In the previous article, we saw the basics of pathworking, and as we are on a website on Hekate's...
Geomancy, Geomanteia (γεωμαντεία) is a Hellenic word consisted of two words, gaia=earth and manteia=divination. Divination with earth, with soil, was a common method of divination from 1200 a.C. till the end of 17th century in Europe. It was so common to see people practising Geomancy daily that the books of the Middle Ages and Renaissance didn't contain any instructions on how to cast a geomantic chart because people were familiar with the method. Astrology and Geomancy were the most famous oracular techniques to obtain messages and guidance for centuries. The question is what happened? Why Geomancy has been disappeared from our modern occult world? And why a devotee of Hekate should learn about that method? Those are valid questions that they are going to be answered in this introductory article on geomancy.
Geomancy is divided into eastern and western systems. The western system is the Medieval and Rennaisance system that we are going to say a few things about it. We find Geomancy in Hellas, Persia, Rome, and centuries later to the Arabic world, North Africa (Hellenes lived there) back to Hellas and from there to rest of Europe, reaching the northern areas. It became popular and many people used it daily. It was practised more than Astrology because it required no paper, no books, no mathematical or astronomical education, like Astrology did. All it was needed was a stylus or rod, sand or soil and the knowledge of the art to cast a chart and interpret it. Western Geomancy evolved as it was incorporating Astrology and Magick (creating talismans). It became the sister of Astrology and with Palmistry were the main methods of divination from the Middle Ages till the end of Rennaisance.
It is a binary system (even, odd) that is was made to answer practical questions, specific questions and yes/no questions. So, it will cover the cartomancer who has no way to ask yes/no questions using any cartomantic system. It isn't hard to learn since there are 16 figures and if someone has a relationship with Astrology, this new method of divination will fit easily with his abilities. Geomancy is close to the earth, closer than any other method. It uses the elemental powers, so we can say that it is attributed to Nephesh or the etheric body. The elemental energies are broadly used in Witchcraft and Wicca to produce manifested effects on raising and directing energy. They are the energies of the etheric plane, which are closer to our world. That makes Geomancy more practical than Astrology and far easier to learn and use.
This divinatory art is based on logic. For example, the figures have a shape of an object we know and the associations are related to it and with the elemental energies of active and passive elements. There are some problems though. What characterizes a figure as traditionally favourable or unfavourable and its energy as mobile or stable isn't documented since we don't have the old texts translated. What we have for those, are the geomantic charts that carry those correspondences.
If the system is practical and easier than others, then why no-one practices it? Well, the Golden Dawn magicians learn Geomancy and practice Geomancy at the 2nd grade of Zelator. Here lies the problem. Since the texts of Geomancy are in Latin, only philologists could have access and read them. In the 19th century, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, the main figure, Samuel Mc Gregor Mathers read 800 pages of Theomagia (1644) from Latin and wrote a lecture on Geomancy of 24 pages. The text consisted of tables, not explaining the method correctly or in-depth. Samuel Mathers intended to give this lecture as an introduction and not be used as a manual of Geomancy, but the project didn't flourish and all the occultists who wanted to practice Geomancy had only this text available in English. This created confusion and made people abandon Geomancy for many decades. Things are better nowadays, but since art is very old, there are contradictions between the books. Geomancy had divided into schools. Each school had its interpretations and variations. This is something we still see in modern books and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Geomancy belongs in the 32nd path of Tau, connecting Malkuth to Yesod, the way from Zelator to Theoricus in the Golden Dawn grade system in the Tree of Life. So, Geomancy started again with Mathers and continues with another Golden Dawn adept, John Michael Greer, who has written the most comprehensive and practical book on the subject.
It is time to address the second question. Why this art is useful for the devotees of Hekate? We have evidence that Geomancy existed in ancient Hellas, with Archimedes casting figures in the sand during the siege of Syracuse, to predict the outcome. We also find traces of Geomancy in the Roman period. Although most writers tend to believe that Geomancy originated in North Africa in the 9th century, that is not the case. Stephen Skinner writes that in the Byzantine texts of the 15th century, the word that was used to describe Geomancy is Rabolion (Ραβόλιον) which is a loan from the Arabic word of sand, raml.
