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Reading a geomantic chart: The client's random lines of dots are interpreted as even- or odd-numbered rows, and the geomantic figures are constructed from them

Geomancy is a term that has come to be associated with several different forms of divination. The reason for this is that the word geomancy literally means "earth divination," and so it can refer to any method of divining, fortune telling, or reading for clients by means of observing the earth or marks in the earth.

In practice, there are two major -- and culturally unrelated -- forms of divination called geomancy. Traditional African, Middle Eastern, and European geomancy makes use of marks made in earth, sand, or dirt by the client after having asked a question. Chinese geomancy, also known by its Chinese name, feng shui (pronounced "fung shway"), is derived from observation of natural and artificially enhanced land-forms.


African, Middle Eastern, and European Geomancy

The sixteen geomantic figures
The traditional names of the 16 geomantic figures, as given in Latin
Fidh-Lan sticks are a modern development in geomancy; the figure shown is Fortuna Major
A geomantic shield chart
A geomantic shield chart showing the traditional relationships between the characters
A geomantic chart of the twelve houses, drawn according to the form used for drawing horoscopes in medieval and renaissance astrology

In Middle Eastern and European cultures, the term geomancy refers to an oracle based on the creation and interpretation of characters formed from a combination of marks or dots drawn by the client. No matter how many marks the client makes in each row, the results are interpreted according to a binary system, which results in the creation of one or more of 16 possible geomantic figures, which are then built up into charts, which are interpreted by the diviner in answer to the client's question.

Traditionally performed out of doors in the dirt or sand, rather than at an altar, this form of geomancy is among the oldest living divination systems in the world. It is believed to have originated from Arabic sages who preserved the art, and Persians and Indians also lay claim to it, but its actual origins may be North African, for its ties to African forms of divination like obi and dillogun oracles, throwing the bones, and reading other natural curios are undeniable. What all these forms of divination share in common is an elegantly straight-forward system based on the mystical combination of binary markings.

Through cultural intermingling, Arabic geomancy became highly popular in Medieval and Renaissance Europe at a time when Western traditions of magic were heavily influenced by the introduction of various magical strands from Middle Eastern cultures. So along with astrology, talismanic magic, and alchemy, geomancy came to Europe in the 7th and 8th Century via Arab sages who may have learned it from their North African counterparts. Geomancy was adopted into Europe and was considered one of the highest arts of divination and magic alongside astrology. In fact, there is strong evidence that prominent scholars, bishops, and popes from all over Europe were versed in either of these arts, or both. So prominent was the art that kings, nobles, and other people of means would spend large sums of money to have geomantic charts cast for them in order to divine anything from the course a battle would take to the outcome of an upcoming marriage.

Geomantic Characters

Geomancy is based on a set of sixteen characters that are formed from four lines of binary combinations. Each of these sixteen figures covers a vast array of meanings and symbols, thus allowing for intuitive interpretations that provide highly accurate and focused details. The meaning of these figures comes down to the modern era through Medieval and Renaissance mages like Peter de Abano and Henry Cornelius Agrippa.

Long ago, each figure was given a Latin name, an image that it forms, and a set of interpretations that include everything from the appearance of an individual to an oracular meaning. This makes geomancy a highly versatile art form that can cover a vast array of queries. If you need to know the appearance of a future lover, it can reveal that; if you need to know where an object may be hidden, it can uncover that; if you need to know the outcome of a competition or event, it can predict that.

Forming the characters for interpretation involves the random production of sixteen lines in sets of four. This is often done by the client in sand or dirt, but pen and paper are also popular. Modern developments in geomancy, such as the wooden Fidh-Lan Sticks brand of binary counters, allow the traditional geomantic characters to be formed indoors, without access to earth.

However they are originated, the figures are then combined using simple addition techniques to create another series of characters which then lead to further formations, until a set of fifteen characters are produced. These are then placed on one of two layouts or spreads for interpretation.

The Shield Spread

The shield spread is a chart of fifteen areas in which the characters of a geomantic divination are placed to help interpret the outcome of the situation in question. Each section has a traditional name that related to a relationship within a family or village. How the figures correlate to one another in various paths indicate the flow of events that will take place, with the three final characters providing the outcome.

This spread is believed to be the most traditional chart used in geomancy and can provide highly accurate yes-or-no answers, detailed accounting of how events will unfold, and other information about the question presented by the client. Regardless of which spread one uses, the shield spread is the one that is created first before moving to the Twelve Houses. The shield spread is considered the oldest method of geomantic readings.

The Twelve Houses

The twelve houses spread is a form of geomancy reading that is based on Medieval and Renaissance charts of the twelve astrological houses which come from Indian and Arabian astrology. This spread demonstrates both the strong correlation geomancy has with astrology and geomancy's prized status as a divination system on par with the traditional study of astrology in scholastic and humanistic circles.

In this spread, twelve of the fifteen figures produced are placed on the chart, with the last three set into the middle to provide the final outcome. The use of the twelve house chart helps reveal the nuances of forces at play in any given situation. This chart is able to provide highly detailed information and has been used traditionally for all sorts of questions from the discovering of thieves and hidden enemies, to the discovery of hidden treasure.

Each of the twelve houses in this chart covers a range of specific topics, from love, to work relations, family, death, health, and more. Because of this, geomantic charts are not only wonderfully straight-forward in their ability to predict future events, but also allow room for nearly any type of question about any topic.

The twelve house geomantic chart is read in a manner similar to a horary astrological chart where each figure's placement is taken into consideration along with the patterns and relationships they form with one another. These patterns and relationships help reveal the nuanced details that make geomancy renowned as a divination system. The twelve houses can be used to answer specific questions or can be employed to provide longer readers like year readings or life readings.

Feng Shui or "Chinese Geomancy"

For more information, see Feng Shui

Although the word "geomancy" is commonly used to translate the Chinese term feng shui into English, this Chinese spiritual art is an entirely different system of reading than Arabic geomancy. The Chinese term for this art, feng shui, literally means "wind-water," in reference to the ways in which wind flows over and water flows upon structures in the land. In this case, rather than earth (geo) being used to receive the marks that form the divination (mancy), it is actually the landscape of the earth (geo) which forms the divination (mancy).

See Also


  • Divination and Fortune Telling by Arabic and European Geomancy or Earth Readings

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Pages in category "Geomancy"

The following 4 pages are in this category, out of 4 total.



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