Geomancy in the Reign of the Lady of Crowns

So, I’ve been up to a little something the past few weeks, and while I’ve kept it only kinda sorta quiet, I think it’s time to be more public about it.

We all know that there’s a pandemic going on across the world, one that I’ve taken to poetically and euphemistically calling the “Reign of the Lady of Crowns”, and while some countries have their acts together and have gotten things kinda under control (inasmuch as any pandemic can be “controlled”), it’s apparent that some countries, including my own, don’t.  As a result, life is rapidly changing for many of us, both in the short term and in the long term, and this is a trying and difficult time for many of us.  As a result, people are looking for new ways to either fill their time working from home or to get an edge over others whenever an edge can be found; online classes and interaction have never been more important or critical for our sanity and survival, it would seem.

To that end, back towards the end of March, I floated an idea on Twitter to my followers, and several weeks later, having carried that idea out, I think the idea was a success: “Geomancy in the Reign of the Lady of Crowns”, a set of free geomancy lectures I did on Zoom with a number of Twitter friends that explored the various aspects of European geomantic divination.  In addition to the various writings I’ve shared over the years on my blog, I figured this would be a good chance and change of pace to experiment with teaching geomancy in a one-off series of conversational, more-or-less informal lectures expanding on my approach to geomantic divination and covering all the major bases that would enable anyone who’s interested to learn geomancy in an audio-visual format with examples.  Totaling about 13 hours of video (maybe 12, once all the breaks and silent stretches are taken out) over five sessions, I think I covered what I wanted to cover fairly well and thoroughly, and while geomancy is definitely an endless art with plenty more that could be explained, I feel like this is a good introduction to learning geomancy that anyone could do at their own pace.

And now, with this series of lessons having been brought to an end, I’m happy to announce that I’m going to let any others who are interested to get access to it as well.  To sign up:

  1. Send me an email saying that you’d like access to the videos.
  2. After you agree to the terms in the email I’ll send in response, I’ll send you an access link to the videos.

That’s it.  The terms are basically that you don’t share the videos with others, and that you direct anyone who’s interested in the videos to contact me in the same way.

As for the cost?  As I established for my friends on Twitter, there’s no cost for access to these lessons, and I offer them gratis, free of charge.  After all, I did this all informally and conversationally, and I didn’t really prepare anything except using my Zoom account for hangouts, and I’m not really going to bother editing the videos.  There’s little enough cost for me, and I feel it better to have this information learned and shared to those who need it however they need it, knowing that these lessons were given in a fairly off-the-cuff way.  While you could certainly approach this as a pay-what-you-like or a donation-only class and send me money through Ko-fi, I took a different approach: if you’re feeling generous and have some money to throw around, while I’d certainly appreciate it, there are plenty of other people and organizations online who are in desperate need of money and resources far more than I am.  Starving artists, queer people in need of support, people in abusive situations, local homeless shelters, local food banks, Doctors Without Borders, you name it: in this time of the Reign of the Lady of Crowns, there are plenty of people who are actively suffering due to collapsing infrastructure and rapid societal changes both in my country and abroad that could do with some extra support.  I do not expect payment for giving these lectures on geomancy, nor do I ask of it, but I do ask that you consider paying it forward and giving some charity as a way of supporting your fellow humans in this world during this harsh and hard time.  I have nothing to give you in return for that except my joy and thanks that you’d support the rest of us caught up in this storm of the fate of the world.

As mentioned earlier, there were five sessions, each about three hours long (four for the last one), covering the following topics.  Both the whole video files as well as the audio-only files are provided.  Some of these topics I planned out in advance, some of them were brought up as impromptu questions (amongst other topics that maybe I don’t recall as clearly or which were talked about only in brief):

  1. (2020-04-09) Introduction to the Figures, Introduction to the Shield Chart, Interpreting the Court, Ways of the Point, How to Phrase the Query, When to Abort a Reading
  2. (2020-04-11) Mindset and Divination Preparation, Introduction to the House Chart, Allotting the Figures to the House Chart, Parts of Fortune and Spirit, Aspects, Ethics in Divination
  3. (2020-04-28) Perfection in the House Chart
  4. (2020-04-08) Radicality, Company, Company and Triads, Perfection through Co-significators, Rotating the Chart
  5. (2020-05-16) Follow-up on Rotating the Chart, Edge Cases of the Aspects, Chart Examples

In addition to setting up these lectures, I also set up a groups.io mailing list for geomancy.  This is basically an old-school email-based discussion list, not unlike what Yahoo! Groups or usenet lists used to provide, and can provide people with an alternative email-based forum to discuss and learn geomancy together.  This can be beneficial for those who are not on Facebook and can’t or aren’t comfortable joining the Geomantic Study-Group I admin, so if you’re interested in joining, let me know in the same way as you would above for the geomancy lessons I offer.

I can’t promise people an easy time in their lives; nobody can, I suppose.  But this is a small attempt on my part to help people have easier lives, all the same.  Whether it’s to navigate our time and place in the Reign of the Lady of Crowns or any other time period in our lives, I hope that by spreading a bit more knowledge about geomancy about and around, we can all have something that can help us and those who come to us learn a bit more and a bit better about the world and situations we find ourselves in to make the most of it.

How to Construct the Shield Chart of Geomancy

Over the ten years I’ve been maintaining The Digital Ambler, I’ve written no small amount about geomancy on my blog, whether it’s about the symbols, the techniques we use for it, the magic one can do with it, the spirituality lying latent within it, or the approach of divination that one should take with the art. In fact, I started keeping up with a hand-curated index of my geomancy posts, loosely organized by topic, up underneath the About menu of my website, just for ease of reference (both for myself and others). But, of all the things I’ve written about, one thing seems to have been glossed over: how to make the Shield Chart. It’s probably bizarre to some that this is the one thing I haven’t written about, probably the first fundamental practice of geomancy (and, indeed, all geomantic practices) following how to generate the geomantic figures themselves for divination. It wasn’t always so, though; once upon a time, I had a separate page that went over specifically how to construct the Shield Chart, but I took it down years ago as part of my website redesign since I felt it was such boring, introductory-level material that you could find in every book on geomancy and online pretty much on any website that discussed it. But, it would seem, that information is sorely missed by some, and some people would rather stick to this website than go to others when it comes to geomancy (a notion which I can’t say I’m not pleased about!).

So, with that, let’s talk about the Shield Chart.

As I mentioned in my last post about how to allocate the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, historically speaking, there’s really only one way to put the figures into the House Chart from the Shield Chart: the traditional method, where each of the first twelve figures in the Shield Chart is given to the twelve houses of the House Chart in the usual order of their creation. This is because, traditionally speaking both in European and Arabic geomancy, there was no distinction between the House Chart and the Shield Chart: the two charts are the same chart with the same information with the same figures in the same order, so the only benefit one gets out of the House Chart is to make it easier on the eyes for those used to horoscope charts in astrology as well as to make certain techniques used in geomancy easier to apply at a glance. But, fundamentally, there’s really only one chart in geomancy, and if one is comfortable looking at the Shield Chart, no House Chart need be drawn up separately. More than that, however, and unlike the debacle with different House Chart allotment methods, there’s only one way to draw up the Shield Chart common to all of geomancy regardless of individual practice or school.

Geomancers started calling it the Shield Chart relatively late in geomancy’s history in Europe—I can’t recall any reference to “Shield” versus “House” in any pre-modern text—because the whole thing is sometimes seen to look somewhat like a standard heater shield common in Europe, like how Robert Fludd is fond of doing:

However, not all geomancers depicted it like this; some simply depicted it like a series of recursive rectangles, like how Christopher Cattan does:

Arabic geomancers keep the same overall arrangement, but don’t usually contain the figures in the chart within an overall boundary, rather using a few lines to divide the left side from the right side. With the nature of the Arabic script, they’ll often start off the long vertical line as an offshoot of the word علم `ilm, meaning “science” (as in علم الرمل `ilm ar-raml “science of the sand”, i.e. geomancy). I’ve also seen used for this flourish the letter ص ṣād, the phrase هو العليم الخبير hū al-`alīm al-khabīr “He is the All-Knowing, the Great” or “He is the Greatest of Knowers” with the line connected to the last letter of al-`Alīm, or يا عليم الخبير yā `alīm al-khabīr “o greatest knower!”, with the line connected to `alim likewise. That’s if such a flourish is used at all (most do, some don’t), or if lines like this are used at all to mark off the chart (which is rare to see, at least in printed works).

I suppose a Western approach to the flourish would be to use the Greek word gnōsis, either spelling it uppercase (ΓΝΩΣΙΣ) and using the vertical line of the initial uppercase gamma to start the vertical line, or to spell it lowercase (γνοσις) and use the tail of the final sigma instead. I’m sure other similar words could be used instead, but this is still just an innovative flourish one could do for style’s sake, and one that I’ve never seen in any extant European text on geomancy.

Finally, the way I personally draw out the Shield Chart, I just don’t even bother with any little demarcations. Although less common in printed texts, this more casual manner is common for geomancers the world over who don’t need little boxes to put figures in.

Astute readers will note that the first two charts given above (from Fludd and Cattan) only have fifteen figures in the chart, while the Arabic ones and my own have sixteen. We’ll get to that in a moment, as the difference is just a matter of choice, but suffice it to say here that, despite apparent graphical differences and flourishes, the fundamental form, structure, and arrangement of figures of the Shield Chart is the same across time periods and cultures.

