In the art of astrology, the sky is viewed as a giant sphere, which on paper translates into a circle. Astrological charts reflect this view, and are circular in shape, and operate on the ideas of cycles and turning. Because the chart is circular and involves ideas of movement, there are certain points on the circle, as seen on any chart, that have special significance. These points are evenly spaced around the chart, and are four in number, based around the intersection of the veritcal and horizontal axes of the sky. Each one of these points, called “Angles,” has a spcial significance. There are two Polarities of Angles. The first of these Polarities is the Polarity of Interaction (Self vs. Other), made up by the Ascendant and Descendant, which describe how you express yourself to others and how others express themselves to you.
The first Angle is the Ascendant, and the Sign that lies on this Angle is rising over the eastern horizon (the left of the chart). This is also called the Rising Sign, and is one of the three aspects of an astrological personality. It represents how your Sun Sign expresses itself to the rest of the world, and the mask that you wear when out in public; it is how you appear to others, and how your energy manifests.
The second Angle is the Descendant, and it lies opposite the Ascendant, setting over the western horizon (the right of the chart). The Sign here shows what it is that you seek when interacting with others; what you look for in your relationships, what qualities you seek in companions, and what energies manifest themselves in your relations with others.
The second Polarity of Angles is the Polarity of Function (Role vs. Actor). This polarity deals with how you as an individual interact with the larger world around you, and is made of the Medium Coeli (Midheaven) and the Imum Coeli (Undersky), which describe how you fit into larger society and how you as an individual fit into your own life.
The Medium Coeli is the Angle highest in the sky at the time of the chart, and so is also called Midheaven. This Angle represents your role in the world at large, and your utmost public face (not the Ascendant mask you wear, which appears even to close friends; this is the public self that even strangers can know, such as your internet profiles). It also represents how you fit into society as a whole, including your job, social circles, social class, race, gender, among other things.
The Imum Coeli is the Angle lowest in the sky at the time of the chart, and is also called the Undersky, as it was not visible during the time of the chart. It lies directly opposite the Medium Coeli, and represents your “backstage” and role, and corresponds to your private self, and how you express yourself outside of the public eye. It represents the emotions, feelings, and thoughts of you as an actor in the great social game, playing the role of the Medium Coeli.
The purpose of the art of astrology is to better understand oneself and the world around you. In fact, that is the purpose of every esoteric art; to attain a new understanding of the life that you live and what makes it – and you, as an integral part of your life – work they way it does. Astrology explores this understanding through the use of astrological charts: explaining and understanding different parts of yourself, an event, or another object based upon the position of planets and zodiacal signs at certain times. In this way, astrology is unique among esoteric arts, because it not only deals with static interpretation, but also of changing interpretation, by adding a concrete element of time into the mix.
Most commonly, astrology is used in the context of natal, or birth, charts, in order to help discover what astrological forces acted upon someone at the moment of their birth. These forces do not wholly or completely define who you are, and the position of the astrological planets, and even the very evolution of the art of astrology, are merely manifestations of the universe’s consciousness, or animus mundi, in the corpus mundi. The state of the universe at the time of birth affects the shape of that child’s life, expressing itself through biological and social factors, as well as bringing its own addition to the soul into the mix. These factors coming together, as expressed in a natal birth chart, represent the shape of one’s life. A more fundamental aspect of this shape is one’s personality, the baseline of which is laid down by three astrological Signs, and is then modified over the life course. These three Signs are the Sun Sign, the Moon Sign, and the Rising Sign (or Ascendant).
The Sun Sign – the Sign that the Sun was passing through at the time – is the most well-known of the three Signs, and is often used as the primary, defining factor of one’s personality. The Sun Sign defines one’s conscious perception of oneself, one’s purpose, and one’s sense of their own identity. It represents the present, and the progression of the years. It is the realm of the mind. It represents how you manifest to yourself.
The Moon Sign – that which the Moon was in at the time – represents one’s inner self and the subconscious; those parts of ourselves that we are not aware of, and those most private feelings that no one else is aware of. It also represents the past, and the passage of months. It is the part of one’s personality most in tune with intuition and emotions, and is the realm of instinct. It represents how your subconscious manifests itself to you.
The Rising Sign – the Sign that was emerging on the eastern horizon at the time – is also known as the Ascendant, and represents one’s outer personality and appearance; the mask that everyone has and presents to the world. It also represents the future and the passage of days, and represents how you attempt to achieve your purpose. It is the realm of perception. It represents how you manifest yourself to the rest of the world.
