Same Figures, but Different Names and Different Traditions

In addition to the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook that I admin, there are a few other groups out there that focus on geomancy.  I may or may not be a member of them, or I might have been at one point before leaving, but there’s one that I belong to that focuses on the Arabic style of geomancy, Ilm-e-Ramal (Geomancy).  What the Geomantic Study-Group is for Western geomancy, this group is for Arabic `ilm al-raml (the formal Arabic term for geomancy, literally “the science of the sand”, sometimes abbreviated to raml or ramal), and since I’d love to learn more about that style of geomancy, I decided to join in.  It’s not always easy, since many of the members use Urdu or Arabic as their primary language, but when there are English conversations, I try to follow along best I can.

One of the major issues in learning Arabic `ilm al-raml for an English speaker is, of course, terminology.  It’s only fair and expected that the users of a system built in one language would use that language to discuss it, but it still poses a stumbling block.  After all, geomancy has been practiced continuously in Arabic- and Urdu-speaking countries far longer than it was in Europe, and they’ve kept the system in their own ways.  Once I see what they’re doing and see certain words repeated in certain contexts, I can usually catch on and follow along, but the biggest impediment to discussing geomancy and `iln al-raml is the different names we have for the figures themselves.  It’s difficult for me to talk about the meanings of a given figure and compare it with what it means in `ilm al-raml when neither of us know which figure we’re supposed to be talking about, after all.

So, with that in mind, I decided to produce the following table that lists the names of the sixteen geomantic figures and their names in Western geomancy (in Latin and English, using their most popular form) and in Arabic `ilm al-raml (in Arabic and English, again using their popular form).  This is to help me out to learn the names of the figures better in Arabic contexts, as well as to help the students of `ilm al-raml learn the European names for Western contexts.  For other variants in these and other languages that have historically been used for geomancy, including Hebrew, Greek, Sudanese, and Malagasy, I’d recommend checking out Stephen Skinner’s book on geomancy, Geomancy in Theory and Practice, and his larger book on correspondences, The Complete Magician’s Tables.

Figure Latin Arabic Yoruba
قبض الخارج
Qubiḍ al-ḫariǧ
Catching the outside
Fortuna Maior
Greater Fortune
نصرهّ الداخل
Nuṣraht al-daḫil
Inside victory
Fortuna Minor
Lesser Fortune
نصرهّ الخارج
Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ
Outside victory
قبض الداخل
Qubiḍ al-daḫil
Catching the inside
Caput Draconis
Head of the Dragon
عتبة الداخل
ʿAtabaht al-daḫil
Inner threshold
Cauda Draconis
Tail of the Dragon
عتبة الخارج
ʿAtabaht al-ḫariǧ
Outer threshold

Because I like using an Arabic transliteration system that uses diacritics for faithful romanization, it can be a little difficult to read the Arabic names, but the accented letters can be read as follows:

  • q sounds like a “k”, but further back in the throat.
  • ṭ, ṣ, and ḍ all sound like normal but with the back of the tongue further to the back and top of the throat.  However, in Urdu, ṭ and ṣ just sound like “t” and “s”, and ḍ just sounds like “z”.
  • ǧ sounds like a soft “g” or “j” (or like in the word “division”).
  • ḫ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch“.
  • ḥ sounds like the “ch” in Scottish “loch” but a little smoother.
  • ʿ sounds like a very soft, whispered “h” sound, if pronounced at all.

So, “Bayaḍ” can sound like either “bah-yahd'”, or “bayz”, “Nuṣraht al-ḫariǧ” will sound like “nus-raht al-khareej”, and so forth.  Note that some of these names are not proper Arabic, and moreover, just like in Western geomancy, there are dozens of names used across the Arabophone sphere.  These are just one set that I’ve found common in geomancy groups online, and are the ones I’m trying to memorize.  Most of the other variants used are just that: variants, which are easy enough to pick up on.

Also, note that I’m using the standard planetary order of the figures in the above chart, which is fairly common for Western geomancers.  While Western geomancy doesn’t really prescribe a particular order as the order of the figures, Arabic geomancy has a set number of particular orders of the figures that are used for various divinatory purposes.  Probably the most common and canonical one is the dairah-e-abdah, which uses a kind of binary ordering, as seen in the following diagram (to be read from right to left):

While it may not seem like it makes much sense for me to make a single blog post doing nothing more than transliterating and translating a single set of Arabic names into English, given my penchant for long-winded exploratory posts, this is still an important first step in increasing Western geomancers’ understanding of Arabic `ilm al-raml as well as Arabic practitioners’ understanding of Western geomancy.  After all, it’s hard to make a journey if the door is still shut, and this helps open the door for both sides.

Now, you’ll notice that I’ve also included a third set of names, which are Yoruba for the figures as used in the sacred divination of Ifá.  I’ve included them for reference (both my own and other scholars of geomancy, especially those with a historical or academic eye), but I want to make something clear that I’ve only mentioned in passing before: Ifá is not geomancy, and geomancy is not Ifá.  Stephen Skinner talks at length about how the art of Ifá came about historically in his geomancy book, but the short of the matter is this: as geomancy traveled along the Arabic trade routes from its (likely) origin in the northern Sahara westward to Morocco and Spain, eastward to Palestine and Greece, and southward through Africa as far as Madagascar, it also traveled to West Africa where it was adopted and adapted by the priests and lorekeepers of the cultures living there.

