# On Making the House Chart from the Shield Chart

I never expected this blog to hit its 800th post, but here we are.  It’s a good milestone to meet, and one for which I’m proud!  And for this post, well…this is one of those cases where I know I’ve written about the subject before, but this is a subject that I think deserves to be written more clearly and explicitly, because I have some Thoughts and Opinions on the subject, and the subject has come up several times in the past few weeks between different groups of people that keeps it on my mind.  So, get ready, dear reader, because we’ve got a rant ahead of ourselves to make to make a point about a particular subject in geomancy.

The subject in question?  How to construct a geomantic House Chart from its corresponding Shield Chart.  As for why we’re spending almost 6000 words on the subject, well…let’s begin, shall we?

The idea here is simple: given a Shield Chart with its sixteen figures, the latter twelve (composed of the Daughters, Nieces, and Court figures) being generated from the first four Mothers according to the usual rules of geomancy, we take the first twelve of those figures (the four Mothers, the four Daughters, and the four Nieces) and plop each into one of the twelve houses of a House Chart.  In this way, not only do we have the benefit of using the usual set of techniques for the Shield Chart, but we can use the grammar of an astrological horoscope to interpret the figures, as well, interpreting each figure as being in a particular house.  The question arises—and, I should note, only for those in modern European/Western practices of geomancy—about how to go about putting, arranging, and allotting the figures into the House Chart.

The traditional method, as John Michael Greer has said in his books on geomancy, is “simplicity itself”.  Simply give the figures of the Shield Chart to the houses of the House Chart in the order that we traditionally make them: the four Mothers go into the first four houses, the four Daughters into the second four houses, and the four Nieces into the last four houses:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House V House IX
Second House II House VI House X
Third House III House VII House XI
Fourth House IV House VIII House XII

Easy, simple, straightforward.  Not only is this easy, but it’s also the oldest and most traditional method that we see across the vast majority of all geomantic texts classical and modern—and not in just European geomancy, but in other forms of geomancy, as well.  Although the notion of a House Chart separate from the Shield Chart, or at least the notion of drawing and presenting the figures in a horoscope-type format either in addition to or instead of the traditional Shield Chart layout, certainly seems to be a European thing, we see certain positions of figures in a Shield Chart described in the same language and significations of the twelve houses where we’d otherwise expect them, such that the First Daughter talks about children and games (House V), the Second Niece regarding kings and judges (House X), and the like.  We see it in Arabic and Persian geomantic texts as much as we do Latin and French ones, and we even see the same system at play in a variety of African geomantic systems, including Malagasy sikidy, which although it has developed in its own unique way is still recognizably geomancy.  Even one of my noble academic colleagues, the good and brilliantly-learned Dr. Matthew Melvin-Koushki, who has gone over many dozens of pre-19th century Persian and Arabic geomantic works, hasn’t seen evidence yet to the contrary, and I’ve only ever seen this traditional association and allotment in any pre-modern (and most modern) such texts I can get my hands on and in any discussion with my Middle Eastern and South Asian geomancer colleagues.  It would seem that the use of the language or grammar of the twelve astrological houses of the horoscope has been used from a super early date in the practice of geomancy, if not going back to the very origins of the art itself, and has been used the whole world over for a thousand years.  If there’s any one house allotment system to use based on tradition, popularity, or commonality, it’s this one.  It’s quite accurate to say that the first twelve positions of the Shield Chart (or “fields”, as I’ve elsewhere called them) really are and have the same meaning as the twelve houses of a horoscope, quite as they are.

The venerable Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, however, has different thoughts on the matter.  In his (possibly spurious) Of Geomancy, usually bundled with his Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, he first talks about the traditional method of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart as we would otherwise expect:

And these 8 Figures do make 8 Houses of Heaven, after this manner, by placing the Figures from the left hand towards the right: as the foure Matres do make the foure first Houses, so the foure Filia doe make the foure following Houses, which are the fift, sixt, seaventh, and eighth: and the rest of the Houses are found after this manner; that is to say, out of the first and second is derived the ninth; out of the third and fourth the tenth; out of the fifth and sixth the eleventh; and out of the seventh and eighth the twelfth: By the combination or joyning together of two Figures according to the rule of the even or uneven number in the remaining points of each Figure.

But then Agrippa brings up another notion:

And this which we have declared in the common manner observed by Geomancers, which we do not altogether reject neither extoll; therefore this is also to be considered in our judgements. Now therefore I shall give unto you the true Figure of Geomancy, according to the right constitution of Astrologicall reason, which is thus.

As the former Matres does make the foure Angles of an House, the first maketh the first Angle, the second the second Angle, the third maketh the third Angles, and the fourth the fourth Angle; so the four Filiae arising from the Matres, doe constitute the foure succedent Houses; the first maketh the second House, the second the eleventh, the third the eighth, and the fourth maketh the first House: the rest of the Houses, which are Cadents are to be calculated according to the Rule of their triplicity; that is to say, by making the ninth out of the first and fifth, and the sixth our of the tenth and second, of the seventh and eleventh the third, and of the fourth and eighth the twelfth.

Although Agrippa notes that the “common manner observed by the Geomancers” is what should arguably be used (a valid interpretation of “therefore this is also to be considered in our judgments”, and which he simply accepts without praise nor disdain), he himself uses a different method, which is to give the four Mother figures to the four angular (or cardinal) houses, which are Houses I, IV, VII, and X—or, rather, to Houses I, X, VII, and IV, in that order.  Although the numbering of houses in the House Chart proceeds counterclockwise from the Ascendant, Agrippa allots the figures in clockwise order, because this is the direction of the passage of the Sun: House I represents the eastern horizon where the Sun rises, House X the zenith of the skies where the Sun is found at midday, House VII the western horizon where the Sun sets, and House IV the nadir of the skies where the Sun is found at midnight.  Once the Mothers are put in the angular houses, the Daughters are then put in the succedent houses, again clockwise (so Houses II, XI, VIII, and V, in that order).  So far, so good, right?

What would then follow, as logic should dictate, is that the the remaining Nieces into the cadent houses, again clockwise (so Houses III, XII, IX, and VI, in that order)—but Agrippa breaks from the usual method here.  Instead of giving the Nieces to the House Chart, Agrippa simply makes new figures entirely:

• House III (which would be the First Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses VII and XI (Third Mother and Second Daughter)
• House XII (which would be the Second Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses IV and VIII (Fourth Mother and Third Daughter)
• House IX (which would be the Third Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses I and V (First Mother and Fourth Daughter)
• House VI (which would be the Fourth Niece) is instead the sum of the figures from Houses II and X (Second Mother and First Daughter)

This is “according to the Rule of their triplicity”, which is to say that the figures in a cadent house are produced from the sum of the figures of the angular and succedent houses in that same triplicity, i.e. element.  Thus, House VI, which is associated with the mutable earth sign of Virgo, is produced from the sum of the figures from House II (associated with the fixed earth sign Taurus) and House X (associated with the cardinal earth sign Capricorn).  This is what we see in Agrippa’s example chart (the original version in Turner has errors, but Tyson’s version is corrected), where we see Laetitia in House VI.  The corresponding Shield Chart has Cauda Draconis as the Fourth Niece, but there is Acquisitio in House II and Puer in House X, and Acquisitio + Puer = Laetitia.  Also note how the Shield Chart has Populus as the Third Niece, but Populus does not appear in the House Chart at all.

Broken out into triplicity arrangements, what we see is this (with the expected Niece placements noted in strikethrough text):

Fire
Triplicity
Earth
Triplicity
Air
Triplicity
Water
Triplicity
Angular
Houses
First
Mother
House
I
Second
Mother
House
X
Third
Mother
House
VII
Fourth
Mother
House
IV
Succedent
Houses
Fourth
Daughter
House
V
First
Daughter
House
II
Second
Daughter
House
XI
Third
Daughter
House
VIII
Houses
Third
Niece
House
IX
Fourth
Niece
House
VI
First
Niece
House
III
Second
Niece
House
XII
I + V II + X VII + XI IV + VIII

Let’s be clear here: what Agrippa is doing in his House Chart construction is that he’s taking a huge leap away from the traditional practice of geomancy, and instead taking a heavily astrologized and inventive approach to coming up with a House Chart.  In eschewing the Shield Chart, Agrippa’s really only making use of geomantic process and symbolism without actually performing geomantic divination properly; his method is an offshoot and derivative of geomancy, not a mere variation of it.  It’s like how Gerard of Cremona’s On Astronomical Geomancy is neither proper geomancy nor is it proper astrology, but a novel mix halfway between the two that becomes its own thing, a form of sortilege with astrological symbolism in an astrological grammar produced by geomantic processes.

