More on Geomantic Epodes and Intonations

One of my colleagues on Facebook, Nic Raven Run of Ravens Hall Press, asked me an interesting question to follow up on my post on epodes for the elements and geomantic figures from the other day.  In that post, I offered a set of single syllables that could be chanted or intoned like a bīja, or “seed syllable” mantra, for each of the four elements based on an obscure geomantic method of interpretation (the BZDḤ technique), which I also extrapolated into a system of single syllable intonations for each of the sixteen geomantic figures.  To that end, here are the two systems I would most likely use in my own practice, one based on the BZDḤ system and one based on strict stoicheia for the elements:

  • Hybrid Greek system
    • Fire: bi (ΒΙ)
    • Air: zu (ΖΥ)
    • Water: (ΔΗ)
    • Earth: ha (Ἁ)
  • Exact Mathēsis system
    • Fire: kho (ΧΟ)
    • Air: phu (ΦΥ)
    • Water: ksē (ΞΗ)
    • Earth: thō (ΘΩ)

And their corresponding expansions into the two systems of geomantic epodes using the two systems I would recommend (with the pure elemental epodes in bold text showing their location in the geomantic systems):

Hybrid Greek System (ΒΖΔΗ)
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΖΙ
ZI
Puer
ΔΙ
DI
Puella

HI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΖΥ
ZU
Rubeus
ΔΥ
DU
Via

HU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΖΗ

Coniunctio
ΔΗ

Albus


Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΖΑ
ZA
Acquisitio
ΔΑ
DA
Populus

HA
Tristitia
Exact Mathēsis System (ΧΦΞΘ)
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΟ
KHO
Laetitia
ΦΟ
PHO
Puer
ΞΟ
KSO
Puella
ΘΟ
THO
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΩ
KHŌ
Cauda Draconis
ΦΩ
PHŌ
Acquisitio
ΞΩ
KSŌ
Populus
ΘΩ
THŌ
Tristitia

What this gets us is a system of single-syllable units that can represent not only the four elements but all sixteen figures.  In addition to being useful for energy work exercises among other magical practices, it also gives us an interesting method of encoding geomantic figures phonetically.  For instance, we could encapsulate an entire geomantic chart based on the four Mother figures, such that e.g. BIZAZIDĒ would be interpreted as Laetitia (BI), Acquisitio (ZA), Puer (ZI), and Albus (DĒ).  Another way we could use these is to encapsulate one of the 256 combinations of figures in two or three syllables: for instance, the combination of Coniunctio (ZĒ) and Acquisitio (ZA) to form Fortuna Maior (HĒ) could be written succinctly as ZĒZA or more fully as ZĒZAHĒ.  There are plenty of ways to extend such a system, ranging from Abulafia-like meditating on the 256 permutations of syllables to using them in geomantic candle magic a la Balthazar Black’s technique.

However, note that each such epode is basically considered a unit; yes, it’s composed of an elemental consonant and a vowel that, although they are inherently based on the Greek notion of planetary associations, can be reckoned as elemental symbols as well, and the combination of them composes a single syllable based on the primary (consonant) and secondary (vowel) elements of the geomantic figures.  What Nic was asking about was an alternative system of epodes: how could we use the elemental epodes to “compose” a geomantic figure in the sense of describing which elements were active and passive?  For instance, we could simply describe Via as BIZUDĒHA since it has all four elements, but how might one represent a figure with one or more passive elements?  Nic suggested a phonetic approach using a system of using two sets of vowels, using open vowels for active elements and close vowels for passive elements.  The system Nic was suggesting would be to effectively use a series of diphthongs to approximate such vowels.

I didn’t like this approach, to be honest.  For one, the reason why I’m using the vowels I’m using (which themselves are a mix of open and close in the systems I suggest) are (a) because the Greek system is particularly amenable to occult works and (b) because I’m relying not so much on phonetics as I am the occult symbolism and correspondences of the letters to the planets and, by those same correspondences, to the elements.  In that framework, diphthongs really mess with the system, because a diphthong involves several vowels which “muddle” the planetary/elemental symbolism that I’m trying to accomplish.  Plus, such a system would necessitate eight distinct but more-or-less balanced vowel sounds, and the Greek alphabet or phonetics isn’t really geared for that.  Now, that said, the idea isn’t a bad one!  However, because I’m not operating from purely phonetic principles, it’s not for me to go along that route.  I encouraged Nic (and I encourage others as well, if there are others to whom this idea is appealing) to explore such a phonetic approach to representing elements and their compositions to form geomantic figure representations.

There are other approaches to creating composed epodes for the geomantic figures, though, which I also discussed with Nic.  The first hunch I had was to simply include or omit the basic letters needed; for instance, if the consonants BZDḤ represent Fire, Air, Water, and Earth respectively, then combinations of those letters would represent the active elements in a figure, and we could fill in the vowels according to the rules of instinctual Arabic methods or the methods of pronouncing Greek generated words from before.  So, Via (with all four elements) would simply be BZDḤ or “bahz-dach”, Amissio (with just Fire and Water) would be BD or “bahd”, Fortuna Maior would be DḤ or “dach”, and so forth.  Populus, however, having no elements active, could be represented through silence, soft breathing, or something else entirely like “hmmmm” (using the notion that the Semitic letter for M, Arabic mīm or Hebrew mem, has its origins in the hieroglyph and word for “water”, which is the dominant element of Populus).  It’s an idea, but one I don’t particularly like, either, as it seems clunky and inelegant to use without regularity or much appeal, especially since the use of Ḥ only really works in Arabic, as we’d just end with a vowel in the Greek system which could be unclear.  We could use the mathētic approach of using ΧΦΞΘ instead, but we can do better than that.

Instead of using consonants, let’s think about a system that just uses the seven pure Greek vowels.  Recall in the systems above from the earlier post that there’s a way to use the Greek vowels, which normally represent the planets, to represent the four elements as well:

In the last row of my mathētic Tetractys, note how we have the four non-luminary and non-Mercury planets each associated to one of the four elements: Mars with Fire, Jupiter with Air, Venus with Water, and Saturn with Earth.  Though this system doesn’t quite match Cornelius Agrippa’s Scale of Four (book II, chapter 7), it does with his broader and more fuller explanations and detailing of the planets earlier in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book I, chapters 23 through 29).  Thus, as applied in my exact mathētic system of epodes, we can use Omicron (Mars) for Fire, Upsilon (Jupiter) for Air, Ēta (Venus) for Water, and Ōmega (Saturn) for Earth.  The letters Iōta (Sun), Alpha (Moon), and Epsilon (Mercury) are not used in the exact mathētic system of epodes, but are in the vague hybrid system from before, being a little easier to use and distinguish.

The connection I made for using these vowels was based on another notion I had of arranging the seven planets into the geomantic figures.  In that topic, one could envision taking seven planetary objects (talismans, coins, stones, etc.) and arranging them on an altar in a regular way to represent the graphical forms of the geomantic figures.  The method I gave for doing this was described like this:

Since we want to map the seven planets onto the points of the figures, let’s start with the easiest ones that give us a one-to-one ratio of planets to points: the odd seven-pointed figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Let us first establish that the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn are the most elementally-representative of the seven planets, and thus must be present in every figure; said another way, these four planets are the ones that most manifest the elements themselves, and should be reflected in their mandatory presence in the figures that represent the different manifestations of the cosmos in terms of the sixteen geomantic figures.  The Sun, the Moon, and Mercury are the three empyrean planets, and may or may not be present so as to mitigate the other elements accordingly.  A row with only one point must therefore have only one planet in that row, and should be the ouranic planet to fully realize that element’s presence and power; a row with two points will have the ouranic planet of that row’s element as well as one of the empyrean planets, where the empyrean planet mitigates the pure elemental expression of the ouranic planet through its more unmanifest, luminary presence.  While the ouranic planets will always appear in the row of its associated element, the empyrean planets will move and shift in a harmonious way wherever needed; thus, since the Sun (as the planetary expression of Sulfur) “descends” into both Mars/Fire and Jupiter/Air, the Sun can appear in either the Fire or Air rows when needed.  Similarly, Mercury can appear in either the Air or Water rows, and the Moon in either the Water or Earth rows (but more on the exceptions to this below).

This led us to having the following arrangements:

Note that Via is the only figure that uses only the so-called “ouranic” planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, because Via is the only figure with all elements active.  All the other figures, having at least one element passive, will involve one or more of the planets Mercury, Sun, or Moon, because those “empyrean” planets mitigate and lessen the elemental presence of the row that they’re found in.  The only major exception to this arrangement is—you guessed it—Populus, which uses a different arrangement entirely.  For more information about how and why these figures are arranged with the planets in the way they are and how they might otherwise be used, see the relevant post on my blog, linked just above.  The terms ouranic and empyrean are a distinction I make in my Mathēsis work to distinguish the twelve non-zodiacal forces into three groups, as demonstrated in this post.

Now, remember that each planet has its own vowel, and note where the planets appear in the arrangements above for each figure.  We can come up with a rule that transforms the figures into sequences of vowels to represent the figures like this:

  1. For all figures except Populus:
    1. Every row will have either a single ouranic planet (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) or both an ouranic and empyrean planet (Moon, Sun, Mercury).
    2. If a given elemental row has an empyrean planet present as well as an ouranic planet, use the vowel of the empyrean planet there.
    3. Otherwise, if a given elemental row has only an ouranic planet present, use the vowel of the ouranic planet.
  2. For the figure Populus:
    1. All planets are present in their own arrangement to represent the voids of Populus.
    2. Use all the vowels, some mutually-exclusive set, or just keep silent.

Thus, consider the figure Via.  In each row, it only has an ouranic planet, so we simply use their corresponding vowels: ΟΥΗΩ.  For Coniunctio, note how we have two empyrean planets in the figure, the Sun alongside Mars and the Moon alongside Saturn; we would use their corresponding vowels instead of their ouranic equivalents, getting us the vowel string ΙΥΗΑ (Iōta instead of Omicron and Alpha instead of Ōmega).  Likewise, Puer has the empyrean planet Mercury present alongside Venus, so its vowel string would be ΟΥΕΩ (Epsilon instead of Ēta).  The only exception to this would be Populus, as noted above, which could be represented either as the entire vowel string ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ or as simple, holy silence, but we can talk more about that later.

This gets us the following vowel epodes for the figures:

  • Laetitia: ΟΙΕΑ
  • Fortuna Minor: ΟΥΙΑ
  • Amissio: ΟΙΗΑ
  • Cauda Draconis: ΟΥΗΕ
  • Puer: ΟΥΕΩ
  • Rubeus: ΙΥΕΑ
  • Coniunctio: ΙΥΗΑ
  • Acquisitio: ΙΥΑΩ
  • Puella: ΟΕΗΑ
  • Via: ΟΥΗΩ
  • Albus: ΙΕΗΑ
  • Populus: More on that in a bit.
  • Carcer: ΟΙΑΩ
  • Caput Draconis: ΕΥΗΩ
  • Fortuna Maior: ΙΑΗΩ
  • Tristitia: ΙΕΑΩ

What’s nice about this system is that, at least for all the non-Populus figures, we have four vowels that we can intone.  Anyone familiar with the classical Hermetic and Neoplatonic texts and techniques is familiar with how vowel-intoning was considered a pure and sacred practice, and now we can apply it to the figures as well as the planets!  Even better, since each geomantic figure uses a distinct set of vowels, we can permute them in any which way.  Thus, if we wanted to engross ourselves in the world of, say, Laetitia, we could intone all possible variations of its vowel string:

ΟΙΕΑ ΟΙΑΕ ΟΕΙΑ ΟΕΑΙ ΟΑΙΕ ΟΑΕΙ
ΙΟΕΑ ΙΟΑΕ ΙΕΟΑ ΙΕΑΟ ΙΑΟΕ ΙΑΕΟ
ΕΟΙΑ ΕΟΑΙ ΕΙΟΑ ΕΙΑΟ ΕΑΟΙ ΕΑΙΟ
ΑΟΙΕ ΑΟΕΙ ΑΙΟΕ ΑΙΕΟ ΑΕΟΙ ΑΕΙΟ

For each of the non-Populus figures which have four distinct vowels, there are 24 possible permutations of its vowel string, with six permutations that begin with each one of the vowels.  Going through and intoning each permutation could be a powerful meditative practice for each of the figures, and probably especially effective for magical practices, too.

