On the Judges of the Court of Geomancy

In the process of geomantic divination, one of the first things we do as geomancers is actually construct the whole chart from the first four Mothers that we derive by a random means.  Through this, we calculate the four Daughters, the four Nieces, and the four figures of the Court.  The Court, as my geomantically-inclined readers are already aware, is composed of the Right Witness, the Left Witness, the Judge, and the Sentence.  Throughout the history of geomancy, the Judge has nigh-universally been seen as the most important figure of the entire chart, and every interpretation must rely on the Judge in at least some way to understand what the chart proclaims for the query asked of it.  However, the Judge isn’t just some random figure; there are intricate mathematical relationships between the Judge and the rest of the chart, one of the effects of which is that the Judge must be an even figure.  However, the reason why this is on a higher, more philosophical level aren’t usually stated clearly.  Between a recent email about the Judges of geomancy and a discussion on the Facebook geomancy group, there’s a bit about the Judge that I feel might need a little unpacking from a higher, theoretical level to understand why it is what it is and how it relates to the process of interpreting the geomantic chart.

The email sent to me asked several questions, but they can be broken down and rephrased into the following.

  • Why are the Judges even?
  • What does it mean for a Judge to be an even figure?
  • Do the mathematical limitations of what can and can’t be a Judge make us lose out in geomantic divination?
  • Does the Judge miss anything as far as the whole answer to the query goes, and if so, where can we find it?

I answered the dude in the email, but I’d like to flesh out my answers a bit more fully here.

First, the Judge must be even due to the mathematics in the geomancy chart.  A paper by Marcia Ascher, “Malagasy Sikidy: A Case in Ethnomathematics” (Historia Mathematica 24, 1997, pp376—395) fully describes the reasoning as it is in Madgascar’s form of geomancy, but the exact same logic works in Western geomancy, as well.  For the mathematically disinclined among us, the idea is that the Judge is ultimately the sum of the four Mothers and four Daughters:

Judge = Right Witness + Left Witness
Judge = (First Niece + Second Niece) + (Third Niece + Fourth Niece)
Judge = ((First Mother + Second Mother) + (Third Mother + Fourth Mother)) + ((First Daughter + Second Daughter) + (Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter))

When we add two figures together in geomancy, we’re not really coming up with a numeric sum of points between the two added figures, but coming up with the parity (even or odd) of the number of points between them.  Further, recall that there must be an equal number of points in the four Mothers as there are in the four Daughters, because they’re all formed from different arrangements of the same points.  Because geomantic addition (a variant on the logical/mathematical function called the “exclusive or” or XOR function) only preserves parity, what the Mothers and Daughters add together to numerically doesn’t matter, because their parity will still match.  Thus, because the four Mothers are together summed to find the Right Witness and the four Daughters together to find the Left Witness, both the Right and Left Witnesses must share the same parity.  Two figures that are both odd or both even, i.e. share the same parity, will add together to form an even figure.  Thus, because both Witnesses share the same parity, the Judge must therefore be an even figure.  It can be shown, further, that the Judge is the only figure produced in the process of geomantic divination that this is necessarily true; any other figure in the chart may be odd or even, but only the Judge must be even.  Because of this, we use this mathematic property to help us figure out whether a chart is mathematically valid and well-constructed; if we find that the Judge is an odd figure, then there’s something not right in how the chart is calculated, and we need to find out where the error lies so we can correct it before we continue with interpreting the chart.

Because the Judge must be even, this narrows down the number of figures that can occur in this position from sixteen down to eight: Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Aquisitio, and Amissio.  It is for this reason that I call these figures “objective”, and the odd figures (Puer, Puella, Laetitia, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Cauda Draconis, and Caput Draconis) “subjective”; this is a distinction I don’t think exists extant in the literature outside my own writings (which also includes contributions to the articles on geomancy on Wikipedia).  I call the even figures “objective” because they are the only ones that can be Judges; just as in real life, where the judge presiding over a court case must objectively take into account evidence to issue a judgment and sentence, the Judge in a geomantic chart must likewise reflect the nature of the situation and answer the query in an impartial (a Latin word literally meaning “not biased” or “not odd”), fair, balanced, and objective way.  It’s not that these figures are Judges because they inherently possess an astrological or magical quality called objectivity, but I call them objective because they’re mathematically able to be Judges.

What does it actually mean in real-world terms, then, for these Judge-eligible figures to be “objective”?  It means that they represent certain states of the cosmos that can be seen from both sides of a situation, something that plays out externally, concretely, and factually in a way that can be colored, but not tampered, by emotional, mental, or otherwise subjective states of perception that only apply in a one-sided way (note the “both sides” and “one-sided” phrasing here and how it applies to even versus odd).  This can be seen by how the different inverse pairs of figures play out in their significations, apart and away from any correspondence to sign or planet or element:

  • Aquisitio and Amissio relate to notions of obtaining, losing, acquiring, or missing some object.  You can dress it up however you want or arrive at it by different means (inventing, destroying, getting something on your own, getting someone to get rid of something for you, etc.), but at the end of the day, you either have something or you don’t.
  • Carcer and Coniunctio relate to notions of being isolated, conjoined, restricted, freed, cut off, or brought into some process.  You either have freedom and choices, or you don’t.
  • Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor relate to notions of independence or dependence.  You either can do something on your own, or you can’t; you either need outside help or resources not normally available to you, or you don’t.
  • Populus and Via relate to notions of passivity, activity, inertia, liveliness, stagnation, passion, multitude, or solitude.  There is either nothing going on, or there is something going on; things either change or they don’t.