To be absolutely clear on this point, the Shield Chart is the backbone of geomantic divination, the abstract framework within which we apply all geomantic techniques; although material tools help us develop the first four figures we plug into the Shield Chart, the Shield Chart is what allows us to come up with the whole “spread”, as it were, of geomancy by applying particular mathematical operations on the four figures that we first plug in. The Shield Chart contains sixteen positions—I like calling them “fields”—for the figures, broken down into groups of four:

  • The four Mothers, the original figures produced by an outside process as the seed for the whole Shield Chart
  • The four Daughters, generated by transposition from the Mothers
  • The four Nieces, generated by addition from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters
  • The four figures of the Court
    • The Right and Left Witnesses, generated by addition from pairs of the Nieces
    • The Judge, generated by addition from the Witnesses
    • The Sentence (sometimes called the Reconciler, Superjudge, the Result of the Result, or the Sixteenth Figure), generated by addition from the Judge and the First Mother

Only the figures of the Court have special names for them (Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, or Sentence); the other groups of figures are simply named according to their number (e.g. First Mother, Second Daughter, Third Niece, etc.). Some Shield Charts present all sixteen figures, but some (especially European ones) only have fifteen, hiding/excluding the Sentence. Where this figure is placed is up to the geomancer, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The Sentence is as much a figure as the rest of the Shield Chart, and even if it’s not explicitly shown, it should still be counted as part of the Shield Chart.

The structure of the Shield Chart is this: sixteen fields arranged in four rows, with the topmost row having eight fields, the second row having four, the third row having two, and the last row having one. The topmost row, containing eight fields, is separated out into four Mother fields and four Daughter fields (traditionally reckoned from right to left, given the Arabic origins of this art), with the Mothers on the right-hand side of the chart and the Daughters on the left-hand side. The second row is broken down into four Niece fields (again reckoned from right to left); the third row into two fields for the Right Witness and the Left Witness; and the bottom row having one field for the Judge. As noted earlier, the Sentence may or may not be shown; my own preference is to show it off to the right side of the Judge directly underneath the First Mother. Most Arabic geomancers I’ve seen, who show two figures at the bottom of the chart in the same little “divet” marked in half, will put the Judge as the left-hand figure and the Sentence as the right-hand figure, but others will either draw the Sentence off below the Judge somehow somewhere; only a minority of Arabic geomancers, as far as I’ve seen, will leave off the Sentence entirely.

Using a simple rectangular layout (like Cattan) and showing the Sentence off to the side of the Judge in the same row (which is my own practice), the Shield Chart is arranged like this at an abstract level:

Knowing these fields of the Shield Chart and what figures go where, we can now begin the process of filling in the Shield Chart.

First up, the Mothers. These are the only four figures one generates through a random (though inspired) process through some manner of manipulation of tools or numbers. Traditionally, one would draw out a random number of points in sixteen lines and cross them off two-by-two until either one or two points are left in a row, then read the remaining points one didn’t cross off downward in groups of four, but there are many other ways geomancers have used to come up with figures, any of which are good to use for this process (though I strongly urge the stick-and-surface method for beginners to the art, at least until one becomes proficient in the method). Once these four figures are generated, they’re put in order into the four Mother fields in the upper right hand part of the chart from right to left.

So, let’s say we got out our stick and surface, and through the process of generating figures that way, we produced the four figures Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via, in that order. We put those four figures in that order into the four Mother fields in the Shield Chart, from right to left in the uppermost row of the chart:

Note that each of the four Mothers are generated randomly and independently of each other, so it’s quite possible to have one figure appear more than once in the Mothers.  This is totally fine and to be expected; it can even happen that all four Mothers are the same figure.  Unlike other forms of divination where a particular figure can appear a maximum of once in a chart or spread, geomancy expects (and, in fact, requires) certain figures to appear multiple times in the chart, and many techniques make use of this repeating of figures to derive useful information.  This doesn’t just happen with the Mothers but, as we’ll soon see, can happen at many points throughout the chart as a result of the mathematical operations we’re about to apply on the Mothers to generate the other figures in the chart.  So, if you’re new to geomancy, don’t let this worry you!

Once the Mothers have been generated and put into the Shield Chart, we can then proceed with the four Daughters. The Daughters are generated from the four Mothers by reading the points of the figures in the Mothers row-wise from right to left across all four Mothers. Thus, the First Daughter is formed from the topmost (Fire) row of each Mother from right to left, such that the Fire row of the First Mother is the Fire Row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Second Mother is the Air row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Third Mother is the Water row of the First Daughter, and the Fire row of the Fourth Mother is the Earth row of the First Daughter. For the Second Daughter, one uses the Air rows of the Mothers; for the Third Daughter, the Water rows; for the Fourth Daughter, the Earth rows.

Another way to think of generating the Daughters is to think of this as a matrix of transposition, rotating the points 90° to read them in a different direction. Instead of seeing the points of the Mothers as four sets of four rows, think of them as being entries in a 4×4 grid. (This makes the most sense if we generated each row of points of the Mothers separately, like with the stick-and-surface method, where we put each new entry in this grid from top to bottom and from right to left, in that order). If we read the columns of this grid, we get the Mothers; if we read the rows, we get the Daughters. This should show that the Daughters aren’t necessarily “new” figures, as they’re composed of the same original points as the Mothers are, just in a different order, and why the Daughters are placed in the same overall row of the Shield Chart (being “roots” of the rest of the chart, as we’ll show in a bit).

Following either way of thinking, the figures we get for the four Daughters based on our earlier Mothers (Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via) are Fortuna Maior, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, and Fortuna Maior. Fortuna Maior is produced from reading the Fire rows of the four Mother figures from right to left (two, two, one, one), Tristitia from the Air rows (two, two, two, one), Fortuna Maior again from the Water rows (two, two, one, one), and Fortuna Maior again from the Earth rows (two, two, one, one). Once these figures are made, we put them into the four Daughter fields of our Shield Chart:

Now that we have our four Mother figures and our four Daughter figures, we then proceed to making the Nieces of the chart in the next row. As the structure of the Shield Chart suggests, each Niece figure is a combination of the two figures above it, such that the First Niece is a combination of the First and Second Mothers, the Second Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Mothers, the Third Niece a combination of the First and Second Daughters, and the Fourth Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Daughters. This process of combination that we use is what we call geomantic addition (some Arabic geomancers say multiplication, but the idea is the same either way).

When I say “addition”, I kinda mean it and kinda don’t: the process of adding two figures together to get a third is, in some ways, the heart of the process of developing figures from a line consisting of a random number of points as we do in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures. When we cross off the points two-by-two until either one or two points are left in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures, what we’re doing is seeing whether the total number of points in that line is odd or even; if it’s even, the resulting row in that figure will have two points, and if it’s odd, the resulting row in that figure will have one point. When we add two figures, the same logic holds: we combine the total number of points between the same respective rows between two figures, and if it’s even (whether two or four), the resulting row of the final figure will have two points, and if it’s odd (i.e. three points), the resulting row of the final figure will have one point. Thus, consider the figures Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio:

  • The Fire row of Fortuna Maior and the Fire row of Acquisitio both have two points in each. 2 + 2 = 4, so we “reduce” four by crossing off two (using the stick-and-surface method) to end up with two points in the Fire row of the resulting figure.
  • The Air row of Fortuna Maior has two points, while that of Acquisitio has one point. 2 + 1 = 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Air row of the resulting figure.
  • The Water row of Fortuna Maior has one point, while that of Acquisitio has two points. 1 + 2= 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Water row of the resulting figure.
  • The Earth row of Fortuna Maior and the Earth row of Acquisitio both have one point in each. 1 + 1 = 2, which we don’t need to reduce, so the Earth row of the resulting figure has two points.

Thus, if we add Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio together, we get the resulting figure of Coniunctio:

Another way to think of this process is the logical exclusive or (XOR) function. Given two inputs that can either be true (single point in geomantic terms) or false (double point), the resulting function will output true if both values are different, i.e. only one is true and the other is false; in cases where both are true or both are false, the output will be false. In geomantic terms, the resulting row of a figure produced through geomantic addition will have two points if both the corresponding rows of its parent figures are the same (both odd or both even), and will have one point if they differ (one odd and one even, or vice versa).

With geomantic addition understood, we can make the rest of the Shield Chart. As noted above, a Niece is produced by adding together the two figures immediately above it:

Continuing our example from earlier, we add together the following figures to make their corresponding Nieces:

  • First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece → Populus + Populus = Populus
  • Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece → Puella + Via = Rubeus
  • First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece → Fortuna Maior + Tristitia = Albus
  • Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece → Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Maior = Populus

With the Nieces done, we continue that process of addition to come up with the first three figures of the Court. Again, the structure of the Shield Chart should be informative here: each of these three figures (the Right Witness, the Left Witness, and the Judge) are produced by adding the two figures directly above it, such that the Right Witness is formed by adding together the first two Nieces, the Left Witness by adding together the second two Nieces, and the Judge by adding together the two Witnesses.

Thus, continuing our example from earlier:

  • First Niece + Second Niece = Right Witness → Populus + Rubeus = Rubeus
  • Third Niece + Fourth Niece = Left Witness → Albus + Populus = Albus
  • Right Witness + Left Witness = Judge → Rubeus + Albus = Coniunctio

Many European geomancers tend to stop here, as there doesn’t appear to be any more positions on the Shield Chart to fill—but they forget the sixteenth figure of the Sentence. Like the Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge, this figure is also formed from addition, but this time, by adding together the Judge with the First Mother:

Although some geomancers don’t show this figure, I strongly urge every geomancer to show it in every Shield Chart, as its importance is huge (and absolutely necessary for some techniques) yet grossly undervalued, especially in modern Western texts influenced by the Golden Dawn. My preference is to place the Sentence off to the side of the Judge underneath the First Mother, as below. Here, we have Coniunctio + Populus = Coniunctio, giving us Coniunctio as the Sentence to this Shield Chart:

And with that, our Shield Chart with all its sixteen fields is complete.

