Unlocking the Observatory: Further Guidance from Another Text

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about a case study from Karl Kern’s 1933 Die wahrsagende Kabbala der Magier: die Kabbala des Zoroaster (WKM) later reprinted in 2009 under the name “Baron André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat” by Verlag Edition Geheimes Wissen. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), this post does not touch on any specific chapter of the text.

Normally, I have a policy of not reading stuff written by assholes.  It’s true that shitty people can make good points, but so can non-shitty people, and given a choice between the two, I’d choose reading the non-shitty people any day; there are lots of non-asshole people who also make really good points (if not the same ones) without being an asshole, and I’d rather give them my attention.  As history has conclusively shown decade after decade for the past several centuries, fascists, Nazis, and racial supremacists are among the worst such assholes; unfortunately, we’re reading Karl Kern’s book because this is one of the exceedingly few texts out there that deals with ZT, even if he was an avowed Ariosophist and member of various völkisch movements that led to the rise of Nazism.  Happily, this doesn’t impact what we can glean from the book he wrote on the subject.

Well, besides him trying to tie in the whole “race-culture religion” in his case study from last post, and besides his own introduction to the “Kabbala of Zoroaster”:

Experience teaches that even under the strangest coverings there is a deep core of wisdom and knowledge. One cannot really consider everything categorized under the name “superstition” as superstition alone. To dismiss the essence of our Kabbala as madness and nonsense is not an option. Such action would show great short-sightedness, for how many things that were recently considered superstition are now generally accepted facts! When a Cretan idiot explains the cuneiform text of a stone slab already thousands of years old as an indecipherable, senseless scrawl of an equally senseless stonecutter, this does not yet provide the shadow of a proof that another person does not know how to decipher and read the symbols. And our Kabbala is just as old, if not even older, than the stone monuments of times long past that we know of. As all ancient scriptures teach, it is the oldest knowledge known to mankind. It is said to be older than the knowledge of the stars, which is called astrology today. Yes, our Kabbalist claims that astrology first arose out of Kabbala, and that astrology that arose out of Kabbala as a result of its distortions and abusive embellishments, brought about and hastened the downfall of Kabbala. Be that as it may, it is hardly disputed today that the Kabbala is of immense antiquity. The mystical-Jewish trains of thought that we find in the Book of Zohar have little to do with the actual Kabbala. They are the watered-down infusion of an ancient Aryan knowledge that was developed by the ancient Sumerians about 5000 years ago and which was remodeled by the Jewish tribe with their own egocentric bustle for their own purposes and then deceptively provided with their own company stamp.

Needless to say, this is a far stronger claim than what ZT makes; while ZT just quietly (mis)uses the word “cabala” generically to refer to some ancient system of spirituality without any actual reference to the substance of Jewish kabbalah, WKM here makes the logical and ideological leap that “no really, this is the actual Kabbala, those Jews just pissed all over it”.  At the time of the Third Reich (and around the time Kern was writing WKM), Nazi race theory (such as it was) considered the Persians to be a kindred Aryan race to the Germans (well beyond the Indo-European linguistic and human migration connections); for this reason, I suspect that Kern found the orientalizing pseudohistory ZT to make it an alluring form of divination and spirituality in line with his own Ariosophy.  After all, ZT does claim to be descended from Zoroaster, the Persian prophet of an ancient Persian religion, which would make this supposedly pristine Aryan numerological system suitable for his own racial ideology, so of course Kern would say that the Jews just appropriated “real Kabbala” from an ancient Aryan race.  (I really hate how utterly banal history can be sometimes; on top of the rest of the crimes against humanity and insults against dignity they commit, Nazis are just the laziest when it comes to any kind of thinking, to boot.)

Still, amidst the antisemitism and pseudohistory worse than ZT’s own, Kern isn’t without his own insights.  Amidst lots of Pythagoreanizing examples about how all things are fundamentally number (the numerology of words and names, or “name-cabbalism”, as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke calls it in The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Theology, was a super popular thing taken super seriously among many Ariosophists, even though that, too, was also based on earlier Mediterranean and especially Jewish practices), WKM does point out something meaningful about how sortilege (the drawing of lots) works, even linking it to geomancy (“Punktierkunst” in German), which ironically Kern seems to have a much higher opinion of than ZT itself does:

The drawing of lots from the urn never happens by chance, but for a spiritual reason, through the power of which the imagination, or in this case the hand of the person drawing the lot, is moved. Therefore, those who wish to take lots must be well prepared and not be disturbed or distracted by anything; also he must have a firm desire and a definite intention to know what is asked. Just as in the well-known common art of geomancy the origin of the dots goes back to an inner origin, so it is with our Kabbala. In your lot-drawing, it is the soul which, when its desire increases to a high degree, directs the lot. All the lots only follow the direction of the soul, and there is always a necessary pull to what the soul desires.

Right before the case study (“Ein Beispiel”) opens up, WKM starts with a bit of practical advice regarding how to conduct oneself and how to perform an actual reading:

With all of the foregoing having been said, the student of Kabbala is given the key to unlocking the lock that closes to the layman’s eye the land of knowledge with its paths that come from the past and lead through the present to the future. Proper handling of the key and proper use of it can never be taught at length. This depends on the assets and abilities of each individual. A stiff hand will never insert the key properly into the lock, while dexterous fingers can open the gate with ease. However, practice may show an example and it may bring relief in the interpretation of the Great Mirror, which at first seems difficult. It must be noted that the mirror given as an example was not artificially assembled, but contains the stones as they were drawn from the Urn by a man questioning fate.

At the beginning of this work it was mentioned that there is sufficient power and power in the human soul to lead the lots, and that the man who wants to take the lots should not be troubled or distracted, and have a firm desire and a determined intention intended to find out what is being asked. So never let the stones necessary to form the Great Mirror be drawn from the urn in the presence of many people. Any disturbance by strangers, any distraction by noise and noise is to be avoided. A coffee shop or tavern is never the right place for Kabbalistic practice, because this is not a parlor game, but a deeply serious matter. Sitting comfortably is recommended. At the beginning of the Kabbalistic operation, in order to establish the closest connection between the questioner and the stones that herald fate, the seeker must for some time come into very close contact with the stones with his hand, which he then uses to draw the stones. It is best if he stirs and mixes the stones in the urn for a short time with absolute silence and concentration.

Besides the general guidance here about practicing this in a tranquil space (which is a great recommendation for almost every divination system out there in general), WKM notes that it is the querent themselves who should draw their own tiles, which are then assembled into the Great Mirror.  (This gives some clarification to one of the confusing bits of guidance towards the end of the post about the divinatory process.)  Indeed, this is explicitly confirmed in the opening lines of the tablature given in the case study from last time:

All of these conditions were met in our example. The searcher drew one stone from the urn one at a time, which found its place in the order of the numbers written in the Mirror, beginning with field 1.

