This post concludes (at least for now) my let’s-learn-geomancy-together series. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, and you’re not already familiar with geomancy, it would probably be helpful to do so. And, as previously, please remember that I am not an expert on geomancy and my goal here is not to “teach” anything. I am exploring this fun, exciting method of divination, and I’m taking you along for the ride. I do not want to make any claim to expertise.
Let’s dive in!
In Part 1, we talked about how to construct a basic geomantic shield chart. In Part 2, we rearranged that shield chart into a new format based on the twelve houses of astrology; this type of chart can be used similarly to an horary astrological chart. Cast the chart, look at the house relevant to the question you’re asking, and the glyph found in that house (combined with information gleaned from the shield chart) gives your answer.
But wait! There’s more!
Each of the sixteen geomantic figures is also connected to a planet and a sign of the Zodiac. In my reading, I’ve seen this done a couple of different ways, and–as was the case when we talked about constructing the astrological chart in Part 2–the way I like best seems to be one of the less common. The most popular way to do it, and therefore probably the best,* is the one used by John Michael Greer. If these posts have piqued your interest in geomancy, I’m once again going to plug his books, because they’re fabulous. However, for the purposes of this blog post (since, after all, it is my blog), I’m going to use the method that I like best. This is the one found in Cornelius Agrippa’s De Geomantia.
Here’s how it works. The sixteen glyphs are divided into eight pairs. Each pair of figures is then assigned to a planetary ruler (planetary in the astrological sense, so including the Sun and Moon) as follows:
Sol – Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor
Luna – Via, Populus
Mercury – Albus, Conjunctio
Venus – Puella, Amissio
Mars – Puer, Rubeus
Jupiter – Laetitia, Acquisitio
Saturn – Tristitia, Carcer
North/South Node – Caput Draconis, Cauda Draconis
If you’re unfamiliar with what the glyphs look like, there’s a helpful index of them on Wikipedia. Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis are not associated with a planet, but instead with the North and South Nodes of the moon, respectively.
The glyphs are then assigned to the signs of the Zodiac, based on each sign’s planetary ruler. That is to say, the two figures associated with Mercury are assigned to the Zodiac signs that are classically ruled by Mercury, the figures associated with Venus are assigned to the Zodiac signs ruled by Venus, and so on:
Aries: Puer (Mars)
Taurus: Puella (Venus)
Gemini: Albus (Mercury)
Cancer: Via, Populus (Luna)
Leo: Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor (Sol)
Virgo: Conjunctio (Mercury)
Libra: Amissio (Venus)
Scorpio: Rubeus (Mars), Cauda Draconis (South Node)
Sagittarius: Laetitia (Jupiter)
Capricorn: Carcer (Saturn), Caput Draconis (North Node)
Aquarius: Tristitia (Saturn)
Pisces: Acquisitio (Jupiter)
If you’re not an astrologer (and who can blame you?), the idea of planetary rulerships of the Zodiac may be unfamiliar to you. If you like, you’re welcome to forget about it, and just take as God-given the corrspondences between geomantic glyph, planet, and Zodiac sign. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to understand the underlying mechanism, so here’s a brief digression about how planetary rulerships work.
In classical (that is, seven-planet**) astrology, each planet has a certain sign or signs in which it is most comfortable. These are the signs where the energy of the planet and the energy of the sign just vibe together in a beautiful and harmonious confluence. At first glance, it looks like these planetary rulerships are assigned arbitrarily, but there’s actually a system to it.
The Sun and the Moon rule Leo and Cancer, respectively. After that, each planet rules two signs, and you radiate outwards from the Leo/Cancer pair. So the two signs on either side of Leo and Cancer are ruled by Mercury. The two signs on either side of those are ruled by Venus, then Mars, then Jupiter, and finally Saturn. We progress in order from the fastest-moving planet (Mercury) to the slowest-moving one (Saturn).
So the signs of the Zodiac are assigned to the geomantic figures based on their planetary correspondences. The two Sun glyphs are both assigned to Leo, as are the Luna ones to Cancer. For all the planets ranging from Mercury to Saturn, there is one geomatic glyph for each Zodiac sign ruled by that planet.
As for the association of Caput Draconis with Capricorn and Cauda Draconis with Scorpio, I confess I don’t know why Agrippa made this connection. (Anyone who does know is more than welcome to comment below.) As we’ll see in just a moment, it’s important for these glyphs to be associated with some signs of the Zodiac, but I don’t know why the correspondences picked out these two in particular. Maybe because Scorpio has a tail for the Dragon’s Tail, and the horned goat in Capricorn is a particularly head-centric image for the Dragon’s Head? I’m sure there’s more of a reason than that, but I don’t know what it is.
Now, we’ve set up this fancy astrological apparatus. What good does it do us? Well, simply put, we can now take our geomantic chart and turn it into an actual astrological chart, with planets and all.
Take a minute to think about how absolutely, mind-blowingly revolutionary this is. As I mentioned in Part 2, astrology during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance was expensive. It required special tools, charts, and books that weren’t available to the masses. It was the divination technique of the wealthy, learned elite. But now, all of a sudden, we have a way that we can just draw a bunch of dots in the dirt, and BAM! We have a full-fledged astrological chart. Geomancy is the democratization of a hitherto esoteric and inaccessible form of divination, and I think that is so freaking cool.
