How to Construct the Shield Chart of Geomancy

Over the ten years I’ve been maintaining The Digital Ambler, I’ve written no small amount about geomancy on my blog, whether it’s about the symbols, the techniques we use for it, the magic one can do with it, the spirituality lying latent within it, or the approach of divination that one should take with the art. In fact, I started keeping up with a hand-curated index of my geomancy posts, loosely organized by topic, up underneath the About menu of my website, just for ease of reference (both for myself and others). But, of all the things I’ve written about, one thing seems to have been glossed over: how to make the Shield Chart. It’s probably bizarre to some that this is the one thing I haven’t written about, probably the first fundamental practice of geomancy (and, indeed, all geomantic practices) following how to generate the geomantic figures themselves for divination. It wasn’t always so, though; once upon a time, I had a separate page that went over specifically how to construct the Shield Chart, but I took it down years ago as part of my website redesign since I felt it was such boring, introductory-level material that you could find in every book on geomancy and online pretty much on any website that discussed it. But, it would seem, that information is sorely missed by some, and some people would rather stick to this website than go to others when it comes to geomancy (a notion which I can’t say I’m not pleased about!).

So, with that, let’s talk about the Shield Chart.

As I mentioned in my last post about how to allocate the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart, historically speaking, there’s really only one way to put the figures into the House Chart from the Shield Chart: the traditional method, where each of the first twelve figures in the Shield Chart is given to the twelve houses of the House Chart in the usual order of their creation. This is because, traditionally speaking both in European and Arabic geomancy, there was no distinction between the House Chart and the Shield Chart: the two charts are the same chart with the same information with the same figures in the same order, so the only benefit one gets out of the House Chart is to make it easier on the eyes for those used to horoscope charts in astrology as well as to make certain techniques used in geomancy easier to apply at a glance. But, fundamentally, there’s really only one chart in geomancy, and if one is comfortable looking at the Shield Chart, no House Chart need be drawn up separately. More than that, however, and unlike the debacle with different House Chart allotment methods, there’s only one way to draw up the Shield Chart common to all of geomancy regardless of individual practice or school.

Geomancers started calling it the Shield Chart relatively late in geomancy’s history in Europe—I can’t recall any reference to “Shield” versus “House” in any pre-modern text—because the whole thing is sometimes seen to look somewhat like a standard heater shield common in Europe, like how Robert Fludd is fond of doing:

However, not all geomancers depicted it like this; some simply depicted it like a series of recursive rectangles, like how Christopher Cattan does:

Arabic geomancers keep the same overall arrangement, but don’t usually contain the figures in the chart within an overall boundary, rather using a few lines to divide the left side from the right side. With the nature of the Arabic script, they’ll often start off the long vertical line as an offshoot of the word علم `ilm, meaning “science” (as in علم الرمل `ilm ar-raml “science of the sand”, i.e. geomancy). I’ve also seen used for this flourish the letter ص ṣād, the phrase هو العليم الخبير hū al-`alīm al-khabīr “He is the All-Knowing, the Great” or “He is the Greatest of Knowers” with the line connected to the last letter of al-`Alīm, or يا عليم الخبير yā `alīm al-khabīr “o greatest knower!”, with the line connected to `alim likewise. That’s if such a flourish is used at all (most do, some don’t), or if lines like this are used at all to mark off the chart (which is rare to see, at least in printed works).

I suppose a Western approach to the flourish would be to use the Greek word gnōsis, either spelling it uppercase (ΓΝΩΣΙΣ) and using the vertical line of the initial uppercase gamma to start the vertical line, or to spell it lowercase (γνοσις) and use the tail of the final sigma instead. I’m sure other similar words could be used instead, but this is still just an innovative flourish one could do for style’s sake, and one that I’ve never seen in any extant European text on geomancy.

Finally, the way I personally draw out the Shield Chart, I just don’t even bother with any little demarcations. Although less common in printed texts, this more casual manner is common for geomancers the world over who don’t need little boxes to put figures in.

Astute readers will note that the first two charts given above (from Fludd and Cattan) only have fifteen figures in the chart, while the Arabic ones and my own have sixteen. We’ll get to that in a moment, as the difference is just a matter of choice, but suffice it to say here that, despite apparent graphical differences and flourishes, the fundamental form, structure, and arrangement of figures of the Shield Chart is the same across time periods and cultures.

To be absolutely clear on this point, the Shield Chart is the backbone of geomantic divination, the abstract framework within which we apply all geomantic techniques; although material tools help us develop the first four figures we plug into the Shield Chart, the Shield Chart is what allows us to come up with the whole “spread”, as it were, of geomancy by applying particular mathematical operations on the four figures that we first plug in. The Shield Chart contains sixteen positions—I like calling them “fields”—for the figures, broken down into groups of four:

  • The four Mothers, the original figures produced by an outside process as the seed for the whole Shield Chart
  • The four Daughters, generated by transposition from the Mothers
  • The four Nieces, generated by addition from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters
  • The four figures of the Court
    • The Right and Left Witnesses, generated by addition from pairs of the Nieces
    • The Judge, generated by addition from the Witnesses
    • The Sentence (sometimes called the Reconciler, Superjudge, the Result of the Result, or the Sixteenth Figure), generated by addition from the Judge and the First Mother

Only the figures of the Court have special names for them (Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, or Sentence); the other groups of figures are simply named according to their number (e.g. First Mother, Second Daughter, Third Niece, etc.). Some Shield Charts present all sixteen figures, but some (especially European ones) only have fifteen, hiding/excluding the Sentence. Where this figure is placed is up to the geomancer, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The Sentence is as much a figure as the rest of the Shield Chart, and even if it’s not explicitly shown, it should still be counted as part of the Shield Chart.

The structure of the Shield Chart is this: sixteen fields arranged in four rows, with the topmost row having eight fields, the second row having four, the third row having two, and the last row having one. The topmost row, containing eight fields, is separated out into four Mother fields and four Daughter fields (traditionally reckoned from right to left, given the Arabic origins of this art), with the Mothers on the right-hand side of the chart and the Daughters on the left-hand side. The second row is broken down into four Niece fields (again reckoned from right to left); the third row into two fields for the Right Witness and the Left Witness; and the bottom row having one field for the Judge. As noted earlier, the Sentence may or may not be shown; my own preference is to show it off to the right side of the Judge directly underneath the First Mother. Most Arabic geomancers I’ve seen, who show two figures at the bottom of the chart in the same little “divet” marked in half, will put the Judge as the left-hand figure and the Sentence as the right-hand figure, but others will either draw the Sentence off below the Judge somehow somewhere; only a minority of Arabic geomancers, as far as I’ve seen, will leave off the Sentence entirely.

Using a simple rectangular layout (like Cattan) and showing the Sentence off to the side of the Judge in the same row (which is my own practice), the Shield Chart is arranged like this at an abstract level:

Knowing these fields of the Shield Chart and what figures go where, we can now begin the process of filling in the Shield Chart.

First up, the Mothers. These are the only four figures one generates through a random (though inspired) process through some manner of manipulation of tools or numbers. Traditionally, one would draw out a random number of points in sixteen lines and cross them off two-by-two until either one or two points are left in a row, then read the remaining points one didn’t cross off downward in groups of four, but there are many other ways geomancers have used to come up with figures, any of which are good to use for this process (though I strongly urge the stick-and-surface method for beginners to the art, at least until one becomes proficient in the method). Once these four figures are generated, they’re put in order into the four Mother fields in the upper right hand part of the chart from right to left.

So, let’s say we got out our stick and surface, and through the process of generating figures that way, we produced the four figures Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via, in that order. We put those four figures in that order into the four Mother fields in the Shield Chart, from right to left in the uppermost row of the chart:

Note that each of the four Mothers are generated randomly and independently of each other, so it’s quite possible to have one figure appear more than once in the Mothers.  This is totally fine and to be expected; it can even happen that all four Mothers are the same figure.  Unlike other forms of divination where a particular figure can appear a maximum of once in a chart or spread, geomancy expects (and, in fact, requires) certain figures to appear multiple times in the chart, and many techniques make use of this repeating of figures to derive useful information.  This doesn’t just happen with the Mothers but, as we’ll soon see, can happen at many points throughout the chart as a result of the mathematical operations we’re about to apply on the Mothers to generate the other figures in the chart.  So, if you’re new to geomancy, don’t let this worry you!

Once the Mothers have been generated and put into the Shield Chart, we can then proceed with the four Daughters. The Daughters are generated from the four Mothers by reading the points of the figures in the Mothers row-wise from right to left across all four Mothers. Thus, the First Daughter is formed from the topmost (Fire) row of each Mother from right to left, such that the Fire row of the First Mother is the Fire Row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Second Mother is the Air row of the First Daughter, the Fire row of the Third Mother is the Water row of the First Daughter, and the Fire row of the Fourth Mother is the Earth row of the First Daughter. For the Second Daughter, one uses the Air rows of the Mothers; for the Third Daughter, the Water rows; for the Fourth Daughter, the Earth rows.

Another way to think of generating the Daughters is to think of this as a matrix of transposition, rotating the points 90° to read them in a different direction. Instead of seeing the points of the Mothers as four sets of four rows, think of them as being entries in a 4×4 grid. (This makes the most sense if we generated each row of points of the Mothers separately, like with the stick-and-surface method, where we put each new entry in this grid from top to bottom and from right to left, in that order). If we read the columns of this grid, we get the Mothers; if we read the rows, we get the Daughters. This should show that the Daughters aren’t necessarily “new” figures, as they’re composed of the same original points as the Mothers are, just in a different order, and why the Daughters are placed in the same overall row of the Shield Chart (being “roots” of the rest of the chart, as we’ll show in a bit).

Following either way of thinking, the figures we get for the four Daughters based on our earlier Mothers (Populus, Populus, Puella, and Via) are Fortuna Maior, Tristitia, Fortuna Maior, and Fortuna Maior. Fortuna Maior is produced from reading the Fire rows of the four Mother figures from right to left (two, two, one, one), Tristitia from the Air rows (two, two, two, one), Fortuna Maior again from the Water rows (two, two, one, one), and Fortuna Maior again from the Earth rows (two, two, one, one). Once these figures are made, we put them into the four Daughter fields of our Shield Chart:

Now that we have our four Mother figures and our four Daughter figures, we then proceed to making the Nieces of the chart in the next row. As the structure of the Shield Chart suggests, each Niece figure is a combination of the two figures above it, such that the First Niece is a combination of the First and Second Mothers, the Second Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Mothers, the Third Niece a combination of the First and Second Daughters, and the Fourth Niece a combination of the Third and Fourth Daughters. This process of combination that we use is what we call geomantic addition (some Arabic geomancers say multiplication, but the idea is the same either way).

When I say “addition”, I kinda mean it and kinda don’t: the process of adding two figures together to get a third is, in some ways, the heart of the process of developing figures from a line consisting of a random number of points as we do in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures. When we cross off the points two-by-two until either one or two points are left in the stick-and-surface method of generating figures, what we’re doing is seeing whether the total number of points in that line is odd or even; if it’s even, the resulting row in that figure will have two points, and if it’s odd, the resulting row in that figure will have one point. When we add two figures, the same logic holds: we combine the total number of points between the same respective rows between two figures, and if it’s even (whether two or four), the resulting row of the final figure will have two points, and if it’s odd (i.e. three points), the resulting row of the final figure will have one point. Thus, consider the figures Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio:

  • The Fire row of Fortuna Maior and the Fire row of Acquisitio both have two points in each. 2 + 2 = 4, so we “reduce” four by crossing off two (using the stick-and-surface method) to end up with two points in the Fire row of the resulting figure.
  • The Air row of Fortuna Maior has two points, while that of Acquisitio has one point. 2 + 1 = 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Air row of the resulting figure.
  • The Water row of Fortuna Maior has one point, while that of Acquisitio has two points. 1 + 2= 3, so we “reduce” three to one by crossing off two to end up with one point in the Water row of the resulting figure.
  • The Earth row of Fortuna Maior and the Earth row of Acquisitio both have one point in each. 1 + 1 = 2, which we don’t need to reduce, so the Earth row of the resulting figure has two points.

Thus, if we add Fortuna Maior and Acquisitio together, we get the resulting figure of Coniunctio:

Another way to think of this process is the logical exclusive or (XOR) function. Given two inputs that can either be true (single point in geomantic terms) or false (double point), the resulting function will output true if both values are different, i.e. only one is true and the other is false; in cases where both are true or both are false, the output will be false. In geomantic terms, the resulting row of a figure produced through geomantic addition will have two points if both the corresponding rows of its parent figures are the same (both odd or both even), and will have one point if they differ (one odd and one even, or vice versa).

With geomantic addition understood, we can make the rest of the Shield Chart. As noted above, a Niece is produced by adding together the two figures immediately above it:

Continuing our example from earlier, we add together the following figures to make their corresponding Nieces:

  • First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece → Populus + Populus = Populus
  • Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece → Puella + Via = Rubeus
  • First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece → Fortuna Maior + Tristitia = Albus
  • Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece → Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Maior = Populus

With the Nieces done, we continue that process of addition to come up with the first three figures of the Court. Again, the structure of the Shield Chart should be informative here: each of these three figures (the Right Witness, the Left Witness, and the Judge) are produced by adding the two figures directly above it, such that the Right Witness is formed by adding together the first two Nieces, the Left Witness by adding together the second two Nieces, and the Judge by adding together the two Witnesses.

Thus, continuing our example from earlier:

  • First Niece + Second Niece = Right Witness → Populus + Rubeus = Rubeus
  • Third Niece + Fourth Niece = Left Witness → Albus + Populus = Albus
  • Right Witness + Left Witness = Judge → Rubeus + Albus = Coniunctio

Many European geomancers tend to stop here, as there doesn’t appear to be any more positions on the Shield Chart to fill—but they forget the sixteenth figure of the Sentence. Like the Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge, this figure is also formed from addition, but this time, by adding together the Judge with the First Mother:

Although some geomancers don’t show this figure, I strongly urge every geomancer to show it in every Shield Chart, as its importance is huge (and absolutely necessary for some techniques) yet grossly undervalued, especially in modern Western texts influenced by the Golden Dawn. My preference is to place the Sentence off to the side of the Judge underneath the First Mother, as below. Here, we have Coniunctio + Populus = Coniunctio, giving us Coniunctio as the Sentence to this Shield Chart:

And with that, our Shield Chart with all its sixteen fields is complete.

At this point, although we could jump straight into interpreting the chart or start looking at the House Chart, it’s always wise to first check the validity of the chart. Given that each of the four Mother figures are generated randomly and independently of each other, that means that there are only 16 × 16 × 16 × 16 = 65536 valid charts. While this sounds like a daunting number, we should note that if every one of the 16 figures were placed independently of all the others in the Shield Chart (e.g. selection with replacement), there would technically be over 18 quintillion possible charts; if we were to select every figure randomly without replacement, we’d still have over 20 trillion charts. We’re constrained by the mathematical process of geomancy to be limited to this proper selection of only 65536 charts, so if we have a chart that’s not in that set, then what we have is a mathematical error in calculating the Daughters, Nieces, or Court figures somewhere that we need to rectify. Mathematically invalid charts are not worth investigating; it’d be like drawing up a horoscope with a planet dyslexically put in the sixth house instead of the ninth, or getting the degree and minute parts of a planetary position mixed up; it’s just a simple error that just needs to be fixed, not interpreted as some mystical omen of terrible import. Read this post here to learn more about mathematically validating the chart, but there are three basic criteria we use to judge whether a given chart is a valid one:

  1. The Judge must have an even number of points.
  2. The sixteen figures in the Shield Chart must have at least one figure that is present at least twice in the chart.
  3. Particular pairs of the figures in the Shield Chart must all add up to the same figure:
    1. First Niece + Judge
    2. Second Mother + Sentence
    3. Second Niece + Left Witness

If any of those three conditions do not hold, the chart is invalid and needs to be inspected and corrected for errors.

I should note at this point that, although the right-to-left format of the Shield Chart is overwhelmingly the most common choice, there are a (very) few European geomancers out there (tragically, Franz Hartmann among them) who use a left-to-right method, both in generating figures using the stick-and-surface method as well as in constructing the Shield Chart. This isn’t necessarily wrong, per se, but the convention and tradition is to do everything from right to left because of the right-to-left nature of the original Arabic practices and of the right-to-left nature of the Arabic (and other Semitic) languages. If you use the left-to-right method, you’ll likely need to clarify that before sharing your charts with others; if you come across a book that uses the left-to-right method, you’ll want to bear that in mind and flip the meanings of the Right and Left Witnesses as well as remember the new order of how things get added together and where things get put. It’ll be apparent that something is wrong, because trying to read a left-to-right chart using a right-to-left approach will usually screw something up in the relationship between what would appear to be the Mothers and Daughters because the apparent transposition won’t look right.

Once we have a Shield Chart and have checked that it’s a mathematically valid one, then we can proceed with interpretation of the chart: the Ways of the Point, triads, the Sum of the Chart, and so on and so forth. But I’ve already touched on those topics elsewhere, so you know where to take a look from here. Beyond that, I hope this resolves any questions about the Shield Chart, and can give those who are just starting in this art a good understanding of the foundation of geomantic divination, upon which all other techniques and interpretative methods are built!

On Making the House Chart from the Shield Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then Agrippa brings up another notion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Traditional
    • Les Cross (2012)
    • Richard Webster (2011)
    • John Michael Greer (c. 2000-2010)
    • Jeanne-Odile Nory de Trebourg (1995)
    • Joël Jacques (1991)
    • Jean-Paul Ronecker (1991)
    • Angele-Marie Cacciaguerra (1989)
    • Henry Drummond Wolff (1908)
    • Abu Hali ben Omar (1704)
    • John Case (1697)
    • Johann Andreas Schmidt (1695)
    • Robert Fludd (1687)
    • John Heydon (1663)
    • Le Sieur de Peruchio (1657)
    • Henri de Pisis (1638)
    • Jean de la Taille de Bondaroy (1574)
    • Christopher Cattan (1558)
    • Pietro d’Abano (c. 1550)
    • Al-Fakini (1535)
  • No distinct House Chart drawn out as such, but interpretations follow the traditional allotment method:
    • Mathilde Sanoda (1993)
    • Gisèle and Gilbert Jausas (1993)
    • Philippe Dubois (1987)
    • Hadji Khamballah (1985)
    • Alain le Kern (1978)
    • Bartholomeo di Roca (Cocles) (1549)
    • Lectura Geomantiae (c. 1400s)
    • Martin of Spain (c. 1310)
  • Agrippa
    • Agrippa (c. 1600)
  • Faux-Agrippa
    • Aaron Leitch? (2006)
    • Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka (1990)
    • Franz Hartmann (1889)
  • Golden Dawn
    • Nick Farrell (2009)
    • Aaron Leitch (2006)
    • Nigel Pennick (1995)
    • Israel Regardie (c. 1937), Chic and Tabitha Cicero (1998), and other Golden Dawn folk
    • Aleister Crowley (c. 1909) and other Thelema folk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geomantic Shields versus Geomantic Tetractyes

A bit ago on Curious Cat, I got asked a particularly delightful and perceptive question about some of the mathematical mechanics behind how we develop the Shield Chart in geomancy.

Generating the Nieces, Witnesses, and Judge make perfect sense, as the convergence of (XORing) two trends/situations/events create another trend/situation/event. But what, philosophically, is happening when the Daughters are generated? What does transposing a square matrix actually mean here?

This person is asking a really cool question that boils down to this: why do we do the Shield Chart the way we do?  It makes sense to add up figures to get new figures, which mathematically and symbolically shows us the interaction between those two figures and “distills” the both of them into a single new figure, but why do we bother with transposing the Mother figures into four Daughter figures?  We’re all taught in the beginning of pretty much any geomantic text how to develop the Shield Chart, but while the most important mathematical and symbolic mechanism for generating new figures is by adding them together, it’s that transposition from Mothers into Daughters that I don’t think I’ve ever touched on symbolically, nor have I seen anyone else touch on them before.  I wanted to answer the question just on Curious Cat when I got it, but there was no way for me to fully flesh out that topic in just 3000 characters, so…well, here we are!

When you think about it, why would the original geomancers have come up with such a complicated method to begin with that we use?  If you have four elements to start with, and a method to reduce two figures into one, then it would seem like the more straightforward and apparent method to use just that would be to apply it to all consecutive pairs of figures: figure one plus figure two, figure two plus figure three, figure three plus figure four, and so forth.  This would, in effect, take four figures down into three, three down into two, and two figures down into one, yielding a sort of geomantic tetractys (just with the row of four at the top going down to one instead of the reverse).  This also makes a lot of sense when you look at it; it gets rid of the whole need for transposition of Daughters at all, and seems to be something that just makes more sense to someone (or to a group of people) who may not be as mathematically inclined.  Yet, despite the simplicity of it, why don’t we see this method being used at all for such a geomantic tetractys in any of the literature?

Well…the thing about a “geomantic tetractys chart” is that I have indeed come across it before, but only once, and that only in a modern French text, that of Robert Ambelain’s 1940 work La Géomancie Magique.  Towards the end of the text, pages 200 to 202, Ambelain describes based on reports just such a tetractys-based approach to geomancy as apparently used by some Tuareg diviners (my translation):

The Tuareg Figure of Darb ar-Raml.  One of our correspondents and friends, an officer of the Moroccan Goumier (the same one who procured the members of «G.E.O.M», their sumptuous finely-cut red copper almadels), transmits to us this curious process of geomantic interrogation, still used by some nomads of the desert.

The geomancer (usually a woman) waits to perform this rite on Friday. After drawing a pentagram over a crescent moon on the sand, the diviner utters an invocation to the Evening Star, then marks a single point in the center of the star.  Then, under the sand, the diviner draws an equilateral triangle, and divides it into sixteen small triangles with four oblique lines and three horizontal lines. ([This shape appears to be a] memory of the feminine-yonic cult of Ishtar or of Astarte).

This done, the diviner marks the sixteen lines of ordinary dots and forms the four Mothers, which they then place in the upper row of the triangle.  Then the diviner copulates each of the Mothers with the next (first and second, second and third, third and fourth), and places these three new figures that he places in the second row.  After this, they copulate these three new figures together, thus forming two new ones, which are placed in the third row.  Finally, they copulate finally these last two figures together, then gets the one that constitutes the Judgment, considered simply as a pure answer (yes or no, good or bad).  By copulating the Judgment with the Mother, the diviner can further detail the answer.

