An Origin for the Letter Rules of Western Geomancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digitized Traditional and Renaissance Geomancy Resource List

Time and again recently, I’ve had to flip through a variety of archives to find specific books on geomancy.  These aren’t my normal books, but some of the venerated (and pain-in-the-ass) source books that modern geomancers in the West tend to work from, whether directly from their own pages or indirectly through modern translators and teachers.  After amassing a bit of a list of my own, and being tired of digging through awful interfaces to find a few texts, I decided to go on and compile a fairly reasonable list of geomantic texts that are freely available online in some digitized format or another.  Most of these are from the 1500s through 1700s, with very few exceptions.  There are others available online, of course, but some of those aren’t really in the public domain and I’d really rather not get slammed for piracy so publicly.

The list of texts I largely go by are found in the bibliographies of Stephen Skinner’s books Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy (1980) and Geomancy in Theory and Practice (2011).  Skinner has done, as usual, a fantastic job at cataloging and indexing so many texts, books, and manuscripts on geomancy, and it’s given me a good start with original sources to check from, in addition to modern resources such as academic papers, blogs, workshops, pamphlets, and the like.  Below are whatever resources, based on Skinner’s bibliographies, that I could find digitized and freely accessible online in a variety of langauges, focusing on those that were published and used in European and Western geomancy from the 1500s onward.

In Latin:

In French:

In Italian:

In German:

In English:

Of course, it should be made clear that this list is by no means comprehensive!  Between the manuscripts that cannot be read except with eyes trained in particular handwriting styles, books that have not yet been digitized or that have but not been made publicly available, and all the books that are still under copyright, and all the other books that are available but which are in Middle Eastern and Asian languages, there are dozens, hundreds of books that discuss geomancy that are not yet available like the ones above.  Still, this is a good start for many, and if you include resources that discuss Arabic or Islamic style geomancy under the name raml or ramal, you can turn up with even more works; alas, I don’t know Arabic, Persian, or Urdu, so I have not included those texts here, but they’re out there, too!

Hopefully, this list of texts can help further the research and study of geomancy and encourage those with the skills to translate whatever texts still remain in obscurity and bring old, buried knowledge to light once more.  If you, dear reader, have any other tips, clues, or links to other historical, Renaissance, or medieval resources that are digitized in some way or are in the public domain, please share in the comments!

On Elemental Assignments of the Geomantic Figures

It’s a constant joy for me to see the discussions on the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, and it’s not just because I enjoy wielding power as an admin over scores of people.  Seeing people contribute geomantic charts and offer community feedback on them, as well as being able to read different perspectives on symbols and techniques used in geomancy, helps me out as much as it does anyone else; while I may be good at geomancy, and no matter how long I practice it or delve into its mysteries, I still consider myself a student in the art, because there’s always more to learn and appreciate.  After all, with only 16 figures to represent the multiple myriads of people, things, circumstances, and events in the cosmos, there’s a lot to unpack in the art.

Occasionally, someone will ask a question about geomancy that will get me to my proper computer to type a proper response, which would be burdensome on my phone.  Recently, someone asked just such a question, and this time about one of the bits of geomantic systems I really enjoy discussing: that of the elemental rulerships of the figures.  The forum member was in a state of confusion about how the elements were assigned to the figures, what the difference was between inner and outer elemental rulerships, and whether these rulerships had any system at all behind them or whether they were just spurious and irrelevant.  You can bet your last coin I gave a response to this, especially to that last part of the question.

First, let’s talk about the inner versus outer element.  This is a distinction I’ve only ever seen in John Michael Greer’s out-of-print book Earth Divination, Earth Magic (1999) and his later and more up-dated The Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009).  In short, the outer element of a figure is the element of the sign of the Zodiac he associates with a geomantic figure, while the inner element is more closely tied to the nature and elemental structure of the figure itself.  From “The Art and Practice of Geomancy” (pp. 33 and 34, emphasis his):

