Geomantic Symbols and Correspondences

There are sixteen figures that comprise the “alphabet” of geomantic divination.  On the surface, they’re simple dot patterns of four rows, each row having one or two dots.  In this manner, they superficially resemble the trigrams of the Ba Gua or the hexagrams of the I Ching in Chinese esoterica.

The four rows of a geomantic figure are called the head, arms, body, and legs of a geomantic figure.  Each row also corresponds to one of the four elements: from top to bottom, they represent fire, air, water, and earth (from least dense to most dense).  Single dots represent that element being active or present, while two dots represent that element being passive or absent.  Thus, the figure Fortuna Major, which has from top to bottom two dots, two dots, one dot, and one dot, has water and earth present but fire and air passive.

Click on the figures in the gallery below to get acquainted with the sixteen geomantic figures.

One of the oldest ways the ancients used to group or classify the geomantic elements was by mobility.  Some of the figures look as if they’re pointing upward or downward, or towards or away from the geomancer.  The figures that look as if they’re pointing downward (or, alternatively, look like they’re positioned upright) are called stable figures, while those that point upward (or look like they’re positioned upside down) are called mobile figures.

Mobility Figures
Stable Populus
Albus
Fortuna Major
Carcer
Caput Draconis
Puella
Acquisitio
Tristitia
Mobile Via
Rubeus
Fortuna Minor
Coniunctio
Cauda Draconis
Puer
Amissio
Laetitia

In this scheme, stable figures were seen to “stick around”, or that their influence would be long-lasting or slow to change over time.  Mobile figures, on the other hand, would be fleeting and quick.  As a means to answer yes/no questions, stable figures generally give an affirmative answer, while mobile figures give a negative one.

This is related to a possibly older arrangement of figures with three groups: entering, exiting, and liminal.  The scheme was mostly the same with entering being replaced by stable and exiting by mobile, but it separated out the figures Via, Populus, Carcer, and Coniunctio into their own group of liminal figures, which were symmetric and were seen to go either way.

Motion Figures
Entering Albus
Fortuna Major
Caput Draconis
Puella
Acquisitio
Tristitia
Exiting Rubeus
Fortuna Minor
Cauda Draconis
Puer
Amissio
Laetitia
Liminal Via
Coniunctio
Populus
Carcer

The meaning of “entering” is largely the same as that of “stable”, and ditto for “exiting” and “mobile”, with the added implication of motion or delivery to or from the querent.  Liminal figures, on the other hand, either reflect the motion of the figures around them (especially Via and Coniunctio) or show no motion at all (especially Populus and Carcer).

Another way to group the figures is by parity, or whether a figure is even or odd.  Even figures are also called impartial or objective, and represent states of material or physical reality (such as material gain or loss, restraint or freedom, increase or decrease).  Odd figures are called emotional or subjective, and represent states of mental or emotional being (grief or joy, planning or fine-tuning, passion or detachment).  This parity quality comes up significantly later on during interpretation, where a significant figure called the Judge must, of necessity and much like in (ideal) real life, be impartial.

Parity Figures
Even Populus
Via
Fortuna Major
Fortuna Minor
Coniunctio
Carcer
Amissio
Acquisitio
Odd Albus
Rubeus
Puer
Puella
Laetitia
Tristitia
Caput Draconis
Cauda Draconis

One way to see how the figures relate to forces in the world is to look at their geometric and mathematical relationships among themselves.  Consider three operations one might do to a given geomantic figure: one could invert it by replacing all the double points with single points and vice versa, one could reverse it by turning it upside down, and one could do both at the same time.  This reveals interesting relationships among the figures and some useful rules in helping to form them later on when we get to generating the actual readings.

