The Bonde Praktika in an Esoteric Light
By: Angus Hawkins. April 1995
The Bonde-Practica is the Swedish farmer’s almanac and has existed in various different forms since 1508 when it consisted of just twelve pages. These original pages correspond to observations made by the English monk Beda even further back in the eighth century. The first edition was in German and soon translated to Danish, but the translation to Swedish had to wait until 1662. The Swedish translation still maintains some of its Danish origins, especially where the rhyming element has been maintained. The modern day version has hardly changed in content from its three hundred year old counterpart except that it has been expanded on. The extra length has been achieved mainly by repeating the same information in different forms. We also learn from Sigrid Svensson’s Bondens År that this book had its own place on almost all Swedish bookshelves at the turn of this century.
I am convinced, as a result of personal research, that the world of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ corresponds to an esoteric way of viewing the world. It is the aim of my essay to show how the rules and recommendations in the ‘Bonde-Practica’ are steeped in an esoteric appreciation of the world. Indeed I shall seek to illustrate that this forms the backbone of the book. First we shall take a look at what it means to see the world esoterically. Then we shall look in more detail at bloodletting and the idea of good and less-good times for doing things and then the ideas behind weather prediction. Where it is possible I will seek to also present contemporary scientific findings in a manner that makes the ‘Bonde-Practica’ an even more interesting book.
Microcosm and Macrocosm
So first let us look at what esoteric thought is. Esoteric thinking is amongst other things the perennial philosophy that Aldous Huxley refers to. It is the common denominator that all religions have evolved from. It pronounces that there is most definitely a God and that there is more to life than that which our standard five sense perceive. It ascertains that there is a spiritual reality that runs parallel with the physical reality and that this spiritual reality is in actual fact life itself. Life for the esoterist is about integrating awareness of the spiritual reality into the physical world.
By looking at some of the cornerstones of esoteric thinking we will also be able to see the link with the world’s religions. We find that the physical reality is a reflection of the spiritual reality and that both are inextricably linked. The spiritual gives the impulses and these are then acted out on the physical plane. The spiritual can be seen as a finer or more rarefied form of the physical. An analogy would be like the differences and similarities between ice and water vapour. Both are made up of the same atoms but react differently in the environment. If we blow on some water vapour then this will disperse and completely change its structure. However, if we add the same small amount of energy to a block of ice it will have little if any perceivable effect though of course it will cause a change. Following the same line of thought we can say that the physical reality around us is essentially a condensed form of the spiritual reality. However, it is always, according to esoteric philosophy, the spiritual that gives rise to the physical. If we look at any man made object around us we can understand that first this was a thought before it became a physical fact. The computer I’m using to help me write this essay could not have existed if someone had not thought about it previously. The esoterist maintains that what is valid for man made objects is also valid for living things. This means that we existed spiritually before we did physically. Any physicist will tell you that energy is neither created nor destroyed it is merely transformed. This corresponds exactly to the esoteric idea of a birthless and deathless soul. The idea that we are immortal is backed up by sciences laws but it is our beliefs or faulty reasoning that can, if they will, maintain otherwise. As our souls are immortal so this also means that we can reincarnate on the Earth many times so that we can evolve spiritually. Be it God, Brahma or The Jade Emperor every religion’s Godhead is of infinite intelligence and love and it is this that we are supposedly all aspiring to. The infiniteness of the Godheads means that there is no such thing as chance in the universe. Everything has its place and in compliance with the Bible the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
As we can see this esoteric version of life is both beautiful and inspiring. It is also contrary to the scientific belief about the world. When I talk of the scientific belief it means, for the sake of this essay, a belief that the world can be explained in purely physical terms, like the atomists of ancient Greece. So why is not life also this wonderful picture painted by esoterists. Put simplistically esoteric philosophy tells us that our misery stems directly from the fact that we have lost our spiritual links. Whilst this sounds cliché it is nevertheless plausible if we can escape the restricive scientific world view. In the modern secular society we have forgotten that we are all linked spiritually, we have forgotten that at a deeper level there is just oneness of being. Having forgotten that we are one it also makes it easier for us to commit whatever atrocities we will against other human beings. If everyone was aware of how we are all spiritually connected then it would mean that everybody would see the sense of living in harmony as opposed to perhaps feeling forced. This must be so because once we become aware of the spiritual nature of things we also realise that whenever we mistreat or abuse a fellow human being (and indeed anything living) we are essentially harming ourselves because at a deeper level we are all connected. Seen thus we can also understand that for example Christianity, as an example of a world religion with an esoteric basis, holds the same ideas, the unity of God, but differs as to the reasons. However, Christianity coerces its followers to a pure life by threatening the alternative of fires of hell and eternal damnation as the consequence of a sinful life as opposed to using more positvie reasoning to clarify the spiritual side of life. Whilst there is no room to expand this idea in this essay it has been of considerable importance in the development of the Western secular world.
Another key aspect of any form of esoteric thinking that will help us better understand the ‘Bonde-Practica’ is the idea of the microcosm and macrocosm. This is a development of the idea that the physical is a reflection of the spiritual. Consequently it follows that the reverse is also true. This is also expressed in the idea ‘as above so below’ which originates from the father of hermetic thinking, Hermes Trismegstus. Later when looking at weather in the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we shall find that scientific evidence is amassing to back up this idea. For now we will try to understand this abstract idea by means of a fairly new scientific phenomenon, namely that of holography. Incidentally Edgar Cayce predicted long before it was discovered in 1960 that science would make a discovery that would reveal the nature of the soul. I intentionally use the word discover because the phenomenon has always existed. The discovery was that of a hologram. We are familiar with the fact that a hologram is a three dimensional picture. However it also has another very interesting property. If we take a hologram and cut it into small pieces then we find that each piece contains a picture of the whole. So if we had a picture of a horse and cut out its nostril and then expanded the cut-out to the original size of the whole picture then we will see a complete picture of the horse. This secondary picture will be less perfect or fuzzier than the original, but it is nevertheless complete. This paradox is very useful for illustrating the spiritual ideas of microcosm and macrocosm and other ideas that are familiar to esoteric thinkers. Some scientists like Karl Pribram are using this phenomenon to illustrate the complex nature of the brain and how it might be a microcosm of the intelligent universe. This is very similar to Galen’s idea of the universe which we will discuss in chapter two. Pribram’s ideas are on the front-line of science and hence is not given much attention by more conservative thinkers. Meanwhile for our purposes it shows that science is gaining the means by which it can vicariously understand the spiritual reality of micro and macrocosm, or at least begin to think on the same wavelength as mystics have done since the year dot.
