On Psychometry, A Most Necessary Beginner Practice

Recently, someone came to me asking for a bit of help in contacting spirits.  This is one of the most concerning and troubling issues that most newbies and otherwise new practitioners to magical practices have, when you’re trying to contact spirits in some way and you just…aren’t getting anything.  Not just in conjuration, mind you, but any sort of spiritual contact: conversations, messages, dreams, hunches, tugs, any sort of signal that the spirits are listening to you and trying to talk to you as well.  Unless you’re naturally inclined to receive that sort of information, it’s not something that many people are just going to up and take to without some sort of practice or other means to “open your eyes”, so to speak.

When working with spirits for the first time, the best way to start is to just do the damn thing.  Go to their shrine, or build one for them yourself; light a candle and incense, make an offering of water or wine, say a prayer; time your work along planetary days and hours, lunar phases and mansions, or just whenever you feel like it.  However you want to do, just do the damn thing, sit down with your spirits, and have a chat, just like you would someone at a dinner table.  Use your actual words spoken aloud, not just said quietly in your head but loud enough for someone across a table to hear you.  From there, it’s just building up a relationship with your spirits, learning more about them, having them learn more about you, getting used to each others’ presences, and so forth.  But all of that can only work if there’s the possibility for such conversations to go both ways; it does neither you nor them much good if you’re the one doing all the talking and none of the listening, and I don’t mean just trying to shut the spirits down and drown them out.  If you can’t hear them talking back to you, then you’re not going to get anything useful done except by chance and hoping.  Without being able to hear what they have to say, you miss out on their advice, their needs, their wants, their stories, and their options for advancement for both themselves and yourself.

Being able to perceive spiritual information is crucial in building up spiritual relationships as well as interacting with and managing spiritual forces, so if you can’t perceive them, you’re not going to get particularly far in magic.  It’d be like trying to do intensive, deep-space astronomy without a telescope or cellular biology without a microscope: if you don’t have the means to perceive the information you need to process, you can’t process the information.  Unlike material sciences, however, the spiritual sciences don’t require tools as much as it does simple practice.  In a word, the practice and techniques of spiritual perception can be called psychometry, literally “soul-measuring”, but metaphorically “reading” the vibes, emotions, energies, and spirits of objects and places, whether animate or inanimate.

Some of the more advanced, wizened, or experienced practitioners out there reading this post may roll their eyes, thinking psychometry to be more entertainment and parlour trick than an actual spiritual practice or useful technique, but hear me out!  It’s precisely because it’s such a basic, parlour trick type of thing that it’s exactly why I recommend it as a spiritual practice for beginners.  It’s true that, once you start getting into some of the more meatier, esoteric types of practices that the excitement and on-its-own for-its-own-purpose of practicing psychometry quickly fades away, but it never goes away entirely.  Rather, once you get more advanced, you’ll likely think of psychometry like how you think of learning how to write or do basic arithmetic in elementary school: simple practices that, as adults, we never even think twice about because they’re so fundamental to so many things we do on a constant, ongoing, everyday basis, but are still fundamental and important all the same.  Psychometry is the practice of, and more importantly the acclimation to, spiritual perception; once you learn how to do it, it’s not the fact that you can spiritually perceive things becomes the focus of the work, but what it is that you can spiritually perceive.

I remember that it was my amazing sister (pole-dancer, Tarot-reader, astrologer, human designer, Tibetan Buddhist, chaos magician) who first introduced me to the notion and terms for psychometry itself.  She basically gave me a task: she took off one of her many rings, gave it to me to hold in my submissive hand, and told me simply to “tell me what you ‘get’ off this”.  That was it, so I…well, literally “put my mind to it”, focused my awareness on the ring in my hand, and…nothing.  I didn’t know what to do.  So my sister gave me one piece of advice that, I swear by all the gods above and below, has stuck with me in every single magical practice to this day:

“It’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not.  Just do it.”

It’s another variant on “act as if ye have faith and faith shall be given unto you” or, in simpler terms, “fake it until you make it”, except that you’re not really faking it.  It just feels like you are, when you aren’t.

