Same Figures, but Different Names and Different Traditions

In addition to the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook that I admin, there are a few other groups out there that focus on geomancy.  I may or may not be a member of them, or I might have been at one point before leaving, but there’s one that I belong to that focuses on the Arabic style of geomancy, Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy).  What the Geomantic Study-Group is for Western geomancy, this group is for Arabic `ilm al-raml (the formal Arabic term for geomancy, literally “the science of the sand”, sometimes abbreviated to raml or ramal), and since I’d love to learn more about that style of geomancy, I decided to join in.  It’s not always easy, since many of the members use Urdu or Arabic as their primary language, but when there are English conversations, I try to follow along best I can.

One of the major issues in learning Arabic `ilm al-raml for an English speaker is, of course, terminology.  It’s only fair and expected that the users of a system built in one language would use that language to discuss it, but it still poses a stumbling block.  After all, geomancy has been practiced continuously in Arabic- and Urdu-speaking countries far longer than it was in Europe, and they’ve kept the system in their own ways.  Once I see what they’re doing and see certain words repeated in certain contexts, I can usually catch on and follow along, but the biggest impediment to discussing geomancy and `iln al-raml is the different names we have for the figures themselves.  It’s difficult for me to talk about the meanings of a given figure and compare it with what it means in `ilm al-raml when neither of us know which figure we’re supposed to be talking about, after all.

So, with that in mind, I decided to produce the following table that lists the names of the sixteen geomantic figures and their names in Western geomancy (in Latin and English, using their most popular form) and in Arabic `ilm al-raml (in Arabic and English, again using their popular form).  This is to help me out to learn the names of the figures better in Arabic contexts, as well as to help the students of `ilm al-raml learn the European names for Western contexts.  For other variants in these and other languages that have historically been used for geomancy, including Hebrew, Greek, Sudanese, and Malagasy, I’d recommend checking out Stephen Skinner’s book on geomancy, Geomancy in Theory and Practice, and his larger book on correspondences, The Complete Magician’s Tables.

Figure Latin Arabic Yoruba
Populus
People
جماعت
Ǧamaʿat
Group
Oyẹku
Via
Way
طريق
Ṭariq
Way
Ogbe
Albus
White
بياض
Bayaḍ
White
Oturupọn
Coniunctio
Conjunction
اجتماع
Iǧtimaʿ
Meeting
Iwori
Puella
Girl
نقى
Naqi
Pure
Otura
Amissio
Loss
قبض الخارج
Qubiḍ al-ḫariǧ
Catching the outside
Ọsẹ
Fortuna Maior
Greater Fortune
نصرهّ الداخل
Nuṣraht al-daḫil
Inside victory
Iwọnrin
Fortuna Minor
Lesser Fortune
نصرهّ الخارج
Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ
Outside victory
Irosun
Puer
Boy
فرح
Farih
Happiness
Irẹtẹ
Rubeus
Red
حمره
Ḥumrah
Red
Ika
Acquisitio
Gain
قبض الداخل
Qubiḍ al-daḫil
Catching the inside
Ofun
Laetitia
Joy
ليحان
Layhan
Ọbara
Tristitia
Sorrow
انكيس
Ankis
Ọkanran
Carcer
Prison
عقله
ʿUqlah
Odi
Caput Draconis
Head of the Dragon
عتبة الداخل
ʿAtabaht al-daḫil
Inner threshold
Ọsa
Cauda Draconis
Tail of the Dragon
عتبة الخارج
ʿAtabaht al-ḫariǧ
Outer threshold
Ogunda

Because I like using an Arabic transliteration system that uses diacritics for faithful romanization, it can be a little difficult to read the Arabic names, but the accented letters can be read as follows:

  • q sounds like a “k”, but further back in the throat.
  • ṭ, ṣ, and ḍ all sound like normal but with the back of the tongue further to the back and top of the throat.  However, in Urdu, ṭ and ṣ just sound like “t” and “s”, and ḍ just sounds like “z”.
  • ǧ sounds like a soft “g” or “j” (or like in the word “division”).
  • ḫ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch“.
  • ḥ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch” but a little smoother.
  • ʿ sounds like a very soft, whispered “h” sound, if pronounced at all.

So, “Bayaḍ” can sound like either “bah-yahd'”, or “bayz”, “Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ” will sound like “nus-raht al-khareej”, and so forth.  Note that some of these names are not proper Arabic, and moreover, just like in Western geomancy, there are dozens of names used across the Arabophone sphere.  These are just one set that I’ve found common in geomancy groups online, and are the ones I’m trying to memorize.  Most of the other variants used are just that: variants, which are easy enough to pick up on.

Also, note that I’m using the standard planetary order of the figures in the above chart, which is fairly common for Western geomancers.  While Western geomancy doesn’t really prescribe a particular order as the order of the figures, Arabic geomancy has a set number of particular orders of the figures that are used for various divinatory purposes.  Probably the most common and canonical one is the dairah-e-abdah, which uses a kind of binary ordering, as seen in the following diagram (to be read from right to left):

While it may not seem like it makes much sense for me to make a single blog post doing nothing more than transliterating and translating a single set of Arabic names into English, given my penchant for long-winded exploratory posts, this is still an important first step in increasing Western geomancers’ understanding of Arabic `ilm al-raml as well as Arabic practitioners’ understanding of Western geomancy.  After all, it’s hard to make a journey if the door is still shut, and this helps open the door for both sides.

