On Geomantic Holy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The idea of this calendar goes like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arranging the Planets as the Geomantic Figures

A few weeks ago, the good Dr Al Cummins and I were talking about geomantic magic.  It’s a sorely understood and understudied aspect of the whole art of geomancy, and though we know geomantic sigils exist, they’re never really used much besides in addition to the usual planetary or talismanic methods of Western magic.  While I’ve been focusing much on the techniques of divination, exploring the use of geomancy and geomantic figures in magical workings is something of a long-term, slow-burn, back-burner thing for me.  Al, on the other hand, has been jumping headlong into experimenting with using geomancy magically (geomagy?), which fascinates me, and which gives us nigh-endless stuff to conjecture and experiment with.  After all, there’s technically nothing stopping us from seeing the geomantic figures as “units” in and of themselves, not just as extensions of planets projected downward or as combinations of elements projected upwards, so seeing how we could incorporate geomancy into a more fuller body of magic in its own right is something we’re both excited to do.

One of these talks involved my use of the geomantic gestures (mudras, or as I prefer to call them, “seals”).  I brought up one such example of using a geomantic seal from a few years ago: I was at the tattoo parlor with a magic-sensitive friend of mine in the winter, and it had just started to snow.  I had to run across the street to get cash, and I decided that it wasn’t that cold (or that I could bear the weather better) to put on my coat.  I was, as it turns out, incorrect, and by the time I got back, I was rather chilled to the bone.  So, in an attempt to kickstart the process of warming back up, I threw the seal for Laetitia and intoned my mathetic word for Fire (ΧΙΑΩΧ). My sensitive friend immediately turned and picked up on what I was doing without knowing how.  I hadn’t really tried that before, but since I associate Laetitia with being pure fire (according to the elemental rulers/subrulers of the figures), I decided to tap into the element of Fire to warm myself up.  Since that point, I use the seals for Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia as mudras for the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, respectively, like in my augmentation of the Calling the Sevenths ritual (e.g. in my Q.D.Sh. Ritual to precede other workings or as general energetic/spiritual maintenance).

Talking with Al about this, I came to the realization that I instinctively used the figures to access the elements; in other words, although we consider the figures being “constructed” out of the presence or absence of the elements, from a practical standpoint, it’s the opposite way around, where I use the figures as bases from which I reach the power of the elements.  That was interesting on its own, and something for another post and stream of thought, but Al also pointed out something cute: I use the figures of seven points as my seals for the elements.  This is mostly just coincidence, or rather a result of using the figures with one active point for representing one of the four elements in a pure expression, but it did trigger a conversation where we talked about arranging the seven planets among the points of the geomantic figures.  For instance, having a set of seven planetary talismans, I can use each individually on their own for a single planet, or I can arrange them on an altar for a combined effect.  If the seven-pointed figures can be used for the four elements, then it’d be possible to have elemental arrangements of the planets for use in blending planetary and elemental magic.

So, that got me thinking: if we were to see the geomantic figures not composed of the presence or absence of elements, but as compositions of the planets where each planet is one of the points within a figure, how might that be accomplished?  Obviously, we’d use fiery planets for the points in a figure’s Fire row, airy planets for the Air row, etc., but that’s too broad and vague a direction to follow.  How could such a method be constructed?

I thought about it a bit, and I recalled how I associated the planets (and other cosmic forces) with the elements according to the Tetractys of my mathesis work:


Note how the seven planets occupy the bottom two rungs on the Tetractys.  On the bottom rung, we have Mars in the sphaira of Fire, Jupiter in Air, Venus in Water, and Saturn in Earth; these are the four essentially elemental (ouranic) planets.  The other three planets (the Sun, the Moon, and Mercury) are on the third rung, with the Sun in the sphaira of Sulfur, the Moon in the sphaira of Salt, and the planet Mercury in the sphaira of the alchemical agent of Mercury.  Although we lack one force (Spirit) for a full empyrean set of mathetic forces for a neat one-to-one association between the empyrean forces and the four elements, note how these three planets are linked to the sphairai of the elements: the Sun is connected to both Fire and Air, Mercury to both Air and Water, and the Moon to both Water and Earth.

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).

