Book Review: The Art and Practice of Geomancy (John Michael Greer)

April 26, 2009 by  

The Art and Practice of Geomancy - The Fortuneteller

Geomancy is a divinatory practice heavily influenced by astrology, and I wanted to shine a spotlight on a topic with which few astrologers are familiar. Like astrology, geomancy came to Europe from the Arab world, where it was called khatt al-raml, “cutting the sand.” Geomancy uses the random generation of marks or dots to create a four-line figure, one line for each of the four elements. The divinatory meaning of the figure depends on the number and arrangement of the dots. The most common way to perform a geomantic reading is to generate fifteen such figures, the first twelve of which are assigned to houses, just as in an astrological chart. The remaining three figures summarize the situation asked about.

Briefly…

The Art and Practice of Geomancy is perhaps the most comprehensive book on the subject available today. With a basic understanding of astrological principles, one can use geomancy with ease, though I am of the opinion that astrology proper provides a richer, more nuanced symbolism than the somewhat abbreviated version used in geomancy. The author provides numerous ways to interpret the geomantic chart to extract the maximum information possible, so whatever information a geomantic reading provides, the reader can make the most of it using this book. There is also some information on geomantic magic and invoking spirits, which is not necessary to the practice of geomancy, but presented as a way of enhancing the divinatory experience. Personally, I would not go to those lengths to get an answer, but the reader’s mileage may well vary.

Contents & Structure

The Art and Practice of Geomancy consists of three parts: I) The Art of Geomancy, II) Geomantic Divination, and III) Geomantic Meditation and Magic.

Part I introduces the reader to the various way of practicing geomancy, giving real-life examples of the way the art had been used in the past. There is a good section on the history of geomancy, which discusses a possible link between the geomantic systems of equatorial Africa and their later adaptation by the Arabs. One conjectures that the astrological symbolism had been superimposed on geomancy by the Arabs once they had picked up astrology from the Greeks.

Chapters Two and Three contain information about the geomantic figures, followed by a list of the sixteen geomantic figures, with a detailed list of associations for each. For instance, the figure Acquisitio (Gain) contains information about its other names, a pictorial representation, keyword, quality (stable or mobile), planet, astrological sign, astrological house relationships (where Acquisitio is strengthened and where weakened), its outer and inner elements, its associated parts of the anatomy, body type, character type, colors, commentary, and divinatory meaning. This richness of meaning provides a useful divinatory alphabet for most questions.

Part II starts with the step-by-step instructions for conducting a geomantic reading. Because of the emphasis on magic in this book, one of the possible methods involves invoking planetary spirits relating to the topic of one’s question. Chapter Five shows the method of interpreting the fifteen figures, but the real fun for astrologers begins in Chapter Six, where the first twelve geomantic figures generated in a reading are arranged in a square astrological chart, one per house, and we are off to the races. The general themes of the houses are described in detail, though the astrologically-minded reader can get additional information in Deb Houlding’s Houses: Temples of the Sky. I don’t agree with every single house attribution in The Art and Practice of Geomancy, but the author’s method is generally traditionalist in nature, and I was delighted to see that that Greer does not assign either transformation or sex to the eighth house.

Chapter Six also contains some geomancy-specific techniques, which involve relating houses in the chart to one another for additional layers of divinatory meaning. Chapter Seven discusses advanced interpretive methods, such as geomantic readings used daily, weekly, monthly, or annually; life readings; finding locations and directions; timing; the geomantic/planetary hours (including a handy method of calculating the planetary hours in the day); determining names, and dealing with deceptive questions.

Part III, Geomantic Meditation and Magic, contains information not found in most astrological texts, so one gets the sense that this book is a rather different kettle of fish. Chapter Eight contains instructions for geomantic meditation and scrying, which of course are ancient practices that can be applied to methods other than geomancy. The author does give the reader the warning to test the spirits, which is sensible. Chapter Nine gets into magic proper, and provides instructions for creating geomantic talismans and gamahes. Chapter Ten gets into the ritual elements of geomantic magic, giving names of the planetary gods, intelligences, and spirits, and methods for invocation of one’s guardian genius.