While geomancy largely retained the same form and (mostly) the same interpretations everywhere else, it underwent dramatic changes and adaptations to the native Yoruba and Fon cultures in what is now Nigeria and Benin to become Ifá.  The form of the figures and several crucial aspects of geomancy were retained, but pretty much the entirety of the art was rebuilt from the ground up and grew apart into its own entirely-unique system.  As a result, although we as geomancers might recognize that Ifá has sixteen figures in the same format we’d consider them to be figures, almost nothing of what we know about geomancy applies to Ifá, and no assumptions should be made regarding any similarities besides the superficial appearance thereof.  To say it another way, if European geomancy and Arabic `ilm al-raml are sisters who grew up in the same house but then left to go their separate ways in neighboring cities, then Ifá is a distant cousin who grew up in an entirely different part of the country with little contact with the rest of the family.

As an initiate in La Regla de Ocha Lukumi (aka Santería), which also has roots in Nigeria and matured alongside Ifá in Cuba, Ifá is something I’m constantly surrounded by, especially since I belong to an Ifá-centric house that respects, utilizes, and incorporates Ifá and its priests (the babalawos and oluwos) in our ceremonies and lives.  While I understand the historical origins of Ifá from geomancy, I also have to understand and respect the mythological origins and religious context of its practice as its own thing.  And, like Santería itself, it’s an initiated tradition, and non-initiates are not taught or permitted to learn the secrets of Ifá; for various reasons, I am not and will likely never become an initiate in Ifá.  Unlike many Western systems including geomancy, where formal initiation is not really a Thing outside magical lodges and certain master-student systems, this might be something of a shock to my readers, but as it is, there is only so much of the external parts of Ifá that I can learn, and even less that I’m willing to share to people, even to those in Santería itself.  I caution my readers to avoid getting too studious of Ifá without considering proper initiation and study under a legitimate and respected babalawo.

Likewise, a similar word of warning for those Western geomancers who aspire to study Arabic `ilm al-raml and vice versa.  Unlike geomancy and Ifá, geomancy and `ilm al-raml are much closer in method, meaning, and use, and many things are easily translatable between the two systems.  However, caution should still be taken, because although they’re very close sister traditions where there are more similarities than differences, they are still different traditions where the differences still matter.  It’s much like the difference between Western astrology and Indian jyotiṣa astrology: same origin, same symbols, slightly different techniques of interpretation and shades of meaning of those symbols.  While some things are translatable between geomancy and `ilm al-raml, not everything is, and the two systems should still be respected as two separate systems.  Experience and study of both systems will show the diligent geomancer what can be brought over with no effort, what must be adapted from one system to the other, and what is unique and proper to one system and not the other.  Though they share the same origin and great similarities, enough time, space, and work has passed that have made the two sciences grow apart into their own unique systems.  Respect that, study the differences, and experiment accordingly.

Also, my thanks go out to Masood Ali Thahim, one of the multilingual good guys in the `ilm al-raml group on Facebook, who helped me with the Arabic spelling and transliteration of the names of the figures as used in `ilm al-raml.


On the Geomantic Parts of Fortune and Spirit

Whether it’s Tarot, geomancy, runes, or any other kind of art, I consider divination in general to be a process of three basic steps:

  1. Hash out, refine, and formally ask the query.
  2. Perform the divination to manipulate the symbols into a readable format.
  3. Interpret the reading.

In geomancy, that second step is the whole process of developing the four Mothers and the rest of the chart from them.  After the querent and I refine the query sufficiently and settle on the final form of the question to be asked, and once I manipulate my tools (cards, dice, or whatever) to come up with the four Mother figures, I then proceed to draw out the entire geomantic chart with all the relevant information I’d need to start with.  Once that’s done, this is what my scribbling and scratching typically ends up like:

The exact process I follow to arrive at this mess of lines and symbols from which I divine the fates and facts of the world is this:

  1. Draw out the four Mothers, then the Daughters, Nieces, and Court.
  2. Label the terminals for the Via Puncti with the elemental glyphs above the Mothers and Daughters, where possible.
  3. Draw out a simple square house chart, and populate it with the first twelve figures of the Shield Chart.
  4. Count the number of odd points in the House Chart to find the Part of Spirit, and label it (I use a circle with two diagonal lines coming out of the bottom like legs, for which I can’t find a compatible Unicode glyph that looks similar enough, but Chris Brennan suggests using an uppercase Greek letter phi Φ, for which I like using the specific glyph U+233D “APL Functional Symbol Circle Style” ⌽).
  5. Based on the Part of Spirit, label the coordinating house for the Part of Fortune (⊕).
  6. Based on the sum of odd points from calculating the Part of Spirit, add the odd points of the Court to find the odd point sum of the Shield Chart.
  7. Find the difference between the odd point sum of the Shield Chart and 64, double it, and add that to the odd point sum to find the Sum of the Chart.

You can see the different steps I took broken down by the above list fairly clearly as I did them (orange, red, green, yellow, pink, blue, cyan):

Making the Shield and House Charts is nothing special for us at this point, and I’ve discussed the Via Puncti before on my blog.  The Sum of the Chart is also fairly common knowledge, whereby you sum up all the points of the sixteen figures in the Shield Chart and compare it to 96 to determine how fast or slow the situation will resolve; again, it’s something I’ve discussed before.  Still, it might surprise you that I don’t actually calculate it directly, but base it on my calculations of the Part of Spirit (due to the mathematics of geomancy, the method works out to the same result).  Likewise, I don’t calculate the Part of Fortune directly, but also base it on the Part of Spirit.  So what gives?  What are these Parts, how are they calculated, and how are they used in geomancy?

