Michele Burke April 1st, 2009
Patrick Claflin ©
~ Michele Burke, Pagan Pages.org
Pagan Pages: This may sound like a strange question to ask to start an interview, but who is John Michael Greer tells us more about the man behind the book?
John Michael Greer: Well, you’ve met computer geeks, right? Back in my teen years, I was an occult geek, the kind of kid who always had an armload of books checked out from the section of the library your mother didn’t want you to visit. Come to think of it, I still usually have an armload of books checked out from that part of the library, so I may still qualify as an occult geek. When most of my generations were getting into computers and first generation video games, I was studying occult philosophy and practicing rituals. Not a good career path at first – I spent quite a few years working at dead-end jobs while trying to break into print as a writer – but things finally came together in 1995, when I placed my first book with a publisher, and it’s been onward and upward since then. To borrow a phrase from Jerry Garcia, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
PP: How has being the Arch Druid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), helped or hindered your work in geomancy divination?
JMG: Well, it’s certainly kept me busy with things other than geomancy. When I was elected Grand Archdruid of AODA in 2003, there were fewer than a dozen members of the order, and I was the youngest by nearly thirty years. We had a lot of rebuilding to do. I’ve had a lot of help, from the old guard and a lot of very talented newcomers alike, but a lot of things had to be pushed to one side.
PP: What inspired you the most in writing the
JMG: The old geomantic texts from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The version of geomancy taught in those sources goes far beyond what you’ll find in most modern books on the subject – it’s deeper and more comprehensive, but it’s also much simpler to learn and use. Most of my work on this book was simply a matter of explaining the ancient techniques in modern language.
PP: Geomancy, what is it? And when did you first begin using it as a divination tool.
JMG: It’s a western equivalent of the I Ching, a divination system that uses sixteen figures formed from single and double dots. You cast four of them using a random method, and then use simple processes of rearrangement and addition to create twelve more figures from them, and interpret the resulting chart. Five hundred years ago it was one of the most popular oracles in the Western world; all through the middle ages and the Renaissance, if you wanted a divination, you were as likely to go to a geomancer as anything else.
I got started in geomancy in my teen years, when I began studying the Golden Dawn system of magic. The Golden Dawn teachings include a very simple form of geomancy, and it wasn’t until the early 1990s, when I found one of the old Latin geomancy texts, that I started to realize just how much more there was to the art. It’s far and away my favorite divination method these days.
PP: I have always been very much intrigued by astrology and geomancy, is the art of geomancy a very hard tool of divination to learn, if not can it be self taught or is it better to find a mentor?
JMG: Geomancy is much easier than astrology. It’s one of the easiest oracles to learn how to use, because there’s not that much you have to memorize: sixteen figures, a very simple process for casting a chart, and a set of rules for interpretation that most people can pick up in a few minutes. I usually find, when I do workshops in geomancy, that I can take people who’ve never had any exposure to geomancy at all, and have them casting and interpreting charts in about three hours. Still, you do not need a teacher; my book covers everything you need to know, and it’s perfectly possible to learn the art by picking up the book and studying it.
PP: `Can you give the readers a little detail into the history of Geomancy?
JMG: We do not actually know where geomancy comes from, though there is some evidence that it was invented in Africa. It first shows up in historical records in the 9th century in North Africa, and became popular all over the Arabic world. From there it spread into Europe, where it became as common as astrology for centuries. When the magical traditions of the Western world got tossed into the dumpster during the scientific revolution, though, it was almost completely forgotten, and only very simple forms of it were revived – before now, that is.
PP: What is the anima mundi?
JMG: You have heard of the Gaia Hypothesis, the scientific theory that the Earth is a living organism? Medieval and Renaissance magicians were there hundreds of years ago. The Latin phrase anima mundi literally means “soul of the world.” The old magicians insisted that the Earth is a living, conscious being, and the way the figures come out in geomantic charts were believed to be shaped by patterns in the anima mundi.