If it sounds like a very black-and-white, cut-and-clear, binary way to view the universe, it’s because it is.  While I’m all about seeing the fine gradations of how things play out on large scales, understand that the cosmos provides a truly limitless spectrum of experiences, and often look for third, fourth, and other choices when presented with a dilemma, it doesn’t change the fact that the cosmos itself doesn’t always operate in a fuzzy, shade-of-grey manner; after all, you can’t have something halfway, either you have it or you don’t, just like how a light switch cannot be both “off” or “on” or halfway between them.  There is no third option, no halfway point, no spectrum involved in these dichotomies.  Geomancy itself is based upon binary mathematics, the numerical science of what is and what is not, what is true and what is false, what is odd and what is even, without allowing for anything in the middle of two choices.  However, when you have a whole situation and cosmos presented before you, we start to find shades of grey developing when we have a number of such binary choices or qualities in the same place, conflicting and meeting with each other; those subjective states are emergent properties of an otherwise objective system, where we have a multitude of reactions based on a single action.

What are those reactions, those shades of grey, those subjective states?  That’s where the odd figures come into play:

  • Puer and Puella reflect the old-school gender dichotomy of male and female, emitting or receptive, extroverted or introverted, visiting or hosting.
  • Laetitia and Tristitia reflect the two emotional states of joy or sorrow, jubilation or grief, uplifting or depression, optimistic or apprehensive.
  • Albus and Rubeus reflect the two states of the mind which can be calm or turbulent, reflective or chaotic, wise or foolish, impotent or violent.
  • Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis reflect the two perspectives to a situation of beginning or ending, constructive or destructive, fortunate or unfortunate, opening or closing.

Note that these are all things that cannot really be shared, and are unique to each and every person, each and every “side” in a situation.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, after all; what I perceive as good, you might perceive as bad, and what I may be fearful of, you may be eagerly anticipating with relish.  Plus, these figures are much more liable to be considered ends of a spectrum rather than a strict dichotomy; ask any genderfluid person how male or female they feel on a given day, if either at all, and consider how truly complex the mind is in a troubling situation where some parts of it might be chaotic and other parts tranquil or focused, and how much each set of parts might be of either state.  Moreover, even within a single person, some of these internal subjective states can change from moment to moment, but it doesn’t change necessarily what actually happens externally to them unless they make an external action.  For instance, upon realizing that I’ve completed a long-running task, I might go through a series of emotions about it ranging from wistful nostalgia to exuberant gratitude that it’s over to regret that I could have done more while I was in the process of it; none of these actually change the fact that the task is complete, hence the subjective/objective distinction.  Further, while we might be able to witness these states of gender, emotion, mind, or perspective in another person, they are nothing actually realized in the real world without a concrete action being taken.

Because of all this, when the dude who emailed me asked whether it’s a loss for us as geomancers that the Judge is limited to one of only eight figures from the total of sixteen, I emphatically replied to the contrary: that the Judge must be even is simply part of how geomancy works, which cannot be compared as it is to other forms of divination like Tarot or runes where each symbol is obtained independently of the others, and that the Judge’s even parity gives us both a practical guide to checking the chart in addition to an insight into what the figures themselves are.  If this limits us at all, it does so that we cannot make a faulty, subjective, misguided judgment that would cause more harm than good by relying overmuch on subjective, internal feelings that do not have a concrete place to play in the actual world; in such a case, it’s not a limitation of us being unfairly cut off from a world of possibilities that we should have a right to explore, but a limitation protecting us from a world where things make even less sense than they already do, and thus where we have no business being.  Remember that we come to geomancy (and divination generally) for advice, guidance, and answers; it would do us no good to simply validate our feelings or be told that we should feel some other type of way when what we need is concrete information about what happens and what to do about it.

Now that we understand the full import of why the Judges must be even from both a mathematical and philosophical standpoint, let’s move on to that final question: does the Judge lack anything with respect to the answer for the chart?  I would say that no, it doesn’t, because the Judge is the full, whole, and complete distillation of the entire geomantic chart into a single figure, and as such represents the entire answer by itself.  This is the reason why it is the single most important figure in the chart, because it encapsulates the entire thing from start to end, and as I’ve suggested before, in a well-constructed reading, the Judge will always answer the query as best as one of those eight even figures can.  The thing is, however, that situations and queries presented to geomancy can often be complex, and the Judge being just one figure still must answer in a way that a single figure can, which is necessarily high-level and possibly vague.  It’s not that the Judge “omits” anything, but that some of the finer details that play into the high-level answer cannot be answered with a single figure alone.  Thus, we have the rest of the figures in the chart and all the other techniques available to us: the Witnesses, Via Puncti, perfection, company, elemental analyses, etc.  If the Judge, even at its high-level station, can answer the query on its own, great!  If not, then the Judge’s word sets the context and frames the information that is delivered to us by the rest of the chart and the rest of the art of geomancy.  In some ways, this is the opposite to the methods of judgment used in other divination systems, such as Tarot or runes, where you’re given a bunch of details that together must build up to a final judgment, but in geomancy, the judgment is given to you right off the bat via the Judge, and it’s up to the geomancer to dig deeper according to their level of ability, curiosity, and need for such details.

