Another System of Elemental Affinities for the Geomantic Figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Mistakes in Divination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How would you like an online geomancy class taught by yours truly?

No, I haven’t forgotten my blog; it’s just that it’s only this past week that my yearly Hell Season has finally come to an end. Between three long road-trips up and down the East Coast, several birthdays (including my own!), several Lukumí initiation anniversaries (including my own!), my wedding anniversary, and at least a half-dozen feast days in various traditions, this has been a super-busy summer, guys, and made all the better by getting to meet so many of you in person. (Here’s hoping that trend continues!) Now that it’s done with, I’m finally able to get settled back into the routine of things, and also resting and relaxing.

Besides travel, ritual, ceremony, and being pleasantly-yet-uncommonly social, I’ve also been busy with writing, though more for books than posts. Not only did my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts earlier this year take more out of me than I expected, but since then, I’ve also been working obsessively on researching the history and practice of domino fortune-telling, and writing a book on the same; this isn’t just the most complete treatment of the subject ever written in English, but it’s also a project and topic that I completely didn’t expect to ever tackle, yet which is already nearing completion (and publication). However, now that that’s winding down, I’ve also been getting back to working more on my geomancy textbook, Principia Geomantica. It’s still a work in progress, and I’ve been doing more research and refining to it to get it to where I’m personally satisfied with it, including review of some techniques I thought were useful and showed some promise but which didn’t really play out as well as I had hoped. Much of this research also includes translating more Latin from Renaissance-era texts like Robert Fludd and Henri de Pisis (and you can find plenty of the original sources in this post listing digitized historical geomancy texts), but also from modern 20th century French works on geomancy, which offer even more insight and advice. (I also have some neat stuff to say about that body of literature, not least of which is that they advanced many of the same innovations I myself have come up with independently, along with some rather peculiar thoughts all of their own that don’t seem to be found in any other geomantic tradition I’m familiar with.)

In the meantime, however, I think I’d like to try my hand at offering online geomancy classes; after all, not everyone enjoys or is able to learn from a textbook, and I think this might be a useful thing for many of us. Not to step on the toes of the good Dr. Cummins with his wonderful geomancy classes over at Wolf & Goat, which I myself have taken and can definitely recommend, but I’d also like to offer my own training and teaching for those interested in the divinatory art of geomancy. I’d like to present as comprehensive a course on geomancy as I can manage, covering all the bases in a steady progression, just as my (eventual) geomancy textbook would cover. However, there are different ways to offer such a class, and I’ve been mulling over what might be best received by the online occult community. To that end, let me know your thoughts in this poll (but only after finishing reading the rest of this post first:

(If you’re viewing this post in an RSS reader or in a really old or badly-coded web browser, the embedded poll above might not show up. If that’s the case, please use this direct link to the poll.)

How would each of these three options play out, you might ask?

  • The online live classes would be held over Zoom in a group of no more than 20 people. These would be held weekly on a set schedule. Recordings would be made, but only for people who miss a class due to schedule conflicts, and not for public dissemination. I would plan for multiple iterations of the online classes, with one or two cycles offered every year, so if you don’t get into one, you could wait a few months to get into the next. You’d pay once to reserve your seat in the class, and that payment would be a lump sum for the entire cycle. I’d be able to get this set up and established pretty quickly, once I have my idea for a curriculum and plan for teaching, so if I can get my thoughts sorted out well enough, it could be held as early as spring 2020.
  • The pre-recorded videos would be, well, just that: recordings of voice augmented by visual demonstrations, either drawn out on a whiteboard or digitally with slides and images. These would be recorded once and, after paying a set fee for the bundle, you’d be given access to download them within a set timeframe, and you would watch/listen to them at your own pace. I’m not sure whether the videos would be best broken up by hour/hour-and-a-half chunks and fitting in whatever topics can be spoken about in such a time per video, or broken up by individual topic of variable duration. Except in egregious cases of error or omission, the videos would not be updated or added to. This would take a bit longer to set up than the online classes, and I’d probably be able to deliver the set by summer 2020.
  • The slides or textpages, likewise, are self-explanatory, something along the lines of boring online training for one’s job or in the method of Quareia. You’d pay to get access to it, and you would work through it at your own pace, perhaps stopped by regular knowledge-checks or quizzes to make sure you understood the material enough to proceed. In many ways, this would be a sort of “textbook lite”. This would probably take the longest time to deliver, pending other writing projects, and could be finished as early as autumn 2020.

My personal guess, based on preliminary results from Twitter, is that the pre-recorded videos would be the most preferred and that the slides/textpages would be least preferred. While I like the idea of online live classes, I think pre-recorded videos makes the most sense, but I’d like to see what the potential students themselves would like.

In all cases, however, I’d start some sort of searchable forum (perhaps a Facebook group or subreddit, just to make it easy?) for students to join, ask questions, post charts, and get feedback on. I’d also set up some sort of “final exam” for those overachievers who would want to prove their capabilities to me in exchange for a polyphanic certification of having learned and understood geomancy according to my standard of approval (and, hopefully, exceeding it). If I offer future classes on geomancy that go well above and beyond the already-comprehensive course of study I’m thinking about for geomantic divination, such as on niche topics within geomancy or geomantic magic, I’d insist that you first complete this course and pass the final exam as a prerequisite.

For a price point, I’m not yet decided; I’d need to think about that more after I actually come up with the material to see how it all breaks down into classes, topics, and expected durations, but the price point would probably be in the range of US$300 to US$600. The total cost here would include the classes themselves, as well as permanent access to the student forum, review of tests, providing of certificates, individual answering of questions, review of charts, and the like. Payments would be made through PayPal, as with my current services and ebooks offered directly through my website. I’m also considering, once I actually finish and publish Principia Geomantica, to throw in a half-off coupon for buying that book, but that’ll be down the road, so even if the price point seems high, I’ll try to make it worth every penny.

I’ll have this poll running for two weeks, so be sure to get your vote in no later than 11:59 pm Eastern US time, November 2, 2019. Also be sure to spread this post to all your geomantically-inclined friends, whether by link or Facebook or Twitter, so I can get as good a summary of potential students’ preferences as possible! Not only will I be using this poll to figure out which delivery method is most preferred, I’ll also be using it as a gauge of interest, both for online classes generally (geomantic and otherwise) as well as to see what delivery method might logistically be most feasible given how many people want to take it. Once the poll closes and I get a good handle of the results, I plan on setting another poll in November to ascertain what people’s existing geomantic skills are, where they feel they’re lacking, and what they’d be most interested in learning and focusing on. So, if you’re interested in a potentially-polyphanic online course of geomancy, stay tuned for giving more feedback!

Time to head to the Salem Summer Symposium!

Well, almost, at least.  I have a few more days to wrap things up at home before I make the drive up to New England.

But things are officially getting started tomorrow up in Salem, Massachusetts for the Salem Summer Symposium, a week-long festival for the exploration, celebration, and acceptance of magical and occult education, commerce, community, and activism held throughout the city.  The event is founded and organized by Jacqui Allouise-Roberge of the Cauldron Black, Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum, and Justice the Wizard of Just This Wizard, and is their first major event of this type.  And I get to present and do readings there!

The SSS formally begins tomorrow on Saturday, August 3 with a number of shows, events, and other parties going on for the next few days, but the conference and presentation parts of the SSS begin on Thursday, August 8.   I’ll be presenting at two talks, both next week on Friday, August 9:

  • Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour (1pm to 3pm), along with my colleague and good friend, the good Dr. Alexander Cummins.  Come on down for a two-hour introductory crash course in the wonderful divinatory art of geomancy! A thousand-year-old system of divination that started in the sands of old Arabia and the Sahara, this system of divination left a lasting impact on Western occulture and spiritual practices for hundreds of years. Undergoing a modern renaissance of its own, join Mr. Block and Dr. Cummins to learn about this system and to get answers to all your questions about the art for divination, magic, and all other spiritual concerns you might have!
  • Geomantic Divination and Theurgy (4pm to 6pm).  The divinatory art of geomancy is old, but for most of its history in the Western occult world, its practice was limited almost exclusively to divination—but there’s no reason why that should always be the case. In this lecture, geomancer extraordinaire Sam Block will talk not only about the divinatory aspect of geomancy for understanding the workings of the world but also how one might use the art of geomancy and its sixteen geomantic figures as foundations for building a spiritual practice of enlightenment of the soul and elevation of the spirit through prayers, rituals, and meditation.

In addition to these two talks, I’ll also be doing readings and consultations all day Saturday, August 10, generously hosted by the Cauldron Black, for anyone who would want them, whether by geomancy, grammatomancy, or my other preferred means.

But don’t just come up to see me!  There are also wonderful talks by Dr. Cummins on his own, including his own talk on geomantic magic (Saturday, August 10 at 10am to 12pm), and a whole slew of other luminaries and dignities besides on so many amazing and wonderful topics.  You can find the whole schedule of events on the SSS website here.  And don’t forget the movie screenings, welcome dinner, pub crawl, and other events going on!

If you haven’t yet, be sure to register soon and get your tickets before it’s too late!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact the SSS folk over on their website.

And, of course, I’ll be in Salem for myself and to meet up with good people, both old friends and new acquaintances besides, so here’s hoping for a wonderful trip for us all!

I just need to, yanno, get my bags packed, and also actually finish writing my presentation notes, so…I should get back to it.  In the meantime, we’ll go quiet on this blog for a bit while I’m out and about traveling and talking.  See you all soon!

The Attainment of Adam

Now that we’re done with our DSIC discussion (which you can access easily by going to the recap post at this link or searching through the blog with the tag reviewing the trithemian conjuration), let’s move on to other topics once again.

Not all the PDFs I make for my occult and spirituality stuff go up for sale; sometimes I just like fiddling around in LaTeX (which is my preferred way for formally typesetting documents, whether it’s an ebook, a book-book, or a letter), especially if I’m trying to get something out onto paper for a more formal use than otherwise.  I’ve made personal-use ebooks for things like Orphic Hymns, Homeric Hymns, divination oracles for grammatomancy and astragalomancy, and the like before for my temple; I have no intent on publishing them, but there’s a quiet enjoyment I take in this sort of typesetting, even if only I see the results of it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on restructuring my own Hermetic practice in a way that uses a sort of geomantic devotional approach as its main vehicle for work, which largely resulted as a product of mulling over what geomantic holy days would look like, then again into a more simplified and regular “wheel of the year” kind of form.  Since then, I’ve been working on putting together another ebook—again, one I don’t intend on putting out publicly, at least not yet, and not anytime soon.  This ebook is essentially my new vademecum, my new enchiridion, my new prayerbook consisting of prayers, orisons, litanies, prayer bead rules (like those misbaḥa prayers I’ve mentioned), rituals, consecrations, and the like.  It’s currently sitting at 226 pages, all told; since it’s still in flux, from the specific wording and phrasing of prayers to the processes and procedures used for a variety of rituals I’ve been working on that all form together to make a complete system (one of the reasons I’ve been working on those DSIC posts!), I haven’t actually printed it out yet, but just keeping it as a PDF on my phone.  I’m really pleased with how it’s been turning out and coming together, as well as my practices generally.

But there’s one sticking point I haven’t been able to resolve.  I’ve been able to either outright write fresh, compile, pilfer, adapt, or otherwise reuse many prayers in this new prayer book of mine for so many purposes: general prayers to God, to the ancestors, to the angels, for specific dates or times or needs, for the figures and planets, for this and that…but there’s been one group of entities for whom I haven’t been able to come up with pretty much damn near anything, and that’s the prophets themselves: Adam, Enoch, Hermēs Trismegistus, and Daniel.  I just can’t seem to put anything to paper for them, for prayers or praises or invocations or rituals, unlike the abundance of the same I have for the angels or the blessed dead or this or that or the other.  Ironic, then, that the very four entities, these progenitors of the geomantic art, who inspired me who come up with a ritual calendar and formed the basis of this whole geomantic practice, have basically nothing coming up for them.

