GEOMANCY is the study or understanding of the energies of the Earth. The word is derived from the Greek words Gaia, meaning the Earth Goddess, and Manteia, meaning study or divination. Traditionally associated with sacred craft, geomancy today takes many forms, from the profane simple dowsing for underground water, to the highly complex sacred ritual techniques employed in the enhancement and cultivation of the Earth’s subtle yet vital force fields. Of all the geomancy traditions around the world, perhaps the best known is feng shui, although geomancy features prominently in the architecture of ancient Britain, Greece, and the Roman Empire. There is some evidence for geomantic principles applied to the layout of more recent cities, of which Washington DC has received the latest attention.
In the context of contemporary professional practice, geomancy refers to both the techniques used to understand, decode, and cultivate these energies as well as to the personal cultivation of the practitioner. Geomancy is perhaps the most taxing of the sacred crafts, as it requires not only extensive field experience but also the cultivation of a deep relationship with the great powers of the Cosmos and of profound humility in the face of Nature. Without these, any foray into this field becomes difficult, if not downright dangerous. Traditional training in this craft was therefore deliberately arduous and secretive.
Today, geomancers often collaborate with planners and architects in the design of buildings and developments. They also provide services in situations where the earth requires healing from traumatic events or lack of fertility, and are also involved in the ritual practices necessary to invoke dynamism and vitality into a site.
EARLY FORMS OF GEOMANCY
Geomancy was part and parcel of the knowledge systems of all shamanistic cultures, being enfolded into the sacred or cosmological understanding of all early cultures. It typically included both empirical approaches closely related to actual landmarks or configurations in the landscape, as well as conceptual or cosmological organizing principles which were often captured, recorded and conveyed through the medium of story and myth. Santillana and Von Deschen, for example (Hamlet’s Mill, 1975), have uncovered extensive correlations between mythologies of various peoples and actual astronomical events, and correlated these with locations on the ground. In this sense, geomancy is not to be understood as separate from other forms of knowledge, including sidereal or astronomical observations. In fact, in many of the early myths, specific landscapes and the peoples who inhabited them are simultaneously understood as having the same origins in the stars, the land, and in story. Geomancy, therefore, is always to be seen as the sister discipline to astrology, cosmology, mythology, and other disciplines of human understanding.
The study of geomancy has been enfolded within feng shui, (or as it was called in older times kan yu, meaning the understanding of heaven and earth). As such it corresponds to a broad understanding of the terrestrial influences on life. Broadly categorized under the term “form school”, it consists of general rules for the analysis of natural as well as man-made formations, as well as more specific knowledge of the influence of specific sites, water courses, or wind patterns upon human destiny, Adepts to this day are required to make extensive observations of specific geographical features, noting their effects upon human life, and correlating these to conceptual principles for more broad application in sites not previously recorded.
Among traditional peoples geomancy includes extensive knowledge concerning the effects upon human destiny of specific as well as generic forms in the landscape, and the manner in which these forces can be harnessed to human advantage. These bodies of knowledge have given rise to ritual processes often of brilliant complexity, as can still be evidenced today in places like Bali, the Peruvian Andes, and among the Himalayan peoples. Often these processes include also extensive references to religious practices, as well as national, regional and local deities. Partly because of the old age of some of their component rituals, geomantic practices have also included many synergistic manifestations of overlapping cultures, mythologies and religions.
In order for the geomantic initiate to explore reality on the physical plane, it is necessary to first have a map or a cosmic diagram of the various components of that world. This knowledge is usually ancestral, and is handed from master to initiate in proscribed, traditional ways. Often the process is arduous, as the master trains the initiate into the subtleties of his trade by constant tests and privations, as it is necessary for the initiate to fully comprehend the multi-layered nature of the teachings. Often these are encoded in Myth, and are therefore capable of interpretation at many levels. As the student progresses, his understanding of the deceptively simple story grows. All geomantic knowledge is holographic in the sense that each part is so designed as to contain the whole. In this respect it attempts to mirror the world, in which all is connected and in which interdependence is fundamental for survival.
In addition, the geomantic apprentice must also become proficient in the understanding of non-physical aspects of the landscape. Often referred to through story or myth, this dimension contains much of the power associated with this craft. In many traditional cultures, therefore, geomancy is closely associated with shamanic practice, to which it contributes and from which it draws a great deal of its power.
