On Third-Party Readings

Most people who contact me or hire me for divination usually ask the same things.  I’m not complaining for their business, and it never gets boring, but usually they ask about the usual stuff: general forecasts, job prospects, relationship advice, and similar things.  On occasion, I’ll get a spicier question dealing with spirits or magical advice, or something truly unusual and heavy that gives me pause to think deeply about how to respond.  In my years of divining for others, I consider myself fortunate and grateful to have so many people to bear with me as a never-ending student of geomancy.

However, of all the types of questions and queries thrown at us, we geomancers tend to have the most difficulty with what we call “third-party readings”.  These are queries where the focus isn’t on the querent themselves, but on someone else that they’re worried about or concerned for.  A common example would be “is my partner cheating on me?”; this isn’t dealing with the sexual activities of the querent, but on someone related to the querent.  Other examples would be:

  • Where should my friend move for a better job?
  • What’s wrong with the health of my child’s pet?
  • Is the boss of my husband intentionally trying to destroy the business they’re in?

I’m not going to judge the validity of these queries, since if a querent is bringing them to the table to be divined upon, I assume they have a reason for doing so.  The problem, however, is that there are two aspects I have to carefully weed through in order to get a good answer, and third-party readings really mess with me on ethical and technical levels as a geomancer.  Let me explain.

First, how do geomancers do third-party readings?  The Shield Chart isn’t of much help for us, since the Shield Chart is of necessity focused on the querent themselves and their role in a situation; the less the querent is involved, the more meaningless the Shield becomes.  Renaissance geomancers got around this by using the House Chart and borrowing a technique from horary astrology known as “rotating the chart”.  Let’s walk through this method:

  1. We first draw up a House Chart based directly on the Shield Chart.  This is termed the radical chart, “radical” coming from Latin radix or “root”.  This chart represents the querent directly, the person who is actually talking to the geomancer.  House I in the radical chart represents the querent, the person actually talking to the geomancer, and the other houses take their usual meanings with respect to the querent.  Thus, house II represents the querent’s finances, house III the querent’s surroundings, and so forth.
  2. In order to get the perspective of a third party, we rotate the chart so that the house that represents the third party’s connection to the querent becomes the new house I.  For instance, if the querent is asking what their husband is up to, we look at house VII (marriage, spouses, partnerships).  We rotate the chart so that, in our new rotated chart, house VII becomes the rotated house I, house VIII the rotated house II, and so forth.
  3. If one rotation isn’t sufficient, we go down the chain of connections and rotate the chart subsequent times.  For instance, to rotate the chart for our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet, we first look at the radical chart’s house I for the querent, then rotate the chart to house III (neighbor); then, using that as our new rotated chart, we rotate it again to house X (mother), then again to house VI (housekeeper), then again to house VI (pet).
  4. In the rotated chart, we now have the whole reading presented not from the querent’s point of view (that’s the chart anchored at the radical house I), but from the third party’s point of view (the chart anchored at the rotated house I).  From here, we analyze the rotated House Chart using the usual methods of perfection, aspects, and the like to get our answer.

We can rotate the chart as many times as we need to get the proper perspective on a situation.  Instead of drawing and redrawing rotated charts, plotting each house out house by house and rotation by rotation, there’s a bit of a formula you can use to determine what house of the radical chart you need to rotate to:

Radical house number = (Sum of the house numbers of all the connections – Number of times we rotate + 1) % 12

Note that the % operator here stands for the modulo operation, or taking the remainder after divination.  So, 13 % 12 = 1, because 13 ÷ 12 = 1 with a remainder of 1.  14 % 12 = 2, 19 % 12 = 6, 24 % 12 = 0 (because 12 goes into 24 evenly).  If the remainder is 0, we treat the result as house XII.

So, how we go about using this formula?

  • For a friend: Friends are represented by house XI.  Thus, the radical house number we rotate the chart to is 11 (the sum of the house numbers we’re connecting) – 1 (the number of rotations needed) + 1, which gives us 11, and 11 % 12 = 11, or house XI.
  • For our child’s pet:  Children are represented by house V, and pets by house VI.  So, 5 + 6 = 11, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (11 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 10 % 12 = 10, or house X.
  • For our husband’s boss: Spouses are represented by house VII, and bosses by house X.  So, 7 + 10 = 17, and we need two rotations, so the answer is (17 – 2 + 1) % 12 = 16 % 12 = 4, or house IV.
  • For our neighbor’s mother’s housekeeper’s pet: Neighbors are represented by house III, mothers by house X, housekeepers by house VI, and pets by house VI.  So, 3 + 10 + 6 + 6 = 25, and we need four rotations, so (25 – 4 + 1) % 12 = 22 % 12 = 10, or house X.

