Digitized Traditional and Renaissance Geomancy Resource List

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

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

In Latin:

In French:

In Italian:

In German:

In English:

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

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

Required Reading for an Apprentice

Although I’ve made light of people who have asked for suggested reading for an introduction to the occult, I’ve had the idea to compile a basic library and resource set for anyone interested in the stuff I do.  While your path is probably going to veer from or cross through mine any number of times, there are some resources I wouldn’t be caught dead without for reference, assistance, and general help, especially in the traditions of magic I practice.  Besides, if I one day take on an apprentice, I may as well have a list of books ready for them to have for themselves.  That is, if I don’t already have my own personal collection and reference ready for them, but more information will always be nice.

Books for reference:

  • Agrippa’s Three Books and Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy.  This is the mother of all reference books on magic, spirituality, religion, and the occult, and is pretty much the basis of all Western magic today, Hermetic or otherwise.  A lot of stuff is pulled or morphed from his collection of information, which itself is pulled from older sources.
  • Betz’s translation of the Greek Magical Papyri.  It’s helpful to see how magic was done in the source and origin of the Hermetic tradition, as well as to take a hint about how different traditions of magic can be syncretized and folded into each other.
  • Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables.  Correspondence tables are awesome and help link different aspects of the occult and open worlds together.  Agrippa covers some of this, but these books (I prefer Skinner’s book over Crowley’s 777) are invaluable.
  • Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols.  This is one of the best books on astrological symbolism I’ve found, and despite the modernity of it, Hand is an expert I trust and who I know knows his shit.
  • John Michael Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy.  I think geomancy is extraordinarily useful to the occult, despite its relative disappearance from occulture, and any apprentice of mine is going to learn the technique, art, and skill of geomancy and how to apply it in magic and spirituality.
  • Eileen Connolly’s Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice.  I’m not big into tarot, but I do use it every so often, especially for scrying and meditation.  This is one of the better books I’d recommend for someone as a reference of the cards.
  • Wheelock’s Latin, because face it, a lot of this stuff is still in Latin and a working knowledge of it is going to help.  Greek and Hebrew will as well, but Latin especially so.  A good Latin dictionary helps loads, too.
  • Carl Liungman’s Symbols: Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms.  This is a massive and awesome reference for all kinds of written symbols, ideograms, and other characters that have been used across the Western world from prehistoric times to the modern era.  It’s a good reference for alchemical, planetary, and a variety of other magical signs as well.
  • Melody’s Love is In the Earth: A Kaleidoscope of Crystals.  Even though this is fluffy and light-hearted as hell, it’s also one of the best and most complete references on the different types of crystals, metals, and stones in magical use.
  • Picatrix.  This is the classical grimoire, the archetypal spellbook from old medieval European types and based on Arabic star magic.  The spells and works are still as powerful as ever, and it helps to know where a lot of modern magic is derived or based from.
  • Draja Mickaharic’s Spiritual Cleansing.  Even considering that Draja is one of the most underrated and undermentioned occult authors out there, the dude’s ancient and has the wisdom and experience to match.  His magic works, and this is one of the classic books on spiritual cleansing, protection, and safekeeping.
  • Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Sophocles’ Oedipus Cycle.  A rock-solid knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology cannot be underestimated in its help for understanding and working with the gods and spirits and forces of the world.
  • The Bible (New American Version or similar modern critical edition, King James Version for art and style) and Jack Mile’s God: A Biography and Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God.  As above, but for Judaic and Christian mythos is wonderful for the Western magician.  Plus, this is one of the most well-used, well-known, and well-loved spellbooks of all time.
  • Brian Copenhaver’s version of the Hermetica.  As above, but for Hermetic and Gnostic mythos.
  • Benson Bobrick’s The Fated Sky: Astrology in History for a good overview of the path of astrology in science, mysticism, and human life from ancient times to modern.
  • Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.  This is the foundational text on Western astrology, written by the man Ptolemy himself.  May as well get the most solid background we have.
  • Richard Garfinkle’s Celestial Matters.  A modern alt-reality fiction showing what the world might be like if it were ruled by Aristotelian geocentric physics, different geopolitical and socioreligious sets of problem than we have, and how one really has to start from scratch to learn new systems of thought.  The depiction of how gods actually interact with mortals in a world where people still work with them is priceless alone; this is a book for any Hermetic or Neoplatonist to read and enjoy.
  • Rex Bills’ The Rulership Book, containing a huge list of what planets and signs in astrology rule over which objects, places, professions, foods, people, and the like.  Uses a lot of modern associations with the outer planets, but still invaluable in figuring out what force goes with what thing.
  • The Clavicula Solomonis, or the Greater Key of Solomon the King.  I like the Mathers’ version due to the pretty and redrawn seals, but the text as a whole is a fantastic resource to prayer, ritual setup, and tool consecration.
  • Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.  Normally I’d stay away from Llewellyn and this author due to his fluff content, but credit where it’s due, he knows his stuff, and this is one of the best manuals on herbs and plants commonly available.  I may not agree with all the associations, but it’s certainly helpful.

