Geomancy (from Greek "geōmanteia"< "geo", "earth" + "manteia", "divination"), from the eponymous "ilm al-raml" ("the science of sand"), is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground, or how handfuls of soil, dirt or sand land when someone tosses them. The Arabic tradition consists of sketching sixteen random lines of dots in sand.

In Africa one traditional form of geomancy consists of throwing handfuls of dirt in the air and observing how the dirt falls. It can also involve a mouse as the agent of the earth spirit. Ifá, one of the oldest forms of geomancy, originated in West Africa. In China, the diviner may enter a trance and make markings on the ground that are interpreted by an associate (often a young boy).

In Korea, this tradition was popularized in the ninth century by the Buddhist monk Toson. In Korea, Geomancy takes the form of interpreting the topography of the land to determine future events and or the strength of a dynasty or particular family. Therefore, not only were location and land forms important, but the topography could shift causing disfavor and the need to relocate. The idea is still accepted in many South East Asian societies today, although with reduced force. [Peter H. Lee and Wm. Theodore de Bary eds, "Sources of Korean Tradition Volume 1", New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.]

Geomancy formed part of the required study of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the late 19th century, and also survives in modern occult practice.

In the 19th century CE, Christian missionaries in China translated Feng Shui as geomancy, but this was incorrect.

In recent times the term has been applied to a wide range of other occult, fringe, and pseudoscientific activities, including Bau-Biologie. This article deals with geomancy in its traditional meaning.

Literary background

The poem "Experimentarius" attributed to Bernardus Silvestris (Bernard Silvester), who wrote in the middle of the 12th century, was a verse translation of a work on astrological geomancy.

Either Gerard of Cremona (c. 1114–87) or Gerard of Sabionetta (Sabloneta), who lived in the thirteenth century, wrote or translated "Astronomical Geomancy" from Arabic into Latin. An original in Arabic is possible, as the traditional method of structuring a geomantic divination follows the direction of Arabic writing. There has been disagreement among scholars over which of these two men was responsible for this text.

According to the "Oxford English Dictionary", "geomancy" appeared in vernacular English in 1362 (vernacular English at this time was the language of the lowest classes; Latin and French were the common languages of the middle class, gentry, and nobles).

Geomancy's first mention in print was Langland's "Piers Plowman" where it is unfavorably compared to the level of expertise a person needs for astronomy ("gemensye [geomesye] is gynful of speche"). In 1386 Chaucer used the Parson's Tale to poke fun at geomancy in "Canterbury Tales": "What say we of them that believe in divynailes as …geomancie…" Shakespeare also used geomancy for comic relief.

It was explained as divination (in the same sentence with pyromancy and hydromancy) in the best-selling "Travels of Sir John Mandeville" (1400, ISBN 0-14-044435-1), as "geomantie that superstitious arte" in a book of alchemy (1477), and defined in Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa's "Philosophy of Natural Magic: Complete Work on Natural Magic, White & Black Magic" (1569, ISBN 1-56459-160-3) as a form of divination "which doth divine by certaine conjectures taken of similitudes of the cracking of the Earthe." European geomancy does owe some of its valuations to medieval astrology (the "houses" for example).

In Ben Jonson's Elizabethan comedy "The Alchemist", the character Abel Drugger is a practitioner of geomancy.

In the story of Aladdin often included in "The Arabian Nights" called "The History of Aladdin" both the African Magician and his brother use geomancy to find Aladdin to do him harm. [ "George Stade,"The Arabian Nights" Barnes and Nobles Classics 2007]

Western methodology

Geomancy in western tradition requires no instruments and no calculations; it is based solely on the human propensity for pattern recognition.

Diviners in medieval Europe used parchment or paper for drawing the dots of geomancy but they followed the traditional direction of notation (right to left) for recording the dots. Western occultism still defines geomantic technique as marking sixteen lines of dashes in sand or soil with a wand or on a sheet of paper. The dashes aren't counted as they are made (thus constituting a form of spontaneous divination).

The geomancer counts the number of dashes made in each line and draws either a single dot (for an odd number) or two dots (for an even number) next to the lines. The pattern of dots produced by the first to fourth lines are known as a figure, as are the fifth to eighth lines and so on.

Those four figures are entered into two charts, known as the Shield and House charts, and through processes form the seed of the figures that fill the whole charts. The charts are subsequently analyzed and interpreted by the geomancer to find solutions, options and responses to the problem quesited, along with general information about the geomancer (unless the geomancer is performing the divination for another, in which case information is shown about the person the charts were cast for) providing an all-round reading into the questioner's life.

This form of Geomancy is easy to learn and easy to perform. Once practiced by commoners and rulers alike, it was one of the most popular forms of divination throughout the Middle Ages.

The four binary elements of each figure allow for 16 different combinations. As there are 4 root figures in each chart, the total number of possible charts equals 16×16×16×16, or 65536. The charts are also interpreted differently depending on the nature of the question, making it one of the most thorough kinds of divination available, and with only 16 figures to understand is extremely simple.

Unique Geomantic Shields

Out of the 65536 possible permutations of the classical geomantic shield some are extremely useful from a mathematical and qabalist point of view. This is because some of the shields contain all of the 16 geomantic figures only once in each case, and these may be termed as 'Unique Geomantic Shields'. In these cases the shield, which has fifteen different sections, has all of the figures "except Populus". Below is a table which shows the four 'Mothers' needed to create the Unique Geomantic Shields. For the method of how to create the configurations from the four 'Mothers', perhaps the best online source is Crowley's "Liber 96" available most reliably from (At the risk of sounding utterly unprofessional I must admit that I am only aware of 16 such permutations, and that there is a slight probability that more exist.)

