On Geomantic Cycles

A while back on the Facebook community I manage for geomancy, the Geomantic Study-Group, someone had posted a proposed method to obtain four Mother figures for a geomantic reading based on the time and date of the query.  The poster based this proposal off of the Plum Blossom method of I Ching, where (as one of several possible formulas) you take the date and time and numerologically reduce the numbers to obtain trigrams; in a sense, such a method could theoretically be done with geomantic figures, and so the poster called this a type of “horary geomancy” (though I’m reluctant to use that term, because it’s also used by Gerard of Cremona to come up with a horary astrological chart by geomantic means, as well as by Schwei and Pestka to refer to geomancy charts that have horary charts overlaid on top).  He proposed three methods, but they all revolved around using the time of the query in astrological terms.

The proposed idea went like this:

  1. Inspect the planetary ruler of the hour of the query.
  2. Inspect the planetary ruler of the weekday of the query.
  3. Inspect the planetary ruler of the Sun sign of the query.
  4. Inspect the planetary ruler of the year of the query.
  5. Transform the planets above, “taking into account rulerships by day or by night”, into geomantic figures, which are used as the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Mothers for the resulting chart for the query.

Seems straightforward enough!  I mean, I’m already familiar with the basics of horary astrology, I keep track of date and time cycles according to Greek letters, and I’ve flirted with using the Era Legis system of timekeeping as proposed by Thelema, and it’s even possible to extend the planetary hour system into planetary minutes and even seconds; having a geomantic system of time, useful for generating charts, seems more than fitting enough!  Besides, there’s already a system of geomantic hours based on the planetary hours which can probably be adapted without too much a problem.

I was excited for this idea; having a geomantic calendar of sorts would be a fantastic tool for both divination and ritual, if such a one could be reasonably constructed, and better still if it played well with already-existing systems such as the planetary week or planetary hours.  That said, I quickly had some questions about putting the proposed method from the group into practice:

  1. What about the assignment of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis?  Do we just occasionally swap them in for Venus/Jupiter and Mars/Saturn, respectively, and if so, how?
  2. Each planet has two figures associated with it; how do you determine which to pick?  “Taking into account rulerships by day or by night” isn’t always straightforward.
  3. How do we determine the planetary ruler of a given year?
  4. Is it possible instead to use the already existing cycles, such as the geomantic hours of Heydon, the rulerships of the lunar mansions, or the Cremona-based or Agrippa-based rulerships of the signs?

When I raised these questions (and a few others), I didn’t really get anything to clarify the method, so this particular conversation didn’t go anywhere.  This is unfortunate, because these pose some major problems to using a strictly planetary-based method of coming up with a geomantic cycle:

  1. The issues in assigning the nodal figures to the planets is the biggest issue.  They simply don’t quite “fit”; even if you reduce the 16 figures into pairs, it’s hard to get eight sets mapped into seven planetary “bins”.  We see this quite clearly when we look at Heydon’s geomantic hours, where the nodal figures are sometimes given to the benefic or malefic planets (though I can’t determine a method), and on Saturdays, two of the hours of the Sun are replaced by the nodal figures (which is, itself, shocking and may just be a typo that can’t be verified either way).  Unless you expand a cycle of 24 hours or seven days into a multiple of 8 or 16, you’re not going to end up with an equal number of figures represented among the planets.
  2. Given that each planet has two figures (ignoring the nodal figure issue from before), you can decide that one figure is going to be “diurnal” and the other “nocturnal”, or in planetary terms, “direct” or “retrograde”.  Different geomancers have different ways to figure out which of a planetary pair of figures are one or the other, so this might just be chalked up to individual interpretation.  Still, though, when would such a diurnal/nocturnal rulership actually matter?  Finding the figure for a planetary hour, using diurnal figures for diurnal hours and nocturnal figures for nocturnal hours?  Finding the figure for a weekday, using the diurnal figure if daytime and the nocturnal figure if nighttime, or alternating whole weeks in a fortnightly diurnal-nocturnal cycle?  Determining what figure to use if the Sun is in Leo or Cancer?
  3. Multi-part problem for the issue of finding the “planetary ruler of a year”:
    1. By inspecting the mathematics of the different kinds of planetary cycles that are established in the days of the week and the hours of the day, we can extend the system down into the minutes of the hours and the seconds of the minutes.  However, scaling up can’t be done along the same way; what allows for the planetary hours to work is that 24 does not evenly divide by 7, nor 60.  Because there’s always that remainder offset, you get a regularly repeating set of planets across a long system that, when aligned with certain synchronized starting points, allows for a planetary ruler of a given hour or day.  However, a week is exactly seven days; because there is no remainder offset, you can’t assign a planet ruling a week in the same way.  If you can’t even cyclically assign a planetary ruler to an entire week, then it’s not possible to do it for greater periods of time that are based on the week.
    2. There is no method of cyclically assigning a planetary rulership to a year the way we do for days or hours.  The poster alluded to one, but I couldn’t think of one, and after asking around to some of my trusted friends, there is no such thing.  You might find the ruler of a given year of a person’s life, or find out what the almuten is at the start of a solar year at its spring equinox, but there’s no cyclical, easily extrapolated way to allocate such a thing based on an infinitely repeating cycle.
    3. We could adopt a method similar to that in Chinese astrology: use the 12-year cycles based on the orbit of Jupiter, which returns to the same sign of the Zodiac every 11.8618 years (or roughly every 11 years, 10 months, 10 days).  In such a system, we’d base the planet ruling the year on the sign where Jupiter is found at the spring equinox.  This is both a weird import into a Western system that isn’t particularly Jupiter-centric, and is not quite exact enough for my liking, due to the eventual drift of Jupiter leading to a cycle that stalls every so often.
    4. It’s trivial to establish a simple cycle that just rotates through all seven planets every seven years, but then the problem becomes, what’s your starting point for the cycle?  It’s possible to inspect the events of years and try to detect a cycle, or we can just arbitrarily assign one, or we can use mythological calendrics (a la Trithemius’ secondary intelligences starting their rulerships at the then-reckoned start of the world), but I’m personally uncomfortable with all these options.
  4. Different existing cycles, different problems for each:
    1. John Heydon’s geomantic hours from his Theomagia (which are the first instance I can find of such an application of the planetary hours) are a mess.  Even accounting for how he reckons the figures as “diurnal” or “nocturnal” and their planetary rulers, the pattern he has breaks at random points and I can’t chalk it up necessarily to being typos.  Additionally, there are 168 hours in a week, but this doesn’t evenly divide into 16, meaning that within a given week in Heydon’s (quite possibly flawed) system of geomantic hours, some figures will not be given as many hours as others.  If we went to a fortnight system of 14 days, then we’d end up with 336 hours which is evenly divisible by 16 (336 hours ÷ 16 figures = 21 hours/figure), but Heydon doesn’t give us such a system, nor have I seen one in use.
    2. The system of lunar mansions from Hugo of Santalla’s work of geomancy ultimately formed the basis for the system of zodiacal rulerships used by Gerard of Cremona (which I’m most partial to).  However, of the 28 mansions, seven have no rulership, and five are duplicated (e.g. mansions 25, 26, and 27 are all ruled by Fortuna Minor).  Moreover, this system of attribution of figures to the mansions is apparently unrelated to the planetary rulership of the lunar mansions (which follow the weekday order, with the Sun ruling mansion 1).  It may be possible to fill in the gaps by closing ranks, such that the unruled mansion 7 is “absorbed” by Rubeus which already rule mansion 6.
    3. There’s another system of lunar mansion rulership assigned to the figures, described by E. Savage-Smith and M. Smith in their description of an Arabian geomancy machine relating to directional correspondences, which uses the similarities between graphical point representation of the figures and certain asterisms of lunar mansions to give them their correspondence.  However, it is likewise incomplete, moreso than Hugo of Santalla’s assignments, and is likely meant as a way of cementing geomancy into Arabic astrological thought (though the two systems do share three figure-mansion correspondences, but this might just be coincidental overlap).
    4. Hugo of Santalla’s system of lunar mansions and geomantic figures was eventually simplified into a set of zodiacal correspondences for the figures, such as used by Gerard of Cremona.  I like this system and have found it of good use, but Agrippa in his On Geomancy says that those who use such a system is vulgar and less trustworthy than a strictly planetary-based method, like what JMG uses in his Art and Practice of Geomancy.  Standardizing between geomancers on this would probably be the riskiest thing, as geomancers tend to diverge more on this detail than almost any other when it comes to the bigger correspondences of the figures.
    5. Even if one were to use Agrippa’s planetary method of assigning figures to the signs of the Zodiac, you’d run into problems with the whole “diurnal” and “nocturnal” classification that different geomancers use for the figures, which is compounded with the issue of nodal figures.  For instance, according to Agrippa, Via and Populus are both given to Cancer; Carcer and Caput Draconis are given to Capricorn; and Puer, Rubeus, and Cauda Draconis are all given to Scorpio.  I suppose you might be able to say that, given a choice, a nodal figure is more diurnal than the planets (maybe?), but how would you decide what to use for Scorpio, if both figures of Mars as well as Cauda Draconis are all lumped together?

