Since one of my most favorite topics in occultism and magic is divination, specifically the divinatory art of geomancy, why not talk about that? I know a lot about it, and not many do, so let’s go with it. If nothing else, you’ll come away slightly more educated, and I’ll come away with something looking like productivity. With that in mind, let’s continue this little series of posts on geomancy, “De Geomanteia” (On Geomancy). This week, let’s talk about this figure:
This is the figure Tristitia. In Latin, its name means “Sorrow”, but also has the names of “upside down” or “relapsed” in some Arabic traditions, as well as the names of “damned” or “diminished”. If you (quite literally) connect the dots, you might come up with a figure that looks like a stake, a pit, or a collapsed building.
First, the technical details of this figure. It’s associated with Saturn in direct motion and the astrological signs of Aquarius or Scorpio; due to its Saturnine qualities, it’s also associated with the sephirah Binah. It has only the earth line active with everything else passive, and so given to the element of Earth. It is an odd figure with seven points, relating more to internal states of the subjective mind than external states of objective reality. It is a stable and entering, showing it to be slow-moving and long-lasting where it appears. In the body, it signifies the lower legs, ankles, and circulatory system. Its inverse figure (everything this figure is not on an external level) is Cauda Draconis, the Dragon’s Tail, showing that this figure is not quick to change, not prone to end, not externally calamitous. Its reverse figure (the same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme) is Laetitia, joy, showing that this figure is not happy, not free, not open or easily-seen. Its converse figure (the same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar manner) is Caput Draconis, the Dragon’s Head, showing that it is similarly slow-moving, stable, and able to continue in a single direction for a long time. Tristitia is about going down or going south in any way, including lowered spirits, depression, depressed health, lowered expectations, and getting stuck in a rut. It often refers to an internal state of failure or self-crossing, as opposed to an external incarceration or being cursed from outside, and is generally unfavorable. However, it is helpful for anything related to land, subterranean or chthonic matters, and keeping things secret or stable.
Rock climbers can have it tough, especially when they feel obliged by their hobby to scale behemoths of mountain that, no matter how far they ascend, always makes them feel like they’re stuck at the bottom of an infinite height. It’s slow and rough, too: he has to clutch to any crevice he can find, if he can find one at all. Any slip or mistake, and he falls, falls, falls, and no matter how much he pretends the distance below him is trivial, he feels like his own progress up the mountain isn’t getting him anywhere at all. Driving a nail into the rock face (ting, ting, ting) is slow work, and has to be done over and over again to support him. He has to take out his old stakes, and successfully pulls one out at the cost of tearing a few feet of rope; he yells in a brief shot of fear, though he secures himself just afterward. His heart sinks with every mistake and mishap he makes, but with every mistake he makes a bit of progress, though not on the mountain itself. Despite the cold wind whipping around him and feeling desolate and deserted, he has no choice but to continue. With his only choice to go, go, go, he has to continue toiling to do anything. Right now, it sucks, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. He will survive and succeed and surmount this cliff, but not before a long, and hopeless journey first.
Like its reverse figure Laetitia, Tristitia is another emotional figure that represents pretty clearly what its name signifies: sorrow, grief, sadness, depression, malaise, malcontent. It’s nothing particularly good, and what’s worse is that it takes time for it to pass. Unlike cheerful, easy-come easy-go Laetitia, Tristitia lingers even when it’s not nailed down. Happiness is often found in passing while doing things proper to one’s nature, but Tristitia prevents actions from being done due to being in a depression. It’s tough to deal with, but it too shall pass. However, the image of Tristitia as a stake or nail also give it the implication of support, structure, stability, foundation, and construction, in all of which Tristitia is fairly favorable.
Having only the earth line active and all others passive, Tristitia is ruled and assigned to the element of Earth. According to Cornelius Agrippa (book I, chapter 3), Earth is assigned the qualities of being dry, cold, thick, dark, heavy, and quiet. Earth’s natural motion is downward, since it’s the weightiest and heaviest of the elements, and is also the most mutable and the basis for all other things that exist in our world (pure elements only exist in their respective realms). Put into human terms, Tristitia is pure work, focusing strictly on material results, but has the effect of bringing melancholy or depression (downward spirits) into one’s life. Plus, with Earth being the most stable and most rigid of the elements, the effects of Tristitia (and, similarly, toil and depression) last for a long time as well.
This is closely associated with its association with Saturn, being the slowest-moving and darkest of the planets, also being the Greater Malefic and usually pretty awful to work with. Saturn rules over pain, trouble, being harassed, melancholy, depression, paucity, scarcity, and sometimes even mortal trouble. However, Tristitia is associated with Saturn in direct motion, indicating that it’s actually proceeding in matters and accomplishing something, as well as with airy and bright Aquarius. Though Tristitia represents downward motion, if not the bottom of the barrel, it can also be said that when you’re at the bottom the only way out is up. Aquarius, unlike rigid Capricorn, is eager to develop new methods of tackling and ruling the world, and so uses its melancholy as a base to build new structures to rise back up. In this case, Tristitia is like the dark of a tunnel one is wandering through, guided only by the barest glimmer of light, or the promise of a ledge for a weary rock-climber to eventually rest on.
Tristitia has interesting connections with the other two figures ruled by Saturn, Carcer and Cauda Draconis (its inverse figure). While Carcer represents external delay and obligations, Tristitia represents internal obligation and getting stuck in a rut. It’s the difference of where the issues of delay and force come from: Carcer indicates outside forces imprisoning one usually due to displeasing or misunderstood aims (fire and earth active), while Tristitia shows an internal depression dragging one down from achieving any good (only earth active). On the other hand, Cauda Draconis indicates a lack of support and that things are ripe for ending (everything but earth active), while Tristitia represents a lack of support but with no other choice but to continue on (nothing but earth active); having opposite elemental structures, their end goals are different, but they manifest similarly. Cauda Draconis also indicates someone actively laying a curse against a victim, while Tristitia can show being crossed or being blocked or held down by one’s own choices. Tristita is a deeply internal figure, showing problems caused or continued by oneself even though the external world may have nothing to do with it.
In geomancy readings, Tristitia means decrease, though not necessarily loss; any amount, health, support, or concordance will be put under strain and often wane under the influence of this figure. It’s good in matters of acquiring or owning land, agriculture, construction, or keeping things hidden, dark, obscured, secret, or underground in any sense. Otherwise, Tristitia is pretty unfavorable in most matters, sometimes indicating demotion at work, tightness of funds, a decrease of respect or recognition, and so forth. Tristitia in magical use is probably best suited to keeping things hidden or secret, and also to keeping things fixed or stable for a long time; inscribing Tristitia on cornerstones or on foundation stones would be very good uses, as well as using it on talismans for agricultural fortune and fecund harvests. Used maliciously, Tristitia is excellent for inducing lethargy, depression, or malaise in victims, being an offensive and outgoing source of Saturnine energy.