Two new translations from Latin on medieval astrology!

While browsing through my computer for old files for something I was trying to look up, I came across some old translations that had been sitting there, untouched and unloved.  I meant to compile a few more and publish it as another ebook, but I don’t have the original book to translate from anymore (it’s a hard-to-find critical edition from a university library), so so much for that idea.  Instead of just letting them languish and gather electronic bit dust on my hard drive, I decided to polish them up a bit and let them shine on some distant server’s hard drive instead for the whole world to see.

These two translations are from the text Hermes Trismegistus, Astrologia et divinatoria (Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Medievalis 144C, Brepols: Turnhout, 2001), which is also the very same collection of manuscripts, texts, and other critical editions that gave me the Lectura Geomantiae and the Liber Runarum, medieval texts on geomantic divination and runic magical practice, respectively.  Now joining those two translations, I now present to you the following two:

  • Liber De Accidentibus (“The Book of Accidents”).  This translation consists of a collection of astrological aphorisms and rules about particular astrological arrangements or phenomena and how they may be used in forecasting, as in mundane or horary astrology.
  • De Amicitia vel Inimicitia Planetarum (“On the Amity and Enmity of the Planets”).  This translation describes a simple form of mundane astrology based on the planetary rulers of particular parts of the world and how their motions through the signs ruled by other planets impact or affect those areas of the world.

You can find these pages up under the site menu: Occult→ Liber Divinationis → (pagename), where I’ve also bundled the Liber Runarum page with them under the overall heading Liber Divinationis, or “The Book of Divination”.

I hope you enjoy, and maybe even find them useful in some small way!

Same Figures, but Different Names and Different Traditions

In addition to the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook that I admin, there are a few other groups out there that focus on geomancy.  I may or may not be a member of them, or I might have been at one point before leaving, but there’s one that I belong to that focuses on the Arabic style of geomancy, Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy).  What the Geomantic Study-Group is for Western geomancy, this group is for Arabic `ilm al-raml (the formal Arabic term for geomancy, literally “the science of the sand”, sometimes abbreviated to raml or ramal), and since I’d love to learn more about that style of geomancy, I decided to join in.  It’s not always easy, since many of the members use Urdu or Arabic as their primary language, but when there are English conversations, I try to follow along best I can.

One of the major issues in learning Arabic `ilm al-raml for an English speaker is, of course, terminology.  It’s only fair and expected that the users of a system built in one language would use that language to discuss it, but it still poses a stumbling block.  After all, geomancy has been practiced continuously in Arabic- and Urdu-speaking countries far longer than it was in Europe, and they’ve kept the system in their own ways.  Once I see what they’re doing and see certain words repeated in certain contexts, I can usually catch on and follow along, but the biggest impediment to discussing geomancy and `iln al-raml is the different names we have for the figures themselves.  It’s difficult for me to talk about the meanings of a given figure and compare it with what it means in `ilm al-raml when neither of us know which figure we’re supposed to be talking about, after all.

So, with that in mind, I decided to produce the following table that lists the names of the sixteen geomantic figures and their names in Western geomancy (in Latin and English, using their most popular form) and in Arabic `ilm al-raml (in Arabic and English, again using their popular form).  This is to help me out to learn the names of the figures better in Arabic contexts, as well as to help the students of `ilm al-raml learn the European names for Western contexts.  For other variants in these and other languages that have historically been used for geomancy, including Hebrew, Greek, Sudanese, and Malagasy, I’d recommend checking out Stephen Skinner’s book on geomancy, Geomancy in Theory and Practice, and his larger book on correspondences, The Complete Magician’s Tables.

Figure Latin Arabic Yoruba
Populus
People
جماعت
Ǧamaʿat
Group
Oyẹku
Via
Way
طريق
Ṭariq
Way
Ogbe
Albus
White
بياض
Bayaḍ
White
Oturupọn
Coniunctio
Conjunction
اجتماع
Iǧtimaʿ
Meeting
Iwori
Puella
Girl
نقى
Naqi
Pure
Otura
Amissio
Loss
قبض الخارج
Qubiḍ al-ḫariǧ
Catching the outside
Ọsẹ
Fortuna Maior
Greater Fortune
نصرهّ الداخل
Nuṣraht al-daḫil
Inside victory
Iwọnrin
Fortuna Minor
Lesser Fortune
نصرهّ الخارج
Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ
Outside victory
Irosun
Puer
Boy
فرح
Farih
Happiness
Irẹtẹ
Rubeus
Red
حمره
Ḥumrah
Red
Ika
Acquisitio
Gain
قبض الداخل
Qubiḍ al-daḫil
Catching the inside
Ofun
Laetitia
Joy
ليحان
Layhan
Bearded
Ọbara
Tristitia
Sorrow
انكيس
Ankis
Reversal
Ọkanran
Carcer
Prison
عقله
ʿUqlah
Shackle
Odi
Caput Draconis
Head of the Dragon
عتبة الداخل
ʿAtabaht al-daḫil
Inner threshold
Ọsa
Cauda Draconis
Tail of the Dragon
عتبة الخارج
ʿAtabaht al-ḫariǧ
Outer threshold
Ogunda

Because I like using an Arabic transliteration system that uses diacritics for faithful romanization, it can be a little difficult to read the Arabic names, but the accented letters can be read as follows:

  • q sounds like a “k”, but further back in the throat.
  • ṭ, ṣ, and ḍ all sound like normal but with the back of the tongue further to the back and top of the throat.  However, in Urdu, ṭ and ṣ just sound like “t” and “s”, and ḍ just sounds like “z”.
  • ǧ sounds like a soft “g” or “j” (or like in the word “division”).
  • ḫ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch“.
  • ḥ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch” but a little smoother.
  • ʿ sounds like a very soft, whispered “h” sound, if pronounced at all.