I must point out that I have barely scratched the surface of esoteric thinking in this introduction, yet it will serve as base from which we might begin to understand and give credit to some of the insights in the ‘Bonde-Practica’.
Let us look at some examples and see how the ‘Bonde Practica’ implies an esoteric understanding of the world. On page 71 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we have a table so that we can derive which planet is ruling which hour of the day. The concept that a planet has a certain quality is esoteric. We might be familiar with this idea through astrology which is one of the four esoteric sciences. The others are theology, alchemy and magic. So by trying to find out which planet is ruling, using this table, we also see how Bonde-Practica thinking is directly related to the astrological concepts of time having a quality. According to esoteric tradition the day, like our modern day, is split into 2 x 12 hours. However, these are not regular 60 minute periods. Instead they are calculated by reference to sunrise and sunset. On page 91 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find that time for sunrise and sunset is given for the twelve months of the year so that the apprentice can work out when which influence is ruling. If the ‘Bonde-Practica’ subscribes to esoteric thought then this would be a very good reason for including such information. These figures are incidentally inaccurate as can be checked in any astronomical calendar. Nevertheless they are there for the right reason, that is calculation. Let us now look at how the day is split up. After we have found the length of day we divide this by twelve to find out how long each sign rules. So if there are 15 hours of sunlight then each planetary hour will be 1 hour and 15 minutes. The first ruling planet of the day is determined by the day itself and is as follows:
Planet Day Jour (French) Dag Gud
Sun Sunday Dimanche Söndag
Moon Monday Lundi Måndag (Månen)
Mars Tuesday Mardi Tisdag Tyr
Mercury Wednesday Mercredi Onsdag Odin
Jupiter Thusday Jeudi Torsdag Thor
Venus Friday Vendredi Fredag Freya
Saturn Saturday Samedi Lördag
Using the above information we can see how it is a simple matter of calculation to find out which planetary influence is ruling at any given time.
In the table I have also included the French days of the week to illustrate further the deep running parallels that our calendars that have with esoteric origin. Remembering that Tyr is the fieriest of the Nordic Gods we can see a direct parallel with Mars which the fiery, aggressive iron planet and both rule the third day of the week. Parallels between Mercury and Odin are also striking for both are the ‘all seeing’ Gods in their respective mythologies. Mercury has his winged helmet whilst Odin has his two crows; Hugin and Mugin and both Gods begin the fourth day. Jupiter is paralleled with Thor and they are both the mightiest of all the Gods and both rule the fifth day. Venus and Freya are both Goddesses of love and beauty and share the sixth day. As we can see the similarities are so striking that one must assume their is some type of pattern. We have identified this pattern as being that known to esoteric thinking and it is obvious that this way of thinking was in some distant history very important. This is confirmed by its inclusion in the ‘Bonde-Practica’. That the Germanic, Nordic and Romantic civilisations all came to the same conclusions is both striking and most interesting. Looking further we find that according to esoteric tradition and the ‘Bonde Practica’ the sequence for these planetary hours is always the same:
Sun – Venus – Mercury – Moon – Saturn – Jupiter – Mars – Sun…….
On page 72 – 75 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find that the planets natures are described so that the apprentice can know the effects of the different planets, having already calculated which is ruling. We can also note that they are set out in the correct order, again implying that these are not written by chance. They read:
Saturnus Gammal, kåld, lat är jag utan skämt
Om flyktig, hätsk, all lämpa förglömt
Mine barn nitiske, och hatfulle äre
Metall och bly min handel månd’ vara
Jupiter Förnuftig är jag, lärd och tjänlig därtill,
Likaså jag mine barn hava vill,
Långvarande och dråpelig ting rättar an.
Med köpenskap jag väl vinna kan.
Mars En vågekåpa, man känna väl mig,
Häst, harnesk och krig brukar jag,
Allt annat jag begynner, tillbaka går,
Med mitt ganska liv efter olycka står.
Solen Jag är brännande och hett kreatur,
Min barn äre av ädel natur,
Vad jag begynner, ej långvarigt månd’ vara,
Jag handlar och umgås med stora herrar
Venus Till fröjd och kärlek står allt mitt sinn:
Till musicam haver jag viljan min,
Till bröllops och kläder ny:
Kärlighetsspegel brukar jag fri
Merkurius Välskickad är jag, och sinnrik,
Uti mäktige konster är mig ingen lik,
Vältalande och viso äro barnen mine,
Subtilge, lärde, fromme och fine.
Luna Långvandrande mitt sinne ej månd’ vara.
Jag och mine barn ingen hörsamme äre.
Vårt eget sinn have vi också,
Skulle vi än dubbel skada därav få.
The night is also divided up into twelve planetary hours, in both esoteric thinking and in the ‘Bonde-Practica’, so that we find that the same planet always rules at a particular time of the week and is independent of the month or year. At the equinoxes where daylight hours equal night hours we would find the following for say Wednesday. The day begins in Mercury at 6 o’clock and ends in the Sun at 18 o’clock.
6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun
0 1 2 3 4 5 & 19 20 21 22 23 24
According to esoteric tradition the planets correspond to the different signs of the zodiac. Hence on page 88 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find a table of when it is good, indifferent or bad to walk, buy and sell, build a marriage, build house, move house, have a wedding, send messages, work with fire and to hunt. All these times are based on which sign is ruling. so for example it is good to buy and sell, build a house, move house, marry, work with fire and hunt when Leo is ruling. Also we find rules on p88-89 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ which tell us when which element is ruling.
Från morgon intill middagen regerar det elementet elden.
Från middagen intill solens nedergång regerar vädret.
Fran aftonen till midnatt regerar vattnet.
Från midnatt intill morgonen regerar jorden.
These refer to the four esoteric elements fire, air, water and earth. These are used in conjunction with the new moon to determine what the coming months weather will be like and so:
Om månen nu tändes i element elden, då bliver den månaden varm och torr. (6-12)
Tändes han uti elementet vädret, då bliver han blåsande och våt. (12-18)
Tändes han uti det elementet vattnet, då bliver han våt och kall. (18-24)
Tändes han uti det elementet jorden, då bliver han kall och torr (0-6)
The fact that both esoteric thought and the guidelines in the Bonde Practica are so similar gives rise to questions. The first is how did they arrive at the same conclusions as the mystical philosophers of Greece and Egypt. It is very doubtful that they got hold of a Greek text some time some place. However, there must have been a common source from which two totally divorced cultures could come to the same conclusion. Even if we knew how they came to these ideas I think it would be wrong to assume that they just accepted them because someone says nature is so and so. Farmers are practical people and if a system is useful then it is remembered otherwise it must be forgotten to find a better explanation for things. The fact that this book has been around in some form or other since the sixteenth century, and the ideas are even older, indicates that it has some practical value. This is tantamount to saying that astrology is more than fanciful thinking, or put another way we are directly affected by cosmic happenings. Obviously this flies in the face of contemporary scientific belief, but scientifically orientated publications have appeared that intimate that perhaps this notion is not so crazy after all. We will look at two books Beyond the Jupiter Effect and later Måneffekten: Biologiska Tidvatten och Mänskliga Emotioner, to see how closely the microcosmic man is linked to the macrocosmic solar system.
In ‘Beyond the Jupiter Effect’ we learn how seismic activity coincides with different types of solar activity and that this is of a rhythmic nature. First we learn to appreciate with our own understandings of the world what is happening on a global level. If we are in a car which suddenly brakes or accelerates then we can feel the difference. It is not the speed of the car that is important when experiencing this change in energy, but the rate of acceleration. So if we decelerate from 100 km/h to 0 km/h in 1 hour we will hardly notice any difference. However, if we perform the same deceleration in 1 second, as we might do in a crash, then we can not avoid feeling the effects. It is also in terms of acceleration and deceleration that seismic activity becomes expliquable. So that when some accelerating force acts on the earth the earth’s tectonic plates, they are jolted causing landslides and earthquakes. Scientists have also discovered that solar wind is largely responsible for cause these changes in velocity. When the earth is buffeted by this solar wind it has an effect on the length of day (L.O.D.) which we all take to be 24 hours. These changes are measured in milli- or micro seconds over a year and so are not perceptible to us. However, when these tiny accelerations happen it must be the result of a huge energy impulse when we take into account the enormous quantities of energy required to cause a change in the rotation of the earth. Below we shall learn how and when these changes in L.O.D come about, but this example will serve to illustrate the huge energies involved. In August 1972 it was calculated that due excess solar activity the L.O.D. was reduced by 16 milliseconds. The energy required to bring about such a change was equivalent to the U.S.A.’s energy consumption for the next 5700 years. Remembering the laws of physics that say that energy does not disappear we can safely say that this energy will find somother means of expression.
We also learn that these solar winds are not random events and can indeed be predicted according to the position of the planets. In industry, where correct results matter more than the scientific methods used, we find that good and bad times are calculated for sending radio signals. These can be predicted because the solar activity affects the ionosphere off of which radio signals are bounced. John Nelson who works for RCA uses planetary alignments to determine these good and bad times. These correspond with the esoteric concepts of trines and squares which determine whether or not it is a good time to do something. Mr. Nelson has held his job for thirty years so we can assume his methods do work, even if they do not comply with latest scientific thinking. The parallel with the Bonde-Practica is that if it were useless in its predictive nature then it would have been got rid of just like Mr. Nelson would have been got rid of if he did not perform as required.
It is believed that the gravitational forces of the planets are responsible for the changes in solar activity. So if we find groupings of planets in a certain sector of the solar system then their combined gravitational forces can bring about a change in the centre of gravity in the solar system. When all the planets are spread around the solar system then the centre of gravity is quite close to the centre of the sun because it is so massive and different gravitational forces negate one another. However, when we have a grouping or synod we find that the centre of gravity can shift by as much as one and a half million kilometres. This causes a significant change to the amount of solar energy being received and thus has a huge impact on the climate. From observation scientists have found that the sun’s high activity has a cyclical nature which comes every eleven or so years. This corresponds fairly closely to the 11.9 years cycle for the planet Jupiter. With these fluctuations in the sun’s activity we find that the cosmic rays that normally shower the earth are interrupted by solar winds. As we can see earthquakes are caused by solar winds which are caused by planetary positions. As you can see we are a small step from saying that planetary influences have a direct bearing on our life. This is the same idea that is one of the main ways of predicting weather according to the ‘Bonde-Practica.
Other cycles have also been identified as concurring with planetary positions. There is a 179 year cycle which depending on the closeness, angle subtended, of the grouping of the planets is directly related to the mini ice ages of this millenium. The smaller the subtended angle the more severe the weather appears to be.
Date of synods Angle subtended
September 21, 1126 69′
October 21, 1304 59′
November 16, 1483 58′
January 6, 1665 45′
January 24, 1844 86′
November 2, 1982 64′ 
Analysis of tree rings, references to Chinese historical document that span the past 3000 years and the analysis of oxygen isotopes in ice cores from Greenland indicate that this 179 year cycle is a permanent feature of earth weather. There are some exceptions, so that sometimes the period is 140 years, but reasons as to the cause of these is not given. Finally, the 18.6 years cycle of the lunar nodal seems also to correspond to the so called ‘twenty year’ drought cycle that affect the U.S. Midwest. All these findings point to a cyclical nature in the weather which is exactly the same world view depicted in the ‘Bonde-Practica’. It follows that if the weather is reflected in the planetary positions, then it must also be of a cyclical nature like the planets orbits around the sun.
As we have learnt from this chapter their seems to be amounting scientific evidence to support the idea that man must not only think global, but also cosmic. Long term weather forecasts according to natural phenomon begin to look more plausible. Of course this is in full sympathy with esoteric thought because observation of the macrocosm must also lead to knowledge about the microcosm. If reality is so that we can truly say that ‘as above so below’, so must we also realise that scientific thought must always serve to strengthen this axiom rather than weaken it. Science is an investigation of the physical reality and because this is a reflection of the spiritual reality it means that science will never contradict esoteric thought if the esoteric thought represents an ultimate truth.
