A Geomantic Compass

There are a number of systems within the tradition of geomancy that can be used to determine the cardinal direction in which something is located, allowing the reader a navigational tool that can pair well with other geomantic techniques. Most notable are those presented by Robert Fludd in Fasciculus Geomanticus (1687, pp. 152–153), Emilie Savage-Smith and Marion Bush Smith in Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device (1980), and John Michael Greer in The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance (2009, pp. 142–144).

Fudd appears to base his correspondences on the elemental rulers of the figures, assigning four figures each to the cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West. Savage-Smith and Smith provide an extensive exploration of the navigational features displayed on the Islamic geomantic device now housed in the British Museum. The device, dated 1241–2 AD, is speculated to have been constructed by signee Muhammad ibn Khutlukh al Mawsuli and exhibits unique correspondences between the 16 geomantic figures, four cardinal directions, and 28 lunar mansions (and associated seasons).

After reviewing these aforementioned approaches, I found myself particularly drawn to Greer’s, which, in addition to the four cardinal directions, utilizes the eight secondary intercardinal directions, expanding the capabilities of the model in comparison to the others. However, in conformity with the underlying basis for his distribution, i.e., the twelve winds of classical weather lore, Greer assigns two figures to the East, two to the East of Northeast, and two to the West, which I find somehow unbalanced.

Despite this relative shortcoming, I was inspired by his approach and wanted to see what the compass would look like were we to balance the distribution and take it through to its logical conclusion by assigning all sixteen geomantic figures to the cardinal, intercardinal, and secondary intercardinal directions.

While the logic here may appear somewhat pedestrian, it is perhaps more internally consistent and allows for greater precision: Laetitia, upward movement, North. Tristitia, downward movement, South. Caput Draconis, rising sun, East. Cauda Draconis, setting sun, West. From there, I gave the “axial” figures to the four intercardinal directions and assigned the remaining eight figures to the secondary intercardinals, while maintaining the pattern of opposite-figure-opposite-direction, completing the 16-figure compass depicted above. This arrangement places the “mobile” figures in the west and “stable” figures in the east, with the exception of Laetitia (North) and Tristitia (South).

PuellaNorth of NortheastNNE
Fortuna MajorEast of NortheastENE
Caput DraconisEastE
AlbusEast of SoutheastESE
AcquisitioSouth of SoutheastSSE
PuerSouth of SouthwestSSW
Fortuna MinorWest of SouthwestWSW
Cauda DraconisWestW
RubeusWest of NorthwestWNW
AmissioNorth of NorthwestNNW

The compass lends itself well to single-figure readings, however, when casting a Shield Chart independently of the House Chart, the 3rd Neice may be the most appropriate figure to read as the answer,1 as it is central within the 3rd Triplicity representing the “places and surroundings of the querent, including the people and activities involved there” (Block, 2015). When reading the House Chart, the answer would be indicated by the significator of the quesited. When reading the Novenary Chart, the location can be indicated by the Return (F6).

[Last Revised: 10-24-2021]

  1. The Judge within the Sheild Chart can only be an even-number figure (i.e. Populus, Via, Conjunctio, Carcer, Populus, Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor, Acquisitio, and Amissio) and thus could never comminicate half of the compass.

John Michael Greer. 2009. The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance. Illustrated. Newburyport, MA: Weiser Books.

Polyphanes. March 21, 2015. “On the Geomantic Triads.” The Digital Ambler (blog). https://digitalambler.com/…/03/21/on-the-geomantic-triads/ (Accessed October 24, 2021).

Robert Fludd. 1687. Fasciculus Geomanticus, In Quo Varia Variorum Opera Geomantica. Verona. https://warburg.sas.ac.uk/pdf/fmh2775c2b2341690.pdf.

Savage-Smith, E., and M. B. Smith. 1980. Islamic Geomancy and a Thirteenth-Century Divinatory Device. Undena Pubns.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: