On Geomantic Figure Magic Squares

We all know and love magic squares, don’t we?  Those grids of numbers, sometimes called “qamea” (literally just meaning “amulet” or “talisman” generally in Hebrew, קמיע or qamia`), are famous in Western magic for being numerological stand-ins or conceptions of the seven planets, sure, such as the 3×3 square for Saturn, the 5×5 square for Mars, and so forth, but they’re also huge in Arabic magic, too, from which Western magicians almost certainly got the idea.  Sure, magic letter squares are ancient in the West, such as the famous Sator Square from Roman times until today, and have more modern parallels in texts like the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, but magic number squares are fun, because they combine numerical and numerological principles together in an elegant form.

Which is why I was caught off-guard when I saw these two squares online, the first from this French blog post on Arabic geomancy and the other shared in the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook:

Well…would you take a look at that?  Geomantic magic squares!  It took me a bit to realize what I was seeing, but once it hit me, I was gobsmacked.  It might not be immediately apparent how to make a geomantic magic square, but it becomes straightforward if you consider the figures as numbers of points, such that Laetitia stands in for 7, Puer for 5, Carcer for 6, and so forth.  Sure, it’s not a traditional kind of n × n number square that goes from 1 to n², but there are plenty of other magic squares that don’t do that either in occult practice, so seeing a kind of geomantic figure magic square actually makes a lot of sense when they’re viewed as numbers of points.  In this case, the magic sum of the square—the sum of the columns or rows—is 24.

Consider that first magic square, elegant as it is.  When it’s oriented on a tilt, such that one of its diagonals is vertical, we have the four axial figures (Coniunctio, Carcer, Via, and Populus) right down the middle, and all the other figures are arranged in reverse pairs in their corresponding positions on either side of the square.  For instance, Amissio and Acquisitio are on either side of the central axis “mirroring” each other, as are Tristitia and Laetitia, Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, and so forth.  This is a wonderful geometric arrangement that shows a deep and profound structure that underlies the figures, and which I find particularly beautiful.

Of course, knowing that there are at least two such geomantic figure magic squares, and seeing possibilities for variation (what if you rearranged the figures of that first magic square above such that all the entering figures were on one side and all the exiting figures on the other?), that led me to wonder, how many geomantic magic squares are there?  Are there any structural keys to them that might be useful, or any other numerical properties that could be discovered?  So, late one evening, I decided to start unraveling this little mystery.  I sat down and wrote a quick program that started with the following list of numbers:

[ 4 , 5 , 5 , 5 , 5 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 6 , 7 , 7 , 7 , 7 , 8 ]
  • Why this list?  Note that the figure magic squares rely on counting the points of the figures.  From that point of view, Puer (with five points) can be swapped by Puella, Caput Draconis, or Cauda Draconis in any given figure magic square and it would still be another valid magic square that would have the same underlying numerical structure.  There’s only one figure with four points (Via), four figures with five points (Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis, Cauda Draconis), six figures with six points (Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Amissio, Acquisitio), four figures with seven points (Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia, Tristitia), and only one figure with eight points (Populus).  If we simply focus on the point counts of the figures themselves and not the figures, we can simplify the problem statement significantly and work from there, rather than trying to figure out every possible combination of figures that would yield a magic square from the get-go.
  • How does such a list get interpreted as a 4 × 4 square?  There are 16 positions in the list, so we can consider the first four positions (indices 0 through 3) to be the top row of the square, the second four positions (indices 4 through 7) to be the second row, the third four positions (indices 8 through 11) to be the third row, and the fourth four positions (indices 12 through 15) as the fourth row, all interpreted from left to right.  Thus, the first position is the upper left corner, the second position the uppermost inside-left cell, the third position the uppermost inside-right cell, the fourth position the upper right corner, the fifth position the leftmost inside-upper cell, the sixth position the inside-upper inside-left cell, and so forth.  This kind of representation also makes things a little easier for us instead of having to recursively deal with a list of lists.
  • How do we know whether any permutation of such a list, interpreted as a 4 × 4 square, satisfies our constraints?  We need to add up the values of each row, column, and diagonal and make sure they add up to our target number (in our case, 24).

Starting from this list, I set out to get all the unique permutations.  Originally, I just got all 16! = 20,922,789,888,000 possible permutations, thinking that would be fine, and testing them each for fitting the target number of 24, but after running for twelve hours, and coming up with over 170,000 results with more being produced every few minutes, I realized that I’d probably be waiting for a while.  So, I rewrote the permutation code and decided to get only unique permutations (such that all the 5s in the base list of numbers are interchangeable and therefore equal, rather than treating each 5 as a unique entity).  With that change, the next run of the program took only a short while, and gave me a list of 368 templates.  We’re getting somewhere!

So, for instance, take the last template square that my program gave me, which was the list of numbers [6, 6, 5, 7, 8, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7, 6, 5, 4, 6, 7, 7].  Given that list, we can interpret it as the following template magic square:

6 6 5 7
8 5 6 5
6 7 6 5
4 6 7 7

And we can populate it with any set of figures that match the point counts accordingly, such as the one below:

Fortuna
Minor
Fortuna
Maior
Puer Laetitia
Populus Puella Carcer

Cauda
Draconis

Amissio Albus Acquisitio Caput
Draconis
Via Coniunctio Rubeus Tristitia

Excellent; this is a totally valid geomantic figure magic square, where the point counts of each row, column, and diagonal add to 24.  To further demonstrate the templates, consider the two images of the figure magic squares I shared at the top of the post.  However, although I was able to find the first magic square given at the start of the post (the green-on-sepia one), the second one (blue with text around it) didn’t appear in the list.  After taking a close look at my code to make sure it was operating correctly, I took another look at the square itself.  It turns out that, because although all the rows and columns add to 24, one of the diagonals adds up to 20, which means it’s not a true geomantic figure magic square.  Welp!  At least now we know.

But there’s still more to find out, because we don’t have all the information yet that we set out to get.  We know that there are 368 different template squares, but that number hides an important fact: some template squares are identical in structure but are rotated or flipped around, so it’s the “same square” in a sense, just with a transformation applied.  It’s like taking the usual magic number square of Saturn and flipping it around.  So, let’s define three basic transformations:

  1. Rotating a square clockwise once.
  2. Flipping a square horizontally.
  3. Flipping a square vertically.

We know that we can rotate a square up to three times, which gets us a total of four different squares (unrotated, rotated once, rotated twice, rotated thrice).  We know that we can leave a square unflipped, flipped horizontally, flipped vertically, and flipped both horizontally and vertically.  We know that a square can be rotated but not flipped, flipped but not rotated, or both rotated and flipped.  However, it turns out that trying out all combinations of rotating and flipping gets duplicate results: for instance, flipping vertically without rotating is the same as rotating twice and flipping horizontally.  So, instead of there being 16 total transformations, there are actually only eight other templates that are identical in structure but just transformed somehow, which means that our template count of 368 is eight times too large.  If we divide 368 by 8, we get a manageable number of just 46 root templates, which isn’t bad at all.

What about total possible figure squares?  Given any template, there are four slots for figures with five points, four slots for figures with seven points, and six slots for figures with six points.  The figures of any given point count can appear in any combination amongst the positions with those points.  This means that, for any given template square, there are 4! × 4! × 6! = 414,720 different possible figure squares.  Which means that, since there are 368 templates, there are a total of 152,616,960 figure squares, each a unique 4 × 4 grid of geomantic figures that satisfy the condition that every column, row, and diagonal must have 24 points.  (At least we’ve got options.)

What about if we ignore diagonals?  The blue magic square above is almost a magic square, except that one of its diagonals adds up to 20 and not 24.  If we only focus on the rows and columns adding up to 24 and ignore diagonals, then we get a larger possible set of template squares, root template squares, and figure squares:

  • 5,904 template squares
  • 738 root template squares
  • 2,448,506,880 possible figure squares

So much for less-magic squares.  What about more-magic squares?  What if we take other subgroups of these squares besides the rows, columns, and diagonals—say, the individual quadrants of four figures at each corner of the square as well as the central quadrant, or the just the corner figures themselves, or the bows and hollows?  That’s where we might get even more interesting, more “perfect” geomantic figure magic squares, so let’s start whittling down from least magic to most magic.  Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here are examples of the different patterns I’m considering (four columns, four rows, two diagonals, five quadrants, four bows, four hollows, one set of corners):

To keep the numbers manageable, let’s focus on root template square counts:

  • Rows and columns only: 738 root templates
  • Rows, columns, and diagonals: 46 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, and all five quadrants: 18 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, all five quadrants, bows, and hollows: 2 root templates
  • Rows, columns, diagonals, all five quadrants, bows, hollows, and the four corners: 2 root templates

With each new condition, we whittle down the total number of more-magical root templates from a larger set of less-magical root templates.  I’m sure there are other patterns that can be developed—after all, for some numeric magic squares of rank 4, there are up to 52 different patterns that add up to the magic sum—but these should be enough to prove the point that there are really two root templates that are basically as magical as we’re gonna get.  Those root templates, along with their transformations, are:

  1. [6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    1. Unflipped, unrotated: [6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    2. Unflipped, rotated once clockwise: [5, 5, 8, 6, 7, 7, 6, 4, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7]
    3. Unflipped, rotated twice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6]
    4. Unflipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 4, 6, 7, 7, 6, 8, 5, 5]
    5. Flipped, unrotated: [7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    6. Flipped, rotated once clockwise: [6, 8, 5, 5, 4, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6]
    7. Flipped, rotated twice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7]
    8. Flipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 7, 7, 6, 4, 5, 5, 8, 6]
  2. [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    1. Unflipped, unrotated: [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    2. Unflipped, rotated once clockwise: [5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    3. Unflipped, rotated twice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8]
    4. Unflipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5]
    5. Flipped, unrotated: [5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5]
    6. Flipped, rotated once clockwise: [8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 7, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6]
    7. Flipped, rotated twice clockwise: [5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 4, 7, 7, 8, 6, 5, 5]
    8. Flipped, rotated thrice clockwise: [6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 7, 7, 4, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8]

That second one, for instance, is the root template of that first figure magic square given above (green-on-sepia), unflipped and rotated clockwise twice.  So, with these, we end up with these two root template squares, from which can be developed eight others for each through rotation and reflection, meaning that there are 16 template squares that are super magical, which means that there are a total of 6,635,520 possible figure squares—414,720 per each template—once you account for all variations and combinations of figures in the slots.

That there are 16 templates based on two root templates is suggestive that, maybe, just maybe, there could be a way to assign each template to a geomantic figure.  I mean, I was hoping that there was some way we’d end up with just 16 templates, and though I was ideally hoping for 16 root templates, two root templates is pretty fine, too.  With 16 figures, there are at least two ways we can lump figures together into two groups of eight: the planetary notion of advancing or receding (advancing Populus vs. receding Via for the Moon, advancing Albus vs. receding Coniuncto for Mercury, advancing Fortuna Maior and receding Fortuna Minor for the Sun, etc.), or the notion of entering or exiting figures.  Personally, given the more equal balance of figures and the inherently structural nature of all this, I’m more inclined to give all the entering figures to one root template and all the exiting figures to the other.  As for how we might assign these templates to the figures, or which set of templates get assigned to the entering figures or exiting figures, is not something I’ve got up my sleeve at this moment, but who knows?  Maybe in the future, after doing some sort of structural analysis of the templates, some system might come up for that.

