On Halted Geomancy Charts

Originally, I was calling these PITA charts, and no, I’m not talking about the flatbread.  However, after seeing the term “halted charts” used more online, I think it’s a far more elegant term to use to describe the concept of a geomancy chart that shouldn’t or can’t be interpreted.  What would cause such a chart to be halted?  Read on, dear reader, because we’re gonna talk about a set of rules from the geomantic tradition that even I don’t really bother with.

In addition to the group on geomancy that I admin on Facebook, I’m also a member of the group Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy) and its associated WhatsApp convo in an attempt to better understand the practices of Arabic geomancy.  From what I’ve seen, there are far more similarities than there are differences, but the differences astound me, especially those that come from a cultural or philosophical view in addition to the details of different interpretation methods.  It can be hard to learn, especially since I don’t speak Arabic, Persian, Urdu, or Balochi, but by slowly following the conversations and reading their examples of charts, small insights are revealed, which can be fascinating.  (Probably the best thing I have to show for it so far is the post I wrote a few weeks back on actually formalizing a mapping between the Arabic/Persian and Latin names of the figures.)

One issue that may arise in Arabic geomancy is when the chart is “locked”.  A chart becomes locked when the Judge is Populus or, to a lesser extent, Via.  In these cases, the chart cannot be interpreted, because of how the Judge plays with the reading and the diviner.  In the case of Populus, where there are no elements active and thus no Via Puncti can be formed, Arabic geomancers say that Populus is dumb and cannot speak to the matter.  For Via, where all elements are active, instead of having a dumb Judge, we have a deaf Judge, who cannot hear the querent or the query properly and so cannot give a useful answer.  To resolve a locked chart in Arabic geomancy, if one can’t wait a few hours to retry the query, one can instead take four figures from the chart to act as new Mothers for a new chart to be drawn up on the spot.  Which houses are used depends on the specific lineage; I’ve heard that houses I, IV, VII, and X should be used, or the Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, and Sentence, or houses III, V, XI, and the Judge, or houses I, III, VI, and the Judge.  Whatever set of houses one uses, the idea is the same: if the chart itself cannot answer because it’s deaf or dumb, shake it up a bit to slap some sense into it and derive a new chart.  If the new chart is also locked, probably best to just wait it out until a later time.

Unusual though such a rule may sound to Western geomancers (taking our precious few 128 Court combinations of figures down to 112 or 98, depending on whether you consider just Populus or both Populus and Via to lock the chart), the literature of Western geomancy is replete with similar rules for such halted charts.  The most commonly-known such rule is that if Rubeus or Cauda Draconis appear as the First Mother, the chart should be destroyed and abandoned, if not the matter entirely, since both of these figures are pretty negative and disastrous on their own, and to have them represent the beginning of the matter to be investigated as well as the querent themselves is a pretty bad omen.  Going past this, though, there are so many other rules you can find in the older European texts:

  • If there are no figures in common or only one figure in common between the Mothers and Daughters, the chart is untrustworthy and should not be read.
  • If Rubeus appears in two or more angular houses, the reading cannot continue due to malefic influences in the reading.
  • If the same figure appears in both houses I and II, the reading is obscured due to an ill omen.
  • If Carcer or Tristitia appear in house I with a negative figure making a negative aspect to it, the matter is past all hope.
  • If the Witnesses are equal and the Judge (Populus in this case) does not own the query, the chart must wait for another time (this is one of Heydon’s rules, which echoes the idea behind Arabic geomancy “locking”).

Plus, in Western geomancy, I’ve seen a number of rules about how to determine whether the querent is lying to the geomancer:

  • If Carcer or Tristitia appear in house I with a negative figure making a negative aspect to it
  • If the figures in houses I and VII pass in the chart to make squares or oppositions to each other
  • If Amissio is in house I
  • If Populus is in house I and Rubeus in house XI
  • Etc.

Many of these rules go hand-in-hand with methods to spiritually authenticate the chart.  Just like how we mathematically verify that the chart is valid before we even start looking at the actual contents of the chart, there are a number of ways geomancers determine whether a chart is fit to be judged beyond “destroy it due to ill omens”.  In some cases, this parallels the practice in horary astrology of determining whether a chart is radical based on a match between the ascendant and planetary hour or other considerations, or as English geomancers like Robert Fludd and John Case like to use, inspect certain physical marks and moles associated with the figure in house I to the querent to see if the chart is actually talking about the person who’s asking the query.