The idea behind psychometry is that you’re trying to perceive information through spiritual impressions, sometimes through physical contact but sometimes not.  You have to have an external source for it, and you have to be able to recognize it as external.  It’s like sight: you can’t see the light inside your eyes, because there’s nothing to see inside your eyes, but instead you perceive the light coming into your eyes from outside.  Same thing with hearing: you can’t hear what’s inside your ears, but the vibrations in the air that come into them.  Same thing with taste: you don’t taste your own tongue, but the sensations, flavors, and textures that come in contact with it.  The same thing goes for psychometry: you’re not trying to perceive your own psyche, but the psyche of things you’re reaching out to perceive.   The thing is, though, that this is a nonphysical process; unlike sight or hearing or taste, all this takes place strictly within the head for direct processing as opposed through a physical sense organ, and if you’re not accustomed to doing this, you don’t know what it is inside your head to process.

Our head is full of thoughts, images, ideas, dreams, and gods-know-what-else, but it’s important to remember that, unless you’re fully, totally, completely cut off from everything, whether by accident or by design, there is going to be a mixture of “your own stuff” and “other stuff that isn’t yours” in your head.  Knowing what’s what is the key to recognizing spiritual impressions; if you know that something isn’t coming from your end, but it’s still in your head all the same, then that means that it’s something coming into your head as an impression, information, message, or clue that something spiritual is happening and your head is trying to process it.  Most people in our modern world, however, don’t know how to make this distinction, and wrongly think that everything in their head is their own thoughts.  It really isn’t, but learning how to distinguish between what thoughts are yours and what thoughts aren’t can be difficult.  Meditation certainly helps with this, both for the ability to be aware of the thoughts that arise in your head (whether your own or not) as well as picking up on the patterns of your own cognition.  For instance, as you begin to pick up on your own thought-patterns, you’ll have a sense of “where” your own thoughts come up in your head, “where” your own head-voice talks from, what your own thoughts “feel” like as they arise and dissipate, what the tracks of your trains of thought “feel” like as you latch yourself onto them, and so forth.  When you feel a thought or voice that comes from an entirely different, unusual, or distinctly weird part of your head, there’s a damn high likelihood that that’s not you, but spiritual information coming in to be processed.  That’s all spiritual perception is: picking up on the thoughts and sensations, the images and emotions arising in your head not your own.

That’s what my sister meant when she said that “it’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.

So I tried psychometry again on the ring she gave me, and rather than putting all my awareness on the ring itself, I simply relaxed and let myself connect with the ring, and let myself be aware of what was happening in my head.  I saw an image of my sister sitting at…a desk, in a bland, pale white room with a delicately messy bed in it, opposite the window with the blinds let down to block out the sunlight, with the lamp on her desk on, with her looking down at the desk with a focused, almost frustrated look on her face, her hand supporting her forehead.  I…felt like I was trying to come up with an image wherein she would be using the ring, like I was inventing a scene for this thing, but it…it didn’t feel like I was at the same time, because the thoughts didn’t feel like they arose in the same way as if I were actively imagining something on my own.  Saying this, both the scene I saw and my feelings about how it felt, my sister cheered me on; not only did I accurately describe her bedroom and workspace and how she often works when she’s writing or taking down notes, but I picked up on the key to distinguish exactly what she meant by her advice.

Starting from this, I practiced psychometry every now and again, sometimes asking a friend for their keys they always had on them, or holding their cell phone they’d often use for business, or picking up discarded pieces of jewelry on college streets after a weekend of partying.  Yeah, I definitely used it as a parlour trick to spook and impress my friends, but it served as an excellent way of validating that I’m actually Doing Something, and that I’m Doing Something Right; that sort of validation is huge to reinforce that you actually do have the skill and are able to perceive things spiritually.  Not only that, however, but when I spoke to my sister about how things felt and the types of images I got, I learned something equally as important: not everyone picks up on the same things the same way.  For instance, I get better spiritual information through psychometry about the context, the activities people do and where they do them, while my sister gets more about emotions and things spoken.  At some level, what we’re picking up on becomes equivalent, it’s just that we’re taking different routes and approaches to get there.