PP: In your book the
JMG: Most modern magicians, especially since Aleister Crowley popularized the concept, think of magic in terms of raw willpower forcing the universe to obey. The old medieval and Renaissance occultists had a different view. They saw that the currents of magical force in the cosmos could be used the way a sailboat uses the wind. Instead of trying to browbeat the universe into obedience, they caught the winds and tides of power and let the natural flow of things take them where they wanted to go. It is a much more elegant approach, and geomancy is one of the ways it can be done.
PP: How are the figures and the four elements linked to this form of divination?
JMG: Each of the sixteen figures is made up of four lines, and each line can have either a single or a double dot. Each line represents one of the elements; a single dot means the element is active, a double dot that the element is inactive. So each figure is a chart of the way the balance of elements is working at that moment in that part of your life.
PP: Can you explain to the readers what you feel the ethics of divination are?
JMG: To some extent that’s a question each diviner needs to settle for him or herself. There are things I won’t do for ethical reasons – for example, if somebody asked me for a reading about how to mess someone over, magically or otherwise, I’d tell them they have to ask some other diviner. There are also things I won’t do for legal reasons – anyone who tries to use divination to diagnose diseases, for example, is risking serious legal trouble.
PP: What happens when someone ask you to divine a question regarding a third party?
JMG: Geomancy has a special way of asking questions like that. The geomantic chart has twelve houses, just like an astrological chart, and any other person in your life is represented by one of those houses. Each house contains one geomantic figure, and so that figure and its relationships to the rest of the chart can tell you a lot about the person who occupies that role in your life.
PP: How are meditation and scrying associated to geomancy?
JMG: Traditionally, oracles such as geomancy were not just used for divination. They are western methods of meditation – most people do not realize that – and of course there is also the art of scrying, which is the old word for what we now call clairvoyance or remote viewing. Both of those can be practiced using the geomantic figures as a foundation, with very good results.
PP: What are the main principles of geomantic magic and what would be a prime example of a geomantic ritual?
JMG: Since the geomantic figures are charts of elemental relationships, you can work very powerful magic by deciding which of those relationship patterns you need to strengthen in your own life, and using the geomantic figure that corresponds to it. The classic way to do that is to make a geomantic talisman of that figure and consecrate it with a ritual at an appropriate time, when the influences corresponding to that figure are at maximum power. The talisman then radiates that influence in your life. It is simple, elegant, and very effective.
PP: So tell me, do you foresee a new book in your near future? If so will I have one of the first cracks at it LOL?
JMG: This has been a very busy winter for me – due to publisher’s schedules, I have had three books just come out and another one due out any day now! Besides The
Beyond that, I’m actually between book projects just now – I haven’t decided what my next book will be. I’ll keep you posted.
Bountiful Blessings go out to John Michael Geer for his magnificent work in the
May the blessings of Dagda be always with you.
Works of John Michael Greer:
Paths of Wisdom (Llewellyn, 1996; Thoth, 2007)
Circles of Power (Llewellyn, 1997)
Inside a Magical Lodge (Llewellyn, 1998)
Monsters (Llewellyn, 2001)
The New Encyclopedia of the Occult (Llewellyn, 2003)
Learning Ritual Magic (with Clare Vaughn and Earl King Jr.; Weiser, 2004)
Natural Magic (Llewellyn, 2000; reissued as Encyclopedia of Natural Magic in 2005)
A World Full of Gods (ADF Publications, 2005)
Academy of the Sword (translation of 1630 original; Chivalry helf, 2005)
The Druidry Handbook (Weiser, 2006)
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies (HarperElement, 2006)
Pagan Prayer Beads (with Clare Vaughn; Weiser, 2007)
Atlantis (Llewellyn, 2007)
The Geomancer’s Handbook (Renaissance Astrology, 2007)
The Druid Magic Handbook (Weiser, 2008)
The Long Descent (New Society, 2008)
The Fires of Shalsha (science fiction: Starseed Publications, 2009)
The UFO Phenomenon (Llewellyn, 2009)
The Ecotechnic Future (New Society, 2009)
Ancient Order of Druids in America, http://www.aoda.org
Archdruid Report blog, http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com
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