The Days of the Week and Japanese Kanji

Classical Astrologers hold the view that the Enlightenment brought about a profound shift in sensibility that was detrimental to the craft of astrology.  While many of us would accept this as a matter of course, we have been educated within the matrix of post-Enlightenment thought.  There are two assumptions that seem to be particularly difficult to overcome: 1) that the test of astrology is whether it “works”, or more specifically, that we can demonstrate that the movements of the planetary bodies have a demonstrable effect on our material existence; and 2) that astrology was “discovered” by Ancient scientists through observation of the material world as Modern scientists “discover” natural phenomena.

The second assumption must fall to the wayside when we consider the planetary rulerships for the days of the week.  Planetary Lords and Ladies of the Day are used in many different contexts in Classical Astrology, such as horary and electional work, and in calculations such as the Almuten Figuris.  Despite this, even though there is arguably a physical basis to a seven-day week (seven-days being roughly the quarter cycle of the Moon), I can not see that there is any plausible argument for a purely physical basis for the planetary rulerships of the specific days.

There is a discernible pattern in the assignment of rulerships to the days of the week, starting with the Sun and the Moon, and moving outward on an alternating basis from each of these luminaries.

Sunday                                       Monday (Moon)

Tuesday (Mars)                          Wednesday (Mercury)

Thursday (Jupiter)                      Friday (Venus)

Saturday (Saturn)

To be honest, I can only speculate on the reason for this pattern; however, it is very likely to be a spiritual and metaphysical reason, and not a physical one.  Interestingly, during the Enlightenment, in the West, there there were Protestants, such as the Puritans and the Quakers, who stripped the days of the week of their planetary correspondences to remove the “pagan” influences.  Quakers today still use numbered days, such as First Day and Second Day.

The planetary correspondences for the days of the week seem to transcend cultures.  One finds the same associations for the day of the week in Eastern religion and philosophy as in the West.

Recently, I have been immersed in the study of the Japanese language.  Japanese has three different sets of characters for writing.  There are two phonetically based “alphabets,” hiragana and katakana.  In addition, there is a third set, kanji, which are symbolic characters derived from Chinese writing.  Japanese school children are expected to learn around 2,000 different kanji by the time they graduate high school.  Among the earliest kanji learned by Japanese school children are the ones for the days of the week.

In Japanese, the days of the week are named for the Sun and the Moon, and the five Eastern elements.  The Eastern elements are not the same as the Western system of material elements, but instead directly correspond to the five non-luminary planetary principles.

kanji for week

kanji for day of the week

The kanji for each day of the week is made up of three characters.  The ending character is 日, which is the kanji for both the Sun and for day.  This is very similar to the Western solar glyph, except in this writing system, the glyphs are squared off.  The middle character is quite fascinating.  It is 曜.  As the reader can see, the kanji for Sun is included as a radical in this kanji to the left.  According to Essential Kanji, by P.G. O’Neill, the English name for the radical at the bottom is “small bird,” and the English name for doubled radical above it is “wing.”  There is another kanji that also contains the “small bird” with 2 “wings” on top.  This kanji is 躍, yaku, odo, which has a meaning of leap or jump, which includes the radical for “foot” instead of the radical for the Sun.  It seems that one could interpret the kanji for day of the week as something similar to “the flight of the Sun.”

The first character in the kanji for each day of the week is the kanji for the luminary or Eastern element for that day.  In Japanese, Sunday (the Sun’s Day) is nichiyoubi, or 日曜日.  As the reader can see, the character for the Sun is the first character in this kanji.

Monday (the Moon’s Day) is getsuyoubi, or 月曜日.  The kanji for the Moon looks a bit like the Sun on legs, which fits well with the light of the Moon being the reflection of Solar Light.  Astrologers are well aware of the Moon as the governess of the most intimate details of our physical existence.

Tuesday (Mars’ Day) is kayoubi or 火曜日 (Fire Day).  In the Eastern system, fire has a direct correlation to the Martial principle.  The kanji for fire contains the radical 人 in the center, which is also the kanji for hito, person, and nin, the counter for people.  There is a mark on either side of the person.  The Martial principle is closely associated with the duality of manifestation and choice and conflict.  Mars is also closely associated with will and Free Will, and is the first planet whose orbit is independent of the Sun’s.  See also Kanji Symbols-Fire, Movement, and Humanity

CaduceusWednesday (Mercury’s Day) is suiyoubi or 水曜日(Water Day).  In the Eastern system, water has a direct correlation to Mercurial principle.  This correlation may seem a bit less obvious than the association of Fire with the Martial principle; however, it does make sense upon further reflection.  Metaphysically, water is the most malleable of the elements, and is considered the “all possibility.”  There is an interesting similarity between the Hermetic symbol of the Caduceus and the kanji 水.  Also, the kanji for the metal mercury, suigin, is 水銀, which is literally, “water silver.”

Thursday (Jupiter’s Day) is mokuyoubi or 木曜日 (Wood Day).  Wood is associated with the Jovial principle.  The character at the beginning is 木, which is the kanji for tree.  As an aside, one of my favorite words in Japanese also contains the radical for tree in it.  The word is komaru or 困る.  The word is does not have a precise English translation, but it means being stuck, confused, or unable to move or proceed.  The kanji has a tree in a box, unable to grow.  In a sense, when the Jovial principle is blocked, we often become komaru.

Friday (Venus’ Day) is kinyoubi or 金曜日(Gold Day).  Gold, or Metal, is associated with the Venusian principle.  The first character in the kanji, 金, is the same as the kanji for kane,  or money.  The Venusian association with material wealth, prosperity, and money is a strong one.  Sri Lakshmi, of the Vedic tradition is strongly associated with both material wealth and the Venusian principle.

Lastly, Saturday (Saturn’s Day) is doyoubi or 土曜日 (Earth Day).  Earth is the Eastern element associated with the Saturnine principle.  In the kanji for Earth, 土, the cross of matter is firmly planted on the ground.  This symbol is strikingly similar to the glyph for Saturn, with the cross of matter on top of the lunar soul.  Also of interest is that the kanji for the number ten 十 is also the cross of matter.

I am still very much a novice in the study of Japanese.  There are calligraphers and sages of great wisdom that devote their lives to the study of the mysteries of kanji.  Yet, it seems there is profound metaphysical wisdom even in the very basic kanji learned by Japanese elementary school children, as can be seen in the kanji for the days of the week.

****Addendum

I just had a conversation with my Japanese Sensei (“Teacher”), and it seems that the names for the planets are the same as the Eastern elements and the days of the week, so:

Mercury is suisei, or 水星 (“Water Star”)

Venus is kinsei, or 金星 (“Gold Star”)

Mars is kasei, or 火星 (“Fire Star”)

Jupiter is mokusei, or 木星 (“Wood Star”)

Saturn is dosei, or 土星 (“Earth Star”)

Nativity Charts and Free Will

QVcoronation

With the “discovery” of the outer Planets and the movement into Modern Astrology, many traditional associations of the seven Traditional Planets were re-assigned to the Outer Planets.  For example, the genius of Mercury was attributed to Uranus and the idealism and spirituality of Jupiter was assigned to Neptune.  In Modern Astrology, the Outer Planets were assigned transcendent qualities, and astrologers started to believe that these planets were the “higher octave” of the Traditional Planets.  After some time, asteroids and other bodies were “discovered” and given meaning, and astrology got to the point where anything could mean anything.  Astrologers began to teach and believe that one could not truly predict anything because people had “Free Will.”

Many of us began our studies of Classical Astrology against this backdrop.  We discovered that Classical Astrology gave us tools that vastly improved the accuracy of readings and gave us rules to be able to give predictions with reasonable confidence.  Many of us still struggled with the problem of Free Will and what that meant in our ability to give accurate predictions.

I think that the difficulty lies in a Western misunderstanding of Free Will as the ability to do whatever one wants.  This is not the traditional concept of Free Will.  For the traditional concept, it is instructive to look at the symbolism of the cross, which is found in the glyph of all of the non-luminary planets.  The cross is the symbol of materiality, but contained within this symbol are the elements of Free Will.  The cross consists of a vertical line intersected by a horizontal line.  The horizontal line represents substance, or outward movement; the vertical line represents upward and downward movement.  Humans stand at the axis.

Classical Astrology is filled with rules and axioms.  When practicing horary and electional astrology, these rules and axioms are necessary, and to achieve accurate and helpful results for our clients, we do need to be rather strict about application of these rules and axioms in horary and electional work.  When it comes to Nativity readings, though, a strict reading of rules and axioms can create some difficulty.  As a reaction against the vagueness and ambiguity of Modern Astrology and some of the silliness of the New Age movement, I think that Classical Astrologers have tended to shy away from spiritual language and have focused heavily on the material.  Of course, accurate material predictions are quite helpful to our clients, and Classical Astrology has much to offer in terms of assisting us in giving good, practical advice.

On the other hand, I think that there is a rich spirituality in Classical Astrology as well, and we do not need to limit ourselves to strictly material matters.  Just as Modern Astrology stripped away material associations from the Traditional Planets and assigned them to the Outers, Modern Astrology also stripped away the spiritual and transcendent meanings of the Traditional Planets.  One example of this is Neptune.  Somehow, Modern Astrology assigned spiritual and transcendent language to Neptune.  The positive spiritual qualities that Modern Astrology assigned to Neptune are fully subsumed in the Traditional Planets.  Our Solar Hearts unite us with the Divine and with each other, sacrificial Love is shown in both the Lunar and Venusian principles.  Venus is also associated with the spiritual Way of Love.  Mercury is associated with Wisdom/Sophia and with the spiritual Way of Light.  Jupiter is associated with the spiritual Way of Good Works.   There is no need for us to cede the realm of spirituality to Modern Astrology, and Classical Astrology has a lot to offer to those seeking a spiritual path.

For me, the paradigm of the Symbol of the Cross has been extremely helpful in applying the rules and axioms of Classical Astrology to Nativity work.  The paradigm of the cross tells me that there are three main expressions of all astrological configurations in a chart.  The most common expression is the horizontal axis.  This is the material, outward expression, or what will happen naturally.  The horizontal axis represents matters such as vocation, money, social status, hobbies, education, et cetera.  Many of the rules and axioms in Classical Astrology will work well in predicting the horizontal axis.  Yet, humans are Axial Beings, and they can also express their charts upwardly and downwardly along the vertical axis.  Often, it is when a native’s choices on the horizontal axis are most limited that their choices along the vertical axis become most profound.

Queen_Victoria_(c_1839)As an example, a native may be on her deathbed and confined to a hospital.  Her choices on the horizontal axis are severely limited, and she is going to die very shortly.  Despite this, she still has profound choices on the vertical axis.  For instance, suppose she has a relative that she has been estranged from.  On her deathbed, she has many options.  One of the options would be to do nothing, to let herself die with the ruptured relationship as is.  Another option would be an upward choice.  She could write a letter to the estranged relative seeking and extending forgiveness.  Yet another option would be a downward choice.  She could write a vindictive Will to do lasting harm to this relative.  The choice the native makes under these circumstances has profound spiritual impact for herself, the relative, and perhaps the rest of her family.  While an astrologer may be able to predict the native’s likely actions, the choice always remains with the native.

Using this paradigm, I internally translate rules and axioms when I apply them to Nativities.  For example, when reading William Lilly’s description of the planets, I mentally translate “when well placed” to “upwardly expressed” and “when ill placed” to “downwardly expressed.”  I then use dignities and debilities to get a sense of how easy or difficult it will be for the native to express her chart in an upward manner and for the temptations to express her chart in a downward manner.  I also use the rules and axioms to predict the outward and natural tendencies.

An interesting example of this is the chart of Queen Victoria.  She reigned during a pivotal period in the history of England.  Interestingly enough, she had many periods of solitude, including a period of almost ten years after the death of her husband.  During that time, her enemies gained power.  There was a three year period in which she neglected her official responsibilities and became a terror to her children.

Queen Victoria

Even a cursory reading of Queen Victoria’s chart would enable an astrologer to predict a tendency towards isolation, particularly under stress.  Three out of seven planets are deeply situated in her twelfth house, including Mercury, the ruler of her Ascendant, and the depositor of her Sun and Moon.  Using Egyptian terms, Mercury is dignified by term and face, so she is not peregrine; however, she is in the fixed sign of Taurus, so once she isolated herself, it would be difficult for her to come out of such a state.   Often when someone has a difficult planetary placement, I will look to the dispositor of the planet to see if the native can find help there.  Mercury’s dispositor is Venus, also in the 12th House, in detriment, with dignity only by face.  Venus is in worse shape than Mercury, so there is not much help there.  Venus is in turn deposited by Mars, who also in the 12th House, and Mars rules the 12th House.  Mars does have dignity, though, as the ruler of Aries.

If one traces the chain of disposition in this chart, the only planets that can not trace disposition to Mars are Jupiter and Saturn, who are in mutual reception.  They are also the only planets not in or near the 12th House.  By the rule of 5, Queen Victoria’s Sun and Moon are in her first house; however, they are physically located in her 12th.  Saturn rules her 10th House, her duty and her official responsibilities and Jupiter rules her 7th, her husband.  In this chart, Jupiter is the planet that is most favorably placed, being in the 10th House and dignified by triplicity and term.  It is quite predictable that Queen Victoria would respond to her husband’s death with self-imposed isolation, as her marriage was a place of relief from her heavy 12th House.

This chart provides a good illustration of the application of Free Will because Queen Victoria did take a downward path for a time after her husband’s death.  Once she started down this path, one would predict that it would be difficult to impossible for her to change course.  Yet, somehow she did change course.  She slowly resumed her duties and returned to public life.  It took a long time, but eventually, she did.

If I were the royal astrologer trying to help Queen Victoria, the planet I see that could provide assistance to the queen would be Mars.  While I would judge Jupiter as more favorable in her chart, being in the 10th House rather than the 12th, Jupiter really does not have the ability to impact Mercury the way that Mars does.  Jupiter is loosely square Mercury, but he is not connected through disposition to Mercury or the other 12th House planets.  Mars is in a better position to be directly helpful.

In this chart, Mars in Aries is situated in and ruling the 12th House.  The 12th House is tricky, being the House of Troubles.  Is there any way we can use the 12th House in a positive way to give Queen Victoria helpful advice?  Looking to the symbol of the cross, at that point in her life, Queen Victory was spiraling downward.  Even though an upward direction is the highest path, when one is on a downward spiral, one must first be brought to the horizontal, outward axis.  An upward 12th House path would most likely be a spiritual retreat.  In Queen Victoria’s case, this would add to the isolation, and she would likely fall further down the path of despair.

Queen Victoria on HorsebackSo, we are looking at a way to express the 12th House on a physical level in a helpful manner.  This is not an easy problem to solve.  The 12th House is the house least suited to positive outward expression, so it requires a bit of creativity on the part of the astrologer giving advice.  A creative astrologer might look to the traditional associations for the 12th House and remember that horses are associated with the 12th House.  In thinking about this, she might remember that horseback riding and caring for a horse involve physical exertion and exercise, which also make good use of Mars in Aries.

Interestingly enough, horseback riding is exactly what Queen Victoria’s physician did suggest.  Queen Victoria hired a groom, Mr. John Brown, to assist her in following this advice, and she did slowly work her way out of the downward spiral she had been in.  Mr. Brown seemed to have a bit of a Martial manner about him, so it is likely that this was quite helpful to Queen Victoria as well.

As you can see, the paradigm of Free Will and the cross does not change anything in terms of mechanics of delineation; however, this paradigm does give structure to draw upon when working with our clients in giving them helpful and practical advice.