Generating Geomantic Figures

After my fantastic and entertaining chat with Gordon on his Rune Soup podcast, and in tandem with the good Dr Al’s course on the fundamentals and history of the art, there’s been a huge influx of interest in geomancy, to which I say “about goddamned time”.  As my readers (both long-term and newly-come) know, I’m somewhat of a proponent of geomancy, and I enjoy writing about it; it’s flattering and humbling that my blog is referred to as a “treasure trove” of information on the art, and I consistently see that my posts and pages on geomancy are increasingly popular.  It’s also encouraging enough to get me to work more on my book, which…if I actually get off my ass and work on it like I need to and should have been doing for some time now, will probably get put to consumable paper sometime late next year.

One of the most common questions I find people asking when they first get introduced to the art of geomancy is “how do people generate the geomantic figures?”  Unlike other forms of divination, geomancy isn’t tied down to one specific means or method.  Tarot and all forms of cartomancy use cards, astrology uses the planets and stars, scrying uses some sort of medium to, well, scry; we often classify methods of divination based on the set of tools it uses, and give it an appropriately-constructed Greek term ending in -mancy.  Geomancy is different, though; truly any number of methods can be used to produce a geomantic figure, because geomancy is more about the algorithms and techniques used in interpretation rather than the tools it uses to produce a reading.  Once you get into the feel and understanding of geomancy, you can almost quite literally pull a chart out of thin air using any tools (or none at all!) at your disposal.  Still, partially because of the ability to be so free-wheeling, newcomers to geomancy are often caught up in the tool-centric way of thinking of divination, and can become (I find) overly concerned with the “best” or “most popular” method.

To that end, let me list some of the ways it’s possible to come up with a geomantic figure.  I don’t intend for this to be an exhaustive list, but more of a generalized classification of different kinds of ways you can produce a geomantic figure (or more than one in a single go):

