A Geomantic Compass

There are a number systems within the tradition of geomancy that assign the sixteen figures to the cardinal directions, allowing the reader a navigational tool that can pair well with other geomantic techniques. Most notable are those put forth by Robert Fludd in Fasciculus Geomanticus (1687), 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).1 While Savage-Smith and Smith appear to base their associations on the lunar mansions and associated seasons, Fludd bases his correspondences on the elemental rulers of the figures. In the latter instance, four groups of four figures each are given to the cardinal directions of North, South, East, and West.

After reviewing the 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.

The logic here is rather pedestrian, though perhaps more internally consistent, and potentially 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

When reading the Shield Chart independent of the House Chart, one could take the Child within the relevant triplicity as the answer/direction, or perhaps even the Sentence/Reconciler, as the Judge can only be an even-number figure (Populus, Via, Conjunctio, Carcer, Populus, Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor, Acquisitio, and Amissio). When reading the House Chart, the answer/direction would be indicated by the significator of the quesited.

  1. Polyphanes, “Directions of the Geomantic Figures,” The Digital Ambler (blog), September 15, 2017, https://digitalambler.com/2017/09/15/directions-of-the-geomantic-figures/.

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