On Geomantic Holy Days

One of the things I subtly introduced in my 2018 ritual calendar post was the inclusion of a lot more feast days of saints and holy men in the Abrahamic/Judeo-Christian tradition.  Some of them make sense for me as a magician (like Epiphany for the Three Magi, or Saint Cyprian of Antioch), while I recognize others for their use in scheduling feast days or ceremonies for orisha worship and work by means of the saints syncretized with the orisha (like Saint Barbara for Ṣàngó).  Others are more personal, like the feast of the Prophet Samuel for my namesake and reminding myself from whence I come and the virtues I need to remind myself to live up to.  Then there are a handful of others, where there’s no immediate connection.  I mean, what’s the deal with the Feast of Adam and Eve, or that of Daniel or Enoch?  Yeah, they’re all important characters in the Grand Story of the World, but…admittedly, it’s weird.

Not too long ago, I was experimenting with coming up with a prayer for geomantic practice.  It’s something I’ve long tried to do, time and time again, but with little success in finding something right for my practice and needs.  Heck, when floundering around for inspiration, I even put out a post on Twitter and Facebook asking whether everyone else who divines has their own diviner’s prayer, and if so, what it might be.  (If you replied to that post, you have my unending thanks, and my deep appreciation for your practices, prayer or no!) Eventually, however, I finally came up with something that fit in well with my needs and in a pleasant, organized, comprehensive way.  As part of the prayer, I recognize my ancestors, not just of my kin but also of my practice.  In this case, I recognize my blood ancestors as well as my geomantic ancestors, and what better ones to recognize than the Forebears of the Art?

If you look through the older geomantic literature, you’ll sometimes find an educational narrative about how the art of geomancy came to be.  I’ve even written one myself, a bit more prose-filled and fleshed-out than what you might find in medieval manuscripts, but the idea is the same: at one point, a wise man was meditating and an angel came to him and taught him the art of geomancy, with which the man became even wiser and learned the secrets of the cosmos and of God.  Interestingly, the choices for which wise man are limited: it’s almost always Adam, Enoch, Daniel, Hermes Trismegistus, or Idris ﷺ.  Further, when the angel is given a name, it’s usually Gabriel, which brings in his associations with being the messenger for the Virgin Mary,  a protector and guide of Daniel, and the revelator who narrated the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

The Forebears of the Art make decent enough sense, if you think about it:

  • Adam was the first man created, and thus the origin of humanity with his wife and co-creation, Eve.  From him do we have all language and, thus, the original medium for us to have and process knowledge.  Plus, his name literally means “earth”, for it is from dust and clay that we were all created, by which we live and eat, and to which we all one day return.
  • Enoch was considered to be among the greatest scribes to have ever lived, and lived 365 years before walking with God and entering Heaven alive.  Enoch was seven generations descended from Adam and several before Noah, and is credited with writing the Book of Enoch, but also with a huge number of books on all subjects, which provided the foundation for all civilization, science, technology, and art.  Once assumed into Heaven, it is said that he assumes the role of the Metatron, attendant to the Throne, guardian to all celestial treasures and secrets, and communicator of the presence of God.  For this and other reasons, the meaning of Enoch’s name means “dedicated” or “educated”.
  • Daniel, whose name means “God is my Judge” or “judgment of God”, isn’t considered a prophet (the divine art of which ended with his immediate forefathers before the Babylonian Exile), but was considered the foremost righteous and pious of the Jews in the diaspora.  It is because of this that he was blessed with divine protection, understanding, visions, and knowledge of mysterious signs, dreams, and omens, to say nothing of his otherwise astute sharpness, observation, and knowledge.
  • Hermes Trismegistus is…well, Hermes Trismegistus, another prophetical figure, mentor to his son Asclepius and student Tat, who was revealed the true nature of things by Poemander, the Shepherd of Men, and who is credited with the Corpus Hermeticum, the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, the Perfect Sermon, the Emerald Tablet, and many other Hermetic texts.  It is from Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice-Great One, that we get the name for our style of magic, and many works, books, texts, arts, sciences, and discoveries are attributed to him.  That geomancy was one of them is of no great surprise.  In many ways, he can be considered another aspect of the Greek god Hermes, messenger and diviner and trickster and wayfarer, and especially so when combined with the Egyptian god Thoth, scribe, knowledge-seeker, order-keeper, magic-teacher, and ultimate president of fate.
  • Idris ﷺ is one of the lesser-known prophets in the Western world, but in Islam, he’s huge.  He came before the prophet Muhammad ﷺ, but still preached monotheism, purity, chastity, wisdom, honesty, patience, and all the other good virtues common to the prophets who came after him.  The name of this prophet has connections with the concepts of interpretation and instruction.  Many aspects of his life, from all the original civilizing works on sciences and arts, being the first to have the knowledge of writing, living for 365 years, and so forth have overwhelming parallels with Enoch, and the two are often considered identical in Qur’anic and biblical studies.  In other cases, especially by the more mystic interpreters of the texts, he’s associated with Hermes Trismegistus for many of the same reasons.  For the purposes of my studies and understanding, I equate Idris ﷺ more with Enoch than Hermes Trismegistus, but both associations are equally valid.

