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?

A Children’s Treasury of Easy Magic Projects

What’s that I hear?  I do believe I just heard you say that you’re interested in doing magic or something occult, but you just don’t have the time to do it.  Or maybe it wasn’t you.  I could’ve sworn it was.  My apologies, dear reader, but I hear and read and see this far too often among people in occulture.  For one reason or another, there are lots of people who study magic and ritual and the supernatural and the occult with all the fanaticism and interest in the world, but when it comes to doing it, they just…don’t.  Either they don’t have the time, the resources, or the know-how to do all this interesting stuff which works, they’re sure.  Some of them find practical magic in all but the most dire of situations abhorrent, but that’s a volatile topic for another day.

Bullshit they don’t have the time, resources, or knowledge.  Magic is little more than (a) getting to know your proper place in the universe and coming into your birthright as a God-damned God-blessed human being and/or (b) according to good old Crowley, “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”.  With those definitions in mind, I daresay that magic is at once of the most necessary, easy, natural things that we can do.  So what’s your problem?  Get off your ass and do something magical, I implore you.

Here’s a short list of a few things you might do tonight, this week or weekend, or anytime at all that you might do to get started.  (Am I now one of those people who make lists of faintly interesting shit on the internet?  Apparently, yes!)  They’re all really easy to do, require only the most basic of common sense and supplies (if anything at all), and are not intensive in either the time or effort they take.

  • Learn divination.
    Not all divination systems are as complex as Tarot or horary astrology.  Divination’s a useful skill, and can help in making any number of decisions, forecasts, or predictions from the mundane and simple to the spiritual and meaningful.  Pick up a guide on the I Ching or Geomancy (not feng shui) at a bookstore, or check the Internet for simple divination systems (such as bwa bwei).  Make a set of runes from card stock or wood chips, or get a deck of playing cards and learn how to do divination with them (an older method than Tarot).  If you’re more of a visual type, use some incense, a fire pit, or candle to practice your scrying skills.
  • Make friends with your household or local spirits.
    Get some bread, wine, fruit, cheese, milk, or whatever you feel is appropriate for an offering to the spirits of your home or property.  Set out a plate by the hearth, back door, or entertainment center with a candle.  Light the candle and call out to the spirits, gods, genii, Lares and Penates, or whatever of the home (if you know the name of your home’s spirit, use that).  Declare that you’re giving the offerings to the spirit(s) freely and joyfully and hope that the spirit(s) will take it for however and whatever purposes that they will, and that you hope you and the spirit(s) will live happily, peacefully, and prosperously together.  Once you build up a rapport, make small requests like helping you to find the remote or keeping pet smells to a minimum before you have the chance to clean it up.  It’s like living with roommates you’re on really good terms with, except invisible.
  • Chat it up with God or some deity.
    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).  Take fifteen minutes to sit down and pray to divinity in whatever form it takes for you.  Really, sit down and commune.  Divinity, in whatever form or by whatever name you know it, wants to know you.  Divinity would absolutely love for you to spend some time with it and just chew the rug with it (respectfully, of course).  Get yourself into the proper mindset: thank them for their roles and boons and blessings in your life, extol and remember their story and travails and myths (if any), praise the deity’s virtues and powers.  You’ll get into a kind of headspace where seeing, talking, and just being with the deity just happens spontaneously.  It’s so simple and easy, it can almost be taken for granted were it not for the fact that you’re talking to one of the real higher-ups of the cosmos and all.  The amount you can learn and benefit from this sort of thing can’t be described.
  • Enchant some everyday object you use a lot.
    Pick something you use a lot: a ring you wear all the time, a favorite pen, your keyboard, a particular spatula for cooking.  Enchant it to increase your productivity, improve the quality of things you make with it, or to generally make things easier on yourself.  How do you go about doing this?  If you want to use the traditional seven planets of astrology and magic, pick a planet or planets related to your objective and say their Orphic Hymns or Picatrix Invocations in their proper planetary day and hour, maybe lighting a candle or suffumigating it in the planet’s proper incense.  Alternatively, conjure the planet’s related angel to do the work for you, or conjure the genius or spirit of the object itself and ask it to help you accomplish what you want.  You could also soak, suffumigate, or anoint the object with materials, herbs, and oils that have a “natural virtue” associated with what you want (such as rose and sandalwood oils for beauty).
  • Write down ten ideas for rituals, sigils, materia projects, or magical goals.
    Make a short list of things you want to cast a spell, perform a ritual, weave a sigil, pray, enchant, or whatever for.  It can be grandiose and overarching, or it can be simple and mundane.  Tenants upstairs walk like elephants?  “Vacate the apartment above me.”  Allergy problems?  “Effective management of allergies.”  Need some cash?  “Profitable side-project ideas.”  Better understanding of your self and nature?  “Contact HGA.”  You get the point.  Once you get a few ideas jotted down, you’ve taken the first step to accomplishing them.
  • Clean and cleanse your home, physically and spiritually.
    Yes, get out the broom, vacuum, rags, mop, and pail.   Clean your floors, your counters, your dishes, your floorboards, your toilet and tub.  Do your laundry, change your sheets, organize your desk.  Put on some gay thump-thump club music if you’re into that, or something to really get into scrubbing your house down.  Once you’re done physically making stuff spotless, turn to the metaphysical side: sprinkle holy water in every room, on your bed, on your doors and windows, and do a general banishing of your house to clear it of all the spiritual gunk that’s accumulated.  Use an aspergillium if you feel like being traditional, or use a spray bottle and spritz down your house.  Don’t have holy water?  Buy it at a local botanica or get it from a church.  Not on good terms with your priest?  Make it yourself.  Don’t forget to use a bit on yourself, either directly or in a bath.

