A while back, in February, I taught my first workshop on Geomancy. I learned a bunch of things from teaching an hour and a half workshop on a system of divination, possibly considerably more than my audience got from it. More recently, Gordon blew up about how frustrating he finds it that content keeps vanishing, and how hard it is to recover that information. That post prompted me to make some tattwa cards for download. and again with Gordon, he keeps expressing frustration that the method of carrying on the conversation keeps getting moved to new servers like Tumblr. I’ve been guilty of that myself; I’m getting an article ready for publication there on a group tumblr called ceremonialmagic101.tumblr.com, on geomancy. It’s hard to find new voices that bring important threads to the conversation in this soup of the Internet, like for example Quakerpagan.blogspot.com, too. Things keep migrating into Facebook, and then out of Facebook, and then getting lost. It bothers me a lot. Gordon says, own your platform. It’s part of the reason I pay for this WordPress site, not that it’s won me much of a commenting audience — and I think part of the reason for that is the way that it serves as a record of daily life, and as a record of artistic projects like the mandala of geomancy, or the kavad.
Anyway, I realized I wanted to post this article on Geomancy, not on Tumblr, but here. And so I’ve liberated the draft from Tumblr, and I am posting it here.
Geomancy: How to Begin
Geomancy, in the western magical tradition, used to have the same positive reputation as astrology, and was more widely practiced. It is easier to learn than Tarot (I think), and benefits from being an Earth-based magic that probably came to Western Europe from Western Africa by way of the Muslim conquerors of Spain. It’s a fairly sophisticated system, but it does take some effort to learn.
Below the cut, a fairly complete ceremonialmagic101 introduction to the art of Geomancy, a divination system for beginning magicians.
Some good resources for learning geomancy today are:
- Earth Magic, Earth Divination (powell’s | amazon)
- The Art and Practice of Geomancy (powell’s | amazon)
- Geomancy for beginners (powell’s | amazon)
- The Digital Ambler’s writings on geomancy
- Christopher Warnock‘s resources on astrological geomancy
- ABWatt’s geomancy posters on flickr and quatrains on geomancy and a poster he did for DOGD on the signs of geomancy (as explained in John Michael Greer’s book, The Celtic Golden Dawn)
How to Learn Geomancy:
At its heart, Geomancy is a system of divination that relies upon binary mathematics. Each of the sixteen characters of geomancy is composed of four rows of symbols, and each of those rows either has a pair of dots (passive) or a single dot (active). These four rows are associated with Fire, Air, Water and Earth, in order from top to bottom.
The first thing to do is to learn the names of the Geomantic Characters, and the dot-patterns associated with them. Each character works somewhat like a Tarot card, in that it is a key to a complete and complex set of meanings and associations which may be used to construct a divination sequence. ABWatt’s poem, Quatrains on Geomancy, serves as a brief guide to some of these meanings; The Digital Ambler (in the reference section above) has composed much longer briefs on each of the geomantic characters, as well. The Latin names of the signs are commonly used in English-speaking countries, due to their use in the Golden Dawn’s private papers, and their regular reappearance in this form. The following notes are shorthand conceptions of each character; but the true magician will study each character in greater depth — first by reading about them, and then by meditating on the shape of each figure and its connected meaning.
- Puer — Boy. Aggressive, assertive, masculine action; risky behavior and cockiness.
- Amissio — Loss. A loss of heart or a loss of money; could be good or bad, depending on circumstances.
- Albus — White. Open to intellectual and spiritual pursuits, but rather forgetful of the belly and sexuality.
- Populus — People / Crowd. Lost in the great mass of people. Diffusion of effort and intention. Following the mob.
- Fortuna Major — Greater Fortune. Success by your own effort.
- Rubeus — Red. Body and Bodaciousness. Wine, Sex, Drugs and rock and roll. Out on the town, but risk-taking and potential for mischief and bloodshed.
- Puella — Girl. Beauty, compassion, feminine receptivity, open to many circumstances.
- Acquisitio — Acquisition, Gain. Increase of wealth in the purse but lacking compassion or generosity. End of love in some circumstances.
- Conjunctio — Crossroads. Choice, and choosing. The decision is in your hands, but indecision may make make things harder. Choose.
