On the One True Geomancy (or Astrology, Alchemy, Etc.)

Within reason, of course, I enjoy fielding questions from my readers through social media, whether it’s through @s on Twitter or messages on Facebook.  I do my best to answer them as they come, and I generally have an answer, though it might take me a bit to compile it in full.  Sometimes, the answer just can’t be made simple enough for a quick message, and we need to engage in a proper conversation to flesh everything out.  However, on occasion, some of those questions or the discussions we have over them raise something up in my mind that I think needs to be explored more, and this is just one such an occasion.

One of my friends on Facebook—introduced to me by a mutual friend over (what else?) geomancy—had some questions and problems with reading over some of my posts, specifically where I catalog an assortment of geomantic texts’ attributions of elements to the figures.  Basically, in that post, I go over how there’s a lot of talk in books modern and classical about how to reckon the elemental rulerships of each of the figures, and there are a surprising number of variations about how to go about just that.  Modern confusion can arise from John Michael Greer’s use of a dual system of outer and inner elements of the figures, outer elements based on Zodiacal attributions and inner elements based on structural concerns, and I’m sure that I haven’t much improved on that with my own system of primary and secondary elements (though I find it increasingly useful).  My friend was happy to scrap the outer element system of JMG, but after reading my post, things only got more confused and muddled for her.  She vented a bit to me about some of her frustrations in learning geomancy from my blog:

I think I am a bit disheartened.  According to your work even the planetary rulerships vary from Agrippa to the Golden Dawn.  When I found geomancy, I was excited because it was based on numbers and my study of sacred geometry, and it made me hope that this system was at root based upon the same principles.  After reading a lot of your work. I am left with “everyone does it different, good luck!”

You know what?  That’s completely fair, and it’s easy for me to have lost sight of that.  I appreciate her bringing me back down to earth a bit by sharing her feelings with me on this.

As you may have noticed, dear reader, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  Yes, it’s a website where I advertise my services and ebooks and share my research and rituals and make myself available for a variety of consultations and readings, but first and foremost, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  I write about what I want on my blog at the rate I want with the focuses I want in the way I want; it is, after all, my blog.  However, I write my blog for the public to read not just to keep track of my own notes, experiments, projects, ideas, and studies, but also to help others in the occult, Hermetic, and geomantic communities as well.  Over the years, my blog has become something of a resource for many, and I take a bit of pride and satisfaction and fulfillment that I’m able to help at least a few people through my writing.

One of the ways I think I help is that I share my research and notes, and when it comes to geomancy, there’s a lot to research—about a thousand years, to be precise, across Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe.  Even with my limited resources, I have access to texts by John Case, Robert Fludd, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Christopher Cattan, John Heydon, Bartholommeo della Parma, Gerard of Cremona, and Pietro d’Abano, to say nothing of more modern authors ranging from Franz Hartmann to Stephen Skinner and JMG himself.  As time goes on, I hope to get access to even more obscure materials that exist in undigitized, microfiche, or manuscript form.  And, I expect, as I get access to more such resources, I’ll learn more about how geomancy was practiced by a variety of practitioners across the millennium it’s been in use.

As a researcher, it’s evident and plain to me that geomancy is not a single, fixed subject.  Yes, even from its inception and introduction into Europe, there have been many things fixed and stable about the art: the basic meanings of the figures, the basic use of the Court and Shield Chart, how to use the House Chart, what planets the figures refer to, and so forth.  However, there are a great many things that vary between one author and the next: whether this technique or that is more useful, how many variations on a single technique there might be, how to assign the zodiac signs to the figures, how to assign the elements to the figures, how to do this or that and…well, as can be seen across many of the posts on my blog where I document classical techniques, there’s a fair amount of variation in geomantic practice.  For me to introduce that into my blog is part and parcel of my research: I research to document what was done, no matter how it was done, so I can figure out what was kept back then and why, as well as what I might keep that works and how to make what works work even better.

Why is there so much variation in what was done?  Simply put, it’s because geomancy is not a monolithic tradition: there is no canon, no centralization, no governing authority that says “this is proper geomantic practice” and “that is not proper geomantic practice”.  We in our modern age are used to such centralized authorities certifying what’s in and what’s out or what’s good and what’s bad to the point where we take it for granted, and we expect to see that such centralization would be present in previous eras.  It’s simply not the case.  Sure, there were commonly-available resources and texts, especially after the invention of the printing press and the beginning of mass-produced books, but it still was nothing like the scale of today’s “Art and Practice of Geomancy” or “Geomancy for Beginners” or “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”.  What was available were texts produced on a much smaller scale available to a smaller percentage of wealthier people who could afford books within a much more localized region; besides those, there were actual, living, breathing geomancers who not only practiced, but taught as well.  Though I’m sure some students of geomancy kept in touch with others, each geomancer was likely to be left to their own devices, see what works, and see what doesn’t, then develop and refine their own practice on their own.  Couple a few decades of that with books that may not always be 100% correct or vetted for typos and clarity, and minor variations are bound to result.

The commonalities between different geomancers and texts vastly outweigh the differences between them, to be sure, but many of us who like to investigate the details and ply those for whatever we can might be foiled by encountering so many different ways to assign figures to elements or what have you.  As my friend said, it can often come across that, when I present my notes on how geomancers of the past practiced this art, it might just come across as “everyone does it different, good luck”.  To an extent…yeah, actually.  Everyone did do it different.  Heck, everyone still does it different; I don’t do the same exact geomancy that Stephen Skinner or JMG or Al Cummins or Eric Purdue might do.  We all understand the basics of geomancy, and the commonalities of our practices far outweigh our differences, but there are definitely differences to be had.

To be fair, though, this isn’t just a thing with geomancy.  Astrology has the same variations across its many thousands of years of practice and development based on era, land, language, and author.  Today, you’ll still find arguments about which house system is best, how to allot certain things to certain houses, whether the modern planets have any purpose in horary astrology, and so forth.  You’ll find the same thing in general Hermetic magic (Golden Dawn or Thelema? Lemegeton or Grimoirum Verum? Heptameron or Trithemius?), in ancient Greek religion (Hesiod or Homer? Attic or Doric? Delphi or Dodona?), and really in any ancient tradition.  No tradition is ever truly monolithic unless it was designed that way, and even then, if it’s at all taught and carried on by successive generations of students, there are bound to be variations.  That’s how we ended up with Theravada and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism from a single teacher, and within each vehicle of Buddhism all the different sects and schools thereof.  That’s how we ended up with Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant Christianities, and all their own sects and denominations.  Spiritual traditions, sciences, and lineages are inherently messy in their development; as I said to my friend, “if it’s confusing, it’s because there are a lot of different voices shouting different things under the same big tent”.

So what do we do about it?  Is it really as simple (and confusing) as “everyone did it different, good luck”?  Well…yes, actually.  In my research-related posts on this blog, I don’t often just document what was done, but I also give my thoughts on what makes the most logical sense or what has the strongest justification, as well as share my own thoughts, experiences, and preferences on the variations on technique.  I do my best to show my own practices and why I do things the way I do and where I get the things I do from, but at the end of the day, it’s a combination of study and experimentation that informs my practice: study the things that are common and fixed in the tradition, experimentation to see which variations work best.  The way I teach geomancy is going to be different from other geomancers past and present because it’s going to be informed by my own practices, experiences, and experiments; consider that I find (much as Robert Fludd himself did) that the techniques to predict letters and numbers are crap. Heck, even among geomancers today, what I consider vital and important to the art (as far as details go, at least), Al Cummins may find ridiculous or nonsense, and vice versa.  That’s fine!  We each have our own opinions informed by our own studies, and that’s great!  It’s not going to be as simple as 2 + 2 = 4 where there’s only one right answer, but it’s going to be “which art movement is better to understand the 19th century occult movements, Pre-Raphaelite or Art Nouveau?”.