Do you find any of the above still too hard?  Or maybe you’re scared at all of doing anything really magical or mystical, since you feel that it’s stupid or sinful or demonic or frightening somehow (and yet you find yourself reading my blog with such rapt and undivided attention).  In that case, try some of these equally-magical-but-less-overtly-mystical things.  They’re less glitzy, sure, but they’re no less helpful in anyone’s work or Work.

  • Start doing periodic reality checks.
    Every so often, catch yourself in the midst of your daily routine.  Whether it’s walking from the train station, sitting at your desk, gardening in your backyard, or even while hooking up at a party (try to be a little more subtle there), check that you’re in the hard, physical, material world.  Look at your hands, pinch yourself, check the clock, feel and be aware of your body and self in the world.  Knowing where you are and how you are in the cosmos is important so that you don’t lose track of yourself.  For people good at dreams, this will help you realize when you’re dreaming and when you’re awake, which might help with lucid dreaming or better dream recall.  If nothing else, be aware of where, what, and who you are.
  • Practice throat singing, vibrating, intoning, or just general public speaking and enunciation.
    The spoken word has incredible power; just look at any number of lists of dictators, rulers, and influential people throughout history, and chances are a good number of them were even better orators.  Communicating clearly is important for both spiritual and mundane work, so why not practice this as well?  Learn how to intone or vibrate things so you can channel them and really imbue your body and mind with particular names or words; practice clear and steady speech so that people will be more willing to hear you and, once having heard, be affected or influenced by you.  If you want to be really awesome, learn and practice throat singing like Tibetan monks do.  (That last one can be tricky, but if you can do it, SO MANY people will be amazed that they’ll do anything for you just due to the cool factor.)  Heck, try just singing in the car to practice and strengthen your voice.  Nobody can hear you, unless they’re riding with you, of course.
  • Meditate.
    Get a chair, stool, or cushion.  Sit.  Breathe.   That’s all you need to do.  Do it.  The benefits of meditation are myriad and manifold, and is required for any and every serious spiritual, occult, or metaphysical discipline or tradition.  Yes, it’ll take practice.  You’ll get it.  Just keep doing meditation every day, a little bit per day and build up slightly longer every week.  You may not become a master (though it can happen), but you don’t need to.  Even a moderate meditation practitioner, from five to ten minutes a day, can reap a jaw-dropping amount of benefits without even beginning to touch the spiritual aspects of the practice.
  • Get drunk.
    Crack open a few bottles of wine, take a few shots of cheap whiskey, or savor a glass of some good scotch.  Get a few six-packs of beer or down a few bottles of sangria (my favorite is Yago Sant’Gria, being both delicious and bottom-shelf cheap).  Hell, if some other intoxicating drug’s more your thing, get gone on that (but be responsible and discreet).  Sure, it may be a bit antinomian and decadent, but it’s an easy way to slip into an altered state of awareness.  Being with gods and spirits requires a different state of mind than we’re normally in; finding ways to shake us out of that mindset (literally, a fixing and settling of the mind) helps us get used to being crazy later on in a more controlled, pointed way.  There are very good reasons a lot of mystery and shamanic paths use entheogens, after all.
  • Read a fantasy story.
    Broaden your horizons.  The creative among us went through the time, trouble, and effort to open up new avenues of thought, build wholly undiscovered areas of the imagination from whole cloth, and give us motive after plot after character after exposition to toy with in our minds.  Without seeing and being introduced to the wild and fantastic, how can anyone interested in magic ever build up the mental strength, stamina, and fortitude to do the same in their very own waking life?
  • Take a road trip.
    Similar to reading a fantasy story, broaden your horizons.  Show your mind places it’s never been before and give it more food for thought.  Introduce yourself to strangers so you can see more people (you can only dream of faces you’ve already seen, for one).  Learn real-life stories and places that you’d never have thought of on your own, but can truly physically and materially experience in the flesh.
  • Write down ten goals for the next six months.
    Jot down ten things you want to get done or see accomplished in the next sixth months.  They can be mundane, they can be spiritual, they can be financial, whatever.  They don’t even have to be serious goals; in fact, a good way to get ahead in life (and by “ahead” I mean “unduly and undeservedly rewarded for random opportunities that happened to be there”) is to say “fuck it” to the most absurd things.  Be aware of what you want to get done and give a little thought to how.  Once you plant those seeds, you’ve got the first step down to manifesting those goals, even if you don’t take much action on them right away.  But it will help you with figuring out good short-term plans that you can get done and feel accomplished from.  Protip: cross them off with a big, bold Sharpie when you accomplish any one of them.  The feeling of satisfaction there is hard to match.

