Elements in the Geomantic Shield Chart

In the last post on technique, I went over a technique that’s mostly been underdeveloped and underused in Western geomancy, the technique of reading the triads in the Shield Chart, which is basically an expansion of the same technique used to read the Witnesses and Judge applied to the Mothers, Daughters, and their resulting Nieces.  This is a way to get more detail out of the Shield Chart and not let those other 12 figures outside the Court go to waste.  However, between the triads and the Via Puncti, those are pretty much the only methods we have in Western geomancy to read the first 12 figures in the Shield Chart, which is kind of a shame.  Then again, given the West’s focus on astrology and bringing astrology into everything, this shouldn’t be surprised; the field of astrological geomancy and the use of the House Chart is well-explored and has numerous techniques developed to read it.

Geomancy would already be dead if it couldn’t be expanded upon or revitalized with new techniques, and there’s nothing stopping us from trying out new ways to read a geomantic chart so long as these things fit with the general theory and framework of geomancy.  Since the House Chart already has plenty of techniques while the Shield Chart has a dearth of them, let’s try working on the Shield Chart techniques.

First things first: what do we call the “houses” of the Shield Chart?  I personally dislike the word “house” for them, even though I know that’s the term used, but it leads to easy confusion with the houses House Chart, especially given that there are multiple ways to assign the figures from the Shield Chart to the houses of the House Chart.  We could use the term “field” to describe the places where we put the Mothers, Daughters, Nieces, and Court.  After all, houses are built upon fields, right?  Thus, the first field is the place of the First Mother, second field to the Second Mother, and so forth to the sixteenth field to the Sentence.  Alternatively, and perhaps more preferably, we could use the other way of calling them “the first figure”, “the second figure”, and so forth to “the sixteenth figure”.  It’s this latter method I’ll be using the former to describe the individual places of the figures in the Shield Chart; besides, fields and shields go hand-in-hand if you know your heraldry.

So, let’s say we want to inspect the figures of the Shield Chart.  We know we can inspect them in triads, where we look at two parent figures and the child figure they add up to, but we don’t have a way of interpreting the fields on their own just yet.  While figuring out the significations of each field in the chart is a complicated task that rings a bit too strongly of the houses in the House Chart, we can start with something simpler by classifying the fields in other ways.  Probably the way that comes to mind first is using the four elements in ways that fit very closely with other geomantic techniques.  We’d go about this pretty straightforwardly: assign the first field to Fire, the second to Air, the third to Water, the fourth to Earth, and repeat the cycle from there.  Thus:

  1. Field I (First Mother): Fire
  2. Field II (Second Mother): Air
  3. Field III (Third Mother): Water
  4. Field IV (Fourth Mother): Earth
  5. Field V (First Daughter): Fire
  6. Field VI (Second Daughter): Air
  7. Field VII (Third Daughter): Water
  8. Field VIII (Fourth Daughter): Earth
  9. Field IX (First Niece): Fire
  10. Field X (Second Niece): Air
  11. Field XI (Third Niece): Water
  12. Field XII (Fourth Niece): Earth
  13. Field XIII (Right Witness): Fire
  14. Field XIV (Left Witness): Air
  15. Field XV (Judge): Water
  16. Field XVI (Sentence): Earth

Or, presented in a more tabular format:

Mothers Daughters Nieces Court
Fire First First First Right Witness
Air Second Second Second Left Witness
Water Third Third Third Judge
Earth Fourth Fourth Fourth Sentence

This is a method I dimly recall being used in at least some forms of Arabic geomancy (raml), but it’s not hard to see the logic being pretty simple to arrive at.  After all, we assign each of the four rows of each figure to the four elements in the same way, and there are instances of the same logic being used independently by Western geomancers, such as John Case in his 1697 work “The Angelical Guide” (book III, chapter 4).  While this kind of assignment of the elements to the fields of the Shield Chart is pretty straightforward, the real task comes in figuring out what we can do with this kind of thing.