Now, I will say that there is some (not a lot, but some) value in these rules.  Consider the matter of radicality in horary astrology; according to far better astrologers and scholars than I am, you don’t strictly need a chart to be radical to interpret it.  If a chart isn’t radical, that doesn’t mean it’s not correct, but that there may be issues in interpreting it, such as the querent lying or omitting something to the diviner, the situation may be about to change from what’s being read or interpreted, something being overlooked in the reading, or so forth.  If a chart is to be interpreted and it’s not radical, extra care should be taken, because the chart can still be (and often is) correct regardless of other factors, it’s just that it may not be the best time to have asked the question.  C’est la vie, of course.

But as far as geomancy goes, especially in my own experience with it, I…really just don’t bother with the rules above.  In most cases, I keep the rules that have been handed down through the traditions, because I’ve seen them work, but these rules about not reading a chart because it won’t answer or because it’s obscured don’t fall in that same category.  Rather, they kinda smack of superstition and fear and cover-your-ass measures to prevent the charts becoming pains in the ass.  I understand that for those who are unfamiliar with or fearful of divination, the line between “interpreting omens that foretell how the future will go” and “speaking the future into existence and enforcing that it must be so” is hazy or absent, and it was a commonly-alleged crime that gypsies “cursed” their clients with bad readings, even if all they were doing was saying that things may not look so good for the client.  On the other hand, diviners may fear getting involved in a bad situation that they may be seen as liable for even on an honest-to-God spiritual level, and so if things look sketchy or disastrous, they’d rather wash their hands of the matter entirely instead of actually getting involved and having to deal with those spiritual influences as well as the querent.  There’s also the much more mundane issue of “this looks confusing but I don’t feel creative enough to spout cliché mystic mumbo-jumbo, so I’m just gonna try again later”.

If I’m reading for someone else and a rule like the above happens (mostly if Rubeus or Cauda Draconis appear), after having generated and calculated all the parts of the chart I find necessary, I’ll first bring the querent’s attention to the rule and what’s happening in the chart, along with a quick explanation of what the old geomancers say and what I say.  I give them the option of asking a different question, trying the reading after a few days, getting a refund and canceling the reading entirely, or just continuing on as I otherwise would; I leave the choice up to them, based on their wishes.  In many cases, the reason for the offending rule comes out in that very choice, which we can then discuss to get closer to the heart of the matter, but sometimes, it simply doesn’t match up; still, as a matter of protocol, I state the rule to the querent and let them decide how we should proceed, if at all.  If I’m reading to myself, I’ll take a pause before continuing the reading, maybe do a bit of meditation or introspection, and see if there’s any cause I wasn’t previously aware of that might be affecting me.

For a handful of such rules, here’s how I take a modern look at them, based on authors such as John Michael Greer and my own experience:

  • If Rubeus is in house I, the querent is in a state of frenzy, confusion, or mental turbulence that makes the question ill-founded.  They may have asked a query without actually thinking it through, accepting the possible results, or otherwise having a lack of foresight.  Rubeus can indicate not taking the process of divination seriously.
  • If Cauda Draconis is in house I, the querent is already thinking of the matter as closed and done, and is unwilling or unable to accept any new information or advice on the subject.  This is often the case when the querent is just looking for a confirmation of what they already think.
  • If the figures in houses I and VII pass in the chart such that they form a direct/indirect square or indirect opposition, there’s going to be difficulty in communicating the information in the reading, and either the querent is lying to the geomancer or the geomancer won’t be believed by the querent.
  • If Via is the Judge and does not own the query, the situation is in a state of rapid change and may be difficult to specifically examine what’s happening.

