Monday, January 19, 2015

Picatrix: Faces Versus Decans

I've been thinking a bit lately about the Faces and the Decans. I have, in the past, used these terms interchangeably but they are not the same thing. The defining difference is the planetary attribution. The Faces use the Chaldean order, beginning with Mars in the first Face of Aries and descending on through the 36. Alternately the Decans use a system of triplicities in which the planetary attribution is assigned based on the ruler of the subsequent signs of the same elemental attribution, on around through the 36. This essay assumes an audience that is already familiar with this concept. If you are not, here is an article by Benjamin Dykes with some of the basics.  

As I said, I would use the terms interchangeably, as do many contemporary authors, but the Picatrix explicitly calls the 36 divisions based on the Chaldean order of planets as "Faces" [bk2, ch11] and the  36 divisions based on triplicity as "Decans" [bk2, ch12]. This is the definition of these terms we will use. 

In Chapter 11 each of the faces is given as an image or a character with an intention. For example, the  3rd face of Taurus, attributed to Saturn. 
There rises in the third face ofTaurus a man of reddish complexion with large white teeth exposed outside of his mouth, and a body like an elephant with long legs; and there ascends along with him one horse, one dog, and one calf. This is a face of sloth, poverty, misery, and dread. This is its form.
One for each of the 36 faces around the zodiac.  We are told that to make a talisman with this energy we must use an election when Saturn is in the 3rd face of Taurus on a Saturday at sunrise (Saturn hour). Curiously, despite an example of how to figure the planet for each face at the beginning of the chapter, the planets are not explicitly listed for each face. It is likely, however, that the information was considered a bit obvious to need to be written rather than an implication that the planetary attribution is somehow diminished.

Then, in Chapter 12 we have an alternate list, the Decans, credited to the Hindus, and following a triplicity order. Here a planet is listed for each decan as the first line in its description. Each decan description next has its intention listed. No images are given. Nor is there a procedure described to use the decans  magically.
The third face ofTaurus is of Saturn, in which you may make an image to cause hatred and to bind men so they are not able to have sex with women, and conversely to cause women to sicken, and to separate men and women.
Ok, so maybe the 3rd face and decan of Taurus was a poor choice for my example as they are both attributed to Saturn. It happens that 9 out of the 36 planetary attributions match. The other 27 are each ruled by two different planets.

So the question becomes when do we use one list as opposed to the other? Also, what is the likely procedure to use the decans?

 The Picatrix doesn't seem to favor one over the other except that the chapter of the faces comes before the decans. The two chapter headings suggest a difference. Chapter 11 is titled The Images of the Faces of the Signs and Their Effects. Chapter 12 is titled The Figures and Degrees of the Signs and Thier Effects According To The Opinion of the Hindus, and How They Proceed In The Contemplations of This Science, and In What Manner the Virtues of Superior Bodies Are Attracted According To The Opinions of the Same, With Notable Secrets. Quite a mouthful. Brevity would suggest honor. Essentially, however, one list is probably not stronger or better than the other in terms of practice. For each of the 36 divisions either (or both) planets are available for magical use.

Magical use. This is where we need to search for some clues and take some conceptual leaps.

Because the Picatrix doesn't explicitly tell us how to use the decans we need to figure out the most likely procedure. To use the decans we have a couple of choices that come to the top of my head. There are probably more but I can't think of what they might be. Our first option, as I see it, is to use the procedure listed for the faces (planet in the face, on the planet's day at sunrise). The other likely option is to treat the decan as a constellation or fixed star (at Ascendant or Midheaven on planetary day and hour, Moon unafflicted).

The difference between these two options is not so very great and they are easily combined to give us something like this. Planet in decan, at Midheaven, first planetary hour of planetary day, Moon unafflicted. Is this too specific?

It turns out yes. We can't have a Midheaven rule at sunrise because Mercury, Venus, and the Sun itself will never be at the Midheaven at sunrise. Therefore the Ascendant takes primacy. But watch out for combustion with the Sun.

It seems I need to think about this more.

Next up: specific decan elections using the above rules.

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