Triplicities & Pairings

I have seen more than one person praise geomancy for its clarity, for its utility in answering questions clearly and directly. No doubt, this is one of the system’s virtues, especially when you transpose the reading onto an astrological frame. The passing of signs and their affiliations with each other provides reams of information about opportunities and obstacles.

That said, that clarity rests partly upon a fixed pattern of meanings and associations which contain a fair number of presuppositions about what is good and bad, strong and weak. Some cross-cultural comparison can be useful here, because the values of the signs shift somewhat between cultures.

As I come to geomancy outside of a clearly defined tradition (though with a heavy debt to John Michael Greer’s work), I don’t feel entirely comfortable relying on comparison. It’s been useful to deliberately loosen geomantic signs from their traditional ties and explore the ways in which they can acquire new layers of value and associations. Doing geomantic readings has helped, but so to has contemplating specific things under the rubric of geomancy.

Some of these efforts are ephemeral, deepening my sense of the system without necessarily altering my perception of it. Some efforts have enduring impacts on my interpretive sense of the signs and their relationship. I want to consider one of those efforts here.

Before I do that, let me emphasize that the most fundamental aspect of geomancy is its distinctive binary mathematics. The math matters. The most basic element of a geomantic operation is addition, that of one sign to another. In the operation the binary opens into a trinary, as the two give birth to a third sign. As you develop multiple pairings, you develop multiple thirds, and the entire set of signs circulate and interact with each other.

If you wanted to use a familial metaphor with the pair as parents to the third, you might say that the interaction of the signs tends toward the incestuous. That metaphor isn’t out of place in the context of how the geomantic signs acquire fixed patterns of cultural meanings. The fixed order serves as something of a prohibition on certain interactions that, nonetheless, can occur, do occur, and have occurred. (On this point, I owe more than a little to Judith Gleason, ibaye, ibaye tonu.)

The exploration of these other patterns falls somewhere between cultural criticism and cultural elaboration, in the witch-zone. It is not only a call to acknowledge supressed patterns of meaning that make the more fixed patterns possible, but an exploration of new patterns that might form the basis of new cultural patterns.

Speaking of witches, perhaps it’s time to talk a little about some motherly geomancy?

An Aztec sculpture of the Cihuateteo, a face suggestive of a skull and talons for hands
The Birdfingered Mothers

I want to think through the figure of the Cihuateteo from a geomantic perspective. When doing this sort of thing, it’s important to keep in mind that the geomantic approach abstracts a lot, so it brings certain features into bold relief while all but erasing others. Geomantic studies like this should begin in contemplation, but they won’t be able to end there.

I want to talk about the Cihuateteo for a number of reason, but especially because thinking through them geomantically reveals dimensions of the signs to which we don’t often pay attention.

I’m just going to talk about the Cihuateteo and walk through the geomantic associations that emerge. I find pairings of forces and observe their geomantic third, noting some of the implications.

The Cihuateteo accompany the sun (Fortuna Major) as stars (Fortuna Minor) in the night; the moon and roads (different expressions of Via) are highlighted here. The lunar third emphasizes the importance of the moon in mediating that night time relationship between the sun and stars. As spirits, the state of the moon will play a role in determining their disposition.

The Cihuateteo are the spirits of women who die in childbirth. They are intimately related to the mysteries of pregnancy (Carcer) and birth (Rubeus); traditionally a dangerous time, they possess a warrior’s fierceness of heart (Puer). Now, any woman in childbirth is in a warrior’s position from this perspective, it is simply that the Cihuateteo died in this virtue and are so more determined by it.

Stepping back a little from the Cihuateteo, take a look at the ideal childbirth scene. There is an old midwife (Albus) whose skills ameliorate the dangers of birth (Rubeus); a stable crossroads between the invisible and visible (Conjunctio) opens.

The crossroads (Conjunctio) makes possible a safe birth that replaces Rubeus, releasing the energies of pregnancy (Carcer); the child and mother pass safely into the next phase of their lives (Via). That reappearance of Via suggests a sympathy between the Cihuateteo and the midwives, between the dangers that open in childbirth and the possibilities.

That shift to the childbirth scene is useful, because it underlines the potential diagnostic dimension of geomancy. Knowing the signs in play, we can also consider ways to introduce other forces that modulate them. The trick is to find the specifically right thing that represents the sign–it isn’t any element of Albus, but the old midwife that knows how to soothe the Rubeus of birth. The sign becomes an opening into a field of contemplation.

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10 thoughts on “Triplicities & Pairings

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