In general, I find it increasingly unlikely for querents to lie to the geomancer, in the sense that they’re asking about something to test the geomancer as a kind of game or to show up the geomancer that their art is pointless.  Most people don’t have the time to waste on such a futile thing, and moreover, most people don’t have the money to waste on such a thing, either.  (There’s one good reason to start charging, if you don’t already.)  Instead, when the old texts say “lie” (without also calling such a person a knave, etc.), what it means is that the querent is asking something in a highly roundabout way to save face or to keep from admitting aloud something they fear.  For instance, it’s a common trope in divination that a woman who asks “will I ever have children” is really asking “did I just get pregnant”; what they asked isn’t what they’re really asking, even if one kinda does answer the other.  For these situations, something in the chart will…not add up.  Maybe it’ll be a weird placement of the Part of Spirit, maybe the Witnesses will suggest something, maybe the Via Puncti will lead somewhere, but something in the chart will just seem off that indicates that not all is whole, hale, or complete with the query being asked.  It could also be something about body language and subliminal cues given off in wording that also ties in, but it depends.

So, if I don’t follow the rules given by older geomancers in this instance for charts that shouldn’t or can’t be read, what are my own rules?  Honestly, not many.  In general, before setting down to a divination, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Am I physically sound enough to perform divination?  If I’m sick, hungover, coughing, sore, fatigued, intoxicated, in pain, or otherwise in any physical state that would act as a distraction and hindrance to the process of divination, I’ll put it off until such a time when I’m more together.  I’ll also try to make sure I’m clean, dressed cleanly, and don’t smell offensive to further limit any distractions.
  2. Am I mentally and spiritually sound enough to perform divination?  If I’m excessively worried about the situation, extraordinarily biased towards or against a particular outcome, overly elated or whimsical, angry, upset, or in any other mental state where I cannot maintain a clear, objective focus of the reading, I’ll put it off until later.  Meditation, cleansing, banishing, prayer, and other mind/spirit-sharpening acts may also come into play for this.
  3. Am I in a safe, calm, quiet place to perform divination?  If the place where I’m doing divination is chaotic, loud, overly busy, in transition or turmoil, dangerous, dark, or in any other way unsafe or distracting to divination, I’ll do it somewhere else.  This also includes the weather: one of the only traditional rules I follow is that the weather should not be “bad” (thunderstorms, violent winds, flooding, bitterly sharp cold, etc.), so I’ll try to wait for a mild time and weather appropriate to the season and climate where I’m at.

If I’m physically and mentally well enough to do divination, and the time and place is good to go for divination, then we’re all clear for the work, and everything else is up to my own skill, intuition, and attentiveness to the reading and the querent.  I don’t bother with trying to reconcile a difficult chart or make a new one based on picking certain figures from one chart and deriving a second one, nor do I see much point in drawing up a new chart entirely after a few hours or days if the first one didn’t make sense at the time.  Rather, if I’m having a hard time delving into a chart, I’ll put it aside, take a break, come back, draw it out afresh (I find that the actual act of drawing a chart is excellent for attuning into one, whether it’s one of my own or somebody else’s), and try interpreting it again; I claim that the symbols were as valid the first time as they are the second time, and sometimes a quick rest is all that’s needed.

Divination requires calm within and calm without; unless you have those, you probably can’t and most likely shouldn’t be doing divination.  Spiritual traditions and religious rules may institute other obligations and considerations, but beyond those, the core issue is whether you yourself are able to divine and be divine.  If you can, you’re good to go.  If you’re not, no number of tricks or techniques will get you there.

What about you?  Do you have any other rules in geomancy, from the Western or Arabic kinds, where certain charts shouldn’t be investigated?  If so, what are those rules, and how might you explain the logic behind them?  Do you stick to them to the letter, or do you take a more interpretive approach?  I’d love to hear from you about this in the comments!

Elements in the Geomantic Shield Chart

In the last post on technique, I went over a technique that’s mostly been underdeveloped and underused in Western geomancy, the technique of reading the triads in the Shield Chart, which is basically an expansion of the same technique used to read the Witnesses and Judge applied to the Mothers, Daughters, and their resulting Nieces.  This is a way to get more detail out of the Shield Chart and not let those other 12 figures outside the Court go to waste.  However, between the triads and the Via Puncti, those are pretty much the only methods we have in Western geomancy to read the first 12 figures in the Shield Chart, which is kind of a shame.  Then again, given the West’s focus on astrology and bringing astrology into everything, this shouldn’t be surprised; the field of astrological geomancy and the use of the House Chart is well-explored and has numerous techniques developed to read it.

