The Physical and Subtle Human Body According to Geomancy

Every year, towards the end of summer leading through the middle of autumn, is my Hell Season.  Not that it’s a particularly chthonic or calamitous time of year or anything, but it’s just super busy.  Between my and my husband’s birthdays and our wedding anniversary, thirteen saint feast days, eight religious anniversaries, and a few other events and tasks every year take place during this time, and it always gets almost overwhelming at times.  We got a big start on that this year by taking a road trip to Maine this past weekend…all of fourteen hours up and fourteen hours down, with my husband and my sister and I in my tiny two-door coupe.  Plus, there’s a few more things happening later this week that will keep me out of contact for a few more days, so this year’s Hell Season is really getting to a strong start.  (If I’m slow with getting to your messages or requests, I gratefully appreciate your patience!)

Over this past weekend, I was apparently summoned in a Facebook thread; someone was contemplating the elemental arrangement of the geomantic figures, such that the topmost line is given to Fire, the next one down to Air, the next one after that to Water, and the bottommost line to Earth.  Given such an arrangement, they were interested in seeing how the elements given in such an order could overlap with the elements given to particular energy centers in the body (the resource they were using was some neopagan/Wiccan-derivative text that involves another rehash of the seven Vedic-system chakras with a novel Western elemental approach).  There are obvious issues in straightforwardly trying to map the elemental rows of the geomantic figures to a system of chakrasa, not least because they’re different systems with different bases of logic, but also because Western occult systems haven’t historically had a notion of “chakras” or bodily energy systems before the advent of Theosophy and the influx of “Oriental” traditions.  This isn’t to say that there are no energy practices in Western occulture historically, but nothing like what we’d commonly think of as having discrete energy centers or “chakras” in the body connected by meridians.

Still, it was an interesting idea; conceiving of a subtle energy body that uses the structure of the geomantic figures as a basis could be useful.  After all, I find the notion of energy centers in the body to be a useful one in many contexts, so why not conceive of the human body itself as structured geomantically?  From the reply I made on that Facebook thread:

…the system of how the elements are arranged as rows within a geomantic figure is based on their elemental density as well as their natural motion: Fire is the most subtle and burns outwards and upwards, Air is slightly more dense than Fire and moves sideways, Water is even more dense than Air and moves downward, and Earth is densest of all and compresses and condenses unto itself into a stable, unmoving form. This order (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) is different than that used in the Zodiac (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) due to a different logic, however, due to a different logic of how these two systems are built (I don’t have my notes on the latter zodiacal order at the moment and forget that system’s particular logic here).

Historically, the lines of the geomantic figures were already given to parts of the body:

Fire line: head
Air line: throat or arms
Water line: belly
Earth line: feet or legs

In this sense, we can see a sort of match between the metaphorical “geomantic” body parts and the elements of the rows they correspond to: the head with Fire due to the intelligent Divine Spark given to us as well as with sight and perceiving light or Light, the throat or arms with Air as means of communication and breathing, the belly with Water due to it being the seat of health and the humours of the body, and the legs or feet with Earth because they are what support us on the Earth. Such a system doesn’t match with one based on chakras, however, because there wasn’t historically a “chakra system” of the West, though there are other types and notions of energetic or subtle bodies (though not necessarily in those terms). Using Agrippa’s Scale of Four, for instance, we can consider a multipart “human” composed of Mind, Spirit, Soul, and Body, which are given to the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, respectively, each with the faculties of Knowing, Thinking, Emotion, and Physicality, but these are more like interconnecting “layers” (think of the Egyptian notion of the multipart soul, with the physical body, spiritual body, identity, personality, shadow, heart, double, intelligence, power, and so forth).

Perhaps, if you were to shoehorn a variant of chakra systems onto the geomantic “body”, you could reinterpret it so that the third eye or crown chakra was given to Fire (giving it Will or Divinity) and the throat to Air. Such a “geomantic energy center” system could work, and might be useful to experiment with: the Fire center in the head, the Air center in the hollow of the throat, the Water center in the belly, and the Earth center either in the feet or at the perineum (where the legs meet the rest of the body). Could be interesting to experiment with!

The idea of using a geomantic template of thinking about energy centers in the body does seem interesting to me, but before we go onto that, how are the geomantic figures associated with the body in the extant literature we have available to us?  Given that the planets and signs of the Zodiac are associated with different parts of the body as well as the different organs and systems of the body, it also makes sense that the geomantic figures themselves would also be associated with them, too.  So, let’s start simple, shall we?  John Case in book III, chapter 9 of his 1697 work The Angelical Guide gives the following list of figures associated with parts of the body:

Figure Body Part
Puer Head or face
Coniunctio Belly
Puella Spine and lower back
Rubeus Arms
Carcer Feet
Via Breast or stomach
Albus Belly
Fortuna Maior Legs
Populus Knees
Cauda Draconis Thighs
Caput Draconis Belly
Acquisitio Head
Laetitia Throat
Amissio Navel
Tristitia Genitals and groin
Fortuna Minor Face and cheeks

However, it’s important to note that these associations may be limited in scope.  Case brings this list up in a discussion of queries related to house I, which is also the house that should be inspected to make sure the chart is authenticated: not necessarily valid, but useful and accurate as well as valid.  Specifically, Case says that “the Figure [chart] is verified also by certain moles, marks, or scars”, with the figure in house I indicating the part of the body where the mark may be found.  It’s important to note that the parts of the body are associated with the figures by means of their zodiacal correspondences, though it’s not made explicit in the list above; thus, because Case gives Populus to Capricorn (using the traditional associations of the figures to the Zodiac that I also use), and because Populus rules over the knees (and also bones, skin, etc.), Populus gets all the body associations that Capricorn has.

So much for Case’s simple scheme.  Then there’s the extraordinarily complex method of John Heydon in the Theomagia, where he gives a table of how the figures relate to the parts of the body based on what sign they fall in (book I, chapter 26).  (I understand the table is probably gonna be too wide for the usual width on my website, but just bear with me and accept that Heydon did not like to be concise.)

