I picked up a copy of Frisvold’s latest, Ifá: A Forest of Mystery pretty early out of the gate. I started in my usual way, dipping in and out of the book at random or as some specific curiosity prompted me (what does he say about Ogun? What about Òbárá Meji?). That left me with a favorable impression of the text—each time I came away with a sense of having my understanding both confirmed and expanded.
[Oy. I don’t know, part of me is tempted to delete this and let the more recent series on geomancy and Kabbalism hold its place, but I don’t think that is quite right. Part of that is bearing witness to the process which I think is what gives us permission to give others permission to work through their own errors. Part of that, too, is that the more recent series doesn’t precisely supplant this so much as lay out its foundations more clearly, with the implication that there is still more to build atop those foundations. I didn’t quite have the right story to anchor what I was doing. Anyway, I think this may be the last page to take down and roll into a post.]
The first thing I want to discuss at length is the relationship between the geomantic figures to the Kabbalistic tree of life diagram. As with the geomantic discussions, I will presume some familiarity with the esoteric Kabbalism that circulates through the Western Magical Traditions like the Golden Dawn and Thelema. Similarly, though, I will expect readers to consider my work as belonging to an alternative formulation of it, one rooted in an rearticulation of the Tree of Life diagram upon the model presented in the Saadia retention of the Sefer Yetzirah (SY), as well as in some study of Jewish Kabbalism more broadly.
[Decommissioning another page and rolling it into a post.]
“And God has not assigned to any man two hearts within his breast [Qur’an 33:4],
but He has assigned to each heart two faces, because He has created of everything two, a couple [11:40].
Hence He built bringing together on the even,
for His oddness is none save the oddness of the many.”
—Ibn al-‘Arabi, translated and quoted in The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn Al-‘Arabi’s Cosmology by William Chittick (175)
Geomantic work is freighted with significance for me—practically, as a form of divination; spiritually, as a means of communicating with subtle presences; and mystically, as a means of aligning myself with the holy and the sacred. I regularly make use of several forms of geomancy and there are many, many more forms that out there. Where to start then?
Within the planetary circuit, Pe follows Dalet and precedes Resh. In the sequence of the week it follows Gimel and precedes Bet. Upon the plane of orifices that constitute the face, Pe defines the extension of the ears alongside Resh. Within the Tree of Life, it is the bottom double upon the pillar of mercy, crowned with Chesed and resting upon Netzach. In all of these assemblages, it finds expression through the geomantic figures of Acquisitio and Amissio.
I hesitated about posting this. It is tangential to the development of my personal geomantic practice and mostly reflects a time in my life when I had a time on my hands and needed a distraction. I have had a request for more bibliographical information, though, and it is a part of my intellectual development.
This bibliography represents a meaningful cross-section of the material that I have read in an effort to develop some sense of how geomantic techniques developed and circulated historically. It isn’t a full bibliography of my reading, but it’s definitely a substantive portion of it.
Most of this material relates directly to geomantic practices, while some of it relates to (1) individuals and groups that might have participated in the circulation of geomantic practices, (2) historiographic material informing how intellectual practices develop in dialogue with each other, or (3) scientific conceptions of the evolution of language and religion that inform the transmission of ritual practices, especially those like geomancy.
Works on various facets of West African culture predominate, reflecting where I first encountered geomancy as well as my general sense that West Africa represents one of the richest and most vital centers of the practice.
Inclusion does not constitute endorsement. Continue reading “[NB] Geomancy: Some Historical Bibliography”
Once a month, for the last three months, my Saturdays have looked much like this:
Working through the Elemental lines of the Sefer Yetzirah made clear that I needed to update one of the geomancy pages a bit. I haven’t quite gotten a full revision done, but I’ve done some work toward that end. It’s a bit messy, really, updating as I learn, but I like having stable pages where that gets reflected, so for now I’m sticking to the plan of having stable pages that get edited to reflect improvements in my understanding.
This revision also saw the addition of diagrams. They are just photos of hand drawn material, but they are definitely an improvement over the wall of text. One of the three images is included below. It represents my current take of how to map a number of kabbalistic concepts onto the Gra diagram. Inset to the right are diagrams of each of the three kinds of lines (Elemental, Double, Mother) on their own, with the sefirot and klippot dotted in for reference.
Thinking in a more apophatic fashion about the kabbalistic material has also encouraged me to look at other places where over-coding associations has obscured more potent and dynamic mysteries. I’ve already talked about pulling geomantic signs away from the associations that they have with planets and zodiac and replacing them with connections to the mysteries of the tree of life, but one of the things that also sits uncomfortably for me there are the elemental associations with the lines of a geomantic sign.
Okay, so I just want to make a quick post to flag that there are now two pages underneath the Geomancy tab on this site. Each is focused on a specific aspect of my personal geomantic practice and positions some of what I do with geomancy in a broader context. Each is somewhat longer than an average blog post and hopefully a bit more tightly articulated.
Unlike the blog posts, I intend to edit and update these pages from time time, either reflecting changes in my own understanding or clarifying ambiguities in presentation. They are, in short, works in progress.
This is a little bit of an experiment, trying to talk about some spiritual work in a straightforward fashion without too much interpretation projected onto it. If I like it how it turns out, if it sits well with me, I might try to make it a more regular feature of what I do here.
I couldn’t tell you precisely when I started doing this, but sometime over the last year (maybe two? maybe three?) I started using my body as a screen onto which I could project geomantic figures in prayer. As I would pray, I would just extend out my right hand (fingers freshly dipped in cool, perfumed water) and let it trace out a figure spontaneously, then let the figure rise up and into me. The way in which that happened varied, because I let the figure settle into the body on its own, with minimal willful direction.