There is debate as to whether it was invented in Arabia or Africa. The most diversity of practice is found in Africa, with methods such as Ifa, but the first known names in Europe for the 16 figures of geomancy are Arabic. There is another system of binary divination in China called the I Ching, though its figures are created from 6 rows of one or two lines/dots rather than the 4 rows you see in these figures of western geomancy.
Regardless of where it came from, it was the most widely used divination system in Europe, beginning in the 10th century in Spain, and then spreading throughout the rest of Western Europe, due to its ease and availability over the more expensive astrology, and it was second in prestige only to astrology. Rather than an extensive knowledge of spherical trigonometry as is needed in astrology, all the math one needs for geomancy is the ability to add 1+1, 1+2 and 2+2. One may use the figures for divination, meditation or magical workings. It truly is a complete system of wisdom seeking and enlightenment, and a very practical one at that.
For example, once the meanings of the figures are internalized, one may begin to see each figure at work in everyday life, where situations, things and even people may be categorized by a geomantic figure in so far as they interact with other situations, things and people. By this method, one may determine the outcome of any situation simply by knowing what geomantic figure is represented by each force at work in a situation, and what figure is created by their interaction. People will think you psychic, when you are simply more aware of the forces at work and wiser as to their results than the average person.
The 16 Figures of Geomancy in their traditional order starting at the top left, going left to right, and ending at the bottom right. Their Latin names in order are as follows: Puer, Amissio, Albus, Populus, Fortuna Major, Conjunctio, Puella, Rubeus, Acquisitio, Carcer, Tristitia, Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Caput Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Via.
The 16 figures of geomancy also have planetary associations. Cauda Draconis and Caput Draconis are not given a planet. Rather, they are associated with the South and North nodes of the Moon, respectively. These are the points in the sky where the Moon crosses the Sun's elliptic into the Northern Heavens (North Node) and into the Southern Heavens (South Node).
The image below shows the 16 figures of Geomancy together with their zodiacal, planetary and elemental associations. Since there are only 12 zodiac signs, but there are 16 geomantic figures, Sagittarius is associated with two figures, Cauda Draconis and Acquisitio. Virgo is associated with the figures Conjunctio and Caput Draconis. Cancer is associated with the figures Via and Populus, both figures of the Moon, and Leo is associated with the figures Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor, both figures of the Sun.
The figures are associated with their respective zodiacal sign due to their elemental make-up as well as their general meanings.
First, you create the first 4 symbols using one of various simple random methods, such as a number of coin flips where heads can mean 1 and tails means 2, or using four coins of four different denominations to represent each of the four lines of a figure, rolling dice, laying down four marked sticks or tiles each having one dot on one side and two on the other (my favorite method), randomly grabbing up pebbles in the hand and counting if they are odd or even in number, or the most traditional, poking holes in a line in the sand while concentrating on your question and then counting the number of dots in the line you created, odd meaning one dot and even meaning two.
The method is as follows: The fifth figure is created from the top rows of the first 4 figures going right to left, the sixth figure is made from the next row down of the first 4 figures, then the seventh is made from the third row down and the fourth is made from the bottom row of each of the first 4 figures, again going from right to left, creating each figure from top to bottom.
The second, third and fourth (bottom) levels of the Shield chart itself are filled in differently than the first level at the top.
Take the first two figures of the top row on the right side and add up each of their four rows together. For example, if the first figure is Caput Draconis which has two dots on the top row, and the second figure is Via which has one dot in its top row, the result is 3, (because 2 + 1 = 3) which is odd, so the top row of the figure that goes on the second level below the two figures in the first level above will have one dot. If they add to an even number (a 2 or a 4) then there would be two dots placed. Fill in the rest of the figure from the top down in the same way, second row of the first two figures creates the second row of the figure below them, third rows create the third row, fourth row create the fourth row.
Then create the other three figures of the second level of the Shield chart in the same way, using the two figures above them to create them. Then create the third level of the Shield chart with the same method and finally the last figure at the bottom fourth level of the Shield chart using the same method.
|Figures 1 - 4 (Mothers) are created by random means. Figures 5 - 8 (Daughters) are created from figures 1 - 4. All subsequent figures (Nieces, Witnesses and Judge) are created from the two above them by a process of simple arithmetic.|
Each set of three figures, two beside each other and one below them, is called a Triplicity. They are read from right to left, and from the top down. The most common way of interpreting the triplicities is as follows:
First Triplicity: First Mother, Second Mother, First Niece
Second Triplicity: Third Mother, Fourth Mother, Second Niece
Third Triplicity: First Daughter, Second Daughter, Third Niece
Fourth Triplicity: Third Daughter, Fourth Daughter, Fourth Niece
Way of the Points: The way of the points is a method used with the shield chart to determine if there are any hidden and/or more important factors involved in the question and its answer than may be obvious from the triplicities themselves. It is done thusly; if the judge has only one point in the top line, called the capitular (from the Latin word caput, head), then look at the witnesses, and if one or one of them also has a single point in the top line, continue following upwards until you cannot go farther up the shield chart. The last figure that has a single point in the head line is an important figure, both in its meaning and position in the chart, i.e. the triplicity in which it resides.