So, “Bayaḍ” can sound like either “bah-yahd'”, or “bayz”, “Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ” will sound like “nus-raht al-khareej”, and so forth.  Note that some of these names are not proper Arabic, and moreover, just like in Western geomancy, there are dozens of names used across the Arabophone sphere.  These are just one set that I’ve found common in geomancy groups online, and are the ones I’m trying to memorize.  Most of the other variants used are just that: variants, which are easy enough to pick up on.

Also, note that I’m using the standard planetary order of the figures in the above chart, which is fairly common for Western geomancers.  While Western geomancy doesn’t really prescribe a particular order as the order of the figures, Arabic geomancy has a set number of particular orders of the figures that are used for various divinatory purposes.  Probably the most common and canonical one is the dairah-e-abdah, which uses a kind of binary ordering, as seen in the following diagram (to be read from right to left):

While it may not seem like it makes much sense for me to make a single blog post doing nothing more than transliterating and translating a single set of Arabic names into English, given my penchant for long-winded exploratory posts, this is still an important first step in increasing Western geomancers’ understanding of Arabic `ilm al-raml as well as Arabic practitioners’ understanding of Western geomancy.  After all, it’s hard to make a journey if the door is still shut, and this helps open the door for both sides.

Now, you’ll notice that I’ve also included a third set of names, which are Yoruba for the figures as used in the sacred divination of Ifá.  I’ve included them for reference (both my own and other scholars of geomancy, especially those with a historical or academic eye), but I want to make something clear that I’ve only mentioned in passing before: Ifá is not geomancy, and geomancy is not Ifá.  Stephen Skinner talks at length about how the art of Ifá came about historically in his geomancy book, but the short of the matter is this: as geomancy traveled along the Arabic trade routes from its (likely) origin in the northern Sahara westward to Morocco and Spain, eastward to Palestine and Greece, and southward through Africa as far as Madagascar, it also traveled to West Africa where it was adopted and adapted by the priests and lorekeepers of the cultures living there.

While geomancy largely retained the same form and (mostly) the same interpretations everywhere else, it underwent dramatic changes and adaptations to the native Yoruba and Fon cultures in what is now Nigeria and Benin to become Ifá.  The form of the figures and several crucial aspects of geomancy were retained, but pretty much the entirety of the art was rebuilt from the ground up and grew apart into its own entirely-unique system.  As a result, although we as geomancers might recognize that Ifá has sixteen figures in the same format we’d consider them to be figures, almost nothing of what we know about geomancy applies to Ifá, and no assumptions should be made regarding any similarities besides the superficial appearance thereof.  To say it another way, if European geomancy and Arabic `ilm al-raml are sisters who grew up in the same house but then left to go their separate ways in neighboring cities, then Ifá is a distant cousin who grew up in an entirely different part of the country with little contact with the rest of the family.

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (aka Santería), which also has roots in Nigeria and matured alongside Ifá in Cuba, Ifá is something I’m constantly surrounded by, especially since I belong to an Ifá-centric house that respects, utilizes, and incorporates Ifá and its priests (the babalawos and oluwos) in our ceremonies and lives.  While I understand the historical origins of Ifá from geomancy, I also have to understand and respect the mythological origins and religious context of its practice as its own thing.  And, like Santería itself, it’s an initiated tradition, and non-initiates are not taught or permitted to learn the secrets of Ifá; for various reasons, I am not and will likely never become an initiate in Ifá.  Unlike many Western systems including geomancy, where formal initiation is not really a Thing outside magical lodges and certain master-student systems, this might be something of a shock to my readers, but as it is, there is only so much of the external parts of Ifá that I can learn, and even less that I’m willing to share to people, even to those in Santería itself.  I caution my readers to avoid getting too studious of Ifá without considering proper initiation and study under a legitimate and respected babalawo.

Likewise, a similar word of warning for those Western geomancers who aspire to study Arabic `ilm al-raml and vice versa.  Unlike geomancy and Ifá, geomancy and `ilm al-raml are much closer in method, meaning, and use, and many things are easily translatable between the two systems.  However, caution should still be taken, because although they’re very close sister traditions where there are more similarities than differences, they are still different traditions where the differences still matter.  It’s much like the difference between Western astrology and Indian jyotiṣa astrology: same origin, same symbols, slightly different techniques of interpretation and shades of meaning of those symbols.  While some things are translatable between geomancy and `ilm al-raml, not everything is, and the two systems should still be respected as two separate systems.  Experience and study of both systems will show the diligent geomancer what can be brought over with no effort, what must be adapted from one system to the other, and what is unique and proper to one system and not the other.  Though they share the same origin and great similarities, enough time, space, and work has passed that have made the two sciences grow apart into their own unique systems.  Respect that, study the differences, and experiment accordingly.

