Ordering the Geomantic Figures

Occult systems of knowledge, at least those in European traditions, have a huge affinity for symbols.  For instance, astrology has the stars, the zodiac, the planets, and the aspects; Tarot has its 78-card deck; qabbalah has its sephiroth and paths and names of God and gematria.  Sometimes these symbols in different systems can be corresponded neatly (or not-so-neatly) with each other, much as different metric units can be converted into each other by reducing them down to a particular set of units.  Geomancy, with its sixteen geomantic figures, is no exception, and has connections to the planets, the elements, and so forth.  Nifty figures, them.  You might be interested in reading up about them if you’re so inclined.

Unlike other occult systems of knowledge, however, geomancy doesn’t have a fixed or canonical order for the figures.  Tarot has the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana with their numbered cards and ranks and suits, which can afford some structured ordering, and astrology has the order of the zodiac signs plus the planets in geocentric order from or to the Earth.  Geomancy hasn’t held a specific or meaningful ordering of its own for the figures, which is a little confusing at first.  Sure, there are ways to order the figures, but there is no ordering of them of geomancy’s own design for its own benefit.  Every author seems to prefer their own order in every single text, though it usually borrows at least in part from astrology (either the order of the zodiac signs or the planets associated with the figures).

First, let’s make two terms clear from computer science: sets and lists.  A set is a collection of things with no implication of order, while a list is an ordered collection of things.  There is no notion of “first” or “last” or “next” within a set; something is either a member/included with the set, or excluded from the set.  On the other hand, lists impose an ordering on the things within itself, with there being a first thing, a next thing, and so on until we get to the last thing; every think in a list has an index, its position within the list.  While astrology, Tarot, and the like have lists for their symbols (the numbering of the cards in the deck, the planets from geocentrically furthest to closest to the Earth), geomancy has never really had a fixed list.  It’s more accurate to talk of sets instead of lists for geomancy, at least in its historical development.

Several common methods of ordering the geomantic figures that I’ve seen include:

  • Binary ordering, where each geomantic figure is read as a number in binary.  As with the geomantic emblem notation, a line with two dots is represented as 0 and a line with one dot as 1.  Thus, Populus becomes 0000, which in binary is zero; Tristitia becomes 0001, which is 1; Via becomes 1111, which is 16; and so forth.
  • Planetary ordering, where each geomantic figure is ordered by its corresponding planet.  This relies on the use of a particular order of the planets; I prefer the traditional Chaldaean order, moon-first (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).  I set the figures Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis, ruled by the nodes of the Moon, at the end; for each pair of figures, I put the masculine/active/direct/waxing/rising figure first and the feminine/passive/retrograde/waning/setting figure second (e.g. Populus followed by Via followed by Albus followed by Coniunctio…).
  • Zodiacal order, where each geomantic figure is ordered by its corresponding zodiac sign.  This is complicated by there being different zodiacal attributions to the figures, but I tend to stick with Gerard of Cremona’s system (as presented in his “On Astronomical Geomancy”), but I know other geomancers use Agrippa’s system (such as John Michael Greer).  This is further complicated when several figures are assigned to the same sign; some authors (like Gerard of Cremona) simply set them next to each other without care for order, while others (like JMG) place them at the end.
  • Emblematic order, where each figure is ordered by its placement in a particular geomantic emblem.  Which of the 256 emblems you pick, however, depends on a particular purpose and other factors.

Personally speaking, I use either the binary ordering or Chaldaean planetary ordering, when I care to order them at all.  Do you guys care about imposing an order on the geomantic figures, or do you care?  Does the notion of a list versus a set of geomantic figures matter in your work?

Spells from the Spirits

In my opinion, which probably doesn’t amount to much, being a magician requires only two things:

  • figuring out what to do
  • doing it

What?  You want something more?  Gosh, you’re so needy.

Being a magician means that you do magic.  Magic isn’t that hard to do, and there are thousands of books on the topic anywhere you look.  Hell, this is probably one of the few times in the history of magic that we’ll ever be able to have so much information including the crap and cruft (especially the crap and cruft) available for cheap or free, instantly or locally.  So long as you have the will and reason to do it, magic will easily follow.  Of course, this itself often necessitates knowing how to do a working, ritual, or spell.  Sometimes you can pick this up from a fluffy book on neopaganism from the Barnes and Noble, sometimes from translating Latin or Coptic from ancient manuscripts, and sometimes from the higher powers themselves as revealed wisdom.

Probably one of the most direct ways to work magic with spirits is, well, to work with the spirits.  Instead of just summoning one of the big angels or gods and giving them a charge to carry out, I went a step further and asked each elemental king and planetary governor for a familiar spirit from their respective spheres, building myself up a nice posse of spirits respective of all the forces I work with.  I asked for an ally, friend, mentor, and assistant harmonious and compatible with my temperature and nature, which yielded anything from a black jaguar from Mercury to a Wraeththu partier from Venus to a sexy scaley biker from Fire, which is kinda awesome.  I got their seals and names, asked how they’re doing and what they like to do, and got their agreement to work with me as I needed them and for them to call on me when they need me; it’ll be a mutual agreement between us.  Calling on them helps me out when I need to work with a particular force, much better than just trying to manipulate forces directly alone.

