Geomancy: A Technique for the Shield

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Sam has a great piece today about the elements in the Shield Chart of geomancy, and what might happen if we took a risk and started inventing some techniques to use in western geomancy that aren’t astrological. Given that my druid order uses geomancy as its key divination technique, this struck me as both pretty cool and pretty useful.

Sam describes the Sentence, which I know as the Reconciler or Mediator, which is the combination of the First Mother with the Judge figure.  Thus, if the First Mother is Tristitia (Tristwch in my druidic group) and the Judge is Via (Ffordd for us), the resulting character is Cauda Draconis (Llosgwrn y Ddraig).

Geomancy IndexThat winds up looking like this.

I have to say, I like the Sentence, or the Reconciler combination.  It’s easy, it’s elegant, and it provides additional information.

But I don’t always like how deterministic a geomantic answer is, and I find that they usually want a short-term boost or they want ‘magic’ to change the odds or results that are suggested by the judge.

When that’s the case, I frequently make use of a figure that I sometimes call the Magician, because he lurks i the shadows; or I call the Telesma, because it provides the added boost necessary to turn around the divination.

The example I chose is the one shown in the bottom of the diagram, which is a case in which the Judge is Carcer (or Carchar to we happy few druids).  Under some circumstances, this is a pretty deep, heavy NO with lots of warning signs saying “turn back now!” and so on.

But the client (which is sometimes me, let’s be frank here) wants success — and a serious, long-lasting success too.  None of this namby-pamby “lucky break that doesn’t last” stuff for us. We want genuine success that remains success.  And in geomancy, that’s represented by the figure on the right-hand side of the equals sign in the lower equation, which is Fortuna Major (Bendith Fawr). Now, because of how geomancy generates triplicities by combination, this means that you can figure out which character “bridges the gap” between Carcer and Fortuna Major, and that character is Amissio (Colled in our version of the system).  Or, in Deb’s words, austerities. Sacrifices have to be made at times, and if you want to get out of the prison of limits, then paying through the nose for what you want or need is going to help get you there.  Just look at food prices in New York, as Gordon suggests, and you’ll see that emptying your wallet and turning it upside down will give you a kind or type of success.  Of course, doing it deliberately and intentionally means that you’re much more likely to get what you want out of the situation — cut your expenses, save your income, change your relationship with money, lose a little here and there, and a different sort of success is waiting.

DOGD GeomancyOf course, you can make an actual talisman of the Telesma character for a given reading.  I learned how to draw the ‘traditional images’ associated with the individual symbols of geomancy as singular tokens (although, word to the wise, I think that triadic combinations might be even more effective, as my prior practice has shown).  And you can even get them as a poster here on Zazzle (which in theory earns me something or other, although part of me doubts it).

I frequently have a small artist’s card drawn up of one or more of these emblems in my working bag. There’s a little ‘isinglass’ or plastic window for you to put your business cards inside, and instead I carry whichever image seems to be most appropriate for the moment.  Some days it’s the prison of Carchar, to remind me to accept the limitations I’ve established in my life so that things get done.  Sometimes it’s Llawenedd, to remind me to take time to smell the flowers.  Sometimes it’s Bendith Fach, so that I get a lucky break when I need it (or else Cyswllt, when I want a choice presented to me).

I think one of the important things to remember about the Telesma, though, is that the character is there for two purposes: one, of course, is that it’s to be magical — it’s there to help you achieve a specific aim; but second, and far more immediately, it’s there to help remind you to act in a specific way.  It’s no good to turn your wallet upside-down and spend your last dollar, while carrying a talisman of Elw. Most of the traditional images are supposed to remind you to carry out a specific behavior or to engage in a specific attitude.  Ffordd says “keep going”, while Pobl says “seek out the crowd”.  Bendith Fawr’s image of the prosperous town in the river valley is suggesting that you should “play to your advantages”, while Bendith Fach says “you made it to the top of the mountain… but now you have to get down again.”

Don’t carry a talisman if you don’t intend to practice its advice.

Tai Chi Y4D8: 45 Minutes

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Did 45 minutes of tai chi this morning. The two qi gong forms, and two longer renditions of the tai chi form — once focusing on footwork and breathwork, once on moving through water.

Well, I think I did 45 minutes. There was a bathroom break in the middle of the tai chi workout, so it may have been somewhat less than that. But it was close. (it’s worth noting that a good tai chi workout may, in fact, activate the body’s disposal mechanisms quite healthily!)