So, with that understood and clarified, I consider there to be four Forebears of the Art: Adam, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Daniel.  They are all equally the progenitors of the art of geomancy, each instructed according by the angel Gabriel to know, practice, and (in some cases) teach the art to their descendants, either children by blood or students by mind.  Given that there are four such Forebears, why not go one step further and associate them to the four elements themselves, and different blessings upon a diviner that grants them skill and success in the art?

  • Daniel, for his illumined understanding of visions and dreams and the judicious power of of the highest levels of mind, is given to the element of Fire, and models the blessing of Judgment to the diviner.
  • Enoch, for his education, skill in writing, and holding the secrets of the airs and the heavens in his possession, is given to the element of Air, and models the blessing of Dedication to the diviner.
  • Hermes Trismegistus, for his spiritual understanding and meditation upon the deepest of mysteries, initiation into new living and life, and mediation between all peoples and cultures, and so is given to the element of Water, and models the blessing of Wisdom to the diviner.
  • Adam, being born directly of the Earth and giving the first names to all things that are, bringing them into full materialization and actualization within the newly-made World of Man, is given to the element of Earth, and models the blessing of Attainment to the diviner.

Given that, if one were to consider honoring these progenitors, why not use their feast days, as normally reckoned according to the various Christian churches out there?

  • Feast of Gabriel the Archangel: March 24
  • Feast of All Angels: September 29
  • Feast of Daniel the Prophet: July 21
  • Feast of Enoch the Great Scribe: July 30
  • Feast of Adam and Eve: December 24

Note that, technically, Gabriel can be celebrated on two days: March 24 is his general feast day in the West, and was even recognized by the Roman Catholic Church before 1969.  After, the Church prefers to celebrate all the angels on Michaelmas, September 29, which includes Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel.

The only feast day I don’t have listed above for is Hermes Trismegistus who…well, doesn’t really have one.  It’s a little weird, now that I think about it, but I never really considered a specific day to give to Hermes Trismegistus. While he was sometimes recognized as a gentile prophet by some fathers of the Church, much as how Idris ﷺ was recognized as a virtuous pre-Islamic prophet before the Qur’an, Hermes Trismegistus is not formally recognized as either saint or prophet, and so has no feast day of his own in the Churchs’ systems.  So, my ideas on a possible feast day for Hermes Trismegistus:

  • I can’t really seem to find any practice or consensus of a feast day for Hermes Trismegistus besides a very modern and unexplained May 24, which doesn’t seem well-grounded to me.  The only source for this I can find is in Dennis William Hauck’s book on the Emerald Tablet, something-something pan-pagan Triple Goddess feast day, mumble-mumble alchemical processes describing the enlightenment/death of the Buddha Śākyamuni on the full moon of May.  I’m unconvinced of the associations, personally.
  • Previously I’d’ve used the Hermaia, but that’s more properly for the Hellenic Hermes, and is also based on the Hellenic lunisolar calendar (fourth day of the tenth lunar month, reckoned from the summer solstice).   This typically occurs in March at some point.
  • Rather than the Hellenic festival, the Roman one of Mercuralia on May 15 could suffice.  However, the focus on this was really the god of the marketplace and commerce (as Mercury always was, only later adopting more of Hermes’ traits and, even later than that, Hermes Trismegistus’).
  • We could just assign him a day of a new invention with an appropriate number.  The fourth day of the fourth month for us would be April 4, which might just be simple enough to work, even if it is unfounded in anything else.  This day does happen to be the feast day for Saint Isidore of Seville, the famous composer of the Etymologiae, the patron saint of the internet, computers, programmers, and students generally, so this might actually work reasonably well.
  • I suppose one could argue for an astrological alignment, such as when the planet Mercury is at 15° Virgo (or between that point and the start of Libra) between sunrise and noon as described in the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, but that’s incredibly variable and not tied to the Gregorian calendar, which can also involve nasty retrograde periods, which might be ill-fitting for honor.   Plus, there’s debate about whether this is just an astrological election for talismans, a set of one-time instructions for the mythic engraving of the Discourse, or a reoccurring celestial marker to actually remember him by.  Plus, now that I look at it, there isn’t clarity as to whether the text really means the planet Mercury or the Moon, because Hermes Trismegistus was associated with Hermes in the Hellenic system and Thoth in the Egyptian one; Hermes is given the planet Mercury, but Thoth the Moon.
  • Instead of thinking of a purely Christian system, why not look at Hermes Trismegistus’ older Egyptian one?  Thoth was primarily celebrated on the third day of the Wag Festival, held from the 17th through 19th of First Akhet, the first month after the heliacal rising of Sirius.  The heliacal rising of Sirius isn’t something I would like to use, as the Egyptian calendar was timed by this observation but dependent upon the precession of the stars and latitude of observation; some modern Kemeticists do the right thing and calculate when the new year would be for their own area, but just as many (so it seems) just use an old date and work from there.  I often see August 6 as a date to celebrate Thoth and, thus, Hermes Trismegistus, but again, this is using a date that’s long since been out of sync with any historical use.
  • The ancient Egyptian calendar is still technically in use by their modern descendants, the Copts.  The Coptic calendar is still used by Coptic Christians today, and is largely regularized though it still drifts ever so slowly, since it’s effectively a kind of Julian calendar and not Gregorian.  Still, it’s better than nothing!  The first day of the year in that calendar, 1 Thout, is September 11 in our calendar (or September 12 in Gregorian leap years) for the rest of this century, due to the Julian-Gregorian drift of leap days (shhhh); skipping ahead to the 19th day of this month gets us to September 29, which would be the modern date of the Wag and Thoth Festival.  Oh, would you look at that, September 29 is also Michaelmas.  Cute.  So, we can slide Hermes Trismegistus on into there as well, and use that (or knock it back one day later, during leap years or until 2100 CE) as our feast day for the prophet.
  • Another Egyptian calendar, the Cairo Calendar, gives an explanation of the usefulness and auspiciousness of each day in the Egyptian year, along with an ongoing mythic account of what happens in the divine realm on that day.  The events have been associated and linked to certain celestial events involving certain stars, as well, with Thoth especially linked to Alphecca (α Coronae Borealis) in its heliacal rising on October 12 for the “going forth of Thoth in order to judge in the presence of Ra” or its culmination at dawn on January 24 for “the coming of Thoth”.

Honestly?  I’m inclined to just use April 4 for its regularity and convenient timing, so as to not overlap or bunch up with other things going on that time of year, and consider Saint Isidore of Seville to be a “mask” lent to Hermes Trismegistus for this purpose.  No heliacal or stellar observations, no Julian calendrics, no lunation weirdness; it’s easy, it’s regular, it’s Gregorian, the number matches well with Hermes and Hermes Trismegistus and geomancy, it matches the pattern of the other feast days, and the saint mask here is perfect.  Boom, April 4, done.

So much for feast days of the saints of geomancy.  The usual invocations and offerings can be made to them: candles in appropriate colors, traditional meals or drinks, flowers, and so forth.  Gabriel is, of course, among the most well-known of Christian entities, and chaplets, novenas, and other prayers to him are readily found aplenty.  (Heck, I even wrote an ebook compiling prayers to the seven Christian archangels, including more than a few for Gabriel.)  In the absence of any particularly specific prayers for some of the older biblical figures, I like using the Orthodox kontakion and troparion prayer-songs for Daniel and Adam and Eve, but I’m having trouble finding other such prayers for Enoch; I’ll likely need to do more digging or some writing for those, or appropriate/innovate from the Islamic tradition with his equivalent there.  Prayers for Hermes Trismegistus are old hat and abundant in Hermetic literature, but devising new ones might always be appreciated.

