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 Rulership and Life’s Bullshit

For some reason, Fr. Rufus Opus (who, I might add, is still not me) claims that I’m his best student.  I don’t really agree with him, since I think I just write more than the rest of his students, but he claims that I’m one of the minority of his students who took his courses and ran with it, not only developing my own style of magic but also implementing them in the way he envisioned his students to do so: to rule your life like a King.  No, I’m not going to wax poetically and jovially about how awesome it is to do conjurations of the planetary angels, rise through the seven spheres, or scarlet women.  He does that enough on his own.

I’m going to make explicit something he doesn’t always say: rulership sucks ass.

It’s not that being king (or queen, or gender-unspecific ruler) of your life is a bad thing.  Far from it, really!  It’s one of the best things you can do, and I’d argue something that every capable human being should attempt at all points in their lives.  He makes it clear, especially in his most recent book, that it really is up to you to make your life how you best can make it.  He’s not rehashing The Secret or new age tripe like that, either.  He’s not saying that if you put out positive vibes you’ll get positive returns; he’s not saying that you should be pious and chaste and virtuous like a meek and mild lamb.  He tells you to get off your ass, find your problems, and deal with them as a ruler does their kingdom.  In the process, you understand more about yourself; you understand more about what makes you, your environment, your enemies, your allies, and your world tick; you understand more about God and the gods and the heavens and the hells; you understand how to work with spirits and powers and forces beyond imagination.  With this knowledge, you get power; with this power, you get results.  That’s it in a nutshell, but it encapsulates everything.

The problem is, however, that not everything is going to agree with you or accept you.  Not everything is easy.  Not everything is kind.  Kingdoms have problems.  The world has problems.  Human life has problems.  You have problems, dear reader, and trying to lie about that fact is shameful.  The first step to overcoming your problems is to admit you have them.

That’s one of the most painful parts about this whole magic and theurgy business.  You have to not only confront your problems, but work with them in a way that resolves them.  You are forced to shove your nose into your own shit time and time again, perhaps realizing that, yes, this is indeed some shit, and that you really should try better or fix things so that there’s less shit next time around (and yes, there will be a next time).  You have to conjure up your own demons, not just the elemental demonic princes or the kings of Hell, but the ones lodged inside your own psyche, and debate with them, wrestle with them, sometimes get pinned down by them in the hopes of kicking them out of the conjuration circle once and for all.  You have to contend with the fact that, sometimes, life is not going to give you what you think you need in order to succeed, and you have to make do with your own lack of preparedness and readiness in order to progress.  You have to deal with your problems any way you can, and often enough, your problems aren’t easy to deal with.

Rulership is about choices.  Every (and I do mean every) choice you make, even avoidance of making choices, changes everything.  Sometimes you make a choice without thinking, either due to instinctive habit or conditioning from birth.  Sometimes you make a choice with incomplete knowledge.  Sometimes you make a choice with all the best knowledge and hopes in the world and everything still turns to shit.  Every choice you make results in a benefit you obtain, a cost you pay for, and accountability that you must be responsible for.  While all of us like the benefits, and a few of us are okay with paying the costs, it’s rare for people to willingly take responsibility for their actions, reactions, emotions, thoughts, and words.

That, however, is the crux of rulership: taking responsibility for yourself, both in the choices you’ve made and those you are going to make.  It truly is the cross that the ruler bears, because when you’re a ruler of your kingdom, everything that happens is going to be traced back to you in some way, shape, or form.

A king (or queen, ruler, tigron, whatever) manages their kingdom.  They manage the defenses and the boundaries, the laws and the public welfare, the discipline and strength, the identity and the pride, the harvest and the wealth, the communication and the transport, the security and the love of the whole kingdom.  Yes, they often don’t do it alone, and have guards, patrols, magistrates, legislature, generals, captains, overseers, messengers, and community leaders help take that burden off their shoulders somewhat, but all authority is derived from the king, and so all decisions made in the name of the king are made, effectively, by the king.  Thus, all choices are traced back to the king, and if there’s a problem anywhere in this chain of manifestation from king to pleb, it’s the king’s fault for not managing things properly.  If there’s a problem with the land, water, air, travelers, traders, or invaders, then it’s not necessarily the king’s fault for those, but however the king reacts to them and manages them as they pop up in his kingdom will be.