I had a very nice moment in the half-spin, and again in the full spin, where I achieved even better results than in the smoothest spin I had a little more than a year ago. It felt like I had no weight at all — I was just rotating, like a planet on its axis, rotating on the imaginary line between crown of the head and feet.  So lovely.

My arms are less tired today than they’ve been this week. I’m starting to put on some muscle from the move through water regimen.  It’s nice.

In other news, I’ve completed the major portions of the efforts to complete the Bardic grade in my druid order.  I’m pulling together the materials for my examination, and I’m hoping to send those in next week or the week after.  And if you didn’t see that the Lab is now in its new quarters, you should take a look.

Design Lab: New Space #makered


New Design Lab: Move-in DayWell.  As you can see by the photographs, the Design Lab has moved to its new quarters.  We’ve gone from being in an 800-square-foot space with leftover desks and tables and shelving, and more chairs than we ever knew what to do with, to a 400-square-foot room — with a workbench, worktables, proper storage for tools and materials, adequate tools and equipment, plenty of materials, and as an added bonus, a highly-invested middle school student body.

For about a half-hour today during Activity Block, the middle school moved the lab.  First, we shifted the conference room furniture out of the old conference room, and into the new conference room (which is also the old lab).  Then, they formed a fireman’s carry brigade line.  We handed things to kids on one end of the line in the old design lab, and they slid into the new Design Lab just down the hall.  Once the stuff was moved, they moved the furniture that we’ve been building for the Lab over the last few weeks: the two sawhorses, the four tables, the three sections of the work bench, and the rolling cart.

New Design Lab: Materials Wall

The Materials Wall — library at right

I then spent a couple of hours after school organizing supplies and materials into boxes and categories. We’re replacing all the haphazard bins that used to be in milk crates, with brand-new bins.  The shelves are organized with most of the materials and parts on the two lowest shelves, so even the littlest kids can get at them.  Legos and lumber will sit on the floor, which I think is probably for the best.  The middle shelf, where those empty clear boxes are, will hold storage for team and partnered projects of various sorts.  The upper middle shelf — just below the gray crates — will be for after school projects and programs, like robotics and electronics.  And then the gray crates will contain overflow materials of various sorts that there isn’t room to store on the lower shelves, or that we have so much of that it will take a while to use them.  I’ve not figured out how to store electronics parts yet — they work better in small drawers and compartments, really, than big bins.  But for the moment, this is what we have got to work with.  It’s a vast improvement over what we had.

New Design Lab: Move-In Day

Library and north workbench

Then, on the north wall, is the three-section workbench.  There’s a picture of this at right.Eventually, this will be pressed all the way to the left wall.  Then we’ll build a cart for plywood and scrap-wood that fits between the right-hand wall and the workbench. Once that’s done, it will be easier to clear out the central part of the room.

The workbench is already set up, in part, with two pegboards and a few rows of French cleats. True to my word, I put students to work designing French cleats last week.  I can’t say that any student has successfully built or designed a French cleat that I would call beautiful.  But I’ve realized that this is an ongoing project: that every so often I’m just going to hand a kid a project to redo one of them, and say, “here’s what you have to (re-)build. Do this.”

I think the big thing is that I’ve been purchasing tools for the old Design Lab, which had big space and low-quality (and low-price) materials.  And now I have a smaller space, but higher-quality (and medium-price) materials, and the tool-set is going to have to adjust in conjunction with that.  I don’t yet know what that looks like, for sure.  But I know that what I have right now is merely the beginning of the tool-set, rather than the end.

In the meantime, it’s clear that we’ve made a good start on something amazing… but at the same time it’s kind of ironic.  I’ve spent five years trying to bring design thinking program to my school, and, in an effort to bring forth ‘a new kind of program’, I’ve now successfully reinvented…

shop class.


Design thinking workshopNow, there are things I’ll miss about the Design Lab, the old space. For one, it was nice to be able to get forty adults to sit down and work on stuff in groups of five or six, and make things happen. I don’t think we’ll be able to host this workshop in this format any more; or rather, we will, but we’ll have to ‘port’ the design lab into the new conference room space by using our rolling cart more effectively; and we’ll be showing off the Design Lab as a teaching model rather than using it for the conference.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, really.  It was always necessary to clean up and put away things from the students in order to put on the conference; but the mess in the old space never really quite went away.  But the new space is designed from the beginning to be available to small groups of students rather than large groups.  It’s intended to be a workshop or a studio experience, not a huge conference.  And this means that we’re going to create a higher-quality experience for our students.

It also means that we have to provide higher-quality professional development for our teachers. Not someone else’s teachers.  And this means changing how we think about our yearly workshop, too.