More than that, how could these squares be used?  It’s clear that they’ve got some sort of presence in geomantic magic, but as for specifically what, I’m not sure.  Unlike a geomantic chart, which reveals some process at play in the cosmos, these geomantic squares are more like my geomantic emblems project (and its subsequent posts), in that they seem to tell some sort of cosmic story based on the specific arrangement of figures present within the square or emblem.  However, like those geomantic emblems, this is largely a hammer without a nail, a mathematical and structural curiosity that definitely seems and feels important and useful, just I’m not sure how.  Still, unlike the emblems, figure squares actually have a presence in some traditions of geomancy, so at least there’s more starting off there.  Perhaps with time and more concentrated translation and studying efforts, such purposes and uses of figure squares can come to light, as well as how a potential figure rulership of the sixteen most-magical templates can play with the 414,720 different arrangements of figures on each template and how they feel or work differently, and whether different arrangements do different things.  Heck, there might be a way to assign each of the different combinations of figures on the templates to the figures themselves; after all, 414,720 is divisible by 16, yielding 25,920, which itself is divisible by 16, yielding 1620, so there might be 1620 different figure squares for each of the 256 (16 × 16) combinations of figures.  Daunting, but hey, at least we’d have options.

Also, there’s the weird bit about the target sum of the magic squares being 24.  This is a number that’s not really immediately useful in geomancy—we like to stick to 4 or 16, or some multiple thereof—but 24 is equal to 16 + 8, so I guess there’s something there.  More immediately, though, I’m reminded of the fact that 24 is the number of permutations of vowels in my system of geomantic epodes for most figures.  For instance, by giving the vowel string ΟΙΕΑ (omikron iōta epsilon alpha) to Laetitia, if we were to permute this string of vowels, we’d end up with 24 different such strings, which could be used as a chant specifically for this figure:

ΟΙΕΑ ΟΙΑΕ ΟΕΙΑ ΟΕΑΙ ΟΑΙΕ ΟΑΕΙ
ΙΟΕΑ ΙΟΑΕ ΙΕΟΑ ΙΕΑΟ ΙΑΟΕ ΙΑΕΟ
ΕΟΙΑ ΕΟΑΙ ΕΙΟΑ ΕΙΑΟ ΕΑΟΙ ΕΑΙΟ
ΑΟΙΕ ΑΟΕΙ ΑΙΟΕ ΑΙΕΟ ΑΕΟΙ ΑΕΙΟ

From that post, though, Populus only has a three-vowel string, which can be permuted only six times, but if we repeat that chant four times total, then we’d still end up with 24 strings to chant, so that still works out nicely:

ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ
ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ

So maybe 24 is one of those emergent properties of some applications of geomantic magic that could be useful for us.  Perhaps.  It’s worth exploring and experimenting with, I claim.

In the meantime, I’ll work on getting a proper list drawn up of all the templates for the various types of geomantic magic squares—ranging from less magic to more magic—at least just to have for reference for when further studies are or can be done on this.  This is more of a curiosity of mine and not a prioritized topic of research, but at least I know it exists and there’s the potential for further research to be done on it for future times.

A New Model of Elemental Assignments to the Geomantic Figures

We all know the basic four elements of Western occult cosmology, don’t we?  Of course we do!  We know that there’s Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, in order from least dense to most dense, or from most subtle to least subtle, whichever you prefer.  They’re even described in the Divine Poemander, the opening chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum as being fundamental (even in this same order!) to the creation of the cosmos:

And I saw an infinite sight, all things were become light, both sweet and exceeding pleasant; and I was wonderfully delighted in the beholding it. But after a little while, there was a darkness made in part, coming down obliquely, fearful and hideous, which seemed unto me to be changed into a certain moist nature, unspeakably troubled, which yielded a smoke as from Fire; and from whence proceeded a voice unutterable, and very mournful, but inarticulate, inasmuch as it seemed to have come from the Light.  Then from that Light, a certain holy Word joined itself unto Nature, and outflew the pure and unmixed Fire from the moist nature upwards on high; it was exceeding Light, and sharp, and operative withal. And the Air, which was also light, followed the Spirit and mourned up to Fire from the Earth and the Water, insomuch that it seemed to hang and depend upon it.  And the Earth and the Water stayed by themselves so mingled together, that the Earth could not be seen for the Water, but they were moved because of the Spiritual word that was carried upon them.

According to long-standing doctrine, going back to the time of Aristotle and before him even unto Empedocles, the four elements are considered to be arranged according to the two qualities each element has.  One pair of qualities exists on a spectrum from Hot to Cold, and the other from Dry to Moist.  If you take both Hot and Dry, you end up with Fire; Hot and Moist, Air; Cold and Moist, Water; Cold and Dry, Earth.  In this way, each element pertains to two qualities:

Hot Cold
Dry Fire Earth
Moist Air Water

This sort of arrangement has classically been described graphically with a kind of diamond-square diagram, showing how the four elements arise from combinations of these two qualities.  In the below diagram, Fire is represented by the upwards-pointing triangle in the upper left positioned between Hot and Dry, Air by the upwards-pointing triangle with a horizontal bar in the upper right between Hot and Wet, and so forth.

The thing about the four elements is that, while they are combinations of two qualities, they’re not necessarily static combinations thereof.  Some philosophers have specified that the elements are primarily of one quality and secondarily of the other that allows them to change into each other or react with each other in a more fluid way.  Fire, for instance, is both hot and dry, but in this fluid system, is specifically considered to be primarily hot and secondarily dry.  In the diagram above, we can see this in that, going clockwise around the diagram, the primary quality of an element is clockwise from that element’s corner, and the secondary quality is counterclockwise; in this sense, the primary quality is what that element is headed into, and the secondary quality is what that element is leaving behind.  Thus:

  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot.
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.

From this, let’s say that the four qualities themselves—even if they’re proto-elemental—can be ascribed to the four elements themselves, such that Heat is basically the main characteristic of Fire, Moisture of Air, Cold of Water, and Dryness of Earth.  (This offshoot of the Empedoclean-Aristotelian system is in opposition to the Stoic system, which gives Heat and Coldness to Fire and Air, and Moisture and Dryness to Water and Earth, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this system which is effectively unrelated.)  So, although Heat is part of both Fire and Air, Heat is more aligned towards Fire than Air.

We also know that certain elements—more properly, certain qualities of the elements—cannot be together lest they cancel each other out because of their inherent opposition.  Heat and Cold cancel each other out, as do Moisture and Dryness.  Thus, when we say that Fire and Water cancel each other out, it’s really their elemental qualities that cancel each other out, leaving behind a mess.  What remains when different elements cancel each other out, or some combination of elements reinforcing each other in some ways or reducing each other in other ways, can be instructive in how to alchemically understand these elemental reactions from a basic principle.

Now consider the 16 geomantic figures.  Each figure, as we all know by now, is represented by four rows, each row having one or two dots.  Each row represents one of the four elements: from top to bottom, they’re Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  A single dot in a row signifies the presence or activity of that element in the figure, while two dots in a row signifies its absence or passivity.  Thus, Laetitia (with only one dot in the topmost Fire row and two dots in the other rows) has only Fire active, and so forth.  We know that there are many different ways to assign the elements to the figures, some being more recent than others, and the way I like to assign them has the benefit of being one of the oldest used in Western geomancy…mostly, with the figures Laetitia and Rubeus swapped around so that Laetitia is ruled by Fire and Rubeus by Air.  Moreover, my way of assigning the elements also has a benefit of giving each figure both a primary and a secondary elemental ruler, which has come in use in various techniques more often than I had originally anticipated.

Still, what would happen if we used a different method beyond overall signification to assign the figures to the elements?  What would happen if we took the structure of the figures themselves as the sole key to understand their elemental affinities based on what’s present, what’s absent, what cancels out, and what reinforces each other?  Knowing that certain elemental qualities do just that when put together, what would happen if we took that structural approach to the elements active within a geomantic figure?  For instance, Puer has Fire, Air, and Earth active; we know that because of their opposing qualities, Air (Hot and Wet) and Earth (Cold and Dry) cancel each other out, leaving only Fire behind, giving Puer a basically fiery nature.  What if we took this approach to all the figures, seeing what came out of such elemental interactions amongst the elements present within a geomantic figure?

Fire First
Row
Second
Row
Third
Row
Fourth
Row
Remainder Result
Laetitia Hot
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Fortuna
Minor
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Hot ×2 Hot
Amissio Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Ø Null
Cauda
Draconis
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Puer Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Rubeus Hot
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Coniunctio Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Wet ×2 Wet
Acquisitio Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Puella Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth
Via Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Albus Cold
Wet
Cold
Wet
Water
Populus Ø Null
Carcer Hot
Dry
Cold

Dry

Dry ×2 Dry
Caput
Draconis
Hot
Wet
Cold

Wet

Cold

Dry

Cold
Wet
Water
Fortuna
Maior
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold ×2 Cold
Tristitia Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth

Note the overall results we get:

  • Eight figures end up with an actual element that represents them, four being a result of that element being the only active one in that figure (e.g. Laetitia, being Fire, because only Fire is active), and four being a result of that element being active, its opposing element being inactive, and the other two elements that cancel out being active (e.g. Puer, being Fire, because Fire is active but so is Air and Earth, which cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being not an actual element, but a single quality, because it contains the two elements active in that figure that have that quality, with the other qualities of those elements canceling out (e.g. Fortuna Minor is pure Heat, because Fire and Air are active within it, both elements of Heat, though the dryness of Fire and moisture of Air cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being null and void of any element or quality.  One is trivial, Populus, because it just has nothing active in it to begin with, but the other three (Via, Amissio, and Acquisitio) are combinations of only opposing elements that all cancel each other out somehow.

If we separate out those eight figures that end up with an element into a “pure element” group (where the figure consists of only that single element itself) and a “muddled element” group (where the figure consists of that element plus two other elements that oppose each other and cancel out), we end up with a neat grouping of four groups of four figures.  Even nicer is that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups all have each figure representing one of the four elements (the Single Quality representing elements by means of their most closely associated quality, e.g. Fire by Heat, Water by Cold).  That leaves us with a convenient scheme for assigning the figures to the elements in a new way…

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
…?

…mostly.  The Null Quality group of figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) don’t fall into the same patterns as the rest because…well, they’re all null and void and empty of any single element or quality.  We’ll get to those later.

First, note that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups, we see a process of descension from one element to the next.  Descension is the process by which the elemental rows of a geomantic figure are “shifted” downwards such that the Fire line gets shifted down to the Air line, Air down to Water, Water down to Earth, and Earth cycles back up again to Air; I discussed this and the corresponding reverse technique, ascension, in an earlier post of mine from 2014.  Moreover, note that all these groups descend into the proper elements ruling that figure in lockstep, so that if we take the Fire figure from one group and descend it into the Air figure of that same group, the other Fire figures from the other groups also descend into the Air figures of those groups.  That’s actually a pretty neat reinforcing of this new system of assigning elements to the figures, and in a conveniently regular, structural way.

It’s with the Null Quality figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) that that pattern breaks down.  We know that Amissio and Acquisitio descend into each other in a two-stage cycle of descension, while Via and Albus descend into themselves without a change.  We can’t use the process of descension like we did before to make a cycle of elements within a quality group of figures, and because of their null quality, we can’t just look at the elements present in the figures themselves to determine what element they might be aligned with as a whole in this system.  So…what next?

