Review: Geomancy – Franz Hartmann

Geomancy: A Method of Divination – Franz Hartmann
Ibis, 1889. 2005. 222pp. 0892541016.

Geomancy is one of my favourite methods of divination, there is something beautifully elegant in the way the figures change into each other, the flux and flow leading from a handful of simple dots into a complex reading of twelve or more figures. Yet it is also a system that is often overlooked, and the reprinting of Geomancy will hopefully help with that. Using a stick and sand, paper and pencil, or even dice (my preference), and a bit of practice and you can quickly be engaged in some very deep explorations of the world.

Hartmann’s Geomancy was originally published in 1889 but despite being an excellent book and still being relevant today it never saw much circulation. This edition, published 115 years later, is the original book but the contents have been reorganized to make it easier to use and navigate. This book starts off with the basics of geomancy as a system: the symbols, the casting, the associations, and quickly moves into detailed examples. The layout, with the previous one unknown to me, is a very useful method building up in complexity as you read, as well as being logically laid out for later examination.

The method and style of geomancy in the book is an older form, the astrological and planetary associations taken from Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. This might be confusing if you’re used to a newer system like that shown in John Michael Greer’s The Art and Practice of Geomancy (which is still an excellent book), and I’m not sure how to synthesize them. The book also gives a new order for the planetary hours that I’ve never seen before and I do find confusing, the order of the planetary days.

The book has a structural position that I enjoy, it starts off with saying it is “recommended to keep a book for the purpose of entering the result of one’s calculations in practising Geomancy concerning future events.” (4) Without recording and analyzing your results you’ll never know how good you actually are, how helpful your reading is. Simple, and a dead horse I beat, but I love seeing authors stress the importance of recording your readings.

Related perhaps to being so structural is how much detail is put into the examples of the book. These examples explain what everything means according to the position/house they fall in when using an astrological cast. To get even more detailed 16 questions are asked and every possible outcome of the Witnesses and Judge is detailed so you can learn that reading as well as to begin to understand how it all comes together. These 2048 answers aren’t Hartmann’s original work, but are translated from a German text from the sixteenth century.

In order to be complete, the book (now) ends with a section on astrology, detailing the traits of the planets as well as their sympathies/antipathies with each other, and an explanation of the zodiac. The book’s appendix gives several different geomancy charts that the reader can photocopy and make use of to organize their readings.

If you’re looking for more information on this relatively unappreciated system of divination then this would be the book you’d want. If you’re looking to combine it into more of a magickal practice I’d suggest pairing it with The Art and Practice of Geomancy. Some of the attributions are different, but the rest of the procedures will work well together, especially with the deeper divinatory insight from Hartmann’s book.

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4 Responses to Review: Geomancy – Franz Hartmann

  1. polyphanes says:

    This is one book from my own collection that I reference often! The only complaint I have about it is that it presents things in the opposite order (left-to-right) than geomancy is normally practiced (right-to-left); this always trips me up when I look for a particular answer in the Appendix of Answers.

    Stephen Skinner reproduced the same lists of interpretations of figures in houses and figures in the Court in his earlier book “The Oracle of Geomancy”, and similar lists pop up in Christopher Cattan’s “The Geomancie” and other works. Pestka and Schwei’s “The Complete Book of Astrological Geomancy” offers a summary of every possible Witness and Judge combination without the specific questions, but also go into detail about combinations of houses, figures, and planets (by overlaying a horary chart with the geomancy chart for the time of the query).

    The difference between JMG’s method of geomancy and Hartmann’s with respect to the astro-geomantic chart (specifically, putting what Mothers into what houses) is seen all over the geomantic literature. Hartmann, the Golden Dawn, and other geomancers often put the Mothers into the cardines (sometimes starting in house X and going counterclockwise, sometimes in house I), the Daughters into the succeedents, and the Nieces into the cadents. On the other hand JMG, Cattan, Pietro d’Abano, and other geomancers put the Mothers into the chart as they’re generated (Mothers in houses I through IV, Daughters in houses V through VIII, etc.). Both methods seem to work, so long as one sticks to a given system; it’s like using Placidus over Regiomantus or some other house system in astrology. Out of simplicity, I use the latter system.

    As for the planetary hours, Hartmann uses the weeday order of the planets and not as we’re accustomed to seeing them according to their distance from/speed relative to the Earth. I’ve never personally seen this method of calculating the hours anywhere else, so this might be something unique to Hartmann or simply incorrect.

    The zodiacal correspondences Hartmann uses (Populus to Capricorn, Carcer to Pisces, etc.) can be seen elsewhere in geomantic literature (Gerard of Cremona’s “On Astrological Geomancy”, Prestka and Schwei above, Robert Fludd’s “Utriusque Cosmi” IIRC, and Agrippa gives it as the “vulgar” ordering); like the figure-house allocation system, this seems up to the individual geomancer. Although I hardly ever use zodiacal correspondences in readings, I’ve had more success with Hartmann’s Populus-Capricorn system than Agrippa’s/JMG’s Populus-Cancer system (based on planetary correspondences), but Agrippa’s system makes more immediate sense and helps for meditation. I claim it’s kinda like how a figure has two elements (one based on its elemental structure and one based on its planetary correspondence); they’re both valid, but reveal different aspects of the same figure.

  2. […] thinking about planetary hours in response to a book review Blue Flame Magick put up, I recalled an interesting thing about how planetary hours are […]

  3. […] my review on Geomancy by Hartmann, I expressed some confusion about some assignments. Polyphanes came to the rescue with a killer […]

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