What’s interesting here is that I’ve never really seen Agrippa’s exact approach put into practice by…well, anyone, really.  This method of developing a House Chart by putting the Mothers into the angular houses, Daughters into the succedent houses, and Nieces…well, rather, the sum of particular pairs of Mothers and Daughters into the cadent houses according to their shared triplicity is not something I’ve encountered in any other geomantic text besides this one (possibly spurious) text by Agrippa.  It could be that Agrippa may have obtained this method from some innovative geomancer before his time, but I can’t find any record or hint of that; to my mind, it’s more likely that Agrippa himself was the innovator of this method of developing a House Chart based on (but not making use of the entirety of) a Shield Chart by only using the “original” points from the Mothers, which were transposed (but not fundamentally altered) into the Daughters, then using his own astrological reasoning to complete the House Chart using geomantic addition but not the usual addition algorithm from the Shield Chart.  Why?  Well, we can take a guess, from his Second Book of Occult Philosophy, chapter 53, “that no Divination without Astrology is perfect”:

We have spoken in the foregoing Chapters of the divers kindes of Divinations: But this is to be noted that all these require the use and rules of Astrology, as a key most necessary for the knowledge of all secrets; and that all kinds of Divinations whatsoever have their root and foundation in Astrologie so, as that without it they are of little or no use; yet Astrological Divination, in as much as the Celestials are causes and signs of all those things which are, and are done in these inferiors, doth give most certain demonstrations by the situation, and motion onely of Celestial bodies, of those things which are occult or future; of which we shall in this place speak no further, since of this Science huge Volums have been wrote by the Ancients, and are everywhere extant.

…Also Geornancy it self the most accurate of Divinations, which divines by points of the earth, or any other superfices, or by a fall, or any other power inscribed, doth first reduce them to Celestial figures, viz. to those sixteen which we above named, making judgement after an Astrological manner, by the properties and observations thereof: and hither are referred all natural Divinations by lots whatsoever, the power whereof can be from no where else then from the heaven, and from the minde of them that work them. For whatsoever is moved, caused or produced in these inferiors, must of necessity imitate the motions, and influences of the superiours, to which, as to its roots, causes, and signs it is reduced, the judgement whereof is shewed by Astrological Rules.

Even though Agrippa puts geomancy on a level above other forms of divination (mostly sortilege), he still subjects it to astrology and claims that it works because of astrology, and that only when “making judgments after an Astrological manner”.  Agrippa is not content to let geomancy be geomancy as geomancy always was, but to essentially subjugate it and make it obey his understanding of astrological concepts applied to something that isn’t astrological in nature.  It’s true that geomancy does (or, more accurately, can) take a hefty amount of influence from the grammar and symbolism of astrology, but geomancy was still always its own thing from the get-go.  It would seem that Agrippa disagrees, and he attempted to “correct” it by making it as astrological as possible by eschewing the figures of the Shield Chart in chart of his own form of generation of figures in the House Chart.

Generally, when people construct a House Chart along Agrippa’s ideas, they’ll put the Mothers and Daughters into the House Chart just as Agrippa does, starting in House I and House II respectively and proceeding clockwise from there, but then they’ll put Nieces in the cadent houses clockwise starting in House III, not add together the figures of that cadent house’s triplicity mates together to come up with a new figure.  What they end up with is this method:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House I House II House III
Second House X House XI House XII
Third House VII House VIII House IX
Fourth House IV House V House VI

It bears remembering that Agrippa just doesn’t use the Nieces at all, although others say he does—notably, Franz Hartmann in his 1889 book The Principles of Astrological Geomancy, where he presents it along with the traditional method but seems to prefer this faux-Agrippa method over the traditional one.  I’m not certain whether Hartmann was the first to attribute this allotment method to Agrippa, but it is the earliest reference I’ve seen yet, and it’s not like there was all that much geomantic material being published between 1700 and 1900.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice (and in his older Terrestrial Astrology) simply calls this the “esoteric” method, but what’s clear is that when people say they’re using the Agrippa-style method of house allotment, they’re not actually using what Agrippa proposes to do, which is to eschew the Nieces in favor of cardinal and fixed triplicity sums of figures for the cadent houses.  For this reason, I’m going to start calling this the “faux-Agrippa” method from here on out, though Skinner’s “esoteric” method sounds pleasant enough.  Skinner calls it this because:

It has often been said that the correct method of allocation is the real secret of geomancy which has never been published. Even Aleister Crowley, who was in the habit of ‘telling everything like it is’, admitted that a major key had been left out of his explanation of the technical side of astro-geomancy. That key was the House allocation system. Amongst the systems outlined in this book is the major key which was omitted.

The “esoteric” allotment method had probably “never been published” (except in Hartmann and potentially a few other contemporaneous or slightly earlier geomancers whose works I don’t have access to, should any exist) because it was never actually a thing until someone said it was, as well as the fact that there was no allocation because the figures were already in their own houses according to their own logic and thus didn’t need any such allocation, but here we are anyway.  I should also note that Aaron Leitch discusses this method in a 2006 article on geomancy on his website.  However, Hartmann’s book, although still being published even in our modern day, probably doesn’t have as much reach as Leitch’s website does nowadays, so between Leitch’s webpage and the books of both Hartmann and Skinner, it’s likely that this is how the faux-Agrippa method became so (relatively) widespread in modern times.

The underlying rationale of the faux-Agrippa method is basically the same as that of Agrippa’s true method.  Basically, the Mothers get assigned to the angular houses because, being the first, they must therefore also be the strongest figures of the whole chart; the Daughters, being generated from the Mothers, have some strength but are less strong than the Mothers, and so get assigned to the succedent houses as being not the strongest but also not the weakest houses; the Nieces (if present at all), being made last, have the least strength, and so go to the cadent houses as the weakest of the houses.  I have several issues with this rationale:

• I’ve never seen it mentioned in any geomantic text of a notion of strength or power between the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces.  To be sure, there is a notion of age and seniority given the names for these groups of figures, but I’ve never seen it expressed in this way before in any other geomantic text outside those influenced by Agrippa.  It even runs counter to some African practices of geomancy, where the Nieces are looked at as restraining influences on their parent Mothers or Daughters, suggesting an equality of power even if not in rank.
• The first two Nieces are formed from the addition of pairs of the Mothers, and the second two from the addition of pairs of Daughters.  If the Daughters are formed from the points of the Mothers, and if the Daughters are weaker than the Mothers because they proceed from them, then it would follow that the first two Nieces should have a power on par with that of the Daughters as a whole, while the second two Nieces are weaker than either the first two Nieces or the four Daughters.  But we don’t see that borne out here, either.  In Agrippa’s true system, where the Nieces are formed from addition of one Mother and one Daughter each, I suppose one could argue that such a figure could be conceived as being weaker than either, but it could also be argued to being the figure of average strength between the two, weaker in power than the Mother involved yet stronger in power than the Daughter involved—and this view is more true to the geomantic notion of addition, especially as seen in the Court with the Judge and Witnesses.
• The points of the Daughters are the exact same points of the Mothers, just transposed 90° to be read from right to left instead of from top to bottom.  I would argue that, although we procedurally draw out the Daughters after the Mothers, when we make the four Mother figures from scratch, we’ve already made the Daughters at the same time by reading the points in a non-consecutive order.  In that light, the Daughters are neither weaker nor younger than the Mothers.
• Most importantly (and disastrously), the new houses of the figures gives them different meanings and contexts than what their own positions have always had in the rest of extant geomantic practice (i.e. according to the traditional allotment).  This is a massive departure from normative practice that I simply do not trust because the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart are already the houses of the House Chart; to shuffle them around is like looking at a horoscope, seeing a planet in a house you don’t like, and randomizing the houses for a more intellectually pleasing but empirically unfounded arrangement.  Either we’re giving each figure a dual context of interpretation which complicates things, or we’re replacing the natural context of interpretation of figures with one with a non-geomantic system which stands to break things.
• We also see this echoed in the technique of company, which is intimately connected to the geomantic triads. Company is described as only being formed between odd-even houses of the House Chart, never even-odd ones (so Houses I and II or Houses III and IV, etc., but never Houses II and III). Although this is not explained, this makes the most sense when you consider that these pairs of houses are also the pairs of figures in the Shield Chart that add up together to form a third figure, as in the triads (e.g. First Mother and Second Mother, Third Mother and Fourth Mother, etc.).  To use an angular-based allotment method like what Agrippa or faux-Agrippa would do would break the structural logic undergirding company entirely.

But we’re not done yet!  There’s yet another method of allotting figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, which is also definitely a modern innovation: that of the Golden Dawn and, from it, of Thelema, both of which use Agrippa’s underlying rationale but expressed in a different way.  In the Golden Dawn’s Zelator 1°=10° grade, which contain instructions in the art of geomancy, as well as in the Thelemic Liber Gaias sub figurâ XCVI, the student is instructed to allot the figures of the House Chart to the Shield Chart in this manner:

Mothers Daughters Nieces
First House X House XI House XII
Second House I House II House III
Third House IV House V House VI
Fourth House VII House VIII House IX

What’s going on here is that, like Agrippa, the Golden Dawn method of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart gives the Mothers to the angular houses and the Daughters to the succedent houses, but unlike Agrippa, they give the Nieces to the cadent houses.  Moreover, the Golden Dawn doesn’t start allocating the figures with Houses I and II and proceeding clockwise around the chart like Agrippa does, but they start with Houses X, XI, and XII and proceed counterclockwise around the chart.  Although I can’t find an explanation of why the Golden Dawn does what it does against what Agrippa does or what long-standing geomantic tradition does, there are a few things that occur to me here:

• They allot the figures to the houses in a counterclockwise direction in the flow of the houses themselves, which are counted counterclockwise from House I.  This is also, when considered from modern European languages, a form of “reading from right to left”, which is much like how the figures are generated in the Shield Chart.
• They start allotting the figures in House X, the angular house associated with Capricorn, the cardinal sign of Earth.  This would then be the “earthiest” of the angular houses according to its zodiacal association (the logic of which has a number of faults), which would then be seen as most fitting for geomancy, “seeing by earth” and thus an elementally Earth-based form of divination—which is why geomancy is taught in the Zelator 1°=10° grade, itself associated with the element (and planet) Earth on their Hermetic Tree of Life.

