Geomancy: Earth Divination

by Jun 12, 20190 comments

Geomancy, Science of the Sand

The Golden Dawn introduced Geomancy as part of its syllabus, but in an almost bare bones manner, particularly for the divinatory meanings of each figure. The Golden Dawn compensated for the paucity of information by giving comprehensive methods for constructing the system and translating it into a horoscope. The entire section is clearly based upon the work of Cornelius Agrippa, who signally failed to acknowledge the source, which is Arabic.

To compound the errors, the Golden Dawn associated the figures with the Kabbalistic rulers of the planets, ie, Zazel for Saturn, Bartzabel for Mars, etc. Furthermore, the figures were also associated with positions on the Tree of Life. Now, Geomancy relates to Earth – the name means earth divination, and it is probably the most common form of divination around the world.

So, rather than rely on Western magical sources, I have been researching al raml, the science of the sand, from the scholarly perspective. Wim van Binsbergen is probably the best source, and it is from several of his papers that I have constructed the salient features of the figures below, and the translation of al-Zanātī’s influential book on Geomancy at the end of this article.


The well known astrological attributions (Sun and Leo for Fortuna Major, for example), are probably a Western addition, and are useful for creating a geomantic horoscope, but historians have discovered that the descriptions in the original Arabic and Greek actually relate to Arabic terms of astrology. Knowing this, we become less certain of the Western astrological terms.

The Four Elements


The four lines of the figures relate to the four elements. We can see the obvious YHVH parallel, but Binsbergen draws an earlier parallel with the Tetraktys

In the lists below, I give

  • the Arabic name and translation
  • The Greek name and translation
  • Astrology
    • Arabic term
    • Western attribution
  • The most common divinatory meanings
  • In some cases, my comments.

Note, the question marks refer to astrological unknowns.

Fortuna Major

Arabic Al nusrat al-dakhil: Inward Victory

Greek exodustes doxes: going out of fame

Astrology planet leaves sign/house of its exaltation/rulership. Sun, Leo.

Divination The most fortunate; happiness, success in all domains. Fulfilment of all desires, fortune, money.

Fortuna Minor

Arabic Al Nusrat al kharidj Outward Victory

Greek eisodostes doxes: coming in of fame

Astrology planet enters sign/house of its exaltation/rulership. Sun, Leo.

Divination Medium happiness, moderate success. Favourable for moderate ambitions – avoid great risks, or excessive desires. The window for greatest success has passed, but there is still some success.

Comment PHB The Greek reference seems to have transposed Fortuna Major with Fortuna Minor.


Arabic Tariq: Road

Greek ?

Astrology Moon, Cancer

Divination Road, route, waterway, journey. The traveller, to depart, to roam, to visit. Means of transport, life, guide.

PHB In Sufi terms, tariqa is an order of Sufi – there are forty Orders. Sufis are seen to be travellers and guides.


Arabic Djama’a: meeting

Greek ?

Astrology Moon, Cancer

Divination People, crowd, populace. A large collection of people. Big cities, democracy. To collect, to concentrate, to bring together without order. PHB Juuma or meeting is the term for a meeting of Sufis.


Arabic Idjima’a: assembly, meeting, communion

Greek : ?

Astrology Mercury, Gemini or Virgo

Divination Conjunction, union, encounter, unity regained. Friendship and love. Communion, assembly, an ordered meeting. To participate, to sympathise, to converge.


Arabic Bayad: whiteness

Greek leukotes: whiteness

Astrology Very close aspect between sun and Mercury, perhaps by extension between any two planets. Mercury, Gemini or Virgo

Divination White, whiteness, purity, cold, ice, snow. The calm of death. To sleep, to slow down. Peace, light, spiritual elevation.

PHB The whiteness aspect reminds one of the whiteness of Kether on the Tree of Life.


Arabic naky al-khad: gracious cheeks

Greek anebos egoun ho arsenikos

Astrology The minor or the male one – cadens position, specifically of a male planet. Venus, Taurus, Libra

Divination Girl, woman, female sex. Female animals. Virginity, chastity. Gentleness and grace.

PHB Greek sources appear to have transposed Puer with Puella.


Arabic Al-kabd al-karidj: outward capture

Greek exodoston chrematon; going out of things

Astrology The planets follows the sun. Venus, Taurus, Libra

Divination Loss; failure to obtain. Lack of success, to be shipwrecked, to decline. To go away, to end. To fall in ruin, to ruin oneself.


Arabic Djaudala/kausadj/farkh: downy/with scarce beard/chick/joy.

Greek spapos, egoun ho thelukos; scarce, female

Astrology Cadens position, specifically of a female planet. Mars, Aries, Scorpio

Divination Boy, man, young man, the male sex. Solidity and firmness; power.

PHB The Greek source has transposed Puer with Puella


Arabic Hamrah: redness

Greek eruthros egoun ho polemos; redness of the war

Astrology Angle between 0 and any other planet less than 12 degrees. Mars, Aries, Scorpio

Divination Red, redness. Excitement, stimulus, force, violence. To desire, to take, to capture, to kill. Blood, fire, war.


