The Four Elements And What They Mean
Every single one of us has a personality completely and entirely unique to ourselves. Not a single person who has walked the earth before us or beside us has an identity that exactly mirrors our own. Some of us may be shy and passive individuals, while others are dynamic and bold adrenaline-junkies. Regardless, as we are all products of the universe, we are all intrinsically bound to the four natural elements of earth, water, air and fire. As the four elements each bear their own characteristics and energies, our personality types are influenced by them accordingly. The date and time at which we were born is most significant in discerning which elements have shaped us, but any special affinities we may feel for a particular element is also noteworthy.
Are the four elements recognised in other cultures?
Most ancient cultures held some form of belief in the power of the universe’s forces. For example, in Wicca, the four main elements are given prominence for their healing and spiritual properties alongside a fifth element signifying the spirit that exists within all of us. Moreover, Hippocrates’ Theory of the Four Humors contends that human physiology is closely interlinked with the earth’s elements and was a medical practice used for centuries to treat a variety of different ailments. Interestingly, even the four suits in Tarot are also representative of the four elements, revealing just how extensive and versatile this concept is.
Despite this, the most universally understood depiction of the four elements is its illustration in astrology. Each element is thought to have either a masculine or feminine energy which creates harmony and balance as they exist as a collective - harmony and balance is considered of the utmost importance in maintaining health and spiritual wellbeing by most ancient cultures. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the twelve astrological signs are balanced by the elements themselves, with four groups of three signs falling under earth, air, water and fire. As fire and air are of a more masculine energy, their astrological signs reflect this also; they tend to possess more assertive and communicative traits. As earth and water are ruled by far more feminine energies, their astrological signs tend to be of a more nurturing and emotional nature. Of course, many variations within the signs exist also, but understanding the overarching energy of each ruling element is a great place to start when getting to grips with astrology.
All of this talk about elements and energies may feel a bit abstract for many of us. One way to understand the concept better is by visualizing it through an analogy. Take a tree for example, and picture it in your mind in its entirety. Watch how the roots absorb water from the earth and notice how the leaves receive energy from the sun. As these elements work in unison to nurture and strengthen the tree, the tree produces oxygen, providing vital life to the air around us. Even at the end of a tree’s life, the four elements similarly come into play; a mighty fire, stirred by the surrounding air is needed to burn the tree’s bark into embers. Next, water is needed to quell the blaze and allow the ashes to become at one with the earth again, providing the nutrients needed for future saplings to sprout. As you can see, each element plays a crucial role in sustaining the tree; each element’s role is beautifully unique but would be meaningless without the presence of the others.
What are the characteristics of each element?
Fire is an element of passion, vigour and dynamism. The astrological signs that fall underneath this element are Aries, Sagittarius and Leo and these signs are characterized by their zealousness and dominant personalities. Sometimes, people of these signs may find that their fiery natures can translate into rigid stubbornness or aggressiveness. People of fire signs are well suited to those of water signs, as their energy and impatience is pacified by water’s soothing qualities. Fire is also closely tied to summer, so any individuals who have a lot of fire in their birth charts may find that they thrive in this particular season.
Earth is an element of stability, security and groundedness. The astrological signs that fall underneath this element are Capricorn, Virgo and Taurus and these signs are characterized by their practical minds and quiet steadfastness. An ‘earth’ friend is a dependable friend who can always be relied on. Despite this, the downfalls of people born under this element may include a lack of flexibility or resistance to change - they will find benefit in accepting that Mother Earth has their best interests at heart and straying from the plan might be part of that process. Nonetheless, a relationship between two people of this element is a beautiful and unbreakable partnership. Earth is also closely related to spring, as the barren planes of winter shift onwards, paving the way for future growth, nourishment and new life.
Water is an element of emotion, curiosity and thoughtfulness. The astrological signs that fall underneath this element are Scorpio, Cancer and Pisces and these signs are characterized by their mysteriousness and emotional sensitivity. Like the ever-changing tides of the ocean, people of water signs may find that they experience regular fluctuations in their moods, especially in accordance with the phases of the moon. The gravitational pull from the moon greatly impacts the movements of the earth’s oceans, thus people who fall under this element may notice a similar pattern occurring with themselves also. With this in mind, people of water signs may find that they struggle with feeling over-emotional and find that they are often unable to ‘switch off’ even when it is in their best interest to do so. In addition, the cool and bleak qualities of water is associated with winter, meaning people who are connected with this element have an affinity to this season.
Air is an element of intuition, communication and intellect. The astrological signs that fall underneath this element are Gemini, Aquarius and Libra. Many people would describe people of the air element to be non-conformist and deep thinkers who spend a lot of their time ‘with their head in the clouds’. Their spontaneous way of life resembles that of a breeze, the most free-spirited of the earth’s elements. Despite these charming qualities, sometimes air signs can be overly-impulsive and flighty. They make a great pairing with earth signs as earth signs can ground them and bring them back down to reality when need be. The season most closely aligned with this element is fall for its breezy, unpredictable weather and cool, crisp air.
How can we use the elements to our advantage?
As each element bears so many unique traits, naturally, we as individuals will respond differently to each. Some of us may feel a strong affinity to fire and warmth, viewing ourselves as sun-seekers. Others may feel revitalized when in the soothing presence of water. Typically, we are drawn to the elements that correspond with our astrological sign. Regardless, whatever element we find ourselves drawn to is indicative of how the universe can replenish us and our spirits. Below will be an outline of the various ways we can feel revitalized by tapping into the earth’s various elements.
For those who are drawn to fire, long evenings spent overlooking a burning orange sunset can be of great benefit for the soul. Enjoying the crackling heat of a campfire or the gentle flickering of a candle may also soothe the spirit and leave an individual feeling completely re-energised.
Those whose affinities lie with the earth may improve their wellbeing by spending extra time with Mother Earth. Taking long walks in nature and being mindful of the different senses aroused is a great way to boost one’s spirit. To really engage with this element, standing barefoot on the earth’s soil and visualizing the connection that exists between you both can help encourage stability for those who feel they would benefit from a little extra grounding.
Water is a deeply serene and tranquil element yet also an incredibly formidable and powerful natural force. Those who feel drawn to the mighty dichotomy of water may find they receive energy when swimming or sailing. Even an activity as simple as running a hot bath may be enough to revitalize a person whose heart lies with water.
The feeling of taking a deep breath on a cool, crisp morning is particularly healing for those with an affinity to the element of air. These individuals thrive when surrounded by the sounds of a gentle breeze and may feel energized when watching the clouds slowly shifting and moving in the midday sky.
In sum, each element bears its own unique characteristics and energies which serve to improve the wellbeing of many individuals. As the elements are so closely tied to our astrological signs, each sign is typically drawn to one element over the rest. This element and its individual energy can revitalize, replenish and improve the overall well-being of any person who feels a deep connection with it. It is important that once we have realised which element this may be for us, we engage as much as we can with its properties during times of low energy or imbalance. Ultimately, we can find greater balance and harmony within ourselves by tapping into the healing forces of the universe and thus it is encouraged that we do so in order to live our lives to the fullest.