I guess they have a logic, even if it’s not one I’d go with.  For one, assigning a natural zodiac sign to the houses has always been a debatable thing, and it’s only in modern times (especially with the rise of the 12-letter alphabet linking signs with houses and planets, which is not exactly a good thing) that we see it so accepted as a default fact.  For two, if any house is particularly earthy, I’d say it’s House IV, not House X, because House IV literally represents earth and land, while House X represents the sky itself.  I see the logic of saying House X is earthy because of Capricorn, but that logic is so shaky compared to the meaning of the houses themselves.  That being said, it is true that the Golden Dawn geomantic process does heavily involve the invocation of the planetary spirits to perform divination, and as celestial entities, perhaps House X might not be a bad choice for that, being closest to House IX.  I guess it’s something, I suppose.

So, with that, we have four house allotment methods: the traditional method, the true Agrippa method, the faux-Agrippa method, and the Golden Dawn method.  Let’s compare them all alongside each other:

Traditional True Agrippa Faux-Agrippa Golden Dawn
First Mother House I House I House I House X
Second Mother House II House X House X House I
Third Mother House III House VII House VII House IV
Fourth Mother House IV House IV House IV House VII
First Daughter House V House II House II House XI
Second Daughter House VI House XI House XI House II
Third Daughter House VII House VIII House VIII House V
Fourth Daughter House VIII House II House II House VIII
First Niece House IX N/A House III House XII
Second Niece House X N/A House XII House III
Third Niece House XI N/A House IX House VI
Fourth Niece House XII N/A House VI House IX
Houses VII + XI N/A House III N/A N/A
Houses II + X N/A House VI N/A N/A
Houses I + V N/A House IX N/A N/A
Houses IV + VIII N/A House XII N/A N/A

Now, with all that done, let’s make a bit of a survey.  Between all the geomancers who have published works under their name or who have published works associated with their name whose books I have access to, who uses what methods? For this, I’m looking at my own library of geomantic works both modern and old, as well as whatever traditional and Renaissance materials I can find on Google Books and Archive.org and other websites, and giving (sometimes approximate) dates of publication or evidence where possible for each author:

• Les Cross (2012)
• Richard Webster (2011)
• John Michael Greer (c. 2000-2010)
• Jeanne-Odile Nory de Trebourg (1995)
• Joël Jacques (1991)
• Jean-Paul Ronecker (1991)
• Angele-Marie Cacciaguerra (1989)
• Henry Drummond Wolff (1908)
• Abu Hali ben Omar (1704)
• John Case (1697)
• Johann Andreas Schmidt (1695)
• Robert Fludd (1687)
• John Heydon (1663)
• Le Sieur de Peruchio (1657)
• Henri de Pisis (1638)
• Jean de la Taille de Bondaroy (1574)
• Christopher Cattan (1558)
• Pietro d’Abano (c. 1550)
• Al-Fakini (1535)
• No distinct House Chart drawn out as such, but interpretations follow the traditional allotment method:
• Mathilde Sanoda (1993)
• Gisèle and Gilbert Jausas (1993)
• Philippe Dubois (1987)
• Alain le Kern (1978)
• Bartholomeo di Roca (Cocles) (1549)
• Lectura Geomantiae (c. 1400s)
• Martin of Spain (c. 1310)
• Agrippa
• Agrippa (c. 1600)
• Faux-Agrippa
• Aaron Leitch? (2006)
• Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka (1990)
• Franz Hartmann (1889)
• Golden Dawn
• Nick Farrell (2009)
• Aaron Leitch (2006)
• Nigel Pennick (1995)
• Israel Regardie (c. 1937), Chic and Tabitha Cicero (1998), and other Golden Dawn folk
• Aleister Crowley (c. 1909) and other Thelema folk

Now, I’m not saying that this is an exhaustive survey of every geomantic work written from 1300 onward—I’d love to be so thorough, but I only have access to what I have access to—but I think I’ve made my point clear: it’s not until the late 19th century do we start seeing an angular-based allotment method gaining traction popularly, whether the faux-Agrippa or the Golden Dawn/Thelema methods, and all that’s rather late in the game of geomancy, indeed.  Further outside of Agrippa-influenced or Golden Dawn-influenced modern Western (especially Anglophone) contexts, basically every other geomancer across either all or the vast supermajority of the extant geomantic literature published or written in Europe and everywhere else in the world has always and ever used the traditional straightforward method, from the earliest texts right up into the modern day.  And even then, the traction such angular-based allotment methods do gain is still overwhelmed and overshadowed by the sheer popularity and commonality (and, I argue, the correctness) of geomancers even in our modern era.  However, because of the popularity of the Golden Dawn and Thelema as vehicles for promulgating their (withered and misunderstood) forms of geomancy along with a (perhaps undue) focus on Agrippa’s work as being representative of then-contemporary geomantic practice (which it isn’t), this trend of using angular-based allotment methods persists.

In that 2015 post I referenced at the start of this one, I made the claim that “the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy”, which I still absolutely claim, but I refrained from calling them wrong.  At this point, I’m no longer going to hedge: the angular-based allotment methods (Agrippa, faux-Agrippa, and Golden Dawn) are not mere variations but outright deviations and lapses from normative and standard geomantic practice that has been practiced the world over for close to a millennia.  I understand that some geomancers do use these methods, and their results work; good for them!  After all, magic works best in practice, not always so in theory.  But let’s be clear that what they’re doing is definitely not common practice (nor should it be!) whether as a deliberate choice or out of ignorance.  I’ve seen, both firsthand myself from my own experiments and according to the reports of others who have used angular-based allotment methods before switching to the traditional method, that the angular-based methods just don’t work as well, as clearly, or as cleanly as the traditional method.  I’m not saying you can’t get an answer out of a House Chart that uses an angular-based method, but it’s like trying to travel with a map that’s upside-down, printed backwards, and torn up into chunks; why make this more difficult than it needs to be?  You still can end up where you want to go, but the process is going to be much more difficult and is much more error-prone than otherwise.  This is likely a reason (and let’s be honest, one of many reasons) why so many students of the Golden Dawn get so frustrated with geomancy and why they so often leave it for other forms of divination.

We know from the actual textual evidence that either all or the vast majority of non-European texts as well as the earliest European geomantic texts never historically considered a separate “House Chart” in geomancy; for them, the geomancy chart was just the geomancy chart, full stop.  The distinction between Shield Chart and House Chart only began to arise in Renaissance European texts as a way to make a geomantic chart more astrological-looking for the sake of convenience, whether for applying certain astrologically-influenced techniques easier at a glance or for the sake of being easy on the eyes for astrologers learning geomancy.  But even then, drawing out the House Chart in addition to or instead of the Shield Chart never actually sought to change the fundamental meanings of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart: the First Mother was always talking about the querent, the Second Mother about their wealth, the Fourth Mother their home and inheritance, the First Daughter their children, and so forth.  This understanding of the positions of the figures in the Shield Chart, even with the possibility of it being introduced shortly after the original development of geomancy, has been with us for so long that it’s basically fundamental to the practice of geomancy.  It’s only after European texts start drawing out the House Chart that some people—basically just Agrippa, at least until the past 150 years—sought to astrologize geomancy more and more to the point of breaking that identity of the positions of the figures from the Shield Chart and reorganizing those meanings.

In the course of geomancy’s withering over the centuries, with much of the nuance lost from the Court of the Shield Chart and more emphasis placed on the twelve houses of the House Chart, later geomancers who were so far removed from the height of the art (basically the Golden Dawn) ended up making this subjugating of geomancy to (bad) astrology worse by introducing further deviations of their own.  After all, if you forget that the importance of the sixteenth figure of the Sentence, the sum of the Judge and the First Mother, which talks about the effect of the situation as a whole (the Judge) directly on the querent themselves (the First Mother), then what’s to stop you from thinking about the First Mother as anything but the querent?  And if you forget that the Right Witness naturally talks about the querent and their whole side of the situation, and the Left Witness about the quesited and whatever’s facing the querent, then what’s to stop you from thinking of the four Mothers of discussing other things besides the first four houses of the House Chart, a.k.a. the so-called “personal/individual houses”, and the four Daughters as the second four houses, a.k.a. the “interpersonal/relational houses”?  Using the angular-based methods of house allotment breaks all this, and leads to unclear and broken answers arrived at with bad and broken geomancy.  It doesn’t mean you can’t get an answer out of such a chart, but just because a broken clock is right twice a day doesn’t mean the clock is working, either.