Although plenty of rituals and spells can be devised from first principles, looking up tables of correspondences and piecing together qabbalistic symbols to form a complete ritual script and structure, sometimes the best sources for magical workings is from magic itself and the spirits that make it happen.  Here are a few spells and tricks I’ve learned in my time so far as a magician from sources that aren’t written down.  I’ve gotten these little workings as revealed tricks from nonphysical entities themselves, and they work well enough in my experience.  In some cases, they were originally once-off acts that I ended up repeating and “fixing” down, which turns a spontaneous act into a set ritual.

To Heal with Water (Egyn): rub the infected, diseased, or wounded part of the body with cool, clean water fit for drinking with your dominant hand.  Say “ARABŌTH ZYGAL NINDIANA MENĒ” as you rub it.

To Come to Know A Place (Amaymon): take a handful of powder from a place (dirt, dust, snow, salt, sand, etc.) and make a circle counterclockwise around you from the south.  Facing south between the center of the circle and the edge of the circle, draw with your hand or with more powder a pentagram with an upside down T in the space between the upper left and top points of the pentagram, and a proper T in the space between the lower right and upper right points.  Stand within the circle and observe, as in a watchtower or post.

Orison for Dreams (Gabriel): Repeat the following before going to sleep.

Gabriel, o Gabriel, hear my call
Angel of truth, sender of knowledge all
God’s strength, water and moon’s blessed king
To me in my dreams lend your gracious wing.
Guard me in my sleep, keep me from nightmare’s dread
Help me my dreams recall and their dim paths tread
I walk now into deep sleep’s foggy mist
Me now over my dreams with control assist.

For Sexual Prowess (Kammael): Rub oneself with a talisman of Mars while saying an invocation to the planet or its spirits and eat something spicy before engaging in sex with someone.  For passion, dominance, strength, and pleasure.

For Light (HGA): Say this prayer.

For sending spirits on (Hermes): Use this symbol to open a portal or gate, and direct the spirits into it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things I do that are technically received from the spirits, but aren’t properly spells or rituals.  They’re more spontaneous, inspired actions, done according to the context, need, and intent of a particular time and location.  Saying an extemporaneous prayer or energetically linking the four directions at a crossroads or mixing in some dirt in incense during a forest ritual because the spirits suggest it or because it “feels right” is actually fairly common;  it’s not because of what I think, but because I’m led or guided to do it.  Still, a few set spells aren’t too bad to work with.

De Geomanteia Recap, and a Huge Thank You

As I mentioned last time, I completed the small little journey I set out on about five months ago to describe each of the geomantic figures and a bit about geomantic technique on my blog at the rate of one post per week.  It’s been a fantastic trip, and I hope you guys got a lot out of it; it encouraged me to dig through my old notes and meditations on the subject, as well as having spurred me to do more original geomantic research.  Since some people like things being made easy for them, I present to you a list of all the De Geomanteia posts I made, separated out into the posts on technique and the figures.

The posts on geomantic technique:

  1. On the Via Puncti and its variations in the shield chart
  2. On perfection, aspect, favorability, and affirmation
  3. On determining time and timeframes with geomancy
  4. On using geomancy and the figures in magic and ritual

The posts on the geomantic figures (not in chronological order):

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

Feel free to share this or any of the other posts in the De Geomanteia series.  This certainly won’t be the end of geomancy posts here at the Digital Ambler, that’s for sure, so keep an eye out for more meditations on the figures and technique in the future.

Also, I wanted to thank all my readers for making this an awesome week.  On Tuesday, the Digital Ambler crossed the 100,000 hit mark, which is a fantastic milestone.  It’s a nontrivial thing, too, since the blog has only been online for less than two years!  Between Facebook, Twitter, and other people’s blogs and sites, I’ve been getting lots of traffic in ways I wouldn’t’ve imagined a year or so ago (like from Bungie gaming forums or discussions of grimoires I’ve only dreamed of working with).  You guys are awesome for having helped me out and been with me on this fantastic Hermetic journey, and I see no signs of it stopping anywhere soon.  Keep reading, dear readers, and I hope you enjoy the future with me.

Happy geomancing and happy ambling, you guys!

Required Reading for an Apprentice

Although I’ve made light of people who have asked for suggested reading for an introduction to the occult, I’ve had the idea to compile a basic library and resource set for anyone interested in the stuff I do.  While your path is probably going to veer from or cross through mine any number of times, there are some resources I wouldn’t be caught dead without for reference, assistance, and general help, especially in the traditions of magic I practice.  Besides, if I one day take on an apprentice, I may as well have a list of books ready for them to have for themselves.  That is, if I don’t already have my own personal collection and reference ready for them, but more information will always be nice.