Now, you’ll notice that I’ve also included a third set of names, which are Yoruba for the figures as used in the sacred divination of Ifá.  I’ve included them for reference (both my own and other scholars of geomancy, especially those with a historical or academic eye), but I want to make something clear that I’ve only mentioned in passing before: Ifá is not geomancy, and geomancy is not Ifá.  Stephen Skinner talks at length about how the art of Ifá came about historically in his geomancy book, but the short of the matter is this: as geomancy traveled along the Arabic trade routes from its (likely) origin in the northern Sahara westward to Morocco and Spain, eastward to Palestine and Greece, and southward through Africa as far as Madagascar, it also traveled to West Africa where it was adopted and adapted by the priests and lorekeepers of the cultures living there.

While geomancy largely retained the same form and (mostly) the same interpretations everywhere else, it underwent dramatic changes and adaptations to the native Yoruba and Fon cultures in what is now Nigeria and Benin to become Ifá.  The form of the figures and several crucial aspects of geomancy were retained, but pretty much the entirety of the art was rebuilt from the ground up and grew apart into its own entirely-unique system.  As a result, although we as geomancers might recognize that Ifá has sixteen figures in the same format we’d consider them to be figures, almost nothing of what we know about geomancy applies to Ifá, and no assumptions should be made regarding any similarities besides the superficial appearance thereof.  To say it another way, if European geomancy and Arabic `ilm al-raml are sisters who grew up in the same house but then left to go their separate ways in neighboring cities, then Ifá is a distant cousin who grew up in an entirely different part of the country with little contact with the rest of the family.

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (aka Santería), which also has roots in Nigeria and matured alongside Ifá in Cuba, Ifá is something I’m constantly surrounded by, especially since I belong to an Ifá-centric house that respects, utilizes, and incorporates Ifá and its priests (the babalawos and oluwos) in our ceremonies and lives.  While I understand the historical origins of Ifá from geomancy, I also have to understand and respect the mythological origins and religious context of its practice as its own thing.  And, like Santería itself, it’s an initiated tradition, and non-initiates are not taught or permitted to learn the secrets of Ifá; for various reasons, I am not and will likely never become an initiate in Ifá.  Unlike many Western systems including geomancy, where formal initiation is not really a Thing outside magical lodges and certain master-student systems, this might be something of a shock to my readers, but as it is, there is only so much of the external parts of Ifá that I can learn, and even less that I’m willing to share to people, even to those in Santería itself.  I caution my readers to avoid getting too studious of Ifá without considering proper initiation and study under a legitimate and respected babalawo.

Likewise, a similar word of warning for those Western geomancers who aspire to study Arabic `ilm al-raml and vice versa.  Unlike geomancy and Ifá, geomancy and `ilm al-raml are much closer in method, meaning, and use, and many things are easily translatable between the two systems.  However, caution should still be taken, because although they’re very close sister traditions where there are more similarities than differences, they are still different traditions where the differences still matter.  It’s much like the difference between Western astrology and Indian jyotiṣa astrology: same origin, same symbols, slightly different techniques of interpretation and shades of meaning of those symbols.  While some things are translatable between geomancy and `ilm al-raml, not everything is, and the two systems should still be respected as two separate systems.  Experience and study of both systems will show the diligent geomancer what can be brought over with no effort, what must be adapted from one system to the other, and what is unique and proper to one system and not the other.  Though they share the same origin and great similarities, enough time, space, and work has passed that have made the two sciences grow apart into their own unique systems.  Respect that, study the differences, and experiment accordingly.

Also, my thanks go out to Masood Ali Thahim, one of the multilingual good guys in the `ilm al-raml group on Facebook, who helped me with the Arabic spelling and transliteration of the names of the figures as used in `ilm al-raml.

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Looking back through my archives, it amazes me how much I’ve actually written.  The Digital Ambler has been around since 2010, at first on Blogspot as a devotional blog to XaTuring, the modern god of the Internet, but in 2011, when I started actually studying and practicing magic in earnest, I shifted gears to be less devotional to that deity (which, admittedly, I never got too far with) and more studious and practical in my approach.  Skip ahead seven and a half years, over 600 posts and 700,000 views later, and here we are.

It really has been a trip, you guys.

More importantly, the focus of that trip has changed.  Long-time readers of my blog have noticed that I recently redid my blog layout and appearance, but a more subtle change is up there at the top of the page.  The blog motto used to be “embrace the detours on a Hermetic path”; after all, when I was starting out, I had no idea where I’d end up, much less what paths I’d be taking or skipping or changing.  Now, the motto is changed: “always forward between Heaven and Earth”.  The path, the Work, has not ceased, but it has shifted; I’m done taking detours, and now I have a (however slightly) better grasp on what the path I’m on actually looks like.  The most important thing, though, is that I don’t stop on this path that’s been laid out for me.