What’re you waiting for?  Go on, now.  Get to Work.  Got any other ideas?  Post them down in the comments; who know, you might just be setting a goal for someone else by doing so.

Recommended Books (it’s not technically a lie)

An email forwarded to me by one of the owners of the store where I do readings and workshops at:

Hello,

I recognize Magic as a high path of knowledge, and because of my desire for what it offers, wish to follow this path.

I am writing to ask if you can offer any book recommendations for a beginner. I want to learn all the fields of Astrology, Tarot, Kabbalah, and Magic at the same time. This is because I believe more information from more than one source will draw out connections faster and lead to understanding essential principles.

Regards,

<redacted>

And my earnest(?) reply:

Heya!  Hope you’re doing well, Mr. <redacted>.

As Gwen and Bubbles mentioned, I’m one of the readers at Sticks and Stones, and my specialty is on qabbalah, geomancy, and Hermetic ceremonial magic.  Learning astrology, tarot, kabbalah, and magic at the same time is quite the endeavor, and to learn all the fields would take multiple lifetimes; learning even one field of one of those arts sufficiently is quite the challenge in and of itself!  Astrology encompasses the natal, horary, electional, mundane, and synastric styles, and that’s to say nothing of Vedic jyotish or Chinese traditional astrology; Kabbalah is sufficiently different in its fields that it can be considered a family of separate arts in and of themselves; magic is so broad a term that it really can encompass most of human civilization!  However, I can definitely offer some resources to help introduce you to the fields generally.

A very short, very abbreviated list of books:

  • Homer, “Iliad”
  • Homer, “Odyssey”
  • Virgil, “Aeneid”
  • The Bible
  • Jack Miles, “God: A Biography”
  • Jack Miles, “Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God”
  • Plato, “Timaeus”
  • Aristotle, “Metaphysics”
  • Ptolemy, “Almagest”
  • Ptolemy, “Tetrabiblos”
  • Brian Copenhauer, “Hermetica”
  • Robin Waterfield, “The Theology of Arithmetic”
  • Storm Constantine, the Wraeththu series of books (the first three, at least)
  • Draja Mickaharic, “Practice of Magic”
  • Judy Hall, “The Art of Psychic Protection”

You may notice that the list above is primarily religious, philosophical, and mythological, mostly because that’s what magic is.  One needs a very, very strong grounding in a wide variety of fields before one can even begin to approach the mysteries of magic, especially the long and ancient tradition of Hermetic magic.  Works like Homer or the Bible were considered holy and magical in their own right, even back in classical times, and are still considered so today thousands of years later.  Only when one is deeply intimate with the heart of Western literature and symbolism will the rich and sublime language of symbols speak to you and teach you themselves when you crack open most books on magic and the occult.  Even just gazing at the Tarot (say, the Rider-Waite or Thoth decks) will teach you on their own as a kind of abbreviated textbook of the universe.

Hope this helps!

