The Days of the Week
Injecting the Planets
“However, while the Chaldean origin of astrology is indisputable, there is no evidence that an actual astrological seven-day cycle ever existed in Mesopotamia. While the planetary theory most probably evolved around 500 B.C. and the earliest Babylonian horoscope dates from 409 B.C., not one instance of a particular day being designated as “the day of the moon” or “the day of Venus,” for example, has yet been found in pre-Hellenistic horoscopes.” (Zerubavel, 1989, p. 14)
Finding the Day
The heptagram, a seven-pointed star, once served as convenient aid for remembering the order of the days of the week. The planets are inscribed in the “Chaldean” order clockwise around the outside. Following the inside lines in clockwise order yields the order of the days of the week.
“The ancients used a simple device for keeping track of the proper names of the hours and days in relation to the planet gods. They used a seven-sided figure, with each vertex marked with a planet’s name in the proper order. Archaeologists found one of these wheels drawn as graffiti on a wall when they excavated Pompeii.” (Duncan, 1998, p. 58)
Adoption of the Week
Constantine also set dies Solis, the day of the Sun, as the day of rest and worship. That change may have upset some Jewish Romans, and even some Christians, as the Sabbath was the last day of the week, our Saturday. However, Christians held that Jesus was crucified on the 6th day (Friday) and was resurrected on the third from that (Sunday), so the first day of the week (our Sunday) became their holy day. It is thought that Constantine’s setting aside the day of the Sun was also an attempt to curry favor from the many Sun worshipers of the empire, including Mithraists. Constantine was also known to equate himself to the god Sol Invictus (unconquerable Sun) throughout his life despite his embrace of Christianity.
Naming of the Days
When Does the Day Start?
Valens Book I Ch. 9P
Planetary Days, Hours, Years, and Months in Hellenistic Astrology
Valens on Planetary Years and Months
Years and the Progression of Days
What is the Alexandrian Calendar?
Vettius Valens used the Alexandrian calendar. What is the Alexandrian calendar? It was a reformed Egyptian calendar as initiated by the Roman emperor Augustus after his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BCE. He had Egypt start using this new calendar starting on the Julian date of the 29th of August 23 BCE, which would become the Egyptian new year (1st day of the month of Thoth), with 365 days in the calendar, and a 366 day leap year every 4 years. The Alexandrian year consisted of 12 months of 30 days, with 5 (6 on a leap year) days appended at the end of the year.
“A consequence of this reform is that the years of the modified calendar keep in exact register with those of the Julian calendar. Each Alexandrian year begins on 29 August except every four years when, in the year preceding the Julian beissextile years, it begins on 30 August.” (Richards, 1998, p. 157)
Alexandrian vs. Egyptian Calendar
It is important to keep in mind that Valens used the Alexandrian calendar, not the older Egyptian calendar, as both used the same month names. This is because the Alexandrian calendar had leap years and kept step with the Julian calendar. The Egyptian calendar had lacked leap years despite the best efforts of Ptolemy III in the 3rd century BCE to have them inserted, a change the priesthood would not abide.
“It is useful to distinguish this modified calendar from the original Egyptian civil calendar by calling the former the ‘Egyptian calendar’ and the latter the ‘Alexandrian calendar’.” (Richards, 1998, p. 157)
Note that there was also a more complicated Egyptian lunar calendar with alternating 30 and 29 day months, but this was not used by Valens as his months are all 30 days in length.
The Valens Methodology
The Alexandrian year was much like ours, 365 days with a leap year every 4 years. This Julian-based system of years is being referred to by Valens when he noted the number of leap years as 36 after 148 years of the Augustan era. 148 divided by 4 is 37, but the first year was not a leap year, so 36 leap years had occurred. Keep in mind that the Alexandrian calendar is like ours and that our calendar results in the next day of the week starting each successive year, except for a skip after leap years.
“If you want to know the houseruler of the year, calculate in the same way. To continue with the previous example: the full years of the Augustan era are 148, the leap years are 36, plus the one day of Thoth 1, for a total of 185. I divide by 7 for a result of 26, remainder 3. Count this <3> from the sun’s <day>. The year goes to Mars.” (Valens, Book I, Ch. 10P,Riley trans., 2010, p. 12)
Let’s unpack this dense passage. Note that Valens starts the first day of the first year of the era as a day going to the Sun. Each year will push to the next planet, but each leap year will push it one further. Therefore, he adds the number of years to the number of leap years, yielding 184. As he is counting inclusive of the first year (that of the Sun) he also adds the first of his current year to the total (Thoth 1) yielding 185. 185 divided by 7 is 26 with a remainder of 3. Therefore, we end on the third day from Sunday, inclusive of Sunday itself (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). This lands us on Tuesday, the day of Mars, for the first of the current year.