The book closes with an appendix of the Orphic hymns, a classical collection of invocations of the Greek gods translated in the 18th century by Thomas Taylor. Included are also conjurations of the planetary intelligences.

Observations

The Art and Practice of Geomancy is a unique book on the topic that will undoubtedly become a classic in the field. It takes a common-sense approach to a long-forgotten subject, and covers all of the bases very thoroughly. The astrologer might find geomancy an easy adjunct to the astrological practice, as there is considerable overlap between the two systems. For beginning astrology students, Greer’s book can provide an excellent introduction to astrological basics from a traditional perspective, presented in a simple but substantive manner.

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The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance
By John Michael Greer
Weiser Books, 2009, 252 pages, paperback.
$18.95, available on amazon.com

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica, Book 25 – Universal Constitutions of the Caelum (Jean-Baptiste Morin, trans. James Holden)

April 25, 2009 by  

Astrology Book Review: Astrologia Gallica 25, Morin

Book 25 of Morin’s Astrologia Gallica, a text on mundane astrology, is available for the first time in English, thanks to James Holden’s recent translation.   Mundane astrology, which focuses on predicting events of political and national/international magnitude, is a complex area of the art, one that few people have completely mastered.  The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum is a very coherent and practical treatise on the subject, and English-speaking astrologers everywhere should rejoice that it is finally available to them.  An abbreviated version of Book 25 was translated into French by astrologer Jean Hieroz in 1946, and until now, Hieroz’s was the only non-Latin version available.  In contrast to modern astrologers of the time, who were blindsided by WWII, Hieroz used Morin’s methods to correctly predict the war, and his 1939 article for an astrological journal is included in Holden’s translation as an Appendix.

 Briefly…

The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum is not necessarily an introductory text, in that it assumes the reader’s familiarity with numerous astrological terms and concepts.  However, the “how-to” methods of mundane analysis presented by Morin are straightforward and easy to apply.  This book is best read with a pen in hand, because Morin gives step-by-step instructions on interpreting a mundane horoscope.  As is typical for him, Morin gives many examples of his method; in conjunction with Jean Hieroz’s article on WWII, the reader can see for himself the application of Morin’s principles.  Similar to other Morin books, The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum deserves careful study.

Contents & Structure

Book 25 is separated into two parts; the first is the more theoretical one, while the second focuses on practical application of mundane methods.  However, there is a significant amount of overlap, which means that one should read the entire book, not just skip ahead to the “good parts”!

Part I begins with chapters setting forth the basic concepts of mundane astrology, starting with a discussion of its validity.  Morin’s key concepts include the doctrine of subordination of horoscopes; the notion that mundane horoscopes do not act alone, but like nesting dolls, they are a manifestation of a larger cycle.  Therefore, the reader is directed to examine the lunations preceding an Aries Ingress, for example, and look for repeating themes among the horoscopes.

In Part I, Chapters 7 and 8, Morin discusses the specific characteristics of eclipses and planetary conjunction horoscopes.  In Chapter 9 and subsequent chapters in Part I, he gives guidance on interpretation of mundane horoscopes. 

The first step is to select ruler(s) of the horoscope, which are those planets that are especially powerful, and whose reemergence in subordinate horoscopes provide timing of the potentials promised earlier.  Here, Morin gives an interesting technique of ruler selection; focusing on the angle subsequent to the Primary Point of a horoscope.  For instance, an Aries Ingress with the Sun in the 12th house would have the Ascendant as the angle, and its rulers, occupants, and aspects would all be essential to determining the ruler – and thus the main theme — of the Ingress.

Chapters 11 and 12 provide details on the places where a mundane horoscope’s promise would most likely manifest, and the specific times in which the events will occur.  In his prediction of WWII, Jean Hieroz utilized the latter methods with consummate skill, and comparing Morin’s instructions with Hieroz’s application is most instructive.  Chapters 14 and 15 focus on the kinds of events one might expect with certain rulers (e.g.: Saturn and Mars ruling the mundane horoscope are bad, but fixed stars make them even worse).