One of the four elements is considered to be the inner element of the figure.  In every case but one—Populus, which has no manifest elements at all—the inner element is a manifest element, marked by a single dot.  The inner element is also called the ruling element, and it stands for the elemental pattern that the figure expresses most intently.  Pay attention to the ruling elements in divination and you’ll have a useful key to the way the events that are predicted or analyzed in a divination unfold in daily life. …

Each figure also has an outer element, which relates to the flow of elemental energies through the sixteen figures in their traditional sequence…  In a few cases this element is the same as the inner element, but usually it’s different.  The outer element shows how the figure expresses itself in the world around it, while the inner element shows what kind of power is in the figure itself.  Fortuna Major, for example, has Fire as its outer element, which represents its power to reshape the world in a favorable way.  The figure’s inner element, however, is Earth, which means its power comes not from rushing around, but from establishing itself solidly and letting everything else move around it.

And again from “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (pp. 26—27):

Each of the figures contains all of the elements, as we’ve seen, but in geomantic tradition one or another element also has a dominant role in each figure.  There are at least as many ways of assigning the elements to the figures in this way as there are for linking the figures with the Zodiacal signs.  Two of them seem to work well in divination.  The first of these simply uses the elements that correspond to the Zodiacal signs just given.  This set, which I have called the “outer elements” of the figures, has much to do with the way the geomantic figures express their energies in practical terms. …

The second set of elemental correspondences comes from the geomancer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, who provided several different systems but labeled this one an “esoteric arrangement.”  I have found that it does a good job of summarizing the dynamics of the elemental structure of each figure, and it can be thought of as the ruling element within each figure.  I have made one change in the system as Agrippa gives it; he assigned Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire, but I have reversed these in order to bring the inner element and the elemental structure into harmony.

Just to be clear about what JMG is referencing from Agrippa, the following is taken from Of Geomancy, found in Cornelius Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:

Now we proceed to declare with what Planets these Figures are distributed; for hereupon all the propriety and nature of Figures and the judgement of the whole Art dependeth: Therefore the greater and lesser Fortune are ascribed to the Sun; but the first or greater Fortune is when the Sun is diurnall, and posited in his dignities; the other, or lesser Fortune is when the Sun is nocturnall, or placed in lesse dignities: Via, and Populus that is, the Way, and People are referred to the Moone; the first from her beginning and encreasing, the second from her full light and quarter decreasing; Acquisitio, and Laetitia which is Gaine, Profit; Joy and Gladness are of Jupiter: But the first hath Jupiter the greater Fortune, the second the lesse, but without detriment: Puella, and Amissio are of Venus; the first fortunate, the other as it were retrograde, or combust: Conjunctio and Albus are both Figures of Mercury, and are both good; but the first the more Fortunate: Puer and Rubeus are Figures ascribed to Mars; the first whereof hath Mars benevolent, the second malevolent: Carcer, and Tristitia are both Figures of Saturn, and both evill; but the first of the greater detriment: the Dragons head, and Dragons tayle doe follow their owne natures.

And these are the infallible comparisons of the Figures, and from these wee may easily discerne the equality of their signes; therefore the greater and lesser Fortunes have the signes of Leo, which is the House of the Sun: Via and Populus have the signe of Cancer, which is the House of the Moone: Acquisitio hath for his signe Pisces; and Laetitia Sagitary, which are both the Houses of Jupiter: Puella hath the signe of Taurus, and Amissio of Libra, which are the Houses of Venus: Conjunctio hath for its signe Virgo, and Albus the signe Gemini, the Houses of Mercury: Puella and Rubeus have for their signe Scorpio, the House of Mars: Carcer hath the signe Capricorne, and Tristitia Aquary, the Houses of Saturne : The Dragons head and taile are thus divided, the head to Capricorne, and the Dragons taile adhereth to Scorpio; and from hence you may easily obtaine the triplicities of these signs after the manner of the triplicities of the signes of the Zodiak: Puer therefore, both Fortunes, and Laetitia do govern the fiery triplicity; Puella, ConjunctioCarcer, and the Dragons head the earthly triplicity: Albus, Amitia, and Tristitia, doe make the Airy triplicity: and Via, Populus, and Rubeus, with the Dragons taile, and Acquisitio do rule the watry triplicity, and this order is taken according to the course of manner of the signes.