Note the analogy of this graph with some geometric ornaments found on the cushions, fabrics and leathers of these regions, and also with tassels or pompoms during pyramids on both sides of the episcopal coat of arms.  All these motifs comprising ten pieces (4-3-2-1), are mere reminders of the mysterious Pythagorean tetractys:

and the Hebrew Tetragrammaton:

Both of these are esoteric reminders of the great Hermetic Secret showing us the four elements (Fire-Air-Water-Earth) that generate the three higher principles (the Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur of the Philosophers) which give rise to the Mercurial Principle and the Sulfuric Principle, i.e. the “Father” and “Mother”, [which then give rise to the] mysterious Philosopher’s Stone, the famous ferment red phosphorescent…*

Further, this same method of the nomads of the desert also has a strange resemblance to the secret emblem of the Knights Templar, who, from these same regions, may have brought it back…

The symbolism of the sons of Hermes are universal…

* The Tuareg-style geomantic chart is bastardized from the Hermetic point of view.  The alchemists will know how to restore the secret order of the four Mothers and thus generate Dry, Hot, and Wet…

The thing is, this is the only such instance of a tetractys-based approach to geomancy that I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know how much we can trust Ambelain or his reporter.  Plus, I’ve noticed quite a lot of stuff in modern French geomantic literature that seems to take some pretty wide divergences from medieval and Renaissance Western geomantic literature generally; besides potentially having a more active body of occultists who engage in geomantic research and development of techniques and study, I also think that it’s because of how French imperialism expanded so strongly across Africa and the Middle East over the past few centuries, and their anthropologists and occultists picked up quite a lot from their old colonial holdings.  That said, there’s generally a lack of any sort of citation, so sifting through the modern French geomantic literature can be confusing when picking out what was from Western practice versus what was from Arabic practice.

Anyway, the fundamental idea here with this “geomantic tetractys chart” is basically what we’re used to, but instead of transposing the Mothers to get the Daughters, we only focus on the four Mothers we get originally, and more than that, we throw in a third “Niece” into the mix, which then gets us two “Witnesses” just for the Mothers, yielding a “Judge” for the Mothers.  Okay, sure, I guess.  But what’s mathematically going with such a geomantic tectracys?  If we take any Shield Chart that we’re already familiar with and use the Four Mothers and the right side of the chart (Mothers, first two Nieces, and Right Witness), and compare the overall results with a geomantic tetractys formed from those same four Mothers, then the geomantic tetractys “judge” is the same as our Right Witness, but the figures above are almost always different than our First and Second Nieces.  What gives?  Let’s do a bit of math.  First, let’s set up our symbols for the geomantic tetractys:

F1 = First Mother
F2 = Second Mother
F3 = Third Mother
F4 = Fourth Mother

C1 = First Child
C2 = Second Child
C3 = Third Child

W1 = First Witness
W2 = Second Witness
J = Judge

Next, let’s define the Children, Witnesses, and Judge according to what figures add up for them:

C1 = F1 + F2
C2 = F2 + F3
C3 = F3 + F4
W1 = C1 + C2
W2 = C2 + C3
J = W1 + W2

While the Children figures in a geomantic tetractys are produced from adding together pairs of Mothers, the Witnesses are produced by adding together the pairs of Children.  But, because the Children are just sums of Mothers, we can reduce the terms by replacing a Child figure with its parent terms:

W1 = C1 + C2
= (F1 + F2) + (F2 + F3)
= F1 + F2 + F2 + F3

W2 = C2 + C3
= (F2 + F3) + (F3 + F4)
= F2 + F3 + F3 + F4

But note how each Witness has two of the same figure inherent in its calculation, with the Second Mother appearing twice in the First Witness and the Third Mother appearing twice in the Second Witness.  Any figure added to itself yields Populus, and so drops out of the equation.

W1= F1 + (F2 + F2) + F3
= F1 + Populus + F3
= F1 + F3

W2 = F2 + (F3 + F3) + F4
= F2 + Populus + F4
= F2 + F4

While in a Shield Chart, the First Niece is the sum of the First and Second Mothers, but in our tetractean First Witness, the First Witness is the sum of the First and Third Mothers.  Likewise, the tetractean Second Witness is the sum of the Second and Fourth Mothers.  Knowing this, we can proceed onto expanding the tetractean Judge, which, as expected, is just the sum of the four Mothers:

J = W1 + W2
= (F1 + F3) + (F2 + F4)
= F1 + F2 + F3 + F4

So, in effect, the tetractean Judge will always be the same as the Right Witness of the Shield Chart, and the First Child and Third Child the same as the First Niece and Second Niece.  It’s the presence of the Second Child, however, that makes the First and Second Witnesses of the geomantic tectratys different, which then causes a mismatch between what we’d otherwise expect in the tetractean Witnesses.  Still, the overall idea is the same: we’re distilling four figures down into one.

But this doesn’t explain why we ended up with the Shield Chart method of doing that instead of a tetractys-based method; after all, the Tetractys is a well-known symbol across many cultures for thousands of years now, so why didn’t we end up with the a geomantic tetractys method?  I think I touched on this idea a bit earlier in my post about the potential bird-based origins of geomancy when we discussed the Arabian nature of even numbers being more positive than odd numbers:

However, even with what little we have, we kinda start to see a potential explanation for why a geomantic chart is created in such a way that the Judge must be an even figure, and why we use such a recursive structure that takes in four figures and then manipulates them to always get an even figure as a distillation of the whole chart, whether or not it’s favorable to the specific query.  Related entries to `Iyān in Lane’s Lexicon, specifically عِينَةُ `iynah (pg. 2269), refer to “an inclining in the balance” or set of scales, “the case in which one of two scales thereof outweighs the other”, as in “in the balance is an unevenness”.  In this light, even numbers would indicate that things are in balance, and odd numbers out of balance; this idea strikes me as similar to some results used in Yòrubá obi divination or Congolese chamalongo divination or other African systems of divination that make use of a four-piece set of kola nuts, coconut meat, coconut shells, cowries, or some other flippable objects, where the best possible answer is where two pieces face-up and two fall face-down, while there being three of side and one of the other either indicates “no” or a generally weak answer.  For the sake of the Judge, then, we need it to be impartial (literally from Latin for “not odd”) in order for it to speak strongly enough to answer the question put to the chart.  Heck, in Arabic terms, the word that I’ve seen used for the Judge is میزان mīzān, literally “balance” or “scales” (the same word, I might add, that’s used to refer to the zodiac sign Libra).

And, to look at it another way, how is an even figure formed? An even geomantic figure is formed from the addition of either two odd parents or two even parents; in either case, the parity of one figure must be the same as the other figure in order for their child figure to be even.  Thus, for the Judge, the Witnesses must either both be even or they must both be odd.  “Brothers”, indeed; as that old Bedouin saying goes, “I against my brothers; I and my brothers against my cousins; I and my brothers and my cousins against the world”.  Brothers implies a similarity, a kinship, and even if they fight against each other, they must still be similar enough to come to terms with each other.  And consider the mathematical and arithmetic implications of what “coming to terms” can suggest!  Thus, the two Witnesses must be alike in parity in order for the scale of the Judge to work itself out, and perhaps, the figure with more points would “outweigh” the other and thus be of more value.  For example, if we have a Right Witness of Laetitia and a Left Witness of Puella, both odd figures, then the Judge would be Fortuna Maior, but Laetitia, having more points, would “outweigh” Puella, favoring the Right Witness representing the querent.  Thus, perhaps the Judge might be taking on the role of `Iyān and the Witnesses its two “sons”?  After all, you need both the Witnesses in order to arrive at the Judge, so telling them to hurry up would naturally speed up the calculation of the Judge.

And a little more again, once we got more of the bird symbolism in the mix:

We’re starting to tap into some of the symbolism behind even and odd here, and we can see that we were on the right track from before, but this time it’s made a bit more explicit; we might have considered that, perhaps, birds seen in pairs was considered a good omen in general, while a lone bird was considered bad, and that could still be the case especially for birds like the golden oriole that forms long-term pair-bonds, but now we’re tapping into deeper cultural lore about separation and number.  When the result of divination is even, then things are in pairs, considered fortunate because it suggests coming together or staying together (remember that the origin of the Arabic word for “even” ultimately comes from Greek for “yoked together”, as in marriage); when the result is odd, then it implies separation and being left alone (literally “wholly one”).  For a migratory, nomadic people living in a harsh environment, survival often depended on your tribe and not being left alone or being cast out, for which separation could truly mean an ill fate up to and including death by dehydration, starving, heat, or exposure; the same would go for humans from their tribes as it would for animals from their herds.  To consider it another way, if the marks being made in the sand are “eyes”, then in order to see clearly, we need to have two of them, since eyes naturally come in pairs (at least for us humans and many other animals).  If we end up with an odd number, then we’ve lost an eye, and cannot see clearly.

While I can’t point to this as saying “this is why”, I think this gives a good base for my conjecture here: we use the Shield Chart method that involves distilling the Mothers into the Right Witness, transposing the Mothers into the Daughters and distilling those figures into the Left Witness, and then distilling those two figures into the Judge because this method guarantees that the Judge will always be an even figure.  Just distilling the Mothers into a single figure can yield either an odd or an even figure, but if we use the Daughters as well as the Mothers, we always end up with an even figure.  Why do we care about this?  Because even numbers, in the original Arabian system, were considered more fortunate, comparable, approachable, and beneficial for all involved rather than odd numbers; indeed, the very word “impartial” to this day means “even”.  I’ve noted before that even figures tend to relate to objective things while odd figures relate to subjective things:

Because the Judge must be even, this narrows down the number of figures that can occur in this position from sixteen down to eight: Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Aquisitio, and Amissio. It is for this reason that I call these figures “objective”, and the odd figures (Puer, Puella, Laetitia, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Cauda Draconis, and Caput Draconis) “subjective”; this is a distinction I don’t think exists extant in the literature outside my own writings (which also includes contributions to the articles on geomancy on Wikipedia). I call the even figures “objective” because they are the only ones that can be Judges; just as in real life, where the judge presiding over a court case must objectively take into account evidence to issue a judgment and sentence, the Judge in a geomantic chart must likewise reflect the nature of the situation and answer the query in an impartial (a Latin word literally meaning “not biased” or “not odd”), fair, balanced, and objective way. It’s not that these figures are Judges because they inherently possess an astrological or magical quality called objectivity, but I call them objective because they’re mathematically able to be Judges.

I’ll let you read that post further, dear reader, as it gets more into the mathematics behind the evenness of the Judge and what it means for a figure to be odd or even and how that relates to its meaning and interpretation.  But, suffice it here to say that I think we use the Daughters as well as the Mothers so that mathematically we always deal in terms of evenness, for an even judgment, an even heart, an even mind, an even road.

