The Greek dark ages left one particular piece of wisdom to posterity: worship the gods. The Delphic maxims were a collection of one hundred and forty seven sayings that were attributed to the Seven Sages and paying due attention to the traditional deities was the third maxim. “Honor the gods; revere the gods,“ it read as translated by Melissa Gold. As it was over two millennia ago, worship of the Olympian gods is not exactly popular anymore. So you might be surprised to learn that recently I’ve begun experimenting doing just that. Even a few months ago, if someone had told me I’d end 2018 building altars and performing rituals for Venus and Jupiter, I would have laughed in disbelief. It is the last thing I would’ve expected. But here I am, and I’ve got seven weeks of rituals worshipping the ancient deities under my belt. I’ll tell you how I got involved, my first experiences with altars and rituals, and my observations as a beginner.
The entry point to learning ancient ritual was traditional astrology. Astrologers are concerned with planets and stars. They look to signs and read ephemerides. Astrology is aspects, phases, and all the other cool observational related stuff. You might not know that astrology has other, out- there, mysterious ish. There are texts like the Picatrix that mention all sorts of neat things like talisman creation, stone and planetary correspondence, and necromancy.
Nowadays, it’s trendy to learn the less practiced aspects of astrology, and ritual is one of those parts that is being popularized. Magic is going mainstream. The Daily Telegraph recently highlighted the phenomenon in the article Witchcraft moves to the mainstream in America as Christianity declines- and has Trump in its sights, reporting that an estimated 1.5 million Americans identified as witches. Witches and astrologers are not the same thing, but alternative spiritual beliefs seem to be thriving. Regardless, founts of astrological wisdom are being popularized and received by larger groups of people. The same goes for astrological magic, which is tied to altars and rituals. I personally got involved after reading the article entitled Jupiter in Sagittarius— Altar, Prayers, and Offering Ritual by Sphere and Sundry. The article opened my eyes to the practice of rituals. It mentioned an ”all-too-good-to-pass-up opportunity to establish (or clean and re-energize) Jupiter altars and make offerings….” With ancient beliefs like astrology, witchcraft, and magic undergoing a revival of sorts, I had happened upon an article that told about another aspect of astrology.
I was completely in the dark and new to it, but I gave it a chance. While I hadn’t thought about an altar before, I had recently learned about astrological talismans. The Young Astrologers, a group I am a member of, had been reading Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. The work discussed magic and talismans and other odd things. I also learned about the work of Christopher Warnock and saw his YouTube vids. Warnock has written books on astrological magic and sells talismans on his website, Renaissance Astrology. So, I was less resistant to the idea of practicing a ritual to Jupiter than I might otherwise have been. I had been reading about talismans and heard a little bit about rituals that some astrologers practiced. I also appreciated the devotional approach that Warnock described, as there was nothing sinister about it. After opening my mind to the practice of a ritual from an astrological perspective, I meditated on whether it was right. After a few days, my intuition told me it was fine to go ahead with it. So, I concluded that I would do a planetary ritual. To hedge my bets, I could always stop if I wasn’t happy with any aspect of the process.
Before I get ahead of myself, I should define rituals and discuss the relationship between rituals and astrological magic. A ritual, according to Dictionary.com, is an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite. A ritual is performed next to or in front of an altar. Rituals are a part of astrological magic. But they don’t necessarily entail all of astrological magic. There are other aspects, such as talisman creation. Further, the understanding of the objects of worship, which in the case of the astrologer is a planet and its associated deities or archetypes or spirits, differs greatly for each person. The rituals to the planets also bear a strong resemblance to those that ancient Greeks practiced a long time ago to the gods of the Greek pantheon. Given that rituals are open to so many various interpretations, it should not be associated only with astrological magic.
Now that I was decided upon a course, I had to prepare my altars. It was the first step, besides doing basic research. Sphere and Sundry was my guide, but I also had a lecture by Warnock and translated material from the Picatrix and Al Biruni’s Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology. Although it occurred to me to make a Jupiter altar first, I eventually decided upon Venus. Venus went direct just as I was getting started in November 2018, and additionally I am impartial to Venus. The beautiful planet rules my natal sun and moon. Finally, Venus fit my altar space scheme.
