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.
I tried to buy you a gift from your Amazon wish list as a thank you for the blog and for tolerating my ridiculous inability to read your links–I was tired yesterday–post via “Amanda”. But need your contact info. You may message it via fb.
Hello! Thank you very much for this posting–very useful and nice to learn of you and this blog. I learned of this art form of divination only recently via a Rune Soup podcast. One correction, the book The Art and Practice of Geomancy that you post is not Powell, that is Greer. Your link also takes one to the Greer book, which btw is available as a free PDF download on the internet. Thank you again for easy Geomancy outline here.
thanks for your note. You’ll find that the “Powell” referenced is a link to Mr. Greer’s book on the bookstore website of Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, USA. In other words, you can buy the book either at Powell’s or at Amazon, your choice.
I regard Mr. Greer as an important teacher of occult philosophy and knowledge; I also know that he makes a substantial portion of his livelihood from the sale of books… as a result, I try not to link to free PDFs of his work, which deprive him of income. Instead, I link to reputable bookstores that sell his work, and from which he derives royalties.
I also bought the book, perhaps I should have mentioned this–and then you for clarifying that Powell is a bookseller. I am always looking for places other than Amazon. Alibris is a good seller for books out of publication. Thank you for the clarification and blog.
This is one of the best, well laid out, and clearly stated posts about how to build the geomantic characters and the shield. Thank you!
can geomancy predict the result of a football match? if yes please teach me. I have been practicing geomancy for about a year plus now but still find it difficult to use it for football matches.
One of the ways to think about this is as a battle between two foes. The Left Witness, and the left side of the shield chart, is understood to be the defending team. The Right Witness, and the right side of the shield chart, is understood to be the team on the attack. Each of the Witnesses can then be understood to represent the relative strength or weakness of each team going into the match. The Judge is formed of the combination of Witnesses, so it represents the overall result of the game. In geomantic theory, the defenders often have the advantage, so if you regard the Judge as a positive figure, then that would argue for a victory for the team playing defense or in their home stadium; if you regard the Judge as a negative figure, then that would argue for a victory for the team on offense or visiting the stadium.
It’s particularly important to pay attention to the Way of Points, though. If you have a Judge figure that has a single point in the top line (e.g., Carcer, which I’d regard as favorable to the visiting/offensive team), you need to follow that single-point’s origin through other single-point figures through the nieces to the daughters or mothers. If it winds up on the Daughters’ side, that indicates a strength to the defense; if it winds up on the Mothers’ side, that’s a strength for the offense — and the figure of the origin of the way of points may overrule the Judge.
It is also worthwhile to make the Reconciler figure (Judge + First Mother) to see if this affects the outcome. If you choose, you may also carry the Magus amulet in your wallet on game day. Determine which figure makes Fortuna Major (for the defensive team) or Carcer (for the offensive team) from the Judge (e.g., Judge Via + Magus Conjunctio = Carcer), and then make a 3×5 card with a picture of that geomantic figure on it. Write your intention on the back of the card, e.g., “This figure of Conjunctio helps Visiting Team X achieve victory over defending team Y on such-and-such a game day.”
All of this is dependent on knowing your geomancy really well, though. I’d run charts for 60-100 games, each time with a question along the lines of this one: “What will be the outcome of the game [visiting team A] against [defending team B] on [game date], where the first Triplicity represents the visiting team’s preparation, the Second Triplicity represents the team’s overall playing style during the game, the Third Triplicity represents the home team’s preparation, and the Fourth Triplicity represents the home team’s overall playing style during the game day?” By defining the question’s parameters in this way, you’re zeroing in really clearly on some specific modes — and you’re able to read about the game the following day, and figure out what you got right and what you got wrong. This kind of process is really necessary to learn any divination system well, I think.
I am a newbie in the field of Geomancy, may break down the steps you just explained to ‘Akeem’, I am not familiar with some words like triplicity, etc.
What if the left and right witnesses are all favorable figures, for example, albus vs Conjunctio，fortuna Major vs Laetitia？Sometimes both teams in the second triplicity show positive performance in the game but there can’t be a draw in a basketball game…Plz reply me…
You’ve chosen a couple of interesting examples. Albus and Conjunctio produce Rubeus, which is not an allowable figure for the Judge. So it indicates that there’s a problem in the chart somewhere, and you should double check all your binary mathematics. The side of the chart that contains the error is the side that shall fail in the contest. Likewise, Fortuna Major and Laetitia generate Puella, another non-viable figure; so, again, there’s a mistake in the binary math elsewhere in the chart, and the results should be interpreted as in the example above: whichever side of the chart contains the mistake, should be interpreted as the loser in the contest.
However, Rubeus and Puella are indicative of other issues during the game. Rubeus would suggest a victory at a cost of blood, or a significant injury during the game of a valuable player — a Pyrrhic victory, if you will. While the figure of Puella indicates an amazing play by a receiver during the game: a record-setting long pass or a particularly beautiful run which will be remembered long after the game itself is mostly forgotten. It could also indicate an unusually memorable performance at halftime by a woman.
I hope that helps.
