The Geomantic Tableau (Shield Chart)
Performing a geomantic divination can be done with anything that can give an even-odd, yes-no, heads-tails, or any sort of binary answer. This ease of casting a tableau (there is a difference, which we’ll be getting to later) is one of the reasons for geomancy’s popularity, and doesn’t require much save a bit of paper, ink, and a little quiet.
Generating the Mothers
First, the traditional, tried-and-true oldest-method-in-the-book way to cast a geomantic chart. We’ll assume you know how to form a good query by now and that you already have it in mind. When you’re ready to cast a geomantic reading, follow these instructions.
- Take a clean piece of paper, smooth plot of sand or fine soil, wax tablet, or any sort of markable surface.
- Take a pen, stick, stylus, or some other writing instrument suitable for your writing surface.
- Focusing on your query, make 16 lines of dots, points, pricks, etc. Do this from right to left, both for tradition’s sake and because everything else in the tableau is done from right to left. Make a random amount for each line, without counting either the lines or the number of points in the lines. You want to let yourself get carried away in doing this so that you produce a truly random number of points in each line. Try picking up your wrist and make firm points, or make vertical lines instead. Try to make your marks as clear and distinct as possible. If you end up with fewer than 16 lines, start over. If you end up with more than 16, use only the first 16 for the following steps.
- Pair off the points from right to left, leaving only one or two points at the end of each row.
- Group the single or double points into four groups of four lines from top to bottom.
- Roll a set of dice and see whether each die’s face is even or odd, or is above or below a certain cutoff. Using colored dice or Platonic solids (D&D dice) to represent the elements is helpful, or you can read the dice from furthest away to closest to obtain a figure.
- Flip a coin four times to generate a single figure. Assign heads to lines with a single point and tails to lines with double points.
- Uproot sixteen potatoes from a field and count the eyes or roots on each to see whether they’re even or odd (no, really).
- Take four flat sticks, like popsicle sticks, with one dot on one side of the stick and two dots on the other. Roll them between your hands and then roll them onto a flat surface. Read the lines from top to bottom.
- Use a set of cards (my preferred method). Make or find a geomancy deck with 64 cards in it, four cards for each figure (since it’s possible, though improbable, that all four Mothers can be the same figure).
Generating the Daughters, Nieces, and Court
These first four figures, the Mother figures, are your seeds for casting the rest of the tableau; they are truly the mothers of the reading. Arrange the Mothers from right to left, with the first Mother being the first figure generated by the method above, the second Mother the second figure generated, and so forth. Next, follow these instructions to generate the rest of the tableau.
- Reading from right to left, take the head or fire line of each of the four Mothers and set them to the left of the fourth Mother from top to bottom to make the first Daughter. In other words, to make the first Daughter figure, the Daughter’s fire line comes from the first Mother’s fire line, the Daughter’s air line comes from the second Mother’s fire line, the Daughter’s water line comes from the third Mother’s fire line, and the Daughter’s earth line comes from the fourth Mother’s fire line.
- Repeat this process with the Mothers’ air, water, and earth lines, respectively, to generate the second, third, and fourth Daughter figures. You should now have eight figures, made from right to left, the four Mothers followed by the four Daughters.
- To make the first Niece, look at the first and second Mother. Combine their points line-by-line and mark them off pair-by-pair as you did above to make the Mothers. Place this figure under its parents above. In other words, if a combined line has two or four points, the resulting Niece’s line will have two points; if a combined line has three points, one.
- To make the Right and Left Witnesses, perform the same process with the first two and last two Nieces respectively.
- To make the Judge, perform the same process with the two Witnesses.
- To make the Sentence, perform the same process with the Judge and the first Mother, and set this figure off to the side or under the Judge.
These last four figures are collectively called the Court, given their names and purpose (keep reading). As an example, say that for the Mothers you got Via, Acquisitio, Coniunctio, and Laetitia. The Daughters, formed from the Mothers, would be Carcer, Cauda Draconis, Amissio, and Fortuna Minor. The Nieces, formed from pairs of the Mothers and Daughters, would be Amissio, Cauda Draconis, Caput Draconis, and Coniunctio. The Right Witness would be Rubeus, the Left Witness would be Tristitia, and the Judge would be Acquisitio. The Sentence, formed from the Judge and first Mother, would be Amissio. The images below illustrate the layout of the tableau and one filled out with the figures listed above (with the Sentence in grey).
