Open Thread on Geomancy, so ask away!

I know a lot about geomancy.  Not a lot of people do, though that’s very slowly changing.  Just as an experiment in reader involvement with my blog, let’s try something new: ask me questions on geomancy, right down in the comments!  I’ll reply as best I can, given the comment space, but let’s see what questions you all may have.

Just a few things before we begin:

  • If you’re curious about the symbols of geomancy, you might do well to look up my posts from the De Geomanteia series I did a while back.  Try reading those and see if those answer your question.
  • This is not a place to ask me for readings; if you want one of those, you can always hire me as a reader through my Services page.
  • This is specifically for divinatory geomancy as practiced in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.  This is not for the I Ching, feng shui, or Final Fantasy-esque earth-shaking magickqsz.  I’m barely familiar with ifa, so try to steer questions away from that.
  • Please don’t ask for full chart interpretations here. General questions about technique and symbolism are awesome, but giving me a full chart and asking me to interpret it for a particular question isn’t.

And with that, have at!  I’ll stop replying to questions one week from today, so get your questions in soon and I’ll answer them as they come in.

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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

30 Responses to Open Thread on Geomancy, so ask away!

  1. chrisgascal says:

    1. Is perfection only checked to answer yes or no questions? Or are there other reasons to see if its there?

    • polyphanes says:

      In Western/European geomancy for binary questions (ones that expect a yes or no answer, which is the vast majority of questions posed to geomancy), yes, getting a yes or no answer is the only purpose of perfection.

      However, in other forms of geomancy that use perfection, such as Arabic astrologically-influenced geomancy, and in European geomancy where the question is not binary, perfection is used to indicate connections between different factors in a chart. For instance, in a medical reading, one inspects house 6 for the illness or injury, 7 for the doctor, 10 for the treatment/prescription/regimen/surgery, 4 for the outcome of the medical situation, and 8 for the possibility of death. Perfection between any of these houses indicates relationships between them that may be of importance in a question; for instance, if such a chart perfects between houses 10 and 6, but not 7 and 6 or 7 or 10, then this indicates that the medical condition can be treated but the doctor is not able to help with it nor can the doctor offer a suitable treatment. The use of perfection to indicate “yes” or “no” is, in some ways, a simplified and extrapolated version of this rather broad technique. A lot of intuition comes into play to determine how a chart will play out based on perfection, but in the case of a binary question, perfection indicates a connection that brings about the situation inquired about (“yes”).

      There are some techniques in Western geomancy that assign a certain alphabetic or numeric value to the figures, often two values; if perfection happens to the figure being inspected, one picks a particular value, and if there is no perfection, one picks the other. However, I haven’t found these techniques to be of much use or validity.

  2. Geomancy has frustrated me throughout my magical career. What exactly is going on? I find references of poking holes in the ground, but how is that sufficient for divination? How would I perform it in, say, the winter when the ground is frozen?

    • polyphanes says:

      Geomancy has its origins in the Sahara Desert, where geomancers would take a stick and make points in the sand by walking up and down a flat, clear sandy area hitting the sand with the stick This is still done with a box of sand and a stylus by some (needlessly overachieving and excessively traditional) magicians in the Golden Dawn, but isn’t needed. In Europe, the same practice was achieved with pen and paper or wax tablet and stylus, but this is just one of many ways to form the Mothers. Anything that yields a binary answer (odd or even, heads or tails, up or down, red or black, etc.) can be used.

      For instance, if I were to use coins to generate the Mothers, I could use a penny to represent the Fire line, a nickel for the Air line, a dime for the Water line, and a quarter for the Earth line. A heads flip would indicate an active line, while a tails flip would be a passive line. So, if I flipped a heads on the penny, heads on the nickel, tails on the dime, and heads on the quarter, this would yield active-active-passive-active, or Puer. Personally, I use a deck of geomancy cards I made, where I have four cards for each geomantic figure (resulting in a deck of 64 cards); I generate whole figures, but this is just one method out of many.

      In the winter if the ground is frozen, you might try using the pen and paper method mentioned above, or another method entirely. Alternatively, if snow is available, you might use a stick and make dents in the snow outside. However, the stick-and-surface method is time-consuming and messy sometimes, so another method may be more useful.

  3. Nade says:

    In John Michael Greer’s ‘Art and Practice of Geomancy’ he mentioned that it isn’t a good idea to cast a chart in bad or troubled weather (chapter 4) have you found this to be true?

