On Elemental Assignments of the Geomantic Figures

It’s a constant joy for me to see the discussions on the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, and it’s not just because I enjoy wielding power as an admin over scores of people.  Seeing people contribute geomantic charts and offer community feedback on them, as well as being able to read different perspectives on symbols and techniques used in geomancy, helps me out as much as it does anyone else; while I may be good at geomancy, and no matter how long I practice it or delve into its mysteries, I still consider myself a student in the art, because there’s always more to learn and appreciate.  After all, with only 16 figures to represent the multiple myriads of people, things, circumstances, and events in the cosmos, there’s a lot to unpack in the art.

Occasionally, someone will ask a question about geomancy that will get me to my proper computer to type a proper response, which would be burdensome on my phone.  Recently, someone asked just such a question, and this time about one of the bits of geomantic systems I really enjoy discussing: that of the elemental rulerships of the figures.  The forum member was in a state of confusion about how the elements were assigned to the figures, what the difference was between inner and outer elemental rulerships, and whether these rulerships had any system at all behind them or whether they were just spurious and irrelevant.  You can bet your last coin I gave a response to this, especially to that last part of the question.

First, let’s talk about the inner versus outer element.  This is a distinction I’ve only ever seen in John Michael Greer’s out-of-print book Earth Divination, Earth Magic (1999) and his later and more up-dated The Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009).  In short, the outer element of a figure is the element of the sign of the Zodiac he associates with a geomantic figure, while the inner element is more closely tied to the nature and elemental structure of the figure itself.  From “The Art and Practice of Geomancy” (pp. 33 and 34, emphasis his):

One of the four elements is considered to be the inner element of the figure.  In every case but one—Populus, which has no manifest elements at all—the inner element is a manifest element, marked by a single dot.  The inner element is also called the ruling element, and it stands for the elemental pattern that the figure expresses most intently.  Pay attention to the ruling elements in divination and you’ll have a useful key to the way the events that are predicted or analyzed in a divination unfold in daily life. …

Each figure also has an outer element, which relates to the flow of elemental energies through the sixteen figures in their traditional sequence…  In a few cases this element is the same as the inner element, but usually it’s different.  The outer element shows how the figure expresses itself in the world around it, while the inner element shows what kind of power is in the figure itself.  Fortuna Major, for example, has Fire as its outer element, which represents its power to reshape the world in a favorable way.  The figure’s inner element, however, is Earth, which means its power comes not from rushing around, but from establishing itself solidly and letting everything else move around it.

And again from “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (pp. 26—27):

Each of the figures contains all of the elements, as we’ve seen, but in geomantic tradition one or another element also has a dominant role in each figure.  There are at least as many ways of assigning the elements to the figures in this way as there are for linking the figures with the Zodiacal signs.  Two of them seem to work well in divination.  The first of these simply uses the elements that correspond to the Zodiacal signs just given.  This set, which I have called the “outer elements” of the figures, has much to do with the way the geomantic figures express their energies in practical terms. …

The second set of elemental correspondences comes from the geomancer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, who provided several different systems but labeled this one an “esoteric arrangement.”  I have found that it does a good job of summarizing the dynamics of the elemental structure of each figure, and it can be thought of as the ruling element within each figure.  I have made one change in the system as Agrippa gives it; he assigned Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire, but I have reversed these in order to bring the inner element and the elemental structure into harmony.

Just to be clear about what JMG is referencing from Agrippa, the following is taken from Of Geomancy, found in Cornelius Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:

Now we proceed to declare with what Planets these Figures are distributed; for hereupon all the propriety and nature of Figures and the judgement of the whole Art dependeth: Therefore the greater and lesser Fortune are ascribed to the Sun; but the first or greater Fortune is when the Sun is diurnall, and posited in his dignities; the other, or lesser Fortune is when the Sun is nocturnall, or placed in lesse dignities: Via, and Populus that is, the Way, and People are referred to the Moone; the first from her beginning and encreasing, the second from her full light and quarter decreasing; Acquisitio, and Laetitia which is Gaine, Profit; Joy and Gladness are of Jupiter: But the first hath Jupiter the greater Fortune, the second the lesse, but without detriment: Puella, and Amissio are of Venus; the first fortunate, the other as it were retrograde, or combust: Conjunctio and Albus are both Figures of Mercury, and are both good; but the first the more Fortunate: Puer and Rubeus are Figures ascribed to Mars; the first whereof hath Mars benevolent, the second malevolent: Carcer, and Tristitia are both Figures of Saturn, and both evill; but the first of the greater detriment: the Dragons head, and Dragons tayle doe follow their owne natures.

