Like almost every esoteric art, Geomantic thought is strongly based around elemental theory and thought. The four elements play a very important role in determining the character and nature of each of the Geomantic Figures, and indeed, the very structure of the Figures reflects the elements.
Geomantic Figures’ Elemental Structure
The Geomantic Figures are each make up of four rows of dots. Each row of dots symbolizes and element, and the number of dots in each row indicates whether the element is passive or active. Thinking of the Figure as a Human body, the first row represents the head, the second the throat, the third the abdomen, and the fourth the feet. Each of these body parts has an elemental association: the head, full of ideas, creativity, and energy, is associated with Fire. The throat and its association with wind, communication, and the ability to reason with others in combination with the head is associated with Air. The abdomen and its association with the gut, instinct, and the heart are associated with Water, and the feet and their stability, grounded nature, and support are associated with Earth.
So, then the Geomantic Figure’s rows represent the elements of Fire (Spirit), Air (Abstract), Water (Emotion), and Earth (Material). Each of these rows has either one or two dots in them; one dot means that that row – and therefore that element – is active in the figure, and two dots mean that that row and element are passive. Every single Geomantic Figure reflects all four elements at some level, as all four elements are present in everything. However, passive elements are not expressed as strongly or “actively” as their active counterparts. Conversely, active elements are reflected strongly in their figures’ character.
For example, take the first Figure, Puer. In Puer, the active elements are Fire, Air, and Earth, while Water is passive. Fire is reflected in Puer’s drive to complete his quest. Air is reflected in the lofty, abstract ideals he abides by. Earth is reflected in the practical nature of his quest, and the stability he draws upon to complete his quest. Water, the sole passive element, is what he lacks, but is reflected still, as it is the thing that he desires, making it still an influence, but just not as powerful a one as the others.
The shapes of the Figures that result from these groupings of dots also often create images that reflect the character’s nature; for example, Puer is a sword, Amissio is an overturned bag, Albus is an upright goblet, Populus is a mass, Fortuna Major is a valley with a river flowing into it, Conjunctio is two triangles coming together, Puella is a breasted female, Rubeus is an overturned goblet, Acquisitio is two full bags, Carcer is two triangles facing away from each other, Tristitia is a stake driven downwards, Laetitia is a mountain, Cauda Draconis is footsteps leaving a door, Caput Draconis is footsteps approaching a door, Fortuna Minor is a mountain with a staff atop it, and Via is a road. Many of the Geomantic polarities can be seen in these figures, as opposite Figures generally have opposite shapes.
Outer and Inner Elements
In addition to active and passive elements, each Figure also has Inner and Outer Energies, which are also defined in terms of elements. An Inner Energy/Element is the element from which the Figure draws its strength, whereas an Outer Energy/Element is the element with which the Figure imprints itself upon the world.
Going back to Puer as an example, this means that its Outer Element of Fire means that Puer expresses itself to the world as a paragon of will and energy, and it is this youthful spirit that defines its outward appearance. Its Inner Element is Air, meaning that Puer draws its strength from ideals of justice and truth, and reason and abstract principles drive his spirit. More practically, Air fuels Fire (a very Earthy comparison). In all of the Figures save Populus, the Inner Element is an active one.
The Outer element is also known as the Ruling Element, because this is the element most strongly associated with the Figure. Like with Astrology, each of the Ruling Elements represent one aspect of the element’s energy, expressed in a certain way. Due to the way Geomancy is structured, the Outer Elements are repeated in many Figures, and so that is not enough to know in order to understand how they express themselves; doing that would be using the Tarot system. A more apt comparison would be to use the Astrological system of Modalities, and examine each of the elements as expressing Cardinal (Beginning), Fixed (Stabilizing), and Mutable (Adapting). In addition, I have added a fourth Modality: Closing (Ending). However, it is always important to remember that endings always lead to new beginnings. The Ruling Element and the expressions of each of the Figures are:
Fortuna Major (Fixed)
Cauda Draconis (Closing)
-Fire’s energy begins with the drive of Puer, seeking to complete himself and find what he is missing. His spirit is kept steady and his journey is kept on track by his strength of character, drawn from the energies of Fortuna Major. Using his indomitable spirit and personality, Fire uses the mutable energies of Acquisitio, translating the energies of Fortuna Major into an ability to gain things from the environment around him, changing himself as he continues on his quest. His journey ends when he finds what he is looking for after a final push, with the energies of Cauda Draconis.
