An Analysis of the Geomantic Figures

This paper analyses the sixteen geomantic figures from a number of perspectives, particularly in the ways they interrelate with each other and the patterns that can be formed with them. It is primarily a speculative and reflective paper, and although there are closing remarks it is not intended to draw any firm conclusions.


The following table shows the geomantic figures with their Latin names:

Populus Tristitia Albus Fortuna Major
Populus Tristitia Albus Fortuna Major
Rubeus Acquisitio Conjunctio Cauda Draconis
Rubeus Acquisitio Conjunctio Cauda Draconis
Laetitia Carcer Amissio Puella
Laetitia Carcer Amissio Puella
Fortuna Minor Puer Caput Draconis Via
Fortuna Minor Puer Caput Draconis Via

and this table shows the primary correspondences, according to Mathers:

Latin English Element Zodiac Ruler
Puer Boy Fire Aries Mars
Amissio Loss Earth Taurus Venus
Albus White Air Gemini Mercury
Populus (The) People Water Cancer Luna
Fortuna Major Greater fortune Fire Leo Sun
Conjunctio Assembly, union Earth Virgo Mercury
Puella Girl Air Libra Venus
Rubeus Red Water Scorpio Mars
Acquisitio Gain Fire Sagittarius Jupiter
Carcer Prison (cell) Earth Capricorn Saturn
Tristitia Sadness Air Aquarius Saturn
Laetitia Joy Water Pisces Jupiter
Cauda Draconis Tail of the Dragon Fire Cauda Draconis Mars & Saturn
Caput Draconis Head of the Dragon Earth Caput Draconis Venus & Jupiter
Fortuna Minor Lesser fortune Fire Leo Sun
Via Way, journey Water Cancer Luna

There are several ways in which we can analyse the figures.


The most obvious starting point is the shapes formed by the points of the figures.


The following table pairs the figures together, each figure being paired with the one formed by inverting it:

Figure Inversion
Latin English Latin English
Puer Boy Puella Girl
Amissio Loss Acquisitio Gain
Albus White Rubeus Red
Fortuna Major Greater fortune Fortuna Minor Lesser fortune
Tristitia Sadness Laetitia Joy
Cauda Draconis Tail of the Dragon Caput Draconis Head of the Dragon
Conjunctio Union
Carcer Prison
Populus People
Via Way, journey

The appropriateness of the pairings can be easily seen. Populus, Via, Conjunctio and Carcer cannot be paired with any other figure, since they are all vertically symmetrical.


The following table pairs each figure with its complement, i.e. if a line in a figure has two points, that line in its complement will have one point, and vice versa:

Figure Complement
Latin English Latin English
Puer Boy Albus White
Amissio Loss Acquisitio Gain
Fortuna Major Greater fortune Fortuna Minor Lesser fortune
Conjunctio Union Carcer Prison
Puella Girl Rubeus Red
Tristitia Sadness Caput Draconis Head of the Dragon
Cauda Draconis Tail of the Dragon Laetitia Joy
Populus People Via Way, journey

For Amissio, Acquisitio, Fortuna Major, and Fortuna Minor, the complements are the same as the reflections. This is because they are six-pointed figures without vertical symmetry.

Because of their vertical symmetry, Conjunction, Carcer, Populus and Via did not have reflections. However, Conjunctio is the complement of Carcer, and Populus is the complement of Via. Conjunctio is approximately opposite in meaning from Carcer, but the same is not true of Populus and Via.

For the remaining figures, there does not appear to be any consistent relationship between them and their complements. There appears to be little overall significance between a figure and its complement.

Number of points

We can also classify the figures according to the number of points that make them up:

One figure has four points:

forming a single straight vertical line. This sole four-pointed figure is the complement of the single eight-pointed figure, Populus.

Four figures have five points:

The "bulge" formed by the line of two points refers to the tail, male genitals, breasts and head respectively, in our above descriptions. The four five-pointed figures are the complements of the four seven-pointed figures.

Six figures have six points:

Our descriptions of Amissio, Carcer, Conjunction and Acquisitio all interpret the six points as a pair of triangles. The figures of Fortuna Minor and Fortuna Major could also be seen to have a triangle in the middle two rows, pointing upwards and downwards respectively, the downward pointing triangle suggesting an upright cup and greater receptivity.

As we explained above, the complements and reflections are the same for all the six-pointed figures, except for Conjunctio and Carcer which do not have reflections. Clearly, as a six-pointed figure has two lines of two points, and two lines of one point, then its complement must also contain two lines of two points and two lines of one point, so the set of six-sided figures must include both the complement of each figure, and its reflection (where that reflection exists).

Four figures have seven points:

The four seven-pointed figures are the complements of the four five-pointed figures.

One figure has eight points:

forming two straight vertical lines, or a four-sided box or enclosure. This sole eight-pointed figure is the complement of the single four-pointed figure, Via.