It’s not for lack of trying, I swear.  But it just…I can’t seem to get anything out of me.  Even more annoying, I can’t seem to find very many prayers or the like in traditional Abrahamic or Hermetic literature as devotions for these four geomantic forefathers.  Like, sure, there’s a few things that come to mind that I could use from the Book of Enoch to write up some Enoch-focused praises, at least in the context of his angelization into Metatron (though I’m hesitant to put too much weight on that specific aspect), but that’s not a lot on its own, and there’s just not a lot that seems to be written out there.  Like, while there are prayers in abundance for many of the mythic and saintly figures of Christianity and Islam (especially the various ‘ad`iyah /du`a’s of Islam attributed to their holy and saintly figures), there’s just…really not a lot.  Heck, the idea, even, sounds weird to me, since we don’t often think of the prophets of Abrahamic traditions to necessarily be saints or to participate in intercession or intervention like the saint-saints or angel-saints do, and while we all certainly praise Hermēs Trismegistus as the one revealed the secrets of the Great Work by the Divine Poemander to teach to the world, I just can’t find many prayers or praises in a formal context like this.  It could be that I’m not looking in the right sources (perhaps more Gnostic texts might be useful), but I just can’t find a lot.

So, it happened that, according to my ritual calendar, the Feast of the Prophet Adam, the First Man, Progenitor of Attainment came and went on Monday, May 6 earlier this year.  I had intended to devote a few weeks in April trying to draw up something to mark the day, even just something simple…but alas, the day arrived on its own, and I showed up empty-handed.  Still, I did what I could still do: I sat down at my shrine, lit a candle and some incense for Adam as I would any other saint or hero, and just sorta…thought and mused aloud in the solitude of my temple space.  Though I came empty-handed, I left with quite a few insights that I didn’t have before, and I wanted to share them here, even if only to keep the thoughts about it going.

Back when I wrote the Secreti Geomantici ebook, I developed a “Prayer of the Geomancers”, which I recite daily as part of my own practice (though reworked slightly and fit into my newer practice that arise after I wrote Secreti Geomantici).  In it, I give a supplication where we ask to be instilled with the four blessings of  “the judgment of Daniel, the dedication of Enoch, the wisdom of Hermēs, and the attainment of Adam”.  I basically tried to come up with some sort of high-minded virtue, ideal, strength, blessing, just…yanno, something that I could associate with each of the four progenitors to ask for to help us in our divination practices and spiritual development as geomancers.  For Daniel and Enoch, I used their very names as inspiration, the former meaning “God is my Judge” and the latter meaning “dedicated”, as in to God.  Hermēs Trismegistus, for me, is associated with wisdom, not just knowing things but knowing how to apply them.  But for Adam…I honestly didn’t know what to say.  “Attainment” sounded good enough, and it sorta semantically ties in with Adam in general for me.  Earth-born, earth-made Adam, whose name is a pun on the Hebrew word for “earth” (adamah), and was God’s final creation in the Genesis narrative as a distinct species or entity.  Eve (and Lilith), of course, could also be considered separate, but when reckoning them all as various kinds of Human, then it was Adam that would be considered the final bit of distinct creation of God.

In that sense, why “attainment”?  What did Adam attain?  Adam was the attainment, the completion and fulfillment of God’s work to create the cosmos; in the Abrahamic as much as the Hermetic sense, we are made in the image of God, but we could not exist as we are without literally everything else having existed before us.  (This reminds us to be humble in a new way; though we might be closest to God as a species of this worldly reality, we are also the youngest, junior to and thus dependent on ants, urchins, fleas, mold, and all else that exists.)  It wasn’t until God made humanity that God could rest on the seventh day after he first spoke “let there be light”.  In that sense, the creation of humanity completed the cosmos, giving everything the final connection that allows the cosmos be what it needs to be.

However, humanity as created was not made in a fixed state, as it lacked primarily one thing: knowledge.  That’s where the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil came in; it wasn’t until Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree and gave it to Adam to eat that humanity finally knew their position in the cosmos and learned about themselves.  Up until that point, they were made in the image of God, but since they did not know or could even understand their material nature, they could not act on it or incorporate that knowledge; for them, they lived in a divine ignorance that effectively separated their spiritual nature from their material nature.  Only by eating the fruit of the Tree could they understand the latter, and then began incorporating it.  Of course, this had its own cost: by understanding the material nature of the bodies they inhabited, they became trapped by them, and in the process, excluded from Paradise.  We could consider this as a sort of “birth” from the womb; though they were not “born” in the traditional sense, we could consider God their “father” and the Earth their “mother”, with the Garden of Eden itself being the womb from which they were born.  For as long as they lived in Paradise, they could not be independent or truly alive in the sense that you and I are alive; they had to be “born” into the world, just as we are, in order to fully come into their own.  For them, their own completion was not complete until they went into their own birth.  And, just like with our own birth, it was accompanied by tears and pain.

This isn’t to say that God made humanity poorly, but that creation is a process that isn’t just a one-and-done thing.  As Jack Miles demonstrates in his wonderful literary and character analysis of the Old Testament God: A Biography, the process of creation is effectively God learning as much about his creation as we do ourselves.  And it’s not until we can take a look at the whole picture of something that we can finally perform a full analysis of something to understand it, and we can’t do that in terms of a human until we know their entire life.  For Adam and Eve, that entirety doesn’t come about until they die: it takes death to fully understand the whole of the human experience, so it wasn’t until the death of the First Man that the original creation of God might finally be considered “complete”.  In this sense, Adam had to attain his own creation and completion just as God did—and so too do all of us, as well.