What about Populus?  For that, we have all seven vowels ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ, and to permute all seven of those would…take a considerably longer time than the other figures (there are 5040 possible permutations).  Though going through all such permutations would also be a powerful practice, there are better ways we can use our time.  For one, what about the sequence ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ itself?  It’s simple and straightforward, but it doesn’t really reflect the arrangement of planets we use for Populus: note how we have the empyrean planets (Sun, Mercury, and Moon) down the middle with the ouranic planets (Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn) around the sides in a distinctly mathētic pattern.  For this arrangement, we could use the vowel string ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ: we have Iōta at the beginning, Epsilon in the middle, and Alpha at the end, with the other four vowels in their elemental order interspersed between them, the hot elements Fire and Air in the first half and the cold elements Water and Earth in the second half.  Using this pattern, we could imagine a kind of lightning-bolt descending from the Sun down to the Moon through Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn, a pattern that would take us from the hottest, brightest, most active powers down to the coldest, darkest, most passive powers.

Another way is to use a condensed vowel string: rather than using the ouranic planets’ vowels at all, why not limit ourselves to the empyrean planets, which are only ever used for passive elements anyway in this scheme?  In this reckoning, we could reduce ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ to ΙΕΑ (reflecting the center empty “gap” of the dots in the figure Populus), just as we commonly figure that the divine name ΙΑΩ is a reduction of the full string ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ.  Plus, we only ever see the string ΙΕΑ in the (permutations of) the string for the figures that are mostly passive anyway: Laetitia (ΟΙΕΑ), Rubeus (ΙΥΕΑ), Albus (ΙΕΗΑ), and Tristitia (ΙΕΑΩ).  If there were any vowel string that could be considered the inverse of that of Via (ΟΥΗΩ), the mutually-exclusive remaining set of vowels ΙΕΑ would be it!  We could then permute this string in a simple set of six permutations, too:

ΙΕΑ ΕΑΙ ΑΙΕ
ΕΙΑ ΙΑΕ ΑΕΙ

Instead of doing either ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ or permutations of ΙΕΑ, though, there’s another approach to us: if Populus is devoid of elements, then it has nothing at all, and thus has nothing to intone, so Populus could simply be represented by a pure, holy silence devoid of intonations.  This is also entirely appropriate, and would symbolically make Populus a vacuum of empty space, a blank template upon which the other elements could be applied.  Entirely fitting to represent Populus on its own.

Of course, using that logic, then why would we bother using the empyrean planets’ vowels at all to represent the passive elements in a figure?  We could just stick with the ouranic planets that are active, which would get us the following “short” set of vowel intonations, such as Ο for Laetitia, ΟΥ for Fortuna Minor, ΟΥΗ for Cauda Draconis, and so forth.  Not nearly as elegant, perhaps, but could also work.  I’m not a fan, personally, as it then begins to conflate the elemental presences of the figures with purely planetary ones.  For instance, Laetitia being simply represented by Omicron would then conflate Laetitia with the planet Mars, even though Laetitia is solidly linked to Jupiter, and likewise Rubeus with Upsilon to Jupiter and not Mars.  I wouldn’t recommend this system, personally.

So, where does that leave us?  At this point, there are three systems of epodes I would recommend for working with the geomantic figures, two of which are single-syllable epodes (one based on the BZDḤ system with Greek vowels, and one derived from that same system using a purer stoicheic/mathētic approach), and one of which is based on mathētic principles to come up with intonable, permutable vowel strings.

Figure Single Syllable Vowel String
Hybrid Mathēsis
Laetitia ΒΙ
BI
ΧΟ
KHO
ΟΙΕΑ
Fortuna Minor ΒΥ
BU
ΧΥ
KHU
ΟΥΙΑ
Amissio ΒΗ
ΧΗ
KHĒ
ΟΙΗΑ
Cauda Draconis ΒΑ
BA
ΧΩ
KHŌ
ΟΥΗΕ
Puer ΖΙ
ZI
ΦΟ
PHO
ΟΥΕΩ
Rubeus ΖΥ
ZU
ΦΥ
PHU
ΙΥΕΑ
Coniunctio ΖΗ
ΦΗ
PHĒ
ΙΥΗΑ
Acquisitio ΖΑ
ZA
ΦΩ
PHŌ
ΙΥΑΩ
Puella ΔΙ
DI
ΞΟ
KSO
ΟΕΗΑ
Via ΔΥ
DU
ΞΥ
KSU
ΟΥΗΩ
Albus ΔΗ
ΞΗ
KSĒ
ΙΕΗΑ
Populus ΔΑ
DA
ΞΩ
KSŌ
ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ or ΙΕΑ
or just keep silent
Carcer
HI
ΘΟ
THO
ΟΙΑΩ
Caput Draconis
HU
ΘΥ
THU
ΕΥΗΩ
Fortuna Maior
ΘΗ
THĒ
ΙΑΗΩ
Tristitia
HA
ΘΩ
THŌ
ΙΕΑΩ

This is all well and good, but where does this actually leave us?  What the past few posts on these tangentially-geomantic topics are accomplishing is taking the sixteen geomantic figures and coming up with new ways to apply them in ways outside of strict divinatory purposes, giving them new media such as sound to be “played” or transmitted through, and using those media to accomplish other tasks.  If the planets can be used for astrology as well as magic, there’s no reason why the figures can’t be used for geomancy as well as magic, either.  The ability to form meditative or magical epodes for concentrating, contemplating, and connecting with the figures on deeper levels plays into the same systems that geomantic gestures or energy centers or altar arrangements do: using these figures for a magical, world-changing purpose instead of a merely predictive one.

By the same token, however, so much of this is highly experimental.  All magic is at some point, but given the novelty and how mix-and-match I’m being between Greek letter magic and geomantic systems, this is all deserving of some deep practice and reflection and refinement.  I’m sharing this on my blog because…well, it’s my blog, and it’s interesting to share my theories here, and to spread some of my ideas out there to get feedback on by those who are interested.  At the same time, so much of all this is just theoretical and musings on how to apply certain ideas in certain ways.  I’m confident I can get them to work, but that’s not a guarantee that they will.  Experimentation and practice is absolutely needed, not only to get my own aims and goals accomplished, but even just to see whether certain methods work at all for anything.

Still, while we’re at it, let’s make up a new practice, shall we?  Let’s say we want to have a formalized way of conjuring up the power of a given figure, such as for some intense contemplation or pathworking.  In my Secreti Geomantici ebook, wherein I talk about lots of different magical practices involving geomancy and geomantic figures, I provide a set of sixteen prayers for each of the figures.  We can use those in combination with the geomantic epodes above to come up with a more thorough invocation of a figure.  The process I have in mind would be to recite the hybrid single-syllable epode as few as four or as many as sixteen times (or as many times as there are points in the figure), recite the given orison of the figure, then permute through its vowel string.  Thus, for Laetitia, we could do the following, while sitting before an image of Laetitia (or an altar of planetary talismans arranged in the form of the figure Laetitia) while holding the geomantic hand gesture of Laetitia:

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

Jovian Laetitia, standing tall
Granting hope in the hearts of all
Blazing spirit, o fulgent flame
Flashing brightest, of rousing fame
In our dark minds you spark pure Fire
Calcining spite to high desire
Grand arch of joy, embrace us here
And bring us tidings glad and clear

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

ΟΙΕΑ ΟΙΑΕ ΟΕΙΑ ΟΕΑΙ ΟΑΙΕ ΟΑΕΙ
ΙΟΕΑ ΙΟΑΕ ΙΕΟΑ ΙΕΑΟ ΙΑΟΕ ΙΑΕΟ
ΕΟΙΑ ΕΟΑΙ ΕΙΟΑ ΕΙΑΟ ΕΑΟΙ ΕΑΙΟ
ΑΟΙΕ ΑΟΕΙ ΑΙΟΕ ΑΙΕΟ ΑΕΟΙ ΑΕΙΟ

ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ ΒΙ

See?  By coming up with small, individual innovations and extrapolations and translations of one set of symbols from one medium into another, we can start using each on their own effectively, or we can start plugging them in to come up with bigger, better, and more profound practices that can really pack a punch.  Geomancy has every potential and every capability to become a full magical and spiritual practice in its own right that can fit right in with any other Western or Hermetic practice based on their own symbol sets; just because extant literature is lacking on the subject doesn’t mean it can’t be done, after all, and with a bit of thought and ingenuity, there are so many avenues that open themselves up for ready exploration.

One final thought about the use of these vowel epodes: we know that for any non-Populus figure, there are 24 permutations of the vowel string epodes.  So, that makes 15 × 24 = 360.  Which is a…stupidly pleasing number, to be honest.  As we all know, Using this little tidbit, we could conceive of a sort of year-long geomantic practice, focusing on one of the permutations of vowel epodes for the figures per day.  This gives us 15  24-day “months” of figures, with five or six days leftover at the end of the year.  In leap years that have six epagomenal days, we could use the permutations of the short epode ΙΕΑ for Populus; in non-leap years, we could just focus on the whole epode ΙΟΥΕΗΩΑ, or we could just keep silent (perhaps more fitting for epagomenal days).  It’s not entirely balanced in that regard, but it does have its own logic and cleanliness that could make it a viable yearly-daily practice for meditating on the epodes of the figures.  I might expand on this idea at a later point, or perhaps rework my geomantic Wheel of the Year to match it in some sense, but it’s something to mull over for now.  The next leap year isn’t for another year and a half, after all.

On the Elemental and Geomantic Epodes

Ever since I wrote that post about how the physical body can be represented by geomantic figures, I’ve been trying to puzzle something out for myself.  At the end of the post, I introduce the concept of a system of geomantically-derived energy centers in the body based on four centers and four elements: the Fire center in the head, the Air center in the throat, the Water center in the upper belly, and the Earth center at the perineum.  This is based on the Geomantic Adam diagram given in MS Arabe 2631, which divvies up the geomantic figures to the parts of the body in a way that’s untied to any astrological method (which is the usual method used in European and Western geomancies):

In addition to proposing four such energy centers, I also propose three possible sets of intonations based on the obscure BZDH technique from some forms of geomancy, and also suggest that the sixteen geomantic gestures or “mudras” can be used in addition with these to form the basis of a kind of geomantic energy practice.  However, I didn’t really describe any implementation beyond laying these individual parts of such a hypothetical practice down, because I hadn’t yet come up with a way to put the parts together into a whole.  I’ve been puzzling over how to do just that since the post went up earlier this summer.  I mean, it’s not hard to just slap some energy into parts of the body and call it a day, but let’s be honest: I want to do this right and be able to incorporate it into my own practice in a way that’s not harmful, and as we all know by now, it’s just as easy to use energy to make a body awful as much as it can be made awesome.

Now, I was originally going to just write a post about a more-or-less solid energy practice that uses four energy centers in the body, one for each of the four elements.  I’m still going to write that post, because I already started it, but I realized that there’s a significant chunk of it that needs to be clarified in its own post, because there’s a number of options one might choose for it with different bits of logic and arguments for and against each choice.  This section kept growing and growing, and it eventually dwarfed the actual point of the post itself, so I decided to get this bit out of the way first, especially since I’ve already introduced the topic when I brought up the notion of a geomantic energy practice to begin with.

