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
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°
(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

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.

On Aspects in Geomantic Interpretation

Geomantically interpreting the House Chart usually necessitates a bit of knowledge about astrology.  Even though geomancy can be interpreted completely without relying on any sort of astrological symbolism or techniques, one of the biggest innovations that geomancy developed was to incorporate these very same symbols and methods into geomantic technique.  When looked at the right way, the integration is often flawless and seamless, and a good number of techniques and ideas that apply in astrological divination apply either identically or in parallel ways to geomantic divination.  This isn’t usually the case for the Shield Chart, of course, but for the House Chart?  The more astrology proper you know, the better off you are in geomancy; geomancy has often been called “astrology’s little sister”, and for good reason.

Still, though, not all astrological tricks can be borrowed directly into geomancy, and of those that can, some may need tweaking or a complete rehaul of the technique to get the ideas behind the trick to properly apply to geomancy.  Among such techniques that astrology can lend to geomancy, what we consider to be a major, integral technique in one art can be considered a minor detail in the other.  And, of course, there are always those techniques that are barely understood at all in either system but we laud them as among the best and greatest things ever until we take a step back to actually try to understand the damned thing at all.

Bearing all that in mind, here’s a few thoughts and explanations of astrological aspect, why we use them the way we do astrologically, and how they can be applied to geomantic interpretation of the House Chart.  I suggest that you grab a drink and settle in for this.

What is an aspect?  The word comes from Latin ad+spicere, meaning “to look at” or “to regard”, but in its form aspectus it can also refer to appearances, countenances, or coming into sight of something else.  Although I suppose it’s possible that you could see any planet from any position of any other planet, considering the planets as mathematical volumeless points in the sky, only a handful of specific spatial arrangements are considered to be proper aspects based on their geometry within the circle of the Zodiac.  More properly, I suppose it’s better to say that aspects are based upon the geometry presented within the Thema Mundi, the astrological-mythological chart of the beginning of creation that is fundamental to exploring and understanding many of the basic symbols of astrology:

Thema Mundi

(No, this is not actually a real chart; note the positions of Mercury and Venus in relation to the Sun.  We know.  It’s not intended to actually represent any point in time besides Creation itself, and was an important teaching tool used in Hellenistic astrology.  Of particular importance, note how the chart starts with the ascendant in Cancer, not Aries; the natural world we live in is of a nurturing, cool nature exemplified most by watery Cancer, and not the harsh, aggressive nature of fiery Aries.)

The Thema Mundi is what establishes the planetary rulerships of the signs themselves.  Judging from a location in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun and Moon (the two luminaries whose motion only ever proceeds forward) are given to the two signs of the brightest and hottest time of the year, the Moon to feminine/receptive/cool Cancer and the Sun to masculine/active/warm Leo.  After this, we assign Mercury to Virgo, Venus to Libra, Mars to Scorpio, Jupiter to Sagittarius, and Saturn to Capricorn.  Because the planets can only ever be in one place at any one time, the other signs are left empty, but we can envision the non-luminaries to be in a “mirror world” in the signs opposite the axis formed between Cancer/Leo and Capricorn/Aquarius; thus, Saturn gets “mirrored” into Aquarius from Capricorn, Jupiter into Pisces from Sagittarius, Mars into Aries from Scorpio, Venus into Taurus from Libra, and Mercury into Gemini from Virgo.  The Sun and Moon, being two distinct luminaries already in their own signs, do not get mirrored.

Planetary Rulerships of the Signs

Now, consider the positions of the planets in relationship to the luminaries:

  • Mercury is 30° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left.  Mercury is a neutral force, blending like with like and opposite with opposite, always changing and always in flux.  The angular relationship between Mercury and its nearest luminary is that of the semi-sextile, a mutable and weak relationship that doesn’t mean or do much either which way.
  • Venus is 60° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left.  Venus is a pleasant planet, inducing joy and pleasure and which opens up the door to opportunity and happiness, though it can be fickle.  The angular relationship between Venus and its nearest luminary is that of the sextile, a relationship that tends to harmony but requires energy and action in order to keep the relationship fortunate and well.
  • Mars is 90° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left.  Mars is the planet of separation, strife, heat, anger, and war.  The angular relationship between Mars and its nearest luminary is that of the square, indicating a relationship of tension, strife, resistance, and problems that, although they can be surpassed and built upon, are not easy to overcome.
  • Jupiter is 120° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left.  Jupiter is the planet of blessing, benefice, and heavenly wonder.  The angular relationship between Jupiter and its nearest luminary is that of the trine, indicating a relationship of harmony, luck, ease, and prosperity.
  • Saturn is 180° from the Moon or the Sun on the opposite side.  Saturn, the darkest and coldest planet placed in the darkest and coldest sign, is found in the opposite sign as the luminaries in the brightest and warmest signs of the year; Saturn is the planet of cursing, curses, and being cursed, of death compared to the life of the luminaries.  Not only that, but the angular relationship formed between Saturn and its directly-opposing luminary crossed boundaries into a true mirror-world opposition, which is the relationship of extremes, rivalry, enmity, and difficulty.
  • Saturn is 150° from the Sun on the right, or from the Moon on the left.  More on this later.

Note that the relationships we care about in the list above are in particular angular arrangements such that the angle is a proper divisor of the circle of 360°: it takes twelve semi-sextiles to make a complete loop (12 × 30° = 360°), six sextiles (6 × 60° = 360°), four squares (4 × 90° = 360°), three trines (3 × 120° = 360°), and two oppositions (2 × 180° = 360°).  Additionally, since the zodiac (and the House Chart we use in astrology) is already divided up into twelve sections, an angular arrangement that does the same thing doesn’t show us anything new or more important that the simple progression of signs from one to the next, or of houses from one to the next, doesn’t also already tell us.  This leaves us with four major angular relationships, or aspects: sextile, square, trine, and opposition, each of which is exemplified best by its “thematic” presence in the Thema Mundi: Venus is the aspect-producing planet of the sextile, Mars of the square, Jupiter of the trine, and Saturn of the opposition.

