Arranging the Planets as the Geomantic Figures

A few weeks ago, the good Dr Al Cummins and I were talking about geomantic magic.  It’s a sorely understood and understudied aspect of the whole art of geomancy, and though we know geomantic sigils exist, they’re never really used much besides in addition to the usual planetary or talismanic methods of Western magic.  While I’ve been focusing much on the techniques of divination, exploring the use of geomancy and geomantic figures in magical workings is something of a long-term, slow-burn, back-burner thing for me.  Al, on the other hand, has been jumping headlong into experimenting with using geomancy magically (geomagy?), which fascinates me, and which gives us nigh-endless stuff to conjecture and experiment with.  After all, there’s technically nothing stopping us from seeing the geomantic figures as “units” in and of themselves, not just as extensions of planets projected downward or as combinations of elements projected upwards, so seeing how we could incorporate geomancy into a more fuller body of magic in its own right is something we’re both excited to do.

One of these talks involved my use of the geomantic gestures (mudras, or as I prefer to call them, “seals”).  I brought up one such example of using a geomantic seal from a few years ago: I was at the tattoo parlor with a magic-sensitive friend of mine in the winter, and it had just started to snow.  I had to run across the street to get cash, and I decided that it wasn’t that cold (or that I could bear the weather better) to put on my coat.  I was, as it turns out, incorrect, and by the time I got back, I was rather chilled to the bone.  So, in an attempt to kickstart the process of warming back up, I threw the seal for Laetitia and intoned my mathetic word for Fire (ΧΙΑΩΧ). My sensitive friend immediately turned and picked up on what I was doing without knowing how.  I hadn’t really tried that before, but since I associate Laetitia with being pure fire (according to the elemental rulers/subrulers of the figures), I decided to tap into the element of Fire to warm myself up.  Since that point, I use the seals for Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia as mudras for the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, respectively, like in my augmentation of the Calling the Sevenths ritual (e.g. in my Q.D.Sh. Ritual to precede other workings or as general energetic/spiritual maintenance).

Talking with Al about this, I came to the realization that I instinctively used the figures to access the elements; in other words, although we consider the figures being “constructed” out of the presence or absence of the elements, from a practical standpoint, it’s the opposite way around, where I use the figures as bases from which I reach the power of the elements.  That was interesting on its own, and something for another post and stream of thought, but Al also pointed out something cute: I use the figures of seven points as my seals for the elements.  This is mostly just coincidence, or rather a result of using the figures with one active point for representing one of the four elements in a pure expression, but it did trigger a conversation where we talked about arranging the seven planets among the points of the geomantic figures.  For instance, having a set of seven planetary talismans, I can use each individually on their own for a single planet, or I can arrange them on an altar for a combined effect.  If the seven-pointed figures can be used for the four elements, then it’d be possible to have elemental arrangements of the planets for use in blending planetary and elemental magic.

So, that got me thinking: if we were to see the geomantic figures not composed of the presence or absence of elements, but as compositions of the planets where each planet is one of the points within a figure, how might that be accomplished?  Obviously, we’d use fiery planets for the points in a figure’s Fire row, airy planets for the Air row, etc., but that’s too broad and vague a direction to follow.  How could such a method be constructed?

I thought about it a bit, and I recalled how I associated the planets (and other cosmic forces) with the elements according to the Tetractys of my mathesis work:


Note how the seven planets occupy the bottom two rungs on the Tetractys.  On the bottom rung, we have Mars in the sphaira of Fire, Jupiter in Air, Venus in Water, and Saturn in Earth; these are the four essentially elemental (ouranic) planets.  The other three planets (the Sun, the Moon, and Mercury) are on the third rung, with the Sun in the sphaira of Sulfur, the Moon in the sphaira of Salt, and the planet Mercury in the sphaira of the alchemical agent of Mercury.  Although we lack one force (Spirit) for a full empyrean set of mathetic forces for a neat one-to-one association between the empyrean forces and the four elements, note how these three planets are linked to the sphairai of the elements: the Sun is connected to both Fire and Air, Mercury to both Air and Water, and the Moon to both Water and Earth.

Since we want to map the seven planets onto the points of the figures, let’s start with the easiest ones that give us a one-to-one ratio of planets to points: the odd seven-pointed figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Let us first establish that the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn are the most elementally-representative of the seven planets, and thus must be present in every figure; said another way, these four planets are the ones that most manifest the elements themselves, and should be reflected in their mandatory presence in the figures that represent the different manifestations of the cosmos in terms of the sixteen geomantic figures.  The Sun, the Moon, and Mercury are the three empyrean planets, and may or may not be present so as to mitigate the other elements accordingly.  A row with only one point must therefore have only one planet in that row, and should be the ouranic planet to fully realize that element’s presence and power; a row with two points will have the ouranic planet of that row’s element as well as one of the empyrean planets, where the empyrean planet mitigates the pure elemental expression of the ouranic planet through its more unmanifest, luminary presence.  While the ouranic planets will always appear in the row of its associated element, the empyrean planets will move and shift in a harmonious way wherever needed; thus, since the Sun (as the planetary expression of Sulfur) “descends” into both Mars/Fire and Jupiter/Air, the Sun can appear in either the Fire or Air rows when needed.  Similarly, Mercury can appear in either the Air or Water rows, and the Moon in either the Water or Earth rows (but more on the exceptions to this below).

As an example, consider the figure Laetitia: a single point in the Fire row, and double points in the Air, Water, and Earth rows, as below:

First, we put in the ouranic planets by default in their respective elemental rows:

Note how Mars takes the single point in the Fire row, while Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn occupy only one of the points in the other rows; these three empty points will be filled by the three empyrean planets according to the most harmonious element.  The Moon can appear in either the Earth or Water rows, and Mercury can appear in either the Water or Air rows, but in the case of the figure Laetitia, the Sun can only appear in the Air row, since the Fire row has only one point and is already associated with Mars; thus, in Laetitia, the Sun goes to Air, Mercury to Water, and the Moon to Earth.