This all leads to something that was asked about on the Facebook geomantic group.  As some of my readers may recall, Dr Al Cummins recently hosted his set of geomancy classes, which were a resounding success (and he looks forward to having more in the future).  Someone in the Facebook group was in them, and noted something that Dr Al said about a chart “avowing or disavowing” the query, but wasn’t clear on what Dr Al meant by that, and how it relates to notions of perfection, aspect, and so forth.  I chimed in with my understanding of what Dr Al meant, which he validated in the same thread.  The notion of avowing or disavowing is a little-known distinction of some Judges taken from some Renaissance geomancers, where the Judge either clearly answers the query as phrased or not.  In other words, a Judge avows or owns the query if the nature and significations of the Judge clearly and explicitly relates to the nature of the query to give a straightfoward answer all on its own; a Judge disavows or disowns the query if its nature and significations have no apparent relation to what it asked.  Thus, an avowing Judge resonates with what’s being asked, and a disavowing Judge does not.  If the Judge avows the query, then little else needs to be said beyond the significations of the Judge itself in order to give an answer to the querent, though it might be minimal and further exploration can be useful to be more detailed and exact with the answer; if the Judge disavows the query, then further inspection, interpretation, or investigation are needed to figure out why the Judge is what is is, why it says what it says, and how it relates to the query at hand.

Consider a case where the querent asks “will I get my lost wallet back?”.  This query falls under the general field of questions of dealing with possession.  The two figures that avow this type of query are, naturally, Aquisitio (will possess) and Amissio (will not possess).  If we get Amissio as the Judge for such a query, then we can say that the Judge avows the query, the answer is “no, you will not get your lost wallet back”, and we’re technically done at that point; investigating the rest of the chart may tell us where it is, what happened to it, what can be done to recoup any losses, who might have found it if anyone, and so forth, but none of that is technically needed to give the core answer of “no”.  However, if we get another figure like Coniunctio as the Judge for such a query, which relates more to connections rather than possessions, then we’d say that the Judge disavows the query because there is no natural relationship between the semantic field of the Judge and that of the query; Coniunctio does not clearly say “yes” or “no” to such a query.  In this case, we’d have to start looking deeper into the chart to figure out what Coniunctio actually means: does it mean that you’ll have to be in the market to get a new one because the old one was lost, or that you’ll have to meet with someone to get it back, or that you losing it was part of a toll or sacrifice you had to make to get further along, or that you’ll find it again through happenstance and the goodwill of spirits?  It’s unclear from the Judge itself; though the Judge still gives an answer to the query, it’s too high-level and encapsulates too many things to give a clear “yes” or “no” answer.

Going back to the binary dichotomy of the objective figures, if you consider the semantic field of a query that has one of two end results (e.g. “I will get my wallet back” or “I will not get my wallet back”), then although the end result must be one of two choices, the power of geomancy is that it plays out the whole scheme of the cosmos before us in all its shades and variations before it gets to one result or the other.  Judges that avow the query simply reflect the dichotomy of a situation, no ifs, ands, or buts allowed.  Judges that disavow the query give a “shade of grey” answer that must be analyzed until it can be judged on what side of the threshold it actually falls on, like finding out whether a given electrical current will actually trip a circuit breaker only by playing things out and tracing out the circuit and voltage; at the end, the breaker will be tripped or it won’t, but it remains to be seen whether it will or not until it actually happens.  That investigation is what a disavowing Judge mandates.

I should mention, however, that a disavowing Judge doesn’t mean that the Judge doesn’t answer the query.  After all, the Judge is still the encapsulation of the whole situation, and still contains the answer as much as one that avows the query; an insightful and experienced geomancer can probably get a good feel for what the Judge says regardless of whether it avows or disavows the query.  The distinction here is that an avowing Judge readily answers the query asked of the chart since it naturally falls into the binary dichotomy of the query, and a disavowing Judge is focused elsewhere in the situation than that is asked, but still contains the answer within itself.  It might be theorized that disavowing Judges, because they demand a deeper investigation into the chart, indicate that the situation is deeper than what is asked and that there’s more behind the scenes of the querent’s life than what they say, but that’d be a bold claim even coming from me.  More realistically and conventionally, it’s better to say that a disavowing Judge will still answer the query, but it’s focused on an answer that’s not “yes” or “no”, indicating that there’s more to say than just that.

I was on a podcast!

Yanno how fleeting and excellent college hookups are?  That’s basically what it was like this week with the wonderfully crazy Gordon White over at Rune Soup.

First off, I am incensed and appalled at the man because, in my quest to learn more about the Arbatel and similar works, I finally signed up to take his lectures on the history, development, and use of grimoires (which come bundled with the rest of his premium membership stuff, like forums, etc.).  For one, there’s apparently an old, early proto-grimoire called the Kyranides which is a handbook of various magical things you can do with herbs, stones, animals, and whatnot…all categorized by the Greek alphabet.  I had never even heard of this before, despite that it apparently was the most dangerous book to own for a solid 500 years or so in Europe; this gives my Mathesis stuff a whole new realm of data to work and play with, and I’m utterly fuming I hadn’t come across it yet.  Second, like, dude.  It’s Gordon.  He’s good, that should come as no surprise, but I didn’t expect this all to be that good.  This is quite literally a “shut up and take my money” kind of moment for me.