In order to truly understand someone’s astrological personality, they must understand these three Signs and how they interact. Common characteristics in any of these Signs indicate that that trait is particularly strong in someone’s personality. In interpreting the three Signs, one looks at the Sign’s meaning, and then at the position it occupies; for example, a Leo as a Moon Sign indicates that one is naturally creative and that they have a sense of pride deep inside of them that they may not be aware of, and are emotionally secure and assured. Leo as a Sun Sign indicates that your drive is to be creative, and your purpose is to display your abilities to the world. Leo as a Rising Sign indicates that outwardly you focus on elevating yourself in the eyes of others, and appear prideful or even arrogant, and are confident and self-assured, and in pursuing your Sun Sign’s purpose you are creative and confident.
The Celtic Cross Spread is perhaps the single most commonly used Tarot spread in the Western world, or perhaps the entire world. It is generally the first spread – other than the simple three-card Past, Present, Future spread – that most Tarot books teach. The spread itself has been used so often that it has built up a lot of energy and interpretations as to its meaning.
The Spread itself is composed of two parts: the Cross and the Staff. The two parts of the Celtic Cross represent the two basic polarities that inhabit everyone’s life: Yin and Yang. Yin, the masculine, is represented by the four upright cards of the staff, and reminds us that everything progresses towards a goal (the top card of the staff represents the ultimate outcome). Yang, the feminine, is represented by the four cards surrounding the central two in a circle, and reminds us that everything also has a cyclical nature. The two cards in the center of the Cross – the central and supporting factors – represent the resolution of the duality of the Staff and Cross. In Druidic thought, dualistic thinking is resolved through the creation of a third choice, to avoid living in a world dominated by either ors. The two central cards connect the Cross and the Staff, and represent the third choice; the two dots in the Yin Yang symbol colored differently than their surroundings.
A rough image of the shape is the spread is below:
The Cross is on the left, and the staff is on the right. Those of you familiar with the Spread may immediately notice that I have numbered the positions differently than is standard. This is because, to me, the “standard” Celtic Cross numbering has never seemed to ring true, and the way above has always seemed much more natural to me; it was the way the cards naturally dealt themselves, rising from the influence of the unconscious to the influence of time, to the influence of the subconscious, focusing on rising through the levels of consciousness. Who am I to argue with the animus mundi?
When I throw the spread, I lay out the cards in the above order. The card in the first position represents the central factor of whatever question you have asked, and tells you what the most powerful energy in any given situation is. The second card is the secondary factor, and it can be either supporting, neutral, or contradicting. If it is a supporting factor, its energy will be similar to that of the central factor, and will work in harmony with it (such as The Lovers and Love). If it is neutral, the energies will have no interplaying effects on each other. If it is a contradicting factor, the energies will oppose each other in some way. In all cases, the energy of the central factor takes priority and has the most strength, but its energy is modified by the energies of the secondary factor, changing it, strengthening it, weakening it, or sometimes, as in the case of a neutral factor, merely adding another layer of complexity and another central factor to the situation.
After dealing those two, I deal the rest of the cross in a zig-zag motion, starting at the bottom, going up to the left, then the right, then up. As I said before, this just feels natural to me. The four cards of the wheel are the influences on the situation, and represent how the querent’s own mind and the passage of time affect the situation. The third position represents unconscious influences on the situation, such as what might be going through the mind of the querent (most commonly) or those closely involved with him that they are not aware of that shape the querent’s perception of the situation. If this influence is a card associated with deception, the querent may not be being honest with himself.
The fourth position represents past influences; the weight of history and their past experiences, and how those things have shaped their worldview and approach to the situation. It can represent receding influences as well, and influences whose hold over the querent are weakening. The fifth position represents future influences or goals, and represents what the querent or others strive to achieve, and what might (remember that the cards do not tell the future) lie in store there. The sixth position represents conscious influences: those things that are at the forefront of the querent’s mind that they are very much aware of, affecting their actions with regards to the situation. If this card is associated with deception, then the querent (if it is not yourself) might not be being honest with you! It could also mean that they are possibly a dishonest party in the situation.
The Cross is made of two axes: a vertical one and a horizontal one. The horizontal axis deals with the passage of time; on the left is the past and on the right is the future. The secondary factor (the second card placed) is also associated with this axis, as it lies horizontally. It represents the present situation as well as what I listed above, and the transition between past and future. I should note here than many practitioners of the Celtic Cross spread lay out the cards so that the past is on the right and the future on the left. This interpretation is seen in Geomancy as well. This is a perfectly valid viewpoint, and I believe it arises out of the common trend of many languages (particularly Semitic languages like Hebrew, from which the Tarot derives some of its symbolism) to read from right to left. As I am a native English speaker, I read left to right, and so also read the passage of time in that manner. The difference is as simple as that.