So that explains (at least potentially) the mathematical reason behind why we have to have the Daughters.  But what about the other part of the original Curious Cat question?  What is philosophically or symbolically happening when we generate the Daughters from the Mothers?  It’s literally just the same points from the Mothers that we look at horizontally instead of vertically.  Don’t believe me?  Consider: say that you’re using the original stick-and-surface method of generating Mother figures, and you take up all those leftover points and put them into a 4×4 grid, starting in the upper right corner and going first vertically downwards and from right to left:

Row
13
Row
9
Row
5
Row
1
Row
14
Row
10
Row
6
Row
2
Row
15
Row
11
Row
7
Row
3
Row
16
Row
12
Row
8
Row
4

If we read the leftover points allocated in this way in vertical columns, from top to bottom and from right to left, we get the four Mother figures.  If, instead, we read the leftover points allocated in this table in horizontal roads, from right to left and top to bottom, we get the four Daughter figures:

First
Daughter
Row
13
Row
9
Row
5
Row
1
Second
Daughter
Row
14
Row
10
Row
6
Row
2
Third
Daughter
Row
15
Row
11
Row
7
Row
3
Fourth
Daughter
Row
16
Row
12
Row
8
Row
4
Fourth
Mother
Third
Mother
Second
Mother
First
Mother

This is what I and the Curious Cat poster mean by “transposing”; we change (transpose) how we read the square matrix of points from primarily vertical to primarily horizontal.  This is simply a mathematical formalization of the usual phrasing of the method we use to get the Daughters from the Mothers: take the Fire lines of each of the four Mothers (rows 1, 5, 9, 13) and rearrange them vertically to get the first Daughter, the Air lines of the four Mothers (rows 2, 6, 10, 14) to get the second Daughter, and so forth.

When you consider what transposition does, all we’re doing is looking at the same exact points from a new perspective; instead of reading the 4×4 matrix above from the bottom, we’re reading it from the side.  If the points we get from generating the four Mothers are the “raw data”, the actual symbolic point-based representation of our situation, then by reading them “from the side” as the Daughters means we’re looking at the situation from literally a point of view that is not our own.  In other words, if the Mothers represent our view of the situation we’re facing, the Daughters represent the view of everyone else who isn’t us or affiliated with us.  We can see this in the meaning of the Witnesses, which are themselves the distillations of their corresponding Mothers or Daughters; the Right Witness (the distillation of the four Mothers) represents the querent’s side of things, and the Left Witness (the distillation of the four Daughters) represents the quesited’s side of things.  To use a courtroom analogy, the Right Witness represents the defense of the person being tried, and the Left Witness is the prosecution.  It’s the Judge that hears out both sides and favors one side, the other, both, or neither depending on the arguments and evidence that the defense and prosecution present.

Moreover, it’s this method of using two Witnesses that necessarily produce an even Judge that won out as the dominant form of geomancy (or was the original one even in the oldest of times) over a tetractean form of geomantic chart because the geomantic tetractys method doesn’t produce a complete answer (given what we said above); all it does is it illustrates the complexity of the querent’s situation but only as far as the querent themselves is concerned and what they’re aware of or what they can see.  The tetractys method does not touch on how the rest of the world might perceive their situation, how the querent fits into the broader world, or how their situation could be seen from an outside point of view.  We can’t just coddle our querents, after all, and make them the center of the world when they’re just one part of it; yes, the querent is an integral and major point of any situation of their own, to be sure, but geomancy talks about the world as a whole, in which the querent only plays one part.  The shield chart method resolves this by not only ensuring an even Judge figure that allows us to more clearly see the answer in a situation unclouded by emotion or subjectivity, but also by factoring in how other people necessarily perceive and interact with the same situation the querent is, which the querent themselves might not be able to see from their own point of view.

Geomancy is, fundamentally, a spiritual science of mathematics that analyzes the raw data that the cosmos gives us through the points obtained in divination.  Understanding the symbolic meaning of the figures is just one part of the science of geomancy; it’s the mathematics behind adding figures together to distill them and transposing four Mothers into four Daughters that gives us more symbols—and, thus, more information—to work with.  In this light, the mathematics itself becomes a technique for us to understand what a geomantic chart is telling us.

Also, just a small note: last month, April 2019, was the most-viewed month of the Digital Ambler in its history of over nine years, with 21630 views and 6667 visitors.  Thank you, everyone, for all the hits, attention, and love for the Digital Ambler!  I couldn’t do it without you, and you guys make blogging and writing so much fun for me and for everyone.  Thank you!

Distilling Secondary Figures from a Geomantic Chart

Distilling Secondary Figures from a Geomantic Chart

Even after all this time, one of the things I love about the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook is that it’s actually fairly active, at least as far as geomancy groups go, and it maintains its activity over long durations of time.  Between group chart analyses, questions about techniques, and sharing of neat finds online or in books about geomancy, it’s always a source of joy and delight to drop in and see how the conversation is going.  If you’re on Facebook and are interested in geomancy, I highly encourage you to join!

Recently, one of the members posted a question about a particular taskin he found.  Taskins, for those who may have forgotten or never knew the term, are the mnemonic orderings of figures used in Arabic geomancy to organize and categorize different sets of correspondences.  Though often given as nothing more than a simple order with a name of the order attached, they can refer to pretty much any set of correspondences, such as directions, parts of the body, or how to simply number the figures from 1 to 16.  This one member shared a particular taskin, but because there are few Arabic-style geomancers in the group (and fewer still who are willing to discuss the techniques), there wasn’t much to be shared or discussed about the topic to answer his question.  However, we did find something interesting: one English-speaking author has written at least something that’s used in Arabic geomancy, and I decided to investigate further.number the figures from 1 to 16

Nineveh Shadrach is a Western author who specializes in an interesting and intriguing hybrid of Arabic and Middle Eastern magic with European and more broadly Hermetic styles and techniques, and he’s been on my reading list for ages.  The post in the Facebook group steered me to one of his older books, “Secrets of Ancient Magic: Path of the Goddess” (2001, 2004, Ishtar Publishing), co-authored with Frances Harrison.  The book itself appears to be out of print, and though parts of it were used in later publications, the section on geomancy appears to be kept only in this book.  He discusses the basics of geomantic divination as any larger work on magic generally might and takes an approach that veers closer to Arabic-style geomancy than what most European authors have written, but one technique caught my eye, and that really got me thinking about how to apply it in my own practice.

Shadrach’s “Elemental Analysis” technique doesn’t look at the figures in the chart on their own, but rather generates sixteen (!) new figures based on the elemental lines of those in the chart.  Shadrach uses a system of assigning whole elements to the houses in which figures can fall based on the astrological order of elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water), extending it to the four houses of the Court:

First
Quadrant
Second
Quadrant
Third
Quadrant
Fourth
Quadrant
Fire
Houses
I V IX XIII
Earth
Houses
II VI X XIV
Air
Houses
III VII XI XV
Water
Houses
IV VIII XII XVI

Based on this, one can make a “Fire of Fire” figure by taking the Fire lines of the figures in houses of Fire, i.e. houses I, V, IX, and XIII.  To make the “Air of Fire” figure, one takes the Fire lines of the figures in houses of Air, i.e. houses III, VII, XI, and XV.  In other words, to make a figure “X of Y”, one takes takes the Y-element lines from the X-element houses.   In this sense, one generates a figure such that the elemental lines taken provide the secondary element, and the elemental houses provide the primary element.

The resulting figure can be considered a kind of “elemental distillation” of the chart that hones in on a particular aspect of the situation as filtered through a primary and secondary elemental framework.  For instance, Shadrach gives the example that, in a relationship reading, one would look at the Water figures (i.e. the figures generated from distilling the figures found in houses of Water) generated by this technique, and should the Air of Water figure (Water lines from houses III, VII, XI, and XV) be unfortunate, then it could be said that there might be “communication problems when it comes to emotional expression”.  This figure would then be further inspected to see where in the actual geomantic chart it might be found to further whittle down where such problems might occur.  For instance, should the Air of Water figure be Carcer in such a reading, perhaps indicating isolation and a sense of loneliness in the relationship, and should Carcer be found in house V, it could indicate that there are issues involving intimacy, a lack of sexual communication or agreement, and possible unspoken and undiscussed fears of of sexual impotency causing feelings of inadequacy.

There are a few neat things about this technique, but also a few things I would change.  For one, Shadrach uses the elements in the order of how they appear in the Zodiac: Fire, Earth, Air, Water.  I disprefer this ordering in favor of the usual geomantic order: Fire, Air, Water, Earth.  The latter works better, as well, since I don’t like involving zodiacal schemas and systems where they’re not explicitly called for, and this overall idea of elemental distillation seems more appropriate for the Shield Chart.  For that, I already have a system of assigning elements to the “fields” (not “houses”!) to the Shield Chart:

Mothers Daughters Nieces Court
Fire First First First Right Witness
Air Second Second Second Left Witness
Water Third Third Third Judge
Earth Fourth Fourth Fourth Sentence

Additionally, I don’t like how the phrasing of Shadrach’s technique works in what elements you take from where.  In his system, “X of Y” indicates that you’d take the Y-element lines from the figures in X-element locations, and the Y-element is dominant.  However, this seems backwards to me; the elemental lines take place within the figure found in a given elemental location, so it seems like the the overall “contextual” (or primary) element would be that determined by the location/house/field, and the “modifying” (or secondary) element would be that determined by the line.  So, if Shadrach’s system would define “Air of Water” as being the Water lines taken from the figures in Air locations, I would instead say that it’s the Air lines taken from the figures in Water locations.  This would make more sense to me in lining up with his example about the Air of Water figure representing communication in emotional matters: taking the Air lines from the Water figures would represent the combined powers of Air within the overall context and world of Water.  So, when I would say “X of Y”, I would indicate taking the X-element lines from the Y-element figures: again, the Y-element is primary.

So, in my version of the method, I would make my elementally distilled figures as such:

  • Fire of Fire: Fire lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Air of Fire: Air lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Water of Fire: Water lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Earth of Fire: Earth lines of First Mother, First Daughter, First Niece, and Right Witness
  • Fire of Air: Fire lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Air of Air: Air lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Water of Air: Water lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Earth of Air: Earth lines of Second Mother, Second Daughter, Second Niece, and Left Witness
  • Fire of Water: Fire lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Air of Water: Air lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Water of Water: Water lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Earth of Water: Earth lines of Third Mother, Third Daughter, Third Niece, and Judge
  • Fire of Earth: Fire lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Air of Earth: Air lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Water of Earth: Water lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence
  • Earth of Earth: Earth lines of Fourth Mother, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece, and Sentence

This is all well and good, but what exactly does this get us?  We already have sixteen figures in our geomantic chart, each in its own house that provides the context of each figure, along with how to group the figures into triads, using the Way of the Point, and a variety of other techniques, so why should we come up with more figures for the sake of them?  To get more detail out of the reading, of course!  It always bears remembering that there’s no one single school of geomancy, nor has there ever been, and many techniques were used only by certain people in certain locations or traditions within geomancy.  As it spread across Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, geomancy could almost always be recognized as geomancy, but it also adapted itself to the cultures, tribes, and specific strains of knowledge it found itself practiced within.  The use of elemental distillation can be seen as another example of such a technique to extract as much information out of a chart, either on its own or in tandem with other techniques available at the geomancer’s disposal.