Another thing to bear in mind, though, is that not everyone perceives information the same way, either.  For instance, it’s common to say that we “see” something spiritually, but note how we’re using a physical sense to act as a metaphor.  For most people, it’s not really a metaphor; they actually are interpreting spiritual information through sight, or at least through visual imagery in their head.  However, not everyone is gifted with spiritual “sight”, but instead have another go-to sense.  Some people are better at spiritual “hearing”, others sensations of smells or pressure or temperature changes.  For myself, my main spiritual go-to sense is taste; information comes across most immediately and most naturally to me through sensations of flavor, texture, mouthfeel, and heaviness just like I would be tasting food or waste.  In some cases, this comes across in physical reactions or reflexes; I might lick the roof of my mouth or my teeth if something “feels” sticky, or I might retract my tongue if something “feels” sharp or bitter.  I get a literal “taste” for how people feel spiritually, and can evaluate their physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health through how sour, bitter, salty, sweet, savory, gritty, smooth, spiky, fresh, or rotten they “taste” to me.

I know that I’m kind of an oddball in that regard, but it goes to show that if you’re failing at “seeing” stuff in your head, don’t despair!  Consider that you have so many other senses to rely on: hearing, taste, smell, pressure, temperature, movement, and so forth.  Any one or more of these might be how your head processes spiritual information first: perceive first with what’s strongest, then use that information to “translate” it into something more complete.  For instance, if I take a look at someone and find that they taste “unpleasantly sour”, like an old lemon that’s been left ripped open overnight in the fridge, I’ll let my tongue roll around in my mouth and weigh how that feels, and how it reacts to my own body and my own notion of what people should “taste” like; it processes in such a way that, to me, it smacks of dehydration, unresolved anger or emotional baggage, a bit of fatigue, wanting to be left alone, stress leading to the beginnings of physical problems, not taking care of themselves properly, and so forth.  Once I get that basic set of information, I can then put it through my spiritual “translation” process of sight, hearing, and so forth to get a complete mental/spiritual image of the person that goes well paste how they taste.  So, just remember: if everyone else is saying “see”, for you it might be “hear”.  Don’t consider it a failing; consider it something to work on eventually while you rely on what’s strongest for you to do the same damn thing.

With that, that’s basically…yeah, that’s basically psychometry in a nutshell.  As for developing further psychometry skills, start with small objects, trinkets and jewelry and charms and keys, then slowly work your way up to bigger things, like pieces of furniture, computers, cars, houses, trees, boulders, mountains, plots of land.  Work at first by using your submissive hand to take in the information, then work with both hands, then either hand, then eventually no hands at all.  Work with friends and people you trust to get validation on what it is you perceive.  Meditate frequently to keep your mind strong and aware of thought-arisings, thought-dissipatings, thought-locations, thought-feels, and thought-patterns.  Try to expand your awareness to multiple things around you at once, try to sense connections between closely-related things, try to perceive an entire area at once, try to perceive things continuously, try to perceive things at a distance.  Being able to do these things is practice for dealing with spirits and energies that can’t be dealt with except through what is essentially applied psychometry.  Over time, psychometry will develop itself and cease to be its own thing, just like how writing or arithmetic used to be something you had to learn on its own, but now it’s just something you do as part of everything else.

It’s often asked by beginners whether there are any resources or books you could get to help with learning psychometry.  I mean…I guess?  Maybe under that name, even?  But I would ask, why bother?  It’s such a simple thing that I’ve done my best, and I think I’ve succeeded, in encapsulating in this simple post.  You can read about it all you want, but again, it’s such a basic and simple thing that all you need is practice, practice, practice.  Unless you’re naturally inclined or gifted to picking up and verbalizing such things, there’s nothing you can do to learn psychometry, or any method of spiritual perception, except to simply practice it and keep doing it.  You might get the information you’re supposed to get on the first go, or it might take you a dozen or three times.  Keep trying it.  You’ll get it, I promise.

