Circling Ways in Geomancy

Divination using a circlet of Taphthartharath for inquiring into Mercurial matters.

Divination using a circlet of Taphthartharath for inquiring into Mercurial matters.

In the relatively early days of my magical practice, I gathered and used a lot of things I found in the course of going on walks - bits of interestingly-shaped sticks, torn pages of books and newspapers, playing cards, scraps of fabric, that sort of thing. This seems a common enough phase for many magicians, learning to navigate their landscape and sense the subtle tides and shifts around them in those interactions. Walks around my neighbourhood, building my relationship with the spirits of place, or drifting through unfamiliar parts of town on extended augury expeditions; these rambles would lead me to find objects that seemed significant and magically useful. There was something so satisfying about finding meaning and use in things picked up off the ground; those discarded omens and overlooked materials of inner-city sorcery. For years I kept a stray white cue ball which I had found when on an extended Lunary wandering. Chalk-marked ivory globe uncannily out of place, plucked from the gutter of night, a delicate egg of veiled promise.

One of my most used magical tools found in this manner was a simple set of brown seed beads strung as a necklace. I came across it while ambling along meditating on geomancy, the earth, and delineations of sacred space. Mulling over old pantheism-and/or-animism distinctions and where divining with spirits in space fit in, I found the beads lying on the floor: they were spread like a square. This demarcation of space, this establishment of a matrix of divinatory coherence, this cauldron from which new answers could be cooked up, made a lot of sense. The shape of the idea itself looped me in. I began using the strung seeds as a field upon which to throw my coins, dice, or whatever other means I was using to generate my geomantic figures. This is not to suggest I invented anything - this is simply how something was shown to me. As we shall see shortly, such a technique is far from unique to my practice.

In the years since, that found cord has had a lot of play. A lot. Enough that, a month or so ago, I pulled it from its bag and saw it was - in exactly the way time’s shadow sneaks up on you - suddenly looking all too raggedy. I resolved to build some new gear. In fact I had already made short beaded “loops” - too short to be considered necklaces - dedicated to particular senior spirits in my practice, and generally adorning their statuary and icons. I would occasionally employ these to charge the divining space with their authority, especially at auspicious hours and days at which the power of these Chiefly spirits waxed crowned. I would set them out, squaring the circle - forming the four sides of the natural ‘elementated’ world from the celestial circle. These beaded circlets empowered the clarity and focus of my readings. I even found them useful for cohering the virtues of the figures I set for more sorcerous ends; combining the natural potencies of their gemstones with the operative spellcraft of displaying a figure inside them, as in the manner of image magic employing, say, Tarot cards. Rough chips of sanguine coral, the very blood of Medusa, as soldiers of scarlets and incarnadines surrounding a marked Puer in the eighth hour of Tuesday.

A Puer working with basil and a circlet of carnelian, agate, tigers eye, bloodstone, coral, garnet and cow bone. 

A Puer working with basil and a circlet of carnelian, agate, tigers eye, bloodstone, coral, garnet and cow bone. 

More broadly, this kind of altar-top circling has long been part of my practice, casting an orbit of materia magica around foci of influence and effect. The sprinkled rosemary around the purifying candle spell, the chalk around the spirit’s seal to trap or stabilise. Such circlets belt up firm foundation, spin loops to run perpetually, wind and bind. New cord and even knot magic utilities continue to reveal themselves. Even a rosary is but a garland of the threaded blooms of Love and Mystery, stirring in turns and spirals. Considering the Puck’s girdle about the world, however, I am especially interested in how spiritwork permeates these kinds of tools and techniques. So it was I decided to construct seven circlets, dedicated to the seven planetary Rulers so important to geomantic sorcery. 

In more modern geomancies, diviners are often encouraged or instructed to invoke the Spirit of the planet most suitable for the question - matters of romance and sensuality on Friday, the day of Venus, for example - as part of the formal protocol of divining. Along with directing practitioners to begin their geomancy by tracing an Invoking Pentagram of Earth, Israel Regardie’s A Practical Guide to Geomantic Divination suggests the following:

‘To every planetary force in geomancy, there is attributed a Genius presiding over all matters covered by the definitions of that force… [Each genius has a] sigil, a traditional word that merely means a signature. This sigil should be very deliberately and carefully drawn in the centre of the Pentagram which has been traced. It should be visualized as clearly as possible, while vibrating his [sic] name several times, either vocally or mentally. This places the whole divinatory process under divine guidance, and opens up specific pathways to the Unconscious area which can act to provide an answer to the question.’ [Regardie, 45.]

