This is a 2004 Ibis Press paperback, well-made with a simple, businesslike cover design. The intention was to attract the serious student, as others would flip a few pages and put it back anyway. Hartmann’s work covers the subject matter fairly completely, using a traditional approach.
Franz Hartmann is fairly obscure nowadays, but his oeuvre is worth a look. He was primarily known as a Theosophist, but he was also a charter member of the Reuss Ordo Templi Orientis. Living from 1838 to 1912, he was present for much of the Occult Revival.
The oracle of Geomancy has fallen into disuse. It was included in the curriculum of the Golden Dawn (in a modified form), but many of the most prominent members put it aside as too cumbersome, preferring to consult the Tarot. Some serious students of Western Magic are picking it up again (aside from this book, the best modern how-to is John Michael Greer’s Earth Divination Earth Magic [Llewellyn, 1999]).
Part 1, the basic principles of Geomancy, contains the method of casting the oracle, a description of the sixteen figures and their interpretations, and a fair amount of sound advice from the author (such as refraining from divination when the mind is not at peace). This part will enable the student to practice the oracle without reference to astrology, to get a feel for the “earth” part.
In the author’s Preface. he opens with “The following book is not intended to be a ‘fortuneteller,’ but an aid for the student of the higher science, who desires to develop his intuition.” Then he places, as Part 2 of the book, a 16th century German work giving “2048 answers” to 16 commonly-asked questions; in other words, a classic Renaissance magical fortuneteller.
Part 3 is a brief but useful discussion of the basic horoscope symbols.
This book is a good, workmanlike introduction to the subject, clearing up some of the confusion introduced by the Golden Dawn. Aside from including the aforementioned “Geomancy FAQ,” it is written from an appropriately high-magical viewpoint, and will certainly aid the serious student in understanding the use and significance of Geomancy.
The Greer book is of similar weight, and should be included in one’s library as well, if the objective is to have a wide knowledge of the subject. Greer includes a section on the magic of the Geomantic figures, and a translation of de Abano’s 14th-century handbook as well.
I have also seen a recent work by Nigel Pennick on the Oracle of Geomancy, but that one is more concerned with putting Western geomancy in perspective with the other similar oracles from around the world, and cannot be recommended as highly as the first two books unless one is striving to know everything about the subject.
I have alluded to the differences in the interpretations between traditional sources (really, we’re all reworking Agrippa here) and the Golden Dawn material. Even Regardie didn’t like what the Golden Dawn did with it, and tried to correct it. Dunning suggests that the Golden Dawn version may even have been intentionally crabbed to make it less obviously a copy of Hartmann! But this we may never know.
I have studied Geomancy off and on for a while now, and done some readings to good effect, which puts me barely ahead of the beginning reader. I also have some interesting speculations about the structure of the Oracle, to which I keep returning without reaching a conclusion; but be that as it may, I can firmly recommend Hartmann’s book to any serious student of the subject. I hope that my readers will practice “Nosce te ipsum” on this level and buy the book precisely if it will do their Work any good.
A Method for Divination
Preface by Edward Dunning
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
256 pages (205 main text)
January 30, 2005
[Complimentary review copy from Red Wheel/Weiser gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, usw.]