Error-Checking the Tableau
As you may have noticed, generating the tableau and all its figures can be complicated or confusing, and it’s easy to make mistakes. However, due to the inherently mathematical construction of the figures, there are a few ways to check to make sure the tableau was constructed correctly.
- The Judge must always be an even figure, which means the Witnesses must both be odd or must both be even. If the Witnesses have different parity, or if the Judge is odd, there’s a mistake.
- The number of points on the right side of the chart (the Mothers, first two Nieces, and Right Witness) must have the same parity (either odd or even) as the number of points on the left side of the chart (the Daughters, last two Nieces, and Left Witness).
- Every tableau must repeat one figure at least once somewhere; no single tableau can contain all sixteen geomantic figures.
In the case of a mistake, don’t worry. The only “magical” part of generating the figures was with the Mothers, which were made using a separate process and are defined to be correct at all times. Just reconstruct the tableau using the same Mothers and you’ll be fine.
Interpreting the Tableau
So, now you’ve got your sixteen figures that comprise a geomantic tableau, maybe even all properly arranged and fancifully written in. Everything up until this point is pure mechanism and can be done fairly automatically; heck, I’ve written computer programs that calculate all the above and more in an instant. Divination is more than just automated processes, though, and now we get to the mystical fun part: interpreting the tableau.
The first figure to look at in interpreting the chart is the Judge. The Judge figure is the combination and distillation of all the forces in the chart, and really is the answer to the query supplied. The Judge’s message will indicate what will generally happen in a chart, and its favorability or unfavorability can help decide matters very quickly. For example, Amissio as Judge in a query involving the recovery of a lost object indicates that the object will not be found, Fortuna Major in a query about a business venture indicates a long-term success with some difficulty at the start, and that sort of thing. All the other figures and their relationships will help flesh out the details, but the Judge is the most important figure.
Next in importance in interpretation is the rest of the Court: the Witnesses and Sentence that accompany the Judge. The Court, like a real court of law, decides the outcome of the situation according to the query. Each of the four figures of the Court has a role to play in helping to clarify and deliver the answer to the query:
- The Right Witness represents the querent and his side of the matter. This also represents the querent’s past and situation up until the present time.
- The Left Witness represents the quesited and anyone the querent works with or against. This also represents the querent’s future and general direction from now onwards.
- The Judge is the answer to the query. What the Judge represents is the summation of the whole situation. Whichever Witness the Judge “agrees with” more (in terms of elementary, planetary, or essential meaning) is the side that will benefit or come through the strongest in the situation. The Judge reflects the interaction between the two Witnesses and thus the interplay between the various forces and situations between the querent and quesited.
- The Sentence, also called the Reconcilier or result of the result, represents the effect of the situation (the Judge) on the querent (first Mother). This often represents the long-term post-mortem observation on the whole situation as well as the effects the situation and its resolution will have on the querent and his life.
Another trick of the tableau that helps in interpretation is the Via Puncti, or the Way of the Point. This technique helps discover the root cause, suggestion, or plan that set off the whole situation. Take a look at the fire line of the Judge, and see whether it has only one point or two. If it has one point, see which of the Witnesses also has a single point in their fire lines, and repeat up through the Nieces until you get to one of the Daughters or the Mothers. That figure that this route of single points terminates at is the root cause of the situation. If the Judge’s fire line has two points, then either the Via Puncti diverges (both of the Witnesses’ fire lines have two points) or doesn’t form at all (both of the Witnesses’ fire lines have single points); in either case, there is no single root cause of the situation, if one exists at all; in such a case, there is no ulterior motive or deep backstory, but things simply are how they seem on the surface.
As for the rest of the figures in the chart (the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces), there are different methods of allocating meaning to them. In Western geomancy, they’re used in a more astrological way, which forms the basis of the Geomantic Chart. Another Western method of using the rest of the figures in the tableau is to split them up into four groups of three, two Mothers or Daughters and the Niece that they form. Each of these groups, called triplicities or triads, can be viewed as mini-Courts, with the same rules applying to them as applies to the Witnesses and Judge.
- The First Triad (First Mother, Second Mother, First Niece) reflect the querent’s current self, circumstances, and nature.
- The Second Triad (Third Mother, Fourth Mother, Second Niece) reflect the current situation inquired about.
- The Third Triad (First Daughter, Second Daughter, Third Niece) reflect the places and surroundings of the querent, including the people and activities involved there.
- The Fourth Triad (Third Daughter, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece) reflect the people involved with the querent’s life, including their friends, colleagues, coworkers, and the interplay of the relationships among them.