Part II begins with a discussion of the elemental composition of mundane charts, and the planets’ behavior in signs of various elements.  This is especially important for weather prediction, a subset of mundane astrology.  Morin then goes on to emphasize the importance of the Aries Ingress as a description of a year’s events, with special attention to the rulers of the Ingress.  Chapter 4 is an excellent summary of the qualities of the planets when they are rulers of the year, with discussion of the fact that the luminaries can also be rulers of the horoscope, something the ancient astrologers did not address.

Chapters 5 -7 focus on the planetary qualities primarily for weather prediction, providing handy lists of planets in aspect and in various signs.  For example, Venus in Aries, as in the 2009 Aries Ingress, “under the sun beams produces humidity; when oriental, thunder and rains; when occidental, winds; when static, humidity.”

Chapter 8 gives an interesting list of aphorisms for determining events from the rulers’ motion; Morin considers all planets to bring rain when they are retrograde, for instance, though this tendency is emphasized when the planet is in a moist sign, a humid Lunar mansion, and in aspect with Venus or Mercury.  Chapters 10 and 11 are chock-full of aphorisms for further weather indications contained in the Aries Ingress and lunation horoscopes.  Chapter 13 provides guidance on comparing subordinate charts; such as that of an Ingress and a subsequent lunation.  Chapter 14 explores the intersection of place and horoscopes.  Chapter 15 gives guidelines for interpreting the appearance of comets.  First, one is to determine the planetary nature of a planet (mainly by its color), and then look at its position in the zodiac, interpreting the comet similarly to a planet in that sign.  Chapter 16 provides details on daily weather predictions, and some additional factors that go into such a specific prediction.

The Appendixes are particularly useful, giving a method for determining planetary strength, the WWII prediction of Jean Hieroz, WWI horoscopes, tables for the year 1625, and a list of the elemental qualities of the lunar mansions (and the mansions’ location).

Observations

A highly recommended text on mundane astrology.  The number of concrete guidelines and tips in this book justifies careful reading and re-reading.  James Holden’s translation, as always, is careful and thoughtful, with plenty of footnotes.  His preface is informative and places the book in appropriate context for the reader new to Morin.  A worthwhile addition to any astrologer’s library.

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Astrologia Gallica Book Twenty-Five: The Universal Constitutions of the Caelum

By Jean-Baptiste Morin (trans. from the Latin by James Herschel Holden, M.A., Fellow of the American Federation of Astrologers)

American Federation of Astrologers, 2008, 241 pages, paperback.

$24.95 on astrologers.com and astroamerica.com

charonton2

Astrology Book Review: A Rectification Manual – The American Presidency (Regulus Astrology/Dr. H.)

April 18, 2009 by  

Scholar - Astrology Book Review

A Rectification Manual, 2nd ed., is an ambitious, no-holds-barred traditional astrology book on this often difficult subject.  Rectification is the process whereby an astrologer uses known facts about an individual (appearance, past life events, personality traits) to determine their birth time or even birthdate.  The pseudonymous author, Dr. H., rectified the horoscopes of all U.S. Presidents through George W. Bush, using traditional techniques and comprehensive life event databases. 

His goal is twofold; first, he wishes to have birth times rectified “within 30 seconds of accuracy for 90%” of the included horoscopes, so that the reader can rigorously test astrological techniques on reliable charts of well-documented individuals.  Second, his goal is to restore the rigorous methods of pre-20th century rectification to their rightful place.  He succeeds most impressively in both aims, producing perhaps the most rigorous and detailed book on traditional horoscope delineation, prediction, and rectification available today.  Gryphon Astrology has interviewed Dr. H., where he gave more information about his methods and projects.

Briefly…

Make no mistake about it; A Rectification Manual is an intermediate-to-advanced text.  Intermediate astrologers, especially those unfamiliar with traditional astrological techniques, will likely find plenty here that is new, but the author gives sufficient detail and examples that with a little effort and patience, one can follow along with ease.   The best way to approach A Rectification Manual is a a workbook, not only for rectification, but also for delineation and prediction once accurate birth data has been calculated. 