This is also where the angel Uriel comes into the picture.  Uriel, in the Western tradition, is the archangel who’s typically associated with the element of Earth, and so I consider this angel to have a natural connection to Adam on a simple elemental basis.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Uriel is the angel appointed to stand guard at the gate to the Garden of Eden with the flaming sword.  What does this mean for us in terms of “attainment”?  Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly need while in the Garden, and so would never have had to work for anything, learn anything, struggle, adapt, invent, or grow at all; they would have lived in this sort of ignorant stasis where everything was good and nothing was bad, having been given everything except something to do—something to attain.  Just as we can no longer enter our mother’s womb, so too could Adam and Eve never reenter the Garden and regress to an earlier stage of development; their expulsion was necessary for humanity to truly flourish.  I mean, consider: if humanity is made in the image of God, then what had God done up to this point?  God had made something from nothing.  If Adam and Eve were to take after God, then they too must create something from nothing, but so long as they lived in the Garden, how could they do that if they already had everything and had neither anything to invent nor needed anything to invent?  It was only when they were taken out of the Garden that they truly had nothing—except the clothes that God made for them as an act of parental care, but let’s be honest, by that point they had already made their clothes to cover their nudity in the Garden after eating the fruit of the Tree.  And consider the context of that, too: they made something in a place God made where they needed nothing, and so effectively judged God’s creation…I hesitate to use this word, but lacking in a way.  To use a software development metaphor, if the Garden was God’s development-and-testing sandbox, the fact that Adam and Eve could create and invent shows that they were finally capable of being released into production, becoming independent co-creators with God in the process (“co-creators” because we are made to take after God and being infused with his breath), just on a smaller scale as befits our finite, more material role.

Uriel was positioned at the Gates to ensure that neither Adam and Eve nor any of their descendants could eat of the fruit of the other Tree, the Tree of Life, which would grant them immortality that God himself possesses.  Okay, fair.  But Uriel’s purpose is more than just to guard the other Tree; I think he was stationed there to make sure that humanity itself could learn to use their own world and tools to constantly create more of the world, co-creating with God throughout the entire process of their lives.  However, our lives must come to an end; why?  Because we have descendants.  In order for us to properly execute our function as humans, we must create and leave things behind so that others can create after us—whether they’re our own blood-and-flesh children, godchildren, initiates, or students doesn’t matter.  In order that they too can fulfill their purpose, they must have their own share of the world; for that reason, our bodies must return to the Earth, “for from it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return”.  Also, it’s at this point in the Genesis narrative, once God issues his order of expulsion—that Adam finally names Eve, whose name in Hebrew is Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”, (most likely) related to Hebrew Ḥāyâ “to live”, and Genesis itself says that Adam named Eve such “because she was the mother of all the living”.  The final name given to the final God-made creation of the Garden, only complete at their time’s end within it.

So, if our bodies return to the Earth, whence, then, our breath, our divine essence that God gave to humanity?  As I see it, based on this little bit, the breath returns to God, and thence can be breathed back into the world to continue the co-creation of the world.  For as long as the process of life and death exists, for as longs as there are descendants of Adam and Eve, for as long as the world exists, the process of co-creation is always ongoing.  Individual people may complete their attainment, but their attainment is not truly complete until the end of their lives as befits us as mortal creatures of this world.  Similarly, the attainment of humanity cannot be complete until humanity itself finally and eventually passes away from the world—or the life-sustaining world itself passes away, whichever comes first, I suppose.  And, when we do return to the Earth, it is only then that we can reenter the Garden.

What, then, of our own attainment?  What can we take after Adam, what could we ask for to help us in our own spiritual paths?  We know that, just like Adam, we cannot revert to an earlier stage in our spiritual progression; we know that we must become independent from our mothers, go out into the world, and work for ourselves and those who come after us; we know that we must live our lives until such a time as proper for us that our bodies return to the Earth and our breath returns to God, and until that point, we must always work to constantly create our world, co-creating with God as we are made in his image.  It is up to us, to each of us, that we do what we can to fulfill our purpose, role, and function in this world, taking what has been given to us and what we can to constantly create, build, grow, and nurture.  It is up to us that we attain our own role as being truly human and truly divine.  It is up to us to attain the fullness of our creation.  It is up to us to attain our true Will.  We cannot go back from whence we came, for just as the angel Uriel guards the gates to Paradise, but just as Uriel is the angel of the light of God, we can look back upon our past and see what was so that we can begin to understand what may be.  I mean, in this system of devotion I’m building, the title I give to Uriel is “Keeper of the Mysteries”; just as he keeps the Garden apart from us, he shows us with his light (and the light of his “fiery ever-turning sword”) what is possible, and permits reentry into the Garden as divine gatekeeper only at the proper time.  Things may leave the Garden, but not enter back in improperly.

There’s more that I can muse about this, of course, but I think this is a start.  I mean, honestly, this is probably one of the actual mysteries of this new little practice that’s been dropped on my lap that I’m really starting to chew into, structured by all the prayers and routines and rituals that I have.  Perhaps one day, after enough musing and research and writing and meditating, I might have proper prayers for Adam—maybe even the rest of the prophets, too!  For now, though, I don’t have much…but I do have this last bit I want to share.  While there’s not a lot out there that I can find for prayers that are attributed to Adam, there is one short Islamic du`ā’ of Adam (and, also, properly speaking, of Eve) that I thought was simple enough to commit to heart.  This was taken from Qur’ān 7:23, after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Paradise and were called out by God for it:

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

Rabbanā ṭālamnā anfusanā wa-in lam taghfir lanā watarḥamnā lanakūnanna mina al-khasirīn

Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall surely be among the losers.

It’s not a lot, but it’s something.  Working on the spot, and recalling the context in which this bit of scripture was recited, I also recalled to mind another simple du`ā’, this one from Qur’ān 21:83, this one associated with Job after he was ill for many years:

أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

Annī massaniya aḍ-ḍurru waanta arḥamu ar-raḥimīna

Truly, adversity has touched me, and you [God] are the Most Merciful of the merciful.