Hekate was seen as the Cosmic Soul in the past, as we read in the works of Proclus and the Chaldean Oracles and Geomancers believed that they work with the Cosmic Soul. The earth we live and sense is the physical world, the body of the earth. This body is nurtured by the unseen world, the world of Ideas. The Cosmic Soul is the One that animates this body, moves it as has the knowledge of this world and the invisible world. So, the Cosmic Soul will know what will happen in our sensible, physical world. In his great book, John Michael Greer explains it with Medieval philosophical terms. The body of the earth is the physical world, corpus mundi. The energy of the earth, that gives life, is the spiritus mundi, the spirit of the world. The consciousness and the innate intelligence of the world is spiritus mundi, the Cosmic Soul. The geomancer read the figures and interprets them that are reflections of the spiritus mundi and as such, they can be seen before happening in corpus mundi, our world. From Robert Fludd's writings (late16th century) we see that Geomancy was considered a natural art of communication or interaction between the human soul and the soul of the world. How does this work? As the universe is alive, it is an organism. Through the four elements, the figures of Geomancy express the energy of the anima mundi, express that consciousness of the universe. That's the geomantic alphabet, our mean to contact with the cosmic soul to get specific information. The four-element theory is rooted in Empedocles and the first element is fire, even in Geomancy, as according to the ancient Hellenic religion, it is the purest of all elements, the closer to the spirit.
From the view of a devotee of Hekate, Geomancy is a medieval art of divination, that uses mainly the elemental energy to reflect the spiritus mundi during the casting. During the Renaissance, almost every cardinal in Italy had made his geomantic chart or his astrological chart done.
At that point, I would like to share an important questioning of John Michael Greer. He writes that during the Renaissance, magical practitioners had centred their practice around divination, not magic. On the contrary, in our days, magick is in the centre and divination is in the outer region. "Renaissance occultists relied on the currents of power that exist around us at every moment." It's time to refocus on divination and learn how to work and balance ourselves with the energetic currents that are around us.
Geomancy carries strongly the occult philosophy of Rennaissance. John Heydon, Christopher Cattan, Pietro di Abano, Robert Fludd wrote on Geomancy during that time. Earlier, in the Medieval period, we had Henry Cornelius Agrippa who drew information from other books of his time. Medieval and Renaissance, as well as Victorian Magicians, used Geomancy as their main or secondary divinatory method. Why don't we? It should be something more than the publishers that move modern magick in our world. And there are great people who have provided well written workable systems of western Geomancy. I don't see modern devotees of Hekate as people who are carried away by the New Age movement or by marketing tricks of authors who want to have their bank accounts full of money. Devotees of Hekate read ancient texts, visit ancient places and museums, do their research and most often, work alone.
At this point, we should see what Harmann wrote back in 1912. "If Geomancy was truth once, it must still be true, and the answer to the question why it is so little practised at present can only be either that man's intuition has been unfolded so much as no longer to require such artificial aids; or that he has become so much less intuitive as not to be able to grasp truths spiritually, even with such artificial aid. That the first answer cannot be the true solution of the riddle is self-evident..."
The characteristics of the 16 figures will reveal the identity of the system and if they resonate with you my reader, I would suggest further study on Geomancy and potential practice of this Medieval art.