Sign Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon
Aries Breast
Arms
Shoulders
Heart
Stomach
Head
Belly
Head
Thighs
Feet
Lower back
Legs
Genitals
Head
Knees
Taurus Heart
Breast
Shoulders
Arms
Upper spine
Belly
Neck
Throat
Lower back
Knees Head
Genitals
Thighs
Feet
Throat
Legs
Gemini Stomach
Heart
Navel
Breast
Lights
Lower back
Loins
Arms
Shoulders
Genitals
Legs
Ankles
Neck
Throat
Thighs
Head
Knees
Arms
Shoulders
Feet
Cancer Lower back
Belly
Genitals
Stomach
Heart
Genitals
Bladder
Breast
Lights
Thighs
Feet Arms
Shoulders
Knees
Neck
Throat
Legs
Head
Breast
Stomach
Lights
Leo Genitals
Lower back
Belly
Hips
Thighs
Heart
Back
Knees
Head
Eyes
Breast
Heart
Legs
Arms
Shoulders
Feet
Neck
Throat
Heart
Back
Virgo Thighs
Genitals
Feet
Lower back
Loins
Knees
Belly
Legs
Neck
Throat
Stomach
Liver
Heart
Feet
Head
Breast
Lights
Shoulders
Arms
Belly
Libra Thighs
Knees
Legs
Genitals
Lower back
Genitals
Feet
Shoulders
Arms
Head
Belly
Hips
Neck
Throat
Heart
Stomach
Breast
Lights
Lower back
Loins
Scorpio Knees
Legs
Thighs
Feet
Head
Eyes
Genitals
Bladder
Breast
Stomach
Heart
Neck
Throat
Lower back
Loins
Shoulders
Arms
Belly
Stomach
Heart
Liver
Genitals
Sagittarius Legs
Feet
Head
Eyes
Knees
Neck
Throat
Thighs
Heart
Belly
Back
Shoulders
Arms
Genitals
Breast
Lower back
Loins
Lights
Bowels
Thighs
Capricorn Head
Feet
Neck
Throat
Legs
Arms
Shoulders
Knees
Belly
Hips
Breast
Lights
Thighs
Stomach
Liver
Heart
Genitals
Reins
Loins
Knees
Aquarius Head
Neck
Arms
Shoulders
Feet
Breast
Lights
Heart
Legs
Lower back
Loins
Thighs
Stomach
Liver
Heart
Back
Knees
Belly
Thighs
Genitals
Legs
Hips
Pisces Neck
Arms
Shoulders
Head
Eyes
Breast
Heart
Heart
Stomach
Liver
Feet
Genitals Hips
Belly
Legs
Lower back
Loins
Knees
Thighs
Feet

It’s important to note that, in this case, Heydon uses the usual planetary association of the figures, but only gives Cauda Draconis to Saturn and Caput Draconis to Jupiter.  Later on, in book III, chapter 7, Heydon talks about moles, marks, and scars as well:

Having projected your Figure, consider the Figure in the first House and the Idea and Ruler that governs it, and what part of member in mans body they govern: for the Querent hath a Mole, Mark or Scar in that part of his body.  Example: if Puer be in the first House, it is a cut in the head or face, or burn, or red Mole: If Coniunctio, it is on the belly, viz. a Mole, Mark or Scar: if Puella be in the first, it is on the Reins, viz. a Mark, &c. If Rubeus, the Secrets.

Consider if the first Figure go into any other House out of the first, the Querent hath a Mole in that part also: Consider Populus, and wheresoever she is, that House and Figure tells you in what part the Querent hath another.

What Figure is in the sixth House, notes usually a Mark, Mole, or Scar in the Member it signifieth, as you may read in the 26 Chapter of the first book: if Carcer or Tristitia signifie the Mar, &c. it is generally an excrescence of a dark obscure or black colour.

If Acquisitio or Lætitia, it is usually a purple or blewish Mole: If Puer or Rubeus, it is commonly some Scar, Slash or Cut, chiefly in a House governed by a fiery Idea [i.e. ruled over by a fire sign]; and sometimes a reddish Mole or spots of Gunpowder: If Fortuna Major, or Fortuna Minor, generally of an olive or chestnut colour: if Amissio or Puella, of a hony-color.

If Albus or Conjunctio, whitish or lead-color: if Populus or Via, white, and of the color the Figures signifie that behold them: Caput Draconis, white; Cauda Draconis, black or read: If the figure be Masculine that represents the Mole, Mark, &c. it is on the right side of the Body; if Feminine, judge the contrary.

If the Significator of the Mole, &c. be in the first, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth of any question; it is then visible to the eye, and other forepart of the Body: but the other Houses signifie the Mole is to to be seen, but it is on the back-part of the Body.

If ill Figures be in the first, the Querent is usually blemished: for the Face is signified by the first, let what figure soever be in it.

Note that, in general, the table Heydon gives above is related mostly to specific inquiries about house VI, while the figures themselves as described here typically are simply given the usual zodiacal correspondence to the body.  Heydon, I should note, uses the planetary-zodiacal associations common to later geomancers and which is in use by the Golden Dawn and John Michael Greer and not the older system that I and other geomancers historically used.  Heydon’s information above, however, is useful in determining not just the specific location of marks on the body, but also their type and coloration, too, which is information not otherwise commonly seen in the geomantic literature available to us.

So much for the scant Western resources we have on associating the geomantic figures with the parts of the body: the rule appears to be to link the figures to the parts of the body by means of their shared zodiacal correspondences. I can’t recall there being other sets of explicit associations of the figures with the body in Fludd, Pietro d’Abano, or other European authors, though I don’t doubt they exist; however, I do doubt that they’d do much more than retranslate existing sets of correspondences that exist for parts of the body using their shared zodiacal or planetary associations.

However, that’s not the only such correspondence available; there are others that directly link the figures to the body without a zodiacal or other correspondence go-between.  One Arabic treatise on geomancy, MS Arabe 2631 from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, gives the following diagram on folio 64v detailing a correspondence between the sixteen geomantic figures and the different parts of the body:

 

In this system, the parts of the body are given to the following figures:

Figure Body Part
Laetitia Head
Rubeus Throat and neck
Puella Left shoulder
Puer Right shoulder
Carcer Chest and breast
Amissio Left hand and arm
Acquisitio Right hand and arm
Albus Upper belly, stomach, solar plexus
Coniunctio Left torso and ribcage  Ribcage
Populus Right torso and ribcage (?)  Back
Via Navel, lower belly, and intestines
Tristitia Crotch and genitals
Fortuna Maior Left hip, thigh, and upper leg
Fortuna Minor Right hip, thigh and upper leg
Cauda Draconis Left foot and lower leg
Caput Draconis Right foot and lower leg

Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice gives a translation of these, but some of them are incorrect; he says that “the figure…faces outwards from the page, so left and right have been designated from the point of view of the figure rather than the manuscript page”, so he gives e.g. Puer to the left shoulder, although Puer in the diagram is clearly designated as “al-kutuf al-ayman”, or right shoulder.  I retranslated from the diagram in the manuscript as best I could.  The only figure in the list that was truly mysterious was Via, which was not given a label; Albus is designated as “belly”, so I interpreted that as the upper belly and stomach, and Via as the lower belly and intestines, though it could also refer to the back and spine (which, physically speaking, would resemble the shape of Via).  Similarly, I couldn’t make out what word is given to Populus, but given the symmetry here, I’m assuming it’s referring to the right side of the torso in general, though there is a chance that it refers to the inner viscera of the upper torso and Coniunctio refers to the outer flesh and the ribcage on both sides of the torso in general.  However, I can’t be certain as yet; those who can read this kind of older, book-script Arabic are welcome to comment.