For me in my magical practice, the spoken word is important, especially when it comes to things that are intoned, such as barbarous words or particular chants.  For instance, the seven Greek vowels are absolutely vital to my work, because each vowel is associated with one of the seven planets.  In fact, each of the letters of the Greek alphabet has its own spiritual associations to the planets, signs of the Zodiac, and elements.  It’s the elemental letters that are the focus here now: if I wanted to intone a special word to attune myself to the power of an element just like how I’d intone a vowel to attune myself to the power of a planet, what would I use?  I can’t really intone a consonant, so I invented special “power words” for the four elements by taking the corresponding consonant for the element, intoning ΙΑΩ, and ending with the consonant again, as below:

  • Fire: ΧΙΑΩΧ (KHIAŌKH)
  • Air: ΦΙΑΩΦ (PHIAŌPH)
  • Water: ΞΙΑΩΞ (KSIAŌKS)
  • Earth: ΘΙΑΩΘ (THIAŌTH)

This method works, but to be honest, I’ve never really liked it.  It’s always felt kind of imbalanced and inelegant, especially compared to some of the more refined barbarous words of power or the simplicity and clearness of the vowels for the planets.  When I first started thinking of what I could intone for a geomantic energy practice, my routine use of these words first came up, but I quickly remembered that there are other options available to me besides just this.  All I need to find is some appropriate, elegant system of four words for intoning for the sake of attuning to the four elements.

Also, what am I calling this particular type of power word, anyway?  These are small, usually single-syllabled things to intone or chant to attune with a particular force.  I suppose that these are barbarous names of a sort, but the fact that they’re so easily constructed doesn’t seem quite appropriate to call them “barbarous”.  The closest thing I can think of are bīja, which is a Sanskrit term meaning “seed”, but referring to single syllable mantras that can be intoned and thought of as encapsulating or emanating particular elements or powers.  Think of the syllables oṃ, dhīḥ, hūṃ, or other single-syllable such mantras found in tantric Buddhism or Hinduism.  These are powerful syllables and contain some aspect of the cosmos or dharma in their own right, and many deities, bodhisattvas, buddhas, and other entities or powers have their own bījas.  That’s a good concept and term for this, but I can’t think of any Western or non-Sanskrit term to call them, like how we might have “chant” or “orison” for the word mantra, “gesture” for mudra, or “energy center” for chakra.  Since I like having Greek-based terms, here are a few I would think are appropriate:

  • Odologue, which could come either from ᾠδόλογος ōidólogos meaning “song-word” or, alternatively, ὁδόλογος hodólogos meaning “road-word”, and either Greek word could be used here.  Odology, after all, can refer to “the study of the singing voice” or “the study of roads and paths”, and considering the purpose and use of these bīja-like words,
  • Rhizophone, from Greek ῥιζόφωνη rhizóphōnē, literally meaning “root sound”.  This is about as close a calque to bīja as I could think, helpfully suggested by Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick (who has a new website now, go update your RSS readers and links!).
  • Epode, which is simply the Greek word ἐπῳδή epōidé, meaning “song sung to something”, and more figuratively an enchantment, charm, or spell.  Unlike odologue or rhizophone, epode is actually a known word, both in Greek and in English, and though it can be used more broadly for spells or charms in general, the notion of something being sung here is important, which is basically intonation.  Though I like the above two words, let’s be honest: epode here is probably the best to go with.
    • There are other words used in Greek to refer to magic spells or charms, like kḗlēma or thélktron or other words, so we can reserve “epode” for what are basically mantras.
    • “Epode” could be used to give a useful Greek translation of “mantra” generally, as opposed to just bīja syllables, which are themselves considered single-syllable mantras.  For this, “root epode” or “small epode” could be used to clarify single-syllable epodes.
    • Likewise, “epode” wouldn’t necessarily be of the same type of word as “names”, ὀνόματα onómata, referring to the barbarous words of power that may simply be spoken, shouted, or intoned depending on the situation.  Plus, the barbarous names themselves aren’t usually constructed, patterned after anything, or even understood as having distinct or intelligible meanings.

So, what we’re doing here is coming up with elemental epodes, simple words that can be intoned or sung to attune or call down the forces of the elements, just how the intonation of the seven Greek vowels can do the same for the planets.  In fact, those vowels, when sung in a magical way, would become epodes in their own right.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  One straightforward option is to just use the Arabic or Greek words for the four elements themselves as things to intone:

  • Arabic:
    • Fire: nar (نار, pronounced “nahr”)
    • Air: hawa’ (هواء, pronounced “HAH-wa” with a sharp stop in the throat)
    • Water: ma’ (ماء, pronounced “ma” with a sharp stop in the throat)
    • Earth: turab (تراب, pronounced “tuh-RAHB”)
  • Greek:
    • Fire: pũr (πῦρ, pronounced “pür” like with the German ü or French u, or as “peer”)
    • Air: aḗr (ἀήρ, pronounced “ah-AYR”, smoothly without a stop in the sound)
    • Water: húdōr (ὕδωρ, pronounced “HEE-dohr” or “HÜ-dohr”, again with that German/French sound)
    • Earth: gē̃ (γῆ, pronounced “gay”)

However, I’m not a fan of doing this.  For one, the words themselves aren’t necessarily important if the resonance and link between what’s uttered/intoned and what’s being connected with is strong.  Here, all I really have to go is the semantic meaning of the words.  Plus, I don’t like how some of them are two syllables and others only one, and they all feel inelegant in some of the same ways as my *ΙΑΩ* words from above.  So, while the words for the elements could be used, it’s not one I’d like to use.

And no, I won’t use Latin or English for such things, either.  I don’t hold either to be a very magical language like how I’d hold Greek or Hebrew or Arabic, largely due to the lack of meaningful isopsephy/gematria or stoicheia of the letters for the Roman script common to both Latin and English.  I also didn’t list Hebrew here because, for the sake of my energy work, I largely focus on Greek stuff (for the Mathēsis side of things) or Arabic (for the geomantic side), and Hebrew doesn’t fit into either category.

However, there is another option for coming up with an intonation that is rooted in geomantic practice: the BZDH (or BZDA) technique.  This is a little-known technique in Western geomancy that seems to have had more use in Arabic geomancy.  As I said in the earlier post about the geomantic figures and the human body:

From my translation of the 15th century work Lectura Geomantiae:

By the Greek word “b z d a” we can find the house of the figures, which is to say in which house the figures are strongest, wherefore when the first point starting from the upper part of the beginning figure is odd, the second house is strong; when the second point is odd, the seventh house is strong; when the third point is odd, the fourth house is strong; when the fourth and last point is odd, the eighth house is strong. Thus we will find by this number the proper houses of the figures; by “b” we understand 2, by “z” 7, by “d” 4, by “a” 8, as in this example: “b z d a”.

This may not make a lot of sense on its own, but compare what Felix Klein-Franke says in his article “The Geomancy of Aḥmad b. `Alī Zunbul: A Study of the Arabic Corpus Hermeticum” (AMBIX, March 1973, vol. XX):

The best taskīn is that of az-Zanātī; it bears the key-word bzdḥ: according to the principle of Gematria, the transposition of letters of a word into numbers, in place of bzdḥ there result the numbers 2748. Thus the Mansions of the taskīn are indicated; each spot denotes one of the four elements; in the 2nd Mansion there is only the element Fire (Laetitia, ḥayyān), in the 7th Mansion only Air (Rubeus, ḥumra), in the 4th Mansion only Water (Albus, bayāḍ), and in the 8th Mansion only Earth (Cauda Draconis, rakīza ẖāriǧa).

Stephen Skinner clarifies this even further in his works on geomancy.  From his 1980 book “Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy”:

Further specialized configurations or taskins are outlined together with mnemonics for remembering their order. Gematria, or the art of interpreting words in terms of the total of’ the numerical equivalents of each of their letters, is introduced at this point. Using the mnemonic of a particular taskin such as Bzdh, Zunbul explains that the letters represent the four Elements, in descending order of grossness. Each letter also represents a number in Arabic, thus:

b – 2 – Fire
z – 7 – Air
d – 4 – Water
h – 8 – Earth

This mnemonic therefore indicates House number 2 for Fire, House number 7 (Air), House number 4 (Water), and House number 8 (Earth). For each of the Houses indicated in this taskin, we see that the second is most compatible with Fire, the seventh with Air, and so on. Therefore, if the geomantic figure Laetitia (or in Arabic Hayyan), which is solely Fire, occurs in the second House, this would be. an extremely favourable omen. Likewise, the occurrence of Rubeus (or Humra), which is solely Air, in the seventh House would also be extremely auspicious. Further chapters are devoted to even more complicated combinations of the basic figures, and to labyrinthine rules for everything from marriage to medicine. Diagnosis by raml even became a lay rival of the latter, and tables were educed of the relationship between specific parts of the body and the geomantic figures.

In other words, based on these letters, we could intone a particular sound that starts with the letter “b” for Fire, “z” for Air, “d” for Earth, and “ḥ” (think of the guttural “ch” of German, but further back in the throat).

So, in this technique, we have four consonants that correspond to four elements.  We could use this BZDH technique to use these four consonants, each associated with one of the four elements according to an obscure technique in Arabic and early Western geomancy, to create a simple, clear syllable for each element when paired with a simple long vowel:

  • Arabic method:
    • Fire:  (با)
    • Air:  (زا)
    • Water:  (دا)
    • Earth: ḥā (حا)
  • Greek method:
    • Fire:  (ΒΗ)
    • Air:  (ΖΗ)
    • Water:  (ΔΗ)
    • Earth:  (Ἡ)
  • Latin method:
    • Fire: ba
    • Air: za
    • Water: da
    • Earth: a

Note that I’m largely using the “ah” sound a lot for these.  For one, in Greek, this is the vowel Alpha, which is associated with the Moon, which is one of the planets closest to the sphere of the Earth and which is one of the planets most aligned with the element of Earth.  Additionally, this would be represented in Arabic with the letter ‘Alif, which has the form of a straight vertical line, much like the geomantic figure Via (or Tarīq using its Arabic name), which is also a figure associated with the Moon and which is important as it contains all four elements; in this case, the “ah” sound would be most aligned to that of the powers of geomancy as a whole, I would claim.  Note, also, how the Latin transcription of ḥ (to represent the element Earth) turned into “a”; if you wanted to think of geomancy as primarily being an oracle of Earth (which is a claim I take some issue with), then the “ah” sound would indeed be closest for phonologically working with the elements from a geomantic perspective and from our worldly, manifest basis.  Yet, we’re using Ēta for the Greek method given above; for one, this is because there’s no distinct vowel for “long a”, but “long e” is a close-enough approximation.  Using ΒΑ, ΖΑ, ΔΑ, and Ἁ for them would work as well, but using Ēta is also acceptable in this case.

