Category Archives: divnation

Intro to Geomancy

One of the types of divination or fortune telling I use is called Geomancy. It is a very old method of forecasting future events, that in the medieval period and renaissance, was second only to Astrology, and in many ways much more accessible. Mainly because it wasn’t as complicated as astrology and didn’t require as much knowledge, education and well, funding in order to learn and practice it.

An example of a geomantic shield chart

Geomancy’s origins are actually in what we now call the Middle East. While we don’t know exactly where it came from, the basic method was developed in those lands, and it is actually a translation of the arabic name for it that we call it geomancy. ‛ilm al-raml (a more exact translation would be the science of the sand) was translated into Greek as geomanteia, which from latin and into English became geomancy. This is of course, not to be confused with the other geomancy, which would be reading literal omens by looking at rocks, the earth, and natural events, which was included in groupings of pyromancy, hydromancy, aeromancy etc…
I came across geomancy purely by accident, seeing a book being published in my local bookstore and finding i’s cover and back interesting. It was hooked by the unusual method of doing geomancy, compared to the familiar methods of cartomancy using Tarot and playing cards, which parallel reading and casting runes in some ways, and many other methods of divination. In a sense, the more comparable, but in no way the same, methods would be I-Ching readings, divination using astragalli, or knuckles bones, or diloggun. 

Later, this method of divination would fall out of favor, and as playing card games arose, it would be forgotten almost completely. However, as only medieval manuscripts would be translated, the plethora of geomancy books that were written would ensure that it would be noted. With the occult revival of the 19th century, this caused geomancy to be revived in a limited scale. The Order of the Golden Dawn actually had a means of practicing geomancy as a means of divination, and it’s pamphlets that initiates received detailed the complicated process of making a set to practice geomancy, essential creating a ritual sandbox where marks would be made and formed into a reading. However, those early translations were often very mechanistic and lacked the depth that later translations would provide, and so this geomancy would be often overlooked. Although interestingly, an often overlooked source of geomantic education was the much recommended Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson, which in its first chapters on divination described a simple method of casting a geomantic chart and the meanings of the signs, although without much detail beyond that.

An example of a geomantic house chart

There are now many more books about geomancy, and quite a few academic publications about it, from a history of the occult perspective, to understanding it culturally in its different iterations around the Middle East and Africa, and more. If you want a practical manual that can help you get started and give detail to really work it, I recommend The Art and Practice of Geomancy by John Michael Greer. I also run a group on Facebook called Geomantic Campus, which has various files of translated works describing Geomancy to those who are interested, among other things. 

G is for Geomancy

Geomancy is the word which I use to refer to a method of divination. It was a method that seems to have originated from Arabic lands, where it goes by the name khat al raml and many others. From this name it was translated into Greek as Geomancy meaning “earth divination” It reached it’s heyday in Europe during the middle ages and the renaissance, and like many other occult arts, dwindled with the flowering of the Age of Reason. During it’s hey day, it was widely practiced and a number of authors wrote treatises about it, even more so then most other methods of divination. It was mainly very easy to use, unlike astrology which required complex calculations and instruments to view the sky, or other methods of sortilege, like card reading, which means you needed to have cards on hand (which not everyone did). At it’s simplest all you needed was some kind of blank field that you could use to make dots which could be used to count and create the figures that build a geomantic reading.

There are sixteen figures used in geomancy. During the middle ages and Renaissance in Europe, these figures were identified with astrological forces, with each classical planet being given two figures, and two more figures attributed to the North and South nodes of the Moon. Each of the figures are composed for 4 lines, which will have either one or two marks. One mark is an indication of active energy in that line and the presence of that force. Two marks are the indication of passive energy of that line, and the absence of inactivity of that force. From top to bottom the lines are named Head, neck, body, feet. They are also identified with the four classical elements from top to bottom of Fire, air, water, earth. These lines and their elemental values, combined with the planetary symbolism, help to give depth to a reading, but also in understanding the symbolism of each sign and it’s interaction with the world and with other signs.

The two methods of using the figures were in generating charts. The oldest and most traditional method is known as a shield chart, which requires one to generate 4 figures, however you wish to do that. These four figures are identified as “mothers” and from them the rest of the figures of the chart are created, about 11 or 12 figures, depending upon the inclusion or exclusion of a final figure. From the mothers one generates 4 daughters and from the mothers and daughters are generated the Nieces, which are then used to generate two witnesses, which are combined to form the Judge. The Judge is considered the answer to the question, sometimes with an additional figure formed by combining the judge and first mother to form the Reconciler, which makes a total of 16 figures used in the chart. Additional methods of shield chart interpretation help to give more precise and particular answers through the relationship of the judge to other elements in the chart.

From the shield chart, a second chart can be generated, known as the house chart. This chart is based upon the 12 house system of astrology, where each sign is placed into a house. The most basic ordering is taking the 1st mother which is given to the first house, 2nd mother to the second house, 3rd mother to the third house etc… There are other methods of assigning figures, depending upon whose treatise you read, or your own insight from gaining proficiency and skill with it. From the house chart it is also possible to answer questions, which can further influence the indications given in the shield chart and also given more depth and precision to a reading.