EDIT: Thanks to a few people from the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, I’ve amended some of the translations further.  Populus is given to the back and Coniunctio to the ribs.  Via, though unlabeled, can be interpreted as the navel, which still ties into the lower belly and intestines.  There still is some ambiguity in the diagram, but this is still far better off than we were before.  My thanks go out to Masood and B.A.!

Personally, I like the layout of the “Geomantic Adam” design above and how the figures are clearly arranged on the body, though I also like the use of planetary and zodiacal associations.  I suppose a blended approach could work: use the geomantic arrangement for general body areas, and the organs and physical systems associated with the planets and elements to fill in the gaps.  So, for instance, since Laetitia rules the head in the Arabic design, one could say that Laetitia would also rule over the brain; however, since Mercury rules over the nervous system as a whole, this could be given to Albus or Coniunctio, and given Albus’ location closer to the solar plexus, I’d wager that Albus could rule both the belly as a general physical area as well as the nervous system.  Further clarification on expanding the Arabic system would be good, I’d think, in one sense or another.

Anyway, back to the diagram.  Even with the parts of the body that are clearly labeled, we can see something fascinating: the figures with only one element active are associated clearly with the parts of the body that we’d call those corresponding elemental rows: Laetitia, with only the Fire/Head line active, is given to the head; Rubeus, with only the Air/Throat line active, is given to the throat; Albus, with only the Water/Belly line active, is given to the belly; and Tristitia, with only the Earth/Feet line active, is given to the privates and groin, which is the lowest part of the torso to which the feet and legs are connected.  Though the manuscript dates only to the 18th century, it’s likely that it has much earlier origins or carries on an older Arabic tradition of geomancy from whence the body-names of the rows of the figures comes.  This, along with a clear use of geomantic relationships between parts of the body that match each other (right hand and left hand, right shoulder and left shoulder, etc.) is greatly indicative that the body-correspondences given in MS Arabe 2631 are strictly geomantic in nature rather than using planetary or zodiacal go-betweens.

This reinforces the idea behind the notion of naming the four rows of a geomantic figure after their corresponding body parts (head, throat, belly, feet) and can be a key to coming up with a geomantic system of energy centers in the body:

  • The Fire Center would be found in the head, likely just under the crown of the skull directly above the top of the spinal column.
  • The Air Center would be found in the throat, in the middle of the neck though perhaps slightly closer to the spine than the front.
  • The Water Center would be found in the belly, closer to the stomach just under the ribcage near the solar plexus.
  • The Earth Center would be found in the groin, near the perineum at the base of the spine.

To offer a conjectural way to work with these energy centers, I’d feel that an intonation of some sort would be appropriate.  My usual power words for the four elements are based in Greek stoicheia, where each of the Greek letters has an occult signification, so I’d normally use ΧΙΑΩΧ for Fire (Khi is the Greek letter associated with this element combined with the divine name ΙΑΩ), ΦΙΑΩΦ for Air, ΞΙΑΩΞ for Water, and ΘΙΑΩΘ for Earth.  However, we can do better than that, especially given even what little we know about Arabic geomantic practices and how they tie into the elements.  One interesting technique comes to mind that crops up in some early European sources with a clearly Arabic origin: the use of the word BZDA.  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).  To vocalize them, since the Arabic alphabet doesn’t have vowels, I’d probably borrow Greek vowels which I know have similar-enough elemental qualities to what I’m looking for.  Thus:

  • Fire: bi
  • Air: zu
  • Water: de
  • Earth: ḥa

Those who might want to use a more Greek or Western approach could use the Greek letters and the natural vowels associated with them, which is simple given that they all have the same vowel Ēta:

  • Fire: 
  • Air: 
  • Water: 
  • Earth: 

Instead of using these, one might also use the Arabic terms for the elements instead for intonation purposes.  These are just the standard terms for the four elements, but Skinner gives them according to Aḥmad b. `Alī Zunbul as:

  • Fire: nar (pronounced “nahr”)
  • Air: hawa’ (pronounced “HAH-wa” with a sharp stop in the throat)
  • Water: ma’ (pronounced “ma” with a sharp stop in the throat)
  • Earth: turab (pronounced “tuh-RAHB”)

Of course, this is all highly hypothetical and experimental stuff we’re getting into, but then, that’s never stopped me before.  I would venture to say that this sort of geomantic energy center work could easily and happily be paired with my system of geomantic gestures or “mudras”, such that when working with the Fire Center in the head, one would make the gesture for Laetitia while intoning bi or  or nar.  With enough experimentation, I suppose a full (or at least fuller) system of energy work with a geomantic subtle body could be developed for other magical work, or used instead of Vedic- or Chinese-based systems that are commonly found in later Hermetic or Western magical systems.  This is definitely something I want to (slowly) explore, but if you’re interested and willing to give it a shot, why not try experimenting with this system as a base for your own work?  If you do, I’d love to hear what you’d think of such a practice!

On Elemental Assignments of the Geomantic Figures

It’s a constant joy for me to see the discussions on the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, and it’s not just because I enjoy wielding power as an admin over scores of people.  Seeing people contribute geomantic charts and offer community feedback on them, as well as being able to read different perspectives on symbols and techniques used in geomancy, helps me out as much as it does anyone else; while I may be good at geomancy, and no matter how long I practice it or delve into its mysteries, I still consider myself a student in the art, because there’s always more to learn and appreciate.  After all, with only 16 figures to represent the multiple myriads of people, things, circumstances, and events in the cosmos, there’s a lot to unpack in the art.

Occasionally, someone will ask a question about geomancy that will get me to my proper computer to type a proper response, which would be burdensome on my phone.  Recently, someone asked just such a question, and this time about one of the bits of geomantic systems I really enjoy discussing: that of the elemental rulerships of the figures.  The forum member was in a state of confusion about how the elements were assigned to the figures, what the difference was between inner and outer elemental rulerships, and whether these rulerships had any system at all behind them or whether they were just spurious and irrelevant.  You can bet your last coin I gave a response to this, especially to that last part of the question.

