Elemental Rulers of the Geomantic Figures

As I’ve probably mentioned before around here, the geomantic figures are interesting little symbols in the occult that are composed of four lines, with each line representing one of the four classical elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Each line can have either one or two dots, with one dot indicating an active element and two dots indicating a passive element.  Thus, the geomantic figures can be seen as alchemical equations, representing a different blend of forces required to represent or reflect a particular state of the cosmos at any given time.  The top row is given to Fire, the second row to Air, the third row to Water, and the bottom row to Earth, the same order as the perceived “density” as the elements, with Fire being the lightest and Earth being the heaviest.  Nifty things, these geomantic figures.

While the figures are composed of up to four elements, each figure also has a ruling element, which is the element the figure is most strongly associated with.  Generally speaking, the elemental rulership of a figure is indicated by its structure: with the exception of Populus (which has no lines/elements active), the elemental ruler of a geomantic figure is always one of the active elements within those figures.

So, consider the geomantic figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Each of these figures have only one line active with the others passive; Laetitia has only Fire active, Rubeus has only Air active, Albus has only Water active, and Tristitia has only Earth active.  As such, these elements are the rulers of their respective figures, since they’re the only elements active in those figures.  The other figures are assigned in similar way based on their divinatory meaning:

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

Note that Laetitia and Cauda Draconis are converse figures (the reverse of the inverse of the figure), as are Rubeus and Puer, Albus and Puella, and Tristitia and Caput Draconis; these odd pairs are similar in their meanings or temperament, and also preserve the elemental rulership based on their structures.  Amissio and Fortuna Minor are given to Fire due to their temperament, as are the other even figures to their elements.  Populus is the only odd one out, since it has no elements active, but is given to Water with its inverse figure Via.

So far, so good; most of the traditional sources that mention elemental rulers at all (independent of the zodiacal or planetary rulerships) are in agreement.  However, it’s unclear whether each of the four figures within these four groups has another elemental affinity based on a similar system.  After all, we already applied the same system one time to the figures as a whole, so why not apply it to the figures in their elemental groupings?

I got the idea for this based on a reply to Andrew’s comment before, where he was working on a set of geomantic mandalas organized by element.  Ordering the figures by element seems to be a good idea, but he didn’t seem to like any of the arrangements of the figures within their groups.  So, I figured to come up with a subelemental rulership kind of system which could help order the figures.  In effect, we’d have an ordering that goes first by a figure’s primary elemental ruler, then their secondary elemental or subelemental ruler: Fire/Fire, Fire/Air, Fire/Water, Fire/Earth, Air/Fire, and so forth to Earth/Earth.

With that in mind, here’s my schema for assigning elemental and subelemental rulers to the figures:

  • Fire
    • Fire: Laetitia.  Pure fire, no other elements involved.
    • Air: Fortuna Minor.  Fire with Air.  The smoothest and most beneficial figure of Fire, which requires communication and interaction with other people.
    • Water: Amissio.  Fire with Water.  The most emotional and volatile of the Fire-ruled figures.
    • Earth: Cauda Draconis.  Fire, Air, and Water without Earth.  although Earth is not present in Cauda Draconis, it is the only reasonable leftover.  Plus, in Hebrew occultism, earth is the element that results from combining fire, air, and water.
  • Air
    • Fire: Puer.  Air with Earth and Fire.  Being Martian and associated with Aries in any of the major zodiacal attribution systems, this seems fairly straightforward.
    • Air: Rubeus.  Pure air, no other elements involved.
    • Water: Coniunctio.  Air with Water.  Communication and interaction on all levels, emotional and mental.
    • Earth: Acquisitio.  Air with Earth.  The most grounded and material of the Air figures.
  • Water
    • Fire: Puella.  Water with Fire and Earth.  The most outgoing of the Water figures (which isn’t saying much), Puella is the only one that has a will and plan of its own, receptive though it may be.  Plus, its Water/Fire mix mirrors the Fire/Water mix of Amissio, the other Venus-ruled figure.
    • Air: Via.  All elements active.  The most fluid and dynamic of the Water signs, the road is also an image of communication, travel, and trade, which are all airy things.  Plus, it mirrors the Air/Water mix of Coniunctio, often seen as a similar symbol of crossroads and paths.
    • Water: Albus.  Pure water, no other elements involved.
    • Earth: Populus.  No elements active.  Again, just as assigning Populus to Water in the first place, the system breaks down here.  However, being the most stable, fixed, and status-quo-enforcing figure of Water, it makes sense to give it to the slowest and heaviest of the elements, Earth, as a subelemental ruler.
  • Earth
    • Fire: Carcer.  Earth with Fire.  Dry, without any ability to communicate or interact with the world, is the image of Carcer, plus the hot-headed anger latent in this figure.
    • Air: Caput Draconis.  Earth with Water and Air.  The only Earth figure with Air, Caput Draconis indicates beginnings, things about to be formed and awaiting a pulse of energy from outside. 
    • Water: Fortuna Maior.  Earth with Water.  The most beneficical and fertile of the figures, Fortuna Maior combines Earth and Water to create long-lasting, though slow-going, change.
    • Earth: Tristitia.  Pure earth, no other elements involved.