But if any one will constitute these triplicities according to the nature of the Planets, and Figures themselves, let him observe this Rule, that Fortuna major, Rubeus, Puer, and Amissio doe make the fiery triplicity: Fortune minor, Puella, Laetitia and Conjunctio triplicity of the Ayre: Acquisitio, the Dragons taile, Via, and Populus doe governe the watry triplicity; and the earthly triplicity is ruled by Carcer, Tristitia, Albus, and the Dragons head. And this way is rather to be observed then the first which we have set forth; because it is constituted according to the Rule and manner of the signes.

This order is also far more true and rationall then that which vulgarly is used, which is described after this manner: of the Fiery triplicity are, Cauda, Fortuna minor, Amissio, and Rubeus: of the Airy triplicity are, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Puer, and Conjunctio: of the watry triplicity are, Populus, Via, Albus, and Puella: And Caput, Fortuna major, Carcer, and Tristitia are of the earthly triplicity.

They doe likewise distribute these Figures to the twelve signes of the Zodiak, after this manner, Acquisitio is given to Aries; Fortuna, both major and minor to Taurus; Laetitia to the signe Gemini; Puella and Rubeus to Cancer; Albus is assigned to Leo, Via to Virgo; the Dragons head, and Conjunctio to Libra; Puer is submitted to Scorpio; Tristitia and Amissio are assigned to Sagitary; the Dragons taile to Capricorne; Populus to Aquarius; and Carcer is assigned the signe Pisces.

As it turns out, Agrippa gives three separate ways to associate the elements with the geomantic figures:

  • The first is given at the end of the second paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures based on the sign of the Zodiac he gives them.  This largely matches with JMG’s outer element, but note that Agrippa doesn’t give the figures to the signs in a modern planetary method, e.g. giving Cauda Draconis to Scorpio instead of Sagittarius, or Laetitia to Sagittarius instead of Pisces.
  • The second is given in the third paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures “according to the nature of the Planets and Figures themselves”, and is not present in JMG’s books.  While Agrippa does not explain the elemental nature of the planets in this text, it doesn’t match with the elemental associations he gives in either book I, chapters 23—29 or book II, chapter 7 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • The third is given in the fourth paragraph, where Agrippa gives a “vulgar” system which matches up with JMG’s inner element, noting the swap between Rubeus and Laetitia to Air and Fire, respectively, as JMG noted.

The simultaneous use of two systems of elemental attribution for the figures is an innovation by JMG, and is found nowhere else in the geomantic literature; in almost all cases, a given book on geomancy describes only one system of elemental attribution, and it’s usually the “vulgar” one that Agrippa gives; only after Agrippa’s time do we start to see the rise of the sign-based system.  Interestingly, it’s this same “vulgar” system that Agrippa gives in book II, chapter 48 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, with no mention of either the sign-based attribution of the elements or the planet-based attribution of the signs, indicating he either had a change of heart or that Of Geomancy (and the Fourth Book generally) was a spurious text that was only published under his name.

To show which systems were used where in the European geomantic literature, I went through some of my books and texts and came up with the following table showing which author used what elemental rulership system for the figures.  This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list, but just a small sample of texts to show how varied this can get between authors.

Figure Agrippa
Sign-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Planet-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Vulgar
(1655)
John
Heydon
(1663)
John
Case
(1697)
Robert
Fludd
(1687)
Christopher
Cattan
(1591)
Populus Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Via Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Albus Air Earth Water Air Air Water Water
Coniunctio Earth Air Air Earth Earth Air Air
Puella Earth Air Water Air Air Water Water
Amissio Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth Fire Fire
Fortuna Maior Fire Fire Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth
Fortuna Minor Fire Air Fire Air Air Fire Fire
Puer Fire Fire Air Fire Fire Air Air
Rubeus Water Fire Fire Water Water Fire Fire
Acquisitio Water Water Air Fire Fire Air Air
Laetitia Fire Air Air Water Water Air Air
Tristitia Air Earth Earth Air Air Earth Earth
Carcer Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Caput Draconis Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Cauda Draconis Water Water Fire Fire Fire Earth Fire

