Intro to Astrological Geomancy


Someone recently asked me for a copy of an article I did many years ago on geomancy, so I decided to reproduce the introductory part of it here.  Astrological geomancy was one of the occult traditions that influenced the Golden Dawn’s ideas about the tarot.  Crowley patterned his Thoth Seven of Disks after the geomantic figure Rubeus.

Astrological Geomancy 
by Anthony Louis (1990)

The word geomancy derives from the Greek roots geo, referring to the earth, and mantikos, meaning “of a soothsayer” or prophetic.” Geomancy is any system of divination (an attempt to get in touch with the divine) related to manipulation of the earth. A system of geomancy linking astrological symbols with figures formed from holes poked in the earth became popular during the Renaissance. The exact origins of astrological geomancy are unknown. It is similar to the casting of lots referred to in the Latin and Greek classics and may have been practiced by ancient desert nomads who made marks in the sand which they then interpreted to answer questions of personal concern. In this latter sense geomancy is akin to horary astrology.

In fact, the same philosophical principle — cosmic sympathy — underlies both geomantic divination and horary astrology. The idea is that at the time a question becomes imperative to the inquirer, the conditions of the cosmos, whether in macrocosm or microcosm, will reverberate with the inquirer’s mind. Systems of divination are really sets of rules explaining how to decipher the message of the cosmos. Modern diviners often cite Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, to explain the workings of their craft. Regardless of whether or how it works, geomancy is worthwhile to study simply for the beauty of its sixteen archetypal symbols, another Jungian idea. The sixteen geomantic archetypes bear a close relationship to the archetypal symbols of planets and signs used in astrology.

Henry Cornelius Agrippa

Geomancy had its heyday in the Renaissance during Western Europe’s transition from the medieval to the modern world. It’s most famous spokesperson was Henry Cornelius Agrippa, born in 1486, and author of several texts in Latin on occult philosophy. Agrippa’s attitude toward geomancy was ambivalent. Although he wrote the major geomantic text of the period, he commented on his own work and about the “common geomancy” of his predecessors, “I too have written a geomancy quite different from the rest but no less superstitious and fallacious or if you wish I will even say ‘mendacious.'” Nonetheless, Agrippa appears to have practiced and written extensively on the subject.

By the time Agrippa wrote about geomancy, it had undergone an evolution. No longer were the marks on the earth interpreted in their own right; now they were used in combination with a horoscope wheel depicting the twelve astrological houses. There were many ways to do this, and the modern geomancer will need to experiment and decide which one suits his or her style.

Fundamental Steps

Fortunately, all the systems of geomancy have some fundamental steps in common. The first is to ask a question of pressing personal concern. Then, while concentrating on the question, the “querent” (inquirer) must poke sixteen rows of holes or make sixteen rows of marks on the ground. Each row of holes is poked from right to left and the next row begins beneath it. The querent focuses on the “quesited” (the matter inquired about), relinquishes conscious control and keeps poking across a row until it feels right to stop. This is akin to using a divining rod, and the ancient explanation is that the earth spirits will guide the rod to make the appropriate number of marks. Then, if you get a wrong answer, you can blame the earth spirits for being mischievous, as in, “the devil made me do it.”

Modern geomancers tend not to use the earth in their back yards or their children’s sandboxes. Instead, they make marks on paper with a pencil, flip a coin, cast a die or dice, or draw cards from a deck — any system that will generate a series of sixteen random odd and even numbers.

Once you have your sixteen rows of dots, you count the dots in each row and note whether there are an odd or even number of dots. You next group the rows, in sequential order, four at a time to generate the first four geomantic figures, known as the four mothers. The remaining eight geomantic figures used in divination are derived from these four mothers.

Geomantic Figures and their Planets

Before proceeding with the general methods of geomantic divination, let me review the sixteen geomantic figures and their associated planets and signs. The sixteen figures can be grouped into eight complementary pairs which are like negative images or polar opposites of one another. Where one member of a complementary pair has a single dot, its complement will have two dots, and vice versa. Below I will list the figures next to their complements, and beneath them their associated planet and sign according to Agrippa.

 Populus                        Via

 o o                                     o

 o o                                     o

 o o                                     o

 o o                                     o

 Moon, Cancer             Moon, Cancer

Both Populus and Via are neutral or variable symbols related to the Moon. Populus means “people, crowd, group” and suggests that the outcome will depend on other people, that control of the situation will not be in the querent’s hands. Via means “road, path, way” and often refers to the need to find one’s direction or way in the matter. It can also signify a journey. Their connection with the Moon gives both these symbols the connotation of fluctuation or change. The sign Cancer suggests one’s home, security, or foundations are at issue.