Over the years, I’ve made the commitment to share my notes, experiments, thoughts, and details of my Work publicly.  I don’t share everything like this; I have some stuff kept in ebooks now, other things are saved for future publications, some topics will be reserved for worthy students-to-come, and yet other secrets will remain as such.  But, of the things I do share, I share gladly and freely.  As a result of my writing and sharing, this blog has become something of a useful resource for many students of the occult, magic, and divination across the Internet.  It humbles me, and it makes my heart glad that I’m able to help others just by doing what I do.  Besides, I consider it good that I write so much, because even I forget half the stuff I come up with unless I’ve written it down; this blog is as much for my own benefit as it is for the public’s.

This blog has always been free to read, and I intend to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, bills pile up, and the bitter taste of economic insecurity is in the air.  No, I’m not suffering from some cataclysm or huge emergency, but things can get worrisome now and again.  The more things I have to take care of, the less time I have to write or Work; the less time I have to do those things, the more dust my blog gathers.  After the past 18 months of significantly-decreased output, I want to get back to the Work, but it’s hard when there’s so much else to take care of.  While I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and the support of my readers over the years, pride and good cheer don’t pay for my gas or power bill.

But you know what you can do?  You can buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, an internet tip jar service that lets people support their favorite content creators by donating a few dollars, the price of a cup of coffee.  Every little bit counts, and every little bit gets my deep gratitude and appreciation for your support.  Yes, you’ll be able to keep me caffeinated and awake and energized enough to continue to Work and write, but your support will also help me cover ritual supplies, research materials, travel expenses, and much more.

If you’ve ever found yourself entertained by my rambling and whining, spurred onto deeper research and study because of my notes, or enthused enough to incorporate my Work into your own, please consider supporting my blog once in a while; it’ll help go towards making sure there’s always more to be entertained, interested, and enthused with.  Check out this little video I made talking about me, the blog, and Ko-fi:

(This was my first time using A/V editing software.  Happy as I am with it, please forgive me my shoddy work.)

So, if you like the content I post on the Digital Ambler and want to help support me in making more content, buy me a coffee on Ko-fi!  And, if you like the good work Ko-fi is already doing and the fact that it’s a free service for both creators and supporters, consider buying them a coffee to them, as well.

On the Geomantic Parts of Fortune and Spirit

Whether it’s Tarot, geomancy, runes, or any other kind of art, I consider divination in general to be a process of three basic steps:

  1. Hash out, refine, and formally ask the query.
  2. Perform the divination to manipulate the symbols into a readable format.
  3. Interpret the reading.

In geomancy, that second step is the whole process of developing the four Mothers and the rest of the chart from them.  After the querent and I refine the query sufficiently and settle on the final form of the question to be asked, and once I manipulate my tools (cards, dice, or whatever) to come up with the four Mother figures, I then proceed to draw out the entire geomantic chart with all the relevant information I’d need to start with.  Once that’s done, this is what my scribbling and scratching typically ends up like:

The exact process I follow to arrive at this mess of lines and symbols from which I divine the fates and facts of the world is this:

  1. Draw out the four Mothers, then the Daughters, Nieces, and Court.
  2. Label the terminals for the Via Puncti with the elemental glyphs above the Mothers and Daughters, where possible.
  3. Draw out a simple square house chart, and populate it with the first twelve figures of the Shield Chart.
  4. Count the number of odd points in the House Chart to find the Part of Spirit, and label it (I use a circle with two diagonal lines coming out of the bottom like legs, for which I can’t find a compatible Unicode glyph that looks similar enough, but Chris Brennan suggests using an uppercase Greek letter phi Φ, for which I like using the specific glyph U+233D “APL Functional Symbol Circle Style” ⌽).
  5. Based on the Part of Spirit, label the coordinating house for the Part of Fortune (⊕).
  6. Based on the sum of odd points from calculating the Part of Spirit, add the odd points of the Court to find the odd point sum of the Shield Chart.
  7. Find the difference between the odd point sum of the Shield Chart and 64, double it, and add that to the odd point sum to find the Sum of the Chart.

You can see the different steps I took broken down by the above list fairly clearly as I did them (orange, red, green, yellow, pink, blue, cyan):

Making the Shield and House Charts is nothing special for us at this point, and I’ve discussed the Via Puncti before on my blog.  The Sum of the Chart is also fairly common knowledge, whereby you sum up all the points of the sixteen figures in the Shield Chart and compare it to 96 to determine how fast or slow the situation will resolve; again, it’s something I’ve discussed before.  Still, it might surprise you that I don’t actually calculate it directly, but base it on my calculations of the Part of Spirit (due to the mathematics of geomancy, the method works out to the same result).  Likewise, I don’t calculate the Part of Fortune directly, but also base it on the Part of Spirit.  So what gives?  What are these Parts, how are they calculated, and how are they used in geomancy?