After the passage above, Valens noted that with his 30 day months he could pretty easily find the planet of the month because it will always be the third day of the previous month (i.e. go forward in skips). He was examining the 6th month and already noted that the first month (first of the year) went to Mars (Tuesday). So the first month went to Tuesday, the second to Thursday, the third to Saturday, the fourth to Monday, and the fifth to Wednesday. Therefore, the 6th month (Mechir) started with a Friday, giving the month to Venus. He then proceeded to find the day from there.
A Note on the Project Hindsight Translation of Valens
The 36 extra leap year days are called “intercalary days” in the Project Hindsight translation. The more correct translation is the number of “leap years” as given the in Riley translation. Intercalary days is ambiguous as it is more typically used to refer to the 5 days appended at the end of the Egyptian year, which is clearly not Valens’ reference in this instance. As noted, Valens clearly used an Alexandrian calendar with a full year of 365 days (and a quarter accounted for with leap years). The only time Valens used a year of 360 days was specifically as a period for a natal predictive technique now known as zodiacal releasing (“the distribution”).
“Since the universal year has 365 1/4 days, while the year with respect to the distribution has 360, we subtract the 5 intercalary days and the one-fourth of a day, then we find the number of years. Only then will we make the distribution.” (Valens, Book IV, Ch. 9, Riley trans. 2010, p. 75)
The Astrological Use of Planetary Hours, Days, Months, and Years
“Since the ruler of the year is Mars, of the month, Venus, of the day, Mercury, and of the hour, the sun, it will be necessary to examine how these stars are situated at the nativity. If they are in their proper places and proper sect, they indicate activity/occupation, especially when the ruler of the year happens to be transiting the current year, the ruler of the month transiting the current month, and the ruler of the day transiting the current day. If however they are unfavorably situated and have malefics in aspect, they indicate reversals and upsets.” (Valens, Book I, Ch. 10P, Riley trans., 2010, p. 12)
Mechir 13: Valens’ Birthday
Greek Egyptians would have reckoned a new day from sunset. This may be why Valens puts the date as Mechir 13/14 at one point in his text, as he was born an hour after sunset. Astrologically he was still Mechir 13, but by the civic calendar he would have been Mechir 14.
Valens’ Chart Data
“An example: sun, Mercury in Aquarius, moon in Scorpio, Saturn in Cancer, Jupiter in Libra, Venus in Capricorn, Mars, Ascendant in Virgo.” (Valens, Book II, Ch. 31P, Riley trans., 2010, p. 44)
“For example: Hadrian year 4, Mechir 13, the first hour of the night. The sun was in Aquarius 22°, the moon is Scorpio 7°”
Note that my software gave us the wrong planetary day and hour for Valens. The calculation is a day off. Valens was born on a Mercury day (Wednesday) and Sun hour, but from our current ordering of days he was born on a Jupiter day (Thursday) and Moon hour. As noted, the Romans officially adopted the seven day week and the naming scheme of planetary days with Constantine in the early 4th century CE, long after the time of Valens.
Valens was born with 4 retrograde planets. Jupiter stationed retrograde within 24 hours of his birth, while Mercury would station direct within 2 days after his birth and is in phasis.
I include the tropical chart below too, just for those interested in analyzing it. However, Mercury and Saturn end up in different signs in it than those given by Valens.
Starting Date for Planetary Months and Years
Finding Your Own Planetary Hours
Finding the planetary day is trivial. It is your day of the week converted to its ruling planet. Sunday, Monday, and Saturday are easy as ruled by the Sun, Moon, and Saturn respectively. Tuesday goes to Mars, Wednesday to Mercury, Thursday to Jupiter, and Friday to Venus.
It is not very difficult to figure out planetary hours either. If you know your local sunrise and sunset times, then you can figure out the length of the day and of the night. Dividing each by 12 will give you the length of each hour. The hours start with the ruler of the day at sunrise. But be aware that a new day doesn’t start until sunrise, so 4 am on a Tuesday morning is actually a Monday night in the context of this system.
For those who want a quicker and easier reference, there a number of websites with applets. Here is a link to an easy one.
I have not experimented at all with the planetary years and months noted by Valens. This year is a year of Mars. Time will tell if the scheme for universal years according to the local civic calendar will prove useful.
Duncan, D. E. (1998). Calendar:: Humanity’s Epic Struggle To Determine A True And Accurate Year. HarperCollins. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=HeiWQgAACAAJ
Holford-Strevens, L. (2005). The History of Time: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=Pv1NveUL0O4C
Richards, E. G. (1998). Mapping Time: The Calendar and Its History. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=GqXDQgAACAAJ
Valens, V. (2010). Anthologies. (M. Riley, Trans.) (Online PDF.). World Wide Web: Mark Riley. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf
Zerubavel, E. (1989). The Seven Day Circle: The History and Meaning of the Week. University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=Cd5ZjRsNj4sC
Featured image is in the public domain. It is a portion of “Elevazione dell’Anfiteatro di Statilio Tauro, e degli altri edifizi che gli eran vicini” (1762) by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. It depicts the Solarium Augusti.