I have an article published in this next year’s issue of the Witches’ Almanac!

For those of us who love, use, and collect almanacs and who also do magic, you could do worse than getting yourself into the habit of picking up a copy of the Witches’ Almanac, a wonderful compendium of the usual almanac stuff—sunsets and sunrises, moon phases and stations, eclipses and retrogrades, planting times and suggestions, etc.—all with a magical, spiritual, and witchy bent to it all, but that’s not all!  Each issue of the Witches’ Almanac also has a fantastic array of articles, and each issue has a particular theme.  For instance, this past year’s almanac (Issue 38, Spring 2019—2020) was themed around animals, them being our friends and familiars, and had a bunch of articles in it along those lines.

In this coming year’s almanac (Issue 39, Spring 2020—2021, coming in at 208pp. for the price of US$12.95), the theme is “Stones: the Foundation of Earth”, and has a good number of articles from such authors as Lon Milo DuQuette, Sorita d’Este, John Michael Greer, Oberon Zell, and others—including me!  I was asked to submit an article to this year’s issue, and after wondering what on earth I could contribute, I settled on an old standby of mine: grammatomancy, also known as the Greek Alphabet Oracle, the method of divination that uses the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.  How would this tie in, you might wonder?  Because one of the oldest and most common ways of performing this kind of divination was with the use of ψηφοι, psēphoi, little pebbles which were inscribed with a different letter of the alphabet on each.  I thought it was a nice tie-in to this year’s theme, and it’s a lovely system besides, so why not?

The amazing and handsome publisher-friend I have at the Witches’ Almanac also thought it was a great idea, too, so in went my article, Stone Spelling: Delving Deeply into the Greek Alphabet Oracle, where I talk about the origins of this oracle and all the different ways it can be of use beyond getting mere advice from the gods.  Heck, it’s even the first feature article in the almanac this coming year, and you can even check out an excerpt of it online on their website!

(Also, John Michael Greer himself published an article in it on, of all possible things, domino divination.  Yanno, that thing that I’ve been obsessed with learning about all summer long and have suddenly started writing one of the most complete books on the topic ever written since one of my spirit guides kicked me in the side of the head with it.  If that’s not a goddamn sign, then I don’t know what is.  Hmph.)

What are you waiting for?  Get yourself a copy and get ready for the coming year with this little treasure trove of wisdom and information that’ll be sure to make your practice smoother and easier!

On Geomancy and Light

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been working on a new shrine project of sorts.  Earlier this year, I had the sudden kick-in-the-ass inspiration to start compiling things together, so I started pricing them on my wishlists and getting notes together.  I swore, up and down, that I would pay off my credit card before getting any of it.  But, yanno, just to see how much it would all cost when tallied up, I put it all into my online shopping cart to check out the shipping and taxes, and whoops there went $700 and suddenly I have all these packages showing up at my house however could this have happened let’s get to work, I guess my poor credit card statement.

Long story short, after I made that second post about geomantic holy days earlier this year, I got some sort of spirit all up in me that necessitated, demanded I put this thing together.  I ended up making a Shrine of the Geomancers, honoring the four Progenitors of the art Adam, Enoch, Hermes Trismegistus, and Daniel under the tutelage of Gabriel, with a notable Islamic influence.

I’ll save some of the details and what goes along with this whole shrine later, including a few things that aren’t shown in those above pictures, since it’s such a new thing that even I’m not sure why I have everything on it yet, just that I know I need it.  The last time an inspiring spirit this forceful came upon me was when I ended up writing my Sixteen Orisons of the Geomantic Figures in a single night (and then spent the next month editing and polishing), which you can take a look at in my ebook, Secreti Geomantici (also on Etsy!).  That was pretty fun, too, though exhausting.  I ended up making sixteen prayer-invocations to channel and work with the forces of the figures; that was just a night of power for me, as if I couldn’t shut off whatever fire hydrant of Words was turned on in my head.  The same thing happened with this shrine: I had to get these things and put them together.  Had to.

On top of getting this shrine put together, I’ve had to take a break from writing my geomancy book to take a detour into writing prayers, invocations, and incantations for geomantic practice.  Taking heavy inspiration from Islamic supplications and verses of the Qurʾān, the Book of Daniel, the Psalms, Solomonic and Hermetic literature, and other sources, I’ve been putting together a bunch of prayers—some that I wrote as original works, some I wrote a long time ago, some I’m heavily basing off other sources but tweaked for purpose and diction—for use with this shrine.  Many of the old prayers I wrote a while back, like my Prayer of the Itinerant or my Blessing of Light, fit right in with all these new ones.  It’s like so much of my previous routine, habits, and practices get tied into something so nice, so neat, so…oddly complete in this new shrine practice.  I honestly don’t know where this is all coming from, and it’s surprising me as much as it would anyone else.  If ever I would think that spirits can and do work through us, this would be one of those cases, absolutely.  There are still a lot of prayers I know for a fact I need to write and compile, but even with what I have, I’m pretty thrilled with what I have to work with.  It’s like stumbling on a new grimoire full of detailed instructions—except you don’t know for what, exactly.  It’s also happily convenient that I’m doing all these geomancy readings and follow-up divinations for the New Year, which gives me ample opportunity to try some of these very same prayers.

Now that the shrine is put together and all these prayers are coming together, I need to figure out exactly how to put this all to practice; after all, after dropping so much time and money and energy on this, there’s no way in hell I can just let this thing sit and gather dust (as if the same spirit that had me get all this together in the first place would let me).  I’ll work out routine and times and stuff later, but for now, it’s lovely.  As I noted above, there’s a heavy Islamic influence in this, and why not?  After all, geomancy is ultimately an Islamic occult art and science that arose in the sands of north Africa.  While I’m not going to be doing ṣalāt or proclaiming the five pillars of Islam, I feel it’s still important to honor the traditions and faiths of those that learned, taught, and spread the art of geomancy so far and wide in a language, or at least with symbols and practices, that would be familiar to them.  Which is also why I’m turning to so many supplications and verses of the Qurʾān for prayer inspirations, in addition to the fact that I already know that some such verses are used just for geomancy and divination generally.

One of the things I got for the shrine is a misbaḥah, a set of Islamic prayer beads.  It’s a lot simpler than a rosary, but slightly more complex than a mala; this has 99 beads, with two separators (that apparently aren’t used in counting prayers) to divide up the whole misbaḥah into three sets of 33 beads.  This kind of prayer beads can be used in any number of ways in Islamic devotions, not least the famous Tasbīḥ of Fāṭimah, and a way of kinda-sorta maybe-not-divination-per-se seeking guidance from Allah (istikhāra) can be done using misbaḥah, too, by focusing on the question for guidance and selecting two beads at random on the misbaḥah, and counting down until there are either only one or two beads left.  (The geomantic applications here are obvious.)  There are simpler ways, too, such as just intoning and focusing on one of the attributes or names of Allah, of which there are 99.

(Also, just as an entirely hilarious tangential aside?  This current post is marked as post #9999 in WordPress’ internal system for my blog.  So that’s a kinda fun synchronicity.)

One of the 99 names of Allah in Islam is النُّورُ (an-Nūr), literally “the Light”.  This is often used in the sense of being the Pure Light of the world, or the Prime Light of creation, or the One who Guides by Light.  It’s also especially associated with the Verse of the Light, a beautifully mystic verse taken from Qurʾān 24:35 (my own rendition):

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

The use of “The Light” as a name of Allah (or, just, yanno, God, because they really are the same and so much of Arabic theology can be expressed beautifully in Hermeticism and vice versa) is meaningful to me, given how important divine light is in my own personal theology and magical practice, especially in my Hermetic work, given how Light can be thought of as a thing that allows the intelligible to be intelligible and the visible to be visible, as both light of Nous (Mind) and light of Logos (Word).  Even my own magical motto, Lautitia Laborum Lucis Laetor “I rejoice in the splendor of the works of the Light”, is based on this same idea, and many of my more meaningful prayers incorporate Light in some way, whether directly or by puns, like in my Prayer of the Itinerant:

Shed your light on my path that I may see where I go.
Lighten the burden on my shoulders that I may go without hesitation.
Enlighten my heart that I may go with fortitude, courage, and wisdom wherever I may be.

Even before having encountered this Islamic sense of the notion, Light has already been and continues to be for me a powerful force unto itself, and a pure one that is directly associated in my mind and cosmological models with the highest divinity and source of all that is.

Then we bring in a bit of numerology.  Normally, I don’t take numerology particularly seriously; sure, gematria and isopsephia are nice tools to have, and I’ve experimented with it in some classical systems before now and again, but it’s largely a curiosity for me to find other connections with.  But take a look at the name an-Nūr more closely; the “an-” (really “al-” but Arabic rules assimilate the sounds) is just an article, so the real word to look at is Nūr, Light.  In Arabic numerology (which follows the same principles as Hebrew and Greek, since they all come from the same written language to begin with), the value of Nūr is 256.