Take a close look at the figures we already have charted, and follow along with my next bit of logic.  For one, we know that all the odd figures are either in the Pure Element or Muddled Element group, which means all the even figures must be in the Single Quality or Null Quality group.  On top of that, if we look at the figures that are already charted to the elements, we can note that Fire and Air figures are all mobile, and Water and Earth figures are all stable.  This suggests that Via and Amissio (the mobile Null Quality figures) should be given to Fire and Air somehow, and Populus and Acquisitio (the stable Null Quality figures) to Water and Earth somehow.  We’re getting somewhere!

The Null Quality figures share more similarities with the Single Quality figures because they’re both sets of even figures.  Even though the Single Quality figures follow a process of descension between one element and the next, we also see that figures that belong to opposing elements (Fire and Water, Air and Earth) are also inverses of each other (inversion being one of the structural transformations of geomantic figures, this one specifically replacing odd points with even points and vice versa).  This can be used as a pattern for the Null Quality figures, too, such that inverse Null Quality figures are given to opposing elements. This means that we have two possible solutions:

  1. Via to Fire, Amissio to Air, Populus to Water, Acquisitio to Earth
  2. Amissio to Fire, Via to Air, Acquisitio to Water, Populus to Earth

At this point, I don’t think there’s any structural argument that could be made for one choice over the other, so I shift to a symbolic one.  In many Hermetic and Platonic systems of thought, when it comes to pure activity or pure passivity (though there are many other alternatives to such terms!), Fire and Water are often thought of as perfect examplars, so much so that the Hexagram is literally interpreted as a divine union of masculine/ejective/active Fire (represented by the upwards-pointing triangle) and feminine/receptive/passive Water (represented by the downwards-pointing triangle).  Taking it a step further, in some interpretations of this mystical formation of the hexagram, this combination of Fire and Water produces the element of Air.  If we translate this into geomantic figures, we can consider “pure activity” (Fire) to best be represented by the figure Via (which could, I suppose, be taken as the simplest possible representation of the phallus, being a single erect line, or as the number 1 which is also historically considered to be masculine or active), and “pure passivity” (Water) as Populus (which, likewise, could be seen as the walls of the birth canal or vulva, as well as the number 2 which is considered feminine or passive).  If we give Via to Fire and Populus to Water, this means that we’d give Amissio to Air and Acquisitio to Earth.  Note how this actually works nicely for us, because the Null Quality figure we give to Air is itself composed of Fire and Water, matching with that mystical elemental interpretation of the Hexagram from before.

Now we can complete our table from before:

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
Via Amissio Populus Acquisitio

Next, can we impose an ordering onto the figures given these elemental assignments and quality groups?  Probably!  Not that orders matter much in Western geomancy as opposed to Arabic geomancy, but it could be something useful as well, inasmuch as any of this might be useful.  The order I would naturally think would be useful would be to have all sixteen figures grouped primarily by element—so all four Fire figures first, then the four Air figures, and so on—and then, within that group, the most representative of that element down to the least representative, which would suggest we start with the Pure Element figure and end with the Null Quality figure.  So, which comes second, the Muddled Element or the Single Quality?  I would suggest that the Single Quality figure is more like the element than the Muddled Element figure, because the Single Quality is representative of the…well, single quality that is representative of that element and, though it has some things canceling out within the figure, those things that cancel out based on their corresponding elements active within the figure are still harmonious and agreeable to the overall element itself.  Meanwhile, the Muddled Element is more removed due to the presence of other opposing elements that fight within itself, dragging it down further away from a pure expression of its overall element.  These rules would get us an order like the following:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Fortuna Minor
  3. Puer
  4. Via
  5. Rubeus
  6. Coniunctio
  7. Cauda Draconis
  8. Amissio
  9. Albus
  10. Fortuna Maior
  11. Caput Draconis
  12. Populus
  13. Tristitia
  14. Carcer
  15. Puella
  16. Acquisitio

So, what does this leave us with, and where does this leave us?  We have here a new way to associate the geomantic figures to the traditional elements in a way that’s substantially different from either the usual structural method that I prefer or a more zodiacal method that’s also in common use by authors like John Michael Greer and those immersed in Golden Dawn-like systems, though there is still a good amount of overlap between this kind of elemental assignment and the structural method with eight of the figures retaining their same element (all four Pure Element figures plus Fortuna Minor, Coniunctio, Carcer, and Populus).  This is not a method I’ve encountered before in any geomantic text I’m familiar with, and I’m inclined to say it’s pretty much a novel approach to assigning the elements to the figures, though considering how straightforward the process was, or at least how simple the idea behind it was, I’d be honestly surprised that such a thing hasn’t been thought of before now.

I don’t mean to supplant the major two existing systems of elemental assignments of the geomantic figures (the planetary-zodiacal method or the structural method) or their variations as found throughout the literature; personally, I’m still inclined to keep to my structural method of elemental assignments instead of this combinatoric method, as it’s what I’ve most closely worked with for years, and I’ve gotten exceedingly good mileage out of it.  To me, all the above is something like a curiosity, a “what if” experiment of potential.  Still, even as an experiment, this combinatoric method could have more interesting applications outside pure divination, and I’m thinking more along the lines of alchemy, magic, or other such applications where it’s truly the action, nonaction, interaction, and reaction of the elements themselves among the figures is what matters.  We can alchemically-geomantically view the cosmos as arising from:

  • 4 base substances
  • 16 base entities (the 16 = 4 × 4 different combinations of the elements to form the figures)
  • 256 base interactions (the 256 = 16 × 16 = 4 × 4 × 4 × 4 different addition-pairs of the figures)

So, consider: if you add pure Fire and pure Water, that’d be Laetitia + Albus = Amissio, which gets you a Null figure of balance that leads to an overall condition of Air.  (Fitting, given our explanation of why Amissio should be given to Air at all.)  If you add simple Heat to pure Air, that’d be Fortuna Minor + Rubeus = Laetitia, which also makes sense because, as a figure of Air, Rubeus is primarily wet and secondarily hot; if we reinforce the heat, it becomes primarily hot, and the wet condition gets dried out by the overabundance of heat, transforming Air into Fire.  If we add simple Cold and simple Heat, which would be weird to think about even in alchemical terms except unless we’d isolate those qualities from simpler bases (which we do in geomantic terms), that’d be Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor, which would become Via, a technically Null figure given to balanced, ideal, spiritual Fire; how odd!  But we wet the same result when we add any of the opposing Single Qualities, which to me would be like a geomantic division by zero.

I think that this combinatoric model of elemental assignments, what I’m going to call the “alchemical model” as opposed to my usual “structural model” or the Golden Dawn-style “zodiacal model”, could be useful for more mystical, philosophical, or magical meditations on the figures.  It’s not one I’ve completely fleshed out or can immediately agree with given how different it can be from the models I’m used to working with, but I think it does hold some promise and is worthy of exploration and testing, especially in a more magical and less divinatory context.

Brilliant Call of Light

Finally, all those 2019 yearly readings I did are done!  Thank you, everyone, for letting me divine for you.  I hope that they’re helpful for you all, and that they continue to be helpful and, yanno, accurate enough to be worth the cost.  In letting me divine for you, I’m enabled to learn more about geomancy, refine my practices and understanding, and become a better geomancer, diviner, and counselor.  It’s a privilege to be able to do this for you.  Thank you!  Also I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to see my email inbox empty once more, and also to be able to relax again.  This has been several weeks of nearly non-stop readings, so a lot else has had to go on the back burner in the meantime.  But now that I’m able to breathe again without the weight of having to do readings on my shoulders, I’m getting back to it again.

As I noted in my recent post on how the notion of divine Light and geomancy can be tied together, I’ve been inspired to write a bunch of prayers for a new kind of devotional practice that I seem to have struck gold with.  Many have already been written, and at this point there’s not a lot more to truly come up with (except for one stubborn section that I’m drawing blanks on, so maybe that one just isn’t ready to be written yet).  The ones I’ve already written are undergoing edits and tweaks the more I use them and recite them, picking out things that could flow better, removing things that don’t seem to fit, and adding things that bring everything together.  I’m really pleased with how all these are turning out, and the ones I’ve been using a lot are quickly becoming part of my usual practices.  Repetition and routine, after all, make for some of the best tests of practice and prayers.

That said, most of these prayers are not ones I’m comfortable sharing; they’re either too new and fresh and untested and unedited, or they just…don’t seem right for truly public access, at least not yet.  Some of them I really would like to keep secret, but others don’t give me that same vibe, and instead can and should be spread and used by many.  One such prayer is one I’d like to post today; it seems and feels to be in a more-or-less final form, and I’m happy with how it flows, rolls, and resounds.  This, especially, is a direct result from those numerological revelations of the Islamic name of God an-Nūr (the Light) from that older post, and a straightforward application of those ideas into a concentrated prayer.

I present to you the Brilliant Call of Light:

God is Light,
and God is the Light,
and God is the Light of Light,
and God is the Light upon Light,
and God is the Light within Light,
and God is Light.

God is Light,
the sudden Glimmer of inspiration,
the revealing Flash of insight,
the bright Flame of knowledge,
the wondrous Lamp of divinity,
and God is Light.

God is Light,
the Light that enables the eye of the mind to see
that which is true and real,
that which is hidden and obscured,
that which is forgotten and ignored,
and God is Light.

God is Light,
the fierce and burning flare of Light,
undeniable, unstoppable, unassailable,
a brilliant blast that radiates in all directions
to destroy and conquer all that would dim it,
and God is Light.

God is Light,
shining forth from its single Source,
flowing out like a mighty river from a quiet spring
into every crack of every door, wall, window, and mind
filling every corner, niche, space, and thought
and God is Light.

God is Light,
the Light that makes the unseen to be seen,
that makes the hidden to be revealed,
that makes the unknown to be known,
that makes the forgotten to be remembered,
and God is Light.

God is Light,
the Light of all action,
the Light of all reaction,
the Light of all inaction,
the Light of all interaction,
and God is Light.

Be here, o God, for only you can be anywhere and everywhere!
Shine forth, o God, your light into this space and into me!
Illuminate my eyes, my ears, my nose, and my mouth with your light!
Fill my body, my soul, my spirit, and my mind with your Light!
My every emotion, my every thought, my every sensation be permeated with your Light!
Your radiant, brilliant, revealing Light floods this place through me,
and no darkness nor shadow nor dimness nor obscurity can here remain!
In every crack and crevice, in every nook and cranny,
around every corner, behind every wall, into every entrance, within every space,
let your holy, divine, pure, true Light shine forth!
Nothing can escape the reach and splendor of your Light,
for all the cosmos you created is filled with your Light!

In your Light am I embraced, protected, guided, and lifted
from darkness into light, from despair into hope,
from filth into purity, from deception into truth.
In your Light no darkness can linger,
In your Hope no despair can continue,
In your Purity no filth can remain,
In your Truth no deception can endure.
In your Light may this space and all within it be embraced, protected, guided, and lifted
that neither evil darkness, nor wicked despair,
nor harmful filth, nor corrupt deception may abide here any longer.

Grant, o God, o God of Light, o God who is Light,
Light of the Mind, Light of the World, Light of all Creation,
that as we rejoice and praise the goodness of your Light and you who are Good
that we may also rejoice and praise the goodness in the light of others
that we may all become Good as you.

Amen.