The vertical axis of the Celtic Cross deals with levels of the mind, and how the querent acts upon and perceives the situation. At the top is the conscious mind, and at the bottom is the subconscious mind. As the central factor is vertical, it is also associated with this axis, and represents the ultimate reason for the querent’s interest in the situation, and the sum of their conscious and unconscious drives, as well as everything else discussed above. The three cards on this axis are reflected in Sigmund Freud’s conception of the mind: the conscious influences are the Superego, the police for of the mind that makes judgments and imposes values on the individual’s actions; the central factor is the Ego, which does its best to provide a realistic view of any situation; and the unconscious influences are the Id, the primal drives and unconscious desires that ultimately drive us all, and are repressed by the Ego and SuperEgo.
The Staff consists of four cards aligned vertically. The seventh position represents the querent’s position, and in some ways serves to sum up the Cross. It represents the biases and prejudices the querent might have, as well as how they have been approaching the situation up to this point, how they are dealing with it, and their role in the situation and how they effect their surroundings. The eighth position represents environmental factors, and the querent’s relationship to everything that surrounds him or her. This can be the people surrounding him, the physical environment she lives in, or anything else. Most commonly, it represents the influences that the environment have upon the situation and the querent, but can also sometimes represent the influences that the querent as upon the environment (a role shared with the previous position). These two positions are also associated with the horizontal axis of the Cross.
The ninth position represents the querent’s hopes and fears, as well as advice. it is strongly associated with the future influences position, as well as the secondary factors position. It is also a summation of the vertical axis of the Cross, and represents what the querent hopes to get out of the situation, or what they fear to lose from it. It can also give the querent something to think about, or a piece of advice that might help them deal with whatever is going on.
The tenth and final position of the Celtic Cross is the summation of the rest of the spread. It represents the probable outcome of the situation. Depending on the way that the energies of the spread work out, this can either represent the result of things don’t change, or the result if the spread’s advice is followed (the latter is more common). It tells you how the querent, the environment, and everyone else involved will be affected by and changed by the situation when it is resolved. It is strongly associated with the central factor as well as the conscious influences positions, as it represents the central factor of what is most likely to happen given everything else, and serves as a sort of second central factor card for the spread.
When I read any spread, unlike many people, I lay out the entire spread first before looking at the cards, rather than interpreting each card on their own before looking at their relationships to each other. This is a personal thing, and I feel like I can better understand the cards if I do it this way. Additionally, I do not read the Celtic Cross in the same order I lay it out. Generally, I begin with examining the first two positions, then move on to the horizontal axis of the cross (past to future), then the vertical access (unconscious to conscious), and then go onto the Staff. If I need clarification on anything, I generally look first to the cards linked with the confusing card’s position, then at the cards surrounding it and the general energies of the spread, and if that fails me, I draw another card.
Like almost every esoteric art, Geomantic thought is strongly based around elemental theory and thought. The four elements play a very important role in determining the character and nature of each of the Geomantic Figures, and indeed, the very structure of the Figures reflects the elements.
Geomantic Figures’ Elemental Structure
The Geomantic Figures are each make up of four rows of dots. Each row of dots symbolizes and element, and the number of dots in each row indicates whether the element is passive or active. Thinking of the Figure as a Human body, the first row represents the head, the second the throat, the third the abdomen, and the fourth the feet. Each of these body parts has an elemental association: the head, full of ideas, creativity, and energy, is associated with Fire. The throat and its association with wind, communication, and the ability to reason with others in combination with the head is associated with Air. The abdomen and its association with the gut, instinct, and the heart are associated with Water, and the feet and their stability, grounded nature, and support are associated with Earth.
So, then the Geomantic Figure’s rows represent the elements of Fire (Spirit), Air (Abstract), Water (Emotion), and Earth (Material). Each of these rows has either one or two dots in them; one dot means that that row – and therefore that element – is active in the figure, and two dots mean that that row and element are passive. Every single Geomantic Figure reflects all four elements at some level, as all four elements are present in everything. However, passive elements are not expressed as strongly or “actively” as their active counterparts. Conversely, active elements are reflected strongly in their figures’ character.
For example, take the first Figure, Puer. In Puer, the active elements are Fire, Air, and Earth, while Water is passive. Fire is reflected in Puer’s drive to complete his quest. Air is reflected in the lofty, abstract ideals he abides by. Earth is reflected in the practical nature of his quest, and the stability he draws upon to complete his quest. Water, the sole passive element, is what he lacks, but is reflected still, as it is the thing that he desires, making it still an influence, but just not as powerful a one as the others.