-Water’s journey begins with a desire to travel and take in all that there is to see; the energy of Via. On the way, however, Water’s emotions intefere with her goal, and she gives into the temptation of Rubeus, going wherever the wind blows her and enjoying life for what it is. She gets stuck as she gets lost in herself, unsure of who or what she really is. As her sense of self gradually vanishes, she realizes her connection with everyone around her, and is soon able to react and adapt to anything as she merges with the collective consciousness. At the end of her journey, she realizes that being sidetracked was the best thing that could have happened, as she is now content and happy with the energies of Laetitia and her understanding of her connection to the world.
Fortuna Minor (Cardinal)
-Air’s journey begins with the instability of Fortuna Minor, as circumstances around the energy forces Air to embark on a journey to discover the nature of things. As Air descends from its lofty peak, it finds that reality does not match its pure thoughts, and suffers great sorrow and disappointment as she gets stuck in place by the stakes of Tristitia. After losing herself in sorrow, Air experiences the energies of the peacemaker and nurturer Albus, who helps Air to realize that any two things can be reconciled. Given strength once more, Air realizes that it must receive the world around it to truly understand it, and descends from its high-mindedness, willing to receive its material surroundings, exhibiting the energies of Puella.
Caput Draconis (Cardinal)
-Earth’s journey begins with a desire for a new beginning, as expressed by Caput Draconis. However, the limited viewpoint of the overly materialistic Earth limits his ability to truly make a new beginning, as he does not see all of the options available to him. He thus becomes imprisoned by his own mind, succumbing to the energies of Carcer. He becomes stuck until a tragic loss in the form of Amissio shakes him out of it, and he realizes that his stubbornness and limited view have made him miss out on what’s really important: meaningful interaction with those around him. Realizing he cannot continue on his own, Earth reaches out to the people around him, and everyone comes together in the form of Conjunctio to build a new life together.
In Geomancy, unlike Tarot and Astrology, there is no real canonical Geomantic order.
Though the name of the art of Geomancy contains the prefix Geo-, this does not mean that the art places any special emphasis on the element of Earth. Rather, the term Geomancy refers to the fact that when you practice the art, you are reading the animus mundi of the world, universe, or whatever you choose to call it. As Geomancy is an old art, the title refers to the animus mundi of the Earth: Geo. The Earth is made up of all four elements, and all four are reflected in the art.
When one looks at the set of sixteen Geomantic Figures, it becomes apparent that it is easy to divide the Figure into two sets of “opposite” polarities. Polarities are a fact of the world around us – though not the only facts of the world around us, and it is important to remember that not everything is a binary – as everything has, in some form, an opposite. Geomancy embraces this dualistic view in terms of its symbolism, creating eight pairs of opposite Figures. Each pair of opposites presents the extreme views of both sides of a situation or crisis; and in order to resolve that crisis, one often needs to create a third option between the two, resolving the polarity and accepting both.
If two halves of the same Geomantic polarity are next to each other, it indicates that you should look especially hard at the polarity’s middle ground in order to understand the full range of the situation. It tells you that a mixing of the two polar parts is necessary to fully understand what is going on.
Puer and Puella represent the polarity of identity. Socially, humans have been taught that gender and sex are a fundamental division between humanity, based on clear biological differences. Gender was the first polarity, and to many, it is a fundamental part of our identity. Puer, the masculine, and Puella, the feminine, are the original Yin and Yang. This polarity asks who are you? Are you seeking or are you receiving? Do you act or do you let others act? Do you project or do you emote?