Thus, at least for the author of WKM, it should be the querent who draws the tiles from the Urn, one by one, and that only after mixing them all up themselves for a minute or so.  Presumably, they should be concentrating on their query, getting their energy mixed up in the tiles, so to speak.  In addition to the benefits of this approach of letting the querent draw out their own fate, this also prevents any unseemliness on the part of the diviner, whose job it is to only interpret such a reading done for someone else, reducing any risk of suggesting that the diviner manipulated the tiles fairly or unfairly.  I get it, I suppose.

Likewise, a few sections later, WKM also gives a brief list of advice:

1. The draw of the stones must be done in a calm, non-distracting environment.

2. After they have all been thrown into an urn (earthenware bowl) or a similar (preferably non-transparent) vessel, the 112 stones are mixed by hand for about one to two minutes, after which the stones are then drawn, shuffled so that all stones come into contact with that hand.

3. Without hurry or haste, one stone after the other (never two or more at the same time!) is taken from the urn and the glyphs or numbers are entered in the list below in the order in which they were drawn . (Except for the two principles! See below for these.)

4. A total of 37 stones are drawn. It should be noted that the stones of the Good Principle (a large radiant delta-shaped triangle) and the Evil Principle (a radiant pentagon or pentagram) do not fall under the numbers of the ordinary stones. They are not included in the list below, but care must be taken to determine which stone they were drawn from. If one or both of these Principle stones are drawn, the total number of stones to be drawn increases by 1 or 2 to 38 or 39, since they are not counted with whichever stone they appeared.

5. Whoever has his own Great Mirror, if the Good Principle has been drawn, put it in the Good Principle field drawn on the slate; if the  Evil Principle, in the Evil Principle field drawn on the slate.

WKM then gives a sort of template diagram to record a reading done with the Great Mirror:

The following stones were drawn from the urn:

  1. ___
  2. ___
  3. ___
  4. ___
  5. ___
  6. ___
  7. ___
  8. ___
  9. ___
  10. ___
  11. ___
  12. ___
  13. ___
  14. ___
  15. ___
  16. ___
  17. ___
  18. ___
  19. ___
  1. ___
  2. ___
  3. ___
  4. ___
  5. ___
  6. ___
  7. ___
  8. ___
  9. ___
  10. ___
  11. ___
  12. ___
  13. ___
  14. ___
  15. ___
  16. ___
  17. ___
  18. ___


  • The Good Principle was drawn from the ___ stone.
  • The Evil Principle was drawn after the ___ stone.
  • The Good Principle was not drawn.
  • The Evil Principle was not drawn.

First and last name of the querent: ____________________
Birthdate of querent: ____________________
Time of divination: ____________________
Date of divination: ____________________
Specific question: ____________________

For the Good/Evil Principle bits in the template, there’s an instruction to check off (and, if necessary, fill out) which happened as according to the reading.  It’s a simple template, to be sure, but not a bad one to use, and easy enough to replicate in most word processors or text editors without much hassle.  It might be interesting to see that WKM notes such things as the birthdate of the querent or date/time of the query, which (although good practice in general) would indicate more of a reliance on astrology than ZT would otherwise allow.  For WKM, that might not be so bad a thing to make use of a little bit of astrology on the side, but even in terms of a strict ZT approach, we should remember that individual parts of the year are ruled over by particular angels associated with natal stars, which can yield useful information on its own, as well.

WKM notes in a follow-up chapter to the case study a few neat details:

  • The case study as provided does not investigate every possible combination of fields and stones, nor the ideal figures that they might belong to.
  • At one point, WKM used a technique (not described in ZT) of drawing a straight line out from the center house to one of the corners of the Great Mirror, e.g. houses 1—4—13—28 (greatness/power to genius/fame to wisdom/science to perfection/maturity).  Other lines may be drawn for the other corners of the Great Mirror and analyzed as well in similar ways, and such lines may be interpreted in either direction (either from the center to the corner, or from the corner to the center).
  • The case study analyzed the solar orbit as an ideal small hexagon unto itself, but WKM also recommends looking at each orbit of the Great Mirror separately as well in similar ways, which can reveal different perspectives on the same situations described.
  • All ideal figures (WKM recommends only using small figures, e.g. small triangles or small diamonds) can and should be used whenever possible to allow for the development of further insights and developments.

Something to note is that, although WKM is largely a summary (if not abridging) of KZT, one of the things it completely does away with are the natal stars and angels.  While WKM does offer a reproduction of Plate VI (which shows the angels on the houses of the Great Mirror), the book contains no discussion of them whatsoever—which, as befitting an Ariosophist, probably saw such things as a Jewish (or otherwise Semitic) encroachment on his “true ethnic religion”, given that Ariosophy largely wanted to do away with Christianity and return to an Aryo-German protoreligion.  All the same, while WKM doesn’t mention the angels whatsoever, it does still allocate all nine Intelligences to the houses of the Great Mirror in the same way the “Second Supplement” of ZT does, giving Psykomena to house 1, Genhelia to house 3, Psykomena to house 6, and Seleno to house 17.  It justifies this accordingly:

With this distribution of the planets on the Great Mirror, it should always be noted that the planets Uranus and Neptune had not yet been discovered at the time when the Zoroastrian Kabbala came into being. However, as already mentioned, Psychelia (the spiritual Sun), and Psychomena (the spiritual Moon), are synonymous with Uranus and Neptune.

In this light, WKM just gives these two extra planets their own place on the Great Mirror, and thus their own orbits (which explains a bit about some of WKM’s approach in the case study from last post).  It was, of course, fashionable at the time for occultists of all kinds to try to incorporate whatever recent scientific discoveries were made popular, even if they broke or otherwise didn’t fully mesh well with the systems they were trying to incorporate them into.  The same trends still happen today, of course, what with quantum physics or string theory being the raison du jour of how or why divination, magic, spirits, etc. work, but whatever.  One would think that turning to an ancient system that fully admits its age and provides its own understanding of the cosmos in its own spiritual terms would be sufficient, but I guess some people aren’t fully satisfied until they keep up with the non-spiritual Jonses.