And these are the infallible comparisons of the Figures, and from these wee may easily discerne the equality of their signes; therefore the greater and lesser Fortunes have the signes of Leo, which is the House of the Sun: Via and Populus have the signe of Cancer, which is the House of the Moone: Acquisitio hath for his signe Pisces; and Laetitia Sagitary, which are both the Houses of Jupiter: Puella hath the signe of Taurus, and Amissio of Libra, which are the Houses of Venus: Conjunctio hath for its signe Virgo, and Albus the signe Gemini, the Houses of Mercury: Puella and Rubeus have for their signe Scorpio, the House of Mars: Carcer hath the signe Capricorne, and Tristitia Aquary, the Houses of Saturne : The Dragons head and taile are thus divided, the head to Capricorne, and the Dragons taile adhereth to Scorpio; and from hence you may easily obtaine the triplicities of these signs after the manner of the triplicities of the signes of the Zodiak: Puer therefore, both Fortunes, and Laetitia do govern the fiery triplicity; Puella, ConjunctioCarcer, and the Dragons head the earthly triplicity: Albus, Amitia, and Tristitia, doe make the Airy triplicity: and Via, Populus, and Rubeus, with the Dragons taile, and Acquisitio do rule the watry triplicity, and this order is taken according to the course of manner of the signes.

But if any one will constitute these triplicities according to the nature of the Planets, and Figures themselves, let him observe this Rule, that Fortuna major, Rubeus, Puer, and Amissio doe make the fiery triplicity: Fortune minor, Puella, Laetitia and Conjunctio triplicity of the Ayre: Acquisitio, the Dragons taile, Via, and Populus doe governe the watry triplicity; and the earthly triplicity is ruled by Carcer, Tristitia, Albus, and the Dragons head. And this way is rather to be observed then the first which we have set forth; because it is constituted according to the Rule and manner of the signes.

This order is also far more true and rationall then that which vulgarly is used, which is described after this manner: of the Fiery triplicity are, Cauda, Fortuna minor, Amissio, and Rubeus: of the Airy triplicity are, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Puer, and Conjunctio: of the watry triplicity are, Populus, Via, Albus, and Puella: And Caput, Fortuna major, Carcer, and Tristitia are of the earthly triplicity.

They doe likewise distribute these Figures to the twelve signes of the Zodiak, after this manner, Acquisitio is given to Aries; Fortuna, both major and minor to Taurus; Laetitia to the signe Gemini; Puella and Rubeus to Cancer; Albus is assigned to Leo, Via to Virgo; the Dragons head, and Conjunctio to Libra; Puer is submitted to Scorpio; Tristitia and Amissio are assigned to Sagitary; the Dragons taile to Capricorne; Populus to Aquarius; and Carcer is assigned the signe Pisces.

As it turns out, Agrippa gives three separate ways to associate the elements with the geomantic figures:

  • The first is given at the end of the second paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures based on the sign of the Zodiac he gives them.  This largely matches with JMG’s outer element, but note that Agrippa doesn’t give the figures to the signs in a modern planetary method, e.g. giving Cauda Draconis to Scorpio instead of Sagittarius, or Laetitia to Sagittarius instead of Pisces.
  • The second is given in the third paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures “according to the nature of the Planets and Figures themselves”, and is not present in JMG’s books.  While Agrippa does not explain the elemental nature of the planets in this text, it doesn’t match with the elemental associations he gives in either book I, chapters 23—29 or book II, chapter 7 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • The third is given in the fourth paragraph, where Agrippa gives a “vulgar” system which matches up with JMG’s inner element, noting the swap between Rubeus and Laetitia to Air and Fire, respectively, as JMG noted.

The simultaneous use of two systems of elemental attribution for the figures is an innovation by JMG, and is found nowhere else in the geomantic literature; in almost all cases, a given book on geomancy describes only one system of elemental attribution, and it’s usually the “vulgar” one that Agrippa gives; only after Agrippa’s time do we start to see the rise of the sign-based system.  Interestingly, it’s this same “vulgar” system that Agrippa gives in book II, chapter 48 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, with no mention of either the sign-based attribution of the elements or the planet-based attribution of the signs, indicating he either had a change of heart or that Of Geomancy (and the Fourth Book generally) was a spurious text that was only published under his name.