The first part of a prayer is a kind of meditation that enforces and reinforces the notion of how truly poweful, beautiful, and intricate the notion of Light is in all its ways, and how Light in this case is one of the things that God is, indeed a true quality and behavior and power of God.  The second part is an invocation and call of Light to fill oneself, through oneself their environment, and through that environment the whole world with that divine Light, eradicating darkness, wickedness, and all that would stop or impede or dim or darken that Light.  In effect, it can serve as a purification and banishing of oneself and one’s environment.

May this prayer serve you well, and bring a little more Light into your life.

On Geomancy and Light

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been working on a new shrine project of sorts.  Earlier this year, I had the sudden kick-in-the-ass inspiration to start compiling things together, so I started pricing them on my wishlists and getting notes together.  I swore, up and down, that I would pay off my credit card before getting any of it.  But, yanno, just to see how much it would all cost when tallied up, I put it all into my online shopping cart to check out the shipping and taxes, and whoops there went $700 and suddenly I have all these packages showing up at my house however could this have happened let’s get to work, I guess my poor credit card statement.

Long story short, after I made that second post about geomantic holy days earlier this year, I got some sort of spirit all up in me that necessitated, demanded I put this thing together.  I ended up making a Shrine of the Geomancers, honoring the four Progenitors of the art Adam, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Daniel under the tutelage of Gabriel, with a notable Islamic influence.

I’ll save some of the details and what goes along with this whole shrine later, including a few things that aren’t shown in those above pictures, since it’s such a new thing that even I’m not sure why I have everything on it yet, just that I know I need it.  The last time an inspiring spirit this forceful came upon me was when I ended up writing my Sixteen Orisons of the Geomantic Figures in a single night (and then spent the next month editing and polishing), which you can take a look at in my ebook, Secreti Geomantici (also on Etsy!).  That was pretty fun, too, though exhausting.  I ended up making sixteen prayer-invocations to channel and work with the forces of the figures; that was just a night of power for me, as if I couldn’t shut off whatever fire hydrant of Words was turned on in my head.  The same thing happened with this shrine: I had to get these things and put them together.  Had to.

On top of getting this shrine put together, I’ve had to take a break from writing my geomancy book to take a detour into writing prayers, invocations, and incantations for geomantic practice.  Taking heavy inspiration from Islamic supplications and verses of the Qurʾān, the Book of Daniel, the Psalms, Solomonic and Hermetic literature, and other sources, I’ve been putting together a bunch of prayers—some that I wrote as original works, some I wrote a long time ago, some I’m heavily basing off other sources but tweaked for purpose and diction—for use with this shrine.  Many of the old prayers I wrote a while back, like my Prayer of the Itinerant or my Blessing of Light, fit right in with all these new ones.  It’s like so much of my previous routine, habits, and practices get tied into something so nice, so neat, so…oddly complete in this new shrine practice.  I honestly don’t know where this is all coming from, and it’s surprising me as much as it would anyone else.  If ever I would think that spirits can and do work through us, this would be one of those cases, absolutely.  There are still a lot of prayers I know for a fact I need to write and compile, but even with what I have, I’m pretty thrilled with what I have to work with.  It’s like stumbling on a new grimoire full of detailed instructions—except you don’t know for what, exactly.  It’s also happily convenient that I’m doing all these geomancy readings and follow-up divinations for the New Year, which gives me ample opportunity to try some of these very same prayers.

Now that the shrine is put together and all these prayers are coming together, I need to figure out exactly how to put this all to practice; after all, after dropping so much time and money and energy on this, there’s no way in hell I can just let this thing sit and gather dust (as if the same spirit that had me get all this together in the first place would let me).  I’ll work out routine and times and stuff later, but for now, it’s lovely.  As I noted above, there’s a heavy Islamic influence in this, and why not?  After all, geomancy is ultimately an Islamic occult art and science that arose in the sands of north Africa.  While I’m not going to be doing ṣalāt or proclaiming the five pillars of Islam, I feel it’s still important to honor the traditions and faiths of those that learned, taught, and spread the art of geomancy so far and wide in a language, or at least with symbols and practices, that would be familiar to them.  Which is also why I’m turning to so many supplications and verses of the Qurʾān for prayer inspirations, in addition to the fact that I already know that some such verses are used just for geomancy and divination generally.

One of the things I got for the shrine is a misbaḥah, a set of Islamic prayer beads.  It’s a lot simpler than a rosary, but slightly more complex than a mala; this has 99 beads, with two separators (that apparently aren’t used in counting prayers) to divide up the whole misbaḥah into three sets of 33 beads.  This kind of prayer beads can be used in any number of ways in Islamic devotions, not least the famous Tasbīḥ of Fāṭimah, and a way of kinda-sorta maybe-not-divination-per-se seeking guidance from Allah (istikhāra) can be done using misbaḥah, too, by focusing on the question for guidance and selecting two beads at random on the misbaḥah, and counting down until there are either only one or two beads left.  (The geomantic applications here are obvious.)  There are simpler ways, too, such as just intoning and focusing on one of the attributes or names of Allah, of which there are 99.

(Also, just as an entirely hilarious tangential aside?  This current post is marked as post #9999 in WordPress’ internal system for my blog.  So that’s a kinda fun synchronicity.)

One of the 99 names of Allah in Islam is النُّورُ (an-Nūr), literally “the Light”.  This is often used in the sense of being the Pure Light of the world, or the Prime Light of creation, or the One who Guides by Light.  It’s also especially associated with the Verse of the Light, a beautifully mystic verse taken from Qurʾān 24:35 (my own rendition):

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

The use of “The Light” as a name of Allah (or, just, yanno, God, because they really are the same and so much of Arabic theology can be expressed beautifully in Hermeticism and vice versa) is meaningful to me, given how important divine light is in my own personal theology and magical practice, especially in my Hermetic work, given how Light can be thought of as a thing that allows the intelligible to be intelligible and the visible to be visible, as both light of Nous (Mind) and light of Logos (Word).  Even my own magical motto, Lautitia Laborum Lucis Laetor “I rejoice in the splendor of the works of the Light”, is based on this same idea, and many of my more meaningful prayers incorporate Light in some way, whether directly or by puns, like in my Prayer of the Itinerant:

Shed your light on my path that I may see where I go.
Lighten the burden on my shoulders that I may go without hesitation.
Enlighten my heart that I may go with fortitude, courage, and wisdom wherever I may be.

Even before having encountered this Islamic sense of the notion, Light has already been and continues to be for me a powerful force unto itself, and a pure one that is directly associated in my mind and cosmological models with the highest divinity and source of all that is.

Then we bring in a bit of numerology.  Normally, I don’t take numerology particularly seriously; sure, gematria and isopsephia are nice tools to have, and I’ve experimented with it in some classical systems before now and again, but it’s largely a curiosity for me to find other connections with.  But take a look at the name an-Nūr more closely; the “an-” (really “al-” but Arabic rules assimilate the sounds) is just an article, so the real word to look at is Nūr, Light.  In Arabic numerology (which follows the same principles as Hebrew and Greek, since they all come from the same written language to begin with), the value of Nūr is 256.

Those who are familiar with binary mathematics and geomancy should be slapping your heads right about now.  256 = 16 × 16, the total number of pairwise combinations of geomantic figures with each other.  But even then, if we were to reduce it further, 2 + 5 + 6 = 13, and 1 + 3 = 4; alternatively, 256 % 9 = 4.  Four is also a huge number for us, there being four elements, four rows in a geomantic figure, four Mothers/Daughters/Nieces/Court figures, and so forth.  I don’t really need to expound on the myriad meanings of the number 4, given its importance in Hermetic, Pythagorean, and other systems of the occult.  Taking it a bit further as a letter-numeral, 4 is represented by the Hebrew Dālet, Arabic Dāl, and Greek Delta.  Its original meaning and form likely indicated “door”; in stoicheia, I principally associate Delta with the zodiacal sign Gemini, but it can also refer to the element of Water and the zodiacal sign of Cancer in other systems.  I also note that the Arabic Dāl is also the letter used to represent the element of Water in the Dā`irah-e-BZDḤ and Dā`irah-e-ABDḤ organizing systems of the figures, the former of which I’ve put to use in my geomantic energy working as being an Arabic-inspired seed syllable for Water.  Four is, also, the number associated with the sephirah Chesed on the Tree of Life, given to the planetary sphere of Jupiter.

On top of that, although the usual word for “light” in Hebrew is or (אור), the word nur (נור) using the same exact letters as in Arabic, and thus with the same exact numerology, refers to things that flare, flash, fire, or shine; this is an old Semitic triliteral root N-W-R that means light, illumination, and shining.  So that’s also really neat.  This word can also be associated with Hebrew ner (נר) meaning “candle”; “candle” is one of the names and images for the figure Via in some lineages of geomancy according to JMG and Skinner, and Via is sometimes considered to be the oldest or most important and powerful of the geomantic figures, as it contains all of the four elements active and present within itself as a complete whole.

Keeping with Hebrew numerology a bit longer, if we wanted to associate the usual Hebrew word for light numerologically, consider that or (אור) has a value of 207.  256 – 207 = 49, and 49 = 7 × 7, the total number of pairwise combinations of the seven planets as well as just being 7² and important for its own sake; that’s a fun connection, if not a bit contrived.  I also note that 256 is the same value as “spirit of the mother” (רוח אמא, ruach ima), which is important to recognize given that the first four figures we make are called the Mothers and are ungenerated from any other figure in the geomantic process.  It’s also the same value of the words B’nei Tzedeq (בני צדק), or “Sons of the Righteous”; in addition to being a popular name for Jewish synagogues and temples, it’s also a term used by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls to refer to the good and devout portion of humanity (including/especially themselves), as opposed to the B’nei `Avel (בני עול), the “Sons of Iniquity”.  Besides the Qumran connection, if there were ever a choir of angels to be associated with geomancy or if we ever wanted a good Hebrew euphemism to refer to geomancers, I suppose B’nei Tzedeq would be a good start.  Plus, Tzedeq is also the Hebrew name for the planet Jupiter, hearkening back to the numerological connection with Chesed above.

I also, somewhat regrettably and hilariously, note that 256 is the numerology of the name Viagrahel, the angel of Viagra, for which I will never thank/blame Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick enough.  (I’m as shocked as you are that that, of all things, would come back to bite me in the ass after almost seven goddamn years.  It’s like my life is one big Chekhov’s dildo.)

What about Greek?  There aren’t many words I can find that add up to 256, but there’s one big one I know of: ἀληθής (alēthēs), meaning “[that which is] unconcealed/true” but also with uses that encapsulate: real, unerring, actual, not forgetting, careful, honest.  The root of this word is –lēth-, which refers to forgetfulness (as in the mythological river of the underworld Lethe and also our modern word “lethargic”, referring to idle forgetfulness).  In that case, ἀληθής refers to things that are unconcealed, true, and honest by means of recovery from forgetfulness or by keeping forgetfulness and ignorance at bay, or alternatively, that which cannot escape notice or remain hidden.  All this ties into the actual Greek word (and, for that matter, goddess) for truth, ἀλήθεια (alētheia), too.  Even if I couldn’t find any other Greek numerological equivalent, I think this one is huge enough to make up for any others.