Now, remember that these four consonants are used because they have their origins in being specifically labeled as elemental in the original geomantic technique from whence they come due to their numerological (gematria or isopsephic) significance. The mnemonic BZDḤ was used based on the numerological values of those letters in Arabic: bāʾ for 2, zāy for 7, dāl for 4, and ḥāʾ for 8.  Interestingly, these same consonants were used in the European version of the technique as BZDA (with A replacing Ḥāʾ, though it makes more sense to consider it H) even though it’s not technically the letters that were important, but their numerical equivalents.  If we were to simply go by their numerological (or numeric order) basis, then we should use ΒΔΗΘ for Greek or BDGH for Latin.  I suppose that one could use these letters instead for the BZDH technique-based intonation syllables, but I feel like using the original BZDH (or BZDḤ) is truer to the elements themselves, though the true Greek system could also work given their stoicheic meanings: Bēta associated with the Fire sign Aries, Delta associated with the Air sign Gemini, Ēta (used consonantally as an aspiration/aitch letter) representing the planet Venus which can be associated with the element of Water, and Thēta associated with the element of Earth itself.  So, one could also use a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system like this (using Ēta below, but again, Alpha would also work):

  • Fire:  (ΒΗ)
  • Air: (ΔΗ)
  • Water: (Ἡ)
  • Earth: thē (ΘH)

Or a Latin BDGH system as:

  • Fire: ba
  • Air: da
  • Water: ga
  • Earth: ha

Again, I’m not a fan of using Latin generally, but I can see an argument for using a BDGH system here because it’s not really words, isopsephy, or stoicheia here that are necessarily important.  However, if we were to use Greek isopsephy for determining which letters to use to represent the four elements for a Greek ΒΔΗΘ system, why not use the Greek stoicheia for them, instead?  It breaks with why we were using numbers to begin with, but we already know the letters Khi, Phi, Ksi, and Thēta work quite well for the four elements themselves, so if we were taking a purely elemental approach, it seems more proper to just use the elemental letters instead of the numerologically-appropriate letters and their natural vowels (specifically their long versions to keep with the theme of using long vowels for the epodes):

  • Fire: khei (ΧΕI)
  • Air: phei (ΦΕI)
  • Water: ksei (ΞΕI)
  • Earth: thē (ΘH)

There are definitely arguments for the use of the stoicheically-appropriate letters (ΧΦΞΘ) over the others, or the isopsephically-appropriate ones (ΒΔΗΘ), or the transliterated Arabic ones (ΒΖΔΗ).  In a more Mathēsis-pure approach, I’d probably go with the stoicheic letters, but in this particular case, I’d recommend most the transliterated Arabic ones, because that set of letters ties this energy practice closest to the original geomantic technique.  I suppose experimentation would show which is best, but I’m most comfortable sticking with the BZDH technique.

However, even using the BZDH technique as a foundation for this, an interestingly extensible system of syllables can also be devised where the BZDH technique of using different consonants is mixed with using Greek vowels that were similar enough in element to those four consonants.  For this mashup, I used my Mathēsis understanding of the planets and their positions on the mathētic Tetractys or the planetary arrangement for the geomantic figures to get vowels for the elements, and settled on using Iōta (Sun) for Fire, Upsilon (Jupiter) for Air, Ēta (Venus) for Water, and Alpha (Moon) for Earth.  Though Mars would be more appropriate for Fire and Saturn for Earth, their corresponding vowels are Omicron and Ōmega, which may not be distinct enough for this purpose, as I feel like it should be, so I made a sufficiently-acceptable substitution to use the Sun for Fire instead of Mars, and the Moon for Earth instead of Saturn.

What’s nice about combining the BZDH technique with the planetary vowels is that we can mix and match both systems and, using our system of primary and secondary elements of the figures, get a distinct epode not only for the four elements but also for each of the sixteen geomantic figures, which can be extraordinarily useful in its own right for other magical and meditative purposes.  (And here I thought that little innovation of mine was no more than “a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy” when it’s come in use time and time again!)  So, let’s see about making such a full system for all sixteen figures using the three competing Greek systems (Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ, Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ, Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ):

Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΖΙ
ZI
Puer
ΔΙ
DI
Puella

HI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΖΥ
ZU
Rubeus
ΔΥ
DU
Via

HU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΖΗ

Coniunctio
ΔΗ

Albus


Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΖΑ
ZA
Acquisitio
ΔΑ
DA
Populus

HA
Tristitia
Isopsephic ΒΔΗΘ System
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΒΙ
BI
Laetitia
ΔΙ
DI
Puer

HI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΒΥ
BU
Fortuna Minor
ΔΥ
DU
Rubeus

HU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΒΗ

Amissio
ΔΗ

Coniunctio


Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΒΑ
BA
Cauda Draconis
ΔΑ
DA
Acquisitio

HA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia
Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Vague Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΙ
KHI
Laetitia
ΦΙ
PHI
Puer
ΞΙ
KSI
Puella
ΘΙ
THI
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΑ
KHA
Cauda Draconis
ΦΑ
PHA
Acquisitio
ΞΑ
KSA
Populus
ΘΑ
THA
Tristitia

Note that in the ΧΦΞΘ system below, instead of using Iōta for Fire and Alpha for Earth (as given in the “vague elemental vowels” table immediately above), I went with Omicron for Fire and Ōmega for Earth because, well, if we’re going to go all the way and stick solely to using stoicheically-appropriate consonants, it makes sense to follow through and stick to using the most precisely, stoicheically-appropriate vowels. However, it breaks with the other systems here, so while this is perhaps the most suited to a pure Mathēsis or purely-Western approach, it doesn’t fit with any of the others and it makes a total break with any BZDH system we have.  Additionally, the similarity between Omicron and Ōmega here can cause some confusion and difficulty for those who aren’t precise with their pronunciations, even if the system is precisely correct as far as stoicheia goes.

Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System using Exact Elemental Vowels
Primary Element
Fire Air Water Earth
Secondary
Element
Fire ΧΟ
KHO
Laetitia
ΦΟ
PHO
Puer
ΞΟ
KSO
Puella
ΘΟ
THO
Carcer
Air ΧΥ
KHU
Fortuna Minor
ΦΥ
PHU
Rubeus
ΞΥ
KSU
Via
ΘΥ
THU
Caput Draconis
Water ΧΗ
KHĒ
Amissio
ΦΗ
PHĒ
Coniunctio
ΞΗ
KSĒ
Albus
ΘΗ
THĒ
Fortuna Maior
Earth ΧΩ
KHŌ
Cauda Draconis
ΦΩ
PHŌ
Acquisitio
ΞΩ
KSŌ
Populus
ΘΩ
THŌ
Tristitia

deep breath

Okay.  So, that’s all a lot of tables and lists and examples and options to pick from, all of which are nice and all, but where does that leave us?

What we wanted to come up with was a set of four simple intonable syllables—our “epodes”—to work with the four classical elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, much as how we have the seven Greek vowels to work with the seven traditional planets.  While a straightforward option would be to simply intone the words for the elements themselves, we can use an obscure geomantic technique that gives us four consonants to reflect the four elements, which we can then intone by adding a vowel to it.  However, we can make variants of this system based on how far we want to take the logic of why we have those four consonants to begin with, even going so far as to come up with a set of sixteen epodes for each of the geomantic figures.  These geomantic epodes work within the same overall system because the geomantic figures are compositions of the four elements, and the figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia are the geomantic figures that represent single elements unmixed with any other, which is a fact I’ve been able to use before for coming up with gestures for the four elements using the same logic.

Now, because of all the possibilities of what script to use (Arabic, Greek, Roman), what consonants to use (BZDH or the script-appropriate variants based on numerical order within that script’s alphabet), and what vowels to use (the “ah” sound, Ēta for Greek variants, or using stoicheically-appropriate vowels based on the planetary affinities towards the elements), we end up with quite a few different options for our elemental epodes:

Fire Air Water Earth
Words Arabic نار
nar
هواء
hawa’
ماء
ma’
تراب
turab
Greek πῦρ
pũr
ἀήρ
aḗr
ὕδωρ
húdōr
γῆ
gē̃
Latin ignis aer aqua terra
ΙΑΩ Names ΧΙΑΩΧ
khiaōkh
ΦΙΑΩΦ
phiaōph
ΞΙΑΩΞ
ksiaōks
ΘΙΑΩΘ
thiaōth
Transliterated Arabic با
زا
دا
حا
ḥā
Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΖΗ
ΔΗ

Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΖΑ
za
ΔΑ
da

ha
Roman BA ZA DA A
Isopsephic Greek
Ēta
ΒΗ
ΔΗ

ΘH
thē
Greek
Alpha
ΒΑ
ba
ΔΑ
da

ha
ΘΑ
tha
Roman BA DA GA HA
Hybrid Transliterated ΒΙ
bi
ΖΥ
zu
ΔΗ

ha
Isopsephic ΒΙ
bi
ΔΥ
du

ΘΑ
tha
Mathēsis Natural
Vowels
ΧΕΙ
khei
ΦΕΙ
phei
ΞΕΙ
ksei
ΘΗ
thē
Vague
Vowels
ΧΙ
khi
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΑ
tha
Exact
Vowels
ΧΟ
kho
ΦΥ
phu
ΞΗ
ksē
ΘΩ
thō

See now why I had to break all this out into its own separate post?

Originally, I was using the ΙΑΩ-based epodes, but I never really liked them, especially compared to all the other elegant options we have now based on the BZDH technique or its variants.  Of course, we have quite a few options now, and there are plenty of arguments for and against each one.  Here’s what I recommend based on your specific approach:

  • If you’re using a strict Arabic or classically “pure” geomantic system apart from planetary or other concerns and want to stick to the root of geomancy as much as possible, despite any other advantages out there from the other systems, use the Transliterated BZDH system, most preferably the Arabic system (bā/zā/dā/ḥā) or the Greek-Alpha system (ΒΑ/ΖΑ/ΔΑ/Ἁ), depending on how good your pronunciation skills at pharyngeal consonants are.
  • If you’re using a purely Greek system that wants to use the advantages of the stoicheia of the Greek alphabet as much as possible, use the Mathēsis system with exact vowels (ΧΟ/ΦΥ/ΞΗ/ΘΩ).
  • If you’re a general Western geomancer with no particular leanings towards or against any particular niche, use the Hybrid system with transliterated consonants (ΒΙ/ΖΥ/ΔΗ/Ἁ).  This would be considered the middle approach between the two extremes of “original root source” and “Mathēsis-only stoicheia please”, and is probably appropriate for the largest number of people given its ease of use and pronunciation.

Likewise, for the use of the geomantic epodes:

  • If you want a more general use, go with the Transliterated ΒΖΔΗ System.
  • If you want a specialized mathētic use, go with the Stoicheic ΧΦΞΘ System with exact vowels.

Of course, given all the options above, there’s plenty of room for experimentation, and I’m sure one could extend the logic of the BZDH system (whether through transliteration, isopsephy, or stoicheia) even further and combining it with other vowel systems to come up with more options, or there would be still other ways to come up with elemental epodes (and maybe even geomantic epodes, as well) that aren’t based on the BZDH or ΧΦΞΘ systems!  As with so much else with geomantic magic, there’s so much to experiment and toy with, because it’s such a fertile and unexplored field of occult practice, so if you want to experiment with these or if you have other systems you use, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

On the Structure and Operations of the Geomantic Figures

When I did my recent site redesign and added all those new pages on prayers, rituals, and whatnot, I also consolidated a few pages into ones that fit neatly together, and got rid of a few entirely that didn’t need to be on here anymore.  There weren’t many of those, to be fair, but the main casualties of that effort were my handful of pages on geomancy.  While it may seem odd that I, of all people, would take down pages on the art I love so much, it was partially because I’m continuing to prepare for my book and wanted to rewrite and incorporate the information of those pages in a better way than what was presented there, and partially because the idea for those pages has long since turned stale; I was going to have an entire online “book” of sorts, but I figure that I’ve written enough about geomancy on my blog that it’s probably easier to just browse through the geomancy category and read.  So, if you end up finding a broken link (which I do my utmost to keep from happening), chances are you’re seeing a relic of an earlier age on this blog that connected to those pages.  After all, even though I’d like to keep my blog in perfect running order, I’m also not gonna scroll through 600-odd posts and comb through each and every link.