In this chapter I will investigate the relationship to the rules on when it is advisable to let blood, as given in the Bonde Practica, and ideas that shape hermetic thinking. I shall also look at bloodletting in respect to contemporary scientific knowledge.
Even in 1963, France was supposed to have over 40,000 faith healers (but only 38,000 doctors) and 50,000 consulting rooms belonging to unorthodox practises. This direct quote reflects how all pervading traditional or folk medicine continues to be even in a modern industrialized country like France. Why has this unscientific approach continued to thrive? Bloodletting or venesection is another old form of medicine that has survived the test of time and as we shall see is not always, as is might commonly be believed, useless quackery.
We know that according to esoteric thinking the body is a microcosm of the universe. The concept of micro and macrocosm is also believed to repeat itself within the body. Many traditional prophylactic traditions have this as the cornerstone from which it becomes possible to treat ailments. In Chinese acupuncture, kinesiology and reflexology we find that the foot, hand and ear are all microcosms of the body itself. Hence because of the holistic nature of the system it is for example possible to stimulate a poorly performing organ by means of sticking a needle in the corresponding place or by applying pressure to the necessary zone on the foot. According to esoteric traditions it is the spiritual forces, residing within the physical stellar constellations, that are responsible for the way the human body is shaped. It is in this sense that an esoteric thinker can truly understand that he is made in the image of God because his body is a microcosm and contains all the wisdom of the Gods.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God created he him; male
and female created he them.
Genesis 1, 27
Consequently we find that the esoteric science of astrology also reveals that the signs of the zodiac correspond to features of the human body. This means that by determining the positions of the planets and constellations it is also possible to know when it is propitious or dangerous to let blood. The idea that time not only has a quantity, but also a quality is far removed from contemporary scientific thought. However, this has not always been the case. With both the Egyptian and Roman civilisations we find that the concept of quality of time was critical in determining when wars should be waged or major constructions initiated. In Egypt pyramids were constructed and aligned so that a most precise observation of the skies could be undertaken so that accurate forecasts could be given. The knowledge they and other civilizations had outstripped that of modern astronomy in some respects until late into the twentieth century. For example some primitive South American cultures have long known, without aid of a telescope, that the Sirius Dogstar is in fact a double star, a fact that was only discovered scientifically thirty years ago (1960s). The Egyptians sought to know the will of the Gods by reading it in the heavens. Of course this was not limited to Egypt for we find that the Japanese and Chinese also meticulously plotted the heavens to determine whether the time was right or not. South American traditions of amongst others, the Aztecs, reveal that a great interest was also paid towards the heavens. Indeed we find that Europe appears to be the odd one out when it comes to tracing back the roots of astronomy into ancient times. With the Romans we find that they seek to find out the quality of time by other means. The principle of micro and macrocosm is still the basis of their science and we find that this is brought down to a more earthly level. They have neither the ancient knowledge of the Egyptians nor the observatories to support such a esoteric science and instead use animals to determine the will of the Gods. The Roman augurers studied the movement of birds and gave their counsel according to their behaviour. In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar we find this idea beautifully illustrated when the augurers warn Caesar not to venture forth from the palace on what turns out to be the day of his murder.
Caesar What say the augurers?
Servant They would not have you stir forth to-day
Plucking the entrails of an offering forth,
They could not find a heart within the beast.
Caesar The Gods do this in the shame of cowardice:
Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
If he should stay home to-day for fear.
No, Caesar shall not: danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
Julius Caesar Act II, scene II
We can compare this to the observation that have been made by the Swedish farmer. On pages 41-43 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find that by observing frogs, swallows, waterfowl, dogs or horses we can predict the weather. This relates directly to the Roman way of using the idea of micro and macrocosm for prediction. By studying animals we can know what is happening at another level of the microcosm. Thus, again we find the link with esoteric thinking and the ‘Bonde-Practica’.
När hundens buk mycket knurrar,
Äter mycket gräs, grinar och murrar,
Då vill det gärna så tillgå
Att vi snart därefter regn få.
I do not know whether this method of divination was common currency in Shakespearean England. Nevertheless it offers evidence for the idea that such forms of divination were widespread. We also find that both these methods of divination assume the idea of micro and macrocosm to be true and are also consistent with the esoteric theory.
Now that we have a better understanding of the concept of ‘as above so below’, we also learn that according to esoteric philosophy the different zodiacal signs control the different parts of the body. From the following rhyme from the ‘Bonde Practica’ we find that the Swedish farmer subscribes to the idea that different parts of the body are ruled by different signs. So we find again that the ‘Bonde-Practica’ reflects most accurately the esoteric way of thinking.
Huvudet haver väduren i sitt våld,
I halsen haver oxen sitt innehåll,
Tvillingarne regera armar och händer,
Kräftans regement till bröstet länder,
Om hjärtat haver lejonet omsorg och akt,
Lever och lungor stå i jungfruns makt;
Inälvornes herre vågen alltid är
Om hemlig ting skorpion bär,
Skyttens våld i länderna står
Stenbocken regerar knä och lår
Vattumanen styrer benkalven och skenben,
Över fötterna råder fisken allen.
Vem läkedom tager sig till
Och icke tiden akta vill
Och ej flitelig vill sig förvara
Han giver sig själv i stor fara
Vakta dig, att du ej låter en åder slå
När det tecken regerar henne peka på
Som denna figur månd’ dig uppenbara
Så kan du dig länge sund och karsk bevara;
Vill du leva sund i natulig tid,
Märk de tolv tecken på människors liv
Synnerligen med koppor och åderslag,
Då löper blodet i sitt rätta lag.
In the second part of this rhyme we find that the apprentice is told to observe which star sign is ruling and so to determine whether it is a good time to let blood. This can be done by referring to the table on page 71 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’. This idea also falls in line with astrological investigations to determine good or not so good times to perform operations. Scientific investigations have for example found that bleeding is far heavier around the time of a full moon and that bleeding is easiest to control five days before and five days after the new moon.