As I’ve said before and as I constantly tell to students of geomancy, the House Chart is (and must be!) the same chart as the Shield Chart, with the same figures containing the same meaning and the same message.  This sometimes-common notion of the Shield Chart “contradicting” or “confusing” the House Chart is a modern one, and no pre-modern geomancer ever seemed to really have that problem, because for them, the Shield Chart was inherently the House Chart and vice versa.  The positions of the figures in the Shield Chart have, and have always had, the meanings of the houses as and where they are, and breaking that association of field with their associated house meanings they’ve had for a thousand years to suit an external astrological model of assigning undue importance to some figures over others by apparently misunderstanding what they are is bad geomantic practice.  While I previously considered the different house allotment methods to be like different house systems used in astrology (e.g. Placidus, Porphyry, Regiomontanus, whole sign, etc.), the more I think about it, the more I think that comparison doesn’t hold; as opposed to reasonable ways to reckon where the boundaries of houses fall in an astrological horoscope, what we see here with these deviant (not just variant) house allotment systems is far worse and more damaging to the art of geomancy than quibbling over trigonometrical best practices, and more like trying to mistakenly use a thirteen-sign sidereal zodiac in Hellenistic astrology, because the IAU obviously knows what they’re talking about when it comes to astrology.

Before I’m decried as trying to stifle the innovation and expansion of geomancy into better and more expansive forms, let me be clear: there are absolutely ways to innovate, invent, expand, and develop this art without breaking the fundamental logic and practices that have been around since the very beginnings of the art.  Yet, the use of these deviant house allotment systems definitely breaks that logic and goes against these fundamental practices and associations we’ve had since the start.  To that end, I do not and cannot recommend the use of other house allotment methods besides the traditional, because the traditional method is literally already baked into the Shield Chart: the Houses already are the Fields and vice versa, and the House Chart already is the Shield Chart and vice versa.  The traditional house allotment method isn’t just the best one to use out of several—it’s really the only logical and sensible one to use.

Happy 800th post!  We made it!  Now go forth, and do better and more well-informed geomancy.

# Labeling Myself as a Follower of the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus

Another day, another rant about the Kybalion.  No rest for the weary nor comfort for the correct, I suppose.  Readers here and my good followers and friends on Twitter and Facebook will know that I have no love for the Kybalion for any number of reasons, the biggest of which is that it claims to be a Hermetic text when it just, flatly, isn’t.  All it has going for it is that it claims itself to be and describes itself to be Hermetic, despite that the “real” text that what we have as the Kybalion claims to be an exegesis of doesn’t exist, that none of the quotes attributed to Hermēs Trismegistus in that text appear in any of the literature of philosophical or technical Hermetica, and that none of the cosmology, framework, or spiritual “infrastructure” that the Kybalion describes lines up with that which the Hermetic canon does.  The more one reads the Hermetic canon of texts and the more one reads the Kybalion, the more obvious and more numerous the differences become.  (Eventually, I have in mind to write a blog post series, “A Hermetic Refutation of the Kybalion”, but that’s something that even I’m dreading to write, honestly; that’ll be no small work, that I already know.)

And yet people are still surprised to hear any of this, if not outright disbelieving, because all they’ve ever heard is that the Kybalion is a Hermetic text.  It says right there that it is, after all; why would we not believe it?  Whole Hermetic orders of magical lodges and communities praise and promulgate the Kybalion, and generations of magicians and spiritual seekers uphold it and keep it fondly next to their hearts.  I’ve been called a sham and a liar and a poser for saying that the Kybalion isn’t Hermetic—because, I reiterate, it’s not—and that I should be ashamed of myself for misleading both myself and others about such a venerable ancient text (written about 110 years ago, as opposed to the 1700 years that the Corpus Hermeticum was written, give or take a century), and how dare I call myself a Hermeticist when I would oppose such a useful, informative, enlightening text.  It’s so accessible!  It’s so concise!  It’s so inspiring!  It’s such a good text!  (So many people harbor such a rabid love for the text, I wonder if there isn’t some deeper egregore at work here that makes so many place it atop such an esteemed pedestal with almost cult-like fanaticism.)

Like, I really don’t know what else to say besides the same thing over and over again: the Kybalion is not a Hermetic text, nor is it even derived from Hermetic texts.  Nowhere in the Hermetic canon of texts do we find a notions of “seven principles”, “three planes”, “the ALL is mental”, or whatever.  It’s all very clearly New Thought, and all derivative at that.  It’s not ancient, and it’s not Hermetic.  Whenever someone claims that it’s either of those things, that’s a good sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Even if it is good for opening a window—not even a door—to let in a fresh breeze of spiritual awakening in, I can’t seriously consider that enough to give it such praise as it’s given.  I mean, we all go through embarrassing phases—I started off my PGM work with Stephen Flowers’ “Hermetic Magic”, which was good to spark my interest but which I haven’t touched in years because it’s such a dreadful text, to say nothing of my fondness for Scott Cunningham’s “Earth Power” and “Earth, Air, Fire, and Water”, which actually are useful if not awkward to admit it as such—it’s okay to let crappy things die in the past, especially as we find newer and better things to study.  Even if the Kybalion is an easy-to-digest introductory text to thinking in spiritual terms, unless you’re going to continue to go down the path of New Thought or the various other paths of mish-mash derivative New Age messes, there’s so much unlearning to do to actually properly understand Hermetic philosophy and spirituality in its own terms.  At that point, whatever good the Kybalion can bring is negated and made worse by the harm it can do; it’s like how sugar-processed white bread buns with faux-grilled misc-meat-product hamburgers are good for a quick burst of calories on the go when you’re hungry, but holding to that diet over time will give you severe health problems later on.  Even if the actual Hermetic texts are more difficult to read and ponder?  Good!  Like sex, better hard and slow than fast and bad.

Heck, even the word “Kybalion”, which looks Greek, isn’t even a meaningful word; it’s either meant to dimly recall notions of kabbalah (which, as a Jewish system of mysticism, also isn’t Hermetic), or perhaps the goddess Cybele (what connections that might have with Hermeticism is beyond me).  The only two Greek words that are extant that bear similarity to “Kybalion” are κυβαλικος (like a rascal, knave, or rogue) and κιβδηλος (fraud, counterfeit)—both of which are fitting, I suppose, for this text.

Let me clarify something, I suppose.  When I refer to “the Hermetic canon”, I refer primarily to the source texts of Hermeticism attributed to Hermēs Trismegistus written in the classical period (between 100 and 700 CE) that all Hermetic philosophy, theology, cosmology, and practices descend from.  These texts are largely broken down into two categories, the philosophical Hermetica and the technical Hermetica.  The technical Hermetica consist of a truly wide variety of texts, ranging from astrology and (proto-)alchemy to medicine and scribecraft and everything in-between; the Greek, Demotic, and Coptic Magical Papyri are good examples of this, though not all of those would necessarily qualify as “technical Hermetica”.  On the other hand, the philosophical Hermetica consists of, well, more philosophical, spiritual, and devotional texts, the most famous of which is the Corpus Hermeticum, the first book of which is sometimes taken to be the title of the whole thing: “The Divine Pymander” (or whatever variant spelling of Poimandrēs one wants to take).  When people ask about resources for the philosophical Hermetica in modern English, I typically share the same list of resources:

There are, to be sure, other translations of these texts, especially of the Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius, but I find Copenhaver’s and Salaman’s to be the best currently out there.  Salaman’s translation is a little easier and smoother to read, though he makes more editorial and translator’s decisions for the sake of an easy read; Copenhaver is more critical and exact, which is better for study and comparison.  Salaman’s “Way of Hermes” is excellent for the translation of the Definitions alone, and Litwa’s text (though unfortunately rather pricey) is a fantastic resource on so much of the “miscellaneous philosophical Hermetica” that covers at least as much ground as the Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius do themselves—to say nothing about the Korē Kosmou, which itself is part of the Stobaean Fragments.  I’m sure there will be future translations coming out, too, especially one rumored by Christian Bull whose works on Hermetic philosophy are priceless to us in the modern day—to say nothing about the extreme hope we have for other Hermetic texts to be discovered that we’ve otherwise lost over the passage of time—but for now, these are what I stick with.  These collectively form my starting point for Hermetic philosophy and, more generally, the “way of Hermēs”, which is perhaps a better way to understand the material given in the philosophical Hermetica.  But I claim that these are the starting point, or should be the starting point, for anyone and anything that claims to be Hermetic—else, if what you’re doing or writing about has no connection to nor root from Hermēs Trismegistus, what sense does it make to call it Hermetic?

It’s true that I am limiting myself in my own personal selection of “the Hermetic canon”, with my own cutoff point being the Emerald Tablet (which, I should note, only first appears in Arabic between the 500s and 700s CE); it’s not like people just forgot about Hermēs Trismegistus after the fall of the Roman Empire.  Far from it!  Although the tradition of the philosophical Hermetica may have fallen by the wayside, the tradition of technical Hermetica lived on strong, especially in the fields of astrology and alchemy (though theurgy and other spiritual works, at that point, were either taken over by other religious systems or just outright quashed as a form of heresy and paganism).  However, that’s not where my focus lies: between my personal focus on the philosophical and contemplative side of things, as well as the fact that after the Emerald Tablet so much of Hermetic literature gets mixed up with other religious and spiritual traditions, it gets harder and harder to make out a firm outline of Hermetic content like we could in earlier texts.  While they’re still valuable as part of the Hermetic tradition, we do start to see branching-off into various kinds of “Hermeticisms”, leading to such wide-ranging differences in the term such as the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” or Franz Bardon’s famous “Introduction to Hermetics”.  Easier and clearer for me, at least, to consider the original texts that they all come from before this branching-off as the root that we can all at least agree on are Hermetic.  And if something outright builds up a radically different framework and cosmology and philosophy that either doesn’t talk about what those texts does, contradicts it constantly, or talks about things that the original texts didn’t care to discuss or outright said was a distraction, can that really be called Hermetic?  No—which is why I claim that the Kybalion isn’t a Hermetic text.