I came into geomancy a few years ago when I discovered a newly published book by John Michael Greer. It talked about Earth magic and divination, and as I was very much feeling the earth magic vibe, I was very intrigued by the book title. That introduced me to this method and I quickly took to practicing it and using it as often as I could, in order to become proficient with casting charts and understanding the signs. I also was very taken to how simple the signs were, which can be easily used in making talismans for magic, calling upon the forces symbolized by the geomantic signs.

There does seem to be a rebirth for geomancy occurring right now. While this practice did disappear in the West (although it did survive in some interesting ways and get small revivals during other blossoming of interest in the occult) there are a good number of sources available. Quite a few books have been written, as well as academic research into it as a item of historical interest. It also seems that in Arabic countries, the practice of geomancy has never fulled disappeared. It also bears some resemblance to I Ching, but also methods if Ifa divination. Whether they are related, or only bear passing resemblance is not fully decided or clear yet to researchers. There are some geomancy groups in existence right now, which can be found in Yahoo and also on facebook, where people can share techniques, and get assistance with their interpretations of charts they have cast. Another great resource and modern intrepid explorer is Polyphanes over at Digital Ambler. His work with geomancy is quite fantastic and he does contemplate it in order to advance this once forgotten divinatory art.

Weal and Woe

A while ago I picked a book about Afro-cuban divination, a system called the diloggun. A neighbor of mine is a practitioner of Santeria and after having witnessed him conduct a reading, and spending time with him I became curious about the whole process and methods. It is a wonderfully simple and yet complex system. Simple because the actual physical process is not that complicated, complex because of the depth with which the diloggun can read, Unlike the average tarot card reading and methods that seem to be based upon that, where the card and the layout is the beginning and the end, the diloggun start with determining a number, and then a number that follows that, and then determining whether that number comes with ire (blessings) or osogbo (misfortune). Following that determination is then where the blessings or misfortune comes from, and how it can be further strengthened (ire) or how it can be lessened or avoided (osogbo). It was the concepts of ire and osogbo that appealed to me strongly, as something that seems to be missing or forgotten in most contemporary divination. Even a lot of contemporary books on modern divination usually tend to put a helpful or positive spin on things that are unpleasant, undesirable or just plain bad or harmful. This seems like a grave disservice to me, but it often seems hard to determine whether the reading being given is really coming with good or with evil. Often times it seems like the default way of doing this with Tarot and systems like it is to interpret all reversed cards as being in some way negative. I have found through personal experience, that this is not the case in the majority of situations..

In working with the runes, I began to ask if the reading or individual runes within the reading are coming with weal (blessings, fortune, benevolence) or woe ( hexes, misfortune, malevolence). The basic method I use for this is to pull another rune and see if that come out upright or reversed, without considering the meaning of the rune itself, at least in most cases. This was fairly accurate, giving an indication of when the action of influence of a rune or reading. The only difficult part was in dealing with runes which do not reverse. There are 13 runes in the Anglo-Saxon/Northumbrian Futhorc that appear the same when you turn them 180 degrees. I found the answer in understanding the nature of these runes, their essence is one that is fixed. Some of these runes will always indicate weal, others will always indicate woe, and a few are also variable, requiring further opening up, but indicating the workings of fate are sealing this and that it may not necessarily be easily changed or come about in a familiar way.

One of things that I have come to understand better from using this process is that just because a rune is reversed, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad or unfortunate thing. While often in books on runes the reversed form is called the myrkstave, and giving indications of negative or unwanted influences. I don’t necessarily agree with that any more. A reversed rune in a reading with weal is that influence is more in their absence. In a reading with woe, the things indicated may not come (if they are desired) or is better avoided. Tiewaz reversed with woe gives a good indication of avoiding any kind of legal problems, government or law enforcement, so buckle your seat belt, don’t forget any documents you might need and don’t sass the bureaucrat behind the desk. Feoh reversed with weal often seems to be an indication when other people are spending their wealth on you, without you spending any money, and just enjoying the pleasure of their company. The normal upright meanings become better applied through this process as well. Thurisaz with weal might be an indicator that some direct and unpleasant action is called for fortune to smile upon. Berkana with woe is an indicator that you should not expect any healing or nurturing during that time period, and possibly to be suspicious of people who do seem over eager to be that way. You might also want to be careful in all dealings with women, and possibly avoid their company as well. The interplay of weal and woe within the meanings offered by the runes opens up greatly and can help the reading deliver it’s message more certainty.

It seems appropriate in using the runes to see how the changes of weal and woe, the fluctuations of luck, a concept that was important to the Northern European cosmology and it’s interaction with fated occurrence, but the fortune or misfortune that may occur inbetween. It seems to be a concept that carries to this day, in showing how an unfortune situation can be the journey to great fortune, while seeming fortune can bring only loss and bad luck in the end.