Finding space for an altar wasn’t an easy task. I live in a crowded city of 25 million people. Real estate is pricey. Space doesn’t come easily. Quarters are tight. However, I moved into a larger- than- usual room back in April. As I looked around my room for potential altar spaces, I came to the realization it was the perfect time to build one. In fact, I had lucked out. I had available space, which I wouldn’t have had in previous years. My last three places were much smaller.
Still, I had difficulty finding the ideal space. I looked around my room for empty spots. I didn’t want to disturb areas I used or places I kept personal belongings. So my desks and bed area were off limits. However, a bookshelf seemed like a good idea. All I had to do was move my personal mementos and things to another shelf or spot. After doing so, I cleaned the space with water and a rag. I also burned frankincense and sage over the area. The altar space was prepared. The next few days I went shopping after work to get the altar items. I was looking for green cloth, copper, and a mirror. My local Daiso store didn’t have any good options for the first two. It did have mirrors though. I bought a simple mirror and some green material. I then went to Kinkos, which was fortunately near my home, as there aren’t many in South Korea. I printed and laminated the planetary symbol, sigils, and magic squares. The shelf at home now resembled an altar. It had green material, a large mirror, seven copper coins, and the laminated printouts. A friend told me that I shouldn’t worry about having it all right and perfect. It was a work in progress. I agreed and spent the next week adding to my Venus altar. At one bookstore, I found a stylish metal mirror and a green ink pen. On the Internet, I found a pinkish silk scarf. Then at a department store, I found a shell- shaped green dish. Another dish I bought was green and flat. I ordered small rose quartz stones. A week later, my altar was almost complete. Of course, I didn’t have a godhead or statue for the altar, but I had decided to buy one on Amazon in the initial stages and it finally arrived weeks after I started the altar. In fact, though the statue was beautiful and necessary, some part of me liked the altar more before receiving it. Over the course of weeks, the altar was complete.
After I started the Venus altar, I also dedicated attention to creating a Jupiter altar. The original plan was just to go with one planet, Venus. However, while the Venus altar was in its early stages, the thought kept popping up that I should do one for Jupiter too. Without too much deliberation this time, I went about building a Jupiter altar as well.
The first problem I had to tackle was finding a space. The Venus altar occupied one of the more prominent places in my room. I had to find more space, but how? After looking around and thinking, I had an idea. Under my clothes rack, there was a box of souvenirs and stuff I didn’t use. I could move it to my veranda, and use the space for all things Jupiter. There was a problem though. It was close to the ground. It would also dominate the room in a way a shelf would not. I asked a friend who’s a lay Zen monk about it, seeking advice. He said that I shouldn’t do it because it was too low and it had to be at eye level. It was all about respect. I thought about it. I didn’t have many other choices. And somehow the new altar wasn’t so low if I sat on mats. I took my meditation mats and put them in front of the spot I intended to make an altar on. It was eye level, especially if I raised the altar. I debated it internally. Although it wasn’t ideal, the space was huge and fit the Jupiterian paradigm. It stood out, it had Jupiterian grandiosity and largesse, and it forced me in a sitting position.
I then went about getting items for the Jupiter altar. Taking a gold cloth I had, I used it as an altar cloth. Then I added a purple mat, dishes, and laminated printouts. In the coming weeks I made further additions, including a tin box, small lapis lazuli stones, and a Jupiter alabaster figurine. Since starting rituals at the low-lying altar, I haven’t experienced anything negative because of the altar’s location.
