On the Meanings of the Geomantic Houses

Probably the most confusing thing about the Shield Chart in geomancy that people go right to the House Chart for is that, with the House Chart, we have clear delineations of what figure applies to what part of a situation.  For instance, the first house is about the querent, the second house about wealth, the third house about siblings and neighbors, the fourth house about the home, and so forth.  Thus, if we know what the query is about, we know what house we’d want to inspect right off the bat (and if you don’t, think about the query some more before you draw up a chart).  The Court, of course, will answer the query, but it can be hard to see exactly how the Court applies to the situation if it’s so broad.  This is, perhaps, one of the failings of the Shield Chart when it’s not used properly, in that we don’t immediately know how to clarify the broad, though correct, meaning of the Judge and Witnesses.  After all, if those were really the only figures we’d need, then we’d likely do as well with generating two figures and making a third rather than generating four Mothers and making another twelve.

So, if we want to use the individual houses (or fields, as I put it in the last post) of the Shield Chart, then how do we do that?  We’d need some sort of system to assign meanings to each of the twelve fields, rather than generalized meanings relating to groups of three figures or assigning elemental correspondences to each of them.  Honestly, while it might be in some traditions of geomancy that each of the twelve fields of the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces have meanings independent of the House Chart houses, especially in non-European and non-Arabic styles of geomancy,  I think it’s best to just use the same meanings for both.  After all, the tradition of doing this very thing, even using Shield Charts without the House Chart, extends very far back in Western geomancy; Cattan, Fludd, and other geomancers of yore have all considered the houses of the House Chart as identical to or overlapping significantly with the fields of the Shield Chart.

After all, consider: when we draw up a House Chart for a geomantic reading based on the Shield Chart, we’re not actually making anything new.  We’re taking the same figures in the same order and dropping them into a circular arrangement (House Chart) instead of a binary tree structure (Shield Chart).  As I’ve said before, whatever information you get from the House Chart can be gotten from the Shield Chart, because they’re the same chart presented in different ways.  It’s not that Cattan or Fludd thought of these two styles of chart as different with overlapping meanings, but that there was no difference in meaning at all.

So, what are the meanings of the twelve houses?  You can pick up pretty much any book on astrology and find the same meanings for the 12 houses of the House Chart as you can the 12 fields of the Shield Chart, though I recommend using a traditional text from before the 1800s on what those things are (modern astrologers tend to add in some weird changes that neither I nor traditional astrologers agree with).  I was considering translating another section of Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book III, chapter 5) for his meanings of the houses, but they’re pretty much exactly what you expect.  Because this is such common knowledge and so easily accessible, I’ll save my time and yours by foregoing another recitation of the same list here.

Of course, there’s a bit of an issue here.  I’ve mentioned before that there are multiple ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I know specifically of three ways to do this:

  1. The traditional way is to simply go through the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces from right to left and allot them to the houses of the House Chart in order.  Thus, the First Mother is given to house I, the Second Mother to house II, the Third Mother to house III, the Fourth Mother to house IV, the First Daughter to house V, and so forth until we get to the Fourth Daughter to house XII.  This is the most traditional and most common way of assigning the figures to the houses, and is seen in all geomantic works prior to the Golden Dawn.  This is also the way I draw up my charts.
  2. The Golden Dawn way is based on the importance of the houses in the House Chart, dividing them into the cardinal (strongest; I, IV, VII, X), succedent (middling; II, V, VIII, XI), and cadent houses (weakest; III, VI, IX, XII).  Because Aries is often associated in modern times to house I, this means that Capricorn is given to house X.  Capricorn, being the earthiest of the signs, was thought to resonate most closely with geomancy, and thus being the strongest house for starting geomantic studies.  Thus, the Mothers, being considered the strongest of the figures, are given to the cardinal houses starting in house X and proceeding clockwise (First Mother to X, Second Mother to I, Third Mother to IV, Fourth Mother to VII).  The Daughters, coming after the Mothers, are given to the succedent houses starting in house XI and going clockwise.  The Nieces, coming last as combinations of Mothers or Daughters, are given to the cadent houses starting in house XII and going clockwise.
  3. The esoteric way is a variant of the Golden Dawn way, and likely came before it and used by other modern or early modern occultist groups.  Again, this manner allots the Mothers to the cardinal houses, Daughters to the succedent ones, and Nieces to the cadent ones, but we start with houses I, II, and III, respectively, and go clockwise from there.

In all honesty, I claim that any of these three systems work for someone who chooses to use them.  The difference, as I see it, is much the same as what kind of house division system you use in astrology; some prefer Placidus, some Porphyry, some Koch, some Regiomontanus, some equal house, and so forth.  All their results are pretty much the same, though how they arrive tends to differ in the details.  Likewise, if you find that you resonate most with a particular house system, then go ahead and use it; I can’t fault you for using what works.

However, I will say that the Golden Dawn and esoteric methods of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart don’t jive with me very well, and seem to be very late hacks to morph geomancy to a particular ideology that doesn’t always work.  Plus, these newer methods have been around for one or two hundred years, while the traditional method has been with us for at least nine hundred.  Add to it, the traditional method preserves the connection between the meanings of the fields of the Shield Chart with those of the houses of the House Chart; the other methods mess with that severely, since a figure as the Second Mother (field II) no longer relates to the wealth or possessions of the querent but, in the Golden Dawn system, then becomes the condition and well-being of the querent itself (house I in the Golden Dawn system).

As a result, I claim that the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy.  I’m holding myself back from calling them “wrong”, but I don’t think they mesh well with the rest of geomantic technique and seem to be innovations with an agenda, and I would suggest that geomancers stick to the standard traditional manner.  Not only is it cleaner and simpler, but it preserves an integral link between the Shield Chart and House Chart that allows them to be truly in sync with each other rather than shuffling them up for purely pseudo-astrological considerations.

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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.

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