Amissio and Acquisitio represent the polarity of possession. Acquisitio is the Figure of Gain, and Amissio is the one of loss. It asks you what you have now, what you have to gain, and what you have to lose. This polarity does refer just to physical objects, but abstract things as well; what are you willing to lose? What have you lost? What can you gain? What have you gained? What do you care about possessing?
Albus and Rubeus represent the polarity of control. Albus is a calm, peaceful, collected figure in control of himself and his life. Rubeus is an energetic, aggressive, and haphazard figure with little to no self-control, completely given over to hedonism. This polarity asks us most fundamentally what parts of life are we willing to control through the energies of Albus, and what parts of life we are willing to let go of and abandon ourselves to the whims of the world through the energies of Rubeus. Do we maintain a separate peace with the world, understanding yet apart, or do we engage thoroughly in the world and lose ourselves in the joy of belonging, of risk, and of the most primal acts of mankind? Albus is, in some respects, a marker of civilization, while Rubeus represents the wilderness in its most primal, uncontrolled form. Do we embrace the seer within us, or the beast?
Populus and Via represent the polarity of purpose. Populus is associated with a passive orientation towards life, just going with the flow and moving with the masses. Via, on the other hand, is a lonelier path, and instead of just moving where the wind blows, one imbued with Via’s energies makes straight for their goal and does not waver. What parts of your life are working towards a goal for, and what parts of life can you just go with the majority? Which goals are important to you? What is it that you want out of life; to be one with those around you, or to work towards something else?
Fortuna Major/Fortuna Minor
Fortuna Major and Fortuna Minor represent the polarity of circumstances. Fortuna Minor is strength drawn from circumstances, and Fortuna Major is circumstances drawn from strength. Do you use the energies of Fortuna Major to shape your circumstances and make a better life for yourself, or do you rely on those around you and your existing circumstances to give you the strength you need to carry on? Where is the right balance of strength and circumstance for you?
Conjunctio and Carcer represent the polarity of interaction. Conjunctio is a confluence of forces, coming together to accomplish a task, whereas Carcer is an isolation of forces, each using solitude and focus to accomplish a task. Most fundamentally, this polarity asks if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Do you work with others, or do you work alone? When is each best for you? How do you do with social interaction? With being alone?
Tristitia and Laetitia represent the polarity of emotion. Laetitia, joy, and Tristitia, sorrow, are the two extremes of the emotional spectrum, with frustration, happiness, anger, fear, sadness, confidence, serenity, and all others in between. This polarity asks you to examine your emotional range, and when you should be sad or happy. Both emotions are a key part of life and existence, and one needs to fully understand both in order to appreciate being here; joy is less joyful without sorrow, and sorrow is less sorrowful without joy. Each depends on the other to help define itself. By accepting the polarity of emotion, one is able to understand how their feelings affect their perspectives and actions.
Cauda Draconis/Caput Draconis
Cauda Draconis and Caput Draconis represent the polarity of change. Both Figures are associated with violent change. Cauda Draconis’ change creates ends, and Caput Draconis’ creates beginnings. This polarity represents the nature of change and your reaction to it; do you adapt to it and let it take you in a new direction with the energies of Caput Draconis, or do you accept the end of a phase in your life and move on elsewhere? Do you make the changes with the focus of Cauda Draconis, or do you react to the change with the adaptable energies of Caput Draconis? The two halves of this polarity are surprisingly similar, and the middle ground is clear: acceptance of the cyclical nature of beginnings and endings and the constant change that everyone goes through.
As with any esoteric art, the order in which the Geomantic Figures normally appear has significant symbolism in and of itself. Like Tarot Trumps, the order of the Geomantic Figures tells a story: the story of initiation.