Following this rule, we get Rubeus with Jupiter occupying the sole Air point and the Sun moving to the Fire row as the second point, Albus with Venus in the sole Water point and Mercury moving to the Air row, and Tristitia with Saturn in the sole Earth point and the Moon moving to the Water row.

With those done, it would then be easy to see what Via would look like as a collection of planets: just the four ouranic planets Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn in a straight vertical line, the four purely-elemental ouranic planets without any of the mitigating empyrean ones, since the empyrean planets don’t need to be present to mitigate any of the ouranic ones.

Leaving aside Populus for the moment, what about the five-pointed and six-pointed figures?  In the case of five-pointed figures (e.g. Puer), we have to leave out two of the empyrean planets, and only one in the case of the six-pointed figures (e.g. Fortuna Maior).  For these figures, we decided to break with the foregoing empyrean-to-element rule and institute two new ones for these figures.

For five-pointed figures, use Mercury as the sole empyrean planet for the row with two dots, regardless where it may appear:

For six-pointed figures, use the Sun and Moon as the empyrean planets for the two rows with two dots, regardless where they may appear, with the Sun on the upper double-pointed row and the Moon on the lower double-pointed row:

Note how these two rules give us four figures where the empyrean planets do not appear where we would otherwise have expected them:

  • Fortuna Maior (Sun in Water)
  • Fortuna Minor (Moon in Air)
  • Caput Draconis (Mercury in Fire)
  • Cauda Draconis (Mercury in Earth)

I figured that this departure from the original empyrean-to-elemental-row idea was useful here, since it allows us to emphasize the structure of the figures and respect the natural affinities of the empyrean planets to each other.  The Sun and Moon have always been considered a pair unto themselves as the two luminaries; without one, the other shouldn’t necessarily be present in such a planetary arrangement.  Thus, for the five-pointed figures that omit the Sun and Moon, we would then use only Mercury, as it’s the only empyrean planet available.  Likewise, if either the Sun or Moon is present, the other should also be present; for the six-pointed figures, this means that Mercury is the only empyrean planet omitted.  An alternative arrangement could be used where you keep following the prior rules, such that Fortuna Maior uses the Sun and Mercury, Fortuna Minor uses Mercury and the Moon, etc., but I rather like keeping the Sun and Moon both in or out together.  It suggests a certain…fixity, as it were, in the six-pointed figures and mutability in the five-pointed figures that fits well with their even/objective/external or odd/subjective/internal meanings.

For all the foregoing, I’m torn between seeing whether the order of planets within a row (if there are two) matters or not.  In one sense, it shouldn’t matter; I only assigned the ouranic planets to the right point and the empyreal planets to the left because of the right-to-left nature of geomancy, and coming from a set theory point of view, the order of things in a set doesn’t really matter since sets don’t have orders, just magnitude.  On the other hand, we typically consider the left-hand side of things to be weaker, more receptive, more distant, or more manifested from the right-hand stronger, emitting, near, or manifesting (due, of course, to handedness in humans with the usual connotations of “dexter” and “sinister”), but relying on that notion, I do feel comfortable putting the empyrean planets (if any) on the left-hand points of a figure, with the ouranic planets on the right-hand side, if not the middle.  It’s mostly a matter of arbitrary convention, but it does…I dunno, feel better that way.

So that takes care of the figures of four, five, six, and seven points.  We only have one figure left, the eight-pointed figure Populus.  As usual with this figure, things get weird.  We can’t simply slap the planets onto the points of Populus because we only have seven planets; we’d either need to bring in an extra force (Spirit? Fixed stars? the Earth?) which would necessitate an eighth force which simply isn’t available planetarily, or we’d have to duplicate one of the existing seven planets which isn’t a great idea (though, if that were to be the case, I’d probably volunteer Mercury for that).  However, consider what the figure of Populus represents: emptiness, inertia, void.  What if, instead of filling in the points of the figure Populus, we fill in the spaces left behind by those points?  After all, if Populus is empty of elements, then why bother trying to put planets where there’ll be nothing, anyway?  If it’s void, then put the planets in the voids.  I found it easiest to conceive of seven voids around and among the points of Populus in a hexagram pattern:

Rather than filling in the points of Populus, which would necessitate an eighth planet or the duplication of one of the seven planets, we can envision the seven planets being used to fill the gaps between the points of Populus; seen another way, the planets would be arranged in a harmonic way, and Populus would take “form”, so to speak, in the gaps between the planets themselves.  The above arrangement of suggested points to fill naturally suggests the planetary hexagram used elsewhere in Western magic (note that the greyed-out circles above and below aren’t actually “there” for anything, but represent the voids that truly represent Populus around which the planets are arranged):

Simple enough, but I would instead recommend a different arrangement of planets to represent Populus based on all the rules we have above.  Note how the center column has three “voids” to fill by planets, and there are four “voids” on either side of the figure proper.  Rather than using the standard planetary hexagram, I’d recommend putting the three empyrean planets in the middle, with the Sun on top, Mercury in the middle, and the Moon on the bottom; then, putting Mars and Jupiter on the upper two “voids” with Venus and Saturn on the bottom two “voids”:

Note the symmetry here of the planets in the voids of Populus.  Above Mercury are the three hot planets (the right-hand side of the Tetractys), and below are the three cold planets (the left-hand side of the Tetractys).  On the right side are Mars and Venus together, representing the masculine and feminine principles through Fire and Water; on the left, Jupiter and Saturn, representing the expansive and contracting principles through Air and Earth; above is the Sun, the purely hot unmanifest force among the planets; below is the Moon, the coldest unmanifest force but closest to manifestation and density; in the middle is Mercury, the mean between them all.  Around the planet Mercury in the middle can be formed three axes: the vertical axis for the luminaries, the Jupiter-Venus axis for the benefics, and the Saturn-Mars axis for the malefics.  Note how Mercury plays the role of mean as much as on the Tetractys as it does here, played out in two of the three axes (Sun-Moon on the third rung, and Venus-Jupiter by being the one of the third-rung “parents” of the two elemental sphairai on the fourth rung).  The Saturn-Mars axis represents a connection that isn’t explicitly present on the Tetractys, but just as the transformation between Air and Water (hot/moist to cold/moist) is mediated by Mercury, so too would Mercury have to mediate the transformation between Fire and Earth (hot/dry to cold/dry); this can be visualized by the Tetractys “looping back” onto itself, as if it were wrapped around a cylinder, where the sphairai of Mars/Fire and Saturn/Earth neighbored each other on opposite sides, linked together by an implicit “negative” Mercury.  Further, read counterclockwise, the hexagram here is also related to the notion of astrological sect: the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn belong to the diurnal sect, while the Moon, Venus, and Mars belong to the nocturnal sect; Saturn, though cold, is given to the diurnal sect of the Sun to mitigate its cold, and Mars, though hot, is given to the nocturnal sect of the Moon to mitigate its heat, with Mercury being adaptable, possesses no inherent sect of its own, but changes whether it rises before or after the Sun.

That done, I present the complete set of planetary arrangements for the sixteen geomantic figures, organized according to reverse binary order from Via down to Populus:

So, the real question then becomes, how might these be used?  It goes without saying that these can be used for scrying into, meditating upon, or generally pondering to more deeply explore the connections between the planets and the figures besides the mere correspondence of rulership.  Magically, you might consider creating and consecrating a set of seven planetary talismans.  Once made, they can be arranged into one of the sixteen geomantic figures according to the patterns above for specific workings; for instance, using the planetary arrangement of Acquisitio using the planetary talismans in a wealth working.  If you want to take the view that the figures are “constructed” from the planets much how we construct them from the elements, then this opens up new doors to, say, crafting invocations for the figures or combining the planets into an overall geomantic force.

However, there’s a snag we hit when we realize that most of the figures omit some of the planets; it’s only the case for five of the 16 figures that all seven planets are present, and of those five, one of them (Populus) is sufficiently weird to not fit any sort of pattern for the rest.  Thus, special handling would be needed for the leftover planetary talismans.  Consider:

  • The five-pointed figures omit the Sun and the Moon.  These are the two visible principles of activity/positivity and passivity/negativity, taking form in the luminaries of the day and night.  These could be set to the right and left, respectively, of the figure to confer the celestial blessing of light onto the figure and guide its power through and between the “posts” of the two luminaries.
  • The six-pointed figures omit the planet Mercury.  Magically, Mercury is the arbiter, messenger, and go-between of all things; though the planetary talisman of Mercury would not be needed for the six-pointed figures, his talisman should be set in a place of prominence at the top of the altar away from the figure-arrangement of the rest of the talismans to encourage and direct the flow of power as desired.
  • The only four-pointed figure, Via, omits all three of the empyrean planets.  As this figure is already about directed motion, we could arrange these three talismans around the four ouranic planetary talismans in the form of a triangle that contains Via, with the Sun beneath the figure to the right, the Moon beneath the figure to the left, and Mercury above the figure in the middle; alternatively, the figure could be transformed into an arrow, with the talisman of Mercury forming the “tip” and the Sun and Moon forming the “arms” of the arrowpoint, placed either on top of or beneath the figure of Via to direct the power either away or towards the magician.

The eight-pointed figure Populus, although containing all seven planets in its arrangement, does so in a “negative” way by having the planets fill the voids between the points proper.  Rather than using the planets directly, it’s the silent voids between them that should be the focus of the works using this arrangement.  As an example, if we would normally set candles on top of the planetary talismans for the other arrangements, here we would arrange the planetary talismans according to the arrangement for Populus, but set up the candles in the empty voids where the points of Populus would be rather than on top of the talismans themselves.

All told, this is definitely something I want to experiment with as I conduct my own experiments with geomantic magic.  Even if it’s strictly theoretical without any substantial ritual gains, it still affords some interesting insights that tie back into mathesis for me.  Though it probably doesn’t need to be said, I’ll say it here explicitly: this is all very theoretical and hypothetical, with (for now) everything here untested and nothing here used.  If you do choose to experiment with it, caveat magus, and YMMV.


On Geomantic Figures, Zodiac Signs, and Lunar Mansions

Geomantic figures mean a lot of things; after all, we only have these 16 symbols to represent the entire rest of the universe, or, as a Taoist might call it, the “ten-thousand things”.  This is no easy task, and trying to figure out exactly how to read a particular geomantic figure in a reading is where real skill and intuition come into play.  It’s no easy thing to determine whether we should interpret Puer as just that, a young boy, or a weapon of some kind, or an angry person, or head trauma or headaches, or other things depending on where we find it in a chart, what’s around it, what figures generated it, and so forth.

Enter the use of correspondence tables.  Every Western magician loves these things, which simply link a set of things with another set of things.  Think of Liber 777 or Stephen Skinner’s Complete Magician’s Tables or Agrippa’s tables of Scales; those are classic examples of correspondence tables, but they don’t always have to be so expansive or universal.  One-off correspondences, like the figures to the planets or the figures to the elements, are pretty common and usually all we need.

One such correspondence that many geomancers find useful is that which links the geomantic figures to the signs of the Zodiac.  However, there are two such systems I know of, which confuses a lot of geomancers who are unsure of which to pick or when they work with another geomancer who uses another system.

  • The planetary method (or Agrippan method) assigns the zodiac signs to the figures based on the planet and mobility of the figure.  Thus, the lunar figures (Via and Populus) are given to the lunar sign (Cancer), and the solar figures (Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor) are given to the solar sign (Leo).  For the other planet/figures, the mobile figure is given to the nocturnal/feminine sign and the stable figure to the diurnal/masculine sign; thus, Puella (stable Venus) is given to Libra (diurnal Venus) and Amissio (mobile Venus) is given to Taurus (nocturnal Venus).  This system doesn’t work as well for Mars (both of whose figures are mobile) and Saturn (both of whose figures are stable), but we can say that Puer is more stable that Rubeus and Amissio more stable than Carcer.  Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis are analyzed more in terms of their elements and both considered astrologically (not geomantically) mobile, and given to the mutable signs of their proper elements.
  • The method of Gerard of Cremona is found in his work “On Astronomical Geomancy”, which is more of a way to draw up a horary astrological chart without respect for the actual heavens themselves in case one cannot observe them or get to an ephemeris at the moment.  He lists his own way to correspond the figures to the signs, but there’s no immediately apparent way to figure out the association.

Thus, the geomantic figures are associated with the signs of the Zodiac in the following ways according to their methods:

Planetary Gerard of Cremona
Populus Cancer Capricorn
Via Leo
Albus Gemini Cancer
Coniunctio Virgo Virgo
Puella Libra Libra
Amissio Taurus Scorpio
Fortuna Maior Leo Aquarius
Fortuna Minor Taurus
Puer Aries Gemini
Rubeus Scorpio
Acquisitio Sagittarius Aries
Laetitia Pisces Taurus
Tristitia Aquarius Scorpio
Carcer Capricorn Pisces
Caput Draconis Virgo Virgo
Cauda Draconis Virgo Sagittarius

As you can see, dear reader, there’s not much overlap between these two lists, so it can be assumed that any overlap is coincidental.

In my early days, I ran tests comparing the same set of charts but differing in how I assigned the zodiac signs to the figures, and found out that although the planetary method is neat and clean and logical, it was Gerard of Cremona’s method that worked better and had more power in it.  This was good to know, and I’ve been using Gerard of Cremona’s method ever since, but it was also kinda frustrating since I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason behind it.

The other day, I was puzzled by how Gerard of Cremona got his zodiacal correspondences for the geomantic figures, so I started plotting out how the Zodiac signs might relate to the figures.  I tried pretty much everything I could think of: looking at the planetary domicile, exaltation, and triplicity didn’t get me anywhere, and trying to compare the signs with their associated houses (Aries with house I, Taurus with house II, etc.) and using the planetary joys of each house didn’t work, either.  Comparing the individual figures with their geomantic element and mobility/stability with the element and quality of the sign (cardinal, fixed, mutable) didn’t get me anywhere.  I was stuck, and started thinking along different lines: either Gerard of Cremona was using another source of information, or he made it up himself.  If it were that latter, I’d be frustrated since I’d have to backtrack and either backwards-engineer it or leave it at experience and UPG that happens to work, and I don’t like doing that.

Gerard of Cremona wrote in the late medieval period, roughly around the 12th century, which is close to when geomancy was introduced into Europe through Spain.  Geomancy was, before Europe, an Arabian art, and I remembered that there is at least one method of associating the geomantic figures with an important part of Arabian magic and astrology: the lunar mansions, also called the Mansions of the Moon.  I recall this system from the Picatrix as well as Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy (book II, chapter 33), and also that it was more important in early European Renaissance magic than it was later on.  On a hunch, I decided to start investigating the geomantic correspondences to the lunar mansions.

Unfortunately, there’s pretty much nothing in my disposal on the lunar mansions in the geomantic literature I know of, but there was something I recall reading.  Some of you might be aware of a Arabic geomantic calculating machine, an image of which circulates around the geomantic blogosphere every so often.  Back in college, I found an analysis of this machine by Emilie Savage-Smith and Marion B. Smith in their 1980 publication “Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device”, and I recall that a section of the text dealt with that large dial in the middle of the machine.  Turns out, that dial links the geomantic figures with the lunar mansions!

However, I honestly couldn’t make heads-or-tails of that dial, and neither could Savage-Smith nor Smith; it dealt with “rising” and “setting” mansions that were out of season but arranged in a way that wasn’t temporal but geometrical according to the figures themselves.  Add to it, the set of lunar mansions associated with the figures here was incomplete and didn’t match what Gerard of Cremona had at all.  However, a footnote in their work gave me another lead, this time to an early European geomantic work associated with Hugo Sanctallensis, the manuscript of which is still extant.  A similar manuscript from around the same time period, Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Lat. 7354, was reproduced in Paul Tannery’s chapter on geomancy “Le Rabolion” in his Mémoires Scientifiques (vol. 4).  In that text, Tannery gives the relevant section of the manuscript that, lo and behold, associates the 16 geomantic figures with 21 of the lunar mansions:

Lunar Mansion Geomantic figure
1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe  Carcer

(NB: I used the standard Latin names for the figures and Agrippa’s names for the lunar mansions, as opposed to the names given in the manuscript.  Corresponding the mansion names in the manuscript to those of Agrippa, and thus their associated geomantic figures, is tentative in some cases, but the order is the same.)

So now we have a system of 21 of the 28 lunar mansions populated by the geomantic figures.  It’d be nice to have a complete system, but I’m not sure one survives in the literature, and one isn’t given by Tannery.  All the same, however, we have our way to figure out Gerard of Cremona’s method of assigning the zodiac signs to the geomantic figures.  Each sign of the Zodiac is 30° of the ecliptic, but each mansion of the Moon is 12°51’26”, so there’s a bit of overlap between one zodiac sign and several lunar mansions.  As a rule, for every “season” of three zodiac figures (Aries to Gemini, Cancer to Virgo, Libra to Sagittarius, Capricorn to Pisces), we have seven lunar mansions divided evenly among them.  If we compare how each sign of the Zodiac and their corresponding geomantic figure(s) match up with the lunar mansions and their figures from Tannery, we get a pretty neat match:

Zodiac Signs and Figures Lunar Mansion and Figures
1 Aries Acqusitio 1 Alnath Acquisitio
2 Albotain
3 Azoraya Fortuna Maior
2 Taurus Fortuna Minor
4 Aldebaran Laetitia
5 Almices Puella
3 Gemini Puer
6 Athaya Rubeus
7 Aldirah
4 Cancer Albus 8 Annathra Albus
9 Atarf
10 Algebha Via
5 Leo Via
11 Azobra
12 Acarfa
6 Virgo Caput Draconis
13 Alhaire Caput Draconis
14 Azimech Coniunctio
7 Libra Puella 15 Argafra Puer
16 Azubene
17 Alichil Amissio
8 Scorpio Amissio
18 Alcalb
19 Exaula Tristitia
9 Sagittarius Cauda Draconis
20 Nahaym Populus
21 Elbeda Cauda Draconis
10 Capricorn Populus 22 Caadaldeba
23 Caadebolach
24 Caadacohot
11 Aquarius Fortuna Maior
25 Caadalhacbia Fortuna Minor
26 Amiquedam
12 Pisces Carcer
27 Algarf Almuehar
28 Arrexhe Carcer

If you compare the figures for the zodiac signs, in the majority of cases you see the same figures at least once in a lunar mansion that overlaps that particular sign.  There are a few exceptions to this rule, however:

  • Fortuna Maior and Fortuna Minor are reversed between Gerard of Cremona’s zodiacal system and Tannery’s mansion system, as are Puer and Puella.  I’m pretty sure this is a scribal error, but where exactly it might have occurred (with Gerard of Cremona or before him, in a corrupt copy of Gerard of Cremona, or in Tannery’s manuscript) is hard to tell.
  • Populus, being given to mansion XX present in Sagittarius, is assigned to Capricorn.  If we strictly follow the system above, we get two geomantic figures for Sagittarius and none for Capricorn.  To ensure a complete zodiacal assignment, we bump Populus down a few notches and assign it to Capricorn.

And there you have it!  Now we understand the basis for understanding Gerard of Cremona’s supposedly random system of corresponding the signs of the Zodiac to the geomantic figures, and it turns out that it was based on the lunar mansions and their correspondences to the geomantic figures.  This solves a long-standing problem for me, but it also raises a new one: since we (probably) don’t have an extant complete system of corresponding the lunar mansions to the geomantic figures, how do we fill in the blanks?  In this system, we’re missing geomantic figures for mansions VII, XI, XII, XVIII, XXII, XXIII, and XIV (or, if you prefer, Aldirah, Azobra, Acarfa, Alcalb, Caadaldeba, Caadebolach, Caadacohot, and Caadalhacbia).  All of the geomantic figures are already present, and we know that some figures can cover more than one mansion, so it might be possible that some of the figures should be expanded to cover more than the mansion they already have, e.g. Rubeus covering mansion VI (Athaya), which it already does, in addition to VII (Aldirah), which is currently unassigned.

This is probably a problem best left for another day, but perhaps some more research into the lunar mansions and some experimentation would be useful.  If an Arabic source listing the geomantic figures in a similar way to the lunar mansions could be found, that’d be excellent, but I’m not holding my breath for that kind of discovery anytime soon.

On the Geomantic Triads

Western geomancy, as a whole, can often be described as astrological.  This isn’t to say that geomancy comes from astrology or vice versa (although some authors might disagree, like Cornelius Agrippa), but that many of the techniques described by Western geomantic texts are heavily influenced by astrological techniques: the use of the 12 houses, perfection, planetary and zodiacal affinities, the Parts of Spirit and Fortune, and the like.  The use of astrologesque techniques in geomancy have sometimes led geomancy to be called “astrology’s little sister” (since it can easily look like a shortened or abbreviated form of astrology) or “poor man’s astrology” (since it didn’t take nearly as much education or expertise to learn geomancy).  For people who want to get away from astrology, it can sometimes be irksome that there appears to be so much of it in what should be the divination system that counters it (reading the stars versus divining the earth, if we want to take things literally).

That said, geomancy is still its own tradition and has its own strengths and techniques that are quite isolated from anything astrological.  This is fortunate for people who want to bring geomancy back to its roots in Western geomancy, or for people who want to get the astrology out of geomancy.  It’s unfortunate, however, in that virtually all Western geomantic texts, all the focus is on astrological techniques with maybe a bit of lip service paid to the techniques that we might find in the Shield Chart.  The Shield Chart, I might remind you, looks like this:

Geomantic Tableau Layout

I assume you, dear reader, already understand the gist of how to make a geomancy chart, so the above diagram shouldn’t be too surprising.  We have the four Mothers in the upper right, the four Daughters in the upper left, the Nieces formed from pairs of the Mothers or Daughters, the Witnesses formed from pairs of the Nieces, and the Judge formed from the Witnesses.  The Sentence, which isn’t pictured in the above image, would be formed from the Judge and First Mother.  This is how geomantic charts are formed in European geomancy as they are in Arabic geomancy and in many forms of Indian and African geomancy; the form really doesn’t change.  Once you get the four Mother figures, you already have the other 12 figures implicit within them; the Shield Chart is just the full expansion of those figures to make all sixteen figures explicit.

The problem, however, in using the Shield Chart is that most people just…don’t.  As I mentioned before, probably the most important part of a geomantic reading can be found only by use of the Shield Chart, which is the four figures of the Court: Right Witness, Left Witness, Judge, and Sentence.  Of these, the Judge is the most important figure which is the answer.  I’m not kidding or being obtuse here; the Judge really does answer the query, but in a very high-level, broad, context-setting way.  The entire rest of the chart was developed for a reason, and that’s to give the details to fill in the gaps and clarify the blurriness that the Judge leaves behind.  However, many geomancers (I flinch to say “most” even though that’s probably the case) tend to skip the Court and the Judge and go right to the House Chart, which reorganizes the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces into the 12 houses of an astrological horoscope.  To be fair, this is an excellent way to do geomantic readings, but it’s far from the only way.  After all, there are more ways to read the Shield Chart than for the Court alone.

One such method of reading the Shield Chart is one I first learned from John Michael Greer in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  He calls this technique “reading the triplicities”, based on the name that Robert Fludd gave it, but I prefer the term “triads” to prevent confusion with astrological triplicities.  Essentially, we inspect four groups of three figures, each group of figures termed a triad:

  1. First Triad: First Mother + Second Mother = First Niece
  2. Second Triad: Third Mother + Fourth Mother = Second Niece
  3. Third Triad: First Daughter + Second Daughter = Third Niece
  4. Fourth Triad: Third Daughter + Fourth Daughter = Fourth Niece

The astute student will recognize that the triads are nothing more than pairs of figures that add up to a third, much in the same way that the Witnesses add up to the Judge.  John Michael Greer describes how each triad may be read to get a solid overview of a particular situation described by a geomantic chart:

  1. First Triad: the querent’s current self, circumstances, and nature.
  2. Second Triad: the current situation inquired about.
  3. Third Triad: places and surroundings of the querent, including the people and activities involved there.
  4. Fourth Triad: people involved with the querent’s life, including their friends, colleagues, coworkers, and the interplay of the relationships among them.

The manner of reading a triad is done in much the same way the Court is read:

  • Interactive reading: Right parent + Left parent = Child.  How things interact based on the querent’s side of things (right) when faced with the quesited’s side of things (left), or how things known (right) interact with things unknown (left).
  • Temporal reading: Right parent → Child  → Left parent.  How things proceed from the past leading up to the present (right), the present situation (child), and the future leading on from the present situation (left).

However, the only other source I can find regarding the triads (or, to use the older term, triplicities) comes from Robert Fludd in his Fasciculus Geomanticus.  He describes what these things are in book III, chapter 4:

De Triplicitatibus ſeu de dijudicatione quæſtionis per Triplicitates, hoc eſt, per tres figuras ſimul ſine ſpecificatione alicujus figura.

Prima Triplicitas ſignificat petitorem, & totam locorum circumſtantiam, ſcilicet complexionem quantitatem, cogitationem, mores, ſubſtantiam, virtutes, quae Triplicitatis illius figura denotat, prout demonſtratur in exemplo ſequenti, ubi homo est magniloquus, multarum divitiarum & complexionis frigidæ ac ſiccæ.

Secunda Triplicitas ſignificat omne illud, quod prima, excepto eo ſolo, quod prima denotat principium rerum, & ſecunda fortunas earum.

Tertia Triplicitas ſignificat qualitatem loci, ubi homines frequentant, videlicet an ſit magnus vel parvus, pulcher vel deformis, & ſic in cæteris, ſecundum figuras, quæ ibi reperiuntur: Significat etiam damnum loci, item, qualis ſit homo, an bonus vel malus, audax vel timidus.

Quarta Triplicitas significat fortunam & staturis amicorum, & principaliores curiæ, ac homines officiarios.

In English, according to my rough translation:

On the Triplicities, or on the decision of the question by the Triplicities, which is by three figures at the same time without the particular mention of another figure.

The first Triplicity signifies the querent and all of the circumstances of [their] place, as one may know the complexion, magnitude, thoughts, mores, substance, virtues which of this Triplicity the figure denotes, just as is demonstrated in the following example, where a man is boastful, greatly rich, and of a cold and dry complexion.

The second Triplicity signifies all that the first does, with the sole exception that the first denotes the principle of the thing, and the second its fortune.

The third Triplicity signifies the quality of the place where people frequent, as one may see whether one be great or small, beautiful or deformed, and so forth, according to the figures that are found there. It also signifies damage of the place, likewise what sort of person it may be, whether good or evil, brave or timid.

The fourth Triplicity signifies the fortune and stature of friends, and principals of the court, and officers.

This is certainly a different take on the triads than what John Michael Greer has in his book, and I wonder where JMG got his information on the triads from, because Fludd seems to have a different way of interpreting them.  That said, you can kinda see how JMG got to his interpretation from Fludd’s.  Annoyingly, however, despite the nearly 650 pages of information in Fludd’s masterwork of geomancy, all I can find on the triads is simply this one page of information.  Like I said, the bulk of Western geomantic lore focuses on the use of the House Chart, and Fludd is no exception.

Still, at least the triads give us something to work with so that we have some way of interpreting the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces in the chart besides the Via Puncti (which is a very good way to interpret other aspects of the Shield Chart).  Between the condition of the querent (First Triad), condition of the quesited (Second Triad), the place of the query (Third Triad), and the people involved in the query (Fourth Triad), we have about as much information as we’d get from the House Chart but presented in a different way.  This will help us base further techniques of interpreting the Shield Chart later, as I have a few ideas I want to flesh out in the meantime in how we might expand on the Shield Chart itself apart from the House Chart.

Also, there’s something I want to warn you, dear reader.  Now that we know what the “houses” of the Shield Chart are associated with (such as the First Mother with the condition of the querent), it might be thought that we can draw associations between the Shield Chart houses with the House Chart houses, such that Shield Chart houses 7, 8, and 12 (Fourth Triad) relate to the seventh, eighth, and twelfth houses of the House Chart.  While this might be a useful meditation exercise, be aware that there are multiple ways of assigning the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I tend to stick with the straightforward traditional way (First Mother to first house, Second Mother to second house, etc.), but there are at least two other ways I’ve seen it done: the “esoteric” way (assign the Mothers to the cardinal houses clockwise starting in house I, Daughters to succedent houses starting in house II, and Nieces to cadent houses starting in house III) and the Golden Dawn way (same as esoteric but starting in house X/XI/XII).  So, maybe this line of inquiry and meditation might not be the most useful thing to rely upon, especially since the whole point of this is to keep the astrological geomancy techniques separate from the geomantic geomancy techniques.

Geomantic Revelations of the Tetractys

The last post on the arithmetic subtleties of the Tetractys got me to thinking.  If I have four rows of things I can select or not select for a collection, I end up with so many results.  The overall number of distinct results, of course, is 10 (Monad through the Decad), but I thought a bit deeper about it.  I mean, I disregarded multiple ways of adding up to a given number before, and what if I took all those into account?  After I did the math, I realized there are 16 ways to add different selections of the ranks of the Tetractys together to get a certain sum.  Four rows, 16 results.  Sound familiar?  Yup.  I accidentally found a way to link the Tetractys to the 16 figures of geomancy.  Before reading, I suggest you brush up on the terms of geomantic operation, specifically for what inversion and reversion is.  Besides, it’s been a while since I mentioned anything substantial about geomancy, so this is an interesting confluence of studies for me.

Whether geomancy has ever been thought about in terms of the Tetractys, I can’t say, though I personally doubt it, but consider the following analysis.  First, let’s assign the four elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth to the four ranks of the Tetractys:

  • Monad: Fire
  • Dyad: Air
  • Triad: Water
  • Tetrad: Earth

This isn’t that much a stretch.  Yes, the elements properly belong to the Tetrad as a whole, but we also can think of the four elements as numbers in their own right.  We know that Fire is the most subtle and Earth the least, and that Fire is the least dense and Earth the most.  Similarly, the Monad is the most subtle and least concrete number, while the Tetrad is the most concrete and least subtle.  We can assign the four elements accordingly to the four numbers of the Tetractys with agreeable ease.

If we allow for all possible combinations of these four numbers to be either present or absent in a sum, then we get sixteen different results, just how we get sixteen different geomantic figures by allowing for all four elements to be either present or absent.  The list of all the possible ways to add the ranks of the Tetractys are:

  1. None (0): Populus (None)
  2. Monad alone (1): Laetitia (Fire alone)
  3. Dyad alone (2): Rubeus (Air alone)
  4. Monad + Dyad (3): Fortuna Minor (Fire + Air)
  5. Triad alone (3): Albus (Water alone)
  6. Monad + Triad (4): Amissio (Fire + Water)
  7. Dyad + Triad (5): Coniunctio (Air + Water)
  8. Monad + Dyad + Triad (6): Cauda Draconis (Fire + Air + Water)
  9. Tetrad alone (4): Tristitia (Earth alone)
  10. Monad + Tetrad (5): Carcer (Fire + Earth)
  11. Dyad + Tetrad (6): Acquisitio (Air + Earth)
  12. Monad + Dyad + Tetrad (7): Puer (Fire + Air + Earth)
  13. Triad + Tetrad (7): Fortuna Maior (Water + Earth)
  14. Monad + Triad + Tetrad (8): Puella (Fire + Water + Earth)
  15. Dyad + Triad + Tetrad (9): Caput Draconis (Air + Water + Earth)
  16. Monad + Dyad + Triad + Tetrad (10): Via (Fire + Air + Water + Earth)

Note that the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 have two ways each to add up to them.  In the last post, we only discussed one each, the formulas that use the basic Monad/Dyad/Triad/Tetrad set, but it’s possible and equivalent to say that 6 is both a combination of Dyad and Tetrad as it is with Monad and Pentad.  The numbers 0, 1, 2, 8, 9, and 10, however, each only have one way to add up to them.  Thus, the numbers that have two ways have two possible figures, and the numbers with only one have one figure.  In this way, we can assign geomantic figures to different collections of the ranks of the Tetractys, but what might this mean?  For numbers that can be added to in two ways (3, 4, 5, 6), we have two figures each.  We’ll call those figures “manifesting” that have more rarefied numbers (such as Puer, which is Monad + Dyad + Tetrad), and “manifested” those that have more concrete numbers (such as Fortuna Maior, which is Triad + Tetrad).  As it turns out, we end up with mobile figures becoming manifesting and stable figures becoming manifested.  Thus, we end up with a chart like the following:

 Sum Manifesting Manifested
0 Populus
1 Laetitia
2 Rubeus
3 Fortuna Minor Albus
4 Amissio Tristitia
5 Coniunctio Carcer
6 Cauda Draconis Acquisitio
7 Puer Fortuna Maior
8 Puella
9 Caput Draconis
10 Via

Going from top to bottom, we see that there are important patterns present in the chart.  Figures for 0 and 10 (Populus and Via) are inverses of each other, as are 1/9 and 2/8.  The manifesting 3 and manifested 7 figures are also inverses, as are manifested 3 and manifested 7, and so forth.  Coniunctio and Carcer are both italicized, since they’re both equally manifesting and manifested and it’s hard to tell which is which, especially since they’re both equally added to by 5 and are in the middle of the list.  We see that the greater the sum, the more “dense” and active the figure becomes, and we get more stable the further down we go (with one exception we’ll get to later).  As might be expected from Iamblichus, the number 5 is the pivot and balance for all the other numbers, and accordingly the manifested and manifesting properties of this number are in agreeable and balanced growth.  We can also note that the “extreme” (0, 10) and median figures (5) are what we’d also call “liminal”; figures that are the same when they’re reversed.  We have this constant shifting balance throughout the structure of this Tetractyan geomancy that keeps popping up, so that’s cool.

If we use our keywords from our prior discussion of the nature of the numbers from 1 through 10, we can attribute them to the geomantic figures:

  1. Individuation: Laetitia
  2. Relation: Rubeus
  3. Harmony: Fortuna Minor (manifesting), Albus (manifested)
  4. Form: Amissio (manifesting), Tristitia (manifested)
  5. Growth: Coniunctio and Carcer (both manifesting and manifested)
  6. Order: Cauda Draconis (manifesting), Acquisitio (manifested)
  7. Essence: Puer (manifesting), Fortuna Maior (manifested)
  8. Mixture: Puella
  9. Realization: Caput Draconis
  10. Wholeness: Via

In this sense, the terms “manifesting” and “manifested” become a little clearer.  Figures that are manifesting bring that quality into existence, while figures that are manifested represent that quality already in existence.  It’s the difference between “becoming/causing” and “existing/evidencing”.  Thus, Fortuna Minor is manifesting harmony, since it requires one to work with others, indicating that one’s own power is not enough to carry the day; other interaction is required.  On the other hand, Albus is manifested harmony, maintaining equanimity and reflection unto itself, self-sufficient and uninvolved with anything else that might disturb it.  Similar cases can be drawn up for the other sums, so it’s interesting to see how geomancy can reflect these numerological concepts in its own logic.

What about the numbers for which there’s only one figure?  The figures of 0, 1, and 2 are the inverses of the figures of 10, 9, and 8, respectively, and if we keep our mobile/manifesting and stable/manifested idea, then 0, 8, and 9 are manifested qualities while 1, 2, and 10 are manifesting.  It seems odd that Populus should be among the mobile/manifesting figures and Via among the stable/manifested, but the swap here makes sense in a cyclical way; after all, with either absolutely nothing or absolutely everything present, we end up able to repeat the whole process, since if everything is all one Thing, one can no longer draw a difference since there’s nothing different (hooray, paradoxes).  So, Individuation and Realization are manifesting and manifested qualities of a metaquality “Becoming”; Relation and Mixture of “Variation”; and…hm.  We have Wholeness as the quality for 10, but what about 0?

What’s probably most bizarre about this interpretation, at least in a strictly Pythagorean sense, is the “sum” of Populus being 0.  Zero was not considered to be a true number by the ancient Greeks, or really by anyone in the Western world, up through the medieval age when Arabic and Indian mathematics started becoming popular to study.  After all, they might ask, “how can nothing be something?”  Besides, with the Tetractys itself, all things are based on the Monad.  The Monad defines and begins all things on the Tetractys and existence itself, yet it itself cannot come from nothing, for it never came or became at all.  We haven’t encountered the notion of “nothingness” before in our mathetic studies, so what might it represent?  Honestly, I’d consider it to represent Emptiness in the Buddhist sense where all things are interconnected and rely upon each other.  It’s not quite Relation or Harmony or any of the other things, but it would be closest to Wholeness; after all, Matter must exist within Space, and all of Matter exists within all other Matter, always influencing and influenced by itself.  It’s weird, though, but think of it like this.  In all things, Populus must exist as the template for all other things, the ideal form that even the Monad itself represents as itself.  Without Populus, we’d have no geomantic figure, just as the Good itself cannot exist apart from Goodness.  Even Wholeness must reside within the form of Emptiness, just like how Populus must be present (even if “hidden” or implied) in every geomantic chart.  So, if Wholeness is the Decad, then Emptiness is the Mēden (Μηδεν), or “Nothing”.  But both, in an obscure sense, are the same.

Focusing more on the qualities of the numbers themselves, we can further pair them up into different groups based on how the geomantic figures there are inverses of each other.  In other words, if two numbers add up to 10 (0 + 10, 1 + 9, etc.), they form a pair:

  • Individuation/Realization (1 + 9 = 10)
  • Relation/Mixture (2 + 8 = 10)
  • Harmony/Essence (3 + 7 = 10)
  • Form/Order (4 + 6 = 10)
  • Emptiness/Wholeness (0 + 10 = 10)
  • Growth (5 + 5 = 10)

These qualities, though paired up to indicate something like an opposition or dichotomy, doesn’t seem to indicate anything of the sort, but rather two interconnected concepts that cannot be separated from each other.  After all, in order for one to become One, something whole and complete in and of itself, it must go through a process of becoming and enforming to become real (Individuation and Realization, 1/9).  In order for different things to relate, oppose, agree, or move with each other, they must be put together and combined (Relation and Mixture, 2/8).  In order for different things to agree, combine, and merge together, they must share certain qualities and be germane to each other (Harmony and Essence, 3/7).  In order for things to possess form, body, and dimension, they must have a structure and consistency that allows them to maintain it (Form and Order, 4/6).  In order for something to exist, it must exist because of something else, or it must allow for itself to be filled with creation (Emptiness and Wholeness, 0/10).  Growth…well, growth expands in all ways, in all dimensions, and itself provides a balance that nurtures and metes out all other qualities (Growth and Growth, 5/5).

So, we have five pairs of qualities of the numbers, and one single quality that forms its own pair.  What might we call these metaqualities?

  • Becoming: Individuation/Realization
  • Variation: Relation/Mixture
  • Accordance: Harmony/Essence
  • Structure: Form/Order
  • Being: Emptiness/Wholeness
  • Growth

These are terms I just pulled off the top of my head, so I don’t expect them to stay permanent terms, but they do tend to fit.  Individuation and Realization are both qualities that are required for anything to become One Thing or one thing.  Relation and Mixture are both required for anything to be different or have difference among others, to either vary or be a variation.  Harmony and Essence are both required for anything to agree with or find similarities with in an accordance.  Form and Order are both required for anything to have a body or to form a body in a coherent structure.  Emptiness and Wholeness are both required for anything to exist, either on its own as a Whole or as part of a Whole filled by it.  Growth can apply to any and all of these things, and mediate between any two qualities that form part of a metaquality pair.  In a way, the metaqualities form their own Tetractys, with Becoming related to the Monad, Variation to the Dyad, Accordance to the Triad, and Structure to the Tetrad.  Growth, as a balance, forms part of the “hidden” Pentad underlying the Tetractys, and the four metaqualities again form another “inverted Tetractys” under it.  Thus, the “upper Tetractys” is composed of Individuation, Relation, Harmony, and Form; the “lower Tetractys” is composed of Realization, Mixture, Essence, and Order.  Growth mediates between the two as the “hidden Pentad”; Emptiness and Wholeness are at once present at all points throughout this dual Tetractys figure.


While my Tetractys research is still new to me, geomancy is not, and being able to understand more of the Tetractys with symbols and terms I’m already familiar with is a huge help to me.  Like I said, I don’t know whether this type of analysis has ever been attempted before, but it’s certainly something that I plan on continuing.  Geomancy, after all, is a binary system based on the number four, and within four is 10 and thus all other numbers.  Perhaps the two were meant to be wedded all along.