Books for reference:

  • Agrippa’s Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.  This is the mother of all reference books on magic, spirituality, religion, and the occult, and is pretty much the basis of all Western magic today, Hermetic or otherwise.  A lot of stuff is pulled or morphed from his collection of information, which itself is pulled from older sources.
  • Betz’s translation of the Greek Magical Papyri.  It’s helpful to see how magic was done in the source and origin of the Hermetic tradition, as well as to take a hint about how different traditions of magic can be syncretized and folded into each other.
  • Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables.  Correspondence tables are awesome and help link different aspects of the occult and open worlds together.  Agrippa covers some of this, but these books (I prefer Skinner’s book over Crowley’s 777) are invaluable.
  • Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols.  This is one of the best books on astrological symbolism I’ve found, and despite the modernity of it, Hand is an expert I trust and who I know knows his shit.
  • John Michael Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy.  I think geomancy is extraordinarily useful to the occult, despite its relative disappearance from occulture, and any apprentice of mine is going to learn the technique, art, and skill of geomancy and how to apply it in magic and spirituality.
  • Eileen Connolly’s Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice.  I’m not big into tarot, but I do use it every so often, especially for scrying and meditation.  This is one of the better books I’d recommend for someone as a reference of the cards.
  • Wheelock’s Latin, because face it, a lot of this stuff is still in Latin and a working knowledge of it is going to help.  Greek and Hebrew will as well, but Latin especially so.  A good Latin dictionary helps loads, too.
  • Carl Liungman’s Symbols: Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms.  This is a massive and awesome reference for all kinds of written symbols, ideograms, and other characters that have been used across the Western world from prehistoric times to the modern era.  It’s a good reference for alchemical, planetary, and a variety of other magical signs as well.
  • Melody’s Love is In the Earth: A Kaleidoscope of Crystals.  Even though this is fluffy and light-hearted as hell, it’s also one of the best and most complete references on the different types of crystals, metals, and stones in magical use.
  • Picatrix.  This is the classical grimoire, the archetypal spellbook from old medieval European types and based on Arabic star magic.  The spells and works are still as powerful as ever, and it helps to know where a lot of modern magic is derived or based from.
  • Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing.  Even considering that Draja is one of the most underrated and undermentioned occult authors out there, the dude’s ancient and has the wisdom and experience to match.  His magic works, and this is one of the classic books on spiritual cleansing, protection, and safekeeping.
  • Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle.  A rock-solid knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology cannot be underestimated in its help for understanding and working with the gods and spirits and forces of the world.
  • The Bible (New American Version or similar modern critical edition, King James Version for art and style) and Jack Mile’s God: A Biography and Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God.  As above, but for Judaic and Christian mythos is wonderful for the Western magician.  Plus, this is one of the most well-used, well-known, and well-loved spellbooks of all time.
  • Brian Copenhaver’s version of the Hermetica.  As above, but for Hermetic and Gnostic mythos.
  • Benson Bobrick’s The Fated Sky: Astrology in History for a good overview of the path of astrology in science, mysticism, and human life from ancient times to modern.
  • Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.  This is the foundational text on Western astrology, written by the man Ptolemy himself.  May as well get the most solid background we have.
  • Richard Garfinkle’s Celestial Matters.  A modern alt-reality fiction showing what the world might be like if it were ruled by Aristotelian geocentric physics, different geopolitical and socioreligious sets of problem than we have, and how one really has to start from scratch to learn new systems of thought.  The depiction of how gods actually interact with mortals in a world where people still work with them is priceless alone; this is a book for any Hermetic or Neoplatonist to read and enjoy.
  • Rex Bills’ The Rulership Book, containing a huge list of what planets and signs in astrology rule over which objects, places, professions, foods, people, and the like.  Uses a lot of modern associations with the outer planets, but still invaluable in figuring out what force goes with what thing.
  • The Clavicula Solomonis, or the Greater Key of Solomon the King.  I like the Mathers’ version due to the pretty and redrawn seals, but the text as a whole is a fantastic resource to prayer, ritual setup, and tool consecration.
  • Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.  Normally I’d stay away from Llewellyn and this author due to his fluff content, but credit where it’s due, he knows his stuff, and this is one of the best manuals on herbs and plants commonly available.  I may not agree with all the associations, but it’s certainly helpful.

Links and resources on the Internet (many of these are on the sidebar to the right, but it’s not like you ever click on them):

I think the above would cover all the bases for me to start teaching someone, with plenty of other supplementary or secondary material, including other grimoires, modern texts on magic, blogs and essays, and various references and stories.  I like to use a lot of reference material from a Renaissance Solomonic or classical Hermetic background, but that’s not to discount the value of other styles, traditions, or sources of magic.  What books, texts, and sources might you suggest, if you were to take on an apprentice?  Do you think there’s anything else I should consider to tack onto the list?