At this point, although we could jump straight into interpreting the chart or start looking at the House Chart, it’s always wise to first check the validity of the chart. Given that each of the four Mother figures are generated randomly and independently of each other, that means that there are only 16 × 16 × 16 × 16 = 65536 valid charts. While this sounds like a daunting number, we should note that if every one of the 16 figures were placed independently of all the others in the Shield Chart (e.g. selection with replacement), there would technically be over 18 quintillion possible charts; if we were to select every figure randomly without replacement, we’d still have over 20 trillion charts. We’re constrained by the mathematical process of geomancy to be limited to this proper selection of only 65536 charts, so if we have a chart that’s not in that set, then what we have is a mathematical error in calculating the Daughters, Nieces, or Court figures somewhere that we need to rectify. Mathematically invalid charts are not worth investigating; it’d be like drawing up a horoscope with a planet dyslexically put in the sixth house instead of the ninth, or getting the degree and minute parts of a planetary position mixed up; it’s just a simple error that just needs to be fixed, not interpreted as some mystical omen of terrible import. Read this post here to learn more about mathematically validating the chart, but there are three basic criteria we use to judge whether a given chart is a valid one:

  1. The Judge must have an even number of points.
  2. The sixteen figures in the Shield Chart must have at least one figure that is present at least twice in the chart.
  3. Particular pairs of the figures in the Shield Chart must all add up to the same figure:
    1. First Niece + Judge
    2. Second Mother + Sentence
    3. Second Niece + Left Witness

If any of those three conditions do not hold, the chart is invalid and needs to be inspected and corrected for errors.

I should note at this point that, although the right-to-left format of the Shield Chart is overwhelmingly the most common choice, there are a (very) few European geomancers out there (tragically, Franz Hartmann among them) who use a left-to-right method, both in generating figures using the stick-and-surface method as well as in constructing the Shield Chart. This isn’t necessarily wrong, per se, but the convention and tradition is to do everything from right to left because of the right-to-left nature of the original Arabic practices and of the right-to-left nature of the Arabic (and other Semitic) languages. If you use the left-to-right method, you’ll likely need to clarify that before sharing your charts with others; if you come across a book that uses the left-to-right method, you’ll want to bear that in mind and flip the meanings of the Right and Left Witnesses as well as remember the new order of how things get added together and where things get put. It’ll be apparent that something is wrong, because trying to read a left-to-right chart using a right-to-left approach will usually screw something up in the relationship between what would appear to be the Mothers and Daughters because the apparent transposition won’t look right.

Once we have a Shield Chart and have checked that it’s a mathematically valid one, then we can proceed with interpretation of the chart: the Ways of the Point, triads, the Sum of the Chart, and so on and so forth. But I’ve already touched on those topics elsewhere, so you know where to take a look from here. Beyond that, I hope this resolves any questions about the Shield Chart, and can give those who are just starting in this art a good understanding of the foundation of geomantic divination, upon which all other techniques and interpretative methods are built!

On Making the House Chart from the Shield Chart

I never expected this blog to hit its 800th post, but here we are.  It’s a good milestone to meet, and one for which I’m proud!  And for this post, well…this is one of those cases where I know I’ve written about the subject before, but this is a subject that I think deserves to be written more clearly and explicitly, because I have some Thoughts and Opinions on the subject, and the subject has come up several times in the past few weeks between different groups of people that keeps it on my mind.  So, get ready, dear reader, because we’ve got a rant ahead of ourselves to make to make a point about a particular subject in geomancy.

The subject in question?  How to construct a geomantic House Chart from its corresponding Shield Chart.  As for why we’re spending almost 6000 words on the subject, well…let’s begin, shall we?

The idea here is simple: given a Shield Chart with its sixteen figures, the latter twelve (composed of the Daughters, Nieces, and Court figures) being generated from the first four Mothers according to the usual rules of geomancy, we take the first twelve of those figures (the four Mothers, the four Daughters, and the four Nieces) and plop each into one of the twelve houses of a House Chart.  In this way, not only do we have the benefit of using the usual set of techniques for the Shield Chart, but we can use the grammar of an astrological horoscope to interpret the figures, as well, interpreting each figure as being in a particular house.  The question arises—and, I should note, only for those in modern European/Western practices of geomancy—about how to go about putting, arranging, and allotting the figures into the House Chart.

The traditional method, as John Michael Greer has said in his books on geomancy, is “simplicity itself”.  Simply give the figures of the Shield Chart to the houses of the House Chart in the order that we traditionally make them: the four Mothers go into the first four houses, the four Daughters into the second four houses, and the four Nieces into the last four houses:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House V House IX
Second House II House VI House X
Third House III House VII House XI
Fourth House IV House VIII House XII

Easy, simple, straightforward.  Not only is this easy, but it’s also the oldest and most traditional method that we see across the vast majority of all geomantic texts classical and modern—and not in just European geomancy, but in other forms of geomancy, as well.  Although the notion of a House Chart separate from the Shield Chart, or at least the notion of drawing and presenting the figures in a horoscope-type format either in addition to or instead of the traditional Shield Chart layout, certainly seems to be a European thing, we see certain positions of figures in a Shield Chart described in the same language and significations of the twelve houses where we’d otherwise expect them, such that the First Daughter talks about children and games (House V), the Second Niece regarding kings and judges (House X), and the like.  We see it in Arabic and Persian geomantic texts as much as we do Latin and French ones, and we even see the same system at play in a variety of African geomantic systems, including Malagasy sikidy, which although it has developed in its own unique way is still recognizably geomancy.  Even one of my noble academic colleagues, the good and brilliantly-learned Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, who has gone over many dozens of pre-19th century Persian and Arabic geomantic works, hasn’t seen evidence yet to the contrary, and I’ve only ever seen this traditional association and allotment in any pre-modern (and most modern) such texts I can get my hands on and in any discussion with my Middle Eastern and South Asian geomancer colleagues.  It would seem that the use of the language or grammar of the twelve astrological houses of the horoscope has been used from a super early date in the practice of geomancy, if not going back to the very origins of the art itself, and has been used the whole world over for a thousand years.  If there’s any one house allotment system to use based on tradition, popularity, or commonality, it’s this one.  It’s quite accurate to say that the first twelve positions of the Shield Chart (or “fields”, as I’ve elsewhere called them) really are and have the same meaning as the twelve houses of a horoscope, quite as they are.

The venerable Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, however, has different thoughts on the matter.  In his (possibly spurious) Of Geomancy, usually bundled with his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, he first talks about the traditional method of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart as we would otherwise expect:

And these 8 Figures do make 8 Houses of Heaven, after this manner, by placing the Figures from the left hand towards the right: as the foure Matres do make the foure first Houses, so the foure Filia doe make the foure following Houses, which are the fift, sixt, seaventh, and eighth: and the rest of the Houses are found after this manner; that is to say, out of the first and second is derived the ninth; out of the third and fourth the tenth; out of the fifth and sixth the eleventh; and out of the seventh and eighth the twelfth: By the combination or joyning together of two Figures according to the rule of the even or uneven number in the remaining points of each Figure.

But then Agrippa brings up another notion:

And this which we have declared in the common manner observed by Geomancers, which we do not altogether reject neither extoll; therefore this is also to be considered in our judgements. Now therefore I shall give unto you the true Figure of Geomancy, according to the right constitution of Astrologicall reason, which is thus.

As the former Matres does make the foure Angles of an House, the first maketh the first Angle, the second the second Angle, the third maketh the third Angles, and the fourth the fourth Angle; so the four Filiae arising from the Matres, doe constitute the foure succedent Houses; the first maketh the second House, the second the eleventh, the third the eighth, and the fourth maketh the first House: the rest of the Houses, which are Cadents are to be calculated according to the Rule of their triplicity; that is to say, by making the ninth out of the first and fifth, and the sixth our of the tenth and second, of the seventh and eleventh the third, and of the fourth and eighth the twelfth.

Although Agrippa notes that the “common manner observed by the Geomancers” is what should arguably be used (a valid interpretation of “therefore this is also to be considered in our judgments”, and which he simply accepts without praise nor disdain), he himself uses a different method, which is to give the four Mother figures to the four angular (or cardinal) houses, which are Houses I, IV, VII, and X—or, rather, to Houses I, X, VII, and IV, in that order.  Although the numbering of houses in the House Chart proceeds counterclockwise from the Ascendant, Agrippa allots the figures in clockwise order, because this is the direction of the passage of the Sun: House I represents the eastern horizon where the Sun rises, House X the zenith of the skies where the Sun is found at midday, House VII the western horizon where the Sun sets, and House IV the nadir of the skies where the Sun is found at midnight.  Once the Mothers are put in the angular houses, the Daughters are then put in the succedent houses, again clockwise (so Houses II, XI, VIII, and V, in that order).  So far, so good, right?

What would then follow, as logic should dictate, is that the the remaining Nieces into the cadent houses, again clockwise (so Houses III, XII, IX, and VI, in that order)—but Agrippa breaks from the usual method here.  Instead of giving the Nieces to the House Chart, Agrippa simply makes new figures entirely:

  • House III (which would be the First Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses VII and XI (Third Mother and Second Daughter)
  • House XII (which would be the Second Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses IV and VIII (Fourth Mother and Third Daughter)
  • House IX (which would be the Third Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses I and V (First Mother and Fourth Daughter)
  • House VI (which would be the Fourth Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses II and X (Second Mother and First Daughter)

This is “according to the Rule of their triplicity”, which is to say that the figures in a cadent house are produced from the sum of the figures of the angular and succedent houses in that same triplicity, i.e. element.  Thus, House VI, which is associated with the mutable earth sign of Virgo, is produced from the sum of the figures from House II (associated with the fixed earth sign Taurus) and House X (associated with the cardinal earth sign Capricorn).  This is what we see in Agrippa’s example chart (the original version in Turner has errors, but Tyson’s version is corrected), where we see Laetitia in House VI.  The corresponding Shield Chart has Cauda Draconis as the Fourth Niece, but there is Acquisitio in House II and Puer in House X, and Acquisitio + Puer = Laetitia.  Also note how the Shield Chart has Populus as the Third Niece, but Populus does not appear in the House Chart at all.