In all honesty, given my qualms with trying to find ways to overlay planetary cycles with geomantic ones, I’m…a little despairing of the notion at this point.  The systems we have to base geomantic cycles on are either irregular or incomplete, and in all cases unsatisfactory to my mind.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have heard that some geomancers have used the geomantic hours to good results, but I’ve also heard that some geomancers can get the methods of divination for numbers and letters to work; in other words, these are things that everyone has heard of working but nobody seems to have actually gotten to work.  And, I suppose if you don’t think about it for too long and just take it for granted, perhaps you can get the geomantic hours to work!  After all, I’ve found good results with Hugo of Santalla’s figure-mansions correspondences, even if they’re incomplete and unbalanced, without anything backing them up.  (I never denied that over-thinking can be a problem, much less a problem that I specifically have.)

Further, I’m not saying that geomantic cycles don’t exist; they very likely do, if the elements and the planets and the signs all have their cycles in their proper times.  The problem is that so much of these other cycles we see are based on fancier numbers that are either too small or infrequent (4 elements, 7 planets) or don’t evenly divide into 8 or 16 (like 12 signs, 27 letters in an alphabet), or they simply don’t match up right.  For instance, it would be possible to create a new set of geomantic hours where each figure is present in turn over a course of 16 hours, then repeat the cycle; this leads to returning to the same figure at the same hour of the day every 48 hours, starting a new cycle every third day.  This doesn’t match up well with a seven-day week, but rather a cycle of two weeks (as hypothesized above, since 14 days = 336 hours, and 336 is divisible evenly by 16).  However, such a system would break the correspondence between planets and figures because of the “drift” between cycles of 16 and 7.

So…in that line of thinking, why not rethink the notion of geomantic cycles apart from tying them to planetary ones, and start from scratch?

We’re accustomed to thinking of magical cycles in terms of seven planets, but we could just as easily construct cyclical time systems in terms of four (which can be divided four ways within it), eight (divided into two), or sixteen units.

  • Consider the synodic period of the Moon, which can be said to have eight phases: new, crescent, first quarter, gibbous, full, disseminating, third quarter, and balsamic.  We could attribute each phase two figures, and then sync the cycle to, say, the new moon (when the Sun and Moon are in conjunction) or to the first quarter moon (when the Sun sets as the Moon is directly overhead), giving a synodic month 16 geomantic “stations” each lasting about 1.85 days.
  • Those with a neopagan background are used to thinking of the year as an eight-spoked Wheel, where the year is divided by eight sabbats, which are four quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) and four cross-quarter days; each period between one sabbat and the next could be split into a geomantic “season” lasting roughly 22 or (sometimes) 23 days long.
  • Alternatively, a year of 365 days can be broken up into 22 “months” of 16 days each, leading to 352 days, meaning three or four intercalary/epagomenal days at the end of the year or spread around for, say, the quarter days.
  • Within a single day from sunrise to sunrise, we can divide the day into four segments (morning, afternoon, evening, and night) divided by the stations of the sun (sunrise, noon, sunset, midnight), and each segment can be further subdivided into four geomantic “hours”, leading to a total of 16 geomantic “hours” within a day which would, assuming a day of equal daytime and nighttime, have each “hour” equal to 90 minutes.
  • Years can be broken down into cycles of four years, every fourth year requiring a leap day; this could lend itself to a cycle of 16 years (one geomantic figure per year), or even to a cycle of 64 years (comprising 16 leap days), each of which can be used as a way to define larger-time cycles.