If you’re looking for the One True Geomancy (or One True Astrology, or One True Solomonic Grimoire, or One True Alchemy, etc.) with all and only the right techniques, well, you might be disappointed.  There’s really no objective, centralized, certified Manual of Geomantic (or Astrological, Solomonic, Alchemical, etc.) Practice out there, nor will there ever be.  The best you can do is find a single teacher and study what that one teacher teaches, and even then, they might change their views over time, just like you will.  In the meantime, though it might be a rough road to follow, learning what was done and seeing all the variants out there of a given technique is helpful because it informs you of what was done before to give you an idea of what works and what options you have when working your own practices.  In doing so, you have guides that point in useful directions (maybe not always the right directions) to show you where you should focus your practice or steer your practice towards or away from.  Experimentation is a must in this and every kind of occult art, but you can and should listen to your peers and colleagues and teachers to see what was done before so you don’t invent the wheel all over again and again and again.

On Gender in Magic, or, What to Rename Puer and Puella

Twitter is always full of fun people.  Yeah, the platform is garbage and full of Nazis, white supremacists, TERFs, and a variety of alt-right douchebags, but it’s also been the platform I’ve been on for the longest sustained period of time going back to…god, mid-2010, I guess.  In that time, despite its changes for the worse and the increases of awful people, I’ve also made many good friends on the platform, ranging from furries and fanfiction authors to astrologers and occultists and any number of people in between.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying the company of a good number of (somehow all bewilderingly attractive) astrologers and diviners, which gives me endless entertainment and education (and gawking over how insultingly good they look in their photos).

Not that long ago, one of my mutuals started up a conversation among this very group that struck a chord with me:

This, yes, absolutely, forever.

Even from an early date in my occult studies, stuff about gender has always not set exactly well with me, e.g. the whole bullshit Law of Gender from the Kybalion, yet another reason why I hate and detest the damn text.  I mean, while I am gay, I’m also comfortable in my cisgender identity as a man, but I have quite a few other friends and colleagues who aren’t but who are transgender, genderfluid, nonbinary, agender, or otherwise.  That so much in traditional magical literature relies on a system of gender that doesn’t work for so many of us is…troubling, honestly.  It’s nothing insurmountable for me, and I would hope that it’s likewise not a total obstruction for others, but that it poses a problem for many of us can’t be denied.  Like, for me, who has no sexual or romantic attraction to women, the notion of an element being “feminine” would logically suggest that it should be cut off from me as something inherently foreign, which is certainly not the case.

Time and again we come across scientific evidence and studies that show that there aren’t even always two physical sexes per species, or that the roles and responsibilities of each physical sex shift and change between species or even between stages of life in a species, or which change based on the environment around and hormones within the members of that species.  If occult philosophy is rooted in natural philosophy, i.e. if studying the occult is grounded in studying the world around us, then shouldn’t we actually respect what we find in the world around us rather than imposing a really simplistic view that doesn’t even work for us as a species or a civilization?  To be fair, I do understand and agree that most humans are cisgender and heterosexual, and most animal species reproduce sexually in a way that we can identify as being carried out by something resembling heterosexuality in humans.  That, however, does not mean that it is any more natural than variations seen in gender, sex, or sexual behavior, because those are as natural as the more common set.  Being uncommon does not mean being abnormal.

There’s also the argument that oh, even as a gay man, I should be in touch with my “feminine side”.  Tell me, what is a “feminine side”?  What are the essential qualities that make something feminine?  I know many women who don’t have such qualities, and many men who do.  I know that much of what one culture describes as “feminine” is considered masculine by another culture, or vice versa.  I know that much of what nontoxic masculinity is could easily be described as expected feminine behavior, and vice versa.  To me (and I speak only for myself in this), gender is a role that one plays based on cultural norms, with nothing essential about it; there can be no “masculine side” and “feminine side” because both of those are meaningless terms that just play out in a given context or arena of culture, society, and communication.  To be sure, these things have power and meaning as far as such things do, but there’s nothing essential, fundamental, or elemental about them that needs to be carried into a fair amount (maybe all?) Western magical practices.

I know that it’s certainly traditional to refer to the elements of Fire and Air (and all their corresponding tools, symbols, planets, zodiac signs, and other correspondences) as masculine or male and to Water and Earth (and all their correspondences) as feminine or female, but we can do so much better.  For one, knowing that each element is a combination of heat and moisture, a system going all the way back to Aristotle:

Dry Wet
Hot Fire Air
Cold Earth Water

What quality immediately jumps out at us that links the “masculine” and “feminine” elements?  It’s heat!  The “masculine” elements Fire and Air are both hot, and the “feminine” elements Water and Earth are both cold, so why not just call them hot and cold, or warm and cool, instead?

This and so many other alternatives to “masculine” and “feminine” were proposed in the conversation on Twitter, some of which I like and others I don’t as much care for, including:

  • solar and lunar
  • diurnal and nocturnal
  • odd and even
  • independent and communal
  • fast and slow
  • electric and magnetic
  • celestial and terrestrial
  • light and dark

(Personally, when not using the celestial and terrestrial dichotomy from my Mathēsis stuff, I absolutely adore the electric and magnetic dichotomy, because electricity and magnetism are really the same underlying force that operate in two different ways.)

There is also, of course, the almost-as-traditional “active” and “passive”, but this is dispreferable in another way, because “passive” has some unfortunate connotations that also doesn’t exactly work.  For instance, if I throw a large amount of water onto a fire, well, fire is supposed to be an active element, right?  So it should act upon the water, but what happens is that the water puts out the fire: the “passive” element acts upon the “active” one.  Not exactly helpful in that light.  Plus, the connotations of “active” and “passive” play into the traditional male-female roles during sex, where the “active” man is on top penetrating the “passive” woman on bottom.  Okay, boring.

You could reframe this “active” and “passive” issue using, for instance, “convex” and “concave”.  Consider the Chinese characters for these words: 凸 and 凹, respectively (as might be evident).  Like…you can see it too, right?  It’s not just my mind in the gutter?  If we equate “convex” with “active” and “concave” with “passive”, well…let me tell you that anyone who’s receiving in sex and is just remaining passive is doing sex wrong and should be ashamed of themselves.  You can take it and still run the show.  Being “passive” does not equate with being inert, boring, or ineffectual; being “receptive” or “concave” does not equate with being submissive, unassuming, or calm.

Personally?  I’m all for getting rid of the notions of gender in our elements, tools, zodiac signs, and other correspondences.  You can include them if you like, but I don’t care to have a system or cosmos that’s inherently structured and built upon them, especially when everything has an undivided, indivisible, undifferentiated Source.  You can have polarities and dichotomies and spectrums without having gender, and gender is not the be-all end-all of polarities.  We don’t have to reduce all dichotomies to a socially-bound, Western categorization of how certain people with certain physical differences should behave.  We can be so much better than this. We can do so much better than this.  We don’t have to be locked into a procrustean bed of gender-locked magic and cosmology when we can literally see and interact with cosmic forces that do not follow laws of gender and, indeed, break the very systems that gender tries to support and maintain.

Then I take a deep breath, and I go outside, and I…look at geomancy, and I’m reminded of the figures Puer and Puella.  And I frown, because we have this very gender/sex issue embedded in two of our figures, going back to the founding of geomancy itself.

I’ve gone on at length about these figures before, describing how their elemental structure suggests and effects their divinatory and occult significations, and so much else.  Yet, here it is, the male-female dichotomy itself staring at us in the face.

Geomancy itself is a system built upon dichotomy.  Dichotomy literally means “a cutting (categorization) into two”, which is the fundamental aspect of binary systems.  Geomancy, as a binary system, has rows that have one point or two points.  In this particular case, I think the use of “active” and “passive” is useful to describe such an arrangement, because it’s referring to the literal existence or non-existence of a given element within a figure.  For instance, if Fire is active, then it can cause a change in another figure’s Fire line (odd to even or even to odd); if Fire is passive, then it preserves and takes on whatever is in another Figure’s fire line (odd stays odd and even stays even).  This is how I interpret odd or even as far as numbers go, and to me, the mere presence or absence of an element has nothing to do with that element being “male” or “female”.  Again, gender/sex is just one kind of polarity, if it even is to be reckoned having two poles at all.