Also, my thanks go out to Masood Ali Thahim, one of the multilingual good guys in the `ilm al-raml group on Facebook, who helped me with the Arabic spelling and transliteration of the names of the figures as used in `ilm al-raml.

Translation, Transliteration, and Greek Letter Magic

One of the more common sets of search terms I get on my blog, for some reason, involves how to write Japanese words, characters, or kanji in English, or whether there’s a Japanese to English alphabet conversion.  I mean, there are ways to write Japanese using the Roman script (which is what the English alphabet actually is), but it’s not translation, and people are stupid and don’t understand the basics of writing things in different languages well.  Let me clarify some linguistic terms:

  • Translation is the conversion of words with meaning from one spoken language to another.  For instance, to say the word “love” in Latin, you’d say “amor”, ερως in Greek, (“erōs”), and 愛 in Mandrain Chinese (pronounced “ài” with the voice falling slightly from a high level to a lower level).  The meaning is preserved although how it’s pronounced is not.
  • Transcription is the conventional means by which one writes a spoken language in a graphical, non-spoken medium.  For instance, for English, we use a variant of the Roman script as conventional, while Japanese uses a mixture of hiragana and katakana (syllabic scripts) combined with kanji (Chinese characters).  I could write English using Devanagari, the writing system most commonly used in India to write, say, Hindi, and it’d be a way of transcribing spoken English, although only people who use Devanagari could read it.
  • Transliteration is the conversion of written symbols from one writing system to another.  As opposed to translation, transliteration preserves the sound of a word while the meaning is not.  For instance, my name “polyphanes” in Roman script is written πολυφανης in Greek alphabet, ポリファニース in Japanese katakana, and полыфанис in Russian script.  The sound is preserved across each, although it has no meaning in any language but Greek (meaning “many appearances”).

It must be remembered that a writing system is not a language; a writing system is a means by which one transcribes a spoken language with a set of symbols that represent sounds or meaning, and a spoken language is a means by which one person orally communicates to another person.  However, the two are not the same; consider the status of Hebrew, German, and Yiddish.  “Hebrew” refers both to the spoken language used in Israel as well as the script used in, say, the Torah; “German” refers to both the spoken language used in Germany as well as a variant of the Roman script used to represent the same.  Yiddish, however, blends the two by using the writing system of Hebrew but the spoken language of German.  A German speaker can understand spoken Yiddish but could not read written Yiddish (because it’s written using the Hebrew script); a Hebrew speaker can not understand spoken Yiddish but can read written Yiddish aloud without understanding its meaning (because the Hebrew script is here transliterating German words that have no meaning in spoken Hebrew).  I gave an example about all this specifically with Japanese back in my January 2014 Search Term Shoot Back:

“japanese alphabet with english letters” — This is one thing I really don’t get; so many people have come to my blog looking for Japanese writing translated into English, when I’ve mentioned Japanese four times on my blog to date, and none were about transliterating Japanese into English.  First, Japanese does not use an alphabet; an alphabet is a system of writing that uses letters to indicate either consonants or vowels.  Japanese uses several writing systems, among them kanji (Chinese characters that are combinations of semantic, phonetic, and pictoral images drawn in a codified way) and the syllabaries hiragana and katakana.  A syllabary is a writing system that use letters to indicate syllables, often consonant-vowel combinations.  Thus, while English uses the two letters “k” and “i” to write the syllable “ki” (as in “key”), Japanese might use キ (in katakana), き (in hiragana), and any number of kanjifor the syllable depending on the context and meaning of the character; some might be 幾 (meaning “some” or “how many”), 氣 (meaning “energy” or “atmosphere”), 木 (meaning “tree”), 箕 (referring to the “winnowing basket” constellation in Chinese astrology), or any other number of kanji, all of which we would transliterate as “ki”.  So it’s not as easy as it sounds; not everything is an alphabet!

So why am I talking about writing systems and languages?  Because this is a fundamental distinction between writing systems and spoken languages, and it impacts mathesis and grammatomancy, and Greek letter mysticism and magic more generally, in an important way for many of us non-Hellenes.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the use of stoicheia is a valuable tool in mathesis and grammatomancy.  It’s like isopsephy, or Greek gematria, in a lot of ways, but instead of evaluating a word in Greek using number, we evaluate it using the forces of planets, zodiac signs, and elements.  For instance, if we wanted to use the Greek name ΜΑΡΙΑ, “Maria”, we’d say that it’s a mixture of the forces of Libra (Μ), Capricorn (Ρ), the Sun (Ι), and the Moon (Α), perhaps indicating a balance of masculine and feminine or receptive and active powers balanced through darkness turning into light.  It’s a useful tool, especially when interpreting barbarous words of power that are best or originally written in Greek, but we have a major stumbling block when we come to the use of non-Greek words and names that aren’t historically written in Greek.  After all, I only know of systems of stoicheia and isopsephy for Hebrew and Greek, and I generally distrust anything for the Roman script since it’s highly language-specific, yet most languages I work with tend to be written in Roman.  Thus, for me to get a meaning out of something normally written in Roman script or one of its descendants (English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, etc.), I need to find a way to transliterate a non-Greek word into Greek script.