Such a four- or eight-fold division of time and space isn’t unheard of; we commonly reckon a year (at least in most Western Anglophone countries) as having four seasons, the Greeks broke up cycles of years into four-year Olympiads, the ancient Romans divided up the night into four watches (while using twelve hours for the daytime), and there are discussions of a Hellenistic system of astrological houses called the octotopos/octotropos system which uses eight houses instead of the usual 12, so it’s possible to dig that up and rework it to accustom a geomantic method where the number 16 could be applied to work better than mashing it onto a system where the number 7 is more prominent.  That said, finding such a system that’s thoroughly based on 4, 8, or 16 is difficult, as it’d be pretty artificial without including the moon (which repeats in patterns of 12 or 13) or whole number divisors of 360, and considering how thoroughly cultural transmission/conquering has established the 12-month year across most of the world, often obliterating and subsuming earlier systems that may not have left much of a trace.  But, again, if we’re gonna just up and make one from scratch, I suppose it doesn’t need to be grounded in extant systems, now, does it?  Even if it’s artificial, if it’s a cycle that works, such as by associating the different motions of the sun and sensations of the day with the figures, or by linking the changes in the seasons with the figures, then that’s probably the more important thing.

Unlike my older grammatomantic calendars, where the order of the letters provided a useful guide to how the system should “flow”, the geomantic figures have no such inherent order, but can be ordered any number of ways (binary numeral equivalence, element and subelement, planetary, zodiacal order by Gerard of Cremona or by Agrippa, within one of the 256 geomantic emblems, the traditional ordering of odu Ifá which we shouldn’t ever actually use because this isn’t Ifá, etc.).  Or, alternatively, new orders can be made thematically, such as a “solar order” that starts with Fortuna Maior at sunrise, continues through the figures including Fortuna Minor at sunset, and so forth.  This would be a matter of experimentation, exploration, and meditation to see what figure matches up best with what part of a cycle, if an already existing order isn’t used as a base.

I do feel a little bad at not offering a better alternative to the problem that the original poster on Facebook posed, instead just shooting it down with all my own hangups.  Over time, I’d eventually like to start building up a geomantic calendar of sorts so as to try timing things for geomantic spirits and rituals, but that’ll have to wait for another time.  Instead, going back to the original problem statement, how can we use time to come up with four Mothers?  Well, perhaps we can try this:

  1. Consider four lists of geomantic figures: binary (B), elemental (E), planetary (P), and zodiac (Z).  Pick a list you prefer; for this method, I recommend the simple binary list (Populus, Tristitia, Albus…Via).  Enumerate the figures within this list from 0 to 15.
  2. Look at the current time and date of the query being asked.
  3. Take the second (1 through 59, and if the second is 0, use 60), minute (ditto), and hour (1 through 23, and if 0, use 24).  Add together, divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 1.
  4. Take the day of the year (1 through 365 or 366), divide by 16, and take the remainder.  This is key 2.
  5. Take the year, divide by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 3.
  6. Add up all the digits of the current second, minute, hour, day, and year.  Divide this number by 16, then take the remainder.  This is key 4.
  7. For each key, obtain the corresponding Mother by finding the figure associated with the key in the list you choose.

So, for instance, say I ask a query on September 25, 2017 at 9:34:49 in the evening.  According to the method above, starting with the actual math on step #3:

  1. Since 9 p.m. is hour 21 of the day, 49 + 34 + 21 = 104.  The remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 8, so K1= 8.
  2. September 25 is day 268 of year 2017.  The remainder of 268 ÷ 16 is 12, so K2 = 12.
  3. The remainder of 2017 ÷ 16 is 1, so K3 = 1.
  4. 49 + 34 + 21 + 268 + 2017 = 2389, and the remainder of this after dividing by 16 is 5, so K4 = 5.
  5. Using the binary list, (K1, K2, K3, K4) = (8, 12, 1, 5), which yields the Mother figures Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Tristitia, and Acquisitio.

While this is not a perfect method, since the number of days in a year is not perfectly divisible by 16, the possibilities of each figure appearing as a Mother are not exactly equal to 1/16, but the process is decent enough for pretty solid divination based on time alone.  Instead of using purely date/time-based methods, you could also use the birth information of the querent alongside the date and time of the query, use the figures for the current geomantic hour/lunar mansion/Sun sign of the Zodiac, or numerologically distill the query by counting the number of letters or words used or by using gematria/isopsephy to distill and divide the sum of the content of the query.  So, I a method like what the original poster was proposing could certainly work on strictly numerical principles alone, just not on the astrological or planetary cyclical methods proposed.

As for geomantic cycles, dear reader, what do you think?  If you were to link the geomantic figures to, say, the phases of the moon, the eight “spokes” of the neopagan Wheel of the Year, or the flow of light and darkness across a day reckoned sunrise-to-sunrise, how would you go about creating such a cycle?  Have you used the geomantic hours, and if so, have you run into the same problems I have, or have you used them with good effect, in lieu of or in addition to the normal planetary hours?