An Overview of Geomantic Literature

Over on the Geomantic Campus mailing list, there’s been a bit of talk about a new (gasp!) book on geomancy, “Astrogem Geomancy” by Les Cross.  The book was just released this summer, and proposes a new cross between crystallomancy, geomancy, and astrology.  It uses the traditional sixteen geomantic figures and the astrological framework we all love, but offers some exciting innovations about interpretive models and the structure of the figures.  Plus, it also links the sixteen figures to sets of semiprecious stones, which makes sense to me, both the figures and the gems coming from the Earth.  I just ordered a copy and, shockingly, I got a thankful reply back from the author almost immediately.  I had an email exchange with him before after my post reviewing Poke Runyon’s discussion of geomancy, and we both came away the better from it.  Not gonna lie, I’m pretty humbled by his email, and I fully intend on taking him up on his offer to sign the book.

I plan to do a review of the book and technique once it falls into my hands, but in preparation for that, let me do a quick overview of the current state of geomancy in print.  This isn’t intended to be a complete list, but highlights the texts I own or am familiar with and my thoughts on what they have to offer.  Back when I was in college, I used my library and academic connections like the dirty whores they are to get the most information relevant to Western geomancy as I could without it falling too far into the African arts of ifa or sikidy; this, plus a good bit of downtime between papers, led me to be as well-read on the subject as I could.  Where possible, I’ve linked to Amazon listings or PDFs of the texts so you might be able to check out some of the literature as well.

For ancient and medieval sources, in no particular order:

  • Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, “Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy”.  Probably most magicians’ introduction to geomancy, when they get to those parts of his Second and Fourth Books.  Starting with his “On Geomancy” in the Fourth Book, he presents a fairly standard introduction to the art: generating the Mothers, generating the Shield, making the House chart, and presents the meanings of the figures in the various houses.  He also offers multiple assignments of the figures to the elements, including one based on their zodiacal correspondences and one on the elemental structure of the figures themselves, which is highly interesting, though brief.  It’s nothing terribly special, though, and isn’t great on the details and techniques that make geomancy an art.  His other references in his series of books, namely those in the Second Book (chapters 48 and 51), deal more with the magical correspondences of the figures and how they can be turned into sigils or seals for spirits or enchantment
  • Gerard of Cremona, “On Astronomical Geomancy”.  A short work, but unique in its presentation of using geomantic methods to substitute in for horary astrology.  Gerard Cremonensis shows how to develop a horary chart based on the random number generator feature of geomancy and the planetary correspondences with the figures, as well as laying out how to derive the rising sign for an astrological chart.  From this, he shows the rules of basic horary interpretation (horary without degrees, essentially).
  • Pietro d’Abano, “The Method of Judging Questions”.  A short text on geomancy, but this is one of the first that I know of that establishes how awesome using the astrological house chart and methods of perfection can be in geomancy.  It assumes you already know how to cast a geomantic chart and put them into the houses, and goes from there.  Foundational and pretty concise.  Part of JMG’s book Earth Divination, Earth Magic, which is now unfortunately out of print, but cheap versions can still be found.
  • Robert Fludd, “Utriusque Cosmi”.  This is a massive encyclopedic work, only a small portion of which deals with geomancy.  However, the part that does deal with geomancy is complete, well-organized, detailed, and exact.  It has huge lists of how to interpret a given query (e.g. “should the lost or dropped thing, though bad, be retaken?”) and lays out how geomancy was practiced at the height of its technique and history so far.  It’s also unfortunately in Latin and available only on microfilm.  I’ve only been able to get through a few parts of it, but this is definitely a masterpiece of geomantic literature.  Also, Fludd was a small god at using charts and lists to clearly show relationships and correspondences; among his other inventions and works, he might be called the grandfather of infographics.
  • Robert Fludd, “Fasciculus Geomanticus”.  Rather than a simple chapter outlining geomancy as Fludd did in Utriusque Cosmi, this is his encyclopedic work on geomancy alone, cataloging every technique, interpretation, and method he was aware of in his day.  Again, in Latin, but if you have even a simple understanding of the language with a good dictionary, the labor is worth it by far.  His influence is definitely present in modern authors such as JMG, and parts will eventually be translated as a part of my own book.
  • Christopher Cattan, “The Geomancie”.  I was able to get a pretty nice copy of this at Antiquus Astrology, but it seems like they stopped selling their stuff a while ago, and now all that exists are really horrible-to-read scans and PDFs.  Alas.  He devotes the first part of the text to basic astrology and astronomy, but does give nice detail on the elemental natures and correspondences of the planets.  He then goes on to detail what the geomantic figures are, what they mean in the twelve houses, and what it means when a figure is present in both the first house and some other house at the same time.  He offers a helpful chart listing the 128 Court combinations, charts showing a variety of qualities of the figures, and plenty of techniques with an example for each one (though the examples aren’t always clear).  Not a bad book, and one which I consult tolerably often.
  • John Heydon, “Theomagia, or, the Temple of Wisdome”.  No.  No no no no no.  No no.  Do not go near this one.  Heydon was a little late in catching the bus, and compiled this at the tail end of der Untergang des Okkulten; he had to compile damn near everything he had available into more-or-less a complete unit, and I use those terms very loosely.  It centers largely on the occult nature and forces of geomancy, especially how they correspond to astrology and the heavens, but it’s obtuse, unclear, unfathomably dense, and terse when it really shouldn’t be.  Heydon lavishes attention on the occult background of geomancy without actually doing much to show the actual technique, resulting in a lot of occult fluff and not a lot of real content besides spirit work and planetary correspondences, with one or two other details in a massive set of volumes.  Sadly, this being among the most recent of the “ancient” sources, it was one of the things that groups like the Golden Dawn got their hands on, and resulted in a good century or two of geomantic malaise due to the incomprehensibility of geomancy.