 

 Laetitia                      Caput Draconis (Moon’s North Node)

  o                                     o  o

 o o                                     o

 o o                                     o

 o o                                     o

Jupiter, Sagittarius       North Node, Capricorn

 Laetitia is a positive symbol meaning “joy” and is associated with health and happiness. Its complementary symbol is Caput Draconis, the head of the Dragon, linked astrologically with Jupiter and good fortune. Caput Draconis often suggests entering or beginning something new and positive.

 

  Rubeus                        Puella (cf. glyph of Venus)

  o o                                       o

   o                                       o  o

  o o                                       o

  o o                                       o

  Mars, Scorpio             Venus, Taurus

  Rubeus means “red,” the color of Mars and of blood spilled in violence. Rubeus is a negative symbol, the dark side of Scorpio and Mars, associated with danger, lust, addiction, passion, fire, aggression, and destruction. It is generally unfortunate, except where a show of force or eroticism is needed. Many geomancers discard the figure when Rubeus falls in the first house. The complement to Rubeus is the Venus-ruled symbol Puella meaning “girl.” Puella is a variable or mildly adverse symbol suggesting the fickle, indecisive and superficial side of Venus. Puella is connected with physical attractiveness, music and the arts, gaining cooperation, and women and matters related to women which do well under its influence.

 

  Fortuna Minor                   Fortuna Major

   o                                      o o

   o                                      o o

  o o                                      o

  o o                                      o

  Sun, Leo                        Sun, Leo

 Both these symbols are ruled by the Sun and Leo. Both are fortunate, especially Fortuna Major. Fortuna Minor shows only moderate success and often denotes some kind of external protection like insurance coverage. While Fortuna Major usually shows significant good fortune, Fortuna Minor conveys either a preservation of the status quo or a definite but modest gain.

  

 Albus                          Puer  (cf. glyph of Mars)

  o o                                      o

  o o                                      o

   o                                      o  o

  o o                                      o

Mercury, Gemini           Mars, Aries

 Albus means “white” as in the white hair of the wise old prophet. Associated ideas are wisdom, clear thought, news, and communication. Albus is a positive symbol. The complementary figure is Puer, the impetuous youth of Mars and Aries. Puer means “boy” and signifies males and the initiation of activity. Puer can be rash and inconsiderate, but also energetic, enthusiastic and competitive like Mars in Aries.

 

  Amissio                         Acquisitio

   o                                      o  o

  o o                                      o

   o                                      o  o

  o o                                      o

Venus, Libra                  Jupiter, Pisces

 Amissio means “loss” and is part of the flip side of Venus. If the question is about acquisition, Amissio argues against success. However, if the goal is loss, as in the loss of weight or getting out of a bad relationship, then Amissio signifies the desired loss can be achieved. The complement of Amissio is Acquisitio or “acquisition.” This Jupiter-based symbol is quite fortunate and shows success, money, gain, and good luck.

 

 Conjunctio                      Carcer

  o o                                       o

   o                                       o o

   o                                       o o

  o o                                       o

Mercury, Virgo                Saturn, Capricorn

 Conjunctio means “union, joining” and denotes the coming together of people or things. It is favorable for the reunion of the querent will a lost object or missing person. It can also show a marriage or partnership. The figure of Carcer looks like a small cell enclosed by dots on all sides. Carcer means “prison, bondage” and suggests delays, restrictions, or confinement. Carcer’s connection with Saturn implies that the querent with be confronted by reality and the laws of the external world. Carcer often shows a learning experience. As a Judge, Saturn-ruled Carcer means something will be made real (“real-ized”) or made manifest on the physical plane; the querent will get just what he or she has earned.

  

 Cauda Draconis                  Tristitia

   o                                       o o

   o                                       o o

   o                                       o o

  o o                                       o

  Moon’s South Node, Scorpio       Saturn, Aquarius

 Cauda Draconis, the Moon’s South Node or Dragon’s Tail, is associated with the negative sides of Saturn and Scorpio. It can show misfortune and the need to pay for past debts. Cauda Draconis favors the termination of something. When Cauda falls in the first house, many geomancers destroy the figure. Its complementary symbol Tristitia is also connected with Saturn. Tristitia means “sorrow, sadness” and suggests depression, unhappiness, or grief. The querent may suffer problems or feel negatively about the matters governed by the house where Tristitia lies. Sometimes Tristitia shows the need for professional counseling to deal with emotional stress or pain.

The geomantic symbols bear a resemblance to the glyphs of the planets with which they are linked. Meditating on the geomantic figures and their associated planetary glyphs will lead to a deeper understanding of their archetypal significance.

The remainder of the article can be found at accessnewage.com.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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