First, let’s talk about the inner versus outer element.  This is a distinction I’ve only ever seen in John Michael Greer’s out-of-print book Earth Divination, Earth Magic (1999) and his later and more up-dated The Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009).  In short, the outer element of a figure is the element of the sign of the Zodiac he associates with a geomantic figure, while the inner element is more closely tied to the nature and elemental structure of the figure itself.  From “The Art and Practice of Geomancy” (pp. 33 and 34, emphasis his):

One of the four elements is considered to be the inner element of the figure.  In every case but one—Populus, which has no manifest elements at all—the inner element is a manifest element, marked by a single dot.  The inner element is also called the ruling element, and it stands for the elemental pattern that the figure expresses most intently.  Pay attention to the ruling elements in divination and you’ll have a useful key to the way the events that are predicted or analyzed in a divination unfold in daily life. …

Each figure also has an outer element, which relates to the flow of elemental energies through the sixteen figures in their traditional sequence…  In a few cases this element is the same as the inner element, but usually it’s different.  The outer element shows how the figure expresses itself in the world around it, while the inner element shows what kind of power is in the figure itself.  Fortuna Major, for example, has Fire as its outer element, which represents its power to reshape the world in a favorable way.  The figure’s inner element, however, is Earth, which means its power comes not from rushing around, but from establishing itself solidly and letting everything else move around it.

And again from “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (pp. 26—27):

Each of the figures contains all of the elements, as we’ve seen, but in geomantic tradition one or another element also has a dominant role in each figure.  There are at least as many ways of assigning the elements to the figures in this way as there are for linking the figures with the Zodiacal signs.  Two of them seem to work well in divination.  The first of these simply uses the elements that correspond to the Zodiacal signs just given.  This set, which I have called the “outer elements” of the figures, has much to do with the way the geomantic figures express their energies in practical terms. …

The second set of elemental correspondences comes from the geomancer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, who provided several different systems but labeled this one an “esoteric arrangement.”  I have found that it does a good job of summarizing the dynamics of the elemental structure of each figure, and it can be thought of as the ruling element within each figure.  I have made one change in the system as Agrippa gives it; he assigned Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire, but I have reversed these in order to bring the inner element and the elemental structure into harmony.

Just to be clear about what JMG is referencing from Agrippa, the following is taken from Of Geomancy, found in Cornelius Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:

Now we proceed to declare with what Planets these Figures are distributed; for hereupon all the propriety and nature of Figures and the judgement of the whole Art dependeth: Therefore the greater and lesser Fortune are ascribed to the Sun; but the first or greater Fortune is when the Sun is diurnall, and posited in his dignities; the other, or lesser Fortune is when the Sun is nocturnall, or placed in lesse dignities: Via, and Populus that is, the Way, and People are referred to the Moone; the first from her beginning and encreasing, the second from her full light and quarter decreasing; Acquisitio, and Laetitia which is Gaine, Profit; Joy and Gladness are of Jupiter: But the first hath Jupiter the greater Fortune, the second the lesse, but without detriment: Puella, and Amissio are of Venus; the first fortunate, the other as it were retrograde, or combust: Conjunctio and Albus are both Figures of Mercury, and are both good; but the first the more Fortunate: Puer and Rubeus are Figures ascribed to Mars; the first whereof hath Mars benevolent, the second malevolent: Carcer, and Tristitia are both Figures of Saturn, and both evill; but the first of the greater detriment: the Dragons head, and Dragons tayle doe follow their owne natures.

And these are the infallible comparisons of the Figures, and from these wee may easily discerne the equality of their signes; therefore the greater and lesser Fortunes have the signes of Leo, which is the House of the Sun: Via and Populus have the signe of Cancer, which is the House of the Moone: Acquisitio hath for his signe Pisces; and Laetitia Sagitary, which are both the Houses of Jupiter: Puella hath the signe of Taurus, and Amissio of Libra, which are the Houses of Venus: Conjunctio hath for its signe Virgo, and Albus the signe Gemini, the Houses of Mercury: Puella and Rubeus have for their signe Scorpio, the House of Mars: Carcer hath the signe Capricorne, and Tristitia Aquary, the Houses of Saturne : The Dragons head and taile are thus divided, the head to Capricorne, and the Dragons taile adhereth to Scorpio; and from hence you may easily obtaine the triplicities of these signs after the manner of the triplicities of the signes of the Zodiak: Puer therefore, both Fortunes, and Laetitia do govern the fiery triplicity; Puella, ConjunctioCarcer, and the Dragons head the earthly triplicity: Albus, Amitia, and Tristitia, doe make the Airy triplicity: and Via, Populus, and Rubeus, with the Dragons taile, and Acquisitio do rule the watry triplicity, and this order is taken according to the course of manner of the signes.

But if any one will constitute these triplicities according to the nature of the Planets, and Figures themselves, let him observe this Rule, that Fortuna major, Rubeus, Puer, and Amissio doe make the fiery triplicity: Fortune minor, Puella, Laetitia and Conjunctio triplicity of the Ayre: Acquisitio, the Dragons taile, Via, and Populus doe governe the watry triplicity; and the earthly triplicity is ruled by Carcer, Tristitia, Albus, and the Dragons head. And this way is rather to be observed then the first which we have set forth; because it is constituted according to the Rule and manner of the signes.

This order is also far more true and rationall then that which vulgarly is used, which is described after this manner: of the Fiery triplicity are, Cauda, Fortuna minor, Amissio, and Rubeus: of the Airy triplicity are, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Puer, and Conjunctio: of the watry triplicity are, Populus, Via, Albus, and Puella: And Caput, Fortuna major, Carcer, and Tristitia are of the earthly triplicity.

They doe likewise distribute these Figures to the twelve signes of the Zodiak, after this manner, Acquisitio is given to Aries; Fortuna, both major and minor to Taurus; Laetitia to the signe Gemini; Puella and Rubeus to Cancer; Albus is assigned to Leo, Via to Virgo; the Dragons head, and Conjunctio to Libra; Puer is submitted to Scorpio; Tristitia and Amissio are assigned to Sagitary; the Dragons taile to Capricorne; Populus to Aquarius; and Carcer is assigned the signe Pisces.

As it turns out, Agrippa gives three separate ways to associate the elements with the geomantic figures:

  • The first is given at the end of the second paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures based on the sign of the Zodiac he gives them.  This largely matches with JMG’s outer element, but note that Agrippa doesn’t give the figures to the signs in a modern planetary method, e.g. giving Cauda Draconis to Scorpio instead of Sagittarius, or Laetitia to Sagittarius instead of Pisces.
  • The second is given in the third paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures “according to the nature of the Planets and Figures themselves”, and is not present in JMG’s books.  While Agrippa does not explain the elemental nature of the planets in this text, it doesn’t match with the elemental associations he gives in either book I, chapters 23—29 or book II, chapter 7 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • The third is given in the fourth paragraph, where Agrippa gives a “vulgar” system which matches up with JMG’s inner element, noting the swap between Rubeus and Laetitia to Air and Fire, respectively, as JMG noted.