So he and I were BSing (as we are wont to do) on Twitter, and he asked me to talk on his podcast.  So I did, and the results can be found over at his blog.  An excellent time to be had by all, wherein we talk about geomancy, PGM, weird family stuff, and how awful people are generally; do give it a listen.

An Online Introductory Course on Geomancy

Many of my readers come to my blog for geomancy and related information.  This post isn’t really going to give them much on that, but there’s something I can proffer to sate you all the same.  I would like to bring your attention to an online class, Geomancy for Astrologers by Dr. Alexander Cummins:

Considered a “daughter” to astrology, the system of divination known as geomancy was an incredibly popular and well-regarded form of divination in early modern Europe. It applied what occult philosopher Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa called the “use and rules of astrology” (which is to say, the symbolism but none of the astronomy of astrology) to create answers using a process both apparently simple and deceptively subtle.

Geomancy as a system consists of only sixteen figures, each attributed an astrological identity. These figures are combined in specific charts (known as shields) to render very particular answers, often using versions of the Houses of the Heavens. These shields are set by various means of generating random numbers and developing them using mathematical operations.

Dr. Alexander Cummins – a historian of magic and a practicing geomancer – will introduce the history, practice and magic of this art. Whether you are a professional astrologer, a seasoned card-reader, or a newcomer to divination tools and techniques, this class will offer you further useful skills and resources for your own practice and understanding.

I’ve personally met Dr. Cummins, and have deep respect for his research and work in the history of British and Western occultism, as well as his work in geomancy, which he’s finally getting around to sharing through online classes and informative videos.  I’m planning on sitting in on the class, myself, because no matter how much you might know, you always stand to gain from another person teaching.  Besides, if I were to trust anyone to put the obnoxiously sesquipedalian and floridly overwrought language of John Heydon into something intelligible and palatable, it’d be Al (who, for some reason, adores Heydon), so I’m excited for that alone.

The class is US$29 per seat, and is held this Saturday, June 18 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT.  You can register online through Kepler College through this link, which I highly suggest you do so.  If you’re on the Facebook, you could do worse than participate in the event page for the same thing, where there’s a bit of discussion and resource sharing already going on.  Hurry up and get your tickets today!

Search Term Shoot Back, Summer 2015

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the months of May, June, and July 2015.  Yes, I’ve been slow and uncharacteristically postless these past few months, but that doesn’t mean my blog is any less active.

“why put a sword in an office in geomancy” — I don’t know.  As far as I’m aware, geomancy can be done pretty much anywhere, not just an office, and certainly not with a sword necessarily present.  Perhaps you mean the entirely unrelated art of feng shui, or “propitious designing”, and even then, I’m not sure what a sword would do for the flow of qi.

“how can quesited be get or calculated from the geomantic table” — You don’t calculate the quesited from the geomantic chart; the quesited is the topic that you’re asking about.  You then pick from the twelve houses of the House Chart whichever is most closely related to your question.  So, if you’re asking about a relationship or marriage, the seventh house is the quesited house; if about higher education or religion, the ninth house.  There are endless guides going back for hundreds of years in astrology and geomancy that lists what house to inspect what for a given query, so I’m a little amazed that you were able to get so far as to calculate a geomantic chart without coming across such a list.

“using sigils for penisgrowth” — I…uh, I mean, good luck.  While sigil magic can get you a lot, there are limits, and even purely physical or chemical methods have little to no effect without concerted effort over a period of months.  I’m not sure than any amount of masturbation over arcane symbols can get you this.

“how to make a pentagram out of cardboard for your wiccan altar images” — I assume you would get a piece of cardboard of a size you find appropriate, cut out a circle, and draw on a pentagram with the other symbols (like the one for Taurus, the dollar signs, and so forth) with some sort of drawing instrument.  I mean, call me crazy, as I’m not always known for taking the easiest or most apparent course of action.

“will i get going on a holiday this year archangel barakiel please” — I dunno, will you get going on a holiday this year?  Is it something you’ve earned?  Is it something you expect to be given to you without having paid for it?  You can always just up and leave work to take a break, though that may have some other repercussions.  As for where Barachiel comes into this, if you’re looking for a blessing of vacation, try a novena or pray his chaplet,

“banishing polyphanes” — Nooooooooo!  Don’t banish the polyphanes.  The polyphanes does not wish to be banished!  You can just ask me to leave, you ass, you don’t need to blow pepper smoke in my face.

“ive just done my geomancy and it said a removal is hereby indicated what does this mean” — I’m not familiar with the text you’re using, so…try plugging that as an answer into the question you asked.  Like, perhaps leave where you currently are, throw something away, give something to the person it belongs to.  Think for a bit and use your pretty head.

“ritual. your name will be written 9x around the diagram using your own blood.” — Or you could, y’know, not do that.  Blood magic works, and often in ways you don’t expect (I speak from personal experience).  Without knowing the ritual or the diagram, my flat answer would just be “don’t”.

“vomiting vibrating penis picture” — I’ve seen quite a few things in my time on the internet.  I can’t say I’ve seen something like this before, but now that I’ve read it, I’m already imagining it and I’m just gonna take a few shots now, so please excuse me.  I’ll go comfort myself with the timeless pictures of Goatse or Tubgirl instead.