Also, as one more interesting departure from KZT, take a look at WKM’s own depiction of the Urn foldout present in all other ZT texts:

WKM’s approach to the tiles is relatively simple, at least when compared to the more elaborate designs given in the Urn foldouts of all other ZT texts.  WKM keeps the planet and Zodiac sign on all the Numeric tiles, but otherwise does away with the angel names (as expected) as well as the decorative elements of each tile.  WKM keeps Seleno as a crescent moon with its points facing right ☾, but interestingly represents Genhelia not with a circle with a dot in it (as is normal for the solar glyph ☉) but just as a plain circle.  However, the rightmost column is perhaps the most interesting: not only does Sokak have a variant depiction of a squat pentagon (more accurately resembling a coffin, using the secondary description given of the Sokak tile in ZT) and Sallak likewise (wings coming from the corners instead of the edges), but there is no Sum tile present (normally placed in the rightmost column between Senamira and Sallak).  To an extent, this is understandable: given that only FZT contains any description of what the Sum tile is or does because only FZT preserves the Epilogue, Kern probably saw no description of it in KZT (or whatever other text he was referencing) and so omitted it in his own version of ZT.  As I said before, it’s up to the diviner to choose whether to use this 113th tile or not.

Anyway, that’s enough for WKM and Karl Kern; the rest of the book is basically just the same text as in KZT, without a whole lot else added, so I’m happy to never have to pick this book up or see its author’s name again.  Still, for what it’s worth, we were able to pick up some useful tips and tricks for implementing the otherwise sparsely-defined approach to divination given in ZT.  But we’re still not done; there are a few more things we need to touch on, namely how ZT itself considers us human beings to fit into its own grand spiritual cosmos.  We’ll start that conversation next time.

Unlocking the Observatory: Actually Performing Divination

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about the origins of the allocation of the lunar mansions, their angels, and the primitive numbers in ZT in Renaissance German pop-astrology texts. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “First Supplement”, “Second Supplement”, and “Third Supplement”.

At this point, I think we’ve covered enough ground to actually get to using the stuff we’ve been covering.  Besides talking about ZT and its history at a high level, we’ve gone over all the basic bits and pieces of ZT, and have gone through enough of its symbolism and understanding of itself so as to finally put things together and describe what a ZT reading would actually look like.  We’re definitely not done talking about ZT as a whole yet, much less what it has to say about humanity and spirituality and how those also play out in the Great Mirror, but at least we can start implementing what we’ve learned so far to start getting our hands familiar with the process.

First up: tool check.  Before we perform any divination with ZT, we need to make sure that all our tools are accounted for—which means we need to make sure we have both Principle tiles, both Spirit tiles, all nine Intelligence tiles, and all 99 Number tiles (and, if desired, the Sum tile as well).  Whether one uses the design of the tiles as given in the Urn foldout or not is up to the diviner; recall that, in the Epilogue, the Editors mentioned that the Redactor sent them tile designs “more detailed than those used by experienced Cabalists” so that “a greater number of amateurs might profit from it”, so if one wants to use a simpler design with just the number or simple glyph on it, that’s also totally fine.  If any of them are missing, warped, broken, or otherwise rendered unfit for use, then it should be replaced as soon as possible.  This is one of the reasons why ZT specifies to have extra blank tiles, which can be taken up and used immediately as replacements as well as for dummy tiles in option-whittling mirrors or other kinds of divination that require miscellaneous tiles of some sort or another.

And, as we said before, there’s nothing specifying any sort of cleansing or consecration of the tools.  After all, the tools are just tools with no inherent power or presence in them; it’s the diviner, guided by the Pure Spirit, that actually does the divination itself.

If you recall at the end of the post on the tools, I mentioned that ZT also specifies “three pieces of paper” which are to be used.  In ZT’s own version of Tarot’s “little white book”, ZT says recommends the use of reference guides in the course of one’s divination, presumably to make sure one doesn’t slip up with associating which tile goes with which planet or what house in the Great Mirror goes to which planet’s orbit.  These reference guides should the Table of Numbers and Intelligences from Plate II, the layout of the Great Mirror from Plate III, and the layout of the Great Dial from Plate IV.  In addition to those, although ZT doesn’t explicitly say so, I also think that the Drum and Border of Plate VI (the version of the Great Mirror with all the angels on it) should also be prepared as a fourth reference sheet; the “Second Supplement” goes on at length explaining every aspect of what this diagram should contain (including a good number of details that aren’t even in the engraving used for Plate VI itself).  There is another possible use of Plate VI, however, but I’ll leave that for a future discussion; suffice it here to say that, in the course of divination, it’s meant to be a guide to remembering which angel gets which houses or tiles, and to assist the diviner in remembering what dates of the year belong to which natal star.

I should note, also, that it’s the plates above that get reference guides to be consulted in the course of divination, but not the table of house meanings given in the “Seventh Step” or the table of tile meanings given in the “First Supplement”.  Recall how ZT emphasizes that those lists of meanings, interpretations, significations, and semantic boundaries are only presented as an illustrative guide to demonstrate what such meanings might be for the houses/tiles, not their sum total of menaings.  Rather, the diviner is to focus on the meanings of the tiles according to their composition of and reduction to primitive digits, what their Intelligences are, what the planetary orbits of a house indicate, and so forth, because that’s where the real meat of the system lies.  Again, ZT extrapolates from simple principles, and we’re expected to do the same in the course of divination, too.

We’ve gotten our tools prepared, but what about ourselves?  ZT doesn’t specify much in the way of preparing the diviner: given that this is ostensibly still a work done by a Christian for a Christian audience (no matter how “cabalistically” inclined they might be), there’s nothing in here about prayer, initiation, meditation, purification, or the like (although, to be sure, these things would absolutely be encouraged as being conducive to honest spirituality).  However, in the “Second Supplement”, we do have encouragements to live according to a “moral conduct and physical regimen which are equally conducive to the difficult task at hand”, namely:

  1. Refrain from eating heavy or stimulating food, especially in the evening.
  2. Protect themselves from heatedness of lust, passion, or strong emotion.

These are in addition to two other (arguably more necessary and crucial) traits required in every diviner (as stated at the end of the “First Supplement”):

  1. Faith and confidence in the presence, efficacy, and truth of the Pure Spirit
  2. Diligence and study in all the techniques, symbolism, and knowledge of the Great Cabala (i.e. the divinatory methods and means of ZT)

So long as the diviner can at least manage those latter two, the former two can be taken as best as one is able to—which, besides, is more meant for spiritual communication and communion in general rather than the specific process of divination.

And then it comes to the query, the actual question put to divination for inquiry and investigation.  Both in my blogs, chats, interviews, and ebooks, I’ve gone on about my “three Cs of good queries”, like I did back in my post on ritual astragalomancy:

  • A good divination query is clear.  There is no obscurity, duplicity, or vagueness in the query; you’re being honest about what it is you want to know, and you’re putting it bluntly, frankly, and openly for both yourself, the diviner, and the gods or spirits who answer.
  • A good divination query is concise.  You aren’t droning on for half an hour telling your life story, nor are you taking the garden path when asking your question.  Instead, you’re able to succinctly phrase your question into a single, short sentence.  This goes hand-in-hand with the clarity of the query.
  • A good divination query is concrete.  You know exactly what you’re asking about and you’re asking it clearly and concisely.  You aren’t talking about abstract concepts or hypothetical theoretical potentialities of what ifs, but something that can actually happen with tangible or viewable results.