Those who are familiar with binary mathematics and geomancy should be slapping your heads right about now.  256 = 16 × 16, the total number of pairwise combinations of geomantic figures with each other.  But even then, if we were to reduce it further, 2 + 5 + 6 = 13, and 1 + 3 = 4; alternatively, 256 % 9 = 4.  Four is also a huge number for us, there being four elements, four rows in a geomantic figure, four Mothers/Daughters/Nieces/Court figures, and so forth.  I don’t really need to expound on the myriad meanings of the number 4, given its importance in Hermetic, Pythagorean, and other systems of the occult.  Taking it a bit further as a letter-numeral, 4 is represented by the Hebrew Dālet, Arabic Dāl, and Greek Delta.  Its original meaning and form likely indicated “door”; in stoicheia, I principally associate Delta with the zodiacal sign Gemini, but it can also refer to the element of Water and the zodiacal sign of Cancer in other systems.  I also note that the Arabic Dāl is also the letter used to represent the element of Water in the Dā`irah-e-BZDḤ and Dā`irah-e-ABDḤ organizing systems of the figures, the former of which I’ve put to use in my geomantic energy working as being an Arabic-inspired seed syllable for Water.  Four is, also, the number associated with the sephirah Chesed on the Tree of Life, given to the planetary sphere of Jupiter.

On top of that, although the usual word for “light” in Hebrew is or (אור), the word nur (נור) using the same exact letters as in Arabic, and thus with the same exact numerology, refers to things that flare, flash, fire, or shine; this is an old Semitic triliteral root N-W-R that means light, illumination, and shining.  So that’s also really neat.  This word can also be associated with Hebrew ner (נר) meaning “candle”; “candle” is one of the names and images for the figure Via in some lineages of geomancy according to JMG and Skinner, and Via is sometimes considered to be the oldest or most important and powerful of the geomantic figures, as it contains all of the four elements active and present within itself as a complete whole.

Keeping with Hebrew numerology a bit longer, if we wanted to associate the usual Hebrew word for light numerologically, consider that or (אור) has a value of 207.  256 – 207 = 49, and 49 = 7 × 7, the total number of pairwise combinations of the seven planets as well as just being 7² and important for its own sake; that’s a fun connection, if not a bit contrived.  I also note that 256 is the same value as “spirit of the mother” (רוח אמא, ruach ima), which is important to recognize given that the first four figures we make are called the Mothers and are ungenerated from any other figure in the geomantic process.  It’s also the same value of the words B’nei Tzedeq (בני צדק), or “Sons of the Righteous”; in addition to being a popular name for Jewish synagogues and temples, it’s also a term used by the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls to refer to the good and devout portion of humanity (including/especially themselves), as opposed to the B’nei `Avel (בני עול), the “Sons of Iniquity”.  Besides the Qumran connection, if there were ever a choir of angels to be associated with geomancy or if we ever wanted a good Hebrew euphemism to refer to geomancers, I suppose B’nei Tzedeq would be a good start.  Plus, Tzedeq is also the Hebrew name for the planet Jupiter, hearkening back to the numerological connection with Chesed above.

I also, somewhat regrettably and hilariously, note that 256 is the numerology of the name Viagrahel, the angel of Viagra, for which I will never thank/blame Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick enough.  (I’m as shocked as you are that that, of all things, would come back to bite me in the ass after almost seven goddamn years.  It’s like my life is one big Chekhov’s dildo.)

What about Greek?  There aren’t many words I can find that add up to 256, but there’s one big one I know of: ἀληθής (alēthēs), meaning “[that which is] unconcealed/true” but also with uses that encapsulate: real, unerring, actual, not forgetting, careful, honest.  The root of this word is –lēth-, which refers to forgetfulness (as in the mythological river of the underworld Lethe and also our modern word “lethargic”, referring to idle forgetfulness).  In that case, ἀληθής refers to things that are unconcealed, true, and honest by means of recovery from forgetfulness or by keeping forgetfulness and ignorance at bay, or alternatively, that which cannot escape notice or remain hidden.  All this ties into the actual Greek word (and, for that matter, goddess) for truth, ἀλήθεια (alētheia), too.  Even if I couldn’t find any other Greek numerological equivalent, I think this one is huge enough to make up for any others.

So where do we end up?  We have a particularly beautiful attribute of the divine, “the Light”, used in the worship and reverence of God in Islam, the religious culture in which geomancy historically developed.  To be extraordinarily terse, notions of divine light fill numerous religious and philosophical traditions as being representative of divinity, especially in any Western tradition influenced by Neoplatonism, Abrahamic faiths, or Hermeticism.  This can be further stretched through a bit of numerology, connecting the word for Light to words for fire, illumination, revelation, and truth.  Calling God “the Light” is a lot more than just thinking of that which allows us to see; God is, in a more complete sense of this attribute, the sudden and revealing flash of illumination that allows us to see that which is true and real, bringing it out of darkness, forgetfulness, and ignorance  God is the quiet, true Light behind all Fire, able to spread and open doors of wisdom to us, communicating to us on an intellectual and emotional level through our sense faculties.  This Light is not just a quiet flame in a dimmed lamp that barely illuminates the shelf it sits on, but it is a fierce, conquering, undeniable, unassailable blast into the darkness, a Light that completely destroys and wipes away anything that could or would try to cover it, a Light that breaks into the cracks of any door, window, wall, or mind and fills every niche, crevice, and corner with its presence.   It is the Light of God, or even the Light that is God, that allows the unseen to be seen, the hidden to be revealed, the unknown to be known, and the forgotten to be remembered.  God is not just Light, but the Light of Light, Light within Light, and Light upon Light.

More than that, this sacred Light of the Mind and of the Word can reach us at any place and at any time, but we can approach it too through the devout study of the mysteries of the geomantic figures, specifically in how they add up amongst themselves in their 256 different combinations.  This same illuminating Light is the fundamental impulse from which the first stirrings of knowledge can be made, and provide the seeds themselves from with the four Mothers in geomantic divination are formed, from whom the entire rest of the geomantic process can be derived.  The Light of God is the necessary existent in order for us to see and know things by geomancy.  Understanding the geomantic figures themselves to be representative of the actual combinations of the four elements amongst the elements in 4 × 4 = 16 ways, and the combinations of elements amongst themselves in 16 × 16 = 256 ways, all of the possible things that come to be in the world and all the ways in which they pass into being and pass out of being are also undergirded by the Light of God, being ways in which that same Light emanates from God into the world, condensing through the four elements from Fire to Air to Water to Earth, mixing and matching between all possible states.  All this is fundamentally Light.

I always felt that Light was important for me to focus on in a religious and spiritual sense.  It’s nice to see that all coming together in ways that the ancients themselves would appreciate, and in ways that show me new things in new combinations.  And, perhaps, to reinforce the habit of keeping a lit candle or lamp burning nearby when I do geomancy.

An Origin for the Letter Rules of Western Geomancy

Yes, yes, I am still working on my geomancy textbook!  As I’ve said before, it’s a long project, and by necessity it’s not the number one priority in my life; between a full-time job, heavy involvement in my religious community, managing several kinds of online presence, and my own routines and practices, working on my book is definitely a priority but not the priority.  If I had days empty of all other tasks, it’d be a different story, but here we are.  Besides, the book has been in progress since 2013, back at a point where I now think I was wholly unqualified to write such a book.  (I still think I am unqualified to write such a book, not least because I’ve made a number of discoveries, innovations, and corrections to what I knew earlier, but here we are.)

One of the fun parts of the book for me to write is the postscript.  It’s an appendix that, rather than focusing on the meat-and-bones of geomantic techniques and practices, I talk a small bit about my own thoughts, views, and opinions on certain techniques and how my own practice prioritizes certain techniques over others, or my value-estimates of certain techniques.  After all, though there are hundreds of different techniques that one can use in geomantic divination, in any given chart I might only use a handful of them, some I use generally for every reading and others I bust out for particular situations.  Almost all the techniques have some value, but some have more value than others.  I talk a bit about what I think of such things in the postscript as a kind of final letting-my-hair-down moment, where I get to drop a little of the academic and technical style I use throughout the book and get a little personal in my practice.