There are many superstitions pertaining to the moon, like for example if a robbery is committed on the third day of a new moon then it will fail. Or a child born at the full moon will be strong. New projects started when the moon is waning are supposed to be more likely to fail and many others. Thus in the folklore we can see that there is an element of quality of time and that it can also be calculated by regarding for example the planets. Incidentally the word lunatic (French lune = moon) means mad or crazy and is derived from the fact that people believed that the moon has this effect on people. As we shall see in third chapter this does have some truth in it.
Bloodletting as a form of preventative medicine also finds its roots in an esoteric understanding of the human body. The idea that people used to randomly slit each other open as a form of prophylactic medicine is as absurd as the idea that traditional folk remedies are a result of random testing which might or might not have resulted in the death of the patient. Whilst this haphazard nature might be the practise with modern medicine companies and its test animals, I am inclined to assume that earlier mankind was more humane. I believe that they applied their herbal remedies or bloodletting according to a most definite system and that this system was grounded in esoteric thought. Of course there would have been a certain amount of trial and error, but I believe based on a system of thought. Such a system could have been the same as the Greek philosopher Galen describes. We shall look at his three works on the virtues of venesection which includes numerous references to Hippocrates, the Greek physician recognised as the father of medicine.
In these works we find that Galen subscribes entirely to an esoteric understanding of the body. Let us now look at the esoteric make up of the body. Firstly we find that Galen subscribes to the view of a craftsmanslike nature. This view holds that everything is subjugated to a higher order and that everything has its purpose. There is according to Galen no such thing as chance and hence he could never agree with his contemporary’s ideas that the human body just happened to fall into shape. He saw bodies of living things as works of art, put together by an intelligent nature with a purpose in mind. Galen alleges of the atomists, for example, that they thought that the mouth had been formed by pneuma or breath bursting out at that place. But why, he asks, if this is so, did it not burst out of the top of the head, since it is characteristic of pneuma to rise to the highest point?. And why is the mouth fitted with teeth, beautifully arranged in order like a chorus, and perfectly adapted to perform their function, if it came about by chance? After all no other cavity in the body has teeth; there are none for instance, in the rectum or vagina. It seems, says Galen, that the atoms, which according to the materialist school move at random to form such structures, are behaving more intelligently here than the philosophers who postulate them.
In Galen’s purposive view of nature we also find that disease is seen from a more constructive perspective than that of modern science. Health is seen as the natural state of the body whilst disease is unnatural. We might say that diease has been brought into the body to make it aware some kind of spiritual, in modern terms psychological, imbalance. Obviously this doesn’t apply to physical injuries though it could be argued that we created a physical situation to make us aware of something. Again this is the idea of the spirit ruling the physical as well as the micro and macrocosmic nature of the human body. Galen illustrates the idea of a purposive nature versus a materialist’s rejection of final causes with the following example: A man is going to market. If we asked why he was going he would scarcely reply that it was because he had two legs that supported his body and conveyed it over the ground. This is certainly one cause of his actions, an instrumental cause, but the important cause, where a purposive being is involved is the final one, the man’s purpose in going: to buy something or meet his friends.
According to Galen the body contains four humours; yellow bile, which is hot and dry; blood, hot and damp; phlegm, cold and damp; and black bile, cold and dry. This is a parallel to Aristotles four elements, fire, air, water and earth which have the qualitites, the Hot, the Cold, the Damp, the Dry. A body is healthy when the mixture of the humours is in balance, this is called a eucrasia (crasis = mixture). When the mixture is unbalanced, when there is a dyscrasia, the body is in an unhealthly state. The cure for a diseased body is found in treatment by opposites. If the patient is too hot then he is cooled and if too dry then dampened. Galen differentiated between two types of fever. The one was of an ephermal nature caused by overheating of the body by sun, anger, exertion, heat-producing foods or drinks, or to reduction of heat loss through insufficient transpiration when the pores of the skin are obstructed.. Other fevers are the result of inflammation, with or without putrefaction of the blood. Inflammation and putrefaction originate from residues in the body and are thus extremely important to Galen’s pathology (scientific study of the nature of diseases). Residues accumulate when more nourishment is taken than the body requires and because each food has different humours in it it will lead to excess of humours in the body. An excess of the yellow bile, black bile or phlegm is called a cacochymia whilst a abundance of blood is called a plethos or plethora. Obviously by treatment based on the philosophy of opposites this means that in the case of a plethora blood must be evacuated so that the body can return to a natural healthy balance. Another function of venesection is to divert blood from one part to another by a process called revulsion or derivation. If the patient is bledding to death from one part of the body, open a vein in another, and the bleeding from the first will stop. Peter Brian sums up the Galen’s system of pathology saying that, ‘although somtimes complicated in its details, is in principle very simple …. at first sight it is logical and no one can accuse him of a reductionist approach. Galen’s one grand unified theory will account for everything in medicine.’
Let us now turn our attention to modern day investigations to see what scientific findings there are to back up this system of thought. There are two areas of interest; resistance to infection and rheology. In the first we learn that being anaemic (lacking in blood) does seem to entail less of a likelihood of suffering from heart or artearial diease. Impaired nutrition has the effect that the body is made more susceptible to infectious diseases. Thus we find the 23 century old council of Hippocrates to keep thin and weak during epidemics to be in line with modern thought. Also he rather interestingly claims that the condition of a well trained athlete is both abnormal and dangerous. Science knows that all life requires iron to sustain it and so if the plasma ferritin level (amount of iron in blood) is kept low then bacteria have nothing to live from. Through bleeding it is possible to create a lower plasma ferritin level because the fluid is replaced quicker than the iron and so thins out the blood. Therefore because the plasma ferritin level is lower the patient is also less likely to suffer from an infectious disease. It has also been found that high plasma ferritin levels lead to a greater susceptibility to Hepatitis B. Other results from tests on Somali Nomads have revealed that iron deficiency probably plays a part in surpressing the clinical manifestations of certain infections. Tests have also revealed that women of reproductive age are less susceptible to being infected with Tuberculosis than men. This is because the menstrual cycle makes sure that plasma ferritin levels are kept low. This does not mean that all women are less susceptible to infection because disease is always a combination of factors. However in many populations women have less of a propensity to be infected with Tuberculosis.. The author concludes that ‘a few years ago no one would have argued that these evacuations might be beneficial.’