The author writes in the Preface how to use the book: “Choose a single President.  Read at least two biographies – one for the subject directly and another for a family member or other significant professional colleague.  Create an event database and work sequentially through delineation and prediction techniques outlined in Parts One and Two.  After recreating measurements presented in the rectification database, test additional events against the full battery of predictive techniques…There is no better way to learn astrology than to study actual people and past events.” Yes, it sounds like work, but the more one puts into this book, the more one will get out of it, with rich dividends.

Contents & Structure

A Rectification Manual is composed of two main sections; the first is delineation, predictive methods, and rectification methods, while the second contains empirical tests of hotly-contested astrological methods, and rectification details for each American president, a longevity prediction and significator table for each president, and trial rectification data for all of the First Ladies. 

Part I deals with Delineation, that is, the process by which one assesses the potentials in the natal horoscope.  Chapter 1, Planets in Signs, uses case studies to show the effects of planetary sign placement, with a special section devoted to the minor dignities of bounds/terms and dwads (2.5˚ divisions).  Chapter 2, Modern Planets, discusses the role of the outer planets in natal delineation (hint: it’s more of a bit part than a role), utilizing primary directions of the outers to show the ways in which they can be integrated into delineation. 

Chapter 3, Planets in Houses, discusses house systems and why they matter, concluding with a case study of Thomas Jefferson.  The author uses both quadrant houses, such as Alcabitius, and whole signs, similar to Robert Zoller’s approach.  Chapter 4, Arcus Vitae (“Arc of Life”), explores the method of determining an individual’s longevity using the hyleg/alcochoden method, and then finding the candidates for the anareta, or killing planet.  In traditional astrology, the primary direction of key points in the horoscope to the killing planet, or vice versa, determines the most likely time of death.

Part II describes various predictive methods available to the astrologer once the natal delineation is complete.  Chapter 5 deals with “The Problem of Under-specification.”  The author describes this as the problem of life events “improperly attributed to various predictive techniques because the modern predictive toolbox [consisting of transits, progressions, and solar arc directions] is incomplete.”  Here, the author explores the massive 1834 fire that destroyed a large portion of Andrew Jackson’s Nashville estate.  Dr. H. first uses modern techniques, then traditional methods to delineate the fire in Jackson’s horoscope.  Chapter 6, Temporal Indicators, uses several traditional methods, including differentiating between New Moon and Full Moon births, to describe the ways in which one’s characteristic traits or luck changes throughout one’s life. 

Chapter 7, Planetary Period Methods, explores the very old, accurate methods of dividing the life into several periods, each ruled by a planet.  The strength or weakness of the planet gives a broad-brush description of the given life period.  The author uses the triplicity ruler method, Firdaria, and planetary days and hours.  Chapter 8, Directions and Progressions, introduces Dr. H’s Primary Direction Sequence, generating a set of dates by computing the same primary direction with zero and full latitude for both the natal and the directed planets.  The dates correlate with key events corresponding with the natal promise of the planets in question. 

Chapter 9, Solar Returns: Profections and Time Lords, explores the technique of profections (assigning each year of life a whole-sign or equal-sign house, starting with the Ascendant), and the interlocking relationship between annual profections and the solar return.  Chapter 10, Solar Returns: Delineation and Prediction, describes the author’s findings on some popular variants of this predictive technique; precession and relocation.  He then goes on to show the steps of delineating the solar return and using it for timed predictions for the following year.  Chapter 11, Solar Returns: Arabic Parts describes the Parts’ use in prediction in the solar return, and also their role in rectification.  Because the Parts change very quickly, they are invaluable in determining the position of the Ascendant/Descendant axis.  There are 23 presidential nativities given in this chapter, including the Part of Fortune calculation for Richard Nixon.  Nixon’s Fortuna fell in the 12th natal house, showing “money from secret and illegal dealings.” (205)  The Part of Fortune was activated in the solar return for 1952, when Nixon was accused of conflicts of interest relating to an unreported campaign fund. 