In general, including other texts like Pietro d’Abano’s Geomantia (1544) and the anonymous 15th century ce Lectura Geomantiae, geomantic authors typically use Agrippa’s “vulgar” system, which is basically the traditional system used by Gerard of Cremona and others, along with JMG and myself (though we use a slight variant where Laetitia is given to Fire and Rubeus to Air).  John Case in his “The Angelical Guide Shewing Men and Women Their Lott or Chance in this Elementary Life” uses Agrippa’s sign-based elemental system, though without using Agrippa’s planet-based sign system (instead, Case uses a modified form of the zodiacal attribution system of Gerard of Cremona).  John Heydon in his Theomagia uses Agrippa’s sign-based system (book I, chapters 19 through 21) with some modifications that bring it in line with what’s commonly used in modern times (book I, chapter 5), and upon which the geomantic texts of the Golden Dawn are based.  Interestingly, late though it is, Franz Hartmann’s The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (1889) preserves the older “vulgar” system.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much in the way of older sources; what little I have of Hugo of Santalla’s 12th century ce work on geomancy doesn’t mention the elements; Thérèse Charmasson’s “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval” (1982) mentions an Arabic method of assigning the figures to the elements, which matches up with the “vulgar” system for the most part with some changes, though I don’t know the provenance of her source for this specific system (with the six figures that don’t match in italics):

  • Fire: Laetitia, Puer, Populus, Fortuna Maior
  • Air: Rubeus, Caput Draconis, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Via, Cauda Draconis, Amissio
  • Earth: Tristitia, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Puella

So much for where JMG’s outer vs. inner system came from.  As already mentioned before on this blog, I use the same inner elemental system JMG uses, including the Laetitia/Rubeus elemental swap, as I find that it’s an elegant system that reflects the underlying overall element that represents a geomantic figure; with the exception of Populus, the ruling element of a figure will be active/manifest/present in that figure.   Not only do I find that such a system accurately represents the nature and expression of that figure, the same system also allows for a secondary sub-ruler to be assigned, so that each figure has a primary ruler and a secondary ruler, such that e.g. Amissio is primarily Fire and secondarily Water.  This is an innovation of my own that I have found nowhere else in the geomantic literature, and I find that it helps to give some more insight into the symbolism and nature of the figures.

The only thing I can’t rightly answer regarding the inner element system is the historical attribution of Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire.  I agree with JMG that these two should be switched so as to bring the elements active in these figures in accord with their overall ruling element, and I can’t rightly say why they Laetitia was given to Air and Rubeus to Fire in so many older texts.  It’s a possibility that, perhaps, JMG and I are in the right and this is how the system was originally, but a typo early on got propagated from one text to the next, though that notion seems far-fetched even to me, even if similar typos and mixed-up attributions have happened and been propagated as widely and as long as that (e.g. a common such swap is that of the names of Puer and Puella in texts while keeping the rest of their significations the same, even in Fludd).  If the inner element system was not originally based on the elemental structures of the figures themselves, then I’m at a loss to describe what they would be based on unless it was a Septuagint-like miracle that the interpretations of the figures were so closely aligned to the elemental structures of the figures for so many past geomancers for so long.  In any case, the elemental structure-based system of ruling elements that I use and that JMG uses for his inner elements works well, and has a definite logic and reason for it.

That said, however, I do not use two simultaneous systems of overall ruling elements as JMG uses his inner and outer element systems.  In general, I have three issues with the use of an “outer element” system like how JMG describes it.  The simplest is that I find that it confuses the rulership system of the figures to have two co-ruling elements of a figure.  Unlike having a primary and secondary ruler, JMG has two rulers that are to be used in different contexts, but his distinction between those contexts doesn’t make sense to me.  The notion of a figure expressing itself externally differently from how it expresses itself doesn’t sit well with me, because a figure is single and simple; it doesn’t have an indoor voice and outdoor voice, or comfy at-home pants versus a dressed-up suit for the office; to me, a figure is a figure, and it expresses how it is in the way it is by the virtue of what it is.  Coniunctio’s nature, for instance, is about connection and conjunction and meeting and discussion, all of which are inherently airy things; it doesn’t do so with a mind to bring about earthy results, nor does it become an earthy figure when put next to anything else.  To have two “modes” for interpreting the figures here leads to confusion more than it does clarity, and I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble.