I have tried 2 matches but the outcomes are all wrong. The first one shows the 4 mothers of attacking team(AT): Albus, Caput Draconis, Puella and Albus. The judge is Acquisitio but turns out the home team losing. The second one shows the AT: Acquisitio, Fortuna Minor, Acquisitio and Albus. It seems pretty promising for the AT but actually left 2 scores behind the home team in the match…
Yeah… I don’t know what to tell you. You may not be particularly skilled at geomancy; you may be too close to the action of one team or the other; you may not be in the right frame of mind; there may be other factors involved which you cannot discern. Geomancy is an Excellent divination system, but it’s not perfect.
I also wonder whether the chart should be considered invalid when the rubeus or Cauda Draconis in the first house which makes the result more favorable to the home team while predicting a match…
Cauda Draconis in the first mother would indicate a foregone conclusion, I’d think. If one team is significantly more favored to win, don’t bet on an upset by the underdog — it might happen, but it’s unlikely enough that it’s not a safe bet. Remember that a geomantic chart is out to help YOU (or the querent), not your favorite team… and this figure is urging you to keep your money in your pocket and not on the betting board. Rubeus, on the other hand, suggests that you’re asking the question for the wrong reasons, and that you’re likely to misinterpret the results in your own favor anyway — so don’t finish the chart. Wait a few hours, sort out your feelings about the question, and try again.
I am sorry for listing two wrongful examples.
I’ve got a chart which left witness is Laetitia and the right witness is Caput Draconis. It combines to a judge of Via. In most case, Via is a neutral figure. So should we use the way of point to find out the winning team？What about populus? Is that means a draw match? What if it’s a basketball match? How can we predict the match under this circumstance?
Second, should we all follow the rule to settle the home team on the left side and the attacking team on the right side? As far as I consider, the querent, base on your question, can be the home team or the attacking team. Changing the position shouldn‘t have an impact on the result？
Third.During the daily divination, we usually cast the chart if the first mother is rebues, Amissio, Populus and Cauda Draconis.I am wondering one team’s first mother can’t be these unfavorable figures making the chart unfair to another team.
Last but not least, is there any other ways to predict a match’s result such as using the 12 houses? I’ve learned that the first house can represent the team A and the seventh house is the team B. The fifth house is the match. But most time there isn’t any perfection happened in these two teams. I am clueless and still trying to find a way to predict a match.;(
I want to stress, at the start of my reply, that I don’t have hard evidence that Geomancy can predict the future; instead, I have traditional sources that say it can be done.
I’d look to the way of points in this example: via is neutral to negative, so it indicates a hard fought game with the attackers (visitors) likely to fail. Moreover, the way of points leads to laetitia, and thence through the nieces to the daughters. That to my mind, indicates a success for the home team but not without cost.
In the event of populus as the judge, I’d take that as a sign that too many forces are trying to throw the result one way or another; the game’s outcome can’t be predicted at this point. Wait a few days or hours and try again.
Second, I think you can ask your question in a way that’s quite specific, for example, “where the right witness represents the home team, how will team x perform against team y in the game on Saturday, letting each triplicity represent the outcome of each quarter of the game?” That’s a lot to ask of geomancy, but it can be done: now the first mother, second mother and first niece are the game’s first quarter; the right witness is the home team; and the way of points will indicate a decisive change in the game by quarter. (You can also have the first three triplicities be three periods and the fourth triplicity be the quality of the refereeing, or the overall game).
With regard to the unfavorable figures of the first mother… I suppose. There’s always a reason not to cast a chart, or to decide that a chart is no good, or that it’s unfair. I fill out every chart for myself, deliberate about charts for others, and sometimes return the money.
There probably are. I’m not as familiar with the house chart of geomancy as with the shield though I’m learning. I think that with the house chart you need multiple methods of perfection (company simple, occupation, translation, and so on) to get a chart to perfect; I’ve found that I have to look up all the degrees of perfection anew almost every time.
I’ve had this experience: if I divine matches only after my fortune of the day shows a favorable figure in the fifth house. My prediction’s accuracy will be very high. There was even a time when the first mother of my daily fortune was rebues and all of my prediction were wrongly show the other way around. Is that possible that the accuracy of our prediction to the game will also be affected by the fortune of ourselves? I thought geomancy divination can change our fortune and helping us to get a sure bet.
Thank you for your reply. I’m so glad to talk to you here.
please pardon my poor English, because it is not my mother tongue…
In my country, few people know about geomancy divination. It‘s nice to find someone shares the same interest here. I think I still got much to learn in the future. ;p
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Hi, great post! I have been reading JMG’s Earth Magic, Earth Divination, and I’m just wondering- what are the differences amongst his three geomancy books?
I’m looking forward to more on geomancy!
I would say that Earth Magic, Earth divination is the manual created by an intermediate practitioner of his beginning forays into the study of this particular form of magic.
Art and practice, on the other hand, is the work of an advanced practitioner developing an art into an intermediate stage practice. I would say, that a practitioner who knew no other magic but what was in that book, and yet knew all of it, would be quite powerful and quite capable at the practice.
Finally, the Celtic Goldendawn, is an advanced practitioner offering up the tradition for beginners in a completely new way. It starts everyone over again at the beginning, and trains them to think about geomancy in a completely new way as beginners.
Ah, thanks for clearing that up, Andrew! (my first name is Andrew also, btw)
It was good to read your introduction to geomancy after having a cursory skim of Earth Magic, Earth Divination- I think I will take up on your recommendation of practice, and I will await your next post on this subject. Keep up the good work!