For one, in any given Shield Chart, we can guess that a figure is well-placed in a field that agrees with its own element.  So, for instance, Laetitia (a figure of Fire) present in the fifth field as the First Daughter (a place of Fire) is much stronger than it’d be in the seventh field as the Third Daughter (a place of Water).  In case you’ve forgotten your elements for the figures:

  • Fire: Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Amissio
  • Air: Rubeus, Puer, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Puella, Via, Populus
  • Earth: Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Carcer, Fortuna Maior

Generally, what kinds of effects could we assume from the combination of elements from the figure and the field it’s found in?  First, we need to remember that an element in the classical sense is composed of two qualities, heat (hot/cold) and moisture (moist/dry):

Hot Cold
Moist Air Water
Dry Fire Earth

So, we know that Fire and Air share the same heat but different moisture, Fire and Earth share the same moisture but different heat, and Fire and Water share nothing at all in common.  Given this, we can venture the following general schema:

  • Elements of figure and field completely agree: (e.g. Fire and Fire) The figure is empowered and strengthened in a way that allows it to express its nature more completely and forcefully.
  • Elements of figure and field agree in heat and disagree in moisture: (e.g. Fire and Air) The figure is complemented and aided in a rounded way to have aid, but is transformed in the process so that goals and intent change over time to compensate.
  • Elements of figure and field agree in moisture and disagree in heat: (e.g. Fire and Earth) The figure is balanced and stabilized leading to stagnation and cessation of action, but with the potential for future growth that must be unlocked or initiated by an outside force.
  • Elements of figure and field completely disagree: (e.g. Fire and Water) The figure is undone and harmed so as to be weak and powerless, being made to act unwillingly and become something it does not want to be.

Of course, this could be refined by taking the actual elements themselves into account instead of just noting whether their qualities differ or agree, and this should definitely be modified by taking the actual figures themselves into account and whether they’re a parent or a child of another figure.  Thus, although a Fire figure in a Fire field will be benefitted in many of the same ways as a Water figure in a Water field, how that figure will be empowered will change by virtue of the element itself as well as what that element is.  Laetitia as the First Mother (Fire figure and Fire field) will be amply empowered by self-assurance and optimism of one’s own being, while Rubeus as the Second Mother (Air figure and Air field) will be empowered by encouraging lots of activity and discussion in ways that aren’t actually destructive but more of inducing healthy change, like rapid exploration.

In this way, we can get an overall idea of how good or bad a situation is, or how restrained or freely it can become, based on inspecting each of the figures in each of their fields and how the elements of both compare.  If a majority of the figures are in fields that they agree elementally with, then we know that the situation as a whole will be filled with power, freedom, direct activity, and declarations of self.  If a majority of the figures are in fields they disagree with, then much of the situation will be troubled by restraint, red tape, paperwork, coercion, and general weakness.

This technique can be combined with the Via Puncti not only to determine the four root causes of a situation, but also to expand on what exactly is going on with them to cause an issue.  For instance, if in a reading to determine who will win a court case, the Via Puncti Ignis (indicating the root drive or cause) points to Laetitia as the Third Mother, we know that Laetitia is a figure of Fire in a field of Water, indicating that Laetitia here is severely damaged by its placement and cannot act according to how it wants to act.  Thus, we can surmise that the core of the issue is that the court case was started by someone impinging on the rights of happiness and freedom of someone else, and continuing to act freely or joyfully caused problems that led to the court case.