To show which systems were used where in the European geomantic literature, I went through some of my books and texts and came up with the following table showing which author used what elemental rulership system for the figures:

Figure Agrippa
Sign-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Planet-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Vulgar
(1655)
John
Heydon
(1663)
John
Case
(1697)
Robert
Fludd
(1687)
Christopher
Cattan
(1591)
Populus Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Via Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Albus Air Earth Water Air Air Water Water
Coniunctio Earth Air Air Earth Earth Air Air
Puella Earth Air Water Air Air Water Water
Amissio Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth Fire Fire
Fortuna Maior Fire Fire Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth
Fortuna Minor Fire Air Fire Air Air Fire Fire
Puer Fire Fire Air Fire Fire Air Air
Rubeus Water Fire Fire Water Water Fire Fire
Acquisitio Water Water Air Fire Fire Air Air
Laetitia Fire Air Air Water Water Air Air
Tristitia Air Earth Earth Air Air Earth Earth
Carcer Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Caput Draconis Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Cauda Draconis Water Water Fire Fire Fire Earth Fire

In general, including other texts like Pietro d’Abano’s Geomantia (1544) and the anonymous 15th century ce Lectura Geomantiae, geomantic authors typically use Agrippa’s “vulgar” system.  John Case in his “The Angelical Guide Shewing Men and Women Their Lott or Chance in this Elementary Life” uses Agrippa’s sign-based elemental system, though without using Agrippa’s planet-based sign system (instead, Case uses a modified form of the zodiacal attribution system of Gerard of Cremona).  John Heydon in his Theomagia uses Agrippa’s sign-based system (book I, chapters 19 through 21) with some modifications that bring it in line with what’s commonly used in modern times (book I, chapter 5), and upon which the geomantic texts of the Golden Dawn are based.  Interestingly, late though it is, Franz Hartmann’s The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (1889) preserves the older “vulgar” system.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much in the way of older sources; what little I have of Hugo of Santalla’s 12th century ce work on geomancy doesn’t mention the elements; Thérèse Charmasson’s “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval” (1982) mentions an Arabic method of assigning the figures to the elements, which matches up with the “vulgar” system for the most part with some changes, though I don’t know the provenance of her source for this specific system (with the six figures that don’t match in italics):

  • Fire: Laetitia, Puer, Populus, Fortuna Maior
  • Air: Rubeus, Caput Draconis, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Via, Cauda Draconis, Amissio
  • Earth: Tristitia, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Puella

So much for where JMG’s outer vs. inner system came from.  As already mentioned before on this blog, I use the same inner elemental system JMG uses, including the Laetitia/Rubeus elemental swap, as I find that it’s an elegant system that reflects the underlying overall element that represents a geomantic figure; with the exception of Populus, the ruling element of a figure will be active/manifest/present in that figure.   Not only do I find that such a system accurately represents the nature and expression of that figure, the same system also allows for a secondary sub-ruler to be assigned, so that each figure has a primary ruler and a secondary ruler, such that e.g. Amissio is primarily Fire and secondarily Water.  This is an innovation of my own that I have found nowhere else in the geomantic literature, and I find that it helps to give some more insight into the symbolism and nature of the figures.

The only thing I can’t rightly answer regarding the inner element system is the historical attribution of Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire.  I agree with JMG that these two should be switched so as to bring the elements active in these figures in accord with their overall ruling element, and I can’t rightly say why they Laetitia was given to Air and Rubeus to Fire in so many older texts.  It’s a possibility that, perhaps, JMG and I are in the right and this is how the system was originally, but a typo early on got propagated from one text to the next, though that notion seems far-fetched even to me, even if similar typos and mixed-up attributions have happened and been propagated as widely and as long as that (e.g. a common such swap is that of the names of Puer and Puella in texts while keeping the rest of their significations the same, even in Fludd).  If the inner element system was not originally based on the elemental structures of the figures themselves, then I’m at a loss to describe what they would be based on unless it was a Septuagint-like miracle that the interpretations of the figures were so closely aligned to the elemental structures of the figures for so many past geomancers for so long.  In any case, the elemental structure-based system of ruling elements that I use and that JMG uses for his inner elements works well, and has a definite logic and reason for it.

That said, however, I do not use two simultaneous systems of overall ruling elements as JMG uses his inner and outer element systems.  In general, I have three issues with the use of an “outer element” system like how JMG describes it.  The simplest is that I find that it confuses the rulership system of the figures to have two co-ruling elements of a figure.  Unlike having a primary and secondary ruler, JMG has two rulers that are to be used in different contexts, but his distinction between those contexts doesn’t make sense to me.  The notion of a figure expressing itself externally differently from how it expresses itself doesn’t sit well with me, because a figure is single and simple; it doesn’t have an indoor voice and outdoor voice, or comfy at-home pants versus a dressed-up suit for the office; to me, a figure is a figure, and it expresses how it is in the way it is by the virtue of what it is.  Coniunctio’s nature, for instance, is about connection and conjunction and meeting and discussion, all of which are inherently airy things; it doesn’t do so with a mind to bring about earthy results, nor does it become an earthy figure when put next to anything else.  To have two “modes” for interpreting the figures here leads to confusion more than it does clarity, and I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble.

The second issue I have is that JMG’s outer element (or Agrippa’s sign/planet-based assignment) system is reliant on a “man in the middle” between the geomantic figures and the elements we’re trying to associate them with.  Rather than associate the figures directly with the elements, we first assign them to the signs of the Zodiac, and then link the signs of the Zodiac to the elements.  The outer element system has us taking two steps to get to our destination (figure → sign → element) rather than just one step (figure → element), and given the choice between a direct versus indirect assignment method, I’ll always take the direct one.  It’s a slippery slope to take indirect associations, especially when you increase the number of steps, because then you end up Liber 777ing everything to link everything to everything else, which becomes a muddled mess.  Here it’s not so bad, but even still, if you have a direct association available, I’d consider that to be inherently more worthy of consideration than any indirect one.

The third issue I have is the most practical: there are multiple ways of assigning the geomantic figures to the zodiac signs, and therefore there would be multiple ways to assign an outer element to the figures.  While the Agrippa- or Heydon-style method of assigning the figures to the zodiac signs is common in modern practice, even into the modern age, the older system of Gerard of Cremona (which is ultimately based on an early assignment of the figures to the 28 mansions of the Moon) is still seen, and I find that this latter system is much more effective in divination and analysis of the figures than the Agrippa/Heydon method (which itself is based on the assignments of the planets to the figures).  The elements of the signs from the Cremona system do not match with the Agrippa/Heydon system, even if it is a valid “outer element” system according to the reasoning JMG gives; were I to talk about outer elements with someone else who used the Agrippa/Heydon zodiacal system without saying what system I used, this would lead to confusion and bickering that “Albus is a watery figure!” “You’re wrong, it’s an airy one!” “Nuh-uh!” ad nauseam.  By using the inner element system, we sidestep such issues in discussion entirely, as well as reducing the number of systems we’d need to pay attention to; plus, as I’ve mentioned before, using an outer element system at all doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile to me even on its own merits.

So, to summarize all the above, some TL;DR points:

  • Inner element vs. outer element is a distinction only JMG uses.
  • Use the inner element system to understand the rulerships of the figures.
  • The outer element system doesn’t matter (at best) and can get you in trouble (at worst).

Now, all that said, let me answer that last question the forum member on Facebook asked: are such associations irrelevant?  By no means!  Each system of correspondences and attributions to the figures gives us deeper insights into how the figures represent the myriad things of the cosmos and how they play out in interpretation, as well as revealing to us their deeper spiritual meaning on their own.  For the vast majority of such correspondences, each is grounded in deeper systems of logic and reason that tie geomancy into broader systems of occult knowledge; only in a handful of cases are they spurious, and they’re either shown to be wrong with a bit of experimentation and analysis, or are shown to be valid through analysis of repeated results that show a trend to be followed, which can then be used to further enhance and empower the overall system of geomancy as we have it.  Only in a very few cases would something like divine revelation or unverified personal gnosis come into play, and it’d still be recommended to test them out both in divination and against existing systems of correspondence before putting them into practice.

For something as large-scale and encompassing as the elemental rulerships of the figures, especially since it’s based on a thorough analysis of the nature of each figure interpretatively as well as structurally, I would consider this to definitely fall on the relevant and not-spurious side of things, especially given how useful the system is to the analysis of each figure, both as a cosmos unto itself as well as a factor in a divination reading with the other figures.  And, even if you do like using the outer element system, I can only argue against it so much; even if I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, I must still admit and agree that it’s important to understand the different associations of the figures regardless of author or method so to get an encompassing understanding of how the figures have been understood across the centuries, and then based on your own experience and studies, pick one that works best for you.

Geomantic Forecast for 2018 (and how to get your own!)

Alright, alright.  Now that my house is cleaned, my shrines refreshed, and my body recovered from my celebratory hangover, I figured that the start of the year is good for a bit of divination, yes?  After all, after the hellish 2016 and 2017 so many of us had, just as many of us are looking for something to orient ourselves and plan with/against.  To that end, I decided to bust out my geomancy tools and did a reading to see just what 2018 has in store for us.

Before I get to that, though, I also wanted to announce that I’m having a sale over on my Etsy for my divination services!  After all, general readings from my blog for the year as a whole for humanity as a whole are well and good, but getting something specific for yourself is always a good thing.  Plus, you can use both my general interpretation for The Masses as well as what’s specific for you to get an even better view on both the broad and narrow spectrum!  From now through January 31, all my divination services are 20% off:

If you’re looking for a thorough, clear, and understandable forecast for the year of 2018, or if you have other issues and questions you’d like to resolve through divination, now’s the time to do it!

Now that the self-promoting’s out of the way, let’s get to that broad spectrum reading.  For myself and for all those who come in contact with my words, what will 2018 have in store for us?  The Mothers for this chart are Albus, Cauda Draconis, Via, and Carcer.  The Sum of the Chart is 93, the Part of Fortune is in house VIII, and the Part of Spirit is in house IV.  The ascendant for this chart, based on the figure in house I, is Cancer.

The overall theme of this year is shown by the Court.  Here, the Right Witness is Amissio, the Left Witness is Fortuna Minor, the Judge is Coniunctio, and the Sentence is Rubeus.  This is a year of changes and decision-making, coming from a place of tumult and bereavement into a state of success, fortune, and protection; in other words, we find the support we need to stem the losses we’ve been succumbing to.  As we all know, the past year (or two, or three) have been chaotic for many of us, with many of our role models being lost, opportunities cut off, and our dreams out of reach.  While this isn’t a year for wild success and getting everything we want, it is one for triage of ourselves and our lives so that we stop losing what we hold dear to ourselves, which is the first step to overcoming these problems, and the first of many to eventually getting what we want.  Be careful, though; not everything we want is what we need, and not everything that looks good actually is.  In addition to triage, this is a year for the careful evaluation of our dreams and goals and seeing whether they’re actually beneficial for us to pursue, or whether they’re merely pipe dreams that cause us more damage down the line.  Talk things through, keep your options open, and be willing to change and make deals with others.  You may not get everything you want, but you can get what you need; that’s the nature of compromise.

We find ourselves represented by Albus in house I, a figure of calm, tranquility, peace, and meditation.  These are traits that will serve us well throughout the year (and, I claim, all life generally); always think things through once, twice, and twice more again for good measure.  Always keep a state of detachment to avoid getting too wrapped up in matters of your life, because there’s always the bigger picture at play to think about, and the current outrage du jour will often only be a small blip on the radar once the day is done.  Reserve your energy whenever possible and enjoy whatever downtime you can, because there will be many instances this year that demand much of us, and we need to make sure we have the mental and spiritual fortitude to see those times through, especially during the latter parts of the year from September onward when we can expect major cataclysms, destruction, and possible mass incarcerations to occur.  Taking a Stoic or Buddhist approach to the world is a solid way to keep your head above the water; just don’t forget to actually take care of your own business!

Financially, many people will experience hardship and problems keeping themselves afloat; we find Cauda Draconis in house II, indicating that there are money issues afoot in the world.  In all things that deal with money and finances, plan for the worst outcome just in case it comes to pass (as it likely will for many people).  Always keep a tight budget, account for every cent that passes through your bank statements, make sure you have as much control as you possibly can, and be more responsible and cautious with your money than you think you’re able to be.  Just as the old thrifter’s saying goes: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.  Better to use what you have until you can’t use it anymore, then repurpose it as you can for whatever purpose you can find, than to spend needlessly.

Relationships, similarly, will encounter many of the same issues, as Cauda Draconis also appears in house VII, that of marriages and partnerships.  Whenever possible, don’t walk away from conversations or shut things down prematurely (enough of that will happen on its own anyway!), but rather keep communication open and plumb every possibility before calling it quits.  Avoid letting sentimentality cloud your judgment, and bear in mind that the things that ought to end should be brought to an end.  Even then, however, try to wrap up ending relationships as cleanly as possible, because nobody wants to deal with the fallout from a messy explosion (and there will be messy explosions when dealing with people in a one-on-one context, whether romantically or business-related).