  1. Stick and surface.  This is the oldest method, going back to the very origins of the art in the Sahara, where the geomancer takes some stylus and applies it to an inscribable medium.  You can use a staff and a patch of soil on the ground, a wand on a box of sand, a stylus on a wax (or modern electronic) tablet, a pen on paper, or some other similar mechanic.  To use this method, simply make four lines of dots, traditionally from right to left.  Don’t count the dots; let them fall naturally, so that a random number of dots are in each line.  Some people get into a trance state, chant a quick prayer, or simply focus on the query while they make the dots, if only to distract the mind enough to avoid counting the dots and influencing what comes out.  Once you have four lines, count the dots in each line; traditionally, the geomancer would cross off the dots two-by-two (again, right-to-left) until either one or two dots were left over at the end.  These final leftover dots are then “separated” out from the line to form a single figure.  To make all four figures, simply increase the number of lines from four to sixteen, and group the rows of leftover dots into consecutive, non-overlapping groups of four rows.
  2. Coins.  This is a simple, minimalist method: flip a coin four times.  Heads means one point of the resulting figure, and tails means two (or you can swap these around, if you so prefer, but I prefer heads = one point).  Flipping a coin four times gets you four rows to make a complete figure.  Alternatively, you could flip four coins at once, perhaps of different denominations: for example, you could flip a penny for the Fire line, a nickle for the Air line, a dime for the Water line, and a quarter for the Earth line; a single throw of all four coins at once gets you a complete geomantic figure.  I consider any method that uses a “flip” to produce a binary answer to fall under this method; thus, the druid sticks used by geomancers like John Michael Greer and Dr Al Cummins would technically be considered a type of geomancy-specific “coin”, as would pieces of coconut shell where the convex side on top is “up” and the concave side on top is “down”.
  3. Divining chain.  This is a slightly modified version of the coin-based method, where four coins or disks are linked together in a chain.  Rather than throwing the coins individually, the chain itself is flung, tossed, or thrown in such a way that each coin falls on a different side.  The only example I can find of this in Western-style divination is the (possibly spurious) Chain of Saint Michael, where four saint medallions are chained, one to another, and connected to a sword charm, but a corollary to this can be found in the Yoruba divination methods of Ifá, using something called the ekuele (or ekpele, or epwele, depending on whether you’re Cuban or Nigerian and how you feel like spelling it).  There, you have four pieces of cut shell that can fall mouth-up or husk-up, or four pieces of metal that fall on one of two sides; notably, the ekuele has eight coins on it so that the diviner-priest can throw two figures at a time, but that’s because of the specific method of Ifá divination, which is only a distant cousin to geomancy and shouldn’t actually be mixed with our techniques.
  4. Dice.  Again, a pretty straightforward method: roll a single die four times, or four different dice one time.  If a given die is an odd number, use a single point; if an even number, use two points.  Some people use four different-colored cubical dice (e.g. red for Fire, yellow for Air, blue for Water, green for Earth), but I prefer to use tabletop RPG dice that come in different shapes.  For this, I use the associations of the Platonic solids to the classical elements: the tetrahedron (d4) for Fire, octahedron (d8) for Air, icosahedron (d20) for Water, and cube (d6) for Earth.  Like Poke Runyon aka Fr. Therion, you could use four knucklebones for the same purpose, as each knucklebone has four sides (traditionally counted as having values 1, 3, 4, and 6).  Dice are easy, the tools fit in a tiny bag which can itself fit into a pocket, and nobody is any the wiser if you just pull some dice out and start throwing them on a street corner.
  5. Counting tokens.  This is a similar method to using dice, but a more general application of it.  Consider a bag of pebbles, beans, or other small mostly-similar objects.  Pull out a random handful, and count how many you end up with.  If the number is odd, give the corresponding row in the geomantic figure a single point; if even, two points.  This is a pretty wide and varied set of methods; you could even, as Nigel Pennick proposes, pull up four potatoes from a field and count whether each potato has an odd or even number of eyes on it.  The idea here is to use something to, again, get you a random number that you can reduce into an odd or even answer, and isn’t really different from using dice, except instead of being presented with a number, you have to count a selection of objects obtained from a collection.  In a sense, both the dice and counting token methods can be generalized as using any random-number generator; you could use something like to get you four (or sixteen) random numbers, to which you simply apply the odd-even reduction; such a generator can be found using this link.
  6. Quartered drawing.  Not really a technique or toolset on its own, but a variation on things that use coins, identical dice, or other counting tokens.  In this, you prepare a surface that’s cut into four quarters, such as a square with four quadrants or a quartered circle.  Each quarter is given to one of the four elements, and thus, to one of the four rows of a geomantic figure.  Into each quarter, you’d randomly flip one of four coins or drop a random number of beans, and read the pattern that’s produced as a single figure.  This can be useful if you’re short on similar-but-not-identical tools (like only having four pennies instead of four different types of coin, or four identical dice instead of different-colored/shaped dice).
  7. Selection of numbers.  One method of geomantic generation I know is used in Arabic-style geomancy is to ask the querent for a number from 1 to 16 (or, alternatively, 0 to 15).  Arabic-style geomancy places a huge emphasis on taskīn, or specific orders of the figures which are correlated with different attributions; one such taskīn, the Daira-e-Abdah, simply arranges the geomantic figures numerically, using their representation as binary numbers.  From the Ilm-e-Ramal group on Facebook, here’s a presentation of this taskīn with each figure given a number from 1 through 16:
    Personally, I use a different binary order for the figures (reading the Earth line as having binary value 1, Water as binary value 2, Air as binary value 4, and Fire as binary value 8), where Populus = 0 (or 16), Tristitia = 1, Albus = 2, and so forth, but the idea is the same.  To use this method, simply get four random numbers from 1 to 16 or (0 to 15), and find the corresponding figure in the binary order of the figures.  You could ask for larger numbers, of course; if a number is greater than 16 (or 15), divide the number by 16 and take the remainder.  You could use dice to produce these numbers, or just ask the querent (hopefully ignorant of the binary order used!) for a number.  In fact, you’re not bound by binary ordering of the figures; any ordering you like (planetary, elemental, zodiacal, etc.) can be used, so long as you keep it consistent and can associate the figures with a number from 1 to 16 (or 0 to 15).
  8. Playing cards.  A standard deck of 52 playing cards can be used for geomantic divination, too, and can give that sort of “gypsy aesthetic” some people like.  More than just playing 52-Pickup and seeing whether any four given cards fall face-up or face-down to treat cards as coins, you can draw four cards and look at different qualities of the cards to get a different figure.  For instance, are the cards red or black, odd or even, pip or face?  With four cards, you can make a single figure; with 16, you can make four Mothers.  Better than that, you can use all the different qualities of any given card of a deck to generate a single figure, making the process much more efficient; I’ve written about that recently at this post, which you should totally read if you’re interested.  What’s nice about this method is that you can also use Tarot cards for the same purpose, and some innovators might come up with geomancy-specific spreads of Tarot that can combine the meanings of the Tarot cards that fall with the geomantic figures they simultaneously form, producing a hybrid system that could theoretically be super involved and detailed.
  9. Geomantic tokens.  Some geomancers have tools that directly incorporate the figures, so instead of constructing a figure a line at a time like with coins or beans, a whole figure is just produced on its own.  Consider a collection of 16 tokens, like a bag of 16 semiprecious stones (like what the Astrogem Geomancy people use), or a set of 16 wooden discs, where each token has a distinct figure inscribed on each.  Reach into the bag, pull out a figure; easy as that.  If you use a bag of 16 tokens and are drawing multiple figures at once, like four Mothers, you’ll need to draw with replacement, where you put the drawn token back into the bag and give it a good shake before drawing the next.  Alternatively, if you wanted to draw without replacement, you’ll need a collection of 64 tokens where each figure is given four tokens each, such as a deck of cards where a single figure is printed onto four cards.