So where do we end up?  We have a particularly beautiful attribute of the divine, “the Light”, used in the worship and reverence of God in Islam, the religious culture in which geomancy historically developed.  To be extraordinarily terse, notions of divine light fill numerous religious and philosophical traditions as being representative of divinity, especially in any Western tradition influenced by Neoplatonism, Abrahamic faiths, or Hermeticism.  This can be further stretched through a bit of numerology, connecting the word for Light to words for fire, illumination, revelation, and truth.  Calling God “the Light” is a lot more than just thinking of that which allows us to see; God is, in a more complete sense of this attribute, the sudden and revealing flash of illumination that allows us to see that which is true and real, bringing it out of darkness, forgetfulness, and ignorance  God is the quiet, true Light behind all Fire, able to spread and open doors of wisdom to us, communicating to us on an intellectual and emotional level through our sense faculties.  This Light is not just a quiet flame in a dimmed lamp that barely illuminates the shelf it sits on, but it is a fierce, conquering, undeniable, unassailable blast into the darkness, a Light that completely destroys and wipes away anything that could or would try to cover it, a Light that breaks into the cracks of any door, window, wall, or mind and fills every niche, crevice, and corner with its presence.   It is the Light of God, or even the Light that is God, that allows the unseen to be seen, the hidden to be revealed, the unknown to be known, and the forgotten to be remembered.  God is not just Light, but the Light of Light, Light within Light, and Light upon Light.

More than that, this sacred Light of the Mind and of the Word can reach us at any place and at any time, but we can approach it too through the devout study of the mysteries of the geomantic figures, specifically in how they add up amongst themselves in their 256 different combinations.  This same illuminating Light is the fundamental impulse from which the first stirrings of knowledge can be made, and provide the seeds themselves from with the four Mothers in geomantic divination are formed, from whom the entire rest of the geomantic process can be derived.  The Light of God is the necessary existent in order for us to see and know things by geomancy.  Understanding the geomantic figures themselves to be representative of the actual combinations of the four elements amongst the elements in 4 × 4 = 16 ways, and the combinations of elements amongst themselves in 16 × 16 = 256 ways, all of the possible things that come to be in the world and all the ways in which they pass into being and pass out of being are also undergirded by the Light of God, being ways in which that same Light emanates from God into the world, condensing through the four elements from Fire to Air to Water to Earth, mixing and matching between all possible states.  All this is fundamentally Light.

I always felt that Light was important for me to focus on in a religious and spiritual sense.  It’s nice to see that all coming together in ways that the ancients themselves would appreciate, and in ways that show me new things in new combinations.  And, perhaps, to reinforce the habit of keeping a lit candle or lamp burning nearby when I do geomancy.

On Geomantic Holy Days, Redux

Lately I’ve gotten it into my head to try my hand at coming up with some sort of devotional practice with geomancy again, and it’s been stuck there for several days now. This post, however, is having a hard time coming out in a way I like, so it’ll be a bit more of a ramble than usual, but maybe we can end up somewhere neat that we didn’t expect. Also I’m writing it as a way to relieve a headache so I can focus on doing these 2019 New Year readings (which you should totally get one while the offer’s good, if you haven’t yet!).

I mentioned a while back in my post on the notion of geomantic holy days to honor and recognize the mythological and spiritual founders of the art, the four Progenitors Daniel, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Adam, with the archangel Gabriel being their supernatural teacher and initiator into the art. Whenever we find an origin story for geomancy, whether in European or Arabic texts, we see the same deal: the angel Gabriel arrives to instruct the prophet in question in the art of geomancy. If we were to center a devotional practice around Abrahamic figures that geomancy centers on, we could easily use the feast days associated with them to come up with five major holy days:

  • Feast of Gabriel the Archangel: March 24
  • Feast of Daniel the Blessed Prophet: July 21
  • Feast of Enoch the Great Scribe: July 30
  • Feast of Hermes the Thrice Great: April 4 (entirely an innovation on my part, see the above post as to why)
  • Feast of Adam and Eve: December 24

But why stop there? We can expand this basic set of feast days into a slightly fuller set:

  • Feast of Michael the Archangel and All Angels: September 29
  • Feast of Uriel the Archangel: June 21
  • Feast of Raphael the Archangel: December 22
  • Feast of the Guardian Angel: October 2
  • Feast of Saint Agabus: February 13
  • Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi: October 4
  • Feast of Samuel the Prophet: August 20
  • All Saints’ Day: November 1
  • All Souls’ Day: November 2

Recognizing the feasts of the other three archangels makes a bit of sense to me; after all, with geomancy being heavily influenced by the number four (four elements, four Mothers, four Daughters, four Nieces, four Court figures, etc.), why not recognize the four archangels? Though we generally consider the archangel Michael to be prince of the bodiless hosts, Gabriel takes a more central importance to geomancy because he’s the one who taught the Progenitors the art. However, in my reckoning, the four Progenitors can each be associated with one of the four elements (Daniel with Fire, Enoch with Air, Hermes Trismegistus with Water, Adam with Earth), so we can also consider them each linked to one of the four archangels (Daniel with Michael, Enoch with Raphael, Hermes Trismegistus with Gabriel, Adam with Uriel). This makes a bit of mythological sense, too, considering Michael’s role in the biblical Book of Daniel and Uriel’s connection with the Garden of Eden and Adam. And, beyond that, why not recognize one’s own guardian angel as well? It’s under the tutelage, protection, and guidance of our individual guardian angels that we can all each of us learn to prosper, grow, and develop ourselves, so why not?

The inclusion of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is, of course, a nod to our ancestors, both familial and spiritual, when it comes to any spiritual practice. This is definitely influenced by my other ancestor work, but why not recognize our ancestors in any practice? After all, if it weren’t for our ancestors, we literally could not live; their blood flows in our veins, their breath fills our lungs, and their bones provide the foundation for us to stand upon. That goes for our family as it does all the geomancers and occultists and other learned sages of the past, for such esteemed names like Christopher Cattan, Robert Fludd, Hugh of Santalla, Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman al-Zanati, and so forth; it’s because of them, their teachings, and their writings that we have geomancy passed down unto us today.

The other feast days I listed also make a bit of sense, or at least enough to not be inappropriate. Saint Agabus is an obscure one, admittedly, but he’s given the patronage over prophets and, by extension, diviners and seers and fortune-tellers in general. St. Francis of Assisi (yes, THAT St. Francis!) is one of the holiest and most devout exemplars of true faith in God that Christianity has probably ever produced, and his connections with the environment and stewardship of the world as a whole should be inspiration for us all. Plus, there’s an ATR connection there, too; St. Francis of Assisi is the usual syncretization with the Yoruba diviner-god Orunmilá, the orisha of wisdom and knowledge and divination, and the central deity in the Ifá cult, and Ifá is distantly related to geomancy (though I neither like nor want to conflate the two). I also threw in the feast of the Prophet Samuel into the list because he was the last of the biblical Judges and the one who anointed Saul the first King of Israel and Judah, not least because he’s my own namesake but because of his role in establishing the virtues of wisdom, priesthood, prophethood, and rulership—and gives an illustrative example to the moral and just uses of divination by means of the episode involving the Witch of Endor.

You’ll note that I’m basically using the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar of saints for all these feasts. I mean, that’s fair; it’s a straightforward system that’s been established for hundreds of years, the saints are almost universally known in Western culture and religion, and the use of the usual Gregorian calendar is easy. I fully recognize that not all geomancers are Christian (I mean, I’m not), but you can’t really ignore the importance Christianity (or Islam) in Western occulture generally, nor geomancy specifically. The current of faith, devotion, and power with the saints, and the mythological backing they provide to divination, is already there; why not tap into it, especially when it’s so easy to do so?

Well, let’s back up. Let’s say we don’t necessarily want to adopt a Catholic approach that uses the feast days as they are. What could we do instead? In the post about those geomantic holy days, I mentioned the possibility of coming up with a geomantic Wheel of the Year that’s based on the Sun’s ingresses and midpoints in the signs of the Zodiac at the usual places, namely the solstices and equinoxes. Why not go to something like that? Sure, except how do you map the Progenitors to those days?

Although the modern Catholic practice is to celebrate all the angels and archangels on the same day—Michaelmas, the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and All Angels, on September 29—the four big archangels had their own feast days scattered across the year, roughly in line with the solstices and equinoxes: Gabriel’s feast day occurs roughly at the spring equinox, Uriel at the summer solstice, Michael at the autumn equinox, and Raphael at the winter solstice. (Yes, I write from a perspective in the northern hemisphere, but hear me out.) This arrangement makes sense at first blush, but that’s an odd order, indeed, isn’t it? The spring equinox is when the Sun enters Aries, a Fire sign, so the normal occultist would expect Michael to be honored then instead of Gabriel; likewise, for summer, it’d be Cancer and Water, so Gabriel instead of Uriel; for autumn, Libra and Air, so Raphael instead of Michael; and for winter, Capricorn and Earth, so Uriel instead of Raphael. A bit of a conflict, no?

Note the traditional order of the archangels being honored in this system, starting from the autumn equinox: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. Their corresponding elements are Fire, Air, Water, and Earth—the elemental order that’s used in geomancy. This contrasts with using a zodiacal order—Raphael, Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel, so Air, Earth, Fire, and Water—which isn’t used in geomancy. It also contrasts with Cornelius Agrippa’s reckoning in his Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7), where Michael is given to summer, Uriel to autumn, Gabriel to winter, and Raphael to spring—exactly the reverse of the usual elemental order. Since geomancy isn’t strictly an astrological art and since the strictly angelic order matches up best with the geomantic order, it could be argued well that this system would work best for a devotional geomantic calendar. This means we could start off organizing a geomantic devotional calendar by using the solstices and equinoxes for ascribing them to the four archangels:

  • Feast of Gabriel the Archangel: March 21 (spring equinox)
  • Feast of Uriel the Archangel: June 21 (summer solstice)
  • Feast of Michael the Archangel: September 21 (autumnal equinox)
  • Feast of Raphael the Archangel: December 21 (winter solstice)

(Yes, dates are approximate and can vary from year to year by a day or two in either direction. Bear with me.)

As noted above, just as there are four archangels, there are four Progenitors in this system I’m coming up with, and each of those Progenitors corresponds to one of the four elements, just as the four archangels do. While we could double up the feast days and celebrate the feasts of the Progenitors along with their corresponding archangels, I don’t like that method; for one, I try to avoid multiple simultaneous celebrations on the same day, and because Gabriel would need to be honored alongside each and every Progenitor (as he was the one who taught geomancy to them all), that means we’d really be celebrating Gabriel on each of the solstices and equinoxes, either alone (spring equinox) or along with another archangel (solstices and autumn equinox). So that’s a really messy and convoluted system.