In the system of Hermetic magic that Fr. RO teaches, he gives you all the tools, education, and experiences you need to know what the chains of manifestation are, who to contact for help, who manages what, where things come from, and how to put your own plans into action.  He prepares you, effectively, for becoming king of your own life.  He does not take responsibility for you, however, and he can only help so much if you have problems of your own.  His real help lies in teaching you how to solve your own problems, as well as solving those that crop up in your life without your agreement, because this shit happens and it’s up to us to learn how to deal with them the best way we can with the best means we have available to us.  It is this education that surpasses any ritual, any tool construction, any talisman consecration; it is this that is the real meat and bones of Hermeticism.  Everything else is garnish or flatware.

Fr. RO may call it kingship.  I call it true humanity.  Same diff, really, I just don’t like to sugarcoat (whiskeysoak?) things as much as he does.

Life has shitty problems of many kinds.  We may be born into shitty circumstances.  We may have shitty bodies.  We may have shitty emotional imbalances.  We may have shitty job opportunities.  We may live during a time of shitty politics and shittier warfare.  We may have shitty plagues infesting and killing off our already shitty cities.  We make shitty choices.  We make (not have) shitty reactions.  We make shitty comments.  We make shitty alliances.  We make shitty food and drink selections.  Some of this shit that happens to us is not our fault.  Some of it is.  Regardless, we are not the first generation to have to deal with all this shit.  We’re the most recent, which means that every generation before us has had to deal with this same shit over and over and over again.  And you know what’s awesome?  Humanity has lived through it all, and now it’s our turn.  What makes us magicians and kings and true humans different, however, is that we can make the best of it instead of just enduring it all.  That’s the big thing that few people recognize: a magician’s job isn’t just to live through all this shit, but to adjust to it, fix it, and make this shit less shitty for ourselves and, if you’re up to it, those who come after us

One of the upshots to all this is that you don’t have to go it alone.  You know that one new age greeting, “the light in me recognizes the light in you”? That’s actually a thing, people.  Kings recognize each other.  We see other rulers, and other potential rulers, in the people around us.  We understand what they’re going through, because we’ve already done the work that they’re doing or are about to do.  We know what they go through.  They know what we go through.  We help each other out.  Just as any smart-minded kings, we make alliances, coalitions, treaties, and agreements with other kings.  We build networks of support, even just as friends who do their own things individually but who come together in a time of need.  When problems get too big for any one king, other kings step in to shoulder the burden.  It’s part of that whole chain of manifestation thing, but on a broader level.  It’s okay to ask for help.  If you need it, ask.  It’s better to be humble and ask for help than proud and dead when it comes to rulership, because people can’t depend on a dead king.  Your life can’t be excellent when you’re dead, because you by definition have no life.

Every tool, every ritual, every seal, every tincture, every spirit you make use of should always be used to help you rule your own kingdom.  Every magical implementation and technique should be geared for your own use to solve your own problems.  It’s rarely easy, of course, but that’s why we do this.  If it were easy, we wouldn’t be talking about this, RO wouldn’t have put a book out on it, and we’d all be already in Heaven.

Life sucks.  Rulership sucks.  But rulership, done rightly, can make life suck a lot less, and that’s what makes rulership worth it.  It’s what makes theurgy worth it.  It’s what makes magic worth it.  It’s what makes life worth it.  Nobody promised you an easy life; nobody promised Obama an easy nation; nobody promised Octavian an easy empire.  It may be hard to be a ruler over your own life, but it sure beats the hell out of being subject to your own life.

Swords and Scepters

As some of you may know, I’m a federal employee of the United States government, and as many of you know, the United States government is temporarily unfunded due to congressional incompetence.  Many federal employees, including me, are in a state of unpaid furlough, which is a fancy way of saying “you’re not allowed to work until we have a budget again”.  In the meantime, I’ve been relaxing, enjoying my recent birthday, and doing a heavy amount of Work and conjuration; after all, I need something to occupy myself.  (And if you’re interested in what exactly I’m working on, stay tuned on Sunday for a fancy thing you’ll all see.)  In the course of this week, I’ve conjured the angels Tzadqiel of Jupiter and Raphael of Air for general empowerment (which, as Fr. RO mentioned, is always a good thing), as well as to continue doing a semi-regular checkup of my own work, progress, and sphere.  In the process, I also got some interesting advice regarding two of the most visible and important tools many magi and magicians use: the wand and the dagger.