For modern sources, again in no particular order:

  • John Michael Greer, “The Art and Practice of Geomancy”.  This is JMG’s second book on geomancy, which is more like an updated version of the older “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (which included a copy of Pietro d’Abano’s work above).  I’d call this the modern definitive textbook on geomancy, giving a full review of the basics and details of geomantic divination, from basic pairwise readings to the nuances of multi-significator interpretations.  He also goes through incorporating geomancy with magic, specifically ceremonial operations and astrological timing.  In terms of technique, it’s basically an English translation of most of Robert Fludd’s work on geomancy (see above), leaving the details of specific types of queries up to the reader to figure out.  However, this is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in geomancy nowadays.  You can easily start with this and go pretty much anywhere in a matter of days with geomancy.
  • Franz Hartmann, “Geomancy: A Method for Divination”.  This is a modernized edition of Hartmann’s own reworking of an earlier study on geomancy; indeed, this is pretty much the earliest modern text on geomancy we have, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Hartmann gives a rough introduction to geomantic technique, terse though helpful descriptions of each figure in each house, and a list of the 128 Court combinations along with example interpretations for 16 queries, which constitutes the bulk of the text.  He finishes with a very, very short treatise on astrology, basically showing what each planet and sign generally meant.  A good starting point, but incomplete when put next to most of the rest of the literature.
  • Stephen Skinner, “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”.  This is Skinner’s most recent work on geomancy, surpassing and incorporating his older “Terrestrial Astrology” (largely a historic treatise on the development of geomancy from its Arabic origins through Europe) and the even older and more new-agey “The Oracle of Geomancy”, which was geared more for absolute beginners and repeats a lot of rote information from previous works, including brief and terse descriptions of the figures in the houses and in relation to each other, including repeating Hartmann’s list of Court combinations.  Both of these older books are out of print, with the newest one just having been released this past year.  Unfortunately, I don’t have Skinner’s most recent book, but I assume it’s a basic upgrade of his past works.  “Terrestrial Astrology” is good, especially if you’re a historical researcher, and it has a truly massive list of manuscripts and sources for the avid scholar to inspect.
  • Nigel Pennick, “The Oracle of Geomancy”.  Not gonna lie, I cannot stand Nigel Pennick.  Granted that I’ve only read three of his books (another on leylines but mistakenly called geomancy, and a third on occult symbols and writing systems), he is not that good of an author, and his presentation of geomancy is erring at best and trippingly confusing at worst.  He throws in anything that looks vaguely geomantic, including references to Incan and Amerindian art, ancient Greek pottery, the I Ching, and Nordic devotional art.  The little geomancy he has in there is either pretty common stuff or details that aren’t attested elsewhere; not really worth a look.
  • Ralph Pestka and Priscilla Schwei, “The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy”.  Now this book is one I wish wasn’t out of print!  Pestka and Schwei come up with a really interesting innovation here: we have geomancy, and we have horary astrology, so why not add them together?  By overlaying a normal geomantic house chart with the horary chart for the moment the question is asked, we can get a whole ‘nother layer of meaning by pairing the figures not just with the houses but with the planets, too!  They lay out the combination of each planet and figure in each house, and offer a new set of interpretations for the 128 Court combinations, which is refreshing and highly useful, more than Hartmann’s or Cattan’s, in my opinion.  Plus, one of their chart examples is on my birthday, which I found pretty nifty.  If you can get your hands on a copy of this, do it!
  • Thérèse Charmasson, “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’occident médiéval”.  Now this is an academic tome, right here, and also (if you couldn’t tell) written in French.  Google Translate and having a few Francophone friends helps here, but it’s definitely worth a read for the history bit of it.  However, it’s nothing you probably couldn’t glean from Skinner’s works, but Charmasson’s comparisons and research on the development of the figures and their names in various African, Arabic, Greek, and Latin sources is fascinating.  Not very easy to come by, and not cheap, so don’t hold your breath unless you have a good library hookup.
  • Paul Tannery, “Le Rabolion” (from “Mémoires Scientifiques” vol. 4).  Again, another researchy and scholarly French book, but one I highly suggest looking into.  Tannery was a mathematician and mathematical historian, and dedicates this section of a huge series of works to the development of geomancy.  The first chapter of his section on rabolion (a Byzantine Greek loan from Arabic for geomancy) is dedicated to the development of geomancy in the Sahara and Middle East, then in Europe.  The second and third parts of this section contain Greek and Latin texts of geomancy from the medieval and Byzantine eras, which is fascinating all in itself.  Very hard to come by except in the most established of libraries and collections.
  • J. A. Abayomi Cole, “Astrological Geomancy in Africa”.  This is less a work on geomancy as it is traditional Western occult philosophy with passing nods to how it came to exist and be understood through a very Europeanized African set of eyes.  Very little geomancy, very much a distillation of other works and focuses on occultism and astrology in general.  Not a particularly trustworthy source of information, but fascinating to see a glimpse of how geomancy was viewed in a very particular time period.
  • Richard Webster, “Geomancy for Beginners”.  I wrote a review of this book elsewhere on my blog, which you may be interested to read more about my specific take on it, but long story short, given that this is a Llewellyn book and is explicitly marked “for beginners”, the book is a passable though fluffy introduction to geomancy, though it really is meant for rank beginners who know nothing of the basics of Western occult symbols, but even then, the book isn’t that great in giving a strong basis with them, either.  Its presentation of information and technique is disjointed, and though it can be useful for people who don’t have much of an attention span to learn geomancy, its extra fluff and needless expanses of words unfortunately take up as much time as it does to learn the symbols and techniques of geomancy itself.  The only really innovative or new thing Webster brings is his chapter on “Arthurian divination”, but that alone doesn’t justify the rest of the fluff and cruft, especially since it’s not really geomantic.

