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Medieval Methods of Geomancy
Part Two: Advanced Techniques
John Michael Greer
The Twelve Houses
The information given by the methods covered in the first half of this article — the interpretation of the Witnesses, the Judge, and the Way of the Points — is often enough to provide a clear response to the question. In other cases, though, it’s necessary or useful to get a more detailed view of the situation, or to see how specific issues are affected by the pattern of forces at work in the reading. Here the figures are read not in terms of their “heredity” but in terms of their placement on the twelve geomantic houses.
These twelve houses, like so much else in geomancy, come ultimately out of astrological lore, and like the houses of an astrological chart they serve to map out the parts of human life which are affected by one or another combination of forces in the reading. The twelve geomantic houses have slightly different meanings from their astrological equivalents, though. The following list of house rulerships comes from the medieval handbooks on geomancy, and can be used as a general guide:
First House: the querent, or the person about whom the divination is performed.
Second House: goods, material wealth, gain.
Third House: brothers and sisters, the querent’s neighbors and environment, short journeys.
Fourth House: father and mother, inheritances from parents, land, any hidden thing.
Fifth House: children.
Sixth House: servants, employees, domestic animals, illness.
Seventh House: the querent’s spouse or lover, relationships, marriage, partnerships, quarrels, any unidentified person.
Eighth House: death, inheritances (other than from parents).
Ninth House: religion, learning, art, wisdom, long journeys
Tenth House: employment, position in society, people in positions of authority, and also the weather.
Eleventh House: friends, sources of help, things desired
Twelfth House: enemies, suffering, difficulties, things feared.
Modern systems of geomancy tend to have various more or less complex ways of assigning the figures of a geomantic chart to these twelve houses, but the medieval method was simplicity itself. The first twelve figures of the chart the Mothers, Daughters and Nieces are simply put into the twelve houses in order. The first Mother thus becomes the figure in the first house, and the fourth and final Niece the figure in the twelfth house.
Like the astrological houses, the geomantic houses follow a subtle but definite logic, and it’s a useful exercise to try putting different questions into their proper place in the system until you can identify the house which goes with any given question. In this phase of interpreting a geomantic chart, you’ll need to do exactly that. The person for whom the divination is done, the querent, and the subject of the divination, the quesited, are each assigned to one of the twelve houses. The querent, as shown above, is always assigned to the first house, but the quesited may be found in any of the others, depending on its nature.
The geomantic figure which appears in the first house, then, is the significator of the guerent, and the figure which appears in the house of the quesited is the significator of the quesited. The relationship between these two is the most important factor in this phase of interpreting the chart. Furthermore, if one or both of these figures also appears somewhere else in the chart — in the language of geomancy, if it passes to another house — that house and its meanings play an important part in the chart’s meaning.
Relating Querent And Quesited
The medieval handbooks of geomancy give special names to the most important relationships which can occur between the two significators:
1. Occupation. The simplest of these, occupation, is where the same geomantic figure appears in the house of the querent and that of the quesited, as shown in figure 2.
The querent applied to a prestigious university, and wants to know her chances of being accepted. The question, since it has to do with education, is a ninth house matter, and Laetitia appears in both the first and ninth houses. In any question which can be answered by a “yes” or “no”, occupation means “yes,” pure and simple; it is the strongest positive indication in geomancy. If (as here) the houses of querent and quesited are occupied by a favorable figure, this suggests that the querent will be happy with the result; if they are occupied by an unfavorable figure, the querent will get what he or she wants, but is likely to regret it later.
2. Conjunction. Nearly as positive an indicator as occupation is conjunction, when one of the significators passes to a house next to the house of the other significator, as in figure 3.
Here the querent has quarreled with his lover and wants to know if there is hope for a reconciliation. The figure in the first house, the house of the querent, is Via, and that in the seventh house, the house of the querent’s lover, is Puella. Via also appears in the eighth house, in conjunction with Puella in the seventh, and this suggests that a reconciliation is possible.