So, what to do about Puer and Puella?  Well, I know that the names of figures aren’t fixed.  Throughout the history of geomancy, many sets of names have been applied to the figures, even within the same language.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice gives a huge table of all the names he’s been able to document for the figures across multiple manuscripts, books, and traditions.  For instance, the figure Fortuna Maior (literally meaning “Greater Fortune”) has also been called:

  • Auxulium intus (interior aid)
  • Tutela intrans (entering assistance)
  • Omen maius (greater omen)
  • Honor intus (interior honor)

Still, despite the variation in names, they all have more-or-less the same meaning.  But then we come to figures that don’t have any similarity with their common names, such as Imberbis (beardless) for Puer.  Such names come from a much older, Arabic-inspired tradition that uses similar names for the figures, which tie into the meanings through other symbolic means; “beardless”, for instance, refers to young men who are yet energetic while still not old enough to have the full features of maturity.  Other names for Puer include Flavus (blond, perhaps referring to the bright golden hair color associated with young children?), Belliger (warring), or even Gladius Erigendus (erect sword, which…mmhm.)

What I’m saying here is that the names of the figures have gone through quite a lot of change and variation over the centuries, and what matters is that the names are descriptive of the meanings of the figures in divination and magic.  Puer means a whole lot more than “boy”, of course, as does Puella than merely “girl”, but a whole set of personality, physical, temperamental, and situational traits that go far beyond merely what might be considered masculine or feminine as determined by medieval European society.  So, why not think of other names for these two figures that can decouple them from a reliance on the male-female distinction?

Personally, I like going with Hero and Host, playing off not just the initial sounds of the words, but on the dichotomy of hostility and hospitality, rough and smooth, or as my mutual above phrased it, “gall and grace”.  They tie into my own meditations and visualizations of the figures, too.  On Puer:

The young man dressed in rags and armor, riding his horse, drops his armor’s visor, raises his sword, and plunges into the fight.  All he’s in it for is to fight, and the fight is real, especially if he’s the one to start it (he usually is).  If he’s on the right side in the fight, he’ll lay his enemies bare and clear the field to pave the way for future foundations; if not, he’ll live to fight for a hopeless and regretful day later.  But that doesn’t matter to him, anyway; he lives for the fight, the struggle, the excitement, the passion, the heat, and the war that never ends for him.  His visor limits his vision, cutting out peripheral vision entirely and causing him to focus on what’s right ahead of him; just so does he only care for the current day and the current battle.  He’s young and without experience of victory, or even finesse in battle, his rashness and recklessness giving him all the flailing speed and power he needs, but he’s fighting not just to fight but also for that experience he lacks.  And, after all, he’s fighting because there’s one thing he’s missing: someone to really fight for.  Don’t expect him to be your ally when you call, but expect him to call on you or pull you into the fight.

And on Puella:

…I saw myself walking into a massive pyramidal hall, an ancient temple with smooth golden sandstone walls neatly fit together rising up to a square hole in the ceiling, with a light shining down into it illuminating everything the temple with a rich, warm, delicate light.  The whole of the temple was filled with treasures, rich tapestries, delicate statues and figurines, and piles of paintings; it was a temple in the old style, a warehouse and storeroom for all the holy treasures a temenos or church would’ve accrued over the centuries.  At the end of the temple, meandering through a forest of statues and stacks of gold, kneeling down in prayer was a young maiden, dressed in the finest dress, modest but alluring, sweet but experienced.  I approached her, and she looked up at me with the most genuine, kindest, warmest smile I’ve ever seen; she stepped up, took my hand, and walked me around the temple.  It was bliss, even for me who doesn’t go for women, but she told me about how she had been expecting me, preparing all this for me, watching out for my arrival; she told me that she wanted to make sure I was alright.  I told her that I was, and by then, she had led me to the entry of the temple and gently guided me out with the kindest and warmest of farewells.  I left with a smile on my face, both in my mind and in my physical body.

You can just as easily swap out “young man” for “young woman” in the former, and “young maiden” with “young prince” in the latter.  Neither of those rely on gender or sex.  There might be an argument for the dot patterns of the figures: some say that Puer represents an erect phallus and Puella an open vagina, and I can agree with those!  But dot patterns are fickle things, and they can be interpreted as any number of other things, too: Puer can represent a sword and Puella a mirror (a la the original forms of the glyphs for the shield-and-spear of Mars and the handheld-mirror of Venus), or Puer could represent a person with their arms low in a defensive fighting stance and Puella a person standing with their arms out in embrace and welcome.  If you’re troubled by the notion of Puer representing a woman because of its emphasis on erection, don’t forget that the clitoris also swells with blood when its owner gets aroused—a.k.a., an erection.  As for men worrying about being seen as womanly by being associated as the Host (née Puella), don’t forget that some of the greatest role models we have for nontoxic masculinity in the West include Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross, the perfect neighbor who welcomed all to his neighborhood and a stunning artist who found beauty in all scenes and spread it to all who wanted it.

As for the new terms, I can also hear some saying “well, hero has a feminine version, ‘heroine’, and host has a female version, ‘hostess’, these aren’t gender-neutral terms!”  Sure, I suppose, if you want to use the French, Latin, or Greek roots of the words we have, where the language was inherently gendered along grammatical lines.  But, at least in English, we don’t really have gender on words unless we force gender onto those words; “host” suffices just fine for men or women, as does “hero”.  We don’t need to specify “hostess” or “heroine” unless we want to emphasize that someone is hosting and is also a woman, or that someone exceptionally brave and courageous is also a woman; we can use the unmarked forms of the words as being applicable to any (or no) gender just fine.  After all, we call women “director”, “doctor”, “administrator”, and “aviator”, not “directrix”, “ductrix”, “administratrix”, or “aviatrix”, which are the proper feminine versions of those words.  We can drop the gendered endings because they’re not necessary unless we want to absolutely reinforce the notion that someone’s gender must be specified at any and every given opportunity.

Will I start using and enforcing the terms Hero and Host on my blog?  For the sake of communication, probably not.  Chances are I’ll just keep them to myself and refer to them that way in my head, using the more popular and common names that have been in solid use for five centuries or more in public for the sake of communication.  Still, when teaching these figures, I think it’d be useful to have an alternate set of names for them as well, which most texts are already liable to do.  Adding another pair of names to help decouple gender from magic isn’t too hard an effort to make, but the results are worth it, I claim.

I was on a podcast over at My Alchemical Bromance!

Personally speaking, my preferred medium is the written word.  I get to clarify and refine my thoughts into an actually acceptable format, it’s easy to peruse if you have time or skim through if you don’t, and searching through it is trivial with most modern search functions (though I have my issues with the WordPress search from time to time).  It’d be a weird day indeed if I were to start making videos or podcasts of my own as a Thing, but I’m certainly not opposed to other people doing it, especially when they’ve got good practice at making it work well for them and entertaining to boot!  I like leaving this sort of thing to the good people who’ve mastered it.

Not that long ago, I was invited to chat with the good Rev. Erik L. Arneson over on his podcast of My Alchemical Bromance,  Rev. Arneson, who also manages the website, blog, and reading services of Arnemancy which focuses on a variety of Hermetic topics old and new, invited me onto the show to chat about the Greek Magical Papyri, geomancy (which I think is becoming almost my cliche thing? eh, it’s definitely my thing, to be sure), ceremonial magic, and a variety of other topics as we share a drink.  He had a fancy beer, while I drank my already-half-emptied 1.5L bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red blend, leftover from offerings done earlier in the week, which he mirthfully mocked me for (and rightfully so).

What?  Y’all knew I don’t bother with taste if I don’t need to.

You can listen to the episode directly on their website at this page, or you can listen to the 1hr37min debaculous chat here:

Once you’re done (and I do hope you enjoyed it—it was super fun chatting with the good reverend), be sure to like them on Facebook, follow them on whatever RSS feeder you prefer, and subscribe to their podcast!

Digitized Traditional and Renaissance Geomancy Resource List

Time and again recently, I’ve had to flip through a variety of archives to find specific books on geomancy.  These aren’t my normal books, but some of the venerated (and pain-in-the-ass) source books that modern geomancers in the West tend to work from, whether directly from their own pages or indirectly through modern translators and teachers.  After amassing a bit of a list of my own, and being tired of digging through awful interfaces to find a few texts, I decided to go on and compile a fairly reasonable list of geomantic texts that are freely available online in some digitized format or another.  Most of these are from the 1500s through 1700s, with very few exceptions.  There are others available online, of course, but some of those aren’t really in the public domain and I’d really rather not get slammed for piracy so publicly.

The list of texts I largely go by are found in the bibliographies of Stephen Skinner’s books Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy (1980) and Geomancy in Theory and Practice (2011).  Skinner has done, as usual, a fantastic job at cataloging and indexing so many texts, books, and manuscripts on geomancy, and it’s given me a good start with original sources to check from, in addition to modern resources such as academic papers, blogs, workshops, pamphlets, and the like.  Below are whatever resources, based on Skinner’s bibliographies, that I could find digitized and freely accessible online in a variety of langauges, focusing on those that were published and used in European and Western geomancy from the 1500s onward.

In Latin:

In French:

In Italian:

In German:

In English:

Of course, it should be made clear that this list is by no means comprehensive!  Between the manuscripts that cannot be read except with eyes trained in particular handwriting styles, books that have not yet been digitized or that have but not been made publicly available, and all the books that are still under copyright, and all the other books that are available but which are in Middle Eastern and Asian languages, there are dozens, hundreds of books that discuss geomancy that are not yet available like the ones above.  Still, this is a good start for many, and if you include resources that discuss Arabic or Islamic style geomancy under the name raml or ramal, you can turn up with even more works; alas, I don’t know Arabic, Persian, or Urdu, so I have not included those texts here, but they’re out there, too!

Hopefully, this list of texts can help further the research and study of geomancy and encourage those with the skills to translate whatever texts still remain in obscurity and bring old, buried knowledge to light once more.  If you, dear reader, have any other tips, clues, or links to other historical, Renaissance, or medieval resources that are digitized in some way or are in the public domain, please share in the comments!

More on Geomantic Epodes and Intonations

One of my colleagues on Facebook, Nic Raven Run of Ravens Hall Press, asked me an interesting question to follow up on my post on epodes for the elements and geomantic figures from the other day.  In that post, I offered a set of single syllables that could be chanted or intoned like a bīja, or “seed syllable” mantra, for each of the four elements based on an obscure geomantic method of interpretation (the BZDḤ technique), which I also extrapolated into a system of single syllable intonations for each of the sixteen geomantic figures.  To that end, here are the two systems I would most likely use in my own practice, one based on the BZDḤ system and one based on strict stoicheia for the elements:

  • Hybrid Greek system
    • Fire: bi (ΒΙ)
    • Air: zu (ΖΥ)
    • Water: (ΔΗ)
    • Earth: ha (Ἁ)
  • Exact Mathēsis system
    • Fire: kho (ΧΟ)
    • Air: phu (ΦΥ)
    • Water: ksē (ΞΗ)
    • Earth: thō (ΘΩ)

And their corresponding expansions into the two systems of geomantic epodes using the two systems I would recommend (with the pure elemental epodes in bold text showing their location in the geomantic systems):

Hybrid Greek System (ΒΖΔΗ)
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΖΙ
ZI
Puer
ΔΙ
DI
Puella

HI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΖΥ
ZU
Rubeus
ΔΥ
DU
Via

HU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΖΗ

Coniunctio
ΔΗ

Albus


Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΖΑ
ZA
Acquisitio
ΔΑ
DA
Populus

HA
Tristitia
Exact Mathēsis System (ΧΦΞΘ)
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΟ
KHO
Laetitia
ΦΟ
PHO
Puer
ΞΟ
KSO
Puella
ΘΟ
THO
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΩ
KHŌ
Cauda Draconis
ΦΩ
PHŌ
Acquisitio
ΞΩ
KSŌ
Populus
ΘΩ
THŌ
Tristitia

What this gets us is a system of single-syllable units that can represent not only the four elements but all sixteen figures.  In addition to being useful for energy work exercises among other magical practices, it also gives us an interesting method of encoding geomantic figures phonetically.  For instance, we could encapsulate an entire geomantic chart based on the four Mother figures, such that e.g. BIZAZIDĒ would be interpreted as Laetitia (BI), Acquisitio (ZA), Puer (ZI), and Albus (DĒ).  Another way we could use these is to encapsulate one of the 256 combinations of figures in two or three syllables: for instance, the combination of Coniunctio (ZĒ) and Acquisitio (ZA) to form Fortuna Maior (HĒ) could be written succinctly as ZĒZA or more fully as ZĒZAHĒ.  There are plenty of ways to extend such a system, ranging from Abulafia-like meditating on the 256 permutations of syllables to using them in geomantic candle magic a la Balthazar Black’s technique.

However, note that each such epode is basically considered a unit; yes, it’s composed of an elemental consonant and a vowel that, although they are inherently based on the Greek notion of planetary associations, can be reckoned as elemental symbols as well, and the combination of them composes a single syllable based on the primary (consonant) and secondary (vowel) elements of the geomantic figures.  What Nic was asking about was an alternative system of epodes: how could we use the elemental epodes to “compose” a geomantic figure in the sense of describing which elements were active and passive?  For instance, we could simply describe Via as BIZUDĒHA since it has all four elements, but how might one represent a figure with one or more passive elements?  Nic suggested a phonetic approach using a system of using two sets of vowels, using open vowels for active elements and close vowels for passive elements.  The system Nic was suggesting would be to effectively use a series of diphthongs to approximate such vowels.

I didn’t like this approach, to be honest.  For one, the reason why I’m using the vowels I’m using (which themselves are a mix of open and close in the systems I suggest) are (a) because the Greek system is particularly amenable to occult works and (b) because I’m relying not so much on phonetics as I am the occult symbolism and correspondences of the letters to the planets and, by those same correspondences, to the elements.  In that framework, diphthongs really mess with the system, because a diphthong involves several vowels which “muddle” the planetary/elemental symbolism that I’m trying to accomplish.  Plus, such a system would necessitate eight distinct but more-or-less balanced vowel sounds, and the Greek alphabet or phonetics isn’t really geared for that.  Now, that said, the idea isn’t a bad one!  However, because I’m not operating from purely phonetic principles, it’s not for me to go along that route.  I encouraged Nic (and I encourage others as well, if there are others to whom this idea is appealing) to explore such a phonetic approach to representing elements and their compositions to form geomantic figure representations.

There are other approaches to creating composed epodes for the geomantic figures, though, which I also discussed with Nic.  The first hunch I had was to simply include or omit the basic letters needed; for instance, if the consonants BZDḤ represent Fire, Air, Water, and Earth respectively, then combinations of those letters would represent the active elements in a figure, and we could fill in the vowels according to the rules of instinctual Arabic methods or the methods of pronouncing Greek generated words from before.  So, Via (with all four elements) would simply be BZDḤ or “bahz-dach”, Amissio (with just Fire and Water) would be BD or “bahd”, Fortuna Maior would be DḤ or “dach”, and so forth.  Populus, however, having no elements active, could be represented through silence, soft breathing, or something else entirely like “hmmmm” (using the notion that the Semitic letter for M, Arabic mīm or Hebrew mem, has its origins in the hieroglyph and word for “water”, which is the dominant element of Populus).  It’s an idea, but one I don’t particularly like, either, as it seems clunky and inelegant to use without regularity or much appeal, especially since the use of Ḥ only really works in Arabic, as we’d just end with a vowel in the Greek system which could be unclear.  We could use the mathētic approach of using ΧΦΞΘ instead, but we can do better than that.

Instead of using consonants, let’s think about a system that just uses the seven pure Greek vowels.  Recall in the systems above from the earlier post that there’s a way to use the Greek vowels, which normally represent the planets, to represent the four elements as well:

In the last row of my mathētic Tetractys, note how we have the four non-luminary and non-Mercury planets each associated to one of the four elements: Mars with Fire, Jupiter with Air, Venus with Water, and Saturn with Earth.  Though this system doesn’t quite match Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7), it does with his broader and more fuller explanations and detailing of the planets earlier in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapters 23 through 29).  Thus, as applied in my exact mathētic system of epodes, we can use Omicron (Mars) for Fire, Upsilon (Jupiter) for Air, Ēta (Venus) for Water, and Ōmega (Saturn) for Earth.  The letters Iōta (Sun), Alpha (Moon), and Epsilon (Mercury) are not used in the exact mathētic system of epodes, but are in the vague hybrid system from before, being a little easier to use and distinguish.

The connection I made for using these vowels was based on another notion I had of arranging the seven planets into the geomantic figures.  In that topic, one could envision taking seven planetary objects (talismans, coins, stones, etc.) and arranging them on an altar in a regular way to represent the graphical forms of the geomantic figures.  The method I gave for doing this was described like this:

Since we want to map the seven planets onto the points of the figures, let’s start with the easiest ones that give us a one-to-one ratio of planets to points: the odd seven-pointed figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Let us first establish that the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn are the most elementally-representative of the seven planets, and thus must be present in every figure; said another way, these four planets are the ones that most manifest the elements themselves, and should be reflected in their mandatory presence in the figures that represent the different manifestations of the cosmos in terms of the sixteen geomantic figures.  The Sun, the Moon, and Mercury are the three empyrean planets, and may or may not be present so as to mitigate the other elements accordingly.  A row with only one point must therefore have only one planet in that row, and should be the ouranic planet to fully realize that element’s presence and power; a row with two points will have the ouranic planet of that row’s element as well as one of the empyrean planets, where the empyrean planet mitigates the pure elemental expression of the ouranic planet through its more unmanifest, luminary presence.  While the ouranic planets will always appear in the row of its associated element, the empyrean planets will move and shift in a harmonious way wherever needed; thus, since the Sun (as the planetary expression of Sulfur) “descends” into both Mars/Fire and Jupiter/Air, the Sun can appear in either the Fire or Air rows when needed.  Similarly, Mercury can appear in either the Air or Water rows, and the Moon in either the Water or Earth rows (but more on the exceptions to this below).

This led us to having the following arrangements:

Note that Via is the only figure that uses only the so-called “ouranic” planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, because Via is the only figure with all elements active.  All the other figures, having at least one element passive, will involve one or more of the planets Mercury, Sun, or Moon, because those “empyrean” planets mitigate and lessen the elemental presence of the row that they’re found in.  The only major exception to this arrangement is—you guessed it—Populus, which uses a different arrangement entirely.  For more information about how and why these figures are arranged with the planets in the way they are and how they might otherwise be used, see the relevant post on my blog, linked just above.  The terms ouranic and empyrean are a distinction I make in my Mathēsis work to distinguish the twelve non-zodiacal forces into three groups, as demonstrated in this post.

Now, remember that each planet has its own vowel, and note where the planets appear in the arrangements above for each figure.  We can come up with a rule that transforms the figures into sequences of vowels to represent the figures like this:

  1. For all figures except Populus:
    1. Every row will have either a single ouranic planet (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) or both an ouranic and empyrean planet (Moon, Sun, Mercury).
    2. If a given elemental row has an empyrean planet present as well as an ouranic planet, use the vowel of the empyrean planet there.
    3. Otherwise, if a given elemental row has only an ouranic planet present, use the vowel of the ouranic planet.
  2. For the figure Populus:
    1. All planets are present in their own arrangement to represent the voids of Populus.
    2. Use all the vowels, some mutually-exclusive set, or just keep silent.

Thus, consider the figure Via.  In each row, it only has an ouranic planet, so we simply use their corresponding vowels: ΟΥΗΩ.  For Coniunctio, note how we have two empyrean planets in the figure, the Sun alongside Mars and the Moon alongside Saturn; we would use their corresponding vowels instead of their ouranic equivalents, getting us the vowel string ΙΥΗΑ (Iōta instead of Omicron and Alpha instead of Ōmega).  Likewise, Puer has the empyrean planet Mercury present alongside Venus, so its vowel string would be ΟΥΕΩ (Epsilon instead of Ēta).  The only exception to this would be Populus, as noted above, which could be represented either as the entire vowel string ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ or as simple, holy silence, but we can talk more about that later.

This gets us the following vowel epodes for the figures:

  • Laetitia: ΟΙΕΑ
  • Fortuna Minor: ΟΥΙΑ
  • Amissio: ΟΙΗΑ
  • Cauda Draconis: ΟΥΗΕ
  • Puer: ΟΥΕΩ
  • Rubeus: ΙΥΕΑ
  • Coniunctio: ΙΥΗΑ
  • Acquisitio: ΙΥΑΩ
  • Puella: ΟΕΗΑ
  • Via: ΟΥΗΩ
  • Albus: ΙΕΗΑ
  • Populus: More on that in a bit.
  • Carcer: ΟΙΑΩ
  • Caput Draconis: ΕΥΗΩ
  • Fortuna Maior: ΙΑΗΩ
  • Tristitia: ΙΕΑΩ

What’s nice about this system is that, at least for all the non-Populus figures, we have four vowels that we can intone.  Anyone familiar with the classical Hermetic and Neoplatonic texts and techniques is familiar with how vowel-intoning was considered a pure and sacred practice, and now we can apply it to the figures as well as the planets!  Even better, since each geomantic figure uses a distinct set of vowels, we can permute them in any which way.  Thus, if we wanted to engross ourselves in the world of, say, Laetitia, we could intone all possible variations of its vowel string:

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

For each of the non-Populus figures which have four distinct vowels, there are 24 possible permutations of its vowel string, with six permutations that begin with each one of the vowels.  Going through and intoning each permutation could be a powerful meditative practice for each of the figures, and probably especially effective for magical practices, too.

What about Populus?  For that, we have all seven vowels ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ, and to permute all seven of those would…take a considerably longer time than the other figures (there are 5040 possible permutations).  Though going through all such permutations would also be a powerful practice, there are better ways we can use our time.  For one, what about the sequence ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ itself?  It’s simple and straightforward, but it doesn’t really reflect the arrangement of planets we use for Populus: note how we have the empyrean planets (Sun, Mercury, and Moon) down the middle with the ouranic planets (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) around the sides in a distinctly mathētic pattern.  For this arrangement, we could use the vowel string ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ: we have Iōta at the beginning, Epsilon in the middle, and Alpha at the end, with the other four vowels in their elemental order interspersed between them, the hot elements Fire and Air in the first half and the cold elements Water and Earth in the second half.  Using this pattern, we could imagine a kind of lightning-bolt descending from the Sun down to the Moon through Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn, a pattern that would take us from the hottest, brightest, most active powers down to the coldest, darkest, most passive powers.

Another way is to use a condensed vowel string: rather than using the ouranic planets’ vowels at all, why not limit ourselves to the empyrean planets, which are only ever used for passive elements anyway in this scheme?  In this reckoning, we could reduce ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ to ΙΕΑ (reflecting the center empty “gap” of the dots in the figure Populus), just as we commonly figure that the divine name ΙΑΩ is a reduction of the full string ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ.  Plus, we only ever see the string ΙΕΑ in the (permutations of) the string for the figures that are mostly passive anyway: Laetitia (ΟΙΕΑ), Rubeus (ΙΥΕΑ), Albus (ΙΕΗΑ), and Tristitia (ΙΕΑΩ).  If there were any vowel string that could be considered the inverse of that of Via (ΟΥΗΩ), the mutually-exclusive remaining set of vowels ΙΕΑ would be it!  We could then permute this string in a simple set of six permutations, too:

ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ
ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ

Instead of doing either ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ or permutations of ΙΕΑ, though, there’s another approach to us: if Populus is devoid of elements, then it has nothing at all, and thus has nothing to intone, so Populus could simply be represented by a pure, holy silence devoid of intonations.  This is also entirely appropriate, and would symbolically make Populus a vacuum of empty space, a blank template upon which the other elements could be applied.  Entirely fitting to represent Populus on its own.

Of course, using that logic, then why would we bother using the empyrean planets’ vowels at all to represent the passive elements in a figure?  We could just stick with the ouranic planets that are active, which would get us the following “short” set of vowel intonations, such as Ο for Laetitia, ΟΥ for Fortuna Minor, ΟΥΗ for Cauda Draconis, and so forth.  Not nearly as elegant, perhaps, but could also work.  I’m not a fan, personally, as it then begins to conflate the elemental presences of the figures with purely planetary ones.  For instance, Laetitia being simply represented by Omicron would then conflate Laetitia with the planet Mars, even though Laetitia is solidly linked to Jupiter, and likewise Rubeus with Upsilon to Jupiter and not Mars.  I wouldn’t recommend this system, personally.

So, where does that leave us?  At this point, there are three systems of epodes I would recommend for working with the geomantic figures, two of which are single-syllable epodes (one based on the BZDḤ system with Greek vowels, and one derived from that same system using a purer stoicheic/mathētic approach), and one of which is based on mathētic principles to come up with intonable, permutable vowel strings.

Figure Single Syllable Vowel String
Hybrid Mathēsis
Laetitia ΒΙ
BI
ΧΟ
KHO
ΟΙΕΑ
Fortuna Minor ΒΥ
BU
ΧΥ
KHU
ΟΥΙΑ
Amissio ΒΗ
ΧΗ
KHĒ
ΟΙΗΑ
Cauda Draconis ΒΑ
BA
ΧΩ
KHŌ
ΟΥΗΕ
Puer ΖΙ
ZI
ΦΟ
PHO
ΟΥΕΩ
Rubeus ΖΥ
ZU
ΦΥ
PHU
ΙΥΕΑ
Coniunctio ΖΗ
ΦΗ
PHĒ
ΙΥΗΑ
Acquisitio ΖΑ
ZA
ΦΩ
PHŌ
ΙΥΑΩ
Puella ΔΙ
DI
ΞΟ
KSO
ΟΕΗΑ
Via ΔΥ
DU
ΞΥ
KSU
ΟΥΗΩ
Albus ΔΗ
ΞΗ
KSĒ
ΙΕΗΑ
Populus ΔΑ
DA
ΞΩ
KSŌ
ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ or ΙΕΑ
or just keep silent
Carcer
HI
ΘΟ
THO
ΟΙΑΩ
Caput Draconis
HU
ΘΥ
THU
ΕΥΗΩ
Fortuna Maior
ΘΗ
THĒ
ΙΑΗΩ
Tristitia
HA
ΘΩ
THŌ
ΙΕΑΩ

This is all well and good, but where does this actually leave us?  What the past few posts on these tangentially-geomantic topics are accomplishing is taking the sixteen geomantic figures and coming up with new ways to apply them in ways outside of strict divinatory purposes, giving them new media such as sound to be “played” or transmitted through, and using those media to accomplish other tasks.  If the planets can be used for astrology as well as magic, there’s no reason why the figures can’t be used for geomancy as well as magic, either.  The ability to form meditative or magical epodes for concentrating, contemplating, and connecting with the figures on deeper levels plays into the same systems that geomantic gestures or energy centers or altar arrangements do: using these figures for a magical, world-changing purpose instead of a merely predictive one.

By the same token, however, so much of this is highly experimental.  All magic is at some point, but given the novelty and how mix-and-match I’m being between Greek letter magic and geomantic systems, this is all deserving of some deep practice and reflection and refinement.  I’m sharing this on my blog because…well, it’s my blog, and it’s interesting to share my theories here, and to spread some of my ideas out there to get feedback on by those who are interested.  At the same time, so much of all this is just theoretical and musings on how to apply certain ideas in certain ways.  I’m confident I can get them to work, but that’s not a guarantee that they will.  Experimentation and practice is absolutely needed, not only to get my own aims and goals accomplished, but even just to see whether certain methods work at all for anything.

Still, while we’re at it, let’s make up a new practice, shall we?  Let’s say we want to have a formalized way of conjuring up the power of a given figure, such as for some intense contemplation or pathworking.  In my Secreti Geomantici ebook, wherein I talk about lots of different magical practices involving geomancy and geomantic figures, I provide a set of sixteen prayers for each of the figures.  We can use those in combination with the geomantic epodes above to come up with a more thorough invocation of a figure.  The process I have in mind would be to recite the hybrid single-syllable epode as few as four or as many as sixteen times (or as many times as there are points in the figure), recite the given orison of the figure, then permute through its vowel string.  Thus, for Laetitia, we could do the following, while sitting before an image of Laetitia (or an altar of planetary talismans arranged in the form of the figure Laetitia) while holding the geomantic hand gesture of Laetitia:

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

Jovian Laetitia, standing tall
Granting hope in the hearts of all
Blazing spirit, o fulgent flame
Flashing brightest, of rousing fame
In our dark minds you spark pure Fire
Calcining spite to high desire
Grand arch of joy, embrace us here
And bring us tidings glad and clear

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

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

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

See?  By coming up with small, individual innovations and extrapolations and translations of one set of symbols from one medium into another, we can start using each on their own effectively, or we can start plugging them in to come up with bigger, better, and more profound practices that can really pack a punch.  Geomancy has every potential and every capability to become a full magical and spiritual practice in its own right that can fit right in with any other Western or Hermetic practice based on their own symbol sets; just because extant literature is lacking on the subject doesn’t mean it can’t be done, after all, and with a bit of thought and ingenuity, there are so many avenues that open themselves up for ready exploration.

One final thought about the use of these vowel epodes: we know that for any non-Populus figure, there are 24 permutations of the vowel string epodes.  So, that makes 15 × 24 = 360.  Which is a…stupidly pleasing number, to be honest.  As we all know, Using this little tidbit, we could conceive of a sort of year-long geomantic practice, focusing on one of the permutations of vowel epodes for the figures per day.  This gives us 15  24-day “months” of figures, with five or six days leftover at the end of the year.  In leap years that have six epagomenal days, we could use the permutations of the short epode ΙΕΑ for Populus; in non-leap years, we could just focus on the whole epode ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ, or we could just keep silent (perhaps more fitting for epagomenal days).  It’s not entirely balanced in that regard, but it does have its own logic and cleanliness that could make it a viable yearly-daily practice for meditating on the epodes of the figures.  I might expand on this idea at a later point, or perhaps rework my geomantic Wheel of the Year to match it in some sense, but it’s something to mull over for now.  The next leap year isn’t for another year and a half, after all.

Geomantic chart interpretation service now available!

Normally, one might be proud of being able to put out a new service for the public.  Though I do in a roundabout way, I mostly feel a little awkward about this one, though.

Long story short: I have a new service available!  Geomancy Chart Interpretation Help is available when you need it.  If you’ve got a geomantic chart you can’t seem to figure out or if things just refuse to add up, I can help you work through the chart, drawing on my experience with reading, divining, and research of the symbols and techniques of geomancy!  This doubles as getting help for a chart as well as giving you a good case example to practice geomancy with.  You can get this service for US$16.00 per chart over on my Services page.

I guess saying this wasn’t so bad, but I feel some type of way about it, even if it is necessary at this point.  To be blunt, my time is increasingly limited: between my full-time office job, commuting, religious obligations, client work, writing, working out, home ownership, and everything else going in my life, I have a lot on my plate.  It’s not enough to keep me down or incommunicado, and I’m able to keep everything flowing well and healthily for myself, my work, and my Work.  However, I’m not able to be as generous with my time nowadays as I used to be, and whereas before I would be glad to help anyone who asked with geomantic chart help, it’s gotten to the point where my availability has decreased and my popularity increased such that I simply don’t have time to accommodate everyone who asks for help.  Cutting back on this helps make sure I have the time and energy I need to keep up with my clients and community, but I still want to help those who need it for their own practices without them having to get an overkill mentoring session.

So, going forward, I’ve decided to start charging a token fee as a matter of course for this type of mentoring and feedback.  I appreciate your understanding, and I thank you for looking to me for guidance and advice when it comes to geomancy, both for getting answers from readings as well as help with readings!

ADDENDUM: I should also note that, if you’re on Facebook, you can also join the Geomantic Study-Group I help admin to propose your chart for community feedback!  We have a growing and active set of members (getting close to 1000 soon enough!), and there are always people ready and willing to help contribute to everyone’s knowledge and experiences, so long as you’re willing to do the same!

Distilling Secondary Figures from a Geomantic Chart

Distilling Secondary Figures from a Geomantic Chart

Even after all this time, one of the things I love about the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is that it’s actually fairly active, at least as far as geomancy groups go, and it maintains its activity over long durations of time.  Between group chart analyses, questions about techniques, and sharing of neat finds online or in books about geomancy, it’s always a source of joy and delight to drop in and see how the conversation is going.  If you’re on Facebook and are interested in geomancy, I highly encourage you to join!

Recently, one of the members posted a question about a particular taskin he found.  Taskins, for those who may have forgotten or never knew the term, are the mnemonic orderings of figures used in Arabic geomancy to organize and categorize different sets of correspondences.  Though often given as nothing more than a simple order with a name of the order attached, they can refer to pretty much any set of correspondences, such as directions, parts of the body, or how to simply number the figures from 1 to 16.  This one member shared a particular taskin, but because there are few Arabic-style geomancers in the group (and fewer still who are willing to discuss the techniques), there wasn’t much to be shared or discussed about the topic to answer his question.  However, we did find something interesting: one English-speaking author has written at least something that’s used in Arabic geomancy, and I decided to investigate further.number the figures from 1 to 16

Nineveh Shadrach is a Western author who specializes in an interesting and intriguing hybrid of Arabic and Middle Eastern magic with European and more broadly Hermetic styles and techniques, and he’s been on my reading list for ages.  The post in the Facebook group steered me to one of his older books, “Secrets of Ancient Magic: Path of the Goddess” (2001, 2004, Ishtar Publishing), co-authored with Frances Harrison.  The book itself appears to be out of print, and though parts of it were used in later publications, the section on geomancy appears to be kept only in this book.  He discusses the basics of geomantic divination as any larger work on magic generally might and takes an approach that veers closer to Arabic-style geomancy than what most European authors have written, but one technique caught my eye, and that really got me thinking about how to apply it in my own practice.

Shadrach’s “Elemental Analysis” technique doesn’t look at the figures in the chart on their own, but rather generates sixteen (!) new figures based on the elemental lines of those in the chart.  Shadrach uses a system of assigning whole elements to the houses in which figures can fall based on the astrological order of elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water), extending it to the four houses of the Court:

First
Quadrant
Second
Quadrant
Third
Quadrant
Fourth
Quadrant
Fire
Houses
I V IX XIII
Earth
Houses
II VI X XIV
Air
Houses
III VII XI XV
Water
Houses
IV VIII XII XVI

Based on this, one can make a “Fire of Fire” figure by taking the Fire lines of the figures in houses of Fire, i.e. houses I, V, IX, and XIII.  To make the “Air of Fire” figure, one takes the Fire lines of the figures in houses of Air, i.e. houses III, VII, XI, and XV.  In other words, to make a figure “X of Y”, one takes takes the Y-element lines from the X-element houses.   In this sense, one generates a figure such that the elemental lines taken provide the secondary element, and the elemental houses provide the primary element.

The resulting figure can be considered a kind of “elemental distillation” of the chart that hones in on a particular aspect of the situation as filtered through a primary and secondary elemental framework.  For instance, Shadrach gives the example that, in a relationship reading, one would look at the Water figures (i.e. the figures generated from distilling the figures found in houses of Water) generated by this technique, and should the Air of Water figure (Water lines from houses III, VII, XI, and XV) be unfortunate, then it could be said that there might be “communication problems when it comes to emotional expression”.  This figure would then be further inspected to see where in the actual geomantic chart it might be found to further whittle down where such problems might occur.  For instance, should the Air of Water figure be Carcer in such a reading, perhaps indicating isolation and a sense of loneliness in the relationship, and should Carcer be found in house V, it could indicate that there are issues involving intimacy, a lack of sexual communication or agreement, and possible unspoken and undiscussed fears of of sexual impotency causing feelings of inadequacy.

There are a few neat things about this technique, but also a few things I would change.  For one, Shadrach uses the elements in the order of how they appear in the Zodiac: Fire, Earth, Air, Water.  I disprefer this ordering in favor of the usual geomantic order: Fire, Air, Water, Earth.  The latter works better, as well, since I don’t like involving zodiacal schemas and systems where they’re not explicitly called for, and this overall idea of elemental distillation seems more appropriate for the Shield Chart.  For that, I already have a system of assigning elements to the “fields” (not “houses”!) to the Shield Chart:

Mothers Daughters Nieces Court
Fire First First First Right Witness
Air Second Second Second Left Witness
Water Third Third Third Judge
Earth Fourth Fourth Fourth Sentence

Additionally, I don’t like how the phrasing of Shadrach’s technique works in what elements you take from where.  In his system, “X of Y” indicates that you’d take the Y-element lines from the figures in X-element locations, and the Y-element is dominant.  However, this seems backwards to me; the elemental lines take place within the figure found in a given elemental location, so it seems like the the overall “contextual” (or primary) element would be that determined by the location/house/field, and the “modifying” (or secondary) element would be that determined by the line.  So, if Shadrach’s system would define “Air of Water” as being the Water lines taken from the figures in Air locations, I would instead say that it’s the Air lines taken from the figures in Water locations.  This would make more sense to me in lining up with his example about the Air of Water figure representing communication in emotional matters: taking the Air lines from the Water figures would represent the combined powers of Air within the overall context and world of Water.  So, when I would say “X of Y”, I would indicate taking the X-element lines from the Y-element figures: again, the Y-element is primary.

So, in my version of the method, I would make my elementally distilled figures as such:

  • Fire of Fire: Fire lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Air of Fire: Air lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Water of Fire: Water lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Earth of Fire: Earth lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Fire of Air: Fire lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Air of Air: Air lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Water of Air: Water lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Earth of Air: Earth lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Fire of Water: Fire lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Air of Water: Air lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Water of Water: Water lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Earth of Water: Earth lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Fire of Earth: Fire lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Air of Earth: Air lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Water of Earth: Water lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Earth of Earth: Earth lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence

This is all well and good, but what exactly does this get us?  We already have sixteen figures in our geomantic chart, each in its own house that provides the context of each figure, along with how to group the figures into triads, using the Way of the Point, and a variety of other techniques, so why should we come up with more figures for the sake of them?  To get more detail out of the reading, of course!  It always bears remembering that there’s no one single school of geomancy, nor has there ever been, and many techniques were used only by certain people in certain locations or traditions within geomancy.  As it spread across Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, geomancy could almost always be recognized as geomancy, but it also adapted itself to the cultures, tribes, and specific strains of knowledge it found itself practiced within.  The use of elemental distillation can be seen as another example of such a technique to extract as much information out of a chart, either on its own or in tandem with other techniques available at the geomancer’s disposal.

Above and beyond just interpreting the figures in the fields (or houses), the technique of elemental distillation can be used to note the specific energetic currents present in a situation, how they’re resolving, and to what end.  Using the elements of field and figure technique, we can see whether the energies in a given aspect of one’s life are able to flow freely and do what they need to for the sake and benefit of the querent, or whether they’re stymied, blocked, and undone based on whether the element of the figure matches the element of the field within which it’s found.  Using this elemental distillation technique, we can get a similar notion of what energies are present in a situation, but from the other side of the equation: we’re seeing what the actual powers and forces at work are, and then seeing how they interact and affect the situation.  So, if we find that the Air of Water figure is fortunate, then we know that the Water energies in the situation are able to to travel, mix, and match more-or-less freely, and if the Water of Air figure is fortunate, then we know that the Air energies in the situation are able to congeal, stick, and be understood in a more profound way than the merely intellectual.