What about using the cross-quarter days? These are the four midpoint days between the solstices and equinoxes, and could be ideal. How would we arrange the four Progenitors across these? There are several options that come to mind:

  • Angel-based: give the cross-quarter day to the Progenitor that matches the element of the angel that immediately precedes it. Thus, if the spring equinox is given to Gabriel (Water), then the cross-quarter day that follows it (Beltane) should be given to the Progenitor of Water, Hermes Trismegistus.
  • Season-middle: give the cross-quarter day to the Progenitor that matches the element of the season it falls in, reckoning seasons to start at the solstices and equinoxes. Thus, if spring is reckoned to start at the spring equinox and we use Agrippa’s association of Spring with Air, then the season cross-quarter day (Beltane) should be given to the Progenitor of Air, Enoch.
  • Season-start: give the cross-quarter day to the Progenitor that matches the element of the season it starts, reckoning seasons to start at the cross-quarter days and not at the solstices and equinoxes (as is traditional in some parts of Europe). Thus, if summer is reckoned to start at the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice, and summer is associated with Fire, then this cross-quarter day (Beltane) should be given to the Progenitor of Fire, Daniel.
  • Zodiac-based: give the cross-quarter day to the Progenitor that matches the element of the zodiac sign it falls in. Thus, the cross-quarter day between the spring equinox and summer solstice falls in the middle of Taurus, an Earth sign, so this day should be given to the Progenitor of Earth, Adam.
  • Chronological: give the cross-quarter day to the Progenitor in the chronological order they appear in the biblical and mythological record. Reckoning the year to start at the spring equinox, this would mean the four Progenitors would be celebrated in the order of Adam (the first man), Enoch (ancestor of Noah), Hermes Trismegistus (though not given a strong temporal presence, he’s sometimes considered a contemporary of Moses or of otherwise Egyptian time periods), and Daniel (living in the Babylonian Exile period).
Approximate
Solar Date
Cross Quarter
Day
Angel Season
Middle
Season
Start
Zodiac Chronological
May 6 Beltane Hermes Enoch Daniel Adam Adam
August 6 Beltane Adam Daniel Adam Daniel Enoch
November 5 Lammas Daniel Adam Hermes Hermes Hermes
February 3 Samhain Enoch Hermes Enoch Enoch Daniel

For the same reasons that I give the four archangels to the four quarter days in the order they’ve already got, I think the angel-based method makes the most sense. Understanding the angelic day to “come first”, just as Gabriel came first with the knowledge of geomancy to bring it to the Progenitors, the angel-based method where the Progenitors follow their corresponding elemental archangel makes the most sense to me—if we were to link the Progenitors strongly to the archangels based on elemental correspondence alone. However, because the other three angels don’t really have as much a presence in the geomantic mythos as Gabriel does, and because Gabriel is most important to them all, this connection is kinda weak.

Honestly, because of that reason, I’m most inclined to go with the chronological ordering, which also makes good sense: if we consider Gabriel to have come down and instructed the four Progenitors in the art of geomancy in successive revelation, and if we consider the spring equinox to be both the feast of Gabriel and the start of a new solar year (which is definitely a thing!), then it also makes sense to celebrate the four Progenitors in the order in which Gabriel taught them. This way, each year can be considered a retelling of a revelation of geomancy, and honoring the four Progenitors in turn would instill that same sense of revelation and continual, continuous discovery and learning in the art. Since I would consider the non-Gabriel archangel feasts to be of secondary importance, we would only need to be concerned with five primary feasts for a geomantic devotional practice on approximately the following Gregorian dates (with specific solar events that would mark them properly from year to year):

  • Feast of Gabriel the Holy Archangel, Teacher of the Progenitors: first sunrise after Sun ingress Aries Aquarius (approx. March 21)
  • Feast of Adam the First Man, Progenitor of Earth: first sunrise after Sun midpoint Taurus (approx. May 6)
  • Feast of Enoch the Great Scribe, Progenitor of Air: first sunrise after Sun midpoint Leo (approx. August 6)
  • Feast of Hermes the Thrice Great, Progenitor of Water: first sunrise after Sun midpoint Scorpio (approx. November 5)
  • Feast of Daniel the Blessed Prophet, Progenitor of Fire: first sunrise after Sun midpoint Aquarius (approx. February 3)

Why mark the feasts by the first sunrise after the specific solar event? Personally, I like to mark such holidays and special days by being the “first full day” with the full event, because for me in my practice, I mark days for spiritual practice starting from sunrise. So, if the Sun makes its ingress into Aries at 7pm my time, then that say still started when the Sun was still in the previous sign, so it makes more sense to me to celebrate the first full day with the Sun being in Aries on the first sunrise after that. If that solar event happened at the very moment of sunrise, all the better; it would count for my purposes.

Anyhow, now we have a cycle that’s tied less to Catholicism or purely zodiacal concerns, and one that’s grounded in the mythos of geomancy while still being tied to the natural cycles of seasons. A geomantic new year is celebrated at the spring equinox, which is specifically dedicated to the archangel Gabriel, the angelic patron of geomancy and geomancers and who teaches and reveals the art to all its students. The year progresses in turn being marked by the feasts for the four Progenitors, each of whom were taught by Gabriel to pass the art of geomancy down into the world. Celebrating the new year with the spring equinox dedicated to Gabriel also has a fun coincidental Islamic connection; in some sects of Islam, this date is reckoned to be the solar calendar equivalent (Persian Nowruz, based upon the earlier and still-practiced Zoroastrian New Year festival) to when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ to give him the first revelation that started off the Qur’an (though that’s usually reckoned to take place during Laylat al-Qadr during Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar).

I actually feel pretty comfortable with this novel arrangement. Though there are five main feasts that would be celebrated, which would be an odd number for geomancy, it’s really more like four feasts of the Progenitors plus a special feast that they all center around. They could be balanced by adding in the other three feasts of the archangels to yield a constant and balanced eight feasts per year, sure, peppered with the other feasts throughout the year for the other saints and days taken from Catholic (or Orthodox) tradition. For me, though, it suffices to have these primary five (really, four plus one) feasts to act as holy days for a devotional geomantic practice. I can easily envision having lead-up days, such as one to four days of fasting immediately prior to the feasts of the Progenitors or four to sixteen days of fasting, studying, and praying leading up to the feast of Gabriel at the spring equinox, too, which would also work to deepen and focus devotional practices. Heck, we could give these fancy terms, too, like “Days of Cultivation” for the period leading up to the feast of Gabriel.

So, let’s give an example. For this year 2019 CE, the spring equinox happens at 5:58 PM Eastern US time on Wednesday, March 20. This means that we’d get the following dates to celebrate the above feasts:

  • Days of Cultivation: March 5 (starting at sunrise) through March 20, 2019 (ending at sunrise the following day)
  • Feast of Gabriel the Holy Archangel, Teacher of the Progenitors: March 21, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Adam the First Man, Progenitor of Attainment: May 6, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Enoch the Great Scribe, Progenitor of Dedication: August 8, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Hermes the Thrice Great, Progenitor of Wisdom: November 8, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Daniel the Blessed Prophet, Progenitor of Judgement: Feburary 5, 2020 (starting at sunrise)

And, just to complete the set, the feasts for the other three archangels:

  • Feast of Uriel the Holy Archangel: June 22, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Michael the Holy Archangel: September 24, 2019 (starting at sunrise)
  • Feast of Raphael the Holy Archangel: December 22, 2019 (starting at sunrise)

What about one’s guardian angel? That one really doesn’t fit into any of the above systems, and that’s fine, because it’s such an intensely personal spirit to begin with. While you could give that one October 2 in general, just taking it directly from the Roman Catholic calendar, but there are two other opportunities that come to mind:

  • If you’ve already attained formal contact (e.g. K&CHGA) with your guardian angel, a la Abramelin or the Headless Rite or some other practice, use the anniversary on which you established contact as your own personal Feast of the Guardian Angel.
  • If you don’t yet have formal contact, use the day before your own birthday, being the day which you came into this world as an independent human being to celebrate your own personal Feast of the Guardian Angel. Using the day before avoids any conflicts, and allows you to honor your guardian angel as a preexisting force that gives you a foundation to live and grow.

What about a day or feast to recognize the blessed dead, whether familial or spiritual, by blood-lineage or tradition-lineage? Again, you could use All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days for this, or other culturally-appropriate Day of the Dead-type holidays; for specific ancestors, you could use their birthdays or their deathdays. Though, given the above system, I think we could do one better. Those Days of Cultivation, the days of fasting and study and prayer leading up to the geomantic new year and the Feast of Gabriel? Why not make the day before that dedicated to the dead? After all, it’s because of them that all this we have can come to pass, and by “starting” the Days of Cultivation with them, we give them their proper due and respect as we would begin our own period of intensive study and prayer and preparation for the New Year. So, that means that the Feast of the Blessed Dead would be 17 days before the Feast of Gabriel:

  • Feast of the Blessed Dead: March 4, 2019 (starting at sunrise)

The other secondary feasts I gave up above don’t really matter as much, just being plucked from the Roman Catholic calendar for the sake of it; it wouldn’t be bad to recognize them, but it’s not needed, either. I think that with these five (or four plus one) primary feasts of Gabriel and the Progenitors, and the five (or three plus one plus one) secondary feasts of the other archangels, the guardian angel, and the blessed dead, plus at least one major period of fasting and praying, we end up with a good number of events for a devotional geomantic practice.

Now to actually give it a whirl and develop devotions and practices to go along with it! After all, it is still the beginning of the year, and I do still need to make my 2019 ritual calendar. I’ll get on that soon enough…once I get some of these readings done first!

2019 Forecast Geomancy Reading Special!

Happy New Year!  Now that we’re done with it, I hope your 2018 went well!  It’s also time to start thinking about how 2019 will go.  Are you excited? Anxious? Worried? Hopeful?  Let me help with figuring out what plans need to be made, what can be improved on, and what should be focused on in this coming year!  For a limited time only (from now through Wednesday, January 23, 2019), I’m offering a discounted special on 2019 Forecast Divination readings for only US$33, available exclusively through my Etsy store!  When this offer is gone, it’s gone, so be sure to get yours booked soon!

This divination reading will be for an overview of your life for 2019. While I will attempt to provide a thorough analysis of the chart for the major points of one’s life—career, family, romance, finances, health, spirituality, and so forth—I can also take a deeper (though limited) look at specific areas in your life for fleshing out specific concerns, upon request.  Considering how in-depth I go for my geomancy readings and how far I go to make sure you’ve got the edge you need, $33 is a steal.

Interested in getting your 2019 Forecast?
Head on over to my Etsy now and get your reading booked!

Also, as of this post, we’ve finally hit 700 published posts since the very first one almost nine years ago, way back in the Blogspot days!  Just a little milestone I’m proud of which I wanted to proclaim.  Thank you all for growing and ambling with me all this time!

An Origin for the Letter Rules of Western Geomancy

Yes, yes, I am still working on my geomancy textbook!  As I’ve said before, it’s a long project, and by necessity it’s not the number one priority in my life; between a full-time job, heavy involvement in my religious community, managing several kinds of online presence, and my own routines and practices, working on my book is definitely a priority but not the priority.  If I had days empty of all other tasks, it’d be a different story, but here we are.  Besides, the book has been in progress since 2013, back at a point where I now think I was wholly unqualified to write such a book.  (I still think I am unqualified to write such a book, not least because I’ve made a number of discoveries, innovations, and corrections to what I knew earlier, but here we are.)

One of the fun parts of the book for me to write is the postscript.  It’s an appendix that, rather than focusing on the meat-and-bones of geomantic techniques and practices, I talk a small bit about my own thoughts, views, and opinions on certain techniques and how my own practice prioritizes certain techniques over others, or my value-estimates of certain techniques.  After all, though there are hundreds of different techniques that one can use in geomantic divination, in any given chart I might only use a handful of them, some I use generally for every reading and others I bust out for particular situations.  Almost all the techniques have some value, but some have more value than others.  I talk a bit about what I think of such things in the postscript as a kind of final letting-my-hair-down moment, where I get to drop a little of the academic and technical style I use throughout the book and get a little personal in my practice.