The postscript really isn’t a place for me to introduce or talk about any particular techniques at length, though—except one: methods to determine names or letters with geomancy.  As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, the methods to determine names is something that would be sorely useful for geomancers, and a number of historical authors mention methods to do so, most of all Christopher Cattan who introduces several “rules” for associating the figures with letters and a number of methods to use them.  John Heydon, likewise, introduces several such sets of associations for different scripts, but largely references the same methods Cattan uses.  John Michael Greer, continuing the vein of carrying on such information especially as it was republished over and over again in the late Renaissance, gives a similar set of attributions in his “Art and Practice of Geomancy”.

It’s all a shame, though, because I’ve never gotten these methods to work.  In my past experiments with them, I kept getting garbage answers with chance results.  Quoth my earlier article:

Alas, however, I have to consign a geomantic technique to the failure pile, and it’s not for lack of trying: determining names.  While it would make sense conceptually that one could determine names with geomancy, I have never been able to get such name charts to work right, from the first time I ran a name chart years ago up until the present day.  Add to it, I’ve found several methods to determine names with geomancy, and several ways to associate the letters to the figures, and I’ve tried them all, none of them giving anything remotely resembling an accurate answer.  This frustrates me to no end, because why the hell would this one technique not work when nearly every other technique I’ve tried has given me useful results?  This is especially frustrating, since being able to predict names would be exceptionally useful in the world, from determining the names of cities one might be successful in to determining the names of future spouses. …

But even using any of the techniques with any set of correspondences, I kept coming up with wrong answers.  If I were lucky, some of the letters in the actual name I was trying to find might appear at random places in the chart, but this was by no means guaranteed.  I did notice a slight tendency for some of the letters to appear in houses II, V, and VIII, but there was no pattern for which letters (start, medial, end) appeared within them.  I even tried using the values of the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew associations that Heydon gives (untrustworthy as his stuff tends to be) to see if it would get me anything closer than the Roman script association; nada.  Plus, many of the techniques assumes there to be at least four letters or syllables in a name; many names I ended up asking about after I did a reading on them had one or two syllables, or had even just three letters, and these techniques don’t specify what to do in the case of really short names.

It seems, also, that I’m not the first person to complain about these methods, not by far.  In addition to my own colleagues and contacts in the present day who largely give the same conclusions I have, the French geomancer Henri de Pisis gives in his 17th century book Opus Geomantiae Completum in libros tres divisum (reproduced as part of Fludd’s later work Fasciculus Geomanticus) gives the following complaint when he introduces these methods (translation mine from Latin):

So as to know someone’s name. I might have put this and another table of the same from Cattan, yet given how useless and hollow it is, I freely suppress it, lest it impose onto this very art which usually predicts with certainty. By this understanding, I would have omitted it and the following chapter, as with things uncertain and generally wrong, if not for that we would see what even a single author maintains …

In truth, it has always escaped me as to the use they make of these numbers here, for nobody thus far has been able to discover their reasoning; neither Gerard of Cremona, nor Geber, nor Pietro d’Abano, nor myself, nor any others besides Cocles and Cattan have discerned the reasoning of the numbers or of the letters of names. It can essentially be seen that Cattan and Cocles would have relaxed this art to such a freewheeling extent into the form of some game, such as the casting of dice or dominoes, for the troublesome cheating of long nights or for the future coaxing of a droll joke, and a good many use it for this and will have had nothing certain placed in the art. In other words, since they are unaware of that which is superfluous to the art, they are unestablished in the foundations of this very art, and are only outsiders into contempt of it. I suggest that these methods be rejected.

It’s frustrating, especially for someone like de Pisis to have written so bluntly about this in a way he doesn’t elsewhere in Opus Geomantiae; he only includes these methods because others have written about them, and that only bitterly and begrudgingly.  This is all the more frustrating because Arabic geomancers make claims to predict names and letters as a matter of course, though because I speak neither Arabic nor Urdu nor Farsi, it’s hard for me to find what methods they use to validate it and see whether they can walk the talk or if they’re just full of hot air.

Now, skip ahead a few years.  The Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is thriving with over a thousand members, including a good number from Arabic-speaking countries who are, God bless them, actually willing to share and discuss Arabic methods of geomancy.  One of them even goes so far as to include a list of those fancy apparati of Arabic geomancy, taskins, though I prefer an alternate term for them now, dā`ira (plural dawā`ir), which is commonly found in Urdu and Farsi texts, and which literally mean “cycle”.  These things are fascinating for Western geomancers to look at, because we have no parallel for them; they’re a combination of correspondence as well as technique unto themselves, enforcing particular orders of figures for different needs.  Depending on the tradition of Arabic geomancy you’re looking at, some geomancers claim that there are 16 cycles, others 28, or even as many as 400 or more, some kept secret for mystical and magical ends.  Some dawā`ir are clearly organized along mathematical or otherwise clearly understood principles, such as the dā`ira-e-abdaḥ which organizes the figures according to their binary numeral meanings (reading Laetitia as 1000 as 1, Rubeus as 0100 as 2, Fortuna Minor as 1100 as 3, and so forth); others are far more obscure as to why certain figures are arranged in certain ways.

So this list of dawā`ir is shared in the group, and happily the poster who shared it cited a particular academic: Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, currently of the University of South Carolina, one of whose research interests is the occult sciences in Islam.  In his paper “Persianate Geomancy from Ṭūsī to the Millennium: A Preliminary Survey” (in Nader El-Bizri and EvaOrthmann, eds., Occult Sciences in Pre-modern Islamic Cultures, Beirut: Orient-Institut Beirut, 2018, pp. 151-99), Melvin-Koushki lists seven such cycles:

The various regional schools of geomantic thought are therefore to be distinguished by the ‘cycles’ (sg. dāʾira) they prefer to employ. A cycle, Hidāyat Allāh explains, is simply a specific sequence (tartīb) of the 16 geomantic figures, with each sequence featuring different types of correspondences — elemental, humoral, temporal, astrological, lettrist, etc. And the four cycles he identifies above are far from the only ones in common use. The geomancer has at his disposal a rather larger number of cycles; which he employs in any given reading depends on the nature of the information being sought and the degree of detail required. Hidāyat Allāh lists seven by way of example:

  1. The Occupation (sakan) cycle is the most basic; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.
  2. The Constitution (mizāj) cycle tells the querent what day he can expect to realize his desire; it begins with Acquisitio and ends with Cauda Draconis.
  3. The BZDḤ cycle, aka the Number (ʿadad) cycle, is used to tell periods of time; it begins with Puer and ends with Populus.
  4. The Letter (ḥarf) cycle is used to reveal names (a very popular application of the science); it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Via, with the first twelve figures being assigned two letters each and the last four figures only one.
  5. The Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Interior (dākhil) cycle; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  6. The ABDḤ cycle, aka the Element (ʿunṣur) or Arabic Alphabet (abjad-i ʿarabī) cycle, which is also popular; it too begins with Laetitia and ends with Populus.
  7. The Most Complete (aṣaḥḥ) cycle, which has a different organizing principle and procedure; it begins with Laetitia and ends with Via.

Note that fourth cycle Melvin-Koushki lists: the ḥarf cycle, the word literally meaning “letter” (as in characters of an alphabet).  This cycle goes in the following order:

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

Melvin-Koushki says that the first twelve figures (Laetitia through Amissio) get two letters each, and the final four (Populus through Via) get one letter each.  Looking through contemporary texts on Arabic geomancy (despite my lack of knowledge of Arabic/Farsi/Urdu, I can still pick out patterns and particular words well enough to find them!), we get the following correspondences of figures to letters:

Figure Letter
Laetitia أ
‘Alif
ف
Fā’
Tristitia ب
Bā’
ص
Ṣād
Rubeus ج
Jīm
ق
Qāf
Albus د
Dāl
ر
Rā`
Fortuna Maior ه
Hā’
ش
Shīn
Fortuna Minor و
Wāw
ت
Tā’
Caput Draconis ز
Zāy
ث
Thā’
Cauda Draconis ح
Ḥā’
خ
Khā’
Puer ط
Ṭā’
ذ
Dhāl
Puella ي
Yā’
ض
Ḍād
Acquisitio ك
Kāf
ظ
Ẓā’
Amissio ل
Lām
غ
Ghayn
Populus م
Mīm
Carcer ن
Nūn
Coniunctio س
Sīn
Via ع
`Ayn

Note the order of how the letters go, first down the left column then down the right: this is the traditional abjadī order of the Arabic script, the same one in use for all other Phoenician-derived scripts like Greek and Hebrew.  The fact that the last four figures in the ḥarf cycle have only one letter each are also the liminal figures that are neither entering nor exiting might be because these four figures are special.  More realistically, though, it’s because there are 28 letters in the Arabic script, which means that some figures would get two letters and others only one; because there are 16 figures, 16 × 2 = 32, and 32 – 28 = 4.  If you just start assigning the letters one by one to the figures, you’d run out for the last four.  This raises the question, which came first, the order of the figures, or the ordering of the letters to which the figures were then mapped?  It’s unclear which came first to me, but we can pick out some interesting structural notes about the ḥarf cycle:

  • The first 12 figures are given in reversion pairs: Laetitia/Tristitia, Rubeus/Albus, etc.
  • The first four figures are the “pure elemental” figures, each with seven points.
  • The last four figures are all liminal figures, each of which is their own reversion; the first two are considered the stable liminal figures, the latter two the mobile liminal figures, progressively going from the most stable to the most mobile.