One of the things that those lost geomancy pages discussed was the mathematical operations of the figures.  I’ve talked about the mathematics behind the Judge and the Shield Chart before, as well as the Parts of Fortune and Spirit, and I’ve discussed a sort of “rotary function” that rotates the elemental rows up and down through the figures before, but there are three big mathematical operations one can do on the figures themselves that reveal certain relationships between them.  I mention them on my De Geomanteia posts of the figures themselves, though now that the original page that describes them is down, I suppose a new post on what they are is in order, if only to keep the information active, especially since every now and then someone will come asking about them.  This is important, after all, because this information is definitely out there, but it’s also largely a result of my own categorization; I haven’t seen anyone in the Western literature, modern or ancient, online or offline, talk about the mathematical relationships or “operations” between the figures in the way I have, nor have I seen anyone talk about one of the operations entirely, so this post is to clear up those terms and what they signify.

First, let me talk about something tangentially related that will help with some of the operation discussion below.  As many students of geomancy are already aware, a common way to understand the figures is in terms of their motion, which is to say, whether a figure is stable or mobile.  Structurally speaking, stable figures are those that have more points in the Fire and Air rows than in the Water and Earth rows (e.g. Albus), and mobile figures are those that have more points in the Water and Earth rows than in the Fire and Air rows (e.g. Puer).  In the cases where the top two rows have the same number of points as the bottom two rows (e.g. Amissio or Populus), the figures are “assigned” a motion based on their general effects.

  • Stable figures: Populus, Carcer, Albus, Puella, Fortuna Maior, Acquisitio, Tristitia, Caput Draconis
  • Mobile figures: Via, Coniunctio, Rubeus, Puer, Fortuna Minor, Amissio, Laetitia, Cauda Draconis

Stable figures are generally seen as graphically looking like they’re “sitting upright” when viewed from the perspective of the reader, while mobile figures are considered “upside down” or “unbalanced” when read the same way.  In a similar sense, stable figures generally have effects that are slow to arise and long to last, while mobile figures are just the opposite, where they’re quick to happen and quick to dissipate.  Consider mobile Laetitia: a figure of optimism, elevation, hope, and bright-burning joy, but it’s easy to lose and hard to maintain.  This can be contrasted with, for instance, stable Tristitia: a figure of slow-moving depression, getting stuck in a rut, languishing, and losing hope.

The idea of motion, I believe, is a simplification of an older system of directionality, where instead of there being two categories of figures, there are three: entering, exiting, and liminal.  All entering figures are stable, all exiting figures are mobile, and the liminal figures are considered in-between:

  • Entering figures: Albus, Puella, Fortuna Maior, Acquisitio, Tristitia, Caput Draconis
  • Exiting figures: Rubeus, Puer, Fortuna Minor, Amissio, Laetitia, Cauda Draconis
  • Liminal figures: Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio

In this system, entering figures are seen as “bringing things to” the reader or reading, and exiting figures “take things away from” the reader or reading, while liminal figures could go either way or do nothing at all, depending on the situation and context in which they appear.  For instance, consider Acquisitio, the quintessential entering figure, which brings things for the gain of the querent, while exiting Amissio is the opposite figure of loss, taking things away, and all the while liminal Populus is just…there, neither bringing nor taking, gaining nor losing.

The liminal figures also serve another purpose: they are also sometimes called “axial” figures, because by taking the upper or lower halves of two axial figures, you can form any other figure.  For instance, the upper half of Populus combined with the lower half of Via gets you Fortuna Maior, the upper half of Coniunctio with the lower half of Carcer gets you Acquisitio, and so forth.  This way of understanding the figures as being composed of half-figures is the fundamental organization of Arabic-style geomantic dice:

Entering figures, like stable figures, look like they’re “coming towards” the reader, while exiting figures look like they’re “going away” from the reader, much like mobile figures.  The reason why the liminal figures (“liminal” meaning “at the threshold”) are considered in-between is that they look the same from either direction, and are either going both ways at once or going in no direction at all.  Populus and Carcer went from liminal to stable due to their long-lasting effects of stagnation or being locked into something, while Via and Coniunctio went from liminal to mobile for their indications of change, movement, and freedom.

Alright!  With the basic structural talk out of the way, let’s talk about operations.  In essence, I claim that there are three primary operations one can do on a figure to obtain another figure, which may or may not be the same as the original figure.  These are:

  • Inversion: replace the odd points with even points, and even points with odd points.  For instance, inverting Puer gets you Albus.
  • Reversion: flip the figure vertically.  For instance, inverting Puer gets you Puella.
  • Conversion: invert then revert the figure, or revert and invert the figure.  For instance, converting Puer gets you Rubeus (Puer →Albus → Rubeus to go the invert-then-revert route, or Puer → Puella → Rubeus to go the revert-then-invert route).

In my De Geomanteia posts, I briefly described what the operations do:

  • Inversion: everything a figure is not on an external level
  • Reversion: the same qualities of a figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme
  • Conversion: the same qualities of a figure expressed in a similar manner

And in this post on a proposed new form of Shield Cart company based on these operations, I described these relationships in a slightly more expanded way:

  • Inversion: The two figures fulfill each other’s deficit of power or means, yet mesh together to form one complete and total force that will conquer and achieve everything that alone they could not.
  • Reversion: The two figures are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will each benefit from the whole.
  • Conversion: The two figures are similar enough to act along the same lines of power and types of action, but express it in completely different ways from the outside.  Internally, the action and thoughts are the same, but externally, they are distinct.  Think bizarro-world reflections of each other.

These trite descriptions are a little unclear and, now that several years have passed, I realize that they’re probably badly phrased, so it’s worth it to review what these relationships are and how they tie into other conceptions of figure relationships.  After all, inversion and reversion both deal with the notion of something being a figure’s opposite, but we often end up with two separate “opposites”, which can be confusing; and, further, if you take the opposite of an opposite, you get something similar but not quite the same (inversion followed by reversion, or vice versa, gets you conversion).

To my mind, inversion is the most outstanding of the operations, not because it’s any more important than the others, but because it’s so radical and fundamental a change from one figure to the other.  To invert a figure, simply swap the points with their opposites: turn the odd points even and the even points odd.  You could say that you’re turning a figure into its negative, I suppose, like flipping the signs, levels of activity, or polarity of each individual element.  Most notably, the process of inversion is the only one that we can perform through simple geomantic addition of one figure with another; to invert a figure, simply add Via to it, and the result will be that figure’s inversion.  Because inversion is simply “just add Via”, this is probably the easiest to understand: inverting a figure results in a new figure that is everything the original figure isn’t.  We turn active elements passive and passive elements active, male into female and female into male, light into dark and dark into light.  What one has, the other lacks; what one forgets, the other remembers.

So much for inversion.  Reversion is as simple as inversion, but there’s no “just add this figure” to result in it; it’s a strictly structural transformation of one figure based on that figure’s rows.  To be specific and clear about it, to revert a figure, you swap the Fire and Earth lines, as well as the Air and Water lines; in effect, you’re turning the figure upside down, so that e.g. Albus becomes Rubeus or Caput Draconis becomes Cauda Draconis.  Note that unlike inversion where the invert of one figure is always going to be another distinct figure, there are some figures where the reversion is the same as the original figure; this is the case only for the liminal figures (Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio), since rotating them around gets you the same figure.  By swapping the points in the lines of the elements that agree with each other in heat (dry Fire with dry Earth, and moist Air with moist Water), you get another type of opposite, but rather than it playing in terms of a strict swap of polarity like from positive to negative, you literally turn everything on its head.

Both inversion and reversion get you an “opposite” figure, but there are different axes or scales by which you can measure what an “opposite” is.  As an example, consider Puer.  If you invert Puer, you get Albus; this is an opposite in the sense that the youthful brash boy with all the energy in the world is the “opposite” of the wise old man without energy.  What Puer has (energy), Albus lacks; what Albus has (experience), Puer lacks.  On the other hand, if you revert Puer, you get Puella; this is another kind of opposite in the sense that the masculine is the opposite of the feminine.  What Puer is (masculine, active, emitting), Puella isn’t (feminine, passive, accepting).  This type of analysis, where inversion talks about “has or has not” and reversion talks about “is or is not” is the general rule by which I understand the figures, and holds up decently well for the odd figures.  It’s when you get to the even figures that this type of distinction between the operations by means of their descriptions collapses or falls apart:

  • For non-liminal even figures, the inversion of a figure is the same as its reversion.  Thus, “is” is the same thing as “has”.  For instance, Acquisitio is the total opposite of Amissio, since they are both reversions and inversions of each other; gain both is not loss and loss does not have gain.
  • For liminal even figures, the reversion of a figure is the same figure as itself.  Thus, “has” makes no sense, because the figure isn’t speaking to anything one “has” or “lacks” to begin with.  For instance, Carcer’s reversion is Carcer; Carcer is imprisonment and obligation, it doesn’t “have” a quality of its own apart from what it already is.  On the other hand, Carcer’s inversion, what Carcer is not, is Coniunctio, which is freedom and self-determination.  Again, Coniunctio describes a state of being rather than any quality one has or lacks.

Between inversion and reversion, we can begin to understand the pattern of how the babalawos of Ifá, the West African development and adaption of geomancy to Yoruba principles and cosmology, organize their sixteen figures, or odu:

Rank Latin Name Yoruba Name Relationship
1 Via Ogbe inversion
2 Populus Oyẹku
3 Coniunctio Iwori inversion
4 Carcer Odi
5 Fortuna Minor Irosun inversion-
reversion
6 Fortuna Maior Iwọnrin
7 Laetitia Ọbara reversion
8 Tristitia Ọkanran
9 Cauda Draconis Ogunda reversion
10 Caput Draconis Ọsa
11 Rubeus Ika reversion
12 Albus Oturupọn
13 Puella Otura reversion
14 Puer Irẹtẹ
15 Amissio Ọsẹ inversion-
reversion
16 Acquisitio Ofun

With the exception of the even liminal figures, which are grouped in inversion pairs at the beginning of the order, it can be seen that the other figures are arranged in reversion pairs, with the even non-liminal figures grouped in what is technically either inversion or reversion, but which are most likely considered to just be reversions of each other.  Note how the non-liminal even figure pairs are placed in the order: they separate the strict-inversion pairs from the strict-reversion pairs, one at the start of the strict-reversion pairs and one at the end.  While it’s difficult to draw specific conclusions from this alone (the corpus of knowledge of odu is truly vast and huge and requires years, if not decades of study), the placement of the figures in this arrangement cannot be but based on the structure of the figures in their inversion/reversion pairs.

In another system entirely, Stephen Skinner describes some of the relationships of figures in Arabic geomancy in his book “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”, at least as used in some places in northern Africa, where the relationships are described in familial terms and which are all seemingly based on inversion:

  • Man and wife
    • Tristitia and Cauda Draconis
    • Laetitia and Caput Draconis
    • Albus and Puer
    • Puella and Rubeus
    • Coniunctio and Carcer
  • Brothers
    • Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Maior
    • Acquisitio and Amissio
  • No relation
    • Via and Populus

Stephen Skinner doesn’t elaborate on what “man and wife” or “brothers” means for interpreting the figures, but if I were to guess and extrapolate on that small bit of information alone (which shouldn’t be trusted, especially if someone else knowledgeable in these forms of geomancy can correct me or offer better insight):

  • For figures in “man and wife” pairings, the first figure is the “husband” and the second figure is the “wife”.  Though I personally dislike such an arrangement, it could be said that the husband figure of the pair dominates the wife figure, and though they may share certain similarities that allow for them to be married in a more-or-less natural arrangement, the husband figure is more powerful, domineering, overcoming, or conquering than the wife figure.  The central idea here is that of domination and submission under a common theme.
  • For figures in “brothers” pairings, the figures are of equal power to each other, but are more opposed to each other than in harmony with each other, though they form a different kind of complete whole.  Thus, they’re like two brothers that fight with each other (in the sense of one brother against the other) as well as with each other (in the sense of both brothers fighting against a third enemy).  The central idea here is that of oppositions and polarity that form a complete whole.
  • For the two figures that have no relation to each other, Via and Populus, this could be said that they are so completely different that they operate in truly different worlds; they’re not just diametrically opposed to each other to form a whole, nor is one more dominant over or submissive to the other in the same theme, but they’re just so totally and completely different that there is no comparison and, thus, no relationship.