First, let’s go with the more well-known of the two Parts, the Part of Fortune.  How do we find this indication?  From Christopher Cattan’s book The Geomancie (book III, chapter 21):

The question being made, after that we have judged by the houses, figures, angles, companions, aspects, the way of point, and by all the other sorts and manners before said, now resteth it to judge by the Part of Fortune.  The Part of Fortune figures, which afterwards ye must divide into twelve parts, and that which remaineth give unto the figures.  As if there rest two ye must give into unto the second figure, if there do remain four to the fourth figure, if there be six to the sixth figure, if there be eight to the eighth figure, if there be ten to the tenth figure, if there be twelve to the twelfth figure.  As by example, if the figure be of 72 points, or 84 or 96 or 108 points, then the part of fortune shall go into the twelfth.  But if the said points of the figure made, being divided by twelve, there do remain but two, as if there remain seventy and four where there remaineth but two, then (as before we have said) ye must give that unto the second house, and there shall be the Part of Fortune.  The which if the figure and house be good (for both the one and the other must be looked upon) you shall judge good, and if it be evil ye shall also judge evil; and so likewise shall ye do of all the other figures.  But if the figure be good, and the house ill, or contrary, the house good and the figure ill, you shall judge the said Part of Fortune to be mean.  And, to end ye may the more easier know the place where the figure falleth, which is called the Part of Fortune, ye shall mark it with this mark, 🌞, and thereafter ye shall judge all the question by the example that followeth. …

Many do use another manner to find Part of Fortune, in taking all the points as well of the twelve houses as the two Witnesses, and the Judge, which they do part by twelve (as is aforesaid) but because I have found no truth therein I will speak no more thereof.

If the mark Cattan proposes shows up as an embarrassingly incongruous sun emoji (like it does for me), then that’s just how it appears on your browser.  I’m using the Unicode character U+1F31E “Sun with Face” glyph as the closest approximation without overlapping with the usual glyph for the Sun (☉) for the symbol from the original text (fourth line, first character):

From Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book II, chapter 2):

Of the discovery of the part of fortune, and its placement in schemata.

Now the part of fortune ⊕ is to be discussed.  The part of fortune is of great importance in the view of the Geomancers just as in the view of the Astrologers, and is of great consideration: for in their view the sign of ⊕ and the steps to discover the Hyleg are chiefly considered, and through them the house, into which [the part of fortune] falls into as a result of the projection, truly seizes great life and energy by itself.  …

This part of fortune is to be considered with the utmost exactness, for if it falls into a good house and figure, it is of no small weight for bringing about judgment; if truly in an evil [house and figure], it brings about no meager impediment to judging [the schema].

Fludd then goes on to give other methods of calculating similar things “if the above method is seen to be obscure”, but the phrase “Part of Fortune” doesn’t appear, and he mostly focuses on ways of constructing entirely new charts for the purpose of a clearer judgment.

Lastly, the description of the Part of Fortune from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy (chapter 6) on the Part of Fortune:

… The Part of Fortune, as the name implies, indicates a house from which the querent can expect good fortune to come in the situation.  In financial divinations it usually refers to a source of ready cash.

What about the Part of Spirit?  To start with, calling it that is my own innovation.  In the extant geomantic literature, it’s more commonly called the Index.  JMG discusses it since it appears in Fludd and Cattan, and though I’m unsure if it appears any earlier, Cattan is the one who (as far as I’m aware) introduced it (book III, chapter 18) by calling it one of the ways to find “the point of instruction”:

Another rule [to know for what intent a chart was made for] is to take all the uneven points of all the twelve figures, and give one to the first, one to the second, one to the third, and so consequently unto all the others, until that all the points be bestowed, and then if the last point remain on the first house, it signifieth thereby that the person hath desired to have that figured be made upon some of the demands which be of the first house; if it rest upon the second, it signifieth that the question or demand of the movable goods, or other things contained in the second house; and so shall you judge of the other houses where the point doth stay.  And if it do happen that the point of the intent do stay in the house of the thing demanded, or in the fifth, ye must judge according to the significations that the Judge doth show unto you; and when ye will judge by the same Judge, you must also take the uneven points of the Witness and the Judge, and bestow them amongst them; but that rule which is only by the 12 houses, is the better, more sure and certain. …

Fludd basically says the same thing (book II, chapter 3) and even with the same name in the chapter header (“De punctis instructionis…”), so I won’t translate it here.  As for JMG, he calls it the method the “projection of points”  and the resulting figure the “Index” (chapter 6):

… This can ferret out hidden factors in the chart.  Projection of points is done by counting up the number of single points in the first twelve figures of the chart, leaving the double points uncounted.  Take the total number of single points and subtract 12; if the result is more than 12, subtract 12 again, and repeat until you have a number less than 12.  If the final number is 0, this stands for the twelfth house.

The house identified by the projection of points is called the Index, and represents the hidden factor at work in the situation. …

Okay, enough reciting from resources.  Based on all the above, the methodology for finding the Part of Fortune goes like this:

  1. Add up the number of all points in the twelve houses of the House Chart.
  2. Divide by twelve.
  3. The remainder points to the house of the Part of Fortune.  If the remainder is 0, then it points to the twelfth house.