The simultaneous use of two systems of elemental attribution for the figures is an innovation by JMG, and is found nowhere else in the geomantic literature; in almost all cases, a given book on geomancy describes only one system of elemental attribution, and it’s usually the “vulgar” one that Agrippa gives; only after Agrippa’s time do we start to see the rise of the sign-based system.  Interestingly, it’s this same “vulgar” system that Agrippa gives in book II, chapter 48 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, with no mention of either the sign-based attribution of the elements or the planet-based attribution of the signs, indicating he either had a change of heart or that Of Geomancy (and the Fourth Book generally) was a spurious text that was only published under his name.

To show which systems were used where in the European geomantic literature, I went through some of my books and texts and came up with the following table showing which author used what elemental rulership system for the figures:

Figure Agrippa
Sign-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Planet-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Vulgar
(1655)
John
Heydon
(1663)
John
Case
(1697)
Robert
Fludd
(1687)
Christopher
Cattan
(1591)
Populus Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Via Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Albus Air Earth Water Air Air Water Water
Coniunctio Earth Air Air Earth Earth Air Air
Puella Earth Air Water Air Air Water Water
Amissio Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth Fire Fire
Fortuna Maior Fire Fire Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth
Fortuna Minor Fire Air Fire Air Air Fire Fire
Puer Fire Fire Air Fire Fire Air Air
Rubeus Water Fire Fire Water Water Fire Fire
Acquisitio Water Water Air Fire Fire Air Air
Laetitia Fire Air Air Water Water Air Air
Tristitia Air Earth Earth Air Air Earth Earth
Carcer Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Caput Draconis Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Cauda Draconis Water Water Fire Fire Fire Earth Fire

In general, including other texts like Pietro d’Abano’s Geomantia (1544) and the anonymous 15th century ce Lectura Geomantiae, geomantic authors typically use Agrippa’s “vulgar” system.  John Case in his “The Angelical Guide Shewing Men and Women Their Lott or Chance in this Elementary Life” uses Agrippa’s sign-based elemental system, though without using Agrippa’s planet-based sign system (instead, Case uses a modified form of the zodiacal attribution system of Gerard of Cremona).  John Heydon in his Theomagia uses Agrippa’s sign-based system (book I, chapters 19 through 21) with some modifications that bring it in line with what’s commonly used in modern times (book I, chapter 5), and upon which the geomantic texts of the Golden Dawn are based.  Interestingly, late though it is, Franz Hartmann’s The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (1889) preserves the older “vulgar” system.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much in the way of older sources; what little I have of Hugo of Santalla’s 12th century ce work on geomancy doesn’t mention the elements; Thérèse Charmasson’s “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval” (1982) mentions an Arabic method of assigning the figures to the elements, which matches up with the “vulgar” system for the most part with some changes, though I don’t know the provenance of her source for this specific system (with the six figures that don’t match in italics):

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

So much for where JMG’s outer vs. inner system came from.  As already mentioned before on this blog, I use the same inner elemental system JMG uses, including the Laetitia/Rubeus elemental swap, as I find that it’s an elegant system that reflects the underlying overall element that represents a geomantic figure; with the exception of Populus, the ruling element of a figure will be active/manifest/present in that figure.   Not only do I find that such a system accurately represents the nature and expression of that figure, the same system also allows for a secondary sub-ruler to be assigned, so that each figure has a primary ruler and a secondary ruler, such that e.g. Amissio is primarily Fire and secondarily Water.  This is an innovation of my own that I have found nowhere else in the geomantic literature, and I find that it helps to give some more insight into the symbolism and nature of the figures.

The only thing I can’t rightly answer regarding the inner element system is the historical attribution of Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire.  I agree with JMG that these two should be switched so as to bring the elements active in these figures in accord with their overall ruling element, and I can’t rightly say why they Laetitia was given to Air and Rubeus to Fire in so many older texts.  It’s a possibility that, perhaps, JMG and I are in the right and this is how the system was originally, but a typo early on got propagated from one text to the next, though that notion seems far-fetched even to me, even if similar typos and mixed-up attributions have happened and been propagated as widely and as long as that (e.g. a common such swap is that of the names of Puer and Puella in texts while keeping the rest of their significations the same, even in Fludd).  If the inner element system was not originally based on the elemental structures of the figures themselves, then I’m at a loss to describe what they would be based on unless it was a Septuagint-like miracle that the interpretations of the figures were so closely aligned to the elemental structures of the figures for so many past geomancers for so long.  In any case, the elemental structure-based system of ruling elements that I use and that JMG uses for his inner elements works well, and has a definite logic and reason for it.

That said, however, I do not use two simultaneous systems of overall ruling elements as JMG uses his inner and outer element systems.  In general, I have three issues with the use of an “outer element” system like how JMG describes it.  The simplest is that I find that it confuses the rulership system of the figures to have two co-ruling elements of a figure.  Unlike having a primary and secondary ruler, JMG has two rulers that are to be used in different contexts, but his distinction between those contexts doesn’t make sense to me.  The notion of a figure expressing itself externally differently from how it expresses itself doesn’t sit well with me, because a figure is single and simple; it doesn’t have an indoor voice and outdoor voice, or comfy at-home pants versus a dressed-up suit for the office; to me, a figure is a figure, and it expresses how it is in the way it is by the virtue of what it is.  Coniunctio’s nature, for instance, is about connection and conjunction and meeting and discussion, all of which are inherently airy things; it doesn’t do so with a mind to bring about earthy results, nor does it become an earthy figure when put next to anything else.  To have two “modes” for interpreting the figures here leads to confusion more than it does clarity, and I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble.

The second issue I have is that JMG’s outer element (or Agrippa’s sign/planet-based assignment) system is reliant on a “man in the middle” between the geomantic figures and the elements we’re trying to associate them with.  Rather than associate the figures directly with the elements, we first assign them to the signs of the Zodiac, and then link the signs of the Zodiac to the elements.  The outer element system has us taking two steps to get to our destination (figure → sign → element) rather than just one step (figure → element), and given the choice between a direct versus indirect assignment method, I’ll always take the direct one.  It’s a slippery slope to take indirect associations, especially when you increase the number of steps, because then you end up Liber 777ing everything to link everything to everything else, which becomes a muddled mess.  Here it’s not so bad, but even still, if you have a direct association available, I’d consider that to be inherently more worthy of consideration than any indirect one.