Above and beyond just interpreting the figures in the fields (or houses), the technique of elemental distillation can be used to note the specific energetic currents present in a situation, how they’re resolving, and to what end.  Using the elements of field and figure technique, we can see whether the energies in a given aspect of one’s life are able to flow freely and do what they need to for the sake and benefit of the querent, or whether they’re stymied, blocked, and undone based on whether the element of the figure matches the element of the field within which it’s found.  Using this elemental distillation technique, we can get a similar notion of what energies are present in a situation, but from the other side of the equation: we’re seeing what the actual powers and forces at work are, and then seeing how they interact and affect the situation.  So, if we find that the Air of Water figure is fortunate, then we know that the Water energies in the situation are able to to travel, mix, and match more-or-less freely, and if the Water of Air figure is fortunate, then we know that the Air energies in the situation are able to congeal, stick, and be understood in a more profound way than the merely intellectual.

We could take this technique in another direction, though.  I’ve previously established a system of primary and secondary elemental rulers for the figures, such that every geomantic figure is ruled by a main element and a sub-element based on their elemental structure.  In that case, we can consider our elemental distillations to be like the sixteen original figures themselves in an applied sense, with the sixteen original figures being their ideal “fields”.  Consider: if we’re looking at the Air of Water distillation, then we’ve got a figure that is primarily Water and secondarily Air.  The figure that is primarily Water and secondarily Air is the figure Via.  Thus, the Air of Water distillation of a chart indicates how well the situation described by the chart can facilitate the energy of Via, or total change and flow.  Likewise, the Fire of Fire distillation of a chart indicates how well the situation described can facilitate the energy of Laetitia, or joy and uplifting motion.  If we were to find fortunate figures, especially figures that agree in element or the very same figure itself, then we can say that the energies and forces represented by that ideal figure are present and able to effect change in the situation; if unfortunate figures result from distillation, then the forces represented by the corresponding ideal figure are weakened or absent.

One way we could apply this in divination would be to think of a given figure that represents something the querent wants or is aiming for in the situation.  For instance, in a query about promotion, Laetitia would be an excellent figure, because it represents upwards motion and is a figure I find particularly well-suited to promotions and elevations in general and the workplace in particular.  Laetitia, then, is the ideal figure we want to investigate in the chart, and since the corresponding elemental phrasing of Laetitia is “Fire of Fire” (primarily and secondarily fire), we’d look at the Fire of Fire distillation of the chart.  If we find a favorable figure here, we can say that a promotion is likely; if an unfavorable figure, unlikely.  This technique could be used to get subsidiary or unrelated information out of a chart, too, in addition to the main situation the chart is focused on.

To remind us all of the elemental rulerships of the figures, using both primary and secondary elements:

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

I’m sure there are a bunch of other ways to incorporate such an elemental distillation technique of generating secondary figures out of a chart, including using the Via Puncti to determine an element and seeing which of those elemental distillations can further clarify the root causes of a situation, incorporating the distillations into the House Chart as Shadrach suggests, and other techniques.  What’s fascinating about this technique, however, is that we’re using a single chart to make new figures for the sake of interpretation.  Generally, whenever secondary figures are generated in the geomantic corpus (i.e. using the figures of one chart to make new figures that aren’t part of that chart), it’s generally within the context of making up four new figures for a new chart because the old one can’t be read or is too confusing to be read.  Shadrach’s technique is pretty much the only technique I’ve come across that uses the figures to make new figures without using addition—at least in a system that still calls itself “geomancy” by name.

In the variant of geomancy practiced in Madagascar called sikidy, we see something similar.  A sikidy chart contains sixteen figures; though its arranged in an unfamiliar way, it turns out that the first four figures are generated randomly and are read downwards, the next four are just the first four read horizontally, and the other eight are the results of adding two of the other figures together.  In other words, a sikidy chart follows the same exact algorithm as a geomancy chart to get a set of four Mothers, four Daughters, four Nieces, and a Court, just not by those names.  As in geomancy, the field or house of each position in the chart indicates a general realm of life or aspect of the situation, and the figure inside each house indicates how that area of life is effected or affected.  Since sikidy was introduced by means of Arabic trading, we see Arabic and Hermetic influence in how sikidy is read, such that the second field is about property (just as our house II), the third field about local or familial relations (house III), the fourth field about one’s town or village (house IV), and so forth.

What’s interesting, however, is that sikidy practitioners are not just limited to 16 fields, but instead can find up to 34 based on how they combine the individual rows of the total chart.  According to Stephen Skinner (here taken from his 1980 book “Terrestrial Astrology: Divination by Geomancy”), he gives an additional 18 secondary figures for a total of 34:

Field Name Meaning Generation
1 Talè Querent Randomly generated
2 Harèna Property Randomly generated
3 Fàhatelo Relations of the querent Randomly generated
4 Vòhitra Town or village Randomly generated
5 Zatòvo Young person, descendants First line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
6 Marìna Slave, strong men Second line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
7 Vehivavy Woman, i.e. wife Third line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
8 Fahavalo Enemies Fourth line of 1, 2, 3, and 4
9 Làlana Way, road 1 + 2
10 Asorotany Nobleman, king, ancestors 3 + 4
11 Nía Food 5 + 6
12 Fahasivy Spirits of the dead 7+ 8
13 Mpanontany The enquirer 9 + 10
14 Masina The diviner 11 + 12
15 Andriamanitra God 13 + 14
16 Trano House 1 + 15
17 Zatòvo an-trano hafa Young persons generally First line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
18 Marìna an-trano hafa Slave Second line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
19 Vehivavy an-trano hafa Women generally Third line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
20 Firiariavana an-trano hafa Escaping enemy Fourth line of 16, 9, 13, and 10
21 Kororozy Dragon’s head Fourth line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
22 Olon-dratsy Bad omen Third line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
23 Alika Dog Second line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
24 Tsinin’ny velona Fault of the living First line of 12, 14, 11, and 15
25 Akòho Hens Diagonally down-left of 1, 2, 3, and 4
26 Vòromboahàzo Pebbles Two down-left then two down-right of 1 and 2
27 Ondry Sheep Diagonally down-right of 4, 3, 2, and 1
28 Osy Goats Two down-left then two down-left of 4 and 3
29 Ra be mandriaka Much bloodshed, disaster Two down-right then two up-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
30 Tsinin’ny maty Fault of the Dead Diagonally down-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
31 Biby ratsy Wild Cat Two up-right then two down-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
32 Tsinahy Unexpected Fate Diagonally up-right of 12, 14, 11, and 15
33 Tsi-efa The Incomplete Diagonally down-left of 16, 9, 13, and 10
34 Mamòha éfa Revival of Past Evils, e.g. disease Diagonally up-left of 16, 9, 13, and 10

These aren’t all possible ways to obtain secondary figures from a sikidy chart, either.  Marcia Ascher in her 1997 paper Malagasy sikidy: a case in ethnomathematics describes the following 15 secondary figures (though, unfortunately, with neither names nor significations), but who also gives a different arrangement of the bottom set of eight figures (our Nieces and Court):

Knowing that fields 1 through 16 are generated in the same way as before, just with a different arrangement of 9 through 16:

Field Generation
17 Diagonally down-right of 9, 13, 10, and 15
18 Diagonally down-right of 10, 15, 11, and 14
19 Diagonally down-right of 11, 14, 12, and 16
20 Diagonally down-left of 16, 12, 14, and 11
21 Diagonally down-left of 14, 11, 15, and 10
22 Diagonally down-left of 15, 10, 13, and 9
23 17 + 20
24 18 + 21
25 19 + 22
26 Two down-left then two down-right of 16 and 12
27 Two down-right then two down-left of 11 and 14
28 Two down-left then two down-right of 15 and 10
29 Two down-right then two down-left of 9 and 13
30 26 + 27
31 28 + 29

To be fair, Ascher is less concerned with the practice of divination and more with how recursive and spacial mathematics factor into traditional practices among Malagasy traditions.  Still, she does also imply that there are other secondary series besides the ones she enumerated, too.  Again, there’s always that “variant lineages within traditions” bit to contend with that makes geomancy a vibrant and varied garden instead of a sterile and monolithic chamber.

What this detour into sikidy shows us is that there are more ways to generate figures besides simply adding two figures together or transposing the Mothers into the Daughters; indeed, sikidy practitioners seem to delight in finding new ways to come up with such figures in regular patterns.  Though we can’t really adopt many of the same exact techniques, it does show us an otherwise unexplored venue (unexplored, at least, by all except Shadrach) in how we can generate other figures from a chart using non-additive means, and that the process has been used elsewhere to continuing success by geomancers in other traditions.  This suggests that, with the proper logic and testing, we can adopt similar techniques in our own Western kind of geomancy, much as the version given above of Shadrach’s elemental distillation.  In fact, “distillation” is a good way to describe the generation of such figures, I claim, as you’re necessarily looking across four (or two, in the cases of some sikidy figures) different figures to come up with one.

Unlike some of the other techniques I’ve proposed on this blog before, this one is exceptionally exciting but also exceptionally hazy; Shadrach’s guidance on divvying things up by their overall element weirds me out and I claim it could use more rigor, and there are other possibilities such as using my ideal figure interpretation as well as incorporating it into the usual interpretations of the fields and houses.  Though it’ll eventually make its way into my geomancy textbook (which, god, yes, is still in editing and it takes forever especially with everything else going on), this is one I want to play around more with to see exactly what it does and how it does it, as well as how well it might play with other techniques such as the Via Puncti or the field element analysis method.

More Thoughts on Shield Chart Company

Last time, I posted my collected thoughts on the rule of company in interpreting geomantic charts.  The rule, as taught nowadays, seems to have originated with the French geomancer Christopher Cattan, but after a bit of discussion with a student, seems to have pointed more towards something like the rule of triads like what Robert Fludd used in his interpretation of the Shield Chart rather than an extra way to get more significators out of the House Chart in case the significators themselves don’t perfect, like what John Michael Greer proposes in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  I offered my thoughts there on how we might apply those same rules of company (company simple, company demi-simple, company compound, and company capitular) to the parents in a given triad, but I think we could offer more variations based on what we know of the figures, as well.

First, let’s talk about company capitular.  This rule has bugged me in the past, where we say that two figures are in company if they share the same Fire line (so Albus and Populus would be in company, but not Albus and Puer).  Why don’t we care about the other lines?  When it comes to company capitular, much like the case with the Via Puncti being limited in the literature to just the Fire line, we can also expand this rule a bit to focus on the similarity of the figures based on which of their lines are in agreement.  Using the above framework, I would normally say that c.  However, if we were to go to a more elemental way of looking at the figures, we can then rename and refine “company capitular” into “elemental company” and offer a new set of analytical rules:

  • Elemental company can be made multiple ways at once, and can be seen as a separate system beyond the methods of company simple, demi-simple, and compound.
  • A shared active line indicates an overwhelming desire or power in the method indicated by the elemental line.
  • A shared passive line indicates a complete apathy or powerlessness in the method indicated by the elemental line.
  • Company by Fire (same Fire line) shows that both parents want the same thing out of the situation.
  • Company by Air (same Air line) shows that both parents are thinking and saying the same things about the situation.
  • Company by Water (same Water line) shows that both parents feel the same way about the situation.
  • Company by Earth (same Earth line) shows that both parents have the same material means and physical basis to attain the outcome.

