Alas, a geomantic technique for the scrap pile.

Yada yada geomancy.  You know I know a lot about it, and I daresay I do myself.  Geomancy, over its 1000-year history, has developed many, many techniques to predict all kinds of stuff: how situations will resolve and under what circumstances, weather on a particular day, the types of diseases one may contract, where to find lost or stolen items, and so many other things.  It’s a fantastic and highly flexible divination system, especially considering it only has 16 symbols to use.  I’ve studied nearly every technique I can find in the Western traditions of geomancy, even having to translate stuff from arcane and poorly-written Latin to do so, and even after finding different correspondences between the figures and the Zodiac and body types and this and that, geomancy remains one of my top favorite, precise, clear, and accurate divination systems.

Alas, however, I have to consign a geomantic technique to the failure pile, and it’s not for lack of trying: determining names.  While it would make sense conceptually that one could determine names with geomancy, I have never been able to get such name charts to work right, from the first time I ran a name chart years ago up until the present day.  Add to it, I’ve found several methods to determine names with geomancy, and several ways to associate the letters to the figures, and I’ve tried them all, none of them giving anything remotely resembling an accurate answer.  This frustrates me to no end, because why the hell would this one technique not work when nearly every other technique I’ve tried has given me useful results?  This is especially frustrating, since being able to predict names would be exceptionally useful in the world, from determining the names of cities one might be successful in to determining the names of future spouses.

John Michael Greer (“Art and Practice of Geomancy”) gives one such method, where each figure is given one or two letters.  To determine the name of someone or something, one casts a chart with this type of query in mind and the geomancer inspects house I for the initial letter, houses X and VII for the medial letters, and house IV (and house V, for some reason) for the final letters.  Each figure is associated with one or two letters; in the case where a figure has two letters, one is chosen if that figure passes around in the chart and the other chosen if that figure does not pass out of its house.  JMG admittedly says that, because many names have more than four letters, “a fair amount of intuition can be needed in this form of divination”.

Robert Fludd (“Fasciculus Geomanticus” and “Utriusque Cosmi”), Christopher Cattan (“The Geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan”), and John Heydon (“Theomagia, or the Temple of Wisdome”) all offer more methods to determine names:

  1. House I indicates the first letter/syllable, houses X and VII the second and third syllables, and house IV the final syllable.  Basically JMG’s method given above; present in all the aforementioned books.
  2. Take the letters of the figures in houses I and VII, and “as often as ye take the said letters, so oftentimes move your figure,  and then if ye find it not, take the letters of the tenth”; Heydon copies the English translation of Cattan verbatim for this.  This method is highly unclear and vague, and Robert Fludd says that “hic modus falsissimus est” (“this method is the most false”).
  3. Basically the same as #1 above, but specifically for vowels according to Cattan and Fludd; Heydon doesn’t mention this.  Considering how some of the correspondences with the figures don’t even include vowels for all figures, I don’t see how this could be reliable.
  4. Basically the same as #1 above, but using house X for the first syllable (not just a letter!), house VII the second, and house IV (according to Fludd) or both houses IV and V (according to Cattan) the last syllable.  Not mentioned in Heydon, nor do Fludd or Cattan say how one gets a syllable based on a single figure.

All authors give a set of correspondences between the figures and letters, but Fludd explicitly uses Cattan’s associations (hence the similarity between their rules).  Cattan, further, gives three “rules” of associations, with the first rule giving one or two letters to each of the figures, the second rule giving up to three letters, and the third rule giving up to eight; however, he never mentions the rules at all in his book or when to use which one!  Heydon, on the other hand, uses a radically different set of associations where he also includes Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew (which is for some reason radically different than the Hebrew associations); JMG’s associations are based on Heydon’s, though no other author mentions anything about JMG’s use of selecting a primary or secondary letter based on whether the figure passes around in the chart.  Plus, as usual, the ever-convoluted-and-overwrought Heydon’s charts are riddled with errors, duplications of some figures/letters and omissions of others, etc.