- Tristitia — Sorrow. Sadness and trouble and difficulty. Sometimes literally downward movement. illness, sickness and doom.
- Laetitia — Happiness. Joy, ecstasy, happiness, sometimes literally upward movement.
- Carcer — Prison. Limitation and boundaries. Edges. Acceptance of present circumstances. Locked in.
- Cauda Draconis — Dragon’s Tail. Watch out for endings! End of cycles, risk of getting whacked on the way out! The long route home.
- Caput Draconis — Dragon’s Head. Blessings at the Beginning. Starting something new, a new cycle, set out on an adventure.
- Fortuna Minor — Lesser Fortune. Lucky circumstances that have nothing to do with you. Swiftly passing opportunity.
- Via — Road. Active effort, driving along the path, driven by great powers toward destiny — but not a lot of choices ahead; stick to the path you’re on.
Once again, these meanings are shorthand to get the newcomer started. They are not an adequate substitute for research, reading, and deliberate meditation on the subject.
How to Generate a Geomantic Figure
The second thing to learn how to do is to generate a Geomantic Character.
The process for making a geomantic figure is described in the following image (JPEG), which lays out the core process: use a pen on paper (or a stick in the dirt — the original geomantic system!) to draw a series of random marks in four distinct rows. Count the number of marks in each row to determine if there are and odd or even number of dots. Odd numbers get translated to a single dot; even numbers become a double dot.
Once you have become familiar with this process, one can use a series of variations: single and double dots drilled or poked into the six sides of pencils, for example, or wooden sticks called Druid Wands with a single dot one one side and double dots on the other; dice in the colors of the Four Elements; and other methods can be used as well. Wherever possible, though, care should be taken that the order of lines should not be confused — always fire to earth in methods that rely on generating one row at a time; and using tools distinctive by color or by shape (for example, polyhedral dice, or four colored Druid wands) when generating all four lines of a figure at once.
Practicing with Three Characters
Once you understand how to generate a Geomantic Character, and can recognize each character on sight with some degree of precision, you can begin learning to memorize the meanings of each character. You can also begin practicing with three Geomantic Characters at once.
Generating Four Daughters by Division
Once the process of Combination is mastered, and the practitioner has gained some skill at interpreting a triad of Geomantic Characters together, the practitioner may advance to generating characters by Division. Division uses four characters, and then combines the four characters’ elemental lines each to form a new character. These four new characters are called the Four Daughters.
The process of generating figures by Division is only used in the generation of daughters from the mothers, but it is a critical part of the process of generating the shield chart. Without this “sidwise-reading” of the characters, the process of generating new figures tends to result in the gradually an increasing number of passive/even figures, and the appearance and reappearance of Populus — the crowd.
The student of geomancy should practice the technique of figure-generation by division a number of times to be sure that it comes easily and naturally.
The Shield Chart
By this time, the student of geomancy should be able to do the following:
- Generate a Geomantic Character
- Recognize the resulting Geomantic Character as one of the sixteen such characters.
- Give a brief explanation of its meaning
- Generate two Geomantic Characters, and make from them a third by Combination.
- Explain the resulting triad in relation to a question, usually “what will I encounter today?” although other questions may be answered this way (although not in much detail).
- Generate a set of Four Mothers, and by Division generate a set of Four Daughters.
It is at this point that these skills come together in the Shield Chart, one of the key layouts or spreads used in Geomancy.
While specific meanings are assigned to given Mothers, Daughters and Nieces to generate a more useful and specific divination, for the moment the student of geomancy should practice generating shield charts, and reading the advice of the Judge, the Left Witness and the Right Witness. The Right Witness is generally understood to represent either the past, or the personal state of the Querent (the person asking the question, although not necessarily the geomancer). The Left Witness is generally understood to represent either the past, or the overall state of the world, at the time of the asking of the question. The Judge is understood to be the overall outcome of the question.
The serious student of geomancy will ask the same question for a period of four to six months, typically “What will I encounter today?” and use the Judge and Witnesses to form an overall picture of the day — and then use the actual events of the day to confirm or deny the effectiveness of the reading overall.
I will likely return to this topic of geomancy at some point, but your interest and feedback on the subject is appreciated. In the meantime, serious students are directed to practice for a period of time, and consult one of the useful resources at the top of this entry for further study and research.