It seems an uncontroversial consensus these days that the formal shaping of pentagrams and spirit seals of the Golden Dawn’s protocols for geomancy can be traced to John Heydon and his Theomagia. In this Temple of Wisdom (as it is not-so-humbly subtitled), when he is not quoting Agrippa whole-sale, Heydon expounds of his self-identified “Rosiecrucian way” that operators ‘first used holy Deprications, Incantations with other Rites and observations provoking and alluring Idea’s of this nature hereunto...’  [Heydon, Theomagia (London, 1668), 2-3] Here are hints of geomancy’s “high ceremonial” dimensions. Crucially however we should also note that Owen Davies has remarked that early modern village cunning-folk and local wizards, traditionally represented as the magic-users least interested in complex Neoplatonic orders and arrangements of angels, ‘would certainly appreciate the detailed practical guide to astromantic and geomantic divination, and the diagrams showing the various signs and characters of the planets and their angels’. [Davies, Popular Magic (), 124] 

One of the many tables of the Rulers from John Heydon's  Theomagia, or Temple of Wisdom  (London, 1665), 92.

One of the many tables of the Rulers from John Heydon's Theomagia, or Temple of Wisdom (London, 1665), 92.

The senior planetary Spirits of geomancy, contrasted by Agrippa with the more angelic planetary Intelligences, are referred to by Heydon et al as the ‘seven Rulers of the Earth’. Without diving too deep into Heydon’s idiosyncratic cosmology, it is worth reiterating that Heydon hardly ever refers to the straight astrological grammar of geomancy, preferring to use the names of the spirits of those astrological principles: he does not talk about Saturn, but rather Zazel; he speaks of Malchidael not Aries. It is in his lists of correspondences attributed to these Rulers that we come across colour schemes for these spirits:

Zazel, Spirit of Saturn: ‘He ruleth over the Lead, the Load-stone, the dross of all Mettals, as also the Dust and Rubbish of every thing... He Ruleth the Saphire stone, Lapis Lazul, all black ugly sheet stones, not polishable and of a sad ashy or black colour…’

Hismael, Spirit of Jupiter: ‘that which is most pleasant and delightful without extream Colours; he signifyeth Seagreen or blew, purple, Ash colours’

Barzabel, Spirit of Mars: ‘He delighteth in Red colour, or yellow, fiery and shining like Saffron…'

Sorath, Spirit of the Sun: ‘he ruleth the Yellow, the colour of Gold, the Scarlet or the clear Red, and all reddish colours’

Kedemel, Spirit of Venus: ‘she signifieth white, or milky colour, mixed with brown or a little green’

Taphthartharath, Spirit of Mercury: ‘Mixed and new colours, the gray mixed with Sky colour, such as is on the neck of the Dove, and Pidgeon, Stock-Dove, and such fine Colours; also Lincy-Wooly colours, or… of many colours, mixed…’

Chasmodai, Spirit of the Moon: ‘Of Colours, the White, or pale Yellow, White, pale Green, or a little of the Silver colour’

Rather than simply tracing the sigils of these Spirits to centre and focus my readings, I was inspired to bead my own circlets in versions of these dedicated corresponding colours, including in the designs gemstones with virtues relevant to their planetary governances. Specifically, four stones for squaring that circle, for bringing to bear the four classical forces of the ‘elementated’ natural world with which geomancy so deeply engages. These would be a tool for further drawing on the strength, force and authority of the Rulers to provide accurate information in my readings and precise affect in my rituals. 

It was in speaking about these plans to my dear friend and Tatá Quimbanda that I discovered this was in fact not a novel approach! Practitioners of Candomble and of Quimbanda have both long utilized the beaded necklaces of their traditions - ritual objects with deep significances - to mark a space for divining with shells. Elekes of Candomble, like those of Regla de Ocha and the guia de contas of Umbanda, represent a holy bond between devotee and the Orisha. Washed in sacred omiero, these beads are a sign of blessing as well as a mantle of commitment. The beads are normally worn around the throat, either diagonally or pendulously, and must encompass the heart and ideally down to the navel. This necklace connects the speaking voice and the core at the heart of us. A connection between what is ordinarily worn now on a table creates a necessary link between the Orisha’s mouths (the cowries) and your own. To divine is after all to give voice to the divine from the heart.

Similarly, the guias of Quimbanda de Raiz are washed in sorcerous amaçi and worn to foreground pacts and commitments made and to offer protection. Along with beads worn in devotion, they are also used to ensure Orisha and Exu and Pomba Gira can communicate efficiently. The guia imperial of Quimbanda is in fact required for reading shells when reading away from one’s assentamentos. My godfather describes this in terms of how it keeps the link to the spirits one has seated and works with: a temporary field of settlement allowing all Kingdoms to come through. A further innovation of these Afro-Diasporic techniques of demarcating ritual space for divination with sacred beads includes not only various different necklaces for different gods or spirits, but of constructing one large loop containing sections for each power, force, Orisha or Kingdom, such as the guia imperial pictured below. 