However, we don’t have to limit ourselves to talking just about degree-based angular relationships when it comes to aspects.  In fact, it’s arguably more traditional to talk about them in terms of whole signs (and, thus, houses), and the idea is the same as before.  Mercury is one sign away from its luminary for the semi-sextile aspect, Venus two for sextile, Mars three for square, Jupiter four (for trine), and Saturn six for opposition.  This is the distinction between partile and platick aspects, where partile aspects are measured by the “parts” of signs (i.e. the exact degrees) and platick aspects by the “broad areas” of whole signs at a time; while we moderns generally consider partile aspects to be what really counts (ideally exact by angle, though we allow the wiggle-room of orbs for the planets), it would have been just as valid in Hellenistic and traditional astrology to consider platick aspects based on sign relationships between the location of any two particular planets.  In the above talk about the Thema Mundi, it’s actually more proper and traditional to note the angular relationships of the planets to the luminaries based on how many signs/houses they are away rather than how many degrees of celestial longitude they are away.  If we count by signs, then we have the nifty association between aspects and sign relationships:

  • Signs in sextile share the same temperature of element (i.e. hot Fire and Air, cold Water and Earth) and different modality.  They understand what each other needs and uplift/sustain each other in their complementary ways.
  • Signs in square are of the opposite element but same modality.  They understand how each other works and work in the same way, but they have the opposite views and goals and needs.
  • Signs in trine share the same element.  They understand what each other needs and join with each other in common purpose.
  • Signs in opposition share the same temperature of element as well as the same modality.  They conflict because they operate in the same way, and share the same passion but for different goals and needs, leading to rivalry and conflict.  So different, yet so similar at the same time!

But this leads to something interesting: if there are only aspects based on whole-sign counting, what about two planets that are found in signs that have no such relationship?  We already counted differences of one sign (semi-sextile), two sign (sextile), three (square), four (trine), and six (opposition), and if it’s more than six, we can simply flip the calculation to get a corresponding opposite-direction same-type aspect.  This leaves the relationships unclear when we have differences of zero signs and five signs away:

  • If there are zero signs between two planets, then they’re in the same sign, or more ideally, at a 0° difference.  In other words, this is conjunction of two planets, where instead of there being a relationship, there is a true unity and melding of force, power, and presence.  Relationships can only happen when there is a distance or difference, but in conjunction, there is neither; thus, a conjunction is not a type of aspect, technically speaking, because there’s no “other planet” for each to look at, since they become one and the same force.
  • If there are five signs between two planets, then they’re…weird.  They have nothing to relate to each other: they’re of different elements yet not opposing elements (e.g. Fire and Earth), and are not of the same modality.  If conjunction is a complete identity of essence, then this relationship is complete dissonance, and is called inconjunct; the angular relationship of 150° is called the quincunx, but the idea is the same.  This is the complete lack of relationship, which in traditional astrology was considered worse than any relationship at all (no matter how bad).

In addition to the complete dissonance bit of the inconjunct, there was a notion of certain places being “unseen” from any particular place in the House Chart.  From the ascendant, consider that houses VI (illness) and VIII (death) are inconjunct with house I (life).  While being close to the aspect (“seen”) of opposition, they are just out of range of vision, just off to the side of focus.  It’s like when you’re staring at a particular distant point: you have that point in complete view, but things just off to the side?  You can’t look at them the same way, things slide out unnoticed, or change without being seen.  This “just off to the side” quality of the inconjunct lends them to “being unseen”.  Similarly, we can say the same thing for houses XII and II: while there is technically an aspect for these (semi-sextile, 30° or one sign away), house XII (enemies) is inimical to house I (life) in the same way houses VI and VIII are, and worse, house XII is “right behind” house I, and thus is also unseen.  House II (property) isn’t usually considered negative, but it is similarly “unseen” because it is too close, too under-the-nose, to be properly regarded as an aspected house.  This leaves the relationships of one sign away and five sign away as anti-aspects, or more properly, averted.  Aversion indicates an anti-relationship: a lack of communication or awareness, a disability to understand and be understood, and a lack of control in either direction.  This is why, for the sake of astrology, the 30° relationship is at best trivial and meaningless, and at worst is as bad as the 150° quincunx.

Okay!  So much for an introduction on aspects.  Where does that leave us?  Well, we have particular angular relationships that, for the sake of both traditional astrology and geomancy, we can determine based on how far two particular things are in the House Chart based on how many signs/houses come between them:

  • Sextile: two houses away, the relationship of Venus.  Luck, opportunity, happiness, fickle fortune.
  • Square: three houses away, the relationship of Mars.  Strife, fighting, conflict, construction.
  • Trine: four houses away, the relationship of Jupiter.  Blessing, ease, harmony, prosperity.
  • Opposition: six houses away, the relationship of Saturn.  Rivalry, enmity, enemies, tension.

And, in addition, we have three non-aspects:

  • Conjunction: same house in the same location, the identification of the two luminaries as one light.  Two forces that become one.
  • Semi-sextile: one house away, the anti-relationship/aversion of Mercury.  Being too close to properly see or control.
  • Inconjunct: five houses away, the anti-relationship/aversion of Saturn.  Being just out of sight to properly see or understand.

In geomancy, we can use aspects to better understand the relationship between two particular figures in the House Chart, or the effects a given figure has on another figure based on the angular house-based relationship between them.  The naïve and simplistic way of doing this is to take any particular figure as your significator, and interpret the figures two, three, four, and six houses away as being in aspect to the significator.

Just to make things a little more exciting, let’s add in two more distinctions to our expanding set of aspects, shall we?  In geomantic interpretation, not only is it the number of houses away that matters for an aspect, but also the direction of the aspect, or dexter and sinister aspects, which are ultimately based on the natural motion of the planets as seen from the Earth:

  • Dexter aspects (literally “right”, as in “right-handed”) are counted clockwise around the House Chart from the aspecting figure to the aspected figure.  For instance, the trine formed by House V onto house I is a dexter trine, because the aspect is made going clockwise around the chart from house V to house I.  Dexter aspects go against the natural flow of the signs of the Zodiac, or said another way, against the usual counterclockwise numbering of the houses.  These are considered to be more direct, effective, obvious, blatant, or vigorous.
  • Sinister aspects (literally “left) are counted counterclockwise around the House Chart from the aspecting figure to the aspected figure.  For instance, the trine formed by House IX onto house I is a sinister trine, because the aspect is made going counterclockwise around the chart from house IX to house I.  Sinister aspects go with the natural flow of the signs of the Zodiac, or said another way, with the usual counterclockwise numbering of the houses.  These are considered to be more subtle, hidden, weak, slow, or indirect than dexter aspects.

Thus, consider the following geomantic House Chart:

If we were to consider house IV (Tristitia) as our significator, then we find the following figures in aspect with it:

  • Dexter sextile: house VI, Cauda Draconis
  • Dexter square: house VII, Amissio
  • Dexter trine: house VIII, Fortuna Minor
  • Opposition: house X, Cauda Draconis
  • Sinister trine: house XII, Coniunctio
  • Sinister square: house I, Via
  • Sinister sextile: house II, Acquisitio

Note that opposition, because it is six houses away, is always on the opposite point of the House Chart.  Therefore, it is only ever an opposition, and cannot be dexter or sinister.  Also note that we don’t count semi-sextiles or quincunxes here; although we can technically mark these as aspects, given their “unseen” nature, it’s better to say that there is no relationship between house IV and houses V, IX, XI, and III.  For similar reasons, because only one figure can only ever appear in any given house, there is no notion of conjunction in the geomantic House Chart (outside of perfection, of course, but that’s a different topic that I’ll bring up in a bit).