As for me?  When I was first starting out, I used the pen-and-paper method (or stick-and-surface method, to be more general).  This was mostly to do a sort of “kinetic meditation” to get me into the mode and feel of geomancy, going back to its origins as close as I could without being a Bedouin wise-man in the wastes of the Sahara.  After that, I made a 64-card deck of geomancy cards, with each figure having four cards.  I’d shuffle the deck, cut it into fourths from right to left, and flip the top card of each stack to form the Mothers.  For doing readings for other people in person, like at a bookstore or psychic faire, I’ll still use this; even if geomancy isn’t familiar to people, “reading cards” is, so it helps them feel more comfortable giving them a medium they’re already familiar with.  Plus, I also can get the querent’s active involvement in the divination process by having them be the ones to cut the deck after I’ve shuffled; I’ll still flip the top card, but I find having them cut the deck gives them a meaningful inclusion into the process.  Generally, though, I use tabletop RPG dice for the Platonic solids.  I roll the dice and see whether each die is odd or even for a single figure, so four throws of dice get me four Mothers.  Nowadays, I only use the stick-and-surface method if I have truly nothing else at hand, because I find the process to be slow and messy, but it still works, and I can still rely on my own familiarity with it so that it doesn’t trip me up when I have to use it.

What would I suggest for newcomers to the art?  Like me, I’d recommend new geomancers to start with the stick-and-surface method, if only to develop an intimacy with the underlying, traditional method that produced all the others.  In a sense, doing this first is like a kind of initiation, practicing the same fundamental technique as have geomancers for a thousand years, and itself can be a powerful portal into the currents of the art.  Once you have that down-pat and have gotten into the feel of the art, though, I find that the method is pretty much up to the desires and whims of the geomancer.  Anything that returns a binary answer can be used for geomancy, but for convenience, some people might prefer instead a “whole figure” type of draw.  Once you settle on a set of tools, for those who are of a more magical or ritual bent, you may want to consider consecrating or blessing them, or entrusting them to the connection and care of a divining or talking spirit, according to whatever methods you find appropriate, but this isn’t strictly necessary for the art, either.

Ultimately, the tools you use for geomancy are entirely up to you, because it’s the techniques and algorithms we use that are what truly makes the art of geomancy.  The only thing I really recommend is that the geomancer takes an active role in divinely manipulating the tools used to produce the figures.

How about you, dear reader?  What methods do you use for geomantic generation?  Have you heard of any that aren’t on the list above, or aren’t included in any of the above classifications?  What are you most comfortable with?  What methods do you dislike, either on a practical or theoretical level?  What would you recommend?


Search Term Shoot Back, October 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of October 2013.

“satanic pagan ritual altars instruction offerings halloween” — I’m kinda insulted by this query for a number of reasons, not least that it somehow directed someone to my blog.  I’m guessing that the person who searched for this was around 12 years old, to boot.  Just…ugh.

