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The Seven Heavens

The seven planets of the old cosmology included the Sun

(Sol) and the Moon (Luna), which we now don't regard as
planets at all. The other five were Mercury, Venus, Mars,
Jupiter, and Saturn.
This old, geocentric view of the cosmos was overturned by
the Polish astronomer, Copernicus, in the sixteenth century.
He argued that, rather than Sol going round the Earth, as
everyone had previously thought, it was actually the case that
the Earth went round Sol. His epoch-making work, On the
Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies (1543), ushered in
modern astronomy and a 'heliocentric' (Sun-centred)
understanding of the universe. The Sun was now viewed not
as a planet but as a star, the star of our Solar System. The
Moon also lost its status as a planet and was now viewed as a
satellite of Planet Earth. New planets were added to the list
as astronomy advanced. Uranus was discovered in 1781;
Neptune in 1845; Pluto in 1930 (it was relegated to the
category of 'dwarf planet' in 2006).
Although only five of the traditional seven planets are now
viewed as planets, they still govern our lives in one sense at
least. Everyone in the English-speaking world refers to the
planets all the time, because they give us the names of the days of the week. Saturday is
named after Saturn; Sunday is named after Sol (the Sun); Monday is named after
Luna (the Moon); and so on.

Luna was the planet closest Earth, according to pre-Copernican astronomers.
Because Luna only ever got to rule the night, whereas Sol ruled the day, it was thought that
she might be an envious planet, discontented with her secondary role. In Romeo and Juliet
(1595) Shakespeare writes, 'Arise, fair Sun, and kill the envious Moon . . . Her vestal livery is
but sick and green.'
Luna waxes and wanes approximately every 30 days. Because this period is roughly the
length of a woman's menstrual cycle, the Moon became thought of as a feminine planet.
In Greek and Roman myth she was associated with a number of differently named goddesses,
such as Selene, Artemis, and Cynthia, and these goddesses survived into medieval and
renaissance times. For instance, in Spenser's Faerie Queene, published in the 1590s, Cynthia
drives across the night sky in a chariot pulled by two horses, 'the one black, the other white'.

Another of her names was Diana, who was the goddess of hunting (when the Moon is bright
it is possible to hunt at night). Luna's whiteness and brightness also made it natural to
associate her with the metal silver.
The Moon's effect upon the tides of seas and rivers meant that Luna became linked with the
idea of wateriness. Since water is not solid, but insubstantial and unsupportive, Luna was
thought to be responsible for inconstancy and doubt.
Above Luna's sphere everything in the heavens was considered perfect and unchanging, but

within and beneath Luna's sphere everything was subject to alteration. One thing
that might change as a result of Luna's influence was human location (travellers and
wanderers were under her sway) and another was sanity, which is why people who lost their
wits were called 'lunatics'. In the Gospel According to St Matthew, 'lunatics' are among the
sick people healed by Christ (Matthew 4:24).


DAY: Monday (Moonday)

METAL: Silver

LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Luna 'Sulva'

QUALITIES: envy; wateriness; confusion; lunacy; boundary between

certainty and mutability; sponsor of hunting and wandering

C.S. Lewis designed The Silver Chair so that it would embody

and express Luna's qualities. Find out more by reading Planet Narnia

Mercury was known to be the fastest moving of the planets, according to pre-Copernican
astronomers. (We now know that he orbits the sun every 88 days, whereas Venus takes 225
days, Mars 687 days, Jupiter 12 years, Saturn 29 years.) Partly because of this rapidity,
Mercury became thought of as the messenger of the gods; he is often depicted with wings on

his cap (the petasus) and on his heels. He held a wand with which he directed pious souls to
their happy dwellings in the after-life. He was credited with inventing the flute.
Mercury's lightness and quickness carry over to the metal with which he was associated.
Quicksilver will roll around a dish, dividing up into droplets and recombining very swiftly
and glitteringly. In Lewis's poem, 'The Planets', he writes that Mercury brings about 'meeting
selves / Same but sundered'.
This tendency of Mercury to divide and reunite meant that he became connected to a variety
of different things which split up and come back together. He was the god of boxers, of
thieves, and even of crossroads. In Greek mythology Mercury was called Hermes, and in
ancient Greece columnar pedestals carrying busts of Hermes (known as 'herms') were set up
as boundary-markers or signposts at important junctions. Another of his names was Hermes
Propulaios, 'Hermes Before-the-Gates'. Yet another title was Hermes Kriophoros, 'Hermes
the Ram-bearer'.

As the messenger of the gods, Mercury was also thought to have a particular
responsibility for speech. Lewis's poem, 'The Planets', calls him 'lord of language'. He was
linked to scholarship and learning. Mercury was thought to rule over the constellation of
Gemini, the Twins, - Castor and Pollux, the horseman and the boxer. St Paul's ship in the
Acts of the Apostles has these twin brothers as its figurehead (Acts 28:11).


DAY: Wednesday (Wodin was the Norse equivalent of the Roman Mercury)

METAL: Quicksilver

LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Mercury 'Viritrilbia'

QUALITIES: swiftness; heraldry; skill in speech and learning; bright alacrity;

ability to divide and recombine

C.S. Lewis designed The Horse and His Boy so that it would
embody and express Mercury's qualities

Venus appears brightly in the sky both at dawn and at dusk, and was known as the Morning
Star (Lucifer) and as the Evening Star (Hesperus) to pre-Copernican astronomers.
Mythologically, Hesperus was a deity who had a western garden (hesperus is the Greek for
'west') in which his daughters, the Hesperides, guarded a grove of immortality-giving apple
Although Lucifer and Hesperus were both conceived of as male gods, the special beauty of
Venus in the sky led to it being thought of chiefly as a feminine planet, the goddess of
amorousness and sexuality. Since she presided over such qualities, she was also connected
with fertility and creativity and thence to motherliness.
Her metal is copper, in Latin cyprium, a metal famously rich on Cyprus. Venus (or Aphrodite
as the Greeks called her) was known as the Lady of Cyprus because she was particularly
revered on that island. In the Babylonian pantheon she was a warrior goddess, Ishtar, who
was especially worshipped in Nineveh.
Homer associated Aphrodite with laughter. She was the goddess of sweetness, love,

and warm wetness. She brought about fortunate events and was known as Fortuna
Minor. In the Bible the Morning Star is one of the names of Christ (Revelation 22:16). He
promises to give the Morning Star to the saints who keep his words to the end (Revelation
2:28). St Peter prays that the Morning Star may rise in the hearts of his fellow Christians (2
Peter 1:19).


DAY: Friday (Frigg was the Norse equivalent of the Roman Venus)

METAL: Copper

LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Venus 'Perelandra'

QUALITIES: sweetness; warmth; beauty; laughter; motherliness; sexuality;

fertility; vitality; creativity

C.S. Lewis designed The Magician's Nephew so that it would

embody and express Venus's qualities.

To pre-Copernican astronomers, Sol was the eye and mind of the whole universe. His sphere
was the heaven of theologians and philosophers and produced the noblest metal, gold.
Although Sol's metal-making power was no greater than that of the other planets, it featured
more prominently in assessments of his character because of the tremendous human desire to
imitate it. Alchemists were continually on the look-out for 'the philosopher's stone' that
would allow them to turn base metal into gold.
Sol's characteristic influence was to illuminate the human mind, making people wise and
liberal. 'Liberal' here means generous, free, and opposed to cupidity and utilitarianism. Sol
burns away base considerations of greed and profit. He 'hurts and humbles', as Lewis put it in
his poem, 'The Planets'.
The Greek equivalent of Sol was Apollo, who was known by various names: Apollo
Smintheus (Apollo the Mouse-catcher), Apollo Chrysocomes (Apollo of the Golden Locks),
and Apollo Sauroctonus (Apollo the Lizard-slayer). Saura was the Greek for 'lizard' or
'serpent' or 'dragon'. It may have played a part in Tolkien's choice of the name of his chief
villain in The Lord of the Rings, Sauron.
Sol brought about fortunate events. His position in the middle of the planetary ranks

was held to denote a special dignity and honour, like the positioning of the heart in
the middle of the body or a like king dwelling among his subjects. In the Bible, the Sun is a
frequent metaphor for the divine nature (see, for example, Psalm 84:11, Malachi 4:2, 2
Corinthians 4:6, Revelation 21:23). Jesus Christ declares, 'I am the light of the world' (John


DAY: Sunday


LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Sol 'Arbol'

QUALITIES: wisdom; liberality; generosity; freedom; riches; enlightenment;

opposition to greed

C.S. Lewis designed The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader' so that

it would embody and express Sol's qualities.

Mars was known as Infortuna Minor to pre-Copernican astronomers and was considered a
'bad' planet, not because his influences were bad in themselves, but because they could be put
to bad use by people on Earth.
Famously, Mars was the god of war. Martial influence, taken in the wrong way, makes
warriors cruel and lawless. Taken aright, it fortifies noble knights in justifiable conflicts and
gives resolve to martyrs suffering persecution, making them as strong as iron. Mars enables
hard but necessary tasks to be accomplished. He brings discipline, order, rhythm, and
freedom from anxiety.
In an earlier mythological tradition, Mars was a vegetation deity, associated with burgeoning
trees, woods, and forests. The vernal month of March was named after him. In this capacity,
he was known as Mars Silvanus.
The Norse equivalent of Mars was the god Tyr or Tiw who put his hand in the wolf-mouth
and after whom Tuesday is named.
In the New Testament, the Christian life is sometimes described by means of military

metaphors, most notably in the description of the armour of God (Ephesians 6:1117); it includes 'the breastplate of righteousness,' 'the helmet of salvation,' and 'the shield of
faith'. The Greek version of Mars was Ares and it was on the Areopagus (the field of Ares, or
'Mars Hill') that St Paul gave his speech to the men of Athens about the unknown God (Acts


DAY: Tuesday (Tyr was the Norse equivalent of the Roman Mars)


LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Mars 'Malacandra'

QUALITIES: vegetative growth in the month of March; military strength and

knightly discipline; courage and orderliness or cruelty and lawlessness

C.S. Lewis designed Prince Caspian so that it would embody

and express Mars's qualities.

Jupiter was known as Fortuna Major to pre-Copernican astronomers. He was the best planet,
the sovereign of the seven heavens. His kingliness was that of a king at peace, at leisure,
enthroned, serene. The Jovial influence made people cheerful and festive, yet tranquil and
magnanimous. Jupiter was thought to be a temperate planet, positioned as he was between
the hotness of Mars and the coldness of Saturn. He brought about halcyon days and
His metal was tin, that shining metal which said different things to the imagination before the
advent of the canning industry. Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, on the west coast of England,
being particularly rich in deposits of this metal, were known as 'Tin Land'. A tenth century
Arabic manual of astrology makes Jupiter the ruler of the western countries and, for that
reason, the patron of the Christians.
He represented joy, in particular that pleasure and heartsease which come in late spring and
early summer when all vestiges of winter have finally vanished. But his jocundity was hardwon. Lewis associated Jupiter's 'Eye' or Great Red Spot with sanguine humour and
merriment, but also with blood and sacrifice, and in particular the sacrifice of Christ on
Calvary. The splendour of Jupiter was a tragic splendour. He was associated with thrones,
oaks, feasts, eagles, lions, blazing trumpets, fluttering banners, and crashing waves.
The name of the Old Testament character, Melchisedec, means 'My king is Jupiter'.

He appears in the Book of Genesis as a priest-king and Lewis knew that, as such,
he 'resembles (in his peculiar way he is the only Old Testament character who resembles)
Christ Himself', a resemblance which is made explicit in the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews
5:5-10). Melchisedec, like Christ, is especially associated with bread and wine (Genesis
14:18-20; Luke 22:19-20).


DAY: Thursday (Thor was the Norse equivalent of the Roman Jupiter)


LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Jupiter 'Glund' and

QUALITIES: kingliness; magnanimity; festal joy; tragic splendour; summertime tranquillity

C.S. Lewis designed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
so that it would embody and express Jupiter's qualities.

Saturn was known as Infortuna Major to pre-Copernican astronomers. He was the worst
planet, the one whose influence could most easily go bad. It was liable to cause sickness, old
age, ugliness, disaster, melancholy, and death. If received aright, however, this influence
might bring about godly sorrow, penitential wisdom and contemplative insight.
The mythological character of Father Time, with his scythe and hour-glass, is based on earlier
pictures of Saturn.
Lead is the Saturnine metal, both because of its heaviness and because of its dull grey colour.
According to the ancient Greek writer, Hesiod, Saturn (or Cronos as he was known)
consumes his children, only to disgorge them later. Galileo, when he first saw round
projections on either side of Saturn in July 1610, mistook them for a pair of close
'companions'. Two years later he was astonished to find that they had vanished. He
wondered if the planet, like its mythological counterpart, had devoured his own offspring. It
wasn't known that these projections were actually part of a ring surrounding Saturn until the
Dutch astronomer, Huygens, discovered it in 1655.

Dante in his Convivio connects the seven planets with the seven liberal arts; Saturn
he connects with astronomy. In the Bible, the prophet Amos speaks against his people for

worshipping Saturn (Amos 5:26), instead of the God who made the Pleiades and Orion
(Amos 5:8).


DAY: Saturday


LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Saturn 'Lurga'

QUALITIES: pestilence, treachery, disaster, and death, or godly sorrow,

penitence and contemplation

C.S. Lewis designed The Last Battle so that it would embody

and express Saturn's qualities.