Geomancy would already be dead if it couldn’t be expanded upon or revitalized with new techniques, and there’s nothing stopping us from trying out new ways to read a geomantic chart so long as these things fit with the general theory and framework of geomancy.  Since the House Chart already has plenty of techniques while the Shield Chart has a dearth of them, let’s try working on the Shield Chart techniques.

First things first: what do we call the “houses” of the Shield Chart?  I personally dislike the word “house” for them, even though I know that’s the term used, but it leads to easy confusion with the houses House Chart, especially given that there are multiple ways to assign the figures from the Shield Chart to the houses of the House Chart.  We could use the term “field” to describe the places where we put the Mothers, Daughters, Nieces, and Court.  After all, houses are built upon fields, right?  Thus, the first field is the place of the First Mother, second field to the Second Mother, and so forth to the sixteenth field to the Sentence.  Alternatively, and perhaps more preferably, we could use the other way of calling them “the first figure”, “the second figure”, and so forth to “the sixteenth figure”.  It’s this latter method I’ll be using the former to describe the individual places of the figures in the Shield Chart; besides, fields and shields go hand-in-hand if you know your heraldry.

So, let’s say we want to inspect the figures of the Shield Chart.  We know we can inspect them in triads, where we look at two parent figures and the child figure they add up to, but we don’t have a way of interpreting the fields on their own just yet.  While figuring out the significations of each field in the chart is a complicated task that rings a bit too strongly of the houses in the House Chart, we can start with something simpler by classifying the fields in other ways.  Probably the way that comes to mind first is using the four elements in ways that fit very closely with other geomantic techniques.  We’d go about this pretty straightforwardly: assign the first field to Fire, the second to Air, the third to Water, the fourth to Earth, and repeat the cycle from there.  Thus:

  1. Field I (First Mother): Fire
  2. Field II (Second Mother): Air
  3. Field III (Third Mother): Water
  4. Field IV (Fourth Mother): Earth
  5. Field V (First Daughter): Fire
  6. Field VI (Second Daughter): Air
  7. Field VII (Third Daughter): Water
  8. Field VIII (Fourth Daughter): Earth
  9. Field IX (First Niece): Fire
  10. Field X (Second Niece): Air
  11. Field XI (Third Niece): Water
  12. Field XII (Fourth Niece): Earth
  13. Field XIII (Right Witness): Fire
  14. Field XIV (Left Witness): Air
  15. Field XV (Judge): Water
  16. Field XVI (Sentence): Earth

Or, presented in a more tabular format:

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

This is a method I dimly recall being used in at least some forms of Arabic geomancy (raml), but it’s not hard to see the logic being pretty simple to arrive at.  After all, we assign each of the four rows of each figure to the four elements in the same way, and there are instances of the same logic being used independently by Western geomancers, such as John Case in his 1697 work “The Angelical Guide” (book III, chapter 4).  While this kind of assignment of the elements to the fields of the Shield Chart is pretty straightforward, the real task comes in figuring out what we can do with this kind of thing.

For one, in any given Shield Chart, we can guess that a figure is well-placed in a field that agrees with its own element.  So, for instance, Laetitia (a figure of Fire) present in the fifth field as the First Daughter (a place of Fire) is much stronger than it’d be in the seventh field as the Third Daughter (a place of Water).  In case you’ve forgotten your elements for the figures:

  • Fire: Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Amissio
  • Air: Rubeus, Puer, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Puella, Via, Populus
  • Earth: Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Carcer, Fortuna Maior

Generally, what kinds of effects could we assume from the combination of elements from the figure and the field it’s found in?  First, we need to remember that an element in the classical sense is composed of two qualities, heat (hot/cold) and moisture (moist/dry):

Hot Cold
Moist Air Water
Dry Fire Earth

So, we know that Fire and Air share the same heat but different moisture, Fire and Earth share the same moisture but different heat, and Fire and Water share nothing at all in common.  Given this, we can venture the following general schema:

  • Elements of figure and field completely agree: (e.g. Fire and Fire) The figure is empowered and strengthened in a way that allows it to express its nature more completely and forcefully.
  • Elements of figure and field agree in heat and disagree in moisture: (e.g. Fire and Air) The figure is complemented and aided in a rounded way to have aid, but is transformed in the process so that goals and intent change over time to compensate.
  • Elements of figure and field agree in moisture and disagree in heat: (e.g. Fire and Earth) The figure is balanced and stabilized leading to stagnation and cessation of action, but with the potential for future growth that must be unlocked or initiated by an outside force.
  • Elements of figure and field completely disagree: (e.g. Fire and Water) The figure is undone and harmed so as to be weak and powerless, being made to act unwillingly and become something it does not want to be.