It’ll feel like you’re making it up, but you’re not.

Beginner’s Practices

Recently, I’ve been getting more requests for consultations, which I’m happy to do for people.  (Yes, I charge, and you can find my rates on my Services page.)  Normally, people book a consultation for the purpose of an extended divination reading, where I do as many questions as time will allow and talk them through problems or offer advice as the situation calls for it.  However, a few consultations lately haven’t been anything of the sort, and fall under a type of consultory category that I personally love to do: ritual advice.  This is where, essentially, you ask me questions about practice, methodology, technique, or philosophy when it comes to magic and the occult, and I share with you my experiences, research, and the like, kind of like a 1-on-1 tutoring session.  I personally love doing this, since I typically learn as much from people as they learn from me, and we’re both better off for it.

However, I’ve also noticed that I’m seeing an uptick in the number of people who are new to magic and the occult asking for advice, like people who are in Fr. Rufus Opus’ new Seven Spheres classwork who want another view or advice from one of his other students.  Some are just studying on their own and want to know where to go or how they might accomplish something with a bare minimum of resources, while others are just wondering where to begin at all.  This is awesome and flattering, because even though I don’t consider myself a teacher (I’m still pretty damn new to this all myself as it is), I’d love to share my own experiences and lessons (sometimes learned the hard way) so that others don’t have to bungle things or get a slow start when they can hit the ground running.

For people who are utterly new to the occult, seeing all this stuff about grimoires and conjuration and sacrifice and Greek/Hebrew/Latin/Sanskrit/Egyptian terms and whatnot can be downright pants-shittingly frightening, not to mention bewildering.  I know that, when I first started, I was a little overwhelmed myself trying to figure out where to begin or what texts to read (assuming I could read them at all in modern English), but also what it is I should be doing to start.  That’s a crucial thing for a magician, and the line that divides an armchair magician from a practicing magician: what is it that you’re doing?  It’s all very well to rattle off the history of a particular incantation or memorize all the variations of the seals and designs from the Lemegeton Goetia, but if you’re not putting them to use, why are you doing this at all?  Magic should, in my opinion, be more than just a hobby of curiosity, but something that mixes a good way of living with a method of helping yourself and others in this world and all others.

Still, there’s a lot to do, and there’s always more to do even when you think you’ve done what you need.  So, if I had to suggest some basic practices that anyone interested in practicing magic or any spiritual way of life, what might I suggest?  Three things, all of which are pretty simple but which are endlessly profound and rewarding.

1: Learn two forms of divination.
You can’t figure out shit if you don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t always mean by talking with spirits.  Divination is an excellent way to get your foot in the door with magic; it’s how I got started, and this is my view on the subject.  Back in the day, I considered myself only a diviner and a seer, because I didn’t want to get involved with all that magic stuff.  I just wanted to see what was going on and help others make good decisions with new information they couldn’t get on their own; actually changing that stuff was out of my scope, as I considered it.  Then again, one thing led to the next, and I found myself researching what the planets and elements could be used for instead of just what they meant in astrology or Tarot, and the transition was so subtle that I became a magician without even really recognizing it.  Divination was the gateway drug for me, and it makes sense, because it helped inform me every step of the way, and still does as a matter of fact.

Now, I say that you should learn two forms of divination, if only to increase your skill set and to broaden your horizons.  These can be any two, but I recommend two different forms: a simple one that focuses on yes/no answers, and a complex one that can describe a whole situation at length and help provide detail as well as judgment.  The complex one is considerably easier to find in modern use: Tarot, runes, geomancy, astrology, I Ching, grammatomancy, astragalomancy, and the like are all good examples of what I mean by “complex divination”.  The easier one is more like child’s play and some diviners find it beneath them to just focus on yes/no queries, but at the same time, this is a vital skill to figure out.  Sure, you could use one divination system for both purposes, but I find it better to have two methods that complement each other.