* * passive, fire element
* * passive, air element
* active, water element
* active, earth element
Geomantic figures are simple representations of dots having 4 vertical layers. When the same figure is opposite it is another figure with its own name and characteristics. So, there are 16 in total. Each figure is ruled by one element and one planet that play an important role in its characteristic energy. The names of the figures are in Latin and -thank Goddess- no one has tried to modernize the system. Just like in the old cartomancy methods, people who still practice those methods, have great respect for tradition. I enjoy when someone says to me that I am a stick in the mud.
|Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor||Earth, Air||Sun|
|Acquistio, Laetitia||Air, Fire||Jupiter|
|Puella, Amissio||Water, Fire||Venus|
|Conjunctio, Albus||Air, Water||Mercury|
|Caput Draconis||Earth||North Node of the Moon|
|Cauda Draconis||Air||South Node of the Moon|
The next stage of learning Geomancy is to learn by heart all the basic meanings of the figures and have near the tables of correspondences. The first layer consists of Geomancy and the later layers of Astrology. It is not a difficult process and it needs fairly a medium amount of time. It cannot be compared with Astrology or Tarot cartomancy or Palmistry. The basic meanings are less and simpler than those systems. Although we have a simple system, we can and we should use intuition in the interpretation of the figures during the casting. We will address that later. The sources we can use for learning the basic meanings are those written in the bibliography. Choose one system and stick with it. You can choose the appropriate one for you depending on your character. The one that resonates more with your beliefs is the one you should give it a try and test it. That's how we work in magick. Read, test, stick if it works, change if it doesn't.
It's not difficult to learn the 16 figures because there are many factors that help us memorize their meanings. Just like with cartomancy, there is an image with hints that we can read as magicians and then by applying those hints we will eventually see that the meanings of the figures are logical meanings. Let's see an example.
The figure Acquisitio is:
* * fire is passive
* air is active
* * water is passive
* earth is active
So we have air energy in the earth, that means that we have communication and intellectual abilities grounded to produce their effect. We also have zero creative energy and zero emotions. If we imagine a picture, we see a medieval pouch of money. Think about it. The upper part is the top part of the pouch, the airy part is the rope. The watery part is the money in the pouch and the earthy part is its base. The main element of Acquisitio is air. It is ruled by Jupiter, a planet connected with business, expansion and growth. The zodiac sign that is connected with this figure is Saggitarius, which brings generosity and someone that directs the energy to his goals. So, it isn't odd when we read that Acquisitio is a favourable figure. it brings success and money. After all, acquisitio means gain. Since there is no fire energy in this figure, we are not talking about changing career or starting a business, we are talking about setting up an idea to action or using our mind or our social skills to gain money. The money or things will come to us.
Acquisitio also means prudence. It is not good when we have a problem related to illness, fears, loss and other problematic situations. If you want to lose something and you find Acquisitio in your way, then you aren't going to lose that. Sorry!
Of course, those meanings should be related to the context of the question and adding layers with the houses and the other figures as we would do to any divinatory method and not use them as a recipe book that a complete beginner would do.
Let's see the opposite, Amissio.
* fire is active
* * air is passive
* water is active
* * earth is passive
Amissio is the opposite of Acquisitio, and so the meaning is loss. Our bag is upside down, all the gain is lost. Things seem not to go well. Remember, if we are dealing with bad situations, the loss means the loss of those situations, so Amissio will be favourable, despite the traditional meaning of a non-favourable figure. As we see, there is no point to calculate Venus as the planet of the figure or fire as its element. If we are losing something, those extra astrological layers won't help in the interpretation.
Just like with any method fo divination, after we have decided the method of divination we should phrase the question correctly. In Geomancy, we should check the medieval astrological houses to see in which house this question is connected. Modern Astrology is an incorrect mix of various ideas and systems, so we do not find the same attributions to the house system (a Hermetic system by the way).
The next stage is to cast the four mothers. We are going to find the first 4 figures, by the means that suit us (dice, sand, paper, cards, wood etc.). After that, we calculate easily using simple math the 4 daughters, the 4 nieces, the 2 witnesses, the judge and the sentence. This is a geomantic terminology and there is nothing complicated in the process. The geomancer should be concentrated on the question only during the casting of the mothers. At this step, it is important to keep the divination rules or rituals that any oracle would have. The next step is mechanical.
Finding the daughter, the nieces, the judge and the sentence is done by simply adding the elemental line of the previous figures. We use the 4 mothers to find the 4 daughters, a couple of mothers and daughters for each niece, then the 2 couples of nieces to find the witness, the pair of witnesses to find the judge and the judge with the first mother to find the sentence. As we see, our findings gradually narrow down to the 2 last figures. Then we arrange the mothers, the daughter and the nieces to the house chart.