Of course, this could be refined by taking the actual elements themselves into account instead of just noting whether their qualities differ or agree, and this should definitely be modified by taking the actual figures themselves into account and whether they’re a parent or a child of another figure.  Thus, although a Fire figure in a Fire field will be benefitted in many of the same ways as a Water figure in a Water field, how that figure will be empowered will change by virtue of the element itself as well as what that element is.  Laetitia as the First Mother (Fire figure and Fire field) will be amply empowered by self-assurance and optimism of one’s own being, while Rubeus as the Second Mother (Air figure and Air field) will be empowered by encouraging lots of activity and discussion in ways that aren’t actually destructive but more of inducing healthy change, like rapid exploration.

In this way, we can get an overall idea of how good or bad a situation is, or how restrained or freely it can become, based on inspecting each of the figures in each of their fields and how the elements of both compare.  If a majority of the figures are in fields that they agree elementally with, then we know that the situation as a whole will be filled with power, freedom, direct activity, and declarations of self.  If a majority of the figures are in fields they disagree with, then much of the situation will be troubled by restraint, red tape, paperwork, coercion, and general weakness.

This technique can be combined with the Via Puncti not only to determine the four root causes of a situation, but also to expand on what exactly is going on with them to cause an issue.  For instance, if in a reading to determine who will win a court case, the Via Puncti Ignis (indicating the root drive or cause) points to Laetitia as the Third Mother, we know that Laetitia is a figure of Fire in a field of Water, indicating that Laetitia here is severely damaged by its placement and cannot act according to how it wants to act.  Thus, we can surmise that the core of the issue is that the court case was started by someone impinging on the rights of happiness and freedom of someone else, and continuing to act freely or joyfully caused problems that led to the court case.

Another way we can use this technique of measuring the elements of fields versus figures can be used in triad interpretation.  Consider the fact that the child figure of any two parents not only shows the result of two parties interacting but also the current state of affairs in a given matter; further, it’s written in endless geomantic texts that the expression of a child figure is modified based on its parents, and vice versa.  If we consider the elements of the Niece figures in their proper fields, we can get another level of interpretation on how that particular triad is evolving.  If the Niece is strengthened in its field, it empowers its parents and makes the whole Triad more favorable or easier to deal with; if the Niece is weakened, it debilitates the triad and makes it harder to deal with.  Thus, consider two examples for the First Triad:

  1. Say we have the figures Fortuna Minor (First Mother), Coniunctio (Second Mother), and Amissio (First Niece).  We know that the elements of the Mothers agree with their fields (Fire figure in Fire field, Air figure in Air field) but that the element of the Niece disagrees with its field (Water figure in Fire field).  In this case, because the Niece is so impeded elementally, it shows that the interaction of its Mothers really isn’t nearly as good as it’d seem; we might say that the querent was doing more-or-less fine, but having to deal with interaction and communicating to people is actually causing them more issues than its worth, causing them to lose their fortune instead of just cutting losses.  Fortuna Minor isn’t a bad figure, and it’s always better to cut your losses, but it can be tricky to deal with, and when handled badly, you not only lose what you can afford but you lose what you want to keep.  Thus, because the Niece here is so debilitated elementally, it holds back the otherwise powerful significations of its Mothers.
  2. Say we have the figures Fortuna Minor (First Mother), Albus (Second Mother), and Cauda Draconis (First Niece).  Fortuna Minor as First Mother is a good placement (Fire figure in Fire field), that Albus as Second Mother isn’t horrible (Water figure in Air field), and that Cauda Draconis as First Niece is also a good placement (Fire figure in Fire field).  Normally, this combination of figures would indicate some sort of calamity or accident befalling the querent leading them to become distant, detached, and removed from activity, but Cauda Draconis is well-suited to being here, turning its normally horrible indication to something easier to deal with.  Thus, we might surmise that the querent was gearing down from fast-paced activity, finally and capably brought things to a reasonable end, and can now rest on their laurels and act as a mentor if they act at all.  Because the Niece is so empowered and ennobled here, it empowers and benefits the normally awkward or painful indications of its Mothers and its Triad generally.

In fact, when we look at the Triads generally, we can mark each triad by the Niece involved in each.  Going by the same right-to-left association of fields with the elements, we can do the same with the four Triads: the First Triad can be given the elemental quality of Fire, the Second Triad to Air, the Third Triad to Water, and the Fourth Triad to Earth; these are the same elemental significations of the fields of the Nieces involved in each Triad.  Thus, we can not only interpret Triads elementally now, but can also see how certain figures would be better off in a particular situation based on how well the element of a figure agrees with its triad as well as its field.

On that note, could we do a similar kind of elemental association of the Court?  The Court, after all, is just another triad, but it’s not one of the four triads that Robert Fludd talks about (or invented?).  Well, if you consider all steps of addition in the Shield Chart to be a Triad, then if we go right-to-left and top-to-bottom, then we have eight triads total:

  1. First Triad: First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece
  2. Second Triad: Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece
  3. Third Triad: First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece
  4. Fourth Triad: Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece
  5. Fifth Triad: First Niece + Second Niece = Right Witness
  6. Sixth Triad: Third Niece + Fourth Niece = Left Witness
  7. Seventh Triad: Right Witness + Left Witness = Judge
  8. Eighth Triad: Judge + First Mother = Sentence

Thus, if the first four triads are assigned to the elements in the usual order, we can do the same for the latter four triads: Fifth Triad to Fire, Sixth Triad to Air, Seventh Triad to Water, and Eighth Triad to Earth.  However, these “extra” or “minor” triads are of considerably less importance in terms of being “triads” than the first four, as the Court should be thought of as a little removed from the details and actors and focused more on overall action and results.  Still, the interpretation of these extra triads-qua-triads could be something for other geomancers to try out and see if they get any more useful information that couldn’t be obtained from the four triads and the Court.

A Brief Note on Reading Geomantic Charts

So, recently, I’ve been teaching geomancy in one-on-one classes with a friend.  (No, I don’t plan to do this very often, and if I do, I won’t be taking on more than one student at a time.  I’m still pretty new to this.)  He’s already very bright and skilled with other forms of divination, and his aptitude for logic and theory lend itself very well to the study of my favorite divinatory art.  He brings up lots of questions that give me pause to think them over, answering based on the theories of geomancy developed in the literature as well as in my own practice, and there’s plenty to talk about between his and my use of the art.  However, I’ve noticed something in the course of our discussions, and the discussions I’ve had with others, that I think should be said very explicitly.

In Western (or European) geomancy, we often divide the geomantic reading into two charts: the Shield Chart (the “constructive” chart with 16 “houses” for the Mothers, Daughters, Nieces, and Court) and the House Chart (the astrological chart with 12 houses).  Much of Western geomancy is devoted to the interpretation of the geomantic figures in the astrological House Chart, and somewhat less to the interpretation of the figures in the Shield Chart, usually focusing on the combinations of Witnesses and Judges.  Heck, even in my own posts on this blog, I’ve talked more about perfection and how to use the 12 houses of a geomantic House Chart to answer queries.  To be fair, the process of understanding the Court figures isn’t that hard, and it’s easy to extrapolate any number of ways to interpret them once you understand the gist of that.  It makes sense that more would be written about the more complicated and involved methods of interpretation, but this should not be misinterpreted that the Court figures are less important than the House Chart methods.

So, without further ado, let me make my point very clear:

The Court figures (Witnesses, Judge, and Sentence) form the answer to the query.  The Court says what will happen.  Everything else in the chart, in both the Shield Chart and the House Chart, describe the details of how things happen.  Thus, the Court always come first and provide the heart of the answer to any and all geomantic queries, and of the Court, the Judge figure is the most important.  Everything else should be interpreted in light of the Judge figure.