Kinda working on the spot, I ended up mixing these two supplications together, tweaking the terms and concepts slightly to better match my own spiritual needs and framework, and ended up with another misbaḥa devotional, which was at least something I could offer in the memory and veneration of Adam.  It’s not the same thing as what might be recited by faithful Muslims, but then, I’m no Muslim.  Using the usual misbaḥa format:

  1. Recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Truly Merciful, the Exalter and Abaser both.”
  2. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, may we not wrong ourselves.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, show us your grace and your mercy.”
  5. On the second separator, recite:”It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite:”O God, may we not be among the lost.”
  7. Recite once: “Though suffering is near to me, it is you, o God, who is Merciful among all the merciful.”

It’s something that I can use in the meantime, barring anything more.  It’ll just be part of my own attainment.

Summer update: Jailbreak the Sacred, the Salem Summer Symposium, and more!

I hope everyone’s been enjoying the Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts that have been going up lately!  There are still a few more to go, but in the meantime, I didn’t want you all to think that I was just relaxing taking a vacation (as much as I might want or need to).  Rather, things have been as busy as ever, between commuting and working and Working and writing and Writing and this and that and the other, and I wanted to take a quick moment to fill you guys in on some of the things that have been happening lately.

First, a few updates about the website structure.  I decided to go through my blog archives and make things a bit easier to navigate for some of the more fun or interesting posts I’ve made, and while there’s too much to outright do a whole highlight reel of posts, I have made a few new pages for ease of navigability and readability, including adding a few goodies to the Rituals pages from old posts that discussed some rituals I apparently forgot about.

  • The About page has been updated with links to all the different categories of posts (which are also accessible on the right side of the blog page, at least while using the desktop view of the website blog).
  • Several new pages have been added to the top navbar:
    • About → Geomancy Posts: an index of all the important posts I’ve done about geomancy, geomantic divination, geomantic magic, geomantic spirituality, and divination generally.
    • About → Post Series: an index of all the different multipart series of posts I’ve written about over the years, with a summary of each series and links to each of the individual posts in each series.
    • Rituals → Candle Blitzkrieg Blessing: a ritual that utterly fills a house or dwelling with divine light for the sake of blessing it.
    • Rituals → Dream Divination Ritual: a ritual to be done while the Moon is in your ninth house for dream divination, lucid dreaming, or other forms of dreamwork.
    • Rituals → Uncrossing of the Mouth: a ritual to uncross, unbind, and free the mouth from any maleficia, cross, or curse that has settled upon it so that you can speak freely and easily once again.
  • The page Rituals → Classical Hermetic Rituals → The Headless Rite has been (finally) updated, with much of the Greek being corrected, a full transcription of the Greek provided, and more information provided on carrying out the ritual itself.

Second, I was on another podcast!  The wonderful, amazing, and handsome astrologer Nate Craddock of Soul Friend Astrology started a podcast earlier this year, Jailbreak the Sacred, where he sits down to talk with leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and activists about the intersection of mainstream religion and alternative spirituality.  After all, as he says, “spirituality in the 21st century is only getting weirder from here on out, and there’s no better time to team up with people who have walked that path before”.  It’s a wonderful and refreshing thing to listen to, and there are some great speakers already in the lineup, and it’s an honor for me to be included among them!  We spent a good hour and more talking about the intersection of my magical and religious practices, what it’s like being an orisha priest in the Afro-Cuban tradition of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, and how that impacts my philosophy, ethics, and morality in how I approach my life and Work.  Head on over to JTS and take a listen!  And, if you use iTunes, be sure to subscribe to JTS through that platform, too!

Also, for his patrons over on Patreon, there’s an extra bonus episode of Nate and I talking about geomancy, where I give a very rough-and-fast explanation of the origins of geomancy, and I read for Nate on the air and give a full explanation of what a geomancy reading with me is like on the spot.  You’ll also be able to listen in on a special prayer I’ve written for divination, what I call the Praise of the Lord of the Unseen, which has hitherto not been published anywhere (yet).  If you’re interested, help Nate with his podcast, pitch in $10 a month, and get access to this and all sorts of other goodies and bonuses Nate has for his subscribers!

Third, I’m really super excited to announce that I will be in Salem, Massachusetts in early-mid August this year to attend, present, do readings, and generally have fun at the Salem Summer Symposium!  This is the first major event of its kind hosted by the good folk at the Cauldron Black, with the main show of events lasting from August 7 through August 11, but with other activities occurring around the city of Salem as early as August 3.  I’ll be teaming up with the wonderful Dr Al Cummins for a Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour on Friday, August 9 from 10am to 12pm, and later on that day I’ll be presenting on my own about my recent development in geomancy-centered theurgical practices from 4pm to 6pm.  Tickets are still available, and I heartily encourage those who are able to attend to do so; there’s a massive list of fascinating talks, presentations, workshops, and other delights for the eyes and heart and mind to partake in, and that’s besides just the social fun to be had in a spot of great renown in old New England!

Last but not least, I mentioned a bit ago that the Russian occult website Teurgia.Org is working on translating some of my writings and works into the Russian language.  They’ve done it again, this time translating my old post on Ancient Words of Power for the Directions (April 2013) into Russian on their website.  If you’re a speaker of Russian, go check it out!

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say for now.  I hope the weather is treating you all well, and that the upcoming summer solstice (or winter solstice for those in the Southern Hemisphere) is blessed and prosperous for us all!  And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Geomantic Shields versus Geomantic Tetractyes

A bit ago on Curious Cat, I got asked a particularly delightful and perceptive question about some of the mathematical mechanics behind how we develop the Shield Chart in geomancy.

Generating the Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge make perfect sense, as the convergence of (XORing) two trends/situations/events create another trend/situation/event. But what, philosophically, is happening when the Daughters are generated? What does transposing a square matrix actually mean here?