    • polyphanes says:

      I’ve experimented with this from time to time; unfortunately, I don’t go out of my way during severe weather to do a divination for the hell of it. When I’ve done divination in inclement weather, I haven’t found it to be much affected, though I wouldn’t tempt fate with this. Divination should be done in an atmosphere and spirit of relative equanimity and calmness, so doing divination in a busy, loud, in-motion, or hectic environment would generally be a bad practice.

  4. chrisgascal says:

    What books can you recommend? Where to continue research?

    • polyphanes says:

      First, have you joined the Geomantic Campus Yahoo! group? There’s a lot of information there, including lots of chart analyses you can study and a number of discussions on technique going back a number of years. The files section there is very useful, with lots of papers, both from established academia and geomancy hobbyists, detailing many facets of the art, including translations from older works and notes on how geomancy affects different cultures. (Just to toot my own horn, “tascil” is me, and you’ll notice that I’ve uploaded a large number of such documents when I had access to them from a university library account.)

      As for actual books, Stephen Skinner’s “Geomancy in Theory and Practice” is an excellent history of geomancy, and Schwei and Pestka’s “The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy” is a fantastic resource (though regrettably out of print). English currently has a dearth of books on the subject, so JMG is pretty much the de facto textbook on the subject, hence why I’m planning to write my own one of these days.

      • paintedogre says:

        I’ve started working out a jump in project for beginning geomancy as well, definitely not a textbook or treatise on the art. More a visual guide and toolkit to jump start someone with a new interest.

    • polyphanes says:

      Also, you might check out one of my earlier posts An Overview of Geomantic Literature, where I go over a large number of books, texts, and sources on geomancy and geomantic practice. You might be interested to pick up a book or two based on my brief reviews of these.

  5. paintedogre says:

    Just a nod to another reader of the sands, we are a rare creature.

    Just a preference question, what is your preferred method for generating the matres?

    I’ve cast pebbles, counted waves in a tray of sand, Raml dice, tossed sticks, seperated pebbles in a fist, and even experimented with chains.

    • polyphanes says:

      Agreed; good to know I’m not the only one!

      Myself, I prefer using a deck of geomancy cards I made, with four cards for each of the figures, leading to 64 cards total. I shuffle the deck, cut the deck into four piles, and flip up the top card on each; these are my Mothers. I also use a set of tabletop gaming dice, associating the Platonic solids with each of the elements (d4 = tetrahedron = Fire, d8 = octahedron = Air, d20 = icosahedron = Water, d6 = cube = Earth); an odd roll on a die leads to an active line, while an even roll leads to a passive line.

      What is this about using chains? Is this like the talking chains used in ifa?

      • paintedogre says:

        Yes, very similar. It can be done in one of two (although I suppose more) ways.
        The first in a more Ifa inspired way, where it generates two side by side figures, which are read as a pair.
        I’ve considered doing that, and taking the pair as the testes to form a iudex, but it would result in potentially untenable iudex outcomes.
        The other way I tried, was to take the two pair as a combination, ala dynamic/static. Rather like deriving a line in standard practice. You end up with a single figure. And three more tosses of the chain results in the matres.
        If you’re into cards, I picked up a neat little ditty from an acquaintance that uses standard playing cards. (not really my speed, I’m kinda stodgy about the iudex ‘check’) First and Third matres are derived by color, black is static(passive), and red is dynamic(active). The Second and Fourth are derived from number, odd being static, and evens being dynamic, with the courts continuing the progression (11,12,13).
        Or, a simple version. Turn 8 cards, and the left teste is read by color, and the right by number, then a iudex is read.

        Off topic slightly, you should also look into Sikidy and Kumulak. I’ve just started perusing those.

        • polyphanes says:

          I’ve looked into Sikidy, and I’ve done research on the different types of tokan sikidy charts (special charts with particular properties of locations of figures, etc.). It’s highly interesting, and the paper “Malagasy Sikidy: A Case in Ethnomathematics” by Marcia Ascher (Historia Mathematica, vol. 24, 1997, pp.376-395) gives many different ways of generating figures and meanings in a sikidy chart. I’m not too familiar with kumalak, though; do you have any resources on that?

  6. Andrew says:

    Do you know of any particular stones or crystals associated with the geomantic signs?

    Do you ever use the geomantic signs in talismanic work?

    • polyphanes says:

      I don’t associate the geomantic figures with stones, per se; for that, I’d go with their corresponding planetary or astrological correspondences (Agrippa gives one in book II, chapter 14 for the Zodiac). Les Cross, author of Astrogem Geomancy makes use of mostly planetary-corresponded stones (including the modern trans-Saturnian planets), which works well for him; I don’t use that system, but it’s a good modern innovation using geomancy in a new way which I support.