Here’s how it works. Take the twelve glyphs in your astrological geomancy chart, and replace them with their corresponding planets. Here, you’ll notice an important difference between geomancy and real astrology. In astrology, each planet can only be in one house,*** but a house can contain multiple planets. In astrological geomancy, each house can only contain one planet, but a planet can appear in multiple houses. This becomes significant for certain methods of chart interpretation, but I don’t think I’ll get to those in this post. Maybe one day in the distant future, I’ll come back to geomancy and write more about specific methods. Regardless, I think this is an interesting distinction to note.
So now you have twelve houses, each one with a planet in it. The next step is to assign the signs of the Zodiac to the houses. To do this, look at the geomantic glyph in your First House. (Okay, so I lied when I said I would be consistent about whether or not I capitalize the word “house”. Sorry.) The Zodiac sign corresponding to this glyph becomes your Ascendant. Then, you fill in the rest of the houses in order. So if your Ascendant is Aries, your Second House will be Taurus and your Third House will be Gemini, and so on.
Let’s take the sample geomantic reading that we’ve been working with throughout this series. Remember that the question I asked was, “Will my post on geomancy be a success?” In the shield chart, the Witnesses were Caput Draconis and the Judge was Populus, suggesting favorable external circumstances for communication with the broader public. In the first interpretation of the astrological chart, we looked in the Third House (which governs communication) and saw Albus, suggesting that my post will be successful but risks delving too deep into esoterica and alienating some of my readership.
The glyph in the First House is Fortuna Major, associated with the Sun and Leo. So the Ascendant sign is going to be Leo, and correspondingly the Second House is Virgo, the Third House is Libra, and so on around the chart. Likewise, I’ve marked in the planetary associations of each glyph on the chart.
So now we look again at the Third House. In addition to all of the information we already have, we see that we have Mercury in Libra in the Third House. We can interpret this astrologically, and it gives us a final layer of meaning to answer our divinatory question.
Mercury in Libra is a powerhouse of thought. It can be quite abstract, which is a potential detriment (as we noted in Part 2, this geomancy series is more esoteric than what a lot of Tarot enthusiasts might want to read). But it’s also extremely social, and communication is one of its greatest strengths. Similarly, Mercury in the Third House is expressive, thoughtful, and quick-minded. And Libra in the Third House emphasizes clear communication and a balanced approach to interacting with others. All in all, this is an extremely auspicious reading for a blog post, and it suggests that the project will be a success on the whole. I will succeed in saying what I want to say, and in doing so in such a way that other people will understand and (hopefully) even like it.
If you’re not an astrologer and you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this crazy interpretation of Mercury in Libra in the Third House, don’t worry. I have to look this stuff up most of the time. A reading of this sort spits out three variables: a planet, a sign, and a house. Then, you can Google what it means when any two of those interact. In the writing of this post, I searched “Mercury in Libra”, then “Mercury in Third House”, then “Libra in Third House”. I read through online interpretations of all three, and then I synthesized them together into something resembling a coherent divinatory meaning. So if you’re not a professional astrologer and you are intimidated by this post, don’t be. Google is your friend.
That’s all for now, folks. There’s a lot more to be done with geomancy; as I mentioned, there are a variety of interpretive techniques that I haven’t had a chance to touch on in these posts. If you’re interested in geomancy, I really do encourage you to do more research and investigate these techniques on your own. The more I learn about geomancy, the more I love it (although Tarot will always hold the foremost place in my heart). As previously, if you’re into geomancy or if my posts have inspired you to try it out, let me know! Comment on this post or tweet at me (because I have twitter now; @jack_of_wands) to show me what you’re up to.
We’ll return next week with your regularly scheduled Tarot programming. Thanks for indulging my divinatory digression.
*There’s a host of philosophical questions that arise from a claim like this. Is popularity always a marker of goodness? Is the converse true? That is to say, are good things always popular? Surely one can think of counterexamples going in both directions: of good things that aren’t popular and of popular things that aren’t good. Nevertheless, what I’m driving at here is a much weaker claim: that expert geomancers seem to prefer this method, and that because of their expertise I can infer that there is probably a reason that the method is preferable.
**Contemporary astrologers use ten planets, adding in Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Plus, they add in a whole bunch of asteroids and other such nonsense. Personally, I never bothered to learn anything beyond seven-planet astrology, in large part because I learned astrology through Tarot and through the Golden Dawn’s classical correspondences. However, a real astrologer would tell you that those extra three planets, plus all the asteroids and stuff, are really quite important. In my own natal chart, if you include the outer planets, I have a Grand Trine in Air, which doesn’t appear in a seven-planet model. Do with that information what you will.
***Have I capitalized the astrological term “house” in previous posts? I’m starting to think I have. Augh, but capitalization conventions are difficult to keep track of. I started this post without capitalization, so that’s how I’ll finish it. I apologize if I’m inconsistent across the corpus of my work.