Elemental Rulers of the Geomantic Figures

As I’ve probably mentioned before around here, the geomantic figures are interesting little symbols in the occult that are composed of four lines, with each line representing one of the four classical elements: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Each line can have either one or two dots, with one dot indicating an active element and two dots indicating a passive element.  Thus, the geomantic figures can be seen as alchemical equations, representing a different blend of forces required to represent or reflect a particular state of the cosmos at any given time.  The top row is given to Fire, the second row to Air, the third row to Water, and the bottom row to Earth, the same order as the perceived “density” as the elements, with Fire being the lightest and Earth being the heaviest.  Nifty things, these geomantic figures.

While the figures are composed of up to four elements, each figure also has a ruling element, which is the element the figure is most strongly associated with.  Generally speaking, the elemental rulership of a figure is indicated by its structure: with the exception of Populus (which has no lines/elements active), the elemental ruler of a geomantic figure is always one of the active elements within those figures.

So, consider the geomantic figures Laetitia, Rubeus, Albus, and Tristitia.  Each of these figures have only one line active with the others passive; Laetitia has only Fire active, Rubeus has only Air active, Albus has only Water active, and Tristitia has only Earth active.  As such, these elements are the rulers of their respective figures, since they’re the only elements active in those figures.  The other figures are assigned in similar way based on their divinatory meaning:

  • Fire: Laetitia, Cauda Draconis, Fortuna Minor, Amissio
  • Air: Rubeus, Puer, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Puella, Via, Populus
  • Earth: Tristitia, Caput Draconis, Carcer, Fortuna Maior

Note that Laetitia and Cauda Draconis are converse figures (the reverse of the inverse of the figure), as are Rubeus and Puer, Albus and Puella, and Tristitia and Caput Draconis; these odd pairs are similar in their meanings or temperament, and also preserve the elemental rulership based on their structures.  Amissio and Fortuna Minor are given to Fire due to their temperament, as are the other even figures to their elements.  Populus is the only odd one out, since it has no elements active, but is given to Water with its inverse figure Via.

So far, so good; most of the traditional sources that mention elemental rulers at all (independent of the zodiacal or planetary rulerships) are in agreement.  However, it’s unclear whether each of the four figures within these four groups has another elemental affinity based on a similar system.  After all, we already applied the same system one time to the figures as a whole, so why not apply it to the figures in their elemental groupings?

I got the idea for this based on a reply to Andrew’s comment before, where he was working on a set of geomantic mandalas organized by element.  Ordering the figures by element seems to be a good idea, but he didn’t seem to like any of the arrangements of the figures within their groups.  So, I figured to come up with a subelemental rulership kind of system which could help order the figures.  In effect, we’d have an ordering that goes first by a figure’s primary elemental ruler, then their secondary elemental or subelemental ruler: Fire/Fire, Fire/Air, Fire/Water, Fire/Earth, Air/Fire, and so forth to Earth/Earth.

With that in mind, here’s my schema for assigning elemental and subelemental rulers to the figures:

  • Fire
    • Fire: Laetitia.  Pure fire, no other elements involved.
    • Air: Fortuna Minor.  Fire with Air.  The smoothest and most beneficial figure of Fire, which requires communication and interaction with other people.
    • Water: Amissio.  Fire with Water.  The most emotional and volatile of the Fire-ruled figures.
    • Earth: Cauda Draconis.  Fire, Air, and Water without Earth.  although Earth is not present in Cauda Draconis, it is the only reasonable leftover.  Plus, in Hebrew occultism, earth is the element that results from combining fire, air, and water.
  • Air
    • Fire: Puer.  Air with Earth and Fire.  Being Martian and associated with Aries in any of the major zodiacal attribution systems, this seems fairly straightforward.
    • Air: Rubeus.  Pure air, no other elements involved.
    • Water: Coniunctio.  Air with Water.  Communication and interaction on all levels, emotional and mental.
    • Earth: Acquisitio.  Air with Earth.  The most grounded and material of the Air figures.
  • Water
    • Fire: Puella.  Water with Fire and Earth.  The most outgoing of the Water figures (which isn’t saying much), Puella is the only one that has a will and plan of its own, receptive though it may be.  Plus, its Water/Fire mix mirrors the Fire/Water mix of Amissio, the other Venus-ruled figure.
    • Air: Via.  All elements active.  The most fluid and dynamic of the Water signs, the road is also an image of communication, travel, and trade, which are all airy things.  Plus, it mirrors the Air/Water mix of Coniunctio, often seen as a similar symbol of crossroads and paths.
    • Water: Albus.  Pure water, no other elements involved.
    • Earth: Populus.  No elements active.  Again, just as assigning Populus to Water in the first place, the system breaks down here.  However, being the most stable, fixed, and status-quo-enforcing figure of Water, it makes sense to give it to the slowest and heaviest of the elements, Earth, as a subelemental ruler.
  • Earth
    • Fire: Carcer.  Earth with Fire.  Dry, without any ability to communicate or interact with the world, is the image of Carcer, plus the hot-headed anger latent in this figure.
    • Air: Caput Draconis.  Earth with Water and Air.  The only Earth figure with Air, Caput Draconis indicates beginnings, things about to be formed and awaiting a pulse of energy from outside. 
    • Water: Fortuna Maior.  Earth with Water.  The most beneficical and fertile of the figures, Fortuna Maior combines Earth and Water to create long-lasting, though slow-going, change.
    • Earth: Tristitia.  Pure earth, no other elements involved.

So, given the elemental/subelemental rulership of the figures, a strictly elemental based ordering of the figures might look something like this:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Fortuna Minor
  3. Amissio
  4. Cauda Draconis
  5. Puer
  6. Rubeus
  7. Coniunctio
  8. Acquisitio
  9. Puella
  10. Via
  11. Albus
  12. Populus
  13. Carcer
  14. Caput Draconis
  15. Fortuna Maior
  16. Tristitia

Of course, this is ultimately a few sprinkles on the icing of the cake of Western geomancy.  An ordering of the figures like this is helpful to maybe learn the figures by mnemonic or to help present them in an orderly fashion, but doesn’t really influence the process of divination or magic much.  However, as far as I can tell, the notion of subelemental rulers of the figures is new, which might help people develop more nuanced notions of how the figures interact and interplay between them in a reading or when deployed in magic or ritual.

20 responses

  1. Good stuff here. I’m experimenting with the various stellations of a hexadecagon, and trying to find an arrangement of paths between the various points of the resulting stars that allows one to navigate the four signs associated with each element; the dichotomy of stabile/mobile, and the calendrical associations. So far, I’ve come up short — geometrical trial-and-error is, well, trying. There’s probably a relatively simple algebraic way of doing the calculation, but I don’t know it.

    In a sense, a truly ideal arrangement would have fourfold symmetry — all of the Fire signs equally spaced around the edges of the mandala, for example, but with all the “fire-like” expressions of the elements in one quadrant — and a relatively simple path through the stellation that would connect the calendrical/zodiacal associations of each geomantic figure in order from Aries all the way around the year to Pisces… To be able to have a third ‘pathway’ that connected planetary associations in some semblance of order, and yet a fourth pathway through the stellation that joined the stabile/mobile duality…

    Probably more ambitious and OCD than it needs to be. But hey, that’s how these sorts of systems and discoveries are made, sometimes. Persistent trial and error and dumb insistence on sensible order…

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  9. Really helpful to me for keeping them in order, particularly when combined with the seals. I had a hard time categorizing the subelemental rulers before. So as a teaching tool, this seems very helpful.

    • It’s just one order out of many. I typically use one of four orders, depending on how I feel: binary, elemental, planetary, or zodiac. That said, my most common ones are binary or planetary, which I’ve found easiest to just whip out and use.

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