Consider my first given name, Samuel.  Samuel is a Hebrew name, originally written שְׁמוּאֵל (ShMVAL) and pronounced something more like “shmūwehl” originally.  However, in Latin, it’s written SAMVEL, and pronounced “sahmwel” as in modern Spanish.  In Greek, however, the name is written Σαμουηλ, or Samouēl and pronounced “samūīl”.  Since my name is natively a Hebrew one, I find a good argument to use Hebrew gematria and stoicheia for analyzing it, but since I also have a correspondingly clear way to write it in Greek, I can just as easily use Greek stoicheia and isopsephy for it.  However, the problem is that the meaning of the name is not preserved; in Hebrew, depending on your interpretation, the name means “God has heard” or “Name of God”, while in Greek it’s just a string of letters that’s pronounced “samūīl”.  If we were to translate the name, we’d end up with either Θεοκουσος (“Theokousos”) or Θεονοματιος (“Theonomatios”); these are straightforward translations of the name, and while we preserve the literal meaning of the name, we end up with radically different spellings, pronunciations, isopsephies, and stoicheias because the pronunciation, and thus the spelling, have changed.  So we can either go with the conventional spelling of Σαμουηλ, or we can go with the translation (properly “calque”) of Θεοκουσος, though I’m inclined towards the former, since a name is what you’re called, and the literal meaning of a word is often occluded by the importance of pronunciation (cf. all the barbarous words we use, which we don’t know the meaning of but we pronounce and intone them all the same for great effect).

Worse yet, the problem with my name is simple compared to many others, because Samuel is an old name in a well-known and well-translated/well-transliterated text in Greek from Hebrew.  Other languages, such as Chinese or Russian or parts of Africa, have no standardized way to transcribe names or words from their languages into Greek; the closest you can get is what best approximates the sound of it, unless you want to go the way of calquing things, which…honestly, if someone called me Theokūsos, I’d never respond to it as I would Samuel, so calquing is basically right out.  For many names in English, it can be easy, since Greek and English tend to share many sounds; for some languages like Chinese, this can be exceptionally difficult, since Chinese has many sounds that Greek does not, and the Greek alphabet isn’t equipped to handle the sounds or structure of Chinese spoken language.  (Worse, there’s no official means to transcribe Chinese using Greek, as there is with Hanyu Pinyin for Roman script, though there are some unofficial means to go from Hanyu Pinyin into Greek.)

Meditation on names is important; I claim that you don’t know yourself or where you’re going if you don’t know your own name, either given at birth or chosen at will.  And since I’m a big fan of using Greek to meditate on as a sacred or mystical writing system, then I like meditating on Greek letters if at all possible so as to understand what’s in a name.  It’s just that getting names into Greek, if they’re not already in Greek, can be difficult, especially for people like my Brazilian, Chinese, or Malaysian readers, especially if the language-to-be-transliterated-from doesn’t share the same sounds as Greek does, or as what the Greek alphabet is meant for.  However, there are some exceptions, and generally speaking what I do is this:

  • If the word is just a word and not normally used as a name or isn’t used as a name for a given entity, like discussing what a rose is, I’ll use the Greek word for it.  Thus, to talk about roses, I’d use the Greek word “rhodē” (ροδη).
  • If the name is natively a Greek name, like “Stephan” from Greek Στεφανος meaning “crown”, then I’ll use the Greek form of the name.
  • If the name is not natively Greek but has a corresponding form in old works like the Bible, like “Samuel” above, then I’ll use the Greek spelling of the name regardless of how the name is spelled or pronounced in the originating language.
  • If the name is not natively Greek, I’ll transliterate the name according to modern Greek rules of spelling and other conventions.  Thus, someone given the Chinese name Yuping (宇平),  I’d transliterate it as Γιουπιν, “Gioupin” pronounced “Yūpin”; the final “-ng” is typically written as “-ν”, since “ng” is a weird phoneme in Greek.
  • If the name is a common word, like a flower, I’ll typically use the phonetic spelling and not the Greek word.  Thus, if someone is named Rose in English, I’ll use the phonetic transliteration of Rhoūz (Ρoουζ) and not the corresponding Greek name Rhodē (Ροδη).

Transcribing a name or word from one spoken language (or written language!) into Greek can be difficult, since it requires a good understanding of what the letters actually sound like so as to prepare an accurate transliteration and transcription of the name or word.  However, once that’s out of the way, it’s then straightforward to understand the mystic meaning behind such a name using Greek letter mysticism via isopsephy and stoicheia.