Broken out into triplicity arrangements, what we see is this (with the expected Niece placements noted in strikethrough text):

Fire
Triplicity
Earth
Triplicity
Air
Triplicity
Water
Triplicity
Angular
Houses
First
Mother
House
I
Second
Mother
House
X
Third
Mother
House
VII
Fourth
Mother
House
IV
Succedent
Houses
Fourth
Daughter
House
V
First
Daughter
House
II
Second
Daughter
House
XI
Third
Daughter
House
VIII
Cadent
Houses
Third
Niece
House
IX
Fourth
Niece
House
VI
First
Niece
House
III
Second
Niece
House
XII
I + V II + X VII + XI IV + VIII

Let’s be clear here: what Agrippa is doing in his House Chart construction is that he’s taking a huge leap away from the traditional practice of geomancy, and instead taking a heavily astrologized and inventive approach to coming up with a House Chart.  In eschewing the Shield Chart, Agrippa’s really only making use of geomantic process and symbolism without actually performing geomantic divination properly; his method is an offshoot and derivative of geomancy, not a mere variation of it.  It’s like how Gerard of Cremona’s On Astronomical Geomancy is neither proper geomancy nor is it proper astrology, but a novel mix halfway between the two that becomes its own thing, a form of sortilege with astrological symbolism in an astrological grammar produced by geomantic processes.

What’s interesting here is that I’ve never really seen Agrippa’s exact approach put into practice by…well, anyone, really.  This method of developing a House Chart by putting the Mothers into the angular houses, Daughters into the succedent houses, and Nieces…well, rather, the sum of particular pairs of Mothers and Daughters into the cadent houses according to their shared triplicity is not something I’ve encountered in any other geomantic text besides this one (possibly spurious) text by Agrippa.  It could be that Agrippa may have obtained this method from some innovative geomancer before his time, but I can’t find any record or hint of that; to my mind, it’s more likely that Agrippa himself was the innovator of this method of developing a House Chart based on (but not making use of the entirety of) a Shield Chart by only using the “original” points from the Mothers, which were transposed (but not fundamentally altered) into the Daughters, then using his own astrological reasoning to complete the House Chart using geomantic addition but not the usual addition algorithm from the Shield Chart.  Why?  Well, we can take a guess, from his Second Book of Occult Philosophy, chapter 53, “that no Divination without Astrology is perfect”:

We have spoken in the foregoing Chapters of the divers kindes of Divinations: But this is to be noted that all these require the use and rules of Astrology, as a key most necessary for the knowledge of all secrets; and that all kinds of Divinations whatsoever have their root and foundation in Astrologie so, as that without it they are of little or no use; yet Astrological Divination, in as much as the Celestials are causes and signs of all those things which are, and are done in these inferiors, doth give most certain demonstrations by the situation, and motion onely of Celestial bodies, of those things which are occult or future; of which we shall in this place speak no further, since of this Science huge Volums have been wrote by the Ancients, and are everywhere extant.

…Also Geornancy it self the most accurate of Divinations, which divines by points of the earth, or any other superfices, or by a fall, or any other power inscribed, doth first reduce them to Celestial figures, viz. to those sixteen which we above named, making judgement after an Astrological manner, by the properties and observations thereof: and hither are referred all natural Divinations by lots whatsoever, the power whereof can be from no where else then from the heaven, and from the minde of them that work them. For whatsoever is moved, caused or produced in these inferiors, must of necessity imitate the motions, and influences of the superiours, to which, as to its roots, causes, and signs it is reduced, the judgement whereof is shewed by Astrological Rules.

Even though Agrippa puts geomancy on a level above other forms of divination (mostly sortilege), he still subjects it to astrology and claims that it works because of astrology, and that only when “making judgments after an Astrological manner”.  Agrippa is not content to let geomancy be geomancy as geomancy always was, but to essentially subjugate it and make it obey his understanding of astrological concepts applied to something that isn’t astrological in nature.  It’s true that geomancy does (or, more accurately, can) take a hefty amount of influence from the grammar and symbolism of astrology, but geomancy was still always its own thing from the get-go.  It would seem that Agrippa disagrees, and he attempted to “correct” it by making it as astrological as possible by eschewing the figures of the Shield Chart in chart of his own form of generation of figures in the House Chart.

Generally, when people construct a House Chart along Agrippa’s ideas, they’ll put the Mothers and Daughters into the House Chart just as Agrippa does, starting in House I and House II respectively and proceeding clockwise from there, but then they’ll put Nieces in the cadent houses clockwise starting in House III, not add together the figures of that cadent house’s triplicity mates together to come up with a new figure.  What they end up with is this method:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House II House III
Second House X House XI House XII
Third House VII House VIII House IX
Fourth House IV House V House VI

It bears remembering that Agrippa just doesn’t use the Nieces at all, although others say he does—notably, Franz Hartmann in his 1889 book The Principles of Astrological Geomancy, where he presents it along with the traditional method but seems to prefer this faux-Agrippa method over the traditional one.  I’m not certain whether Hartmann was the first to attribute this allotment method to Agrippa, but it is the earliest reference I’ve seen yet, and it’s not like there was all that much geomantic material being published between 1700 and 1900.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice (and in his older Terrestrial Astrology) simply calls this the “esoteric” method, but what’s clear is that when people say they’re using the Agrippa-style method of house allotment, they’re not actually using what Agrippa proposes to do, which is to eschew the Nieces in favor of cardinal and fixed triplicity sums of figures for the cadent houses.  For this reason, I’m going to start calling this the “faux-Agrippa” method from here on out, though Skinner’s “esoteric” method sounds pleasant enough.  Skinner calls it this because:

It has often been said that the correct method of allocation is the real secret of geomancy which has never been published. Even Aleister Crowley, who was in the habit of ‘telling everything like it is’, admitted that a major key had been left out of his explanation of the technical side of astro-geomancy. That key was the House allocation system. Amongst the systems outlined in this book is the major key which was omitted.

The “esoteric” allotment method had probably “never been published” (except in Hartmann and potentially a few other contemporaneous or slightly earlier geomancers whose works I don’t have access to, should any exist) because it was never actually a thing until someone said it was, as well as the fact that there was no allocation because the figures were already in their own houses according to their own logic and thus didn’t need any such allocation, but here we are anyway.  I should also note that Aaron Leitch discusses this method in a 2006 article on geomancy on his website.  However, Hartmann’s book, although still being published even in our modern day, probably doesn’t have as much reach as Leitch’s website does nowadays, so between Leitch’s webpage and the books of both Hartmann and Skinner, it’s likely that this is how the faux-Agrippa method became so (relatively) widespread in modern times.

The underlying rationale of the faux-Agrippa method is basically the same as that of Agrippa’s true method.  Basically, the Mothers get assigned to the angular houses because, being the first, they must therefore also be the strongest figures of the whole chart; the Daughters, being generated from the Mothers, have some strength but are less strong than the Mothers, and so get assigned to the succedent houses as being not the strongest but also not the weakest houses; the Nieces (if present at all), being made last, have the least strength, and so go to the cadent houses as the weakest of the houses.  I have several issues with this rationale:

  • I’ve never seen it mentioned in any geomantic text of a notion of strength or power between the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces.  To be sure, there is a notion of age and seniority given the names for these groups of figures, but I’ve never seen it expressed in this way before in any other geomantic text outside those influenced by Agrippa.  It even runs counter to some African practices of geomancy, where the Nieces are looked at as restraining influences on their parent Mothers or Daughters, suggesting an equality of power even if not in rank.
  • The first two Nieces are formed from the addition of pairs of the Mothers, and the second two from the addition of pairs of Daughters.  If the Daughters are formed from the points of the Mothers, and if the Daughters are weaker than the Mothers because they proceed from them, then it would follow that the first two Nieces should have a power on par with that of the Daughters as a whole, while the second two Nieces are weaker than either the first two Nieces or the four Daughters.  But we don’t see that borne out here, either.  In Agrippa’s true system, where the Nieces are formed from addition of one Mother and one Daughter each, I suppose one could argue that such a figure could be conceived as being weaker than either, but it could also be argued to being the figure of average strength between the two, weaker in power than the Mother involved yet stronger in power than the Daughter involved—and this view is more true to the geomantic notion of addition, especially as seen in the Court with the Judge and Witnesses.
  • The points of the Daughters are the exact same points of the Mothers, just transposed 90° to be read from right to left instead of from top to bottom.  I would argue that, although we procedurally draw out the Daughters after the Mothers, when we make the four Mother figures from scratch, we’ve already made the Daughters at the same time by reading the points in a non-consecutive order.  In that light, the Daughters are neither weaker nor younger than the Mothers.
  • Most importantly (and disastrously), the new houses of the figures gives them different meanings and contexts than what their own positions have always had in the rest of extant geomantic practice (i.e. according to the traditional allotment).  This is a massive departure from normative practice that I simply do not trust because the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart are already the houses of the House Chart; to shuffle them around is like looking at a horoscope, seeing a planet in a house you don’t like, and randomizing the houses for a more intellectually pleasing but empirically unfounded arrangement.  Either we’re giving each figure a dual context of interpretation which complicates things, or we’re replacing the natural context of interpretation of figures with one with a non-geomantic system which stands to break things.
  • We also see this echoed in the technique of company, which is intimately connected to the geomantic triads. Company is described as only being formed between odd-even houses of the House Chart, never even-odd ones (so Houses I and II or Houses III and IV, etc., but never Houses II and III). Although this is not explained, this makes the most sense when you consider that these pairs of houses are also the pairs of figures in the Shield Chart that add up together to form a third figure, as in the triads (e.g. First Mother and Second Mother, Third Mother and Fourth Mother, etc.).  To use an angular-based allotment method like what Agrippa or faux-Agrippa would do would break the structural logic undergirding company entirely.