An Online Introductory Course on Geomancy

Many of my readers come to my blog for geomancy and related information.  This post isn’t really going to give them much on that, but there’s something I can proffer to sate you all the same.  I would like to bring your attention to an online class, Geomancy for Astrologers by Dr. Alexander Cummins:

Considered a “daughter” to astrology, the system of divination known as geomancy was an incredibly popular and well-regarded form of divination in early modern Europe. It applied what occult philosopher Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa called the “use and rules of astrology” (which is to say, the symbolism but none of the astronomy of astrology) to create answers using a process both apparently simple and deceptively subtle.

Geomancy as a system consists of only sixteen figures, each attributed an astrological identity. These figures are combined in specific charts (known as shields) to render very particular answers, often using versions of the Houses of the Heavens. These shields are set by various means of generating random numbers and developing them using mathematical operations.

Dr. Alexander Cummins – a historian of magic and a practicing geomancer – will introduce the history, practice and magic of this art. Whether you are a professional astrologer, a seasoned card-reader, or a newcomer to divination tools and techniques, this class will offer you further useful skills and resources for your own practice and understanding.

I’ve personally met Dr. Cummins, and have deep respect for his research and work in the history of British and Western occultism, as well as his work in geomancy, which he’s finally getting around to sharing through online classes and informative videos.  I’m planning on sitting in on the class, myself, because no matter how much you might know, you always stand to gain from another person teaching.  Besides, if I were to trust anyone to put the obnoxiously sesquipedalian and floridly overwrought language of John Heydon into something intelligible and palatable, it’d be Al (who, for some reason, adores Heydon), so I’m excited for that alone.

The class is US$29 per seat, and is held this Saturday, June 18 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT.  You can register online through Kepler College through this link, which I highly suggest you do so.  If you’re on the Facebook, you could do worse than participate in the event page for the same thing, where there’s a bit of discussion and resource sharing already going on.  Hurry up and get your tickets today!

Thoughts on Geomantic Company

Of all the techniques of Western geomancy, that of company is one I’ve always been kind of iffy about.  It’s something I teach about regardless, as it’s been vetted by greater geomancers than me, but I’ve never really seen the use of it.  Lately, after going over some ideas with a student of mine, I’ve been giving it a bit more thought about where it falls into the repertoire of geomantic techniques and how it might be expanded or elaborated on.  This is more a blog post of brainstorming than exposition, so please bear with me, folks.

I’ve seen geomantic company primarily described in two texts: John Michael Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy,  and Christopher Cattan’s The Geomancy.  Let us first review what these texts say about company.  First, Cattan (book III, chapter 7):

When you find a good figure in a good house, it is double good, because the house is good and the figure also, and it signifieth that without any doubt the Querent shall obtain his demand.  By the like reason if ye find an ill figure in an ill house, it is very ill for the Querent, but if ye find a good figure in an ill house, it signifieth good to the Querent, but it will not continue, but taketh away some part of the malice of the house: in like case if ye find an ill figure in a good house, it taketh away the malice of the figure, for she would do harm, but she cannot, keeping always that the good come not to the Querent: and for as much as in this Chapter I have promised to speak of the company of figures, I will that you do understand that this company is of three manners, whereof the one is simple, the other demi-simple, and the third compounded.

The company simple is of two like figures, as by example, if that you find Aquisitio in the first house, and likewise in the second, and so likewise of all other figures which in two houses next together be found both of one sort, as if Conjunctio be found in the third, and likewise in the fourth.

When in two houses next together, there be found two figures a like, and that they be good, ye shall say incontinent that they signify great goodness, and if they be ill, they do signifieth much ill: as by way of example, if ye find in the fifth and ninth Rubeus, ye shall say that it signifieth much ill to the Querent, for the question demanded, and to declare unto you more easily, you must know that the second house is always companion of the first, the third of the of the fourth, the fifth of the sixth, and so consequently of the others.  If therefore they be both of one element, of one Planet, and of one Sign, they signify much good or much ill, according to their goodness or malice.  If they be good they signify that the hap and goodness of the Querent shall be as well good present as in time to come: as much shall ye judge of the contrary part if they be evil, and yea because that the first house signifieth the time present, and the second time to come, and likewise of the other companies.

The company demi-simple is, when tow figure be not both of one sort, nature or condition, although they be both of one Element, and of one Planet, so as the one party do agree, and the other not, as by example, if it happenth that the first be Aquisitio and the second Leticia, although they be both of the Element, of the Air, and of the Planet ♃, yet they be diverse significations, for that the one of them is of ♃ direct, and the exaltation of ☉, and the other of ♃ retrograde and the exaltation of ☾ the one of the figures of ♈, and the other of the Sign ♉.

The company compound is that which is of diverse figures made one contrary to another, as if Aquisitio be in the first house, and Amissio in the second, of which the two cometh and is engendered the figure Via, which is a figure of the Element of Water, signifying a conjunction of ☉ and ☾, which is a triple and compound company, evil and of great discord, by reason that Aquisitio is a figure of the Element of the Air, and of the Planet ♃ in the figure of ♈ Amissio a figure of the Element of the Fire, and of the Planet ♀ in the Sign of ♏.  Which maketh and engendered the difference of them, and the diversity and discord which they have together, out of the which two, as I have said before, is engendered this figure Via, which is a figure of the Element of the Water, and of the Planet ☾ in the sign of ♌, and is thus contrary to both the others.  Now see how the company is ill, and that is the cause that when it cometh it cannot be judged.  And thus all of the others according to the importance of their signification, be it good or be it evil.

There is moreover another company of figures which be taken by points on high of the said figures, as by example if Aquisitio be in the first house, and Albus in the second, the which because they be both good figures, and be equal of points in the upper part, and that out of them is taken another which is Caput draconis likewise equal in the upper part, it is thereby signified that both they be of great force in things good and hot, and that by the occasion that the fire is the first next unto the Planets, and principal Elements of all the other, unto whom the first points of the figure be attributed.  And for that cause I have set in the first book the Chapters as well of the Fire, and of the other Elements, to the end you may know their virtues and properties.  As much and for the same reason, I have made a Chapter, in the which I have showed the form and manner to set the figures by lines, attributing the first to the Fire, as to the first and superior and principle Element of all the other, the second to the Air, the third to the Water, the fourth to the Earth.