After the altars came the rituals. Sphere and Sundry recommended reading the Orphic hymns and provided a sample prayer. As a beginner, I found the resources they provided invaluable. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just followed what was written. I printed out the two articles. I downloaded the Time Nomad app solely for access to the planetary days and hours. I began the Jupiter ritual first, on a Thursday at Jupiter hour. I used the Insight Timer app to meditate for eight minutes prior to the ritual. Insight Timer is a free app I use for meditation. It has Buddhist singing bowl sounds. I highly recommend it. Afterwards, I lit four white candles, a glass of sangria, frankincense and myrrh incense, and held my sheet with the Orphic hymn to Jupiter on it. I read it aloud, then read the part that Sphere and Sundry prepared. At the end, I bowed then blew out the candles. Then I meditated again for five minutes. I did it for four days, Sunday being the final day. That Friday, with the Jupiter ritual still ongoing, I began the Venus ritual. As the Venus altar was at the top of my bookshelf, I stood while I did it. Again, I meditated, this time for fifteen minutes because I felt like I needed it. On Friday at Venus hour, in the evening after work, I finished my meditation then lit a single white candle and frankincense incense. I also placed a glass of water nearby. I then read the Orphic hymn aloud and a prayer. I did it standing and bowed after and then put out the candle. I did it for seven days, completing it on the following Thursday. Every time I did a ritual, I didn’t do it exactly the same. Sometimes I meditated less. Sometimes I meditated twice before. Sometimes I meditated afterwards. As the small candles were eventually burned till their wax and wick were useless, I experimented with different numbers of candles. Once I gave Venus a slice of cake. Some days I used one stick of incense for two rituals, though my heart said the deities wanted their own. I gave Jupiter sandalwood, frankincense, and lavender incense. As I researched more and experienced the process, I tried new things. I started to wear stones and colors that corresponded to the planets. For example, for a Venus ritual I used rose oil on my neck, wore green, and wore a green aventurine pendant. For Jupiter, I put peppermint oil on my neck and chest, wore blue colors, and wore a lapis lazuli pendant. That pretty much happened at the beginning, but a few weeks into it I started anointing my candles with the oils that corresponded to the planets. Sometimes I offered Jupiter water, rather than sangria.
One part of the ritual stayed the same. That was lighting the candles and incense and reading the hymns afterwards and remembering to bow. I also bought folders and plastic to put the hymns in, choosing the planetary colors. I also smudged sage to clean the altar spaces from time to time. One part I didn’t explore yet was writing sigils or free writing in a notebook with a color pen, though I bought the tools to do it. Of the many things I used for my two altars and rituals, I was lucky to have many things already. I had a collection of essential oils, stones, candles, and incense in my place. So the rituals were not as much work as finding the altar pieces. I recognize that for most people it could be just as challenging.
Now, I should explain my observations. I began the process of building an altar and doing rituals attentive and vigilant to my experience. I contemplated everything I did. I observed the process as a whole. I will explain those in the following paragraphs.
My first experiences were with Jupiter. As I mentioned, the first ritual I did was for the large gas giant. I sat on two mats and meditated. As I did, I associated it mentally with previous experiences meditating but it had the added feeling of being at a church or holy site. As a result, an odd mix of feelings of humility, fear, and sacredness invaded my space. Inadvertently, I was going back over and experiencing old religious states from my past. Then the ritual began. As I focused and spoke the words, I felt energy and clarity. After it was over, it felt familiar and right. However, it was intense. As I said, I was going over old states of mind. I was also sitting and that’s always tough and painful. My knees don’t hold up well. Last, I felt probing of my consciousness by the planet. It was as if the qualities of the Jupiter archetype were measuring and analyzing me. Of course, it was likely fanciful thinking. I’m not suggesting that a spirit definitely joined my ritual practice. It could well have been my imagination. People experience all sorts of things when they pray and meditate. The Jupiter ritual ended up being one of spirituality, gravity, and physical and mental toil.
The second ritual I did was for the planet Venus. As mentioned earlier, I stood when I did the ritual. Although seriousness and gravity was required, as it is with any ritual, I didn’t feel the same pressure I felt with Jupiter. The whole ritual went by quickly, smoothly, and easily. Once it was over, and I was done meditating on my bed, I reflected on the subjective ease of the experience. It truly seemed the experience of the rituals matched the planetary energies and archetypes that were associated with them. I wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or what, but I considered a perspective some astrologers would take. Namely, Venus is the ruler of the sun and moon in my natal chart. So, I might experience Venus differently and be more familiar and accessible to it than others. After the first time, Venus rituals didn’t change that much. I did have other experiences though. Twice I forgot to bow. Realizing that I made a big mistake and was disrespectful, I instantly remedied it. I did part of the ritual again and made additional offerings to show my respect for Venus. I wondered if it was something about Venus that was easy to take for granted or mess up the ritual somehow. My research pointed in this direction, as I was reminded of the many myths and tales of figures that Venus punished with fury after they disrespected her. Regardless, Venus rituals had the same character afterwards, as they went quickly, easily, and harmoniously.
Of course, my daily experiences while doing rituals and the observations I made of the nature of the planets were not the entire picture. There were the principles of astrological transits and condition of planets, the impact on my personal life, and how my experience doing rituals evolved over time. I will discuss these three aspects to my observations of rituals.
