Geomancy: the table of figures

A banner I produced in 2019

Geomancy is a divination art that relies upon coins, sticks, or random marks in the sand or dirt to generate meaning. For those of you who are literate in binary, its symbols are four-bit bytes of even and odd numbers, where each of the four bits is representative of an element: fire, air, water, and earth.

In one of the Druidic orders of which I’m a member, geomancy is the go-to divination system. We have Coelbren letters, and Tarot teachings as well, but geomancy (with Welsh names for figures instead of Latin ones) is the core system for examining the future and the dynamics of the worlds around us. It’s a powerful way of looking at the world — simultaneously simplified and practical, and also richly deep and elegant.

One of the things that geomancy does is train you to think in fours, and in multiples, fractions, and interleaving of fours. In a world and society where we’re largely trained to think in twos (good and bad, liberal and conservative, useful and useless, kind and cruel, and so on), learning to think in fours is good practice at breaking from the models of reality that we learn in school. It helps us learn to think in categories beyond rich and poor, woke and broke, educated and ignorant.

Find four coins: a quarter, a nickel, a penny and a dime. Toss them into the air, let them come down. Arrange them in a vertical line, with the dime at the top. Is the dime heads-up? Mark a sheet of paper with a single dot. Is the dime tails? Draw two dots in a horizontal line (or just draw a horizontal line).

Follow the same procedure for each coin: heads is always a single dot; tails is always a double-dot or a solid line. You have four coins, so you’ll wind up with a figure made of four rows of dots or lines.

Now… compare those figures to the figures in the banner of Geomancy at the top of this post. The black squares represent the dots or lines of your figure, while the blocks and bands of color around them teach you something about those figures.

Even before you learn what the figure means, consider what the banner teaches you. Suppose, for example, that you randomly created the figure that is in the third row down, and the third column from the left: two dots, two dots, two dots, one dot. It seems to have a blue-white color associated with it. It’s banded in green, white and yellow — and maybe you know those colors as Earth, Spirit and Air.

Does it help if I tell you that that white represents ‘Stability’ in this banner, something that’s difficult to change? Do you then see the shiny-green color as ‘Mobility’ in this banner, something that’s easily shifted?

Check out the column of figures, that third column from the left. All of them have an outer band composed of yellow, of Air. Three of them are stable, and one is mobile. Two of them have an inner band of blue, and one has an inner band of red. Are these Water, and Fire? One has an inner band of green — that’s Earth. Why is there no inner band of yellow on these four? Why are all of them yellow, Airy, on the outside, but structured to other elements on the inside? What makes three of them stable, and one of them changeable? How are they related?

Study the third row down. Red, green, yellow, blue (the second figure in has something wrong with it? Or is that deliberate?). All four elements are present when we compare this figure to its horizontal neighbors, at least on the outside. To the inside — yellow, green, green, red. No blue, no Water, on the inside of these figures. Three of them stable again, and only one mobile or changeable.

Examine the one full diagonal of the banner that includes our figure (three over from the left, and three down from the top): three mobile figures, and ours the only stable one. Outermost colors: red, green, yellow, blue. Inner colors: yellow, yellow, green, blue.

Look at the short diagonal. On the outside, green – yellow – blue. On the inside, green – green – yellow. All three figures stable, steady, unwilling or unable to change.

Are you coming to conclusions about what this figure might mean, based on its shape, based on its position in the chart? This is not a symbol that has access to a great deal of Fire. Instead, it is a symbol of Earth and Air in a state of solidity and stability. It’s not easily changed by outside circumstances; and it is more likely to be changed from the outside-in, than from the inside-out; it is more easily changed by oblique or diagonal strategies than by direct assaults from the sides or along regular approaches. It is a trap for the unwary.

What emerges from the background color around the black dots of the figure? What does this blue-white color mean? Is it the water of the ground? Or is it the color of the sky? Is it a clear puddle on the ground reflecting the sky above? Is it Water and Air mixed in some fashion? Is it the blue of the depressed mind? What are the associations this color recalls to you?

Throw your coins again.

Now write down the figure you have generated, its pattern of dots generated from heads and tails. Find the parallel figure in the banner of geomancy. What horizontal row is it found in? What vertical column? What are the long and short diagonals that affect it? What are the forces of stability or changeability that act upon it? Is it one of the corner figures, which in some senses stand alone and apart from other forces.

You are beginning to understand how geomancy ‘works’, and why sixteen symbols are every bit as powerful as the seventy-eight cards of the Tarot. Perhaps even more than Tarot, Geomancy is a tool of secrecy — once you carry the figures of this divination system in your head, you need only four coins, or four popsicle sticks, or four dice (or even one die), or a stick to draw on the ground and find odd or even, before certain truths of the universe reveal themselves.

In future installments of this series, I’ll examine each figure in turn, and we’ll see what they reveal. The overall goal will be to dive deeper into geomancy than I ever have on this blog before, and explore what these figures mean, and how they can be used as a tool of divination.

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