Astrology 101 - Elements
I'm inspired to write a series of blog posts covering some basics of Astrology. I have found the language of astrology to be so relevant for explaining and understanding many qualities of life experiences - and see this language of myth, energies, and archetypes as a tool that has helped me (and many others) see the world with greater clarity. My hope is that I can create a series of posts that help you understand the words and symbols of this astrological language in a deeper way, and perhaps you'll find some relevance and clarity here as well.
When learning Astrology, a good place to start is with the Elements. The zodiac wheel is divided into 12 signs and houses, and each of these signs is divided into four groups of three signs each. These groups of three are also known as Triplicities and they are divided into the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Each element symbolizes a fundamental characteristic that each grouping shares, though the expression may vary from sign to sign. We all have the four elements within us at all times, yet our personality and the core of who we are may sway more easily towards one or two of the elements while struggling to interact with the others. The elements can be seen as a core foundation of the archetypical role that one is here to play and interact with, and this can give us great clues about the types of experiences we have and what we need to learn from them.
The Fire Signs - Aries, Leo, Sagittarius. Fire signs are active, enthusisatic, explorational, inspired, confident, fun-seeking, and passionate. Fire represents the spark of life; the willpower, drive, passion, and motivation that pushes us forward towards movement and growth. Fire can represent both safety and danger; as we all know both the comfort and light of a warm fire as well as it's destructive potential to burn out of control
The Earth Signs - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn. Earth signs are practical and stable, patient, grounded, physical, hard-working and goal-oriented. Earth represents the stable and strong ground which we can use as a foundation to build or grow things. It is the structure of our embodied experience, the basis of which we experience life on this planet.
The Air Signs - Gemini, Libra, Aquarius. Air signs are intellectual, analytical, thinkers, communicators and idea generators. Air represents the mental aspects of life; how we think, talk, and socialize. When we speak, our words travel through the air creating vibrations that others hear. Our thoughts and ideas fluctuate and change as easily as the wind - sometimes a soft breeze and at other times a harsh gale.
The Water Signs - Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces. Water signs are emotional, intuitive, artistic, empathic, expressive, and nurturing. Water represents our moods and feelings which are always fluctuating with tides and currents while also representing the source of nourishment and life for all on Earth. Water connects us to the moon (the tides) and therefore connects us to the mysterious, unknown, intuitive and psychic abilities as well.
Here is another list of some qualities and associations of each element:
Try not to think of these elements as seperate things - take time to recognize how they all interact and work together in unique ways. Through history, alchemists and philosophers understood that the blending of these different elements created different results and outcomes. Through understanding the way the elements interact we can get a clearer picture of all interactions and circumstances around us being . . . "Elemental, dear Watson".
Examples: Air supports Fire. Without air, a fire will go out. However, apply too much air and either the fire can be blown out, or become too large and fierce.
Water supports Earth. All of life on earth needs water to flourish and survive. However, apply to much water and the earth can lose it's solid quality - it becomes muddy and flooded.
Earth directs or holds water. Water is not a soilid, it has no shape but takes on the shape of whatever container is holding it. The earth provides structures for the water - oceans, rivers, mountainsides that the rain flows down, etc. Without earth, water can be directionless, formless. Air can sometimes hold water too... the clouds that form in the sky are water in the form of vapor. When the conditions are just right, these clouds of Air and Water can create friction which makes fire - lightning! Fire can boil or evaporate water, and water can douse a fire. Air can move water around with wind (waves or rain). Earth can block or direct the air with its shapes and structures, and Air also plays a role in shaping the Earth.
Granted this is all an over-simplication of science which is a lot more complex and refined in our current understanding - but I have found that looking at the way the elements interact has also given great clues as to how the signs interact with each other in Astrology. In general, Water and Earth get along well, as do Fire and Air - yet there needs to be a balance as demonstrated by nature. We can learn to balance these energies both internally and externally with some awareness of how these elements interact with each other in both harmonious and non-harmonious ways.
Taking things a little further
I'll talk more about Aspects in another post but the photo above does a great job showing how the Triplicities create Trines. A Trine is a harmonious aspect between two planets who occupy signs in a Triplicity grouping. For example, I have Mercury in Capricorn (Earth) and Mars in Virgo (Earth) and these planets create a Trine as they are 120 degrees apart. While they are in different signs, the shared element (Earth) gives these planets a common mode of operation and therefore they are generally supportive of eachother in the natal chart.
The opposing signs (Polarities) are two signs on the opposite side of the zodiac wheel. In many ways they are opposite by nature, but the opposition is a harmonizing and balancing force between the two signs. You will notice that all the opposing signs are either in Earth-Water pairs or Fire-Air pairs. This is another general example of how Earth and Water tend to compliment or support eachother, and the same for Fire and Air. The Polarities may have different signs, but they share an energy expression that is best known as Yin or Yang. Water and Earth Signs are considered Yin polarity, while Air and fire are considered Yang polarity. All the signs are either seen as Yin (receptive) or Yang (expressive) and when you look at the polarities (opposing signs) you find that both signs of the pair are either Yin or Yang. For example look at the Opposition between Virgo and Pisces. Virgo is Earth and Pisces is Water, both signs are considered Yin.
"The elements have traditionally been divided into two groups, fire and air being considered active and expressive, and water and earth considered passive, receptive and self-repressive. These two groups are the same as the basic divisions of chinese philosophy: yin (water & earth) and yang (fire & air). They are also identical with the Greek conception of two expressions of energy: Apollonian (fire and air, which actively and consciously form life) and Dyonisian (water and earth, which represent forces that manifest more unconsciously and instinctively)"
--Stephen Arroyo, M.A. from the book "Astrology, Psychology and The Four Elements".
Examine the Elements in your own Natal Chart. Make a list with four columns - Fire, Earth, Air, Water. Under each element write down what planets you have in that element through signs in your chart.
Here is mine: FIRE EARTH AIR WATER
Neptune Sun Venus Moon
Mercury Pluto Uranus
As you can see, I'm earth-dominant in my chart. Some Air and Water, and very little fire. I like stability and structure, but sometimes lack the willpower or motivation to get moving . . . especially if it involves changing my routine! ( As seen by low fire energy in my chart) Expressing emotions or communicating is sometimes a challenge as can be seen by lower air and water presence in my chart.
You can see how just looking at the elements has given a basic groundwork or foundation to begin reading the chart and understanding the language of astrology. It can even help on a day-to day basis. As I track the moon and other planets moving through signs each day, my first thought is to what element they are in. This gives me a broad-scale basis for understanding the energies at play each day and how I might best interact with those. Today the moon is in an Air sign, no wonder I'm motivated to write and share! Thank you, moon for boosting a little extra air energy my way!
I look forward to bringing you more in this Astrology 101 series right here at Hestia's Muse!
If you're interested in a more detailed one-on-one session I am happy to walk you through the basics of your natal chart with an Astrology Reading. Make sure to subscribe, or follow me on Facebook and Instagram so you don't miss any updates to the blog! Have a blessed day
~ Hestia's Muse