I also want to note that the source Melvin-Koushki is referencing came from the late 16th century, and his sources likely came from much older ones; by that point, geomancy was already around 600 or 700 years old.  Regardless, this cycle is still found in many works even today as a means to predict names.  (I have also seen the ABDḤ/binary-numeral cycle used for this same purpose, but it seems like that’s less popular of a choice than using this specific cycle, though the mechanism is the same.  I don’t know how common using the ABDḤ cycle is for this purpose, or where it might be centralized.)  Although I haven’t yet found much in English or another language I know yet about how to specifically use this cycle for divining names, at least I know how they associate the figures with letters, which is pretty neat unto itself.

I bring this up because, while going over my draft for my postscript in my book, I returned to that section about how Western geomancy has methods for determining names.  I originally wrote the seed for that section in the aforementioned blog post of mine back in 2014, and I basically copied the same tables (in a more intelligible way and broken down by author or source) into my book.  While I was revising that particular section, something about the order of how Cattan, Heydon, and Case associated the figures to the letters…something about it struck me as familiar.  I normally use the planetary order of the figures in my posts and tables (lunar figures, Mercurial figures, Venereal figures, …, nodal figures), but it struck me that several Western authors all had it that Laetitia was given to A, Tristitia to B, Rubeus to C, and so on.  They don’t all agree with each other in some of the associations, and Cattan and Heydon have other rules that give other letters to the figures, but it’s clear they were all drawing on the same source in one form or another, and…hm.  Neither the similarities between them nor that same order could be given to chance.

Digging out my ancient binder of geomancy notes from when I was in college, I got out my transcript of one of the earliest Western works on geomancy, Martin of Spain’s work “De Geomancia”, written sometime in the 1200s.  Dr. Laurel Means has a version of it in Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England (Lister M. Matheson, ed., Michigan State University Press, 1994), and I was able to get a text transcript of it while in college, though I’ve since lost the original source and the transcript file I was working on, though I did save a copy.  I remembered this because it has an early association of the figures with letters from well before Cattan or the others, and I wanted to see how it’d match up.  Surprise: it did, more than I expected, even if I’m missing associations for two of the figures.  Though Martin of Spain gives anywhere from one to five letters to the figures, the first of them typically matches with the expected one and seems to be the “primary” letter.  All these Western sources all seemed to share the same basic order of the figures, starting with Laetitia and Tristitia and continuing from there.  There are some variations, but it’s all fundamentally the same thing.

To compare what I’m seeing, here’s a table that associates the letters of the alphabet with the figures from Christopher Cattan (specifically his First Rule), John Heydon (the “First Rule” for English, with annotations), John Case, and Martin of Spain (more below because this is weird):

Letter Martin of Spain Cattan Heydon Case
A Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia Laetitia
B Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia Tristitia
C Rubeus Rubeus Caput Draconis Caput Draconis
D Albus Albus Albus Albus
E Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor
F Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior Fortuna Maior
G Caput Draconis Caput Draconis Rubeus Rubeus
H Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis Puella Puella
I J Puella Puella Acquisitio Acquisitio
K Puer Puer Cauda Draconis Cauda Draconis
L Acquisitio Puer Puer
M Acquisitio
N Via Amissio Amissio Amissio
O
P Carcer Via Via Via
Q
R Carcer Carcer Carcer
S
T Populus Populus Populus Populus
U V W
X Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio Coniunctio
Y Via
Z

Admittedly, Martin of Spain’s attributions are a little weird; he gives a set of letters for each figure, roughly in alphabetical order per figure, so a bit of sussing needs figuring out; additionally, the letters “l” and “y” are not allocated anywhere, but there is an allocation for the obsolete letter yogh (ʒ), which I interpreted as “y” above.  The full set of associations from Martin of Spain are:

Figure Numbers Letters
Fortuna Maior 12 ff
Fortuna Minor 8 or 1 e
Caput Draconis 13 g t
Acquisitio 31 h m
Laetitia 50 a d
Puer 9 k j
Tristitia 12 b d n
Puella 1 j c e
Rubeus 14 a c s
Albus 14 a d e
Amissio 15 j t s
Cauda Draconis 14 or 12 h j c d
Populus 2 n o t u
Coniunctio 13 or 17 r s t x
Via 8 n o t a ʒ
Carcer 10 o p q r s

Anyway, none of the associations we have in Martin of Spain, Cattan, Heydon, or Case give a figure for the letter Z, and the letters I/J and U/V/W weren’t classified as separate letters until recently, anyway.  As always, Case agrees with Heydon, as I’m pretty sure Case’s Angelical Guide was based on Heydon’s Theomagia, and both differ from Cattan in some minor ways.  Martin of Spain’s order starts off clear, but the order gets really mixed up and unclear towards the end.  Cattan’s order seems to be the most orderly, and preserves almost but frustratingly not quite the same order as the ḥarf cycle from before, with the following changes:

  • Cattan has Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Maior in positions 5 and 6; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Puella and Puer in positions 9 and 10; the ḥarf cycle switches these
  • Cattan has Via, Carcer, Populus, and Coniunctio as the final four figures; the ḥarf cycle has Populus, Carcer, Coniunctio, and Via

What we’re arriving at is that the Western rules for assigning letters to the figures is clearly a continuation of the same cycle associations that began in the Arabic tradition, even from a very early period in Western geomancy, which indicates that the ḥarf cycle definitely dates back to the late 1200s, probably earlier, making it a very early arrangement of figures, indeed.  At least in the western part of Europe (i.e. Spain as opposed to Greece), this was likely brought in at an early point along with the rest of geomantic technique, and held on in some form or another by a handful of geomancers.  It’s unclear to me exactly how popular this method or association was, since I haven’t found more than a handful of resources that give such an association and most of them tend to be the larger works on geomancy that date from Cattan and onwards, but it may well be that this system was held onto, perhaps with some corruptions or changes, which would explain the small changes in Cattan’s order versus the ḥarf cycle.

The other major difference is how the letters get assigned to the figures in their cycle.  Rather than how the Arabic method goes through the cycle of figures and gives each figure one letter in turn, which results in a bunch of figures at the start with two letters and a few at the end with only one, the European method seems to almost be reverse: double up the letters at the end of the cycle and work forward until the rest of the figures at the start have only one letter each.  Given how straightforward the association method would be, I’m not sure how the method changed so drastically; either several corruptions happened along the way, or someone innovated a variation on the system.  I can’t seem to trace sources back past Cattan, or at least find any in an accessible form, so it’s unclear whether Cattan or his predecessors carried on the same tradition that Martin of Spain wrote about, whether his method came from another variant closely related to it, or whether he reimported an Arabic method and customized it for European needs.

What would it look like if we were to use the ḥarf cycle order of the figures and the same method, but applied it to the Roman script?  Considering that the Roman script that we use nowadays has shifted a bit from Renaissance usage, notably with the introduction of a few more letters (J from I, V and W from U, and Z), we can envision two versions of this, a “Renaissance Roman” ḥarf association of the figures with the letters as it was done in the days of Cattan et al. with 23 letters, and a “Modern English” association that uses all 26 letters of the modern English alphabet but done in the same way.  Below is what we would get from using those methods, alongside Cattan’s association for comparison (with the mis-ordered letters, e.g. Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor, in bold italic).  Heck, we can even come up with a Cattan-style association of the letters, using the ḥarf ordering (to fix the irregularities we might have seen from before) but using the same Western-style doubling-up of successive letters at the end:

Figure Cattan Ḥarf-Style
Renaissance
Roman
Ḥarf-Style
Modern English
Cattan-Style
Modern English
Laetitia A A R A Q A
Tristitia B B S B R B
Rubeus C C T C S C
Albus D D U/V/W D T D
Fortuna Maior F E X E U E
Fortuna Minor E F Y F V F
Caput Draconis G G G W G H
Cauda Draconis H H H X I J
Puer K I/J I Y K L
Puella I/J K J Z M N
Acquisitio L M L K O P
Amissio N O M L Q R
Populus T U/V/W N M S T
Carcer R S O N U V
Coniunctio X Y P O W X
Via P Q Q P Y Z