Now, let’s say we’re comparing the names of two different people, say Stephen and Sarah.  Stephen is a native Greek name from Στεφανος, while Sarah is natively Hebrew spelled שָׂרָה (ShRH), yet we know it’d be spelled Σαρα since she’s a figure in the Old Testament.  Conversely, from Hebrew translations of the New Testament, we know that Stephen would be spelled סטיבן (STIBN) in Hebrew.  How do we go about comparing these two names?  Do we convert both names to one language, or do we mix-and-match based on the native language of each name?  When simply doing a run-of-the-mill analysis, I’d stick to the former when possible; I’d run a stoicheic and isopsephic analysis of Στεφανος in Greek, and a similar analysis of שָׂרָה in Hebrew and compare what results.  Thus, I’d reduce the name to what it mystically means on a stoicheic and numerologic level, and use that as my means of comparison:

  • The Greek name Στεφανος has the stoicheia Aquarius (Σ), Pisces (Τ), Mercury (Ε), Air (Φ), Moon (Α), Scorpio (Ν), and Mars (Ο).  It has the isopsephic value of 1326.
  • The Hebrew name שָׂרָה has the stoicheia Fire (Shin), Sun (Resh), and Aries (Heh).  It has a gematria value of 505.
  • Sarah has almost entirely fiery symbols, while Stephen is mostly air and water.
  • Although the number of Stephan is close to thrice that of Sarah, by reducing the value down by adding up the individual digits, we get 1 + 3 + 2 + 6 = 12 → 1 + 2 = 3 for Stephen and 5 + 0 + 5 = 10  → 1 + 0 = 1 for Sarah.  Alternatively, we ignore the powers of ten: for Stephen, we get Σ + Τ + Ε + Φ + Α + Ν + Ο + Σ = 200 + 300 + 5 + 500 + 1 + 50 + 70 + 200  → 2 + 3 + 5 + 5 + 1 + 5 + 7 + 2 = 30  → 3 + 0 = 3, and for Sarah, we get  5 + 200 + 300  → 5 + 2 + 3 = 1.

So, when we’re comparing two names against each other for the sake of a pure stoicheic and isopsephic analysis, I’d prefer to use the systems in place for the scripts in which a name is derived.  However, as I mentioned before, I only really trust the systems for Hebrew and Greek, and when possible, I prefer Greek; thus, if I were comparing Stephan and, say, Julius, I’d convert Julius to Greek as Ιουλιος and go from there.  And, even if I were analyzing a Hebrew name, I’d convert it to Greek anyway if I were using something like Christopher Cattan’s Wheel of Pythagoras or the onomatic astrology of Vettius Valens I mentioned last time; if there’s a Greek-specific system in place that I don’t have in place for another language, then I’ll convert any and all names into Greek for that system if I have to.

Thing is, however, that Greek (and Indo-European languages generally) tends to complicate things because of how it’s written and spoken.  There’s the whole problem of word endings: case and declension for nouns, and the voice, tense, mood, and the like with conjugation for verbs.  English, mercifully, has tended to drop those things out or simplify them dramatically from its Germanic ancestry, but Greek uses them heavily.  As a rule, when analyzing a word on its own, I tend to use the nominative case for nouns, and for verbs…well, I’m not great with Greek grammar too well just yet, and I haven’t decided how to approach that.  Still, because the ending of the words change based on how they’re used in a sentence, their letters change, and so too do their isopsephic values.  For uniformity, I just stick with the “plain jane” or “unmarked” endings.

New Ebook: Handbook of Saint Cyprian (and a lot of links!)

A while back, I was at my local botanica and looking through their baskets of prayer cards, pamphlets, and prayer books.  To my surprise, I found a small booklet written by Father Eliseo Porras Rojas of the Iglesia Ortodoxa de Latinoamerica in Bogota, Columbia; the name wasn’t important, nor was it even written in full in the booklet, but what caught my eye was that it was a novena to Saint Cyprian of Antioch along with Saint Justina.  I finally got around to translating it from Spanish, and I have to say that it’s certainly an odd novena.  Yes, it has prayers to be done over nine days, and there’s a place every day for you to make a request of the good Saints Cyprian and Justina, but it’s focused more on contemplation and meditation rather than on reciting prayers and making offerings.  It’s an unusual text, and I plan to try it out in the near future.

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve translated something from Spanish for Saint Cyprian.  He’s widely renowned (famously or infamously, depending on whom you ask) in Central and South America, and is called on primarily for defense against demons and black magic, and secondarily for love.  There’s plenty of material written in Spanish in pamphlets, prayer cards, or whole books, and much of it is out of reach of many Anglophones.  To that end, I’ve decided to gather a bunch of prayers I’ve found from botanicas and online and translate them into English into a new ebook, the Vademecum Cypriani, or “Handbook of Cyprian”, including four novenas and several other prayers that have never been translated before (or, if they have, I certainly can’t find reference to them), as well another prayer and the Chaplet of Saint Cyprian written by yours truly all combined into one document.  You can get a PDF copy for US$9.00 off my Etsy page at this link.  Go on and get it; it’ll be a useful thing to get, what with the Feast of Saint Cyprian coming up on September 26!

liber_cypriani

Of course, there are plenty of other prayers you can find to the good saint across the internet, and while I have them all copied down in my personal notes, I didn’t want to include them in the ebook, since…well, why should you have to pay for something you can find for free, and why should I profit off the creation of others without reason?  So, since I like sharing knowledge, here’s a list of links with prayers and other resources for the good saint that I’ve collected over the months:

Besides that, I highly recommend getting copies of Conjureman Ali’s Saint Cyprian: Saint of Necromancers and Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold’s Saint Cyprian & the Sorcerous Transmutation, both of which are available from Hadean Press for UK£3.00 and are fantastic resources for working with this good saint; Conjureman Ali’s book is a good worker’s introduction to setting up an altar and performing work with the saint, and Frisvold’s excellent exposition of Saint Cyprian concludes with a Quimbandero’s litany-esque prayer to Saint Cyprian.  Don’t forget the more expensive books that came out on Saint Cyprian earlier this year, too: Jake Stratton Kent’s excellent Testament of Saint Cyprian and José Leitão’s translation of the Book of Saint Cyprian are nothing to scoff at, and only add to the awesome corpus of literature on this saint.