“what does fiery wall of protection oil smell like” — Depends on your recipe and how you make it, or from whom you get it.  Mine doesn’t smell like particularly much, just barely of hot peppers and that only barely, masked by the heaviness of the oil and resin.

“when doing spellwork to draw something to u should u only do it when the hands on the clock going up in the planetary hour” — This seems to be mixing multiple systems of magic, and honestly I’ve always found the whole clock-hand business to be unsatisfactory and superstitious.  I’d rather use the waxing moon as opposed to the waning moon, but if you insist on having different times during the day, you might experiment with using the times of the day when the Sun is approaching the horizon (so from noon to sunset, and from midnight to sunrise).

Elemental Transformations and the Geomantic Figures

It’s interesting what you can pick up from talking with spirits.  The other day, I was enjoying my weekly chat with my ancestors, making the usual offerings and just chewing the fat with them.  I don’t just include the ancestors of my blood and kin, though; the ancestors include everyone whose work or lives led to my own, so it’s a pretty wide field.  Generally speaking, as a magician, I have two large fields for my ancestors: one for ancestors of my blood and kin, and another for those of my faith and practice.  Magicians, priests, pagans, Christians, Jews, Hermeticists, anyone who’s already crossed and yet led to my spiritual life is considered an ancestor, and I have a special place for the ancestors of my Work in my heart.  There are other ancestors thrown into the mix of those two groups, of course, but those are the big ones.

When I told them that I was writing a book on geomancy, some in the ghostly crowd perked their ears up and started chatting more with me.  Geomancy being one of the most popular forms of divination in Europe historically over the past millennium, this isn’t too surprising, though I was caught a little off-guard by how on-board they were with that.  Since I like tapping into the ancestral font of knowledge those who have gone before me provide, I asked them for some advice with geomancy.  Besides some techniques I plan to do some more research on, one of the things they mentioned was performing another elemental analysis of the geomantic figures.  I got an image of Fortuna Maior transforming into Carcer, then again into Fortuna Minor, then again into Coniunctio, and then again into Fortuna Maior in a cycle.  I got the hint, and after a few inspired flashes of insight, I got the gist for a new(?) kind of elemental analysis for the figures.  I’ve already delved into one such analysis before, but this is a different kind focusing on the structure of the figures.

As you might have guessed, this post is gonna get into some geomantic theory.  Run away now if that’s not your thing or get some wine.

When considering the geomantic figures as mathematical objects, I normally ascribe four operations that can be done on them: addition, inversion, reversion, and conversion.  Readers of my De Geomanteia posts may recall this in my descriptions of the figures, but put briefly:

  • Addition: adding two figures to get a third (e.g. Puer added to Puella to obtain Coniunctio).  The interaction, harmony, and force between a pair of figures or forces in the cosmos.
  • Inversion: replacing all the single dots with double dots and vice versa (e.g. Puer inverted becomes Albus).  Everything this figure is not on an external level.
  • Reversion: rotating a figure upside down (e.g. Puer reverted becomes Puella).  The same qualities of this figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme.
  • Conversion: inversion with reversion (e.g. Puer converted becomes Rubeus).  The same qualities of this figure expressed in a similar, contraparallel manner.

The ancestors showed me yet another method to alter a geomantic figure, which I’m tentatively terming descending.  Descending a figure takes the bottommost row of a figure and stacks it on top of the figure, pushing the other rows downward.  Thus, Puer descended once becomes Cauda Draconis; this descends again into Caput Draconis, and again into Puella; and  again into Puer.  In doing this, we get several groups of figures that descend in a particular order: two monadic cycles, one binadic cycle, and three tetradic cycles of descent.

  • Populus descends into Populus
  • Via descends into Via
  • Acquisitio and Amissio descend into each other
  • Laetitia descends into Rubeus, which descends into Albus, which descends into Tristitia, which descends into Laetitia
  • Fortuna Maior descends into Carcer, which descends into Fortuna Minor, which descends into Coniunctio, which descends into Fortuna Maior
  • Caput Draconis descends into Puella, which descends into Puer, which descends into Cauda Draconis, which descends into Caput Draconis

Taken from an elemental viewpoint, this is the process by which the elements of a figure transform into their next most available state.  I forget where I read it from (something from Plato, probably), but the elements have two qualities, only one of which is primary.  The qualities are broken into two pairs of opposing natures: hot and cold, and wet and dry.  For instance, while the element fire is both hot and dry, it is primarily hot and secondarily dry.  The list of the elements then becomes:

  1. Fire: primarily hot, secondarily dry
  2. Air: primarily wet, secondarily hot
  3. Water: primarily cold, secondarily wet
  4. Earth: primarily dry, secondarily cold

Moreover, the elements are capable of changing into each other by replacing one of the qualities with its opposite.  Water, for instance, can turn into earth by making its moisture dry, and air can turn into water by cooling its heat; air can likewise turn into fire by drying its moisture, and fire can turn into earth by removing its heat.  The transformation of the elements can go in either direction, with the process from fire to earth signifying a process of settling or stability and the process from earth to fire signifying entropy or activity.  However, the elements also form a cycle, such that earth can also directly become fire without going through water or air, and likewise fire into earth.