Interpreting the 1st house and the house of the question is the first layer. The second is interpreting the witnesses and their interactions. The judge and the sentence is the third layer in Geomancy, but the judge is the answer to our question. Then, if needed, we have other combinations in the shield chart and in the end, there is the interpretation of the house chart. Just like in Le Petit Etteilla method of cartomancy, these layers provide information to the situation and help the oracle to stay in the right track. To the English school tarot cartomancer readers, this might bring to their mind the Celtic cross spread. Moreover, those extra layers of the old systems prove that divination is not about yes and no, but to provide help to the querent. It also shows a profound method developed in years by various brilliant minds and schools. What I want to say, is that the classical methods are not suitable for the ill-hearted or the New Age boys and girls, who want to read about happy things. A positive judge in Geomancy may mean nothing if the sentence is Amissio or Trisitia (loss or sorrow).
The house chart in Geomancy is the same we see in medieval astrology. The square divided with triangles. Starting from the left and moving counterclockwise we put out 12 figures: 4 mothers, 4 daughters, 4 nieces. The house chart is another layer of interpretation, which will be based on the shield chart and its interpretation. As Astrology was added later in Geomancy, the attributions of the figures with the zodiac, the planets and the houses formed a more complex and sophisticated system, that's why we call Geomancy as Terrestrial Astrology.
We can do a simple shield chart without proceeding the house chart and being accurate and valid. The house chart adds more information for things that happen in the background or it is better for general readings. It responds to yes/no questions and it gives more information on how the outcome will happen and the possibilities that define if it will happen. It is another set of layers to the basic shield chart. The house chart is considered to be an advanced ability in Geomancy. It answers to yes/no questions and it shows the way that this yes/no might happen.
The house chart is easy to cast. We take the mothers, the daughters and the nieces and put them to the house of the chart. So, we only care about the first 12 figures. In classical Geomancy, we put them in order as they appear, but the Golden Dawn tradition uses another method. Then we are searching the positive and negative modes of perfection in the chart and if they appear we can say more things to the questioner. With perfecting, we see if the querent is going to be successful.
There are some multilayered methods of divination, just like Geomancy, but in Geomancy, the basic shield chart can provide valid information without further use of the additional layers. The additional layers do not change the judge or the witnesses interactions etc. The Geomancer can choose to use some of the advanced techniques according to the type of question. For example, there are 4 triplicities which shed more light to the situation, but the Geomancer is going to use one if it fits with the type of the question. The layers that are influenced by Astrology, like the part of the spirit and the part of fortune provide information on the querent's mind and the condition of the physical resources. But, it will mess up the reading if we put all the extra layers and interpret them. We only use what is needed. It is like laying cards and using different spreads to answer one question. Just like in Cartomancy, we choose the spread that is appropriate for the situation, in Geomancy we choose the layers we are going to use and this is reflected with the talent and experience of the oracle.
The Geomancer could also calculate the time frame of the result. It is possible to say something valid on the time of manifestation. That extra information is useful for the querent as he can decide what to do with his life. For example, if the result is going to happen quickly (as shown by the sum of the chart) then the querent should act fast if he wants to change it. That makes Geomancy a practical and effective way of divination and again, the Geomancer could choose to stay with the basics and use the advanced methods on specific questions and not in every casting.
Complete presentation by Kelly Fitzgerald
Use playing cards in geomancy by Ana Cortez
The Art and Practice of Geomancy, John Michael Greer, Weiser Books 2009
The Truth in Story, Kelly Fitzgerald, Geomancy Course 2019
Geomancy, Franz Hartmann, Ibis Press 2004
The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, Henry Cornelius Agrippa, edited by Donald Tyson, Llewellyn 2017
Terrestrial Astrology, Stephen Skinner, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1980
Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition, Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Llewellyn 2012
Theurgy and Philosophy are two different methods which lead to the union with God.