Geomancy and Cleromancy


Geomancy, although it comes from the terms of gr. geo-, earth and -manteia, which literally means "divination by the earth", is a divinatory system that maintains a close link with astrology and what are considered the chthonic and polar forces of the earth as an element, which allow not only make predictions, but also find out the best place for a location or the realization of an event or a ritual.

The classification of geomancy by modern authors is usually incorrect or incomplete, hardly organized. This is because the term geomancy is a neologism, under which many other arts that have their own names are mentioned. If you wanted to make a somewhat more precise separation, it could be divided into Western geomancy, taking into account that its tradition comes from the East and spread mainly through Europe in the Middle Ages from the 12th century, thanks to the Latin translations of Arabic treatises, and Eastern geomancy, whose practices are centered above all on Asian territory. However, this would not be complete either, since it would be ignoring all those magical-religious practices that have and have taken place in America and Oceania, "discovered" later.

Already in a text by Varro, transmitted by Servius, although of dubious origin, the divinatory arts were classified into four groups guided by the four elements, where the earth is obviously mentioned and therefore, they are identified as geomancy. Agrippa von Nettesheim follows this same classification in his De occulta Philosophia (1533), where he tells us that geomancy also includes the movement and sound of the sands, their way of trembling or falling. But in China, for example, the currents that considered five elements did not classify geomancy only in earth, but also metals.

As a general rule, it is considered that, like astrology, for a time it was a science or practice reserved for the priesthood developed in the East, since its uses are already known in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and it evolved very favorably in the Asian and Arabic worlds, which in turn made it known in western medieval Europe. Perhaps its diffusion in the West was due precisely to the fact that astrology had the privilege of not being bad-regarded, as long as it did not enter into a superstitious aspect, but through geomancy an unrecognizable celestial map could also be drawn and dedicated to this purpose. In the Renaissance, geomancy, identified above all with that shown in the Arab world, was included among the prohibited arts along with others that were specifically dedicated to the other elements.

There are multiple practices that fall under the general name of geomancy, basing their signals and responses on the forms that are produced on earth by throwing stones, sticks, various objects or even guided with a pendulum, although some stand out over others, but so many others must be identified as Cleromancy. This divinatory art, from gr. kleros and -manteia, fortune-telling, has also been practiced since ancient times in practically the entire world, from Asia to native America, passing through biblical references, and basically consists of throwing certain elements and interpreting their positions when falling . Under this invocation, many other practices are gathered, which are partly related to geomancy, insofar as it is considered that their way of falling is not random, but that it is the energies of the earth that promote these forms, giving a response that is directly identified with the situation and the energies of that time and place. In this way, cleromancy and geomancy are often confused, despite the fact that in many cases the duality is intentional and not bothersome for the development of the divinatory practice itself.

On the other hand, there are those who ignore these energies, and attribute the answers to the divinities or to a greater force, destiny. In other particular cases, these energies were assimilated with magnetism, which led to many other magical attitudes and abilities. Both geomantic and cleromantic figures are not based solely on their position or appearance, but on the even (feminine, passive) and odd (masculine, active) polarity of numerology. It is not an exclusive method, but can be found in most divinatory methods due to its simplicity and ease of establishing affirmations and negations in the case of direct queries.

Currently it can be said that there are two geomantic paths, one focused on divination, and another on promoting balance and purifying people or places, through the "redistribution" of forms, although this seems more related to the telluric energies that the are thought the land itself gives off, as it can happen in a sanctuary. In both cases, geomancy starts from the basis that the energy that exists everywhere manifests its presence through certain methods like this one, indicating good or bad predisposition for its purposes. Often in cleromancy and geomancy you can have a board that represents a celestial map or at least the cardinal points, the elements or other mystical maps. The idea of ​​microcosm and macrocosm is clearly present. The fact that they all come together under the same invocation is not only for utility or caprice, but is produced by their close astrological relationship in all cases, since it is understood that Heaven and Earth are mirrors and the same set.
Some of the most recognized systems that have been identified with the name of Geomancy are exposed here. And within this, Cleromancy itself, with many other methods. This classification would not be accepted by many occultists, but since precisely this article intends to demonstrate their connection and not delimit their original thought, they will be presented together.

As Geomancy:

Ilm-al-Raml or Science of the Sands: probably the best known and most recognized geomantic system. Emerged around the 9th century in the Arab world, this practice is developed (since there are still many practitioners in Iran or Pakistan) drawing points on the sand of the ground or more commonly of an Almadel or board that was covered with it, as well like throwing to this board an indeterminate and random number of seeds or pebbles in four lines or groups. Then they were discounted in pairs, leaving the possibility that one or two points were left over, or one or two seeds or stones per line. Combining these leftovers, the geomantic figure was formed. Traditionally, this operation was performed four times to obtain the four main figures from which another four were extracted, vertically or horizontally combining the four lines of these first figures obtained. The complete procedure will be developed in another article, since it was highly appreciated in medieval Europe and during the Renaissance there was a great expansion of its use in grimoires.

Psammomancy: often identified with Arab geomancy, it was also identified for a short time with the interpretation of signs in the sand (waves, lumps, footprints...) or the shapes it produces when thrown. This system, which resurfaces every so often, does not end up enjoying enough popularity.

Feng Shui: Although there is limited knowledge, since the 20th century it has become quite popular; however, its geomantic part is often overlooked. Literally "wind-water", Feng Shui can be defined as a landscaping science, which, very briefly, seeks Qi or vital energy to know where to place a sanctuary, a home or their distribution. Contrary to what one may think, it is not a random issue, but has an astrological component, since it is understood that the terrestrial world is a connected reflection of the celestial world. In addition, complex fortune-telling boards were developed that led to geomantic compasses. The point where the energies converge is called Xue, and the main idea of ​​finding this place is not to break the universal harmonic set.