First, let’s go with the more well-known of the two Parts, the Part of Fortune.  How do we find this indication?  From Christopher Cattan’s book The Geomancie (book III, chapter 21):

The question being made, after that we have judged by the houses, figures, angles, companions, aspects, the way of point, and by all the other sorts and manners before said, now resteth it to judge by the Part of Fortune.  The Part of Fortune figures, which afterwards ye must divide into twelve parts, and that which remaineth give unto the figures.  As if there rest two ye must give into unto the second figure, if there do remain four to the fourth figure, if there be six to the sixth figure, if there be eight to the eighth figure, if there be ten to the tenth figure, if there be twelve to the twelfth figure.  As by example, if the figure be of 72 points, or 84 or 96 or 108 points, then the part of fortune shall go into the twelfth.  But if the said points of the figure made, being divided by twelve, there do remain but two, as if there remain seventy and four where there remaineth but two, then (as before we have said) ye must give that unto the second house, and there shall be the Part of Fortune.  The which if the figure and house be good (for both the one and the other must be looked upon) you shall judge good, and if it be evil ye shall also judge evil; and so likewise shall ye do of all the other figures.  But if the figure be good, and the house ill, or contrary, the house good and the figure ill, you shall judge the said Part of Fortune to be mean.  And, to end ye may the more easier know the place where the figure falleth, which is called the Part of Fortune, ye shall mark it with this mark, 🌞, and thereafter ye shall judge all the question by the example that followeth. …

Many do use another manner to find Part of Fortune, in taking all the points as well of the twelve houses as the two Witnesses, and the Judge, which they do part by twelve (as is aforesaid) but because I have found no truth therein I will speak no more thereof.

If the mark Cattan proposes shows up as an embarrassingly incongruous sun emoji (like it does for me), then that’s just how it appears on your browser.  I’m using the Unicode character U+1F31E “Sun with Face” glyph as the closest approximation without overlapping with the usual glyph for the Sun (☉) for the symbol from the original text (fourth line, first character):

From Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book II, chapter 2):

Of the discovery of the part of fortune, and its placement in schemata.

Now the part of fortune ⊕ is to be discussed.  The part of fortune is of great importance in the view of the Geomancers just as in the view of the Astrologers, and is of great consideration: for in their view the sign of ⊕ and the steps to discover the Hyleg are chiefly considered, and through them the house, into which [the part of fortune] falls into as a result of the projection, truly seizes great life and energy by itself.  …

This part of fortune is to be considered with the utmost exactness, for if it falls into a good house and figure, it is of no small weight for bringing about judgment; if truly in an evil [house and figure], it brings about no meager impediment to judging [the schema].

Fludd then goes on to give other methods of calculating similar things “if the above method is seen to be obscure”, but the phrase “Part of Fortune” doesn’t appear, and he mostly focuses on ways of constructing entirely new charts for the purpose of a clearer judgment.

Lastly, the description of the Part of Fortune from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy (chapter 6) on the Part of Fortune:

… The Part of Fortune, as the name implies, indicates a house from which the querent can expect good fortune to come in the situation.  In financial divinations it usually refers to a source of ready cash.

What about the Part of Spirit?  To start with, calling it that is my own innovation.  In the extant geomantic literature, it’s more commonly called the Index.  JMG discusses it since it appears in Fludd and Cattan, and though I’m unsure if it appears any earlier, Cattan is the one who (as far as I’m aware) introduced it (book III, chapter 18) by calling it one of the ways to find “the point of instruction”:

Another rule [to know for what intent a chart was made for] is to take all the uneven points of all the twelve figures, and give one to the first, one to the second, one to the third, and so consequently unto all the others, until that all the points be bestowed, and then if the last point remain on the first house, it signifieth thereby that the person hath desired to have that figured be made upon some of the demands which be of the first house; if it rest upon the second, it signifieth that the question or demand of the movable goods, or other things contained in the second house; and so shall you judge of the other houses where the point doth stay.  And if it do happen that the point of the intent do stay in the house of the thing demanded, or in the fifth, ye must judge according to the significations that the Judge doth show unto you; and when ye will judge by the same Judge, you must also take the uneven points of the Witness and the Judge, and bestow them amongst them; but that rule which is only by the 12 houses, is the better, more sure and certain. …

Fludd basically says the same thing (book II, chapter 3) and even with the same name in the chapter header (“De punctis instructionis…”), so I won’t translate it here.  As for JMG, he calls it the method the “projection of points”  and the resulting figure the “Index” (chapter 6):

… This can ferret out hidden factors in the chart.  Projection of points is done by counting up the number of single points in the first twelve figures of the chart, leaving the double points uncounted.  Take the total number of single points and subtract 12; if the result is more than 12, subtract 12 again, and repeat until you have a number less than 12.  If the final number is 0, this stands for the twelfth house.

The house identified by the projection of points is called the Index, and represents the hidden factor at work in the situation. …

Okay, enough reciting from resources.  Based on all the above, the methodology for finding the Part of Fortune goes like this:

  1. Add up the number of all points in the twelve houses of the House Chart.
  2. Divide by twelve.
  3. The remainder points to the house of the Part of Fortune.  If the remainder is 0, then it points to the twelfth house.

The Part of Spirit’s method is nearly identical, except instead of counting all the points, we count just the single points.  For example, given the figure Acquisitio, if we’re counting all the points in it, we have six points, but if we’re just counting single points, then we only have two.  Thus, if (for either sum) we get 88, we divide that by 12.  That gets us 7.333…, so our remainder is 4 because 12 × (7.333… – 7) = 4; phrased another way, 88 ÷ 12 = 7 + 4/12.  Thus, we look at the fourth house for the given Part for which we’re doing a calculation.

Before continuing on with how we use these indications in geomancy, it’s probably best to talk about what a Part even is.  The Parts (also sometimes called Arabic Parts or Lots) are an old doctrine in astrology, dating back to at least the time of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos and seen in both Arabic and European astrological treatises since.  At least 97 were in use in the ninth century according to the Arabic astrologer Albumassar, over a hundred listed by the Italian astrologer Bonatti in his works, and more were developed since then, even in our modern era incorporating the outer planets past Saturn.   The Parts are constructed points in a horoscope based on the sums and differences of other observable points (e.g. Ascendant or Midheaven) or physical objects (e.g. planets or luminaries).  In essence, a Part is a mathematical harmonic between different astrological notes that describes certain in-depth areas in a querent’s life or situation that could, in theory, be sussed out by looking at the planets and their aspects alone, but are more explicitly specified by their corresponding Part.