As an example, consider the figure Laetitia: a single point in the Fire row, and double points in the Air, Water, and Earth rows, as below:

First, we put in the ouranic planets by default in their respective elemental rows:

Note how Mars takes the single point in the Fire row, while Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn occupy only one of the points in the other rows; these three empty points will be filled by the three empyrean planets according to the most harmonious element.  The Moon can appear in either the Earth or Water rows, and Mercury can appear in either the Water or Air rows, but in the case of the figure Laetitia, the Sun can only appear in the Air row, since the Fire row has only one point and is already associated with Mars; thus, in Laetitia, the Sun goes to Air, Mercury to Water, and the Moon to Earth.

Following this rule, we get Rubeus with Jupiter occupying the sole Air point and the Sun moving to the Fire row as the second point, Albus with Venus in the sole Water point and Mercury moving to the Air row, and Tristitia with Saturn in the sole Earth point and the Moon moving to the Water row.

With those done, it would then be easy to see what Via would look like as a collection of planets: just the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn in a straight vertical line, the four purely-elemental ouranic planets without any of the mitigating empyrean ones, since the empyrean planets don’t need to be present to mitigate any of the ouranic ones.

Leaving aside Populus for the moment, what about the five-pointed and six-pointed figures?  In the case of five-pointed figures (e.g. Puer), we have to leave out two of the empyrean planets, and only one in the case of the six-pointed figures (e.g. Fortuna Maior).  For these figures, we decided to break with the foregoing empyrean-to-element rule and institute two new ones for these figures.

For five-pointed figures, use Mercury as the sole empyrean planet for the row with two dots, regardless where it may appear:

For six-pointed figures, use the Sun and Moon as the empyrean planets for the two rows with two dots, regardless where they may appear, with the Sun on the upper double-pointed row and the Moon on the lower double-pointed row:

Note how these two rules give us four figures where the empyrean planets do not appear where we would otherwise have expected them:

  • Fortuna Maior (Sun in Water)
  • Fortuna Minor (Moon in Air)
  • Caput Draconis (Mercury in Fire)
  • Cauda Draconis (Mercury in Earth)

I figured that this departure from the original empyrean-to-elemental-row idea was useful here, since it allows us to emphasize the structure of the figures and respect the natural affinities of the empyrean planets to each other.  The Sun and Moon have always been considered a pair unto themselves as the two luminaries; without one, the other shouldn’t necessarily be present in such a planetary arrangement.  Thus, for the five-pointed figures that omit the Sun and Moon, we would then use only Mercury, as it’s the only empyrean planet available.  Likewise, if either the Sun or Moon is present, the other should also be present; for the six-pointed figures, this means that Mercury is the only empyrean planet omitted.  An alternative arrangement could be used where you keep following the prior rules, such that Fortuna Maior uses the Sun and Mercury, Fortuna Minor uses Mercury and the Moon, etc., but I rather like keeping the Sun and Moon both in or out together.  It suggests a certain…fixity, as it were, in the six-pointed figures and mutability in the five-pointed figures that fits well with their even/objective/external or odd/subjective/internal meanings.

For all the foregoing, I’m torn between seeing whether the order of planets within a row (if there are two) matters or not.  In one sense, it shouldn’t matter; I only assigned the ouranic planets to the right point and the empyreal planets to the left because of the right-to-left nature of geomancy, and coming from a set theory point of view, the order of things in a set doesn’t really matter since sets don’t have orders, just magnitude.  On the other hand, we typically consider the left-hand side of things to be weaker, more receptive, more distant, or more manifested from the right-hand stronger, emitting, near, or manifesting (due, of course, to handedness in humans with the usual connotations of “dexter” and “sinister”), but relying on that notion, I do feel comfortable putting the empyrean planets (if any) on the left-hand points of a figure, with the ouranic planets on the right-hand side, if not the middle.  It’s mostly a matter of arbitrary convention, but it does…I dunno, feel better that way.