As a facile way of using aspects in geomantic interpretation (though it is useful when learning how to interpret aspects!), we could find every figure that makes an aspect to a particular significator and interpret them to get a whole lot of details about all possible things that are acting upon, influencing, or impelling the significator to act a particular way.  However, I find this to be a whole lot more than I care to deal with, and often provides more confused data than usable information, so I typically limit the use of aspects in my own geomantic practice to only two significators at a time, and even then, only when either one or both of the significators pass.  Consider that two houses may already be in a “fixed” aspect relationship by virtue of where they are.  Marriage, for instance, is always going to be represented in house VII, so in a query about marriage, it’s trivial and useless to say that the significators of querent and quesited are in an opposition aspect (houses I and VII), because opposition is inherent to the house of marriage, and therefore is more a subject for philosophical introspection on the subject in general rather than helpful divination and guidance in a particular matter involving the subject.  We can’t use the “real houses” of the significators for determining aspect alone, so we must use something else.

In the case where one of the significators passes elsewhere in the chart, it may form an aspect to the other significator based on the house the significator passes to in relation to the “real house” of the other significator.  Consider in the above House Chart a case where we’re investigating the topic of marriage, so we have house I (Via) representing the querent and house VII (Amissio) representing the marriage or spouse-to-be.  Via in house I and Amissio in house VII, in their own “real houses”, don’t make an aspect, but Amissio passes from house VII to house IX.  House IX is in aspect with house I, so we can say that Amissio (significator of the quesited in house VII) makes a sinister trine to Via (significator of the querent in house I) by means of house IX.  Thus, we can say that the spouse-to-be and the querent are in a good relationship together, characterized by quiet peace and modest harmony, possibly involving matters involving academia, spirituality, or foreign travel, especially on the part of the spouse-to-be and how they incorporate the querent into their own life.  The aspect here reveals what their relationship is like; how each of them are individually is determined more by the figures themselves.

So, in this more limited, exacting, and useful way of interpreting aspect in the geomantic House Chart, we can determine the relationship between two significators if one of them passes to a house that aspects the other in its own “real house”.  If one of them passes but into an averted house (a house that is one or five away from the “real house”), then there is no relationship, which can be interpreted either not at all (modern) or in the more dire unseen, uncontrolled, incommunicable way (traditional).  What happens if both figures pass elsewhere in the chart?  Say we have an example where, for another chart about marriage, Coniunctio in house I passes to house IX and Amissio in house VII passes to house III.  There are two aspects here: the significator of the querent makes a dexter sextile onto the significator of the quesited (house IX onto house VII), and likewise, the quesited makes a dexter sextile onto the querent (house III onto house I).  In this case, both significators pass, and there’s a third aspect being made here: the opposition between houses III and IX!  This aspect doesn’t involve either real house of the significators, but is still another relationship between the significators that needs to be accounted for.  This is where yet another dichotomy can come into play for us:

  • Direct aspect: an aspect made by one significator that passes elsewhere in the chart onto the real house of the other significator.  Indicates the direct, known, or intended effects one significator has upon the other.  Direct aspects (with the exception of opposition) will be either dexter or sinister, using the real house being aspected to as a point of orientation.
  • Indirect aspect: an aspect made by both significators from the houses each passes to onto the other, not involving the real houses of either significator.  Side effects that result from the actions and interactions of the significators, or emergent properties of their relationship that are unknown or unintended by either party.  Indirect aspects cannot be considered dexter or sinister since there is no direction inherent to them, since both figures pass equally.

Thus, in this relationship where Coniunctio and Amissio both have direct dexter sextiles upon each other with the indirect opposition between them, the querent and quesited generally get along pretty well as each opens up new doors for the other and provides glee and luck for each other, but there’s this nagging tension that seems to result as they get closer, this weird difficulty that leaves only a soft echo in the dark corners of their minds; their friends don’t seem to get along the longer they hang out, and there’s this weird unspoken division that both of them subconsciously work around.  That’s what an indirect aspect is: an emergent property or a side-effect of the actions and interactions of both parties acting upon each other.  It’s not always the case that an indirect aspect can be formed when both significators pass, but when one can, even if it’s a subtle or minor thing, it’s usually important enough to note because of how easy it is to overlook in the real world.

What about if one significator passes to multiple other houses, each of which aspects the real house of the other significator?  In this case, despite the confusion, it’s actually pretty straightforward: there are multiple aspects, so first interpret each one separately then see how they’re all connected and fit into a bigger picture.  In such a case, can the same significator make indirect aspects with itself?  No, it cannot; when considering two or more significators, an aspect must be made between two different significators so as to indicate a relationship.  A relationship indicates two distinct parties to relate to each other; just as a significator passing to another house cannot aspect its own real house, a significator passing to multiple houses cannot form an indirect aspect amongst its passing houses.  Rather, it’s better to analyze what that same significator is doing in so many houses, and how they’re all connected and fitting into the same overall or overarching action or set of actions, and how they all impact or influence the other significator both separately and in unison.

That’s what I do to use aspect in interpreting geomantic house charts; the technique is fairly straightforward, though there is a bit of nuance between dexter and sinister as well as direct and indirect.  So, why do I use aspect?  Aspect indicates a relationship between two significators that results in their actions one upon the other (not necessarily “upon each other!”) which can affect a particular situation as a whole, or offer more details into the specific nature of the two parties acting on their own or interacting with each other.  The keyword here is “relationship”; aspects indicate the existence and nature of relationships, if any, between the significators and, if one exists, how it plays out between the two significators.

What I do not use aspect for is as a type of perfection.  Perfection, as I’ve written about before, is a method of geomantic interpretation that uses the motion of the figures in the House Chart to determine whether a particular situation will happen (if the chart perfects) or won’t happen (if the chart denies perfection).  Both perfection and aspect utilize the passing of the significators with and around each other, but to my mind, I find that they are distinct techniques that answer fundamentally different questions of the geomantic chart.  This is something I disagree with JMG on; in his “Art and Practice of Geomancy”, he says that aspect functions as a weaker kind of perfection alongside the usual occupation, conjunction, mutation, and translation.  If the chart denies perfection, such that none of the four major kinds of perfection are present in the chart, then JMG says that beneficial aspects that are made between the significators can be used to affirm the chart, and negative aspects (along with no aspects, along with the outright denial from proper perfection) can be used to reinforce a denial in the chart, or to weaken another perfection.