The third issue I have is the most practical: there are multiple ways of assigning the geomantic figures to the zodiac signs, and therefore there would be multiple ways to assign an outer element to the figures.  While the Agrippa- or Heydon-style method of assigning the figures to the zodiac signs is common in modern practice, even into the modern age, the older system of Gerard of Cremona (which is ultimately based on an early assignment of the figures to the 28 mansions of the Moon) is still seen, and I find that this latter system is much more effective in divination and analysis of the figures than the Agrippa/Heydon method (which itself is based on the assignments of the planets to the figures).  The elements of the signs from the Cremona system do not match with the Agrippa/Heydon system, even if it is a valid “outer element” system according to the reasoning JMG gives; were I to talk about outer elements with someone else who used the Agrippa/Heydon zodiacal system without saying what system I used, this would lead to confusion and bickering that “Albus is a watery figure!” “You’re wrong, it’s an airy one!” “Nuh-uh!” ad nauseam.  By using the inner element system, we sidestep such issues in discussion entirely, as well as reducing the number of systems we’d need to pay attention to; plus, as I’ve mentioned before, using an outer element system at all doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile to me even on its own merits.

So, to summarize all the above, some TL;DR points:

  • Inner element vs. outer element is a distinction only JMG uses.
  • Use the inner element system to understand the rulerships of the figures.
  • The outer element system doesn’t matter (at best) and can get you in trouble (at worst).

Now, all that said, let me answer that last question the forum member on Facebook asked: are such associations irrelevant?  By no means!  Each system of correspondences and attributions to the figures gives us deeper insights into how the figures represent the myriad things of the cosmos and how they play out in interpretation, as well as revealing to us their deeper spiritual meaning on their own.  For the vast majority of such correspondences, each is grounded in deeper systems of logic and reason that tie geomancy into broader systems of occult knowledge; only in a handful of cases are they spurious, and they’re either shown to be wrong with a bit of experimentation and analysis, or are shown to be valid through analysis of repeated results that show a trend to be followed, which can then be used to further enhance and empower the overall system of geomancy as we have it.  Only in a very few cases would something like divine revelation or unverified personal gnosis come into play, and it’d still be recommended to test them out both in divination and against existing systems of correspondence before putting them into practice.

For something as large-scale and encompassing as the elemental rulerships of the figures, especially since it’s based on a thorough analysis of the nature of each figure interpretatively as well as structurally, I would consider this to definitely fall on the relevant and not-spurious side of things, especially given how useful the system is to the analysis of each figure, both as a cosmos unto itself as well as a factor in a divination reading with the other figures.  And, even if you do like using the outer element system, I can only argue against it so much; even if I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, I must still admit and agree that it’s important to understand the different associations of the figures regardless of author or method so to get an encompassing understanding of how the figures have been understood across the centuries, and then based on your own experience and studies, pick one that works best for you.

On Geomantic Cycles

A while back on the Facebook community I manage for geomancy, the Geomantic Study-Group, someone had posted a proposed method to obtain four Mother figures for a geomantic reading based on the time and date of the query.  The poster based this proposal off of the Plum Blossom method of I Ching, where (as one of several possible formulas) you take the date and time and numerologically reduce the numbers to obtain trigrams; in a sense, such a method could theoretically be done with geomantic figures, and so the poster called this a type of “horary geomancy” (though I’m reluctant to use that term, because it’s also used by Gerard of Cremona to come up with a horary astrological chart by geomantic means, as well as by Schwei and Pestka to refer to geomancy charts that have horary charts overlaid on top).  He proposed three methods, but they all revolved around using the time of the query in astrological terms.

The proposed idea went like this:

  1. Inspect the planetary ruler of the hour of the query.
  2. Inspect the planetary ruler of the weekday of the query.
  3. Inspect the planetary ruler of the Sun sign of the query.
  4. Inspect the planetary ruler of the year of the query.
  5. Transform the planets above, “taking into account rulerships by day or by night”, into geomantic figures, which are used as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Mothers for the resulting chart for the query.

Seems straightforward enough!  I mean, I’m already familiar with the basics of horary astrology, I keep track of date and time cycles according to Greek letters, and I’ve flirted with using the Era Legis system of timekeeping as proposed by Thelema, and it’s even possible to extend the planetary hour system into planetary minutes and even seconds; having a geomantic system of time, useful for generating charts, seems more than fitting enough!  Besides, there’s already a system of geomantic hours based on the planetary hours which can probably be adapted without too much a problem.

I was excited for this idea; having a geomantic calendar of sorts would be a fantastic tool for both divination and ritual, if such a one could be reasonably constructed, and better still if it played well with already-existing systems such as the planetary week or planetary hours.  That said, I quickly had some questions about putting the proposed method from the group into practice:

  1. What about the assignment of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis?  Do we just occasionally swap them in for Venus/Jupiter and Mars/Saturn, respectively, and if so, how?
  2. Each planet has two figures associated with it; how do you determine which to pick?  “Taking into account rulerships by day or by night” isn’t always straightforward.
  3. How do we determine the planetary ruler of a given year?
  4. Is it possible instead to use the already existing cycles, such as the geomantic hours of Heydon, the rulerships of the lunar mansions, or the Cremona-based or Agrippa-based rulerships of the signs?

When I raised these questions (and a few others), I didn’t really get anything to clarify the method, so this particular conversation didn’t go anywhere.  This is unfortunate, because these pose some major problems to using a strictly planetary-based method of coming up with a geomantic cycle:

  1. The issues in assigning the nodal figures to the planets is the biggest issue.  They simply don’t quite “fit”; even if you reduce the 16 figures into pairs, it’s hard to get eight sets mapped into seven planetary “bins”.  We see this quite clearly when we look at Heydon’s geomantic hours, where the nodal figures are sometimes given to the benefic or malefic planets (though I can’t determine a method), and on Saturdays, two of the hours of the Sun are replaced by the nodal figures (which is, itself, shocking and may just be a typo that can’t be verified either way).  Unless you expand a cycle of 24 hours or seven days into a multiple of 8 or 16, you’re not going to end up with an equal number of figures represented among the planets.
  2. Given that each planet has two figures (ignoring the nodal figure issue from before), you can decide that one figure is going to be “diurnal” and the other “nocturnal”, or in planetary terms, “direct” or “retrograde”.  Different geomancers have different ways to figure out which of a planetary pair of figures are one or the other, so this might just be chalked up to individual interpretation.  Still, though, when would such a diurnal/nocturnal rulership actually matter?  Finding the figure for a planetary hour, using diurnal figures for diurnal hours and nocturnal figures for nocturnal hours?  Finding the figure for a weekday, using the diurnal figure if daytime and the nocturnal figure if nighttime, or alternating whole weeks in a fortnightly diurnal-nocturnal cycle?  Determining what figure to use if the Sun is in Leo or Cancer?
  3. Multi-part problem for the issue of finding the “planetary ruler of a year”:
    1. By inspecting the mathematics of the different kinds of planetary cycles that are established in the days of the week and the hours of the day, we can extend the system down into the minutes of the hours and the seconds of the minutes.  However, scaling up can’t be done along the same way; what allows for the planetary hours to work is that 24 does not evenly divide by 7, nor 60.  Because there’s always that remainder offset, you get a regularly repeating set of planets across a long system that, when aligned with certain synchronized starting points, allows for a planetary ruler of a given hour or day.  However, a week is exactly seven days; because there is no remainder offset, you can’t assign a planet ruling a week in the same way.  If you can’t even cyclically assign a planetary ruler to an entire week, then it’s not possible to do it for greater periods of time that are based on the week.
    2. There is no method of cyclically assigning a planetary rulership to a year the way we do for days or hours.  The poster alluded to one, but I couldn’t think of one, and after asking around to some of my trusted friends, there is no such thing.  You might find the ruler of a given year of a person’s life, or find out what the almuten is at the start of a solar year at its spring equinox, but there’s no cyclical, easily extrapolated way to allocate such a thing based on an infinitely repeating cycle.
    3. We could adopt a method similar to that in Chinese astrology: use the 12-year cycles based on the orbit of Jupiter, which returns to the same sign of the Zodiac every 11.8618 years (or roughly every 11 years, 10 months, 10 days).  In such a system, we’d base the planet ruling the year on the sign where Jupiter is found at the spring equinox.  This is both a weird import into a Western system that isn’t particularly Jupiter-centric, and is not quite exact enough for my liking, due to the eventual drift of Jupiter leading to a cycle that stalls every so often.
    4. It’s trivial to establish a simple cycle that just rotates through all seven planets every seven years, but then the problem becomes, what’s your starting point for the cycle?  It’s possible to inspect the events of years and try to detect a cycle, or we can just arbitrarily assign one, or we can use mythological calendrics (a la Trithemius’ secondary intelligences starting their rulerships at the then-reckoned start of the world), but I’m personally uncomfortable with all these options.
  4. Different existing cycles, different problems for each:
    1. John Heydon’s geomantic hours from his Theomagia (which are the first instance I can find of such an application of the planetary hours) are a mess.  Even accounting for how he reckons the figures as “diurnal” or “nocturnal” and their planetary rulers, the pattern he has breaks at random points and I can’t chalk it up necessarily to being typos.  Additionally, there are 168 hours in a week, but this doesn’t evenly divide into 16, meaning that within a given week in Heydon’s (quite possibly flawed) system of geomantic hours, some figures will not be given as many hours as others.  If we went to a fortnight system of 14 days, then we’d end up with 336 hours which is evenly divisible by 16 (336 hours ÷ 16 figures = 21 hours/figure), but Heydon doesn’t give us such a system, nor have I seen one in use.
    2. The system of lunar mansions from Hugo of Santalla’s work of geomancy ultimately formed the basis for the system of zodiacal rulerships used by Gerard of Cremona (which I’m most partial to).  However, of the 28 mansions, seven have no rulership, and five are duplicated (e.g. mansions 25, 26, and 27 are all ruled by Fortuna Minor).  Moreover, this system of attribution of figures to the mansions is apparently unrelated to the planetary rulership of the lunar mansions (which follow the weekday order, with the Sun ruling mansion 1).  It may be possible to fill in the gaps by closing ranks, such that the unruled mansion 7 is “absorbed” by Rubeus which already rule mansion 6.
    3. There’s another system of lunar mansion rulership assigned to the figures, described by E. Savage-Smith and M. Smith in their description of an Arabian geomancy machine relating to directional correspondences, which uses the similarities between graphical point representation of the figures and certain asterisms of lunar mansions to give them their correspondence.  However, it is likewise incomplete, moreso than Hugo of Santalla’s assignments, and is likely meant as a way of cementing geomancy into Arabic astrological thought (though the two systems do share three figure-mansion correspondences, but this might just be coincidental overlap).
    4. Hugo of Santalla’s system of lunar mansions and geomantic figures was eventually simplified into a set of zodiacal correspondences for the figures, such as used by Gerard of Cremona.  I like this system and have found it of good use, but Agrippa in his On Geomancy says that those who use such a system is vulgar and less trustworthy than a strictly planetary-based method, like what JMG uses in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  Standardizing between geomancers on this would probably be the riskiest thing, as geomancers tend to diverge more on this detail than almost any other when it comes to the bigger correspondences of the figures.
    5. Even if one were to use Agrippa’s planetary method of assigning figures to the signs of the Zodiac, you’d run into problems with the whole “diurnal” and “nocturnal” classification that different geomancers use for the figures, which is compounded with the issue of nodal figures.  For instance, according to Agrippa, Via and Populus are both given to Cancer; Carcer and Caput Draconis are given to Capricorn; and Puer, Rubeus, and Cauda Draconis are all given to Scorpio.  I suppose you might be able to say that, given a choice, a nodal figure is more diurnal than the planets (maybe?), but how would you decide what to use for Scorpio, if both figures of Mars as well as Cauda Draconis are all lumped together?

In all honesty, given my qualms with trying to find ways to overlay planetary cycles with geomantic ones, I’m…a little despairing of the notion at this point.  The systems we have to base geomantic cycles on are either irregular or incomplete, and in all cases unsatisfactory to my mind.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have heard that some geomancers have used the geomantic hours to good results, but I’ve also heard that some geomancers can get the methods of divination for numbers and letters to work; in other words, these are things that everyone has heard of working but nobody seems to have actually gotten to work.  And, I suppose if you don’t think about it for too long and just take it for granted, perhaps you can get the geomantic hours to work!  After all, I’ve found good results with Hugo of Santalla’s figure-mansions correspondences, even if they’re incomplete and unbalanced, without anything backing them up.  (I never denied that over-thinking can be a problem, much less a problem that I specifically have.)

Further, I’m not saying that geomantic cycles don’t exist; they very likely do, if the elements and the planets and the signs all have their cycles in their proper times.  The problem is that so much of these other cycles we see are based on fancier numbers that are either too small or infrequent (4 elements, 7 planets) or don’t evenly divide into 8 or 16 (like 12 signs, 27 letters in an alphabet), or they simply don’t match up right.  For instance, it would be possible to create a new set of geomantic hours where each figure is present in turn over a course of 16 hours, then repeat the cycle; this leads to returning to the same figure at the same hour of the day every 48 hours, starting a new cycle every third day.  This doesn’t match up well with a seven-day week, but rather a cycle of two weeks (as hypothesized above, since 14 days = 336 hours, and 336 is divisible evenly by 16).  However, such a system would break the correspondence between planets and figures because of the “drift” between cycles of 16 and 7.