In the conjuration with Tzadqiel, he mentioned that the wand is not just a tool of power and will, but it’s indicative of another similar idea, that of the scepter.  While the wand (at least in my tradition) is the elemental weapon of Fire and is associated with the Will of the Magus, it’s used for not the magus’ will but the Magus’ Will, or the True Will.  The difference here is important, just as any distinction is regarding temporary will and True Will.  Tzadqiel motioned to my caduceus tattoo on my arm, indicating that the use of the caduceus and the magician’s wand are similar.  Hermes is always seen bearing the caduceus in his left hand, the submissive or receptive hand, and this coupled with his role as Zeus’ messenger indicates that Hermes receives his power and direction from Zeus.  In other words, although the caduceus is a symbol of power, it’s of power from a higher source than oneself.  Likewise, many monarchies across time are seen as being empowered and validated by divine right (cf. divine-right theory or Mandate of Heaven), and so the scepter is an indication that its bearer is carrying out the will of God.  This is seen to this day in the United Kingdom’s monarchy, which was established by God, but since God doesn’t like to micromanage things down here, he divests power to the Crown to manage things for him.

So too is the wand of the magician not used as a blasting rod or an offensive weapon, but it’s used as a mark of divine right and being rightly divine.  The wand should be used to remind the magician and guide them to their True Will, not used to enforce their temporary will onto others.  After all, if one is following their True Will, then pretty much all else will fall into place accordingly (except in dire or unusual circumstances when other work must be applied).  The image of control that the wand bestows is just that, an illusory image; it’s the obedience of entities to their proper stations in the cosmos that the wand reminds them of, and helps them fall into place when in the presence of one who is effectively sent from on high.  To use  the wand to simply force or bind something to the whimsy of the magician is to abuse the authority given to the magician, and when abused enough, the magician incurs punishment just as Chinese emperors might lose the Mandate of Heaven.

In the conjuration with Raphael, on the other hand, the angel indicated other uses of the wand that agreed with Tzadqiel, but expanded more on its relationship to the dagger or sword, the elemental weapon of Air.  Both are masculine, phallic, elementally hot weapons (and some traditions swap the elemental associations of the two), and are like semi-codependent brothers.  Wood must burn to produce fire to melt and shape metal into a blade, and blades must be used on wood to produce a wand.  However, wood is a living thing that grows, while metal is inorganic which can only be shaped.  These lead into the point Raphael was trying to make, and was chiding me since I don’t use the dagger enough in my work.  While the Pentacle is used to embody and materialize things, and the Chalice is used to receive and partake in grace and charismata, the Wand is used to “set things in motion” while the Dagger is used to “cut off and remove”.  Magically, the dagger is used to “cut through bullshit”, dividing problems, severing connections, removing influences, deciding on paths and choices, and offensive and defensive work.  Compared to this, the wand is used to progress, enforce decisions, and authorizes one to make choices as one can and ought.

Admittedly, the part about the fighting work that can be done with the dagger surprised me, since the dagger is associated with Air, and Air with Raphael, the healer of God; the comparatively benevolent wand is associated with Fire, and Fire with Michael, the commander of the heavenly host.  Raphael replied that not only are all angels soldiers in their own way, but that even in healing, some destruction is always needed, such as that of diseased limbs or infectious microorganisms.  In order to heal one of any assailing disease, the infectious organism must itself be destroyed or drastically cut back in order to allow the natural healing of the body to continue.  In this case, the dagger represents the ability to cut out the temporary misaligned will of those down below and the wand to encourage and direct those to follow the True Will of those above.  The whole notion of having to correct misaligned wills that are not in accordance with the True Will indicates other problems that may be cosmically systemic, and is often necessary to ensure the proper execution of one’s True Will.  In more magical terms, if I want to accomplish something through ritual, there may be other factors involved that I can’t easily deal with simply by praying really hard.  Battles are fought before declaring rulership, always because the ability to rule is predicated on the inability of others to contest it or stymie it.

Thus the Sword, to fight against the influences contrary to one’s Work, and the Scepter, to encourage devotion and progress in one’s Work.

Elemental Rulers of the Geomantic Figures

As I’ve probably mentioned before around here, the geomantic figures are interesting little symbols in the occult that are composed of four lines, with each line representing one of the four classical elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Each line can have either one or two dots, with one dot indicating an active element and two dots indicating a passive element.  Thus, the geomantic figures can be seen as alchemical equations, representing a different blend of forces required to represent or reflect a particular state of the cosmos at any given time.  The top row is given to Fire, the second row to Air, the third row to Water, and the bottom row to Earth, the same order as the perceived “density” as the elements, with Fire being the lightest and Earth being the heaviest.  Nifty things, these geomantic figures.

While the figures are composed of up to four elements, each figure also has a ruling element, which is the element the figure is most strongly associated with.  Generally speaking, the elemental rulership of a figure is indicated by its structure: with the exception of Populus (which has no lines/elements active), the elemental ruler of a geomantic figure is always one of the active elements within those figures.

