Practitioners of geomancy seek to tell the future by interpreting marks in the dirt. It relies heavily on the Element of Earth, one of the four elements (the others being water, fire, and air).
In the Arabic tradition, 16 lines of dots are sketched randomly in the sand. Similarly, in China the diviner would enter a trance like state. Under this influence, he would place markings on the earth. An associate, usually a young boy, would interpret these markings.
African traditions vary. In one traditional form, handfuls of dirt are thrown in the air. The diviner observes the dirt as it falls, seeking clues to the future. In West Africa, the tradition involves a mouse – mice are agents of the earth spirits.
In the 12th century, numerous writers linked astrology and geomancy. An ancient Arabic text was translated into Latin, although scholars are unsure who was responsible for the translation.
The word “geomancy” appeared in the English language, spoken by the lower classes, in 1362. At this time, Latin and French were used by the middle class, nobles and the gentry.
In medieval Europe, diviners used expensive parchment or paper, rather than the earth, for drawing the dots required in geomancy. Unlike modern English, these were recorded from right to left. Sixteen lines of dashes were used, and the pattern of dashes for each line studied to divine the future.
The number of dots in each line is counted up. At the end of each line, the diviner places a single dot if there are an odd number of dashes, or to dots if there are an even number of dashes. Each set of four lines produces a pattern called a figure.
Each of the four figures is entered into charts. That information is used and analyzed to solve problems. If the diviner is practicing geomancy on himself, he can obtain general information about himself, along with solutions or answers to problems. If geomancy is used to divine the fate of another, it is that person whose life is revealed.
With four binary elements for each figure, there are 16 different combinations available. By adding those figures to the chart, and then completing said chart, the number of combinations rises to 65,536. Each chart is interpreted based on the question asked. Not only is it a thorough method, it is also extremely simple because it only requires understanding of 16 figures.
Throughout history, geomancy has been used by commoners and kings. It is easy to learn, with straightforward rules. During the Middle Ages, it was so popular that the Pope actually considered integrating it into the teachings of the Catholic Church.