Saturday, July 01, 2006

Geomancy, Architectural (Glossary)

This article is focused on forms of geomancy in which buildings, particularly royal buildings, are pointed toward a specific geographic landmark.

The most widely-known example today is the orientation of mosques toward the qiblat-al-Mecca, the direction of Mecca.

A contention of this blog is that the Nusantao traders beginning in the Neolithic began spreading the idea of a sacred mountain, namely Mount Pinatubo, to different regions of the world. This concept gave rise to notions such as Dilmun and the Garden of Eden according to this theory.

Direction of Eden

Starting in the third century, Christian altars were placed in the east end of the church so that the people faced east toward the Garden of Eden while praying. For a time, in Byzantine churches, the bishop also faced east and then eventually the priest as well, so that they were not facing the congregation during services.

Although one could argue that Christians of that time had only vague ideas of Eden's location, they nevertheless had some conception of its location. And these concepts may date back at least to apocryphal books like Enoch and Jubilees with their references to the Mount of Eden, if not earlier.

Medieval European maps showed that Eden was not only in the Far East but also in the equatorial regions. Such thoughts may have influenced Protestant church architecture in which the pulpit was often located in the southeast corner of the church.

Direction of the Phoenix

In ancient China, the emperor and kings faced their thrones and palaces toward the South.

The South was the direction of Feng the Phoenix, the clan of the first king, Fu Hsi, and the emblem of the empress.

Emperor Shun, from legendary times, is especially noted for his position facing toward the South. This may refer to his capital in the Qi kingdom, which was at about the same longitude (117 East) as Mount Tai (Taishan), the location of the royal sacrifice of Fu Hsi "the dog-man sacrificer."

Kuahelani and the "Blue Mountain"

The Hawaiian royal palace faced the West and also overlooked the seashore. It is likely this orientation is rooted in ancient Hawaiian belief.

The Hawaiians of old had two orientation systems -- one involved land/sea (uka/kai) opposition and the other was an absolute reference based on east and west (hikina and komohana).

In the absolute orientation system, one faces toward the west as a reference, and thus 'akau "right" corresponds with "north" and hema "left" with "south."

The West is the direction of Kuaihelani the location of Paliuli "the Blue Mountain." The latter mountain is the Hawaiian equivalent of the Garden of Eden.

Located far to the West, it is said that one embarking from Kuaihelani "the floating land" sails for 40 days and then smells the kiele flowers of Hawai`i. Journeys to Kuaihelani from Hawai'i were usually made from Niihau or or Kauai according to ancient chants.

It was a land inhabited by the diminutive Menehune and the Muaimaia or "banana eaters." The voyager Hawaii-loa was said to have sailed from Kuaihelani, also known as Kahiki-honua-kele, to Hawai`i following Hoku'ula or Aldebaran (16° declination) toward the East.

Ancient temples known as luakini used for royal sacrifce were always built on the east-west axis although they could face in either direction.

The Kraton

The Kraton or royal palace of Yogyakarta is often said to face north. Actually it faces in the direction of Mount Merapi, the "Mountain of Fire," and thus orients a bit east of north.

Further north, the older Surakarta Kraton also faces northeast, although it is nearly due East of Mount Merapi.

Map shows the northeastern orientation of the Kasunanan and Mangkunagaran kratons of Surakarta marked by red stars. Click image for larger view.

Is there another ancient "Mountain of Fire" in which direction these palaces are oriented?

The throne of the Susuhunan kings of Surakarta was also said to face north which if this means the same "north" as that of the palaces would mean rather east of north.

Unfortunately little remains of earlier royal structures. The lone exception may be Kraton Ratu Boko, the Palace of the Heron King, although this structure looks very much like a temple.

If the main building of Kraton Ratu Boko, Batur Pendopo is used as a measure, this complex also faces north but a bit toward the West, probably pointing toward Mount Merapi.

The great Hindu temple complex of Prambanan has an outer wall that faces Northeast, although the temple structures themselves follow the Vedic and Hindu orientation towards the East as used in India where temple structures look to the East.

Diagram of the Prambanan temple complex, built maybe in the 9th century, showing the outermost rectangular gate where the main entrance of the complex was located on the northeast side. Source:

Paul Kekai Manansala


Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology, University of Hawaii Press, 1977, p. 79.

Kieckhefer, Richard. Theology in Stone: Church Architecture from Byzantium to Berkeley, Oxford, 2003, p. 154.

Pemberton, John. On the Subject of "Java", Cornell University Press, 1994, p. 98.

Valeri, Valerio, Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii, University of Chicago Press, 1985, p. 254.