I find it incredibly confusing that someone would disregard the Judge and the rest of the Court, skipping ahead to the House Chart before even considering what the Court figures mean.  I consider it bad form to ask a query, construct the Shield Chart, then immediately look at the House Chart to find perfection or what-have-you to get a “yes” or “no” answer.  The Court, and the Judge especially, always provide the answer to the query, and more than that, the context within which the entire rest of the chart must fit.  All the other information one can obtain out of a geomantic chart—speed of resolution, perfection, quality of being, actors and actions, and everything else—is ultimately meaningless without a context to make sense of them.  The Court gives you that context and describes what will happen regarding the query put to geomancy.  Everything else just gives details and is, essentially, unnecessary for interpretation.

After all, the Shield Chart and House Chart aren’t really different charts.  The House Chart is just a reorganization of the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces in the Shield Chart into a more cyclical presentation rather than a procedural or additive presentation that the Shield Chart encourages.  Of the latter, we have the triad system (First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece, etc.), which is composed of four triads of figures; these same twelve figures are those used in the House Chart.  However, it bears remembering that these same twelve figures, whether laid out procedurally in the Shield Chart or cyclically in the House Chart, boil down to the Witnesses, Judge, and Sentence.  Thus, the Court figures encapsulate everything that has gone before, and really provide both the overall answer and the heart of the matter within itself.

Quick example.  Consider a query where someone wants to know whether they’ll be able to find a lost object.  The Judge is Amissio, and the House Chart perfects.  If you just look at the House Chart, then yes, you would say that the querent would find their lost object and all will be well (despite the fact that perfection and favorability are two different things that cannot be answered with one technique).  However, Amissio is the Judge, which indicates loss.  Beginning geomancers would be befuddled at this, thinking that the Judge is saying one thing and the House Chart says another, and would consider the chart too confusing to interpret.  However, remember that the Judge is the ultimate answer here and provides context for everything else.  Thus, ultimately, the querent will not have all they hope for, but depending on the rest of the details, we could extrapolate several interpretations of this combination of Judge and Houses:

  • The original item will not be recovered, but a replacement can be obtained.
  • The item will be recovered, but damaged to the point of worthlessness.
  • The item will be recovered, but at an overall loss of time, money, or resources to the querent.
  • The item was never lost, but the item will be of no use or otherwise accessible to the querent.

Note how, in these interpretations, the central idea of “loss” is present in all of them, none of them good for the querent’s original query.  However, there’s still some manner of recovery or possession that fit into the Judge’s context of loss which doesn’t ultimately change the answer to the query.  Yes, it may take some creativity and intuition to figure out how to put together seemingly-conflicting contexts and details, but that’s part of the art and skill of a geomancer that must be practiced and honed in order to properly use geomantic divination.

So, remember kids: always, alwaysalways look at the Court first in a geomantic chart.  Those figures there will tell you what’s going on and what will happen.  Everything else just fills in the details, but it’s the Court that set up the answer.

Geomantic Mathematics

Generating a complete geomantic chart can be a little daunting for people new to the art of geomancy.  I think it’s simple enough to learn, but there’s a fair bit of calculation involved.  It’s definitely more difficult than Tarot, where you just shuffle some cards and lay them out wherever you damn well please, but not as difficult as doing an astrological chart by hand (but then, who does that anymore?).

Still, there are fewer possible geomantic charts one might get than there are Tarot spreads ((78-10)! or (156-10)!, depending on whether you use reversed cards, and that’s just for the Celtic Cross) or astrological configurations (big big big big number, even if you limit yourself to just the seven traditional planets and whole degrees).  Since the four Mothers essentially define the rest of the chart, and since each Mother can be one of the 16 geomantic figures, there are only 16×16×16×16 = 65536 possible geomantic charts.  Any chart not in this set of charts are invalid and impossible to properly calculate.  How might you determine whether a given geomantic chart is valid?  There are three rules to validate a chart:

The Judge must be an even figure.  It is impossible for a well-formed geomantic chart to have an odd Judge; evenness is often called “impartiality”, and Judges as well as judges must be impartial in deciding a case.  Judge figures must be even due to the formation of the Daughters from the Mothers.  The Daughters make use of the same points from the Mothers, transposed so that they’re arranged in a different direction; thus, the number of points in the Mothers are the same as those in the Daughters.  Any number duplicated yields an even number, and the process of adding figures (or distilling them from the Mothers/Daughters to the Nieces to the Witnesses) preserves this kind of parity.  Thus, the Witnesses must be either both odd or both even, and in either case must add to an even figure.  The Judge is the only figure in the chart where this rule must apply.