Descending, then, is essentially the “settling” process of the elements applied to the structure of the geomantic figures.  The number of dots within a figure is preserved (note how Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia descend into each other and all contain the same seven dots in different arrangements).  The reverse process of ascending is the “entropy” process of the elements, where the top line becomes the bottom and the rest of the elemental rows are pushed up.  Since the geomantic figures can be seen as abstract combinations of the elements, what the elements can do, so too can the geomantic figures.

Via and Populus are interesting in that they’re the only figures that descend (or ascend) into themselves.  Since they have the same activity or passivity in every line of their figures, they can only ever descend into what was already present.  I take this to mean that Populus and Via are at extremes of the elements: either there is absolutely nothing or there is absolutely everything, a void or a singularity.  Where there is nothing, nothing can be done since there is nothing to be acted upon; where there is totality, nothing can be meaningfully changed since it already includes everything.

Acquisitio and Amissio, similarly, are unusual in that they only descend into each other, without another two figures filling in the cycle.  Acquisitio is a combination of air and earth; Amissio is a combination of fire and water.  These elemental pairs are opposites, so by preserving their structural relationships, the descent of one figure composed from opposite elements is another figure composed from opposite elements.  No other figure in geomancy are like these two because of this.  Further, while the combination of air and earth produces gain, the combination of fire and air produces loss; moisture/dryness is a separate beast from heat/cold, so while one relies on the material bases of things (Acquisitio) which relies on the energetic and spiritual, the other relies on the energetic means of things (Amissio) which consumes the material and physical.  In order to gain things, one must expend effort or resources for it; in order to lose something, one must get meaning and direction for it.

The real show of descent comes into play with the other twelve figures of geomancy.  The simplest case is that with figures that contain a single active element: Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Laetitia is pure fire, and is a figure of joy, elation, optimism, and planning, all due to its hot and dry nature.  It has nothing else to go for it, though, so when that energy becomes less goal-oriented (fire) and settles down into a more material state (air), Laetitia becomes Rubeus, which is a figure of violence, chaos, confusion, and destruction.  That same energy is there, but it’s pure and untempered by anything else, so without direction the energy from Laetitia becomes scattered and dispersed.  Over time, the dispersion of energy in Rubeus settles further into Albus, with it starting to collect back into itself in a more contemplative, reflective manner.  The energy becomes less capable of causing change and is now more capable of being changed, becoming passive (not in elemental terms, here) instead of active.  Further, once the detached reflection of Albus settles further into Tristitia, the energy becomes locked down and completely crystallized into matter, unable to do anything on its own and only capable of being acted upon as a basis for other work.  Tristitia is a figure of fixidity and rigidness, without ability to move or act; it is only when the material of Tristitia is consumed and rejuvenated can it become active again, burning the dry fuel of Tristitia into Laetitia once more.

The next tetrad of figures in descent is Fortuna Maior, Carcer, Fortuna Minor, and Coniunctio.  Here, Fortuna Maior is a figure of slow and independent development, like a river carving out a canyon by its own nature and movement.  However, over time that energy becomes less and less, with all its potential used up; this devolves the nurturing force of Fortuna Maior into Carcer, which is no longer nourishing but only vacant.  Nothing can be done with this energy as it is, since it has lost all means of interacting with the world around itself; it is only when an outside force picks it up can it be sustained or made use of again, as indicated by the descent of Carcer into Fortuna Minor.  This mingling of forces leads to further mingling, focusing less on action and more on interaction, leading from Fortuna Minor to Coniunctio.  Communicationa and interaction becomes the theme, at least for a short while, until the interaction of forces settles further into self-action, separation of ways into one’s own path, which leads once again to the force of Fortuna Maior.

The last tetrad of figures in descent is Caput Draconis, Puella, Puer, and Cauda Draconis.  Caput Draconis is the figure of beginnings, with everything but fire being present; unlike its inverse of optimistic Laetitia which is all plan and no potential, Caput Draconis has all the material and interactive potential but nowhere and no impetus to use it; it is a pure seed.  The force of Caput Draconis, once it settles into Puella, becomes patient and harmonizing, aware of one’s physical means and of the need of others to make use of it.  In this phase, there is still little means to use something, but at least the desire for use is present.  Puella awaits the arrival and energy of Puer, which is the force that uses what Puella has to offer while having little of its own to use.  Puer is active and direct, countering Puella’s passivity and indirectness, and seeks to find and join with.  However, once Puer attains this and uses up everything obtained, this all settles down into an ending with Cauda Draconis; either the hero accomplishes his journey successfully or falls short and fails having exhausted his means prematurely.  Cauda Draconis is everything but earth, all energy and interaction but no means or substance, and quickly falls apart.  However, the residue from the collapse of Cauda Draconis plants the germ for the next iteration, starting with Caput Draconis again.

Bear in mind that each figure is a representation of the four elements that compose everything in our world; it’s not a stretch to consider the geomantic elements like alchemical formulae or states of the cosmos, and if we consider the figures to represent closed systems (as opposed to open systems that the operation of addition affords us), then we can analyze how a situation can evolve based on a single figure.  This enables us to make better use of single-figure readings: if we draw Coniunctio as a single answering figure for a query about a relationship, we can certainly say that things are going well and will continue to do so, but the relationship will also allow for self-discovery by means of the relationship and eventual self-growth (Fortuna Maior), with periods of being alone to process it or with difficulty (Carcer), and recovery with the help of the partner to come back to more connection (Fortuna Minor).  Likewise, if we add two figures in a house chart to understand the interaction between them, we can use the descent of the figures to see how that interaction will progress over time independent of the other factors in the chart.