Links and resources on the Internet (many of these are on the sidebar to the right, but it’s not like you ever click on them):

I think the above would cover all the bases for me to start teaching someone, with plenty of other supplementary or secondary material, including other grimoires, modern texts on magic, blogs and essays, and various references and stories.  I like to use a lot of reference material from a Renaissance Solomonic or classical Hermetic background, but that’s not to discount the value of other styles, traditions, or sources of magic.  What books, texts, and sources might you suggest, if you were to take on an apprentice?  Do you think there’s anything else I should consider to tack onto the list?

Sources of Magical Energy

Based on talks with friends and our individual experiences, actually doing magical work takes energy.  For that matter, doing any kind of work takes an input of effort and energy; generally speaking, the bigger the work, the bigger the energy needed.  In more pessimistic terms, it’s garbage in, garbage out.  However, doing magical operations takes effort of a different kind than physical or mental labor, and requires energy of a different kind than a hearty meal and a full night’s rest.

First, what is energy?  I use the terms “energy”, “power”, and “force” fairly interchangably, but it can be considered from a magical point of view as the ability to make something go or do something else.  Light and darkness, the four elements, the seven planets, the ten heavenly spheres, the 12 zodiac signs, the 28 lunar mansions, and so on are different sources or flavors of energy that are commonly encountered in my line of work, but they’re by no means the only kinds.  Species of plants or animals, different kinds of stones, memories, and the impressions of emotions and life that things leave on a place or thing are also sources of energy.  In all cases, the energy provided from these sources can be channeled, directed, contained, isolated, or manipulated in such a way to accomplish some goal.

In many senses, an average human is another kind of powerhouse or generator that creates, channels, and uses energy.  Depending on the goal, different parts of the human are made use of: for physical tasks, the physical body with its energetic needs are required; for mental tasks, the mental spirit; for holy tasks, the divine intellect; and so on.  The fourfold body of humanity (body, soul, spirit, mind) is thoroughly wrapped up in itself and among its individual parts, but different modes of working are needed for different kinds of tasks.  That said, the human as a whole produces a kind of single energy, which we might call “human life essence”.  This alone has many names, like orgone, prana, qi/ki/chi, mana, ruach, or so on, but is the primary energy that humans run on.  Although there are other kinds of energies out there, it’s this kind of human life essence (I’ll just call it Life from now on) that allows humans to live.  Trying to use another kind of energy to live is like trying to eat paper or pencils for nutrition; it doesn’t really work that way, without some kind of prior processing outside the human system.

Since Life is an energy, it can be used in magical operations in order to accomplish some desired goal.  However, this is kinda dangerous, since Life is best and primarily used for living.  Plus, although humans generate Life, it’s mostly meant for the purpose of living, and using up Life for other tasks often has the result of having less Life for living.  In other words, using one’s own Life cuts off years from one’s life.  It’s kind of a nasty conclusion to come to, but it makes sense, and seems to be a constant in my experience, those of my friends, and those of their friends.  People who rely on their own Life too much tend to be unnaturally fatigued, seem to age earlier, and likely kick off sooner than those who don’t.

As a magician, this is worrisome, but also easily preventable.  Given all the works I do, it’s vital that I don’t use my own Life just to put up a shield or charge a talisman or something.  Instead, it’s better to make use of the other forces and energies out in the cosmos that are better suited and, for all practical purposes, infinite.  When making a Mercury talisman, for instance, I don’t want to supply my own Life, process it into a Mercurial form, and then stick that into a disc of wood or metal when tapping into a Mercurial flow of energy works just as good, if not better and with less effort (though with more ritual flair).  These flows of energy are everywhere, and in so many flavors and styles that it’s almost hard to choose from to figure out which might be best for a particular purpose (hence Agrippa’s helpful tables and complete systems of magic generally).  All that I need to do is figure out how best to access these flows of energy, including the spirits to talk to get access to them and the proper times to do it, and I’m generally set.  The important thing is that I’m not using my own Life in these rituals or magical operations, but instead I act as a channel to direct these forces according to my Will.

Does this mean that I never use my own Life to accomplish something?  Nope.  I like to think of Life as the energy I need to do something for myself by myself, and can be extended or manipulated as another “limb” or something.  Often enough, interacting with another force requires a channel to be made through the human, made easier by using Life to make a “road” or “tube” to direct the energy flow.  When isolating something, I tend to make a “net” or web of Life to catch something, move it around, then release it into another place that can better or more appropriately handle it (localized pain, for instance).  When I’m done using the Life like this, I release it back into myself and make as much use of it as I can according to its original purpose, instead of releasing it into the world.

At least, this is how I tend to think about energy sources and the like in terms of magic.  There are a lot of different ways one can think about this, and there are even whole models of occult thought that can show how magic generally works.  The above is largely classified under the energy model of magic, but I also like incorporating it with the spirit model (whereby it isn’t channeling energy that performs magic but asking and working with spirits to do the same).  How do you think about the use of energy in magic, if at all, and specifically the use of human life essence or the place of the human in magic?