The medieval lore has it that when the querent’s significator passes to a conjunction with that of the quesited, as happens here; the querent will achieve what he or she wants, but will have to work for it. When the significator of the quesited passes into a conjunction with that of the querent, on the other hand, no effort by the (permit is needed. Here, this rule would suggest that the querent should be willing to make the first move toward a reconciliation.
As always, the meanings of the figures themselves need to be included in the interpretation. Here, in particular, the role of Via is very important. Via always implies change. As the significator of the querent, it suggests that he may have a certain amount of growing and changing to do if the reconciliation is to work!
3. Mutation. Another positive indicator is mutation, where the significators of the querent and the quesited both pass to neighboring houses elsewhere in the chart, as in figure 4.
Here the querent is unhappy with her present employment and hopes to find a better position somewhere else. Her significator is Fortuna Minor, which is a good sign to start with, as this figure’s meanings include “protection going out”. The significator of the quesited, since employment is a tenth house matter, is Caput Draconis, another positive figure, but without a link between the significators this might represent a good job which remains out of reach.
The link is provided, however, by the mutation between Fortuna Minor in the fourth house and Caput Draconis in the third. Mutation typically implies that the goal which the querent has in mind needs to be sought along unexpected paths, and the house where the significator of the quesited occurs is often a guide to where those paths are to be found. Here the significator of the quesited passes to the third house, which represents the querent’s siblings, neighbors and nearby environment, and the same figure also appears in the eleventh house of friends and sources of help. This suggests that she would be well advised to talk to friends and neighbors about her job search, and to follow up openings in her own neighborhood, rather than putting all her efforts into job agencies or the classified ads.
4. Translation. A fourth positive indicator is translation, where a figure other than the two significators appears in houses next to those of the querent and the quesited, as shown in figure 5.
Here the querent, who was adopted at birth, wants to know if he has any hope of finding his biological parents. This is a fourth house question twice over, as it concerns the querent’s parents and also something hidden, and the initial indications are not good. The querent’s significator is Albus, which is a favorable figure but a weak one, and the significator of the quesited is Carcer, an unfavorable figure meaning limitation and restriction.
What saves this reading is the translation by Fortuna Major in the third and twelfth houses. Translation usually means that some outside factor comes into the situation to bring an outcome which the querent cannot manage on his or her own. In this reading, it’s clear that while the querent will have little luck finding his biological parents by himself, he may well be able to do so with the help of others; this is reinforced by the fact that Fortuna Minor also appears in the eleventh house, the house of friends and sources of help.
The nature of the figure which appears in a translation is of great importance in interpreting its meaning. An unfavorable figure can accomplish a translation just as effectively as a favorable one, but when this happens it often means that the situation will involve some unpleasant experiences before it’s resolved. A weak figure such as Albus or Populus, when it carries out a translation, often means that the matter is brought to a conclusion by some unlikely means, or even by what looks like pure coincidence. If the figure which accomplishes the translation represents a person, as it often does, it’s possible to get some idea of that person’s appearance from the figure; there is an extensive body of lore on the relationships between the figures and personal appearance; considerations of space don’t allow us to examine this here, but it can be studied in the older books on the subject of geomancy.
5. Lack of Relationship. The chief negative indicator in interpreting a geomantic reading through the twelve houses is a lack of relationship between the significators of the querent and the quesited, as shown in figure 6.
The querent and her partner had been trying for some time to have a child, without success, and she wants to know what their chances are of doing so at all. Children are a fifth house matter; the querent’s significator is Amissio, not a good omen, and that of the quesited is Via, which is an unfavorable figure in many contexts. The critical factor, though, is that there is no direct connection of any kind between these figures. Amissio appears in one other place in the chart, the second house; Via appears nowhere else but the fifth; there is no third figure which interacts with these two and brings the matter to a successful conclusion. Barring favorable Witnesses and Judge (which do not occur here: the Witnesses are Populus and Tristitia, the Judge Tristitia) a chart like this can offer little hope.
6. Aspect. A more subtle category of interaction, which can have either favorable or unfavorable meanings, may be found in aspects between the significators. Aspects, like houses, were brought into geomancy from astrological sources, and had to be modified in certain ways to fit the different nature of geomantic divination.