ZT doesn’t appear to disagree with this: “before establishing a figure, it is necessary to have posed the question well and to have foreseen its interesting ramifications”.  Partially this is to allow for the diviner to consider which kind of figure is best to answer a particular kind of query (Great Mirror, Great Dial, some other sort of smaller figure for option-whittling?), but also because ZT is not interested in flights of fancy, pipe dreams, or otherwise unrealistic and unobtainable castles in the sky.  ZT gives the examples of asking about the recovery of a sick person or whether someone who is able to marry will do so at some point as being things that are totally fine to ask about, but a Jewish person becoming Pope is not due to the sheer improbability of it (even if it cannot, technically speaking, be ruled out as impossible).  To that end, ZT has a sort of spiel prepared for telling potential querents regarding their hopes and desires:

Let us first form a Great Mirror about what interests you, and let us find out if your vision would be allowed within it and by it. This will be a winnowing pan that we will load, from which we will sort out all the grain that your chaff will include. Beyond that, there is nothing to say, for the Great Cabala must not be profaned by the abuse of compulsively conjuring up chimeras and other childish things.

It doesn’t really matter whether the diviner is also the querent; although parts of the ZT instruct the reader about how to deal with people who come to the diviner for guidance, a good chunk of the text suggests that the diviner is divining for themselves.  As such, warnings like the above are for other people’s benefit as much as the diviner themselves; after all, if it is bad form for others to hope for things not to be hoped for, it should likewise be bad form for the diviner to give people such hopes with outlandish predictions that aren’t justified by a sound interpretation of the signs and symbols they interpret.

That said, the spiel above also indicates something important for us as a matter of technique: that the Great Mirror is to be used as the default, standard, and first go-to when it comes to divination with ZT.  It is the primary method and means of investigation and, while it may provide too much information at times, it also allows for the in-depth analysis and investigation (by means of not only the essential interpretation of tiles in houses but also accidental interpretations of tiles in ideal triangles) of any particular topic that might be asked about.  It might not be sufficient to answer all questions with perfect detail on its own, but it is necessary to do so, especially because if something doesn’t pass the sensibility test of the Great Mirror, then there’s no sense in using any smaller mirror to pursue a further investigation.  While some people might not need to start with a Great Mirror (especially if they’re following up on a previous divination), most people would seem to benefit from that in one way or another, so we should strive to use the Great Mirror as a first approach whenever possible.

Okay, so: we have our tools ready, we have ourselves ready, and we have the query ready (whether or not we’re the ones asking it as the diviner or it’s someone else coming to us to ask it).  At this point, we’re good to go.  We clear off some space on a table, get out our Urn full of our tiles, and, one by one, draw out each tile as necessary from the Urn and place it accordingly in the mirror we’re composing.  Once the mirror is composed—and only once it is composed in full—then we can begin the process of interpretation.  ZT cautions us explicitly to not interpret any given tile on its own as it comes out of the Urn:

…it would only be a charlatan who would dare, as the pieces come out of the Urn, to proclaim what they must signify, not even seeming to read fluently as a whole the contents of the mirror as guided by the very image that forms under the hand. If not, then the cabalistic process would merely be a mummery. There is, therefore, no Cabalist who should pride themselves on being an improviser; the wisest is one who, even when an expressive competition of numbers strikes them, doubts their meaning until the whole mirror is scrupulously analyzed and all possible interpretations are verified.

And even then, once the mirror has been composed, we should do our utmost to be as scrupulous with it as we can to make sure our judgment is as sound as possible given the evidence presented to us.  For particularly grave or serious matters, ZT even encourages us to compose several mirrors on the same query to make sure that we’re issuing as sound a judgment as possible:

There are, after all, particular—and particularly finicky—cases that can yet be highly important, and the Cabalist must beware of relying straightaway on the first projection, for it would be barbaric to issue a prediction lightly on certain events, which might perchance inspire strong fears or instill dangerous hopes. Such a Cabalist, on these serious occasions, only dares to make a judgment after having obtained, out of four projections, three completely affirmative results, which yet involves ten or twelve projections before having decided on such a necessary majority. However, when the Pure Spirit deigns, it is rare that, time after time, the interpreter of Fate does not immediately obtain indications of evidence—often even by the state of the Great Mirror alone—that are striking enough to make the proliferation of small procedures useless.

I wouldn’t uncharitably or skeptically say that this is a matter of normalizing random patterns.  I mean, consider how, in modern meteorology or economics forecasting, sensible predictions are made by generating various models using a number of methods and approaches or with minor components that change from instantiation to instantiation, then seeing what’s most likely based on all of those by comparing them, contrasting them, and investigating what seems senseless or bizarre?  If we conclude that even small shifts in our body, soul, spirit, or mind could influence the outcome of a divination, as well as those of the querent (if separate from us) as well as small shifts in what happens in the outside world where the event to be predicted actually happens, why would such an approach not benefit us here, too?  Sure, it’s a lot of work, but for those rare do-or-die moments where being absolutely correct is absolutely critical, taking the time to perform rigorous analysis is probably time worth spent.  Lesser matters, of course, would not necessarily require this sort of investigation.

Now, assume we’re composing a Great Mirror.  Such a mirror is composed as any others are: start with a tile in the middle and work your way out in an outwards counterclockwise spiral.  The only major difference in the composition of a Great Mirror versus any other is how we treat the Principle tiles: in a Great Mirror, these don’t get put into the Mirror itself, but rather to a point above it (if Sisamoro is drawn) or below it (if Senamira is drawn).  If either of these tiles are drawn, we put them into their appropriate spots as indicated by Plate III, but we should also make a note at which point they were drawn, because ZT says that that sort of information is useful for our interpretation.  For that reason, having a pen and notebook ready to record what gets composed for a mirror would be helpful for the diviner (and the querent, too, as having a record of their own to bring to later sessions if needed).

In fact, we actually have a good number of suggestions for inspecting the Great Mirror, all provided in a nice list from the “Third Supplement”.  To paraphrase and condense somewhat:

  1. On learning the system:
    1. Remember that the process of learning and grasping all the nuances of the Principles, Spirits, Intelligences, Numbers, and houses is a long and slow process, which develops progressively over time.
    2. Constantly contemplate and review the attributes and qualities of the Intelligences, and what among such attributes and qualities of any given Intelligence are compatible or incompatible with another Intelligence.
    3. Constantly contemplate and review the qualities of the primitive Numbers.
    4. Remember that any compound Number, although it has its own overall meaning, still retains some quality or indication of the primitive Numbers that composes it, no matter where it might fall in the Great Mirror.
  2. On applying the system:
    1. Investigate what it might mean when a particular Intelligence dominates a Great Mirror through its tiles, or when a particular Intelligence is notably absent or sparse in a Great Mirror.
    2. Investigate what it might mean when there is an abundance of tiles that belong to two opposing Intelligences in the Great Mirror.
    3. Investigate ideal triangles that all share the same Intelligence or the qualities thereof.
    4. Investigate when a Principle or Spirit (or the Sum tile) appears in a Great Mirror.
    5. Investigate when and where an Intelligence tile appears in a Great Mirror, both in terms of what tiles precede and succeed it, as well as what tiles might form an incidental orbit around such an Intelligence.
    6. Investigate ideal triangles that have two Intelligences, two doublets, two nilled compound Numbers, or two primitive Numbers.