But you know what?  It is true that there are a variety of Hermeticisms around nowadays, and that Hermēs (whether as Maiados or as Trismegistos) is a pretty promiscuous character.  It’s not at all beyond the pale to consider Hermeticism to have “sects”, much as Christianity or Islam, and while all these Hermetic sects may trace or claim some origin with Hermēs Trismegistus as the prophet-sage-teacher-god-hero-initiator that resulted from Hellenicizing the Egyptian Thoth and Egyptianizing the Greek Hermēs, let’s be honest: so many of these sects and groups that claim the label of “Hermetic” can often be so far away that they’re anything but.  As one of my Twitter friends noted, it’s like how many Mormons call themselves Christian online without every having read the actual Bible and only swearing by the Book of Mormon: sure, I guess it’s derived from Christianity and does claim Jesus Christ as the (or a) central figure, but it’s so far removed from the rest of Christianity that it may as well just be its own thing.  I mean, it’s not uncommon that I have to explain that, no, I have no connection to the Golden Dawn and that my magic is not derived from or influenced by them, yet the Golden Dawn is the first thing that pops into their mind when they hear the word “Hermetic”.  It’s good marketing, I suppose—which is the most likely reason why the Kybalion tried to claim that title for itself so as to sell more copies and spread the word of New Thought further—but considering the depth and breadth of Hermeticism outside the Golden Dawn, to simply think of Hermeticism as Renaissance-derived Rosicrucian blends of Solomonic magic and (very distantly-derived) Jewish mysticism with Egyptian window-dressing in a Freemasonry lodge structure is…pretty far off the mark, if you ask me.

So, okay.  If people want to claim that I’m not Hermetic because I don’t like and discourage people from reading the Kybalion?  Alright, sure.  Though I’d rather they stop using the term Hermetic when they’re not discussing anything of the sort, sure, I’ll drop the label first.  From now on, I won’t call myself a Hermeticist except in the extremely broadest sense of meaning “something to do with Hermēs Trismegistus” (whether legitimately or spuriously, because words do have meaning after all), and for anything more specific, I’m going to adopt the label of “Hermetist” for myself, and “Hermetism” for what it is I study.

Hermetist, Hermetism?  These are terms I find in academic literature discussing the classical Hermetic texts over and over, and although some do use “Hermetic” and “Hermeticism”, there’s a subtle distinction being made here.  The bulk of modern academia is, as ever, focused on distancing itself from the occult, spiritual, magical, and anything considered “woo”, for better or for worse (though there are increasingly more and more researchers and writers and professors who don’t care about that, especially once they get tenure).  Because the word “Hermetic” is fraught with magical tension, they often use the term “Hermeticism” to refer to post-classical alchemical and magical texts and orders, and “Hermetism” to refer to the actual texts, traditions, and groups that we know had weight as being written and taught by Hermēs Trismegistus.  In that sense, the Corpus Hermeticum is (or ought to be) a text of both the Hermetist and Hermeticist, while the unrelated texts of the e.g. Ordo Aurum Solis would be more for the Hermeticist.  All of this would be considered Hermetic (as that is the proper adjective to use for things pertaining to Hermēs Trismegistus, as opposed to “Hermaic”, which is more for the god Hermēs himself apart and away from the other trappings), but as far as the path, framework, and the rest is concerned, there’s quite a gulf that separates Hermetism from Hermeticism more broadly, indeed.

I know there are some people who get upset at someone deciding to label themselves, because waaah limits or waaah you’re cutting yourself off from the truth or waaah why can’t we all get along or something.  But you know what?  Labels are words, and anyone who has any knowledge of Egyptian models of magic is that words are power, whether written or spoken, because words have meaning.  If people want to insist that something that claims to be Hermetic isn’t Hermetic even after there being abundant and well-agreed-upon evidence, like the Kybalion, or want to use the word “Hermetic” to describe something that has evolved and shifted so far away from its Hermetic roots that there’s no clear connection or silhouette between the two anymore?  Okay, fine.  Then what those people are doing isn’t what I’m doing, and there are clearly more of them than me out there, and a distinction in terminology is called for with good reason and impetus.  I’m aware that the Hermeticism/Hermetism distinction is not well-understood yet, hence this post being written: perhaps those who see such a distinction and agree with it can take the word on as well, and get on with our practice and lives without being dragged down by people who don’t care much for such trifling things such as coherence, cohesion, or correctness in the choice of words we use to describe things or in the worldviews and spiritual frameworks we apply ourselves in.  No shame nor shade to those who prefer a more Hermeticist than Hermetist path, as I know a good deal of people who do good work in modern Hermeticist traditions, but they aren’t doing what I’m doing, and perhaps that needs to be made more clear.

So, yeah.  As a follower on the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus, taking the classical philosophical Hermetica as the backbone of my cosmology and the classical technical Hermetica as the (ever-widening, ever-deepening) foundation of my magical practices?  I’m a Hermetist in the practice and ideology of Hermetism, and those are the terms I’m going to use from here on out.  This isn’t to say that I’m disavowing anything that came after the classical period or that more modern Hermeticist stuff is worthless or pointless—the Trithemian rite of conjuration is still excellent, to be sure, and I have a number of other practices that have origins in a number of other time periods—but as far as I consider myself and the core of my practices, I’m a Hermetist.

May as well save some of my own breath, even with that one syllable removed, given how much others waste theirs.

EDIT: Another friend of mine on Twitter reports that there was no term “Hermetic” or “Hermeticist” or even “Hermetist” used as such back in classical times as a distinct label for people who also followed the Way of Hermēs Trismegistus, but “Trismegistici” or “Τρισμεγιστικοι”, as opposed to Ερμαιοι or Ερμετικοι.  This would make the modern term for them “Trismegistist” and the adjective form “Trismegistic”, although “Trismegist” sounds a bit nicer, I have to admit.  It’s so pomous and immodest, but yanno what?  I do kinda like it, even if it a bit more obscure and opaque than “Hermetist” would be.  So there’s another option for terminology: Trismegistism, Trismegistic, Trismegist(-ist).  Or, as she later suggested, “Altrismegest” in a not-so-subtle nod to the Almagest, which I have to admit makes me melt a little inside.

# On Geomantic Education

To those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, this will come as no surprise.  I’m finally working on my book on geomancy again.  It’s something that people have been dogging me about for years, and it’s been an on-again-off-again project since 2013.  However, since recently rebuilding my computer and getting all my files back together, I got the bug again to write that book, and good progress is being made again.  At this rate, it’ll be the size of a proper textbook, and my aim is to make it thorough and complete on a level not rivaled since Fludd or az-Zanati.  I’m not going to discount the extremely valuable books put out by John Michael Greer or Stephen Skinner, as I stand on the shoulders of those two living giants with regards to this art, but I aim to put out a text of a different kind.

And yet, despite that this book is (currently) estimated to come out at around 300pp., I can already hear a complaint off in the distance.  My goal is for this book to present a fundamental and thorough exploration of the art of geomancy in such a way that it will start from first principles (what is divination, what are the elements and planets and stars, what are the relationships between these forces and the figures, what are the relationships amongst the figures, how is geomantic “mathematical”, etc.) and go through every major technique I can document in Western geomancy, including variations and specifics of detailed things along the way.  In this sense, I’m following in the same steps as the geomantic authors of yore.  However, there is one major thing that my book does not and will not have that virtually every other book on geomancy has, and while it may frustrate people used to it, I find that it’s something that should never have been written by anyone ever to begin with.

If you haven’t guessed yet, dear reader, it’s lookup tables, those lists of premade answers to particular arrangements of Court figures, figures in the houses, and the like.  It’s these lookup tables (cf. Hartmann, Skinner’s “Oracle of Geomancy”, the Golden Dawn primer on geomancy, etc.) that I believe are a bane to the proper study of geomancy, and I refuse to include them in my work.

Now, I understand why they were written.  For the sake of completion, many authors have endeavored to provide a clear explanation and guide to interpreting each figure in each of the houses; since there are only 16 figures and 12 houses, this is only about 192 small entries.  After all, astrologers have done the same for the planets and parts in the houses for centuries, and they have a lot more to worry about in their texts.  And, for the sake of being reeeaaallly complete, many authors have also included premade interpretations for the different possible combinations of Witnesses and Judge; after all, if the Judge must be an even figure, then that cuts down all pairwise combinations of Witnesses to just 128 different combinations.  Again, not terrible.  For completeness’ sake, and to offer an illustrative guide to the gist of what figures mean for a query, sure, I can see why this was done.