The first step on the journey of Initiation is stepping outside and embarking on your quest, seeking completion and fulfillment through initiation, heading forth determined to find it. This is the energy of Puer. As you set out and begin your journey, you will inevitably experience a loss of some kind as you leave the familiar behind you and embark into the new. Often, initiates will also be asked to sacrifice something to prove their devotion. This is the energy of Amissio. This loss and its associated new experiences often grant wisdom to the initiate, and after the initial period of mourning contained in Amissio is over, will lead to a new understanding of oneself; the wisdom of Albus. You learn to value what you have and take care of it.
As you complete the first rites of initiation, you then come into contact with other hopeful initiates and other members of the order you seek to join, and you begin to learn their ways and understand the collective consciousness. This is the energy of Populus, as you begin to integrate themselves into the communal mind, and you learn by adapting to what others do around you. You draw strength from yourself, as learned by Albus, and apply it to the new, outer circumstances around you in order to gain new things; this is the energy of Fortuna Major. As you understand how to use your inner strength to your advantage, you come together and make friends with other initiates and older members in order to help you along in the process; this is the energy of Conjunctio.
The new relationships that you forge produce harmony and peace in the form of Puella. You learn to keep the harmony of the order by adapting and reacting to the things that others do on a scale less vast than that of Populus, being better able now to focus on detail. You accept your new path and are at peace with it. The energies of Puella seek union; an urge instilled in you by Conjunctio, and that you now seek more than ever, as you realize that union is what you need in order to produce the completion you sought.
As such, you begin to seek out union, and in the process lose sight of your goal for a brief moment, and descend into the realm of Rubeus, losing yourself in the hedonistic joys of life as an initiate and forgetting your true purpose in your attempts to reach union. You become dangerous to yourself and others, and need to be forcibly restrained and firmly brought back into the fold. When you are, you realize what it is that you can gain from the order, truly understanding it for the first time as the near-reality of your loss becomes clear to you. You gain knowledge from your experience, and a greater appreciation of those around you, and thus you begin to gain new things from the order. This is the energy of Acquisitio, as you abandon quick pleasures and exchange them for hard work in order to get ahead, having learned your lesson. You focus intensely on what needs to be done, and forget to seek union, instead locking yourself up in solitary confinement: the energy of Carcer. You cut yourself off from the world in order to be as good as you can, forgetting that you need other people. Eventually you realize this, and see that getting ahead is useless when you are lonely, and so you experience sorrow: Tristitia. You are suddenly lost and confused, and don’t know how to act anymore; you are not confident in yourself, and feel as if you can’t do anything right.
As you step back into the fold, however, the sorrow vanishes as they accept you back from your period of leave with open arms, and a sense of fulfillment, completion, and joy fills you as the energy of Laetitia lifts you up. You realize then that you are approaching final initiation, and that your old life and that journey is almost complete: the energy of Cauda Draconis. You again begin to focus on achieving initiation at all costs, and move forward as fast as you can. As you work, you pass the threshold without realizing it, and begin your new journey as a confirmed initiate: Caput Draconis‘ energies. You slow down and realize you have done it, and are proud. At first you might feel overwhelmed, because your new surroundings are rich and have much influence on your inner strength, which is still recovering and developing from your speeding race. This is the energy of Fortuna Minor, when your inner strength does not match your outer strength, and you learn that you need to depend on the environment around you to survive.
Eventually, however, your inner and outer strengths and selves begin to match up, and you are at peace, having come to terms with your initiation and your new life. You no longer wear any masks, and know more about who you are. But the journey is never over, and so you must wander on and start new quests, seeking more. This is the energy of Via, and reminds you that your initiation was only one step on a long road.