In my experience, however, I haven’t seen this to be borne out, and so I don’t consider aspect-as-perfection as useful.  I’m familiar with the fact that perfection in horary astrology (which is where the whole idea of where perfection came from) uses aspects in order to accomplish its types of perfection: aspect made between the two significators, translation by a third faster-moving body making aspects to both, or collection by both significators making an aspect to a third slower-moving body.  However, we’ve departed from this by “tweaking” the understanding of perfection for the purposes of fitting it into a geomantic system; in this case, we really only consider conjunction (in the sense of one “body” identifying with the other, as in perfection by occupation, or going to meet another, as in perfection by conjunction or mutation).  We’ve broken the identification of perfection and aspect by limiting ourselves to a non-aspect type of passing.  Plus, although horary astrology has a number of ways where perfection can be denied based on the motion of other planets to interfere with the aspects being made or other astrological mishaps, there’s no such idea in geomantic perfection; the only way a geomantic chart can deny perfection is the absence of the four types of perfection.

While an argument can be made that “because perfection comes from astrology, and astrological perfection uses aspects, we should use aspects in geomantic perfection”, I would counter that since we’ve effectively come up with a new set of geomancy-specific rules that we only call “perfection” because although it accomplishes much the same aim in astrology, the methods are completely different and follow a different logic.  Perfection inspects how the figures pass irrespective of angular relationships between the significators, and is almost always sufficient to accurately answer the query.  If the chart perfects, the thing inquired will happen, and if the chart denies perfection, the thing inquired will not happen; that’s the end of the statement.  Perfection, as I’ve said before, only answers whether something will or won’t happen and, if it will happen, how it will be accomplished.  Aspect, on the other hand, answers to the existence and nature of relationships between different parties/events/situations.  Perfection answers the “what will happen” and “how”, while aspect answers “where” and “what kind”; aspect is well-suited to talk about the goodness or badness of something, but not to determining whether something will happen or not.

It can often be helpful to interpret perfection and aspect alongside each other to get a better grasp of the nature of a situation:

  • Perfection, no aspect: The situation will happen, but beyond the involvement of the parties in the situation, there is no other action being taken by either significator, or there are no side-effects or other intentions, or there are no other worlds/circles of work being pulled into the situation
  • Perfection, aspect by the quesited onto the querent: Will happen, and the quesited is producing an effect or engaging in a relationship with the querent
  • Perfection, aspect by the querent onto the quesited: Will happen, and the querent is producing an effect or engaging in a relationship with the quesited
  • Perfection, aspects by both significators onto each other: Will happen, and both significators are engaging in a relationship with each other, possibly with side-effects or emergent properties that they are unaware of
  • Perfection, good aspects: Will happen, and will turn out favorably for the significator(s) having good aspects made to it
  • Perfection, bad aspects: Will happen, and will turn out unfavorably for the significator(s) having bad aspects made to it
  • Perfection, both good and bad aspects: Will happen, but the result will be a mixed bag depending on the different effects and acts made upon the significator(s)
  • No perfection, … : All the above goes for all the “no perfection” situations, except the thing inquired about will not happen

In other words, this is just a fancier, aspect-specific version of the following chart I’ve used before when discussing perfection vs. favorability:

Good figures Bad figures
Chart perfects Will happen,
situation will turn out well
Will happen,
situation will turn out badly
Chart denies Will not happen,
situation will turn out well
Will not happen,
situation will turn out badly

Perfection and aspect are both useful techniques in geomancy, but I see them as answering different kinds of questions within a given chart.  If what you want to know is how good or bad something is, where a certain party is acting from onto a given situation or person, or what kinds of influences are upon a given situation or person, then aspect is a fantastic way to deduce the nature of relationships between different parties, if any should exist at all.  If what you want to know is whether something will happen or not, perfection is excellent.  Both can be combined to yield a well-rounded, detailed, and thorough answer, but I caution against confusing “niceness of a situation” with “accomplishment of intention”.  Just as I warn against confusing perfection with favorability, I warn against misusing or confusing aspect into saying something it may not be equipped to say.  While I understand why aspect can be used as a type of perfection, I find that it doesn’t often say anything that perfection already hasn’t said when it comes to the “will/won’t” question, and that it has much better and more detailed applications answering the questions about relationships between the significators, both on its own and alongside the technique of perfection.


Problem, Predicament, Crisis

One of my favorite blogs to read is that of the Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America, John Michael Greer (also known as JMG), who writes over at the Archdruid Report.  He writes about the slow end of technocratic, industrial civilization, peak oil, and so forth, and though his ideas can be tough to jive with, he’s deeply insightful and a powerful writer.  He’s also an accomplished occultist (and that’s putting it very mildly), and some of my own readers are familiar with his books on geomancy.  He’s a cool dude, basically, and I highly recommend you read his blog.  I can only look forward to a day when I get to meet him and chat with him in person over a few beers!

His blog has been on my mind a lot as of late.  As some of you guys are aware, I am gainfully employed as a federal employee of the United States government.  And, as I’m sure some of you have heard, the United States Congress is facing a bit of an issue at the moment with getting their heads out of their asses and passing a budget.  If there’s no budget (appropriations bill, continuing resolution, something that authorizes and directs how governmental activities are to be funded), then there’s no means to spend money for the government; if the government can’t spend money, I can’t get paid; if I can’t get paid, I’m legally prohibited to do my work, but I’m not fired, either.  This awkward position I’d be put in is called a furlough, and it happened two years ago in 2013 when Congress, in all their infinite asshattery, shut down the government for 16 days in October.  Should the government shut down again this year, and the chances of that are increasing by the day, I’d be again put into a furlough for as long as the brazen right-wing political insurgents in Congress decide to keep us out of work, which means I may not be getting a solid income for gods-only-know-when.  To say that I’m finding more of JMG’s ideas being realized in a very intimate way (I do like getting my paycheck, after all) certainly isn’t wrong, and it’s probably more than just right.

Is this a problem?  For Congress, absolutely.  For me, not at all.  How do I mean this?  I mean, sure, we could say that everything will likely be hunky-dory for me and I’ll be fine through the furlough, but I don’t necessarily mean this.  I like to use a profound and important distinction that JMG himself pointed out a ways back on his blog about problems, because not everything is a problem if it’s an issue.  There are two kinds of issues that we face as human beings: problems and predicaments.

  • Problems are issues that can be fixed, that have solutions, that can be worked out.  The word “problem” comes from Greek, meaning a task to be done or a question to be answered.
  • Predicaments are issues that cannot be fixed and cannot be escaped, but must be lived with and worked with.  The word “predicament” literally means “something that has been asserted or stated before”, something that is essentially fated, an essential fact or situation.

