Distinguishing the Figures of Mars

(Geomantic Practice, and Astrological Correspondence)

In geomancy, the figures of Puer and Rubeus are traditionally assigned to the planet Mars. In my experience, each of them presents a different side of that Martial energy.

The figure of Puer is active in the elements of fire, air, and earth—everything except water. Consider the image of the young man (perhaps in early adolescence) for whom the figure is named: all kinds of hot, flowing, even raging energy, being flung in so many (often conflicting and incompatible) directions at once. This can manifest as chaotic panic, as flailing about wildly, as beginning so many different activities and projects that it’s impossible (or quite unlikely) that all or even most of them will ever be completed. There’s something brash about this energy of beginnings, of setting out, which is likely one of the reasons why Greer’s Art and Practice of Geomancy revises the traditional order of the geomantic figures to place Puer first, in a position analogous to the Fool in the Tarot. Yet unlike the Fool, the emotional, feeling qualities of water are, for the figure of Puer, the most subdued and under-expressed. (Or maybe that lack of water is there in the Fool as well? I’ve not given the Tarot the time and attention it deserves…)

At its best, adding Puer to a situation can shake things up, get moving what was stuck in a rut or mired in inertia. But if we’re not simply to be worn out and uselessly exhausted, Puer usually needs to be balanced by some other figure with a complementary quality: whether that quality is stability or emotional maturity, or some sort of focus or limitation, setting boundaries to accomplish this, strongly and forcefully, while laying aside (at least for the time being) competing concerns or demands on our time, energy, and attention.


Rubeus, on the other hand, has a driving focus that Puer lacks. Where Puer was the brash young man, armed with a shiny new sword that he is eager to use, ready to take on the whole world, all at once, Rubeus has a certain kind of maturity: not in the sense of being worn out or past his prime, nor having the wisdom of the sage, but the bloom of adulthood. Rubeus has left behind childish things, but is still full of strength and vigor, ready to get down to business and get done what needs to happen. Rubeus is the river coming to a narrow defile, where the steep sides of the watercourse draw together all the strength of the flowing torrent, and we find the strong, concentrated, constant energy to turn a mill wheel and accomplish some needful work. Unlike Puer, there’s nothing frantic about Rubeus. A careless observer might easily mistake Rubeus’ single-minded, tireless, unyielding devotion to his task for a kind of franticness. But that would all be in the mind of the observer, misled by the simple fact that the observer does not share Rubeus’ goal, or his devotion to that goal.

At its best, then, bringing Rubeus into a situation means things are going to get done. The time for deliberating about our goals has passed (though his active air element means that, far from being flung about passively by outside circumstances, careful choice can still be made, in each moment, about the means of action). And the time of open-ended sampling, of trying anything and everything, the attitude of a young person who has yet to really confront the limits of human mortality—the time of Puer—that too has passed.

This puts an interesting spin on the traditional admonition, that a chart with Rubeus in the first house (representing the querent) cannot be interpreted, and that such a chart should even be destroyed in fire! Why can’t (or shouldn’t) such a chart be interpreted? Because the querent has already made up his or her mind about what to do: the time for choosing—and for all outside or extraneous factors, including the divination itself!—is over.


Traditionally, while both these figures are associated with Mars, Puer is given to Mars in direct motion, while Rubeus is given to Mars in retrograde motion. My personal experience during the Mars’s recent retrograde motion, through his home of Aries, confirms this powerfully. At least for me, the retrograde period was a time of incredible focus and accomplishment, and it was non-stop. I just kept going, and going, and achieving, and achieving, and really just unable to stop moving, in a way that was unusual and quite startling to me, even while it was happening. It was Rubeus at his best, his most helpful, his most welcome. And in these particular astrological circumstances we should expect the best side of retrograde Mars, given how comfortable and at home Mars always feels in Aries.

What was life like for others during this latest Mars retrograde (9 September–13 November)? Does this picture of Rubeus help to make sense of the energy and impulses of that time?


(Images are from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain.)

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