Guia Imperial  of Quimbanda, owned and photographed by Jesse Hathaway Diaz 

Guia Imperial of Quimbanda, owned and photographed by Jesse Hathaway Diaz 

Candomble and Umbanda-influenced practices also hold important lessons to bear in mind when comparing such so-called New World practices with the specifically planetary aspects of geomantic divination and sorcery. Earlier African significances of sevenfold divisions and heptarchies - for seven is a potent crossroads number - were later glossed through Theosophic lenses as chiefly concerning the seven classical planets. As highlighted by articles such as this, on the ‘Fundamentos de Jogo de Búzios’, this gloss can be seen in the approach to things like days of the week in such practices.

I am far from the first geomancer to cast into a corded or even beaded circlet. It is a shared technological response to the operation of geomancy, a co-impulse of many different craftsfolk of the divinatory art. Such living full-blooded traditional practices are unique instantiations of resonant approaches to patterning the geomantic crafts of ritual and truth-telling. Noting the use of circlets in this manner should not be taken as any attempt to flatline different traditions and cultures but celebrate their songs and harmonies in sharper context.

Conducting geomantic divination using these talismans dedicated to the Seven Rulers of the Earth, emblazoned in their heraldic colours and bearing stones of empowering virtue, has already focused my readings, has brought planetary virtues of both stability and dynamism to bear. They have begun to assist my understanding of the unique natures of these Spirits as more than cookie-cutter planetary entities. These geomantic circlets have also certainly improved the scope and precision of various operations of geomantic sorcery. I share these thoughts, accounts, and experiences at a somewhat nascent stage of working the tools: I am excited to share them and their techniques to encourage and compare experiments and extrapolations. 

Working these planetary talismans of the Seven Rulers has certainly furthered my interest in exploring use of circling ways beyond the classic 9-ft magic circles of protection and conjuration. It has also given me valuable perspectives on broader historical instances of circling in the European grimoire traditions of magic. Evidence from one of the earliest manuscripts of the Grimorium Verum grimoire-family, the Clavicula Salomonis De Secretis, details several sorcerous operations involving encircling tools of magical operation: ‘Ut Pluat' (To Make It Rain) one must place a glass of sea water and a heliotrope stone in a circle inscribed; ‘Ut Fulguret’ (To Make Lightning) a lamp is placed at the centre of a specially scribed circle; and an operation to ‘Concubitu Potiendum’ (‘For Love Making/Coupling’) features a diagram of the circle, to be inscribed in a red ochre chalk, on top of an altar.

From the operation 'Concubitu Potiendum. Secretum omnino Admirabile' ('For love making/coupling. An entirely admirable secret') in  Clavicula Salomonis de secretis  (Biblioteka Narodowa; Signature: Rps 3352 II), f. 19. 

From the operation 'Concubitu Potiendum. Secretum omnino Admirabile' ('For love making/coupling. An entirely admirable secret') in Clavicula Salomonis de secretis (Biblioteka Narodowa; Signature: Rps 3352 II), f. 19. 

Another operation of the Grimorium Verum with strong circling implications, To Open Anything that is Shut or Locked, demonstrates some pertinent squaring dimensions as well as avenues for potential spiritwork. The experiment instructs the operator to make a circle around a lodestone then ‘within the circle make a square and at all the angles put the sigil of Sergutha’. If we take this to be Surgat, recent developments in joined-up thinking about grimoire devils inform us that this spirit is also identified with Annobath… who just happens to ‘teacheth the knowledge of necromancy, geomancy, and chiromancy’, amongst other things. We come full squared circle. 

The use of a bloodstone to mark the earth in the Grand Grimoire offers inspiration for experimenting with lapidary lore for our geomantic tools, both in terms of beading or these more direct gemstone styli. Nor should we be hidebound to strict repetition: bloodstone is a powerful ally, but it is not our only poison. When constructing the geomantic circlet for work with Hismael and Jupiterian currents, virtues and spirits (and, thus, for Thursdays especially), for instance, I divined that the inclusion of four amethyst beads for the circlet’s “corners” would inform and galvanise my work with the grand Spirit of the Greater Benefic. 

I have already signaled from social media accounts the availability of these planetary talismans for purchase. Feel free to email me at if you are interested in working with these tools; I am happy to work with clients to tailor bespoke consecratory treatments. They are currently priced at $44 apiece, or $231 for the full set of seven. I am currently experimenting with various forms of additional consecration - involving homebrew planetary oils, asperging waters and fumigation blends - so that price may climb as I develop these talismans further and the process of construction and empowerment becomes more complex and potent.

Venusian Circlet of Kedemel

Venusian Circlet of Kedemel

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