Arabic Al-kabd al dak hil: inward capture

Greek eisodos ton chrematon; coming in of things

Astrology The planet preceds sun. Jupiter, Sagittarius, Pisces

Divination To acquire, to possess, to take home. To take, to capture, to steal. To gain, to carry the prize, to be admitted. To benefit, to pass to a higher grade.


Arabic Al-lahyan/al-ahyan: Beard/ (propitious) times

Greek anoferes; in upward movement

Astrology planet or sign rising. Jupiter, Sagittarius, Pisces

Divination Joy, happiness, health, light, success, victory, advantages of all kinds. Agreement.


Arabic ‘uklah: Closed circle, link

Greek fulake; prison, watch; Pythagoreans; centre of the universe

Astrology Astrologically; fulake = tapeinoma = dejection. – dejection. Saturn, Capricorn, Aquarius

Divination Prison, to be imprisoned (literally and figuratively). Diabolical possession, magic. Egoism, solitary confinement, pregnant woman. To enclose, to conserve, to protect, to attach.

PHB The arabic definition is ignored in western magic. Compare the shape of Carcer with that of the Tree of Life. One set of the twenty two spirits in Liber 231 are referred to as Carcer, or imprisoned. This does not make sense in Kabbalistic terms, but in the context of geomancy, we see that it is the Tree that is imprisoning the spirits. Alternatively, we see the circle of carcer as representing the magical circle. Either way, something got very confused.


Arabic Ankis: reversed

Greek katoferes; in downward movement

Astrology Planet or sign setting. Saturn, Capricorn, Aquarius

Divination Distress, unhappiness, pain and illness. Shadows and obscurity. Defeat; disadvantages of all kinds. Disagreement, difficulties, irritation. Sorrow, mourning.

Caput Draconis

Arabic Rayat farah/ al ataba al dakhil: Flag of joy/inward threshold

Greek eiserkhomenos anoflion; the lintel when coming in

Astrology specific upper limit of planetary movement. Dragon’s Head

Divination Internalisation, introversion, the inside world. Mysticism, meditation. Development of the faculties of the soul. Philosophical deepening of the world.

Cauda Draconis

Arabic al ataba al kharidj; Outward threshold

Greek exerkhomenon anoflion; the lintel when going out

Astrology specific lower limit of planetary movement. Dragon’s Tail

Divination Externalisation, extroversion, the outside world. Action, development of the faculties of the body, the active and intensive life. Illusion, fraud and deception.


A sample from the beginnning of al-Zanātī’s highly influential Treatise on the principles of sand-science may convey the general tone and the imprecise, elliptical style of this author:

‘In the name of ALLAH,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
and peace be upon Our Lord Muhammad,
the most exalted of all prophets,
and upon his kith and kin and all his companions

Now this book is the treatise on the principles of sand-science according to the bases of the Idrisian40 facts. Shaikh Zanātī — may the forgiveness of Allah be upon him — has said that every science has a beginning and every work an introduction and we want to introduce the bases of sand-science which give satisfaction to beginners and foundations to who is already advanced in this science. We begin in the name and with the help of Allah, saying that sand-science goes back to that prophet of Allah by the name of Idris, may the forgiveness of Allah be upon him and upon our prophet Muhammad and all other prophets before him. Idris has seen facts in his dreams and the scientists and wise people have found that all the creatures consist of four elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and then four results heat, cold, moist, dry, and four directions east, west, south, north. And they have looked at people’s activities finding that there are four measures: weighing, counting, planting, and farming. And the name of Allah is four letters and ‘Isa is four letters and Muhammad is four letters and each house must have four corners. Then everything is stabilised on four corners, four configurations, four extremities [of the human body], four elements. They have built configurations up from them designating them ‘Mothers of the houses’. The first house is the future and it is enunciative, because it is the first you see when the mystery of the world is explained in terms of reality and practice. That is why they call it the future of the client, moreover it is the soul’s house, the ‘self of men’. Then they have formed a second house called the house of capital. It informs you of the conditions of capital and money. And they have formed a third house called house of movements because when a person gets capital he can move and act…[ etc. the fourth house is introduced, as well as the formation of up to sixteen houses — i.e. configurations — basically by regrouping of elements in the first four configurations] …and they have formed a new configuration called ‘sand ruler’ and it is the ‘friendship balance’ and sand too, and it can never be a person. It is the fifteenth house. Then they have formed from the first and the fifteenth house a new configuration called ‘the end result’. It is the sixteenth. From that house you get sand from sand. When you see happy configurations in the sand you pronounce good news and success. When you see distressful or tragic configurations in the sand you pronounce bad news from whatever is the object of the consultation. When you see in the sand a mixed configuration you pronounce middle results ‘difficult in the beginning and easy at the end’.

The happy configurations are five in number:

The strong configurations for happiness are three:

The distressful negative [configurations] in the sand are four:

The mixed configurations are four:

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