Add to it, there’s an added benefit to learning two forms of divination like this.  The complex divination method you choose is excellent for understanding a whole system or situation when you need the guidance and detail that such a divination system can provide.  The simple divination method can be used for this, too, if a simple answer will suffice, but the real purpose I suggest the simple method is for communicating with spirits and discerning their will.  Having a yes/no method of divination, like chamalongos or coin tosses, is amazing to figure out how to proceed with offerings or rituals involving a particular spirit in conjunction with actually listening to them and getting the proper feeling of action.

2: Learn psychometry.
Psychometry literally means “measuring souls”, but it’s basically a fancy way to describe getting the “feel” or “vibe” off something.  It’s one of the first distinctly magical practices I picked up from my sister years ago while I was in college, a few years before actually getting into Hermetic stuff, since she’s more attuned to it than I am, but it’s turned out to be a valuable skill and one of the ones I recommend beginners to pick up ASAP.  Although the notion of reading the energy off objects seems simple and underneath some people, it’s one of the most vital skills a magician can develop, since it can be used in so many instances and is far more applicable than mere objects alone.  The point here is that you’re not just getting the impressions, charges, memories, and the like off of objects, but that you’re actually measuring the soul-stuff of a thing, and it doesn’t have to be tangible; in other words, you’re learning to sense magic itself.

The process of psychometry is simple: focus on a particular object, and figure out what it “feels” like.  How do you perceive the stuff in the object?  That’s really basically it; it’s no more complicated than touching something or coming into contact with it and getting information of the color, weight, temperature, or texture of an object, except that it doesn’t rely on the physical senses.  My sister’s advice for psychometry made a distinct impression on me and guides me to this day, not only in matters of psychometry but in pretty much all magical endeavors: “it feels like you’re making it up, but you’re not”.  The information pretty much pops up in your head, and to a less discerning mind, it would feel just like normal thoughts arising and coming and going.  The thing is, though, that these thoughts aren’t yours; they’re no more “your” thoughts than the sensation of your keyboard or phone in your hand is “your” sensation.  This is information, energy, spirit, presence, whatever that is simply coming in contact with your own sense abilities; there’s not much active practice to go with this, just like how seeing or hearing isn’t an active process but merely light or sound entering into your eyes or ears.

Now, once you get the hang of getting the feel or vibe off a particular object, it’s not a hard leap in any sense to go from small hand-held things to bigger things.  The size of the thing ultimately doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the power inside the thing.  (That’s what he said.)  The more something has been carried around, used, loved, or hated, the more power increases in the thing.  Animate things, like people and animals, naturally have a strong power in themselves, and one can detect how they feel or what they know but also how energy and power flows through and within them.  That said, I would recommend the following general process to practice learning psychometry:

  • Small objects (pebbles, jewelry, cell phones, writing utensils)
  • Large objects (cooking utensils, computers, cars, machines)
  • Places (graves, buildings, fields, forests, mountains)
  • People and animals

Not everyone will get the same type of vibe off an object.  My sister gets emotions and physical states (angry, happy, caffeinated, sweaty, etc.) off of objects, especially worn objects, but I get memories and impressions of place or use.  Some people will find that they get impressions or vibes in the form of colors or images, while others get sounds, yet others get temperature, and others just get pure thoughts or verbal statements arising in the mind.  This is important to recognize, since how you get impressions and sensations the best indicates how you best perceive magical presence and energy.  Not everyone will “see” stuff; I myself don’t have a strong psychic visual sense, but my psychic taste and smell are excellent, and I get the same information as others would but delivered in a different way.  I just have to translate them into the same ideas that others might get in a different “language”.

Just as it’s not a big leap to go from small inanimate objects to larger animate ones, it’s also not a big leap to go from tangible things to spiritual entities.  This is why psychometry is vital: the ability to perceive information spiritually is what we use to sense and detect spiritual presence, energetic flows, and the like.  If you can’t detect the presence of a spirit in conjuration, why bother calling them up?  If you can’t get a feel for where a strong place of power is, why bother tracking ley lines?  The ability of spiritual/energetic perception is vital for anyone who works with spirits/energy, since if you can’t perceive what’s going on, you won’t be able to react to it.