For my occult and spiritual-minded readers, this is a good year to focus on that good old-fashioned magic down here instead of up there.  Fortuna Minor is in house IX and Fortuna Maior is in house VIII; the Sun shifts from the highest heights of heaven to the dark halls of hell, indicating that better success will come from working with less-than-elevated spirits.  Those who work with the dead, demons, and land spirits will find their successes amplified this year, and I would strongly encourage everyone to develop an ancestor veneration practice or, if they already have one going, to explore it more deeply into something more meaningful and beneficial for both you and your honored dead.  Spiritualism, mediumship, and shamanic work will be solid gold for this year, so if you have an interest in that, now’s the time to get on it.  Further, the Part of Fortune is in house VIII, indicating that many people can find an easier time getting their Work done by approaching these same spirits and lines of work; for those who aren’t interested in the occult, this is a good time to cash in on favors, agreements, contracts, and all business deals before they sour.

With Coniunctio in house VI, our health can be a fickle thing, and this year, there is a high risk of communicable and contagious diseases; nothing terrible and nothing that would cause too much upheaval, but be aware of them spreading around.  Wash your hands, cook your food thoroughly, and keep up good hygiene habits no matter whether you’re at home, visiting a friend, in the office, or traveling abroad.  This is especially important for matters of the bones, joints, skin, brain, and head generally.  Try to keep your living and work environments fresh and clean, with good air circulating and surfaces dusted and free of debris; staleness and stagnation can easily cause sicknesses and injuries this year, more than it otherwise might.  If you’re of weak health, avoid being in public too much, as you run a higher risk of health issues caused by being around people.

For public and government matters, we also find Coniunctio in house X (which explains some of the public health issues I said above).  This indicates that we’re in a year of solid change for all those in office or enjoying public dignity, so if you’re currently relying on the status quo, you’d better change your plans and be able to roll with the punches that are coming before too late.  Any sort of business that is done in the public eye intentionally from the get-go will be benefited by virtue of being in the public eye; conspiracy, backroom dealings, and secret negotiations can come to light easily and backfire against you.

For private matters, we look to house IV, which has Carcer.  Normally, this would be a bad sign, but Carcer is a figure of Saturn, and in this chart, Libra rules over house IV, the exaltation of Saturn; moreover, the Part of Spirit is in house IV, as well.  This is a fantastic time to build yourself up in your own house and home, wherever you may reside.  Your private space is a sacred space, so treat it as such; build up strong walls and boundaries, both physically as well as spiritually and metaphorically, and keep the profane and defiled out of your home.  Keep things on lock-down more often than not, and use your private space and private time as your primary setting to build yourself up.  The sanctity of your home will help you fortify and protect yourself against everything life has to throw at you.  If you have a choice between staying home and going out, try to stay home.  In other words, introverts rejoice, for this is your year!

Other notes and suggestions:

  • Try to not rely overmuch on friends and colleagues, as they may not be able to help you as much as you might think.
  • Avoid being around too many people at once, as it can bring down your health as well as your mood.
  • This is a great year for creative endeavors of all kinds, and if you’re thinking of having a child, this is a great year to plan for having one.
  • Gambling and gaming of all kinds can open new opportunities; don’t expect the world to be handed to you every throw of the dice, but definitely explore the benefits of playing games for success and achievements.
  • Be careful around large or wild animals, as there’s a risk of danger of harm from encountering them.
  • Any enemies you may have will accidentally reveal themselves from being too loud or proud.  Be careful of them and be on the lookout, but secrecy is not their forte.
  • Lots of people will travel this year, but mostly to areas local to them, such as within their state/province.  Traveling abroad will be less common than otherwise.
  • If you have an interest in crafting or engineering hobbies, this is a good time to learn how to use your hands and head for them.  Taking classes in woodworking, machinery, and the like is a good suggestion for those who are inclined for it.
  • Whenever you consider scheduling or planning dates, always account for things happening sooner than anticipated.  While there’s always the possibility for things to be delayed, more often than not, things will turn out the opposite of that, even to certain things being done before you’re even aware of them.
  • Many headaches and problems can come from arguments and problems dealing with our partners.  Get some fresh air, take some deep breaths, and light some incense to clean the airs if you’re having communication problems or before making any big decision with someone else.
  • If you’re going through emotional pain, go outside and enjoy a local restaurant or park.  Spending time in your environment outside can help settle down an upset heart or head when you need it.

And there you have it, my predictions for the coming year!  May 2018 treat you well, and may this be a blessed year for us all!

