Today we continue our exploration of my divinatory dalliance with Western geomancy. If you haven’t read Part 1 and you’re not already familiar with geomancy, I recommend you do so now. In it, I outline the basics of how to cast a geomantic shield chart, and having a complete shield chart is necessary before you can continue on to the technique I’ll discuss in today’s post.
Also, before I start today’s post, two big disclaimers. First off, I cannot stress enough that I am not an expert in geomancy. In Tarot, I have enough experience and enough arrogance to talk about complicated subjects with a certain degree of confidence, but in geomancy, my voice is not in any way authoritative. I want to underscore that. I am not a teacher (in anything, really, but especially with the content of this post). I’m just exploring something fun and new and interesting, and I’m sharing my exploration with you. If you want to learn more about geomancy, for the love of God, seek out more authoritative voices than mine.*
Second disclaimer: A couple of people commented on Part 1, gently chiding me for my footnoted claim that the sixteenth glyph of a shield chart is “extraneous”. Many geomancers who are much more experienced and competent than I find that sixteenth glyph invaluable, so for anyone who wants the information, I’ll tell you how to construct it. You take the first glyph of your chart (the First Mother) and add it to the fifteenth glyph (the Judge). Together, they form a sixteenth symbol, called the Reconciler (or, in some sources I’ve seen, the Super-Judge). In the chart we cast together in Part 1, the First Mother was Fortuna Major and the Judge was Populus, so the Super-Judge will also be Fortuna Major: an auspicious long-term projection. (See Part 1 if you’re unsure of how the adding process works.)
Sources I’ve read (and helpful commenters) tell me that the Super-Judge is a long-term forecast for the situation, a final outcome, whereas the Judge is just the short-term answer to the practitioner’s immediate question. Personally, neophyte that I am, I’m confused by the necessity of the Super-Judge (why not keep going, and form a Super-Duper-Judge? And a Super-Duper-Pooper-Scooper-Judge after that?), but it is perhaps wise to listen to people who know more than I.
There’s also a fun tidbit that emerges from the inclusion of the Super-Judge. Due to the recursive nature of the chart’s formation, it is impossible to construct a full sixteen-figure shield chart (i.e. including the Super-Judge) without at least two of the glyphs being the same as each other. If you cast a geomantic chart with a Super-Judge and all sixteen glyphs are different from each other, you’ve done something wrong in your math somewhere down the line. It’s a cool way to check your work.
Enough yammering and disclaimering. Let’s actually get to the meat of this post.
The shield chart discussed in Part 1 is the basis of all geomantic divination. However, there is a second commonly used chart structure, which I happen to prefer. This works by taking the first twelve glyphs of the shield chart (the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces) and mapping them onto a twelve-house astrological chart.
Why would you want to do this? Well, I, for one, am much more familiar with astrology. Creating a relation between an arcane, confusing shield chart and a more familiar horary astrological chart provides me with a set of working tools that allow me to interpret a geomantic spread more easily. Plus, even if you don’t get an unpleasant pounding in your temples every time you look at a shield chart, adding in an astrological chart gives you a second layer of interpretation. It adds information to help you analyze the chart you’ve cast, and my personal motto in divination is that more information is rarely a bad thing.**
Historically, as I understand it, this was actually one of the major uses of geomancy: It was astrology for the masses. The general principles of astrology have underlain most of Western occultism since time immemorial, but astrology is expensive. It requires tools to map the skies (including oh-so-expensive paper charts), along with the specialized training to be able to use those tools correctly. Give me a telescope and tell me to figure out which sign Venus is in, and you’ll get nothing in return but a blank, baleful look. Geomancy allows us to construct something resembling an horary astrology chart without having access to all the complicated mechanisms of real astrology.
I’ve seen a variety of methods for casting the astrological chart. The one that I like best (and that I’ll share in this post) is from Cornelius Agrippa’s De Geomantia.*** However, this is certainly not the most prevalent method I’ve seen in the sources I’ve read, so once again, if you’re interested in geomancy as a form of divination, do your research and read things by people who actually know their shit (i.e. not me). I particularly recommend anything by John Michael Greer.
Start by drawing out an empty twelve-house chart. You can do a circle divided into twelve equal sections, or if you’re artistically challenged and incompetent at drawing circles (like me), you can do as I’ve done below. Draw a large square. Draw an X through the square, connecting the corners. Then draw a rhombus inside the square, with the points of the rhombus bisecting the sides of the square. Example below.
This gives you twelve subsections of the square (albeit not equally sized), which correspond to the twelve houses of astrology. Number them one through twelve, starting on the far left and working counterclockwise around the chart.****
Now, depending on how much you know about astrology (I myself am somewhere in the competent-intermediate range, although I might be overestimating my abilities), the next part will be either very confusing or very simple. The twelve houses of astrology can be grouped into three categories as follows:
-Houses 1, 4, 7, and 10 are angular
-Houses 2, 5, 8, and 11 are succedent
-Houses 3, 6, 9, and 12 are cadent
At least, I think. I hope. I might have gotten the names wrong. If you don’t understand what these terms mean, once again, I suggest checking out Arrow in Flight or any intro-level astrology book you might have access to.