This person is asking a really cool question that boils down to this: why do we do the Shield Chart the way we do?  It makes sense to add up figures to get new figures, which mathematically and symbolically shows us the interaction between those two figures and “distills” the both of them into a single new figure, but why do we bother with transposing the Mother figures into four Daughter figures?  We’re all taught in the beginning of pretty much any geomantic text how to develop the Shield Chart, but while the most important mathematical and symbolic mechanism for generating new figures is by adding them together, it’s that transposition from Mothers into Daughters that I don’t think I’ve ever touched on symbolically, nor have I seen anyone else touch on them before.  I wanted to answer the question just on Curious Cat when I got it, but there was no way for me to fully flesh out that topic in just 3000 characters, so…well, here we are!

When you think about it, why would the original geomancers have come up with such a complicated method to begin with that we use?  If you have four elements to start with, and a method to reduce two figures into one, then it would seem like the more straightforward and apparent method to use just that would be to apply it to all consecutive pairs of figures: figure one plus figure two, figure two plus figure three, figure three plus figure four, and so forth.  This would, in effect, take four figures down into three, three down into two, and two figures down into one, yielding a sort of geomantic tetractys (just with the row of four at the top going down to one instead of the reverse).  This also makes a lot of sense when you look at it; it gets rid of the whole need for transposition of Daughters at all, and seems to be something that just makes more sense to someone (or to a group of people) who may not be as mathematically inclined.  Yet, despite the simplicity of it, why don’t we see this method being used at all for such a geomantic tetractys in any of the literature?

Well…the thing about a “geomantic tetractys chart” is that I have indeed come across it before, but only once, and that only in a modern French text, that of Robert Ambelain’s 1940 work La Géomancie Magique.  Towards the end of the text, pages 200 to 202, Ambelain describes based on reports just such a tetractys-based approach to geomancy as apparently used by some Tuareg diviners (my translation):

The Tuareg Figure of Darb ar-Raml.  One of our correspondents and friends, an officer of the Moroccan Goumier (the same one who procured the members of «G.E.O.M», their sumptuous finely-cut red copper almadels), transmits to us this curious process of geomantic interrogation, still used by some nomads of the desert.

The geomancer (usually a woman) waits to perform this rite on Friday. After drawing a pentagram over a crescent moon on the sand, the diviner utters an invocation to the Evening Star, then marks a single point in the center of the star.  Then, under the sand, the diviner draws an equilateral triangle, and divides it into sixteen small triangles with four oblique lines and three horizontal lines. ([This shape appears to be a] memory of the feminine-yonic cult of Ishtar or of Astarte).

This done, the diviner marks the sixteen lines of ordinary dots and forms the four Mothers, which they then place in the upper row of the triangle.  Then the diviner copulates each of the Mothers with the next (first and second, second and third, third and fourth), and places these three new figures that he places in the second row.  After this, they copulate these three new figures together, thus forming two new ones, which are placed in the third row.  Finally, they copulate finally these last two figures together, then gets the one that constitutes the Judgment, considered simply as a pure answer (yes or no, good or bad).  By copulating the Judgment with the Mother, the diviner can further detail the answer.

Note the analogy of this graph with some geometric ornaments found on the cushions, fabrics and leathers of these regions, and also with tassels or pompoms during pyramids on both sides of the episcopal coat of arms.  All these motifs comprising ten pieces (4-3-2-1), are mere reminders of the mysterious Pythagorean tetractys:

and the Hebrew Tetragrammaton:

Both of these are esoteric reminders of the great Hermetic Secret showing us the four elements (Fire-Air-Water-Earth) that generate the three higher principles (the Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur of the Philosophers) which give rise to the Mercurial Principle and the Sulfuric Principle, i.e. the “Father” and “Mother”, [which then give rise to the] mysterious Philosopher’s Stone, the famous ferment red phosphorescent…*

Further, this same method of the nomads of the desert also has a strange resemblance to the secret emblem of the Knights Templar, who, from these same regions, may have brought it back…

The symbolism of the sons of Hermes are universal…

* The Tuareg-style geomantic chart is bastardized from the Hermetic point of view.  The alchemists will know how to restore the secret order of the four Mothers and thus generate Dry, Hot, and Wet…

The thing is, this is the only such instance of a tetractys-based approach to geomancy that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know how much we can trust Ambelain or his reporter.  Plus, I’ve noticed quite a lot of stuff in modern French geomantic literature that seems to take some pretty wide divergences from medieval and Renaissance Western geomantic literature generally; besides potentially having a more active body of occultists who engage in geomantic research and development of techniques and study, I also think that it’s because of how French imperialism expanded so strongly across Africa and the Middle East over the past few centuries, and their anthropologists and occultists picked up quite a lot from their old colonial holdings.  That said, there’s generally a lack of any sort of citation, so sifting through the modern French geomantic literature can be confusing when picking out what was from Western practice versus what was from Arabic practice.

Anyway, the fundamental idea here with this “geomantic tetractys chart” is basically what we’re used to, but instead of transposing the Mothers to get the Daughters, we only focus on the four Mothers we get originally, and more than that, we throw in a third “Niece” into the mix, which then gets us two “Witnesses” just for the Mothers, yielding a “Judge” for the Mothers.  Okay, sure, I guess.  But what’s mathematically going with such a geomantic tectracys?  If we take any Shield Chart that we’re already familiar with and use the Four Mothers and the right side of the chart (Mothers, first two Nieces, and Right Witness), and compare the overall results with a geomantic tetractys formed from those same four Mothers, then the geomantic tetractys “judge” is the same as our Right Witness, but the figures above are almost always different than our First and Second Nieces.  What gives?  Let’s do a bit of math.  First, let’s set up our symbols for the geomantic tetractys:

F1 = First Mother
F2 = Second Mother
F3 = Third Mother
F4 = Fourth Mother

C1 = First Child
C2 = Second Child
C3 = Third Child

W1 = First Witness
W2 = Second Witness
J = Judge

Next, let’s define the Children, Witnesses, and Judge according to what figures add up for them:

C1 = F1 + F2
C2 = F2 + F3
C3 = F3 + F4
W1 = C1 + C2
W2 = C2 + C3
J = W1 + W2

While the Children figures in a geomantic tetractys are produced from adding together pairs of Mothers, the Witnesses are produced by adding together the pairs of Children.  But, because the Children are just sums of Mothers, we can reduce the terms by replacing a Child figure with its parent terms:

W1 = C1 + C2
= (F1 + F2) + (F2 + F3)
= F1 + F2 + F2 + F3

W2 = C2 + C3
= (F2 + F3) + (F3 + F4)
= F2 + F3 + F3 + F4

But note how each Witness has two of the same figure inherent in its calculation, with the Second Mother appearing twice in the First Witness and the Third Mother appearing twice in the Second Witness.  Any figure added to itself yields Populus, and so drops out of the equation.