“satanic ritual to summon ghosts” — Again with the “satanism”. Lots of requests for this thing, or alternatives with “black magic rituals” or “for beginners”.  Seriously, guys?  I know that people growing up in a primarily anglophone evangelist protestant Christian culture have a hard time with this, but not everything that isn’t explicitly Christian is automatically Satanic, or “black magic”, or whatnot.   But if you want to go ahead with this, it’s really simple to summon a spirit like a ghost.  Light a candle and some good, heavy incense, make an oration to the spirit calling them there, and make an offering of wine or food or rum or pennies or candies or something.  Wait for the spirit to arrive, then chat with it.  Afterwards, dismiss it and leave the offerings.  (Yes, I know I’m omitting the protection and energy work and meditation and prayers, but whatever, most people aren’t that serious and probably need a good slap in the face to realize the importance of these things.)

“dismissing spirits after ritual” — Generally a good idea, though it pays to be respectful.  First, always thank the spirit: “I thank you for your presence, for you have come as I have called and aided me as I have asked”.  If it’s something like an angel or some other servant spirit, you might want to say something like “as you have come in peace, so now go in power; as you have come in the name of the Trinity, so now go in this same name”.  Demons should be treated similarly, especially the powerful ones, but you should always cover your ass and include some sort of binding for mutual peace and not leaving harm or malice behind them.  For ancestors, land spirits, and the like, which deserve respect as individual entities that do not serve, say something like “go if you will, stay if you will, but know that you have my honor”; ditto for gods and deities, though these should be given proper honor generally.

“wasn’t the sanctuary a bloody mess from all of the animal sacrifices” — Perhaps surprisingly, no.  Places of holiness, especially well-known and well-attended places like the Temple of the Jews, tend to have elaborate rituals and logistical setups to perform sacrifices, which often include cleaning up pretty well.  In Santeria, for instance, the orisha rooms and throne areas must be exquisitely and perfectly clean and hygienic, and given that animal sacrifice is pretty messy, it would seem like the two don’t mix.  That said, they’ll have a whole team of people cleaning things up as they go, carrying out the waste or corpse, and keep things under control.  Other traditions, like Palo Mayombe, may not have an emphasis on cleanliness, so sometimes sanctuaries can indeed be messy.  It depends on the tradition, I suppose.

“the angels that govern mars” — The Hebrew name I use is Kammael (kaph mem aleph lamed), which has also been Latinized as Camael and Samael.  This can lead to multiple ways to write the name in Hebrew, however, so it can get pretty confusing; I generally treat all these as the same entity.  From the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano, Mars has the following spirits: the angels Samael, Satael, and Amabiel; the angelic king Samax, and the angelic ministers Carmax, Ismoli, and Paffran; the eastern angels Friagne, Guael, Damael, Calzas, and Arragon; the western angels Lama, Astagna, Lobquin, Soncas, Jazel, Isiael, and Irel; the nothern angels Rahumel, Hyniel, Rayel, Seraphiel, Mathiel, and Fraciel; and the southern angels Sacriel, Janiel, Galdel, Osael, Vianuel, and Zaliel.  The Liber Runarum has Mamarayl as the angel, and the Picatrix has Raucahehil or Rubijai’il.

“archangel michael consecrated swords to sell” — My ritual sword, inscribed and consecrated according to the Key of Solomon with a few extra bits, was entirely a personal project.  However, I can probably make them as well for you; your choice of sword, all you need to do is give me the money to buy one you like plus $150 plus shipping and handling, and the whole thing will be consecrated to your liking.

“what are the ingredients in florida water” — Contrary to its name, water doesn’t actually take a part in this, though you can throw it in.  Generally, Florida water has citrus elements in it like lemon and bergamot, along with spices like clove.  It’s pretty simple, and you can expand on it in many ways.  Rosemary-based versions are intensely aromatic and amazing, in my experience.

“kybalion changed my life” — That makes one of us, at least.  It’s a pretty basic book, if you ask me.

“rituals where you defecate on an altar” — No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.  This really should not be a thing.  I know of only one ritual where feces are needed, and that’s the consecration for the Mirror of the Seven Winds from the Picatrix, where they’re used as an ingredient in incense.  Directly shitting on an altar?  Unless you mean the throne of the porcelain god, this is terrible.  Don’t do this.

“how do i get oil blessed to cleanse my home” — Generally, go to your local priest and have them bless some olive oil for you, or ask if they have any chrism on hand.  Go throughout the house, preferably with the priest doing this, and pray in each room.  Anoint every door, threshold, window, and windowframe with the oil; once in the middle in a cross shape would work, or you might do a five-spot pattern (one in each corner and one in the middle).  You might also combine this with suffumigation with incense, lighting consecrated or purified candles in each room, and the like.

“using dice for yes/no” — You might do this in any number of ways, from rolling a die and inspecting the number or using several different colored dice and using the color itself.  For instance, you might decide that high numbers are “yes” and low numbers are “no”, or odd and even numbers for the same purpose.  You could expand this and add more categories, based on ranges of numbers.  I know that Balthazar Blacke uses a simple system involving a white die and a black die to get detailed answers, so you might consider that.  I use two ten-sided dice, one marked from 0 to 9 and the other from 00 to 90; for me, high numbers are “yes” and low numbers are “no”, and how high or low a number is increases the forcefulness of the answer.

“cloacina goddess symbol necklace” — Er…Cloacina was an aspect of the Roman goddess Venus, and Venus Cloacina was basically the goddess of the sewers of Rome and other cities.  This comes from the Roman word cloaca, meaning sewer, but is used biologically to indicate the excretory/genital area of birds, lizards, and similar animals.  Basically, it’s a shit-vagina.  And I’m unsure why one might have a symbol for that or want it on a pendant, but I’m sure you can find plenty of vagina pendants on Etsy, because it’s Etsy, and Etsy is horrifying.

“{searchterm}” — Yes, I do believe that that’s the point.

Search Term Shoot Back, August 2013

I get a lot of hits on my blog from across the realm of the Internet, many of which are from links on Facebook, Twitter, or RSS readers.  To you guys who follow me: thank you!  You give me many happies.  However, I also get a huge number of new visitors daily to my blog from people who search around the Internet for various search terms.  As part of a monthly project, here are some short replies to some of the search terms people have used to arrive here at the Digital Ambler.  This focuses on some search terms that caught my eye during the month of August 2013.

“magic orgone” — I wouldn’t call orgone “magic”, per se, but it is basically the quintessence, akasha, ether, or spiritual force underling the energy model of magic; orgone can be said to be the same thing as odic force, qi/chi/ki, or prana, depending on your tradition or viewpoint.  Orgone technology was developed as a kind of fringe science using the principles of magnetism, electricity, and polarity extrapolated towards human energy/subtle-body models of working with the body.  There are ways to work with orgone in a magical way, as my own experiments with orgone have shown, but it can be used outside of a magical framework just as easily, just as radionics or reiki aren’t necessarily considered “magical” (though basically are, anyway).

“planetary hours for july” — Planetary hours are calculated for individual days, based on the location and date of the observer.  Trying to form a generalized calendar independent of location won’t work, since planetary hours rely on the sunrise and sunset times for a particular place (which change depending on latitude, time zones, and the like).  Lots of free planetary hour calculators abound on the internet, however, so look instead for “planetary hour calculator”.

“sex sigil” — Yes please.

“ikea altar” — It’s true, my altar furniture is pretty much just from IKEA, or to a lesser extent, Target.  IKEA is fantastic for cheap but sturdy stuff, so long as you don’t mind the appearance of it; if you use an altar cloth, you’ll be set.  The small LACK side tables are perfect for corner altars or working tables in conjuration, I’ve found, and their price can’t be beat, especially if you want something disposable (a la Enochian Tables of Practice) or if you want something to engrave or woodburn without too much cost going into the thing.