So, let’s say we have a First Triad (describing the nature and condition of the querent) where we have Coniunctio and Rubeus as the parents; the resulting child is Albus.  Thus, we can see that the parents of this triad are in passive company by Fire and Earth, in active company by Air, and not in company by Water.  While we know that the overall condition of the querent is placid and calm and not very active (Albus), we can also say that this is because they’re only constantly thinking about something intently (active company by Air) without having much to act (passive company by Fire) nor having much to act upon (passive company by Earth).  Through the querent’s reflection and mulling things over, they lose their intense and active feelings on the matter and let it go (not in company by Water).

That said, I suppose that this particular example isn’t particularly helpful, as it’s more a description of how the figures are interacting based on their elemental composition rather than an interaction between people or whether there’s support involved for the querent or other people involved in a given matter.  We know that we have passive company by Fire and Earth and active company by Air, so if we were interpreting this as a normal rule of company, we could say that there’s lots of concerted talk with others and lots of talking to people, but not much else going on, and that talk isn’t helpful when it comes to communicating feelings or helping sympathize or empathize with others, leading to solitude and loneliness on the parts of individual people.

Maybe elemental company isn’t the best approach.  However, there’s another way we could expand on the rule of company when implemented in the triads, and that’s based on the rule of company compound, where two figures are in company if they’re reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus, or Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis).  With company compound, the parent and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will help each other out where they themselves lack the power they get from the other.  The thing is, however, that the reversion of a figure is essentially a mathematical transformation of a figure, not elemental or otherwise occult, and there are other mathematical transformations we could use instead to obtain other forms of company.

Although I haven’t discussed it explicitly on my blog much, I have briefly gone over the mathematical transformations of the figures in an earlier post, and I’ve also explicitly stated what the given transformation is of each figure in the relevant posts in my De Geomanteia series.  For our purposes here, there are three types of mathematical transformations of the figures:

  • Inversion: replacing all the single dots with double dots and vice versa (e.g. Puer inverted becomes Albus).  Everything a figure is not, but on an external level.
  • Reversion: rotating a figure upside down (e.g. Puer reverted becomes Puella).  The same qualities of a figure taken to its opposite, internal extreme.
  • Conversion: inversion with reversion (e.g. Puer converted becomes Rubeus).  The same qualities of a figure expressed in a similar, contraparallel manner.

So, if we were to make separate rules of company for these transformations, we might end up with four types of company, were we to keep company simple around as well.  Company compound would be renamed company reverse, and we’d add in “company inverse” and “company converse” into the mix as well, for a total of four “mathematical company” methods:

  • Company simple: both parents are the same figure (e.g. Albus and Albus).  The significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company inverse: the parents are inverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Puer).  The significator and their allies fulfill each other’s deficit of power or means, yet mesh together to form one complete and total force that will conquer and achieve everything that alone they could not.
  • Company reverse: the parents are reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus).  The significator and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will each benefit from the whole.
  • Company converse: the parents are converses of each other (e.g. Albus and Puella).  The significator and their allies are similar enough to act along the same lines of power and types of action, but express it in completely different ways from the outside.  Internally, the action and thoughts are the same, but externally, they are distinct.  Think bizarro-world reflections of each other.

Interestingly, because these are mathematical operations performed on the figures, if we know what the operation is, we nearly always already know what the child will be if we know the parents and type of company they’re in.  For instance, we know that when two figures are added to each other, if those figures are inversions, the result will always be Via (e.g. Populus and Via, Albus and Puer, Laetitia and Caput Draconis).  Likewise, if two figures are in company simple, we’re adding the same figure to itself, so the result will always be Populus.  However, the other types of company give us a bit more interesting stuff to chew on:

  • Company reverse
    • Cannot be formed if parents are both Via, both Populus, both Coniunctio, or both Carcer.  These figures are reversions of themselves, the so-called “axial” figures.  In these cases, we have company simple.
    • Cannot be formed if parents are Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor (or vice versa), or Acquisitio and Amissio.  These figures are inversions of themselves, and so we have company inverse.
    • Child will be Carcer if parents are Laetitia and Tristitia, or Caput Draconis or Cauda Draconis.
    • Child will be Coniunctio if parents are Albus and Rubeus, or Puer and Puella.
  • Company converse
    • Cannot be formed if parents are Populus and Via, or Carcer and Coniunctio.  The axial figures have a converse that is their inverse, and so we have company inverse.
    • Cannot be formed if parents are both Fortuna Maior, both Fortuna Minor, both Acquisitio, or both Amissio.  These figures are converses of themselves, and so we have company simple.
    • Child will be Carcer if parents are Laetitia and Cauda Draconis, or Tristitia and Caput Draconis.
    • Child will be Coniunctio if parents are both Albus and Puella, or Rubeus and Puer.

Note that, in all cases where we use these company rules for parents in a triad, we always have a child that will be an axial figure: always Populus if company simple, always Via if company inverse, and either Carcer or Coniunctio if company reverse or company converse.  Thus, if we see any child figure in the Shield Chart as an axial figure, we know immediately that its parents will be in company.  Further, based on this child figure, we could see at a glance whether a triad is referring to a single person developing over time with the help or assistance of others (if Via or Carcer), or whether the triad is referring to multiple people interacting and dealing amongst themselves (if Populus or Coniunctio); additionally, we can see whether there is progress and change involved (if Via or Coniunctio) or whether things stagnate and become fixed (if Populus or Carcer).  However, this is a very naïve way of reading a triad, and may not always hold up depending on the specific triad being interpreted as well as the query and intuition of the diviner.

As an example, let’s consider a First Triad where the First Mother is Albus.  Again, we’re considering what the condition and overall state of the querent is, so let’s see what the four possibilities of company would be and their resulting triads:

  • Company simple (Second Mother Albus, First Niece Populus):  Not much to speak of, really.  As in all cases where the child is Populus, what has been is what will be.  However, the querent is likely not alone and has at least one other friend who shares their same state of mind and condition, and are coming together in harmony and unison to help each other out or facilitate their actions together.
  • Company inverse (Second Mother Puer, First Niece Via):  On its own, we could say that the state of the querent will be turned completely on its head, with all this passive contemplation turning into daring, heedless action.  If the chart or intuition of the diviner suggests that the querent is with someone else, this is someone who’s constantly playing devil’s advocate and goading the querent onto radical change, and together they complete and fulfill each other in many ways.
  • Company reverse (Second Mother Rubeus, First Niece Coniunctio):  Fun times, except ew.  This is a weird combination of people, and I’d hardly call them “allies” in any sense; they’re both arguing with each other to the point of talking past each other, yet in their harsh and loud words, they eventually come to a concordance and progress together.  Strange bedfellows, indeed.
  • Company converse (Second Mother Puella, First Niece Carcer): This is probably the most pleasing of all companies possible, as it provides the querent with someone sufficiently different yet operating on the same principles to reinforce the condition and state of the querent.  In this case, this would be good to solidify the nature of the querent and give them some stability, but with the risk of codependency and a potential for getting locked into their current state without trying to actively change things.

All these rules of company so far discussed are based on something structural about the figures, either the elemental structure in the first set (originally based on an expansion of company capitular) or the mathematical structure in the second set (expanding off company compound).  What about company demi-simple?  In that rule, both figures in company are ruled by the same planet, and indicates that the significator and their allies are different, but share enough characteristics for them to complement each other and understand each other enough to accomplish the same thing.  If we use a more occult basis for establishing company, I can think of two more ways to find these out, forming a set of four “magical company” rules:

  • Company simple: both parents are the same figure (e.g. Albus and Albus).  The significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company zodiacal: both figures are ruled by the same zodiacal sign (e.g. Caput Draconis and Coniunctio).  The significator and their allies are put together by fate and must contend with the same matter together, though not perhaps in the same way.  The zodiacal rulership of the figures can be found in this post.  Not all signs have two figures, so company zodiacal can only be formed when both figures are ruled by the signs Taurus, Gemini, Virgo, and Scorpio, the only signs using Gerard of Cremona’s method that have two figures assigned to them.  Otherwise, using Agrippa’s method, company zodiacal can only be formed when both figures are ruled by the signs Cancer, Leo, and Virgo.
  • Company planetary: both figures are ruled by the same planet (e.g. Albus and Coniunctio).  This would have been company demi-simple in the original rules of company given by Cattan, but here, we can say that the inner drive of the significator and their allies are the same, though their external expression is different but aimed at the same overall goal.
  • Company elementary:  both figures are ruled by the same element (e.g. Albus and Populus).  The outer expression and actions of the figures are similar and get along well enough for the time being, although their inner drives and ultimate goals differ.  The elemental rulership of the figures can be found in this post.

These methods of company do not rely on anything structural in the figures (with the exception of company simple), but rely on the higher meanings of element, planet, and sign attributed to the figures to see how close the figures are to each other and whether they can form enough of a relationship to work together.  Additionally, unlike the other sets of company rules, I think it’s best that two figures can be in company multiple ways at the same time (like Carcer and Tristitia, which would be in company both planetary and elemental) rather than having one form of company “overwrite” the others.  Still, if an overwriting rule were put in place, I think it would go company simple (sameness), then company zodiacal (fated), company planetary (inner drive the same), and company elementary (outer expression the same).  It is a little frustrating that so few figures can enter into company zodiacal with each other, however, but I think that might also be for the best.

So, to recap, we have four sets of rules of company:

  1. Canonical company (given by Cattan): company simple, company demi-simple, company compound, company capitular
  2. Elemental company (based on the elemental structure of the figures): company by Fire, company by Air, company by Water, company by Earth
  3. Mathematical company (based on the mathematical relationships of the figures): company simple, company inverse, company reverse, company converse
  4. Magical company (based on the occult associations of the figures): company simple, company zodiacal, company planetary, company elementary

Of these, I think elemental company can be thrown out as a viable technique, as it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know, but instead is another way to look at the simple addition of figures, which isn’t a great way of telling whether someone has allies or external support, and strongly differs from the other methods entirely.  Mathematical company and magical company, however, bear much more possibility because they explore actual relationships among the figures, one by means of their structure and one by means of their correspondences.  When applied to the parents in a triad, I think we can definitely use these in addition to or instead of Cattan’s canonical company rules to understand whether a person in a reading has allies and, if so, of what type and means.

All this hasn’t really touched on the role of the child in a triad, however, when it comes to rules of company.  That said, these rules are all about pairs of figures, and with the exception of the Sentence, all figures are parents and can enter into company with at least one other figure.  I think it might be best to leave it at Cattan’s barely-explained way of seeing which parent the child agrees with most, whether it be by ruling planet or element or whatever, and judge a triad much as we might judge the Court with the added clarity of seeing who helps who attain what in a given triad.

Thoughts on Geomantic Company

Of all the techniques of Western geomancy, that of company is one I’ve always been kind of iffy about.  It’s something I teach about regardless, as it’s been vetted by greater geomancers than me, but I’ve never really seen the use of it.  Lately, after going over some ideas with a student of mine, I’ve been giving it a bit more thought about where it falls into the repertoire of geomantic techniques and how it might be expanded or elaborated on.  This is more a blog post of brainstorming than exposition, so please bear with me, folks.