The Part of Spirit’s method is nearly identical, except instead of counting all the points, we count just the single points.  For example, given the figure Acquisitio, if we’re counting all the points in it, we have six points, but if we’re just counting single points, then we only have two.  Thus, if (for either sum) we get 88, we divide that by 12.  That gets us 7.333…, so our remainder is 4 because 12 × (7.333… – 7) = 4; phrased another way, 88 ÷ 12 = 7 + 4/12.  Thus, we look at the fourth house for the given Part for which we’re doing a calculation.

Before continuing on with how we use these indications in geomancy, it’s probably best to talk about what a Part even is.  The Parts (also sometimes called Arabic Parts or Lots) are an old doctrine in astrology, dating back to at least the time of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos and seen in both Arabic and European astrological treatises since.  At least 97 were in use in the ninth century according to the Arabic astrologer Albumassar, over a hundred listed by the Italian astrologer Bonatti in his works, and more were developed since then, even in our modern era incorporating the outer planets past Saturn.   The Parts are constructed points in a horoscope based on the sums and differences of other observable points (e.g. Ascendant or Midheaven) or physical objects (e.g. planets or luminaries).  In essence, a Part is a mathematical harmonic between different astrological notes that describes certain in-depth areas in a querent’s life or situation that could, in theory, be sussed out by looking at the planets and their aspects alone, but are more explicitly specified by their corresponding Part.

For instance, if we’re looking at indications of someone’s mother, we could look at the ruler of the fourth house in a chart, or we could look at the Part of the Mother, which is calculated as follows:

Mother = Asc + Moon – Saturn

In other words, we start from the Ascendant, add the ecliptic longitude (the position in the Zodiac) of the Moon, then subtract the ecliptic longitude of Saturn.  Thus, in a horoscope where we have the Ascendant at 25° Scorpio, the Moon at 19° Gemini, and Saturn at 3° Taurus, then our calculation would look like this:

(25° Sco) + (19° Gem) – (3° Tau)
205° + 79° – 33°
251°
(11° Cap)

With those points as above, we end up with 251° on the ecliptic, which in zodiacal notation is 11° Capricorn, which is the degree of the Part of the Mother.  This is strictly a mathematical point, much like midpoints are in modern astrology, but used specifically to determine the presence, state, and effects of one’s mother (or all mothers) in a horoscope, and can then be interpreted like any other planet in the horoscope, except that they only receive aspects instead of making them.

While the technique isn’t as popular as it once was, even today many modern astrologers take note of the Part of Fortune.  From Bonatti’s Liber astronomiae (translated by Robert Zoller in The Arabic Parts in Astrology):

This part signifies the life, the body, and also its soul, its strength, fortune, substance, and profit, i.e. wealth and poverty, gold and silver, heaviness or lightness of things bought in the marketplace, praise and good reputation, and honors and recognition, good and evil, present and future, hidden and manifest, and it has signification over everything.  It serves more for rich men and magnates than for others.  Nevertheless, it signifies for every man according to the condition of each of those things.  And if this part and the luminaries are well disposed in nativities or revolutions, it will be notably good.  This part is called the part of the Moon or the ascendant of the Moon, and it signifies good fortune.

The Part of Fortune is a weird part, because it actually has two formulas to calculate it, only one of which is used depending on whether the horoscope is that of a day chart (Sun above the horizon) or a night chart (Sun below the horizon):

Day Fortune: Ascendant + Moon – Sun
Night Fortune: Ascendant + Sun – Moon

Later in Liber astronomiae, Bonatti describes the Part of Spirit, which he also calls the Part of the Sun or the Part of Things to Come, as follows:

The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality of these, and faith, prophecy, religion, and the culture of God and secrets, cogitations, intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat, and cold. …

In other words, if the Part of Fortune describes the material well-being (or lack thereof) of a horoscope, then the Part of Spirit describes the spiritual well-being; just as the Part of Fortune describes our connections to the world outside us, the Part of Spirit describes the connections of the world inside us.  Fittingly enough, the calculation for the Part of Spirit is the reverse of the Part of Fortune: while the Part of Spirit also uses two formulas, one for day and one for night, the formulas themselves are switched from the Part of Fortune:

Day Spirit: Ascendant + Sun – Moon
Night Spirit: Ascendant + Moon – Sun

Thus, the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are intimately connected by how they’re calculated; if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

Bringing the notion of the Part of Fortune into geomancy from astrology necessitated an obvious conceptual change in how it’s calculated; without degrees or the ability for certain things to fall among them, it would normally have been impossible to calculate any Part.  However, Cattan either invented or learned a way to find an equally-significant sign in geomancy by adapting the methods available to us in geomancy by counting the points and divvying the sum of the House Chart among the houses.  What none of the older geomancers seem to have noticed is that there’s an intimate relationship between the Part of Fortune and the Index in geomancy: if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

First, note that the Part of Fortune and the Index can only fall in even-numbered houses (e.g. house II, house IV, house VI, etc.) due to the mathematical intricacies of geomancy; this is true for similar reasons and with similar logic for why the Judge of a geomantic chart must always be an even figure.  (Why Cattan makes this explicit for the Part of Fortune but suggests wrongly that the Index can be in odd houses is a mystery to me; perhaps he simply didn’t anticipate that a calculation based on odd points could result in only even numbers.)  Thus, by performing the calculations of the Part of Fortune and Index, we can get only one of six numerical results: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 0 (with 0 signifying that the sum in the calculation was evenly divisible by 12, and thus indicates the twelfth house).