So…in that line of thinking, why not rethink the notion of geomantic cycles apart from tying them to planetary ones, and start from scratch?

We’re accustomed to thinking of magical cycles in terms of seven planets, but we could just as easily construct cyclical time systems in terms of four (which can be divided four ways within it), eight (divided into two), or sixteen units.

  • Consider the synodic period of the Moon, which can be said to have eight phases: new, crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, disseminating, third quarter, and balsamic.  We could attribute each phase two figures, and then sync the cycle to, say, the new moon (when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction) or to the first quarter moon (when the Sun sets as the Moon is directly overhead), giving a synodic month 16 geomantic “stations” each lasting about 1.85 days.
  • Those with a neopagan background are used to thinking of the year as an eight-spoked Wheel, where the year is divided by eight sabbats, which are four quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) and four cross-quarter days; each period between one sabbat and the next could be split into a geomantic “season” lasting roughly 22 or (sometimes) 23 days long.
  • Alternatively, a year of 365 days can be broken up into 22 “months” of 16 days each, leading to 352 days, meaning three or four intercalary/epagomenal days at the end of the year or spread around for, say, the quarter days.
  • Within a single day from sunrise to sunrise, we can divide the day into four segments (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) divided by the stations of the sun (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight), and each segment can be further subdivided into four geomantic “hours”, leading to a total of 16 geomantic “hours” within a day which would, assuming a day of equal daytime and nighttime, have each “hour” equal to 90 minutes.
  • Years can be broken down into cycles of four years, every fourth year requiring a leap day; this could lend itself to a cycle of 16 years (one geomantic figure per year), or even to a cycle of 64 years (comprising 16 leap days), each of which can be used as a way to define larger-time cycles.

Such a four- or eight-fold division of time and space isn’t unheard of; we commonly reckon a year (at least in most Western Anglophone countries) as having four seasons, the Greeks broke up cycles of years into four-year Olympiads, the ancient Romans divided up the night into four watches (while using twelve hours for the daytime), and there are discussions of a Hellenistic system of astrological houses called the octotopos/octotropos system which uses eight houses instead of the usual 12, so it’s possible to dig that up and rework it to accustom a geomantic method where the number 16 could be applied to work better than mashing it onto a system where the number 7 is more prominent.  That said, finding such a system that’s thoroughly based on 4, 8, or 16 is difficult, as it’d be pretty artificial without including the moon (which repeats in patterns of 12 or 13) or whole number divisors of 360, and considering how thoroughly cultural transmission/conquering has established the 12-month year across most of the world, often obliterating and subsuming earlier systems that may not have left much of a trace.  But, again, if we’re gonna just up and make one from scratch, I suppose it doesn’t need to be grounded in extant systems, now, does it?  Even if it’s artificial, if it’s a cycle that works, such as by associating the different motions of the sun and sensations of the day with the figures, or by linking the changes in the seasons with the figures, then that’s probably the more important thing.

Unlike my older grammatomantic calendars, where the order of the letters provided a useful guide to how the system should “flow”, the geomantic figures have no such inherent order, but can be ordered any number of ways (binary numeral equivalence, element and subelement, planetary, zodiacal order by Gerard of Cremona or by Agrippa, within one of the 256 geomantic emblems, the traditional ordering of odu Ifá which we shouldn’t ever actually use because this isn’t Ifá, etc.).  Or, alternatively, new orders can be made thematically, such as a “solar order” that starts with Fortuna Maior at sunrise, continues through the figures including Fortuna Minor at sunset, and so forth.  This would be a matter of experimentation, exploration, and meditation to see what figure matches up best with what part of a cycle, if an already existing order isn’t used as a base.

I do feel a little bad at not offering a better alternative to the problem that the original poster on Facebook posed, instead just shooting it down with all my own hangups.  Over time, I’d eventually like to start building up a geomantic calendar of sorts so as to try timing things for geomantic spirits and rituals, but that’ll have to wait for another time.  Instead, going back to the original problem statement, how can we use time to come up with four Mothers?  Well, perhaps we can try this:

  1. Consider four lists of geomantic figures: binary (B), elemental (E), planetary (P), and zodiac (Z).  Pick a list you prefer; for this method, I recommend the simple binary list (Populus, Tristitia, Albus…Via).  Enumerate the figures within this list from 0 to 15.
  2. Look at the current time and date of the query being asked.
  3. Take the second (1 through 59, and if the second is 0, use 60), minute (ditto), and hour (1 through 23, and if 0, use 24).  Add together, divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 1.
  4. Take the day of the year (1 through 365 or 366), divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 2.
  5. Take the year, divide by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 3.
  6. Add up all the digits of the current second, minute, hour, day, and year.  Divide this number by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 4.
  7. For each key, obtain the corresponding Mother by finding the figure associated with the key in the list you choose.

So, for instance, say I ask a query on September 25, 2017 at 9:34:49 in the evening.  According to the method above, starting with the actual math on step #3:

  1. Since 9 p.m. is hour 21 of the day, 49 + 34 + 21 = 104.  The remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 8, so K1= 8.
  2. September 25 is day 268 of year 2017.  The remainder of 268 ÷ 16 is 12, so K2 = 12.
  3. The remainder of 2017 ÷ 16 is 1, so K3 = 1.
  4. 49 + 34 + 21 + 268 + 2017 = 2389, and the remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 5, so K4 = 5.
  5. Using the binary list, (K1, K2, K3, K4) = (8, 12, 1, 5), which yields the Mother figures Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Tristitia, and Acquisitio.

While this is not a perfect method, since the number of days in a year is not perfectly divisible by 16, the possibilities of each figure appearing as a Mother are not exactly equal to 1/16, but the process is decent enough for pretty solid divination based on time alone.  Instead of using purely date/time-based methods, you could also use the birth information of the querent alongside the date and time of the query, use the figures for the current geomantic hour/lunar mansion/Sun sign of the Zodiac, or numerologically distill the query by counting the number of letters or words used or by using gematria/isopsephy to distill and divide the sum of the content of the query.  So, I a method like what the original poster was proposing could certainly work on strictly numerical principles alone, just not on the astrological or planetary cyclical methods proposed.

As for geomantic cycles, dear reader, what do you think?  If you were to link the geomantic figures to, say, the phases of the moon, the eight “spokes” of the neopagan Wheel of the Year, or the flow of light and darkness across a day reckoned sunrise-to-sunrise, how would you go about creating such a cycle?  Have you used the geomantic hours, and if so, have you run into the same problems I have, or have you used them with good effect, in lieu of or in addition to the normal planetary hours?

An Online Introductory Course on Geomancy

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

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

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

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

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

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