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.1 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).

LaetitiaNorthN
PuellaNorth of NortheastNNE
CarcerNortheastNE
Fortuna MajorEast of NortheastENE
Caput DraconisEastE
AlbusEast of SoutheastESE
PopulusSoutheastSE
AcquisitioSouth of SoutheastSSE
TristitiaSouthS
PuerSouth of SouthwestSSW
ConjunctioSouthwestSW
Fortuna MinorWest of SouthwestWSW
Cauda DraconisWestW
RubeusWest of NorthwestWNW
ViaNorthwestNW
AmissioNorth of NorthwestNNW

The compass lends itself well to single-figure readings, however, when casting a Shield Chart, the reader should take the main figure within the relevant triplicity (N1, N2, N3, or N4) as the answer since the Judge can only be an even-number figure (i.e. Populus, Via, Conjunctio, Carcer, Populus, Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor, Acquisitio, and Amissio). When reading the House Chart, the answer would be indicated by the significator of the quesited.


Note
  1. Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Geomantic Instrument Egypt or Syria 1241 1242 CE Muhammad Ibn Khutlukh al Mawsuli.Jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, accessed June 17, 2021, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Geomantic_instrument_Egypt_or_Syria_1241_1242_CE_Muhammad_ibn_Khutlukh_al_Mawsuli.jpg&oldid=465260697.
References

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

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.

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