GEOMANCY AND ASTROLOGY
In its external form, the cosmic vision of the geomancer consists in an understanding of the forces of nature in relation to the four-fold division of the horizon. The geomagnetic forces of the globe are taken as a departure point to create a framework of relationships that enables the practitioner to manipulate the forces to his design. The world is therefore understood as consisting of the following relationships:*
NORTH is conceived as the area of Darkness, and is therefore associated with tectonic forces, Mother Earth, The Body, and with reality as a manifestation in Space and Time.
SOUTH is conceived as the area of Light, and as such is the vehicle for divine illumination, Spirit, Wind, and The Eternal.
EAST is the rising point of the Sun and as such corresponds to the awakened Mind, and to the Force of Fire.
WEST is the setting Sun, and as such it is harbinger of the Moon, as well as the Subconscious and the Emotional aspect of consciousness. Its force is Water.
At the Center is the World Tree, the Central Pillar that supports the Heavens (the original meaning of the word tai chi refers to this, as it signifies the ridge pole or main beam in the roof of a house). The center is the Void, where physical resistance can be minimized, and achievement made harmonious and balanced. It is often referred to as the Navel of the World, because of its associations with gestation and rebirth. The center is also the vehicle for the Sacred Thunderbolt of Illumination, carried or delivered by the bird ally, often the eagle or the hummingbird. The Center is often associated with the rainbow, and can be embodied in the Drum. Its counterpart is the Forge, where the thunderclap of the mallet shapes the initiate into new forms and potentialities. In many Cultures the first shaman is a smith, giver of measure and fire, and is therefore associated with Saturn, the God that measures the depths of the Universe.
Often this four-fold division of the Cosmos (five-fold, if you include the Center, and seven-fold, if you include the Heavens and the Earth) is referred to in metaphorical terms through animal allusions. In feng shui, for example, North is the abode of the Black Turtle, East that of the Azure Dragon, South of the Red Bird, and West is the home of the White Tiger. In other cultures, the North might be conceived as corresponding to the energy of the Snake or other earth-hugging creatures, the South with the Eagle, Falcon, or Condor, and so on.
As can be seen from this simple comparison, the parallels between cultures are often striking. This is due to the fact that traditional geomancy is based upon direct observation of the nature, and that the conceptual constructs which carry the knowledge (stories, myths, cosmologies) are overlaid only as a tool for understanding. In all traditional cultures it is recognized that knowledge is secondary to direct perception of reality and that techniques and methods are therefore only practical applications of original knowledge. This presupposes, of course, the possibility for new forms of knowledge and it opens the door to extensive experimentation, a phenomenon which is still evident among traditional practitioners, and which is in fact at the very foundation of our modern scientific method.
In addition to the four geomagnetic corners, archaic knowledge recognized the transverse axes of the solstices and equinoxes (Northeast/Southwest and Northwest/Southeast) and used those markers for its description of time as an eternal return. These transverse axes were also seen mirrored in the heavens by the Milky Way, the road in the sky through which journeyed the souls of the dead and of the ancestors, traversing in and out of the Middle World through passages at points in the horizon where the constellations met the rising or setting Sun during the Winter and Summer Solstices.
The geomancer therefore conceives of the World as a four-sided multi-dimensional structure, anchored at the “four corners” of the compass by “four pillars” which support the roof or “ridge pole” (the tai chi among the Chinese). The Cosmos is often referred to as a house, or a tent, and spoken of as being “square” or “flat” not to imply a flat plane, but as a reference to the plane of the celestial equator. Archaic cultures also recognized the tilted plane of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun through the constellations, and referred to the relationship between the celestial equator and the ecliptic (set at an angle of approximately 23 degrees) as the “separation of the World Parents”. The Myth of the “End of the World” so common throughout the world cultures is a reference to the transit of the key constellation of each World Era through changing areas in the sky due to the precession of the equinoxes. This mythology implies a thorough understanding on the part of the ancient astronomer-priests of the existence of the plane of the ecliptic at a very early stage in human history. The axis of rotation of the world around the “nail” star (Polaris in our age) is referred to variously as the “cosmic pillar” or World Mountain, or often as the World Tree or “ladder” which the shaman must climb in his ascent to the Upper World.
It is significant that this world-view conceives of the Earth and all geomantic activity as related to the rest of the Cosmos. Therefore, when a traditional geomancer speaks of a specific mountain, river, or valley, he or she is also referring to that land formation as part of a much larger whole, which includes not only the larger ecosystem of which it is part, but also to the pattern of stars, weather, and time within which it exists.