Moreover, I can’t find any rhyme or reason as to why the figures were associated with the letters they were given by Cattan or Heydon.  My analytic mind couldn’t find a pattern, and none was offered in the texts as to why each figure had its sets of letters.  Either they were arbitrarily chosen by their authors, or they were observed after multiple readings and rules based upon them.  I tried my own hand at developing my own set of correspondences, hearkening back to my works with grammatomancy and stoicheia.  My thought was that if each letter can be associated with an element, planet, and zodiac sign, and each of those symbols can be associated with a letter (a la qabbalah), then it might work that we can give letters to the figures based on their stoicheiometric associations.  This works fairly neatly for the Hebrew and Greek scripts, but English was a different beast entirely; happily, Cornelius Agrippa gives such a table with English letters for the planets, elements, and signs of the Zodiac (book I, chapter 74), which I combined with Gerard of Cremona’s astrological associations between the figures and the Zodiac.

A summary of the different associations of Roman/English letters, according to Heydon, Cattan, and my own stoicheiometric correspondences, are in the table below.  Heydon was a pain in the ass to get right, since so much of his book is corrupted or jumbled, so I had to guess at some of the associations.

Figure Cattan
(First rule)
(Second rule)
(Third rule)
Populus T, U/V/W h b, t, u/v/w P, Y Ο, Χ ר ב A, R
Via P, Q m m, n, o, z N, X Ν, Τ ע, פ י A, G
Albus D u/v/w, x a, c, d, o D Δ ד, ש ז E, F, Q
Coniunctio X, Y o, s, t r, s, t, p,
x, i/j
Q, Z Π, Ψ ש, ת פ, צ E, L
Puella I/J c, o c, k, d, i/j, h,
e, u/v/w
H Θ ח כ, ו I, M
Amissio N, O b h, l, m, r, s M, W Μ, Σ נ, ס ס, ע I, N
F o, b c, e, f, o,
q, s, t
F Ζ ו א O, S
E a, b a, b, d, e, f E Ε ה ח, ט O, C
Puer K a, q a, c, e, i/j L, V Λ, Ρ ל, מ ה U, D
Rubeus C c, i/j b, c, i/j, x, z G Η ז נ U, D, X
Acquisitio L, M r, u/v/w a, g, i/j, l, r,
t, u/v/w, z
I/J, S Ι, Ω ט, י ד Y/J, B
Laetitia A i/j, r, t a, b, d, r A, T Α א מ Y/J, C, Z
Tristitia A a, r z, u/v/w, d,
b, n, c, i/j
B Β ב ל V/W, N, K
Carcer R, S i/j i/j, d, n,
o, p
O, R Ξ, Φ צ, ק ג V/W, T
G a, r d, g, r, t C Γ ג, ת ק, ר H, V/W, O, L
H i/j, b a, e, h,
t, x, y
K Κ ל ש, ת H, E, I, P

But even using any of the techniques with any set of correspondences, I kept coming up with wrong answers.  If I were lucky, some of the letters in the actual name I was trying to find might appear at random places in the chart, but this was by no means guaranteed.  I did notice a slight tendency for some of the letters to appear in houses II, V, and VIII, but there was no pattern for which letters (start, medial, end) appeared within them.  I even tried using the values of the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew associations that Heydon gives (untrusthworthy as his stuff tends to be) to see if it would get me anything closer than the Roman script association; nada.  Plus, many of the techniques assumes there to be at least four letters or syllables in a name; many names I ended up asking about after I did a reading on them had one or two syllables, or had even just three letters, and these techniques don’t specify what to do in the case of really short names.

