Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Geomancy (from the Latin geo, "Earth," mancy "prophecy") is a method of divination to interpret markings on the ground or how handfuls of dirt land when you toss them.
It was explained as divination (in the same sentence with pyromancy and hydromancy) in the best-selling Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1400, ISBN 0140444351), as "geomantie that superstitious arte" in a book of alchemy (1477), and defined in a book of Cornelius Agrippa's Philosophy of Natural Magic: Complete Work on Natural Magic, White & Black Magic (1569, ISBN 1564591603) as a form of divination "which doth divine by certaine conjectures taken of similitudes of the cracking of the Earthe."
In Africa the traditional form of geomancy consists of throwing handfuls of dirt in the air and observing how the dirt falls. In China, the diviner may enter a trance and make markings on the ground that are interpreted by an associate (often a young boy).
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.
The English version of geomancy involved groupings of marks on the ground called "constellations" with names like Puella and Rubeus.
In the 19th century CE Christian missionaries in China unfortunately labeled Feng Shui as geomancy, although there is no comparison.
In recent times the term seems to have become a catch-all for a variety of cultic, fringe, and pseudoscientific pastimes.
In traditional Western occultism, Geomancy is a practice which involves either marking sixteen lines of dashes in sand or soil with a wand, or nowadays on a sheet of paper with pencil. The dashes aren't counted as they are made, as the geomancer is focussing on an issue at hand.
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 binary processes form the seed of the figures that fill the whole charts. The charts are subsequently analysed 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, and it was actually suggested to the Pope that it be integrated into Catholic teachings.
The four binary elements of each figure allow for 2x2x2x2, or 16 different combinations. As there are 4 root figures in each chart, the total number of possible charts equals 16x16x16x16, 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.
An enhanced form of the traditional western style of Geomancy, more closely involves Astrological practice and theory into the Geomantic charts. By noting the positions of the planets at the time of the casting, the geomancer can examine his present situation regarding both the question and his life in general, more closely.
- The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy; The Master Divination System of Cornelius Agrippa by Priscilla Schwei and Ralph Pestka; Llewellyn Publications ISBN 0875427049
- Earth Divination, Earth Magic; A practical guide to Geomancy by John Michael Greer; Llewellyn Publications ISBN 1567183123
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