Tai Chi Y3D7: Without attachment

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Well. That was terrible.

My footwork was bad, even after three times through the form.  My two qi gong routines were sloppy.  My breathwork was not aligned with my footwork, and I wasn’t moving through water, I was just flopping around.  Terrible.

But that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I mean, every day can’t be perfect. What’s the point of that? Some days will be better than others, and some weeks will be better than others. I still have serious work to do. Tomorrow will be better than today, and then in a week or two there will be another terrible day, maybe six in a row.

But we can’t have attachment to results.  The goal is to do the work, not to be caught up in whether the work is perfect. If we waited for perfection, the work would never get done — we’d never let ourselves be bad enough to practice to be good enough.

Tai Chi Y4D6: Debate Club

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Yesterday was the quarterfinals for the state Moot Court competition. My team lost by only a point or two.  We did great, though. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of my students than I was yesterday. They achieved amazing things in their performance last night.

Today’s tai chi was… less than ideal.  I’m getting about six hours of sleep on a regular basis at this point.  I woke up particularly too early today: around 4:15 am.  Yikes.  SO by the time tai chi time rolled around at 5am, I was eager to get started… and eager to be done with it, too. I’d lain awake in bed for 45 minutes, trying to pretend I was going to sleep just a little bit longer. And I hadn’t.

All the same, I feel as though a great weight has lifted from my shoulders. Snow days had brought together into the same week, several different projects that had originally been scheduled separately — moving the design lab furniture, ending year three of tai chi, and debate club’s Moot Court appearance.  Plus, the head of the Wizard of Oz was in there somewhere.

Now, the head is done with, and Moot Court.  We’ve adjusted our lab move-time schedule a bit, so I have a bit more wiggle room on getting the new space set up properly.  And Tai chi is beginning a new year, so that feels a bit easier too.

IF today was a bad practice, that’s ok.  Tomorrow can be better.

Tai Chi Y4D5: Shortened

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I woke up a little too late to do a full 30 minutes, but I had a pretty intense 15-minute practice.  I figured I’d make up in quality what I lacked in quantity.

But I don’t think it works that way. You can’t squeeze 30 minutes of cardio work into 15 minutes, and you can’t do 30 minutes of tai chi in 15 minutes.  What you can do, is do tai chi to the best of your ability in the time that you have. That amounted to Five Golden Coins, and Eight Pieces of Silk, and a moderate-speed run-through of the form.

I’m enjoying getting back into the two qi gong routines.  Both of these programs have limited usefulness in terms of ‘fighting’, but FGC seems to bend and stretch the spine in the six directions: forward, backward, left, right, up, down. When I add in Eight Pieces, I’m adding a spinal twist, a neck-release, some squats and toe-touches, and some balance exercises.  It’s a complete wake-up routine for the body.

And then the form.  Is it silly to say that the moving through water routine is making me stronger?  It is.  I’m actually feeling aches in my muscles — I’m moving stuff around in the design lab, and getting ready for our move, and I’ll feel twinges and pings that say, “hey, this muscle has already worked out today!” Very odd.  And they’re definitely getting stronger.

It feels very much as though I was given those behind-the-scenes keys in the second Matrix movie, and I can move in a quite different way now. Before, I knew the form.  Now I’m starting to learn the meanings and potential structures behind them.

Tai Chi Y4D4: Delays

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I got up in plenty of time to do tai chi this morning, but my first priority was to find the broken needle from my sewing machine.  Last night I was making a series of bags or pouches for a costume, and Ping! the needle went flying.  Hard.  I heard it bounce three times over my shoulder to the left, somewhere on the floor where I practice tai chi.

I turned off the light, and went to bed.

This morning, with slightly better light, I went looking for the thing, doing squats and toe touches all around the room until I found it.  I suppose you could call that tai chi, but it wasn’t any form I’d ever heard of, myself.  Eventually, I found it. Then I proceeded with Five Golden Coins and Eight Pieces of Silk,followed by the tai chi form twice.  I only did twenty minutes of formal tai chi — but my search pattern for the broken needle had consumed at least ten minutes.

Doctor Yang said “practice in good shoes” but I’ve always practiced barefoot if I could help it.  But after this, I thought about all the stuff that often winds up on the floor of my studio — everything from broken sewing needles to wood shavings from the plane, to scraps of ceramic from when I broke a crucible.  It’s a dangerous business, stepping out of your bedroom. Maybe I should invest in good shoes.  Even though I always clean up carefully.

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