Another way we can use this technique of measuring the elements of fields versus figures can be used in triad interpretation.  Consider the fact that the child figure of any two parents not only shows the result of two parties interacting but also the current state of affairs in a given matter; further, it’s written in endless geomantic texts that the expression of a child figure is modified based on its parents, and vice versa.  If we consider the elements of the Niece figures in their proper fields, we can get another level of interpretation on how that particular triad is evolving.  If the Niece is strengthened in its field, it empowers its parents and makes the whole Triad more favorable or easier to deal with; if the Niece is weakened, it debilitates the triad and makes it harder to deal with.  Thus, consider two examples for the First Triad:

  1. Say we have the figures Fortuna Minor (First Mother), Coniunctio (Second Mother), and Amissio (First Niece).  We know that the elements of the Mothers agree with their fields (Fire figure in Fire field, Air figure in Air field) but that the element of the Niece disagrees with its field (Water figure in Fire field).  In this case, because the Niece is so impeded elementally, it shows that the interaction of its Mothers really isn’t nearly as good as it’d seem; we might say that the querent was doing more-or-less fine, but having to deal with interaction and communicating to people is actually causing them more issues than its worth, causing them to lose their fortune instead of just cutting losses.  Fortuna Minor isn’t a bad figure, and it’s always better to cut your losses, but it can be tricky to deal with, and when handled badly, you not only lose what you can afford but you lose what you want to keep.  Thus, because the Niece here is so debilitated elementally, it holds back the otherwise powerful significations of its Mothers.
  2. Say we have the figures Fortuna Minor (First Mother), Albus (Second Mother), and Cauda Draconis (First Niece).  Fortuna Minor as First Mother is a good placement (Fire figure in Fire field), that Albus as Second Mother isn’t horrible (Water figure in Air field), and that Cauda Draconis as First Niece is also a good placement (Fire figure in Fire field).  Normally, this combination of figures would indicate some sort of calamity or accident befalling the querent leading them to become distant, detached, and removed from activity, but Cauda Draconis is well-suited to being here, turning its normally horrible indication to something easier to deal with.  Thus, we might surmise that the querent was gearing down from fast-paced activity, finally and capably brought things to a reasonable end, and can now rest on their laurels and act as a mentor if they act at all.  Because the Niece is so empowered and ennobled here, it empowers and benefits the normally awkward or painful indications of its Mothers and its Triad generally.

In fact, when we look at the Triads generally, we can mark each triad by the Niece involved in each.  Going by the same right-to-left association of fields with the elements, we can do the same with the four Triads: the First Triad can be given the elemental quality of Fire, the Second Triad to Air, the Third Triad to Water, and the Fourth Triad to Earth; these are the same elemental significations of the fields of the Nieces involved in each Triad.  Thus, we can not only interpret Triads elementally now, but can also see how certain figures would be better off in a particular situation based on how well the element of a figure agrees with its triad as well as its field.

On that note, could we do a similar kind of elemental association of the Court?  The Court, after all, is just another triad, but it’s not one of the four triads that Robert Fludd talks about (or invented?).  Well, if you consider all steps of addition in the Shield Chart to be a Triad, then if we go right-to-left and top-to-bottom, then we have eight triads total:

  1. First Triad: First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece
  2. Second Triad: Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece
  3. Third Triad: First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece
  4. Fourth Triad: Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece
  5. Fifth Triad: First Niece + Second Niece = Right Witness
  6. Sixth Triad: Third Niece + Fourth Niece = Left Witness
  7. Seventh Triad: Right Witness + Left Witness = Judge
  8. Eighth Triad: Judge + First Mother = Sentence

Thus, if the first four triads are assigned to the elements in the usual order, we can do the same for the latter four triads: Fifth Triad to Fire, Sixth Triad to Air, Seventh Triad to Water, and Eighth Triad to Earth.  However, these “extra” or “minor” triads are of considerably less importance in terms of being “triads” than the first four, as the Court should be thought of as a little removed from the details and actors and focused more on overall action and results.  Still, the interpretation of these extra triads-qua-triads could be something for other geomancers to try out and see if they get any more useful information that couldn’t be obtained from the four triads and the Court.

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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.

2 Responses to Elements in the Geomantic Shield Chart

  1. Pingback: Geomancy: A Technique for the Shield | Wanderings in the Labyrinth

  2. Andrew says:

    Great piece. I’m going to try this with my next few readings, and see whether it gives me good results. I do a reading daily, or at least I try to, so I should have some good data in a few days.

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