In this light, let’s point out two things about Cattan’s original style (which I’m taking as the default Western letter association rule, which was an earlier version of what Heydon and Case later used):

  • Really, why is there no Z in the Renaissance Roman scheme, or even Cattan’s original scheme?  As I mentioned earlier, Z was barely considered a letter in English until comparatively recently, so it’s not completely surprising that medieval, Renaissance, and even early modern texts on geomancy would omit it from such an association scheme.  Yet, French (for that matter, many forms of Romance languages) definitely uses the letter Z in its language regularly, so it’s odd that French or Italian would omit this letter.  Note how it would fall in the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme, as a letter corresponding to Caput Draconis.  This, however, would give its reverse figure Cauda Draconis no corresponding double letter, because the Roman script including Z would have 23 letters, and an odd number would mean one of these reversion-pairs would go unassigned.  So, this letter would have to be omitted to keep the system clean, and would probably logically be merged with S (as part of Carcer).
  • Even then, why does the Cattan scheme double up successive letters at the end, rather than allocate sequential letters cyclicly through the alphabet?  It might be more for a superficial resemblance or mirroring of how the ḥarf cycle associations work for Arabic, where the final positions are given to the liminal figures which were seen as “breaking the pattern” in some special way.  Because 22 letters get nowhere near those final four figures (as the ḥarf-style Renaissance Roman scheme shows) and because we might still want to make those final figures special in some way, the doubling-up of successive letters at the end could be seen as a compromise to keep the final few figures special while still allocating the letters to the figures in an orderly way.  It’s a major departure from the logic of the ḥarf cycle method, but it’s a method all the same.

So, let’s say that we have our pick now of these four systems.  Which would I recommend to use?  Given what the original ḥarf cycle logic was, I would throw my hat in for the ḥarf-style modern English associations above, but that’s also because I use the English language, and though the Renaissance Roman script is just an earlier version of the English alphabet, I see no reason to use an outdated orthography that omits several important letters that have not been considered allographs or variants of others for several hundred years now.  The same method of straightforwardly allocating the letters of one’s writing system in order to the geomantic figures in the ḥarf cycle can be used for any alphabetic or abjadic script.

Even with this, there are still several important questions that are still left unanswered:

  • It’s clear that alphabets or abjads that have an even number of letters would be favored, because it keeps the reversal pairs intact, so that each figure in the pair has the same number of letters.  What about scripts with an odd number of letters?  Does it really matter that much to keep reversal pairs intact?
  • Why are the figures in the ḥarf cycle placed in this order at all?  Is there an organizing principle behind it, or was it more inspired than devised?
  • Did the ḥarf cycle come first and then the association with the letters, or did the idea of divvying up the 28 letters of the Arabic script come first and the figures associated with those letters afterwards?  If the latter, it could explain why the four liminal figures just so happen to be at the end of the cycle where they get one figure each.  But even then, why would the pure element figures Laetitia, Tristitia, etc. be at the front in that order?  Reading the figures as elements, they could be read as Fire-Earth-Air-Water (my modern system or just using the points of those elemental lines) or as Air-Earth-Fire-Water (the older system that swaps Rubeus for Fire and Laetitia for Air), but this would be odd considering their pure elemental representations.
  • Can other cycles be used instead of the ḥarf cycle?  I know that at least some geomancers use the ABDḤ cycle using the same method of allocating letters to figures, just in a different order of the figures, though it seems the ḥarf cycle is more popular, at least in Africa and the Near East.
  • Where did Cattan get his Second and Third Rules of assigning the letters to the figures come from?  I haven’t been able to figure out a pattern there, either, especially with the varied and numerous associations he gives that don’t match anything else.  He even includes the letter Z in the Third Rule!

  • Did the methods of determining names as given by Cattan, Heydon, etc. also originally come from Arabic geomancy, or were they developed purely in a Western setting?  If they came from Arabic geomancy, did they come in at an early date and get passed down (and potentially corrupted) as time went by, or were they reimported at a later date?  Given their wording, it seems they were unclear and obscure even in Renaissance times.
  • What even are the methods in use for Arabic geomancy for using the ḥarf cycle?  I haven’t been able to read or research much about that, either.  How do Arabic geomancers determine names, and how similar are these methods using the ḥarf cycle (or other cycles with letters associated to the figures!) to those in Western geomancy?
  • What can be done about non-alphabetic or non-abjadic scripts?  Syllabaries can feasibly be assigned, syllable by syllable, to the geomantic figures, though that would quickly get out of hand depending on the number of syllables a language has.  How about abugidas, like any of the Brahmic-derived scripts?  How would vowels be handled in that system, if at all?  What about logographic scripts?

Still, even with these unanswered questions, I feel like I have enough at this point to convince me that that whole section in my book’s postscript about how trash these methods of determining names and letters are probably deserves a rewrite.  In fact, what’s astounding about the Western methods is that we have a fossil of Arabic dawā`ir embedded in our own practice, when otherwise there we don’t use any dā`ira-based technique.  It really emphasizes to me that, truly, geomancy is still an art that reaches deep into the sands of north African and Arabic culture, and perhaps there are more things that we can learn from or even merge with from our eastern siblings in this art.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to more research and writing.  I want to take another look at those rules and try applying them again; now that I have a better understanding of why the letters get allocated to some figures in certain patterns, maybe using the ḥarf cycle in a more pure way than what Cattan or Heydon have could improve those chances of determining names.

On Halted Geomancy Charts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.  This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list, but just a small sample of texts to show how varied this can get between authors.

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, which is basically the traditional system used by Gerard of Cremona and others, along with JMG and myself (though we use a slight variant where Laetitia is given to Fire and Rubeus to Air).  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 the Geomantic Parts of Fortune and Spirit

Whether it’s Tarot, geomancy, runes, or any other kind of art, I consider divination in general to be a process of three basic steps:

  1. Hash out, refine, and formally ask the query.
  2. Perform the divination to manipulate the symbols into a readable format.
  3. Interpret the reading.

In geomancy, that second step is the whole process of developing the four Mothers and the rest of the chart from them.  After the querent and I refine the query sufficiently and settle on the final form of the question to be asked, and once I manipulate my tools (cards, dice, or whatever) to come up with the four Mother figures, I then proceed to draw out the entire geomantic chart with all the relevant information I’d need to start with.  Once that’s done, this is what my scribbling and scratching typically ends up like:

The exact process I follow to arrive at this mess of lines and symbols from which I divine the fates and facts of the world is this:

  1. Draw out the four Mothers, then the Daughters, Nieces, and Court.
  2. Label the terminals for the Via Puncti with the elemental glyphs above the Mothers and Daughters, where possible.
  3. Draw out a simple square house chart, and populate it with the first twelve figures of the Shield Chart.
  4. Count the number of odd points in the House Chart to find the Part of Spirit, and label it (I use a circle with two diagonal lines coming out of the bottom like legs, for which I can’t find a compatible Unicode glyph that looks similar enough, but Chris Brennan suggests using an uppercase Greek letter phi Φ, for which I like using the specific glyph U+233D “APL Functional Symbol Circle Style” ⌽).
  5. Based on the Part of Spirit, label the coordinating house for the Part of Fortune (⊕).
  6. Based on the sum of odd points from calculating the Part of Spirit, add the odd points of the Court to find the odd point sum of the Shield Chart.
  7. Find the difference between the odd point sum of the Shield Chart and 64, double it, and add that to the odd point sum to find the Sum of the Chart.

You can see the different steps I took broken down by the above list fairly clearly as I did them (orange, red, green, yellow, pink, blue, cyan):

Making the Shield and House Charts is nothing special for us at this point, and I’ve discussed the Via Puncti before on my blog.  The Sum of the Chart is also fairly common knowledge, whereby you sum up all the points of the sixteen figures in the Shield Chart and compare it to 96 to determine how fast or slow the situation will resolve; again, it’s something I’ve discussed before.  Still, it might surprise you that I don’t actually calculate it directly, but base it on my calculations of the Part of Spirit (due to the mathematics of geomancy, the method works out to the same result).  Likewise, I don’t calculate the Part of Fortune directly, but also base it on the Part of Spirit.  So what gives?  What are these Parts, how are they calculated, and how are they used in geomancy?