Geomantic Magic Square (Qemea)

A Magic Square is traditionally a set of inclusive integers laid out in a square grid so that the sums of the columns, rows and central diagonals are equal. The arrangement below could be loosely described as a Qemea, but it is certainly a Magic Square of sorts. When one counts up the dots on the figures we find the number 24 cropping up all over the place: the four columns, the four rows, the two central diagonals, the four central squares, the outer four squares, and also the fours sets of four squares each if we look at the configuration as four squares.

Astrological geomancy

Because traditional Western geomantic divination was so dependent on astrological technique, it was often referred to as astrological geomancy. Although documents from the 12th century explain the theories and methodologies of this type of geomancy, it was more recently popularized by occultist Franz Hartmann in his book "The Principles of Astrological Geomancy".
* [ Astrological Geomancy at Renaissance Astrology]
* [ "The Astrological Origin of Islamic Geomancy"] (PDF)

Divination, Geomancy, fractals and modern computers

Mathematician Ron Eglash, while studying fractal structures in African culture, identified a binary recursive process that used self similarity to create a random number generator from an initial set of lines that the geomancer draws on the ground. This technique was brought to Europe by way of North African Islamic mystics. It is very likely that these mystics had previously obtained the approach from traditional African societies by way of interactions between the West African and North African trade and/or Islamic kingdoms. For, unlike the practices in many other regions (i.e. the Middle East and China etc.) which utilized base 10 numeric systems, the base 2 system utilized in geomancy had long been widely applied in sub-Saharan Africa. Partly inspired by the geomantic technique, Gottfried Leibniz, a German mathematician, developed the binary code theory, which later was the base for Boolean algebra and modern computers. [ [| Transcript of Mathematician Ron Eglash's talk on fractalsand their manifestations in various African cultures] ]


ee also

*Geomantic figures
*Sacred Geometry
*Ley lines
*Places of power
*Religion in China
*Biodynamic agriculture
* [ Mid-Atlantic Geomancy (MAG)]
* [ The American School of Classical Feng Shui]
*John Steele
*Paul Devereux

External links

* [ TED Talk of Ron Eglash (geomancy is mentioned in the video chapter "Bamana Sand Divination")]

Further reading

*Jaulin, Robert (ethnologist)
**"La Mort Sara", Paris, 10/18, 1971 (1967)
**"La Géomancie", Paris, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l'homme, 1988
**"Géomancie et Islam"
*Pennick, Nigel (occultist)
**"Beginnings: Geomancy, Builders' Rites and Electional Astrology in the European Tradition"
**"Sacred Geometry: Symbolism and Purpose in Religious Structures"
**"The Ancient Science of Geomancy: Living in Harmony with the Earth"
**"The Sacred Art of Geometry: Temples of the Phoenix"
**"The Oracle of Geomancy"
**"The Ancient Science of Geomancy: Man in Harmony with the Earth"
*Greer, John Michael (occultist)
** [ "Geomancer's Handbook"]
** "Earth Divination, Earth Magic"
* "Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy" supposedly by Henry Cornelius Agrippa (occultist); Kessinger Publishing ISBN 1-56459-170-0

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Geomancy — Ge o*man cy, n. [OE. geomance, geomancie, F. g[ e]omance, g[ e]omancie, LL. geomantia, fr. Gr. ge a, gh^, the earth + mantei a divination.] A kind of divination by means of figures or lines, formed by little dots or points, originally on the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • geomancy — art of divination by means of signs derived from the earth, late 14c., from O.Fr. géomancie, from M.L. geomantia, from late Gk. *geomanteia, from geo , comb. form of ge earth + manteia divination (see MANCY (Cf. mancy)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • geomancy — [jē′ō man΄sē] n. [ME geomancie < OFr < ML geomantia < LGr geōmanteia: see GEO & MANCY] divination by random figures formed when a handful of earth is thrown to the ground, or as by lines drawn at random geomancer n. geomantic adj …   English World dictionary

  • geomancy — noun a) A method of divination which interprets markings on the ground or how handfuls of dirt land when tossed. At a syde of pe emperour table sittez many philosophers and grete clerkez of diuerse sciencez, sum of astronomy, sum of nigromancy,… …   Wiktionary

  • geomancy — noun Etymology: Middle English geomancie, from Anglo French, from Medieval Latin geomantia, from Late Greek geōmanteia, from Greek geō + manteia mancy Date: 14th century divination by means of figures or lines or geographic features • geomancer… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • geomancy — geomancer, n. geomantic, adj. /jee euh man see/, n. divination by geographic features or by figures or lines. [1325 75; ME < OF geomancie LGk geomanteía. See GEO , MANCY] * * * …   Universalium

  • geomancy — ge|o|man|cy [ˈdʒi:əˌmænsi] n [U] the belief that arranging your home, house, office etc in a particular way will bring you good or bad luck →↑feng shui …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • geomancy — divination by casting earth onto a surface Divination and Fortune Telling …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • geomancy — ge·o·man·cy || dʒɪəʊmænsɪ n. prediction of the future by studying lines and figures or geographic features …   English contemporary dictionary

  • geomancy — [ dʒi:ə(ʊ)mansi] noun 1》 the art of siting buildings auspiciously. 2》 divination from the configuration of a handful of earth or random dots. Derivatives geomantic adjective …   English new terms dictionary

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