For instance, it is a problem that I do not currently have a glass of wine when I want one.  I can change this situation just fine, either by waiting until I get home and getting a glass of wine then, bringing a bottle of wine with me to the office, or going out to the bar on the way home or before I catch the train.  Problems can be fixed, one way or another.  Now, to use something of a graver example, take the issue of death.  Death is a predicament, not a problem.  After all, we cannot change or “fix” dying; we cannot prevent it, nor can we avoid it.  Death is a fact of life, a necessary part of the human condition that we must learn to live with and deal with as best as we are able.  A predicament must be lived with, not fixed.

If we want to use a metaphor, consider that you’re walking east along a particular road, and you encounter a river that crosses the road.  This is a problem, because you want to continue along the road and the river is blocking your progress.  You can still, eventually, go east; you can find a ferry or a bridge to cross the river, or you can change direction temporarily until you can find a safe crossing around the river without necessarily crossing over it.  This is a problem that you can fix; you can still head east, though you may need to take a somewhat different approach than you were doing.  Now, eventually, this road leads right to the shores of the ocean; the road ends, and you can no longer go east.  Can you build a bridge to cross the ocean?  Can you ferry yourself across it on a raft?  Can you just walk around it?  No, because the ocean is the end of the road.  You simply cannot go further east on the road because there is nothing across the ocean, nor is there any more road to walk.  You’re done.  That’s it.  This is a predicament; you’re done, and need to accept this and move on with your life in a way that doesn’t paralyze you, while accepting the facts of the issues at hand.

So, really, the matter in Congress poses a predicament for me.  The matter of the government closing and putting me into furlough is a predicament, not a problem.  It’s a fact I accept, gladly so (perhaps a little too gladly, as I’ve got parties to plan for in the case of a shutdown).  I’m not able at this point to just up and pick another job, nor would I be able to escape the effects of a shutdown in my industry considering the government’s widespread influence in my field of software development and engineering.  No matter how I cut it, the government shutdown will impact me.  Although this on its own is a predicament, it causes a whole slew of other problems for me.  The big thing for me to do, really, is to decide how to work with this predicament and how to work out these problems.

It’s at this point that I’d like to introduce a third word to that classification above: crisis.  Most people use this word to refer to some hectic, chaotic, or dangerous situation that one is unable to think through, but I prefer the old Greek sense of it being a turning point in a disease, a judgment, a selection, a separation.  Crisis is the notion of a juncture, a fork in the road, where things can radically change direction from really good into really bad or from really bad into really good.  Crisis is the moment when we realize whether we have a problem or a solution on our hands; it is the moment when we realize our course of action for an issue ahead of us.  Crisis is the judgment we make when presented with either a problem or a predicament, and it is crucially important that we judge our options well so that we can manage a situation as best we can lest we bungle it and blow ourselves up.

Problems and predicaments should be handled at the appropriate time, whenever that might be: whenever you get to them, whenever your face is shoved into it by fate, whenever they’re scheduled to be handled regardless of your own state of preparation, and so forth.  Crises, however, should probably be handled as early as possible so as to make everything that follows as smooth and painless as possible; as JMG is fond of saying with regards to the slow decline of industrial civilization, “collapse now and avoid the rush”.  In my case, even though the end of the fiscal year and the first opportunity for shutdown is still half a month off and much can happen in the meantime, I’m trying to get my affairs in order ASAP so as to make any possibility that happens as quick and painless for me as I can, and to make the prospect of recovery as orderly and straightforward as it can be when things get back to “normal” (whatever that word means nowadays).  This is still well in advance of my own agency’s notice, since we haven’t been formally directed or advised yet on what to do in the case of a shutdown, and even against the expectations of many people I work with and higher-up officials and politicians who steadfastly swear against the possibility of a shutdown.  Yes, I may be putting myself through undue work now by calling my creditors and landlord and putting everyone on alert, and if no shutdown happens, I’ll have to reverse my work and tell everyone to stand down.  Still, I’d rather give everyone involved advance warning in case the worst happens instead of rushing to tell them the day of an emergency.  It only makes sense.

So, take my example as a federal employee facing a federal furlough.  Part of my work is to identify the issues I’ll be facing and to decide whether they’re problems or predicaments.  After that, I’ll need to know who else is affected because of my problems or predicaments, and let them know how they might be impacted and come to an appropriate collaboration or compromise that helps us both deal appropriately.

  • Government shutdowns are serious matters that have huge financial and economic impacts on my local area as well as the country at large.  Since a huge number of people in my area are employed by the government, if none of us are getting paid, then shopping/dining out/consuming is going to tank, which impacts businesses across the region.  Plus, all federal “nonessential” services (everything except the bare minimum required to keep my area from turning into a Mad Max zone and to get business back to normal, like federal police and congressional staffers) will be furloughed, so there’s plenty of things that people won’t be able to achieve or obtain since the services that provide them will be unavailable. Everyone is going to hurt, so the earlier we’re prepared, the better.
  • Financially speaking, I won’t be able to go to work.  While this is kinda awesome, since I get more time at home and with friends, it also means I won’t be getting paid.  The money I have going into the shutdown is pretty much the money I’ll have throughout it, so I need to spend it wisely and when needed, since there’s no telling when the shutdown would end.  However, I am eligible for unemployment, which I’d just have to pay back if I get backpay for the time I missed at work.  Additionally, I have other means of making income: ebook sales, crafting and woodworking, divination and ritual consultations, ritual work, and odd jobs with the skills I have.  Plus, I can get support from my partner as well as my other friends if needed.  There are several people who owe me money, besides, and I plan on asking them to help out if they have the means to pay me back.  All told, I have several ways to keep myself financially afloat
  • Because I won’t be getting paid, I won’t be able to pay my bills.  This impacts my credit card company, my loan agencies, my service providers, and my landlord.  I’m in the process of contacting each of them and cancelling automatic payments, deferring payments as long as possible, cutting down on extraneous services I don’t need, making partial payments to be paid fully later on, and so forth.  Some things, like cell phone or internet bills, can’t be decreased much or deferred, so I’ll have to accept those bills and pay for them as I need to.  Other things, like car loans or rent, can be put off with the agreement of the other party until I’m back on financial ground.  Yet other things, like my credit card, can be significantly lessened so that the impact is minor.
  • Know what your other resources are, since money isn’t the only thing that makes the world go round.  There are other things, like food, that are just as important.  I recall from the last shutdown that plenty of businesses and restaurants and bars offered furloughed employees free meals or drinks and other types of non-financial aid to help the sting of furlough less harsh.  I’m going through some of the old tweets and news articles from 2013 to gauge where and what those places might be, just in case I need a pick-me-up somewhere.  Essentially, this is a form of thrift and reliance on social aid, which I’m not devastated to rely on should I need to.  Besides, places that help me out are places I’ll be sure to head back to, building stronger social bonds, anyway.  It’s a healthy cycle.
  • Ask for help, and be aware that it’s a matter of generosity and not something you’re owed.  Unemployment, calling in favors, collecting on debts, and getting hand-outs from awesome bars is one thing, but there’s no shame in asking others for a favor when you’re down on your luck.  For some people, one’s parents can and probably should be the first resort; understanding friends, especially those who are close or extraordinarily trustworthy, are another group of people you should call on.  I’m not suggesting one should outright go begging, but see who can help you out.  If you prefer, barter or trade one’s stockpile of supplies or skill sets to keep yourself busy as well as satisfied, so that everything is an even deal and nobody owes anyone at the end of the day.