At least one figure must be repeated in the chart.  As it turns out, no complete Shield chart with 16 geomantic figures can have all 16 distinct figures; there must be at least one repeated figure in the chart somewhere.  It may be possible that the first 15 figures (Mothers, Daughters, Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge) are distinct, but then the Sentence must of necessity repeat one of the other figures.  Consider that the Judge is formed from the two Witnesses, which themselves are formed from the four Nieces, which are formed from the eight Mothers and Daughters combined.  The Judge has eight separate roots, which may very well be distinct.  However, the Sentence is formed from adding the Judge to the First Mother.  Because the Judge also relies on the First Mother (via the Right Witness and First Niece), you’re essentially adding the First Mother to itself, which yields Populus; Populus, when combined with any other figure, repeats that figure.  Because of this “hidden repetition” in the chart, there’s bound to be at least one figure repeated in the chart somewhere, even if it’s just the Sentence.  That said, there are only 16 charts that have the first 15 figures unique, but that’s a topic for another day.

The inseparable pairs must add to the same figure.  This is an idea picked up from the Madagascan tradition of geomancy of sikidy, and shows the validity of the internal structure of the chart.  The idea here is that certain pairs of figures in the chart must add to the same figure: adding the First Niece to the Judge, the Second Mother to the Sentence, and the Second Niece to the Left Witness all yield the same result.  Similarly, the Left Witness added to the Sentence, the Right Witness to the First Mother, and the Second Niece to the Second Mother also yield the same result.  This is because the “units” that add up to any child figure (First and Second Mothers for the First Niece, or all the Mothers and Daughters for the Judge, or all the Mothers and Daughters for the Sentence with the First Mother duplicated) are the same within these groups of inseperables.  Any set of addition of “units” where two figures are repeated cancel each other out, forming Populus; the remaining figures add up to a particular figure that the other inseperables must also add to.

So, as an example, say that we have the following chart, where we have Via, Acquisitio, Coniunctio, and Laetitia as the Mothers.  Carcer, Cauda Draconis, Amissio, and Fortuna Minor are the Daughters; Amissio, Cauda Draconis, Caput Draconis, and Coniunctio are the Nieces; Rubeus and Tristitia are the Witnesses, Acquisitio is the Judge, and Amissio is the Sentence.

Example Geomantic Tableau

The Judge is Acquisitio, which is an even figure, formed from two odd figures; this is good.  There is multiple repetition in the chart (Acquisitio, Coniunctio, Cauda Draconis, and Amissio are all repeated somewhere in the chart), which is also good.  The two sets of inseparables add up the figures as below:

  1. First Set (sum of Third and Fourth Mothers with all the Daughters)
    1. First Niece + Judge = Amissio + Acqusitio = Via
    2. Second Mother + Sentence = Acquisitio + Amissio = Via
    3. Second Niece + Left Witness = Cauda Draconis + Tristitia = Via
  2. Second Set (sum of the Second, Third, and Fourth Mothers)
    1. Left Witness + Sentence = Tristitia + Amissio = Puella
    2. Right Witness + First Mother = Rubeus + Via = Puella
    3. Second Niece + Second Mother = Cauda Draconis + Acquisitio = Puella

Since the two sets of inseparable pairs add up to the same figures, respectively Via and Puella, this also checks out.  We can now rest assured that our geomantic chart is valid and proper for reading.

Do I do all these checks every time I calculate a geomancy chart?  Lol nope.  When I calculate a geomancy chart by hand (I sometimes use a program I wrote for this to automatically give me all the information I want from a chart), I’ll often just check the parity of the Judge and leave it at that.  Still, learning these rules and how the internal structure of the shield chart works is important to geomancy, since it underlies not only the mechanics of getting the divination system to work but also indicates important spiritual and oracular connections between the otherwise disparate symbols used.