I’ve seen geomantic company primarily described in two texts: John Michael Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy,  and Christopher Cattan’s The Geomancy.  Let us first review what these texts say about company.  First, Cattan (book III, chapter 7):

When you find a good figure in a good house, it is double good, because the house is good and the figure also, and it signifieth that without any doubt the Querent shall obtain his demand.  By the like reason if ye find an ill figure in an ill house, it is very ill for the Querent, but if ye find a good figure in an ill house, it signifieth good to the Querent, but it will not continue, but taketh away some part of the malice of the house: in like case if ye find an ill figure in a good house, it taketh away the malice of the figure, for she would do harm, but she cannot, keeping always that the good come not to the Querent: and for as much as in this Chapter I have promised to speak of the company of figures, I will that you do understand that this company is of three manners, whereof the one is simple, the other demi-simple, and the third compounded.

The company simple is of two like figures, as by example, if that you find Aquisitio in the first house, and likewise in the second, and so likewise of all other figures which in two houses next together be found both of one sort, as if Conjunctio be found in the third, and likewise in the fourth.

When in two houses next together, there be found two figures a like, and that they be good, ye shall say incontinent that they signify great goodness, and if they be ill, they do signifieth much ill: as by way of example, if ye find in the fifth and ninth Rubeus, ye shall say that it signifieth much ill to the Querent, for the question demanded, and to declare unto you more easily, you must know that the second house is always companion of the first, the third of the of the fourth, the fifth of the sixth, and so consequently of the others.  If therefore they be both of one element, of one Planet, and of one Sign, they signify much good or much ill, according to their goodness or malice.  If they be good they signify that the hap and goodness of the Querent shall be as well good present as in time to come: as much shall ye judge of the contrary part if they be evil, and yea because that the first house signifieth the time present, and the second time to come, and likewise of the other companies.

The company demi-simple is, when tow figure be not both of one sort, nature or condition, although they be both of one Element, and of one Planet, so as the one party do agree, and the other not, as by example, if it happenth that the first be Aquisitio and the second Leticia, although they be both of the Element, of the Air, and of the Planet ♃, yet they be diverse significations, for that the one of them is of ♃ direct, and the exaltation of ☉, and the other of ♃ retrograde and the exaltation of ☾ the one of the figures of ♈, and the other of the Sign ♉.

The company compound is that which is of diverse figures made one contrary to another, as if Aquisitio be in the first house, and Amissio in the second, of which the two cometh and is engendered the figure Via, which is a figure of the Element of Water, signifying a conjunction of ☉ and ☾, which is a triple and compound company, evil and of great discord, by reason that Aquisitio is a figure of the Element of the Air, and of the Planet ♃ in the figure of ♈ Amissio a figure of the Element of the Fire, and of the Planet ♀ in the Sign of ♏.  Which maketh and engendered the difference of them, and the diversity and discord which they have together, out of the which two, as I have said before, is engendered this figure Via, which is a figure of the Element of the Water, and of the Planet ☾ in the sign of ♌, and is thus contrary to both the others.  Now see how the company is ill, and that is the cause that when it cometh it cannot be judged.  And thus all of the others according to the importance of their signification, be it good or be it evil.

There is moreover another company of figures which be taken by points on high of the said figures, as by example if Aquisitio be in the first house, and Albus in the second, the which because they be both good figures, and be equal of points in the upper part, and that out of them is taken another which is Caput draconis likewise equal in the upper part, it is thereby signified that both they be of great force in things good and hot, and that by the occasion that the fire is the first next unto the Planets, and principal Elements of all the other, unto whom the first points of the figure be attributed.  And for that cause I have set in the first book the Chapters as well of the Fire, and of the other Elements, to the end you may know their virtues and properties.  As much and for the same reason, I have made a Chapter, in the which I have showed the form and manner to set the figures by lines, attributing the first to the Fire, as to the first and superior and principle Element of all the other, the second to the Air, the third to the Water, the fourth to the Earth.

Cattan, following this explanation, gives an example of the use of company in a chart with the Mothers Acquisitio, Puella, Albus, and Fortuna Maior for the question of “the Lord of Garembert of Permeran being desirous of a Lady to be his friend, desired me on a time to enact him a figure to know whether he should have this purpose pretended”.  For this Cattan…really kinda goes all over the place using what appears to be a rather free-form method of interpretation (my notes included in brackets where useful):

In the which, because that Aquisitio is in the first house, and hath two points on the head, and that his companion [Puella] hath but one, & by that cause do not very well agree together: but because they be both good figures in case of love, I judged that he should obtain his purpose, but not without great pain and travail, because the company agreeth not very well.  And because that the figure which cometh out of them [ninth house, First Niece as child of First and Second Mothers], which is Cauda draconis, resembleth the second in the superior points, which points be attributed unto the Fire, by that is signified that the party Querent shall enjoy his desire.  And because Aquisitio is in the house of the demand [first house?], because he hath two points in the upper part, it is a figure which doth much participate of the Fire, rather alone then the two together as touching the company [meaning that two points in a line is doubly active instead of the usual passive].  Because also that it is a figure of ♃ in the sign of ♈, and the exaltation of ☉, it showeth that the love shall be opened, whereby the mother and kinsfolk will be very ill contended: and because Rubeus is in the fifth house I judged that the son of the woman by indignation, and in anger would go about to kill the said Gentleman: and because the company of the fifth [sixth house] called Leticia, which is the sixth, is good: I say that the said Gentleman should dispend much money in the suit of this woman: and because the eleventh is a figure of ☉ [Fortuna Minor] and a company of an ill figure [Amissio in the twelfth house], I judged that his friends should promise to help and succor unto him, but they would not do it until it were too late, so that finally he should lose all his hope of tarrying for the attainment of his hearts desire.  But for that the seventh is a good figure, and attributed unto ♃ as the first is, I said that it should be a sign that the woman should love him well, and by that means should in the end marry with him in spite of her children and kindred.  Which thing afterward came even so to pass, so that I riding post with my Lord of Thays, going to Rome, was advertised thereof and found my figure true, and that the Gentleman had married the said Lady: which figure shall serve upon for an example to now how to judge the company of figures.

So much for Cattan’s explanation of company.  Perhaps surprisingly, I couldn’t find any plagiarized rules in John Heydon’s Theomagia as I usually do from Cattan.  While his philosophical pseudopoetic ramblings never fail to give me a headache (pace Dr Cummins), Heydon appears to reference company throughout the text without actually defining how it’s to be used.  Unless I’m just that blind or my mind has started to actively block out Heydon’s text from mine eyes, it might be that Heydon simply uses “company” to refer to any figure that’s next to a particular one that we care about, a drastic simplification from Cattan’s rules, for sure.

JMG gives a description of company in Art and Practice of Geomancy (pp. 121–122), and I’ll refrain from copying the text here, but generally, he gives the same rules for forming company between the pairs of houses (albeit in a somewhat simplified method from Cattan), and he limits this use to forming secondary significators, or “cosignificators”, to the primary significators in a chart.  He says that wherever company exists, other people are necessarily involved in the situation, and we can use the usual rules of perfection with the cosignificator.  Thus, a chart perfected through cosignificators indicates that the friends or associates of the party indicated by the significator are in a position to help the party; the figure of company itself can help the geomancer determine the personality and physical characteristics of the person indicated by the figure according to the usual rules.

Given that we don’t see the rule of company listed in Robert Fludd (though I though I had crossed it once or twice), and that we don’t see this technique developed any further back than in Cattan’s work, it’s a safe bet that the rule of company was developed by Cattan or in his direct and immediate lineage of geomantic teachers.  Let us review the rules of company, as I understand them, in a condensed way:

  1. Company can only take place between odd-even pairs of houses in the House Chart: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, etc., never 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, etc.
  2. Company can be formed from one of four methods: simple, demi-simple, compound, and capitular.
  3. Company simple is formed when both houses have the same figure.
  4. Company demi-simple is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by the same planet (e.g. Albus and Coniunctio, both ruled by Mercury).
  5. Company compound is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by different planets yet are reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus).
  6. Company capitular is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by different planets and are not reverses of each other, but share the same Fire line (e.g. Albus and Caput Draconis).

It is possible that, if a significator is in company with another figure, that second figure becomes a cosignificator and can act or stand in place of the significator wherever the cosignificator is.  For instance, say that we have a question about whether John Doe will marry Jane Smith, and we find Albus in house I, Coniunctio in houses II and IX, and Puella in houses VII and X.  Given this, we see that there is no perfection between houses I and VII, so we would normally say that the chart denies perfection.  However, note that houses I and II are in company demi-simple (both Albus and Coniunctio are ruled by the planet Mercury), so wherever we see Coniunctio, we can treat it as acting on behalf of John Doe.  In this case, now that we have Coniunctio as a cosignificator of the querent, we see that the chart does, indeed, perfect by mutation in houses IX and X, with Puella and Coniunctio beside each other.

From an old post on the Geomantic Campus forum on Yahoo! Groups dated December 14, 2008, JMG replied to a question I had about the overall importance of this approach to company:

In my experience, it’s useful, but not overwhelmingly important in most cases. I’ve had some readings in which it’s been central — for example, one where the querent’s own significator failed to perfect, but the figure in company was all over the chart and perfected in two modes plus positive aspects! It was pretty clear in that reading that the querent wasn’t going to get anywhere in the present, but if he waited and changed his approach he’d achieve his goals so easily it would make his head spin. Worked out, too.

In my experience, however, I’ve had to take a different approach for several reasons, which has led me to a different understanding of company.  Primarily, I’ve never had a chart where, if the significator didn’t perfect and the cosignificator did, the actual outcome of the situation agreed with the perfection of the cosignificator.  In other words, regardless whether the significator perfected, it didn’t really matter what the cosignificator did; it was the perfection or denial thereof from the significator itself that was most in line with the actual outcome of the situation.  This could be how geomancy works for me, especially given different results from different geomancers, but I’ve had to tweak my approach to company based on this.  Additionally, the process of using cosignificators greatly increased the complexity of a reading, especially if both the significator of the querent and of the quesited had their own figures in company and passed around in the chart on their own.  This could easily double or triple the work I’d need to put into a chart, and given that it didn’t yield me any useful information, I find the notion of using these figures as cosignificators rather pointless.

However, the notion of company does make sense to me in a limited way: if a figure is in company with another, then those figures have each other’s backs and support each other.  When a significator is in company, this means that the party represented by the significator has support, allies, and friends to assist them and work with them at their side.  We can break down the exact nature of this support based on the type of company we find:

  • Company simple: the significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company demi-simple: the significator and their allies are different, but share enough characteristics for them to complement each other and understand each other enough to accomplish the same thing.
  • Company compound: the significator and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will help each other out so that they can each benefit from the whole.
  • Company capitular: the significator and their allies share the same goal, but nothing else in common; they just want the same thing.

We can see that, implicit in this order, we have a measure of how strong a given company is, with company simple being the strongest form of company (much like how perfection by occupation is the strongest form of perfection), and with company capitular being the weakest.

When it came to the houses involved in company, I heard a theory that the even-numbered house (always the second house in a company pair) represents the future of the figure in company, and that the odd-numbered house always the first) represents the past.  I have an issue with this, however: what if the significator you’re inspecting is already in an even-numbered house?  Does company, then, only give you information about the past?  Not all even-numbered significators have valuable information there, so it seems like this is a gross imbalance of information and, thus, not a useful rule.  I haven’t really found much worth in this rule, so I left it by the wayside.  For me, if a figure is in company, then the figure matters, not whether it comes before or after the other.

