I have started to write a series of several posts on the signs or emblems of geomancy, based on the quilt I designed and made in January-February of last year. The idea is that I want to write a post about each sign, illustrated using the image from the quilt — and then at the end I’ll write a post about what the quilt has specifically taught me about Geomancy.
The first sign in this series, which will be published at the rate of about 2-3 a month until they’re done, is Puer, from the Latin word for boy, but might be better characterized as “youthful male athlete” — or maybe in the culture of the present moment, Chad. This is a young man on the prowl, jealous of his privileges, fierce and fiery and authoritative.
Puer – Boy – Mab
Puer is the first sign in the traditional geomantic list, and it looks like this:
That is, it’s two single dots in a column, followed by a pair of dots in the third row from the top, followed by a single row.
It’s helpful to look at geomantic figures and see them as a picture. Some people see a sword pointed at the sky — a warrior’s outrageous defiance of God. Some say it looks like an exaggerated cock and balls, some say it’s a dagger, sometimes it’s described as a man with very large genitals, or with his arms akimbo.
According to Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy, this sign is associated with the planet Mars as it’s described in astrology: violent or at least aggressive. At the same time, Puer is nominally pure of motive or inclination: hence the white color of its background flecked with pink — this character belongs to Mars, but it’s not Mars in fully-flexed fury, or the Mars of calculating suspicion. Rather it’s a color suggestive of directness and forcefulness — the embarrassed warrior who forgets himself and charges forward, flush with the pink of his shame. What you see is what you get, with Puer, and Puer is in part the activity which is goaded into action. If Puer were an astrological sign, it would be Aries — and Mars is in Aries in the sky right now, so maybe it’s appropriate we begin here.
Around the figure of Puer are three bands of color: to the inside is a yellow color, symbolic of Air; to the middle is a shiny green, indicating mobility; to the outside is a band of red, symbolizing Fire.
When you’re having an internal monologue at a work meeting, where you believe you’re the smartest person in the room because you’re the only rational thinker in the place, and they all need a good talking to, you’re having a “Puer moment”. A set of ideas have arisen in the Head (one of the parts of the body that Puer rules) and you feel like you have a duty to put those ideas out on the table in front of everyone.
Puer is a symbol of that internal monologue of solipsism, where the experiences of no-one else really matter, because those people aren’t really real. The person who decides to be a Devil’s Advocate has given in to the Puer-mindset, arguing for the sake of argument because it’s an interesting intellectual exercise and because the person is bored of the conversation as it’s currently tending to go. As Air is the element associated with intellect and the mind, that’s the inner experience of this figure: that they’re being rational and thoughtful, careful with ideas and in command of themselves and the room.
However, on the outside, Fire is the best way to express Puer. The person having a Puer moment internally thinks of themselves as coolly rational and in control of their emotions. Everyone else around them experiences Puer as a dangerous hot-head, a loudmouth burning through all the oxygen in the room, and fierce or ferocious in ways that the situation doesn’t require. Observers see the Pure-energy as full of energy, but lacking in tactfulness or self control, and failing to think things through. The Puer-energy comes across as direct and forceful, but unable to think tactically, much less strategically — expelling energy merely for the sake of being seen and heard. Everyone else risks getting burned when someone turns on the Puer-energy in a conversation. It would probably surprise a good many people turning on the Puer-force that they come across as insecure, self-centered, and outrageous; they’re trying to project confidence, common-sense, and obviously centrist thinking. It’s just not working the way they themselves see it.
The Mobility is what binds these two forces together. Both Air and Fire are unusually movement-driven. They change forms and change structure and action based on movement: contain either, and they cease to be what they are. The energy of the Puer figure in geomancy is much the same — it is a spark that lights the fire, or the perfume on the breeze that leads the questing knight forward. Directing its attention from one thing to the next, Puer is constantly led onward to something else, unable to focus its attention too long on one purpose. It burns through both material possessions and relationships, at least in part because it has no inner life. Because that inner life is lacking, it is difficult for the Puer-energy to accept feedback or criticism, or to accept processes for internal improvement — a significant chunk of the feedback loop is missing. One way to think of Puer is as a representation of the three F’s of the adrenalin response: Flight, Fight or mate.
This is reflected in the structure of the figure. The four lines that make up a geomantic figure each represent an Elemental power. From the top, these are Fire, Air, Water and Earth. In the Puer-figure, Water — the internal emotional life — is the missing or late energy. Fully equipped with sword, spear, and armor, the knight has no choice but to seek the Grail, in Arthurian terminology. The Puer-energy sees all the world as a thing to be experienced, except the internal experience of the mind’s eye and the spiritual dream-realms we carry inside us.
In terms of a person’s physical appearance, Puer manifests as working muscles on a solid body, small eyes, and a tendency to hotter-hued skin prone to tanning with red cheeks. The sparse or scraggly beard of the youth is more in line with the Puer-energy, rather than the full gray beard of the mature man.
Accordingly, when Puer appears in a divination, it represents forceful (perhaps even aggressive) change — particularly of the swift or immediate kind. In relationships, it can mean a passionate and assertive suitor (although perhaps not a very thoughtful or considerate one). Puer isn’t all bad, either: sometimes Puer represents both energy and enthusiasm. This sign calls us to be courageous and brave, and take risks that might otherwise be foolhardy. Sometimes Puer tells you to ‘wing it’ rather than plan in meticulous detail, or to charge into a delicate situation. However, in any situation where prudence or thoughtfulness or even strategic thinking might be desired, Puer promises to push past all the usual roadblocks and ignore all the warning signs. The quality to be most careful about is this lack of thoughtfulness — bravery will get you far, but not as far as a solid plan to back up that courage.