The Traveler – Way – Change, Road, Wayfarer, Candle, Journey – Outer Water, Inner Water
Via’s Figure resembles a road, and it is from a road that it derives its name. Every element is active in the Figure, making it an active manipulator of events, like the Tarot Magus or Magician. Its Inner and Outer Energies are both of Water, making this Figure completely at home with itself, with nothing to hide; its inner strength is matched by its outer strength, and the Figure is at peace with his emotion and can rely upon his intuition. Its inner life often goes unnoticed, however, due to its watery nature; it hides hidden depths, but only because others do not understand it. It is an active manipulator, but also is calm and receptive; over the course of a journey, this Figure reminds us that everyone can grow to master themselves. This Figure emphasizes the idea that the point of a journey is not to arrive; it is to grow, and the journey never really ends.
Via is associated with travel, and specifically directed, purposeful travel; Via does not wander, but rather knows exactly where it is going, whether or not it will ever reach it. It represents working towards attaining some grand goal in the distant future, and also reminds us that once that goal is reached, there will be another; life is an endless cycle of journeys. Via is a patient Figure with a clear direction and purpose, and represents the constant Change in our lives. This change, however, is under our control, and Via is the master of its life. Via seeks to experience everything and absorb it (another reflection of its watery qualities), and often remains silent, instead preferring to observe. Via is adaptable and always changing, and is slow to anger and equally slow to forgive. Unsurprisingly, Via is a Mobile Figure, as it is always moving. Astrologically, Via is associated with the compassion and passivity of the Moon and Cancer. Though Via possesses the ability to manipulate, it watches and waits instead.
John Michael Greer, in his book The Art and Practice of Geomancy, sums up this Figure well, as reminding us that “roads actually go nowhere, it is the travelers who follow them that go somewhere, leaving more of the road behind with each step” (p. 64).
The Gambler – Lesser Fortune – Swiftness, Mountain with Staff Atop, Outward Fortune, Protection, Omen, Outside Help – Outer Air, Inner Fire
Fortuna Minor is the opposite of Fortuna Major, and represents the concept of “Lesser” Fortune. Unlike its opposite, Fortuna Minor represents fortune and luck that come not from one’s inner strength, but rather instead from their outer circumstances. Fortuna Minor represents Outer Strength and Outer Success, and indicates favorable circumstances. Unlike Fortuna Major, Fortuna Minor’s success is not steady; it is inconstant, in flux, unstable, fickle, and full of unexpected shifts, rapid change, and sudden changes in fortune. This is the luck that the Gambler depends on, hence its archetype; Fortuna Minor represents outer circumstances allowing someone to win big, but also warns us that fortune is fickle and fleeting, and that wealth won in this way will not stay forever.
Astrologically, Fortuna Minor is associated with Leo, the Sun Sign of creativity, and also with the Sun and its spiritual energy. Fortuna Minor is a very Mobile Figure because of this, and represents, in part, the ability to adapt and use one’s surroundings to their advantage. This Figure is opportunistic, presumptuous, bold, and proud. However, this is sometimes a facade, and this mask often hides insecurity, humility, and inner conflict. Inner strength is Fortuna Major’s forte, not Fortuna Minor’s. This is a sign of economic mobility, and context can help you decide if this movement is up or down. This Figure reminds us that resources flow, and are finite; if you gain resources, someone else loses them. As such, this card also reminds us to be generous and thankful for what surrounds us.
Fire and Air are the Active elements in this Figure, and Fire and Air are also the Inner and Outer Energies of this Figure (respectively). Fortuna Minor possesses the will of Fire and the logic of Air, but lacks the empathy of Water and the Grounding of Earth. Fire fuels Fortuna Minor, but all it produces is hot Air; masks and false bluster and bravado can be part of Fortuna Minor.