  • A figure and its inverse are disharmonious opposites: consider Albus and Puer, the old man and the young boy, the one who thinks but does not act and the one who acts but does not think.  Inverse figures undergo a complete and total transformation by activating all the passive elements and turning all the active elements passive, and show a total change of essence and ability from one extreme to the other.  They are disharmonious since they have no elements and nothing in common with each other, but together they can form a complete unity.
  • A figure and its reverse are harmonious opposites: consider Puer and Puella, the Man and the Maiden, the male force and the female force.  Reverse figures show the same activity or concept turned 180°, where the highest essence becomes the lowest and vice versa.  These figures add to either Carcer, indicating a strained but cyclical relationship, or Coniunctio, showing an intersecting and unstable relationship.  Even figures that are liminal have themselves as their reverse figures, indicating that they have no opposite in this manner and form a whole on their own.
  • A figure and its converse are parallel opposites: consider Albus and Puella, the old man and the young woman, both who receive but do so in different ways, the one because he is unable to do anything but receive and the other because she is completely willing to receive above all else.  The relationships between converse figures is subtle, but often show two extremes of a particular element, such as Laetitia and Caput Draconis, the fire that initiates and the fire that consumes.  Even figures that are not liminal have themselves as their converse figures.
Figure Inverse Figure Reverse Figure Converse Figure
Populus Via Populus Via
Tristitia Cauda Draconis Laetitia Caput Draconis
Albus Puer Rubeus Puella
Fortuna Major Fortuna Minor Fortuna Minor Fortuna Major
Rubeus Puella Albus Puer
Acquisitio Amissio Amissio Acquisitio
Coniunctio Carcer Coniunctio Carcer
Caput Draconis Via Cauda Draconis Via
Laetitia Caput Draconis Tristitia Cauda Draconis
Carcer Coniunctio Carcer Coniunctio
Amissio Acquisitio Acquisitio Amissio
Puella Rubeus Puer Albus
Fortuna Minor Fortuna Major Fortuna Major Fortuna Minor
Puer Albus Puella Rubeus
Cauda Draconis Tristitia Caput Draconis Laetitia
Via Populus Via Populus

Various authors for hundreds of years have given varying ways to classify the figures as generally favorable or unfavorable; however, since each situation can deem any given figure favorable or unfavorable differently, I won’t provide one here.  Fortuna Major, for instance, is the most favorable figure in geomancy, but is not good for things needing a quick or easy resolution.

In addition to having their own names, meanings, relationships, and forms, the geomantic figures also have correspondences with other symbols and signs in Western occultism, such as the elements, planets, and astrological signs.

The Geomantic Figures and the Elements

The geomantic figures, as noted above, are combinations of elements, either active or passive.  In this sense, each figure represents the dynamic interplay between the elements shown in its symbolic makeup.  Via, for instance, is the symbol of complete and total change, and this dynamic energy is shown by all four elements being active.  Populus, on the other hand, has no elements active, and is entirely in stasis and inertia.

Beyond this, though, each figure has a ruling element that characterizes its inner essence and power.  This ruling element is always represented as an active element in that figure’s elemental makeup, with the exception of Populus, which has no elements active.  So, Laetitia, with only Fire active, is ruled by Fire.

Ruling Element Figures Ruled
Fire Laetitia
Cauda Draconis
Amissio
Fortuna Minor
Air Rubeus
Puer
Coniunctio
Acquisitio
Water Albus
Puella
Via
Populus
Earth Tristitia
Caput Draconis
Fortuna Major
Carcer

The Geomantic Figures and the Planets

Each of the seven traditional planets is ascribed rulership over two figures, with the exceptions of Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis, as noted below.

Ruling Planet Figures Ruled
Moon Populus
Via
Mercury Coniunctio
Albus
Venus Puella
Amissio
Sun Fortuna Major
Fortuna Minor
Mars Puer
Rubeus
Jupiter Acquisitio
Laetitia
Saturn Tristitia
Carcer

Generally, each planet has one stable figure and one mobile figure, except for Mars (which are both mobile) and Saturn (which are both stable).  With this sort of attribution, it’s possible to add a more nuanced correspondence between the planets and figures: with the exception of the Sun and Moon, the stable figure is seen as that planet being direct or swift in motion, and the mobile figure is seen as retrograde or slow in motion.  For the solar figures, Fortuna Major represents the Sun in the northern hemisphere, while Fortuna Minor represents the Sun in the southern hemisphere.  For the lunar figures, Populus represents the Moon waxing in light, and Via represents the Moon waning.

The correspondences for Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis are a little weird.  Even with seven planets each ruling two figures, that still leaves two figures leftover.  The ancients resolved this by assigning Caput Draconis to the North Node of the Moon (where the Moon’s path crosses the Sun’s towards the north celestial pole) and Cauda Draconis to the South Node of the Moon (ditto, but for the south celestial pole).  Historically, these two points themselves were associated with the benefic planets and the malefic planets, respectively; thus, Caput Draconis also has associations with Venus and Jupiter, and Cauda Draconis with Mars and Saturn.