As ZT itself notes regarding all the details a Great Mirror might provide:

Between all the numbers that together compose a mirror, there may be much affinity between them or much opposition, an alliance of friendly Intelligences or a battle between enemies—all of this is significant. There is not a single triangle, whether in a large or small figure, that should not be considered with the utmost care before passing judgment.

Investigating and reading a Great Mirror will take time; ZT makes it clear that it’s an elaborate process with much nuance and detail to sift through.  Because of this, ZT also notes the danger in leaving tiles just out there on a table; they might get knocked around, misplaced, or otherwise mixed up, which could significantly impede (if not abort) the process of reading.  Additionally, ZT notes the possibility of the mere presence of someone else influencing and affecting the diviner, either in how and what they draw from the Urn as well as in how they interpret the reading, and for that reason, ZT suggests that while the drawing of the tiles may be done in the presence of a querent, the interpretation is best done elsewhere.  To this end, ZT recommends the use of some sort of “enhanced reading device” beyond merely using the 112 (or 113) tiles on a flat surface:

  • A special board with tile-shaped recesses cut out of it in the shape of a Great Mirror to securely hold the individual tiles put into the Great Mirror
  • A board with small holes bored into it in the overall pattern of a Great Mirror, into which may be put slips of paper noting each hole’s respective tile or a plug marked similarly
  • A whiteboard or notebook with a hexagonal pattern to note the tiles that come out in a Great Mirror

For most people, that latter approach is probably going to be the most common and reliable; not only does it cut down on the size and number of divinatory tools required, but having a record of divinations done is good for pretty much anyone in any tradition, ZT included.

That being said, ZT is a little weird and unclear on the bit about not doing the reading in the presence of someone else.  After it mentions the contingency methods above, it says (and I’ll provide the original 1796 French here, too, for comparison):

L’un ou l’autre de ces soins étant pris, on est à même de travailler chez soi, ce qui vaut mieux que de le faire en présence de la personne qui a tiré les pieces, attendu que chaque individu par ses atomes sympathiques, ou antipathiques avec le Devin, peut le modifier étrangement, ce à quoi il est de la derniere importance de mettre ordre.

One or the other of these options being taken, one is then able to work at home, which is better than to work in the presence of the person who drew the tiles [lit. “pieces”], since each individual by their presence [lit. “atoms”] sympathetic or antipathetic to the Diviner can modify strangely what is of utmost importance to put in order.

This is an ambiguous statement and somewhat hard to make sense of.  Read literally, it sounds like the one drawing the tiles is not the one interpreting them.  Elsewhere, ZT says that the diviner is the one drawing the tiles and interpreting them, but here, it sounds like there’s a split.  Should there be two diviners involved, one to draw and one to interpret?  Or is it saying that it is the querent who should be drawing the tiles, and the diviner interprets them?  This latter may well be the case as a means for the querent to “get their energy mixed into” the tiles and situation; it’s just that, for most cases, the diviner is the one also asking the query, so they are their own querent.  It’s not wholly clear on this point, and I think that different approaches here are all valid, depending on what one’s stance is.

At any rate, that’s basically it: we have our tools ready, we have ourselves prepared, we have the query stated, we compose the mirror, we investigate the mirror, and then we issue our judgment.  At this point, once the matter is decided from the Great Mirror, if there are any follow-up questions or requests for detailed information that was not or could not be provided from the Great Mirror, then (and only then) would other or smaller mirrors be used to determine the specifics of a particular situation.  Matters of time are the obvious choice here (“oh, I’ll get married? When?”), but matters of place, or the like are also totally acceptable things to investigate.  In a footnote regarding the use of smaller mirrors to determine details from the “First Supplement”, ZT gives a useful anecdote:

In a Great Mirror overloaded with misfortunes, which concerned the unfortunate royal family of France, the Redactor of these cabalistic notions at the end of 1792 came upon an episode of war, a chance of which threatened a certain absent branch made up of three male individuals, a grandfather and a father and a son. The general threat was of bodily injury, and a small triangle made it known that this accident would be suffered by the father. This unfortunate prediction, which the Diviner shared with his friends, unfortunately came true the following year.

In this case, we might see how a Great Mirror would suggest “bodily injury” (something like tile 77), and we might investigate whom in that group.  To that end, we could use the tile 77 with two other random tiles to compose a small triangle, where one tile would represent the son, one for the father, and one for the grandfather.  Using the usual option-whittling approach, we could then determine who would get the 77 tile.  (As a personal note, I’m not familiar enough with the history of the French Revolution or the French Bourbon monarchial family to determine what such an event as described in this footnote of ZT might actually refer to.  If anyone knows, please say so in the comments!)

Unfortunately, although ZT gives small examples of “certain wholly-mechanical processes” involving option-whittling methods and similar approaches to determining matters of details, it doesn’t actually give an notion of what a reading would look like as a whole.  If the Great Mirror is so important, then shouldn’t we have some sort of guide or illustrative example to help us out?  Of course not: ZT is “only a key, not a treatise”, so that would just be too much to ask for.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any case studies out there for us to look at, either, and we’ll take a look at just such a case study next time.


Generating Geomantic Figures

After my fantastic and entertaining chat with Gordon on his Rune Soup podcast, and in tandem with the good Dr Al’s course on the fundamentals and history of the art, there’s been a huge influx of interest in geomancy, to which I say “about goddamned time”.  As my readers (both long-term and newly-come) know, I’m somewhat of a proponent of geomancy, and I enjoy writing about it; it’s flattering and humbling that my blog is referred to as a “treasure trove” of information on the art, and I consistently see that my posts and pages on geomancy are increasingly popular.  It’s also encouraging enough to get me to work more on my book, which…if I actually get off my ass and work on it like I need to and should have been doing for some time now, will probably get put to consumable paper sometime late next year.