The most important of these modifications is that aspects aren’t read between the houses of the querent and the quesited. This is a function of the fixed meanings of the different houses. The first house is always in a trine aspect, which is favorable, with the fifth and ninth houses, and in a square aspect, which is unfavorable, with the fourth and tenth; to read these aspects as meaningful would imply, for example, that questions involving children would always get a favorable answer, while questions involving employment would always get an unfavorable one! For this reason, aspects between the significators must involve at least one of them passing to a different house.
There are four aspects which are used in geomancy, besides conjunction (which we’ve already examined): sextile, square, trine, and opposition.
The sextile aspect in astrology occurs when two planets are at a 60-degree angle to each other. In geomancy, two figures are sextile when there is one house between them. This aspect is favorable.
The square aspect in astrology takes place when two planets are at a 90-degree angle to each other. In geomancy, two figures are square when there are two houses between them. This aspect is unfavorable.
The trine aspect in astrology occurs when two planets are at a 120-degree angle to each other. In geomancy, two figures are trine when there are three houses between them. This aspect is favorable.
Opposition in astrology takes place when two planets are at a 180-degree angle to each other, on opposite sides of the sky. In geomancy, two figures are in opposition when there are five houses between them — when, in other words, they are in opposite houses in the chart. This aspect is unfavorable.
When one of the significators passes to another house and comes into an aspect with the other, this provides a favorable or unfavorable sign depending on whether the aspect itself is favorable or unfavorable. If the significators are also linked by occupation, conjunction, mutation or translation, a favorable aspect will add to the positive nature of the reading; this occurs in figure 4 above, where the mutation between the significators in the third and fourth houses is reinforced by not one but two sextile aspects. Caput Draconis in the tenth house springs to the third and eleventh houses, and both of these are sextile to the first house. (The apparent square between the tenth and first house doesn’t emit; remember that aspects aren’t read between the significators in their own houses!) The favorable aspects themselves count as connections between the significators, and a sextile or trine with no unfavorable aspects contradicting it is a clear positive answer.
If the significators are connected by one of the major relationships, but there is also an unfavorable aspect linking them, the result is still favorable, but there will be trouble involved. When an unfavorable aspect is the only connection between the significators, though, the answer is negative. This is the case in figure 6 above, where Amissio passes to the second house, in square aspect with Via in the fifth.
Whenever an aspect is involved, it can be read as a specific source of help or hindrance in the situation. In figure 4, for instance, the two sextile aspects reinforce the suggestion that the querent should seek help from friends and neighbors in her job search. In figure 6, on the other hand, the fact that Amissio passes to the second house into an unfavorable aspect suggests that the childless couple may not have the resources to afford the very expensive modern medical treatments for infertility — or simply that money spent on these would be wasted.
Reconciling The Judge And The Houses
Under certain circumstances, the indications of the Judge and Witnesses will seem to contradict those provided by the significators and their relationship. When this occurs, the sixteenth figure, the Reconciler, can be used to work out the overall meaning and set these differing factors into their proper context.
Consider the chart shown in figure 7. The querent is considering taking a position with a newly organized company, and wants to know if this would be a good career move. The Right Witness is Puella, the Left Witness Rubeus, and the Judge Via. This is not a positive sign; Puella is favorable but passive, Rubeus is unfavorable and strong, and Via is normally an unfavorable figure. A reading based only on these three might suggest that the querent would be facing a long and difficult process (Via) with some serious unpleasantness in the future (Rubeus), while possibly leaving behind his previous success (Puella).
On the other hand, the indications offered by the houses are quite different. The significator of the querent is Caput Draconis, highly favorable for new beginnings; the significator of the quesited, in the tenth house, is Fortuna Major, the best of the sixteen figures. Caput Draconis passes to the sixth house, where it is in trine aspect with Fortuna Major in the tenth, and at the same time Fortuna Major passes to the ninth house, where it is in trine aspect with Caput Draconis in the first! The one possibly troublesome factor is that the movement of these two figures also brings them into square aspect, between the sixth and ninth houses. Still, this is not enough to erase the very positive indications of the figures themselves and the double trine connecting them. A reading based only on the houses would advise the querent to go ahead, but to watch out for the possibility that job-related travel or study (ninth house) might cause problems with his health (sixth house), or vice versa.