Like I said, it’s not for lack of trying that I’m giving up on determining names with geomancy; it really does seem like no technique handed down to us works, nor any associations of the letters we have so far (and there are quite a few).  Even my own associations and analysis of name charts yields no good results.  Although I’ve heard of some (very few) geomancers getting good results with this type of divination, I’m really starting to question their results; most geomancers I’ve gotten word from suggest that name divination hasn’t worked well for them, either.  The fact that so many other techniques work well for myself and others, with the exception of this one, doesn’t bode well for determining names generally using geomancy.  Even if it were a divinatory problem that applied to just me due to some spiritual block or mental bottleneck that would prevent me from getting good results, if a good number of other people found the technique useful, I’d be happy to agree, but even that doesn’t seem the case.

Heck, even other diviners using other divination (besides straight-up getting knowledge from spirits in the astral or using a Ouija board, which is sketchy as hell) suggest similar poor results with determining names from any set of divinatory symbols.  The fact that this might be a widespread problem across divinatory methods (barring the occasional apocryphal or anecdotal story) suggests that, much like lotto numbers, specific names simply can’t be divined.  The issue of determining names themselves poses problems: what if someone uses a nickname they identify with more than their real name, or they don’t identify with any single name?  Or what if their real name is unknown to someone and they only use nicknames with that person?  Or what if they change their name legally?  Conceptually, geomancy should be able to see through this, or at least offer some sort of guidance, but even with names that are fixed under specific circumstances, nothing seems to work.  That, or when JMG said that “a fair amount of intuition can be needed”, he really wasn’t kidding, and I think this requires intuition to the point where geomancy stops being useful at all.

Add to it, I have an issue with the English language, and the Roman script generally, in magical use.  I simply don’t find it to be a very magical language; sure, I use it in my rituals pretty much exclusively save for brief phrases or what amount to cantrips, but perhaps it’s because it’s my native language that I find it so utterly mundane and convoluted.  It’s awesome for getting stuff done in this world with other people, of course, but it doesn’t seem to have the right resonance with higher forces that, say, Greek or Hebrew tend to have.  Moreover, the Roman script bugs me in magical use for inscriptions on talismans and for other magical purposes, primarily for one reason: the letters of the Roman script were never used to mark numbers (and no, Roman numerals don’t count).  The Greek and Hebrew scripts, on the other hand, have isopsephy and gematria, respectively, which enable a word to be treated as a number, and as Pythagoras once taught, numbers rule the universe and effectively are the universe.  Plus, Hebrew has its associations with qabbalah and the paths on the Tree of Life, and more modernly with its associations with the 22 trumps of the Tarot; Greek, having 24 letters, is a divisor of 360, the degrees in a circle, and add up nicely to the sum of the 12 Zodiac signs, 7 planets, and 5 elements.  The Roman script, with its awkward 26 modern letters or 23 pre-modern letters (with J reduced into I and V and W reduced into U) has no such claim to occult fame, with no system of English or Roman gematria having worked well for me or for others.  Plus, the Roman script is really the only script of the three that has seen major and frequent changes in its alphabet over the millennia.  Of course, the Greek and Hebrew (and earlier Phoenician) scripts have had their changes, but those were already largely done with at an early date.  English writing, and the Roman script generally, just don’t seem to have magical oomph, so trying to use it magically to determine names with divination just doesn’t sit right with me from the get-go.  Then again, seeing how the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial scripts provided equally bum results in name divination, it’s not just a problem with the Roman script in this instance.

I know that Arabic geomancy has a method to determine names, and I assume the methods are similar: associate different letters with different figures, and inspect certain houses for the letters of a name.  Still, I know little about the method in particular, nor how well it works for Arabic geomancers.  The fact that predicting names is common in “master” books of geomancy through its development and across several cultures suggests that this type of divination should work, else why would it be kept around when so much else has come and gone?  It might even be that such a method exists, but it’s not one passed down to us through Fludd, Heydon, Cattan, or Greer.  Still, at this point I’ve pretty much given up on trying to determine names with geomancy, and I’m consigning this to the trash heap until someone gives me something new and original to try.