What about giving days to the figures themselves, for like a Feast of Albus or a Feast of Fortuna Minor?  This is getting dangerously close to setting up a “geomantic zodiac”, which weirds me out and is getting into very experimental territory; I’ve spoken before on setting up geomantic cycles of time, which can get kinda hairy.  Still, talking with the good Dr Al Cummins, I decided “eh, screw it” and went to work drafting an idea for a geomantic calendar of sorts.  The idea is very loosely based off the pagan Wheel of the Year, which divides up the solar year into eight parts.  Eight is just half of 16, so if we can divide the year up into eight, why not one more division down?  The fundamental idea behind these 16 “geomantic districts of the ecliptic” lies in the primary and secondary elemental rulers of the elements, so brush up on those if you’re unfamiliar with how I structurally figure those out.

The idea of this calendar goes like this:

  • Each season has a ruling element, based on the cardinal zodiac sign associated with the solstice/equinox that starts it.  Thus, Spring starts at the spring equinox, which is 0° Aries; because Aries is a Fire sign, Spring is ruled by Fire.
  • Divide each season up into four districts of 23 or 22 days.  As a guide, the quarter days (i.e. solstices and equinoxes) start the first district, and the cross-quarter days, reckoned by the Sun midpoint that season’s fixed sign (e.g. 15° Taurus in Spring) will start the third district.
  • The third district is given to the figure whose primary and secondary elemental ruler is the same as that season’s element.  Thus, for Spring, Laetitia (Fire/Fire) is given to the third district.
  • The second district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler is its complementary element.  Fire complements Air and vice versa; Water complements Earth and vice versa.  In other words, use the element where the heat matches but not the moisture.
  • The first district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler matches the element of the preceding season.  In the case of Spring and Autumn, the secondary element will be oblique to the primary one, agreeing in moisture but not heat; in the case of Summer and Winter, the secondary element will oppose the primary one, agreeing in neither heat nor moisture.
  • The fourth district is given to the figure whose primary ruler is the element of the season, and whose secondary ruler matches the element of the succeeding season.  In the case of Summer and Winter, the secondary element will be oblique to the primary one, agreeing in moisture but not heat; in the case of Spring and Autumn, the secondary element will oppose the primary one, agreeing in neither heat nor moisture.

With that, here’s a table showing an approximate yearly calendar matching the four seasons, the date divisions of the geomantic districts and their ecliptic degree boundaries, the associated pagan Wheel of the Year celebration (if any), the primary/major and secondary/minor elements of the district, and the figure ruling the district itself.  Note that the dates here are rough approximates, and will shift from year to year according to the exact placement of the Sun along the ecliptic.

Season Solar
Ecliptic
Degree
Rough
Date
Pagan
Name
Element Figure
Major Minor
Spring 0° Ari Mar 21 Ostara Fire Earth Cauda Draconis
22°30′ Ari Apr 13 Air Fortuna Minor
15° Tau May 6 Beltane Fire Laetitia
7°30′ Gem May 29 Water Amissio
Summer 0° Can Jun 21 Litha Water Fire Puella
22°30′ Can Jul 14 Earth Populus
15° Leo Aug 6 Lammas Water Albus
7°30′ Vir Aug 29 Air Via
Autumn 0° Lib Sep 21 Mabon Air Water Coniunctio
22°30′ Lib Oct 13 Fire Puer
15° Sco Nov 5 Samhain Air Rubeus
7°30′ Sag Nov 27 Earth Acquisitio
Winter 0° Cap Dec 21 Yule Earth Air Caput Draconis
22°30′ Cap Jan 12 Water Fortuna Maior
15° Aqu Feb 3 Imbolc Earth Tristitia
7°30′ Pis Feb 26 Fire Carcer

As for the use of the neopagan names of the quarter/cross-quarter days, I should point out that I don’t really do anything with the cross-quarter days themselves, nor can I even really remember their names on a frequent basis.  However, they are a useful set of names for those eight days, which is why I’m using them here.  Besides, just because I don’t really do anything with them doesn’t mean nobody else does, and they’re pretty common knowledge for other people, so I figured I’d have them here anyway.

