The geomantic symbol of Populus is perplexing for geomancers because of the effects it has on the court. Until Christopher Cattan penned The Geomancie in 1591 there was a body of thought which said that if Populus was the Judge you should ignore the reading (something Cattan acknowledged). Cattan disagreed and included it among not only his charts but also his sample readings. Modern geomancers, at least in Europe have followed this but seem to find it difficult to extract a meaning behind Populus as a Judge. Some say it is an indication that nothing is happening. Others insist it causes delays.
When we look at the meanings that Cattan gives to a Populus judge, something clearer emerges. Like the moon, Populus is transparent and reflective. As a Capricon, it copies the rules of the other figures and enforces them. In computing terms, Populus is a wild card that can be anything as long as it mimics another figure.
The reason it can do all this weirdness is because of its “crowd” meaning and associations. In the 1980s I was reporting on a demonstration in the small town of Feilding against the Cavalier football team tour of Apartiad South Africa. A few years before, New Zealand was divided between those who wanted the country to play rugby against what was arguably the next best national side in the world and those who wanted to overthrow South Africa’s Apartheid regime. For the first time since the dockers’ strikes after WW1, the issue had become violent with the police shamefully on the side of the rugby supporters and happy to hit those who disagreed with newly handed out long batons (The pictured battening of people dressed as clowns who were trying to lighten the protests was a low point in NZ policing history). The worst of it was over and NZ was starting to repair those divisions when in 1986 an ex-All Black tried to start it up again and organise a private tour of South Africa.
The protest I covered was one of the scariest I have seen. Not because it was violent (I saw those in the UK later) but because of what could have happened. Forty demonstrators were standing around a war memorial in the town square with anti-rugby signs. But surrounding them were about 1000 local people. Between them was one cop, who was pro-rugby and volunteered for Red Squad, a police unit that brutally beat up people dressed as clowns. Then there was me in the middle of it.
The atmosphere was so tense all it felt like all it would take was one person to attack a demonstrator, and there would be a mass lynching. No one was calling for calm, the mayor, whose job should have been resolving things, was mysteriously away. Then two of the local morons shouted something that they thought was funny at the demonstrators. But it sounded so moronic that the crowd just laughed and dispersed. No one wanted that sort of thing anymore.
That is Populus both as a judge and witnesses. Everything is potential and reflective of the situation, and effectively, nothing happens. The Left and Right Witness are too busy reflecting each other, and the Judge demonstrates both of them. The result is a stalemate.
When Populus is a Judge of other figures, those figures are duplicated as left and right witnesses. So if you have two Rubeus or two Laetitia the Judge will be Populus. Some modern geomancers see this as meaning that nothing happens, good or bad. However, Cattan certainly does not see it that way. This is because the reflective nature of Populus means that it reflects, mimics and enforces the two witnesses. So a Rubeus left and right witness would be bad while Latititia would be good. Effectively Populus becomes either Rubeus or Latitia as it has no other evidence to rule. The Group has its leader and will act accordingly.
Something similar happens when Populus is a left or right witness. The Judge is whatever figure that Populus is not. So, if the left witness is Populus and the Right is Tristitia, the Judge will always be Tristitia. It is as if Populus was not there because it is just mimicking and following Tristitia.
Populus weirdness only happens when figures are added together, as they are in the court or shield chart. It does not occur when the chart is analysed. For example, Populus in the sixth house is looked at similarly to other figures with its standard associated meanings.