You can see how this gets pretty difficult complex pretty quickly, but it has the end result of giving us the situation from the perspective of the third party the querent is asking about.  There are two problems here, however.  For one, the Shield Chart pretty much immediately loses much of its meaning when we rotate the chart, since the Shield Chart is essentially the radical chart, and if we don’t care about the radical chart, then most of the use and importance of the Shield Chart goes out the window.  The second problem, and the more worrying one at that, is that we only have 12 houses, and we can go around and around the chart any number of times to find out how someone in China is doing based on a series of tenuous connections we make between friends of friends of friends of friends of friends, but we keep just rotating around the same chart with the same 12 figures.  This leads to the problem that, the more we rotate the chart, the further we get from getting anything of value from the chart; the more distant the perspective inquired about, the less reliably we’ll get a good, clear, or useful answer from the chart.  As a result, I go by the personal rule that I never rotate the chart past two rotations, if that.

However, these rules of rotation give a lot of geomancers cause to scratch their heads.  Who, exactly, is considered a third party?  If we use the geomancer-centric point of view, any chart we throw is for a third party (i.e. not the geomancer themselves), so shouldn’t we rotate the chart at least once for someone who’s coming to us with a question?  This is kind of a silly question, I find, since it’s defined (not just a convention to follow but a definition or an axiom in the art) that the radical, unrotated house I is given to the querent, i.e. the person who asks the question.  If that person happens to be the geomancer, where the geomancer is reading for themselves, then awesome; if that person happens to be someone who comes to the geomancer for a reading, then house I is given to them, simple as that.  I don’t see what the confusion is here, personally, but it’s led to some debates in the past on the geomantic forums and mailing lists I’ve been on.  It’s also led some people to simply never rotate the chart even in the case of legitimate third-party readings, which is another problem all of its own.

The same technical issues that prevent a complicated rotation from giving useful information to the querent through the chart points to an important consideration: the more distant the target of divination you want to get information on, the less useful or clear it will be.  In other words, querents of all kinds are encouraged to keep their readings focused on themselves, what will happen to them, and what they can do in a particular situation.  Said another way, of course, unless you have a damn good reason to be nosy in someone’s life who lives or has a tight connection to you, you have no reason to investigate the matter because you’re not them, you can’t change how they act, and you can’t change what will happen to them.  Focus on yourself and your own well-being and come what may to others!  If the third party in question has a real need to see what’s going on in their lives, they can come to me for a reading, not you.  If you want to find out how issues only indirectly related to you will affect you, that’s legitimate, but you may want to keep your nose out of other people’s business unless it’s something that will really impact your life.

So, technical issues aside, I also find ethical problems arise in doing third-party readings.  As a diviner, I place huge importance on reader-client confidentiality rivaling that of legal or medical professions; privacy between the one who asks the query and the one who reads it is sacrosanct for me, and I do not reveal what goes on in a reading to others.  It’s confidential information, full stop.  As a result, on the occasion when someone has a query but doesn’t approach me directly, instead going through a friend to ask the query for them, I find that this bumps uncomfortably into confidentiality issues, because the person who is asking me the query isn’t actually the person the answer is for, so I don’t like having to answer to them instead of the person the chart is drawn up for.  If at all possible, unless the person has no means to contact me directly, I don’t use a go-between when doing readings.


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.

4 Responses to On Third-Party Readings

  1. Ian Phanes says:

    I’ve encouraged people to rephrase third-party questions as “What is my role in X?” or “What can I do to help Y?”

    • polyphanes says:

      A much better way to do this. If they have no relation to the query, why bother asking and wasting our time?

      • Jay Edward says:

        Because it’s my teenage son who is in trouble and can’t open up about the problem. That’s why.

        • polyphanes says:

          This is where we get into ethics and rights to privacy, even for your own children. Being closer to your teenage son’s age than yours (I guarantee it), I’d think it’d be better to be supportive without forcing your way in. If you know something’s up, let him know that you know but that you don’t know the details, and that’s up to him to tell you or not. That’s what I would have appreciated when I was that age; I claim that giving your children more agency in their lives is a good thing.

          Rather, instead of trying to do a direct reading on what’s going on in his life, start off with even more basic queries: “am I able to help him through what I know is bothering him” and “should I get myself involved”; if so, then try “how can I best support my son”. It’s as Ian Phanes says above; rather than trying to get involved directly, consider being a supporter rather than an actor.

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