So that takes care of the figures of four, five, six, and seven points.  We only have one figure left, the eight-pointed figure Populus.  As usual with this figure, things get weird.  We can’t simply slap the planets onto the points of Populus because we only have seven planets; we’d either need to bring in an extra force (Spirit? Fixed stars? the Earth?) which would necessitate an eighth force which simply isn’t available planetarily, or we’d have to duplicate one of the existing seven planets which isn’t a great idea (though, if that were to be the case, I’d probably volunteer Mercury for that).  However, consider what the figure of Populus represents: emptiness, inertia, void.  What if, instead of filling in the points of the figure Populus, we fill in the spaces left behind by those points?  After all, if Populus is empty of elements, then why bother trying to put planets where there’ll be nothing, anyway?  If it’s void, then put the planets in the voids.  I found it easiest to conceive of seven voids around and among the points of Populus in a hexagram pattern:

Rather than filling in the points of Populus, which would necessitate an eighth planet or the duplication of one of the seven planets, we can envision the seven planets being used to fill the gaps between the points of Populus; seen another way, the planets would be arranged in a harmonic way, and Populus would take “form”, so to speak, in the gaps between the planets themselves.  The above arrangement of suggested points to fill naturally suggests the planetary hexagram used elsewhere in Western magic (note that the greyed-out circles above and below aren’t actually “there” for anything, but represent the voids that truly represent Populus around which the planets are arranged):

Simple enough, but I would instead recommend a different arrangement of planets to represent Populus based on all the rules we have above.  Note how the center column has three “voids” to fill by planets, and there are four “voids” on either side of the figure proper.  Rather than using the standard planetary hexagram, I’d recommend putting the three empyrean planets in the middle, with the Sun on top, Mercury in the middle, and the Moon on the bottom; then, putting Mars and Jupiter on the upper two “voids” with Venus and Saturn on the bottom two “voids”:

Note the symmetry here of the planets in the voids of Populus.  Above Mercury are the three hot planets (the right-hand side of the Tetractys), and below are the three cold planets (the left-hand side of the Tetractys).  On the right side are Mars and Venus together, representing the masculine and feminine principles through Fire and Water; on the left, Jupiter and Saturn, representing the expansive and contracting principles through Air and Earth; above is the Sun, the purely hot unmanifest force among the planets; below is the Moon, the coldest unmanifest force but closest to manifestation and density; in the middle is Mercury, the mean between them all.  Around the planet Mercury in the middle can be formed three axes: the vertical axis for the luminaries, the Jupiter-Venus axis for the benefics, and the Saturn-Mars axis for the malefics.  Note how Mercury plays the role of mean as much as on the Tetractys as it does here, played out in two of the three axes (Sun-Moon on the third rung, and Venus-Jupiter by being the one of the third-rung “parents” of the two elemental sphairai on the fourth rung).  The Saturn-Mars axis represents a connection that isn’t explicitly present on the Tetractys, but just as the transformation between Air and Water (hot/moist to cold/moist) is mediated by Mercury, so too would Mercury have to mediate the transformation between Fire and Earth (hot/dry to cold/dry); this can be visualized by the Tetractys “looping back” onto itself, as if it were wrapped around a cylinder, where the sphairai of Mars/Fire and Saturn/Earth neighbored each other on opposite sides, linked together by an implicit “negative” Mercury.  Further, read counterclockwise, the hexagram here is also related to the notion of astrological sect: the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn belong to the diurnal sect, while the Moon, Venus, and Mars belong to the nocturnal sect; Saturn, though cold, is given to the diurnal sect of the Sun to mitigate its cold, and Mars, though hot, is given to the nocturnal sect of the Moon to mitigate its heat, with Mercury being adaptable, possesses no inherent sect of its own, but changes whether it rises before or after the Sun.

That done, I present the complete set of planetary arrangements for the sixteen geomantic figures, organized according to reverse binary order from Via down to Populus:

So, the real question then becomes, how might these be used?  It goes without saying that these can be used for scrying into, meditating upon, or generally pondering to more deeply explore the connections between the planets and the figures besides the mere correspondence of rulership.  Magically, you might consider creating and consecrating a set of seven planetary talismans.  Once made, they can be arranged into one of the sixteen geomantic figures according to the patterns above for specific workings; for instance, using the planetary arrangement of Acquisitio using the planetary talismans in a wealth working.  If you want to take the view that the figures are “constructed” from the planets much how we construct them from the elements, then this opens up new doors to, say, crafting invocations for the figures or combining the planets into an overall geomantic force.

