Sun.– This serveth to enable thee to see the spirits when they appear invisible unto those who invoke them; because, when thou hast uncovered it, they will immediately appear visible.” The Key of Solomon (Mathers).
“The seventh and last pentacle of the Sun.– If any be by chance imprisoned or detained in fetters of iron, at the presence of this pentacle, which should be engraved in Gold on the day and hour of the Sun, he will be immediately delivered and set at liberty.” The Key of Solomon (Mathers).
However, what happens if you do it with bad astrological timing? It brings out all aspects of the Sun, but in a negative light and the talisman becomes destructive. Agrippa gives an example when he writes about the planetary squares:
“This being engraven on a Golden plate with the Sun being fortunate, renders him that wears it to be renowned, amiable, acceptable, potent in all his works, and equals a man to Kings, and Princes, elevating him to high fortunes, inabling to do whatsoever he pleaseth: but with an unfortunate Sun, it makes a tyrant, and a man to be proud, ambitious, unsatisfiable, and to have an ill ending.” Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Book II, Chapter XXII.
In the end there are many different ways to use solary energies and spirits for talismans! I need to note again, that I don’t recommend the invocation of the planetary spirits to practitioners who are new to A) Renaissance magic, B) traditional astrology, and if you are opposed to working with the God of Israel entirely.
Most of this information only barely scratches the surface. There is a lot more you can do with the energies of the Sun and its ruling spirits; and it really just gets more complex from here on. This should not be a discouragement from going into the complex side of planetary magic. Yes, it requires a lot more study than contemporary magic models, but from my experience, it pays off.
However, for beginners it doesn’t need to be a complicated planetary ritual in order to make use of the solary energies in their spellwork; just make use of the planetary days and hours or carry solary crystals (or other materials) with you in order to get desired solary effects! I myself have used the Sun’s planetary day and hour in order to amplify a healing spell, which ended up working pretty well; so it really doesn’t need to be complex unless you are diving into straight-up planetary invocations and rituals.
A) “De Occulta Philosophia Libri III” or “The Three Books of Occult Philosophy” by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa.
B) “The Republic” by Plato.
C) “Metamorphoses” by Ovid
D) “Christian Astrology” by William Lilly.
E) “The Bible” RSV.
F) “Arbatel de Magia Veterum” edited by Joseph H. Peterson.
G) “The Key of Solomon” edited by S. L. MacGregor Mathers.
VIII. Online Resources
IX. Further Helpful Blogposts
This post is part of the Plantary 101 Series: