Sum of their Parts: The Planetary Syntheses of the Geomantic Figures

I don’t make as much of a practice of meditating on the geomantic figures as I sometimes feel I should.  It’s an important practice, I think, that really opens up some truly amazing doors in the understanding of the geomancer to not just get an intellectual feel for these sixteen symbols of elemental presence or absence, of elemental action, reaction, and interaction, but also to get a truly profound, soul-touching understanding of them.  This is crucially important, I claim, for any new geomancer: perhaps even before studying the techniques of geomancy (which are pretty straightforward, really), they should make an effort to truly learn what the figures are, not just what they mean or stand for through rote memorization of correspondence lists or the like.  In doing so, we learn more about the figures and how they play out in the world around us.

Back during January, during some of my usual daily prayers, the thought arose to me that maybe I shouldn’t just be meditating on the figures more often than once a year or so, but also to simply consider newer and other ways to understand them. After all, we have all these mathematical ways of understanding the figures, the various operations that can be applied to a figure to transform it into another, but one of the most important for us is addition: the process of taking two figures and combining them mathematically to form a third.  This is the fundamental technique that allows us to come up with the Nieces from the Mothers or Daughters, the Witnesses from the Nieces, the Judge from the Witnesses, and the Sentence from the Judge and First Mother.  The process of addition can be interpreted in one of three ways:

  • Us + Them = Interaction
  • Start + End = Transition
  • Factor + Context = Conclusion

In all cases, what addition shows us is what happens when you add the symbolism of one figure to the symbolism of another.  For instance, consider the two figures Puer + Laetitia = Acquisitio.  What could this mean?  Well, let’s consider it according to the three models of addition above:

  • (Us + Them = Interaction) Our youthful energy, drive, and brazenness is faced with a happy time and people more than happy to uplift us and support us.  The combination of like minds, with the enthusiasm of Puer on our side combined with the optimism of Laetitia on the other, yields great gain for us all.  However, that gain is only incidental; what matters more is finding people willing to help us as we need to, so that we’re not the only ones striving for something.
  • (Start + End = Transition) A stoked start to matters, full of energy and gumption and not a small amount of willingness to step on toes to get our way, is going to indeed get our way and find everything that we seek.  It’s this very nature of winning, when all we want to do is win, that will get us to a state of true happiness and bliss.  Money isn’t what matters, but it certainly helps us in our overall goals to celebrate the goodness that life has in store for us.
  • (Factor + Context = Conclusion) Put a bull in a china shop, and you can expect things to get broken.  However, put a bull in a lush field full of other happy cows, and you can expect the bull to be in a happy place, indeed, doing what bulls naturally want to do: eat, sleep, and procreate.  When a huge bundle of energy like yourself is put in a situation where it’s own heat and drive is redirected and put to useful ways, all that energy you have goes to natural, proper ends that just works well for everyone in the end, so long as that energy is allowed to do what it naturally needs and wants to do.

With addition, we can expand our notions of 16 geomantic figures to 256 geomantic processes, each of which can be interpreted along the three models above, all of which touch on the same core idea but which can be phrased in different ways appropriate to different models of understanding or different situations in which they appear.  This is where the complexity of geomancy truly lies, I feel, and the only way to really navigate these complexities is through having a profound, intuitive understanding of the figures, which only comes about through study, contemplation, and meditation.

To be fair, not all such study, contemplation, and meditation needs to be done sitting on a mat and pathworking or scrying the figures.  Sometimes we can take a more logical or synthetic approach as opposed to a mystical one which itself can yield a fertile ground for further meditation, and today, I want to take a new twist on that.  We know that addition is an important operation in geomancy that can yield not just new figures but also new understandings of the figures, but we also know that there are 16 figures, which can be reasonably broken down into eight pairs of figures, each pair relating to one of the planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Nodes).  If there’s a pair, then there can be addition:

Planet First Figure Second Figure Synthesis Figure
Moon Populus Via Via
Mercury Albus Coniunctio Rubeus
Venus Puella Amissio Tristitia
Sun Fortuna Maior Fortuna Minor Via
Mars Puer Rubeus Carcer
Jupiter Acquisitio Laetitia Puer
Saturn Tristitia Carcer Laetitia
Nodes Caput Draconis Cauda Dracions Carcer

What we have here is a table of what happens, what figures result when you add the two figures belonging to the same planet together.  Thus, consider the two figures of Mercury, Albus and Coniunctio.  If you add them together, you get the figure Rubeus.  What might this mean symbolically, not just for the figures of Mercury but for a geomantic understanding of Mercury itself?  Remember that the addition of figures shows us what the core themes of interaction, transition, and conclusion are between two forces, but in this case, we’re taking the two sides of each planet and seeing what happens when we synthesize them together.

There are a few observations we can make right off the bat:

  • In all cases except for the figures of the Moon, the synthesis figure is both a different figure than either the original figures and also belongs to a different planet than the planet that the original figures belonged to (Jupiter in the case of the figures of Saturn, Mars in the case of Jupiter, etc.).
  • Two figures are repeated among the synthesis figures: Carcer (formed from both the figures of the Nodes as well as the figures of Mars) and Via (figures of the Sun and figures of the Moon).  Mathematically, this is because these are the only planets whose two figures are inverses of each other, and Via can only result when you add inverses.  This suggests that only the figures of the Moon and the Sun are truly opposites of each other and reflect two totally distinct sides of each planet; all the other planets share something in common and show different themes without being complete opposites.
  • The synthesis figures are always going to belong to the Moon (Via), Mars (Puer or Rubeus), Jupiter (Laetitia), or Saturn (Carcer or Tristitia).  Mercury, Venus, and the Sun do not appear at all in this mix.  This is an interesting contrast to the Judges that can result from a geomantic chart, where only Mars is unrepresented as a Judge.
  • Saturn has a plurality of synthesis figures with three out of eight, Mars has two, the Moon has two, and Jupiter has one.  This is another interesting contrast to the number of figures belonging to the planets for the possible Judges that can form in a chart: the Moon has two possible Judges, the Sun has two, Mercury has one, Venus has one, Jupiter has one, and Saturn has one, with Mars having none at all.
  • Three of the four pure-elemental figures (Laetitia, Rubeus, and Tristitia) are present among the synthesis figures, but Albus is left out, the figure of pure Water.  Coincidentally, we have the inverse of Albus, Puer, as the synthesis of Jupiter, the figure that has everything but water.  In fact, with the exception of Via, all the planetary synthesis figures lack Water entirely as an element.

What we’re building up to is an understanding of a geomantic understanding of the planets (including the pair of Nodes together as a “planet” in its own right, at least for the sake of the model here) by seeing what happens when we add—synthesize—the two figures of a planet.  As opposed to simply looking at the different way a planet can express its energy, what we’re arriving at is a geomantic symbol of the core nature or tension of that planet, and how that nature relates to other planets as well.

With that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into this and see how this plays out for each pair.  While I’m sure there’s more to be said than just a simple paragraph about each synthesis pair, this should be enough to get started for the sake of contemplation and meditation on the figures.  Note that the focus here is on the synthesis figure, irrespective of the order in which the synthesis takes place (e.g. Albus + Coniunctio and Coniunctio + Albus both add up to Rubeus equally).

Moon: Populus + Via = Via

This one is almost too easy, given that this is the only synthesis of planetary figures that yields a figure of the same planet as its components.  However, we should consider why that synthesis figure is Via and not Populus.  Via is the figure of change, and that is fundamentally the nature of the Moon: the Moon is in a constant state of flux, never appearing the same from one night to the next in its raw appearance.  As the fastest of the seven planets, the Moon constantly shifts between signs and lunar mansions on a scale completely beyond all the other planets, which is why the Moon symbolically has her planetary joy in House III.  However, more than that, Via is the one figure that has all four elements present and active; in astrology and astrological magic, the Moon is the planet that gathers up the light of all the other planets and can act as a stand-in for any other planet as necessary.  As the lowest of the planets, the Moon is also the closest planet to Earth, the realm of totally manifested reality, and thus the Moon is closest to the realm of the elements themselves.  In this light, Via is almost boringly obvious as the figure that relates to the essence of the Moon.

Mercury: Albus + Coniunctio = Rubeus

I suppose it’s super fitting, given that Mercury is generally considered a mutable planet harmonious with the element of Air, that the two Mercurial figures of Albus and Coniunctio add to form the figure whose sole active element is Air: Rubeus.  However, Rubeus is generally a hot and dangerous figure, one of deceit, treachery, lies, theft, and confusion—but are these not also things that trickster Mercury is known for?  We praise Mercury as being the planet of communication and commerce, travel and trade, language and science, and all this is true, but if a planet can bestow something, it can just as easily corrupt or deny those things, too: if Mercury grants a strong mind, it can also grant a weak or debilitated mind, or one that’s so strong that it becomes a deadly weapon in its own right (cf. “the pen is mightier than the sword”, and spilled ink can lead to spilled blood).  Further, we should never ignore the mythological aspects here of Hermēs being the slayer of Argos, in some myths by beheading with a golden sword, in others by bludgeoning with a rock, through with a scheme of trickery and plotting involved in such a thing, and ultimately to rescue (steal) Iō from Hēra.  If Albus is the mind at its most refined and noble, then Rubeus is the mind at its most raw and corrupt; it’s perhaps a good thing that Hermēs is the messenger of the gods acting on their behest rather than his own, since if Hermēs were to take his power into his own hands rather than using it on behalf of Zeus and the other gods, as the Homeric Hymn to Hermēs suggests, his greatest inclination is to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, and hoodwink all others endlessly for his own selfish gain.  We should remember that the mind is not just a tool but a power unto itself, and without harnessing that power and refining it through wisdom and morality, that power will serve itself more than anything else in ways that are cruel, crude, despicable, and destructive.

Venus: Puella + Amissio = Tristitia

Now this is an odd one: the figures of Venus add up to the figure of Saturn, Sorrow.  Off the bat, my first thought is that Saturn has its exaltation in Libra, a sign of Venus, but that’s not saying much about why Tristitia would be the synthesis figure for Venus.  There is also the notion that, to me at least, I associate Venus most strongly with the element of Water, and each of the elements has a particular motion associated with it: Air expands and Earth contracts, Fire goes upward and Water goes downward—and Tristitia is a figure of downwards motion, yet that too doesn’t seem to hit on the connection here all that well.  There’s something about the raw, simple power of pure Earth that turns the volatile passion of Amissio into the stabilized harmony of Puella: the feeling of having enough, the knowledge that everything is going to be alright, the blessing of experience and memory, the ability to dull or blunt emotional pain (whether one’s own or that of another).  All of these things are Earthy, sure, but none of these things strike me as Sorrowful.  But there is something here: all these things come about as the result of labor.  The fields and the forest may be abundant and fruitful, sure, but what good is all of that if you do not toil in the fields to ensure a harvest, or wander in the fields risking cuts and bites to pluck berries and mushrooms?  Venus, in all its splendor, is not a planet known for its labor, but there is a deeper, more profound labor going on behind the pretty face, whether done up for a night out or marred by tears from a bad night: there’s a profound emotional labor going on, either in the process of it that causes emotional volatility or as a result of it that produces emotional stability.  Venus, as a primary symbol of femininity, is also a symbol of childbirth, and how arduous and painful can that be, filled with tears and groans and moaning?  Tristitia is a profound figure that makes things alright in the end, but the process of that can be hard and long—but always results in pleasure, once the clouds clear from the skies.

Sun: Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor = Via

The other synthesis pair of figures that yield Via, it’s somewhat surprising to find that the figures of the Sun synthesize into a figure of the Moon.  After all, if Via is all about change, what do we make of this since we know the Sun to be a symbol of perfection and eternity itself?  We should still remember that even if the Sun itself is perfect and timeless, how the Sun relates to the Earth is not: the Sun rises and sets and itself marks the most fundamental change in the world, that of the day-night cycle, as well as that of the seasonal cycle as the Sun gradually moves above and below the celestial equator along the ecliptic.  Heck, think of the neopagan concept of the Wheel of the Year that discusses the various solar events of solstices, equinoxes, and zodiacal midpoints and how this tells an agricultural story of the birth, growth, triumph, fall, death, and rebirth of the Sun.  We should also note the reference in PGM XII.201ff (the Royal Ring of Abrasax ritual) to “yours is the processional way of Heaven”, referring most likely to the starry road of the ecliptic—and what is Via if not literally a road?  Rather than Via indicating change itself as it does for the Moon, for the Sun, Via instead indicates the process of change rather than the thing that undergoes change: while the roads we take in life take their toll, the roads themselves remain themselves and do not themselves go anywhere.  So too does the Sun show the road that we take, season in and season out, year in and year out, and even though the Sun will always remain the Sun, we constantly change as we follow the Sun throughout the times of life.

Mars: Puer + Rubeus = Carcer

The first of two synthesis pairs that yield Carcer, this pair of the figures of Mars shows a bold hero facing the endlessly tumultuous battle, the stoic soldier fighting against a raving berserker.  The notion of Carcer here is that of being locked into battle, a constant and neverending struggle of violence from which one cannot escape.  This is the figure that demonstrates the endless drive to break through and break free despite the utter impossibility of doing so (cf. the prisoner unfairly imprisoned who constantly plots and works their way out of prison) as well as the endless anger and frustration of trying to break free from that which binds oneself: we shouldn’t forget that Fire is present in Carcer, too, after all!  On top of this, Carcer is the figure of separation, which is the crucial action of Mars: the fundamental purpose of a blade is to cut, which divides one thing from another (whether a rope bridge spanning a chasm or the blood from its body).  In struggle, Mars separates one person/side/thing from another, yet the person/side/thing that is separated from the other will always be locked into a struggle with it, whether the struggle of imprisonment, of war, or of life and death itself.  While we might consider Puer to be a sword and Rubeus a battleaxe, Carcer would then be a sort of shield, another thing that cuts off one from another without doing much to resolve that separation.

Jupiter: Acquisitio + Laetitia = Puer

Now this is a fun one: the two Jovial figures adding up to a Martial one.  Why should two otherwise beneficial figures that lead to happiness—material and financial on the one hand, emotional and spiritual on the other—lead to something that so easily ruins happiness?  Crucially, there’s always too much of a good thing, and if any planet exemplifies the idea of “too much”, it’s Jupiter.  Jupiter is the planet of expansion, but to expand requires force, and Zeus, as king of Olympos, has all the force in the world to wield, whether for weal or for woe: there is nothing that can withstand the might of Zeus.  More than that, when we have good things, we want more good things, and that want, if not tempered by wisdom, can become a corruption of them, as acid (a Martian thing!) dissolves lesser metals.  Acquisitio’s desire for wealth can become insatiable greed, and Laetitia’s desire for hope and success can become reckless daring.  Jupiter is pure power, and that power is to make things more Jupiter through force, one way or another.  After all, how often do kings and rulers in our own world resort to the application of force, oftentimes brutal, whether against their own people or others, in order to satisfy their needs for resources, space, or the fulfillment of their state’s ambitions?  If the nature of a king is to rule, then the underlying ability that allows that king to rule is the application of force.

Saturn: Tristitia + Carcer = Laetitia

Just as it’s somewhat surprising to find that the figures of the Sun yield a figure of the Moon, it’s also weird to see the figures of Saturn synthesizing into a figure of Jupiter, doubly so since Laetitia is the reverse of Tristitia.  Structurally speaking, this synthesis is a lot like what’s going on with the Mercurial figures (an axial figure plus a pure elemental figure), and in that light, seeing how we took a heavily mythological twist to that analysis, perhaps it’s fitting to bring up that Kronos was once a benevolent, almost Jovial king during the Golden Age when humanity “lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them…”.  It is true that Saturn is the planet is melancholy, depression, toil, labor, old age, decrepitude, and the like, but that’s just its effects from our side: consider that once you strip away everything else that is unessential baggage (a la one’s Saturn return), that which remains is the pure essence of the thing, and this itself is freedom and a kind of joy unto itself, a revealing of truth from the deception of incarnation.  Plus, Saturn is the highest of the planets in the heavens, and Laetitia is the figure of upwards motion, indicating Saturn’s top position above all, closest to Divinity and showing the way to true joy where old age and death no longer have any power or presence.  The way to such a destination is fraught with endless problems and terrible toil, just as the course of the afterlife in Egyptian thought through the Duat, but so long as you hold true to the course and can survive everything thrown at you, your ultimate destination is a place of eternal joy, not of emotion but beyond all emotion.

Nodes: Caput Draconis + Cauda Draconis = Carcer

The second of two synthesis pairs that yield Carcer, the two figures of the lunar nodes here don’t show the struggle and separation side of Carcer, but rather show the other aspect of this figure as a cycle.  Consider the ouroboros, the symbol of eternity of the snake swallowing its tail, an apt symbol for the combination of the Head and Tail of the Dragon: the cycle of beginning and ending is an eternal one, for when one thing ends, another must begin, and where one thing begins, another must have ended.  This is the eternal cycle of creation and destruction, the cycle of life and death itself, the cycle of saṃsāra into which we are constantly born time and time again whether as reincarnation or as rebirth.  The only way to break out of the prison of the world is to break the world itself; the only way to escape creation is to cease being created and to cease participating in creation entirely.  After all, in many religions and cosmologies, the world has a fundamental start point and a fundamental end point, but these are often outside time itself.  In this, Carcer represents not just the cyclical creation/destruction of the cosmos, but also the walls that separate that which is inside creation from that which outside it entirely; this is the dragon in the ninth heaven, above the fixed stars themselves within creation but still below the domain of God outside creation.

A Follow-up on the Chaplet of the Eight Dragons

After I put up that post not too long back about the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons”, I’ve been trying to figure out more about it.  There’s really not a lot out there, and even after making a pair of them for myself and my shrine, it’s a pretty mysterious thing.  Happily, we did have a lead for more information: from Francis Warrain’s 1968 Physique, métaphysique, mathématique, et symbolique cosmologique de la Géomancie we get to the 1949 text De l’Architecture Naturelle, ou Rapport de Petrus Talemarianus sur l’établissement, d’après les principes du Tantrisme, du Taoïsme, du Pythagorise et de Cabale, d’une «Règle d’Or» servant à la Réalisation des Lois de l’Harmonie universelle et contribuant à l’accomplissemenet du «Grand Œuvre» (or, in English, Natural Architecture, Or, a Report by Petrus Talemarianus on the Establishment of a “golden Rule” According to the Principles of Tantrism, Taoism, Pythagoreanism, and the Kabala, Serving to Fulfill the Laws of Universal Harmony and Contributing to the Accomplishment of the GreatWork).  This book is pretty hard to find, but with the loving-kindness of my friends who let me use their academic institution interlibrary loan benefits, I was able to get a copy of the thing—and in an English translation put out in 2007, no less!

It is a cinderblock of a book.  And…well, it’s certainly eclectic and syncretic in its approach to everything, that’s for sure.  It’s a dastardly slog of a read, and it flips back and forth between topic to topic to topic.  The prefaces done by the translators describe much about the text:

Véga’s publication of [this book] in 1949 was another act of positive defiance.  The extravagance and gigantic size of the book, its superb typography and hundreds of illustrations, and the declared intention of teaching architects how to build houses and palaces, churches and temples with natural materials, in accordance with natural laws, were as contrary as possible to the drabness and shoddiness of the postwar world

The whole atmosphere of L’architecture naturelle seems in accord with its authorship by an aristocratic recluse, who chose as a pseudonym a Latinization of his ancestral home, while [Alexandre] Rouhier, the pharmacologist-editor, inserted the incongruous references to the personalities and interests of the Wronksian circle.  There is evidently room for further investigation of this enigmatic character.

The text truly is beautifully illustrated, blending elements of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, European, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and other architectural disciplines along with no end of alchemical references.  Disappointingly, however, the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons” only appears once in the entire book: that of the printer’s mark itself, which in the translation is the very last image in the entire book:

 

Likewise, the only reference to the thing I could find in the book was in the addenda, which offers notes and observations about some of the minor illustrations in the book, namely the frontispiece, various prayer beads used to line the table of contents, and other small decorative but symbolic details about the book, finishing up with a bit about the printer’s mark itself:

The geomantic necklace or rosary which surrounds the printer’s mark is constituted by the juxtaposition, end to end, of 8 rosaries, each formed of 16 rows of beads, 8 even and 8 odd, i.e. of 24 (= 8 × 3) beads.  The whole necklace therefore comprises 192 (= 8 × 24) beads, which is a third of the number of lines which constitute the 64 hexagrams of Fou-Hi.

These 8 rosaries, constituting one larger rosary, are linked together according to positions which can be variable but which are always strictly ordered and precise.  On this rosary, which forms a closed circuit, the alternation of even and odd rows is such that, if taken in successive groups of 4, progressing by one rank each time, one obtains in each smaller rosary the 16 elementary figures of geomancy, without any figure ever being missing or repeated.  The order of succession of these 16 figures varies with each of the smaller rosaries.

Depending on whether one “reads” the rosary in clockwise or anticlockwise direction (and now the total number of beads becomes 384, which is the number of the beginning of the composition of the Soul of the World according to Plato), one may observe that there are, in reality, two rosaries perfectly distinct from one another but contained within the same object; this rosary therefore represents Duality within Unity, the “Yin-Yang” of Taoism.

On this geomantic rosary there are, 8 times over, distributed in a uniform manner in all the 16 ranks, an identical series of 6 ranks: 4 consecutive odd ranks of beads, preceded and followed by an even rank, which thus yield, in an invariable order, the succession of the 3 following figures: Caput draconis, Via, Cauda draconis being, according to their astrological correspondences, the North Node, Moon, and South Node.  Being distributed regularly on the necklace, they can be taken as points of departure for each rosary, which results in the Rosarium geomanticum being given its name, “Rosary of 8 Dragons.”  These dragons are amphibian, because if one “reads” the rosary in the opposite direction from the preceding, the succession of the 3 figures becomes Cauda draconis, Via, Caput draconis: the head of the dragon takes the place of its tail and vice versa.  On the north spire of the cathedral of Chartres, the weathercock bears the alchemical sun (pictured to the right of the Bottle, p. 361), the Virgin with the Child is seated upon a lead finial; and at her feed are 8 serpents, each facing in the 8 directions of space.

To this octuple succession of amphibian dragons uniformly distributed on the necklace, there is opposed by complement another octuple succession not uniformly distributed, which is comprised of 4 consecutive even rows of beads, preceded and followed by an odd row, and which thus yields, in an invariable order, the succession of the 3 following figures: Lætitia, Populus, Tristitia, according to the astrological correspondences Jupiter, Moon, and Saturn.

The metaphysical meditations that one can obtain by means of this rosary are, like those obtained with the aid of other rosaries, practically limitless.

No references to calling it the “Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahabad” that I could find, as Joël Jacques called it in his eclectic book on geomancy, and as far as I could tell skimming through this behemoth of a text, there’s nothing to back up Francis Warrain’s claim that “[t]hese ‘rosaries’ are commonly used, it seems, in certain and highly secret tantric sects as supports for very complex metaphysical meditations, as well as for geomantic divinatory uses, and also for subtle purposes of ‘recognition initiation'”.  However, it is known that the author of D’architecture naturelle and Francis Warrain were in contact with each other, so perhaps Warrain had some other information at his disposal that isn’t otherwise published—along with the tantalizing final line from the addenda of the book itself.  After all, as the section in the addenda describing the illustrations of prayer beads says:

The use of the rosary as a material support for the recitation of the formulae of prayer (mantras), undoubtedly originating in India, is common to all the doctrines which use the “Shakti” (Word) as a basis; its effect is to cause the awakening of “Kundalini”; it is completed by the use of the mystic diagrams (yantras), which are like a visual representation of the Mother under her subtle aspect.  The repetition of the “mantras”, following the numbers and mutations subject to the laws of the regular partition of the sphere, which are of cosmic harmony, aided by the contemplation of the “yantras” subject to the same laws and by a devoted attitude (mudras), causes rhythmic vibrations which have their repercussions throughout the series of multiple states of being, and serving to realize the interior illumination which is the goal of all “incarnation.”.

There are otherwise scant few references to geomancy in general in D’architecture naturelle, so despite the massive undertaking of this book and despite a few references to the Qur’ān, the ancient Egyptians, or Gilgamesh and Enkidu here and there, it would seem that topics of generally Middle Eastern or African origin didn’t seem to be of much interest to the author, instead focusing on European, Greco-Roman, Chinese, and Indian topics of spirituality and occult architecture.

It’s honestly unclear to me at this point what the real origin of the “Chaplet of Eight Dragons” is; though there are suggestions there are Persian or South Asian origins to the thing, without people from Iran, India, or Pakistan to corroborate this or flesh it out some, there’s not a lot going on here for that.  Happily, one of my Pakistani friends says he’s seen such a thing in use, so it doesn’t seem to be an outright invention by fanciful Western authors, but I can’t say much more about it at the present time.  Outside of these modern French geomantic and occult texts, the only other thing I can find it is this French geomancer’s blog, where she makes such rosaries based on similar resources as what I’ve already seen.  I suppose time will tell what other resources might arise to flesh out this little geomantic apparatus.

Musings after a Marathon Month of Mancy

So, funnily enough, as it turns out?  72 hour-ish-long geomancy readings, eight domino readings, four video consultations, three planetary adorations, one New Moon celebration, one consultation done for myself, and taking two online classes?  All on top of the usual full-time job (surprise, I became the lead developer of a high-profile project with low-profile resources!) with three hours of commuting three days a week, daily practice, and managing a household?  It might, just might, have been a bit too much for me to handle with my usual amount of comfort and flair.  Yet, here I am, somehow alive after it all, thanks be to God and the gods.  I’m tired, my back and arms are sore, but I managed to get all my yearly readings done (and quite a bit else) before January was out, and for that, I’m pretty damn proud of myself.  It’d be nice to have a weekend to relax, but there’s always more Work to be done—as well as a few out-of-town trips that needed making, as well.  Oh well; no rest for the wicked, I suppose.

Over the past month, I’ve done probably the most divination I’ve done in a single month’s worth of time, and this was one of the busiest and among the most challenging months I can ever recall having (as well as one where I’ve slept the least).  It’s gauntlets and marathons like this that give us a chance to learn, not just about the things we do but about ourselves, and I wanted to share some of the observations, realizations, and concessions I’ve come to terms with from all this work this past month.  To be sure, I learn more and more about geomancy with each and every chart I cast, but I want to focus on some of the bigger and broader things than mere technique.

First, and probably most practically, I don’t think I’ll be doing a special for yearly divination forecasts again.  I’ve done them for three years now, and while it’s great practice for my own divination skills and a great thing for us all to do at the start of a new year (depending, of course, on when your new year starts), and while everyone loves a good deal, let’s be honest: I don’t charge enough for my usual reading rate (US$44 per geomancy reading) to make a special worth it.  Each yearly forecast takes about 60 to 90 minutes to do, and that’s after my usual reading ritual process of preliminary preparation and prayer, to say nothing of how much it takes out of me to do such a widespread and all-encompassing reading, including typing a 2000-to-3000 word report on it individual for each person.  While the energy spent on divination isn’t exactly repayable through money, it certainly helps, that’s for sure, and…well, let’s be honest, I know I undercharge for my divination services.  I consider them fair prices for me, and I would prefer to err on the side of caution to avoid any risk of gouging my clients while also ensuring that such divination can be accessible to those who need it.  I do not claim that my prices are inherently better than others, and those who charge more often have very good and necessary reasons for doing so, and I charge what I can because I can afford doing so (this is just my side gig, with my full-time job paying the real bills) without it impacting my actual skills and ability to do the work asked of me.  I charge what I charge because I think it’s fair, and I plan to keep them fair.  If people want or feel obliged to pay more, either out of appreciation for the work done or to ensure that my prices stay low for the sake of others who need it most, then you’re always invited to tip your diviner—such as through my Ko-fi account.

So, while I won’t be doing yearly specials for this type of reading anymore, that’s not to say I won’t be doing yearly forecasts.  If you find yourself, dear reader, wanting such a forecast done for you for the new year (using whichever New Year date you choose), you’re more than welcome to book a reading with me, just at my normal rate as I would for any other query.  However, towards the end of this year (and in the future, if this year works out well), I do plan on compiling a list of all the diviners, astrologers, readers, and seers among my colleagues and those I trust and look up to who do plan on doing yearly specials, for those who are looking for something specific from another reader.  It’s something I want to try out, especially to share good business with good people.

Also, besides tipping your diviners (if they deserve it or if you feel it’s appropriate to do so) and taking note of other diviners who do good work?  It’s absolutely, super important for us to get feedback on our work we do, and it’s so rare that we ever actually get it.  Retrospective feedback is like pure gold for us, because while we always stand to learn from books or teachers, learning from experience is at least as important (and in many ways is even more so), because retrospective feedback is what helps us refine our techniques, learning what actually works in practice or what doesn’t, realizing what a given omen actually meant in retrospect, and the like.  By postdicting our predictions, we can make better predictions, and that helps us all.  In-the-moment feedback is important to us, too, because that helps us navigate the energies, flows, and currents of power and fate during the divination itself, but that’s silver to the gold of retrospective feedback.  So, be kind, rewind: after you get a divination reading from someone, and after the event or situation inquired about comes to pass, take another look at the reading you got, see what matches and what didn’t, see what was precise and what wasn’t, see what was accurate and what wasn’t, and go back to your diviner and share your results.  I promise you, they’ll be ecstatic with this, even if they fucked things up, because it’s a chance for them (and all of us) to learn and improve.

Oh, and another thing?  Reviews!  For many people, the best way to advertise is simply through word-of-mouth, or leaving a good comment about someone whose work pleased you with their skill, precision, accuracy, and approach.  I know I don’t and won’t pay for advertising (in fact, I actively pay for webhosting to keep ads off my platforms as much as possible) and would rather let my work speak for itself, but I certainly won’t mind others speaking for me, either.  Diviners are still professionals, and professionals need to be able to profess their skills, otherwise they’re no professionals; if you found that such a diviner (whether me or anyone else) did a good job, consider leaving a comment on their blog, or telling others about them.  I’m not exactly greedy for more clients, but I won’t deny that I’d like to have a few more regulars or a bit more activity in that area of my life, and reviews are great for that.  Also, not gonna lie, getting a good review really just makes us as diviners feel good, and sometimes, that makes all the difference in whether we continue practicing publicly at all.  If you’d like to leave a review for me, feel free to simply mention my website on social media, leave a review on my Facebook page, or send me an email and let me know that it’s a review that I can share on my blog (and, if I get enough of them, I may even put up a whole testimonials page to collect them all).

As for getting more clients and business along the lines of divination, I think it’d be good, but the past month…well, it was hell for me to get all the work done on time.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t already working a full-time job, but as it is, and given how much else I get up to, this month has really impressed upon me that (a) more people actually come to me for divination than I anticipated and (b) my time is far more limited and constrained than I had thought, and I had been taking the flexibility of my schedule for granted.  While it was great to do four or six divination readings a day, it got old real fast when it was day after day of it while also trying to juggle household affairs and work concerns, both of which took a hit due to the time and energy I couldn’t devote to them as I should, along with the stability and quality of my sleep.  This marathon month of μαντεια showed me that, barring making this my full-time job (which would necessitate a significant price increase to make ends meet) instead of my stable software engineering job, that I just can’t do this kind of work at this rate, and that I need to both throttle the work I do as well as get better at scheduling it.  In the future, I plan to limit myself to 10 to 12 divination readings, consultations, or other client tasks a week, depending on what else is going on, compared to the 16 or more I was doing this past month.  There is a possibility that this may increase wait times for some clients, but I already specify an up-to-two-week turnaround time for my services, which I was (somehow) able to keep up with this month (and January is my absolute busiest month for divination readings), so I think that this possibility is fairly small in reality.

Something else I’ve learned is that, as it turns out, I do a lot of typing.  (Surprising, I know.)  In the past month, I’ve banged out about 80 divination reports on top of all the other notetaking, programming, and writing I do, and that adds up to about 160,000 words—far more than even what I typed out for my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration thesis-length blog project last summer (only about 100,000 words).  My arms, wrists, and hands are tired, y’all, and I’m starting to feel the pains of work and pangs of age the more I do this, especially since my full-time job is already so heavily typing-based.  I’ve been using a standard 104-key mechanical keyboard this whole time, a sturdy and lovely thing, but it was getting to the point where I had to take more breaks than ever between typing/divination sessions, and that only slowed me down further.  With the proceeds from all these divinations, I splurged and got myself a nice split-keyboard for ergonomic and power-computing use; although it’s taken me some getting used to using it, typing feels so much better and more relaxing, which is only a good thing for me. For those who are interested, it’s the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard, which some of my more technologically-inclined friends might have seen ads for online on various social media platforms.  This is, hands down, the most elegant, amazing, and productive bit of computer input technology I have ever had the pleasure of using, and though it costs a pretty penny (especially with some of the add-ons which are still in development), I am super, super happy that I got this thing.  Not only does typing no longer hurt, but I can do so much more right from the (eminently and easily customizable) keyboard that I couldn’t do with my old keyboard.  (I do miss having a separate numpad, and I’ve been having a hell of a time replacing that, but I can still just use extra inputs on this “60%” keyboard as it is without it just fine, even though that too takes getting used to.)  If you’re interested in one of the finest and well-made keyboards out there, whether or not you need it for ergonomic reasons, then this is the keyboard to use.  (Also, despite my love for the clacky-style Blue mechanical switches, I decided to go with Brown switches for this keyboard.  It turns out that, even though I love the sound and feel of banging out words like several machine guns going off at once, it’s somewhat more annoying for my coworkers, clients, and interviewers who have to listen to it on phone calls or recordings.  Brown switches still feel nice, at least, and have a much calmer sound.)

Switching gears from logistic and physical concerns, there were a bunch of other spiritual realizations that I made, too, during this month that affects or enhances my divination practice.  Probably the best lead-in to this is how truly fundamental daily practice is for me.  Yes, I’ve harped on it before for years now, as have countless other magicians, Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery among them, but having a daily practice really is the bedrock of a magical and spiritual life, and if you don’t have that, then you’re building on sand.  For me, my daily practice is my anchor-point for the day, and I have a rule about it: if I don’t do my daily practice, I cannot do anything else spiritual for the day.  I mean, consider: if I skip my daily practice because I’m so fatigued or so unwell to not be able to do 40 to 60 minutes of meditation and prayer, then I necessarily don’t have the energy or health to do anything else, right?  And if I don’t have time to do my daily practice, then I must likewise not have time to do anything else on top of that that day.  Otherwise, if I have the energy and if I have the time, then I have no reason to not do my daily practice, and if I can’t manage my daily practice out of sheer laziness, then I have no business trying to claim anything else that day, because I don’t feel appropriate working for others if I don’t do the work I need to do for my own well-being and spiritual maintenance.  My daily practice is essential for everything else I do, and even if I use some of the same prayers in divination readings as I do in my daily practice, my divination readings are not part of my daily practice, yet still build on it.  I feel like this is a good rule to have for those who need to stick to a daily practice and have other things planned, like divination readings, consultations, conjurations, or the like, and it’s one I force my students to keep, too.

Related to prayers, doing all these divination readings day after day has been a wonder for three other things:

  • Memorizing prayers.  I have a particular ritual process that uses several prayers that I precede and conclude divination with, and though some of them I’ve memorized, there were others that I was struggling to for the longest time.  Doing this same ritual day after day after day, saying the same prayers day after day after day, has finally helped me to memorize them without dedicating extra time just for memorization, because I’m still engaging in repetition of the same prayers.
  • Hygiene.  As part of that ritual process, I precede everything with ablution, which for me is flossing/brushing my teeth, saying a prayer, washing my hands and arms and face and feet, and then concluding with another prayer.  I like going into spiritual work cleaned from physical concerns or worldly “dust”, since this helps me focus better on the work to be done.  Yes, I start every day with a thorough ablution (i.e. a shower), but if it’s been more than a trivial amount of time between that and doing divination or other ritual work, or if I’ve had to get significantly involved in worldly or decidedly non-spiritual stuff, I perform a lesser ablution as above to reset and refresh myself.  More than that, though, doing divination for so many people in succession is itself…I don’t want to say dirtying or sullying, but such frequent ablution helps keep me going without getting too dragged down in a spiritual morass.  I did, of course, also finish up the month with a full spiritual bath on top of ablution to really reset myself, and I probably should have been taking weekly baths during the month to keep myself cleaner and fresher than I was, so I’ll make a note of that for future times when I’m swamped with divination work.  All that said, my teeth have never been so clean, and my dentist would be proud.  However, I was guided by my HGA to focus especially on my eyes and mouth when doing pre-divination ablution for the obvious spiritual symbolism: clarity of vision to see, purity of speech to communicate.  Ablutions, too, can be tweaked for broader spiritual purposes.
  • Anointing with oil.  Though it’s not an essential part of my divinatory ritual process, I do like anointing myself with a special oil prior to engaging in divination.  Though I could certainly just use holy oil, I rather prefer to use Quadrivium Oil‘s special Vision oil, currently only available as an alcohol-based spray.  Quadrivium is one of my oldest colleagues in the Work, and her oils have been a mainstay of parts of my practices for years, and her Vision blend (which I helped test for her back in the day!) is a wonder for me.  While it’s not necessary for me to use it, I greatly enjoy doing so and enjoy the boost it gives me.  Also, it turns out that anointing myself with this oil day after day after day, combining it with my usual anointing prayers, doesn’t just help me with divination skills, but has also had rather interesting effects on the quality, frequency, and semantic content of my dreams, too.  That was a side effect I hadn’t anticipated, but which I’m happy about all the same.

Something I want to remind people about when it comes to yearly readings specifically, and all forecast-type readings generally, is that forecasts are just that: forecasts, descriptions of high-level trends that cover some specified length of time.  While super big things that are planned to happen during that timeframe can likely be described or accounted for in forecasts, in general, it’s not a good idea to read too much into forecasts, especially long forecasts that extend over a month, and definitely like those that go on for a year or more.  A number of clients this year had super-specific queries that they wanted investigated in the yearly chart, and I had to remind some of them that a yearly forecast only reliable describes high-level, long-term influences that describe the year as a whole, and trying to read specific things into that is clumsy and misguided at times.  This isn’t to say that I can’t and don’t get super-specific with these forecasts, as many of my clients can attest, but the specificity of abstract trends is not the same thing as the specificity of concrete events.  When in doubt, if you’ve got something actually specific to ask, it’s better to get a separate reading to investigate that.  That goes not only for forecast-type readings, but for any other reading, too, depending on how many things you want to know.  I know that some geomancers, especially of an Arabic or Persianate bent, feel confident in reading all sorts of unrelated queries from a single querent within the one and same chart, but that’s not an approach I feel comfortable doing, not because I can’t, but because I find that there’s just too much crosstalk in a chart that’s put to too many queries at once.  Rather than having to sift through the crosstalk, I find it easier and cleaner to just do one chart per query, which also increases the reliabilty of the readings, in my opinion.  I do try to work with the querent to reframe and rephrase their queries so that it covers everything they want to know as much as is possible, given the mechanics and techniques of geomancy at my disposal, but sometimes, some queries are just so unrelated that they’re best broken out into separate charts.

Along those same lines, I want to also emphasize that it’s so often important for us as diviners to understand the context of the query, not just what the querent is asking with their communicated words, but how and why they’re communicating it, as well.  While some diviners make a point of having the querent not ask their query as a proof of the diviner’s own psychic ability (or ability to read between the lines along with body language), I don’t make the claim that I’m outright psychic.  (I mean, I reasonably could, but I don’t.)  So much of the divination I do is done online by email or over Zoom or Skype, and it’s hard to get a good read on the immediate energetic feel for people without spending a lot more time and energy than I want to to tune in; I find it easier to rely on the words themselves, especially because geomancy is such a literal oracle: as opposed to other divination systems that answer the query you should be asking, whether or not you phrased it that way, geomancy answers exactly the query you ask, no more and no less.  Although there are some styles of divination where you let the oracle speak for itself as it answers a query only it knows, I don’t find geomancy to be one of those oracles, and I find it helpful for us geomancers to have a reasonably complete understanding of the query, not only so that we know exactly what the querent wants to know, but also so that we know what techniques to use and what to look for in the chart going into the divination.  Besides, there was one time earlier this past month (not using geomancy, I might add, and trying to use a more context-free form of divination) where I got burned by not really spending as much time as I otherwise have done with the querent in understanding what was going on leading up to the reading.  The reading was still eminently helpful, but my manner of delivery was shit and ended up hurting more than I wanted it to.  It was all sorted out in the end, but I still feel bad about that.  Knowing more of the context and reading more between the lines would have prevented that, and it’s a lesson I won’t soon forget.

And that leads to perhaps my biggest and most important realization about divination: divination is an act of intimacy.  In fact, I consider it one of the most interpersonally intimate things we can do as human beings with spiritual capacity.  Normally we consider physical sex to be the height of physical intimacy—the nudity and literally baring it all before someone else, letting them feel you from the inside, letting them know what makes you tick and pulse—but consider that divination goes so much further beyond that.  With divination, a querent lets me see their past, their present, and their future; with divination, a querent lets me see their hopes and dreams, their fears and anxieties, their envies and jealousies; with divination, a querent lets me see them more fully, even through a glass darkly, more than any parent, any doctor, any lover ever could.  It’s because of this intimacy that both diviner and querent need to take care, the diviner to keep a good measure of distance to avoid bias as well as spiritual pollution or contamination from the querent, and the querent to find a diviner they trust with finding out anything (or everything) about them.  This is why it’s so important for diviners to learn to keep readings confidential, just as lovers wouldn’t blab about the kinks of their partners or the lushness of their genitals, just as doctors wouldn’t gossip about the hilarious or depressing health problems their patients get into, just as parents wouldn’t air the dirty laundry of their children to the world.  Divination is intimate, and I’m somewhat embarrassed I’m only just now realizing the full import of how this intimacy truly takes form.  In that light, I want to extend my deepest appreciation and thanks to each and every one of my querents and clients for allowing me to divine for them, for trusting me to take care of them when and how they need care.  Thank you.

Alright, that’s enough for one night; it’s time to relax, especially after two separate out-of-town trips and another online lecture taken care of this past weekend.  Haha, just kidding; I’ve got plenty more to take care of this week, but at least things are going to ease up a bit, and I’m going to do my best to make sure things stay good and proper for me as much as it is my clients.  But I am definitely going to call out one day soon for a well-deserved trip to the local Korean spa and bathhouse.

2020 Forecast Geomancy Reading Special!

Happy New Year!  Now that we’re done with it, I hope your 2019 went well!  And, now that we’re here, it’s also time to start thinking about how 2020 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 the limited time of the next two weeks only (from now through Wednesday, January 15, 2020), I’m offering a discounted special on 2020 Forecast Divination readings for 25% off the usual price of my Full Geomancy readings, 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 2020. 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 2020 Forecast?
Head on over to my Etsy now and get your reading booked!

The Chaplet of Eight Dragons, or, the Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahabad

More surprises from 20th century French geomancy texts, but this one caught me really by surprise.

As I mentioned the last time I brought up these modern French geomancy texts, there’s an interesting mix of elements that are both plainly familiar and starkly unfamiliar in terms of the usual tradition of Western geomancy.  Obviously, the bulk and foundation of these works are from the usual Western sources from the medieval and Renaissance periods, including Robert Fludd, Henri de Pisis, Christopher Cattan, and others; that much isn’t surprising.  What is surprising is that there’s so much different in them that we don’t see in the modern English geomantic literature, which I assume is due to the introductions of African and Middle Eastern geomantic techniques and concepts that resulted from French imperialist and colonialist activity.  There’s no other European examples of some of the techniques and associations these French texts make, even if it’s not explicit—but sometimes it is, as in this interesting little thing, Le Rosaire des Géomanciens d’Allahabad or “The Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahabad”:

It’s a kind of beaded necklace, in an interesting pattern broken down into eight sections, each of which is composed of one segment of white beads and another of black beads, sometimes of one bead per “slot”, sometimes of two.  For reasons that we’ll discuss soon, another term for this device is Le Chapelet des Huit Dragons, “The Chaplet (or Wreath) of Eight Dragons”.

The moment I laid my eyes upon it, I knew immediately what this was based on.  Years ago, I had come up with the notion of geomantic “superfigures” (which I later called “emblems”), combinations of 16 rows of single or double points that, for every consecutive set of four rows (plus three “hidden” rows at the end duplicating the first three), contain all sixteen geomantic figures.  As a mini-example, consider a series of seven rows: single, double, double, double, double, single, single (·::::··); rows 1 through 4 gives the figure Laetitia, rows 2 through 5 Populus, rows 3 through 6 Tristitia, and rows 4 through 7 Fortuna Maior.  If we extend that, we can come up with a series of single/dual point sequences that contain all sixteen geomantic figures exactly once, which was what I intended to do with my superfigure/emblem idea.  Unfortunately, even after coming up with a (really stupidly complex) way of assigning rulerships and correspondences of the 256 emblems to the base 16 figures, as well as thinking of ways to actually use the damn things, I never really got all that far with them.  (If you’re not familiar with this notion, at least read the first two posts linked above in this paragraph, which explain about the structure and what “hidden” means for those final three lines.)

I had no idea nor any means at the time to find out whether such a concept had ever before arisen in the minds of other geomancers, but given that geomancy is a thousand years old and spread across so much of the world, I would have been surprised if I were truly the first to come up with this idea.  Still, I hadn’t encountered anything of the like in any geomantic text I had come across, nor had I yet—until I came across these French geomantic texts, which finally gave me something to work with.  The two texts I’ve found this in (there may well be more that I just haven’t come across yet) is Francis Warrain’s Physique, métaphysique, mathématique, et symbolique cosmologique de la Géomancie (1968), along with the highly eclectic Joël Jacques’ Les signes secrets de la Terre Géomancie (1991).  Interestingly, however, it does not appear in Robert Ambelain’s La Géomancie arabe (1984), which takes a good chunk of its information from his earlier La Géomancie magique (1940), which suggests a different origin entirely (which isn’t to say that Ambelain’s later text was an accurate or precise representation of Arabic geomancy, because it’s not, but it does have a few other different interesting things in it related to jinn lore).

Warrain’s book includes a lengthy chapter, Cycles des seize figures Géomantiques Emboitées (“Cycles of the Sixteen Nested Geomantic Figures”), which talks about these sorts of things; I’m going through it slowly with the generous help of Google Translate, because my French isn’t exactly up-to-par for casual reading.  However, the following chapter (my translation) talks directly about this interesting rosary, albeit only briefly, as it seems to be more of a note in a later edition of Warrain’s manuscript.  (The edition of his book I have is from 1986, while the esotericist and metaphysician Warrain himself died in 1940, making this a posthumous release of an earlier work.)

Editor’s note: We found in one of the last manuscripts of “La Géomancie”, revised and reworked rather late by Francis Warrain himself, the following additional text, concerning this present problem of “The Nesting of Figures” to which he provides additional documentation. We give below this complete amending text:

Oswald Wirth succeeded in representing the complete sequence of the sixteen Figures on a circle divided into sixteen equal parts, each carrying a single point (“monopoint”) or a double point (“bipoint”), these points being distributed so that starting from any radius and traversing the circumference always in the same direction (“dextrogyre” or “sinistrogyre”) the points located on four consecutive rows give, when one reads them successively four to four, and progressing each time from a point (monopoint or bipoint), the sixteen different Figures of Geomancy, without any of them being repeated.

It is possible, by doing so, and by modifying each time certain successions of points, to obtain 8 different combinations in the grouping of the Figures and to produce materially, using wood beads or glass beads or vegetable seeds, eight different “geomantic rosaries” of 24 grains each, which can close by butting on themselves, or which, abutted to each other and closed in a closed cycle, constitute a long “rosary” made of 128 successive rows of monopoints and bipoints, 64 rows from one and 64 rows from the other, or 192 beads in total.

Other researchers than Oswald Wirth (I learned only late) had also realized this problem in a very complete way, in all its generality.

Mr. Marcel Nicaud, renowned painter, xylographer, and famous fresco artist, attached to the Musées Nationaux Français, and had fully achieved this by a simple and precise mathematical process which was personal and invented by a special technique. (1)

I will present this problem of “Sixteen nested geomantic figures” in general, and as I have personally conceived and solved it. Are there other solutions to discover? I don’t think I can say!

The singular designation of “Rosary of the Eight Dragons” is given to this “Rosary” because, arranged in a circle on a plane, it comprises, placed in the 8 directions of space, the unchanging representation of the Figures of Caput Draconis and of Cauda Draconis separated from each other by the Figure of Via, that is to say the symbolic representation of 8 “Amphisbenes” or mythological tantric two-headed dragons.

(1) It is to Marcel Nicaud, skillful engraver and subtle esotericist, that the illustration of this astonishing masterpiece of arithmology and symbolic esotericism is due, due to the prodigious traditional knowledge of one of our last “Authentic Masters” which is entitled From Natural Architecture, or Report by Petrus Talemarianus on the establishment, according to the principles of Tantrism, Taoism, Pythagorism and Cabal, of a “Golden Rule” used for the Realization of the Laws of Universal Harmony and contributing to the accomplishment of the “Grant Work”. Les Editions Véga, Paris, 1950.  It is from this “summa” that we extracted the “Geomantic Rosary” illustrating the text opposite.

(2) These “rosaries” are commonly used, it seems, in certain and highly secret tantric sects as supports for very complex metaphysical meditations, as well as for geomantic divinatory uses, and also for subtle purposes of “recognition initiation”.

It’s a short section, admittedly, and doesn’t say a lot, but it does give some names of other Western esotericists (especially the famous Oswald Wirth, contemporaneous with Warrain) to look up for future research regarding the geomantic emblems (however they phrased or worded the concept).  The Nicaud book is extant, both in French and in English, but it’s difficult and expensive to find, so it may be some time before I can get my hands on it.  I don’t know which Wirth book Warrain refers to, but I’ll see if I can dig it up.

In Jacques’ book, on the other hand…well, Les signes secrets de la Terre Géomancie is, like I said, a rather eclectic text.  It places a good amount of emphasis on the transnational, transcultural role of geomancy, by which I mean equating Western geomancy with Ifá and I Ching, which isn’t a great approach in my opinion, and it makes a lot of the usual New Age jumps between Hinduism and Buddhism and this and that and the other into one confused mess with questionable numerological and etymological leaps of logic.  Still, eclectic and spastic as it can be, it also has a few good points on this particular topic (capitalization preserved from the original text, my translation):

To return to a more particularly cosmogonic research: to this desire to inscribe the Geomantic Figures in the astral cycles, at least to give them a representation which could represent the Sky, to this desire to unite the mantic arts around the divine Revelation of the origin of things, we will dwell for a moment on what appeared to us as an African contribution to Geomancy, an external contribution to the Mediterranean basin which can be considered as a bridge between the worlds, from one culture to another: the Rosary!

There is a form of representation of the distributing Figures of traditional Geomancy that it is possible to compare the lunar cycles which we spoke above: it is the geomantic Rosary which is said to serve as a sign of recognition to some magicians of the East. This geomantic rosary also bears the names of “Rosary of Allahabad”, “Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahabad” or “Rosary of the Eight Dragons”.  With regard to this designation, it is quite difficult to formulate an exact explanation because no ancient rosary has been found in this city in the north of India.  However, in Arabic, Allahabad means “the City of God” or, in other words, “the Heavenly City”.  It therefore seems somewhat random to us to want to link this name to a current geographic reality; the Agharta concept would be more acceptable…

The total number of beads composing the rosary is 192, making it therefore possible to link the reduction to the name of JERUSALEM (Yod-Resh-Vav-Shin-Lamed-Mim = 93, which is 99 less than 192) which leads us to think that the name “Rosary of the Geomancers of Allahhabad “, since Jerusalem is also a holy city of Islam, is a rather recent name indeed for the rosary.   The rosary is in the form shown in the figure above.  Each DRAGON is red, the color of fire, and made up of three elements: AIR-FIRE-WATER, in this order, i.e of a coupling and an opposition.  The total number of points in each DRAGON is eight.  Eight is the first female cubic number, and eight represents the EARTH (the element absent from the composition of the DRAGON), the element in which has the deepest mysteries. It is a conventional chthonic symbol called number of Pluto (the One who lives under the Earth).  It is a sacred sign among the Japanese, representing multiplicity, shown in the form of an eight-petaled flower, a representation of the Lotus also found in many Western representations of Romanesque art.  Eight is the letter Ḥeth of the Hebrews, the first letter of the word Ḥai (Ḥeth-Yod-Heh) which means LIFE (8 + 1 + 5 = 14 = 5⁷), and is also the first letter of the name of the eighth Sephirah, HOD, or Glory.  Eight is the symbol of infinity, but let us also remember: the eight arms of Vishnu, the eight spokes of the Wheel of the way of Buddhism, the eight paths of the Tao, the eight forms of SHIVA.  “The one whom Christ brings to life is placed under the figure EIGHT”, wrote Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century; this is not surprising because, if 8 is turned onto its side, it represents infinity, but it also takes the form of a stylized fish, a primitive symbol of Christianity, the religion which by epiphany connects man to eternity.

These eight deployments represent ALL the composition possibilities of the 16 Distributing Figures of Geomancy preceded or followed by the DRAGON. Symbolically, they connect the first two male and female couples (1 + 0) by the 10 lines of each of the cycles to the essence of the Zodiac, the Ouroboros.  10 is Malkuth, the Kingdom.  The dragon bites its tail, which in no way means that the theme at rest, i.e. that in which each Figure is in its place, is among these cycles.  Each now has the keys that will allow him to discover the riches of the rosary and especially why it is also called “rosary”.  Six rows of the DRAGON among eight red points, ten rows for the cycle among sixteen black points: note, however, that in the sacred language of Christians, Hebrews, and Arabs, red has always been associated with FIRE and divine love, but black symbolizes the night and everything that is more malicious than death.

Interestingly, Jacques uses that possibly Arabic but definitely French system of elements and elemental associations to pairs of rows of figures, both in the passage above and throughout his book, but Warrain doesn’t appear to use the system at all.  Warrain, likewise, didn’t mention anything about colors for the beads; although Jacques may have found another text that talks about it, he doesn’t list Wirth or Nicaud in his bibliography, so his use of colors might well be an innovation or extrapolation from the image on his part.

So, with those introductions out of the way, let’s talk about the structure of this device.

  • The “Chaplet of Eight Dragons” (hereafter “the Rosary”) is broken down into eight sections, each section an emblem of itself, all starting with the binary structure 011110 (:····:), itself consisting of the figures Caput Draconis, Via, and Cauda Draconis.  The other rows of a given section provide the rest of the emblem.
  • The draconic points/beads (for the 011110 segments) are always in another color (e.g. red) compared to the non-draconic beads that provide the rest of one complete emblem (e.g. black).  The draconic segment 011110 of each section is important, as it grounds and anchors the Rosary to eight directions, with the gaps between them consisting of the same number of beads/points but in an irregular way.
  • Each section consists of 24 points/beads, eight from the draconic segment and 16 from the non-draconic segment.
  • There are sixteen total emblems that start with 011110, but there are only eight sections on the Rosary.  In the depiction above, those eight sections are the following emblems (with their corresponding geomantic figure breakouts), starting with the 011110 segment at the top and proceeding clockwise around the Rosary, with the “hidden” final three lines (which are the first three of the following 011110 segment, which fully completes the emblem) in parentheses:
    1. 0111101100101000(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia (, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior)
    2. 0111101000010110(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio (, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior)
    3. 0111100001101001(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer (, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella)
    4. 0111100101101000(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia (, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior)
    5. 0111101100001010(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio (, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior)
    6. 0111101000011001(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer (, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella)
    7. 0111100001001101(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer (, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella)
    8. 0111100100001101(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer (, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella)
  • The other eight emblems that start with 011110 are also present on the Rosary; they simply need to be read counterclockwise around the Rosary.  Starting from the 011110 segment at the top and proceeding counterclockwise from there in the depiction above, these get us the following emblems (with their corresponding geomantic figure breakouts), with the “hidden” final three lines in parentheses:
    1. 0111101011000010(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus (, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior)
    2. 0111101011001000(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia (, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior)
    3. 0111101001100001(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia (, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella)
    4. 0111100101000011(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior (, Coniunctio, Puer, Puella)
    5. 0111100001011010(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio (, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior)
    6. 0111101001011000(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia (, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior)
    7. 0111100110100001(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia (, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella)
    8. 0111100001010011(011): Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior (, Coniunctio, Puer, Puella)

That’s what we know from looking at this thing at a glance.  The next big thing to figure out would be why this specific order of emblems is used on the Rosary, and for that, we need to pick up on a few other details looking at the general structure of the Rosary:

  • Proceeding clockwise around the Rosary from the topmost draconic segment, the emblems used follow 011110 using an odd-odd-even-even-odd-odd-even-even pattern for the first non-draconic row, i.e. the first non-draconic row in the first two segments have a single point each, the next two double, the penultimate two single, and the last two double.
  • However, the final non-draconic row of each section has double, double, single, double, double, single, single, single points.  This leads to an interesting asymmetry where if we go clockwise around the Rosary, we have a regular pattern, but no such pattern if we go counterclockwise.
  • There’s almost a perfect symmetry with the first full figure from the non-draconic segment clockwise around the Rosary: the first and fifth non-draconic segments start with 1100 (Fortuna Minor), the second and sixth 1000 (Laetitia), the third and seventh 0001 (Tristitia), but the fourth starts with 0101 (Acquisitio) and eighth with 0100 (Rubeus).  However, at least for the first three non-draconic rows, the symmetry is perfect.  Following the initial Caput Draconis-Via-Cauda Draconis breakout of every section, this gives the first and fourth sections (which start with the non-draconic 110) an initial figure breakout of Puer-Puella-Coniunctio; the second and fifth sections (100) Puer-Amissio-Rubeus; the third and sixth sections (000) Fortuna Minor-Laetitia-Populus; and the fourth and eighth sections (010) Fortuna Minor-Carcer-Albus.
  • This also means that the first, second, fifth, and sixth sections, because the first non-draconic row has a single point/bead, have Puer as the first breakout figure following the initial Caput Draconis-Via-Cauda Draconis breakout of every section, and that the third, fourth, seventh, and eighth sections all have Fortuna Minor as the first breakout figure.
  • There’s much less symmetry counterclockwise, however: the first and fifth non-draconic segments counterclockwise have 1011 and 0001 (Puella and Tristitia), the second and sixth 1011 and 1001 (Puella and Carcer), the third and seventh 1001 and 0110 (Carcer and Coniunctio), and the fourth and eighth have 0101 and 0001 (Acquisitio and Tristitia).  The only symmetry I can find here is that the first non-draconic row of the first and fifth segments are opposed (1 and 0, yielding the figures Puer and Fortuna Minor), the second and sixth aligned (1 and 1, both yielding Puer), the third and seventh opposed (1 and 0, again yielding Puer and Fortuna Minor), and the fourth and eighth aligned (0 and 0, both yielding Fortuna Minor).
  • Looking at the two rows on either side of the draconic segments clockwise as “bounds” for each “dragon”, then going clockwise, then the first dragon is bound double-double, the second double-single, the third double-double, the fourth single-double, the fifth double-single, the sixth double-single, the seventh single-double, and the eighth single-single.  This means that there are two double-double bound dragons, one single-single bound dragon, two single-double bound dragons, and three double-single bound dragons.  No real symmetry here to speak of.

All sixteen 011110-starting emblems are represented, eight clockwise and eight counterclockwise; this is why this is a “Chaplet of the Eight Dragons” and not “Chaplet of the Sixteen Dragons”.  However, based on the lack of symmetry going counterclockwise around the Rosary, or at least given how little symmetry there is going counterclockwise compared to there is going clockwise, it seems that there really is directionality involved in the Rosary, and that it seems stronger going clockwise.  This means that the eight emblems read clockwise around the Rosary are probably more important than those going counterclockwise, or that the eight counterclockwise emblems arise as an effect from the positioning of the eight clockwise ones.

What doesn’t rely on directionality, however, is something I hadn’t noticed before when it came to the geomantic emblems: starting from any point of any emblem and taking the first four figures drawn from the seven rows starting from the one chosen, if you take those seven rows as representing four overlapped geomantic figures and then take them as four Mother figures for a geomantic chart, the four Mother figures will be the same as the four Daughter figures.  More concretely, say you randomly choose a point on the Rosary, and you end up at the first row of the segment 1000010.  Breaking that out, you get the four figures Laetitia (1000), Populus (0000), Tristitia (0001), and Albus (0010).  If you use those as Mother figures for a geomantic chart, then the four Daughters that result will also be Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, and Albus, in that same order.

This is a fascinating property that I hadn’t picked up on before, and yields a special class of geomantic chart I call “repetitive charts”: charts where the four Mothers are the same as the four Daughters and in the same order, and thus the first two Nieces are the same and in the same order as the last two Nieces, the two Witnesses are the same, the Judge is Populus, and the Sentence is always the same figure as the First Mother.  There are 1024 (2¹⁰) such repetitive charts, and there’s a particular way you can construct one based on the sixteen rows of points of the four Mother figures.  First, remember that the sixteen rows that collectively comprise the Mother figures are the same as those that comprise the Daughter figures, just read horizontally across from top to bottom instead of vertically down from right to left:

Daughter
1
Row
13
Row
9
Row
5
Row
1
Daughter
2
Row
14
Row
10
Row
6
Row
2
Daughter
3
Row
15
Row
11
Row
7
Row
3
Daughter
4
Row
16
Row
12
Row
8
Row
4
Mother
4
Mother
3
Mother
2
Mother
1

In order to create a repetitive chart, certain rows have to be the same, reflected across the top right-bottom left diagonal:

C B A
E D A
F D B
F E C

Thus, Row 2 must be the same as Row 5 (A), Row 3 must be the same as Row 9 (B), Row 4 must be the same as Row 13 (C), and so forth.  Thus, if the third row of the First Mother has a single point, then the first row of the Third Mother must also have a single point.  Rows 1, 6, 11, and 16 are marked by asterisks (∗) and can be anything, single or double, and won’t affect the repetitiveness of the chart.  Thus, there are ten distinct choices to make here: the six mandated-repeated rows A, B, C, D, E, and F, and the four wildcard rows (∗).  Because there are ten choices to make between two options, this means that we have 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 = 2¹⁰ = 1024 repetitive charts.

Turning back to the Rosary, we know that there are 128 rows on the Rosary, which means that there are 128 options for picking out such charts if we use it clockwise, and another 128 options counterclockwise, which means we have 256 possibilities total for picking out charts using this method.  However, not all these charts are distinct, because the same sequences of seven rows (e.g. 0111100) appear multiple times in the Rosary.  If we focus on just all possible combinations of single or double points among seven rows, then this means that there are only 2⁷ = 128 possible distinct charts, but not all combinations of points among seven rows are present on the Rosary, either (e.g. the case of 1111111, where all four Mothers are Via).  In fact, based on the figure breakouts given above, we know there are only 74 possible distinct charts using the Rosary, formed from the following Mothers:

  1. Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer (2 repetitions)
  2. Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia (2 repetitions)
  3. Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis, Via (6 repetitions)
  4. Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor (4 repetitions)
  5. Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Puer (2 repetitions)
  6. Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus (4 repetitions)
  7. Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis (4 repetitions)
  8. Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio (4 repetitions)
  9. Albus, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior (2 repetitions)
  10. Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus (2 repetitions)
  11. Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis (2 repetitions)
  12. Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio (2 repetitions)
  13. Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Albus (2 repetitions)
  14. Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior (4 repetitions)
  15. Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus (6 repetitions)
  16. Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor (8 repetitions)
  17. Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer (8 repetitions)
  18. Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio (2 repetitions)
  19. Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella (4 repetitions)
  20. Carcer, Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia (2 repetitions)
  21. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via (4 repetitions)
  22. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor (1 repetition)
  23. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer (3 repetitions)
  24. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus (3 repetitions)
  25. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior (1 repetition)
  26. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus (4 repetitions)
  27. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio (2 repetitions)
  28. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus (4 repetitions)
  29. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella, Coniunctio (2 repetitions)
  30. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus (3 repetitions)
  31. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior (1 repetitions)
  32. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus (4 repetitions)
  33. Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio (2 repetitions)
  34. Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus (4 repetitions)
  35. Coniunctio, Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis (2 repetitions)
  36. Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis (8 repetitions)
  37. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer (1 repetition)
  38. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia (1 repetition)
  39. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio (4 repetitions)
  40. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Puella (2 repetitions)
  41. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio (4 repetitions)
  42. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Rubeus (2 repetitions)
  43. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis (1 repetition)
  44. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio (1 repetition)
  45. Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia (8 repetitions)
  46. Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus (8 repetitions)
  47. Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior (8 repetitions)
  48. Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio (6 repetitions)
  49. Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus (2 repetitions)
  50. Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis (4 repetitions)
  51. Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio (4 repetitions)
  52. Puella, Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis (8 repetitions)
  53. Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer (3 repetitions)
  54. Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia (3 repetitions)
  55. Puella, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio (2 repetitions)
  56. Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella (4 repetitions)
  57. Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer (4 repetitions)
  58. Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia (4 repetitions)
  59. Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis, Via (2 repetitions)
  60. Puer, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor (2 repetitions)
  61. Rubeus, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio (2 repetitions)
  62. Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis (3 repetitions)
  63. Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio (3 repetitions)
  64. Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia (8 repetitions)
  65. Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio (2 repetitions)
  66. Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella (3 repetitions)
  67. Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Carcer (2 repetitions)
  68. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via (4 repetitions)
  69. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor (1 repetition)
  70. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer (3 repetitions)
  71. Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer (4 repetitions)
  72. Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia (4 repetitions)
  73. Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio (6 repetitions)
  74. Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella (2 repetitions)

Organized by how many repetitions there are for each set of Mothers:

  1. One repetition (8 sequences)
    1. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor
    2. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior
    3. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior
    4. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer
    5. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia
    6. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis
    7. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio
    8. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor
  2. Two repetitions (24 sequences)
    1. Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer
    2. Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia
    3. Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Puer
    4. Albus, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior
    5. Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus
    6. Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis
    7. Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio
    8. Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Albus
    9. Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio
    10. Carcer, Albus, Rubeus, Laetitia
    11. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio
    12. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella, Coniunctio
    13. Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio
    14. Coniunctio, Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis
    15. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Puella
    16. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Rubeus
    17. Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus
    18. Puella, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio
    19. Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis, Via
    20. Puer, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor
    21. Rubeus, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio
    22. Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio
    23. Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Carcer
    24. Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Puella
  3. Three repetitions (9 sequences)
    1. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer
    2. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus
    3. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus
    4. Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Carcer
    5. Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia
    6. Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis
    7. Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio
    8. Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella
    9. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer
  4. Four repetitions (21 sequences)
    1. Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor
    2. Albus, Acquisitio, Amissio, Rubeus
    3. Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis
    4. Albus, Acquisitio, Puella, Coniunctio
    5. Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer, Fortuna Maior
    6. Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio, Puella
    7. Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via
    8. Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus
    9. Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus
    10. Coniunctio, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus
    11. Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio, Rubeus
    12. Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio, Puer, Amissio
    13. Fortuna Minor, Carcer, Albus, Acquisitio
    14. Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis
    15. Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Coniunctio
    16. Puer, Amissio, Acquisitio, Puella
    17. Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Carcer
    18. Puer, Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia
    19. Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via
    20. Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Carcer
    21. Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Laetitia
  5. Six repetitions (4 sequences)
    1. Acquisitio, Puella, Caput Draconis, Via
    2. Amissio, Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus
    3. Populus, Tristitia, Albus, Acquisitio
    4. Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Amissio
  6. Eight repetitions (8 sequences)
    1. Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor
    2. Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer
    3. Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis
    4. Fortuna Minor, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia
    5. Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Albus
    6. Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior
    7. Puella, Caput Draconis, Via, Cauda Draconis
    8. Rubeus, Laetitia, Populus, Tristitia

Now, 74 is a really strange number that doesn’t really appear otherwise in geomancy, and the distributions here are a little unusual, so maybe there’s something to investigate along those lines more.  Perhaps there’s significance to these 74 charts in some way, but I’m not so sure.  For that matter, there could be other significance or meaning attributed to the whole emblematic order of the Rosary, but it’s not clear to me.  Still, even if this post raises more questions than it answers regarding this intriguing little device, at least all this is something to note, whether for my or future geomancers’ research, so maybe someone can do something with this information.

Another System of Elemental Affinities for the Geomantic Figures

There’s not a lot of modern geomantic literature out there, it’s true.  Most geomantic stuff written is decisively pre-modern (a good deal of which is already digitized and free to access by anyone!), and the rest of it that is modern is…well, sometimes it’s hit or miss, though there are more winners among the lot than not.  Still, compared to the endless books put out on Tarot or astrology or runes or playing cards, there’s just not a lot out there as far as geomancy books are concerned.  But, interestingly enough, it turns out that the French have been quite busy with geomancy in the 20th century.

Unlike modern Anglophone publications on geomancy, of which there really haven’t been all that any, I’ve got at least a dozen books stacked on my desk, all published in the 20th century in French, some more scholastic or academic than others, some more pop-divination or pop-occult than others.  It’s honestly refreshing in many ways, though not nearly so surprising in others; after all, the French are well-known for having colonized much of Africa and large parts of the Middle East, and I’m positive that their colonialism and imperialism fed into their anthropological and cultural studies of many of the places that they situated themselves and took over.  Without putting a silver-lining spin on it, this research does help Western understanding of African and Arabic styles of geomancy, and has led to plenty of texts being written in French on geomancy, deriving information from both the Western European tradition as well as the African and Arabic traditions of the art.

Much of the French geomantic literature is pretty standard stuff that you’d find in any other geomantic text, but there are a lot of surprising finds, too.  Some of the more outré topics I’ve invented or delved into (e.g. geomantic emblems or geomantic magic squares) were already known to and explored by French geomancers, which is an incredible relief to me—it means that I’m not the only crazy one in the room, and I don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel when I can see what else has already been written about it—or some of the really obscure finds I’ve had to piece together were already well-described and known to the French (e.g. the traditional assigning of the geomantic figures being based on an older system of associations to the lunar mansions) but perhaps the one most startling thing about many (but not all) French geomantic texts is the system of elements they use to describe the elemental rulerships and affinities of the figures.  As we all know, the geomantic figures are composed of different combinations of the four classical elements, but each figure is also generally aligned with one particular element as a whole.  Which element that would be is based on one of two systems, an older and more pervasive one that appears based on which elements are active or passive in a figure (e.g. Albus given to Water) and a slightly more recent one based on the planetary-based zodiacal rulerships of the figure (e.g. Albus given to Gemini because it’s a Mercury-ruled figure).  Heck, I’ve even come up with a theoretical association of my own, also based on the elemental structure of a figure but less symbolic and more based on what cancels out and what’s left after that (though I don’t myself use this one).

But this particular system so common in so many French geomancy texts is different.  Like the traditional elemental system and my own innovative theoretical one, this French system is also structural, but it’s not really based on which individual elements are active or passive in a figure.  Rather, it’s based on the dot patterns of the upper two lines of a figure.  Consider the qura`ah (or qirrah), the spindle-dice so commonly used in and associated with Arabic and Persian geomancy:

As I’ve mentioned before, a pair of these spindle-dice are used together to generate four Mother figures all at once: you take both, spin the blocks on each spindle, and slap them down together on the table, and you read pairs of blocks, one from each spindle.  So, in the image above, the four Mothers that would result from that particular arrangement of spindle-dice are Caput Draconis, Acquisitio, Caput Draconis, and Albus.

Geomantic figures are essentially binary numbers (base-2): you have four rows, each row having one or two dots, giving you a choice of sixteen figures (2⁴ = 16).  However, you could also consider the geomantic figures as quarternary numbers (base-4), too: rather than considering individual rows, you look at the upper two rows and bottom two rows together.  In this way, rather than a single row being one of two options (single point or dual point), you get a pair of rows that has one of four options (4² = 16: single-single, single-dual, dual-single, dual-dual).  If we break down a geomantic figure into two pairs of rows rather than four individual rows, we can consider what the symbolism of a pair of rows means.

What these French geomancies do is give a different elemental association to the points found in pair of rows:

  • Single-single (shaped like a vertical line, :, e.g. the upper part of Fortuna Minor): Fire, a single flame burning upwards.
  • Single-dual (shaped like an upwards-pointing triangle, , e.g. the upper part of Puella): Water, something that pours out and expands downwards.
  • Dual-single (shaped like a downwards-pointing triangle, , e.g. the upper part of Caput Draconis): Air, something that rises and expands upwards.
  • Dual-dual (shaped like a square, , e.g. the upper part of Albus): Earth, the stability of the level plane.

EDIT:  Okay, I don’t know what’s going on, but apparently the dot patterns don’t show up in text right on all computers.  On some computers it displays as described, but on other computers it displays where the Earth four-point square is set to Air, the Water upwards-triangle is set to Earth, and the Air downwards-triangle is set to Water.  I don’t know how to resolve that or why that happens.  The content of the post is right, but the dot characters here may not be depending on your platform, browser, etc.

Some texts go further and try to relate these point-arrangements to the I Ching—which I don’t agree with due to a lack of any significant connection historical or otherwise—saying that single-single Fire is given to old Yang, dual-single Air to young Yin, single-sual Water to young Yang, and dual-dual Earth to old Yin.  Whatever.  I don’t agree with a Chinese or I Ching-based origin of geomancy, as there’s already plenty of evidence suggesting that geomancy originates in Arabia, and even if not, I’d still favor a north African origin anyway.  What connections there are between geomancy and I Ching, I find, are entirely superficial, and it didn’t help that European missionaries didn’t know what else to call fēng shuǐ besides “geomancy”, leading to centuries of misnaming and misunderstanding.  Just like with the pips of dominoes and the points of geomancy (as I brought up a bit ago), just because things look kinda similar doesn’t mean that they share a common origin.

Back to the topic at hand.  This is an interesting way to adapt the four-element symbolism to the simple shapes produced from two, three, or four points put together.  Admittedly, I find it a little weird, since I’d normally be inclined to give the single-dual upwards-pointing triangle to Air and dual-single downwards-pointing triangle to Water, but I get where this symbolism is going from; after all, Water is associated with downwards motion and Air with upwards (or at least sideways) motion, and I’d want to look at the shapes these points make from the perspective of direction rather than expansion, but I get it.

That’s the whole basis for this elemental symbolism.  To find the elemental association of a particular figure, simply look at the upper two lines of a figure, and that point arrangement gets you the ruling element of that figure.  That’s all there is to it.  Thus:

  • Fire figures (upper two lines single-single): Via, Cauda Draconis, Puer, Fortuna Minor
  • Air figures (upper two lines dual-single): Caput Draconis, Coniunctio, Acquisitio, Rubeus
  • Water figures (upper two lines single-dual): Puella, Amissio, Carcer, Laetitia
  • Earth figures (upper two lines dual-dual): Fortuna Maior, Albus, Tristitia, Populus

Far less common than this, though, some texts will also look at the bottom two rows of a figure in the same way to get a sub-element, such that Via is Fire-on-Fire, Albus is Earth-on-Water, and so forth, but that’s super uncommon—but, then, so is the notion of sub-element or secondary elemental rulers in general (even if I make heavy use of such symbolism).  Most texts simply leave the association at one element based on the upper two rows, and that’s about it.  Still, because I’m fond of tables and charts, we can come up with a simple such table that plots out which figure belongs to which primary (upper) and secondary (lower) elemental structures:

Upper
Fire
(:)
Upper
Air
(⸪)
Upper
Water
(⸫)
Upper
Earth
(⸬)
Lower
Fire
(:)
Via Caput
Draconis
Puella Fortuna
Maior
Lower
Air
(⸪)
Cauda
Draconis
Acquisitio Carcer Tristitia
Lower
Water
(⸫)
Puer Coniunctio Amissio Albus
Lower
Earth
(⸬)
Fortuna
Minor
Rubeus Laetitia Populus

I suppose the symmetry of the figures would be better preserved if I swapped around the Air and Water rows and columns, but I rebel at that, personally, so whatever.

As far as how to use such a system of elemental affinities and rulerships, I mean, it’s the same as any other: they can be used as a basis for meditating upon and contemplating the figures, understood in relationship to other figures, compared in terms of elemental strengths or weaknesses based on what’s around it or where it’s placed in a chart, and the other usual uses; in that, it’s just another system of elemental rulerships available for the figures, just like any other.  What I can’t really figure out, however, is where this system came from.  It doesn’t appear in any older European or Western text I’m aware of, and only seems to appear in most (but not all) French texts, suggesting a common language-bound origin—and, given the French history of colonialism and imperialism in areas where African and Arabic traditions of geomancy were practiced, might have just such an origin.  Plus, the use of pairs of rows in a figure does neatly echo the use of spindle-dice, which were historically only found in the Middle East and South Asia, further suggesting an Arabic practice—though maybe not an utterly ancient one, since the spindle-dice were not there from the beginning of the practice and I don’t recall seeing any row-pairwise analysis of figures brought up in any of the texts I’ve glanced over.

Now, back in the days from the old Geomantic Campus Yahoo! Group days, I swear I saw some image of some North African instance of geomancy that gave these same row-pairwise associations of the elements (like there was a tarp up in the background of a reading being done with some diagrams, including linking the four elements to the Tetragrammaton), but looking back through the group (before the old archives of all Yahoo! groups vanish in a few days), I can’t seem to find anything along those lines, so maybe I saw such a thing somewhere else.  I know I’ve come across such a thing a long time ago, but at the time I didn’t think much of it, so I don’t have any notes or references to such a system.  (If anyone knows the picture, direct me to it, as I’d be greatly appreciative.)  And, as I’ve said, most—but not all—of these modern French geomancy texts seem to share this system, and it really only seems to be French geomancy texts that do this.  To me, this indicates a single, common origin that spread outwards from there within the Francophone geomanticulture (hey, we have “occulture”, why not “geomanticulture” too?).  Happily, many French geomantic texts include a bibliography, so it’s not terribly hard to track down such texts.

From what I can see, this system of elements likely happened at some point between 1940 and 1986.  I give these two dates because these are the years of publication for the famous French occultist, Mason, and Martinist Robert Ambelain, who published La Géomancie Magique in 1940 and La Géomancie Arabe in 1986; in the former, he gives the usual older European (pre-Agrippa) form of elemental assignments to the figures, but in the latter, this row-pairwise one.  However, earlier texts than La Géomancie Arabe use this system, too, like in the 1978 La géomancie: un art divinatoire by Alain le Kern.  So, probably somewhere around the 1950s, this new method of assigning elements came into the French geomanticulture (the word’s sticking with me now), and may well have an Arabic origin or, more likely, a North or Northwest African origin.  Beyond that, I can’t currently tell.

Still, it’s a nifty system.  Another method to think about, for those who find a logic in it.

On Mistakes in Divination

A few days ago, I was chatting with one of my good Twitter friends in private messages.  He’s a pretty cool guy, and though I met him through a few mutual furry contacts we have online, I also found out he was an occultist, so we have fun things to talk about now and again.  He’s been learning geomancy lately (a highly worthwhile endeavor!), and he posed to me a question:

Consider a reading, where the seer fucks up and their dyslexic ass misreads Albus as Fortuna Maior, or got turned around with the meanings of say, Capricorn and Sagittarius.  Would the reading be wrong, or would it be adequate to take that slip as part of the system that produces the interpretation?  And, if the seer realizes their fuckup, should they make a full redaction and correction, or should they make a “transformation” in the reading like old Yin and old Yang in I Ching readings?

He had already guessed what my answer would be, and he was right, but he still wanted to know what my thoughts were.  It was a pretty fruitful discussion for us both, and I want to share some of the insights from that conversation more publicly.  And no, I’m not upset with him!  It just turns out that I have some Thoughts and Opinions in where we differ, and I think these are good things to talk about here.

I know that there are some diviners who everything that happens in a reading, whether in geomancy or in another system entirely, as omens of significance.  Like, say you’re shuffling a deck of Tarot cards for your usual spread, and a card slips out of the deck and falls face-up.  Some people say that that card is important and should be interpreted like any card in the spread itself; I hope he can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was Gordon White from Rune Soup who said something along the lines of “the only thing that card means is that you’re bad at shuffling”—and that’s a viewpoint I agree with (and if he didn’t say that or doesn’t agree with it, then I guess we disagree).  I don’t take all omens in a divination reading that relies on a divination system (i.e. a process with rules and standards and checks and skill) as significant, but only those that are produced according to the system within the boundaries of the system.  There’s a place and a role for intuition to play in divination, to be sure, but when it comes to mistakes, well…mistakes are just that: mistakes.

Without any exaggeration, I can claim that geomancy is a mathematical form of divination: geomancy relies on binary processes of addition and recursion using the binary structure of the 16 geomantic figures to produce a chart.  And there aren’t an infinite number of charts, nor are there 16! (2.092279 × 1013) different charts, or even more than that.  In fact, there are far fewer charts: only 65,536 (164) possible charts are permitted within the mathematical rules of geomancy.  By definition, any chart that does not fall into one of those 65,536 charts is not a valid chart, and there are multiple ways of checking to make sure a chart is valid.  So, you can’t have a chart where all four Mother figures are all Populus and have any other figure in the chart that isn’t Populus; such a chart just isn’t possible, any more than there could be a Tarot spread with three Empresses in a row or a horoscope where Venus opposes the Sun.  Such impossible charts are inherently invalid, and indicate that there was a mistake in your mathematics when calculating the chart; the proper approach isn’t to inspect the chart as it was drawn, but to go back and fix your error so you have a correct chart to look at.  Heck, although it wasn’t said so bluntly, there are some texts that say that “if the Judge is an odd figure, the chart is cursed and must be thrown out”; in a mathematically valid chart, the Judge must always be an even figure (containing an even number of points, e.g. Fortuna Maior with 6 points), so if you have one with an odd Judge (e.g. Puer with 5 points), that means you made a mistake.