So, consider the geomantic figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Each of these figures have only one line active with the others passive; Laetitia has only Fire active, Rubeus has only Air active, Albus has only Water active, and Tristitia has only Earth active.  As such, these elements are the rulers of their respective figures, since they’re the only elements active in those figures.  The other figures are assigned in similar way based on their divinatory meaning:

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

Note that Laetitia and Cauda Draconis are converse figures (the reverse of the inverse of the figure), as are Rubeus and Puer, Albus and Puella, and Tristitia and Caput Draconis; these odd pairs are similar in their meanings or temperament, and also preserve the elemental rulership based on their structures.  Amissio and Fortuna Minor are given to Fire due to their temperament, as are the other even figures to their elements.  Populus is the only odd one out, since it has no elements active, but is given to Water with its inverse figure Via.

So far, so good; most of the traditional sources that mention elemental rulers at all (independent of the zodiacal or planetary rulerships) are in agreement.  However, it’s unclear whether each of the four figures within these four groups has another elemental affinity based on a similar system.  After all, we already applied the same system one time to the figures as a whole, so why not apply it to the figures in their elemental groupings?

I got the idea for this based on a reply to Andrew’s comment before, where he was working on a set of geomantic mandalas organized by element.  Ordering the figures by element seems to be a good idea, but he didn’t seem to like any of the arrangements of the figures within their groups.  So, I figured to come up with a subelemental rulership kind of system which could help order the figures.  In effect, we’d have an ordering that goes first by a figure’s primary elemental ruler, then their secondary elemental or subelemental ruler: Fire/Fire, Fire/Air, Fire/Water, Fire/Earth, Air/Fire, and so forth to Earth/Earth.

With that in mind, here’s my schema for assigning elemental and subelemental rulers to the figures:

  • Fire
    • Fire: Laetitia.  Pure fire, no other elements involved.
    • Air: Fortuna Minor.  Fire with Air.  The smoothest and most beneficial figure of Fire, which requires communication and interaction with other people.
    • Water: Amissio.  Fire with Water.  The most emotional and volatile of the Fire-ruled figures.
    • Earth: Cauda Draconis.  Fire, Air, and Water without Earth.  although Earth is not present in Cauda Draconis, it is the only reasonable leftover.  Plus, in Hebrew occultism, earth is the element that results from combining fire, air, and water.
  • Air
    • Fire: Puer.  Air with Earth and Fire.  Being Martian and associated with Aries in any of the major zodiacal attribution systems, this seems fairly straightforward.
    • Air: Rubeus.  Pure air, no other elements involved.
    • Water: Coniunctio.  Air with Water.  Communication and interaction on all levels, emotional and mental.
    • Earth: Acquisitio.  Air with Earth.  The most grounded and material of the Air figures.
  • Water
    • Fire: Puella.  Water with Fire and Earth.  The most outgoing of the Water figures (which isn’t saying much), Puella is the only one that has a will and plan of its own, receptive though it may be.  Plus, its Water/Fire mix mirrors the Fire/Water mix of Amissio, the other Venus-ruled figure.
    • Air: Via.  All elements active.  The most fluid and dynamic of the Water signs, the road is also an image of communication, travel, and trade, which are all airy things.  Plus, it mirrors the Air/Water mix of Coniunctio, often seen as a similar symbol of crossroads and paths.
    • Water: Albus.  Pure water, no other elements involved.
    • Earth: Populus.  No elements active.  Again, just as assigning Populus to Water in the first place, the system breaks down here.  However, being the most stable, fixed, and status-quo-enforcing figure of Water, it makes sense to give it to the slowest and heaviest of the elements, Earth, as a subelemental ruler.
  • Earth
    • Fire: Carcer.  Earth with Fire.  Dry, without any ability to communicate or interact with the world, is the image of Carcer, plus the hot-headed anger latent in this figure.
    • Air: Caput Draconis.  Earth with Water and Air.  The only Earth figure with Air, Caput Draconis indicates beginnings, things about to be formed and awaiting a pulse of energy from outside. 
    • Water: Fortuna Maior.  Earth with Water.  The most beneficical and fertile of the figures, Fortuna Maior combines Earth and Water to create long-lasting, though slow-going, change.
    • Earth: Tristitia.  Pure earth, no other elements involved.

So, given the elemental/subelemental rulership of the figures, a strictly elemental based ordering of the figures might look something like this:

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

Of course, this is ultimately a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy.  An ordering of the figures like this is helpful to maybe learn the figures by mnemonic or to help present them in an orderly fashion, but doesn’t really influence the process of divination or magic much.  However, as far as I can tell, the notion of subelemental rulers of the figures is new, which might help people develop more nuanced notions of how the figures interact and interplay between them in a reading or when deployed in magic or ritual.