So, given the elemental/subelemental rulership of the figures, a strictly elemental based ordering of the figures might look something like this:

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

Of course, this is ultimately a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy.  An ordering of the figures like this is helpful to maybe learn the figures by mnemonic or to help present them in an orderly fashion, but doesn’t really influence the process of divination or magic much.  However, as far as I can tell, the notion of subelemental rulers of the figures is new, which might help people develop more nuanced notions of how the figures interact and interplay between them in a reading or when deployed in magic or ritual.

Ordering the Geomantic Figures

Occult systems of knowledge, at least those in European traditions, have a huge affinity for symbols.  For instance, astrology has the stars, the zodiac, the planets, and the aspects; Tarot has its 78-card deck; qabbalah has its sephiroth and paths and names of God and gematria.  Sometimes these symbols in different systems can be corresponded neatly (or not-so-neatly) with each other, much as different metric units can be converted into each other by reducing them down to a particular set of units.  Geomancy, with its sixteen geomantic figures, is no exception, and has connections to the planets, the elements, and so forth.  Nifty figures, them.  You might be interested in reading up about them if you’re so inclined.

Unlike other occult systems of knowledge, however, geomancy doesn’t have a fixed or canonical order for the figures.  Tarot has the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana with their numbered cards and ranks and suits, which can afford some structured ordering, and astrology has the order of the zodiac signs plus the planets in geocentric order from or to the Earth.  Geomancy hasn’t held a specific or meaningful ordering of its own for the figures, which is a little confusing at first.  Sure, there are ways to order the figures, but there is no ordering of them of geomancy’s own design for its own benefit.  Every author seems to prefer their own order in every single text, though it usually borrows at least in part from astrology (either the order of the zodiac signs or the planets associated with the figures).

First, let’s make two terms clear from computer science: sets and lists.  A set is a collection of things with no implication of order, while a list is an ordered collection of things.  There is no notion of “first” or “last” or “next” within a set; something is either a member/included with the set, or excluded from the set.  On the other hand, lists impose an ordering on the things within itself, with there being a first thing, a next thing, and so on until we get to the last thing; every think in a list has an index, its position within the list.  While astrology, Tarot, and the like have lists for their symbols (the numbering of the cards in the deck, the planets from geocentrically furthest to closest to the Earth), geomancy has never really had a fixed list.  It’s more accurate to talk of sets instead of lists for geomancy, at least in its historical development.

Several common methods of ordering the geomantic figures that I’ve seen include:

  • Binary ordering, where each geomantic figure is read as a number in binary.  As with the geomantic emblem notation, a line with two dots is represented as 0 and a line with one dot as 1.  Thus, Populus becomes 0000, which in binary is zero; Tristitia becomes 0001, which is 1; Via becomes 1111, which is 16; and so forth.
  • Planetary ordering, where each geomantic figure is ordered by its corresponding planet.  This relies on the use of a particular order of the planets; I prefer the traditional Chaldaean order, moon-first (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).  I set the figures Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis, ruled by the nodes of the Moon, at the end; for each pair of figures, I put the masculine/active/direct/waxing/rising figure first and the feminine/passive/retrograde/waning/setting figure second (e.g. Populus followed by Via followed by Albus followed by Coniunctio…).
  • Zodiacal order, where each geomantic figure is ordered by its corresponding zodiac sign.  This is complicated by there being different zodiacal attributions to the figures, but I tend to stick with Gerard of Cremona’s system (as presented in his “On Astronomical Geomancy”), but I know other geomancers use Agrippa’s system (such as John Michael Greer).  This is further complicated when several figures are assigned to the same sign; some authors (like Gerard of Cremona) simply set them next to each other without care for order, while others (like JMG) place them at the end.
  • Emblematic order, where each figure is ordered by its placement in a particular geomantic emblem.  Which of the 256 emblems you pick, however, depends on a particular purpose and other factors.

Personally speaking, I use either the binary ordering or Chaldaean planetary ordering, when I care to order them at all.  Do you guys care about imposing an order on the geomantic figures, or do you care?  Does the notion of a list versus a set of geomantic figures matter in your work?

Finding Lost Objects with Geomancy

The primary purpose of any system of divination is to get answers to questions.  Across time and cultures, one of the most common questions asked of diviners and seers is where a misplaced or lost item might be found, or whether it can be recovered again at all.  This is also the case for geomancy, where it’s developed several methods of finding lost or stolen objects or things.  John Michael Greer, in his Art and Practice of Geomancy, offers one such method using the house chart of geomancy:

  1. throw a chart to ask where the lost object may be found
  2. take the house naturally ruling the type of object the querent has lost as the significator of the quesited
  3. see whether there’s any perfection between the significator of the querent and quesited to determine whether the object can be found again
  4. note where the significator of the quesited passes to, if it passes at all, to see where it may be found

While this method is fairly intuitive, it’s pretty complex in how it assigns each house a different type of object, which can be needlessly difficult for a lot of people who can’t decide where something might go.  Lots of astrologers (and some geomancers) debate whether things like cars or cell phones are ruled just by the second house or by other houses, since they have different ways of being used and reckoned in the world (as things one owns, as tools, as methods for communication or travel, as homes, etc.).  After some experimentation, I decided to develop my own method to find lost objects using a geomancy that’s based a little closer to the traditional rules of horary astrology.  It simplifies the method to assign the lost object a significator, and can lead to detailed descriptions of where the lost object may be found.

As in these kinds of readings, it’s best to assume the least and break down the query.  Instead of going right for the query “where can I find lost thing X?”, first ask “can I find lost thing X in a reasonable timeframe?”.  This way, you know ahead of time whether it’s worth it to try to find the lost object, since some things may be permanently lost, destroyed, or stolen and cannot be recovered.  This is done through looking at the house chart and whether or not the significators of the querent and quesited perfect, among other techniques.  The significator of the querent is, as always, the first house (unless one is asking on behalf of another, but whatever).  The significator of the quesited is the lost thing sought after, but the choice of house for this depends on what the lost thing is.  Instead of having each house represent a different kind of thing, we’ll only focus on four houses:

  • any object: house II
  • pet or small livestock: house VI
  • any person: house VII
  • wild animal or large livestock: house XII

Although the traditional method taught by Greer assigns each house a different kind or class of object, we’ll simplify this into saying that any object, movable possession, or tangible good is ruled by the second house.  Any person is ruled by the seventh house, including lovers, enemies, assassins, politicians, children, or anyone without a connection to the querent.  Animals can either be domesticated or wild, a pet or livestock, or small or large (if an average adult can ride it, it’s considered large); if it’s closer to the former set of categories, it’s ruled by the sixth house, but if the latter, the twelfth house.  The quesited’s significator represents the color, shape, and general form of the lost object; you might use the astrological, planetary, or other geomantic associations of the figures to discern these (e.g. Puer, associated with Mars and Aries, indicates steel or iron, red, weapon-like, sharp, hot, etc.).  A stable figure found as the quesited’s significator shows that the object has not moved recently or will not move anytime soon; a mobile figure, on the other hand, indicates motion to or from the item’s current location.

The house that the quesited’s significator passes to will show the direction or the type of area that the object in question may be found; if the significator does not pass in the chart, then the location specified by its natural house should be used.  If the quesited’s figure passes to two or more houses in the chart, the item is in motion between them.  In some cases, theft can be the cause of the loss of an object.  If the lost object’s signifi cator perfects with the seventh house or twelfth house, and especially the twelfth in the case of a lost person, the chart indicates that the lost item has been stolen by someone known or unknown, respectively. If the lost object occupies the eighth house as well as its own, the object is in someone else’s possession or has already been sold o ff.

Angular houses suggest that the item is where it is often kept or should be or where the querent often frequents.  Succedent houses, including the second, shows that the item is not where it usually is kept but is nearby, possibly outside or near an auxiliary building, or near where the querent goes only occasionally.  Cadent houses indicate that the item is far off , hidden from its normal location, or where the querent hardly ever or never goes.  Individually, the houses indicate the following areas:

  1. East, where querent spends most of his or her time, on the querent’s body or immediate personal belongings, in front of the house, in the querent’s room, home of grandparent (fourth from the tenth)
  2. East-northeast, northeast room along the eastern wall, where querent keeps his or her money or valuable possessions, pocketbook, wallet, deposit box, vault, file cabinet, home of a friend (fourth from the eleventh)
  3. North-northeast, northeast room along the northern wall, on or in a desk, among papers or books, in a study, library, or writing station, in or near a car, places connected to travel, letters, education, or communication, near a telephone, radio, computer, or television, in the neighborhood, with a sibling
  4. North, in the home, child’s bedroom or under child’s bed (twelfth of the fifth), middle of the house, oldest part of house, kitchen, pantry, basement, with parent, with oldest person in house, in yard or garden
  5. North-northwest, northwest room along northern wall, in recreation room, in place for hobbies or pleasure, child’s room, with a lover, in a bar, restaurant, tavern, theater, or banquet hall
  6. West-northwest, northwest room along western wall, container or pocket, inside something, in place where one work or does chores, cupboard, closet, drawer, near pet, with tenant, with servant, with employee, in clinic or doctor’s office
  7. West, where partner spends most time, with partner, in partner’s room or office, living room, with personal consultant, attorney, or astrologer, father’s residence (fourth from the fourth), with maternal grandmother (tenth from the tenth), with a niece or nephew (fifth from the third)
  8. West-southwest, southwest room along western wall, in garbage, dead, ruined, gone, potentially unrecoverable, near water or plumbing, in or near bathroom, where research or investigation are done, places of sex, death, or legacies, among partner’s possessions
  9. South-southwest, southwest room along southern wall, far away or distant places, places related to voyages, heights, religion, college, or publishers, with in-laws (third from the seventh), with grandchildren (fifth from the  fifth)
  10. South, office, where one works, hallway, parent’s room, mother’s room, dining room, department store, public building, with boss, with those in authority, structural parts of a building
  11. South-southeast, southeast room along southern wall, with friends, in clubs, lodges, meeting places, in partner’s work area (sixth from the seventh), with stepchild (fifth from the seventh), places the querent hopes or wishes to be
  12. East-southeast, southeast room along eastern wall, in bedroom, under bed, places of confinement, hospitals, institutions, secluded places, private spots, places of prayer, sleep, or meditation, hidden, out of sight, sick room (if the sixth house agrees), with secret enemy, places with large animals

If the geomancer assigns the signs of the zodiac to the houses, then the sign ruling the house that the quesited’s significator passes to (or the sign ruling the its own house, if this significator does not pass in the chart) can also indicate the area of the lost item.  The method I use is to assign the first house (or the geomantic ascendant) the sign based on the figure found in it (e.g. if Puella, Libra), then assign the rest of the houses the signs following the ascendant in order.  The triplicity and quadruplicity of the sign can offer general indications:

  • Cardinal quadruplicity: in the open, a new place, a high place, a place with much activity
  • Fixed quadruplicity: a low place, a calm or empty place, hidden
  • Mutable quadruplicity: by water, walls, or other boundaries; inner chambers, inside containers
  • Fire triplicity: places near heat or fi re, places of energy or power, near iron or gates
  • Earth triplicity: places on or under the ground, near or under pavement or the floor; near mud, clay, or dirt
  • Air triplicity: places high up or elevated with an open view, near windows or light
  • Water triplicity: places near water, bathrooms, kitchens, gardens, ponds

Individual signs can also indicate more specific types or classes of areas where the object may be found:

  • Aries: roof coverings, ceilings, plastering in houses, unfrequented places, sandy or hilly ground
  • Taurus: low rooms, cellars, places near the earth, agricultural outhouses, sheds and stables
  • Gemini: chests, high places, paneled rooms, offices, near office or communication equipment, areas where games are played
  • Cancer: near ponds or water, utility rooms, wash houses, bathrooms, kitchens, cisterns
  • Leo: woods, parks, large or grand buildings or palaces, near a chimney or source of heat
  • Virgo: studies, closets, storage areas, drawers, barns, dairy houses, places where crops are stored or processed
  • Libra: windmills, barns, where wood is cut, upper rooms in houses, chambers, little houses, closets
  • Scorpio: near muddy or stagnant water, gutters, sinks, kitchens or bathrooms, ruins, compost heaps, dark or secret places
  • Sagittarius: high lands, grounds, upper rooms, near fire or a radiator, stables, hills
  • Capricorn: low or dark places, near thresholds or boundaries, cow sheds, wood stores, barren fields
  • Aquarius: hilly or uneven places, quarries and mines, high places, an attic or roof, upper parts of all rooms
  • Pisces: bathroom, kitchen, wells and pumps, all damp places, rivers, fish ponds

Charts for finding locations of something can also be used to determine whether or not the thing can be retrieved or found again, and by what manner if it can at all.  This is done by using perfection and aspect between the querent’s and quesited’s significators, as well as perfection between other houses, to determine the prospect of regaining the lost object.  Simply put, the method of perfection indicates how the lost item may be regained:

  • Occupation: the querent will find the object easily, the object was never truly lost, or the object was always within the querent’s grasp or possession
  • Conjunction when the querent’s figure passes: the querent will find the item after much searching and effort
  • Conjunction when the quesited’s figure passes: the item will be found with no effort on the part of the querent, the object will by circumstance find its way back to the querent
  • Mutation: the item will turn up unexpectedly and unusually
  • Translation: a third party will return the item or lead the querent to its location

Favorable aspects (trine and sextile) that form between the querent’s and quesited’s significators indicate an easy or comfortable circumstance in which the item may be found.  Unfavorable aspects (square and opposition) show that the querent will have a difficult time searching or finding the object.  If the chart denies perfection but there are favorable aspects, the querent will have limited but potentially fruitful opportunities to find the object again.

The kind of house that the quesited’s figure passes to (or the kind of house that naturally rules it if it doesn’t pass in the chart) in terms of quality can hint at how long or how much effort must be used to find the object.  If the quesited’s figure passes to an angular house, the item will be found quickly or immediately; if to a succedent house, after some delay; if to a cadent house, only after very long, if the item is to be found at all.  If the significator of the lost item is found in multiple houses, then each house may indicate a place where the figure can be found, and the type of house indicates the success or speed of finding it there.  The sum of the chart, where one counts all the points of all sixteen figures found in each position of the shield chart, can also off er a similar indication.

Let’s consider a brief example.  My sister who was testing out multiple methods of divination for finding lost objects, had her husband hide something of hers somewhere in her house; he chose a small book.  Using geomancy, she drew up a chart that had Amissio, Puer, Puer, and Fortuna Minor as the Mothers; the Court had Coniunctio as both Right and Left Witness, Populus as the Judge, and Amissio as the Sentence.  Taking the second house as our significator of the quesited, we have Puer, indicating things that are red and metal or weapon-like.  Puer passes to the third house, indicating that the place is on or near a desk, near or among books and papers.  Amissio sets the ascendant of the chart to Scorpio, giving Capricorn to the third house, indicating a place of work or storage.  Put together, the book would be found with a red metal object related to weapons and storage, near or on a desk used for working and paper-holding.  Her husband had hidden the book in a small metal lunchbox with a drawing of an anime character wielding a crossbow on her computer workdesk that she used for her job.  Not a bad match between chart and reality!

This technique is something I developed out of my brief readings on horary astrology, which influenced geomancy to no small degree during the medieval and Renaissance phase of its development.  Though other methods of finding lost objects exist and undoubtedly work, I never had much success with it, and ended up tooling out a method that works much better for me and for other people.  Give it a try to see what you think, and feel free to comment on other methods of finding lost objects.

De Geomanteia Recap, and a Huge Thank You

As I mentioned last time, I completed the small little journey I set out on about five months ago to describe each of the geomantic figures and a bit about geomantic technique on my blog at the rate of one post per week.  It’s been a fantastic trip, and I hope you guys got a lot out of it; it encouraged me to dig through my old notes and meditations on the subject, as well as having spurred me to do more original geomantic research.  Since some people like things being made easy for them, I present to you a list of all the De Geomanteia posts I made, separated out into the posts on technique and the figures.

The posts on geomantic technique:

  1. On the Via Puncti and its variations in the shield chart
  2. On perfection, aspect, favorability, and affirmation
  3. On determining time and timeframes with geomancy
  4. On using geomancy and the figures in magic and ritual

The posts on the geomantic figures (not in chronological order):

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

Feel free to share this or any of the other posts in the De Geomanteia series.  This certainly won’t be the end of geomancy posts here at the Digital Ambler, that’s for sure, so keep an eye out for more meditations on the figures and technique in the future.

Also, I wanted to thank all my readers for making this an awesome week.  On Tuesday, the Digital Ambler crossed the 100,000 hit mark, which is a fantastic milestone.  It’s a nontrivial thing, too, since the blog has only been online for less than two years!  Between Facebook, Twitter, and other people’s blogs and sites, I’ve been getting lots of traffic in ways I wouldn’t’ve imagined a year or so ago (like from Bungie gaming forums or discussions of grimoires I’ve only dreamed of working with).  You guys are awesome for having helped me out and been with me on this fantastic Hermetic journey, and I see no signs of it stopping anywhere soon.  Keep reading, dear readers, and I hope you enjoy the future with me.

Happy geomancing and happy ambling, you guys!