Ordering the Geomantic Figures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancient Cans of Whoop-ass

(Update 1/9/2018: Interested in more about this ritual?  Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)

Back in the day, magicians were pretty brazen and bold about calling on gods, powers, and other ethereal entities to get shit done for them.  Sometimes they appealed to the entities in question based on their offerings and good relationship, but sometimes they made them get off their divine asses by threatening them with even higher powers (cf. most Solomonic magic, the Spirit’s Chain, the Bond of Solomon).  This is a pretty ancient practice, and was generally done by calling on a god bigger and stronger than the direct target of the ritual.  Usually, the magician in question would skip right on over to the scariest, most deadly, and most chaotic of the gods, the Egyptian Set,  the Hellenic Typhon, or the syncretic Typhonian Seth.  We’re talking utter chaotic destruction, ruin, and death for everyone involved, that even the immortal gods feared and did battle with to keep at bay.

Old-school magicians had balls, yo.

In the spirit of sharing some of my research and to make it a little more lively around here, here are two rituals from the PGM that were used to call on Set-Typhon.  The first, from PGM III.73, is from an engraved image that calls on the power of the god to use as a binding, but can be adapted for any quick call to the god.  The barbarous names used appear in all sorts of contexts in the PGM, but mostly those that deal with this deadly force.

I call on you, Seth!

The other, from PGM XIV.675, is much more involved, and is meant as a full-on curse against someone to cause an “evil sleep”, like a coma or catalepsy, to befall someone, but if done for a longer period of time can kill.  For this one, take the head of a donkey and put it between the feet facing the opposite way from the Sun, to the west at dawn just before sunrise and to the east at dusk just before sunset. Anoint the right foot with yellow Syrian ocher, the left with clay; place the right hand in front of the head and the left behind. Anoint one hand and the corners of the mouth with blood of a donkey. Say the following at dawn and dusk for four days to induce “evil sleep”, or for seven for death.  Apparently, it’s helpful or good to wear a thread of date palm fiber around the head, phallus, and hand of the magician.

I call upon you who are in the empty air, you who are terrible, invisible, almighty, a god of gods, you who cause destruction and desolation, you who hate a stable household, you who were driven out of Egypt and have roamed foreign lands, you who shatter everything and are not defeated! I call upon you, Typhon Seth! I command your prophetic powers because I call upon your authoritative name to which you cannot refuse to listen:



Come forth, and strike down NN with chills and fever, frost and fire! NN has wronged me, NN has spilled the blood of Typhon in his own home!

Needless to say, feel free to copy, but use with caution.  I hear the dude is a little feisty.