Planetary hours – design and completed

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While I was cleaning today, I happened to find these again. You can see that I originally designed them in a notebook, and then created them on two disks of wood (from Michael’s, appropriately enough). They’re the traditional Planetary Hours of Day and Night, and they can be used as pentacles or as simple calculators. For those into magical arts and crafts, they can be quite useful, because the act of making them will help synch your mind and body to the specific hours.

Which reminds me that I’d planned to do something this evening, but I’ve missed my window of opportunity due to grading. Maybe next week.

In the meantime, some of my readers may be asking, isn’t that whole Planetary Hours thing a holdover from Renaissance or even medieval thinking? Why bother? What’s the point? That’s assuming, of course, that they even know what the planetary hours are without consulting Wikipedia, which they’re welcome to do…

One of the things that’s been really on my mind over the last few months and perhaps even longer is the problem of the culture in which we’re living in the Western/First World right now.  There’s a conflict going on between the Haves and the Have-Mores over who’s going to run the government in America and elsewhere, and there’s a whole lot of Haven’t’s, who are trying to get the Haven’t-even-got-that‘s out into the streets to protest.  A lot of it comes down to the fact that the middle class would like to be upper class, and the upper class would rather have everyone be peasants at best, and the lower classes are telling the middle classes, why are you so friendly with us, all of a sudden?  You were never on our side before… and giving them the hairy eyeball and all.

It’s a rather challenging time.  It will get more challenging as the months progress this year, and while I don’t expect anything resembling apocalypse in December, I am conscious how much I am expected to tell the prevailing narrative of our society.  As an American history teacher, I don’t get to do much teaching of the non-traditional narratives about America: it’s all Washington and Jefferson and Madison, expansion and Lewis and Clark, Missouri Compromise to Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, march of progress and all that.  Little thought given to the problem of empire, or how to stand down.

And that brings me back to the Planetary Hours.  The Hours were a way of measuring time in unequal bits, perhaps left over from Mesopotamia, perhaps more recently than that.  Summer daylight hours are as long as Winter nighttime hours, and Summer night hours are as long as daylight Winter hours…  Time, for them, is a flexible thing, and a cyclical rather than linear thing.  They’re a reminder that other narratives besides the official one used to be important, and may become important again.

I taught World History: 10,000 BC to the Fall of Rome, for far too many years to put much stock in the myths of American exceptionalism or the march of progress.

The mindset one inculcates by paying attention to the Planetary Hours is a difficult one to express to someone who thinks in regulated hours and minutes.  One spends more time considering the Sun and Moon, to be sure; or standing outside on cold nights to watch for Jupiter, or the Quarantid meteor shower (it was cloudy where I was, alas).  By focusing on some other time period’s idea of time, though, one has a chance to stand outside of the mindset of one’s own time’s idea of time.  The comparison of two different ways of looking at the idea of time results in a sense of immeasurable incommensurability:  there is no point of match-up between this thing we call an ‘hour’ in 21st century America, and the idea of a Planetary hour late in winter in the Northern Hemisphere in Connecticut.  My planetary hour is not the same as someone in Georgia, nor the same as someone’s in British Columbia.  We’re not on the same scale of time, even though we’re using the same calculation to find out the time…

As my students know, and groan, The Time is Now.  It’s always Now.  It can’t be any other time than Now.

The name you give it determines what you can do with it.

Act Now.  Time is not running out.


For Saint Fursey (January 16)

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Ok, so here’s an interesting saint: a guy brought up in an upper-class Irish household who decided he not only wanted to be a monk, but a pilgrim monk — a person without fixed address.  Homeless. For Christ.  Boy. There’s a challenge.

He, like Ita, lived at the end of the sixth century AD, and eventually he was ordered to settle down (at Burgh Castle, a deserted Roman-era fortress), and almost immediately fell ill.  He had a series of visions, which I’ve tried to capture in today’s poem.

Pilgrim, in your  half-empty Roman fort
after many years of homeless journey,
delirious in fever, sick at heart:
came an angel to you, holy Fursey?
‘Tis said you saw a valley glum with smoke,
where four fires burned in boiling dark;
you asked your winged guides, though the stench did choke
what meant these four flames, lit with Devil’s spark?
“Falsehood,” spoke the angels in certain truth,
“Covetousness, Cruelty, Discord, you see —
these black flame-veiling clouds  make awful proof
that what flames is Earth —  for man is not free
of flesh’s constraints, even if he turn
to God. Fursey, warn men: all Earth may burn.”

The essence of Fursey’s visions (not detailed enough in Toulson’s book, alas, though she makes mention of her own awareness of the 1990s burnings of the Kuwaiti oil wells, apropos in this year 2012) was that the fires of Falsehood, Cruelty, Covetousness, and Discord are enough to consume the whole world — the reality on which we are dependent for life and health.  It’s an important message for us in the 21st century, and one which I’m deciding to act on in ways that are consistent with my goals for 2012.  I’m not ready to talk about them just yet, but I’ll say more once the process is underway, and I’m in a position to report on success rather than progress or failure.  Resolution is only 10% of the solution; the other 90% is execution.