      I have used the geomantic signs in talismanic work, and I wrote a De Geomanteia post on geomantic magic describing possible uses and methods of sigils or figures in geomantic magic. I made a simple talisman to help my mom keep her job once, which worked well for her through a series of company layoffs, for instance, by using black clay and a sigil of Carcer on a Saturday. I use the figures and sigils (mostly by taking the dot forms of the figures and playing connect the dots) in combination with other planetary signs (sigils, qameas, etc.) in setting up ritual spaces. I’ve been meaning to make geomantic talismans that combine the figure, their geomantic emblems, and other signs to form comprehensive microcosmoi for each of the figures, but that takes time and I’m lazy.

      • Andrew says:

        I disbelieve the “I’m lazy” part. I’ve seen how hard you work on other stuff. More likely that you haven’t needed those things to develop an effective work. :-)

        I’ll have to look into the stone/astrological correspondences. I’m working with JMGreer’s plant correspondences from the book CELTIC GOLDEN DAWN, and liking them for both bags and tinctures. But I’d like to beef up the mojo bags with a little bit of crystal from time to time.

  7. John says:

    How do you increase the preciseness/accuracy of geomantic divinations? Usually I get stuff that’s too vague, and at times superficial. Should I meditate on each figure some more?

    • polyphanes says:

      Mostly, experience. Keep detailed notes of your interpretations and all the things you notice in the chart, from the “mechanical” stuff like perfection, company, Via Puncti, and the like, and all the “intuitional” stuff like the things you have gut feelings about. Compile your notes and save them, then after the situation or time period has passed, review your notes and see what matched up with reality and what didn’t. Doing daily readings before you go to work in the morning and reviewing them before you go to bed, or doing weekly readings on Sunday and reviewing them Saturday night, is a very good practice for this. Make guesses, try to stretch things to just past your point of comfort in interpretation and try multiple interpretations of the same chart, and see which interpretation wins out. This is how we develop new techniques and validate old ones, and evaluate which techniques are useful and which aren’t. For instance, perfection is a rock-solid technique for me, but methods of predicting lengths of time or names of people have never worked, so I try workarounds or alternative methods of divination for those.

      Beyond that, meditation on the figures is also good. Scrying, or extensive visualizations of the figures, is a gold mine for information. All the “images” and scenes I described in my De Geomanteia posts of the figures were from my meditations on the figures. Study all the book information on the figures (their meanings, their astrological and alchemical correspondences, their body and character types, their humours, etc.), then compile that in your mind through meditation and visualization. Again, keep notes of everything.

  8. Dubravka says:

    I used to cast some daily/monthly/yearly charts but never somethning that interest me very much- life readings..Can you give some advice, do you have personal experience..? thx..I just love every word you wrote about geomancy!

    • polyphanes says:

      I do have experience with doing daily/weekly/etc. charts, but I don’t often do those anymore. They’re extraordinarily useful, though, since it helps keep you up on your game and aware of influences headed towards you. The Court helps give you a broad overview of the time period (what your primary experiences will be, the overall progression of the time duration, how other people around you act), and the houses indicate specific events (health over the duration, finances, education, work, etc.). Is there something in specific you were looking for?

      Thanks for the compliment! Geomancy’s one of my special areas of expertise, and not a lot of people are writing about it, so I may as well help out with that.

      • Dubravka says:

        Well, I was thinking at geomantic life readings, chart similar to, for example astrological natal chart? Do you find it useful and informative enough to work with it? Each house indicate some broad (or very specific) overlook on that area of life.. what with perfection? Let’s say I have Amissio in a second house, conclusion is- I will be a poor person..? to keep it very simple..And I just wanted to say that as a method of generating Mothers I use 4 dices in colours of elements, green, blue, yellow and red and it works just fine for me..

        • polyphanes says:

          It is possible to do a natal geomantic reading, yes. In this case, you’d ask something like “what are the effects and situations in this person’s whole life?”, and inspect the figures in the house chart much as you would a natal horoscope. In this case, you wouldn’t have perfection, since there’s no significators in this kind of chart (where every house is read, not just one or two taking importance). However, it is important to note whether two houses share the same figure; while this isn’t perfection in this kind of chart, it does note that those two areas of a person’s life are linked or share the same influence.

          Amissio in house 2 is an indication of poverty, yes, or lots of quick gain followed by even more and drastic loss in life. However, this is just a very broad reading.

  9. Nina says:

    When should you use the astro-geomantic method if the shield chart usually gives enough information, including the reconciler? Do you have to use it with every question? For me, it’s a little confusing learning all the different modes of perfection, the aspects and what they mean in an astro-chart. I’m currently trying to figure this out and how to interpret them. It seems like there are so many different ways and methods of reading the charts that I get lost. I want to do readings as accurate as possible but I need more visual examples of astrological charts with the different types of perfection. What do you suggest?