But we’re not done yet!  There’s yet another method of allotting figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, which is also definitely a modern innovation: that of the Golden Dawn and, from it, of Thelema, both of which use Agrippa’s underlying rationale but expressed in a different way.  In the Golden Dawn’s Zelator 1°=10° grade, which contain instructions in the art of geomancy, as well as in the Thelemic Liber Gaias sub figurâ XCVI, the student is instructed to allot the figures of the House Chart to the Shield Chart in this manner:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House X House XI House XII
Second House I House II House III
Third House IV House V House VI
Fourth House VII House VIII House IX

What’s going on here is that, like Agrippa, the Golden Dawn method of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart gives the Mothers to the angular houses and the Daughters to the succedent houses, but unlike Agrippa, they give the Nieces to the cadent houses.  Moreover, the Golden Dawn doesn’t start allocating the figures with Houses I and II and proceeding clockwise around the chart like Agrippa does, but they start with Houses X, XI, and XII and proceed counterclockwise around the chart.  Although I can’t find an explanation of why the Golden Dawn does what it does against what Agrippa does or what long-standing geomantic tradition does, there are a few things that occur to me here:

  • They allot the figures to the houses in a counterclockwise direction in the flow of the houses themselves, which are counted counterclockwise from House I.  This is also, when considered from modern European languages, a form of “reading from right to left”, which is much like how the figures are generated in the Shield Chart.
  • They start allotting the figures in House X, the angular house associated with Capricorn, the cardinal sign of Earth.  This would then be the “earthiest” of the angular houses according to its zodiacal association (the logic of which has a number of faults), which would then be seen as most fitting for geomancy, “seeing by earth” and thus an elementally Earth-based form of divination—which is why geomancy is taught in the Zelator 1°=10° grade, itself associated with the element (and planet) Earth on their Hermetic Tree of Life.

I guess they have a logic, even if it’s not one I’d go with.  For one, assigning a natural zodiac sign to the houses has always been a debatable thing, and it’s only in modern times (especially with the rise of the 12-letter alphabet linking signs with houses and planets, which is not exactly a good thing) that we see it so accepted as a default fact.  For two, if any house is particularly earthy, I’d say it’s House IV, not House X, because House IV literally represents earth and land, while House X represents the sky itself.  I see the logic of saying House X is earthy because of Capricorn, but that logic is so shaky compared to the meaning of the houses themselves.  That being said, it is true that the Golden Dawn geomantic process does heavily involve the invocation of the planetary spirits to perform divination, and as celestial entities, perhaps House X might not be a bad choice for that, being closest to House IX.  I guess it’s something, I suppose.

So, with that, we have four house allotment methods: the traditional method, the true Agrippa method, the faux-Agrippa method, and the Golden Dawn method.  Let’s compare them all alongside each other:

Traditional True Agrippa Faux-Agrippa Golden Dawn
First Mother House I House I House I House X
Second Mother House II House X House X House I
Third Mother House III House VII House VII House IV
Fourth Mother House IV House IV House IV House VII
First Daughter House V House II House II House XI
Second Daughter House VI House XI House XI House II
Third Daughter House VII House VIII House VIII House V
Fourth Daughter House VIII House II House II House VIII
First Niece House IX N/A House III House XII
Second Niece House X N/A House XII House III
Third Niece House XI N/A House IX House VI
Fourth Niece House XII N/A House VI House IX
Houses VII + XI N/A House III N/A N/A
Houses II + X N/A House VI N/A N/A
Houses I + V N/A House IX N/A N/A
Houses IV + VIII N/A House XII N/A N/A

Now, with all that done, let’s make a bit of a survey.  Between all the geomancers who have published works under their name or who have published works associated with their name whose books I have access to, who uses what methods? For this, I’m looking at my own library of geomantic works both modern and old, as well as whatever traditional and Renaissance materials I can find on Google Books and Archive.org and other websites, and giving (sometimes approximate) dates of publication or evidence where possible for each author:

  • Traditional
    • Les Cross (2012)
    • Richard Webster (2011)
    • John Michael Greer (c. 2000-2010)
    • Jeanne-Odile Nory de Trebourg (1995)
    • Joël Jacques (1991)
    • Jean-Paul Ronecker (1991)
    • Angele-Marie Cacciaguerra (1989)
    • Henry Drummond Wolff (1908)
    • Abu Hali ben Omar (1704)
    • John Case (1697)
    • Johann Andreas Schmidt (1695)
    • Robert Fludd (1687)
    • John Heydon (1663)
    • Le Sieur de Peruchio (1657)
    • Henri de Pisis (1638)
    • Jean de la Taille de Bondaroy (1574)
    • Christopher Cattan (1558)
    • Pietro d’Abano (c. 1550)
    • Al-Fakini (1535)
  • No distinct House Chart drawn out as such, but interpretations follow the traditional allotment method:
    • Mathilde Sanoda (1993)
    • Gisèle and Gilbert Jausas (1993)
    • Philippe Dubois (1987)
    • Hadji Khamballah (1985)
    • Alain le Kern (1978)
    • Bartholomeo di Roca (Cocles) (1549)
    • Lectura Geomantiae (c. 1400s)
    • Martin of Spain (c. 1310)
  • Agrippa
    • Agrippa (c. 1600)
  • Faux-Agrippa
    • Aaron Leitch? (2006)
    • Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka (1990)
    • Franz Hartmann (1889)
  • Golden Dawn
    • Nick Farrell (2009)
    • Aaron Leitch (2006)
    • Nigel Pennick (1995)
    • Israel Regardie (c. 1937), Chic and Tabitha Cicero (1998), and other Golden Dawn folk
    • Aleister Crowley (c. 1909) and other Thelema folk

Now, I’m not saying that this is an exhaustive survey of every geomantic work written from 1300 onward—I’d love to be so thorough, but I only have access to what I have access to—but I think I’ve made my point clear: it’s not until the late 19th century do we start seeing an angular-based allotment method gaining traction popularly, whether the faux-Agrippa or the Golden Dawn/Thelema methods, and all that’s rather late in the game of geomancy, indeed.  Further outside of Agrippa-influenced or Golden Dawn-influenced modern Western (especially Anglophone) contexts, basically every other geomancer across either all or the vast supermajority of the extant geomantic literature published or written in Europe and everywhere else in the world has always and ever used the traditional straightforward method, from the earliest texts right up into the modern day.  And even then, the traction such angular-based allotment methods do gain is still overwhelmed and overshadowed by the sheer popularity and commonality (and, I argue, the correctness) of geomancers even in our modern era.  However, because of the popularity of the Golden Dawn and Thelema as vehicles for promulgating their (withered and misunderstood) forms of geomancy along with a (perhaps undue) focus on Agrippa’s work as being representative of then-contemporary geomantic practice (which it isn’t), this trend of using angular-based allotment methods persists.

In that 2015 post I referenced at the start of this one, I made the claim that “the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy”, which I still absolutely claim, but I refrained from calling them wrong.  At this point, I’m no longer going to hedge: the angular-based allotment methods (Agrippa, faux-Agrippa, and Golden Dawn) are not mere variations but outright deviations and lapses from normative and standard geomantic practice that has been practiced the world over for close to a millennia.  I understand that some geomancers do use these methods, and their results work; good for them!  After all, magic works best in practice, not always so in theory.  But let’s be clear that what they’re doing is definitely not common practice (nor should it be!) whether as a deliberate choice or out of ignorance.  I’ve seen, both firsthand myself from my own experiments and according to the reports of others who have used angular-based allotment methods before switching to the traditional method, that the angular-based methods just don’t work as well, as clearly, or as cleanly as the traditional method.  I’m not saying you can’t get an answer out of a House Chart that uses an angular-based method, but it’s like trying to travel with a map that’s upside-down, printed backwards, and torn up into chunks; why make this more difficult than it needs to be?  You still can end up where you want to go, but the process is going to be much more difficult and is much more error-prone than otherwise.  This is likely a reason (and let’s be honest, one of many reasons) why so many students of the Golden Dawn get so frustrated with geomancy and why they so often leave it for other forms of divination.

We know from the actual textual evidence that either all or the vast majority of non-European texts as well as the earliest European geomantic texts never historically considered a separate “House Chart” in geomancy; for them, the geomancy chart was just the geomancy chart, full stop.  The distinction between Shield Chart and House Chart only began to arise in Renaissance European texts as a way to make a geomantic chart more astrological-looking for the sake of convenience, whether for applying certain astrologically-influenced techniques easier at a glance or for the sake of being easy on the eyes for astrologers learning geomancy.  But even then, drawing out the House Chart in addition to or instead of the Shield Chart never actually sought to change the fundamental meanings of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart: the First Mother was always talking about the querent, the Second Mother about their wealth, the Fourth Mother their home and inheritance, the First Daughter their children, and so forth.  This understanding of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart, even with the possibility of it being introduced shortly after the original development of geomancy, has been with us for so long that it’s basically fundamental to the practice of geomancy.  It’s only after European texts start drawing out the House Chart that some people—basically just Agrippa, at least until the past 150 years—sought to astrologize geomancy more and more to the point of breaking that identity of the positions of the figures from the Shield Chart and reorganizing those meanings.

In the course of geomancy’s withering over the centuries, with much of the nuance lost from the Court of the Shield Chart and more emphasis placed on the twelve houses of the House Chart, later geomancers who were so far removed from the height of the art (basically the Golden Dawn) ended up making this subjugating of geomancy to (bad) astrology worse by introducing further deviations of their own.  After all, if you forget that the importance of the sixteenth figure of the Sentence, the sum of the Judge and the First Mother, which talks about the effect of the situation as a whole (the Judge) directly on the querent themselves (the First Mother), then what’s to stop you from thinking about the First Mother as anything but the querent?  And if you forget that the Right Witness naturally talks about the querent and their whole side of the situation, and the Left Witness about the quesited and whatever’s facing the querent, then what’s to stop you from thinking of the four Mothers of discussing other things besides the first four houses of the House Chart, a.k.a. the so-called “personal/individual houses”, and the four Daughters as the second four houses, a.k.a. the “interpersonal/relational houses”?  Using the angular-based methods of house allotment breaks all this, and leads to unclear and broken answers arrived at with bad and broken geomancy.  It doesn’t mean you can’t get an answer out of such a chart, but just because a broken clock is right twice a day doesn’t mean the clock is working, either.

As I’ve said before and as I constantly tell to students of geomancy, the House Chart is (and must be!) the same chart as the Shield Chart, with the same figures containing the same meaning and the same message.  This sometimes-common notion of the Shield Chart “contradicting” or “confusing” the House Chart is a modern one, and no pre-modern geomancer ever seemed to really have that problem, because for them, the Shield Chart was inherently the House Chart and vice versa.  The positions of the figures in the Shield Chart have, and have always had, the meanings of the houses as and where they are, and breaking that association of field with their associated house meanings they’ve had for a thousand years to suit an external astrological model of assigning undue importance to some figures over others by apparently misunderstanding what they are is bad geomantic practice.  While I previously considered the different house allotment methods to be like different house systems used in astrology (e.g. Placidus, Porphyry, Regiomontanus, whole sign, etc.), the more I think about it, the more I think that comparison doesn’t hold; as opposed to reasonable ways to reckon where the boundaries of houses fall in an astrological horoscope, what we see here with these deviant (not just variant) house allotment systems is far worse and more damaging to the art of geomancy than quibbling over trigonometrical best practices, and more like trying to mistakenly use a thirteen-sign sidereal zodiac in Hellenistic astrology, because the IAU obviously knows what they’re talking about when it comes to astrology.

Before I’m decried as trying to stifle the innovation and expansion of geomancy into better and more expansive forms, let me be clear: there are absolutely ways to innovate, invent, expand, and develop this art without breaking the fundamental logic and practices that have been around since the very beginnings of the art.  Yet, the use of these deviant house allotment systems definitely breaks that logic and goes against these fundamental practices and associations we’ve had since the start.  To that end, I do not and cannot recommend the use of other house allotment methods besides the traditional, because the traditional method is literally already baked into the Shield Chart: the Houses already are the Fields and vice versa, and the House Chart already is the Shield Chart and vice versa.  The traditional house allotment method isn’t just the best one to use out of several—it’s really the only logical and sensible one to use.

Happy 800th post!  We made it!  Now go forth, and do better and more well-informed geomancy.

Upcoming appearance on the Coffee & Divination podcast!

Just a quick little thing: there’s a new podcast being started up soon, and yours truly is the guest on the inaugural episode!  I bring you the Coffee & Divination podcast:

Coffee & Divination started three summers ago, during North Wyldewood Coven’s annual retreat. As we relaxed in the sunshine with our coffee and tea, we brought our cards and runes out to the table, and started reading for one another.  As time passed, we’ve kept up the tradition in person and online, and now we’re inviting you to join us!

Divination is the art of obtaining knowledge through hidden means, and has been a part of civilizations around the world – likely for tens of thousands of years.  Divination can help us understand situations, answer questions (mundane or spiritual!) and give us insight on the threads that weave our lives together. While our world undergoes this time of upheaval, studying and practicing the arts of divination can help us navigate and plan for the roads ahead.

Each month, host JoAnna Farrer (Assistant HPS of the North Wyldewood Coven, in the Temple of the Spiral Path) will interview a different expert on divination, ranging from Geomancy, Tarot, Astrology, Oracles, Runes, and more, and we want you to be a part of the show! All podcast interviews will take place LIVE on Zoom, so you can listen in, and submit questions for our guest experts.​

I’ll be invited to talk about geomancy specifically and divination in a world that’s a bit crazier than many of us might be used to, so keep an eye out!  The podcast will be held live (in a webinar-type format) at 6pm EDT (UTC-0400) this Saturday, April 25 on Zoom, which you’ll need to register for in order to listen live, submit questions, and join the chat.  Note that attendance is limited, so please only register is you actually plan and are able to join.  Here’s hoping to see you there, and here’s hoping you subscribe to Coffee & Divination for more podcasts on divination over coffee!

UPDATE (2020-05-16): Sorry I let this slide so long! The episode is up and can be accessed here on Vimeo! Also be sure to visit the podcast’s website above and subscribe to them using whatever podcast organizer you enjoy most!

The Geomancer’s Cross: The Motions and the Prayer

Alright, so, last time, we talked about my own take on the Qabbalistic Cross, the Geomancer’s Cross, a simple energy work and centering ritual.  Instead of envisioning the Etz Chayyim (Tree of Life) laid over the body, we simply conceive of four of the sixteen geomantic energy centers as defining a vertical axis (from Laetitia at the head down to Tristitia at the groin) and a horizontal axis (from Puer at the right shoulder to Puella at the left shoulder), meeting with Coniunctio at the ribcage with a third depthwise axis passing through to represent the Sun and Moon.  This has the benefit of reflecting both all four elements as well as all seven planets at the same time, and is done virtually identically to the Qabbalistic Cross so many already know, but with a radically different set of background rules and ideas.  What we left untouched last time, however, was the actual ritual itself.

Now that we have a foundation for the structure and theory of a Geomancer’s Cross ritual, let’s move on to actual implementation of the ritual.  So we have our four points of the body plus the intersection point that brings them all together.  Following the practice from the Golden Dawn for this ritual, what we’d do is something like the following.  Assume for now that we have a set of six things to intone; what those are we’ll discuss in a bit, just for now assume we have them.

  1. Touch the forehead.  Visualize a sphere of light at the head.  Intone the first intonation.
  2. Touch the groin (or the solar plexus if this is not possible).  Visualize a sphere of light in the groin, with a beam of light connecting it to the sphere at the head.  Intone the second intonation.
  3. Touch the right shoulder.  Visualize a sphere of light at the right shoulder.  Intone the third intonation.
  4. Touch the left shoulder.  Visualize a sphere of light at the left shoulder, with a beam of light connecting it to the sphere at the right shoulder.  Intone the fourth intonation.
  5. Press both palms together upright at the sternum.  Visualize an infinitesimally small but infinitely bright point at the intersection of the two beams of light in the body, joining them both together.  Intone the fifth intonation.
  6. Open the hands and arms out forward and to the sides in a sweeping motion.  Visualize three beams of light emanating from that intersection point: an infinite vertical one passing through both the head and the groin, an infinite horizontal one passing through both the right shoulder and left shoulder, and an infinite beam passing through the chest forward and backward.  Intone the sixth intonation.

And that’s it.  Well, mostly; that’s it for the actual motions and visualizations.  What about a prayer, intonation, or incantation for accompanying them, much like those other rituals we mentioned earlier?  We could take a hint from the Golden Dawn practice of using the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer (which the Golden Dawn version is a greatly pared-down variant that doesn’t actually match Christian religious practice, but which I’m sure they have their reasons for phrasing it the way they do).  In this light, though, there’s no need to bind ourselves to just using (badly-spoken, badly-understood) Hebrew, so why not give ourselves some options?

Head Groin Right Shoulder Left Shoulder Sternum Close
English Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever amen
Greek Σοῦ ἐστιν
Soû estin
ἡ βασιλεία
hē basileía
καὶ ἡ δύναμις
kaì hē dúnamis
καὶ ἡ δόξα
kaì hē dóksa
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας
eis toùs aiônas
ἀμήν
amḗn
Hebrew
(Golden Dawn)
אתה
Ateh
מלכות
malkut
וגבורה
ve-gevurah
וגדולה
ve-gedulah
לעולם
le-olam
אמן
amen
Hebrew
(Bible)
לך
Lekha
הממךכה
ha-mamlakha
והגברה
ve-ha-gevurah
והתפארת
ve-ha-tiferet
לעולמי עולמים
le-olemei olamim
אמן
amen
Arabic لَكَ
Laka
الملك
al-mulka
والقوة
wa-al-quwwaha
والمجد
wa-al-majda
إلى الأبد
‘ilā al-‘anadi
آمين
‘āmīn
Coptic
(Sahidic)
ⲦⲰⲔ ⲦⲈ
Tōk te
ⲦⲘⲚⲦⲈⲢⲞ
təməntero*
ⲘⲚ ⲦϬⲞⲘ
mən təcom†
ⲘⲚ ⲠⲈⲞⲞⲨ
mən peow
ϢⲀ ⲚⲒⲈⲚⲈϨ
ša nieneh
ϨⲀⲘⲎⲚ
hamēn
Coptic
(Bohairic)
ⲐⲰⲔ ⲦⲈ
Thōk te
ϮⲘⲈⲦⲞⲨⲢⲞ
timetouro
ⲚⲈⲘ ϮϪⲞⲘ
nem tijom‡
ⲚⲈⲘ ⲠⲒⲰⲞⲨ
nem piōw
ϢⲀ ⲈⲚⲈϨ
ša eneh
ⲀⲘⲎⲚ
amēn

* This word is not actually used in the Sahidic version of the prayer, but I included it here anyway for completeness.  I hope I got the grammar right.
† In Coptic, “c” (Ϭ) is pronounced like “ky” as in “acute” (ah-kyoot), so this word is pronounced “teh-kyohm”.
‡ In Coptic, “j” (Ϫ) is pronounced like a soft English “g” as in “giraffe”, so this word (related to təcom) is pronounced “tee-jjohm”.

What’s nice about the above formula using the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer is that there’s a loose association between what you’re saying and the general notion of what you’re connecting it to: God with Laetitia and the head, the Kingdom of the Cosmos with Tristitia and the groin as the lowest part of the center of the body, power (and thus severity) with Puer and the right (sword) arm, glory (and thus mercy) with Puer and the left (shield) arm, and eternity with Coniunctio with the heart.  To me, this is why the doxology is used in the Golden Dawn and related systems of magic.

Still, I’m sure there are other formulas one could use for such an end, too, so long as it’s a set of five words/phrases (to which are appended some variant of “amen”), or six words/phrases (no “amen”).  The Ephesia Grammata are a candidate (ΑΣΚΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΙΟΝ ΛΙΞ ΤΕΤΡΑΞ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ ΑΙΣΙΟΝ or some variant thereof); for PGM-inspired methods, the six names of the Headless Rite (PGM V.96ff, “ΑΩΘ ΑΒΑΩΘ ΒΑΣΥΜ ΙΣΑΚ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΙΑΩ”) or Sublunar Space’s proposed Abrasax-stone version (ΧΑΒΡΑΧ ΦΝΕΣΧΗΡ ΦΙΧΡΟ ΧΝΥΡΩ ΦΩΧΩ ΒΩΧ), or the names of the six solar guardians of my own system (ΕΡΒΗΘ ΛΕΡΘΕΞΑΝΑΞ ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ ΣΕΣΕΓΓΕΝΒΑΡΦΑΡΑΓΓΗΣ ΑΡΚΡΑΜΜΑΧΑΜΑΡΕΙ ΔΑΜΝΑΜΕΝΕΥΣ) are also possibilities.  The issue with this is finding some meaningful link between that which you’re saying and that which you’re doing—and I don’t see much along these lines here.

Likewise, I know we did just go over all those posts about the Perfect Nature and how to contact it from the Picatrix, with its pleasingly fourfold name of “Meegius Betzahuech Vacdez Nufeneguediz” (or “Tamāġīs Baġdīswād Waġdās Nūfānāġādīs” to use a more accurate Arabic transliteration).  We could say one at a time for each of the four points around the body, then all four together at once at the center, followed up by something like “Be with me, o Perfect Nature” (which would be, if I got the Arabic right, كن معي يا طباع اتام kun ma`ī, yā ṭibā` at-tāmm); this could be seen to work since these four names/powers do have elemental associations.  The problem with this, however, is that we already linked these four names to the four parts of the body and to the four elements—and it’s a rather different system that doesn’t match with what we’re trying to do.  In that system, we linked Fire (Vacdez/Waġdās) with the head, which matches up with the sphere of Laetitia and Air (Meegius/Tamāġīs) with the right side, but the other two names don’t match up with the element and body part that we’re looking at here (e.g. Betzahuech/Baġdīswād is given to Earth but to the left side and not to the legs as we’d need it here, and Nufeneguediz/Nūfānāġādīs to Water but to the legs and not to the left side as we’d need it here).  Either the elemental associations or the body part associations would need to change to get the two systems to play nicely, and granted that our associations of elements and body parts to the four powers/names of Perfect Nature is largely conjectural, it’s not something I’m comfortable doing as yet given how neatly the system works in its own context.

And that’s really the crux of it here: I’m not really familiar with any specific set of geomantic prayers or words of power that specifically match up with this system.  (I mean, to an extent, this doesn’t surprise me, since I really have been developing much of this as a unique system more or less independently.)  It really might be best to not look anywhere else but to geomancy itself to come up with a set of things to pray for this ritual, but—barring alchemical or Arabic methods that are presently unknown to me—I don’t know what within the system is readily available for its use.  It’s not like geomancy has much of a cosmology or mythology of its own beyond a simple origin story which may or may not have been based on a potential pre-Islamic Arabian form of augury, and that doesn’t give us a lot to work with.  We really do need to come up with something more or less from scratch, unless we just want to reuse the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly effective and workable, but there might be something more independent and geomantically-appropriate we might be able to use instead.

One thing that arises to me are the use of my own set of geomantic epodes, particular seed syllables or vowel strings that I’ve associated with the figures before, and also within the context of magic and energy work.  For us, what that might look like could be “BI HA ZI DI ZĒ” (for Laetitia, Tristitia, Puer, Puella, and Coniunctio, respectively) followed by…I’m not sure, or we could use the vowel string forms of “OIEA IEAŌ OUEŌ OEĒA IUĒA” (again for the same figures in the same order), again followed by I’m-not-sure-what.  I’m not exactly thrilled by either of these options, to be honest.  I suppose they could work, but these epodes were constructed focusing on the elemental assignments and structures of the figures without regard for their planetary associations, and I dislike the heavy imbalance of the use of vowels in these epodes here.

Let’s consider taking a different track.  Rather than intoning some word of power, a brief prayer or invocation might do us better, written with one line per action (touch head, touch groin, touch right shoulder, touch left shoulder, touch heart/sternum, open hands and arms away).  This would rely more on the symbolism of the figures and, more broadly, the symbolism of what we’re trying to come up with.  Personally, I’d avoid anything too overtly elemental or planetary for such a purpose, as it might be hard to correlate that explicitly with such a ritual in prayer form—but I also won’t hesitate to say that it feels a bit gauche to me, as well.  I’d rather have something a little more poetic and flowing than a mere technical blast of intent, but that’s just me.  To that end, I gave it some thought, and can offer something along these lines for use with the six motions of the Geomancer’s Cross.  It’s not much, but it does work.

From the Rupture of Blazing Heaven!
To the Womb of Fertile Abyss!
By the Power of Fiercest Wildness!
With the Grace of Purest Mildness!
I join together the Forces of the All,
and join myself to the Lights of the All!

Six simple statements, one for each motion, each symbolic of what it is you’re trying to connect to or accomplish.  It’s elegant, at least to an extent, I suppose.  We connect to the powers above the Earth through Laetitia (with echoes of Cauda Draconis) and below the Earth through Tristitia (with echoes of Caput Draconis), followed by connecting to the severe external strength that destroys of Puer (with echoes of Rubeus) and the merciful internal strength that preserves of Puella (with echoes of Albus).  All these, representing the four elements and the four major planets and thus all the distinct powers of the world, are joined together at the elemental and planetary crossroads of Coniunctio within the self, and with all these powers of the cosmos connected together, we can then connect ourselves to the cosmos themselves through the lights of the Sun and the Moon.  That being said, it is something of a…wordy invocation for something that should be otherwise relatively simple, and that kinda makes the flow a little harsh and uneven.  So perhaps this could be cut down a notch:

From Blazing Rupture,
To Darkest Womb,
By Fiercest Power,
With Purest Grace!
Join within,
join me to the All!

As in so much else, simplicity is the highest form of elegance.  I’m sure there are other things one could write or devise, and as I begin to apply this, I’m sure I’ll stumble upon some variation of this that would work better—though, admittedly, the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer is always a tried-and-true one that, despite its Christian and Abrahamic origins, are pretty generic on their own and usable for this and many other things.  Until then, this is a useful form of energy work within a geomantic framework that I’ll keep incorporated into my own daily practice, and might recommend others to do the same, especially if they want to expand their own geomantic practices beyond simple divination.

The Geomancer’s Cross: The Framework Behind the Ritual

By my own admission, I don’t do a lot of energy work nowadays.  I used to in earlier forms of my daily practices, and I definitely engage in warm-up works and preparation before major rituals, but as part of my daily practice nowadays, I don’t do a lot.  Mostly it’s because of time, having to prioritize meditation and prayer before energy work; I would love to do more, but I can only get up so early in the morning before becoming non-functional for the rest of the day.  Still, this isn’t to say that I don’t do any energy work; I fold it into my prayers in a subtle way through vowel intonation, visualization, and some simple gestures that keep things flowing for me.

The way my daily practice is arranged basically goes like this:

  1. Wake up (hopefully after pressing snooze only once).
  2. Take a shower with prayers as part of my daily full ablution.
  3. Salute my ancestors and orisha.
  4. Do some light stretches.
  5. Anoint myself with holy oil.
  6. Meditate for 20 minutes (30 if I’m working from home or not working at all that day).
  7. Prayers (usually for 20 minutes if I have to go to the office, usually 30 or more if I’m working from home or not working at all that day).

During my prayers, based on how I’ve become accustomed to doing them, there’s a natural break that sorta separates the first part from the second part, each part having its own format and process.  The first part is centered on devotions to God and Divinity, while the second part is more geomantic and spiritual in general, and that’s where I weave in my light energy work.