One of the most common questions I find people asking when they first get introduced to the art of geomancy is “how do people generate the geomantic figures?”  Unlike other forms of divination, geomancy isn’t tied down to one specific means or method.  Tarot and all forms of cartomancy use cards, astrology uses the planets and stars, scrying uses some sort of medium to, well, scry; we often classify methods of divination based on the set of tools it uses, and give it an appropriately-constructed Greek term ending in -mancy.  Geomancy is different, though; truly any number of methods can be used to produce a geomantic figure, because geomancy is more about the algorithms and techniques used in interpretation rather than the tools it uses to produce a reading.  Once you get into the feel and understanding of geomancy, you can almost quite literally pull a chart out of thin air using any tools (or none at all!) at your disposal.  Still, partially because of the ability to be so free-wheeling, newcomers to geomancy are often caught up in the tool-centric way of thinking of divination, and can become (I find) overly concerned with the “best” or “most popular” method.

To that end, let me list some of the ways it’s possible to come up with a geomantic figure.  I don’t intend for this to be an exhaustive list, but more of a generalized classification of different kinds of ways you can produce a geomantic figure (or more than one in a single go):

  1. Stick and surface.  This is the oldest method, going back to the very origins of the art in the Sahara, where the geomancer takes some stylus and applies it to an inscribable medium.  You can use a staff and a patch of soil on the ground, a wand on a box of sand, a stylus on a wax (or modern electronic) tablet, a pen on paper, or some other similar mechanic.  To use this method, simply make four lines of dots, traditionally from right to left.  Don’t count the dots; let them fall naturally, so that a random number of dots are in each line.  Some people get into a trance state, chant a quick prayer, or simply focus on the query while they make the dots, if only to distract the mind enough to avoid counting the dots and influencing what comes out.  Once you have four lines, count the dots in each line; traditionally, the geomancer would cross off the dots two-by-two (again, right-to-left) until either one or two dots were left over at the end.  These final leftover dots are then “separated” out from the line to form a single figure.  To make all four figures, simply increase the number of lines from four to sixteen, and group the rows of leftover dots into consecutive, non-overlapping groups of four rows.
  2. Coins.  This is a simple, minimalist method: flip a coin four times.  Heads means one point of the resulting figure, and tails means two (or you can swap these around, if you so prefer, but I prefer heads = one point).  Flipping a coin four times gets you four rows to make a complete figure.  Alternatively, you could flip four coins at once, perhaps of different denominations: for example, you could flip a penny for the Fire line, a nickle for the Air line, a dime for the Water line, and a quarter for the Earth line; a single throw of all four coins at once gets you a complete geomantic figure.  I consider any method that uses a “flip” to produce a binary answer to fall under this method; thus, the druid sticks used by geomancers like John Michael Greer and Dr Al Cummins would technically be considered a type of geomancy-specific “coin”, as would pieces of coconut shell where the convex side on top is “up” and the concave side on top is “down”.
  3. Divining chain.  This is a slightly modified version of the coin-based method, where four coins or disks are linked together in a chain.  Rather than throwing the coins individually, the chain itself is flung, tossed, or thrown in such a way that each coin falls on a different side.  The only example I can find of this in Western-style divination is the (possibly spurious) Chain of Saint Michael, where four saint medallions are chained, one to another, and connected to a sword charm, but a corollary to this can be found in the Yoruba divination methods of Ifá, using something called the ekuele (or ekpele, or epwele, depending on whether you’re Cuban or Nigerian and how you feel like spelling it).  There, you have four pieces of cut shell that can fall mouth-up or husk-up, or four pieces of metal that fall on one of two sides; notably, the ekuele has eight coins on it so that the diviner-priest can throw two figures at a time, but that’s because of the specific method of Ifá divination, which is only a distant cousin to geomancy and shouldn’t actually be mixed with our techniques.
  4. Dice.  Again, a pretty straightforward method: roll a single die four times, or four different dice one time.  If a given die is an odd number, use a single point; if an even number, use two points.  Some people use four different-colored cubical dice (e.g. red for Fire, yellow for Air, blue for Water, green for Earth), but I prefer to use tabletop RPG dice that come in different shapes.  For this, I use the associations of the Platonic solids to the classical elements: the tetrahedron (d4) for Fire, octahedron (d8) for Air, icosahedron (d20) for Water, and cube (d6) for Earth.  Like Poke Runyon aka Fr. Therion, you could use four knucklebones for the same purpose, as each knucklebone has four sides (traditionally counted as having values 1, 3, 4, and 6).  Dice are easy, the tools fit in a tiny bag which can itself fit into a pocket, and nobody is any the wiser if you just pull some dice out and start throwing them on a street corner.
  5. Geomantic spindle dice.  These are more commonly used in Arabic and Eastern styles of geomancy, but can still be used for Western types just as easily.  This tool uses two sets of four dice, each set arrayed horizontally on a spindle, and each usable face of a single die (which, because of the spindle going through two sides, leaves four usable sides) has half a geomantic figure on it: two dots in a vertical line, four dots in a square, three dots in an upwards triangle, and three dots in a downwards triangle.  The geomancer gives each spindle a flick of the wrist to spin them, then sets them down, one spindle before the other; the topmost sides of each die, read in vertical pairs of dice, yields a geomantic figure.
  6. Counting tokens.  This is a similar method to using dice, but a more general application of it.  Consider a bag of pebbles, beans, or other small mostly-similar objects.  Pull out a random handful, and count how many you end up with.  If the number is odd, give the corresponding row in the geomantic figure a single point; if even, two points.  This is a pretty wide and varied set of methods; you could even, as Nigel Pennick proposes, pull up four potatoes from a field and count whether each potato has an odd or even number of eyes on it.  The idea here is to use something to, again, get you a random number that you can reduce into an odd or even answer, and isn’t really different from using dice, except instead of being presented with a number, you have to count a selection of objects obtained from a collection.  In a sense, both the dice and counting token methods can be generalized as using any random-number generator; you could use something like random.org to get you four (or sixteen) random numbers, to which you simply apply the odd-even reduction; such a generator can be found using this link.
  7. Quartered drawing.  Not really a technique or toolset on its own, but a variation on things that use coins, identical dice, or other counting tokens.  In this, you prepare a surface that’s cut into four quarters, such as a square with four quadrants or a quartered circle.  Each quarter is given to one of the four elements, and thus, to one of the four rows of a geomantic figure.  Into each quarter, you’d randomly flip one of four coins or drop a random number of beans, and read the pattern that’s produced as a single figure.  This can be useful if you’re short on similar-but-not-identical tools (like only having four pennies instead of four different types of coin, or four identical dice instead of different-colored/shaped dice).
  8. Selection of numbers.  One method of geomantic generation I know is used in Arabic-style geomancy is to ask the querent for a number from 1 to 16 (or, alternatively, 0 to 15).  Arabic-style geomancy places a huge emphasis on taskīn, or specific orders of the figures which are correlated with different attributions; one such taskīn, the Daira-e-Abdah, simply arranges the geomantic figures numerically, using their representation as binary numbers.  From the Ilm-e-Ramal group on Facebook, here’s a presentation of this taskīn with each figure given a number from 1 through 16:
    Personally, I use a different binary order for the figures (reading the Earth line as having binary value 1, Water as binary value 2, Air as binary value 4, and Fire as binary value 8), where Populus = 0 (or 16), Tristitia = 1, Albus = 2, and so forth, but the idea is the same.  To use this method, simply get four random numbers from 1 to 16 or (0 to 15), and find the corresponding figure in the binary order of the figures.  You could ask for larger numbers, of course; if a number is greater than 16 (or 15), divide the number by 16 and take the remainder.  You could use dice to produce these numbers, or just ask the querent (hopefully ignorant of the binary order used!) for a number.  In fact, you’re not bound by binary ordering of the figures; any ordering you like (planetary, elemental, zodiacal, etc.) can be used, so long as you keep it consistent and can associate the figures with a number from 1 to 16 (or 0 to 15).
  9. Playing cards.  A standard deck of 52 playing cards can be used for geomantic divination, too, and can give that sort of “gypsy aesthetic” some people like.  More than just playing 52-Pickup and seeing whether any four given cards fall face-up or face-down to treat cards as coins, you can draw four cards and look at different qualities of the cards to get a different figure.  For instance, are the cards red or black, odd or even, pip or face?  With four cards, you can make a single figure; with 16, you can make four Mothers.  Better than that, you can use all the different qualities of any given card of a deck to generate a single figure, making the process much more efficient; I’ve written about that recently at this post, which you should totally read if you’re interested.  What’s nice about this method is that you can also use Tarot cards for the same purpose, and some innovators might come up with geomancy-specific spreads of Tarot that can combine the meanings of the Tarot cards that fall with the geomantic figures they simultaneously form, producing a hybrid system that could theoretically be super involved and detailed.
  10. Geomantic tokens.  Some geomancers have tools that directly incorporate the figures, so instead of constructing a figure a line at a time like with coins or beans, a whole figure is just produced on its own.  Consider a collection of 16 tokens, like a bag of 16 semiprecious stones (like what the Astrogem Geomancy people use), or a set of 16 wooden discs, where each token has a distinct figure inscribed on each.  Reach into the bag, pull out a figure; easy as that.  If you use a bag of 16 tokens and are drawing multiple figures at once, like four Mothers, you’ll need to draw with replacement, where you put the drawn token back into the bag and give it a good shake before drawing the next.  Alternatively, if you wanted to draw without replacement, you’ll need a collection of 64 tokens where each figure is given four tokens each, such as a deck of cards where a single figure is printed onto four cards.