How are these very different factors to be combined in a single reading? The key is the Reconciler, the sixteenth figure of the geomantic chart. The Reconciler is produced by combining the figure in the first house with the Judge, using the same process of addition that produces the Nieces, Witnesses and Judge. In this chart, the figure in the first house is Caput Draconis, the Judge is Via, and so the Reconciler is Laetitia.
When the Reconciler is used in interpreting a chart, it is read exactly in the same way as the Judge, with the figure in the first house playing the part of the Right Witness and the Judge itself filling in for the Left Witness. Caput Draconis is a favorable figure, Via a somewhat unfavorable one, and Laetitia itself highly favorable. This suggests that the querent has made a good beginning in his career, and is likely to continue in the same direction, but that there’s a long road still ahead of him. The Left Witness, Rubeus, suggests that some specific trouble will be a major issue in the future, and the indications in the houses may suggest the form which that trouble is likely to take. The overall answer of the reading, though, is favorable.
When combining the meanings of these different stages of the reading into a single interpretation, it can be useful to think of them as different “lenses” through which the same situation can be studied. The twelve houses provide more detail but a narrower focus than the Judge, while the Reconciler gives a wide-angle view that places the reading in its broader context.
The Company of Houses
Another help to interpreting a geomantic chart is to consider the Company of Houses, a specific pattern of relationship between pairs of houses in the chart. In this pattern, the first and second houses are always paired, the third and fourth, the fifth and sixth, and so on around the chart. It’s important to keep this in mind, as one of the more common mistakes in this phase of interpretation is to read the Company between houses that aren’t paired — for instance, between the second and third house, or the tenth and eleventh.
The first step in using this method is to examine the house paired with the house of each of the significators, to see whether company exists between one or both of the significators and the figures in the paired houses. There are four ways in which company can exist: company simple, company demi-simple, company compound, and a fourth, which seems to have no traditional name.
Company simple exists when the two paired houses share the same figure — for example, in figure 7, where Fortuna Major appears in both the ninth and tenth houses. Company demi-simple exists when two paired houses are occupied by figures ruled by the same planet — for example, if Albus appeared in the third house and Cornunctio in the fourth, both these figures being ruled by Mercury. Company compound exists when two paired houses are occupied by opposite figures, as shown in Table 1 below:
Table 1 — Opposite Figures
The last form of company, finally, exists when the figures in the paired houses have the same first line. For example, in figure 3, Puella in the seventh house and Via in the eighth house are in company, since each has a single point in its first line. By contrast, in figure 4, Fortuna Minor in the third house is not in company with Caput Draconis in the fourth, since they have different first lines. When company exists between a significator and the figure in its paired house, two conclusions can be drawn from it. first, the figure in company with the significator can be used to tell something about the role of friends, family or associates in whatever the significator governs. The company of the querent gives information about the querent’s own associates, while the company of the quesited offers insight into the people associated with whoever or whatever the quesited happens to be. If there is no company for either or both, on the other hand, this can be taken as a sign that other people are not deeply involved in this phase of the matter.
Additionally, there is an element of time in the relationship between figures in company. The odd-numbered house is said to show the present, while the evennumbered house paired with it shows the future. This is read as though both figures were in the significator’s house; the meaning usually given to the paired house does not come into play. Thus if the significator of the quesited is in the fourth house, and is in company with a figure in the third, the third house meanings of commmuncation, short journeys, and so on do not influence the companion’s role unless the companion has some other function in the reading — for example, if it plays a part in a mutation or a translation.
In all cases where company of figures exists, it’s often useful to combine the two companion figures, using the same method of addition used to make the Nieces, Witnesses, Judge and Reconciler. The figure that results will show the effect that the relationship between companions has on the whole question.
There are several traditional uses for geomancy which take up a good deal of space in the old manuals, but have seen very little use in recent times. Three of them that will be considered here are locating lost objects, checking the accuracy of rumors, and predicting the weather.