More about Geomantic Perfection

The idea of perfection comes from horary astrology, considered to be the primary and foremost divination system of the antique, classical, and premodern periods; you can find good descriptions of astrological perfection here and here, among elsewhere.  In horary astrology, where the planets move through the 360° of the Zodiac at different rates, the planets make certain aspects to each other at different times; noting how these aspects take place, where they take place, and what other planets make aspects at the same time can indicate different types of perfection or different ways that perfection cannot be obtained.  Geomancy, however, uses sixteen figures that can appear at 12 discrete places in the House Chart instead of smoothly moving through 360°

So, with all that in mind, let me get out the basics first starting from first principles.

What is perfection?  Perfection is a technique used in geomantic divination where a House Chart and not the Shield Chart is used.  This technique helps indicate different types of connection, or the lack thereof, between different actors, events, or goals in a situation.  While the figures themselves describe what a given actor, event, or goal may be like, perfection indicates how these things relate to and work with or against other things.  The things that play a role in a situation are represented by figures called significators, and these figures are found by inspecting a particular house of the House Chart that best represents the thing.  For instance, the querent (person asking the query, or question of divination) is represented by house I, so the figure that appears in house I represents the state, quality, and person of the querent.  If the querent is asking about something in specific, such as a marriage, job, health problem, or debt, we would look to other houses to see what those things are represented by in the chart, which are houses VII, X, VI, and XII, respectively; the thing being asked about is the quesited.

Because any given figure can appear in multiple places in the House Chart, it is possible that one of the significating figures can appear in multiple places, as well.  Different houses that share the same figure indicate a strong connection between the two areas of life, actors, events, or goals.  For instance, if the significator of the querent appears in houses I and VI, we might say that the querent is heavily involved with matters of health, service, or working for others in addition to those things having qualities similar to the querent since they share the same figure.  A figure can appear in more than two houses; in one rare case, the same figure can even appear in all 12 houses, but it’s more common that a figure appears in one to three houses at a time, depending on the chart.

All this puts geomancy in an unusual place in divination systems generally; unlike Tarot, runes, astrology, or other forms of divination, where any given symbol can appear at most once in a reading, a geomantic figure can appear multiple times in a reading.  This allows us to make use of this repetition of figures to indicate relationships between significators based on how they repeat, or pass, around in the chart in relationship to each other.  This is where geomantic perfection is superficially similar to astrological perfect, where the latter relies on aspects being made between planets to form contacts between significators, the former relies on repetition of figures to do the same.  Say the querent wishes to know about marriage, or marrying a particular person; in this case, the significator of the querent is in house I, and the significator of the quesited is in house VII.  If the querent’s significator passes from house I to house VI, then we note that house VI and house VII are neighboring each other; the querent’s significator comes into direct physical contact with that of the quesited.  This is a type of contact made that illustrates perfection.

There are four types of perfection used in geomancy, and I went over those in an earlier post, which you should read up at this point.  To review, there is occupation (the same figure appears in both the house of the querent and the house of the quesited), conjunction (either significator appears in one of the two houses neighboring the other), mutation (when both significators neighbor each other at some other location away from their own houses), and translation (when the same figure which is neither significator appears next to both).  If no method of perfection applies, then we say that the chart is in denial, or lacking perfection.  Where the figures pass to, such as before or after the significator, or whether a figure passes to both before and after, or a mutation-conjunction combination, can all offer variants of these four methods of perfection, but the same basic rules apply.  If a chart has perfection between the significators, then we say that the chart perfects for those signficators; otherwise, we say that the chart denies perfection.

What does perfection answer?  To speak floridly, perfection indicates the connection between different realities, the experienced reality of the querent (represented by the significator of the querent) and the hypothetical reality of the query (represented by the significator of the quesited).  If the chart perfects, then the hypothetical reality will come to pass; if the chart denies perfection, the hypothetical reality will not come to pass.  In more direct terms, perfection in a chart indicates a simple “yes” to the query, and denial of perfection indicates “no”.  So, if Jane Doe asks “will I get married to John Smith?” and the chart perfects between houses I and VII in any way, then the answer is yes, Jane will marry John; if the chart denies perfection, the answer is no, Jane will not marry John.  It’s important to be clear on phrasing the query, because perfection answers about the situation inquired; if Jane asks “will I not marry John?” and the chart perfects, then the answer is yes, she will not marry John.  In other words, perfection affirms or denies the query put to divination.  Learning how to phrase the query clearly and concretely is an important aspect of divination generally, but especially so when perfection is used.

Being able to phrase a query clearly and directly is important especially if one phrases a query in a negative light.  Perfection will affirm whatever is asked, and denial of perfection will deny whatever is asked.  So, if one asks a question negatively, like “will X not happen?” or “should I not do X?”, then the query will be answered as it is.  Thus, if one asks “will X not happen?” perfection says “yes, X will not happen”, and denial says “no, X will not not happen” (or, more directly, “X will happen”).  Thus, the more directly one can phrase the query, reducing all ambiguity and complexity to its barest, the more clear and easily accessible the answer will be.

Now that you understand (hopefully) what perfection is, let’s talk about the limits of this technique.  For one, perfection does not answer whether something is good or bad; it only indicates whether something will or won’t happen.  It indicates a connection between different realities, but it does not indicate whether it’ll be good or bad, pleasing or displeasing, or any other qualities besides whether there exists a connection and how that connection is forged.  For understanding the qualities of the situation, you’d need to look at the figures themselves and whether they’re good or bad, how those figures relate to the rest of the chart, the Court figures, and so forth.  You can envision a kind of 2×2 table that shows this:

Good figures Bad figures
Chart perfects Will happen,
situation will turn out well
Will happen,
situation will turn out badly
Chart denies Will not happen,
situation will turn out well
Will not happen,
situation will turn out badly

There are lots of techniques in geomancy, and perfection is only one of them.  Perfection really comes in help when a query is phrased in a way that “yes” or “no” will answer it, i.e. if the query expects a binary answer.  Anything that is asked in a way like “Will X happen”, “Should I do X”, “Can I do X”, and the like are all things that can be answered directly and easily with perfection.  Other queries, such as “When will X happen”, “What will X be”, “Where is X”, and the like are not answered by perfection; in this case, the use of perfection simply doesn’t apply to these queries and will produce nonsense answers.  For instance, if Jane Doe lost something, she might ask “will I find my lost object?” and use perfection for that reading; if she wants to know the answer to “where can I find X?”, she should use another technique entirely, since this isn’t a yes or no question.  Perfection is only one tool in the toolkit of the geomancer; just as one wouldn’t use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, perfection isn’t the best tool for the job when the query is best answered in a non-binary way.

Many binary queries put to divination are straightforward: whether I can get such-and-such a job, whether I’ll find my true love in the next five years, whether I’ll flunk out of college even if I study hard, and so forth.  In many instances, it suffices to use only two significators in the reading, one for the querent and one for the quesited.  However, some queries are more nuanced and complicated, and to fully answer it require a nuanced and complicated reply from the reading.  This is most easily done by considering multiple significators, where one figures out how different actors (plural) relate amongst themselves as well as with the querent in a situation.  Consider a situation where a querent wants to know how a new medical treatment prescribed by their doctor will help a health issue they’ve had for some time now.  We know of several factors here: the querent (house I), the doctor (house VII), the medical treatment (house X), and the health issue itself (house VI).  Any of these significators can perfect with any other, and since there are six different ways perfection can be forged between the significators (I and X, I and VII, I and VI, X and VII, X and VI, VII and VI), the answer could get quite complicated, indeed!  In this case:

  • Perfection between I and X indicates that the querent will carry out the medical treatment prescribed to them.  Denial indicates that they won’t or it simply won’t be available to them.
  • Perfection between I and VII indicates that the querent will be in contact with their doctor to work with them.  Denial indicates that their relationship may be blocked, broken off, or obstructed.
  • Perfection between I and VI indicates that the health issue will be resolved or will be helpfully controlled.  Denial indicates that the health condition will continue unmitigated.
  • Perfection between X and VII indicates that the doctor is the one prescribing the treatment and understands it.  Denial indicates that the doctor isn’t in control of the treatment or has no clue what he’s doing.
  • Perfection between X and VI indicates that the health issue will respond to and be helped by the treatment prescribed.  Denial indicates that the issue will not be changed or helped by the treatment.
  • Perfection between VII and VI indicates that the doctor understands the health issue and is actively working to help it.  Denial indicates that the doctor has no idea what’s going on and doesn’t really care.

These types of readings with multiple significators can be deeply involved, and there’s no simple yes or no to be had with these.  Instead, one has to develop a nuanced, qualified answer that might be yes in some ways and no in others, and build a complete message from that.  For instance, say that in this hypothetical health reading, say that perfection exists between I and VII (querent and doctor), I and X (querent and treatment), I and VI (treatment and health issue), and VII and X (doctor and treatment); the chart denies perfection between X and VI (treatment and health issue) and VII and VI (doctor and health issue).  In this case, the querent is getting along fine with the doctor and will take the steps prescribed by the doctor to change the situation.  However, the treatment prescribed by the doctor will not have any effect on the condition since the doctor doesn’t really understand it well enough to prescribe something useful; even then, however, the treatment will still be cleared up on its own or due to the personal actions of the querent.  So, in some ways, the query of “will the treatment prescribed by my doctor help this health issue?” is answered by “no”, and in some other ways “yes”, but it’s hard to answer that query fully in a single word if the whole story needs to be communicated.

Perfection is a useful tool, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also one of the most difficult to understand for many beginners due to its complexity.  I ascribe this to the mechanics of geomancy itself, since this isn’t your standard oracle deck-fare divination; there’s math and analysis involved that go far beyond intuitive readings of the figures themselves as you might normally do in other divination methods.  Many people don’t pick up geomancy as their first divination system, so they’re used to systems that are simpler, more rudimentary, and less mechanical in their own ways; this is not a bad thing, but it ill-prepares them to study geomancy in a proper way.  It’s important to know the limits of perfection here, as well as when to use it and when not to use it, to fully understand how the technique works and what it represents in a chart.

