The Art and Practice of Geomancy

I’ve recently finished John Michael Greer’s The Art and Practice of Geomancy, which concerns a Renaissance-era divination technique that comes by way of Arabia, and eventually Africa. In short, geomancy involves a binary code — registered as one dot or two — assembled into four-line figures. It reminds me strongly of I Ching hexagrams, although coins aren’t used to come up with the code. (There’s no reason you couldn’t use coins, however, I suppose.)

You come up with four figures, which are then combined to come up with all the others; they’re all placed in either a shield-chart or, more commonly, the 12-house astrological chart. Interpretation not only takes into account the figures themselves, but their relations to the houses, whether the same figures appear in more than one house, and “astrological” relations such as conjunctions, oppositions, sextile, etc. Reading according to the house technique is immensely complicated; the object sought and the significator vary according to the question and the parties involved.

All in all, I’ve joked that it would be a great divination method for folks with OCD (or CDO, where the letters are in order, as they should be). The book, which is well-written and well-researched, is a stepping stone to a lifetime study. You can conceivably attain very, very clear answers with geomancy — clearer and more precise in terms of time, direction of lost objects, initials of persons — when compared with methods such as ogham, tarot or runes. Such accuracy, however, would take a lifetime of practice — not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you.

Geomancy also lends itself to Western-style discursive meditation and techniques of ceremonial magic which, like the divination system, were largely products of that period. I’ve rarely read up on ceremonial magic, since I don’t have a personal calling, but found it rather fascinating. The Renaissance magical principles of the corpus mundi, anima mundi and spiritus mundi provide a compelling explanation as to why divination — of any sort — works at all: spawned by influences from the soul of the world, events are then expressed in the world’s vital energy (spiritus) before manifesting in the material realm.

Overall, it was an excellent book on a system I previously knew little about. I tried my hand on one chart, but geomancy isn’t a system that sings to me. I have more of an intuitive/oracular mind when it comes to divination; a more discerning, rational mind would be privileged here. Geomancy, by way of its origins and the system of philosophy that surrounds it, also would appeal more to someone interested in either Judeo-Christian practices or, at a stretch, Roman religion, albeit not classical Roman. The Renaissance was influence strongly by the re-emergence of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and literature, and that’s reflected in the system.

Still, I think it’s worth learning about other divinatory techniques, in the same spirit I dabbled with the I Ching several years ago. There’s a technique out there for everybody. (I think geomancy might appeal to engineers!)


About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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