Of course, all that is strictly hypothetical; I have nothing else to go on besides these guesses, and as such, I don’t use these familial relationships in my own understanding of the figures.  However, these are all indicative ways of how to view “opposites”, and is enlightening on its own.  However, note the specific figures in each set of relationships.  With the exception of Coniunctio and Carcer, all the husband-wife pairs are odd figures, so the only possible relationship each figure could have in their pair is inversion.  For the brother pairs, however, these are the even non-liminal figures, where the figures could be seen as either inversions or reversions of each other.  This could well be a hint at a difference between the meanings of inversion and reversion in an African or Arabic system of understanding the figures.

Alright, so that all deals with inversion and reversion, which leaves us with one final operation.  Conversion, as you might have gathered by now, is just the act of performing inversion and reversion on a figure at the same time: you both swap the parity of each row, and rotate the order of the row upside down (or vice versa, it’s the same thing and doesn’t matter).  In a sense, you’re basically taking the opposite of an opposite, but you’re not necessarily going from point A to point B back to point A; that’d just be inverting an inversion or reverting a reversion.  Rather, by applying both operations, you end up in a totally new state that is at once familiar while still being different.  For instance, consider Puella.  Puella’s conversion is Albus, and at first blush, it doesn’t seem like there’s much in similarity between these two figures except, perhaps, their ruling element (Water, in this case).  But bear in mind that both Puella and Albus don’t like to act, emit, or disturb things; Puella is the kind, welcoming hostess who accepts and nurtures, while Albus is the kind, wizened old man who accepts and guides.  Neither of them are chaotic, violent, energetic, or brash like Puer or Rubeus, and while they don’t do things for the same reason or in the same way, they end up doing things that are highly similar, like the same leitmotif played in a different key.

However, this is a little weird for the liminal figures, because a liminal figure’s reversion is the same as itself; this means that a liminal figure’s conversion is the same as its inversion (because the reversion “cancels out”).  Thus, converting Populus gets you Via, and converting Carcer gets you Coniunctio.  While these are clearly opposites of each other, it speaks to the idea that there’s a sort of “yin in the yang, yang in the yin” quality to these figure pairs.  This is best shown by Populus, which is pure potential with all activity latent and waiting to be sprung, and Via, which is pure activity but taken as a whole which doesn’t, on the whole, change.  Likewise, you can consider Carcer to be restriction of boundaries, but freedom to act within those set parameters, and Coniunctio, which is freedom of choice, but being constrained by the choices you make and the paths you take.

It’s also a little weird for the non-liminal even figures, because the reversion of these figures is the same as its inversion, which means that the conversion of an non-liminal even figure gets you that same figure itself.  While the “opposite of an opposite” of odd figures takes you from point A to B to C to D, the nature of the non-liminal even figures takes you from point A to B right back to A.  This reflects the truly is-or-is-not nature of these figures where there’s only so many ways you can view or enact the energies of what they represent: either you win or you lose, either you gain or you lose.  You might not win using the same strategy as you expected to use, but winning is winning; you may not get exactly what you thought you were after, but you’re still getting something you needed.

With these three operations said, I suppose it’s appropriate to have a table illustrating the three results of these operations for each of the sixteen figures:

Figure Inversion Reversion Conversion
Populus Via Populus Via
Via Populus Via Populus
Albus Puer Rubeus Puella
Coniunctio Carcer Coniunctio Carcer
Puella Rubeus Puer Albus
Amissio Acquisitio Acquisitio Amissio
Fortuna Maior Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Maior
Fortuna Minor Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Minor
Puer Albus Puella Rubeus
Rubeus Puella Albus Puer
Acquisitio Amissio Amissio Acquisitio
Laetitia Caput Draconis Tristitia Cauda Draconis
Tristitia Cauda Draconis Laetitia Caput Draconis
Carcer Coniunctio Carcer Coniunctio
Caput Draconis Laetitia Cauda Draconis Tristitia
Cauda Draconis Tristitia Caput Draconis Laetitia

Looking at the table above, we can start to pick out certain patterns and “cycles” of operations that group certain figures together:

  • A figure maintains its parity no matter the operation applied to it.  Thus, an odd figure will always result in another odd figure through any of the operations, and an even figure will always yield another even figure.
  • A figure added to its inverse will always yield Via.
  • A figure added to its reverse will always yield one of the liminal figures.
  • A figure added to its converse will always yield another of the liminal figures, which will be the inverse of the sum of the original figure and its reverse.
  • If the figure is odd, then its inversion, reversion, and conversion will all be unique figures, but each figure can become any of the others within a group of four odd figures through another operation.
  • If the figure is even and liminal, then its reversion will be the same as the original figure, while its inversion and conversion will be the same figure and distinct from the original.
  • If the figure is even and not liminal, then its inversion and reversion will be the same figure and distinct from the original, while its conversion will be the same as the original figure.

The odd figures are perhaps most interesting to analyze in their operation groups.  Note that the four figures that result from the operations of a single odd figure (identity, inversion, reversion, and conversion) all, at some point, transform into each other in a neverending cycle, and never transform in any way into an odd figure of the other cycle.  More than that, we can break down the eight odd figures into two groups which have these operational cycles, or “squadrons”, one consisting of Puer-Albus-Puella-Rubeus and the other of Laetitia-Caput Draconis-Cauda Draconis-Tristitia:

Note that the Puer squadron has only figures of Air (Puer and Rubeus) and Water (Puella and Albus), while the Laetitia squadron has only Fire (Laetitia and Cauda Draconis) and Earth (Tristitia and Caput Draconis), and that the converse of one odd figure yields another odd figure of the same element.  Coincidentally, it was this element-preserving property of conversion that led me to the Laetitia-Fire/Rubeus-Air correspondence, matching with the elemental system of JMG and breaking with older literature in these two figures.  More numerologically, also note how each squadron has two figures with seven points and two figures with five points; this was marked as somewhat important in how I allotted the figures to planetary arrangements before, but it could also be viewed under an elemental light here, too.  If each squadron has two figures of the pure elements (Albus and Rubeus in the Puer squadron, Laetitia and Tristitia in the Laetitia squadron), then the converse of each would be the harmonic opposite of the pure element according to their subelemental ruler::

  • Laetitia (pure Fire) converts to/harmonizes with Cauda Draconis (primarily Fire, secondarily Earth)
  • Rubeus (pure Air) converts to/harmonizes with Puer (primarily Air, secondarily Fire)
  • Albus (pure Water) converts to/harmonizes with Puella (primarily Water, secondarily Fire)
  • Tristitia (pure Earth) converts to/harmonizes with Caput Draconis (primarily Earth, secondarily Air)

On the other hand, now consider the even figures.  Unlike the odd figures, where the same “squadron scheme” applies for two groups, there are actually two such schemes for even figures, each scheme having one pair of figures.  For the liminal even figures, a figure’s inverse is the same as its converse, and its reverse is the original figure.  On the other hand, for the even entering/exiting even figures, a figure’s inverse is the same as it’s reverse, and its converse is the original figure:

Due to how the squadrons “collapse” from groups of four into groups of two for the even figures, the same elemental analysis of harmonization can’t be done for the even figures as we did above for the odd figures.  However, it’s also important to note that each element has four figures assigned to it, two of which are odd (as noted above) and two of which are even:

  • Fire: Fortuna Minor (primarily Fire, secondarily Air), Amissio (primarily Fire, secondarily Water)
  • Air: Coniunctio (primarily Air, secondarily Water), Acquisitio (primarily Air, secondarily Earth)
  • Water: Via (primarily Water, secondarily Air), Populus (primarily Water, secondarily Earth)
  • Earth: Carcer (primarily Earth, secondarily Fire), Fortuna Maior (primarily Earth, secondarily Water)

By looking at the inverse relationships of the even figures (which is also converse for liminal figures and reverse for non-liminal figures), we can also inspect their elemental relationships:

  • Carcer (primarily Earth, secondarily Fire) inverts to Coniunctio (primarily Air, secondarily Water).  Both the primary and secondary elements of each figure are the opposite of the other, making these two figures a perfect dichotomy in every way.
  • Via (primarily Water, secondarily Air) inverts to Populus (primarily Water, secondarily Earth).  Though both these figures share the same primary element, the secondary elements oppose each other.  In a sense, this is a more bland kind of opposition that Carcer and Coniunctio show.
  • Acquisitio (primarily Air, secondarily Earth) inverts to Amissio (primarily Fire, secondarily Water).  Unlike Carcer and Coniunctio, and despite that these figures are reversions-inversions of each other, their elemental natures complement each other in both their primary and secondary rulers by heat, as Air and Fire (primary rulers) are both hot elements, and Earth and Water (secondary rulers) are both cold elements.
  • Fortuna Maior (primarily Earth, secondarily Water) inverts to Fortuna Minor (primarily Fire, secondarily Air).  Similar to Acquisitio and Amissio, these two figures are reversions-inversions of each other, but their elemental natures complement each other in moisture, as Earth and Fire (primary rulers) are both dry elements, and Water and Air (secondary elements) are both moist elements).

Note that Carcer and Coniunctio along with Via and Populus (the liminal figures) show a more rigid opposition between them based on their inversion pairs than do Acquisitio and Amissio along with Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor (the non-liminal even figures).  Liminality, in this case, shows a forceful dichotomy in inversion, while actually possessing motion suggests completion of each other in some small way.  In this post I wrote on how the natures of the elements complement or “agree” each other based on the element of figure and field in the Shield Chart, these could be understood to say something like the following:

  • Disagree (Carcer and Coniunctio, Via and Populus): Undoing and harm to the point of weakness and powerlessness, force and constriction from one into the other unwillingly.  This is more pronounced with Carcer and Coniunctio than it is Via and Populus, since Via and Populus still agree in the more important primary element, in which case this is more a complete undoing for strength rather than weakness, an expression of transformation into an unknown opposite rather than a forced march into a known but undesired state.
  • Agree in heat (Acquisitio and Amissio): Completion and aid to both, but transformation in the process for complete change in goals and intent.
  • Agree in moisture (Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor): Balance and stabilization that lead to stagnation and cessation of action, but with potential that must be unlocked or initiated.

Admittedly, this post took a lot longer to write than I anticipated, largely because although the mathematics behind the operations is pretty easy to understand, the actual meaning behind them is harder to nail down, and is largely a result of introspection and reflection on the figures involved in these operations.  For my own part, I don’t claim that my views are the be-all-end-all of these mathematical or structural relationships between the figures, and I would find this a topic positively begging for more research and meditation by the geomantic community as a whole, not just to flesh out more of the meanings and the relationships of the figures themselves, but also how they might be applied in divination as part of divinatory technique rather than just symbolism, like how I suggested using them for a mathematical/structural form of Shield Chart company.

So, what about you?  Do you think anything of these operation-based relationships of the figures?  Are there any insights you’d be willing to share regarding these operations and relationships?  Is there anything you can thread together from the observations I’ve made above that makes things flow better or fit together more nicely?  Feel free to share in the comments!

On Using Apps for Generating Randomness

Not too long ago, someone commented on my blog who’s learning geomancy about what methods can be used for generating the figures.  Personally, after getting my bearings with the traditional stick-and-surface method (which I recommend everyone beginning geomancy to use until they get the “feel” of the system down, as if it were a type of initiatory practice on its own), I either use cards or dice.  Dice divination, especially, is flexible and polyvalent, and I use it for both geomancy, grammatomancy, and other systems of divination as the need strikes me, and not only are they easy to use, they’re also highly portable and compact as a tool.