Chapter 12, Lunar Nodes and Eclipses, are shown by the author to portend beginnings and endings, and so are some of the best predictive tools in astrology.  Their transits and those of the lunar nodes are useful for rectifying the angles of the horoscope.  Chapter 13, Transits, tests out the most useful transit aspects, orbs, and transiting planets’ contacts to planets, cusps, and parts. 

Part III gets to the titular subject of Rectification.  Chapter 14, Preparing the Event Database, walks the reader through the steps necessary to prepare a good list of life events by means of which rectification can occur.  Chapter 15, The Three Stages of Rectification, explains each of the key three steps of any rectification endeavor: Determining the Ascendant sign; calculating the ascending degree within 1-4 degrees; determining the exact degree and minute of the Ascendant.  Chapter 16, Rectification Case Studies, demonstrates the three rectification steps on five presidential nativities.  The Afterword shows the way in which nativities continue to work after death, for example through publications, or dramatic posthumous revelations, such as those about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship and children with his slave Sally Hemings.

The Appendixes comprise about one half of the Rectification Manual’s page count, to give you a sense of their importance.  Appendix A details the author’s study of directing planets through Egyptian and Ptolemaic bounds.  The Egyptian bounds come out the more accurate system.  Appendix B tests competing systems of calculating the Part of Fortune and Firdaria.  Appendix C, The Presidential Database, contains the rectified birth data of all of the U.S. Presidents through George W. Bush, and the 2008 Presidential nominees and their vice-presidents, while Appendix D details the rectified birth data of the Presidential spouses.  Finally, the author supplies a ten-page bibliography and handy biographical index.

Observations

This is an excellent study text for astrologers wishing to learn traditional techniques and see them in practice.  The ancient texts don’t give very detailed examples of the methods they describe, but this book fills much of that void, experimentally verifying the efficacy of competing methods.  A Rectification Manual works well as a drop-in reference book, too, for the more advanced reader.  For example, if one wishes to learn more about the interaction of solar returns and profections, one can turn to the apposite chapter and read up on that method and its application.  The author writes such that the chapters are largely self-contained – to the extent possible – making the book very useful for such mini-lessons.  Highly recommended.

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A Rectification Manual – The American Presidency

By: Regulus Astrology LLC (Dr. H.)

Regulus Astrology (publisher), October 2008, 2nd edition, 791 pages

$59.95

Available through regulus-astrology.com 

(more information on the data presented in the book, including errata, is available on the Regulus Astrology website)

Astrology Book Review: Introduction to Medical Astrology (Wanda Sellar)

April 18, 2009 by  

the-physician-1

Medicine is one of the earliest applications of astrology, and one of the most neglected branches of the art today. Granted, going to see a doctor is less often the life-and-death affair that it once was; in the face of such odds, astrology was yet another tool of the physician to cheat death. Today, because much of the medico-astrological knowledge has been lost, and because of laws that prohibit the practice of medicine without a license, medical astrology is a relatively uneventful backwater on the oft-tumultuous ocean of astrology. The result is that there are few good books on medical astrology today.

Briefly:

Wanda Sellar’s Introduction to Medical Astrology is a solid beginner’s text in this vast and complicated field. It has obviously been carefully researched and supported with many references to important primary sources. However, the reader seeking a true traditional medical astrology primer will read Introduction to Medical Astrology somewhat selectively. There are enough 20th-century concepts and ideas, some not based on traditional astrological thought, that the purist must tread with care. Yet Introduction to Medical Astrology covers important subjects in sufficient detail and with copious footnotes, so that one can move on to more advanced texts, if one so wishes.

Contents & Structure

Introduction to Medical Astrology is essentially a primer, which examines each piece of the be horoscope individually, putting them all together at the end. What makes this book stand above the rest are the very accessible chapters on non-natal astrology; decumbiture and electing the times for medical treatment. Neither topic is covered in great depth in most modern texts, and their inclusion was particularly welcome in Sellar’s book.

Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the basics of medical astrology, and describe in detail its role in mankind’s history, starting in ancient Mesopotamia, up to today.

Chapter 3 starts on the building blocks in earnest, detailing the connections between the zodiac and health, first describing the nature of each of the elemental triplicities, and then going into detail for each sign. Chapter 4 builds on this to describe the basic life processes occurring in the body, again by elemental triplicity, and then describing each sign in terms of its masculine or feminine nature, and the organs which are rules. Chapter 5 then goes on to describe the quadruplicities and their effect on health, specifically the types of illnesses associated with each modality. For example, mutable signs are described as susceptible to “fluctuation in vitality and unpredictability and illness.” These guidelines are particularly useful when judging non-natal horoscopes, and derived directly from traditional medical thought. Chapter 6 explores the relationship (or non-relationship) between inconjunct signs, and the application of the concept to medical astrology.

Chapter 7 describes the planets from a medical standpoint, and though the author uses the outer planets and Chiron, she describes the rulerships of the traditional visible planets very accurately and succinctly. By the time the reader reaches this chapter, she will have been exposed to a number of excellent example charts, for example Vivien Leigh’s horoscope, notable for indications of bipolar disorder. The afflictions to Leigh’s Mercury and Moon, significators of the mind, are, sadly, quite apparent.

Chapter 8 explores the houses and their use in medical astrology, an important topic that is deftly handled by the author, though we would point out that the eighth house does not rule the organs of reproduction, a role reserved for the seventh house. Chapter 9 lists the important aspects in medical astrology, with reference made to William Lilly’s use of orbs; the traditional notion being that orbs are given to planets, not aspects. Chapter 10 is interesting, as it describes uninspected planets and missing elements in the chart. The latter is the concept that one may have an overabundance of fire, for example, but with insufficient water. This necessarily reflects a corresponding imbalance in the body. This chapter is very useful for locating problem areas in the horoscope, and it would have been helpful to get an introduction to basic humoral horoscope analysis earlier on in the text for those unfamiliar with the concept.

Chapter 11 briefly describes the use of midpoints, with which I do not have much experience, so cannot comment. Chapter 12 lays out the various way of dividing the life by planetary stages. We are first given a list of the phases of gestation, each associated with a given planet, and then ways of dividing up the actual life, according to 20th-century astrologers, but also Shakespeare! There are a handful of fascinating example charts in this chapter, and the author makes a usually abstract concept of planetary life phase assignments come to life.

In Chapter 13, all of what we have learned about natal horoscope analysis from a medical perspective is brought together, and the author takes us through a detailed chart analysis to demonstrate her working methods.

Chapter 14 describes the forgotten but ever-so-useful art of decumbiture horoscopes, defined simply as the chart for the time that a sick person first takes to bed when they are feeling unwell. Also, the time of consultation can be a become richer horoscope. These horoscopes are very useful for learning about the cause of the disease, its course, as well as the appropriate remedy. Heavy reference here is made to Culpeper, whose book on medical astrology and decumbiture in particular is very much worth reading as a more advanced source on the topic.

Chapter 15 gives a few electional rules for surgery, noting that the importance of finding the right time is still key today. A fascinating study is cited, noting that “in 1000 cases of postoperative hemorrhaging, 82% occurred between the first and last quarters of the Moon peaking at the full Moon.” If we learn nothing else about electional astrology, surely this tidbit is worth it. Chapter 16 teaches principles of finding fertility and pregnancy in the natal horoscope.

A generous anatomical glossary and disease glossary are provided, along with a substantial of reference section for those who wish to pursue this fascinating topic further.

Observations

Introduction to Medical Astrology is an excellent book for those just getting started in the art of medical astrology. More advanced students will find it useful for the liberal use of example horoscopes and their detailed explanations. There are few comprehensive yet balanced beginner texts for medical astrology available today, and for interested students, it is helpful to learn the basics from an easy-to-understand guide such as Sellar’s before they move on to more advanced texts. Recommended.