And just as a note, anything on geomancy from the Golden Dawn is mostly rubbish. You’ll see why people stopped using it once you “read” what they had to “teach” on the matter.  Even if they were meant to be fleshed out by oral lessons and mentors, they’re woefully incomplete even as they are, but this is a problem with how geomancy barely survived the Enlightenment, not a reflection on the Golden Dawn and subsequent traditions.

There’re also a number of scholarly texts written about geomancy.  For those with good library or research connections, you might want to check out the following. If you can’t find them, be aware that I’ve uploaded most of these to the Geomantic Campus (and also to the FB group Geomantic Study-Group), so if you haven’t joined, do so already!

  • William Bascom et al., “Two Studies of Ifa Divination. Introduction: The Mode of Divination”
  • Louis Brenner, “Histories of Religion in Africa”
  • R. Davies, “A System of Sand Divination”
  • Rob Eglash, “Bamana Sand Divination: Recursion in Ethnomathematics”
  • C. H. Josten, “Robert Fludd’s Theory of Geomancy and His Experiences at Avignon in the Winter of 1601 to 1602”
  • Felix Klein-Franke, “The Geomancy of Ahmad B. ‘Ali Zunbul: A Study of the Arabic Corpus Hermeticum”
  • Wim van Binsbergen, “The Origin of Islamic Geomancy in Graeco-Roman Astrology”
  • James Sibree, “Divination among the Malagasy, Together with Native Ideas as to Fate and Destiny”
  • Marion Smith, “The Nature of Islamic Geomancy with a Critique of a Structuralist’s Approach”
  • Emilie Savage Smith et al., “Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device”

UPDATE (2017-10-01): Added Fludd’s “Fasciculus Geomanticus” to the books list, and other minor changes.