As for my day- to- day life, I noticed small things that changed as a result of the rituals. A scientific materialist or atheist might say that the meditation was bringing clarity and order to my mind and my life, and that was true. I felt more on top of things. I was meditating a lot more than I usually did. I was focused and clear, and didn’t have many emotional states. Second, I cleaned my house, worked harder, and performed daily tasks with more competency. Again, a non-believer might say that it happened because I had to watch the time and work more to do the rituals, and the result was my personal life was more organized. I would agree with that. From either a materialist or spiritual perspective, I was a more diligent and focused individual. Likewise, there were other unexpected realizations, such as my delight and joy at performing rituals. Some days I would finish work and have a friend want to meet me for dinner or a chat. I found myself wanting to go home so I could do rituals. Rituals were more grounding and fun than reading books, watching YouTube videos, or listening to music. It felt like it was my duty and responsibility to do the rituals, and at the same time it was something that I gained solace from doing. Finally, I should address whether I felt anything from it. In an earlier paragraph, I mentioned that I felt the spirit of the planet Jupiter. That wasn’t the only experience. There was the feeling that sometimes I wasn’t alone. I felt the presence of something, especially at the beginning.
Missing the ritual times and looking at planetary alignments were not major concerns. Because I did rituals day in and day out after the initial sets of four and seven days were over, I didn’t pay that much attention to essential dignity and aspects. I wasn’t making a talisman. One time, I did a Jupiter ritual at a Mars time and a small accident occurred. Part of the reason was I wanted to do the ritual and go meet a friend. So I was sloppy and careless and I wasn’t taking the ritual seriously. While I try as much as I can to do a ritual to a planet during that planet’s hour, it’s just not possible to do it all the time. So usually I do a Jupiter or Venus ritual in its hour or in a moon, Jupiter, or Venus hour.
The more I did rituals, the more the experience changed. I was able to recite parts of the Orphic hymns better. I also moved from my personal life to ritual easily, the transition being effortless. I remembered the steps well. I put all the objects I used in the rituals in set places. I would go from one step to another, in sequence, and it went like clockwork. The character of my perception of the rituals changed too. Jupiter, while being similar, became less difficult and the experiences I was re-living disappeared, though it still had a similar character. Venus rituals had moments of insight and feeling after the first times doing it. Additionally, I felt confident to add to the ritual. Although I didn’t make changes, I began to see things differently. My understanding of ritual made leaps and bounds, not conventionally, but on a personal level. I found answers to many questions. They often came from an instinctual level. The answers were internal.
Before I did rituals, I wasn’t clear on my intentions. It was a big hang- up, as I didn’t want to ask for anything. Throughout my life, I fit the school of thought that Epictetus, the famous Greek Stoic, delineated in his writings: Pray to the gods, let them decide what is best for you. So I just did rituals and asked that the spiritual forces Venus and Jupiter handle it best on their own, though I read a prayer that asked for many things. Afterwards, I felt that there was some benevolence and fortune bestowed on mundane things in my life, though there was nothing I could really prove. It brought up the issue in concrete terms: if I received A, was it because of Jupiter? How would I look at my life and the things that happened going forward? My intuition said that deciding whether something that happened to me was because of my destiny or the planets was a pointless exercise. There was no reason to ask it.
After seven weeks of building altars, performing rituals, and reflecting on it, I learned that it was a rewarding and beneficial process. Note that I didn’t have specific intentions, as I am not a believer in asking for things from spiritual forces or deities. Or rather, that was how I felt before. Now, I conclude that there are some greater benevolent forces that are out of our control and while I still don’t want my destiny or fortune to be changed or altered, and don’t believe in foolishly dealing with things that human senses cannot perceive, I believe that there’s a lot more to astrological and ancient rituals than I initially thought. I’ve heard that intentions are the most important part of magic, rituals, and prayer. Personally, I’m ok with not having specific intentions or mundane ones regarding supernatural forces I can’t begin to fathom with my five senses and mortal body. That perspective might persist or change with time.
David has studied traditional astrology since 2014. The Bay Area native completed Chris Brennan’s Introduction to Hellenistic Astrology course, and attended courses taught by Austin Coppock, Nina Gryphon, and other astrologers. He is interested in exploring the less well known aspects of astrology, divination, and spirituality.