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Geomancy is a form of divination that recognizes and interprets the markings and the patterns on the ground. Different traditions around the world have different methods of geomancy. One particular tradition in Africa involves throwing a handful of dirt into the air and observing how the dirt falls. The mouse is considered the agent of the earth spirit, according to one tradition of geomancy in West Africa.

Geomancy, according to certain Arabic traditions, consists of drawing 16 random lines of dots in the sand, whereas in China, the geomancer enters a trance, makes markings on the ground, and these are interpreted by an associate, who in most cases is a young boy.

The Western Tradition

The Western tradition of geomancy also depends on the skills in pattern recognition. During the medieval times, geomancers in Europe drew dots on paper, or parchment. Geomantic techniques as followed by Western occultism still require marking of 16 lines of dashes on the sand or on a sheet of paper, but their direction of dashes followed the traditional right to left, unlike the left to right of the Arabic tradition.

The geomancer does not count the number of dashes as they are being made, leading to spontaneous divination. Later, the diviner counts the number of dashes made in each line, marks a dot at the end of the line for odd number of dashes, and two dots for even number of dashes. The pattern of dots produced by the four consecutive lines is known as a figure, with 16 random lines producing four figures.

These four figures are entered into two charts – Shield and House charts. These charts are analyzed by the geomancer, and interpreted to find solutions, responses, or options for the queries of the querent. The chart also presents general information about the querent, providing an all round reading of the querent’s life.

The Chinese Practice

In the 19th century, the Chinese practice of feng shui (pronounced fung shway) came to be categorized as geomancy by the Christian missionaries in China. In feng shui, the orientation of the houses, along with their location is determined with regard to the topography of the local landscape.

The geomancer, or the practitioner of feng shui, uses what is known as a luopan. This is a circular magnetic compass, with marked off data relating to astrology, the elements, directions, landscape forms, times of the day, among other things. The practice leads to the location of a site that has a perfect balance of the energies (ch’i) of the land and the sky. Perfect harmony ensures perfect good fortune.

This Chinese belief system is a mix of geographical, philosophical, mathematical, astrological, as well as aesthetical ideas. It is not just a decorative style as widely believed, but also a discipline having specific guidelines.  

Feng shui literally means ‘wind’ and ‘water’ and as mentioned in the Burial Book during the Jin Dynasty, ch’i rides the wind, and comes to a stop on meeting the boundary of water. The art of feng shui, right from the time of the ancients, consisted of manipulating and directing the ch’i so as not to let it be dissipated.

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