Although I don’t really do Golden Dawn magic, there are some techniques and technology from Golden Dawn practices that I have adopted in my own way.  One of these is the famous Qabbalistic Cross ritual, a simple and short ritual that both energetically balances and cosmically centers the practitioner.  There’s much written about this short ritual, and in addition to being one of the very first ritual acts that initiates in the Golden Dawn learn, it’s also often used as part of the overall ritual process for any number of other Golden Dawn rituals.  Although I don’t have a reference ready, I recall John Michael Greer saying that this is the one ritual that basically provides the foundation for all Golden Dawn work, and while most Golden Dawn tech can be hotswapped to use Celtic, Nordic, Hellenic, Roman, or other pantheon-specific powers and aesthetics instead of Egyptian ones simply by changing names around, it’s the Qabbalistic Cross that needs to be truly replaced and reworked in order to have everything else flow from there, using the other tech more-or-less the same.  For instance, in this January 2018 post of his on his Towards Ecosophy blog, he gives an outright replacement called the “Circle of Presence” to replace the Qabbalistic Cross.  In this way, he’s made a Celtic Golden Dawn using “The Rite of the Rays”, a Heathen Golden Dawn using The Hammer Sign, and other such variants.

The point here I’m making is that the Qabbalistic Cross is an important ritual, but it’s not the be-all end-all of centering or balancing works.  I myself like using it for its centering purposes, though I don’t use the Golden Dawn “Atah Malkuth ve-Geburah…” chant for it; rather, I’ve been using the Greek form of the doxology from the Lord’s Prayer (Σοῦ ἐστιν / ἡ βασιλεία / καὶ ἡ δύναμις / καὶ ἡ δόξα / εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας / ἀμήν, Soû estin / hē basileía / kaì hē dúnamis / kaì hē dóksa / eis toùs aiônas / amḗn) to relatively good effect.  It’s simple, short, and sweet, and I find the Greek easier to intone than anything else.  I don’t do a lot of visualization involving colors that the Golden Dawn does for the proper version of the Qabbalistic Cross, but then, I’m not a Golden Dawn magician.  I just find this tech useful.

But I was thinking: since I use my little version of the Qabbalistic Cross shortly before my Prayer of the Geomancers (available in my Secreti Geomantici ebook, for those who are interested), into which I’ve incorporated elemental and geomantic visualizations as it is, and since the Qabbalistic Cross can be adapted or reworked into other things that are at least as good for my own practice, especially since I’m not a Golden Dawn magician myself, why not come up with my own take on the Qabbalistic Cross properly?  Why not come up with a Geomancer’s Cross ritual, a kind of geomantic centering that’s easy and quick to do, familiar to most in modern Western occulture?

And here we are.  Just to be clear: I’m not trying to come up with an exact replacement for the Golden Dawn’s Qabbalistic Cross ritual, but rather a similar ritual that does similar things along geomantic lines that anyone can use for centering and balancing, and if we can get the extra benefit of making this an elemental or planetary thing as well, all the better.

To start with, let’s review our “Geomantic Adam”, a diagram from MS Arabe 2631 from the Bibliothèque nationale de France that we’ve brought up before in our talks about the physical and subtle body according to geomancy along with some explorations into geomantic energy work:

(I really need to redo the edits of this photo to make it properly cleaned up to avoid the grotesquely obvious erasure marks.)

The image of the diagram is to be understood as the person facing away from the viewer; thus, Puer is the right shoulder and Puella the left, Acquisitio the right hand and Amissio the left, Fortuna Minor the right leg and Fortuna Maior the left, and so forth.  There’s more to be said about the logic behind why certain figures are given to different parts of the body along with some tweaks and corrections to my earlier attempts to understand this diagram, to be sure, but we can leave that aside for now and focus on the four main parts of the body relevant to the present ritual: the head given to Laetitia, the groin given to Tristitia, the right shoulder given to Puer, and the left shoulder given to Puella.

Note the planetary makeup of these four parts, along with the elemental rulership of each figure:

  • Head­ — Laetitia — Jupiter — Fire
  • Groin — Tristitia — Saturn — Earth
  • Right shoulder — Puer — Mars — Air
  • Left shoulder — Puella — Venus — Water

Each of these points belongs to a different element, with Fire naturally being at the highest point of the body and Earth at the lowest, and with the moist elements on the same level but on different sides.  Also note how, on the vertical axis of the body, we have the two “greater” planets, greater in the sense of being the greater benefic (Jupiter) and greater malefic (Saturn), while on the horizontal axis, we have the two “lesser” planets, the lesser benefic (Venus) and the lesser malefic (Mars).  This is a pretty neat scheme for energy work, but we’re not done yet.  The two axes meet up in the torso, which can be thought of as belonging to one of four figures:

  • Back ­— Populus — Moon
  • Chest — Carcer — Saturn
  • Ribcage and sternum — Coniunctio — Mercury
  • Upper belly and solar plexus — Albus — Mercury

The back is too big an area for a single point of contact, so we can throw out Populus/Moon for this.  While Carcer makes sense, since the two axes really do line up over the chest, note that Carcer is ruled by Saturn, and Saturn is already represented by Tristitia at the groin.  This leaves us with Coniunctio or Albus as the remaining intersection figure, and Coniunctio seems to be much more apt for this in both placement and in symbolism of such a thing.  With Coniunctio, then, representing the intersection of the vertical and horizontal axes of the body, and with Coniunctio ruled by the planet Mercury, this gives us all five non-luminary planets represented by these five points total:

  • Head­ — Laetitia — Jupiter
  • Groin — Tristitia — Saturn
  • Right shoulder — Puer — Mars
  • Left shoulder — Puella — Venus
  • Sternum — Coniunctio — Mercury

This is actually a really nifty arrangement.  This only leaves two planets out of the mix, the Sun and the Moon itself.  The solar figures of Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor are given to the legs (specifically the thighs and upper legs), while the lunar figures of Populus and Via are given to the back and belly, respectively.  Looking at the Geomantic Adam diagram above, we can see certain patterns about how certain figures are given to different parts of the body:

  • Figures with one active point (Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, Tristitia) are given to the center axis of the body from head to groin, representing the four parts of the body as they would the four parts of a geomantic figure (the head row, the neck/arms row, the belly row, and the legs/feet row).
  • Axial figures (non-directional, viz. Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio) are given to the parts of the body that are also on the central axis of the body, e.g. the various parts of the torso (back, chest, ribs, belly).
  • Non-axial figures with more than one active point (Puer, Puella, Acquisitio, Amissio, Fortuna Minor, Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Cauda Draconis) are given to the various parts of the body that are on the right or the left, all distal from the torso without being on it.

How might we include the Sun and Moon into our Geomancer’s Cross ritual?  Well, it wouldn’t be directly according to how we’re incorporating the five non-luminary planets.  There are three ways I can conceive of this:

  1. If the Sun and Moon form an axis of their own, then it wouldn’t be on a the vertical axis (Jupiter and Saturn) or the horizontal axis (Mars and Venus), but on the depth axis of fore and aft, with the Sun being before and the Moon being behind.  Consider that Populus is given to the whole of the back, the only figure on the “rear” of the body, which naturally puts the Sun before; connecting them gives a third dimension to the body, with different polarities of planets at each end or on each side of the body, leaving ever-mercurial Mercury as the true center of all things.
  2. The Sun and Moon could each represent one of the two main axes of the body.  Knowing that the figures of the Moon are both axial figures, this would indicate that the Moon would “own” the vertical axis of the body (where are aligned all the axial figures, as well as the single-active-point pure-elemental figures), while the Sun, with its non-axial figures, would “own” the horizontal axis of the body.
  3. Note that the figure Coniunctio = Puer + Puella (the two figures of the horizontal axis) while Carcer = Laetitia + Tristitia (the two figures of the vertical axis).  While we know that Coniunctio is our preferred understanding for the intersection of the two axes of the body, we do have to admit that the right and left shoulders are much more connected (by means of the ribcage and generally being in alignment with each other) than the head and groin are; the two planets of the vertical axis would remain separate (Carcer) without the planets of the horizontal axis stepping in to bridge the gap (Coniunctio).  Also note that Coniunctio + Carcer = Via, the geomantic Whole, the true combination of all powers in one.  In this light, by adding together the figures of Laetitia, Tristitia, Puer, and Puella, we get Via, a whole of the body, meaning that the body and all its parts are fundamentally ruled by the Moon.  In this light, where is the Sun?  The Sun would be the power that flows into and through the body to animate it, being the active principle of Spirit to the Moon’s passive principle of Matter.

I personally favor explanation #1 the most, but #3 also gives some really useful food for thought, as well.  I suppose any of these would work, but beyond that, the luminaries (and, for that matter, the nodes) don’t really play a substantial part in this present discussion.  What we do have, however, is already looking great—and already seems far more balanced in the use of all five non-luminary planets rather than the Golden Dawn approach of Heaven and Earth, Mars and Jupiter, and the Sun.

Also, there’s another nifty thing I want to note here about the relationship of the figures involved here.  We can see that all four seven-pointed figures—the pure elemental ones of Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia—are on the direct center meridian of the body, while all the five pointed figures—Puer, Puella, Caput Draconis, and Cauda Draconis—are all tied to the lateral extremities (upper arms/shoulders for the first two, the feet for the last two).  We know that Puer and Puella convert (remember your geomantic operations!) into Rubeus and Albus, respectively, linking the right and left shoulders, arms, hands to the center of the body—or, seen another way, linking the horizontal upper axis of the body to the center midline.  Likewise, we know that Laetitia and Tristitia convert into Cauda Draconis and Caput Draconis, linking the center vertical line of the body from the head through the groin all the way down to the feet, on the left and the right respectively.  It’s interesting to see the reflection of figures here through the use of conversion, which preserves the element of odd figures, and that all eight odd figures can be thought of as involved in this body structure of elements and planets.

So, that’s the framework and foundation for the ritual.  It’s an interesting extrapolation from our Geomantic Adam diagram, and allows us to come up with a way to ritually center and energetically prepare ourselves for Work in a way that’s both planetary and elemental at the same time, while using the symbolism and technology of geomantic figures.  As for what the ritual itself actually is, we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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.