As for me?  When I was first starting out, I used the pen-and-paper method (or stick-and-surface method, to be more general).  This was mostly to do a sort of “kinetic meditation” to get me into the mode and feel of geomancy, going back to its origins as close as I could without being a Bedouin wise-man in the wastes of the Sahara.  After that, I made a 64-card deck of geomancy cards, with each figure having four cards.  I’d shuffle the deck, cut it into fourths from right to left, and flip the top card of each stack to form the Mothers.  For doing readings for other people in person, like at a bookstore or psychic faire, I’ll still use this; even if geomancy isn’t familiar to people, “reading cards” is, so it helps them feel more comfortable giving them a medium they’re already familiar with.  Plus, I also can get the querent’s active involvement in the divination process by having them be the ones to cut the deck after I’ve shuffled; I’ll still flip the top card, but I find having them cut the deck gives them a meaningful inclusion into the process.  Generally, though, I use tabletop RPG dice for the Platonic solids.  I roll the dice and see whether each die is odd or even for a single figure, so four throws of dice get me four Mothers.  Nowadays, I only use the stick-and-surface method if I have truly nothing else at hand, because I find the process to be slow and messy, but it still works, and I can still rely on my own familiarity with it so that it doesn’t trip me up when I have to use it.

What would I suggest for newcomers to the art?  Like me, I’d recommend new geomancers to start with the stick-and-surface method, if only to develop an intimacy with the underlying, traditional method that produced all the others.  In a sense, doing this first is like a kind of initiation, practicing the same fundamental technique as have geomancers for a thousand years, and itself can be a powerful portal into the currents of the art.  Once you have that down-pat and have gotten into the feel of the art, though, I find that the method is pretty much up to the desires and whims of the geomancer.  Anything that returns a binary answer can be used for geomancy, but for convenience, some people might prefer instead a “whole figure” type of draw.  Once you settle on a set of tools, for those who are of a more magical or ritual bent, you may want to consider consecrating or blessing them, or entrusting them to the connection and care of a divining or talking spirit, according to whatever methods you find appropriate, but this isn’t strictly necessary for the art, either.

Ultimately, the tools you use for geomancy are entirely up to you, because it’s the techniques and algorithms we use that are what truly makes the art of geomancy.  The only thing I really recommend is that the geomancer takes an active role in divinely manipulating the tools used to produce the figures.

How about you, dear reader?  What methods do you use for geomantic generation?  Have you heard of any that aren’t on the list above, or aren’t included in any of the above classifications?  What are you most comfortable with?  What methods do you dislike, either on a practical or theoretical level?  What would you recommend?

On the Geomantic Triads

Western geomancy, as a whole, can often be described as astrological.  This isn’t to say that geomancy comes from astrology or vice versa (although some authors might disagree, like Cornelius Agrippa), but that many of the techniques described by Western geomantic texts are heavily influenced by astrological techniques: the use of the 12 houses, perfection, planetary and zodiacal affinities, the Parts of Spirit and Fortune, and the like.  The use of astrologesque techniques in geomancy have sometimes led geomancy to be called “astrology’s little sister” (since it can easily look like a shortened or abbreviated form of astrology) or “poor man’s astrology” (since it didn’t take nearly as much education or expertise to learn geomancy).  For people who want to get away from astrology, it can sometimes be irksome that there appears to be so much of it in what should be the divination system that counters it (reading the stars versus divining the earth, if we want to take things literally).

That said, geomancy is still its own tradition and has its own strengths and techniques that are quite isolated from anything astrological.  This is fortunate for people who want to bring geomancy back to its roots in Western geomancy, or for people who want to get the astrology out of geomancy.  It’s unfortunate, however, in that virtually all Western geomantic texts, all the focus is on astrological techniques with maybe a bit of lip service paid to the techniques that we might find in the Shield Chart.  The Shield Chart, I might remind you, looks like this:

Geomantic Tableau Layout

I assume you, dear reader, already understand the gist of how to make a geomancy chart, so the above diagram shouldn’t be too surprising.  We have the four Mothers in the upper right, the four Daughters in the upper left, the Nieces formed from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters, the Witnesses formed from pairs of the Nieces, and the Judge formed from the Witnesses.  The Sentence, which isn’t pictured in the above image, would be formed from the Judge and First Mother.  This is how geomantic charts are formed in European geomancy as they are in Arabic geomancy and in many forms of Indian and African geomancy; the form really doesn’t change.  Once you get the four Mother figures, you already have the other 12 figures implicit within them; the Shield Chart is just the full expansion of those figures to make all sixteen figures explicit.