The problem, however, is that many people are not as dedicated to the art when they claim to be its students, and would rather be lazy.  Mass-market publishers, additionally, want things that sell, and will happily cater to the many who would spend a few pence on a text that appeals to them rather than the extraordinary few who would spend more on a text that they need.  I mean, consider how much trash there is out there with the neopagan or pop magic literature; sure, it sells well, and it may very well be a good starting point for those who are serious about their studies.  Hell, even I admit to having a few of Scott Cunningham’s fluffier books somewhere in my library, and it did help me get started back in middle school with learning what magic is and how it works.  That said, if I were to stop there, I’d be putting myself at a great disservice and would never have gotten to where I am today; moreover, if I thought that Cunningham’s style of pop magic spells done on a beach or in the snow was all there was to magic, I’d insult all the magicians and occultists who came before him, not to say the field of magic as a whole.

The problem is that, as time went on in the Renaissance and more and more books were published on geomancy, all they really focused on was the lookup tables.  The techniques were discussed only inasmuch as they enabled you to use the lookup tables; for this, see Franz Hartmann’s book on geomancy as a prime example.  Geomancy became whittled down from this elaborate, profound system of divination that could elegantly answer any subject with extraordinary detail into this…well, the phrase “parlor game” comes to mind, something like Chi-Chi sticks or those little folded paper fortune-teller doodads we all used to make in elementary school.  Even though geomancy was more popular in Europe than Tarot is now, imagine if Tarot were reduced only to using its numbers and suits; it’s effectively playing cards, ignoring different spreads and the qabbalistic symbolism inherent in the art and structure of the Tarot.  That’s what basically became of geomancy towards the end of the Renaissance, and was one of the main contributors to geomancy effectively being lost once the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution came around.  No, geomancy was not completely forgotten, but it was all but regarded as useless and overly complicated for an answer that usually amounted to little more than “evil, except for bloodletting”.

So much for how the publishing and spread of lookup tables influenced the general perception of geomancy.  However, there’s another part of the problem with relying on these: lookup tables are inherently limited.  Sure, the small number of combinations of figures in houses or Witnesses and Judge is sufficiently limited to offer a good high-level summary in a single text; it’s not the fact that there are only so many combinations in geomancy, but it’s that these summaries cannot be helpful in all circumstances and for all queries.  These interpretations are very general, but also very isolated from other factors in a geomantic chart.  Yes, Fortuna Maior in house IV is a good thing for one’s personal life, but what if we’re asking a query about having an ex-lover move out of our house, and this figure is aspected by opposition, and it’s in company with a negative figure, and the querent has indicated that health issues may be at play?  Fortuna Maior, although a good figure, is sufficiently negated that it becomes stressful and harmful to the querent.  Yet, what can a lookup table say?  Not much, except that the querent will do well and strong in their personal life and home.  That’s all well and good, but the geomancer still has to link that to every other factor present to actually give a useful answer.  Without indicating how, books that stress the importance of lookup tables without teaching how to synthesize these factors gimp the geomancer.

Lookup tables, in effect, cheapen the art of geomancy; it reduces a synthetic, holistic, detailed divination system to a copy-and-paste, abbreviated, vague system of terse and snippy answers.  Because of this, geomancers who rely primarily on lookup tables aren’t really learning how to actually use geomancy beyond following page numbers like a “choose your path” story book.

That’s why my book will not have these lookup tables.  Tables of correspondence that indicate what figures mean in specific contexts?  Absolutely! Detailed interpretations of each figure as they are and how they relate to other figures to explore their own worlds?  You got ’em!  Case studies of geomantic readings that explore each individual factor and technique used for a particular chart, then synthesized together to form a coherent, cohesive narrative?  But of course!  These are all parts of understanding the principles of geomancy from a ground-up approach, so that lookup tables become useless anyway.  By enabling the geomancer to develop their own interpretations through a deep knowledge of each figure, understanding how the figures interact with each other ideally and in particular charts, and giving them the tools to synthesize different parts of a reading, the geomancer will never need to use lookup tables for answers on “will he obtain his love” or “how will the undertaking end”; at a glance, the geomancer will be able to answer these on their own anyway based on their own skill and intuition.

So, if the fact that my book is gonna be around 300 pages and remind you of college, dear reader, don’t worry.  This is not a book to flip through because you want to be lazy.  This is a book to absorb thoroughly because you want to be excellent.

# Geomancy and Quintessence

I didn’t think I’d ever have to write a post on this particular topic, as I thought it was so obvious as to go without explanation.  However, as usual, the good people of the Internet have proved me wrong, and I’ve noticed a trend in my search hits that have prompted this post.  Uncharacteristically, it’ll be a short post, since there’s really not much to explain, but here goes:

The system of geomancy is incompatible with the notion of a fifth element, also called the quintessence or the force of Spirit.

That’s all.

It’s evident from the get-go that geomancy uses and relies on the four classical elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  The structure of the geomantic figures themselves lend themselves well to this: a geomantic figure has four rows of either one or two dots, each row associated with a particular element, with one dot signifying that element as active or present and two dots signifying that it’s passive or absent.  The binary structure of geomancy, in addition, relies upon the exponentials of two, so 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.  This allows for four elements, not five, as five has no place in this system.  Going further, if you want to bring astrology into this, astrology likewise relies on four, not five, elements, just as it relies on twelve, not thirteen, signs of the Zodiac.  (No, Ophiuchus is not a zodiac sign.  Get over it.)

I’ve seen a trend of Tarot decks that have five suits instead of the traditional four, with the fifth suit dedicated to the force of Spirit.  I’ve also seen people try to incorporate a fifth element into systems that have no room or need for one, and geomancy is one such system.  It does not belong, especially as Spirit is not an element by nearly all forms of Hermetic reckoning, Golden Dawn material and derivatives notwithstanding.

I will certainly agree that Spirit is a force, absolutely, in the same sense that the elements and planets are forces, but I will not go further than that.  Spirit is something that is either or underlying all the other forces, a kind of ideal form of a force, or it is something that is lower than a planetary force and higher than an elemental force, something that separates the Spheres of the Elements from the Spheres of the Planets and Stars.  Yes, one can work with the force of the quintessence directly, although it is a different type of working than an elemental or planetary one, and its effects are realized through other forces that are already present; I’ve found that workings involving pure quintessential force magnify the other forces pertinent to a talisman, conjuration, or the like, but is nothing on its own in isolation from others.  This is a mystery that leads to very divine workings, yes, but in terms of manifestation magic or most Hermetic workings, Spirit isn’t a thing.  It’s not mentioned in Solomonic writings or the PGM or any number of other texts, including astrological and geomantic ones, because it’s not a thing like the other forces.

Okay, ending my curmudgeonly rant for the day.  Carry on.

# Get Off Your Ass and Work: Magic and Politics

One of my colleagues on Twitter, Joseph Magnuson of Candlesmoke Chapel, made a few tweets over the past few hours that struck a nerve with me describing a general reluctance for magicians and spiritually-minded people to get involved with politics, legal affairs, and current events:

• “I wish you’d just tweet about magic.” Well, laws are Big Magic/rights are Big Magic. Invisible ideas everyone follows. Words made manifest.
• Magic isn’t just reading a book and collecting Supernatural DVDs. It’s all around us in most all movement. Do you not see this?
• Magic shouldn’t be safe and silent/not seen and not heard…especially by “witches” and “magicians.” It is not a special effect.
• So tired of this: “Politics? Not for me. They never got political on The Craft or Charmed. Besides I don’t want to hurt my witchy brand.”

I mean, it’s kinda true.  Spiritual people, especially those of a new age bent, tend to be reluctant to watch televised news or read news articles (excepting things like the Wild Hunt or a variety of Patheos blogs), and even more reluctant to even get involved with politics or current events.  They see it as beneath them, considering the news to be “a set up to keep us from manifesting the best reality for us”, and that “spiritual people know better than to get caught up in the illusions” (courtesy of Ernesto Mercer for that quote from one of his own conversations with someone he didn’t think highly of).  And you know what?  Some people aren’t meant to be worldly or get involved in worldly affairs.  Some people are meant to be hermits or monks or recluses that shut themselves out from the world, whose arms are no longer fit for the work of the world, who are here for purely spiritual experiences.  That’s okay.

You, dear reader, aren’t one of them.

Chances are good that you’re of a spiritual bent, dear reader, and chances are also good that you’re a magician in some regard.  You’ve read me talk about rituals for this and that, sometimes on thaumaturgy and sometimes on theurgy, sometimes on conjuration and sometimes on oils.  You have the whole internet at your disposal, and a cascade of links, even on this very blog, to direct you to awesome resources for magic and supplies beyond your dreams.  You’re educated enough and powerful enough to do some magic.  The only thing you really lack is awareness of the world around you, because if you were that spiritual enough to have the capacity for magic, you’d have the compassion to use it for the betterment of the world.  So read the fucking news and do some fucking magic, dear reader, because the world around you needs it.