“the kybalion homosexuality” — This probably references my post from before on the comparatively recent book Kybalion, gender, and sexuality.  I wish I could talk about this more, and I probably should one of these days, but my thoughts on the matter haven’t much evolved past the point of “I don’t know”.  Everyone has their own dynamic within themselves to work with, and even though the Kybalion is great at simplifying the world down into a few rules and laws of occult motion, they’re also sufficiently broad to gloss over the minute subtleties involved with actual experience in the world around us.  Plus, the interplay between the laws isn’t well developed in that short text as much as we might like, and the cultural and personal bias of the original author(s) may have had something to do with the laws as they apply to homosexuality or queerness more generally.  I’m going to appeal to authority here and say that Crowley had it probably more correct and concise when he said “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”.  In the end, it’s really only you yourself who can figure out who you are/Are, understand what you can and should do/Do, what’s good/Good and bad/Bad, and judge your own progress/Progress.  Nobody else has that right; nobody else can judge you or tell you what it is you need to do, or what’s a beautiful thing for you to preserve or maintain.  In this light, especially if you have any respect for Thelema or Crowley, to use any text, occult or otherwise, to justify judging, discriminating, controlling, or maligning others because of personal bias is revolting, and I advise all my readers to cut that shit out.

“strongest geomancy figures in order”  — It depends on what you mean by “strongest”, and even then which author you read, since geomancy is an old tradition of divination going back a thousand years across multiple continents.  If you mean favorability and fortune, i.e. how good a figure is, you might use a general rule such as that of Robert Fludd’s or an older Arabic system, but this is pretty broad and doesn’t take into account specific situations or context.  If you mean positions in the houses of the astro-geomantic chart, you might use the directional correspondences of the figures or their planetary joys, but this isn’t used by all geomancers.  At the risk of making my dear readers do a bit of goddamn research and study, I suggest you review my De Geomanteia posts on the figures to get a full grasp of what they mean and how they relate to any arbitrary situation.

“yes no meaning to six sided dice”  — I suggest looking at Balthazar Black’s post on using six-sided dice for this.  I use a set of RPG dice for my divinations, specifically the 2d10 dice for yes/no questions.  Simple methods can be made, however: high numbers indicate high likelihoods of “yes”, while low numbers indicate low likelihoods, or odd means “yes” and even means “no”, or other combinations.  Dice are an ancient tool and game, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you found any number of traditions from different cultures or ages indicating different methods of cleromancy with dice.

“quick divination”  — Tomorrow you’ll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep.

“is sprinkling salt in bath water and praying to god” — This was, in fact, the entire search term; it seems like something got cut off, but who can say?  Assuming the searcher in question ended the query with something like “evil”, “damnable”, “wicked”, or “sinful”, I can say that the answer is very firmly no.  Salt has long been used across cultures and ages as a cleansing, purifying, or protective agent; spiritual baths are a longstanding tradition in pretty much every occult and religious tradition, from misogi in Shinto to wudu in Islam to baptism in Christianity.  Prayer is, of course, a good thing in magic and religion, and any action whatsoever can always use that heavenly or divine boost from having the hand of God or hands of gods involved.  I should take full spiritual baths with prayers more often, honestly, but I content myself with a regular sprinkling of holy water every day with prayer; before any significant working, however, I’ll definitely cast some salt I’ve prayed over into a clean tub of tepid clean water, immerse myself completely, and pray a number of psalms while in the tub.

“tojil strategic ffxi” — er…I don’t play Final Fantasy XI, though my boyfriend does.  Tojil in FFXI is a pretty nasty boss mob, and from what I’ve seen over my boyfriend’s shoulder and from what I’ve heard him say about it, learning how to time attacks with Tojil’s changes in aura is key; you’d be able to take down this beast in fairly short time if you have a decent linkshell group with you.  However, this entity has its origins in Mayan mythology and religion; Tohil was a fire, sun, and rain deity, with some qualities similar to the more popularly-known Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.  One of my friends works with these pantheons, but I don’t myself, though they’re very cool guys and very powerful in their ways.  Then again, it takes a powerful practitioner to actually get any good work done with them, so caveat orator.  I’m pretty sure, since none of these terms actually appear on my blog, that it was grabbed by a Google spider from my twitterfeed on the right.