On Geomantic Holy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The idea of this calendar goes like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same Figures, but Different Names and Different Traditions

In addition to the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook that I admin, there are a few other groups out there that focus on geomancy.  I may or may not be a member of them, or I might have been at one point before leaving, but there’s one that I belong to that focuses on the Arabic style of geomancy, Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy).  What the Geomantic Study-Group is for Western geomancy, this group is for Arabic `ilm al-raml (the formal Arabic term for geomancy, literally “the science of the sand”, sometimes abbreviated to raml or ramal), and since I’d love to learn more about that style of geomancy, I decided to join in.  It’s not always easy, since many of the members use Urdu or Arabic as their primary language, but when there are English conversations, I try to follow along best I can.

One of the major issues in learning Arabic `ilm al-raml for an English speaker is, of course, terminology.  It’s only fair and expected that the users of a system built in one language would use that language to discuss it, but it still poses a stumbling block.  After all, geomancy has been practiced continuously in Arabic- and Urdu-speaking countries far longer than it was in Europe, and they’ve kept the system in their own ways.  Once I see what they’re doing and see certain words repeated in certain contexts, I can usually catch on and follow along, but the biggest impediment to discussing geomancy and `iln al-raml is the different names we have for the figures themselves.  It’s difficult for me to talk about the meanings of a given figure and compare it with what it means in `ilm al-raml when neither of us know which figure we’re supposed to be talking about, after all.

So, with that in mind, I decided to produce the following table that lists the names of the sixteen geomantic figures and their names in Western geomancy (in Latin and English, using their most popular form) and in Arabic `ilm al-raml (in Arabic and English, again using their popular form).  This is to help me out to learn the names of the figures better in Arabic contexts, as well as to help the students of `ilm al-raml learn the European names for Western contexts.  For other variants in these and other languages that have historically been used for geomancy, including Hebrew, Greek, Sudanese, and Malagasy, I’d recommend checking out Stephen Skinner’s book on geomancy, Geomancy in Theory and Practice, and his larger book on correspondences, The Complete Magician’s Tables.

Figure Latin Arabic Yoruba
Populus
People
جماعت
Ǧamaʿat
Group
Oyẹku
Via
Way
طريق
Ṭariq
Way
Ogbe
Albus
White
بياض
Bayaḍ
White
Oturupọn
Coniunctio
Conjunction
اجتماع
Iǧtimaʿ
Meeting
Iwori
Puella
Girl
نقى
Naqi
Pure
Otura
Amissio
Loss
قبض الخارج
Qubiḍ al-ḫariǧ
Catching the outside
Ọsẹ
Fortuna Maior
Greater Fortune
نصرهّ الداخل
Nuṣraht al-daḫil
Inside victory
Iwọnrin
Fortuna Minor
Lesser Fortune
نصرهّ الخارج
Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ
Outside victory
Irosun
Puer
Boy
فرح
Farih
Happiness
Irẹtẹ
Rubeus
Red
حمره
Ḥumrah
Red
Ika
Acquisitio
Gain
قبض الداخل
Qubiḍ al-daḫil
Catching the inside
Ofun
Laetitia
Joy
ليحان
Layhan
Ọbara
Tristitia
Sorrow
انكيس
Ankis
Ọkanran
Carcer
Prison
عقله
ʿUqlah
Odi
Caput Draconis
Head of the Dragon
عتبة الداخل
ʿAtabaht al-daḫil
Inner threshold
Ọsa
Cauda Draconis
Tail of the Dragon
عتبة الخارج
ʿAtabaht al-ḫariǧ
Outer threshold
Ogunda

Because I like using an Arabic transliteration system that uses diacritics for faithful romanization, it can be a little difficult to read the Arabic names, but the accented letters can be read as follows:

  • q sounds like a “k”, but further back in the throat.
  • ṭ, ṣ, and ḍ all sound like normal but with the back of the tongue further to the back and top of the throat.  However, in Urdu, ṭ and ṣ just sound like “t” and “s”, and ḍ just sounds like “z”.
  • ǧ sounds like a soft “g” or “j” (or like in the word “division”).
  • ḫ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch“.
  • ḥ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch” but a little smoother.
  • ʿ sounds like a very soft, whispered “h” sound, if pronounced at all.

So, “Bayaḍ” can sound like either “bah-yahd'”, or “bayz”, “Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ” will sound like “nus-raht al-khareej”, and so forth.  Note that some of these names are not proper Arabic, and moreover, just like in Western geomancy, there are dozens of names used across the Arabophone sphere.  These are just one set that I’ve found common in geomancy groups online, and are the ones I’m trying to memorize.  Most of the other variants used are just that: variants, which are easy enough to pick up on.

