Book Review: The Art and Practice of Geomancy

The Art and Practice of Geomancy, by John Michael Greer with a preface by Lon Milo DuQuette

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I came across this book entirely by accident while I was looking up what Lon Milo DuQuette had written recently. Geomancy, in essence, is the art of reading seemingly random patterns in nature and from basic tools: marks in the sand, flips of a coin, flocks of birds, ripples in a pond. The theory goes that the world has a spirit–called the anima mundi (soul of the world)–that can be tapped in to.

All in all I consider this book to be an excellent resource for learning geomancy, and it also sold me on the importance of learning geomancy for my own practice. I have always been somewhat dubious of ripple counting methods for determining a yes/no answer that are any more complicated than a pendulum or flipping a coin, but this gave me more of a systemized framework for working with such information beyond just whether whatever I happen to be looking at turns out positive or negative.

He also discusses modern ethics in divination practice, something that I am going to write more on at a later point, but am extremely thankful to Greer for including here. It’s something we need to be having a deeper conversation on in the occult community.

The book is divided into three parts and then contains an appendix of various forms of invocation related to the figures, useful for ritual magic.

The first part of the book covers the figures themselves and the meaning of geomancy. We are first given an overview of geomancy as a kind of hook to draw us into the material and introduce the terms used. This is all excellent material and gives you a feel for geomancy without getting too far into the weeds. After that we are given information about how the individual figures are constructed and the internal meaning of how they are put together, and then given a more in-depth analysis of each of the figures. This is generally useful information and it is presented well, but is hampered by the lack of summary charts or tables.

The second part covers geomantic divination. We are introduced to how to construct a shield chart and interpret it, then are given information on how to read an astrological house chart with geomantic figures, and then given some advanced (or rather, alternative) interpretation methods. The flexibility and capability of the method is really on showcase here, and Greer overall does a good job of explaining it. I wish, however, that he had fleshed out the information on interpreting a house chart a little more and given some more attention to the advanced interpretive methods, as both of these sections feel a little shallow.

The third section aims to cover geomantic meditation and magic. In describing geomantic meditation, he starts out by talking in terms of a common misconception about Eastern meditation (that it seeks to stop the normal flow of thought through the meditator’s mind and empty the mind’s content), which is unfortunate, since Asian meditation practices are significantly more diverse and linking the forms of meditation he talks about with the Buddhist or Hindu practices would give readers a great body of material with which to work from.

He then goes on to advocate practicing discursive meditation, which is the form of meditation that involves intense focus on a particular theme, which is then explored in depth. He then goes on to give a series of exercises designed to take the reader into a deeper understanding of the geomantic figures.

It should be understood that none of these exercises are the sort of thing you do quickly. For example: He advocates doing the first preliminary exercise (which is, essentially, body awareness) for ten minutes daily for two weeks before starting the second preliminary exercise (fourfold breath), and the second exercise for ten minutes daily for two weeks before moving on from there. The preliminary exercises are not going to be new to anyone who has occult training, but then he gets into the geomantic meditations themselves, which are:

  • Meditation on the individual figures (~16 days)
  • Meditation on correspondences of the figures (~6 months, meditating every day)
  • Meditation on combinations of figures (~11 months of meditating, minimum, meditating every day)

After this he gets into The Art of Scrying, which people familiar with shamanic methods would simply call journeying: you journey for each of the individual figures, and then can meditate on the various images that you see in your journeys.

All of this is basically sound advice and culminates in building the associations into deeper levels of consciousness in the mind. While essential for geomantic magic, this is an extremely powerful technique for people who are interested in divination as it allows the mind to see deeper into the figures and their meaning and interactions.

After this, Greer gets into deeper discussion of ritual magic and the construction of talismans and gamahes, the materials used for such, setting up altars for various purposes, timing, and essentially everything that is required in setting up modern ritual magic for geomancy. This is all good stuff for anyone with a ceremonial bent. It is written clearly and well, and covers all of the basic material in a way that introduces the concepts to people who may not be overly familiar with western ritual systems.

Conclusion

While overall I feel that this book is excellent, I do have some issues with the way the content is laid out and presented.

In the end, I almost feel like this book would be best if it were written as two volumes. One on divination and meditation, and then with a followup that covers ritual magic. There’s clearly more depth that could be gone into with both topics, and while people who want to study the ritual forms would be well advised to learn the divinatory system, the reverse is not necessarily true.

The biggest issue for me is that while Greer notes that in the Renaissance sources the divinatory aspects of geomancy are emphasized first as an introduction into ritual magic, it felt that the latter half of the book (involving ritual magic) was somewhat stronger than the first half of the book on divination. There were several instances where he would describe something that has several different possible manifestations (such as Company of Houses, which can be simple, demi-simple, or capitular) and a vague idea of what the root meaning is, but then wouldn’t get into the various possible ways it can come about.

The second major issue for me is that information feels a little scattered and sometimes buried. There are no summary tables in the appendix or really anywhere in the text, which makes cross-referencing while learning difficult. This is made more complicated by that information doesn’t always appear in the chapter where it would seem most useful. For example: the chart with the geomantic figures on it occurs somewhere in the first chapter, rather than at the front of the second where the alphabet of geomancy is actually described.

That having been said, everything is very well written and explained, and the techniques employed have clear uses in both divination and ritual magic. So, for what it is, I recommend it very highly to anyone with even the slightest interest in geomancy.

Chapters

  • Foreword by Lon Milo DuQuette
  • Part One: The Art of Geomancy
  • Chapter One: What is Geomancy?
  • Chapter Two: The Alphabet of Geomancy
  • Chapter Three: The Geomantic Figures
  • Part Two: Geomantic Divination
    • Chapter Four: Casting a Geomantic Reading
    • Chapter Five: Interpreting the Shield Chart
    • Chapter Six: Interpreting the House Chart
    • Chapter Seven: Advanced Interpretive Methods
  • Part Three: Geomantic Meditation and Magic
    • Chapter Eight: Geomantic Meditation and Scrying
    • Chapter Nine: Principles of Geomantic Magic
    • Chapter Ten: Geomantic Ritual Magic
  • Appendix: Invocations for Geomantic Magic
  • Bibliography
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    One Response to Book Review: The Art and Practice of Geomancy

    1. Nornoriel says:

      Thank you for reviewing this. I’m definitely going to get the book now :D

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