Similar explanations of the tetrads of the figures can be given for the ascent transformation, as well, but I leave that as an exercise for the interested geomancy-minded reader.  Consider what we’re doing when we descend a figure: we take the elements within that figure, and turn the secondary quality into its opposite and make it the primary quality.  So, fire, which is primarily hot and secondarily dry, turns into air by our taking the secondary quality (dry) and turning it into its opposite (wet) and making it primary; the element that is primarily wet and secondarily hot is air.  The ascent of the figure is the opposite case: we take the primary quality of the elements, turn that into its opposite, and make it secondary.  Thus, fire (primarily hot and secondarily dry) becomes earth by taking its primarily quality (hot), turning it into its opposite (cold) and making it secondary; the element that is primarily dry and secondarily cold is earth.  I would say that it’s more natural for an element to descend than ascend, since it’s easier to change an element’s secondarily quality than it is to change its primary quality, so while the descent of the elements indicates a natural evolution without interference, the ascent of the elements can indicate a forced evolution from within the situation itself.  A situation might go either way, depending on the actions of those involved in the situation, but until outside forces are brought in to break the transformation by ascent or descent through addition, things are going to keep cycling in a particular pattern metaphorically and realistically.

Not a bad idea from sharing some rum with dead folk.

Search Term Shoot Back, December 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of December 2013.  As most of you know, the 49 Days of Definitions project continued through and finished up in this month, forming the bulk of the posts, but there was time for other people to get to my blog through other terms.

“how does 2nd decan libra embrace their charm?” — Seeing as how I’m one of these myself, it’s hard to tell others how I can truly embrace my own devilishly awesome charm.  It has to do a lot with drinking diet cola and not giving a shit, generally.  Also being a magician.  Also being humble.

“fill me with your anointing lord” — Oh baby, I’ll fill you with my holy spirit, alright.  Get down on your knees and pray for it.  Jesus is coming; grab a towel.  (Sorry I’m not sorry.)

“favorable geomantic figures” — Personally, I dislike simply saying that a particular figure is always favorable or always unfavorable, but rather see how individual figures agree or disagree with a particular query or situation.  For instance, if one wants a quick escape out of a situation, the figure Fortuna Maior (which, although greatly useful) is terrible for this since it indicates having to overcome something and conquer it instead of simply sidestepping it.  That said, there are two systems I know of for determining favorable figures generally.  In Robert Fludd’s system, there are three types of figures: good, which are Fortuna Maior, Laetitia, Caput Draconis, Albus, Puella, and Acquisitio; moderate, which are Populus, Via, and Coniunctio; and bad, which are Fortuna MInor, Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Rubeus, Puer, Amissio, and Carcer.  An older Arabic system has good figures as Populus, Albus, and Laetitia; better figures as Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, and Laetitia; the best figures as Acquisitio and Fortuna Maior; bad figures as Puer, Coniunctio, and Via; worse figures as Cauda Draconis and Amissio; and the worst figures as Carcer, Tristitia, and Rubeus.  Generally speaking, I find Fortuna Maior, Acquisitio, Caput Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Puella, Laetitia, Albus, and Coniunctio to be favorable figures, from the most favorable to least favorable.

“mancy vs kinesis” — I can tell that some of the people who get to my blog are interested in comic book or RPG magic, that’s for sure.  Since both of these roots come from Greek, they’re used in some words to make “schools of magic” or whatnot seem that much more fantastical.  Briefly put, anything that ends in “mancy” means a divination system, and anything that ends in “kinesis” means a control or movement of something.  Thus, “pyromancy” is divination with fire, such as scrying or looking at burnt patterns in wood, while “pyrokinesis” is the supernatural harnessing of flames, fire, and heat according to one’s will.  In some arts, the line between divination and magic is blurred, such as in necromancy; though it ends in “mancy” and was originally and ultimately intended to gain information from the dead or by means of spirits of the dead, a lot of necromantic technique involves methods to raise the dead and commune with them in nonspecific ways, so a good deal of death magic was confused with the gaining of knowledge from the dead.  In video games and RPGs, however, a lot of “mancies” are actually “kineses”; anyone who moves earth with their mind is more properly a “geokineticist” and not a geomancer.

“meditation to obtain a kinesis” — Lots of meditation, sure.  I’m sure you’d eventually develop some awesome powers if you become a master of meditation in the meanwhile, but that shouldn’t be the point of meditation, in my opinion.

“orbs around my altar” — You might want to banish your shit or, like, use some disinfectant.  That, or stop taking crappy photos of your altars and dust your bedroom more.

“what spirit should I summon” — That’s like asking “what prayer should I pray” or “what food should I eat”.  It’s really up to you and what you feel appropriate and safe with.  I mean, I could just suggest Bael or Asmodeus or Yahweh, but I don’t feel like being that mean at the moment.

