G is for geomancy

By now, it is probably no surprise to learn that I enjoy divination. But I practice some forms more than others, and geomancy is probably the form that I use the least of all the ones I know. I’m not sure why. It’s not nearly as complicated as astrology, nor does it require arcane tools like a tarot deck or a rune set. Indeed, geomancy is one of the most economical, portable, and hideable-in-plain-sight divination systems around. People might frown at you if you whipped out a tarot deck and began shuffling cards, but if you’re just sitting there writing something, you’ll look innocuous as all get-out.

16 geomantic figures
The sixteen geomantic figures (click to enlarge).

With your question in mind, you write sixteen lines of dots. Yes, this is what I meant by “economical:” you just need a pen and paper or other writing materials. (Heck, if you’re so inclined, poke sixteen lines of holes in the dirt with a stick, and truly practice geomancy.) Every four lines is used to create one geomantic symbol, so you will get four symbols from your lines. A line with an odd number of dots means one dot in the symbol, an even number means two dots in the symbol. These first four figures, called the Mothers, are then added together in various ways to produce the next four, the Daughters. Continuing, you will get four Nieces, two Witnesses, and a Judge: fifteen figures total. You can stop at this point and interpret your question. Or you can insert the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces into an astrological chart and interpret the two in tandem, a variant called astrological geomancy.

Like all forms of divination, geomancy is stronger in some respects than in others. If images trigger your intuition, geomancy may not be for you. The sixteen figures are fairly stark, like runes, and bear more resemblance to Braille than the art on tarot cards. With fewer books available on geomancy, and many of them relying on older sources, the meanings of the sixteen figures are more traditional than is usual nowadays: more event-oriented than psychological. But like other systems, you can read a geomantic chart for a simple answer or go into more detail. For one thing, only certain combinations of Witnesses and Judges are possible. You can do a quick evaluation of these three figures and decide if the answer to your question is positive, negative, or neutral. Or you can look at all fifteen figures (plus the astrological chart, if you’re using it), and explore the issue more deeply.

I first learned of geomancy the way I’ve learned about several intriguing topics over the years: a serendipitous find in a used book store. In retrospect, that book (The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy by Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka, now out-of-print) wasn’t the best text for beginners, and maybe that’s why I’ve never played as much with geomancy as with other divination tools. But there’s nothing like digging out your geomancy books and writing an entire blog post on the topic to reawaken interest…

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