Let us now look at the rheological (rheo = flow) argument. In Peter Brain’s book we find he he cites an editorial from 1979 from the British medical magazine, The Lancet, which says ‘Arguably , the most important property of blood is that it should actually flow.’ To oxygenate the tissues in every part of the body the blood must flow freely, through vessels, in the capillary bed, that are of very small calibre. Because the vessels are so small the viscosity of the blood is also going to play a very important role in determining how effective the blood will be in giving the body oxygen. Given that the viscosity is related, though not linearly, to the PCV (packed cell volume) it has been noted in a large British survey that there is a distinct increase in mortality for women with PCV levels above 46%, where a little over 40% is the norm. One archaic remedy is to dilute the blood with a little wine. We can also ask ourselves if this is why Catholics receive wine at communion. Venesection also has the same effect of diluting the blood so that it can flow more freely, for the same reason as was pointed out above.
Looking at the text on page 43-44 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find:
Att människan kan behålla sin sundhet och naturliga karkhet, görs det väl behov, att vi stundom utrensa det orena och överflödiga blodet. Ty får det överhanden, då är det befruktandes, att de begynner visserligen bliva fullt och ruttna, och förorsakar många slags sjukdomar och krankheter i människan, därföre är det av nöden att veta, när och på vad lem, och vad tid man skall låta sina ådror på.
Först är att märka, att ingen skall låta sig för mycket, och att purgants eller blodens renselse skall, efter naturligt råd, gå före åderlåtningen. Och är bäst att låta sig om våren, och om hösten, dock (som tillförene sagt är) nöden förer alltid sin tid med sig. Man skulle icke låta sig i mycken köld eller het tid. Den, som haver en ond mage, eller lever, honom är det icke gott att låta sig, desslikes, när det onda blod är utlåtet, så skall man icke snart låta sig åder igen. Också är det bättre, att man låter blodet för litet löpa, än för mycket. Item den, som mycket svettas, han må väl låta sig. Men det är icke gott låtande i ny fullmånad. Item de ådror på knän, händerne, benen och fötterne, dem skall man låter efter måltid, och man skall icke låta sig åder på någon ledamot, när månen går i det tecken, som samma ledamot tillhörer.
This is clearly a discourse on the importance of bloodletting. On page 53 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we find further refernce to how one should behave after letting blood. In both these texts we find many statements that are in complete accord with Galen’s and therefore esoteric pathology. So again we find evidence for a underlying esoterical system in the ‘Bonde-Practica’
In this chapter we have looked at the reasoning behind venesection and seen scientific evidence to backup this prophylactic form of medicine. The link between the ‘Bonde Practica’ and esoteric thinking has also been firmly established. Therefore I can conclude this chapter as I did the previous by saying. Science is an investigation of the physical reality and because this is a reflection of the spiritual reality it means that science will never contradict esoteric thought if the esoteric thought represents an ultimate truth.
It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the earth than she was wont,
And makes men mad
Othello Act V, scene II
Shakespeare’s recognition of the weird and wonderful influences of the moon crops up often in his play Othello which is about a melancholic noble who is ruled more by his emotions than by reason. Medieval texts will often refer to the moon as being the cause of madness. We have already seen in the previous chapter how the ‘Bonde Practica’ tells us that we can predict the future months general weather according to when the new moon first appears. It will also become clear that there is reason to believe that human behaviour might also be able to be predicted according to moon phases. This could be one of the many reasons why the Swedish farmer felt it was important to know whether the moon was waxing or waning. This was done by means of the following passage from page 89 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’.
När månan är så vänd, att du med din vänstra hand kan taga in uti månan’s bukt, då är det tecken at det är ny, och månan växer. Men om du kan med din högra hand gripa däruti, då är det nedan, och månan tager av.
We find that according to esoteric thinking the moon represents the female and emotional nature of mankind whilst the sun represents the rational and male principle. We can extend this to say that whilst the sun shines we are affected by the rational influences of the sun. This essentially coincides with consciousness. When the sun is not shining, at night, the moon principle is said to be operating. This is when nature lets us sleep and when we have lost consciousness and are dreaming. This is a generalization and not a rule because there are people who can maintain consciousness in their dreams. The point is to show how we balance out the two energies that affect our daily lifes. The moon also reflects the changeability of our natures and is again generally associated with the female side of nature. These are gross simplifications of the esoteric nature of the sun and the moon, but will serve to show later that the growing scientific awareness of the importance of the sun and moon is moving towards the same understanding as esoteric thinking has always maintained. The following medieval text is indicative of an earlier understanding of the moon.
The fyrste day off the moone Adam
Our forme fader, to this world came,
That day ys gude, wiþouten synne,
All thyng to begynne.
The child that ys borne that day,
He shall be good and noble, parfay,
Of long lyf wiþouten faile
Bot often tyme haue greet trauaile,
Sad of face and of hewe fad.
That same day was Adam made
To grete woo and to greet trauaile,
To greet stryffe and greet perayle.
Whoso that day fall in sykenes,
He shall soone ben hoile, j gesse,
And wiþ greet peyne scapen he shall.
And what þou dremyst in thy slepe, all
Yt shall torne to joie and blisse.
But that day ys not good, j wisse,
To lettyn blod on no veyne
Who so will be wiþout peyne
Robert Wyer 1547
We have also learnt that the moon and its state is held to be critical for the timing of blood letting. The above passages last two lines tell us not to let blood on the first day of the new moon if we want to remain without pain, again like in the Bonde Practica. In a passage that we have met before we can remember the importance of the moon when letting blood.
Också är det bättre, att man låter blodet för litet löpa, än för mycket. Item den, som mycket svettas, han må väl låta sig. Men det är icke gott låtande i ny fullmånad. Item de ådror på knän, händerne, benen och fötterne, dem skall man låter efter måltid, och man skall icke låta sig åder på någon ledamot, när månen går i det tecken, som samma ledamot tillhörer.
