I was doing some research recently that I thought would be interesting to share, and I use the term “interesting” loosely. Several manuscripts on a variety of topics note that operations should be performed during the waxing phase of the moon, and only on even numbered days of that period. Goetia is a perfect example of this (from MS Sloane 3825):
Thou art to observe first ye Moones age for ye working. The best dayes are when ye [Moon] is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 or 14 dayes old, as Salomon sayeth, and no other dayes are profitable &c.
While I cannot determine a suitable answer to why only the even days, aside from the remaining days being “odd” and therefore unsuitable, the first half of the moon’s phases – the waxing phase – does make sense in the idea that one is working during an increase of light and potency as opposed to a decrease. Seriously, though… the even days? I’ve got nothing.
The highly influential Picatrix also speaks to this waxing phase as well, from which work I expect the injunction in Goetia may have originated:
The state and condition of the Moon is good when she is increasing by light… nor is she regarding Mars by any aspect, because when the waxing Moon beholds Mars, this is considered to be a great affliction of the Moon, and when she beholds Saturn while waxing, this is a grave affliction.
Some treatises as well note that the moon should not be “combust”, which as we shall see is precisely what Picatrix was speaking about with respect to Saturn and Mars. When I originally encountered this term some years back, I thought it might refer to the reddish hue of the moon that occurs such as during the famed “harvest moon” in all its red-orange glory. This could be seen as the influence of the ill-tempered and destructive Mars, which is actually close to the case, but not for reasons of color.
It was Picatrix again that noted the idea of combustion:
… and that [the Moon] not be in the Via Combusta, which is most to be guarded against – that is, between the eighth degree of Libra and the third degree of Scorpio…
Wait a minute – combustion had to do with a specific astrological period? Okay… but why?
More information was obtained through the early and influential astrologer Al-Beruni, in his exceptionally long-titled workThe Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology:
The combust way is the last part of Libra and the first of Scorpius. These two signs are not congenial to the sun and moon on account of the obscurity and ill-luck connected with them, and because each of them is the fall of one of the luminaries. They also contain the two malefics, the one by exaltation (Libra, Saturn), the other by house (Scorpius, Mars). The peculiarity however which has [been] given the name [combustion] is that the exaltation of Saturn is near, the fall of the sun being on the one hand and that of the moon on the other, while the adjacent parts of both signs are occupied by terms of Mars.
Now I had a better view of why this period was so detrimental. Let’s step through each part. Firstly, neither the Sun nor the Moon work well with Saturn or Mars, for which I am sure there are reasons stated as absolute fact so long ago that they became canon. I’ll take it at face value, because as with all things of this sort, the further back you go the more you have to accept that someone, somewhere, a long time ago, thought it made sense and everyone went along. Salomon sayeth’d it.
So, let’s pick this apart, because there is a lot going on.
The “fall of the luminaries” – the luminaries being the Sun and Moon – is the opposite of their exaltation: nineteen degrees Aries and three degrees Taurus, respectively. That puts the Sun’s fall or “dejection” at nineteen degrees Libra, and the Moon’s at three degrees Scorpio. What this means is that the Sun and Moon are at their weakest states, opposite their strength in the earlier part of the Zodiac.
This is coupled with the exaltation of the adversarial Saturn at twenty-one degrees Libra, meaning not only that the Sun (especially) and Moon are weak, but Saturn is approaching the height of its potency. It is also coupled with Mars moving into its own house, which is to say that it enters Scorpio, which sign is ruled by Mars. So, Mars is right at home, and while not in its exaltation, is still pretty damn comfortable and ready to wreak havoc.
Lastly, you have the “terms”, which are inequal periods of the signs attributed to planets… and wouldn’t you know that Mars rules both the latter part of Libra and first part of Scorpio?
All of this comes together to create what amounts to an astrological catastrophe! You have the spheres considered most influential to magical work in their weakest state, and their adversarial planets in very strong positions on top of that.
I found this all to be pretty interesting, though it is likely old news to some – I never claimed to be much of an astrologer. Guess what? That period of combustion during which you should never work? It’s coming right up! It might be a good time for that magical retirement you’ve been planning… Then again, it’s exactly the time you’re supposed to finish the Abramelin Operation and start conjuring all those demons to do your bidding, so who knows!