Once the Shield chart is filled out, the House chart is made by going around counterclockwise, beginning with the left side middle space, just as a medieval and renaissance astrology chart would have been filled out.
1. Vita, Life --- Querent (person asking the question)
2. Lucrum, Riches --- Money, moveable property
3. Fratres, Brothers --- Siblings, neighbors, short trips
4. Genitor, Father --- Father, home, real estate
5. Nati, Sons --- Children, pleasure, gambling
6. Valetudo, Health --- Illness, servants, small animals
7. Uxor, Wife --- Marriage, romance, partners, open enemies
8. Mors, Death --- Death, inheritance
9. Itineris, Journeys --- Higher education, long trips, spirituality
10. Regnum, Kings --- Career, government, reputation
11. Benefacta, Good Fortune --- Friends
12. Carcer, Prison --- Curses, secret enemies, imprisonment
In the House Chart, the answer to the question involves looking at how the figures relate to each other, borrowing the techniques and theories of Astrology, especially medieval and renaissance astrology, which differs in many ways from modern astrology, such as in the number of planets involved (seven as opposed to 9 plus asteroids) for example.
When astrology is used to answer specific questions, the planets as they appear in the sky form angular relationships at the time the question is asked, and those relationships, as well as the houses in which the planets are located at the time of the question being asked, are positive or negative indicators of the nature of the question and its answer.
In Geomancy, the houses always form the same angles in relation to each other. The first house is always directly opposite the seventh house, for example. Therefore, the figures that appear in the houses that have to do with the querent and the quesited (asker of the question and question asked) must also appear in other houses, or another figure must appear twice in the chart near both the querent's house and the quesited's house. When one of these angles appears, the chart is said to be perfected. This does not mean that the answer is always favorable, only that a definite answer can be read from the chart. The angular relationships as they are used in Geomancy are as follows:
Occupation - The querent's significator and the quesited's significator are the same figure. A natural connection between querent and quesited. The matter will resolve by the querent's own nature without extra effort.
Conjunction - One of the significators moves to a house directly beside the house of the other significator. The querent and quesited meet each other. The significator that moves shows which party must work to attain the resolution: if the querent's significator moves to the quesited's, then the querent will need to work for the resolution. Otherwise, the quesited will work things out without need from the querent.
Mutation - The two significators appear next to each other elsewhere in the chart. The resolution will come by some unexpected or unusual manner. Try new avenues that wouldn't normally be expected.
Translation - The same figure appears in houses directly beside the houses of the significators. The resolution will come through a third party. A mediator will help bridge the gap between the querent and quesited.
Denial - No connection exists between the two significators. The lack of perfection in a chart. The querent and quesited cannot reach each other. No resolution.
The Poor Man's Astrology
In the medieval and renaissance periods, astrology was expensive, both to learn as well as to do or have done. This is because it takes a knowledge of spherical trigonometry to calculate where the planets were, are, or will be at any given time in order to then analyse what their angular relationships were, are, or will be to each other. This usually involved a university education and its concurrent expense, which required being recouped. The average person in Europe at that time could afford neither to go to university to learn it, nor to pay an astrologer what they were charging for their skills.
Enter Geomancy. Because each geomantic figure is associated with a planet as shown in images above, people would have a geomancer draw up an astrology chart by determining the planets associated with the the figures and then putting the planetary symbol into the houses instead of the geomantic figures, or in addition to them, and then read the chart as though it had been created using the actual planetary positions. Even though the physical planets were not actually in those positions, it was thought that the chart was still valid because it was assumed that the figures showing up as they did meant that those planets were the ones exerting influence on the question.
Medieval and Renaissance sources include works by Gerard of Cremona (12th century), Hugo de Santalla (12th century), Pietro di Abano (13th-14th centuries), Martin of Spain (de Geomancia, 13th century), Cornelius Agrippa (15h-16th centuries), Robert Fludd (16th-17th centuries) and Christopher Cattan (16th century).
Luckily, at least at the time of this writing (Feb 2020) the Wikipedia entry on geomancy is surprisingly good as an introduction to the subject and even gives some instruction on the basics, so it is worth checking out. More detailed information can be found in the following sources:
The Art and Practice of Geomancy, by John Michael Greer. If you were to only acquire one book, make it this one, hands down. Still in print as of this writing and very affordable at about $14 online.
The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy, by Pestka and Schwei, unfortunately out of print but if you can can it, do so. Based on the astrological geomancy of Cornelius Agrippa
Geomancy: a Method for Divination, by Franz Hartmann. I found this less useful to me than other sources but it may be of use to some.
Intro to Medieval Geomancy at https://www.princeton.edu/~ezb/geomancy/geohome.html
Astrological Geomancy course at https://www.renaissanceastrology.com/astrologicalgeomancy.html
On Facebook there are a few groups such as Geomantic Campus and Geomantic Study-Group to get the perspective of other practitioners today
Probably to most extensive to date website with information on Western geomantic theory and practice is The Digital Ambler,