    (I’m pretty new to Geomancy so forgive me for being a noob, but your blog is very helpful to me, I’m glad I found it, and I will be getting JMG’s book soon too.)

    • polyphanes says:

      Reading the Shield Chart is mandatory (traditions like Ifa or Sikidy excluded, where they use different methods of geomancy entirely). If that gives you enough information to work with, then that’s all you need to read; there’s little sense in trying to squeeze out every last drop of information out of the chart if you already have enough. However, reading the House Chart is highly recommended, since it offers a more in-depth view with specific parties, influences, and areas in your life or the situation.

      With perfection, just note which ones are present in the chart and link them together. There are four methods of perfection: occupation, conjunction, mutation, and translation. My De Geomanteia post on perfection goes over these with a lot of detail, indicating many different ways these can occur, but most of those details are just variations on those four primary methods. I admit that perfection is a difficult part of geomancy; get that learned and understood, however, and you have a very strong and useful tool in interpreting geomantic charts. JMG’s book offers case studies of whole charts using different kinds of perfection, while my post from before gives very simple pared-down explanations and examples. Keeping notes of your readings and comparing the readings to what actually happens (or getting confirmations from clients if you do readings from others) is crucial to learning geomancy; keep notes and learn from your readings!

      I’m glad you find my blog helpful! Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to explain at length with geomancy that I haven’t yet. JMG’s book “Art and Practice of Geomancy” is pretty much the de facto textbook on geomancy (at least until I get my own written out!), so it’s definitely worth the buy.

  10. Dubravka says:

    If I may, I’d have another question asked. Specifically, working Geomantic talismans I tried to do a combination of the four symbols of the problem (for example, Acquisitio, Fortuna Major, Laetitia and Fortuna minor). What is the recommendation that I will work on activating talismans, how to work with different planetary influences, and is it even possible? thank you for helping..

    • polyphanes says:

      What do you mean by “four symbols of the problem”? And don’t worry about asking too many questions; this is an open thread, after all, so ask away!

      Consecrating or activating talismans really depends on what you’re comfortable with. You could go full-out on a Solomonic consecration, invoking a dozen or so names of God wearing specially-consecrated robes; you could use a particular planetary day and hour combination and say the Orphic Hymn to a particular planetary god while wafting the talisman through appropriate incense; you might focus on your symbol while achieving a gnostic state of awareness through masturbation. It’s certainly possible to work with planetary influences with geomantic talismans (the figures themselves are very tightly aligned with the planets, after all) but the methods you might use are really quite varied.

      What you want to do is figure out the influences you want in a situation, or what influences you’d like to help change things around. Those are the symbols you should be using most.

  11. Dubravka says:

    From now on, please ignore my spelling and grammar, becouse I will never use a google transleter again..heh..So,what I wanted to ask.. let’s say there is a specific problem or situation that I want to make a talisman for and I decided to put not one but two or even four figures on it. Since each figure is aligned to a different planet is it possible and is it necessary to work with all planetary influences in ritual and how? One at a time? How to choose appropriate planetary day and hour and so on..So, is it possible to mix several figures on one talisman? Once again, thx, and sorry – I know I am not quite clear and precise while explaining my questions..

    • polyphanes says:

      Okay, this makes much more sense, and I understand the question better. I would ask, for what situation do you need four figures? Normally talismans are directed at a specific goal that requires only one or two forces; a common prosperity talisman, for instance, might focus on the use of Jupiter or Mercury, or perhaps both. While it’d be possible to create a prosperity talisman that involves all seven planets, that’d be a very complicated talisman to create; you’d need to call on just the right images and relationships between the planets so that they’d all play nice with each other, so to speak, and still attain the overall goal as a complete unit.

      So, yes, it’s possible to incorporate several forces at once, but the more forces you incorporate the more difficult it’s going to be to consecrate and maintain over time. Again, how you’d achieve this would be up to you, since this isn’t the place to discuss all the kinds of talisman consecration, but you might conjure the angels ruling over the planets (Michael for the Sun, and therefore over Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor) and asking for their help. When using planetary hours, you’d perform a consecration of the talisman in the hour and/or day of each planet you’re working with. However, I’m a fan of the less-is-more approach; make one talisman with one specific force for one specific target, and make other talismans for other specific targets, and alter or decomission them as needed.

  12. silver says:

    Pls how do i answer a question of distance or remaining distance by geomancy thanx
    Also how do i get to know she loves me

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