3: Meditate.
This is big, and even though I’ve listed it here last, it really should be first and foremost in everybody’s lives, and not just magicians.  Jason Miller, Rufus Opus, and any number of magicians, occultists, priests, monks, and spiritualists have gone on at length about the importance of meditation, so I won’t describe the nuances or details here, nor will I talk too much at length about why it’s so important.  But I will say this: meditation is the art and practice of understanding and working with your own mind.  If you don’t understand how your mind works, and if you don’t know how to react to your own mind’s actions (especially the involuntary ones), you won’t know how to best use your mind.  Seeing how your mind is literally the place where everything happens for you, if you don’t have a basic grasp of how to work with your mind, you won’t be getting far in anything.

Meditation is basically mental exercise.  I’m not talking about strengthening the logical faculties with puzzles or the emotional ones with empathy, but strengthening how your mind itself acts underneath any other action.  The mind is crucial to everything we do.  Writing a novel?  You’ll want to organize your thoughts and focus on the story.  Coding a program?  You’ll need to form a clear design and take into account abstract and obscure exceptions.  Working in retail?  Keep your cool with people and don’t try to let them influence you when it’s your job to influence them.  Running a marathon?  Don’t let your body dissuade you from completing your goal with pessimism despite it being within your body’s ability.  Literally everything we do, from thinking to planning to seeing to hearing to wanting to getting to creating and beyond, takes place in the mind.  If your mind isn’t strong, you don’t have a strong foundation to build great things.

There are so many ways to meditate and any number of traditions have ten score more methods to do so, but I’m a fan of the simplest and most bare-bones way:

  1. Sit comfortably.  Wear relaxing, non-constrictive clothing and sit in a way that allows you to maintain focus without getting sleepy or sore.
  2. Observe your mind.  Just watch how thoughts come up and do their thing, but let them go on their own.  Let those random thoughts arise and fall without getting attached to them or following any train of thought.  If you realize you’re following a thought, become aware of it and let it go.
  3. Continue for a reasonable length of time.  If you’re just starting out, try five minutes.  Work your way up from there.
  4. Repeat daily.  You don’t need a lot of time for this, but I recommend it in the morning when you first get up before you even look at your phone.  If you want, try twice or more a day, but always regularly at least once.

You might get bored.  You might get distracted.  You might get worried or angry or sad or any number of things.  Good; let that happen and keep going.  I’m going to warn you: even the Dalai Lama sucks at meditation, and even the Buddha and the Christ themselves kept meditating because there was always more to do.  The thoughts that arise will, eventually, begin to slow down and relax until they stop arising entirely, even if it’s just for a split-second, and that’s awesome.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will continue longer and longer.  Over more time, those periods of thoughtlessness will themselves pass away into something deeper.

The more you meditate, the healthier you’ll be, both mentally and physically; you’ll be able to focus more, have a better grip of your emotions, direct your thoughts better, develop more complex thoughts more easily, manage your body and its voluntary and involuntary actions, remember more things that happen to you, and so much more.  Add to it, the spiritual benefits aren’t to be neglected, especially for magicians; with meditation, you’ll be able to understand what “your” thoughts are versus “something else’s” thoughts, which is crucial when spirits communicate with you (because there’s going to be a mental part of this, and if you can’t discern what they’re saying from what you say to yourself, you’re not going to get very far).  You’ll be able to discern what a thought is from a perception from an idea from a want from a need from a physical lust from an emotional attachment from a logical prerogative from a spiritual command.  You’ll be able to work with spirits better and develop other spiritual and psychic powers that you’ve only heard legends and myths about.  All from just sitting down and shutting up.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do your thing.  Experiment with what you like, read history, study techniques, talk with other occultists, take notes and journal entries, make a plan for what you want to accomplish, develop some crafting skills in a medium that catches your eye.  Conjure spirits, sacrifice to the gods, appease your ancestors, take an astral journey, go into the underworld, open your mind with entheogens, prophesy in the name of your patron, heal with energy and prayer.  For the sake of the gods, of the cosmos, and of your own self, just get to it!