Cattan, following this explanation, gives an example of the use of company in a chart with the Mothers Acquisitio, Puella, Albus, and Fortuna Maior for the question of “the Lord of Garembert of Permeran being desirous of a Lady to be his friend, desired me on a time to enact him a figure to know whether he should have this purpose pretended”.  For this Cattan…really kinda goes all over the place using what appears to be a rather free-form method of interpretation (my notes included in brackets where useful):

In the which, because that Aquisitio is in the first house, and hath two points on the head, and that his companion [Puella] hath but one, & by that cause do not very well agree together: but because they be both good figures in case of love, I judged that he should obtain his purpose, but not without great pain and travail, because the company agreeth not very well.  And because that the figure which cometh out of them [ninth house, First Niece as child of First and Second Mothers], which is Cauda draconis, resembleth the second in the superior points, which points be attributed unto the Fire, by that is signified that the party Querent shall enjoy his desire.  And because Aquisitio is in the house of the demand [first house?], because he hath two points in the upper part, it is a figure which doth much participate of the Fire, rather alone then the two together as touching the company [meaning that two points in a line is doubly active instead of the usual passive].  Because also that it is a figure of ♃ in the sign of ♈, and the exaltation of ☉, it showeth that the love shall be opened, whereby the mother and kinsfolk will be very ill contended: and because Rubeus is in the fifth house I judged that the son of the woman by indignation, and in anger would go about to kill the said Gentleman: and because the company of the fifth [sixth house] called Leticia, which is the sixth, is good: I say that the said Gentleman should dispend much money in the suit of this woman: and because the eleventh is a figure of ☉ [Fortuna Minor] and a company of an ill figure [Amissio in the twelfth house], I judged that his friends should promise to help and succor unto him, but they would not do it until it were too late, so that finally he should lose all his hope of tarrying for the attainment of his hearts desire.  But for that the seventh is a good figure, and attributed unto ♃ as the first is, I said that it should be a sign that the woman should love him well, and by that means should in the end marry with him in spite of her children and kindred.  Which thing afterward came even so to pass, so that I riding post with my Lord of Thays, going to Rome, was advertised thereof and found my figure true, and that the Gentleman had married the said Lady: which figure shall serve upon for an example to now how to judge the company of figures.

So much for Cattan’s explanation of company.  Perhaps surprisingly, I couldn’t find any plagiarized rules in John Heydon’s Theomagia as I usually do from Cattan.  While his philosophical pseudopoetic ramblings never fail to give me a headache (pace Dr Cummins), Heydon appears to reference company throughout the text without actually defining how it’s to be used.  Unless I’m just that blind or my mind has started to actively block out Heydon’s text from mine eyes, it might be that Heydon simply uses “company” to refer to any figure that’s next to a particular one that we care about, a drastic simplification from Cattan’s rules, for sure.

JMG gives a description of company in Art and Practice of Geomancy (pp. 121–122), and I’ll refrain from copying the text here, but generally, he gives the same rules for forming company between the pairs of houses (albeit in a somewhat simplified method from Cattan), and he limits this use to forming secondary significators, or “cosignificators”, to the primary significators in a chart.  He says that wherever company exists, other people are necessarily involved in the situation, and we can use the usual rules of perfection with the cosignificator.  Thus, a chart perfected through cosignificators indicates that the friends or associates of the party indicated by the significator are in a position to help the party; the figure of company itself can help the geomancer determine the personality and physical characteristics of the person indicated by the figure according to the usual rules.

Given that we don’t see the rule of company listed in Robert Fludd (though I though I had crossed it once or twice), and that we don’t see this technique developed any further back than in Cattan’s work, it’s a safe bet that the rule of company was developed by Cattan or in his direct and immediate lineage of geomantic teachers.  Let us review the rules of company, as I understand them, in a condensed way:

  1. Company can only take place between odd-even pairs of houses in the House Chart: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, etc., never 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, etc.
  2. Company can be formed from one of four methods: simple, demi-simple, compound, and capitular.
  3. Company simple is formed when both houses have the same figure.
  4. Company demi-simple is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by the same planet (e.g. Albus and Coniunctio, both ruled by Mercury).
  5. Company compound is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by different planets yet are reverses of each other (e.g. Albus and Rubeus).
  6. Company capitular is formed when both houses have different figures ruled by different planets and are not reverses of each other, but share the same Fire line (e.g. Albus and Caput Draconis).

It is possible that, if a significator is in company with another figure, that second figure becomes a cosignificator and can act or stand in place of the significator wherever the cosignificator is.  For instance, say that we have a question about whether John Doe will marry Jane Smith, and we find Albus in house I, Coniunctio in houses II and IX, and Puella in houses VII and X.  Given this, we see that there is no perfection between houses I and VII, so we would normally say that the chart denies perfection.  However, note that houses I and II are in company demi-simple (both Albus and Coniunctio are ruled by the planet Mercury), so wherever we see Coniunctio, we can treat it as acting on behalf of John Doe.  In this case, now that we have Coniunctio as a cosignificator of the querent, we see that the chart does, indeed, perfect by mutation in houses IX and X, with Puella and Coniunctio beside each other.

From an old post on the Geomantic Campus forum on Yahoo! Groups dated December 14, 2008, JMG replied to a question I had about the overall importance of this approach to company:

In my experience, it’s useful, but not overwhelmingly important in most cases. I’ve had some readings in which it’s been central — for example, one where the querent’s own significator failed to perfect, but the figure in company was all over the chart and perfected in two modes plus positive aspects! It was pretty clear in that reading that the querent wasn’t going to get anywhere in the present, but if he waited and changed his approach he’d achieve his goals so easily it would make his head spin. Worked out, too.

In my experience, however, I’ve had to take a different approach for several reasons, which has led me to a different understanding of company.  Primarily, I’ve never had a chart where, if the significator didn’t perfect and the cosignificator did, the actual outcome of the situation agreed with the perfection of the cosignificator.  In other words, regardless whether the significator perfected, it didn’t really matter what the cosignificator did; it was the perfection or denial thereof from the significator itself that was most in line with the actual outcome of the situation.  This could be how geomancy works for me, especially given different results from different geomancers, but I’ve had to tweak my approach to company based on this.  Additionally, the process of using cosignificators greatly increased the complexity of a reading, especially if both the significator of the querent and of the quesited had their own figures in company and passed around in the chart on their own.  This could easily double or triple the work I’d need to put into a chart, and given that it didn’t yield me any useful information, I find the notion of using these figures as cosignificators rather pointless.

However, the notion of company does make sense to me in a limited way: if a figure is in company with another, then those figures have each other’s backs and support each other.  When a significator is in company, this means that the party represented by the significator has support, allies, and friends to assist them and work with them at their side.  We can break down the exact nature of this support based on the type of company we find:

  • Company simple: the significator and their allies are completely in line with each other, from approach to energy, and are identical in all regards.  Complete harmony and support.
  • Company demi-simple: the significator and their allies are different, but share enough characteristics for them to complement each other and understand each other enough to accomplish the same thing.
  • Company compound: the significator and their allies are approaching the same matter from different directions and have different results in mind, looking for their own ends, but find a common thing to strive for and will help each other out so that they can each benefit from the whole.
  • Company capitular: the significator and their allies share the same goal, but nothing else in common; they just want the same thing.

We can see that, implicit in this order, we have a measure of how strong a given company is, with company simple being the strongest form of company (much like how perfection by occupation is the strongest form of perfection), and with company capitular being the weakest.

When it came to the houses involved in company, I heard a theory that the even-numbered house (always the second house in a company pair) represents the future of the figure in company, and that the odd-numbered house always the first) represents the past.  I have an issue with this, however: what if the significator you’re inspecting is already in an even-numbered house?  Does company, then, only give you information about the past?  Not all even-numbered significators have valuable information there, so it seems like this is a gross imbalance of information and, thus, not a useful rule.  I haven’t really found much worth in this rule, so I left it by the wayside.  For me, if a figure is in company, then the figure matters, not whether it comes before or after the other.

So…that’s the general information about company I have on hand.  Do I use it?  Nope!  Besides noting whether or not the querent can call on friends for help, I don’t pay attention to company to determine the fortune or infortune of a person or event, and I certainly don’t use it when determining perfection of the chart.  For me, company is a rule that I’ll pull out if I’m really, really trying to squeeze out every last drop of information and every last possibility of perfection from a chart, and if I’m trying to do that, then I know I really haven’t been reading the chart right for some time, or it’s just not the right time to read the chart in a way that makes sense.

Besides, the whole rule where a company pair can only be made in an odd-even pair of houses has always bothered me; I know of no such rule in astrology where we focus on odd-even pairs of houses to the exclusion of even-odd ones, so I can’t think of a logical reason why we can’t find company there.  Recently, however, a student in geomancy of mine pointed out something I had missed all this time: the odd-even rule comes from the Shield Chart, not the House Chart!  Odd-even pairs of houses comes from the placement of the figures in the houses of the Shield Chart, where we have the First Mother (house I) and Second Mother (house II) belonging to the First Triad, the Third Mother (house III) and Fourth Mother (house IV) belonging to the Second Triad, and so forth.  That’s why we stick to odd-even pairs, because even-odd pairs would cross those binary divisions in the Shield Chart.  This is well, especially since, if we tie in the idea of company into the rule of the triads, we can see why Cattan bothers talking about the figure in house IX (First Niece) when he’s supposedly focused on the company between houses I and II (First Mother and Second Mother).  As Cattan doesn’t mention the rule of triads at all, while Robert Fludd does yet neglecting to mention company, it might be that Cattan and Fludd are both describing a similar way to group the four sets of three figures in the Shield Chart that we call the four triads.  This would then put the rule of company as a Shield Chart rule more than a House Chart rule.

So, if we were to reconsider the rule of company in terms of triads and the Shield Chart instead of houses in the House Chart, we might come up with a slightly different way to interpret the rule of company that might yield more interesting results.  Just to throw out an idea of how we might use company in terms of the triads (note that these techniques have not been verified or tested):

  1. Two parents in a given triad of the Shield Chart may or may not be in company based on the qualities of the parent figures themselves.
  2. If two parents are in company, then the matter will have multiple people involved who agree with, help, or defend each other in the matter represented by the child.
  3. If two parents are not in company, then the matter will have only one person involved, or there is disagreement or a lack of assistance when the figures refer to multiple people.
  4. The child figure in a triad represents the overall outcome of a situation or the theme of interaction between multiple parties, while the type of company or lack thereof between the parents demonstrates the support given to an outcome or means of interaction between multiple parties.
  5. Company simple between the parents indicates that the matter will have the concerted, combined, and harmonious action of multiple people, or the uninhibited action of one person supported by all others.
  6. Company demi-simple between the parents indicates that the matter will have support and interaction from many sides in many ways, yet not too different as to cause conflict.
  7. Company compound between the parents indicates that the different people represented by the parents fulfill each other’s abilities in a complementary fashion.
  8. Company capitular between the parents indicates that they share the same goal in mind but may have different means or desires in the process of attaining it that could put them at odds with each other

So, those are my thoughts when it comes to company, and how it might be expanded or tweaked to fit in with a more coherent system that uses the Shield Chart more than the House Chart.  Before, the rule of company was more than a little confusing in its importance and use, but now I can see a bit more use and interesting qualities in it when put into the context of the Shield Chart.  As before, I think it’s a good way to keep Shield Chart techniques and House Chart techniques separated, even though they ultimately rely on the same figures generated by the same process; I think the use of company when applied to the houses makes less sense than the use of company when applied to the triads.

Alas, a geomantic technique for the scrap pile.

