Divinatory Revisionism

Yesterday I was reading an article that equated geomancy with “earth healing” – that is healing of or through the Earth. This stopped me in my tracks because not only does this usage have absolutely nothing to do with the suffix “mancy,” which derives from the ancient Greek word “manteia,” meaning divination, it is at odds with the historical practice of earth-working as I learned it through the writing of the late-19th-Century British occultists and that of the “pseudo-Agrippa” (Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy) and modern authors Stephen Skinner and John Michael Greer. It was a technique for predicting the future with earth-based tools (traditionally a stick and a patch of soil in which to poke it), nothing more. The writer seems to have hijacked the term for her own purposes through a single association with dowsing, or prospecting for water or “energy sources” in the ground with a forked stick. How that connects with the concept of “healing” – geophysical or otherwise – is beyond me (unless “diagnosis” is the intent of such divination). There are legitimate ways to practice earth-centered healing. Druidry and shamanism offer ritual methods, and the practice of “earthing” by standing or walking unshod (“skin-to-skin,” as it were) on bare earth looks like a newer and simpler approach. I certainly don’t dismiss the idea of geocentric healing, but I definitely wouldn’t call it geomancy.

Ever since the advent of the New Age in the 1960s, there has been a seemingly unquenchable thirst to repurpose old methods to new ends, irrevocably altering them in the process. Part of this comes from the desire to find a market niche for one’s pet ideas that might incidentally turn a profit. I believe, though, that it is mainly due to the all-too-human inability to let sleeping dogs lie when prodding them with a sharp stick is so much more fun. I do much the same thing – I call it “turning over rocks to see what crawls out from underneath” – but I do it with respect for the traditions I’m exploring and don’t try to retrofit them to my own vision in other than minor ways. Where something doesn’t make sense, I change it; where it does, I leave it alone. My personal revamping of the “Celtic Cross” tarot spread is a perfect example: I preferred Eden Gray’s model to that of its originator, Arthur Edward Waite, so I adopted it and then added a few more small tweaks so the whole thing would flow more smoothly. But the original structure definitely shines through the face-lift I gave it. Here is my previous post on the subject:


It’s not a fashionable position to take in this age of “anything goes, free-for-all, feel-good” revisionism, but I hold to the attitude that “if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (For the most part, the old ways work just fine and, frankly, I’m more into recidivism these days.) While changing things simply for the sake of doing so might find favor with Aleister Crowley and his equation “Change = Stability,” we shouldn’t overlook the second half of that formula, “Stability = Change.” The two go hand-in-hand, and emphasizing one over the other can create an unbalanced and ultimately untenable platform from which to operate. I may think my way through a radical  overhaul of a technique I don’t find particularly effective, but when it comes to actually doing it I’m unlikely to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” What this usually means is that I’m more apt to create something new and personal than to rejigger someone else’s work for my own use. I did just that with my development of “astro-lithomancy.” Have a look:


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