The Fool – Head of the Dragon – Beginnings, Doorway With Footprints, Entering, Inner Threshold, Upper Boundary, Staff – Outer Earth, Inner Earth
Caput Draconis, or the Head of the Dragon, is the opposite of Cauda Draconis. Caput Draconis is the Geomantic Figure associated with beginnings and new journeys. Astrologically, it is associated with the North Node of the Moon, indicating integration, the spirit, and most importantly, the future and the opportunities awaiting everyone. It is also associated with Virgo and the order she brings. The shape of the Figure is that of footsteps leading towards a door, again symbolizing its association with new beginnings and future integration. Caput Draconis is associated with stepping forward into something new, looking forward to the future, and a new journey. It is similar to the Tarot card the Fool, which is also its archetype.
In the Figure of Caput Draconis, the only passive element is Fire. As such, Caput Draconis has the grounding of Earth, the intuition of Water, and the rationale of Air, and is striving towards the spiritual energy of Fire. Its Outer and Inner Energies are both Earth, and as such Caput Draconis is a very Earthy Figure, and the new journey, as with many journeys, is based on the material. This Figure is associated not only with new beginnings, journeys, and opportunities, but also with drastic change, improvement, fertility, and potential; things that all can come with embarking on something new. Caput Draconis looks to the future, and represents working towards gain, trusting fate and taking that first step, and starting anew and refreshed. The journey that begins with Caput Draconis will probably be difficult in the beginning, but it reminds us that it will be worth it in the end. Generally, the new beginning of Caput Draconis is change for the better, but depending on its surroundings, it can be the opposite.
Caput Draconis is associated also with calmness, kindness, trustworthiness, expression, and good nature. Unlike Cauda Draconis, it is a Stable Sign, representing the stable sense of mind and self one needs when embarking on something new. Caput Draconis is a Figure of the future.
The Old Godfather – Tail of the Dragon – Endings, Doorway With Footprints, Leaving, Outer Threshold, Lower Boundary – Outer Fire, Inner Fire
Cauda Draconis means “Tail of the Dragon” in Latin, and its significance is reflected in this name. This Figure represents the “tail” end of things, and is associated with endings. It represents the past, and the state of near completion. It is thus associated with the south Node of the Moon, and its association with past skills, experiences, and knowledge. It is also associated with Sagittarius, the Teacher and Philsopher, also due to its association with knowledge. It is a Mobile Figure, as it is associated with endings, and not keeping things as they were; Cauda Draconis is a Figure of radical change and disruption. It also advises us to let go of the past and be willing to move on to something new. The shape of the Figure itself represents footsteps leading away from a doorway, thus associating the Figure with departures and again with endings. All of the energies in this Figure are active save for Earth, which is passive, indicating that the only thing Caput Draconis lacks is the traditional final Element of Earth, and then the end of your journey will be completed. Its Outer and Inner Energies are both of Fire, which associates Cauda Draconis with the fiery end that comes to many things, as well as the violent nature of change and endings. This Figure can be seen as being strongly associated with the Tarot card of The Tower.
In addition to Endings, Cauda Draconis is associated with selfishness, single-mindedness, and blind focus. As one approaches the end of anything, their concentration can become intense as they strive to make that final jump to finish. They will do anything to achieve that end and final rest. Those imbued with the energy Cauda Draconis are often near to finishing some stage in their life, and while they can be generous, it is generally only so that they may gain from their generosity. The interests of Cauda Draconis are often pursued with little or no regard for others; they are utterly focused on their goal, and seek only to finish what they have started. Corruption and danger are also associated with Cauda Draconis, as well as destruction.
Cauda Draconis also looks to the past, and is focused on what has already happened, reflecting on what is no longer. Combined with the above, this makes the archetype of Cauda Draconis an Old Godfather, and not in the Christian sense of the world. Cauda Draconis is an ancient mob boss, with no scruples or conscience (except for where his family is concerned), who is focused completely on setting all of his affairs in order and increasing his family’s power before he dies. He uses his experience from the past to help him achieve his goals, and is willing to do anything to achieve them. He works for himself and his family, and no one else. He is corrupt, dangerous, and destructive, with nothing personally to lose. Cauda Draconis’ opposite Figure is Caput Draconis, or the Head of the Dragon.