Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 17, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2009

The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance, John Michael Greer.  Weiser Books, San Francisco, CA / Newburyport, MA.  252 pages.  $19.95 USD.

Review by Samuel Scarborough

There are innumerable things to learn in the magickal arts, and one of the most diverse areas, is that of divination.  A person can choose to study the tarot, astrology, pyromancy, hydromancy, aeromancy, and even geomancy.  Geomancy may be one of the oldest forms of divination done, but this subtle and concise art seems to have the fewest adherents of all the divinatory arts.  For those that do not know, geomancy – literally Earth Divination – is a method of divination connected with the earth by generating a random series of figures based on poking holes or dots in sand or dirt.

With geomancy being such an ancient method of divination you would expect there to be a lot of books and manuals available on the subject, but that simply is not the case.  Over the past twenty years or so there have only been a handful of books on the subject and several of these can be rather difficult to understand.  Now John Michael Greer has written an easy to follow, yet in depth guide for the modern magician on how to use geomancy, The Art and Practice of Geomancy: Divination, Magic, and Earth Wisdom of the Renaissance.  This is Mister Greer’s second book on the topic, his first book Earth Divination: Earth Magic: Practical Guide to Geomancy publishing in 1999 (now out of print) was a general overview of what geomancy was and how it worked, now in his second book, Mister Greer further expands the material covered in his previous book and goes into detail using translations of various geomantic texts written in Renaissance Europe.

There are so many “How To” books being published these days in the esoteric field that it is refreshing to see a book that goes beyond “Geomancy 101” and actually gives some intermediate and advanced level material that has been covered in the text.  While the first section covers some basics of history and use throughout Europe during the Renaissance, with fictional examples of its use during that time for diverse questions, the meat of the book comes in the later parts the book.  In these later sections, Mister Greer gives us sections dealing with how the geomantic figures are aligned to the twelve houses of an astrological chart and how to fine tune a geomantic reading by using the placement of these figures in an astrological chart. He also has a superb chapter on geomantic meditation and scrying, in which he gives preliminary exercises for meditation followed by three layered meditational exercises that relate to all sixteen of the geomantic figures, their correspondences, and how those correspondences interrelate.  From these meditations, he then looks at how the figures can be used for scrying.

For me though, the last two chapters of the book really provided some new ways to look at geomancy.  By nature I am something of a ritualist when it comes to magick and Greer does not disappoint in the final two chapters.  He does not present umpteen rituals for the performance of a divination, but rather how the geomantic figures can be used on talismans, the magical hours based on geomancy and when it is favorable to perform “geomantic magic” based on these figures, and dealing with the specific planetary spirits associated with geomancy.  The real cache, though, is his discussion of the Guardian Genius, which is about seven pages in length; there is an abundance of information in those few pages.

If you have been afraid of practicing geomancy because the instructions have seemed overly complex and in some cases the material seems alien, then reading and working through this particular book will turn you into a Master Geomancer, but like all things magickal and esoteric, it will take diligence and hard work.  This book goes beyond the norm in that it presents the material in a very easy to read (and understand) format with practical applications beyond just “poking holes in the dirt” and interpreting them.  This is a must have – let me repeat that a little clearer – must have for any person interested in the various forms of divination and practical magick, especially from the ceremonial point of view.  John Michael Greer really out does himself in this book, taking a complex and often misunderstood Art and explains in such a way that it is interesting and easy to grasp.