Dice Divination

After my introduction to grammatomancy, I’ve found myself using dice a lot more for divination in various ways that I think are pretty nifty.  When I say dice, I don’t mean standard six-sided dice, but a complete set of tabletop RPG gaming dice.  These kinds of dice have the advantage of being rather portable and pliable to many divination systems, and are fairly innocuous and subtle to boot.  Plus, for those who play tabletop games that require them, the notion of divination and the notion of action checks can be intimately similar.  For those who’re unfamiliar with such dice, one of these sets are usually includes seven dice, each with a different number of sides:

  • A six-sided die (d6), cube, numbered 1 through 6, the standard and most common die
  • A four-sided die (d4), tetrahedron, numbered 1 through 4
  • An eight-sided die (d8), octahedron, numbered 1 through 8
  • A twenty-sided die (d20), icosahedron, numbered 1 through 20
  • A twelve-sided die (d12), dodecahedron, numbered 1 through 12
  • Two ten-sided dice (2d10), pentagonal trapezohedrons, numbered by ones from 0 through 9 and by tens from 00 through 90

Set of RPG Dice Although dice divination is ancient, the phrase itself refers to a manner of generating symbols by means of dice.  This could be as simple as odd-or-even for a yes/no question or as complex as rolling several dice to get a more complex symbol.  In my own practice, I use each of the dice for different purposes depending on their shapes:

  • For geomancy, I use the d4, d6, d8, and d20.  These are four of the five Platonic solids, and each is associated with a different element: d4 with Fire, d6 with Earth, d8 with Air, and d20 with Water.  I roll these four dice at the same time and inspect whether each die is odd or even to generate a geomantic figure.  If a die is odd, the corresponding elemental line is active; if even, passive.  Thus, if I roll a 2 on the d4, 6 on the d6, 7 on the d8, and 1 on the d20, I get the geomantic figure Coniunctio.  I’d do this three more times to generate four geomantic figures, then generate a complete geomantic chart based on those.
  • For grammatomancy, I use the d12.  There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet, so I roll the d12 twice: the first roll gives me an odd or even number, which refer to the first 12 or last 12 letters in the Greek alphabet, while the second roll gives me the letter within that set according to its rank.  So, if I roll a 5 and an 8, I end up with the Greek letter Theta (eighth letter of the first half of the alphabet).  The dodecahedron is the fifth Platonic solid and not associated with any one element, although some attribute it to Spirit/ether.  In a sense, this is fitting for grammatomancy, since (using stoicheia) each of the letters of the Greek alphabet can represent one of the seven planets, five elements, or twelve zodiac signs, and 7 + 5 + 12 = 24 = 2 × 12.  I could use a d2, the two-sided die also known as a coin, to determine whether to use the first half or second half of the alphabet, but I like the simplicity of using just 1d12 rolled twice instead.
  • For yes/no divination, I use the normally leftover and otherwise useless 2d10.  I use a scale from 0 to 99 to determine the answer, with the higher numbers meaning “yes” and lower numbers meaning “no”.  I divide the results up into five groups: 0 through 19 meaning “fuck no, GTFO, DIAF”, 20 through 39 meaning “nope”, 40 through 59 meaning “maybe” or “meh”, 60 through 79 meaning “yup, sure”, and 80 through 99 meaning “fuck yeah, awesome”.  The categories are taken from obi divination using cowrie shells, but with a finer gradient.  So, if I roll a 50 and 8, the result is 58, meaning “maybe” to a particular question, indicating unclear circumstances or too much confusion, but with an inclination towards an affirmative answer since it’s on the higher end of this range.  An answer of 0 in particular indicates the most abhorrent and worst omen, while 99 would be the most direct, favorable, and absolute in its awesomeness.

What I haven’t yet quite figured out, though, is a proper consecration of the dice.  After all, like the good lil’ ceremonial magician I am, I’m practically obliged to consecrate or sanctify any and all tools I work with.  I’m thinking a consecration under the powers of Mercury/Hermes, given that he’s the god of gambling, adventures, and divination, all of which use dice in some manner or another, and all of which relate directly to Fortune itself.  I’m still undecided, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a ritual to do this eventually.  Perhaps the next time a good Mercury election comes around, I suppose, or when the Moon is full on a Wednesday in otherwise good conditions.  In the meantime, a quick prayer to Hermes and Apollo before casting the dice will suffice, I should think.

Do you guys use dice in your divination?  I’ve seen other methods of dice divination before, but it seems like it can vary from person to person or from culture to culture with few set rules to it.  How would you guys use dice, if you would at all?