That’s just a very brief overview of some of the things I’ve been thinking about and acting on when it comes to this crisis.  You can see how some of these things are just facts of life that have to be lived with, like service bills that can’t be interrupted (predicaments), and how other things have workarounds or solutions or contingencies inherent to the situation (problems).  Plus, by making the most out of the situation, unexpected or serendipitous opportunities can arise that make everything else better, at least a little bit.

Now, bear in mind that all this advice is good for pretty much anyone.  But, dear reader, you’re likely not just anyone.  You’re a fucking magician.  You have the power and knowledge and skill to change shit where others can’t.  It’s times like these (and those that are far worse than these) that people turn to magic, and for those who are already familiar with it, we’re far better off than those who are new or those who are fearful of it.  While mundane acts matter most in this mundane world of ours, magic buffs it up and changes the odds in our favor behind the scenes in a way that makes things work…well, like magic.  For us, a crisis is a time when we have many more things to decide on than just who to talk to, but Who to Talk to.

Again, using my situation as an example:

  • The first thing people lose in any kind of crisis is a cool head and a clear mind, and this often leads to a real disaster instead of a mitigated vexation.  If we don’t think about things properly and thoroughly, we can make a grievous misstep in our haste and confusion.  Banish, cleanse, meditate, bathe, and purify yourself in a way that gives you the spiritual fortitude and stillness to proceed.
  • Gods or spirits of communication and persuasion can be invaluable to call on, since they can make people and stakeholders (credit companies, loan agencies, landlords, banks, etc.) far more amenable to your situation and can help work on your behalf to get what you want done instead of having you be constrained more than you already are.  Honey jars, silver-tongue charms, spells of assertiveness, and the like can be applied for similar ends.
  • This is a financial issue, so financial magic is a must.  Making offerings and requests, as one is able, to spirits of wealth and fortune is one way to go about this; Jupiter and Mercury magic for increase and circulation is another obvious choice.  Money-drawing, however, works only as well as one has a means and a medium to draw money in, so similar things such as “help me get a new side-job” or “inspire me to come up with a new craft/writing topic that I can monetize” or even “small gains through the lotto” are things to consider and apply in equal measure.  Heck, you might even want to enchant the dollar bills and coins you use in consuming things to come back to you with more money.
  • As opposed to simply asking for more money and trying to conjure a good financial situation, it’s also worthy to consider stability and restraint magic on oneself to keep one from being too affected by what’s going on.  Rituals to intentionally take away what doesn’t need to be kept can be dangerous but helpful; increased awareness of one’s budget can help you stick to it better; tweaking the forces in your life with a touch of Saturn to keep expenses away is a good method to use.
  • Pray.  Prayer helps, not just to ask for stuff, but also on its own to keep your head above the murky waters of this world.  Joy, calmness, and satisfaction are things that can be easily delivered through prayer should it be done right, and can help refocus you on things of real importance so you can let the small things slide off easier.
  • Large-scale magical operations to affect the cause of the predicament should be planned in advance, ideally with other people in concert if possible.  While the spiritual forces surrounding Congress are…less than organized, and representative of the people inside Congress, inducing a change for the better should be considered and employed.  For instance, a work to encourage Congress to act justly and give furloughed employees (especially contractors, who are worse off than those directly employed by the federal government) backpay for the time missed, would be especially good.  Works to lessen the overall economic impact of the shutdown, to speed up the resolution of a budget, to kick out the political insurgents in Congress causing this mess, and so forth are all good things to pursue, but as Dr. Frankenfurter says, this will only remove the cause, not the symptoms.
  • Divination.  Holy shit, I cannot tell you how valuable divination can be in this instance.  As Jason Miller and Gordon White agree, however, divination is only one means to learn things, and should be corroborated with other sources of information to collectively form solid intel.  Keep an ear open for gossip, rumors, and legitimate news coming down the pipeline, and use information-gathering spirits to deliver to you whatever they can find out so you can plan ahead and get an edge on whatever happens or whoever is competing against you.  If you’re in a cutthroat environment, use the reverse of that on your enemies and competition: use spells of confusion, murkiness, buzzing, and gossip to disable them while you empower yourself to get ahead.
  • Mars and the Sun, as forces of Fire, are as crucial as maintaining a clear head.  If you make one misstep due to confusion, you can screw yourself over; if you lack the energy or bravery to take up an opportunity, you can miss it entirely and regret it later.  Do not be afraid of what will happen.  You’re going to need to be brave in a sticky situation, and you’re going to need drive and judgment and fortitude and urgency in order to make the most of your problems and predicaments.  Be bold.  Empower yourself accordingly, lest you get sapped, dragged under, and depressed by everything, letting the world act on you instead of acting upon it or with it in unison.

The possibilities I can take here are as endless as the number of stars in the sky, but this should give you a good idea of what can be done with magic in a crisis.  Essentially, this is the kind of approach Jason Miller talks about in his Strategic Sorcery stuff: be strategic, damnit, and back your mundane actions up with magic, and your magic with mundane actions.  Remember, kids: a crisis can turn for the bad, but it can also turn for the good.  It’s up to you how you react to it, and it’s also up to you how to act upon it.  Do your best, because that’s the only way you can get the best.

Now, if you’ve read closely, dear reader, you’ll notice something peculiar.  While most common self-help guides and 101-level entries on strategic magic might say that you need to take control of the situation you find yourself in, I’ve never said that, and have tried to avoid implying that, either.  The whole point of a problem versus a predicament is to point out that, quite often, there are things that are simply not in our control.  We cannot control the laws of physics or thermodynamics; we cannot break the rules of mathematical possibility; we cannot puppeteer multiple people in a complicated situation according to our own personal vision of things down to the minute.  We have our limits of power, and that quite often translates into the cosmos outright telling us “no”.  Trying to take control of the cosmos when the cosmos isn’t something to be controlled amounts to one thing and one thing only: failure.  It’s a fool’s errand to try and do that, and you’ll only make things worse if you do, with a broken sense of pride and capability being the least of your worries.  No, dear reader, trying to take control of the whole thing is not something that is for us.  It may not be easy for some of us to accept that the world is not our bitch, especially with our modern notions of progress and the infallibility of mankind, but it’s necessary to realize it all the same.