I’ve been chatting more and more with my gnostic friends lately, learning more about the Apostolic Johannite Church and Gnostic Christianity.  I come from my Neoplatonic and Hermetic background, but my background philosophies and those of Gnosticism share much in common.  One thing that we kinda agree-disagree on is the nature of the world around us.  In some ways, the world we live in is the crowning pinnacle of all creation, the final and most glorious stage where everything is brought into completion and can play out the mind of God in all its finery and accoutrement.  On the other hand, the world we live in is also the Auschwitz ass-end of the garbage heap tossed unceremoniously into the night outside the walls of the real Kingdom; we’re just the refuse that couldn’t make it any better.  The Hermeticist view balances the two viewpoints, though modern Hermeticists tend to be biased towards the former; the Gnostic view has always been solidly focused the latter argument.  Both are true, really; the world is an amazing place, a place that feels good, a place where we get to learn and experience so much.  It’s a lot like going to college, really, and there are good points and bad points to the world here.  That said, we’re here for a purpose, a worldly purpose.  If we didn’t have a worldly purpose for being born into the world, we wouldn’t be born here at all.  And if the world is broken and requires us to act our parts and make the world a better place, bringing the kingdom of Christ into existence in the here and now or opening the 32nd path or what-have-you, then what excuse do you have to not do this?

People are dying from being oppressed and discriminated against.  Whole governments are broken and corrupt.  Countries die of famine and plague and war.  Families are torn apart and grieve and tremble in fear because of murder and intimidation.  There is a litany of things wrong with the world.  Surely you must be aware that these things happen literally all the time across the entire world.  Or do you feel nothing?  Are you so apathetic that all you can do is shrug and say “we have to rise above it” because your new age spiritual avoidance of current events prevents you from getting your hands dirty?  Are you imprisoning yourself into a hermitage of your own making where you can wash your hands of interacting with the world while still being delivered its goods for as long as you’re here?  Are you so numb to the pain of others who allow you to benefit from the world while keeping yourself from being a benefit to the world?  Are you so wrapped up in your own white-light illusions that you’d rather commit spiritual suicide to avoid any responsibility or call to action in the world?

Please tell me that I’m wrong.

Better yet, show me that I’m wrong.

We’re fucking magicians, the successors to the priest-astrologer-philosopher-kings of the ancients.  We wield celestial and infernal powers; the gods hear our calls and walk with us; we name the ineffable itself; we understand the mechanics of cosmic systems; we light candles, lay tricks, wave a stick in the air, spin in a circle, splash some rum on a rock, mumble some incomprehensible moonspeak and shit just happens.  We have known for millennia what hackers have known for only a few decades, that any complex system can be broken into and manipulated.  The archonic owners of those systems do the same every day those systems have been around, every day the mere ideas of those systems have been around.  And we, better than anyone, have known that when the systems have exiled us, made us powerless, and stripped us of all legitimate access, we will always be able to act upon the system itself and topple it down from the outside and from the inside-out.  We only let the archons win when we let them strip us of our will to get up and fight back and succeed.  We only let the archons win when we let them make us resign ourselves to spiritual impotency and kill ourselves.  We cannot afford to do that; humanity cannot afford to let them do that.

Magic has always been regarded as the means of last resort by the respectable communities of the world and all its systems.  The world is the last part of the cosmos.  We are the last thing created.  There has never been a last war, last plague, last famine, last death; these things are lasting.  Magic is not the means of last resort to action, it is the lasting means of action that has enabled us to cope with, fix, and make better the world.  You have better things to do than claim you’re better than the people down on the ground fighting; you’re already down here with us, and we’d really appreciate it if you got off your ass and gave us a hand with the burden.  We’ve asked too long what we can get out of the world; ask now what we can do for the world and for each other.

Read the news.  Fix the world.  Do some fucking magic.

Gaza and Palestine.  Syria.  Greece.  Turkey.  Iraq.  Ferguson, Missouri.  Los Angeles, California.  Gang wars.  Police brutality.  ISIS.  Hamas.  Chrysi Augi.  Racial oppression.  Sexual oppression.  LGBT oppression.  Political oppression.  Religious oppression.  Ebola.  Measles.  HIV/AIDS.  Floods.  Earthquakes.  Fukushima Daiichi.  Fracking.  The list is long and getting longer, and every time someone says that they want to abstain from the political aspect of these things it gets harder for everyone else in the world.

Everything is politics; it’s a system.  You can’t just decide to abstain from it, because you’re already in it.  It’s your duty to do your part either as part of the system or as an infiltrator into it.  Do not be idle; you have work to do.

# Lovecraft and I Don’t Get Along

I’m going to make a terrible, terrible admission to you all that may ruin my oh-so-high and noble standing in occulture: I don’t like H.P. Lovecraft or his universes, and it’s not for a lack of trying, either.  At least half of my friends online and offline love the dude and his works, and all the works and worlds that he’s inspired, many of which actually working with the gods and entities from the Lovecraftian universe in an occult setting or dedicating some of their art and crafts to his world.  I’ve even taken a Vacation Necronomicon School a few years ago, a structured introduction to Lovecraft and his universe and how to write Lovecraftian horror and fiction.  I see Chthulhu this and Nyarlathotep that and Azazoth that other thing frequently and often.  And despite all that, I cannot stand the dude and his works.  I’ve known this for years now, but as my own spiritual life and practices have developed, I have a more solid understanding why.

The basic gist of his cosmos, as I understand it, is that the world is full of things.  Especially people, and especially white people.  And we as the logical, rational, material human race is responsible enough to abandon all but the most scientific of approaches to understanding the cosmos, especially white people.  But there are also other things in the cosmos that are bigger, stronger, and older than people, and especially white people.  And these things operate in a way that people cannot understand, especially white people.  This is obviously grounds for going insane or causing mass chaos and hysteria, because people are supposed to be the best, especially white people.

Please tell me you see where I’m going with this.

Now, I credit the fact to Lovecraft that he grew up in a late Victorian/early modern society and was enamored of what we nowadays call “hard science”, disregarding anything superstitious or religious as BS.  His family had a history of mental and psychosomatic illnesses.  He was brought up sheltered and lived as a recluse.  He held views that we’d consider racist in modern times, holding highest the Anglo-Norman people (from which he was descended), wanting to keep races distinct for the purpose of preserving cultural identity.  He was a man of his times, and especially the nighttime, and I understand that.

But the whole premise of his universe and drama just clashes so directly and fundamentally that I derive no enjoyment nor satisfaction from his works.  The way I see it, Lovecraft starts with the premise of a material cosmos and throws in the supernatural (magic, deities, etc.) almost as an afterthought, as if the metaphysical came from the physical and not the other way around.  In this light, the “gods” of Lovecraft’s universe are no more than beings that have had longer and more resources to evolve than humanity has, with abilities and knowledge that they’ve had more time and practice to develop than we have.  This makes them terrible, frightful, and deserving of crude and vulgar cults set up by the superstitious and unrespectable outcasts of the world.  Just as the poor become sycophants to the rich to eke out an existence by using some of the rich’s power, these low and vulnerable people turn to entities of cosmic power and fright against the more civilized and structured world of civilization.  But, because these mega-entities are so powerful, they stand to destroy all that civilization has made through the progress fueled by scientific advancement and industrialism.  We can’t have that, now, can we?

Basically, Lovecraft started with the basic ideas of social Darwinism and human (especially white human) supremacy over the world and showed how vulnerable we are.  This I agree with: there are things older than us and bigger than us and stronger than us in the cosmos.  I call them theoi, angels, gods, ancestors, totems, whatever; he calls them the Old Ones and Outer Gods and Elder Gods.  Where we split ways is that he finds the existence of these mega-entities incompatible with human understanding and outside our capacity to understand, inducing insanity, madness, and destruction.  I basically read his works as saying “But we’re humans! We’re supposed to be the best! HOW CAN SOMETHING BE BETTER THAN US I CANNOT HANDLE THIS KNOWLEDGE AAAAAAH.”  Note that this is what happens to the more civilized people, often scientists, while the lower classes of people tend to devolve and debase themselves into crude worship of these entities because they just don’t know any better.  But then, they not only don’t know better, but if they knew any better they’d go crazy, so they’re surviving where the civilized scientists can’t and becoming more powerful than civilization, which makes them a constant threat to the existence of humanity’s progress and civilized future.

Lovecraft, in spite of the cultural, scientific, philosophical, and spiritual heritage of humanity that actually exists, disregards all that we’ve actually done and posits it all as worthless in the long run.  Every story we’ve told, every building we’ve built, every discovery we’ve made, everything we’ve done and everything we’ve become is pointless and worthless in the cosmos, imprisoned as we are to this tiny rock in space, bound by our own limitations both physical and intellectual.  This is especially in contrast to beings who transcend spacial limitations (physical or metaphysical), whose power and knowledge vastly exceeds our own, who have their own aims and ends that either don’t take humanity into account at all or uses us for their own ends without regard for our well-being or survival.  All this boils down to, when we really think about it, everything we know and do is basically meaningless and there’s no point to anything.  The man himself even admits that his works are all about the futility and nihilistic pseudo-existence of humanity in the grand scheme of things:

Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.

If your worldview puts the material, physical world first and the spiritual, metaphysical world as second, or that the spiritual developed from the material, then you’re assuming that there’s nothing really distinct from the physical, since all things ultimately come from it, and all spiritual stuff is just a physical process we haven’t understood yet.  Everything that lives, going by Darwin’s theory of evolution, is merely accident and happenstance, and nothing is in control of anything except by sheer power alone.  One human may control thousands with enough power, but no power of humanity can ever dominate the world we find ourselves locked into and trapped upon, especially the existence of other and more powerful (though by no means “higher”) entities whom we can only cravenly worship in the hope of having other powers not being used over us.  The only thing that differentiates humanity from the Old/Outer/Elder Gods is the shitty and inexorable luck that we weren’t here first and weren’t strong enough to evolve fast enough.