W1= F1 + (F2 + F2) + F3
= F1 + Populus + F3
= F1 + F3

W2 = F2 + (F3 + F3) + F4
= F2 + Populus + F4
= F2 + F4

While in a Shield Chart, the First Niece is the sum of the First and Second Mothers, but in our tetractean First Witness, the First Witness is the sum of the First and Third Mothers.  Likewise, the tetractean Second Witness is the sum of the Second and Fourth Mothers.  Knowing this, we can proceed onto expanding the tetractean Judge, which, as expected, is just the sum of the four Mothers:

J = W1 + W2
= (F1 + F3) + (F2 + F4)
= F1 + F2 + F3 + F4

So, in effect, the tetractean Judge will always be the same as the Right Witness of the Shield Chart, and the First Child and Third Child the same as the First Niece and Second Niece.  It’s the presence of the Second Child, however, that makes the First and Second Witnesses of the geomantic tectratys different, which then causes a mismatch between what we’d otherwise expect in the tetractean Witnesses.  Still, the overall idea is the same: we’re distilling four figures down into one.

But this doesn’t explain why we ended up with the Shield Chart method of doing that instead of a tetractys-based method; after all, the Tetractys is a well-known symbol across many cultures for thousands of years now, so why didn’t we end up with the a geomantic tetractys method?  I think I touched on this idea a bit earlier in my post about the potential bird-based origins of geomancy when we discussed the Arabian nature of even numbers being more positive than odd numbers:

However, even with what little we have, we kinda start to see a potential explanation for why a geomantic chart is created in such a way that the Judge must be an even figure, and why we use such a recursive structure that takes in four figures and then manipulates them to always get an even figure as a distillation of the whole chart, whether or not it’s favorable to the specific query.  Related entries to `Iyān in Lane’s Lexicon, specifically عِينَةُ `iynah (pg. 2269), refer to “an inclining in the balance” or set of scales, “the case in which one of two scales thereof outweighs the other”, as in “in the balance is an unevenness”.  In this light, even numbers would indicate that things are in balance, and odd numbers out of balance; this idea strikes me as similar to some results used in Yòrubá obi divination or Congolese chamalongo divination or other African systems of divination that make use of a four-piece set of kola nuts, coconut meat, coconut shells, cowries, or some other flippable objects, where the best possible answer is where two pieces face-up and two fall face-down, while there being three of side and one of the other either indicates “no” or a generally weak answer.  For the sake of the Judge, then, we need it to be impartial (literally from Latin for “not odd”) in order for it to speak strongly enough to answer the question put to the chart.  Heck, in Arabic terms, the word that I’ve seen used for the Judge is میزان mīzān, literally “balance” or “scales” (the same word, I might add, that’s used to refer to the zodiac sign Libra).

And, to look at it another way, how is an even figure formed? An even geomantic figure is formed from the addition of either two odd parents or two even parents; in either case, the parity of one figure must be the same as the other figure in order for their child figure to be even.  Thus, for the Judge, the Witnesses must either both be even or they must both be odd.  “Brothers”, indeed; as that old Bedouin saying goes, “I against my brothers; I and my brothers against my cousins; I and my brothers and my cousins against the world”.  Brothers implies a similarity, a kinship, and even if they fight against each other, they must still be similar enough to come to terms with each other.  And consider the mathematical and arithmetic implications of what “coming to terms” can suggest!  Thus, the two Witnesses must be alike in parity in order for the scale of the Judge to work itself out, and perhaps, the figure with more points would “outweigh” the other and thus be of more value.  For example, if we have a Right Witness of Laetitia and a Left Witness of Puella, both odd figures, then the Judge would be Fortuna Maior, but Laetitia, having more points, would “outweigh” Puella, favoring the Right Witness representing the querent.  Thus, perhaps the Judge might be taking on the role of `Iyān and the Witnesses its two “sons”?  After all, you need both the Witnesses in order to arrive at the Judge, so telling them to hurry up would naturally speed up the calculation of the Judge.

And a little more again, once we got more of the bird symbolism in the mix:

We’re starting to tap into some of the symbolism behind even and odd here, and we can see that we were on the right track from before, but this time it’s made a bit more explicit; we might have considered that, perhaps, birds seen in pairs was considered a good omen in general, while a lone bird was considered bad, and that could still be the case especially for birds like the golden oriole that forms long-term pair-bonds, but now we’re tapping into deeper cultural lore about separation and number.  When the result of divination is even, then things are in pairs, considered fortunate because it suggests coming together or staying together (remember that the origin of the Arabic word for “even” ultimately comes from Greek for “yoked together”, as in marriage); when the result is odd, then it implies separation and being left alone (literally “wholly one”).  For a migratory, nomadic people living in a harsh environment, survival often depended on your tribe and not being left alone or being cast out, for which separation could truly mean an ill fate up to and including death by dehydration, starving, heat, or exposure; the same would go for humans from their tribes as it would for animals from their herds.  To consider it another way, if the marks being made in the sand are “eyes”, then in order to see clearly, we need to have two of them, since eyes naturally come in pairs (at least for us humans and many other animals).  If we end up with an odd number, then we’ve lost an eye, and cannot see clearly.