Locating Lost Objects
This seems to have been a common matter for geomantic divination, and it can be approached in a number of different ways. first, and simplest, it can be treated as any other question, with the figure in the fourth house as the significator of the quesited. The relationship (or lack of it between the significators then determines whether the lost thing will be recovered or not, and the figure in the fourth house offers information about the place where it is for example. Carcer might suggest that it is in a safe or locked room, Via suggests a road or street, and so on. It is also possible, and traditional, to ask whether the object has been lost in a specific place, and to continue casting charts until the answer is positive and a search can be mounted.
There are also more specialized methods, though. One involves the distinction between direct and reverse figures mentioned in the first part of this article. (The list given there was not a complete one, due to a production error. The full list of direct, entrant or stable figures is Acquisitio, Tristitia, Fortuna Major, Albus, Puella, Caput Draconis, Carcer, and Populus, while that of reverse, exiting or mobile figures is Amissio, Laetitia, Fortuna Minor, Rubeus, Puer, Cauda Draconis, Conjunctio, and Via.) In this method, if a stable figure appears in the fourth house, the object will be found; if a mobile one, the object is gone.
In either case, the location where it was lost can be determined by seeing if the figure passes to another house in the chart. If it goes to the first house, the object was lost wherever the querent spends most of his or her time; if it springs to the seventh, it was lost in a place associated with his or her spouse, lover or business partner; if it springs to the eleventh, it was lost someplace where large numbers of people gather, and so on. If the figure appears only in the fourth house, the object was lost somewhere at home.
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when geomancy was at its height, news was even more inaccurate than it is today, and trying to check the accuracy of rumors and reports from distant places was another very common subject of geomantic divination Here again, the question can be treated as an ordinary third house question; on the other hand, it was also traditional to simply check the third house. The figures Fortuna Major, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Conjunctio, and Caput Draconis mean that the rumor is definitely true; Amissio, Albus, Carcer, and Cauda Draconis mean that it is definitely false. Populus also means a false rumor, but one that is a distortion of true information rather than a complete fabrication. The remaining figures represent information that is a mix of truth and falsehood.
Predicting the Weather
Even at present, with the full armory of modem communications and satellite images to draw on, weather prediction is inexact at best, and divinatory methods such as geomancy might not be completely without value! The lore of geomantic weather prediction depends, to a great extent, on ancient and medieval traditions of meteorology far too complex and extensive to cover here, but there are some basic points that can serve as a starting point for experiments.
One of the more important of these relies on the assignment of the figures to the four elements, as given in the first part of this article. In the traditional system, fire is warm and dry, Water cold and wet, Air warm and wet, and Earth cold and dry. The tenth house of a geomantic chart governs weather, and so the simplest way of forecasting the weather is to cast a chart for the day in question and consider the element of the sign that appears in the tenth house. Tristitia, for example, would mean cold and dry weather, though “cold” will of course have a different meaning in July than it has in January, and differences in local conditions also have to be taken into account.
Another method of prediction makes use of the stable and mobile figures listed above. Here the question to be asked and answered is whether the weather on the day of the divination will change by some specified day or time; a mobile figure in the tenth house means yes, a stable one no, and in the former case the nature of the figure suggests what the change may be.
- Agrippa, Henry Cornelius (pseud.), Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy (repr. Kila, MT: Kessinger, 1992). Contains Agrippa’s On Geomancy and Gerard of Cremona’s On Astrological Geomancy.
- Charmasson, Therese, Recherces sur une Technique Divinatoire: La Geomancie dans l’Occident Medieval (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1980).
- Heydon, John, Theomagia, or the Temple of Wisdome (London: for Henry Brome at the Gun in Ivie-Lane, and for Thomas Rooks at the Lambe at the east end of St. Pauls, 1664).
- Pennick, Nigel, Games of the Gods (York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1989).
- Regardie, Israel, A Practical Guide to Geomantic Divination (NY: Samuel Weiser, 1972).
- ‘ ’ ‘ ’ , The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (Phoenix: Falcon, 1984).
- Skinner, Stephen, The Oracle of Geomancy (Bridport, Dorset: Prism, 1986).
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