Yada yada geomancy.  You know I know a lot about it, and I daresay I do myself.  Geomancy, over its 1000-year history, has developed many, many techniques to predict all kinds of stuff: how situations will resolve and under what circumstances, weather on a particular day, the types of diseases one may contract, where to find lost or stolen items, and so many other things.  It’s a fantastic and highly flexible divination system, especially considering it only has 16 symbols to use.  I’ve studied nearly every technique I can find in the Western traditions of geomancy, even having to translate stuff from arcane and poorly-written Latin to do so, and even after finding different correspondences between the figures and the Zodiac and body types and this and that, geomancy remains one of my top favorite, precise, clear, and accurate divination systems.

Alas, however, I have to consign a geomantic technique to the failure pile, and it’s not for lack of trying: determining names.  While it would make sense conceptually that one could determine names with geomancy, I have never been able to get such name charts to work right, from the first time I ran a name chart years ago up until the present day.  Add to it, I’ve found several methods to determine names with geomancy, and several ways to associate the letters to the figures, and I’ve tried them all, none of them giving anything remotely resembling an accurate answer.  This frustrates me to no end, because why the hell would this one technique not work when nearly every other technique I’ve tried has given me useful results?  This is especially frustrating, since being able to predict names would be exceptionally useful in the world, from determining the names of cities one might be successful in to determining the names of future spouses.

John Michael Greer (“Art and Practice of Geomancy”) gives one such method, where each figure is given one or two letters.  To determine the name of someone or something, one casts a chart with this type of query in mind and the geomancer inspects house I for the initial letter, houses X and VII for the medial letters, and house IV (and house V, for some reason) for the final letters.  Each figure is associated with one or two letters; in the case where a figure has two letters, one is chosen if that figure passes around in the chart and the other chosen if that figure does not pass out of its house.  JMG admittedly says that, because many names have more than four letters, “a fair amount of intuition can be needed in this form of divination”.

Robert Fludd (“Fasciculus Geomanticus” and “Utriusque Cosmi”), Christopher Cattan (“The Geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan”), and John Heydon (“Theomagia, or the Temple of Wisdome”) all offer more methods to determine names:

  1. House I indicates the first letter/syllable, houses X and VII the second and third syllables, and house IV the final syllable.  Basically JMG’s method given above; present in all the aforementioned books.
  2. Take the letters of the figures in houses I and VII, and “as often as ye take the said letters, so oftentimes move your figure,  and then if ye find it not, take the letters of the tenth”; Heydon copies the English translation of Cattan verbatim for this.  This method is highly unclear and vague, and Robert Fludd says that “hic modus falsissimus est” (“this method is the most false”).
  3. Basically the same as #1 above, but specifically for vowels according to Cattan and Fludd; Heydon doesn’t mention this.  Considering how some of the correspondences with the figures don’t even include vowels for all figures, I don’t see how this could be reliable.
  4. Basically the same as #1 above, but using house X for the first syllable (not just a letter!), house VII the second, and house IV (according to Fludd) or both houses IV and V (according to Cattan) the last syllable.  Not mentioned in Heydon, nor do Fludd or Cattan say how one gets a syllable based on a single figure.

All authors give a set of correspondences between the figures and letters, but Fludd explicitly uses Cattan’s associations (hence the similarity between their rules).  Cattan, further, gives three “rules” of associations, with the first rule giving one or two letters to each of the figures, the second rule giving up to three letters, and the third rule giving up to eight; however, he never mentions the rules at all in his book or when to use which one!  Heydon, on the other hand, uses a radically different set of associations where he also includes Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew (which is for some reason radically different than the Hebrew associations); JMG’s associations are based on Heydon’s, though no other author mentions anything about JMG’s use of selecting a primary or secondary letter based on whether the figure passes around in the chart.  Plus, as usual, the ever-convoluted-and-overwrought Heydon’s charts are riddled with errors, duplications of some figures/letters and omissions of others, etc.

Moreover, I can’t find any rhyme or reason as to why the figures were associated with the letters they were given by Cattan or Heydon.  My analytic mind couldn’t find a pattern, and none was offered in the texts as to why each figure had its sets of letters.  Either they were arbitrarily chosen by their authors, or they were observed after multiple readings and rules based upon them.  I tried my own hand at developing my own set of correspondences, hearkening back to my works with grammatomancy and stoicheia.  My thought was that if each letter can be associated with an element, planet, and zodiac sign, and each of those symbols can be associated with a letter (a la qabbalah), then it might work that we can give letters to the figures based on their stoicheiometric associations.  This works fairly neatly for the Hebrew and Greek scripts, but English was a different beast entirely; happily, Cornelius Agrippa gives such a table with English letters for the planets, elements, and signs of the Zodiac (book I, chapter 74), which I combined with Gerard of Cremona’s astrological associations between the figures and the Zodiac.

A summary of the different associations of Roman/English letters, according to Heydon, Cattan, and my own stoicheiometric correspondences, are in the table below.  Heydon was a pain in the ass to get right, since so much of his book is corrupted or jumbled, so I had to guess at some of the associations.

Figure Cattan
(First rule)
(Second rule)
(Third rule)
Populus T, U/V/W h b, t, u/v/w P, Y Ο, Χ ר ב A, R
Via P, Q m m, n, o, z N, X Ν, Τ ע, פ י A, G
Albus D u/v/w, x a, c, d, o D Δ ד, ש ז E, F, Q
Coniunctio X, Y o, s, t r, s, t, p,
x, i/j
Q, Z Π, Ψ ש, ת פ, צ E, L
Puella I/J c, o c, k, d, i/j, h,
e, u/v/w
H Θ ח כ, ו I, M
Amissio N, O b h, l, m, r, s M, W Μ, Σ נ, ס ס, ע I, N
F o, b c, e, f, o,
q, s, t
F Ζ ו א O, S
E a, b a, b, d, e, f E Ε ה ח, ט O, C
Puer K a, q a, c, e, i/j L, V Λ, Ρ ל, מ ה U, D
Rubeus C c, i/j b, c, i/j, x, z G Η ז נ U, D, X
Acquisitio L, M r, u/v/w a, g, i/j, l, r,
t, u/v/w, z
I/J, S Ι, Ω ט, י ד Y/J, B
Laetitia A i/j, r, t a, b, d, r A, T Α א מ Y/J, C, Z
Tristitia A a, r z, u/v/w, d,
b, n, c, i/j
B Β ב ל V/W, N, K
Carcer R, S i/j i/j, d, n,
o, p
O, R Ξ, Φ צ, ק ג V/W, T
G a, r d, g, r, t C Γ ג, ת ק, ר H, V/W, O, L
H i/j, b a, e, h,
t, x, y
K Κ ל ש, ת H, E, I, P

But even using any of the techniques with any set of correspondences, I kept coming up with wrong answers.  If I were lucky, some of the letters in the actual name I was trying to find might appear at random places in the chart, but this was by no means guaranteed.  I did notice a slight tendency for some of the letters to appear in houses II, V, and VIII, but there was no pattern for which letters (start, medial, end) appeared within them.  I even tried using the values of the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial Hebrew associations that Heydon gives (untrusthworthy as his stuff tends to be) to see if it would get me anything closer than the Roman script association; nada.  Plus, many of the techniques assumes there to be at least four letters or syllables in a name; many names I ended up asking about after I did a reading on them had one or two syllables, or had even just three letters, and these techniques don’t specify what to do in the case of really short names.

Like I said, it’s not for lack of trying that I’m giving up on determining names with geomancy; it really does seem like no technique handed down to us works, nor any associations of the letters we have so far (and there are quite a few).  Even my own associations and analysis of name charts yields no good results.  Although I’ve heard of some (very few) geomancers getting good results with this type of divination, I’m really starting to question their results; most geomancers I’ve gotten word from suggest that name divination hasn’t worked well for them, either.  The fact that so many other techniques work well for myself and others, with the exception of this one, doesn’t bode well for determining names generally using geomancy.  Even if it were a divinatory problem that applied to just me due to some spiritual block or mental bottleneck that would prevent me from getting good results, if a good number of other people found the technique useful, I’d be happy to agree, but even that doesn’t seem the case.

Heck, even other diviners using other divination (besides straight-up getting knowledge from spirits in the astral or using a Ouija board, which is sketchy as hell) suggest similar poor results with determining names from any set of divinatory symbols.  The fact that this might be a widespread problem across divinatory methods (barring the occasional apocryphal or anecdotal story) suggests that, much like lotto numbers, specific names simply can’t be divined.  The issue of determining names themselves poses problems: what if someone uses a nickname they identify with more than their real name, or they don’t identify with any single name?  Or what if their real name is unknown to someone and they only use nicknames with that person?  Or what if they change their name legally?  Conceptually, geomancy should be able to see through this, or at least offer some sort of guidance, but even with names that are fixed under specific circumstances, nothing seems to work.  That, or when JMG said that “a fair amount of intuition can be needed”, he really wasn’t kidding, and I think this requires intuition to the point where geomancy stops being useful at all.

Add to it, I have an issue with the English language, and the Roman script generally, in magical use.  I simply don’t find it to be a very magical language; sure, I use it in my rituals pretty much exclusively save for brief phrases or what amount to cantrips, but perhaps it’s because it’s my native language that I find it so utterly mundane and convoluted.  It’s awesome for getting stuff done in this world with other people, of course, but it doesn’t seem to have the right resonance with higher forces that, say, Greek or Hebrew tend to have.  Moreover, the Roman script bugs me in magical use for inscriptions on talismans and for other magical purposes, primarily for one reason: the letters of the Roman script were never used to mark numbers (and no, Roman numerals don’t count).  The Greek and Hebrew scripts, on the other hand, have isopsephy and gematria, respectively, which enable a word to be treated as a number, and as Pythagoras once taught, numbers rule the universe and effectively are the universe.  Plus, Hebrew has its associations with qabbalah and the paths on the Tree of Life, and more modernly with its associations with the 22 trumps of the Tarot; Greek, having 24 letters, is a divisor of 360, the degrees in a circle, and add up nicely to the sum of the 12 Zodiac signs, 7 planets, and 5 elements.  The Roman script, with its awkward 26 modern letters or 23 pre-modern letters (with J reduced into I and V and W reduced into U) has no such claim to occult fame, with no system of English or Roman gematria having worked well for me or for others.  Plus, the Roman script is really the only script of the three that has seen major and frequent changes in its alphabet over the millennia.  Of course, the Greek and Hebrew (and earlier Phoenician) scripts have had their changes, but those were already largely done with at an early date.  English writing, and the Roman script generally, just don’t seem to have magical oomph, so trying to use it magically to determine names with divination just doesn’t sit right with me from the get-go.  Then again, seeing how the Greek, Hebrew, and Celestial scripts provided equally bum results in name divination, it’s not just a problem with the Roman script in this instance.

I know that Arabic geomancy has a method to determine names, and I assume the methods are similar: associate different letters with different figures, and inspect certain houses for the letters of a name.  Still, I know little about the method in particular, nor how well it works for Arabic geomancers.  The fact that predicting names is common in “master” books of geomancy through its development and across several cultures suggests that this type of divination should work, else why would it be kept around when so much else has come and gone?  It might even be that such a method exists, but it’s not one passed down to us through Fludd, Heydon, Cattan, or Greer.  Still, at this point I’ve pretty much given up on trying to determine names with geomancy, and I’m consigning this to the trash heap until someone gives me something new and original to try.

And, yes, I have the same exact problem for determining numbers with geomancy as I do letters, and there are, again, several ways to determine numbers and several sets of associations between numbers and geomantic figures as offered by Cattan and Heydon.  Any hypothetical post about me consigning that technique to the trash, too, would pretty much be an exact duplicate of this post with letters replaced by numbers.  This means that a good chunk of the post on determining time with geomancy is also bunk, though I wrote about it as a hopefully useful technique.  Bah.