General effects

We can also analyse the figures by their effects generally and in each of the twelve astrological Houses of Heaven, noting whether they are good (G), bad (B) or mixed (M):

O 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 G M B
Via B B M G G G B G B M G G G 7 2 3
Cauda Draconis M B B B G B G B B B B B G 3 - 9
Puer B M G G B G M B B B B M G 4 3 5
Puella G G G G M G G G G G G G G 11 1 -
Caput Draconis M G G G G G G G G G G G B 11 - 1
Fortuna Minor G G G G B G M B B G G G G 8 1 3
Amissio M B B B B B B M G B B B B 1 1 10
Carcer B B M B B B B B B B B B G 1 1 10
Conjunctio M M G G G M G G B G M G M 7 4 1
Acquisitio G G G G G G G G G G G G B 11 - 1
Fortuna Major G G G G G G G G G G G G G 12 - -
Laetitia G G B B G G B M B G G G B 6 1 5
Rubeus M B B B B B B B B B B B B - - 12
Albus G G G G G G G G G G G G G 12 - -
Tristitia B M M B B B B B B B B B B - 2 10
Populus M G G G G G G G B M G G B 9 1 2

The individual classifications are, of course, subjective, and open to question, but they should be accurate enough for our purposes.

There are six figures that are "extremely good", having a good effect in nine or more houses:

It is not surprising that the figures of "gain", "greater fortune" and "white" should be in this list. Equally, the "head of the dragon" belongs here, since the head is higher than the tail. Also "girl" is presumably here because mediæval magick was primarily a male pursuit. Populus is the only one that requires a little thought, but we'll satisfy ourselves with the thought that if it's that popular, it can't be all that bad.

Interestingly, Caput Draconis and Populus received only a "medium" overall description.

There are five figures that are "extremely bad", have a bad effect in nine or more houses:

Again, the "tail of the dragon" "loss", "prison", "red" and "sadness" all clearly belong here.

All but Tristitia and Carcer have only a "medium" overall description.

Of the remaining five figures:

are rather more good than bad, as we'd expect from "journey", "lesser fortune" and "union". The remaining two:

are roughly neutral.


We can also categorise the figures according to their planetary rulers:

Ruler Figure 1 Figure 2
Latin English Latin English
Saturn Carcer Prison (cell) Tristitia Sadness
Jupiter Acquisitio Gain Laetitia Joy
Mars Puer Boy Rubeus Red
Sun Fortuna Major Greater fortune Fortuna Minor Lesser fortune
Venus Amissio Loss Puella Girl
Mercury Albus White Conjunctio Union
Luna Populus (The) People Via Way, journey
Venus & Jupiter Caput Draconis Head of the Dragon
Mars & Saturn Cauda Draconis Tail of the Dragon

The figures ruled by Jupiter, the Sun and Mercury are all "good" figures, whereas the figures ruled by Saturn are both "bad" figures. The figures ruled by Mars, Venus and the Moon are more varied, and both Caput Draconis and Cauda Draconis have two effectively planetary rules. Cauda Draconis, being ruled by Mars and Saturn, is a very "bad" figure, whereas Caput Draconis, being ruled by Venus and Jupiter, is an exceedingly "good" figure.

The planetary rulers do, of course, arise from the astrological attributes of the figures, and it is difficult to read much more into them than the general observations given above.


The final categorisation we will make is to examine the elementary attributions of the figures:

Fire Water Air Earth
Puer Populus Albus Amissio
Fortuna Major Rubeus Puella Conjunctio
Acquisitio Laetitia Tristitia Carcer
Cauda Draconis Via Caput Draconis
Fortuna Minor

Again, since the elemental attributions arise from the zodiacal attributions, there do not appear to be any discernible patterns. One thing that is very noticeable is that five of the figures are attributed to fire, and only three to air, rather than four figure to each of the four elements as we might expect from a sixteen-fold arrangement. The reason behind this appears to be a desire to attribute both of the fortune figures to Leo, and therefore to fire. Of course, to change this would require a change in planetary ruler, and we would be simply exchanging one asymmetry for another. It's likely that this asymmetry arises simply from the difficulties of fitting a sixteen-fold arrangement to the twelve-fold arrangement of the zodiacal signs, which could cause us to question the usefulness of these attributions. A possible investigation for the future could be to examine whether an two-way elemental approach is more useful — geomancy being an elemental mode of divination, after all — such as that underlying the sixteen court cards of the tarot.

Closing remarks

There are only limited conclusions which can be drawn from our brief and perfunctory analysis. The most significant findings are that there appears to be a strong relationship between each figure and its reflection, and that for the majority of figures a reasonably meaningful interpretation of the shape of the figure itself can be found. There appears to be little of any significance in considering the complements of the figures, and there is little insight to be drawn from considering the planetary rulers or elementary attributions, arising as they do from the zodiacal attributions which themselves do not appear to be particularly meaningful.

There appears to be a slight surplus of broadly "good" figures to broadly "bad" figures, matching appoximately to a ratio of 9:7, with two of the "bad" figures being more neutral than overtly evil.