All traditional peoples have identified places in their landscape which were endowed with special powers. Often these powers were related to primary communal concerns such as fertility, reproduction, longevity, and success in war, agriculture, or commerce. The sources of these powers were further classified into numerous subgroups, some deriving their power from forces which emanate directly from the Earth, others from the symbolic or mythological importance of these locations, and others by virtue of their conceptual reference to other sources of power. Examples of these broad categories include the Oracle at Delphos (which was associated with a cave under a temple originally dedicated to Athena), the hillock and escarpment at the Great Horse at Uffington in England, (where St. George is said to have slain the mythical dragon), and the Coricancha Temple in Cuzco (it was considered to be the center of the Inca lay line system and it contained within itself the power of the Sun, supreme deity of the Andean peoples). Often these would overlap, as in the case of Chartres cathedral, built on the remains of a much older sacred site on one of the main lay-line systems of Europe. Conquest and war, similarly, often added an overlay of meaning and power, combining the raw power of the spot with additional overtones of a more conceptual order.
LEY LINES AND DRAGON VEINS
The power of the Earth has often been described in terms of channels or meridians through which its forces are said to travel. Known as dragon veins to the Chinese, seques to the Inca, and lay lines to the Celts, among many others, these are discreet paths through which energy is said to move. Often, elaborate efforts are made to capture and enhance the power of these lines to human advantage. Very early cultures are known to have manipulated these energies, and this particular kind of knowledge has survived to our times. In recent times, this knowledge, often kept alive against daunting odds, has experienced a revival, as traditional wisdom keepers in many cultures have begun to disclose some of their secrets. Prompted by the degradation of the natural environment, shamans and priests in Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas have stepped forth to warn humanity of impending disaster. Often they have also agreed to disclose portions of their knowledge to the West, as it is recognized by most of them that the current world situation is a direct result of our ignorance of basic geomantic knowledge. We are therefore experiencing an explosion of information on ancient wisdom. The hope is that as more people embrace this world view, our attitude to the Earth and its resources will improve.
Geopathic Stress is the result of disturbed energies within the earth’s mantle. It has been implicated in a number of undesirable effects which can be detrimental to human health, from simple effects such as sleeplessness or confusion to highly dangerous ones such as cancer, decreased fertility in both humans and animals, accidents, and material and mechanical failures in construction.
The Earth is surrounded by an energy grid which contains and transmits vital forces. However, this energetic grid can become sick and the energies which it contains and emanates can become harmful to life. The most dangerous form of geopathic stress is the presence of harmful underground water veins known as “black streams”. These usually involve underground water that has become harmful due to human activities such as road cuttings, foundations, excavation, mining, explosions, war, and others. Sometimes natural topography can exhibit similar effects, particularly if there are concentrations of iron ore below ground.
There are many well-documented medical effects of prolonged exposure to black streams. Diseases which can be implicated include: cancer, multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disorders, Crohn’s disease, candidiasis, Down’s syndrome and other congenital genetic disorders, schizophrenia and a host of mental disorders including obsessions, addictions, psycho-sexual disorders, suicide and location-specific depressions and anxieties.
Most mammals instinctively avoid spending time over black streams, gravitating instead to white streams (i.e. the healthy, free-flowing earth meridians). Birds are reckoned to be most sensitive, and horses most resilient. Insects, parasites, bacteria and viruses, on the other hand, thrive on black streams, and ant and wasp nests invariably provide a clue.
Other clues to the path of a black stream include lightning-struck trees, dead or stunted gaps in hedges and avenues of trees, infertile fruit trees, cankers, and strangely twisted trees. Fruit trees are the most sensitive, while oaks, redwoods and ashes are more resilient. Lawns will often betray bare patches, moss, silver weed and fungi. Vegetable gardens will reveal stunted or mutated growth, especially along the edge lines of the black streams.
Other clues include cracks in glass, brick, sidewalks, and plaster work, recurring mechanical and electrical breakdowns, derelict areas, and accident-prone “black spots”. High accident locations on highways have also been correlated with geopathic stress activity.
Geopathic stress can be spread from the path of the streams throughout a building by the steel construction frame, electrical wiring, and pipe work, just as it can be spread along railway tracks. Thus a steel-framed structure with black streams running through it can be more dangerous than a brick or wood structure under the same conditions.
Please consult our Resources section “Guidelines on Earth Energy” for more information on Geopathic Stress.