The "four elements
" of astrological tradition refer to the vital forces (or energies) that make up the entire creation that is commonly perceived by human beings. The four elements in a birth chart reveal the ability to participate in certain realms of being and to tune in to specific fields of life experience. These elements have nothing to do with the elements of chemistry and in fact transcend them completely.
The astrological birth chart
is drawn for the moment of first breath, that instant when we immediately establish our lifelong attunement with cosmic energy sources. The birth chart therefore reveals your energy pattern or cosmic attunement to the four elements. In other words, the chart symbolizes the pattern of the various vibratory manifestations that comprise the individual's expression in this plane of creation.
Fire, Earth, Air and Water Signs
The four elements—Fire
, and Water
—each represent a basic kind of energy and consciousness that operates within everyone. Each person is consciously more attuned to some types of energy than others.
The element of any sign that is emphasized in a chart (by significant planetary placement in that sign) shows a specific type of consciousness and method of perception to which the individual is strongly attuned.
"Fire Signs" express the warming, radiating, energizing life principle which can manifest as enthusiasm, faith, encouragement, and the drive to express self.
"Earth Signs" reveal an attunement with the world of physical forms and a practical ability to utilize and improve the material world.
"Air Signs" are correlated with the mind's sensation, perception, and expression, especially related to personal interaction and to geometrical thought forms and abstract ideas.
"Water Signs" symbolize the cooling, healing principle of sensitivity, feeling response, and empathy with others.
Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable Signs
One way of understanding these various energy patterns is to analyze them in terms of their modalities. Each of the four elements manifests in three vibrational modalities: Cardinal
, and Mutable
. Combining the four elements with the three modalities produces the twelve primary patterns of energy called the Signs of the Zodiac
The Cardinal Signs
"Cardinal Signs" correlate with the principle of action and symbolize initiating movements of energy in a definite direction.
The Fixed Signs
"Fixed Signs" represent concentrated energy gathered inward toward a center or radiating outward from a center.
The Mutable Signs
"Mutable Signs" are correlated with flexibility and constant change and may be conceived as spiralic patterns of energy.
Active and Passive Signs
The elements have traditionally been divided into two groups. Fire and Air being considered active
and self-expressive, and Water and Earth considered passive
, receptive, and self-containing.
This differentiation is of great importance in a wholistic approach to birth charts. These terms refer to the mode of operation of these energies and to the individual's method of self-expression rather than to a generalized quality that can be haphazardly and rigidly applied to all people in a certain category.
For example, the Water and Earth signs are more self-contained than the Fire and Air signs in that they live more within themselves and don't allow themselves to project their essential energy outwardly without a good deal of caution and forethought. However, this enables them to build a solid foundation for action. The Fire and Air signs are more self-expressive since they are always "getting it out," pouring forth their energies and life-substance unreservedly (at times ignoring limits completely): the Fire signs by direct action and the Air signs by social interaction and verbal expression. This classification of elements, and the fact that the signs of the same element (e.g., Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius—all Fire) and of the elements in the same group (e.g., Taurus & Pisces = Earth & Water) are considered to be generally "compatible," is of the greatest importance not only in the interpretation of individual charts
but also in the art of chart comparison.
Each sign of a specific element is a different mode of expression of the same elemental energy and represents a different level of development and pattern of energy.