First, let’s go with the more well-known of the two Parts, the Part of Fortune.  How do we find this indication?  From Christopher Cattan’s book The Geomancie (book III, chapter 21):

The question being made, after that we have judged by the houses, figures, angles, companions, aspects, the way of point, and by all the other sorts and manners before said, now resteth it to judge by the Part of Fortune.  The Part of Fortune figures, which afterwards ye must divide into twelve parts, and that which remaineth give unto the figures.  As if there rest two ye must give into unto the second figure, if there do remain four to the fourth figure, if there be six to the sixth figure, if there be eight to the eighth figure, if there be ten to the tenth figure, if there be twelve to the twelfth figure.  As by example, if the figure be of 72 points, or 84 or 96 or 108 points, then the part of fortune shall go into the twelfth.  But if the said points of the figure made, being divided by twelve, there do remain but two, as if there remain seventy and four where there remaineth but two, then (as before we have said) ye must give that unto the second house, and there shall be the Part of Fortune.  The which if the figure and house be good (for both the one and the other must be looked upon) you shall judge good, and if it be evil ye shall also judge evil; and so likewise shall ye do of all the other figures.  But if the figure be good, and the house ill, or contrary, the house good and the figure ill, you shall judge the said Part of Fortune to be mean.  And, to end ye may the more easier know the place where the figure falleth, which is called the Part of Fortune, ye shall mark it with this mark, 🌞, and thereafter ye shall judge all the question by the example that followeth. …

Many do use another manner to find Part of Fortune, in taking all the points as well of the twelve houses as the two Witnesses, and the Judge, which they do part by twelve (as is aforesaid) but because I have found no truth therein I will speak no more thereof.

If the mark Cattan proposes shows up as an embarrassingly incongruous sun emoji (like it does for me), then that’s just how it appears on your browser.  I’m using the Unicode character U+1F31E “Sun with Face” glyph as the closest approximation without overlapping with the usual glyph for the Sun (☉) for the symbol from the original text (fourth line, first character):

From Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book II, chapter 2):

Of the discovery of the part of fortune, and its placement in schemata.

Now the part of fortune ⊕ is to be discussed.  The part of fortune is of great importance in the view of the Geomancers just as in the view of the Astrologers, and is of great consideration: for in their view the sign of ⊕ and the steps to discover the Hyleg are chiefly considered, and through them the house, into which [the part of fortune] falls into as a result of the projection, truly seizes great life and energy by itself.  …

This part of fortune is to be considered with the utmost exactness, for if it falls into a good house and figure, it is of no small weight for bringing about judgment; if truly in an evil [house and figure], it brings about no meager impediment to judging [the schema].

Fludd then goes on to give other methods of calculating similar things “if the above method is seen to be obscure”, but the phrase “Part of Fortune” doesn’t appear, and he mostly focuses on ways of constructing entirely new charts for the purpose of a clearer judgment.

Lastly, the description of the Part of Fortune from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy (chapter 6) on the Part of Fortune:

… The Part of Fortune, as the name implies, indicates a house from which the querent can expect good fortune to come in the situation.  In financial divinations it usually refers to a source of ready cash.

What about the Part of Spirit?  To start with, calling it that is my own innovation.  In the extant geomantic literature, it’s more commonly called the Index.  JMG discusses it since it appears in Fludd and Cattan, and though I’m unsure if it appears any earlier, Cattan is the one who (as far as I’m aware) introduced it (book III, chapter 18) by calling it one of the ways to find “the point of instruction”:

Another rule [to know for what intent a chart was made for] is to take all the uneven points of all the twelve figures, and give one to the first, one to the second, one to the third, and so consequently unto all the others, until that all the points be bestowed, and then if the last point remain on the first house, it signifieth thereby that the person hath desired to have that figured be made upon some of the demands which be of the first house; if it rest upon the second, it signifieth that the question or demand of the movable goods, or other things contained in the second house; and so shall you judge of the other houses where the point doth stay.  And if it do happen that the point of the intent do stay in the house of the thing demanded, or in the fifth, ye must judge according to the significations that the Judge doth show unto you; and when ye will judge by the same Judge, you must also take the uneven points of the Witness and the Judge, and bestow them amongst them; but that rule which is only by the 12 houses, is the better, more sure and certain. …

Fludd basically says the same thing (book II, chapter 3) and even with the same name in the chapter header (“De punctis instructionis…”), so I won’t translate it here.  As for JMG, he calls it the method the “projection of points”  and the resulting figure the “Index” (chapter 6):

… This can ferret out hidden factors in the chart.  Projection of points is done by counting up the number of single points in the first twelve figures of the chart, leaving the double points uncounted.  Take the total number of single points and subtract 12; if the result is more than 12, subtract 12 again, and repeat until you have a number less than 12.  If the final number is 0, this stands for the twelfth house.

The house identified by the projection of points is called the Index, and represents the hidden factor at work in the situation. …

Okay, enough reciting from resources.  Based on all the above, the methodology for finding the Part of Fortune goes like this:

  1. Add up the number of all points in the twelve houses of the House Chart.
  2. Divide by twelve.
  3. The remainder points to the house of the Part of Fortune.  If the remainder is 0, then it points to the twelfth house.

The Part of Spirit’s method is nearly identical, except instead of counting all the points, we count just the single points.  For example, given the figure Acquisitio, if we’re counting all the points in it, we have six points, but if we’re just counting single points, then we only have two.  Thus, if (for either sum) we get 88, we divide that by 12.  That gets us 7.333…, so our remainder is 4 because 12 × (7.333… – 7) = 4; phrased another way, 88 ÷ 12 = 7 + 4/12.  Thus, we look at the fourth house for the given Part for which we’re doing a calculation.

Before continuing on with how we use these indications in geomancy, it’s probably best to talk about what a Part even is.  The Parts (also sometimes called Arabic Parts or Lots) are an old doctrine in astrology, dating back to at least the time of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos and seen in both Arabic and European astrological treatises since.  At least 97 were in use in the ninth century according to the Arabic astrologer Albumassar, over a hundred listed by the Italian astrologer Bonatti in his works, and more were developed since then, even in our modern era incorporating the outer planets past Saturn.   The Parts are constructed points in a horoscope based on the sums and differences of other observable points (e.g. Ascendant or Midheaven) or physical objects (e.g. planets or luminaries).  In essence, a Part is a mathematical harmonic between different astrological notes that describes certain in-depth areas in a querent’s life or situation that could, in theory, be sussed out by looking at the planets and their aspects alone, but are more explicitly specified by their corresponding Part.

For instance, if we’re looking at indications of someone’s mother, we could look at the ruler of the fourth house in a chart, or we could look at the Part of the Mother, which is calculated as follows:

Mother = Asc + Moon – Saturn

In other words, we start from the Ascendant, add the ecliptic longitude (the position in the Zodiac) of the Moon, then subtract the ecliptic longitude of Saturn.  Thus, in a horoscope where we have the Ascendant at 25° Scorpio, the Moon at 19° Gemini, and Saturn at 3° Taurus, then our calculation would look like this:

(25° Sco) + (19° Gem) – (3° Tau)
205° + 79° – 33°
251°
(11° Cap)

With those points as above, we end up with 251° on the ecliptic, which in zodiacal notation is 11° Capricorn, which is the degree of the Part of the Mother.  This is strictly a mathematical point, much like midpoints are in modern astrology, but used specifically to determine the presence, state, and effects of one’s mother (or all mothers) in a horoscope, and can then be interpreted like any other planet in the horoscope, except that they only receive aspects instead of making them.

While the technique isn’t as popular as it once was, even today many modern astrologers take note of the Part of Fortune.  From Bonatti’s Liber astronomiae (translated by Robert Zoller in The Arabic Parts in Astrology):

This part signifies the life, the body, and also its soul, its strength, fortune, substance, and profit, i.e. wealth and poverty, gold and silver, heaviness or lightness of things bought in the marketplace, praise and good reputation, and honors and recognition, good and evil, present and future, hidden and manifest, and it has signification over everything.  It serves more for rich men and magnates than for others.  Nevertheless, it signifies for every man according to the condition of each of those things.  And if this part and the luminaries are well disposed in nativities or revolutions, it will be notably good.  This part is called the part of the Moon or the ascendant of the Moon, and it signifies good fortune.

