Many students of astrology learn the idea of the elements by reading an article online (like this one) or a chapter in a book. Often, they fail to connect these terms with the vivid sensory reality of the elements. In order to more thoroughly absorb the idea of how the elements affect a chart, try a couple of imaginative exercises to help you integrate the physical reality of the elements with their symbolic expression.
Experiencing the elements creatively
If you have only one planet or no planets in a specific element, you may have a difficult time appreciating that element. It can seem elusive, foreign and difficult to understand. You may even find yourself disliking people whose charts are heavy in that element. It is difficult to grasp the elements if we approach them solely on an intellectual level. Instead, try learning an element on a more experiential level. Some possibilities for this might be:
Fire: try a craft related to fire such as candlemaking or glassblowing. Go see a performance (or take a class in) fire-eating or fire-dancing.
Water: involve yourself in a very wet craft activity like papermaking. Or go swimming, ride close to the water in a canoe or kayak, or take a water ballet class.
Earth: learn a craft which involves shaping the raw materials of the earth like pottery or metalsmithing.
Air: making music an instrument which relies on your breath to make sounds–anything from a penny whistle to a flute to a trumpet; simply using your voice, whether to recite poetry, tell stories or jokes or sing songs can also put you in touch with the power of air if you do this consciously.
Positive expressions of the elements
Move from the concrete to the symbolic level to understand how the elements can influence behavior. There is no hierarchy among fire, air, water and earth. All four elements offer positive as well as negative forms of expression. Some of the positive uses of the elements in terms of behavior patterns include:
Water: fluid movement into other realms—dreams, intuition, clairvoyance; warming, comforting qualities like taking a hot bath or drinking a cup of tea
Earth: solidity, reliability, loyalty, structure and organization
Fire: the lightening strike of inspiration; the fires of passion; the warmth of community
Air: sound waves travel on air so it is the medium of communication; to air out a room is a method of cleaning it
Negative behavioral expressions of elements
It is usually easy for most of us to spot the negative expression of an element we lack, while it may be harder to notice the ways our own behavior is negative manifestation of an element which dominates our charts. Consider these meanings of the elements, paying particular attention to how your own words and actions may reveal a harsh version of a particular element.
Water: delusion–feeling lost at sea; drowning sorrows and worries through addiction; letting a tidal wave of emotions wash away all sense of connection and/or structure
Air-blowing smoke up someone’s butt, airhead, sniffing (even if not out loud) derisively at people, ideas, cultures that are different; polluting the air around you with negative words
Fire-burning anger and pride that destroys everything in its path
Earth- too many details like having sand everywhere; getting stuck in the mud; throwing stones
Which form of the element are you today?
Get to know the energy of your dominant element by noticing the different ways you may embody it each day.
Earth: are you a mudslide? a sand dune? a boulder? a cave?
Water: are you a frozen lake? a tsunami? a clear, quiet pool in a forest?
Fire: are you a raging forest fire? a flickering flame on a candle?
Air: are you a gentle breeze? a hurricane?
Combining the elements
This can apply to either a single individual expressing the combination of elements in her/his chart or to the way two people interact as their dominant elements merge or fight with each other. One example is earth plus water=mud. Mud can be used as a building material, or it can hinder progress like when a car gets stuck in the mud. Air plus water creates mist or fog, which can lend a romantic haziness to a landscape but can also make clear vision difficult. In what ways do you combine your own chart elements?
Once you integrate the notion of the elements more strongly into your perception of your own and others’ personality traits, your understanding of astrology will become deeper and more intuitive.