Dowsing: This practice considers that the polarity and magnetism of the Earth can be perceived both by people with innate abilities and through certain auxiliary elements such as a pendulum or a wooden rod or branch, which move carried by this magnetism or energy. , indicating specific places where treasures could be found or giving positive or negative answers according to their vertical, horizontal and circular movement. This practice creates controversy since the use of pitchfork rods to find groundwater in ancient times seemed quite widespread, which on the one hand "defends" its value and on the other, is completely outside of the usual divination. On the other hand, it is questioned if the auxiliary element would have the capacity in itself or if it is the diviner or dowser who would really manifest through it.

Chthonic oracles: Very used in ancient times, because of being identified directly with the earthly and infraterrestrial divinities, there are those who include them within geomancy, but this seems an interpretation based directly on their etymology, which does not have much to do with the rest of the practices mentioned .

Molybdomancy: For some reason that is not too well defined, perhaps because it is an "earthly" material, molybdomancy was included among the geomantic practices, more for an interpretive method than for the practice itself, since it consisted of melting lead and pouring it into cold water , interpreting the shapes that were produced both in the water and when removing the remains. On the other hand, ceromancy, with a generally very similar procedure but using molten wax, has never been identified with geomancy.

And within geomancy, but also independently, cleromancy.

Cleromancy: divinatory art consisting of throwing objects such as dice (cubomancy), beans (quiamobolia) and other elements such as knucklebones (astragalomancy) and leaves (philomancy), based on the fact that the answers are based on the telluric energies that define their position. Many of the systems framed within geomancy are directly related to this thought.

-Lithomancy: from gr. lithos-, stone; Due to its relationship with the earth, the divinatory use of stones and gems is also identified as a geomantic practice. Some trace its origins back to prehistory. There are multiple variants of use, from classifying them by colors, number or sounds they make, to taking them at random and counting them - the answer being positive or negative depending on whether they are odd or even and depending on the tradition followed -, passing through their identification with natural elements or astrological figures. Also included here are those that have inscriptions or symbols, so the runes, for example, could enter this section, since they also have the element of polarity when they fall inverted.

-Lecanomancy: Related to lithomancy, the answers in this case are obtained by interpreting the sound made by stones or gems when thrown into a plate or vessel.

-Yoruba Oracles: Related to geomancy due to its African heritage, some oracles of American-Yoruba Santeria, which are also carried out in the Yoruba communities of West Africa, carry out their consultations by throwing carved pieces of coconut on the ground (Biagué Oracle) , kola nut (Obi Abatá) or Diloggún snails. Their polarity (black-white, masculine-feminine, face up-face down, etc.) and their positions have a lot to do with the general geomantic model, but above all, with kceromancy.

-Acutomancy: Closely related to cleromancy, it consists of divination through needles, throwing them and interpreting their way of falling both in water and on a physical support.

-Scapulomancy: (or scapulimancy/scauplamancy) Very widespread in all corners of the world in ancient times, the interpretation, not only of the bone marks, but of their rolls, is a clear example of cleromancy, together with the vital value of the bone tokens themselves, since whether they were animals or, very strangely, human. This oracle continues to develop, for example, in areas of southern Africa.

-Sphondylomancy: the movement of objects on the ground can also be considered as a sign or indication of the earth, transmitting a concrete future. All the more so if the movement occurs without apparent intervention. The left and the right, the even or the odd, and the very symbolism of the object for those who observe it makes it an inexact and variable system that ends up remaining anecdotal.

- There are many other mancias, throwing flowers, seeds, like the Mesoamerican oracle of corn grains, and even personal objects. Most of these methods require the help of an oracle connoisseur or seer to assist in the correct interpretation of the positions. Practices that involve throwing any element that cannot be considered physical or independent, that is, elements such as salt or certain liquids, should not be included here. Only sand is allowed, and as we have seen, this falls under psammomancy.

To conclude and contrast what is exposed in this brief work, we cannot stop talking about the I Ching, the Chinese oracle, also known as the Book of Changes, is directly related to cleromancy and also to geomancy due to its polarity and elemental interrelation. It is one of the best examples to illustrate the similarities found between both methods. The most common way to develop this oracle consists of throwing three coins - in the past it was more common to use fifty rods -, whose fall in heads or tails, identified with yin-yang for their polarity and oddity, during six throws reveals 18 forms that, combined , make up the oracle with the hexagrams, which in turn are organized into sectors or houses. Oracular hexagrams can also be developed by combining hexagrams considered "base" in superposition, which recalls the procedure of the Science of the Sands. On the other hand, those who follow a more closed tradition also take into account the cardinal points.

The neologism "geomancy" gains popularity during the 19th century, especially due to the incipient interest in the entire culture of the Asian continent. Together with Feng-Shui and the I Ching, the Indian and Persian origins of Arab geomancy are revalued, as well as the uses of cleromancy in an auxiliary or independent way, ceasing to be taken by primitive method to identify it directly with all those mancias that require "rolls". However, the consequences of the 19th century and its maximum interest do not make a dent in the real practice, causing, even today, that by geomancy information can be found almost exclusively on Feng-Shui and Ilm-al-Rami, and that cleromancy is ignored, discredited and relegated to a divinatory system considered extremely simple, unless it has its own name.

Pietro Viktor Carracedo Ahumada -

-Flores Arroyuelo, F.J. Diccionario de supersticiones y creencias populares, Alianza Editorial, 2000, Madrid
-Genta, N. Geomancia. Editorial Kier, 1980, Buenos Aires.
-Servier, J. (dir.) Diccionario crítico de esoterismo, Akal, 2006, Madrid.

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