After many charts of calculating the Part of Fortune and Index separately, I noticed a pattern emerging: the sums of the two separate calculations for the Part of Fortune and Index always add up to 12 (2 + 10, 4 + 8, 6 + 6, 8 + 4, or 10 + 2) or 24 (12 + 12).  Thus, if the Part of Fortune were in the eighth house, then because 12 – 8 = 4, I knew immediately that the Index would be in the fourth house; if the Index were in the sixth house, then the Part of Fortune would also need to be in the sixth house; if either indication was in the twelfth house, so would the other indication.  Again, if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

The mathematics behind this relationship can be described like this: if there are four rows in each figure and we’re looking at a collection of twelve figures, then there are 4 × 12 = 48 total rows.  Each row must be odd or even, and the number of odd rows plus the number of even rows must equal 48.  Plus, we know that since the houses of the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit must both add up to 12 or 24, both of which are evenly divisible by 12, then we know that the sum of all the odd points plus all the points total must also be evenly divisible by 12.  We can check this mathematically as follows.  First, in mathematical notation, let us use the % sign to represent the modulo function, which is “the remainder after dividing by a number”.  Thus,

x = number of odd rows in the House Chart
x = number of points in the odd rows of the House Chart
x % 12 = remainder of x divided by 12 = Part of Spirit

y = number of even rows in the House Chart
y + x = 48
y = 48 – x

2y = number of points in the even rows of the House Chart
2y + x = number of all points in the House Chart
2 × (48 – x) + x
96 – 2x + x
96 – x
(96 – x) % 12 = Part of Fortune

((2y + x) + x) % 12
(96 – 2x + x + x) % 12
96 % 12
0
Q.E.D.

It was this interesting relationship between these two indications that reminded me of the relationship between the astrological Parts of Fortune and Spirit, and thus what led me to start calling the Index the Part of Spirit and reanalyzing it in that light.  Even though there’s a huge difference between how the astrologers calculate these two Parts in astrology versus how we would in geomancy and where they might be found in their separate House Charts, I find that the relationship between them is identical and, for that purpose, hugely useful in geomantic interpretation.

To briefly describe my own personal view of these Parts based on all the foregoing, the geomantic Part of Fortune indicates the source, manner, and condition of the material life of the querent: bodily health, material wealth, worldly means, and so forth.  Likewise, the geomantic Part of Spirit indicates the same but for the spiritual life of the querent: mental and spiritual well-being, divine gifts, aid from spirits or gods, and so on.  I also read notions of resources and capabilities for the querent (to answer “what can I count on to accomplish it?”) in the Part of Fortune and notions of fate and destiny of the querent (“what should I be focusing on or having faith in?”) into the Part of Spirit.

Going beyond the basic interpretation of the Parts themselves, I’ve also found a trend in charts when the two Parts are both in the sixth house or both in the twelfth house:

  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house VI, then the matter is completely in the hands of the querent.  The querent has the ultimate say and ability to determine how the situation will proceed, and can change the reality of it as they need to depending on the course of action they take.  Their actions or lack thereof will be the crucial determiner in whether and how the situation will proceed.
  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house XII, then the matter is completely out of the querent’s hands.  All the querent can do in the situation is react accordingly and adjust their conceptions and perceptions of the situation, because the reality of the situation will proceed without their input regardless of their attempts.  No matter what the querent might attempt, the situation will continue unfolding as it will.

Also, as one other use, I often use the Part of Spirit in readings about magical, occult, or divine ritual for the sake of figuring out what particular courses of action might be best, or determining what path one ought to take, whether in a specific ritual or in a general direction.  It’s a small extra thing, but for a practicing magician like myself who consults with and is consulted by other magicians, it’s a useful thing to know.  I touched on this very briefly in my old post on geomancy and magic, but now the reasoning behind it all becomes clear.

All that said, remember that the Parts can only fall in even-numbered houses.  In a sense, this is similar to the idea that figures that are even can be considered objective because only even figures can be Judges (as I wrote at length before).  In this case, the even-numbered houses deal with, in order: material goods, land and family, health and servants, death and spirits, work and office, mystery and restriction.  We exclude the odd-numbered houses, which deal with: the querent themselves, communication, creation/procreation/recreation, relationships and rivalries, religion and faith, friendships and patronage.  There’s a similar “inherent to my personal life and relationships” versus “external to my personal life and relationships” difference between the even and odd houses as there is between the objective versus subjective qualities between the even and odd figures.  It is because these things are more external to us that they can be things pointed to help us or focus on, because they’re things that we’re not necessarily in full control or knowledge of.

As a side note, I only read the Parts in a radical (unrotated) chart.  When the chart is rotated for a third-party reading, I don’t bother looking at or interpreting the Parts of Fortune and Spirit, because they’re house-based calculations and not figure-based, so they don’t get rotated with the chart and (to my mind) have no importance or meaning in such a rotated chart.  I find that the Parts work best (if at all) when applied to the querent themselves in a situation, and I haven’t found it useful to rotate the Parts with the rest of the chart for a third party.