(that said, don’t @ me about the exact dates of the cross-quarter days in pagan/neopagan/tradcraft practice, I know that it’s common to give them to the first day of May, August, November, and February, I don’t care because it doesn’t mesh with a system based on the exact placement of the Sun in the ecliptic as described above. shhhhh.)

Presented in a more pleasant and graphical format, I present to you a prototype Geomantic Wheel of the Year. Read the figures from the outside in, aligned with the date text in each district.

Of course, the usual caveats apply: this is entirely theoretical and hypothetical, and is thus in need of actual experimentation.  There are some oddities that would need to be explored here, like starting off the solar year with…Cauda Draconis, of all figures.  Then again, consider that Caput Draconis starts off the winter; these are the two figures of the eclipses, the spots that turn the luminaries dark, and here they bound the darkest time of the year, and fruther, one could argue that one needs to firmly close and end the old year at the boundary before truly starting anew.  Alternatively, we might consider the geomantic year to start at the winter solstice with Caput Draconis, the district starting off the season of Earth, rather than with the spring equinox of Fire.  It’s an idea.

The important thing with this is the use of the exact days when the Sun enters the degree of the district, though I suppose it could be argued that if the geomantic figure actually resonates well with those particular degrees, it could hold over into the district as a whole.  And, of course, other such arrangements could exist, such as by expanding and refitting the lunar mansions associations of the figures into 22°30′ chunks, or reconfiguring the elemental assignments (swapping the rules for the first and fourth districts, for instance, or using different elemental rulers).

While I’m okay with the idea of ecliptic districts for the figures, the idea of particular days for the figures still strikes me as odd.  It’s like saying “this is the annual day to celebrate the Moon” or “this is the festival of the planet Jupiter”.  It’s fine when we talk about saints or gods, but when you’re talking about a celestial force apart and away from those, it seems a bit…weird.  Like, with the geomantic figures, yes they can be associated with spirits or saints or prophets or gods, but they’re still essentially forces that are constantly at work at all times in all places in the cosmos, universe, and world.  To single out a particular day seems more like a convention than something that actually arises harmonically and naturally, but then, considering how I’m linking the elemental flow of the seasons of the year to the elemental rulerships of the figures, I guess it could work.  I would fain try to apply the geomantic districts to any sort of astrological interpretation, but it is a useful model to organize a geomantic calendar, I suppose.

If you wanted to go one level further than just districts of the ecliptic, you could give the middle 16 days of each district to one figure (which means you’d have three to four days on either side of this set, or six to seven days altogether unallocated).  In that way, you could focus on pairs of the figures: first the figure of the current district, then the figure of the day within the district as its partner.  In this way, you could meditate on each of the 256 pairs of the figures throughout the course of a year in a regular, timed way.  How would the sixteen figures be allocated to the days within a district?  Good question, and one I do not propose an answer to (yet).  Maybe eventually, if the Geomantic Year ever takes off for me or others.

So now we have days for the geomantic saints, our noble Forebears of the Art, as well as an experimental system for special days for the sixteen figures themselves.  What about geomancy as a whole?  I mean, New Year’s Day, the turn of the seasons (or midseasons), one’s own birthday or nameday, or other important anniversaries can be done and made personal to one’s geomantic practice to perform divination for the coming season or year, as well as to honor the geomancers who went before you and the powers of the cosmos that are at work.  If you want to take a nature-centric approach to the art, there’s always Earth Day on April 22 each year.

But, if you’re asking me whether there’s one single day I might associate with the art?  I mean…that’s like asking for an “astrology day” or “tarot day” or “alchemy day”.  What I would say is this: no day must, any day can, and probably most days should be such a day to study and practice our art.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Prayer for the New Year – The Digital Ambler

  2. Pingback: More on Geomantic Epodes and Intonations « The Digital Ambler

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