The world exists inside of space, which the ancients called “ether.” It is made of four fundamental ingredients:
What the ancients called “earth” is the thing which makes the solidity in all the solid things around you. “Water” is what they called the thing that makes things become liquid and fluid. “Fire” is the state of energy itself – anything around you emitting energy has within it the fire element. “Air” is what creates gaseous things, like, well, like the air you are breathing.
We were taught in school to think of the world as being made by solids, liquids, gases and energies. These are just contemporary names for earth (solids), water (liquids), air (gases) and fire (energy).
1) Earth is stable, solid and fertile.
2) Water is reflective, deep and flexible.
3) Fire is simultaneously dangerous & important.
4) Air is quick and brings sensation to the skin.
Always keep these keywords in mind whenever you are trying to understand what the elements do in astrology.
As you can see in the diagram, there are three zodiac signs for each element. Lets talk first about my personal favorite topic: water.
Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are the three signs created by water. What we want to do right now is just understand the first layer of meaning by exploring what water means and how this trait is held in common by all the three signs that water creates.
Water is the only element that makes reflections. If you look into a pool of water you can almost always see a reflection of yourself. The main quality of water in astrology is that it provides resources for your to reflect upon yourself. The water signs – Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces – share (to different extents) that quality. They need and love and want to reflect upon themselves. So water signs have a lot of potential to be either self-absorbed or self-realized. You know, these are just two opposite extremes of the same pole. Water creates signs with a reflective environment. Surrounded by reflections of oneself one can become narcissistic and self-absorbed on one extreme or enlightened and self-realized on the other.
I’ll risk being a little repetitive to just remind you one more time that we are talking about generalities, and you must not forget that. We are only talking about one of the four factors making a sign. And even when we fully integrate all four factors, we will still only be talking about one sign. Astrology states unequivocally that every individual is a combination of all twelve signs in various proportions. So, at least for a while resist the urge to say, “Oh so and so is a Pisces, and this totally is right!” Or, “No way, so and so is Cancer and she is the total opposite of what you just said.”
Water is not only reflective, it also tends to be deep. The reflections of yourself seen on the mirror of water are deep things which pull you into them like Alice’s wonderland mirror. Water signs encourage deep reflection. In other words water encourages emotional response – “depth.”
Besides being deep and reflective, another key characteristic of water is that is is “ripply” and flexible. It flows around things, changing shape. Water and straight lines don’t go together. Water forms drops – round drops. Water does not reflect upon things with a the sharp focus of a microscope and ruler. It reflects instead with the round softness of intuition. Thus water allows us to comprehend ourselves in ways that are beyond the reach of the logical mind. On the low end of the spectrum water can create the tendency to be completely baffled and confused by ones own emotional image, and to lose all rational grip on what the world really looks like. But on the high end of the spectrum water gives the ability to transcend the limits of linear logic and directly reflect upon the divine images of self and of Godhead.
Water, along with earth, is a feminine element. Water is more female than earth. All water and earth signs are female signs. But I think it is redundant to separately explain what that means. By understanding water and earth you will automatically understand the zodiac concept of the high and low potentials of femininity.
Earth creates three of the zodiac signs: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. These signs will all share earth traits to different extents and in different variations. Earth is stable, solid and fertile. Earth signs are all interested in creating a stable and solid foundation in life, so that they can grow economically.
On the negative end, the earth element makes us superficial and materialistic – only caring about tangible things and financial stability. But on the positive end earth makes us very responsible and allows us to relish our practical duties and accomplishments.
Earth is stubborn and slow. That is a negative way of putting it. To put the same thing in a positive light, earth is reliable, steady and sure. If you try to explain something to the earth element, be patient. TIf you are trying to mold the earth into a new shape, you need to be strong. The earth resists change. We need bulldozers big tools to significantly change the shape of the earth! You can’t quickly or easily change the opinion of an earth sign. ake your time. But know that the work you put in will be well worth it, because the earth will never forget the new shape you have molded it into.
So earth interests us in becoming solid and fertile for economic growth. It is a very strong, slow and steady.
Now it’s time to discus the masculine elements, fire and air. Let’s start with the most masculine element, fire. It creates three zodiac signs: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. These three signs manifest the traits of fire, each in its own unique way.
Fire is the most dangerous element, but at the same time the most useful. Popular history of humankind always talks about “The Quest for Fire” and all that, saying that the ability to control fire was a huge turning point setting humans apart from other animals. Indeed with fire we could cook, bring warmth into the cold, and light into the darkness. But if fire can provide for us and take care of us better than any other element, it can also hurt and destroy us faster than anything else as well.
So fire creates the ability to organize society out of the darkness of chaos, and provide “warmth” and sustenance to humankind. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius all share the leadership potential of fire in their own ways.
But fire also creates the potential to destroy. Indeed the same social structures we create for safety wind up destroying one another in wars which result from excess ambition and lack of sensitivity to the rights and needs of others. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius all share this potential fire-oriented flaw.
On the bright side, fire creates people who can lead, organize and provide for others. But on the negative side, the same ambition which creates the leadership skills can cause disaster, fights, anguish and war.
Gemini, Libra and Aquarius are the three zodiac signs built from air. Stand out in the breeze. Not even fire or rushing water can move as fast as air. And when it blows across your skin you feel sensations. So all the air signs are, in various ways, connected to quickness and tactile sensation.
Air can create vagabonds who just blow about in the wind from one place to another with no root, and no “feet on the ground.” This air makes guys who just fly from place to place not caring about anything except a quick and superficial sensation before they blow away to some other unimportant destination. On the other end of the spectrum air creates pure genius: the ability to quickly come up with a way “out there” idea and make it a tangible reality. Air is quick, and the air signs make us quicker and lighter. So on one side air can make us lose stability in life as a result of only caring about superficial sensations, but on the other side air gives us the ability to quickly change direction and leap to new levels of perception.
- Vic DiCara
© 2010 Vic DiCara, All Rights Reserved