For instance, if we’re looking at indications of someone’s mother, we could look at the ruler of the fourth house in a chart, or we could look at the Part of the Mother, which is calculated as follows:

Mother = Asc + Moon – Saturn

In other words, we start from the Ascendant, add the ecliptic longitude (the position in the Zodiac) of the Moon, then subtract the ecliptic longitude of Saturn.  Thus, in a horoscope where we have the Ascendant at 25° Scorpio, the Moon at 19° Gemini, and Saturn at 3° Taurus, then our calculation would look like this:

(25° Sco) + (19° Gem) – (3° Tau)
205° + 79° – 33°
(11° Cap)

With those points as above, we end up with 251° on the ecliptic, which in zodiacal notation is 11° Capricorn, which is the degree of the Part of the Mother.  This is strictly a mathematical point, much like midpoints are in modern astrology, but used specifically to determine the presence, state, and effects of one’s mother (or all mothers) in a horoscope, and can then be interpreted like any other planet in the horoscope, except that they only receive aspects instead of making them.

While the technique isn’t as popular as it once was, even today many modern astrologers take note of the Part of Fortune.  From Bonatti’s Liber astronomiae (translated by Robert Zoller in The Arabic Parts in Astrology):

This part signifies the life, the body, and also its soul, its strength, fortune, substance, and profit, i.e. wealth and poverty, gold and silver, heaviness or lightness of things bought in the marketplace, praise and good reputation, and honors and recognition, good and evil, present and future, hidden and manifest, and it has signification over everything.  It serves more for rich men and magnates than for others.  Nevertheless, it signifies for every man according to the condition of each of those things.  And if this part and the luminaries are well disposed in nativities or revolutions, it will be notably good.  This part is called the part of the Moon or the ascendant of the Moon, and it signifies good fortune.

The Part of Fortune is a weird part, because it actually has two formulas to calculate it, only one of which is used depending on whether the horoscope is that of a day chart (Sun above the horizon) or a night chart (Sun below the horizon):

Day Fortune: Ascendant + Moon – Sun
Night Fortune: Ascendant + Sun – Moon

Later in Liber astronomiae, Bonatti describes the Part of Spirit, which he also calls the Part of the Sun or the Part of Things to Come, as follows:

The pars futurorum signifies the soul and the body after the pars fortunae and the quality of these, and faith, prophecy, religion, and the culture of God and secrets, cogitations, intentions, hidden things and everything which is absent, and courtesy and liberality, praise, good reputation, heat, and cold. …

In other words, if the Part of Fortune describes the material well-being (or lack thereof) of a horoscope, then the Part of Spirit describes the spiritual well-being; just as the Part of Fortune describes our connections to the world outside us, the Part of Spirit describes the connections of the world inside us.  Fittingly enough, the calculation for the Part of Spirit is the reverse of the Part of Fortune: while the Part of Spirit also uses two formulas, one for day and one for night, the formulas themselves are switched from the Part of Fortune:

Day Spirit: Ascendant + Sun – Moon
Night Spirit: Ascendant + Moon – Sun

Thus, the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are intimately connected by how they’re calculated; if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

Bringing the notion of the Part of Fortune into geomancy from astrology necessitated an obvious conceptual change in how it’s calculated; without degrees or the ability for certain things to fall among them, it would normally have been impossible to calculate any Part.  However, Cattan either invented or learned a way to find an equally-significant sign in geomancy by adapting the methods available to us in geomancy by counting the points and divvying the sum of the House Chart among the houses.  What none of the older geomancers seem to have noticed is that there’s an intimate relationship between the Part of Fortune and the Index in geomancy: if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

First, note that the Part of Fortune and the Index can only fall in even-numbered houses (e.g. house II, house IV, house VI, etc.) due to the mathematical intricacies of geomancy; this is true for similar reasons and with similar logic for why the Judge of a geomantic chart must always be an even figure.  (Why Cattan makes this explicit for the Part of Fortune but suggests wrongly that the Index can be in odd houses is a mystery to me; perhaps he simply didn’t anticipate that a calculation based on odd points could result in only even numbers.)  Thus, by performing the calculations of the Part of Fortune and Index, we can get only one of six numerical results: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 0 (with 0 signifying that the sum in the calculation was evenly divisible by 12, and thus indicates the twelfth house).

After many charts of calculating the Part of Fortune and Index separately, I noticed a pattern emerging: the sums of the two separate calculations for the Part of Fortune and Index always add up to 12 (2 + 10, 4 + 8, 6 + 6, 8 + 4, or 10 + 2) or 24 (12 + 12).  Thus, if the Part of Fortune were in the eighth house, then because 12 – 8 = 4, I knew immediately that the Index would be in the fourth house; if the Index were in the sixth house, then the Part of Fortune would also need to be in the sixth house; if either indication was in the twelfth house, so would the other indication.  Again, if you know the location of one, you know the location of the other.