We could take this technique in another direction, though.  I’ve previously established a system of primary and secondary elemental rulers for the figures, such that every geomantic figure is ruled by a main element and a sub-element based on their elemental structure.  In that case, we can consider our elemental distillations to be like the sixteen original figures themselves in an applied sense, with the sixteen original figures being their ideal “fields”.  Consider: if we’re looking at the Air of Water distillation, then we’ve got a figure that is primarily Water and secondarily Air.  The figure that is primarily Water and secondarily Air is the figure Via.  Thus, the Air of Water distillation of a chart indicates how well the situation described by the chart can facilitate the energy of Via, or total change and flow.  Likewise, the Fire of Fire distillation of a chart indicates how well the situation described can facilitate the energy of Laetitia, or joy and uplifting motion.  If we were to find fortunate figures, especially figures that agree in element or the very same figure itself, then we can say that the energies and forces represented by that ideal figure are present and able to effect change in the situation; if unfortunate figures result from distillation, then the forces represented by the corresponding ideal figure are weakened or absent.

One way we could apply this in divination would be to think of a given figure that represents something the querent wants or is aiming for in the situation.  For instance, in a query about promotion, Laetitia would be an excellent figure, because it represents upwards motion and is a figure I find particularly well-suited to promotions and elevations in general and the workplace in particular.  Laetitia, then, is the ideal figure we want to investigate in the chart, and since the corresponding elemental phrasing of Laetitia is “Fire of Fire” (primarily and secondarily fire), we’d look at the Fire of Fire distillation of the chart.  If we find a favorable figure here, we can say that a promotion is likely; if an unfavorable figure, unlikely.  This technique could be used to get subsidiary or unrelated information out of a chart, too, in addition to the main situation the chart is focused on.

To remind us all of the elemental rulerships of the figures, using both primary and secondary elements:

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

I’m sure there are a bunch of other ways to incorporate such an elemental distillation technique of generating secondary figures out of a chart, including using the Via Puncti to determine an element and seeing which of those elemental distillations can further clarify the root causes of a situation, incorporating the distillations into the House Chart as Shadrach suggests, and other techniques.  What’s fascinating about this technique, however, is that we’re using a single chart to make new figures for the sake of interpretation.  Generally, whenever secondary figures are generated in the geomantic corpus (i.e. using the figures of one chart to make new figures that aren’t part of that chart), it’s generally within the context of making up four new figures for a new chart because the old one can’t be read or is too confusing to be read.  Shadrach’s technique is pretty much the only technique I’ve come across that uses the figures to make new figures without using addition—at least in a system that still calls itself “geomancy” by name.

In the variant of geomancy practiced in Madagascar called sikidy, we see something similar.  A sikidy chart contains sixteen figures; though its arranged in an unfamiliar way, it turns out that the first four figures are generated randomly and are read downwards, the next four are just the first four read horizontally, and the other eight are the results of adding two of the other figures together.  In other words, a sikidy chart follows the same exact algorithm as a geomancy chart to get a set of four Mothers, four Daughters, four Nieces, and a Court, just not by those names.  As in geomancy, the field or house of each position in the chart indicates a general realm of life or aspect of the situation, and the figure inside each house indicates how that area of life is effected or affected.  Since sikidy was introduced by means of Arabic trading, we see Arabic and Hermetic influence in how sikidy is read, such that the second field is about property (just as our house II), the third field about local or familial relations (house III), the fourth field about one’s town or village (house IV), and so forth.

What’s interesting, however, is that sikidy practitioners are not just limited to 16 fields, but instead can find up to 34 based on how they combine the individual rows of the total chart.  According to Stephen Skinner (here taken from his 1980 book “Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy”), he gives an additional 18 secondary figures for a total of 34:

Field Name Meaning Generation
1 Talè Querent Randomly generated
2 Harèna Property Randomly generated
3 Fàhatelo Relations of the querent Randomly generated
4 Vòhitra Town or village Randomly generated
5 Zatòvo Young person, descendants First line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
6 Marìna Slave, strong men Second line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
7 Vehivavy Woman, i.e. wife Third line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
8 Fahavalo Enemies Fourth line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
9 Làlana Way, road 1 + 2
10 Asorotany Nobleman, king, ancestors 3 + 4
11 Nía Food 5 + 6
12 Fahasivy Spirits of the dead 7+ 8
13 Mpanontany The enquirer 9 + 10
14 Masina The diviner 11 + 12
15 Andriamanitra God 13 + 14
16 Trano House 1 + 15
17 Zatòvo an-trano hafa Young persons generally First line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
18 Marìna an-trano hafa Slave Second line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
19 Vehivavy an-trano hafa Women generally Third line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
20 Firiariavana an-trano hafa Escaping enemy Fourth line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
21 Kororozy Dragon’s head Fourth line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
22 Olon-dratsy Bad omen Third line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
23 Alika Dog Second line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
24 Tsinin’ny velona Fault of the living First line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
25 Akòho Hens Diagonally down-left of 1, 2, 3, and 4
26 Vòromboahàzo Pebbles Two down-left then two down-right of 1 and 2
27 Ondry Sheep Diagonally down-right of 4, 3, 2, and 1
28 Osy Goats Two down-left then two down-left of 4 and 3
29 Ra be mandriaka Much bloodshed, disaster Two down-right then two up-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
30 Tsinin’ny maty Fault of the Dead Diagonally down-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
31 Biby ratsy Wild Cat Two up-right then two down-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
32 Tsinahy Unexpected Fate Diagonally up-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
33 Tsi-efa The Incomplete Diagonally down-left of 16, 9, 13, and 10
34 Mamòha éfa Revival of Past Evils, e.g. disease Diagonally up-left of 16, 9, 13, and 10

These aren’t all possible ways to obtain secondary figures from a sikidy chart, either.  Marcia Ascher in her 1997 paper Malagasy sikidy: a case in ethnomathematics describes the following 15 secondary figures (though, unfortunately, with neither names nor significations), but who also gives a different arrangement of the bottom set of eight figures (our Nieces and Court):

Knowing that fields 1 through 16 are generated in the same way as before, just with a different arrangement of 9 through 16:

Field Generation
17 Diagonally down-right of 9, 13, 10, and 15
18 Diagonally down-right of 10, 15, 11, and 14
19 Diagonally down-right of 11, 14, 12, and 16
20 Diagonally down-left of 16, 12, 14, and 11
21 Diagonally down-left of 14, 11, 15, and 10
22 Diagonally down-left of 15, 10, 13, and 9
23 17 + 20
24 18 + 21
25 19 + 22
26 Two down-left then two down-right of 16 and 12
27 Two down-right then two down-left of 11 and 14
28 Two down-left then two down-right of 15 and 10
29 Two down-right then two down-left of 9 and 13
30 26 + 27
31 28 + 29

To be fair, Ascher is less concerned with the practice of divination and more with how recursive and spacial mathematics factor into traditional practices among Malagasy traditions.  Still, she does also imply that there are other secondary series besides the ones she enumerated, too.  Again, there’s always that “variant lineages within traditions” bit to contend with that makes geomancy a vibrant and varied garden instead of a sterile and monolithic chamber.

What this detour into sikidy shows us is that there are more ways to generate figures besides simply adding two figures together or transposing the Mothers into the Daughters; indeed, sikidy practitioners seem to delight in finding new ways to come up with such figures in regular patterns.  Though we can’t really adopt many of the same exact techniques, it does show us an otherwise unexplored venue (unexplored, at least, by all except Shadrach) in how we can generate other figures from a chart using non-additive means, and that the process has been used elsewhere to continuing success by geomancers in other traditions.  This suggests that, with the proper logic and testing, we can adopt similar techniques in our own Western kind of geomancy, much as the version given above of Shadrach’s elemental distillation.  In fact, “distillation” is a good way to describe the generation of such figures, I claim, as you’re necessarily looking across four (or two, in the cases of some sikidy figures) different figures to come up with one.

Unlike some of the other techniques I’ve proposed on this blog before, this one is exceptionally exciting but also exceptionally hazy; Shadrach’s guidance on divvying things up by their overall element weirds me out and I claim it could use more rigor, and there are other possibilities such as using my ideal figure interpretation as well as incorporating it into the usual interpretations of the fields and houses.  Though it’ll eventually make its way into my geomancy textbook (which, god, yes, is still in editing and it takes forever especially with everything else going on), this is one I want to play around more with to see exactly what it does and how it does it, as well as how well it might play with other techniques such as the Via Puncti or the field element analysis method.