Similarly, I don’t swap my calculations of the Parts of Fortune and Spirit around based on whether it’s daytime or nighttime, because the notion of a diurnal or nocturnal geomantic chart doesn’t make sense; after all, a solar figure might never even appear in a given chart, or it might appear both above and below the horizon in a geomantic House Chart.  Instead, it makes more sense for the Part of Spirit to only rely on odd points (the points that represent active elements, excised and above the world of passive matter) and the Part of Fortune to rely on both odd and even points (the co-mingling of active Spirit and passive Matter that results in the world around us).

Further, although there are over a hundred possible Arabic Parts (depending on tradition, era, and author you’re looking at), I’m disinclined to say that there are more than these two Parts in geomancy.  After all, the logic for the Parts in astrology is easily extensible, but in geomancy we’re far more limited based on the techniques and tools that we use, but at the same time, we have other techniques that can fill in just as easily (such as adding the figures of two houses together, the triads in the Shield Chart, and so forth).  That we call them “Parts” in geomancy is more due to conceptual parallel in what they mean more than how they’re calculated than anything else.

The only other way I can think of to extend the technique of geomantic Parts would be to calculate a new Part based on tallying only the even points in a House Chart and taking the remainder after dividing by 12, which could be worth exploring, but I’m unsure what it might indicate; perhaps using my own tripartite view of the world, if the Part of Spirit (odd points only) indicates the influence of the spiritual Cosmos and the Part of Fortune (odd and even points) indicates the influence of the humane World, then this third unnamed Part (even points only) might indicate the influence of the material Universe.  Who knows?  It might show something of good use in divination, if a pattern can be detected.

Ah, and one final thing, just to finish off the intro to the post regarding the Sum of the Chart.  Instead of tallying up all the individual points of the 16 figures in the Shield Chart, I take a shortcut method: find the odd sum of the chart (odd sum of the House Chart, already calculated for the Part of Spirit, plus the number of odd rows in the four Court figures), find the difference between that and 64, double it, and add it to the odd sum to come up with the total Sum of the Chart.  The reason why this works is much like some of the logic in why the Parts of Fortune and Spirit have to add up to 12 or 24: because each figure has four rows and there are 16 figures, then there are 4 × 16 = 64 total rows of points in the Shield Chart.  Since every row must be even or odd, the number of odd rows added to the number of even rows must add to 64.  Since it’s easiest to find the number of odd rows in the chart after we calculate the Part of Spirit (we just need to take into account four more figures), once we have that number we just subtract it from 64 to get the number of even rows.  Remembering that an even row has two points in it, we double that to get the number of points in the even rows, add to it the number of odd rows (which have only one point in each), and voilà, the Sum of the Chart is yours.

On Blessings

Lately, I’ve been thinking of things going on in my life, or that have happened in my life, and started to call the good ones (like, the really good ones) “blessings”.  It’s something that I’ve heard some of my older or elder friends say, too, about some of the nicer things in life, and…it’s weird.  Before initiation into Santeria, I would never really have used the word “blessing” to describe a good thing that happens.  Awesome, fantastic, or great, perhaps, but “blessing” was weird for me to think of it that way. Now, it seems a lot more natural; perhaps it’s just a shift in the crowd I run with and adopting the terminology, but seeing how I was already running with them before, something must have clicked into place for this sense of the word “blessing” to click for me.

Let’s recap, I suppose. From my Western religious or magical viewpoint that I’d assume is more-or-less common (but I could be wrong!), a blessing is a ritual act where something or someone is blessed.  For instance, a Catholic priest can bless a saint medallion (or any number of other things), and oftentimes perform a light or simple exorcism of a person which can also count as a blessing.  Other priests in other traditions and religions generally follow suit, with the overall goal to instill a force or presence of holiness or divinity in a material vessel, animate or not.  For many of the same reasons, many of the enchanting or consecrating acts magicians do can also be considered blessings; heck, the language we use is often identical to those used in the Church, if not taken directly from their liturgies and rituals, with much the same effect (though issues of apostolic succession and the lack thereof can subtly change or weaken the end result).

We can look at the word “blessing” in two etymological ways: the first, using the Germanic word family of bless, blood, and blót, and the second using the Latin word family of benedicere.  In the former, we have an original word coming from Germanic paganism of “marking with blood”, leading to the term blót, a sacrifice, and blót-hus, “house of worship” or “temple”.  By using the blood of sacrificed animals, the divine figures of worship, the place of worship, and the worshipers themselves would be instilled with the special powers contained within; there are conceptual parallels between this and the Old Testament use of sacrificed oxen and bulls in the Temple, as well as the literal bloodbath Moses gave to the Hebrews as he came down from the Mount.

In the second sense, we have the far more bland Latin term benedicere, literally meaning “to speak well” or “to say good things”.  However, in the Christian sense, consider that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, the Logos; to speak good things upon someone is to literally cast the power of God upon them for good ends and with good means.  This builds upon the more fundamental Abrahamic understanding of a blessing (all of which ultimately come from God) to the effect that to be blessed is to be favored and approved by God.  This ties into the otherwise unusual statement “Blessed are you, Lord our God” (how almost all Jewish blessings, or berakhot, begin); after all, how could God be blessed, if God gives all blessings?  It’s because being the source of blessings is indistinguishable from the quality of being blessed; both the blessing and the blessor are identical.