While I can’t point to this as saying “this is why”, I think this gives a good base for my conjecture here: we use the Shield Chart method that involves distilling the Mothers into the Right Witness, transposing the Mothers into the Daughters and distilling those figures into the Left Witness, and then distilling those two figures into the Judge because this method guarantees that the Judge will always be an even figure.  Just distilling the Mothers into a single figure can yield either an odd or an even figure, but if we use the Daughters as well as the Mothers, we always end up with an even figure.  Why do we care about this?  Because even numbers, in the original Arabian system, were considered more fortunate, comparable, approachable, and beneficial for all involved rather than odd numbers; indeed, the very word “impartial” to this day means “even”.  I’ve noted before that even figures tend to relate to objective things while odd figures relate to subjective things:

Because the Judge must be even, this narrows down the number of figures that can occur in this position from sixteen down to eight: Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Aquisitio, and Amissio. It is for this reason that I call these figures “objective”, and the odd figures (Puer, Puella, Laetitia, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Cauda Draconis, and Caput Draconis) “subjective”; this is a distinction I don’t think exists extant in the literature outside my own writings (which also includes contributions to the articles on geomancy on Wikipedia). I call the even figures “objective” because they are the only ones that can be Judges; just as in real life, where the judge presiding over a court case must objectively take into account evidence to issue a judgment and sentence, the Judge in a geomantic chart must likewise reflect the nature of the situation and answer the query in an impartial (a Latin word literally meaning “not biased” or “not odd”), fair, balanced, and objective way. It’s not that these figures are Judges because they inherently possess an astrological or magical quality called objectivity, but I call them objective because they’re mathematically able to be Judges.

I’ll let you read that post further, dear reader, as it gets more into the mathematics behind the evenness of the Judge and what it means for a figure to be odd or even and how that relates to its meaning and interpretation.  But, suffice it here to say that I think we use the Daughters as well as the Mothers so that mathematically we always deal in terms of evenness, for an even judgment, an even heart, an even mind, an even road.

So that explains (at least potentially) the mathematical reason behind why we have to have the Daughters.  But what about the other part of the original Curious Cat question?  What is philosophically or symbolically happening when we generate the Daughters from the Mothers?  It’s literally just the same points from the Mothers that we look at horizontally instead of vertically.  Don’t believe me?  Consider: say that you’re using the original stick-and-surface method of generating Mother figures, and you take up all those leftover points and put them into a 4×4 grid, starting in the upper right corner and going first vertically downwards and from right to left:

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

If we read the leftover points allocated in this way in vertical columns, from top to bottom and from right to left, we get the four Mother figures.  If, instead, we read the leftover points allocated in this table in horizontal roads, from right to left and top to bottom, we get the four Daughter figures:

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

This is what I and the Curious Cat poster mean by “transposing”; we change (transpose) how we read the square matrix of points from primarily vertical to primarily horizontal.  This is simply a mathematical formalization of the usual phrasing of the method we use to get the Daughters from the Mothers: take the Fire lines of each of the four Mothers (rows 1, 5, 9, 13) and rearrange them vertically to get the first Daughter, the Air lines of the four Mothers (rows 2, 6, 10, 14) to get the second Daughter, and so forth.

When you consider what transposition does, all we’re doing is looking at the same exact points from a new perspective; instead of reading the 4×4 matrix above from the bottom, we’re reading it from the side.  If the points we get from generating the four Mothers are the “raw data”, the actual symbolic point-based representation of our situation, then by reading them “from the side” as the Daughters means we’re looking at the situation from literally a point of view that is not our own.  In other words, if the Mothers represent our view of the situation we’re facing, the Daughters represent the view of everyone else who isn’t us or affiliated with us.  We can see this in the meaning of the Witnesses, which are themselves the distillations of their corresponding Mothers or Daughters; the Right Witness (the distillation of the four Mothers) represents the querent’s side of things, and the Left Witness (the distillation of the four Daughters) represents the quesited’s side of things.  To use a courtroom analogy, the Right Witness represents the defense of the person being tried, and the Left Witness is the prosecution.  It’s the Judge that hears out both sides and favors one side, the other, both, or neither depending on the arguments and evidence that the defense and prosecution present.

Moreover, it’s this method of using two Witnesses that necessarily produce an even Judge that won out as the dominant form of geomancy (or was the original one even in the oldest of times) over a tetractean form of geomantic chart because the geomantic tetractys method doesn’t produce a complete answer (given what we said above); all it does is it illustrates the complexity of the querent’s situation but only as far as the querent themselves is concerned and what they’re aware of or what they can see.  The tetractys method does not touch on how the rest of the world might perceive their situation, how the querent fits into the broader world, or how their situation could be seen from an outside point of view.  We can’t just coddle our querents, after all, and make them the center of the world when they’re just one part of it; yes, the querent is an integral and major point of any situation of their own, to be sure, but geomancy talks about the world as a whole, in which the querent only plays one part.  The shield chart method resolves this by not only ensuring an even Judge figure that allows us to more clearly see the answer in a situation unclouded by emotion or subjectivity, but also by factoring in how other people necessarily perceive and interact with the same situation the querent is, which the querent themselves might not be able to see from their own point of view.

Geomancy is, fundamentally, a spiritual science of mathematics that analyzes the raw data that the cosmos gives us through the points obtained in divination.  Understanding the symbolic meaning of the figures is just one part of the science of geomancy; it’s the mathematics behind adding figures together to distill them and transposing four Mothers into four Daughters that gives us more symbols—and, thus, more information—to work with.  In this light, the mathematics itself becomes a technique for us to understand what a geomantic chart is telling us.

Also, just a small note: last month, April 2019, was the most-viewed month of the Digital Ambler in its history of over nine years, with 21630 views and 6667 visitors.  Thank you, everyone, for all the hits, attention, and love for the Digital Ambler!  I couldn’t do it without you, and you guys make blogging and writing so much fun for me and for everyone.  Thank you!