“beings that require bones for.conjuring summoning evocation -game” — I don’t know of any in the Western tradition that require bones, exactly, though they’re not exactly frowned upon, either.  Bones are a part of the body ruled by Saturn, being the densest part of the body as well as giving it structure.  Spirits of the dead as well as certain animals appreciate bones, especially if they’re the bones of the body of the spirit when it was still alive.  Bones are generally good for communing with gods of the dead, too, but they’re not required in terms of offerings or sacrifices, either.  Other traditions place a large importance on bones and their spiritual uses, but I’m not as familiar with them.  As far as summoning goes, very few spirits require bones to get their attention.  Candles, incense, and orations get you much farther and for a cheaper, cleaner cost.

“geomancy ifa” — Ah, the two great divinatory arts of Europe and Africa.  Geomancy, as I’m sure you’re well-aware, is a pretty old and well-developed form of European divination that has its roots in the Saharan Desert, going back about a thousand years.  It spread from there both to the east through the Middle East and Greece as well as to the west through Spain into the rest of Europe, where it was practiced virtually nonstop from then onward.  It went underground for a while in the past few centuries, but it’s starting to become more popular again.  However, the roots of geomancy also went south from the Sahara into the rest of Africa, where it was practiced in Madagascar as sikidy and by the Yoruban peoples as ifá and diloggun.  This was brought over with the slave trade into the Americas, where it’s practiced closely with the Santería religion and some other ATRs.  While geomancy and ifá share the same origin, they developed quite independently of each other, so it’s hard for me to claim any knowledge on ifá save that it’s pretty deep.  Only a select few people are meant to learn ifá (babalawos, generally), so unless you’re part of Santería communites, you’re better off sticking with geomancy.

“what is an aquarius/libra decanate land aries/leo decanate together like?” — Another decan/decanate question, woo!  I’m honestly going to ignore the part about romantic pairings because, really, it’s just about pointless to answer a question like that based on Sun signs alone.  Considering the importance of the other planets, the rising sign, house placements, and the like, Sun signs (though important) are only a fraction of the information a proper horoscope can give you.  As for the decans themselves, this query indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of them.  The decans of the signs are ruled by planets, not other signs!  There are different methods to assign the planets to the decans, however, with the Chaldaean ordering being traditional in Western astrology but the Vedic system (which is associated more closely with the signs than the planets alone) has been popular of late.

“where to buy consecrated chalk” — Regrettably, I haven’t found a supplier for this, and none of the local stores around me sell common items that have already been blessed.  To that end, I wrote up a short ritual for blessing your own chalk, which you’re free to use on whatever chalk you might get for yourself.  Alternatively, you could probably just buy a pack of chalk and ask a Catholic priest to bless it for you.  If you live near a botanica (Hispanic Santería/ATR magic store), I suggest getting a cake of cascarilla, or eggshell chalk, which is pretty good in its own right.

“how to make a real snowflake using magic without even chanting.anything” — I’m amused that this query assumes that all of magic requires chanting, but surprise, it doesn’t!  Just close your eyes, go to the kitchen, open the freezer, and knock off some of the ice from those leftovers you put in two months ago.  There you go, a real snowflake!  And yes, the magic of refrigeration is truly a miracle and allows otherwise inhospitable places to become endurable (e.g. the entire southern US).

“is anyone transalting munich manuel of demonic magic” — I have a few sections of the Munich Manual translated, though translating any more is currently on hold for the time being.  The Latin from Kieckhefer’s critical edition of the Munich Manual is pretty clear and well-organized, so anyone with even rudimentary skill in Latin and a good dictionary can get good progress on their own.  I have some other projects to translate in the meanwhile, but if there’s a particular section that you’re just absolutely dying to have translated ASAP, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about getting it put into English in the near future.

Also, Happy New Year!  Go get drunk, call on the stars and your ancestors, and bring in 2014 right!

New Geomancy Ebook for Sale!

Between all the writing for the 49 Days of Definitions project I’ve got going on, I’ve also been able to finish up a new ebook for publication on my blog.  It’s up for sale on the Services page, but you can find the PayPal button below as well.  As before, this new ebook is is US$10 through PayPal.  (And just in time for the winter celebrations where everyone suddenly gets money and gifts!)

Pay for Lectura Geomantiae through PayPal

This new book is the “Lectura Geomantiae”, my translation of a 15th century work on astrological geomancy, applying the geomantic figures in the 12 houses of an astrological house chart.  It’s a fascinating look of geomancy as practiced by more common people than, say, Robert Fludd or Cornelius Agrippa, and it contains interesting bits of advice and some new quirks that haven’t been observed before.  I translated the text once before from Latin to English, but I went through it again and re-translated it to my satisfaction, as well as including a number of appendices and corrections that can help geomancers understand the text better.  The Lectura Geomantiae is a useful and easy-to-use resource for geomancers who are interested in the astrological side of geomancy.  It’s never been translated into English before I did, as far as I can tell; John Michael Greer plans to include it in his forthcoming “Geomancer’s Sourcebook”, but that project has been on hold for a long while.  Clearly, you should buy this now instead.

Also, if divination’s your thing, don’t forget that I also wrote an ebook on grammatomancy, a method of divination using Greek letters not unlike runes, which also incorporates astrological, qabbalistic, and numerological influences to form a complete and coherent system of occult knowledge.  That’s also available up on the Services page, too!

Also, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get some more email about questions, either about general occult issues or about specific things on commissions and services.  To make things easy, please use the new Contact page to send me an email straight through the blog.