Based on these planetary associations, it’s possible to assign the geomantic figures to the sephiroth of Qabbalah.  At least within the Golden Dawn system of magic, the correspondences between the figures and the sephiroth are fairly straightforward with the exception of Caput and Cauda Draconis, which are both assigned to Malkuth, the Kingdom.  Further, Tristitia and Carcer, the figures of Saturn, are instead assigned to Da’ath and not Binah as might be expected.  However, Da’ath is often considered part of Binah, and being the stage before crossing the Veil of the Abyss might help keep things a bit tidier in some regards.  That said, there are no attributions belonging to Chokmah or Kether.

Ruling Sephirah Figures Ruled
Malkuth Caput Draconis
Cauda Draconis
Yesod Populus
Via
Hod Coniunctio
Albus
Netzach Puella
Amissio
Tiphareth Fortuna Major
Fortuna Minor
Geburah Puer
Rubeus
Chesed Acquisitio
Laetitia
Da’ath (Binah) Tristitia
Carcer

The planetary correspondences with the geomantic figures are one of the strongest in the field of geomancy, and connect them to many other esoteric and occult topics.  All the metals, colors, divinities, and other attributes that are good for the planets are also good for their respective geomantic figures.  The astrological signs, however, are another matter; those are discussed below.

In some traditional sources, the planets assigned to Puer and Puella were switched, with Puer corresponding to Venus and Puella to Mars.  This was seen at least from the 14th to 18th centuries, but I prefer the assignment given above.  The method above makes more sense to me, at any rate.

The Geomantic Figures and the Astrological Signs

Unlike the above attributions and correspondences, those for the astrological signs are a little more hairy.  There are two major systems of allotting the geomantic figures to the zodiac, one proposed by Cornelius Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, and another by the Italian scholar and translator Gerard of Cremona, from his “On Astrological Geomancy”, a short work that combines the interpretation of horary astrology with the method of geomancy.

Agrippa based his astrological assignment on the figures’ ruling planets: he gave the stable figure of a planet to that planet’s masculine sign (such as Albus, Mercury and stable, to Gemini, air) and the mobile figure to the feminine sign (Coniunctio, Mercury and mobile, to Virgo, earth).  Gerard of Cremona, on the other hand, uses a radically different set of attributions.  However, since the North and South Nodes of astrology don’t have corresponding signs, both Agrippa and Gerard of Cremona assign Caput Draconis to Virgo and Cauda Draconis to Sagittarius, likely based on their elemental natures.

Ruling Sign Figures Ruled (Agrippa) Figures Ruled (Gerard)
Aries Puer Acquisitio
Taurus Amissio Laetitia
Fortuna Minor
Gemini Albus Puer
Rubeus
Cancer Populus
Via
Albus
Leo Fortuna Major
Fortuna Minor
Via
Virgo Coniunctio
Caput Draconis
Coniunctio
Caput Draconis
Libra Puella Puella
Scorpio Rubeus Tristitia
Amissio
Sagittarius Acquisitio
Cauda Draconis
Cauda Draconis
Capricorn Carcer Populus
Aquarius Tristitia Fortuna Major
Pisces Laetitia Carcer

Given the above assignments, it is possible to draw another set of elemental attributions for each of the geomantic figures.  This provides another way of viewing the essence and power of a figure, but in different ways from the elements given above.  The elements given above, called the “inner” or “geomantic” elements, can be seen as showing the meaning and essence of the figure in isolation or as situations, while the elements given below, the “outer” or “astrological” elements, show the meaning of the figures as players in a situation or together as a dynamic whole.

Ruling Astrological Element Figures Ruled (Agrippa) Figures Ruled (Gerard)
Fire Puer
Fortuna Major
Fortuna Minor
Cauda Draconis
Acquisitio
Via
Cauda Draconis
Air Albus
Puella
Tristitia
Puer
Rubeus
Puella
Fortuna Major
Water Via
Populus
Rubeus
Laetitia
Albus
Amissio
Tristitia
Carcer
Earth Amissio
Conjunctio
Caput Draconis
Carcer
Laetitia
Fortuna Minor
Coniunctio
Caput Draconis
Populus

Use of one astrological system over another is much like using different sets of terms or house systems in astrology: though they may differ, they’re equally valid.  I prefer Gerard of Cremona’s assignment of the figures to the astrological signs, since I have more experience with them in divination, but I use Agrippa’s assignments when doing operations more magical than divinatory.  Whichever you use is up to you, so long as it works and you’re consistent with your choice.

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5 Responses to Geomantic Symbols and Correspondences

  1. Pingback: Geomantic Superfigures « The Digital Ambler

  2. Pingback: Geomantic Superfigures « The Digital Ambler

  3. Gabriel Valdez says:

    Do you have a list of which figures mean which direction? Like Via and Populus meaning North etc.?

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