Let us now look at some more findings that also serve as evidence for the case of an esoteric world view and also the type of world depicted in the ‘Bonde Practica’. My evidence comes from the book ‘Måneffekten’ which itself is already 13 years old. I have not found any more recent publications and I am not sure whether this is due to the library or due to the fact that anything having a smack of astrology is not likely to go down well with the scientific establishment.
Apparently in police departments and emergency stations at hospitals there is a commonly held belief as to the reason why there are sudden leaps in the number of intakes in hospital and inmates of the police cell. It is that it is either new or full moon. A first reaction might be to laugh at this seemingly preposterous idea and say they are mad themselves, but years of experience has taught them that there appears to be a definite correlation. Using data from Dade County’s police department, which had noted when the act of murder or suicide was commited, it was found that there seemed to be a direct correlation with the moon’s phase and periods of an increased number of murders or suicides. This type of analysis was repeated in Cuyahoga County which had also kept records on the time of perpetration of the act as well as the actual time of death of the person involved. However, the results for Cuyahoga County did not give the same graph as that for Dade County. The pattern was exactly the same, but it seemed to have been shifted or translated. So whilst there was definitely a relationship to the moon’s phase it was not the same as had been found in Dade County. It was later found that the latitude also plays an important role in determining when the maximum effect of the moon will be. Similar relationships were established for the metabolic activity of hamsters in Evanston, Illinois and also for the number of intakes to emergency and psychiatric wards in hospitals. There were also interesting findings for the farmers which coincide with the American equivalent of the ‘Bonde Practica’, The Farmers Almanac. It was established that root vegatables thrived better when planted with a waning moon whilst corn and plants that grow towards the sun thrived better when the moon was waxing.
There is a psychological disorder called lycanthropy where those affected believe that they become werewolves. We might assume this to be the fanciful idea of some movie writer who wanted to shoot a film in London, but it is a serious disorder. Again a direct relationship between the moon’s phase and attacks of this disorder was established as was an accelerated rate of facial hair growth. Also psychiatric wards established a link between the timing of menstruation, which has long been believed to be associated with the moon, and the number of intakes. It found that a disproportionate number of female intakes were soon to menstruate. Psychic ability is also believed to fluctuate according to the moon’s phase and be at its strongest at a new and full moon. These effects were not measured, but it would be interesting to see how these vary according to latitude.
The study of animals has also produced many interesting results which strenghen the arguement for a definite relationship. In a study on oysters it was found that up to two weeks after being removed from their home environment they were still opening and closing according to their home ebb and flow. This pattern then changed so that they open and closed according to what the tide would be doing if it were in the part of the world where the laboratory was. It is assumed that by somehow being sensitive to the fluctuations of the moon the oysters were able to assume the correct rhythm for that part of the world.The investigation of cockroaches blood has also come up with some astounding conclusions. It was found that the composition of their blood changed according to the moon’s phase. The activity of the cockraoches also changed accordingly so that those that were stressed produced a substance in the blood that accelerated the heart. The unstressed cockroaches, which had the same level of accelerating substance otherwise, showed a total lack of of this substance immediately after a new or full moon. Taking this a stage further we might say that this may be the same type of influence that makes people moon mad.
We are now getting a clear picture of the fact that the moon has a greater effect than the average person might expect. However, scientists are unsure as to the cause of these effects. One theory is that it is gravity related, the same as the assumption made in ‘Beyond the Jupiter Effect. Our body is 80% water and 20% mineral. There are three areas of bodily water; intravascular (in blood), extracellular (moves around freely in body) and intracellular (in cells). The theory says that it is the balance of these types of water is critical to changes in our personality. Tensions in bodily fibres are caused by an inbalance in our bodies and a surplus of water also causes stress or tension which leads to nervous irratability. It is said that the moon affect our inner water balance. An example of this is premenstrual tension caused by an excess of water and its known effects on the nerve system and behaviour. However, this does not mean to say that ‘high tide’ in the body is the cause of irratabilty, violence or psychological abnormalities. It merely means that somebody predisposed to a certain type of abnormal behaviour is more likely to behave antisocially in accordance with the moon’s phase. This was exemplified by the prediction of stranger than usual happenings on January 1 1974. On this date the moon came unusually close to the earth. The average orbit of the moon around the earth is 384,000 km, but on this day it was only 347,000 km away from the earth so its gravitatonal effect was stronger than usual, although it is only about one ten millionth of the strength of the earth gravitational field on us. The number of crimes did not increase dramatically but the nature of the crimes were even more bizarre than usual. The book gives graphic examples of various totally inexplicable acts of madness that do not need to be repeated here. This also strengthens the arguement for the idea that the moon is not the cause of things, but instead seems to act as an amplifier to conditions already present in the human body. The fact that the gravitational effect of the moon is so miniscule compared to the earth is a major minus against this theory. There is also what is known as the Piccardi effect which describes how the nature of water changes according to the phase of the moon. Piccardi found that colloids, water solutions, change in their viscosity in harmony with the position of the moon in the heavens. This adds a new dimension to the theory that the balance of the three kinds of body water are responsible for psychological changes in people.
Another theory suggests that the moon somehow effects the earth’s, as well as the human’s, electromagnetic field. This is a very vague theory and its workings are not well understood, but it is the best that science can offer us at the moment. There is nevertheless evidence to support this theory. Kirilian photography is a method of taking pictures of the electromagnetic field that surrounds all living creations. Using this method it has been found that the body has what can be termed as amplifiers in the body. These strengthen impulses travelling through the nervous system. That these point exactly coincide with the points described in books about acupuncture is interesting for us because practisers of acupunture also talk in terms of a spiritual reality. This directly relates them to an esoteric view on life and therefore to this essay. How the Chinese knew that these points existed all those thousands of years ago is something that contemporary science cannot explain. However, this does not mean that there is not a very plausible explanation, which there is. It would be far to large a digression to give an explanation here. Kirilian photography has also been used to take pictures of faith healers hands and has revealed that they have dramatically altered fields around the fingers tips. This suggest that faith healing is not just about faith.