The postscript really isn’t a place for me to introduce or talk about any particular techniques at length, though—except one: methods to determine names or letters with geomancy.  As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, the methods to determine names is something that would be sorely useful for geomancers, and a number of historical authors mention methods to do so, most of all Christopher Cattan who introduces several “rules” for associating the figures with letters and a number of methods to use them.  John Heydon, likewise, introduces several such sets of associations for different scripts, but largely references the same methods Cattan uses.  John Michael Greer, continuing the vein of carrying on such information especially as it was republished over and over again in the late Renaissance, gives a similar set of attributions in his “Art and Practice of Geomancy”.

It’s all a shame, though, because I’ve never gotten these methods to work.  In my past experiments with them, I kept getting garbage answers with chance results.  Quoth my earlier article:

Alas, however, I have to consign a geomantic technique to the failure pile, and it’s not for lack of trying: determining names.  While it would make sense conceptually that one could determine names with geomancy, I have never been able to get such name charts to work right, from the first time I ran a name chart years ago up until the present day.  Add to it, I’ve found several methods to determine names with geomancy, and several ways to associate the letters to the figures, and I’ve tried them all, none of them giving anything remotely resembling an accurate answer.  This frustrates me to no end, because why the hell would this one technique not work when nearly every other technique I’ve tried has given me useful results?  This is especially frustrating, since being able to predict names would be exceptionally useful in the world, from determining the names of cities one might be successful in to determining the names of future spouses. …

But even using any of the techniques with any set of correspondences, I kept coming up with wrong answers.  If I were lucky, some of the letters in the actual name I was trying to find might appear at random places in the chart, but this was by no means guaranteed.  I did notice a slight tendency for some of the letters to appear in houses II, V, and VIII, but there was no pattern for which letters (start, medial, end) appeared within them.  I even tried using the values of the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew associations that Heydon gives (untrustworthy as his stuff tends to be) to see if it would get me anything closer than the Roman script association; nada.  Plus, many of the techniques assumes there to be at least four letters or syllables in a name; many names I ended up asking about after I did a reading on them had one or two syllables, or had even just three letters, and these techniques don’t specify what to do in the case of really short names.

It seems, also, that I’m not the first person to complain about these methods, not by far.  In addition to my own colleagues and contacts in the present day who largely give the same conclusions I have, the French geomancer Henri de Pisis gives in his 17th century book Opus Geomantiae Completum in libros tres divisum (reproduced as part of Fludd’s later work Fasciculus Geomanticus) gives the following complaint when he introduces these methods (translation mine from Latin):

So as to know someone’s name. I might have put this and another table of the same from Cattan, yet given how useless and hollow it is, I freely suppress it, lest it impose onto this very art which usually predicts with certainty. By this understanding, I would have omitted it and the following chapter, as with things uncertain and generally wrong, if not for that we would see what even a single author maintains …

In truth, it has always escaped me as to the use they make of these numbers here, for nobody thus far has been able to discover their reasoning; neither Gerard of Cremona, nor Geber, nor Pietro d’Abano, nor myself, nor any others besides Cocles and Cattan have discerned the reasoning of the numbers or of the letters of names. It can essentially be seen that Cattan and Cocles would have relaxed this art to such a freewheeling extent into the form of some game, such as the casting of dice or dominoes, for the troublesome cheating of long nights or for the future coaxing of a droll joke, and a good many use it for this and will have had nothing certain placed in the art. In other words, since they are unaware of that which is superfluous to the art, they are unestablished in the foundations of this very art, and are only outsiders into contempt of it. I suggest that these methods be rejected.

It’s frustrating, especially for someone like de Pisis to have written so bluntly about this in a way he doesn’t elsewhere in Opus Geomantiae; he only includes these methods because others have written about them, and that only bitterly and begrudgingly.  This is all the more frustrating because Arabic geomancers make claims to predict names and letters as a matter of course, though because I speak neither Arabic nor Urdu nor Farsi, it’s hard for me to find what methods they use to validate it and see whether they can walk the talk or if they’re just full of hot air.

Now, skip ahead a few years.  The Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is thriving with over a thousand members, including a good number from Arabic-speaking countries who are, God bless them, actually willing to share and discuss Arabic methods of geomancy.  One of them even goes so far as to include a list of those fancy apparati of Arabic geomancy, taskins, though I prefer an alternate term for them now, dā`ira (plural dawā`ir), which is commonly found in Urdu and Farsi texts, and which literally mean “cycle”.  These things are fascinating for Western geomancers to look at, because we have no parallel for them; they’re a combination of correspondence as well as technique unto themselves, enforcing particular orders of figures for different needs.  Depending on the tradition of Arabic geomancy you’re looking at, some geomancers claim that there are 16 cycles, others 28, or even as many as 400 or more, some kept secret for mystical and magical ends.  Some dawā`ir are clearly organized along mathematical or otherwise clearly understood principles, such as the dā`ira-e-abdaḥ which organizes the figures according to their binary numeral meanings (reading Laetitia as 1000 as 1, Rubeus as 0100 as 2, Fortuna Minor as 1100 as 3, and so forth); others are far more obscure as to why certain figures are arranged in certain ways.

So this list of dawā`ir is shared in the group, and happily the poster who shared it cited a particular academic: Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, currently of the University of South Carolina, one of whose research interests is the occult sciences in Islam.  In his paper “Persianate Geomancy from Ṭūsī to the Millennium: A Preliminary Survey” (in Nader El-Bizri and EvaOrthmann, eds., Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Cultures, Beirut: Orient-Institut Beirut, 2018, pp. 151-99), Melvin-Koushki lists seven such cycles:

The various regional schools of geomantic thought are therefore to be distinguished by the ‘cycles’ (sg. dāʾira) they prefer to employ. A cycle, Hidāyat Allāh explains, is simply a specific sequence (tartīb) of the 16 geomantic figures, with each sequence featuring different types of correspondences — elemental, humoral, temporal, astrological, lettrist, etc. And the four cycles he identifies above are far from the only ones in common use. The geomancer has at his disposal a rather larger number of cycles; which he employs in any given reading depends on the nature of the information being sought and the degree of detail required. Hidāyat Allāh lists seven by way of example:

  1. The Occupation (sakan) cycle is the most basic; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.
  2. The Constitution (mizāj) cycle tells the querent what day he can expect to realize his desire; it begins with Acquisitio and ends with Cauda Draconis.
  3. The BZDḤ cycle, aka the Number (ʿadad) cycle, is used to tell periods of time; it begins with Puer and ends with Populus.
  4. The Letter (ḥarf) cycle is used to reveal names (a very popular application of the science); it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Via, with the first twelve figures being assigned two letters each and the last four figures only one.
  5. The Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Interior (dākhil) cycle; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  6. The ABDḤ cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, which is also popular; it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  7. The Most Complete (aṣaḥḥ) cycle, which has a different organizing principle and procedure; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.

Note that fourth cycle Melvin-Koushki lists: the ḥarf cycle, the word literally meaning “letter” (as in characters of an alphabet).  This cycle goes in the following order:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Tristitia
  3. Rubeus
  4. Albus
  5. Fortuna Maior
  6. Fortuna Minor
  7. Caput Draconis
  8. Cauda Draconis
  9. Puer
  10. Puella
  11. Acquisitio
  12. Amissio
  13. Populus
  14. Carcer
  15. Coniunctio
  16. Via

Melvin-Koushki says that the first twelve figures (Laetitia through Amissio) get two letters each, and the final four (Populus through Via) get one letter each.  Looking through contemporary texts on Arabic geomancy (despite my lack of knowledge of Arabic/Farsi/Urdu, I can still pick out patterns and particular words well enough to find them!), we get the following correspondences of figures to letters:

Figure Letter
Laetitia أ
‘Alif
ف
Fā’
Tristitia ب
Bā’
ص
Ṣād
Rubeus ج
Jīm
ق
Qāf
Albus د
Dāl
ر
Rā`
Fortuna Maior ه
Hā’
ش
Shīn
Fortuna Minor و
Wāw
ت
Tā’
Caput Draconis ز
Zāy
ث
Thā’
Cauda Draconis ح
Ḥā’
خ
Khā’
Puer ط
Ṭā’
ذ
Dhāl
Puella ي
Yā’
ض
Ḍād
Acquisitio ك
Kāf
ظ
Ẓā’
Amissio ل
Lām
غ
Ghayn
Populus م
Mīm
Carcer ن
Nūn
Coniunctio س
Sīn
Via ع
`Ayn

Note the order of how the letters go, first down the left column then down the right: this is the traditional abjadī order of the Arabic script, the same one in use for all other Phoenician-derived scripts like Greek and Hebrew.  The fact that the last four figures in the ḥarf cycle have only one letter each are also the liminal figures that are neither entering nor exiting might be because these four figures are special.  More realistically, though, it’s because there are 28 letters in the Arabic script, which means that some figures would get two letters and others only one; because there are 16 figures, 16 × 2 = 32, and 32 – 28 = 4.  If you just start assigning the letters one by one to the figures, you’d run out for the last four.  This raises the question, which came first, the order of the figures, or the ordering of the letters to which the figures were then mapped?  It’s unclear which came first to me, but we can pick out some interesting structural notes about the ḥarf cycle:

  • The first 12 figures are given in reversion pairs: Laetitia/Tristitia, Rubeus/Albus, etc.
  • The first four figures are the “pure elemental” figures, each with seven points.
  • The last four figures are all liminal figures, each of which is their own reversion; the first two are considered the stable liminal figures, the latter two the mobile liminal figures, progressively going from the most stable to the most mobile.

I also want to note that the source Melvin-Koushki is referencing came from the late 16th century, and his sources likely came from much older ones; by that point, geomancy was already around 600 or 700 years old.  Regardless, this cycle is still found in many works even today as a means to predict names.  (I have also seen the ABDḤ/binary-numeral cycle used for this same purpose, but it seems like that’s less popular of a choice than using this specific cycle, though the mechanism is the same.  I don’t know how common using the ABDḤ cycle is for this purpose, or where it might be centralized.)  Although I haven’t yet found much in English or another language I know yet about how to specifically use this cycle for divining names, at least I know how they associate the figures with letters, which is pretty neat unto itself.

I bring this up because, while going over my draft for my postscript in my book, I returned to that section about how Western geomancy has methods for determining names.  I originally wrote the seed for that section in the aforementioned blog post of mine back in 2014, and I basically copied the same tables (in a more intelligible way and broken down by author or source) into my book.  While I was revising that particular section, something about the order of how Cattan, Heydon, and Case associated the figures to the letters…something about it struck me as familiar.  I normally use the planetary order of the figures in my posts and tables (lunar figures, Mercurial figures, Venereal figures, …, nodal figures), but it struck me that several Western authors all had it that Laetitia was given to A, Tristitia to B, Rubeus to C, and so on.  They don’t all agree with each other in some of the associations, and Cattan and Heydon have other rules that give other letters to the figures, but it’s clear they were all drawing on the same source in one form or another, and…hm.  Neither the similarities between them nor that same order could be given to chance.