But here’s the thing: you can make a mistake in multiple places in the chart, and a mistake anywhere in the chart means that the whole chart gets messed up.  The only four truly independently-generated figures there are in a geomantic chart, where the four figures have no inherent relationship to each other, are the four Mothers.  The Daughters rely on the Mothers, the Nieces rely on the Mothers and the Daughters, the Witnesses rely on the Nieces (and thus the Mothers and Daughters), the Judge relies on the Witnesses (and thus the Nieces, and thus the Mothers and Daughters), and the Sentence relies on the First Mother as well as the Judge (and thus, ultimately, the Four Mothers).  A mistake in the chart in the Daughters, Nieces, Witnesses, or Court indicates that there’s a break in the calculation that causes the whole chart to become invalid.  In other words, any of the figures from the fifth figure (First Daughter) to the sixteenth (Sentence) relies on all the other figures to be correct; if one figure is calculated wrong, even if it doesn’t impact the rest of the figures in the chart, it still means that the whole chart is off.

Now, on the rare occasion, I have seen some people in the geomancy Facebook group I admin post a chart that has a mistake in it, and generally one of the community will be sharp and fast enough to point out that mistake.  However, there is the rare time now and again that someone will still want to interpret the invalid, erroneous chart, because “well, that’s what they made in the moment”.  Like…I get it, but that’s not how geomancy works.  Geomancy is a system, a body of (more or less) well-defined and well-understood rules that must be applied for it to be considered “geomancy”.  To break those rules is to break the system, and you end up in the realm of “undefined behavior”, which doesn’t give you a lot to stand on besides pure intuition.  And geomancy, while making use of intuition, cannot simply rely on it in favor of the actual rules that keep things grounded in the actual art and practice of geomancy.

Now, to be sure and to be fair, there is absolutely a role for intuition in geomancy!  This is where we can explore our connection to the Divine and plumb its depths in order to come up with true and truly artful interpretations that pull every ounce and gram of nuance and detail out of a chart, even a single figure or a single passation of a figure from one house to another.  But that connection must be solid in order for it to be of use, and you still have to be sure you’re looking at the right things.  I’ve seen people in a variety of settings whose intuitions are strong, but not strong enough to not be swayed by what they’re looking at; it’s often what they’re looking at that kickstarts or unlocks their intuition, so if what they’re looking at is wrong, then while they might be getting messages, it’ll end up being a case of garbage-in garbage-out.  And that gets nobody anywhere good.  Sure, there are times where your intuition or spirit guides or what-have-you will kick in strong and give you ultimately-right answers with a fundamentally wrong chart, essentially covering for your mistakes, but it’s not guaranteed, it’s not trustworthy, it’s not reliable, and it’s still a problem because you made a mistake and didn’t spot or correct it.

So much for the chart, but there is a way for the Mothers to be wrong, too!  Recall that, of all the various ways to generate figures, the oldest and most traditional method is the stick-and-surface method: the geomancer takes some marking instrument (stick, staff, wand, pen, pencil, finger, etc.) and a markable surface (sand, dirt, paper, wax tablet, electronic tablet, etc.) and makes 16 rows of randomly-generated marks from right to left, then counts them off two-by-two until either one or two marks are left in a row.  Those leftover marks, read in succession from the top down and clustered into four groups of four, are what give you your four Mother figures.  The trick is to be able to make those marks clearly and distinctly enough when you’re in the throes of that geomantic diviner’s trance so that, when you’re later counting them, you can clearly count exactly how many marks you made.  The soul is moved to make those marks through the use of the body, but if you can’t read what the soul was actually doing, then there wasn’t enough control over the body to make that connection clear.  So, if you ended up reading two points as one (if the two marks were made too closely together), or if you ended up counting an extra point where there shouldn’t have been, then you got a bad Mother where you might end up with Fortuna Maior instead of Albus or vice versa, and that’s something that’s super hard to check for, and not at all possible based on the chart that uses those Mothers.  You need to carefully inspect the actual marks you made when using the stick-and-surface method to make sure you actually recorded what you were supposed to get.  (It’s because of this difficulty and honing of the use of the body, in addition to practicing that diviner’s trance, that I recommend people to start with the stick-and-surface method and become adept at it before going on to any other method of generating Mothers.)

So what about those who use the stick-and-surface method to generate figures?  Sure, humans may not be perfect dot-making or dot-reading machines, but c’mon.  If you’re not able to make or read dots well enough to avoid mistakes, then you need to get better at making and reading dots.  If you’re a geomancer who has the querent themselves make the dots for making the Mothers (and this is a thing!), well…maybe don’t let them make dots, but have them use another tool or method instead, like throwing dice or drawing cards to generate Mothers.  Or, heck, instead of making dots, I might instead recommend making short vertical notches, which are easier to read and mark rather than dots, which can get pretty sloppy.  Sure, we might not be perfect at making or reading dots, but it’s not about the dots themselves—it’s about trying to understand what the motions of the soul were trying to communicate through making the dots, not what the dots are literally saying themselves.  The dots must be inspected carefully to make sure the motions of the soul that produced them is understood, and any mistake in translating there means that that connection is disrupted, and the omens that follow will be misread.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: if there’s an error in the calculation of the chart or in the generation of the Mothers, then that’s on you to notice and to fix, then start interpreting the correct chart.  Consider a library, where each book is a particular destiny or fate for individual queries put to divination, and you want to find the book for the specific query the querent in front of you is asking; the geomantic chart is the call number for that book.  If you have the right call number, then you have the right book, and all you need to do is read from it; easy enough!  But if you have the wrong call number, then you’ll get the wrong book which won’t speak to the query put to divination by the querent—heck, you may end up with a call number for a book that doesn’t even exist.  This is why it’s crucial to make sure that we calculate the chart correctly, because if we don’t, we’re not going to get a chart that properly responds to the query put to divination: any mistake that occurs in the calculation of the chart will mess with the interpretation of the chart.

And that’s a whole other level to worry about, too!  Even if you have the chart mathematically correct, you can still mess up in the interpretation of the chart, like if you misread Fortuna Maior for Fortuna Minor or if you thought that Amissio was a figure of Mercury instead of Venus.  As a geomancer, you need to make sure that you know your symbols well enough to at least avoid major blunders in their interpretation.  These symbols are a thousand years old and are known across the Old World from Morocco to Mumbai, from Madagascar to Murmansk, and though there are definitely variations in how some geomancers or how some traditions of geomancy interpret them, the core meanings are the same no matter where you turn.  To make an egregious error in thinking that Caput Draconis talks about death or that Amissio talks about great gains in wealth is to show that you’re not getting the right information, and that will mess up the interpretation accordingly.  Just because you say things that are wrong doesn’t mean they become right because you’re “in the zone” and getting lost in the moment of talking; it just means you’re wrong and getting carried away with yourself.

My friend countered that the interpretation of a geomantic chart should embrace our imperfections and slips of reading or memory, but I countered with the metaphor of a doctor measuring someone’s blood pressure.  If their blood pressure meter is broken, the wrong numbers will result; if the blood pressure meter uses the wrong-sized armband, the wrong numbers will result; if the doctor mentally flips the numbers so that the systolic pressure is read on the bottom and the diastolic pressure on the top, the wrong numbers will result.  And wrong numbers means that the doctor is going to get a bad understanding and could gauge the person to be healthy when they’re not, or that they’re in danger when they’re fine.  Let’s not kid ourselves here: this kind of mistake can kill someone, and such a mistake cannot be tolerated or allowed by the doctor, so the doctor must make sure that the blood pressure meter is working and calibrated properly, that they’re using the right equipment for their patient, and that they’re reading and properly understanding the numbers that result.  The doctor cannot afford mistakes in tending to their patient, and neither can we, as diviners, afford mistakes in tending to our querents.  When people come to us for divination, they sometimes come to us to save their lives.  Divination can often be a matter of literal life and death for some people who know it, and more’s the pity, those who aren’t even aware of it yet.  There should be absolutely no expense spared in effort, skill, practice, study, or tools to make sure that everything in our divination readings is absolutely correct as possible, including making our calculations and double-, triple, even quadruple-checking them according to the rules within our system.  The rules of geomancy, when aided (but not replaced) by intuition, are what ensures that it work, so we need to make sure we understand the system at work.

To use another medical metaphor, consider someone coming to you for herbal medicine.  Ideally and hopefully, you can get a good read on the person and their symptoms and you know your herbs well enough to give them a particular kind of herbal concoction to help them improve themselves.  Sometimes, we can rely on intuition or spiritual guidance to pick the herbs for us, passing our hands over our jars and bundles and going “mmm…yes, this one feels right for you”.  But let’s be honest: if you don’t have a good grasp of your patient’s symptoms, or if they’re not telling you all their symptoms, or if you misremember certain properties of herbs or don’t know them to begin with, you can make a mistake in the medicine you give them that could poison them, incapacitate them, or otherwise make their situation worse.  I don’t care how strong someone’s intuition is: if my goal is to help someone, then the least I can do is to do no harm, so I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure I can at least hit that bare minimum threshold, which requires me to make sure I don’t make mistakes in what I do.  People come to us diviners for help, and it’s our job as diviners to help them and not hurt them; thus, it’s of paramount importance that everything in my divination work be done as properly and correctly as possible.  Heck, I’ll still pull out my notes and reference books when doing divinations; even if I think I know the figures and rules after ten years of constant use and study, I’ll still double-check and cross-check myself to make sure I’m on a good path with what I’m doing.  Making mistakes, honest or careless or with good intentions or otherwise, is still making mistakes, and that’s not something we can tolerate, nor is it anything I would take a chance with.

Now, sure, if geomancy were a more free-form kind of divination that relies far more on intuition, like bone-throwing or fire-scrying or trance states of remote viewing or possession, then this would all be a moot point, because pure intuition (so long as that connection is strong and clear) doesn’t have rules that can be broken.  Likewise, forms of divination that are developed on-the-spot or that have rules that can be bent or tossed aside in the moment, like some kinds of bone-throwing or nonce Tarot spreads, don’t have this issue, again because there are no rules that keep things correct, because it’s going to be correct by default.  And, of course, there are forms of divination that are strictly omen-based, like Roman augury, where you must inspect everything that happens or everything that is said as being of potential significance!  But geomancy isn’t like those forms of divination; geomancy has rules, and we use those rules and systems to enhance and ground our intuition, not the other way around.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood here: I’m not trying to say that geomancy is just about the rules, because it’s not, nor that there is no role that intuition plays, because there absolutely is.  Technique and intuition go hand-in-hand with geomancy, as I once said long ago with a beautiful metaphor based on Bernadette Brady’s Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark, and the dumbing-down of geomancy that reduced it only to a rule-based system ended up in the cultural forgetting and setting-aside of geomancy in favor of more intuitive methods of divination like Tarot that we saw in the West.  Intuition helps reach where rules cannot, but let’s be clear here: it really is the rules that do the bulk of the work in geomantic divination, and if you falter in the understanding or application of the rules, your intuition may not be enough to cover the distance that you’re falling short of.  Yes, there are times where intuition can do just that, and I’m not saying that it can’t or doesn’t; there are times when we’re so plugged in to the querent and tuned in to the query that we can clearly see without the use of geomancy, or that we can get at obscure meanings of the figures that don’t normally apply because of the peculiarities of a given situation.  However, if you’re using a system composed of rules like geomancy, and unless you’re a professional medium or clairvoyant or honest-to-gods psychic, you can’t always rely on that helping you out when you make a mistake, nor can you always be certain that your connection is 100% clear and strong enough to do so—and if you do have such a strong intuitive connection, then chances are you don’t need geomancy anyway.  Even so, geomancy is still more technique-based than intuition-based, and although intuition plays a role in refining and aiming the rules of geomancy, it’s still the rules of geomancy themselves that point us in the right direction to begin with, so we need to make sure that we’re facing the right way to see in that way.

Remember: an honest mistake is still a mistake, and mistakes can be costly.