1. What is geomancy?
It's a system of divination that uses sixteen figures made of single and double points, the way the hexagrams of the I Ching use solid and broken lines. Back in the Middle Ages and Renaissance it used to be one of the most popular systems of divination in the western world. It's almost forgotten nowadays, but it still has the advantages it had back then – it's easy to learn and use, and produces clear, detailed readings on any subject. Check out the sample reading on the Readings page for an example of what a traditional geomantic divination looks like
2. Wait a minute. Isn't geomancy just a western word for feng-shui, the Chinese art of landscape and building design?
Well, the word "geomancy" has been recently (and inaccurately) used for feng-shui and similar systems of spatial design, among other things. The word literally means "earth divination," from the Greek words ge, "earth," and manteia, "divination." So it gets used for a lot of things nowadays, but the system of divination taught here is the original meaning of the word.
3. But isn't geomancy about ley lines, earth energies, and Stonehenge?
See question #2. The same habit of sloppy usage that borrowed the name of a traditional western divination system for feng-shui also applied it to a variety of mystical and speculative approaches to the living earth. Mind you, feng shui and earth-mysteries studies have real value in their own right, and some geomancers (though not all) are also interested in them. It's just that there's a lot of confusion caused by the borrowing of the name.
4. So where did geomancy come from?
The first recorded use of geomancy was in North Africa during the very early Middle Ages. Nobody's exactly sure where it came from before that time, though there are many similar systems of divination in Africa south of the Sahara, and it may have been borrowed and imported by Arab merchants who traded with the kingdoms of West Africa. Within a short time of its appearance, it became popular all over the Arabic world. It reached Europe in the 11th century and soon became one of the most popular divination methods there, too. Until the scientific revolution swept most of the western world's inner traditions under the rug, everybody knew about it, and most people either practiced it themselves or went to a geomancer to get readings.
5. What can you use geomancy for?
Anything under the sun. That's one of the reasons geomancy was such a hit in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: you can ask it about literally anything, and get a relevant, meaningful answer. Old books on geomancy include information on how to use the art to divine the best way to attack a castle, how to predict the weather, how to anticipate which crops are going to be in demand next year, and much more. It’s as flexible as any system of divination in the world, and it’s not vague, the way some modern oracles are – when you cast a geomantic chart you can count on a clear answer to your question.
6. Is geomancy related to astrology?
Geomancy, like nearly everything else in medieval and Renaissance culture, uses a fair amount of astrological symbolism. The sixteen geomantic figures are each assigned to a planet, a sign of the zodiac, and one of the four traditional elements – earth, water, fire, and air. Unlike astrology, though, geomancy doesn't require tables and spherical trigonometry (or a computer) to practice. If you can tell the difference between odd and even, and add 1 + 1, 1 + 2, and 2 + 2, you know all the math you need to become a master geomancer. (This is another of the things that made geomancy so popular in the Middle Ages.)
7. Is geomancy connected to magic?
Back when geomancy was part of everyday life, most people used it simply as a convenient way to seek information about the future, and hidden things in the past and present. Still, geomancy has potent magical dimensions. It connects to ancient mystical teachings about the earth and the heavens, and a great deal of the old magical lore of the Renaissance draws on it and feeds into it. This is why, in the 19th and 20th centuries, the one place geomancy was taught was in magical lodges such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
8. Wait a minute. I tried geomancy a few years ago, out of a book on the Golden Dawn, and it was awful – you go through a complicated procedure and then just look in a table for some canned answers that don't help much, like “evil except for bloodletting.” Are we talking about the same thing?
Yes and no. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn found geomancy when the order's founders were trying to piece together the old Renaissance magical system and tried to revive it. Unfortunately the sources they used provided only a beginner's version of the art, and an incomplete one at that; it's as though someone tried to revive Tarot divination with nothing to go on except random pages from one of those little white books that come in Tarot decks. If they'd gone back into the old Latin geomantic manuals, they would have found much more powerful and flexible ways of casting and reading a geomantic chart, and geomancy would be as famous now as Tarot is. Take a look at the sample reading on this site; you won't see any canned answers from tables there.