The issue (well, not “issue” per se) came up in this conversation when the commenter mentioned using an app to generate the Mothers as a whole, or a random number generator to generate numbers with which to reduce into the Mothers.  This particular commenter isn’t alone in using an app for this; I know of other geomancers who use apps to generate Mothers, either as whole figures or as numbers for the rows of the figures.  A feeling of guilt was mentioned, since the commenter hasn’t read accounts of geomancers using apps or seen videos with such apps being used, but I dismissed that feeling because it’s definitely a thing for some geomancers.

Of course, it should be emphasized that it’s only some geomancers who do that, with “some” being the operative word.  It’s not a common thing; most geomancers I know use some sort of tools, with few just using raw numbers pulled from some source or other.  I know it can be a thing for Arabic geomancers to use the Dairah-e-Abdah enumeration of the figures and tell their querents to give them four random numbers from 1 to 16 and using the figures associated with those numbers for the Mothers, but that’s not really a thing in Western geomancy because we don’t really have an equivalent enumeration system for the figures.  Instead, when Western geomancers use automatic Mother generators at all, it’s often with dice-rolling apps or similar random number applications.

Personally, I don’t like using them.  I’m a tangible person, and I prefer tangible tools I can hold, wield, throw, and manipulate with my hands.  For me, I am as physical a person as I am a spiritual one; my body is a tool unto itself, and by using my body to interact with physical things, I can just as easily interact with their spiritual counterparts and ethereal symbol-referents.  Plus, the use of tools helps me get into the right headspace, that light trance state where I can focus purely on the query and act of divination, which I find is essential to getting good results in my readings.  That’s one of the reasons why I can’t exhort new students to use the stick-and-surface method of divination enough, because it helps inculcate the ability to enter that trance state and allows them to tap into it at a moment’s need using any sort of tool or trigger.

Is such a state necessary for all diviners?  I suppose not, though it certainly doesn’t hurt.  I know that I like doing it, and I’ve found that my focus is weakened, my interpretations more vague, my ability to tap into a situation less refined, and my understanding of the symbols in a reading gets a little slower without sufficient mental preparation which, for me, is aided by the manipulation of physical tools.  For that reason, I don’t use apps or other tools to generate figures for me, because it doesn’t do anything for me to help with entering that divinatory headspace.  Pressing a button and reading figures off a screen, or clicking something and then reducing a bunch of numbers off a web page into dots just…it lacks that connection that I find helpful.

When I generate figures, it’s me who’s the one doing that generation; these figures are “falling from my own hand”, so to speak.  I have that connection with the figures of the reading that allows me to tap into the reading and swim in its currents, dredging up whatever treasures and traps I can from it.  For a similar reason, when someone wants my help with a chart, I don’t just read the chart details they give me; I actually spend the time generating the entire chart from scratch with all the details I need, not only to make sure that the chart was calculated correctly, but also to help me integrate the chart into my own sphere.  Even if I’m not in a trance state for that act (after all, the divination was already done by someone else), the mere act of drawing out the Mothers and the entire rest of the chart helps bring those details to life.  It’s like reciting a litany of prayers; sure, you could just skip to the end or anywhere in the middle you feel is necessary, but the recitation of the entire process from start to end makes everything more potent once you get there.

Plus, as a software engineer, there’s something I’d like to clue you in on.  Most random number generators you use tend to actually be what are called pseudorandom number generators, algorithmic methods that approximate true randomness within acceptable boundaries but which aren’t truly random.  The reason why pseudorandom generators are used is that, for most purposes, they’re random enough to be useful, and are generally easier to develop and faster to produce output than true random generators.  For me, though, I’d rather a true random number generator, which can be harder to find or manipulate.  For that, I might recommend the excellent site RANDOM.ORG, which produces truly random results sequences for many purposes.

Now, that said, if you find that using an app to generate random (or pseudorandom) Mothers, or numbers for reducing into odd or even rows for the Mothers, works for you, then keep using it!  I would still recommend learning a set of tools for geomancy or whatever preferred divination system it is you use, because there may be times you don’t have access to a phone or a computer.  Geomancy benefits from this especially in that all you really need is a pen and paper or a stick and some dirt; even if I don’t like the method, it still works, and it can truly be taken anywhere without having to carry tools of various and sundry types that can set off security gates or the paranoid eyes of watchful passers-by.  Still, if using an app works for you, don’t fix what ain’t broken.  It’s not my preference to use it, but I can’t rightly knock it if it works.

Arranging the Planets as the Geomantic Figures

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Since we want to map the seven planets onto the points of the figures, let’s start with the easiest ones that give us a one-to-one ratio of planets to points: the odd seven-pointed figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Let us first establish that the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn are the most elementally-representative of the seven planets, and thus must be present in every figure; said another way, these four planets are the ones that most manifest the elements themselves, and should be reflected in their mandatory presence in the figures that represent the different manifestations of the cosmos in terms of the sixteen geomantic figures.  The Sun, the Moon, and Mercury are the three empyrean planets, and may or may not be present so as to mitigate the other elements accordingly.  A row with only one point must therefore have only one planet in that row, and should be the ouranic planet to fully realize that element’s presence and power; a row with two points will have the ouranic planet of that row’s element as well as one of the empyrean planets, where the empyrean planet mitigates the pure elemental expression of the ouranic planet through its more unmanifest, luminary presence.  While the ouranic planets will always appear in the row of its associated element, the empyrean planets will move and shift in a harmonious way wherever needed; thus, since the Sun (as the planetary expression of Sulfur) “descends” into both Mars/Fire and Jupiter/Air, the Sun can appear in either the Fire or Air rows when needed.  Similarly, Mercury can appear in either the Air or Water rows, and the Moon in either the Water or Earth rows (but more on the exceptions to this below).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Geomantic Figures, Zodiac Signs, and Lunar Mansions

Geomantic figures mean a lot of things; after all, we only have these 16 symbols to represent the entire rest of the universe, or, as a Taoist might call it, the “ten-thousand things”.  This is no easy task, and trying to figure out exactly how to read a particular geomantic figure in a reading is where real skill and intuition come into play.  It’s no easy thing to determine whether we should interpret Puer as just that, a young boy, or a weapon of some kind, or an angry person, or head trauma or headaches, or other things depending on where we find it in a chart, what’s around it, what figures generated it, and so forth.

Enter the use of correspondence tables.  Every Western magician loves these things, which simply link a set of things with another set of things.  Think of Liber 777 or Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables or Agrippa’s tables of Scales; those are classic examples of correspondence tables, but they don’t always have to be so expansive or universal.  One-off correspondences, like the figures to the planets or the figures to the elements, are pretty common and usually all we need.

One such correspondence that many geomancers find useful is that which links the geomantic figures to the signs of the Zodiac.  However, there are two such systems I know of, which confuses a lot of geomancers who are unsure of which to pick or when they work with another geomancer who uses another system.

  • The planetary method (or Agrippan method) assigns the zodiac signs to the figures based on the planet and mobility of the figure.  Thus, the lunar figures (Via and Populus) are given to the lunar sign (Cancer), and the solar figures (Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor) are given to the solar sign (Leo).  For the other planet/figures, the mobile figure is given to the nocturnal/feminine sign and the stable figure to the diurnal/masculine sign; thus, Puella (stable Venus) is given to Libra (diurnal Venus) and Amissio (mobile Venus) is given to Taurus (nocturnal Venus).  This system doesn’t work as well for Mars (both of whose figures are mobile) and Saturn (both of whose figures are stable), but we can say that Puer is more stable that Rubeus and Amissio more stable than Carcer.  Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis are analyzed more in terms of their elements and both considered astrologically (not geomantically) mobile, and given to the mutable signs of their proper elements.
  • The method of Gerard of Cremona is found in his work “On Astronomical Geomancy”, which is more of a way to draw up a horary astrological chart without respect for the actual heavens themselves in case one cannot observe them or get to an ephemeris at the moment.  He lists his own way to correspond the figures to the signs, but there’s no immediately apparent way to figure out the association.

Thus, the geomantic figures are associated with the signs of the Zodiac in the following ways according to their methods:

Planetary Gerard of Cremona
Populus Cancer Capricorn
Via Leo
Albus Gemini Cancer
Coniunctio Virgo Virgo
Puella Libra Libra
Amissio Taurus Scorpio
Fortuna Maior Leo Aquarius
Fortuna Minor Taurus
Puer Aries Gemini
Rubeus Scorpio
Acquisitio Sagittarius Aries
Laetitia Pisces Taurus
Tristitia Aquarius Scorpio
Carcer Capricorn Pisces
Caput Draconis Virgo Virgo
Cauda Draconis Virgo Sagittarius

As you can see, dear reader, there’s not much overlap between these two lists, so it can be assumed that any overlap is coincidental.

In my early days, I ran tests comparing the same set of charts but differing in how I assigned the zodiac signs to the figures, and found out that although the planetary method is neat and clean and logical, it was Gerard of Cremona’s method that worked better and had more power in it.  This was good to know, and I’ve been using Gerard of Cremona’s method ever since, but it was also kinda frustrating since I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason behind it.

The other day, I was puzzled by how Gerard of Cremona got his zodiacal correspondences for the geomantic figures, so I started plotting out how the Zodiac signs might relate to the figures.  I tried pretty much everything I could think of: looking at the planetary domicile, exaltation, and triplicity didn’t get me anywhere, and trying to compare the signs with their associated houses (Aries with house I, Taurus with house II, etc.) and using the planetary joys of each house didn’t work, either.  Comparing the individual figures with their geomantic element and mobility/stability with the element and quality of the sign (cardinal, fixed, mutable) didn’t get me anywhere.  I was stuck, and started thinking along different lines: either Gerard of Cremona was using another source of information, or he made it up himself.  If it were that latter, I’d be frustrated since I’d have to backtrack and either backwards-engineer it or leave it at experience and UPG that happens to work, and I don’t like doing that.

Gerard of Cremona wrote in the late medieval period, roughly around the 12th century, which is close to when geomancy was introduced into Europe through Spain.  Geomancy was, before Europe, an Arabian art, and I remembered that there is at least one method of associating the geomantic figures with an important part of Arabian magic and astrology: the lunar mansions, also called the Mansions of the Moon.  I recall this system from the Picatrix as well as Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book II, chapter 33), and also that it was more important in early European Renaissance magic than it was later on.  On a hunch, I decided to start investigating the geomantic correspondences to the lunar mansions.

Unfortunately, there’s pretty much nothing in my disposal on the lunar mansions in the geomantic literature I know of, but there was something I recall reading.  Some of you might be aware of a Arabic geomantic calculating machine, an image of which circulates around the geomantic blogosphere every so often.  Back in college, I found an analysis of this machine by Emilie Savage-Smith and Marion B. Smith in their 1980 publication “Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device”, and I recall that a section of the text dealt with that large dial in the middle of the machine.  Turns out, that dial links the geomantic figures with the lunar mansions!

However, I honestly couldn’t make heads-or-tails of that dial, and neither could Savage-Smith nor Smith; it dealt with “rising” and “setting” mansions that were out of season but arranged in a way that wasn’t temporal but geometrical according to the figures themselves.  Add to it, the set of lunar mansions associated with the figures here was incomplete and didn’t match what Gerard of Cremona had at all.  However, a footnote in their work gave me another lead, this time to an early European geomantic work associated with Hugo Sanctallensis, the manuscript of which is still extant.  A similar manuscript from around the same time period, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 7354, was reproduced in Paul Tannery’s chapter on geomancy “Le Rabolion” in his Mémoires Scientifiques (vol. 4).  In that text, Tannery gives the relevant section of the manuscript that, lo and behold, associates the 16 geomantic figures with 21 of the lunar mansions:

Lunar Mansion Geomantic figure
1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe  Carcer

(NB: I used the standard Latin names for the figures and Agrippa’s names for the lunar mansions, as opposed to the names given in the manuscript.  Corresponding the mansion names in the manuscript to those of Agrippa, and thus their associated geomantic figures, is tentative in some cases, but the order is the same.)