The Part of Fortune is a weird part, because it actually has two formulas to calculate it, only one of which is used depending on whether the horoscope is that of a day chart (Sun above the horizon) or a night chart (Sun below the horizon):

Day Fortune: Ascendant + Moon – Sun
Night Fortune: Ascendant + Sun – Moon

Later in Liber astronomiae, Bonatti describes the Part of Spirit, which he also calls the Part of the Sun or the Part of Things to Come, as follows:

The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality of these, and faith, prophecy, religion, and the culture of God and secrets, cogitations, intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat, and cold. …

In other words, if the Part of Fortune describes the material well-being (or lack thereof) of a horoscope, then the Part of Spirit describes the spiritual well-being; just as the Part of Fortune describes our connections to the world outside us, the Part of Spirit describes the connections of the world inside us.  Fittingly enough, the calculation for the Part of Spirit is the reverse of the Part of Fortune: while the Part of Spirit also uses two formulas, one for day and one for night, the formulas themselves are switched from the Part of Fortune:

Day Spirit: Ascendant + Sun – Moon
Night Spirit: Ascendant + Moon – Sun

Thus, the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are intimately connected by how they’re calculated; if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

Bringing the notion of the Part of Fortune into geomancy from astrology necessitated an obvious conceptual change in how it’s calculated; without degrees or the ability for certain things to fall among them, it would normally have been impossible to calculate any Part.  However, Cattan either invented or learned a way to find an equally-significant sign in geomancy by adapting the methods available to us in geomancy by counting the points and divvying the sum of the House Chart among the houses.  What none of the older geomancers seem to have noticed is that there’s an intimate relationship between the Part of Fortune and the Index in geomancy: if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

First, note that the Part of Fortune and the Index can only fall in even-numbered houses (e.g. house II, house IV, house VI, etc.) due to the mathematical intricacies of geomancy; this is true for similar reasons and with similar logic for why the Judge of a geomantic chart must always be an even figure.  (Why Cattan makes this explicit for the Part of Fortune but suggests wrongly that the Index can be in odd houses is a mystery to me; perhaps he simply didn’t anticipate that a calculation based on odd points could result in only even numbers.)  Thus, by performing the calculations of the Part of Fortune and Index, we can get only one of six numerical results: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 0 (with 0 signifying that the sum in the calculation was evenly divisible by 12, and thus indicates the twelfth house).

After many charts of calculating the Part of Fortune and Index separately, I noticed a pattern emerging: the sums of the two separate calculations for the Part of Fortune and Index always add up to 12 (2 + 10, 4 + 8, 6 + 6, 8 + 4, or 10 + 2) or 24 (12 + 12).  Thus, if the Part of Fortune were in the eighth house, then because 12 – 8 = 4, I knew immediately that the Index would be in the fourth house; if the Index were in the sixth house, then the Part of Fortune would also need to be in the sixth house; if either indication was in the twelfth house, so would the other indication.  Again, if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

The mathematics behind this relationship can be described like this: if there are four rows in each figure and we’re looking at a collection of twelve figures, then there are 4 × 12 = 48 total rows.  Each row must be odd or even, and the number of odd rows plus the number of even rows must equal 48.  Plus, we know that since the houses of the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit must both add up to 12 or 24, both of which are evenly divisible by 12, then we know that the sum of all the odd points plus all the points total must also be evenly divisible by 12.  We can check this mathematically as follows.  First, in mathematical notation, let us use the % sign to represent the modulo function, which is “the remainder after dividing by a number”.  Thus,

x = number of odd rows in the House Chart
x = number of points in the odd rows of the House Chart
x % 12 = remainder of x divided by 12 = Part of Spirit

y = number of even rows in the House Chart
y + x = 48
y = 48 – x

2y = number of points in the even rows of the House Chart
2y + x = number of all points in the House Chart
2 × (48 – x) + x
96 – 2x + x
96 – x
(96 – x) % 12 = Part of Fortune

((2y + x) + x) % 12
(96 – 2x + x + x) % 12
96 % 12
0
Q.E.D.

It was this interesting relationship between these two indications that reminded me of the relationship between the astrological Parts of Fortune and Spirit, and thus what led me to start calling the Index the Part of Spirit and reanalyzing it in that light.  Even though there’s a huge difference between how the astrologers calculate these two Parts in astrology versus how we would in geomancy and where they might be found in their separate House Charts, I find that the relationship between them is identical and, for that purpose, hugely useful in geomantic interpretation.

To briefly describe my own personal view of these Parts based on all the foregoing, the geomantic Part of Fortune indicates the source, manner, and condition of the material life of the querent: bodily health, material wealth, worldly means, and so forth.  Likewise, the geomantic Part of Spirit indicates the same but for the spiritual life of the querent: mental and spiritual well-being, divine gifts, aid from spirits or gods, and so on.  I also read notions of resources and capabilities for the querent (to answer “what can I count on to accomplish it?”) in the Part of Fortune and notions of fate and destiny of the querent (“what should I be focusing on or having faith in?”) into the Part of Spirit.

Going beyond the basic interpretation of the Parts themselves, I’ve also found a trend in charts when the two Parts are both in the sixth house or both in the twelfth house:

  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house VI, then the matter is completely in the hands of the querent.  The querent has the ultimate say and ability to determine how the situation will proceed, and can change the reality of it as they need to depending on the course of action they take.  Their actions or lack thereof will be the crucial determiner in whether and how the situation will proceed.
  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house XII, then the matter is completely out of the querent’s hands.  All the querent can do in the situation is react accordingly and adjust their conceptions and perceptions of the situation, because the reality of the situation will proceed without their input regardless of their attempts.  No matter what the querent might attempt, the situation will continue unfolding as it will.

Also, as one other use, I often use the Part of Spirit in readings about magical, occult, or divine ritual for the sake of figuring out what particular courses of action might be best, or determining what path one ought to take, whether in a specific ritual or in a general direction.  It’s a small extra thing, but for a practicing magician like myself who consults with and is consulted by other magicians, it’s a useful thing to know.  I touched on this very briefly in my old post on geomancy and magic, but now the reasoning behind it all becomes clear.

All that said, remember that the Parts can only fall in even-numbered houses.  In a sense, this is similar to the idea that figures that are even can be considered objective because only even figures can be Judges (as I wrote at length before).  In this case, the even-numbered houses deal with, in order: material goods, land and family, health and servants, death and spirits, work and office, mystery and restriction.  We exclude the odd-numbered houses, which deal with: the querent themselves, communication, creation/procreation/recreation, relationships and rivalries, religion and faith, friendships and patronage.  There’s a similar “inherent to my personal life and relationships” versus “external to my personal life and relationships” difference between the even and odd houses as there is between the objective versus subjective qualities between the even and odd figures.  It is because these things are more external to us that they can be things pointed to help us or focus on, because they’re things that we’re not necessarily in full control or knowledge of.

As a side note, I only read the Parts in a radical (unrotated) chart.  When the chart is rotated for a third-party reading, I don’t bother looking at or interpreting the Parts of Fortune and Spirit, because they’re house-based calculations and not figure-based, so they don’t get rotated with the chart and (to my mind) have no importance or meaning in such a rotated chart.  I find that the Parts work best (if at all) when applied to the querent themselves in a situation, and I haven’t found it useful to rotate the Parts with the rest of the chart for a third party.

Similarly, I don’t swap my calculations of the Parts of Fortune and Spirit around based on whether it’s daytime or nighttime, because the notion of a diurnal or nocturnal geomantic chart doesn’t make sense; after all, a solar figure might never even appear in a given chart, or it might appear both above and below the horizon in a geomantic House Chart.  Instead, it makes more sense for the Part of Spirit to only rely on odd points (the points that represent active elements, excised and above the world of passive matter) and the Part of Fortune to rely on both odd and even points (the co-mingling of active Spirit and passive Matter that results in the world around us).

Further, although there are over a hundred possible Arabic Parts (depending on tradition, era, and author you’re looking at), I’m disinclined to say that there are more than these two Parts in geomancy.  After all, the logic for the Parts in astrology is easily extensible, but in geomancy we’re far more limited based on the techniques and tools that we use, but at the same time, we have other techniques that can fill in just as easily (such as adding the figures of two houses together, the triads in the Shield Chart, and so forth).  That we call them “Parts” in geomancy is more due to conceptual parallel in what they mean more than how they’re calculated than anything else.

The only other way I can think of to extend the technique of geomantic Parts would be to calculate a new Part based on tallying only the even points in a House Chart and taking the remainder after dividing by 12, which could be worth exploring, but I’m unsure what it might indicate; perhaps using my own tripartite view of the world, if the Part of Spirit (odd points only) indicates the influence of the spiritual Cosmos and the Part of Fortune (odd and even points) indicates the influence of the humane World, then this third unnamed Part (even points only) might indicate the influence of the material Universe.  Who knows?  It might show something of good use in divination, if a pattern can be detected.

Ah, and one final thing, just to finish off the intro to the post regarding the Sum of the Chart.  Instead of tallying up all the individual points of the 16 figures in the Shield Chart, I take a shortcut method: find the odd sum of the chart (odd sum of the House Chart, already calculated for the Part of Spirit, plus the number of odd rows in the four Court figures), find the difference between that and 64, double it, and add it to the odd sum to come up with the total Sum of the Chart.  The reason why this works is much like some of the logic in why the Parts of Fortune and Spirit have to add up to 12 or 24: because each figure has four rows and there are 16 figures, then there are 4 × 16 = 64 total rows of points in the Shield Chart.  Since every row must be even or odd, the number of odd rows added to the number of even rows must add to 64.  Since it’s easiest to find the number of odd rows in the chart after we calculate the Part of Spirit (we just need to take into account four more figures), once we have that number we just subtract it from 64 to get the number of even rows.  Remembering that an even row has two points in it, we double that to get the number of points in the even rows, add to it the number of odd rows (which have only one point in each), and voilà, the Sum of the Chart is yours.