The problem, however, in using the Shield Chart is that most people just…don’t.  As I mentioned before, probably the most important part of a geomantic reading can be found only by use of the Shield Chart, which is the four figures of the Court: Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, and Sentence.  Of these, the Judge is the most important figure which is the answer.  I’m not kidding or being obtuse here; the Judge really does answer the query, but in a very high-level, broad, context-setting way.  The entire rest of the chart was developed for a reason, and that’s to give the details to fill in the gaps and clarify the blurriness that the Judge leaves behind.  However, many geomancers (I flinch to say “most” even though that’s probably the case) tend to skip the Court and the Judge and go right to the House Chart, which reorganizes the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces into the 12 houses of an astrological horoscope.  To be fair, this is an excellent way to do geomantic readings, but it’s far from the only way.  After all, there are more ways to read the Shield Chart than for the Court alone.

One such method of reading the Shield Chart is one I first learned from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  He calls this technique “reading the triplicities”, based on the name that Robert Fludd gave it, but I prefer the term “triads” to prevent confusion with astrological triplicities.  Essentially, we inspect four groups of three figures, each group of figures termed a triad:

  1. First Triad: First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece
  2. Second Triad: Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece
  3. Third Triad: First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece
  4. Fourth Triad: Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece

The astute student will recognize that the triads are nothing more than pairs of figures that add up to a third, much in the same way that the Witnesses add up to the Judge.  John Michael Greer describes how each triad may be read to get a solid overview of a particular situation described by a geomantic chart:

  1. First Triad: the querent’s current self, circumstances, and nature.
  2. Second Triad: the current situation inquired about.
  3. Third Triad: places and surroundings of the querent, including the people and activities involved there.
  4. Fourth Triad: people involved with the querent’s life, including their friends, colleagues, coworkers, and the interplay of the relationships among them.

The manner of reading a triad is done in much the same way the Court is read:

  • Interactive reading: Right parent + Left parent = Child.  How things interact based on the querent’s side of things (right) when faced with the quesited’s side of things (left), or how things known (right) interact with things unknown (left).
  • Temporal reading: Right parent → Child  → Left parent.  How things proceed from the past leading up to the present (right), the present situation (child), and the future leading on from the present situation (left).

However, the only other source I can find regarding the triads (or, to use the older term, triplicities) comes from Robert Fludd in his Fasciculus Geomanticus.  He describes what these things are in book III, chapter 4:

De Triplicitatibus ſeu de dijudicatione quæſtionis per Triplicitates, hoc eſt, per tres figuras ſimul ſine ſpecificatione alicujus figura.

Prima Triplicitas ſignificat petitorem, & totam locorum circumſtantiam, ſcilicet complexionem quantitatem, cogitationem, mores, ſubſtantiam, virtutes, quae Triplicitatis illius figura denotat, prout demonſtratur in exemplo ſequenti, ubi homo est magniloquus, multarum divitiarum & complexionis frigidæ ac ſiccæ.

Secunda Triplicitas ſignificat omne illud, quod prima, excepto eo ſolo, quod prima denotat principium rerum, & ſecunda fortunas earum.

Tertia Triplicitas ſignificat qualitatem loci, ubi homines frequentant, videlicet an ſit magnus vel parvus, pulcher vel deformis, & ſic in cæteris, ſecundum figuras, quæ ibi reperiuntur: Significat etiam damnum loci, item, qualis ſit homo, an bonus vel malus, audax vel timidus.

Quarta Triplicitas significat fortunam & staturis amicorum, & principaliores curiæ, ac homines officiarios.

In English, according to my rough translation:

On the Triplicities, or on the decision of the question by the Triplicities, which is by three figures at the same time without the particular mention of another figure.

The first Triplicity signifies the querent and all of the circumstances of [their] place, as one may know the complexion, magnitude, thoughts, mores, substance, virtues which of this Triplicity the figure denotes, just as is demonstrated in the following example, where a man is boastful, greatly rich, and of a cold and dry complexion.

The second Triplicity signifies all that the first does, with the sole exception that the first denotes the principle of the thing, and the second its fortune.

The third Triplicity signifies the quality of the place where people frequent, as one may see whether one be great or small, beautiful or deformed, and so forth, according to the figures that are found there. It also signifies damage of the place, likewise what sort of person it may be, whether good or evil, brave or timid.

The fourth Triplicity signifies the fortune and stature of friends, and principals of the court, and officers.

This is certainly a different take on the triads than what John Michael Greer has in his book, and I wonder where JMG got his information on the triads from, because Fludd seems to have a different way of interpreting them.  That said, you can kinda see how JMG got to his interpretation from Fludd’s.  Annoyingly, however, despite the nearly 650 pages of information in Fludd’s masterwork of geomancy, all I can find on the triads is simply this one page of information.  Like I said, the bulk of Western geomantic lore focuses on the use of the House Chart, and Fludd is no exception.

Still, at least the triads give us something to work with so that we have some way of interpreting the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces in the chart besides the Via Puncti (which is a very good way to interpret other aspects of the Shield Chart).  Between the condition of the querent (First Triad), condition of the quesited (Second Triad), the place of the query (Third Triad), and the people involved in the query (Fourth Triad), we have about as much information as we’d get from the House Chart but presented in a different way.  This will help us base further techniques of interpreting the Shield Chart later, as I have a few ideas I want to flesh out in the meantime in how we might expand on the Shield Chart itself apart from the House Chart.

Also, there’s something I want to warn you, dear reader.  Now that we know what the “houses” of the Shield Chart are associated with (such as the First Mother with the condition of the querent), it might be thought that we can draw associations between the Shield Chart houses with the House Chart houses, such that Shield Chart houses 7, 8, and 12 (Fourth Triad) relate to the seventh, eighth, and twelfth houses of the House Chart.  While this might be a useful meditation exercise, be aware that there are multiple ways of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I tend to stick with the straightforward traditional way (First Mother to first house, Second Mother to second house, etc.), but there are at least two other ways I’ve seen it done: the “esoteric” way (assign the Mothers to the cardinal houses clockwise starting in house I, Daughters to succedent houses starting in house II, and Nieces to cadent houses starting in house III) and the Golden Dawn way (same as esoteric but starting in house X/XI/XII).  So, maybe this line of inquiry and meditation might not be the most useful thing to rely upon, especially since the whole point of this is to keep the astrological geomancy techniques separate from the geomantic geomancy techniques.