The shapes of the Figures that result from these groupings of dots also often create images that reflect the character’s nature; for example, Puer is a sword, Amissio is an overturned bag, Albus is an upright goblet, Populus is a mass, Fortuna Major is a valley with a river flowing into it, Conjunctio is two triangles coming together, Puella is a breasted female, Rubeus is an overturned goblet, Acquisitio is two full bags, Carcer is two triangles facing away from each other, Tristitia is a stake driven downwards, Laetitia is a mountain, Cauda Draconis is footsteps leaving a door, Caput Draconis is footsteps approaching a door, Fortuna Minor is a mountain with a staff atop it, and Via is a road. Many of the Geomantic polarities can be seen in these figures, as opposite Figures generally have opposite shapes.
Outer and Inner Elements
In addition to active and passive elements, each Figure also has Inner and Outer Energies, which are also defined in terms of elements. An Inner Energy/Element is the element from which the Figure draws its strength, whereas an Outer Energy/Element is the element with which the Figure imprints itself upon the world.
Going back to Puer as an example, this means that its Outer Element of Fire means that Puer expresses itself to the world as a paragon of will and energy, and it is this youthful spirit that defines its outward appearance. Its Inner Element is Air, meaning that Puer draws its strength from ideals of justice and truth, and reason and abstract principles drive his spirit. More practically, Air fuels Fire (a very Earthy comparison). In all of the Figures save Populus, the Inner Element is an active one.
The Outer element is also known as the Ruling Element, because this is the element most strongly associated with the Figure. Like with Astrology, each of the Ruling Elements represent one aspect of the element’s energy, expressed in a certain way. Due to the way Geomancy is structured, the Outer Elements are repeated in many Figures, and so that is not enough to know in order to understand how they express themselves; doing that would be using the Tarot system. A more apt comparison would be to use the Astrological system of Modalities, and examine each of the elements as expressing Cardinal (Beginning), Fixed (Stabilizing), and Mutable (Adapting). In addition, I have added a fourth Modality: Closing (Ending). However, it is always important to remember that endings always lead to new beginnings. The Ruling Element and the expressions of each of the Figures are:
Fortuna Major (Fixed)
Cauda Draconis (Closing)
-Fire’s energy begins with the drive of Puer, seeking to complete himself and find what he is missing. His spirit is kept steady and his journey is kept on track by his strength of character, drawn from the energies of Fortuna Major. Using his indomitable spirit and personality, Fire uses the mutable energies of Acquisitio, translating the energies of Fortuna Major into an ability to gain things from the environment around him, changing himself as he continues on his quest. His journey ends when he finds what he is looking for after a final push, with the energies of Cauda Draconis.
-Water’s journey begins with a desire to travel and take in all that there is to see; the energy of Via. On the way, however, Water’s emotions intefere with her goal, and she gives into the temptation of Rubeus, going wherever the wind blows her and enjoying life for what it is. She gets stuck as she gets lost in herself, unsure of who or what she really is. As her sense of self gradually vanishes, she realizes her connection with everyone around her, and is soon able to react and adapt to anything as she merges with the collective consciousness. At the end of her journey, she realizes that being sidetracked was the best thing that could have happened, as she is now content and happy with the energies of Laetitia and her understanding of her connection to the world.
Fortuna Minor (Cardinal)
-Air’s journey begins with the instability of Fortuna Minor, as circumstances around the energy forces Air to embark on a journey to discover the nature of things. As Air descends from its lofty peak, it finds that reality does not match its pure thoughts, and suffers great sorrow and disappointment as she gets stuck in place by the stakes of Tristitia. After losing herself in sorrow, Air experiences the energies of the peacemaker and nurturer Albus, who helps Air to realize that any two things can be reconciled. Given strength once more, Air realizes that it must receive the world around it to truly understand it, and descends from its high-mindedness, willing to receive its material surroundings, exhibiting the energies of Puella.
Caput Draconis (Cardinal)
-Earth’s journey begins with a desire for a new beginning, as expressed by Caput Draconis. However, the limited viewpoint of the overly materialistic Earth limits his ability to truly make a new beginning, as he does not see all of the options available to him. He thus becomes imprisoned by his own mind, succumbing to the energies of Carcer. He becomes stuck until a tragic loss in the form of Amissio shakes him out of it, and he realizes that his stubbornness and limited view have made him miss out on what’s really important: meaningful interaction with those around him. Realizing he cannot continue on his own, Earth reaches out to the people around him, and everyone comes together in the form of Conjunctio to build a new life together.
In Geomancy, unlike Tarot and Astrology, there is no real canonical Geomantic order.
Though the name of the art of Geomancy contains the prefix Geo-, this does not mean that the art places any special emphasis on the element of Earth. Rather, the term Geomancy refers to the fact that when you practice the art, you are reading the animus mundi of the world, universe, or whatever you choose to call it. As Geomancy is an old art, the title refers to the animus mundi of the Earth: Geo. The Earth is made up of all four elements, and all four are reflected in the art.