Review: Richard Webster, “Geomancy For Beginners”

In my ongoing quest to collect pretty much every published work on geomancy, I picked up one of the newest books on geomantic divination, “Geomancy For Beginners” by Richard Webster recently off Amazon.  It was first printed in early 2011 and published by Llewellyn Publications, with the offical price of US$14.95.  Coming in at 264 pages, it feels a little thick, but that’s due to the book being a standard trade size and the larger-than-normal font with generous spacing.  The text is clear to read, though the formatting of the figures and diagrams could be better.  Given that this is a Llewellyn book and is explicitly marked “for beginners”, I wasn’t expecting radically new insights into the old art of geomantic divination, but I decided to give it a chance.  Being a traditionalist with a streak for heavy texts, I expected a fairly strong new-age flair to the book (it is, after all, published by Llewellyn).  Overall, the book is a passable though fluffy introduction to geomancy, though it really is meant for rank beginners who know nothing of the basics of Western occult symbols.  It has more going against it than for it, unfortunately.

Cover of Richard Webster's "Geomancy for Beginners"

After starting off with a brief history of geomancy (basically Stephen Skinner’s historical writings on geomancy, the entire subject of his “Terrestrial Astrology”, condensed into a few pages), Webster describes geomancy, what it is and what the book is about (divination using the geomantic figures), and what it isn’t (feng shui and similar arts of “living in harmony with the earth”).  He shows the basic method of geomantic divination using the dot-and-sand/paper method, quickly moving to his preferred method of using casting sticks (also called “druid sticks”, four sticks with one dot on one side and two on the other, cast on a cloth to produce a geomantic figure, a fairly modern invention on its own).  He glosses over other methods of generating the figures, then launches into a chapter describing what divination is at a high level and how it works, attempting to use historical references but ending up sounding pretty new-agey.  Why this chapter wasn’t at the start of the book is confusing, since one should probably figure out the value of divination first before coming to grips with an implementation of geomancy.  Webster’s descriptions of the figures is pretty straightforward, though with an emphasis on modern symbols and a few confusing correspondences (e.g. linking the figures to what seems to be random months of the year and body parts, things usually corresponded according to the zodiac sign of the figure).

Through the book, he introduces the basics of geomantic divination through the use of the shield chart and the house chart.  He provides, as most common geomancy texts do, a series of lookup charts and lists that describe at a high, general level what each figure means in each position.  This is not something I’m a fan of, since people often stop bothering to actually meditate and learn the symbols of something at this point and just resort to using the lookup table in divination.  Imagine if someone wrote a book that described at a high level what each of the 78 cards of the Tarot meant in each of the ten positions in the Celtic Cross spread; people would likely use the book as a reference and cease to really think about the cards as windows into a much deeper system.  This is, at least to me, why I like John Michael Greer’s books on the subject, because he offers the reader a good grounding in the foundation of the symbols and then provides the rules to interpret them as the situation requires.  I’m not saying that lookup tables aren’t useful, but the foundation Webster gives isn’t that great to be able to fluidly and completely interpret the symbols of geomancy beyond what he says they mean in a given spot.

However, Webster’s example charts, few though they may be, are well-written and from a personal standpoint.  The author’s examples read almost like journal entries, complete with setting, context, and decent analyses of the charts and for whom they were cast.  Although I think his presentation of geomantic technique reduces some of the most important techniques in favor of offering lookup tables, at least he covers the basics, including things like calculating the Part of Fortune and aspects (which, in my own practice, I barely use in favor of things like perfection and elemental analysis).  I think his presentation of geomantic technique is a little too simplistic, his use of astrological chart interpretation to use the planets and signs based on the figures found in the houses is redundant, and his overall presentation of divinatory meanings to the figures is fairly fluffy and focuses on the positive at the expense of the more difficult.  After his presentation of the basics, Webster offers six more chapters focusing on a different style of geomancy:

  1. Gerard of Cremona’s astrological geomancy, where one throws a dumbed-down astrological horary chart based on geomantic figures, along with his zodiacal attributions to the geomantic figures.  This is more about using geomantic technique to draw up a horary chart without the degrees.  This isn’t a method of geomancy I’m particularly fond of, since it’s really just a kind of makeshift astrology, though I do use Gerard of Cremona’s zodiacal attributions in my own work.
  2. Cornelius Agrippa’s attribution of zodiac signs to the figures and his house allotment technique.  There isn’t a lot of information to really be said here, and I’m unsure why this was its own chapter with as many words as Webster uses.
  3. The Golden Dawn’s use of the planetary spirits (Chashmodai, Sorath, etc.) in ritual divination, house allotment technique, and another set of lookup tables, along with Crowley’s assignment of different query topics to the seven planets.  Again, not a lot of information really to be said here, since he already mentioned the Golden Dawn’s use and incorporation of geomancy into their work at the beginning, and the lookup table is taken right from the Golden Dawn’s text on geomancy and is entirely redundant, seeing how Webster provided his own earlier in the book.  Also, even though he introduces the planetary spirits and tells the reader to use their sigils in rituals, he doesn’t show them or instruct the reader where or how to find them!
  4. What Webster styles “Arthurian divination”, a kind of modern druid-ish (emphasis on the ish) system that uses nine geomantic figures arrayed out in a quartered circle.  This is probably the only innovative thing in the book, though certainly not geomantic in origin and only seems to use geomantic figures in a style of divination that could just as easily use runes, Tarot cards, or whatever.  Though he ascribes the technique to Merlin or Arthurian-derived traditions of magic, this really doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the book except to show how geomantic figures can be employed in non-geomantic occult crafts.  The technique itself is not tied to geomancy, but it’s definitely one to learn and keep in the back of one’s mind for use with other sets of symbols.
  5. What Webster calls “horary geomancy”, which isn’t anything more than a forecast-style of reading for a given timeframe without a specific query.  This did not need its own chapter, and is only 2.5 pages of text and one diagram.  Though forecasts are useful to know how to do, his placing of this here didn’t make sense to me.  The name itself is confusing, since it implied to me something more along the lines of Pestka’s and Schwei’s method of incorporating a horary astrological chart with a geomantic chart for the same time.
  6. Napoleon’s “Book of Fate”, or more accurately, a brief description of what the Book of Fate was and how it enabled geomancy to become a parlor game.  No technique is presented here, just a bit of historical trivia on geomancy and a list of the questions the Book of Fate had a lookup table for (but not the figures or answers for the questions).  I don’t see why this was included or even brought up past the historical references at the start of the book; at least the foregoing chapters had something new to learn.  The Book of Fate was interesting in that it uses geomantic figures with five lines instead of four, giving the system 32 symbols instead of the standard 16, though doesn’t expand the system enough to really make use of them in a proper geomantic-style reading, selecting only one figure.

As I said in the beginning, the book passes for being a standard modern introduction to geomancy.  It’s best suited for people who really have no knowledge of the basics of Western occult symbols, and even then, the book isn’t that great in giving a strong basis with them, either.  Its presentation of information and technique is disjointed, and though it can be useful for people who don’t have much of an attention span to learn geomancy, its extra fluff and needless expanses of words unfortunately take up as much time as it does to learn the symbols and techniques of geomancy itself.  The only really innovative or new thing Webster brings is his chapter on Arthurian divination, but that alone doesn’t justify the rest of the fluff and cruft, especially since it’s not really geomantic.  Though Webster laments the descent of geomancy into divinatory anonymity, his book doesn’t offer much to bring it out of those depths, and doesn’t really inspire the reader to learn more or meditate on this art more than figure out how to correspond the meanings of figures given in different lookup tables.  Though it’s a decent buy for someone who just wants something to learn as an honest-to-goodness beginner to divination, I’d much rather suggest a good book on astrology and a more complete book on geomancy for someone to seriously study this divinatory art.