Rather than trying to take control of what you can, you manage what you should.  That’s where planning, organizing, and strategizing comes into play.  Rather than trying to constrain the cosmos to follow your whim like a slave, you work with the cosmos as a co-creator and contributor.  Anyone in an office environment is aware of the difference in management styles; a group can get far more done if people’s own inhibitions and limitations are taken into account rather than a leader saying “fuck it and fuck you, get it done”.  Limitations come in the form of predicaments, and obstacles arise in the form of problems; obstacles can be removed or worked around, but limitations must be obeyed and understood.  That’s part of our job in a crisis, too, and how we react to a crisis is as important as how we act upon it.  We need to temper our will and expectations with a hefty dose of realism so we know what is feasible for us to attain given the circumstances.  Once we can see that, or at least approximate it to a good working model, then we can really get to work (and Work).

More Thoughts on Shield Chart Company

Last time, I posted my collected thoughts on the rule of company in interpreting geomantic charts.  The rule, as taught nowadays, seems to have originated with the French geomancer Christopher Cattan, but after a bit of discussion with a student, seems to have pointed more towards something like the rule of triads like what Robert Fludd used in his interpretation of the Shield Chart rather than an extra way to get more significators out of the House Chart in case the significators themselves don’t perfect, like what John Michael Greer proposes in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  I offered my thoughts there on how we might apply those same rules of company (company simple, company demi-simple, company compound, and company capitular) to the parents in a given triad, but I think we could offer more variations based on what we know of the figures, as well.

First, let’s talk about company capitular.  This rule has bugged me in the past, where we say that two figures are in company if they share the same Fire line (so Albus and Populus would be in company, but not Albus and Puer).  Why don’t we care about the other lines?  When it comes to company capitular, much like the case with the Via Puncti being limited in the literature to just the Fire line, we can also expand this rule a bit to focus on the similarity of the figures based on which of their lines are in agreement.  Using the above framework, I would normally say that c.  However, if we were to go to a more elemental way of looking at the figures, we can then rename and refine “company capitular” into “elemental company” and offer a new set of analytical rules:

  • Elemental company can be made multiple ways at once, and can be seen as a separate system beyond the methods of company simple, demi-simple, and compound.
  • A shared active line indicates an overwhelming desire or power in the method indicated by the elemental line.
  • A shared passive line indicates a complete apathy or powerlessness in the method indicated by the elemental line.
  • Company by Fire (same Fire line) shows that both parents want the same thing out of the situation.
  • Company by Air (same Air line) shows that both parents are thinking and saying the same things about the situation.
  • Company by Water (same Water line) shows that both parents feel the same way about the situation.
  • Company by Earth (same Earth line) shows that both parents have the same material means and physical basis to attain the outcome.

So, let’s say we have a First Triad (describing the nature and condition of the querent) where we have Coniunctio and Rubeus as the parents; the resulting child is Albus.  Thus, we can see that the parents of this triad are in passive company by Fire and Earth, in active company by Air, and not in company by Water.  While we know that the overall condition of the querent is placid and calm and not very active (Albus), we can also say that this is because they’re only constantly thinking about something intently (active company by Air) without having much to act (passive company by Fire) nor having much to act upon (passive company by Earth).  Through the querent’s reflection and mulling things over, they lose their intense and active feelings on the matter and let it go (not in company by Water).

That said, I suppose that this particular example isn’t particularly helpful, as it’s more a description of how the figures are interacting based on their elemental composition rather than an interaction between people or whether there’s support involved for the querent or other people involved in a given matter.  We know that we have passive company by Fire and Earth and active company by Air, so if we were interpreting this as a normal rule of company, we could say that there’s lots of concerted talk with others and lots of talking to people, but not much else going on, and that talk isn’t helpful when it comes to communicating feelings or helping sympathize or empathize with others, leading to solitude and loneliness on the parts of individual people.

Maybe elemental company isn’t the best approach.  However, there’s another way we could expand on the rule of company when implemented in the triads, and that’s based on the rule of company compound, where two figures are in company if they’re reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus, or Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis).  With company compound, the parent and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will help each other out where they themselves lack the power they get from the other.  The thing is, however, that the reversion of a figure is essentially a mathematical transformation of a figure, not elemental or otherwise occult, and there are other mathematical transformations we could use instead to obtain other forms of company.

Although I haven’t discussed it explicitly on my blog much, I have briefly gone over the mathematical transformations of the figures in an earlier post, and I’ve also explicitly stated what the given transformation is of each figure in the relevant posts in my De Geomanteia series.  For our purposes here, there are three types of mathematical transformations of the figures:

  • Inversion: replacing all the single dots with double dots and vice versa (e.g. Puer inverted becomes Albus).  Everything a figure is not, but on an external level.
  • Reversion: rotating a figure upside down (e.g. Puer reverted becomes Puella).  The same qualities of a figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme.
  • Conversion: inversion with reversion (e.g. Puer converted becomes Rubeus).  The same qualities of a figure expressed in a similar, contraparallel manner.

So, if we were to make separate rules of company for these transformations, we might end up with four types of company, were we to keep company simple around as well.  Company compound would be renamed company reverse, and we’d add in “company inverse” and “company converse” into the mix as well, for a total of four “mathematical company” methods:

  • Company simple: both parents are the same figure (e.g. Albus and Albus).  The significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company inverse: the parents are inverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Puer).  The significator and their allies fulfill each other’s deficit of power or means, yet mesh together to form one complete and total force that will conquer and achieve everything that alone they could not.
  • Company reverse: the parents are reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus).  The significator and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will each benefit from the whole.
  • Company converse: the parents are converses of each other (e.g. Albus and Puella).  The significator and their allies are similar enough to act along the same lines of power and types of action, but express it in completely different ways from the outside.  Internally, the action and thoughts are the same, but externally, they are distinct.  Think bizarro-world reflections of each other.

Interestingly, because these are mathematical operations performed on the figures, if we know what the operation is, we nearly always already know what the child will be if we know the parents and type of company they’re in.  For instance, we know that when two figures are added to each other, if those figures are inversions, the result will always be Via (e.g. Populus and Via, Albus and Puer, Laetitia and Caput Draconis).  Likewise, if two figures are in company simple, we’re adding the same figure to itself, so the result will always be Populus.  However, the other types of company give us a bit more interesting stuff to chew on:

  • Company reverse
    • Cannot be formed if parents are both Via, both Populus, both Coniunctio, or both Carcer.  These figures are reversions of themselves, the so-called “axial” figures.  In these cases, we have company simple.
    • Cannot be formed if parents are Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor (or vice versa), or Acquisitio and Amissio.  These figures are inversions of themselves, and so we have company inverse.
    • Child will be Carcer if parents are Laetitia and Tristitia, or Caput Draconis or Cauda Draconis.
    • Child will be Coniunctio if parents are Albus and Rubeus, or Puer and Puella.
  • Company converse
    • Cannot be formed if parents are Populus and Via, or Carcer and Coniunctio.  The axial figures have a converse that is their inverse, and so we have company inverse.
    • Cannot be formed if parents are both Fortuna Maior, both Fortuna Minor, both Acquisitio, or both Amissio.  These figures are converses of themselves, and so we have company simple.
    • Child will be Carcer if parents are Laetitia and Cauda Draconis, or Tristitia and Caput Draconis.
    • Child will be Coniunctio if parents are both Albus and Puella, or Rubeus and Puer.