The mathematics behind this relationship can be described like this: if there are four rows in each figure and we’re looking at a collection of twelve figures, then there are 4 × 12 = 48 total rows.  Each row must be odd or even, and the number of odd rows plus the number of even rows must equal 48.  Plus, we know that since the houses of the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit must both add up to 12 or 24, both of which are evenly divisible by 12, then we know that the sum of all the odd points plus all the points total must also be evenly divisible by 12.  We can check this mathematically as follows.  First, in mathematical notation, let us use the % sign to represent the modulo function, which is “the remainder after dividing by a number”.  Thus,

x = number of odd rows in the House Chart
x = number of points in the odd rows of the House Chart
x % 12 = remainder of x divided by 12 = Part of Spirit

y = number of even rows in the House Chart
y + x = 48
y = 48 – x

2y = number of points in the even rows of the House Chart
2y + x = number of all points in the House Chart
2 × (48 – x) + x
96 – 2x + x
96 – x
(96 – x) % 12 = Part of Fortune

((2y + x) + x) % 12
(96 – 2x + x + x) % 12
96 % 12

It was this interesting relationship between these two indications that reminded me of the relationship between the astrological Parts of Fortune and Spirit, and thus what led me to start calling the Index the Part of Spirit and reanalyzing it in that light.  Even though there’s a huge difference between how the astrologers calculate these two Parts in astrology versus how we would in geomancy and where they might be found in their separate House Charts, I find that the relationship between them is identical and, for that purpose, hugely useful in geomantic interpretation.

To briefly describe my own personal view of these Parts based on all the foregoing, the geomantic Part of Fortune indicates the source, manner, and condition of the material life of the querent: bodily health, material wealth, worldly means, and so forth.  Likewise, the geomantic Part of Spirit indicates the same but for the spiritual life of the querent: mental and spiritual well-being, divine gifts, aid from spirits or gods, and so on.  I also read notions of resources and capabilities for the querent (to answer “what can I count on to accomplish it?”) in the Part of Fortune and notions of fate and destiny of the querent (“what should I be focusing on or having faith in?”) into the Part of Spirit.

Going beyond the basic interpretation of the Parts themselves, I’ve also found a trend in charts when the two Parts are both in the sixth house or both in the twelfth house:

  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house VI, then the matter is completely in the hands of the querent.  The querent has the ultimate say and ability to determine how the situation will proceed, and can change the reality of it as they need to depending on the course of action they take.  Their actions or lack thereof will be the crucial determiner in whether and how the situation will proceed.
  • If the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit are both in house XII, then the matter is completely out of the querent’s hands.  All the querent can do in the situation is react accordingly and adjust their conceptions and perceptions of the situation, because the reality of the situation will proceed without their input regardless of their attempts.  No matter what the querent might attempt, the situation will continue unfolding as it will.

Also, as one other use, I often use the Part of Spirit in readings about magical, occult, or divine ritual for the sake of figuring out what particular courses of action might be best, or determining what path one ought to take, whether in a specific ritual or in a general direction.  It’s a small extra thing, but for a practicing magician like myself who consults with and is consulted by other magicians, it’s a useful thing to know.  I touched on this very briefly in my old post on geomancy and magic, but now the reasoning behind it all becomes clear.

All that said, remember that the Parts can only fall in even-numbered houses.  In a sense, this is similar to the idea that figures that are even can be considered objective because only even figures can be Judges (as I wrote at length before).  In this case, the even-numbered houses deal with, in order: material goods, land and family, health and servants, death and spirits, work and office, mystery and restriction.  We exclude the odd-numbered houses, which deal with: the querent themselves, communication, creation/procreation/recreation, relationships and rivalries, religion and faith, friendships and patronage.  There’s a similar “inherent to my personal life and relationships” versus “external to my personal life and relationships” difference between the even and odd houses as there is between the objective versus subjective qualities between the even and odd figures.  It is because these things are more external to us that they can be things pointed to help us or focus on, because they’re things that we’re not necessarily in full control or knowledge of.

As a side note, I only read the Parts in a radical (unrotated) chart.  When the chart is rotated for a third-party reading, I don’t bother looking at or interpreting the Parts of Fortune and Spirit, because they’re house-based calculations and not figure-based, so they don’t get rotated with the chart and (to my mind) have no importance or meaning in such a rotated chart.  I find that the Parts work best (if at all) when applied to the querent themselves in a situation, and I haven’t found it useful to rotate the Parts with the rest of the chart for a third party.

Similarly, I don’t swap my calculations of the Parts of Fortune and Spirit around based on whether it’s daytime or nighttime, because the notion of a diurnal or nocturnal geomantic chart doesn’t make sense; after all, a solar figure might never even appear in a given chart, or it might appear both above and below the horizon in a geomantic House Chart.  Instead, it makes more sense for the Part of Spirit to only rely on odd points (the points that represent active elements, excised and above the world of passive matter) and the Part of Fortune to rely on both odd and even points (the co-mingling of active Spirit and passive Matter that results in the world around us).

Further, although there are over a hundred possible Arabic Parts (depending on tradition, era, and author you’re looking at), I’m disinclined to say that there are more than these two Parts in geomancy.  After all, the logic for the Parts in astrology is easily extensible, but in geomancy we’re far more limited based on the techniques and tools that we use, but at the same time, we have other techniques that can fill in just as easily (such as adding the figures of two houses together, the triads in the Shield Chart, and so forth).  That we call them “Parts” in geomancy is more due to conceptual parallel in what they mean more than how they’re calculated than anything else.

The only other way I can think of to extend the technique of geomantic Parts would be to calculate a new Part based on tallying only the even points in a House Chart and taking the remainder after dividing by 12, which could be worth exploring, but I’m unsure what it might indicate; perhaps using my own tripartite view of the world, if the Part of Spirit (odd points only) indicates the influence of the spiritual Cosmos and the Part of Fortune (odd and even points) indicates the influence of the humane World, then this third unnamed Part (even points only) might indicate the influence of the material Universe.  Who knows?  It might show something of good use in divination, if a pattern can be detected.

Ah, and one final thing, just to finish off the intro to the post regarding the Sum of the Chart.  Instead of tallying up all the individual points of the 16 figures in the Shield Chart, I take a shortcut method: find the odd sum of the chart (odd sum of the House Chart, already calculated for the Part of Spirit, plus the number of odd rows in the four Court figures), find the difference between that and 64, double it, and add it to the odd sum to come up with the total Sum of the Chart.  The reason why this works is much like some of the logic in why the Parts of Fortune and Spirit have to add up to 12 or 24: because each figure has four rows and there are 16 figures, then there are 4 × 16 = 64 total rows of points in the Shield Chart.  Since every row must be even or odd, the number of odd rows added to the number of even rows must add to 64.  Since it’s easiest to find the number of odd rows in the chart after we calculate the Part of Spirit (we just need to take into account four more figures), once we have that number we just subtract it from 64 to get the number of even rows.  Remembering that an even row has two points in it, we double that to get the number of points in the even rows, add to it the number of odd rows (which have only one point in each), and voilà, the Sum of the Chart is yours.

Back in (divinatory) business!

Now that I seem to have gotten my bearings, energy, and time back, I’m ready to start taking clients again for divination services.  As before, I focus on using geomancy as my main method of divination and organize my divination services through Etsy, but unlike before, I’ve changed the listing format from one listing into three separate listings:

In order to schedule a reading, simply visit my Etsy store and purchase one of the listings.  You’ll be sent a document as a “ticket” with simple instructions on how to continue; just follow the instructions, and we’ll get going.

I’ve also updated the Services page to state that I’m back in business as well.  As before, I’m still available for half-hour/full-hour consultation sessions above and beyond simple divination, but for those, you’ll need PayPal (until/unless I change how those are done).  For more involved commissions for designs, tools, and rituals, contact me and we’ll see what we can arrange.  I don’t anticipate taking on many such projects at this point due to time and resource constraints, but I’m not yet closing the door on that, either.  More updates on that front, as they come.

Also, in the near future, you may notice changes to how this website is designed.  No worries, I’ll just be cleaning things up and reorganizing how things are presented outside the blog content itself.  You can expect the usual high-minded tripe from me as always.  After all, I’ve basically stuck with the same blog format and style since I started it on WordPress all those years ago, and it might be time for an aesthetic update.

On the Judges of the Court of Geomancy

In the process of geomantic divination, one of the first things we do as geomancers is actually construct the whole chart from the first four Mothers that we derive by a random means.  Through this, we calculate the four Daughters, the four Nieces, and the four figures of the Court.  The Court, as my geomantically-inclined readers are already aware, is composed of the Right Witness, the Left Witness, the Judge, and the Sentence.  Throughout the history of geomancy, the Judge has nigh-universally been seen as the most important figure of the entire chart, and every interpretation must rely on the Judge in at least some way to understand what the chart proclaims for the query asked of it.  However, the Judge isn’t just some random figure; there are intricate mathematical relationships between the Judge and the rest of the chart, one of the effects of which is that the Judge must be an even figure.  However, the reason why this is on a higher, more philosophical level aren’t usually stated clearly.  Between a recent email about the Judges of geomancy and a discussion on the Facebook geomancy group, there’s a bit about the Judge that I feel might need a little unpacking from a higher, theoretical level to understand why it is what it is and how it relates to the process of interpreting the geomantic chart.

The email sent to me asked several questions, but they can be broken down and rephrased into the following.

  • Why are the Judges even?
  • What does it mean for a Judge to be an even figure?
  • Do the mathematical limitations of what can and can’t be a Judge make us lose out in geomantic divination?
  • Does the Judge miss anything as far as the whole answer to the query goes, and if so, where can we find it?

I answered the dude in the email, but I’d like to flesh out my answers a bit more fully here.

First, the Judge must be even due to the mathematics in the geomancy chart.  A paper by Marcia Ascher, “Malagasy Sikidy: A Case in Ethnomathematics” (Historia Mathematica 24, 1997, pp376—395) fully describes the reasoning as it is in Madgascar’s form of geomancy, but the exact same logic works in Western geomancy, as well.  For the mathematically disinclined among us, the idea is that the Judge is ultimately the sum of the four Mothers and four Daughters:

Judge = Right Witness + Left Witness
Judge = (First Niece + Second Niece) + (Third Niece + Fourth Niece)
Judge = ((First Mother + Second Mother) + (Third Mother + Fourth Mother)) + ((First Daughter + Second Daughter) + (Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter))

When we add two figures together in geomancy, we’re not really coming up with a numeric sum of points between the two added figures, but coming up with the parity (even or odd) of the number of points between them.  Further, recall that there must be an equal number of points in the four Mothers as there are in the four Daughters, because they’re all formed from different arrangements of the same points.  Because geomantic addition (a variant on the logical/mathematical function called the “exclusive or” or XOR function) only preserves parity, what the Mothers and Daughters add together to numerically doesn’t matter, because their parity will still match.  Thus, because the four Mothers are together summed to find the Right Witness and the four Daughters together to find the Left Witness, both the Right and Left Witnesses must share the same parity.  Two figures that are both odd or both even, i.e. share the same parity, will add together to form an even figure.  Thus, because both Witnesses share the same parity, the Judge must therefore be an even figure.  It can be shown, further, that the Judge is the only figure produced in the process of geomantic divination that this is necessarily true; any other figure in the chart may be odd or even, but only the Judge must be even.  Because of this, we use this mathematic property to help us figure out whether a chart is mathematically valid and well-constructed; if we find that the Judge is an odd figure, then there’s something not right in how the chart is calculated, and we need to find out where the error lies so we can correct it before we continue with interpreting the chart.

