Book of Stars


The cover page of this text on the occult by an unidentified author includes the title Kitāb al-nujūm (Book of stars). The topic of this work, however, is ʻilm al-raml (geomancy). Given that the title “Book of Stars” does not appear elsewhere in the surviving potion of this text, it is likely to be spurious, or just putative, perhaps added to the cover page by a later reader by virtue of the shared occult nature of geomancy and astrology. We read in the opening chapter of the work of seven bīyūt (“houses”), signifying squares on the geomantic table, each with its associated planet, as well as its own day of the week. The second chapter of the work lists the qualities of various geomantic figures, each of which is formed by a vertical array of four marks consisting of single dots or pairs of dots (represented by horizontal lines in the text). The figures are drawn in red ink and the characteristics listed for each include auspiciousness and inauspiciousness (both further divided into greater and lesser auspiciousness, and greater and lesser inauspiciousness), an associated element (fire, air, water, or earth), as well as an associated direction (north, south, east, or west). The text instructs the geomancer to strike his figures and to interpret the resulting arrangement. Traditionally a geomancer was approached with questions regarding health, marriage, business ventures, theft, pregnancies, the fate of distant relatives, and so on. That the question itself was not divulged to the geomancer in this case is indicated by the presentation of a technique with which to determine the reason for the patron’s visit. The text of this treatise is incomplete, ending mid-sentence immediately above the illustrations of four fearsome magical creatures, several geomantic tables, and the name of the four archangels in Islamic tradition: jibraʾīl, mikāʾīl, isrāfil, and ʻazrā’īl (corresponding to Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Azrael, respectively). The work also includes a short instruction in Persian for the erasing of ink from paper (resulting in some apparent experimentation by a subsequent reader), as well as Arabic treatises on the summoning of jinn, and on numerological techniques for assuring the suitability of a spouse. The text is undated. It includes a considerable number of errors, suggesting that it was copied or perhaps composed by a person who was not highly literate.

Last updated: September 29, 2017