So much for etymologies and definitions.  When it comes to using the word, I’ve pretty much limited myself to using it in a ritual or prayerful context.  I would suppose that, as a technical matter, only priests (who have a valid and legitimate connection to their deity and who are licensed and authorized to do so by such a connection) can actually bless an object, person, event, or space.  Laity and other non-priestly clergy who lack that connection can pray for the blessing of something, while magicians can…well, I don’t want to say “consecrate” (literally “to make sacred”, which overlaps heavily with “blessing”), but perhaps “enchant” or (one of my more favorites, thanks Kalagni and Deb et al.) “enwoogify” or “bespooken”.  As a matter of technical correctness, only priests can bless; even if what magicians do is effectively the same thing in result, the mechanics and source of the result is sufficiently different to warrant another term.

But…well, consider what the laity do in this context: they pray for blessings upon someone else.  It’s what I never really put much consideration into before now, but when someone prays for your well-being, your happiness, your prosperity, your safety, your success…those are the blessings they pray for, which are their blessings to you.  Absent any other ritual, divine connection, or other woogity, that act is the lay equivalent of blessing someone, by appealing to the source of blessings to bestow its blessings.  That is their magic, their means of plying their connection, their gift to you.  Again, while them “blessing” you isn’t necessarily a proper use of the term, just as with a magician enchanting for some effect, the effect is ultimately equivalent.

That sort of realization is, in some sense (and in addition to being with people who use that term just as a thing), what led me to start widening my use of the term “blessing”, and why it finally made sense to call good things that happen “blessings”.  When we, as magicians, carry out a ritual for some end, do we not consider ourselves successful when that very thing comes to pass?  Of course we do; we might find ways to improve upon our results for future workings, but we consider the success a validation of our work, our connections to spirits, and ourselves.  Similarly, when we pray for something, do we not consider ourselves having been heard by God or the gods when what we pray for comes to pass?  Heck, we even say that they “answer our prayers”, just as they would a phone call or question.  Thus, if we pray for a blessing, and our prayers are answered, then we would then, logically, say that we have been blessed.

I’ve long held that magicians should pray just as much as anyone else, if not more so; in the types of magic I work, prayer is part and parcel of the whole shebang.  In my own prayers, besides those of adoration of divinity, I pray for guidance, enlightenment, fortitude, progress, compassion, companionship, wisdom, intelligence, understanding, protection, purpose, purity, and so much else.  For myself and for many other people, the most common things we pray for are good health, long life, prosperity, happiness, and peace.  There are hundreds of classifications and categories of blessings out there (just look up the endless kinds of berakhot that Jews are supposed to recite upon basically anything happening), but the big ones are things we all want in our lives, which are fundamental to a universal human notion of “a life well-lived”.

So, when something good happens that furthers me along in a way I’ve prayed for, or that someone else has prayed for me, or that just happen because *gestures vaguely upwards*  I should celebrate it and be grateful for it, just as I’d celebrate myself when something I’ve been magicking for comes to fruition.  Good things that happen (and I mean with a capital G, not just the little g good things) are blessings, whether or not I or anyone else has asked for them.  It’s such a simple concept, really; I’m kind of embarrassed that I never understood it before, but I get it now.  Maybe it’s preconceived notions that Good Things just happen coincidentally (which is otherwise a notion I’ve long since abandoned), or that Good Things happen so rarely (when so much that happens is actually Good, even if it’s not good on a microcosmic level), or something else that kept me from seeing…I dunno, a more profound awe in things.

Of course, recognizing that something is a blessing is only one part of the equation; being grateful for it and not taking it for granted are others to follow through with.  After all, when we get something we ask for from someone as a gift, we graciously and gratefully thank them, if not exchange a new gift for them; when we work with people or spirits whom we commission to do work for us, we pay them for their services.  To simply take without giving is selfish and greedy, and degrades the entity doing something for us into a slave, while taking without appreciation treats them as a machine.  For the Good Things that happen to us, we must be grateful that divinity either heard our prayers and saw fit to grant them, or that divinity for the sake of divinity favored us with the Good Things, but more than that, we must never take such blessings of Good Things for granted.  But then, how do you pay back a god?  In the ways that gods want, of course.  I would fain speak for divinities without them chiming in, but the general ways that I see acceptable across the board would be to make the most of the blessings given to you to further your own development, to help others with their own development, adoration of divinity for its own sake by means of your blessing, and to simply live a good/Good life for the sake of divinity, for the sake of the world, and for your own sake.

A blessing isn’t just a one-time good thing, like a slice of cake.  It’s more than a simple result of spiritual labor or material gift.  It’s a foundation, a building material to continue constructing and instructing our lives in the best ways we’re able to, and with which we can help others build theirs.  We just need the humility to ask for these materials, the knowledge of how to implement them, and the wisdom of when to use them, but even these we can inculcate in ourselves, both as practice we cultivate and blessing we seek.