So now we have a system of 21 of the 28 lunar mansions populated by the geomantic figures.  It’d be nice to have a complete system, but I’m not sure one survives in the literature, and one isn’t given by Tannery.  All the same, however, we have our way to figure out Gerard of Cremona’s method of assigning the zodiac signs to the geomantic figures.  Each sign of the Zodiac is 30° of the ecliptic, but each mansion of the Moon is 12°51’26”, so there’s a bit of overlap between one zodiac sign and several lunar mansions.  As a rule, for every “season” of three zodiac figures (Aries to Gemini, Cancer to Virgo, Libra to Sagittarius, Capricorn to Pisces), we have seven lunar mansions divided evenly among them.  If we compare how each sign of the Zodiac and their corresponding geomantic figure(s) match up with the lunar mansions and their figures from Tannery, we get a pretty neat match:

Zodiac Signs and Figures Lunar Mansion and Figures
1 Aries Acqusitio 1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
2 Taurus Fortuna Minor
Laetitia
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
3 Gemini Puer
Rubeus
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
4 Cancer Albus 8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
5 Leo Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
6 Virgo Caput Draconis
Coniunctio
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
7 Libra Puella 15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
8 Scorpio Amissio
Tristitia
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
9 Sagittarius Cauda Draconis
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
10 Capricorn Populus 22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
11 Aquarius Fortuna Maior
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
12 Pisces Carcer
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe Carcer

If you compare the figures for the zodiac signs, in the majority of cases you see the same figures at least once in a lunar mansion that overlaps that particular sign.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, however:

  • Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor are reversed between Gerard of Cremona’s zodiacal system and Tannery’s mansion system, as are Puer and Puella.  I’m pretty sure this is a scribal error, but where exactly it might have occurred (with Gerard of Cremona or before him, in a corrupt copy of Gerard of Cremona, or in Tannery’s manuscript) is hard to tell.
  • Populus, being given to mansion XX present in Sagittarius, is assigned to Capricorn.  If we strictly follow the system above, we get two geomantic figures for Sagittarius and none for Capricorn.  To ensure a complete zodiacal assignment, we bump Populus down a few notches and assign it to Capricorn.

And there you have it!  Now we understand the basis for understanding Gerard of Cremona’s supposedly random system of corresponding the signs of the Zodiac to the geomantic figures, and it turns out that it was based on the lunar mansions and their correspondences to the geomantic figures.  This solves a long-standing problem for me, but it also raises a new one: since we (probably) don’t have an extant complete system of corresponding the lunar mansions to the geomantic figures, how do we fill in the blanks?  In this system, we’re missing geomantic figures for mansions VII, XI, XII, XVIII, XXII, XXIII, and XIV (or, if you prefer, Aldirah, Azobra, Acarfa, Alcalb, Caadaldeba, Caadebolach, Caadacohot, and Caadalhacbia).  All of the geomantic figures are already present, and we know that some figures can cover more than one mansion, so it might be possible that some of the figures should be expanded to cover more than the mansion they already have, e.g. Rubeus covering mansion VI (Athaya), which it already does, in addition to VII (Aldirah), which is currently unassigned.

This is probably a problem best left for another day, but perhaps some more research into the lunar mansions and some experimentation would be useful.  If an Arabic source listing the geomantic figures in a similar way to the lunar mansions could be found, that’d be excellent, but I’m not holding my breath for that kind of discovery anytime soon.

On the Geomantic Triads

Western geomancy, as a whole, can often be described as astrological.  This isn’t to say that geomancy comes from astrology or vice versa (although some authors might disagree, like Cornelius Agrippa), but that many of the techniques described by Western geomantic texts are heavily influenced by astrological techniques: the use of the 12 houses, perfection, planetary and zodiacal affinities, the Parts of Spirit and Fortune, and the like.  The use of astrologesque techniques in geomancy have sometimes led geomancy to be called “astrology’s little sister” (since it can easily look like a shortened or abbreviated form of astrology) or “poor man’s astrology” (since it didn’t take nearly as much education or expertise to learn geomancy).  For people who want to get away from astrology, it can sometimes be irksome that there appears to be so much of it in what should be the divination system that counters it (reading the stars versus divining the earth, if we want to take things literally).

That said, geomancy is still its own tradition and has its own strengths and techniques that are quite isolated from anything astrological.  This is fortunate for people who want to bring geomancy back to its roots in Western geomancy, or for people who want to get the astrology out of geomancy.  It’s unfortunate, however, in that virtually all Western geomantic texts, all the focus is on astrological techniques with maybe a bit of lip service paid to the techniques that we might find in the Shield Chart.  The Shield Chart, I might remind you, looks like this:

Geomantic Tableau Layout

I assume you, dear reader, already understand the gist of how to make a geomancy chart, so the above diagram shouldn’t be too surprising.  We have the four Mothers in the upper right, the four Daughters in the upper left, the Nieces formed from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters, the Witnesses formed from pairs of the Nieces, and the Judge formed from the Witnesses.  The Sentence, which isn’t pictured in the above image, would be formed from the Judge and First Mother.  This is how geomantic charts are formed in European geomancy as they are in Arabic geomancy and in many forms of Indian and African geomancy; the form really doesn’t change.  Once you get the four Mother figures, you already have the other 12 figures implicit within them; the Shield Chart is just the full expansion of those figures to make all sixteen figures explicit.

The problem, however, in using the Shield Chart is that most people just…don’t.  As I mentioned before, probably the most important part of a geomantic reading can be found only by use of the Shield Chart, which is the four figures of the Court: Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, and Sentence.  Of these, the Judge is the most important figure which is the answer.  I’m not kidding or being obtuse here; the Judge really does answer the query, but in a very high-level, broad, context-setting way.  The entire rest of the chart was developed for a reason, and that’s to give the details to fill in the gaps and clarify the blurriness that the Judge leaves behind.  However, many geomancers (I flinch to say “most” even though that’s probably the case) tend to skip the Court and the Judge and go right to the House Chart, which reorganizes the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces into the 12 houses of an astrological horoscope.  To be fair, this is an excellent way to do geomantic readings, but it’s far from the only way.  After all, there are more ways to read the Shield Chart than for the Court alone.

One such method of reading the Shield Chart is one I first learned from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  He calls this technique “reading the triplicities”, based on the name that Robert Fludd gave it, but I prefer the term “triads” to prevent confusion with astrological triplicities.  Essentially, we inspect four groups of three figures, each group of figures termed a triad:

  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

The astute student will recognize that the triads are nothing more than pairs of figures that add up to a third, much in the same way that the Witnesses add up to the Judge.  John Michael Greer describes how each triad may be read to get a solid overview of a particular situation described by a geomantic chart:

  1. First Triad: the querent’s current self, circumstances, and nature.
  2. Second Triad: the current situation inquired about.
  3. Third Triad: places and surroundings of the querent, including the people and activities involved there.
  4. Fourth Triad: people involved with the querent’s life, including their friends, colleagues, coworkers, and the interplay of the relationships among them.

The manner of reading a triad is done in much the same way the Court is read:

  • Interactive reading: Right parent + Left parent = Child.  How things interact based on the querent’s side of things (right) when faced with the quesited’s side of things (left), or how things known (right) interact with things unknown (left).
  • Temporal reading: Right parent → Child  → Left parent.  How things proceed from the past leading up to the present (right), the present situation (child), and the future leading on from the present situation (left).

However, the only other source I can find regarding the triads (or, to use the older term, triplicities) comes from Robert Fludd in his Fasciculus Geomanticus.  He describes what these things are in book III, chapter 4:

De Triplicitatibus ſeu de dijudicatione quæſtionis per Triplicitates, hoc eſt, per tres figuras ſimul ſine ſpecificatione alicujus figura.

Prima Triplicitas ſignificat petitorem, & totam locorum circumſtantiam, ſcilicet complexionem quantitatem, cogitationem, mores, ſubſtantiam, virtutes, quae Triplicitatis illius figura denotat, prout demonſtratur in exemplo ſequenti, ubi homo est magniloquus, multarum divitiarum & complexionis frigidæ ac ſiccæ.

Secunda Triplicitas ſignificat omne illud, quod prima, excepto eo ſolo, quod prima denotat principium rerum, & ſecunda fortunas earum.

Tertia Triplicitas ſignificat qualitatem loci, ubi homines frequentant, videlicet an ſit magnus vel parvus, pulcher vel deformis, & ſic in cæteris, ſecundum figuras, quæ ibi reperiuntur: Significat etiam damnum loci, item, qualis ſit homo, an bonus vel malus, audax vel timidus.

Quarta Triplicitas significat fortunam & staturis amicorum, & principaliores curiæ, ac homines officiarios.

In English, according to my rough translation:

On the Triplicities, or on the decision of the question by the Triplicities, which is by three figures at the same time without the particular mention of another figure.

The first Triplicity signifies the querent and all of the circumstances of [their] place, as one may know the complexion, magnitude, thoughts, mores, substance, virtues which of this Triplicity the figure denotes, just as is demonstrated in the following example, where a man is boastful, greatly rich, and of a cold and dry complexion.

The second Triplicity signifies all that the first does, with the sole exception that the first denotes the principle of the thing, and the second its fortune.

The third Triplicity signifies the quality of the place where people frequent, as one may see whether one be great or small, beautiful or deformed, and so forth, according to the figures that are found there. It also signifies damage of the place, likewise what sort of person it may be, whether good or evil, brave or timid.

The fourth Triplicity signifies the fortune and stature of friends, and principals of the court, and officers.

This is certainly a different take on the triads than what John Michael Greer has in his book, and I wonder where JMG got his information on the triads from, because Fludd seems to have a different way of interpreting them.  That said, you can kinda see how JMG got to his interpretation from Fludd’s.  Annoyingly, however, despite the nearly 650 pages of information in Fludd’s masterwork of geomancy, all I can find on the triads is simply this one page of information.  Like I said, the bulk of Western geomantic lore focuses on the use of the House Chart, and Fludd is no exception.

Still, at least the triads give us something to work with so that we have some way of interpreting the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces in the chart besides the Via Puncti (which is a very good way to interpret other aspects of the Shield Chart).  Between the condition of the querent (First Triad), condition of the quesited (Second Triad), the place of the query (Third Triad), and the people involved in the query (Fourth Triad), we have about as much information as we’d get from the House Chart but presented in a different way.  This will help us base further techniques of interpreting the Shield Chart later, as I have a few ideas I want to flesh out in the meantime in how we might expand on the Shield Chart itself apart from the House Chart.

Also, there’s something I want to warn you, dear reader.  Now that we know what the “houses” of the Shield Chart are associated with (such as the First Mother with the condition of the querent), it might be thought that we can draw associations between the Shield Chart houses with the House Chart houses, such that Shield Chart houses 7, 8, and 12 (Fourth Triad) relate to the seventh, eighth, and twelfth houses of the House Chart.  While this might be a useful meditation exercise, be aware that there are multiple ways of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I tend to stick with the straightforward traditional way (First Mother to first house, Second Mother to second house, etc.), but there are at least two other ways I’ve seen it done: the “esoteric” way (assign the Mothers to the cardinal houses clockwise starting in house I, Daughters to succedent houses starting in house II, and Nieces to cadent houses starting in house III) and the Golden Dawn way (same as esoteric but starting in house X/XI/XII).  So, maybe this line of inquiry and meditation might not be the most useful thing to rely upon, especially since the whole point of this is to keep the astrological geomancy techniques separate from the geomantic geomancy techniques.