Directions of the Geomantic Figures

Recently, someone commented on one of my geomancy-related pages asking about the directions associated with the geomantic figures.  I’m…actually surprised I don’t have a post written about that, and it’s a good topic, so I figured I’d oblige and discuss that briefly.  Like with anything, there are more than one set of correspondences that can be used, depending on what source you’re working from or what techniques you’re using, but it’s not like that’s anything new to someone who’s familiar with the corpus of knowledge for geomancy.

Probably the most straightforward way is to associate the directions with the four elements, as given by Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 7), and use the elemental rulers of the geomantic figures from that.  This results in a simple association:

Direction Element Figures
East Fire Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Amissio
South Earth Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Carcer, Fortuna Maior
West Air Rubeus, Puer, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
North Water Albus, Puella, Via, Populus

Easy enough, and this is the system I prefer to use myself.  However, I know of at least one other cardinal direction association in Western literature, and this one comes from the great English geomancer Robert Fludd.  Question 21 in book IV of his 1687 work Fasciculus Geomanticus talks about a method to lost or hidden objects.  I have a whole post already discussing this topic, but I figured I’ll quote and translate this particular section from Fludd in full for its own sake, as it offers its own take on finding such things:

Question XXI.
Where might the lost thing lie or be hidden?

The first is given to the querent, the tenth to the thing, and the fourth to the place under consideration.

In addition, another way to know the place of the hidden thing: consider by the fourth figure in which part of the world the thing may be in.  That area is divided from the East to the West [and] from the South to the North, for there the thing will be found, which the fourth figure will demonstrate.  And if that area is too large for the sudden discovery of the hidden thing, it is necessary to again divide that part into four other parts, and so often it is known until what time the place may be sufficiently small for the quick discovery of the hidden thing, and the fourth figure will always be the demonstrator of the place in this manner.

Or, rather, a place is divided into four parts, namely into the East, West, South, and North.  Next, look upon the fourth figure, especially of what element it might be.  For if it is of the Air, this indicates the Eastern part, if of fire the South, if of Water the North, if of Earth the West.  For example:

  • East: Laetitia, Acquisitio, Puer, Coniunctio ([figures of] Air)
  • South: Rubeus, Fortuna Minor, Amissio, Cauda Draconis ([figures of] Fire)
  • West: Fortuna Maior, Caput Draconis, Tristitia, Carcer ([figures of] Earth)
  • North: Populus, Via, Amissio, Albus ([figures of] Water)

When, therefore, you find the fourth, where the thing may be found, you will make a new judgment, and similarly judge by the fourth house as before.  Then, the indicated area is again divided into four equal parts; this method is repeated until the place is reduced into a small or confined space.

While Fludd’s and my elemental associations for the figures differ slightly, the idea is the same: associate the elements with the directions, and use the elemental rulers of the geomancy figures as a basis for knowing their directions.  Another thing to note is his manner of associating the elements with the directions; I haven’t seen this specific manner of associating directions with the elements before, but I have written about different ways to correspond the elements with the directions and how it works for someone internally to their own system.  I prefer the Agrippa-style correspondences, based on the celestial directions of the four cardinal signs of the Zodiac, but your mileage and preferences may vary.  Use the system most appropriate to you.

Another similar system that we know of comes from Arabic geomancy, where we have the following diagram from Arabic MS 2697 from the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris:

Originally used as a method to find water, the idea is fundamentally the same:

  • East: Carcer, Puella, Fortuna Maior, Tristitia
  • South: Acquisitio, Caput Draconis, Rubeus, Coniunctio
  • West: Amissio, Via, Albus, Cauda Draconis
  • North: Populus, Laetitia, Puer, Fortuna Minor

According to E. Savage-Smith M. Smith in their Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device (1980), they describe the method used for this (p. 66):

… Near the location where the item is thought to be, the geomancer is told to make a tableau and then to count how many waters are in it (i.e. to count the figures having a single dot in the third rank and to multiply this number by three).  If less than eight there is nothing there; otherwise, the geomancer should proceed to make a new tableau, after marking the directions of the compass on the ground.  He then counts all the elements in the tableau, multiplying the number of single dots in each rank by the value of the rank [ed. note: 1 for fire, 2 for air, 3 for water, 4 for earth].  the sum is then divided by 128, the remainder divided by 16, that remainder divided by 9, and finally that remainder divided by 4.  If one is left the direction is easy; if two, west; if three, north; and if four south.  The geomancer then faces that direction and draws a square on the ground and follows the same procedure to produce a new tableau, and the numerical process is repeated until one, two, there, or four is left.  Then the geomancer looks a the Mother in the tableau which corresponds to this remainder and locates that figure in the square diagram in the manual … The corresponding position on the square which he has drawn on the ground in front of him determines where the object is.  If it is buried, then the depth can be determined by knowing that the element of fire is assigned the depth of a finger, air the depth of the breadth of a hand, water the length of a cubit, and earth the length of a human body.  The geomancer then looks at the figure of the Mother which was found to be the indicator, counts the ranks containing only one dot, and adds up the corresponding lengths.  Then, using a certain ordering of the figures known as the “taskīn of the letters”, he finds the figure that occupies the same position in the taskīn that the Mother occupied in the tableau.  He counts the ranks of that figure which contain a single dot and adds the corresponding lengths.  Finally, he finds the sum of the number obtained from the Mother and the number found from the figure in the taskīn.  This is the depth at which the object is located.

Definitely an interesting method of finding lost objects, especially when they might actually be buried in the desert, but again, the fundamental idea is the same as Fludd’s (if not a little more ritualized).  Elsewhere in the text, Savage Smith and Smith give another association of the geomantic figures with the directions, this time based on their connections with the lunar mansions (though one that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, and which doesn’t look at all similar to the one inherited by Europe):

Direction Season Lunar Mansion Type Figure
East Spring 4 Rising Laetitia
16, 17 Setting Caput Draconis
6 Rising Acquisitio
7, 8, 9 Rising Coniunctio
South Summer 3 Setting Fortuna Minor
20 Rising Populus
5 Setting Rubeus
21 Rising Puella
West Autumn 4 Setting Tristitia
16, 17 Rising Cauda Draconis
6 Setting Amissio
14, 15 Both Carcer
North Winter 3 Rising Fortuna Maior
13 Both Via
5 Rising Albus
21 Setting Puer

Savage-Smith and Smith go on at length about this system of lunar mansions and how they relate to rising and setting along, but that’s outside the scope of the current post.

Now, in addition to all that, John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009) gives get another set of associations, this time by associating the 16 geomantic figures with the 12 houses of the House Chart, and using the directions for each house.  This uses the minor directions (e.g. east-northeast) and can give much more fine gradations in directional guidance, which is excellent for navigation:

House Direction Figure
1 E Puer, Cauda Draconis
2 ENE Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor
3 NNE Albus
4 N Populus, Via
5 NNW Rubeus
6 WNW Tristitia
7 W Puella, Caput Draconis
8 WSW Laetitia
9 SSW Coniunctio
10 S Carcer
11 SSE Amissio
12 ESE Acquisitio

That said, I don’t know where JMG got this set of associations from (or I forgot).  At first glance, they seem tied to the planetary-zodiacal correspondence and linking the signs of the Zodiac to the houses, such that Puella is considered associated with Libra due to its association with Venus, and Libra is the seventh sign, then Puella should be given to the seventh house.  Though JMG uses this planetary-zodiacal correspondence, I prefer the one given by Gerard of Cremona; again, your mileage and methods may vary.  Beyond that, though, I’m not certain where this specific geomantic association came from, and it only seems very loosely tied to the planetary-zodiacal correspondences of the figures.

Hope that helps!  Personally, I prefer to use the simple elemental rulerships of the figures as the key to corresponding directions with them, at least where geomancy and its symbols are considered primary.  For instance, if I’m doing a ritual that uses the geomantic figures as the primary symbols I’m working with, I’ll face the direction associated with that figure’s elemental ruler; if I’m doing a geomantic reading, I’ll use that same direction in location/direction-related queries.  If, however, I’m performing a ritual where the planets or zodiac signs are primary, I’ll face the direction of that celestial thing and use the geomantic figures (if I use them at all) facing that direction.  Context, I suppose, is everything, but for the purposes of divination and geomantic ritual, simpler is better.