Also, note that I’m using the standard planetary order of the figures in the above chart, which is fairly common for Western geomancers.  While Western geomancy doesn’t really prescribe a particular order as the order of the figures, Arabic geomancy has a set number of particular orders of the figures that are used for various divinatory purposes.  Probably the most common and canonical one is the dairah-e-abdah, which uses a kind of binary ordering, as seen in the following diagram (to be read from right to left):

While it may not seem like it makes much sense for me to make a single blog post doing nothing more than transliterating and translating a single set of Arabic names into English, given my penchant for long-winded exploratory posts, this is still an important first step in increasing Western geomancers’ understanding of Arabic `ilm al-raml as well as Arabic practitioners’ understanding of Western geomancy.  After all, it’s hard to make a journey if the door is still shut, and this helps open the door for both sides.

Now, you’ll notice that I’ve also included a third set of names, which are Yoruba for the figures as used in the sacred divination of Ifá.  I’ve included them for reference (both my own and other scholars of geomancy, especially those with a historical or academic eye), but I want to make something clear that I’ve only mentioned in passing before: Ifá is not geomancy, and geomancy is not Ifá.  Stephen Skinner talks at length about how the art of Ifá came about historically in his geomancy book, but the short of the matter is this: as geomancy traveled along the Arabic trade routes from its (likely) origin in the northern Sahara westward to Morocco and Spain, eastward to Palestine and Greece, and southward through Africa as far as Madagascar, it also traveled to West Africa where it was adopted and adapted by the priests and lorekeepers of the cultures living there.

While geomancy largely retained the same form and (mostly) the same interpretations everywhere else, it underwent dramatic changes and adaptations to the native Yoruba and Fon cultures in what is now Nigeria and Benin to become Ifá.  The form of the figures and several crucial aspects of geomancy were retained, but pretty much the entirety of the art was rebuilt from the ground up and grew apart into its own entirely-unique system.  As a result, although we as geomancers might recognize that Ifá has sixteen figures in the same format we’d consider them to be figures, almost nothing of what we know about geomancy applies to Ifá, and no assumptions should be made regarding any similarities besides the superficial appearance thereof.  To say it another way, if European geomancy and Arabic `ilm al-raml are sisters who grew up in the same house but then left to go their separate ways in neighboring cities, then Ifá is a distant cousin who grew up in an entirely different part of the country with little contact with the rest of the family.

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (aka Santería), which also has roots in Nigeria and matured alongside Ifá in Cuba, Ifá is something I’m constantly surrounded by, especially since I belong to an Ifá-centric house that respects, utilizes, and incorporates Ifá and its priests (the babalawos and oluwos) in our ceremonies and lives.  While I understand the historical origins of Ifá from geomancy, I also have to understand and respect the mythological origins and religious context of its practice as its own thing.  And, like Santería itself, it’s an initiated tradition, and non-initiates are not taught or permitted to learn the secrets of Ifá; for various reasons, I am not and will likely never become an initiate in Ifá.  Unlike many Western systems including geomancy, where formal initiation is not really a Thing outside magical lodges and certain master-student systems, this might be something of a shock to my readers, but as it is, there is only so much of the external parts of Ifá that I can learn, and even less that I’m willing to share to people, even to those in Santería itself.  I caution my readers to avoid getting too studious of Ifá without considering proper initiation and study under a legitimate and respected babalawo.

Likewise, a similar word of warning for those Western geomancers who aspire to study Arabic `ilm al-raml and vice versa.  Unlike geomancy and Ifá, geomancy and `ilm al-raml are much closer in method, meaning, and use, and many things are easily translatable between the two systems.  However, caution should still be taken, because although they’re very close sister traditions where there are more similarities than differences, they are still different traditions where the differences still matter.  It’s much like the difference between Western astrology and Indian jyotiṣa astrology: same origin, same symbols, slightly different techniques of interpretation and shades of meaning of those symbols.  While some things are translatable between geomancy and `ilm al-raml, not everything is, and the two systems should still be respected as two separate systems.  Experience and study of both systems will show the diligent geomancer what can be brought over with no effort, what must be adapted from one system to the other, and what is unique and proper to one system and not the other.  Though they share the same origin and great similarities, enough time, space, and work has passed that have made the two sciences grow apart into their own unique systems.  Respect that, study the differences, and experiment accordingly.

Also, my thanks go out to Masood Ali Thahim, one of the multilingual good guys in the `ilm al-raml group on Facebook, who helped me with the Arabic spelling and transliteration of the names of the figures as used in `ilm al-raml.