New Ebook! “The Book of Saint Cyprian”

If synchronicity actually is a thing, it takes a prodigious level of thickheadedness to miss omens and portents that signify something important.  Not that long ago, I was in a botanica with my boyfriend, and in the case where they had several books on magic, the orishas, aspects of ATRs and ifá and the like, I found a particular book that caught my eye.  It had the Hierophant card on the front from the Thoth deck, which seemed out of place in the botanica I was in; looking at the title of the book, I noticed that it was a small grimoire attributed to none other than Saint Cyprian of Antioch, the patron saint of magicians and sorcerers I keep harping on about.  Since I’ve only ever heard about such a book being attributed to Saint Cyprian in Spanish, I decided to snatch it up that moment.  I did say at the beginning of the year that I wanted to work with him, after all, so if something like this was basically being handed to me, I may as well take it up.

The book was in Spanish, but it was fairly easy to read, given my background in Latin and not a little help from Google Translate and a good Spanish dictionary.  The book was also small, however, and seemed incomplete in some ways.  Looking around online, I found an even larger and more comprehensive book under the name “El Libro de San Cipriano”, which had nearly all (but not the entirety of) the smaller Cyprian book I had found, as well as a good few sections on Solomonic magic incorporating the Key of Solomon and the Grimorium Verum.  Many of the spells, prayers, and rituals the book describes seemed interesting to me, so I decided to translate the sections that seemed most worthwhile, i.e. the ones not directly lifted from other grimoire texts.  And, having finished my translation, I decided to go ahead and put it into an ebook format and sell it on my Etsy page.

Yes, dear reader, you too can now read the Book of Saint Cyprian in English for only US$10!  I’ve never found an English translation before, though one may exist somewhere.  Coming in at 83 pages, this translation goes over the talismans and amulets, prayers and orations, and many spells that have circulated through the Spanish-speaking world for at least a century now, all attributed to the good Saint Cyprian of Antioch.  Included in this text, too, is a special novena dedicated to Saint Cyprian and Saint Justina, which is claimed to have the following effects:

No one will cause you evil through magical or cabalistic objects, nor through enchantments; all your difficulties will be overcome and your enemies unarmed; your spirit will be made tranquil and will soar to the highest heights where it will be freed from its material body, enjoy heavenly delights, and spread its influence over all events and matters. You will achieve such things as you desire at the novena’s end if you run true with these prayers to the Supreme Creator.

Because this grimoire overlaps significantly with other texts such as the Key of Solomon, the Arbatel, the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, and the Grimorium Verum, I’ve also provided an appendix that compares the Libro de San Cipriano to these texts and figure out where in the grimoire tradition this Spanish text falls, as well as how they differ in the details.  As I’m just now getting to read Jake Stratton-Kent’s marvelous Testament of Saint Cyprian the Mage, this little translation should help immensely in understanding more of the background around the renaissance the renown of this saint is currently undergoing.

Again, all you need to do is visit this Etsy link and click on the big green button.  I’m glad to be able to offer this translation, especially since it’s done partially as an act of devotion to Saint Cyprian of Antioch, as well as furthering the knowledge of grimoires within the Internet-based occulture.  And don’t forget, you can also check out my other ebooks on my Etsy page, too!  I’ll start keeping a list of all the ebooks I’ve written so far on the panel to the right of the page on my website for easy access, too.

New Geomancy Ebook for Sale!

Between all the writing for the 49 Days of Definitions project I’ve got going on, I’ve also been able to finish up a new ebook for publication on my blog.  It’s up for sale on the Services page, but you can find the PayPal button below as well.  As before, this new ebook is is US$10 through PayPal.  (And just in time for the winter celebrations where everyone suddenly gets money and gifts!)

Pay for Lectura Geomantiae through PayPal

This new book is the “Lectura Geomantiae”, my translation of a 15th century work on astrological geomancy, applying the geomantic figures in the 12 houses of an astrological house chart.  It’s a fascinating look of geomancy as practiced by more common people than, say, Robert Fludd or Cornelius Agrippa, and it contains interesting bits of advice and some new quirks that haven’t been observed before.  I translated the text once before from Latin to English, but I went through it again and re-translated it to my satisfaction, as well as including a number of appendices and corrections that can help geomancers understand the text better.  The Lectura Geomantiae is a useful and easy-to-use resource for geomancers who are interested in the astrological side of geomancy.  It’s never been translated into English before I did, as far as I can tell; John Michael Greer plans to include it in his forthcoming “Geomancer’s Sourcebook”, but that project has been on hold for a long while.  Clearly, you should buy this now instead.

Also, if divination’s your thing, don’t forget that I also wrote an ebook on grammatomancy, a method of divination using Greek letters not unlike runes, which also incorporates astrological, qabbalistic, and numerological influences to form a complete and coherent system of occult knowledge.  That’s also available up on the Services page, too!

Also, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get some more email about questions, either about general occult issues or about specific things on commissions and services.  To make things easy, please use the new Contact page to send me an email straight through the blog.