Note that, in all cases where we use these company rules for parents in a triad, we always have a child that will be an axial figure: always Populus if company simple, always Via if company inverse, and either Carcer or Coniunctio if company reverse or company converse.  Thus, if we see any child figure in the Shield Chart as an axial figure, we know immediately that its parents will be in company.  Further, based on this child figure, we could see at a glance whether a triad is referring to a single person developing over time with the help or assistance of others (if Via or Carcer), or whether the triad is referring to multiple people interacting and dealing amongst themselves (if Populus or Coniunctio); additionally, we can see whether there is progress and change involved (if Via or Coniunctio) or whether things stagnate and become fixed (if Populus or Carcer).  However, this is a very naïve way of reading a triad, and may not always hold up depending on the specific triad being interpreted as well as the query and intuition of the diviner.

As an example, let’s consider a First Triad where the First Mother is Albus.  Again, we’re considering what the condition and overall state of the querent is, so let’s see what the four possibilities of company would be and their resulting triads:

  • Company simple (Second Mother Albus, First Niece Populus):  Not much to speak of, really.  As in all cases where the child is Populus, what has been is what will be.  However, the querent is likely not alone and has at least one other friend who shares their same state of mind and condition, and are coming together in harmony and unison to help each other out or facilitate their actions together.
  • Company inverse (Second Mother Puer, First Niece Via):  On its own, we could say that the state of the querent will be turned completely on its head, with all this passive contemplation turning into daring, heedless action.  If the chart or intuition of the diviner suggests that the querent is with someone else, this is someone who’s constantly playing devil’s advocate and goading the querent onto radical change, and together they complete and fulfill each other in many ways.
  • Company reverse (Second Mother Rubeus, First Niece Coniunctio):  Fun times, except ew.  This is a weird combination of people, and I’d hardly call them “allies” in any sense; they’re both arguing with each other to the point of talking past each other, yet in their harsh and loud words, they eventually come to a concordance and progress together.  Strange bedfellows, indeed.
  • Company converse (Second Mother Puella, First Niece Carcer): This is probably the most pleasing of all companies possible, as it provides the querent with someone sufficiently different yet operating on the same principles to reinforce the condition and state of the querent.  In this case, this would be good to solidify the nature of the querent and give them some stability, but with the risk of codependency and a potential for getting locked into their current state without trying to actively change things.

All these rules of company so far discussed are based on something structural about the figures, either the elemental structure in the first set (originally based on an expansion of company capitular) or the mathematical structure in the second set (expanding off company compound).  What about company demi-simple?  In that rule, both figures in company are ruled by the same planet, and indicates that the significator and their allies are different, but share enough characteristics for them to complement each other and understand each other enough to accomplish the same thing.  If we use a more occult basis for establishing company, I can think of two more ways to find these out, forming a set of four “magical company” rules:

  • Company simple: both parents are the same figure (e.g. Albus and Albus).  The significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company zodiacal: both figures are ruled by the same zodiacal sign (e.g. Caput Draconis and Coniunctio).  The significator and their allies are put together by fate and must contend with the same matter together, though not perhaps in the same way.  The zodiacal rulership of the figures can be found in this post.  Not all signs have two figures, so company zodiacal can only be formed when both figures are ruled by the signs Taurus, Gemini, Virgo, and Scorpio, the only signs using Gerard of Cremona’s method that have two figures assigned to them.  Otherwise, using Agrippa’s method, company zodiacal can only be formed when both figures are ruled by the signs Cancer, Leo, and Virgo.
  • Company planetary: both figures are ruled by the same planet (e.g. Albus and Coniunctio).  This would have been company demi-simple in the original rules of company given by Cattan, but here, we can say that the inner drive of the significator and their allies are the same, though their external expression is different but aimed at the same overall goal.
  • Company elementary:  both figures are ruled by the same element (e.g. Albus and Populus).  The outer expression and actions of the figures are similar and get along well enough for the time being, although their inner drives and ultimate goals differ.  The elemental rulership of the figures can be found in this post.

These methods of company do not rely on anything structural in the figures (with the exception of company simple), but rely on the higher meanings of element, planet, and sign attributed to the figures to see how close the figures are to each other and whether they can form enough of a relationship to work together.  Additionally, unlike the other sets of company rules, I think it’s best that two figures can be in company multiple ways at the same time (like Carcer and Tristitia, which would be in company both planetary and elemental) rather than having one form of company “overwrite” the others.  Still, if an overwriting rule were put in place, I think it would go company simple (sameness), then company zodiacal (fated), company planetary (inner drive the same), and company elementary (outer expression the same).  It is a little frustrating that so few figures can enter into company zodiacal with each other, however, but I think that might also be for the best.

So, to recap, we have four sets of rules of company:

  1. Canonical company (given by Cattan): company simple, company demi-simple, company compound, company capitular
  2. Elemental company (based on the elemental structure of the figures): company by Fire, company by Air, company by Water, company by Earth
  3. Mathematical company (based on the mathematical relationships of the figures): company simple, company inverse, company reverse, company converse
  4. Magical company (based on the occult associations of the figures): company simple, company zodiacal, company planetary, company elementary

Of these, I think elemental company can be thrown out as a viable technique, as it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know, but instead is another way to look at the simple addition of figures, which isn’t a great way of telling whether someone has allies or external support, and strongly differs from the other methods entirely.  Mathematical company and magical company, however, bear much more possibility because they explore actual relationships among the figures, one by means of their structure and one by means of their correspondences.  When applied to the parents in a triad, I think we can definitely use these in addition to or instead of Cattan’s canonical company rules to understand whether a person in a reading has allies and, if so, of what type and means.

All this hasn’t really touched on the role of the child in a triad, however, when it comes to rules of company.  That said, these rules are all about pairs of figures, and with the exception of the Sentence, all figures are parents and can enter into company with at least one other figure.  I think it might be best to leave it at Cattan’s barely-explained way of seeing which parent the child agrees with most, whether it be by ruling planet or element or whatever, and judge a triad much as we might judge the Court with the added clarity of seeing who helps who attain what in a given triad.