The second issue I have is that JMG’s outer element (or Agrippa’s sign/planet-based assignment) system is reliant on a “man in the middle” between the geomantic figures and the elements we’re trying to associate them with.  Rather than associate the figures directly with the elements, we first assign them to the signs of the Zodiac, and then link the signs of the Zodiac to the elements.  The outer element system has us taking two steps to get to our destination (figure → sign → element) rather than just one step (figure → element), and given the choice between a direct versus indirect assignment method, I’ll always take the direct one.  It’s a slippery slope to take indirect associations, especially when you increase the number of steps, because then you end up Liber 777ing everything to link everything to everything else, which becomes a muddled mess.  Here it’s not so bad, but even still, if you have a direct association available, I’d consider that to be inherently more worthy of consideration than any indirect one.

The third issue I have is the most practical: there are multiple ways of assigning the geomantic figures to the zodiac signs, and therefore there would be multiple ways to assign an outer element to the figures.  While the Agrippa- or Heydon-style method of assigning the figures to the zodiac signs is common in modern practice, even into the modern age, the older system of Gerard of Cremona (which is ultimately based on an early assignment of the figures to the 28 mansions of the Moon) is still seen, and I find that this latter system is much more effective in divination and analysis of the figures than the Agrippa/Heydon method (which itself is based on the assignments of the planets to the figures).  The elements of the signs from the Cremona system do not match with the Agrippa/Heydon system, even if it is a valid “outer element” system according to the reasoning JMG gives; were I to talk about outer elements with someone else who used the Agrippa/Heydon zodiacal system without saying what system I used, this would lead to confusion and bickering that “Albus is a watery figure!” “You’re wrong, it’s an airy one!” “Nuh-uh!” ad nauseam.  By using the inner element system, we sidestep such issues in discussion entirely, as well as reducing the number of systems we’d need to pay attention to; plus, as I’ve mentioned before, using an outer element system at all doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile to me even on its own merits.

So, to summarize all the above, some TL;DR points:

  • Inner element vs. outer element is a distinction only JMG uses.
  • Use the inner element system to understand the rulerships of the figures.
  • The outer element system doesn’t matter (at best) and can get you in trouble (at worst).

Now, all that said, let me answer that last question the forum member on Facebook asked: are such associations irrelevant?  By no means!  Each system of correspondences and attributions to the figures gives us deeper insights into how the figures represent the myriad things of the cosmos and how they play out in interpretation, as well as revealing to us their deeper spiritual meaning on their own.  For the vast majority of such correspondences, each is grounded in deeper systems of logic and reason that tie geomancy into broader systems of occult knowledge; only in a handful of cases are they spurious, and they’re either shown to be wrong with a bit of experimentation and analysis, or are shown to be valid through analysis of repeated results that show a trend to be followed, which can then be used to further enhance and empower the overall system of geomancy as we have it.  Only in a very few cases would something like divine revelation or unverified personal gnosis come into play, and it’d still be recommended to test them out both in divination and against existing systems of correspondence before putting them into practice.

For something as large-scale and encompassing as the elemental rulerships of the figures, especially since it’s based on a thorough analysis of the nature of each figure interpretatively as well as structurally, I would consider this to definitely fall on the relevant and not-spurious side of things, especially given how useful the system is to the analysis of each figure, both as a cosmos unto itself as well as a factor in a divination reading with the other figures.  And, even if you do like using the outer element system, I can only argue against it so much; even if I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, I must still admit and agree that it’s important to understand the different associations of the figures regardless of author or method so to get an encompassing understanding of how the figures have been understood across the centuries, and then based on your own experience and studies, pick one that works best for you.

On the Geomantic Parts of Fortune and Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother = Asc + Moon – Saturn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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