Because the Judge must be even, this narrows down the number of figures that can occur in this position from sixteen down to eight: Populus, Via, Carcer, Coniunctio, Fortuna Maior, Fortuna Minor, Aquisitio, and Amissio.  It is for this reason that I call these figures “objective”, and the odd figures (Puer, Puella, Laetitia, Tristitia, Albus, Rubeus, Cauda Draconis, and Caput Draconis) “subjective”; this is a distinction I don’t think exists extant in the literature outside my own writings (which also includes contributions to the articles on geomancy on Wikipedia).  I call the even figures “objective” because they are the only ones that can be Judges; just as in real life, where the judge presiding over a court case must objectively take into account evidence to issue a judgment and sentence, the Judge in a geomantic chart must likewise reflect the nature of the situation and answer the query in an impartial (a Latin word literally meaning “not biased” or “not odd”), fair, balanced, and objective way.  It’s not that these figures are Judges because they inherently possess an astrological or magical quality called objectivity, but I call them objective because they’re mathematically able to be Judges.

What does it actually mean in real-world terms, then, for these Judge-eligible figures to be “objective”?  It means that they represent certain states of the cosmos that can be seen from both sides of a situation, something that plays out externally, concretely, and factually in a way that can be colored, but not tampered, by emotional, mental, or otherwise subjective states of perception that only apply in a one-sided way (note the “both sides” and “one-sided” phrasing here and how it applies to even versus odd).  This can be seen by how the different inverse pairs of figures play out in their significations, apart and away from any correspondence to sign or planet or element:

  • Aquisitio and Amissio relate to notions of obtaining, losing, acquiring, or missing some object.  You can dress it up however you want or arrive at it by different means (inventing, destroying, getting something on your own, getting someone to get rid of something for you, etc.), but at the end of the day, you either have something or you don’t.
  • Carcer and Coniunctio relate to notions of being isolated, conjoined, restricted, freed, cut off, or brought into some process.  You either have freedom and choices, or you don’t.
  • Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor relate to notions of independence or dependence.  You either can do something on your own, or you can’t; you either need outside help or resources not normally available to you, or you don’t.
  • Populus and Via relate to notions of passivity, activity, inertia, liveliness, stagnation, passion, multitude, or solitude.  There is either nothing going on, or there is something going on; things either change or they don’t.

If it sounds like a very black-and-white, cut-and-clear, binary way to view the universe, it’s because it is.  While I’m all about seeing the fine gradations of how things play out on large scales, understand that the cosmos provides a truly limitless spectrum of experiences, and often look for third, fourth, and other choices when presented with a dilemma, it doesn’t change the fact that the cosmos itself doesn’t always operate in a fuzzy, shade-of-grey manner; after all, you can’t have something halfway, either you have it or you don’t, just like how a light switch cannot be both “off” or “on” or halfway between them.  There is no third option, no halfway point, no spectrum involved in these dichotomies.  Geomancy itself is based upon binary mathematics, the numerical science of what is and what is not, what is true and what is false, what is odd and what is even, without allowing for anything in the middle of two choices.  However, when you have a whole situation and cosmos presented before you, we start to find shades of grey developing when we have a number of such binary choices or qualities in the same place, conflicting and meeting with each other; those subjective states are emergent properties of an otherwise objective system, where we have a multitude of reactions based on a single action.

What are those reactions, those shades of grey, those subjective states?  That’s where the odd figures come into play:

  • Puer and Puella reflect the old-school gender dichotomy of male and female, emitting or receptive, extroverted or introverted, visiting or hosting.
  • Laetitia and Tristitia reflect the two emotional states of joy or sorrow, jubilation or grief, uplifting or depression, optimistic or apprehensive.
  • Albus and Rubeus reflect the two states of the mind which can be calm or turbulent, reflective or chaotic, wise or foolish, impotent or violent.
  • Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis reflect the two perspectives to a situation of beginning or ending, constructive or destructive, fortunate or unfortunate, opening or closing.

Note that these are all things that cannot really be shared, and are unique to each and every person, each and every “side” in a situation.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, after all; what I perceive as good, you might perceive as bad, and what I may be fearful of, you may be eagerly anticipating with relish.  Plus, these figures are much more liable to be considered ends of a spectrum rather than a strict dichotomy; ask any genderfluid person how male or female they feel on a given day, if either at all, and consider how truly complex the mind is in a troubling situation where some parts of it might be chaotic and other parts tranquil or focused, and how much each set of parts might be of either state.  Moreover, even within a single person, some of these internal subjective states can change from moment to moment, but it doesn’t change necessarily what actually happens externally to them unless they make an external action.  For instance, upon realizing that I’ve completed a long-running task, I might go through a series of emotions about it ranging from wistful nostalgia to exuberant gratitude that it’s over to regret that I could have done more while I was in the process of it; none of these actually change the fact that the task is complete, hence the subjective/objective distinction.  Further, while we might be able to witness these states of gender, emotion, mind, or perspective in another person, they are nothing actually realized in the real world without a concrete action being taken.

Because of all this, when the dude who emailed me asked whether it’s a loss for us as geomancers that the Judge is limited to one of only eight figures from the total of sixteen, I emphatically replied to the contrary: that the Judge must be even is simply part of how geomancy works, which cannot be compared as it is to other forms of divination like Tarot or runes where each symbol is obtained independently of the others, and that the Judge’s even parity gives us both a practical guide to checking the chart in addition to an insight into what the figures themselves are.  If this limits us at all, it does so that we cannot make a faulty, subjective, misguided judgment that would cause more harm than good by relying overmuch on subjective, internal feelings that do not have a concrete place to play in the actual world; in such a case, it’s not a limitation of us being unfairly cut off from a world of possibilities that we should have a right to explore, but a limitation protecting us from a world where things make even less sense than they already do, and thus where we have no business being.  Remember that we come to geomancy (and divination generally) for advice, guidance, and answers; it would do us no good to simply validate our feelings or be told that we should feel some other type of way when what we need is concrete information about what happens and what to do about it.