Digging out my ancient binder of geomancy notes from when I was in college, I got out my transcript of one of the earliest Western works on geomancy, Martin of Spain’s work “De Geomancia”, written sometime in the 1200s.  Dr. Laurel Means has a version of it in Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England (Lister M. Matheson, ed., Michigan State University Press, 1994), and I was able to get a text transcript of it while in college, though I’ve since lost the original source and the transcript file I was working on, though I did save a copy.  I remembered this because it has an early association of the figures with letters from well before Cattan or the others, and I wanted to see how it’d match up.  Surprise: it did, more than I expected, even if I’m missing associations for two of the figures.  Though Martin of Spain gives anywhere from one to five letters to the figures, the first of them typically matches with the expected one and seems to be the “primary” letter.  All these Western sources all seemed to share the same basic order of the figures, starting with Laetitia and Tristitia and continuing from there.  There are some variations, but it’s all fundamentally the same thing.

To compare what I’m seeing, here’s a table that associates the letters of the alphabet with the figures from Christopher Cattan (specifically his First Rule), John Heydon (the “First Rule” for English, with annotations), John Case, and Martin of Spain (more below because this is weird):

Letter Martin of Spain Cattan Heydon Case
A Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia
B Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia
C Rubeus Rubeus Caput Draconis Caput Draconis
D Albus Albus Albus Albus
E Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor
F Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior
G Caput Draconis Caput Draconis Rubeus Rubeus
H Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis Puella Puella
I J Puella Puella Acquisitio Acquisitio
K Puer Puer Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis
L Acquisitio Puer Puer
M Acquisitio
N Via Amissio Amissio Amissio
O
P Carcer Via Via Via
Q
R Carcer Carcer Carcer
S
T Populus Populus Populus Populus
U V W
X Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio
Y Via
Z

Admittedly, Martin of Spain’s attributions are a little weird; he gives a set of letters for each figure, roughly in alphabetical order per figure, so a bit of sussing needs figuring out; additionally, the letters “l” and “y” are not allocated anywhere, but there is an allocation for the obsolete letter yogh (ʒ), which I interpreted as “y” above.  The full set of associations from Martin of Spain are:

Figure Numbers Letters
Fortuna Maior 12 ff
Fortuna Minor 8 or 1 e
Caput Draconis 13 g t
Acquisitio 31 h m
Laetitia 50 a d
Puer 9 k j
Tristitia 12 b d n
Puella 1 j c e
Rubeus 14 a c s
Albus 14 a d e
Amissio 15 j t s
Cauda Draconis 14 or 12 h j c d
Populus 2 n o t u
Coniunctio 13 or 17 r s t x
Via 8 n o t a ʒ
Carcer 10 o p q r s

Anyway, none of the associations we have in Martin of Spain, Cattan, Heydon, or Case give a figure for the letter Z, and the letters I/J and U/V/W weren’t classified as separate letters until recently, anyway.  As always, Case agrees with Heydon, as I’m pretty sure Case’s Angelical Guide was based on Heydon’s Theomagia, and both differ from Cattan in some minor ways.  Martin of Spain’s order starts off clear, but the order gets really mixed up and unclear towards the end.  Cattan’s order seems to be the most orderly, and preserves almost but frustratingly not quite the same order as the ḥarf cycle from before, with the following changes:

  • Cattan has Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Maior in positions 5 and 6; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Puella and Puer in positions 9 and 10; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Via, Carcer, Populus, and Coniunctio as the final four figures; the ḥarf cycle has Populus, Carcer, Coniunctio, and Via

What we’re arriving at is that the Western rules for assigning letters to the figures is clearly a continuation of the same cycle associations that began in the Arabic tradition, even from a very early period in Western geomancy, which indicates that the ḥarf cycle definitely dates back to the late 1200s, probably earlier, making it a very early arrangement of figures, indeed.  At least in the western part of Europe (i.e. Spain as opposed to Greece), this was likely brought in at an early point along with the rest of geomantic technique, and held on in some form or another by a handful of geomancers.  It’s unclear to me exactly how popular this method or association was, since I haven’t found more than a handful of resources that give such an association and most of them tend to be the larger works on geomancy that date from Cattan and onwards, but it may well be that this system was held onto, perhaps with some corruptions or changes, which would explain the small changes in Cattan’s order versus the ḥarf cycle.

The other major difference is how the letters get assigned to the figures in their cycle.  Rather than how the Arabic method goes through the cycle of figures and gives each figure one letter in turn, which results in a bunch of figures at the start with two letters and a few at the end with only one, the European method seems to almost be reverse: double up the letters at the end of the cycle and work forward until the rest of the figures at the start have only one letter each.  Given how straightforward the association method would be, I’m not sure how the method changed so drastically; either several corruptions happened along the way, or someone innovated a variation on the system.  I can’t seem to trace sources back past Cattan, or at least find any in an accessible form, so it’s unclear whether Cattan or his predecessors carried on the same tradition that Martin of Spain wrote about, whether his method came from another variant closely related to it, or whether he reimported an Arabic method and customized it for European needs.

What would it look like if we were to use the ḥarf cycle order of the figures and the same method, but applied it to the Roman script?  Considering that the Roman script that we use nowadays has shifted a bit from Renaissance usage, notably with the introduction of a few more letters (J from I, V and W from U, and Z), we can envision two versions of this, a “Renaissance Roman” ḥarf association of the figures with the letters as it was done in the days of Cattan et al. with 23 letters, and a “Modern English” association that uses all 26 letters of the modern English alphabet but done in the same way.  Below is what we would get from using those methods, alongside Cattan’s association for comparison (with the mis-ordered letters, e.g. Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, in bold italic).  Heck, we can even come up with a Cattan-style association of the letters, using the ḥarf ordering (to fix the irregularities we might have seen from before) but using the same Western-style doubling-up of successive letters at the end:

Figure Cattan Ḥarf-Style
Renaissance
Roman
Ḥarf-Style
Modern English
Cattan-Style
Modern English
Laetitia A A R A Q A
Tristitia B B S B R B
Rubeus C C T C S C
Albus D D U/V/W D T D
Fortuna Maior F E X E U E
Fortuna Minor E F Y F V F
Caput Draconis G G G W G H
Cauda Draconis H H H X I J
Puer K I/J I Y K L
Puella I/J K J Z M N
Acquisitio L M L K O P
Amissio N O M L Q R
Populus T U/V/W N M S T
Carcer R S O N U V
Coniunctio X Y P O W X
Via P Q Q P Y Z

In this light, let’s point out two things about Cattan’s original style (which I’m taking as the default Western letter association rule, which was an earlier version of what Heydon and Case later used):

  • Really, why is there no Z in the Renaissance Roman scheme, or even Cattan’s original scheme?  As I mentioned earlier, Z was barely considered a letter in English until comparatively recently, so it’s not completely surprising that medieval, Renaissance, and even early modern texts on geomancy would omit it from such an association scheme.  Yet, French (for that matter, many forms of Romance languages) definitely uses the letter Z in its language regularly, so it’s odd that French or Italian would omit this letter.  Note how it would fall in the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme, as a letter corresponding to Caput Draconis.  This, however, would give its reverse figure Cauda Draconis no corresponding double letter, because the Roman script including Z would have 23 letters, and an odd number would mean one of these reversion-pairs would go unassigned.  So, this letter would have to be omitted to keep the system clean, and would probably logically be merged with S (as part of Carcer).
  • Even then, why does the Cattan scheme double up successive letters at the end, rather than allocate sequential letters cyclicly through the alphabet?  It might be more for a superficial resemblance or mirroring of how the ḥarf cycle associations work for Arabic, where the final positions are given to the liminal figures which were seen as “breaking the pattern” in some special way.  Because 22 letters get nowhere near those final four figures (as the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme shows) and because we might still want to make those final figures special in some way, the doubling-up of successive letters at the end could be seen as a compromise to keep the final few figures special while still allocating the letters to the figures in an orderly way.  It’s a major departure from the logic of the ḥarf cycle method, but it’s a method all the same.

So, let’s say that we have our pick now of these four systems.  Which would I recommend to use?  Given what the original ḥarf cycle logic was, I would throw my hat in for the ḥarf-style modern English associations above, but that’s also because I use the English language, and though the Renaissance Roman script is just an earlier version of the English alphabet, I see no reason to use an outdated orthography that omits several important letters that have not been considered allographs or variants of others for several hundred years now.  The same method of straightforwardly allocating the letters of one’s writing system in order to the geomantic figures in the ḥarf cycle can be used for any alphabetic or abjadic script.

Even with this, there are still several important questions that are still left unanswered:

  • It’s clear that alphabets or abjads that have an even number of letters would be favored, because it keeps the reversal pairs intact, so that each figure in the pair has the same number of letters.  What about scripts with an odd number of letters?  Does it really matter that much to keep reversal pairs intact?
  • Why are the figures in the ḥarf cycle placed in this order at all?  Is there an organizing principle behind it, or was it more inspired than devised?
  • Did the ḥarf cycle come first and then the association with the letters, or did the idea of divvying up the 28 letters of the Arabic script come first and the figures associated with those letters afterwards?  If the latter, it could explain why the four liminal figures just so happen to be at the end of the cycle where they get one figure each.  But even then, why would the pure element figures Laetitia, Tristitia, etc. be at the front in that order?  Reading the figures as elements, they could be read as Fire-Earth-Air-Water (my modern system or just using the points of those elemental lines) or as Air-Earth-Fire-Water (the older system that swaps Rubeus for Fire and Laetitia for Air), but this would be odd considering their pure elemental representations.
  • Can other cycles be used instead of the ḥarf cycle?  I know that at least some geomancers use the ABDḤ cycle using the same method of allocating letters to figures, just in a different order of the figures, though it seems the ḥarf cycle is more popular, at least in Africa and the Near East.
  • Where did Cattan get his Second and Third Rules of assigning the letters to the figures come from?  I haven’t been able to figure out a pattern there, either, especially with the varied and numerous associations he gives that don’t match anything else.  He even includes the letter Z in the Third Rule!

  • Did the methods of determining names as given by Cattan, Heydon, etc. also originally come from Arabic geomancy, or were they developed purely in a Western setting?  If they came from Arabic geomancy, did they come in at an early date and get passed down (and potentially corrupted) as time went by, or were they reimported at a later date?  Given their wording, it seems they were unclear and obscure even in Renaissance times.
  • What even are the methods in use for Arabic geomancy for using the ḥarf cycle?  I haven’t been able to read or research much about that, either.  How do Arabic geomancers determine names, and how similar are these methods using the ḥarf cycle (or other cycles with letters associated to the figures!) to those in Western geomancy?
  • What can be done about non-alphabetic or non-abjadic scripts?  Syllabaries can feasibly be assigned, syllable by syllable, to the geomantic figures, though that would quickly get out of hand depending on the number of syllables a language has.  How about abugidas, like any of the Brahmic-derived scripts?  How would vowels be handled in that system, if at all?  What about logographic scripts?

Still, even with these unanswered questions, I feel like I have enough at this point to convince me that that whole section in my book’s postscript about how trash these methods of determining names and letters are probably deserves a rewrite.  In fact, what’s astounding about the Western methods is that we have a fossil of Arabic dawā`ir embedded in our own practice, when otherwise there we don’t use any dā`ira-based technique.  It really emphasizes to me that, truly, geomancy is still an art that reaches deep into the sands of north African and Arabic culture, and perhaps there are more things that we can learn from or even merge with from our eastern siblings in this art.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to more research and writing.  I want to take another look at those rules and try applying them again; now that I have a better understanding of why the letters get allocated to some figures in certain patterns, maybe using the ḥarf cycle in a more pure way than what Cattan or Heydon have could improve those chances of determining names.