And, yes, I have the same exact problem for determining numbers with geomancy as I do letters, and there are, again, several ways to determine numbers and several sets of associations between numbers and geomantic figures as offered by Cattan and Heydon.  Any hypothetical post about me consigning that technique to the trash, too, would pretty much be an exact duplicate of this post with letters replaced by numbers.  This means that a good chunk of the post on determining time with geomancy is also bunk, though I wrote about it as a hopefully useful technique.  Bah.


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.

5 Responses to Alas, a geomantic technique for the scrap pile.

  1. Andrew says:

    The only name I got using the techniques from Greer was the name of my Holy Guardian Angel, and frankly, it wasn’t until the angel showed up and helped me unscramble it a bit that I was at all convinced I was on the right track. The name seemed quite improbable. But it worked, that one time. All other efforts to predict names have been total failures.

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  3. Ade says:

    Sorry I’m commenting on such an old post, but I’ve just stumbled on your blog (what an amazing blog, btw! as a beginner in geomancy myself, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your knowledge and experience), and this got me thinking and scribbling some notes here. By simplifying the Hebrew alphabet and reducing letters with a similar sound to a single letter (such as aleph and ayin, tet and taw, and so on), we can get 16 main characters out of the 22-letter Hebrew aleph-bet. Then, by ascribing binary values to the figures based on their elements (0000 for populus, 0001 for laetitia, 0010 for rubeus, all the way to 1111 for via) perhaps we can get an order to make the letters and the figures match (if populus would be the first figure, then, at value 0, it would match aleph, the first letter… which kind of makes sense at a symbolic level, considering how populus is the most passive figure, while aleph itself is considered to have no sound of its own). Of course, this says nothing of how we could possibly derive a system of getting names out of a geomantic chart, and there could be some tweaking needed for such a match to work, but, if anything, you’d get a reliable (and not arbitrarily defined) way to write one’s name in geomantic Hebrew-equivalent figures. And I think that could be a fun exercise. Cheers!

    • polyphanes says:

      Heya! Glad to have you here; thank you for the compliment!

      It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it’s a wise one to go by. We can’t really simplify the Hebrew alphabet because, while on paper or in certain dialects a few letters might sound the same, they’re considered completely different entities with different pronunciations and different numerological properties. To combine tav and tet, for instance, is completely unthinkable in kabbalistic terms, and doesn’t even make sense in Ashkenazi pronunciation where tav is pronounced like “s”.

      I know that Arabic assigns letters to the geomantic figures with some overlap, but I’m not fully certain how to apply it to Western scripts. The idea, however, is basically what you’re proposing: take an order of figures and apply the order of an alphabet to it. Thing is, what order? Western geomancy is completely order-ignorant, which is fine up to a point like this.

      • Yeah, that’s an issue, but I thought it’d maybe be an improvement over Heydon’s system, at least, who puts stuff like shin and dalet on the same figure (if it was shin and gimmel, I suppose it would still be messy but could make sense on a gematric level, but shin is 300 and dalet is 4). I thought it was easier to make a rough reading at first and then fine-tune the ambiguities between, say, ayin and alef (they’re similar on a phonemic level on the sense that one is voiced and the other is voiceless, so it’s not just an arbitrary connection) than between shin and dalet or mem and lamed or gimmel and tav, like Heydon does (trying to spell “shibbolet”, for instance, could allow the reader to understand it as “dibbomeg”… that’s… quite a communication disturbance). But, yeah, you’re right, I’ve just remembered that tav and tet is the difference between spelling, say, “Satan” and “urine” – imagine that on a reading, lol. Interesting to see, though, that Arabic writers have also pondered it. I suppose we could try setting up an order by thinking up some criteria and then testing them by trial and error, but we’d probably go utterly mad before we discovered anything. Oh, well, it was still a fun exercise, though :)

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