Now that we understand the full import of why the Judges must be even from both a mathematical and philosophical standpoint, let’s move on to that final question: does the Judge lack anything with respect to the answer for the chart?  I would say that no, it doesn’t, because the Judge is the full, whole, and complete distillation of the entire geomantic chart into a single figure, and as such represents the entire answer by itself.  This is the reason why it is the single most important figure in the chart, because it encapsulates the entire thing from start to end, and as I’ve suggested before, in a well-constructed reading, the Judge will always answer the query as best as one of those eight even figures can.  The thing is, however, that situations and queries presented to geomancy can often be complex, and the Judge being just one figure still must answer in a way that a single figure can, which is necessarily high-level and possibly vague.  It’s not that the Judge “omits” anything, but that some of the finer details that play into the high-level answer cannot be answered with a single figure alone.  Thus, we have the rest of the figures in the chart and all the other techniques available to us: the Witnesses, Via Puncti, perfection, company, elemental analyses, etc.  If the Judge, even at its high-level station, can answer the query on its own, great!  If not, then the Judge’s word sets the context and frames the information that is delivered to us by the rest of the chart and the rest of the art of geomancy.  In some ways, this is the opposite to the methods of judgment used in other divination systems, such as Tarot or runes, where you’re given a bunch of details that together must build up to a final judgment, but in geomancy, the judgment is given to you right off the bat via the Judge, and it’s up to the geomancer to dig deeper according to their level of ability, curiosity, and need for such details.

This all leads to something that was asked about on the Facebook geomantic group.  As some of my readers may recall, Dr Al Cummins recently hosted his set of geomancy classes, which were a resounding success (and he looks forward to having more in the future).  Someone in the Facebook group was in them, and noted something that Dr Al said about a chart “avowing or disavowing” the query, but wasn’t clear on what Dr Al meant by that, and how it relates to notions of perfection, aspect, and so forth.  I chimed in with my understanding of what Dr Al meant, which he validated in the same thread.  The notion of avowing or disavowing is a little-known distinction of some Judges taken from some Renaissance geomancers, where the Judge either clearly answers the query as phrased or not.  In other words, a Judge avows or owns the query if the nature and significations of the Judge clearly and explicitly relates to the nature of the query to give a straightfoward answer all on its own; a Judge disavows or disowns the query if its nature and significations have no apparent relation to what it asked.  Thus, an avowing Judge resonates with what’s being asked, and a disavowing Judge does not.  If the Judge avows the query, then little else needs to be said beyond the significations of the Judge itself in order to give an answer to the querent, though it might be minimal and further exploration can be useful to be more detailed and exact with the answer; if the Judge disavows the query, then further inspection, interpretation, or investigation are needed to figure out why the Judge is what is is, why it says what it says, and how it relates to the query at hand.

Consider a case where the querent asks “will I get my lost wallet back?”.  This query falls under the general field of questions of dealing with possession.  The two figures that avow this type of query are, naturally, Aquisitio (will possess) and Amissio (will not possess).  If we get Amissio as the Judge for such a query, then we can say that the Judge avows the query, the answer is “no, you will not get your lost wallet back”, and we’re technically done at that point; investigating the rest of the chart may tell us where it is, what happened to it, what can be done to recoup any losses, who might have found it if anyone, and so forth, but none of that is technically needed to give the core answer of “no”.  However, if we get another figure like Coniunctio as the Judge for such a query, which relates more to connections rather than possessions, then we’d say that the Judge disavows the query because there is no natural relationship between the semantic field of the Judge and that of the query; Coniunctio does not clearly say “yes” or “no” to such a query.  In this case, we’d have to start looking deeper into the chart to figure out what Coniunctio actually means: does it mean that you’ll have to be in the market to get a new one because the old one was lost, or that you’ll have to meet with someone to get it back, or that you losing it was part of a toll or sacrifice you had to make to get further along, or that you’ll find it again through happenstance and the goodwill of spirits?  It’s unclear from the Judge itself; though the Judge still gives an answer to the query, it’s too high-level and encapsulates too many things to give a clear “yes” or “no” answer.

Going back to the binary dichotomy of the objective figures, if you consider the semantic field of a query that has one of two end results (e.g. “I will get my wallet back” or “I will not get my wallet back”), then although the end result must be one of two choices, the power of geomancy is that it plays out the whole scheme of the cosmos before us in all its shades and variations before it gets to one result or the other.  Judges that avow the query simply reflect the dichotomy of a situation, no ifs, ands, or buts allowed.  Judges that disavow the query give a “shade of grey” answer that must be analyzed until it can be judged on what side of the threshold it actually falls on, like finding out whether a given electrical current will actually trip a circuit breaker only by playing things out and tracing out the circuit and voltage; at the end, the breaker will be tripped or it won’t, but it remains to be seen whether it will or not until it actually happens.  That investigation is what a disavowing Judge mandates.

I should mention, however, that a disavowing Judge doesn’t mean that the Judge doesn’t answer the query.  After all, the Judge is still the encapsulation of the whole situation, and still contains the answer as much as one that avows the query; an insightful and experienced geomancer can probably get a good feel for what the Judge says regardless of whether it avows or disavows the query.  The distinction here is that an avowing Judge readily answers the query asked of the chart since it naturally falls into the binary dichotomy of the query, and a disavowing Judge is focused elsewhere in the situation than that is asked, but still contains the answer within itself.  It might be theorized that disavowing Judges, because they demand a deeper investigation into the chart, indicate that the situation is deeper than what is asked and that there’s more behind the scenes of the querent’s life than what they say, but that’d be a bold claim even coming from me.  More realistically and conventionally, it’s better to say that a disavowing Judge will still answer the query, but it’s focused on an answer that’s not “yes” or “no”, indicating that there’s more to say than just that.