But if your worldview puts the spiritual, metaphysical world first and the material, physical world second, or that the material developed from the spiritual, everything changes.  Instead of humanity happening at the same time or by the same processes of other mega-entities, we developed after them or by their involvement.  If the spiritual comes before the material, then no material process can begin to describe how the spiritual works, since it cannot apply; science is useless there, but only because science (as Lovecraft would have thought of it) operates only on the physical.  In that case, we need other tools of humanity: religion, superstition, spirituality, the occult.  These things, reserved for the poor and uncivilized in Lovecraft’s works, become the true tools of power and knowledge that can not only preserve our minds but expand them.  Yes, we can go crazy, too (too much knowledge does that to anyone in any field), but it’s not because we’re incapable of knowing these things, only because we get too used to operating on a spiritual level and not on a material one.  Insanity caused by knowledge isn’t a fundamental breaking down of comprehension, it’s expansion in a way that doesn’t mesh well with human custom and civilization.  Even if there are other and bigger entities in the cosmos, and even if humanity is stuck on this little blue speck in the infinite black, we still hold the keys to our own gates to infinity and aether and power that can put us on the level of any Old One, if not far higher.  Am I saying that spiritual entities always love and care for us?  Nope; demons, angry spirits, hell-beings, and the like from any number of cultures would love nothing more than to see us burn.  Am I saying that happenstance and accident didn’t create the cosmos, both spiritual and material?  It’s impossible to know without being God, and even then, when you’re God, there’s really nothing you can do that can be completely understood by a lower being because of God’s infinite nature.  And even if everything were an accident of creation, this doesn’t mean that a purely Epicurean, atomic-materialist cosmos is the only possible result where everything is random and nothing is ordered.  The possibility of order, however temporary, and to reflect on the nature of order and chaos is an indication that, if the universe isn’t strictly ordered, then order (and, therefore, meaning) is an essential component of it.

Humans, even in my worldview and spiritual learning, are not the top of the foodchain.  We may be powerful, but of course there are more powerful entities than us.  We may be smart, but of course there are smarter entities than us.  We don’t know everything, nor can we do everything.  The only course of action we have available to us is to learn and do as much as we can and then more, growing in our own power and wisdom.  We don’t need to get off this rock for that, nor do we need to understand the entirety of the physical cosmos, especially when power and origins lie in the metaphysical that physical laws cannot begin to describe.  Not all spiritual entities may care for us, but we must have come from some of them, and some of them are by no means indifferent to us.  Everything I describe is what Lovecraft refuted, and everything I believe is what Lovecraft denied.  While I won’t go so far as to say he’s wrong in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t matter to him either way if I did; his universe and worldview is less than helpful and more of an impediment to anything I do and study.

Nihilism and meaninglessness may make for an entertaining read, but it’s no more than the flip side of the “catch-penny romanticism” Lovecraft himself decries.

# Special Snowflake Syndrome

Whenever I engage in a conjuration of one of the bigger angels, or chat with a god during a special offering, I end up shooting the shit with them about any number of things: things I’d like to see happen or done in my life, various questions about practice and theory in terms of theurgy and thaumaturgy, and gods-know-what-else.  At the end of these little discussions, but before I wrap it up and dismiss or leave the spirit, I ask this:

Is there anything else at this point you would teach me or tell me?  Is there anything else you would have me learn, know, or do?

Such a simple question, but with such a vast effect.  A good third of the total information I’ve ever gotten from conjurations comes from asking this.  The spirits, after all, often know a lot more than we do and how we relate to them.  Getting their feedback in understanding our roles in the spheres they work in and how we stand in relation to them is invaluable advice, and if you’re not asking this when you engage with spirits you’ve built up a relationship with, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

I started asking this on my own to the angels when I was first getting really involved with the elemental angels “way back when” (all the way back in 2011, baby, all those two long years ago), mostly out of a desire to know what the fuck it was I was actually doing.  I still feel this way often enough, but back then, I was really feeling like I was just blundering and blustering about blindly in the darkness and then suddenly spirits happen.  So, naturally enough, one of the first questions I wanted to know was “why am I doing this?”, and I haven’t really been able to get a satisfactory answer, neither then nor anytime since then.  In other words, why am I practicing magic?  Why am I called for this, why am I doing this?  Ever since I started asking, nearly every spirit who has the purview and interest enough to answer has replied the same: “to do magic”, like it’s my primary and chosen vocation or something.

Well and good, but it’s not specific enough to my tastes and leaves much to be desired.  And yet, it’s problematic for me in another way.  If I’m chosen to do magic, what are the limits of magic?  If my frameworks and theories of magic indicate that its power is basically unlimited (in its own ways according to certain circumstances and conditions), then doesn’t that give me a huge power over the world, myself, and others?  Doesn’t that make me, well, special?  Being chosen by the spirits to do spiritual work certainly isn’t a common calling; with it still being a necessary calling and a needed role to fill, doesn’t that make me extra-needed by creation?  Doesn’t that make me, in some way, a kind of mini-savior?

Barring the natural difference in people due to talent and genius, I believe that one of the defining attributes of humanity is that we don’t necessarily have fixed roles among ourselves.  Every species has its own role to play in the larger scheme of things: predators control populations of other animals, fungi help dissolve and decompose to recycle materials into the biosphere, and the like.  Humans, according to a Hermetic view, help maintain the sephirah of Malkuth, the sphere of existence that meshes the material universe with the spiritual cosmos; humanity can be seen to be this sphere’s “choir of angels”, so to speak, maintaining and working with this sphere as our job as part of the larger creation of things.  However, this role can be endlessly complex, due to the complexity created from humanity’s interaction with both the universe and the cosmos, or what I call the human world.  Among ourselves, we have different roles to play, different jobs to discharge, and different strengths for which we are uniquely suited that only we can fill, a strong indication of one’s True Will or spiritual purpose, where we fit into the larger machine of creation.

Still, seeing what we’re good at, what we ought to discharge in this sphere, and ultimately who we are can be a dangerous thing, and leads to something I often term “special snowflake syndrome”.  According to Urban Dictionary,

A malady affecting a significant portion of the world’s population wherein the afflicted will demand special treatment, conduct themselves with a ludicrous, unfounded sense of entitlement, and generally make the lives of everyone around them that much more miserable.

The danger of this disease is that the sufferers rarely, if ever, know that they have contracted it, and continue about their merry way under the assumption that EVERYONE ELSE is the problem.

(If you ever look at the social justice or otherkin tumblrs, you’ll know what I mean.  If you haven’t read them, never do this.)

Why do people develop this?  It’s because they begin to see who they are, which is a good thing, but get an unfounded sense of vainglory, pride, and self-importance at who they are, which is a bad thing.  They think that because they’re the only ones who can be them and do the things they do, this makes them special or otherwise rare in the world, and end up developing a persecuted savior mindset because why can’t you treat them like the unique holy thing that they are, bawwwwwwwww.  They don’t need to consult others or get external input on what they’re doing or supposed to be doing, because clearly they already know everything they need to know about their special role.  Like a snowflake, they must be unique, and therefore are to be cherished by the masses.  I see this developing in no small number of magical people who suddenly realize “o hej, I can do magickqzs!” and think that they are the biggest shit ever.  Sadly, in the process, they actually do become the biggest shit ever, but not in the sense they desire.

I like to keep myself well-grounded and humble enough to prevent this from happening to me, bordering on self-depreciation and overmodesty.  In fact, it’s why I make a special prayer of humility fairly often to keep myself from getting too carried off in my own delusions of grandeur.  Even if I’m one of the few chosen to do magic, why should I be necessarily praised for essentially just doing my job?  Even if I’m a holy power chosen by the Almighty, why wouldn’t I recognize that same in every other human and entity alive?  Maybe it’s the weirdness and glamour of magic itself that still strikes me as weird, that fascination with this arcane and maligned yet powerful art that can change the course of nations and individuals alike.  But even so, can’t I say the same thing about my computer science skills and my current workplace, where I work with significant economic data used in thousands upon thousands of contracts and analyses daily across my country and the world?  Can’t I say the same thing about the jobs and work of others, too?  Can’t I say the same thing about others generally, too?  Just because I’m chosen for a particular necessary role doesn’t diminish the necessity of other roles or those chosen for them.  Just because I’m helping out the world in my own small way doesn’t make me a savior for the masses, it makes me a small gear in the great machinery of creation.  Just because I’m told to do magic doesn’t make me special, it makes me understand that my minor job in a world of jobs is the best one for me and I’m the best person in a world of people for it.

Yes, I may be a special snowflake, but there are also a lot of snowflakes out there.  It’s only upon microscopic inspection that any one snowflake can be meaningfully differentiated from the others; at any other larger distance, snow is one large undifferentiated mass (barring contaminants, pollution, or dense packs of ice, of course).  Snow falls and is natural, and each flake contributes to the weather; we enjoy the snow, but we don’t necessarily care about or notice any one particular flake.  One snowflake does not make a blizzard and lasts for no time at all on its own.