In a larger sphere we also find evidence to support this electromagnetic field theory. The Fön and Scirroco winds that blow across Southern Europe and the Rockies respectively are blasts with a large positive ion content. These and other similar winds are known for the unusual effects that they have on people such as increased irratability or changes in hormone balances. It may be that the positively charged winds change the electromagnetic field around the human body gives rise to chemical changes within the body. Conversely it has been found that a surplus of negative ions seems to have a beneficial effect on the body. A surplus is created for example around running water. Perhaps it is this magical quality that makes us stop and feel good when we are near a waterfall. Indoor shopping centres also make use of this knowledge so that the ion balance is kept healthy by means of incongruent waterfalls and fountains (look at the fish in ‘Femman’). Ionisers are also available from health shops, these emit a constant stream of negative ions and help one sleep a lot better.
Man has been described as a symphony of rhythms and the evidence that I have offered seems to go along way towards strenghening this line of thought. Research into circadian rhythms or Biorhythms has not been looked at here, but there is a wealth of evidence to show there are many different cycles in our bodies that come and go as regular as clockwork or the heavens. And now we return to the esoteric axiom of ‘as above so below’. Man is a microcosm of the solar system as is the Earth so just as man has his high and low tides so does the Earth. Consequently we can also follow the logic that perhaps man can determine how the weather is going to be for the whole year by looking at certain days in the year. I think an esoterist might argue that the same amplifying effect that we notice in human behaviour might also be valid for certain days of the year. So if an ‘amplifier’ day is hot then this effect might last for say a month. This are vague ideas, but follow the esoteric logic of micro and macrocosm. On page 17 of the ‘Bonde-Practica’ we have the following:
Märk framdeles de visas lärdom här,
Varav vädret kännande är,
Av efterföljande tecken märk nu mer,
Därtill hava de gamla haft stort begär,
Av vilket de i grund kunde förstå,
Vad vädret det hela år skall gå.
Från Juledag till den tolfte dag, vi mena,
Lika som vädret var dag mån ske,
Så skall det bliva, det skall du se.
Uti den månad, som honom hörer till,
Som jag härnäst lära vill,
Juledag Torsmånad tillfogad är,
Annan dag Göjemånad märk nu här,
Den tredje mars månad, den fjärde april,
Den femte maj månad hava vill:
Den sjätte ville vi midsommarsmånan giva,
Hömånan vill oss den sjunde bliva,
Skördemånan hos den åttonde står,
Höstmånan till den nionde går.
Den tionde med slaktmånad tillfoga,
Den ellofte med vintermånad låter sig nöja.
Julemånad tillägges den siste dag,
Så lära de gamla visa i denna dag.
As we can see this rhyme is based on the idea of certain days as being determinative for the following month’s weather. So again we can use this as evidence for the idea that esoteric thinking serves as the backbone of the ‘Bonde-Practica’.
Whether or not this rhyme holds one ounce of truth I would not like to say. It would be most interesting to examine this, but such extensive field work is PhD work. I have merely used it to illustrate that the rules that the old Swedish farmer held to be true concur with the esoteric or perennial philosophy’s understanding of the world.
Finally my last piece of evidence for an esoteric backbone in the ‘Bonde-Practica’ is the timetable given on page 90 which allows the reader to calculate exactly how long the moon shines on a given day. Or from the other direction to know how old the moon is if it shines for x amount of time. These go far beyond using the moon to determine when to plant seeds or whatever. However, by associating the moon with earthly phenomenon it becomes important to know how long this influence will last. As this is the case with esoteric thinking I think it is justified to say the reason why it appears in the ‘Bonde-Practica’ is an esoteric reason.
I think I have shown that their are a lot of reasons for looking at the ‘Bonde-Practica’ in an esoteric light. By using scientific evidence we have found a lot of evidence to suggest that esoteric thinking is a good starting point for trying to understand ideas that are quite foreign to our modern scientific world view. For me this means science should be used to investigate the validity of other esoteric ideas. Unfortunately this is rarely the case at the moment because anything with a hint of a spiritual explanation is likely to be frowned upon. I think this is because a scientist feels threatened by something that has been disregarded for so long in the scientific establishment. If they knew how many scientific ideas reflect an esoteric understanding of the nature of things then I believe that they might not feel so antipathetic towards these spiritual ideas. Science and esoteric thought should be working together to increase man’s understanding of his environment because ultimately both must strengthen each others arguement because they are both concerned with investigating the true nature of reality. Using esoteric thinking to explain the ‘Bonde-Practica’ worked and I believe that this is a not unique case.
The Holy Bible. King James Edition
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Wordsworth Poetry Library 1994.
Brain, Peter, Galen on Bloodletting: A study of the origins, development and validity of his opinions, with a translation of the three works. Cambridge University Press 1986.
Delvin, Judith: The Superstitious Mind: French peasants and the supernatural in the Nineteenth century. Yale University Press 1987.
Bonde-Practica eller Wädher Book. Christofers Bokförlag 1961.
Gribbin, John, & Plageman, Stephen: Beyond the Jupiter Effect, Macdonald & Co 1983.
Hartzell Bro, Harmon, Edgar Cayce: A Seer out of Season, Aquarian 1990
Huxley, Aldous: Heaven & HellI. Perennial Library 1971
Lieber A.L. & Agel, Jerome Måneffecten: Biologiska Tidvatten och Mänskliga Emotioner, Berghs Förlag AB 1982.
Means, Laurel (edited), Medieval Lunar Astrology: A Collection of Representative Middle English Texts. The Edwin Mellen Press 1993.
Stearn, Jess, Der Schlafende Profet. Knaur 1991
Svensson, Sigrid, Bondens År, LTs förlag 1972.
Wilber, Ken (red): Det Holografiska Paradigmet och andra Paradoxer. Bokförlaget Korpen 1986.
 Bondens År p 83
 Heaven & Hell
 St. Matthew 10.30
 Der Schlafende Profet p76
 Det holografiska paradigmet och andra paradoxer
 Bonde-Practica p71
 Beyond the Jupiter Effect p146
 The Superstitious Mind p43
 Bonde-Practica p45
 Stora Astrologiboken p200
 A-Z of Superstitions (moon)
 Galen on Bloodletting p3
 ibid p3
 ibid p4
 ibid p11
 ibid p14
 ibid p158
 ibid p163
 ibid p170
 ibid p171
 ibid p171
 Medieval Lunar Astrology