Now, we have twelve houses divided into three groups. We also have twelve geomantic glyphs, divided into three groups (Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces). A dollar goes to the first person who figures out how we’re going to connect the two.
Take the four Mothers and place them in the four angular houses, starting at the far left with the First House and working clockwise (NOT counterclockwise) around the chart.***** The First Mother goes in the First House, the Second Mother goes in the Tenth House, the Third Mother goes in the Seventh House, and the Fourth Mother goes in the Fourth House. In the (nightmarishly formatted) chart I drew up in Part 1 of this post, these figures were Fortuna Major, Tristitia, Puer, and Laetitia, respectively.
Then, do the same thing with the Daughters in the succedent houses, starting in the Second House and proceeding clockwise around the chart. In our case, these are Fortuna Major, Albus, Laetitia, and Cauda Draconis.
And, finally, you fill the Nieces into the cadent houses, starting with the Third House and proceeding clockwise. For us, these are Albus, Acquisitio, Tristitia, and Conjunctio.
So now you have a one-to-one mapping between your astrological houses and your geomantic figures. Read this chart the way you would read a chart for horary astrology: look at the relevant house, and see what’s going on there. The question I asked in constructing this sample chart was (more or less) “Will my post on geomancy be a success?” Because it was about a blog post–and especially because this blog is something I run for fun and not for profit–I’m going to say this question belongs to the Third House, which rules communication.
In the Third House, we see the figure Albus, the name of which is Latin for “white”. The meaning of the glyph Albus is tied to European alchemical symbolism: the contrast between Albus (the “white”, the spiritual, the incorporeal) and Rubeus (the “red”, the bodily, the material). Harry Potter fans will be able to think about the different ways that Dumbledore and Hagrid guide the young protagonist; Rowling has said in interviews that she selected the characters’ names for their alchemical symbolism. So the meaning of the glyph Albus is very much connected to esoterica, to spiritual concerns and things that are not quite of this world. In the specific context of my reading, it underscores the fact that this post and its predecessor are both really abstract–even more so than the usual content on my blog. I might succeed in conveying the information I want to convey, but I also run the risk of alienating some readers with my incomprehensible babble.
Keep in mind also the interpretation we got out of the shield chart before: The Witnesses were both Caput Draconis (a generally positive figure, but one that has little to do with my own work and more to do with favorable circumstances surrounding me), and the Judge was Populus (a figure concerned above all all with the community and with engaging other people). Plus, the Super-Judge was the shiny-and-beautiful Fortuna Major, which is perhaps the most auspicious of the sixteen glyphs. So the reading on the whole has a sense of being successful and engaging other people, but Albus colors that interpretation a bit and reminds me that I am taking a risk by writing about such complicated and arcane material.
This post is going to turn into a three-parter. Next time I write about geomancy, I’ll talk about the astrological correspondences of the sixteen glyphs; each geomantic figure is associated with a planet and a sign of the Zodiac, and these correspondences can be used to further enrich the interpretation of an astrological geomancy chart. But for now, I think I’ve done enough damage. As always, let me know what you think of this post, whether you think the geomancy stuff is interesting, and whether I’m doing a half-decent job of writing about it. If you feel inspired to take up geomancy and you try out a shield chart and/or an astrological one, be sure to let me know. If you already practice geomancy and you have recommendations on good sources to learn more, also let me know. In general, if you have information of any kind that you might want to convey, let me know.
Also! I’m on Twitter now. Feel free to check me out at @jack_of_wands . I’m very new to the whole Twitter thing (and, as anyone who’s followed this blog for any period of time knows, I’m terrible at expressing myself concisely), so I don’t tweet much, but I’m dipping a toe into the pool. Let me know if there are cool people I should be following, if there are hashtags I should be using, or if there is some proper way to engage with the Twitterverse that I don’t know about.
*If you want to understand why I’m being so heavy-handed with the I’m-not-an-expert spiel, check out this thoughtful video on (Wiccan) beginners who try to pose as experts, from the eternally awesome Thorn Mooney. She’s a Gardnerian. That’s how you know she’s cool.
**Then again, I roll my eyes in disgust whenever I see a seventy-eight card Tarot spread, so maybe there’s a limit.
***I don’t know for sure that Agrippa actually wrote this. It may well be apocryphal; I’m sure someone who’s done more research would be able to tell me. Regardless, I do like the text, and it certainly smells like Agrippa’s brand of occultism.
****If you don’t know why the houses have to be numbered counterclockwise, I apologize. Arrow in Flight Metaphysics has a good introductory series on astrology, so I recommend checking out their post on astrological houses. They also have other posts on what each of the houses mean, which will be useful information for interpreting this chart later on.
*****Why clockwise? The hell if I know. That’s how Agrippa does it. But like I said, Agrippa’s method doesn’t seem to be particularly popular among contemporary geomancers, so maybe it’s crap. It seems to work for me.