However, there’s a snag we hit when we realize that most of the figures omit some of the planets; it’s only the case for five of the 16 figures that all seven planets are present, and of those five, one of them (Populus) is sufficiently weird to not fit any sort of pattern for the rest.  Thus, special handling would be needed for the leftover planetary talismans.  Consider:

  • The five-pointed figures omit the Sun and the Moon.  These are the two visible principles of activity/positivity and passivity/negativity, taking form in the luminaries of the day and night.  These could be set to the right and left, respectively, of the figure to confer the celestial blessing of light onto the figure and guide its power through and between the “posts” of the two luminaries.
  • The six-pointed figures omit the planet Mercury.  Magically, Mercury is the arbiter, messenger, and go-between of all things; though the planetary talisman of Mercury would not be needed for the six-pointed figures, his talisman should be set in a place of prominence at the top of the altar away from the figure-arrangement of the rest of the talismans to encourage and direct the flow of power as desired.
  • The only four-pointed figure, Via, omits all three of the empyrean planets.  As this figure is already about directed motion, we could arrange these three talismans around the four ouranic planetary talismans in the form of a triangle that contains Via, with the Sun beneath the figure to the right, the Moon beneath the figure to the left, and Mercury above the figure in the middle; alternatively, the figure could be transformed into an arrow, with the talisman of Mercury forming the “tip” and the Sun and Moon forming the “arms” of the arrowpoint, placed either on top of or beneath the figure of Via to direct the power either away or towards the magician.

The eight-pointed figure Populus, although containing all seven planets in its arrangement, does so in a “negative” way by having the planets fill the voids between the points proper.  Rather than using the planets directly, it’s the silent voids between them that should be the focus of the works using this arrangement.  As an example, if we would normally set candles on top of the planetary talismans for the other arrangements, here we would arrange the planetary talismans according to the arrangement for Populus, but set up the candles in the empty voids where the points of Populus would be rather than on top of the talismans themselves.

All told, this is definitely something I want to experiment with as I conduct my own experiments with geomantic magic.  Even if it’s strictly theoretical without any substantial ritual gains, it still affords some interesting insights that tie back into mathesis for me.  Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, I’ll say it here explicitly: this is all very theoretical and hypothetical, with (for now) everything here untested and nothing here used.  If you do choose to experiment with it, caveat magus, and YMMV.

An upcoming geomancy course by the splendid Dr Al Cummins!

What with all the recent influx of traffic from my hilarious geomantic chat with the wonderful Gordon White yesterday on Rune Soup, I figured that this is as good a time as any to mention that there’s a series of online geomancy courses coming up in October this year by Dr Al Cummins hosted by those dastardly handsome purveyors of materia and magic Wolf & Goat.  I name-dropped Al in the podcast yesterday, but let me say a bit more about him in case you’re woefully unfamiliar.

Dr Al, as you might know, is one of the most excellent academic-minded magicians of our time; he literally has a PhD in English magic, necromancy, and history, and has quite a bit more than a fancy bit of paper to back himself up with.  Amongst many other things, he’s also one of the foremost geomancers I can think of, and I can say without hesitation that he’s one of the few to legitimately give me a hard run for my money.  In addition to co-hosting Radio Free Golgotha, he’s also the author and publisher of several modern works on various topics in the occult, ranging from astrology to Cypriana and everything in-between.  If I am, as Gordon says, “luminously bright”, then Al is brilliantly stellar.  Plus, he has that luxuriously dulcet Commonwealth accent which just makes you feel like you’re being cherished and educated at a proper university; there’s nothing bad about any of this.

If you’re interested in signing up for the good doctor’s geomancy courses, time is running out!  You can either choose the two-part Sunday classes (three hours each on October 1 and 8) or the four-part Tuesday classes (1.5 hours each on October 3, 10, 17, and 24); either way, the cost is the same (US$80) and the same information will be given in both; this course will also pave the way for future, more advanced courses on deeper geomantic technique and sorcery.  Spots are limited, so if you’re interested, hop on soon!  For more information, go to the Wolf & Goat page on the class, and just follow the instructions.  Personally speaking, I’ve signed up for the Sunday classes already, and I’m excited to hear the good doctor speak on all these topics geomantical.