Negative Messages, Outcomes, and Perspectives

A recent post on the geomancy mailing list Geomantic Campus made me seriously roll my eyes, especially since it’s indicative of a wider problem in a lot of new age circles.  Essentially, the poster had a problem with how negative a lot of the figures were; he noticed that “geomancy doesn’t always give positive readings due to some negative geomantic figures”, and wanted to know what other geomancers were “going to do about it”.   Because it didn’t “sound right” to “just leave [geomancy] as it is”, the poster wanted to know what geomancers might do or innovate to make geomancy more favorable or kind to people instead of being so dour and mean.

My reply?  To be brief, not a damn thing.

Geomancy is a divination system that reports on events through occult means.  Thus, if geomancy gives negative readings, it’s because negative things happen.  Not everything in life is positive, helpful, or beneficial for us: we get sick and injured, we get in trouble, mistakes happen, things get stolen or lost or destroyed, and people can be unlucky.  These are not good things for us; sure, we might try to craft some justification for it happening in the cosmos, but that’s not going to change the fact that shit happens and it sucks.  In our world of existence where both good and bad things happen, I fully expect a functional and useful method of divination to report both good and bad things; for such a system to only report good things certainly doesn’t “sound right” to me, and certainly won’t be as useful when bad things actually do happen.

The names of the figures in geomancy are pretty telling of their meaning: Carcer means “prison” and refers to anything restrictive, isolating, or secure; Tristitia means “sorrow” and refers to depression, lowered vitality, and sadness; Amissio means “loss”, and in every sense of the word.  These are things that happen, these are real events and situations people find themselves in each and every day across the world for as long as there have been days and people to experience them.  Trying to brush the negative things that happen away under the carpet doesn’t really work, since these things are going to suck no matter what.  With divination as a forecasting tool, we can be forewarned about these things that can happen and prepare ourselves to make the most of it, but if shit’s gon’ happen, shit’s gon’ happen.

Plus, mere sugar-coating of the figures isn’t going to do much either.  Geomancy is a very down-to-earth oracle, and is best suited for anything that relies on actual events in the world around us.  Just as there are good things, so too are there bad things; if we make geomancy blind to the bad things that happen, geomancy wouldn’t be useful for us in a world where bad stuff happens.  Trying to pretty up or make the figures nicer, making Carcer out to be a lot less restrictive than it is or Amissio a lot more recuperative than it may be, won’t change the fact that isolation and loss both suck.

Am I against innovation in geomancy at all?  Heavens and hells, no.  I think we should keep trying to figure out more correspondences for the figures where appropriate, mapping them to things that didn’t exist or to mindsets that we now can clearly define and determine that weren’t thought of as distinct in older days; I think finding new techniques or secrets to get more information out of a chart is fantastic; I’d love to see new methods and innovative uses for geomantic figures in magic and talismans.  That said, trying to make the art as a whole some washed-out positive-only easy-bake Geomancy Lite is disrespectful to the art and disrespectful to people with actual problems and turn to divination for help.

Like I said before, this is all indicative of wider problems in a lot of new age, floofy fluffy-bunny, “The Secret”-derived meretricious trash.  Basically, if you think positive, the world is positive.  I call bullshit on that; not to be a pessimist, but bad things happen all the time and there’s not a lot we can do to keep them from happening.  I’m not talking about misplacing your keys or stubbing your toe, but major problems that are part of the human condition: illness, injury, death, famine, war, those kinds of things.  I’d love to live in a world without them, but that’s not this world, and we’re made to deal with them each and every day.  Trying to blow that off and live in some happy-go-lucky wonderland where nothing ever happens is, well, magical thinking, and in no useful way at that.  A lot of modern astrology has undergone this kind of thinking, as anyone familiar with the rants of Christopher Warnock of Renaissance Astrology will be aware of.  Trying to do the same to geomancy would make it a lot less useful in a world where bad things happen, and being willfully ignorant of the bad things that happen in the world is irresponsible and disastrous.

As for other divination systems?  It depends on what exactly they aim to answer.  Geomancy and horary astrology aim to answer crucial questions about everyday life as humans in a human world with human problems, and necessarily must deal with both good and bad subjects.  The ancients didn’t shy away from this; we’ve largely isolated ourselves in the middle class Western world from the harsh realities of life outside our comparatively awesome lifestyle, but that doesn’t change the fact that life has problems.  Other divination systems that rely on more spiritual, ethereal, or vague imagery?  That speaks a different language and can often answer to different problems; I won’t judge them if they can’t say bad things as well as good things.  But when making plans with geomancy, people need to know whether gold is headed towards them or shit in order to make their lives better.

8 responses

  1. Wau, you nailed that. I was reading along thinking, “Yeah, just like they did to astrology,” but you herded that sheep into the pen, too.

    I certainly agree with you on the need to update the language and widen the scope of Geomancy. I’m in a similar project with respect to the Lunar Mansions: I have SO little need to know, these days, how to time, or who to invoke to help with, the buying of slaves or capturing of cities.

  2. This is a bit off-topic, but I think you might actually know the answer (or have ore information than I) to a somewhat obscure question I’ve pondering…

    I find it interesting that the figures for Puer and Puella differ depending on the author of the text. Agrippa draws puer (one/one/two/one)– I believe this is the way you favor as well– and puella the opposite (one/two/one/one)… but both Martin of Spain and Robert Fludd switch this so puer is drawn (one/two/one/one)—Agrippa’s puella, and Puella is drawn (one/one/two/one)—Agrippa’s puer.

    Do you happen to have any insight into why this is? I haven’t been able to find anything explaining the possible reason for the difference in my research, and I’m curious if anyone knows the reason.

    On a side note- Martin of Spain’s text described the some aspects of the figures in a way that led me to understand why Puer and Puella had to be drawn the way he chose; it makes more sense if using his system. Agrippa’s way of drawing Puer and Puella seem to be the most widespread and accepted (I used these as well, until recently), but after reading Martin’s detailed explanation, I’m leaning towards using Martin and Fludd’s Puer and Puella instead of Agrippa’s.

    • I don’t, honestly. Fludd and de Spain run contrary to the rest of geomantic history when they did that, and it might be because of a very select strain of geomantic tradition or it might be a quirk of theirs (I’m leaning towards the latter). I certainly haven’t found much use or accuracy for that association (Puer/Venus and Puella/Mars), so I just don’t bother.

  3. ps. Have you had a chance to read Martin of Spain’s text yet? It’s had the most detailed explanation of correspondences of any historical text on geomancy that I’ve been able to get my hands on thus far.

    • I have, and made a PDF copy of it way back in the day from its original Middle English. That said, it’s been quite a while since I’ve read over it, so I should probably give it a reread.

      As for correspondences, a lot of the older geomantic works (especially things like Robert Fludd’s work, which is a tome of everything) focus mostly on correspondences and the meanings of the figures in the houses, and less on technique. Correspondences are nice, but I prefer technique and methods to interpret rather than things to interpret, myself.

  4. Can you point me to some of Warnock’s specific posts that reveal this attitude? I checked the website briefly but couldn’t find anything saccharine.

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