So…that’s the general information about company I have on hand.  Do I use it?  Nope!  Besides noting whether or not the querent can call on friends for help, I don’t pay attention to company to determine the fortune or infortune of a person or event, and I certainly don’t use it when determining perfection of the chart.  For me, company is a rule that I’ll pull out if I’m really, really trying to squeeze out every last drop of information and every last possibility of perfection from a chart, and if I’m trying to do that, then I know I really haven’t been reading the chart right for some time, or it’s just not the right time to read the chart in a way that makes sense.

Besides, the whole rule where a company pair can only be made in an odd-even pair of houses has always bothered me; I know of no such rule in astrology where we focus on odd-even pairs of houses to the exclusion of even-odd ones, so I can’t think of a logical reason why we can’t find company there.  Recently, however, a student in geomancy of mine pointed out something I had missed all this time: the odd-even rule comes from the Shield Chart, not the House Chart!  Odd-even pairs of houses comes from the placement of the figures in the houses of the Shield Chart, where we have the First Mother (house I) and Second Mother (house II) belonging to the First Triad, the Third Mother (house III) and Fourth Mother (house IV) belonging to the Second Triad, and so forth.  That’s why we stick to odd-even pairs, because even-odd pairs would cross those binary divisions in the Shield Chart.  This is well, especially since, if we tie in the idea of company into the rule of the triads, we can see why Cattan bothers talking about the figure in house IX (First Niece) when he’s supposedly focused on the company between houses I and II (First Mother and Second Mother).  As Cattan doesn’t mention the rule of triads at all, while Robert Fludd does yet neglecting to mention company, it might be that Cattan and Fludd are both describing a similar way to group the four sets of three figures in the Shield Chart that we call the four triads.  This would then put the rule of company as a Shield Chart rule more than a House Chart rule.

So, if we were to reconsider the rule of company in terms of triads and the Shield Chart instead of houses in the House Chart, we might come up with a slightly different way to interpret the rule of company that might yield more interesting results.  Just to throw out an idea of how we might use company in terms of the triads (note that these techniques have not been verified or tested):

  1. Two parents in a given triad of the Shield Chart may or may not be in company based on the qualities of the parent figures themselves.
  2. If two parents are in company, then the matter will have multiple people involved who agree with, help, or defend each other in the matter represented by the child.
  3. If two parents are not in company, then the matter will have only one person involved, or there is disagreement or a lack of assistance when the figures refer to multiple people.
  4. The child figure in a triad represents the overall outcome of a situation or the theme of interaction between multiple parties, while the type of company or lack thereof between the parents demonstrates the support given to an outcome or means of interaction between multiple parties.
  5. Company simple between the parents indicates that the matter will have the concerted, combined, and harmonious action of multiple people, or the uninhibited action of one person supported by all others.
  6. Company demi-simple between the parents indicates that the matter will have support and interaction from many sides in many ways, yet not too different as to cause conflict.
  7. Company compound between the parents indicates that the different people represented by the parents fulfill each other’s abilities in a complementary fashion.
  8. Company capitular between the parents indicates that they share the same goal in mind but may have different means or desires in the process of attaining it that could put them at odds with each other

So, those are my thoughts when it comes to company, and how it might be expanded or tweaked to fit in with a more coherent system that uses the Shield Chart more than the House Chart.  Before, the rule of company was more than a little confusing in its importance and use, but now I can see a bit more use and interesting qualities in it when put into the context of the Shield Chart.  As before, I think it’s a good way to keep Shield Chart techniques and House Chart techniques separated, even though they ultimately rely on the same figures generated by the same process; I think the use of company when applied to the houses makes less sense than the use of company when applied to the triads.

On Third-Party Readings

Most people who contact me or hire me for divination usually ask the same things.  I’m not complaining for their business, and it never gets boring, but usually they ask about the usual stuff: general forecasts, job prospects, relationship advice, and similar things.  On occasion, I’ll get a spicier question dealing with spirits or magical advice, or something truly unusual and heavy that gives me pause to think deeply about how to respond.  In my years of divining for others, I consider myself fortunate and grateful to have so many people to bear with me as a never-ending student of geomancy.

However, of all the types of questions and queries thrown at us, we geomancers tend to have the most difficulty with what we call “third-party readings”.  These are queries where the focus isn’t on the querent themselves, but on someone else that they’re worried about or concerned for.  A common example would be “is my partner cheating on me?”; this isn’t dealing with the sexual activities of the querent, but on someone related to the querent.  Other examples would be:

  • Where should my friend move for a better job?
  • What’s wrong with the health of my child’s pet?
  • Is the boss of my husband intentionally trying to destroy the business they’re in?

I’m not going to judge the validity of these queries, since if a querent is bringing them to the table to be divined upon, I assume they have a reason for doing so.  The problem, however, is that there are two aspects I have to carefully weed through in order to get a good answer, and third-party readings really mess with me on ethical and technical levels as a geomancer.  Let me explain.

First, how do geomancers do third-party readings?  The Shield Chart isn’t of much help for us, since the Shield Chart is of necessity focused on the querent themselves and their role in a situation; the less the querent is involved, the more meaningless the Shield becomes.  Renaissance geomancers got around this by using the House Chart and borrowing a technique from horary astrology known as “rotating the chart”.  Let’s walk through this method:

  1. We first draw up a House Chart based directly on the Shield Chart.  This is termed the radical chart, “radical” coming from Latin radix or “root”.  This chart represents the querent directly, the person who is actually talking to the geomancer.  House I in the radical chart represents the querent, the person actually talking to the geomancer, and the other houses take their usual meanings with respect to the querent.  Thus, house II represents the querent’s finances, house III the querent’s surroundings, and so forth.
  2. In order to get the perspective of a third party, we rotate the chart so that the house that represents the third party’s connection to the querent becomes the new house I.  For instance, if the querent is asking what their husband is up to, we look at house VII (marriage, spouses, partnerships).  We rotate the chart so that, in our new rotated chart, house VII becomes the rotated house I, house VIII the rotated house II, and so forth.
  3. If one rotation isn’t sufficient, we go down the chain of connections and rotate the chart subsequent times.  For instance, to rotate the chart for our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet, we first look at the radical chart’s house I for the querent, then rotate the chart to house III (neighbor); then, using that as our new rotated chart, we rotate it again to house X (mother), then again to house VI (housekeeper), then again to house VI (pet).
  4. In the rotated chart, we now have the whole reading presented not from the querent’s point of view (that’s the chart anchored at the radical house I), but from the third party’s point of view (the chart anchored at the rotated house I).  From here, we analyze the rotated House Chart using the usual methods of perfection, aspects, and the like to get our answer.

We can rotate the chart as many times as we need to get the proper perspective on a situation.  Instead of drawing and redrawing rotated charts, plotting each house out house by house and rotation by rotation, there’s a bit of a formula you can use to determine what house of the radical chart you need to rotate to:

Radical house number = (Sum of the house numbers of all the connections – Number of times we rotate + 1) % 12

Note that the % operator here stands for the modulo operation, or taking the remainder after divination.  So, 13 % 12 = 1, because 13 ÷ 12 = 1 with a remainder of 1.  14 % 12 = 2, 19 % 12 = 6, 24 % 12 = 0 (because 12 goes into 24 evenly).  If the remainder is 0, we treat the result as house XII.

So, how we go about using this formula?

  • For a friend: Friends are represented by house XI.  Thus, the radical house number we rotate the chart to is 11 (the sum of the house numbers we’re connecting) – 1 (the number of rotations needed) + 1, which gives us 11, and 11 % 12 = 11, or house XI.
  • For our child’s pet:  Children are represented by house V, and pets by house VI.  So, 5 + 6 = 11, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (11 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 10 % 12 = 10, or house X.
  • For our husband’s boss: Spouses are represented by house VII, and bosses by house X.  So, 7 + 10 = 17, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (17 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 16 % 12 = 4, or house IV.
  • For our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet: Neighbors are represented by house III, mothers by house X, housekeepers by house VI, and pets by house VI.  So, 3 + 10 + 6 + 6 = 25, and we need four rotations, so (25 – 4 + 1) % 12 = 22 % 12 = 10, or house X.

You can see how this gets pretty difficult complex pretty quickly, but it has the end result of giving us the situation from the perspective of the third party the querent is asking about.  There are two problems here, however.  For one, the Shield Chart pretty much immediately loses much of its meaning when we rotate the chart, since the Shield Chart is essentially the radical chart, and if we don’t care about the radical chart, then most of the use and importance of the Shield Chart goes out the window.  The second problem, and the more worrying one at that, is that we only have 12 houses, and we can go around and around the chart any number of times to find out how someone in China is doing based on a series of tenuous connections we make between friends of friends of friends of friends of friends, but we keep just rotating around the same chart with the same 12 figures.  This leads to the problem that, the more we rotate the chart, the further we get from getting anything of value from the chart; the more distant the perspective inquired about, the less reliably we’ll get a good, clear, or useful answer from the chart.  As a result, I go by the personal rule that I never rotate the chart past two rotations, if that.

However, these rules of rotation give a lot of geomancers cause to scratch their heads.  Who, exactly, is considered a third party?  If we use the geomancer-centric point of view, any chart we throw is for a third party (i.e. not the geomancer themselves), so shouldn’t we rotate the chart at least once for someone who’s coming to us with a question?  This is kind of a silly question, I find, since it’s defined (not just a convention to follow but a definition or an axiom in the art) that the radical, unrotated house I is given to the querent, i.e. the person who asks the question.  If that person happens to be the geomancer, where the geomancer is reading for themselves, then awesome; if that person happens to be someone who comes to the geomancer for a reading, then house I is given to them, simple as that.  I don’t see what the confusion is here, personally, but it’s led to some debates in the past on the geomantic forums and mailing lists I’ve been on.  It’s also led some people to simply never rotate the chart even in the case of legitimate third-party readings, which is another problem all of its own.

The same technical issues that prevent a complicated rotation from giving useful information to the querent through the chart points to an important consideration: the more distant the target of divination you want to get information on, the less useful or clear it will be.  In other words, querents of all kinds are encouraged to keep their readings focused on themselves, what will happen to them, and what they can do in a particular situation.  Said another way, of course, unless you have a damn good reason to be nosy in someone’s life who lives or has a tight connection to you, you have no reason to investigate the matter because you’re not them, you can’t change how they act, and you can’t change what will happen to them.  Focus on yourself and your own well-being and come what may to others!  If the third party in question has a real need to see what’s going on in their lives, they can come to me for a reading, not you.  If you want to find out how issues only indirectly related to you will affect you, that’s legitimate, but you may want to keep your nose out of other people’s business unless it’s something that will really impact your life.

So, technical issues aside, I also find ethical problems arise in doing third-party readings.  As a diviner, I place huge importance on reader-client confidentiality rivaling that of legal or medical professions; privacy between the one who asks the query and the one who reads it is sacrosanct for me, and I do not reveal what goes on in a reading to others.  It’s confidential information, full stop.  As a result, on the occasion when someone has a query but doesn’t approach me directly, instead going through a friend to ask the query for them, I find that this bumps uncomfortably into confidentiality issues, because the person who is asking me the query isn’t actually the person the answer is for, so I don’t like having to answer to them instead of the person the chart is drawn up for.  If at all possible, unless the person has no means to contact me directly, I don’t use a go-between when doing readings.