As I have continued to work with and study geomancy, I have noticed networks of meaning open up between signs. I’m never entirely sure where to position some of these networks. Some seem fairly personal, but others open up to much broader themes. Heck, I guess that’s the nature of things in general. The personal becomes impersonal becomes personal and so on.
The networks are rooted in all kinds of associations, but I want to write about one set that emerged for me between the two Draconises, Puella, and Puer. All of these signs share a common structural feature—they have one passive line and three active lines. As a set, they include all the geomantic signs with this feature.
For a good long while, they have embodied the hunt. Puer and Puella are, respectively, the hunter and the hunted and their coming into contact catalyzes the set of signs into action. Their encounter occurs precisely at the point when the hunter makes a move to capture and kill their prey. The two Draconises serve to describe the ways this encounter can unfold.
Where Cauda dominates, the hunter kills their prey. The prey is brought to ground and reduced to a body. Caput appears in play as both the good spirits of the hunter as well as the flight of the spirit of the hunted. In this situation, the domination of Cauda can leave the hunter perturbed, and in that we can see the familiar fears of the hunter being haunted by their prey (the lingering Caput, again).
Where Caput dominates, the hunted springs free of the hunter, taking flight successfully, leaving the hunter weary and dispirited at their failure (Cauda). Cauda usually inheres in the hunted, too, since the surge of energy required to flee usually takes its toll on the hunted.
So, that’s all well and good. The other day, though, it dawned on me that there is another way to examine this set of signs, from a similar perspective. It can also be the effort to capture an experience or an insight. We can imagine easily enough how such a thing might begin with the hunt but become something else, like Faulkner’s story “The Bear” in which it is not the kill or capture of the bear that matters, but the encounter with the bear itself.
This suggests that the scene of the action is also the scene from which recounting begins. It’s the story about the one that got away, but also the story of the catch that gets bigger with every telling.
Coming at it this way, these signs have much to tell us about the differences between writing and speaking. The path of writing begins with the hunter on the hunt, with the reading of the landscape for silent signs, and ends with the transfer of those silent signs into the ledger of writing. The path of speech begins with the hunter closing in and taking of their prey, with the imitation of its sounds, and with the cheers released when the hunt is successful.
It is also in the arts of imitation that the hunter can release the hunted and still come back with something to show for it. Or, when the hunt is successful, it is through the arts of imitation that the hunter is able to release the ghost of the hunted from them. Exorcism and hunting do seem to have deep old ties.
Liberating that scene from the hunt, we enter into the domain of writing and speaking more purely. What divides Puella from Puer here is an experience and the decision to write it (Puer) or speak it (Puella). Speaking (or performing) the way through the experience leads us in the direction of Caput, the way in which what is spoken is released and then gone but as remembered. Writing (or inscription of all sort) leads us in the direction of Cauda, where we have something solid for our troubles, but the spirit that animated the writing is absent (or haunts it; where hauntology meets haunting if I may be a little twee).
Both writing and speaking open up a horizon of repetition that is like little else and we get a sense for how that plays out by examining these signs. We see the heat proper to the copyist, the steady and intensifying illumination of Fortuna Major (Cauda + Puer; the writing of the written), as well as clarity and sparkling presence of Fortuna Minor summoned by the recitation (Caput + Puella; the speaking of the spoken).
This makes me wonder a lot after the various prohibitions and prescriptions in this or that occult practice about recording and observing. (Do write this down; don’t write this down. Watch, repeat; don’t watch.) It also makes me suspect that there are special issues to take into consideration when we attempt to perform (Puella / Caput) something from a script (Puer / Cauda), that there is a real occult difference between that which passes down through writing alone or oral transmission alone and that which passes back and forth between those modes.
You get the reading of what has been written (Puella + Cauda = Acquisitio) which intensifies the written and the writing of what has been spoken (Puer + Caput = Amissio) which weakens it. The way in which both are often interposed alongside each other (Acquisitio + Amissio = Via) suggests that over time this back and forth breaks down something and releases it, that there is wearing down of something in the historical life of something that circulated between oral and written that liberates something into spirit.
When we start to think of writing as entailing all kinds of inscription and speaking all kinds of performance, this opens the door to a consideration of cultural production generally as a working with and through some densely materialized spiritual experience. It also has clear connections to the spiritualist project of giving light and release to spirits, to the gnostic project of achieving release for living spirits.
For those of my readers familiar with Foucault: Ah, there is Hegel again, still standing at the top of the stairs, rising from mouldering skull of Marx. Throw the bones, he still speaks.