The MOOn says “I FEEL + I NEED.”
Earth can be just as unsettled as the other three elements (water, air, and fire), but it actually represents quite the opposite: stability. It is solid, foundational – sometimes to the point of rigidity – and it aligns with what is practical, traditional, and secure. Earth is structural. And, while we can use our senses to touch water, smell air, and see fire, earth is unique in that it truly requires the sensual part of our nature. It may be one of the easiest elements to understand because we can see it, feel it, touch it, mold it, walk on it everyday.
Simply put, earth is tangible. It corresponds to the material and the sensual planes of existence. Sensing this earthly quality is key to understanding the three earth signs in Astrology: Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. If you recall in the Air: The element & its signs article, there are three modes for every element: mutable, cardinal, and fixed. Taurus is the fixed earth sign; Virgo is the mutable earth sign; Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign. To imagine a tree from root to tip is to really understand the growth of these three earth signs, Taurus to Capricorn.
Taurus comes at the beginning of the Astrological archetype (the second sign in the zodiac), and it corresponds to the very base of our Being – think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid (food, shelter, clothing, monetary stability, our security). It is the root of the metaphorical tree. However, it does not simply master subsistence – its ruling planet Venus brings beauty to our sustenance so that we can truly taste, appreciate, and enjoy our foods; design, mend, and create fashionable clothing; win the lottery yet still keep our old savings account.
Next is the lovely Virgo. Now that the metaphorical tree is rooted, logically, analytical and practical Virgo ought to step in and help. Literally. Virgo is the service and health-oriented sign, which rests on analysis and practicality. In order to keep Taurus’ Venus energy under control (earth is about keeping things grounded, remember), humble Virgo makes sure we keep the foundation strong and secure by staying healthy and making rational, practical choices. Virgo is the trunk to that metaphorical tree. When all is fundamentally secure, and since Taurus is more about self-security, it only makes sense (at least to a Virgo) that Virgo would have the reserve resources to extend help and service to others.
Finally, Capricorn ends the earth cycle – no surprise it’s the cardinal earth sign of stability rounding out the earth signs. It’s fitting for the earth element start with fixed Taurus, leave room for growth and movement in the middle with mutable Virgo, and end with constant, cardinal Capricorn. Capricorn is the mirror to the root of the metaphorical tree, branching out and up instead of down and deep; no longer hidden, the roots are flourishing. Capricorn is akin to one’s career and long-term goals – it is our ambition, our struggle to rise to our peak. The animal symbol for Capricorn is the mountain goat – here we are at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, the top of the mountain.
Now that you understand the earth element, go outside and enjoy it! Build a sand castle, volunteer to teach rock-climbing, hike up a mountain or just get some grub. Exemplify the earthly element any way you can!
It’s 70% of you, and it’s 70% of the earth. It can be fresh, salty, stale, flow as a liquid, harden into a solid, and even linger in the air. Water. Water is an element that can take on all of these various forms, and this quality reflects what it symbolizes in Astrology: our emotions, our instincts, and our sensitivities.
If you think about all of the ways we can see water in daily life – from a placid lake, to our running tap water, to a crashing waterfall – you can start to sense how emotion and sensitivity emulate this element. Pivotal is the fact that water is a reactive element. The water in the lake isn’t going to move unless something else moves it. The running tap water is (hopefully) in our control, from the gentle drip to the gushing jet flow. The water before a precipice, which gravity controls, ironically appears to move quicker and more out of control before it crashes onto itself. In any case, water responds to whatever environment it finds itself in.
And so the water signs in Astrology do the same: they epitomize emotion, sensitivity, and instinctual reaction to the perceived environment; they are constantly moved by their realities. Of course, cardinal Cancer, fixed Scorpio, and mutable Pisces can certainly move us with their sensitive features too. Cancer, for instance: this sign is the protective mother in the zodiac (and whether we like or not, we are moved by our mothers even if only through birth). Traditionally, the mother is linked to the home – and that’s just what Cancer is about: protecting and maintaining the home. The Moon, which controls the tides like clockwork, is the ruler of this water sign, and this constantly moving display of immovability and permanence in nature exemplifies Cancer’s acute awareness of balance (it is a cardinal sign, after all). Cancer partners its perspective of the environment with the past – an unsurprising perspective as the tides’ perpetual patterning of movement, the somehow changing constancy of water succinctly echoes such a view.
Fixed Scorpio is next in the water trilogy. A scorpion represents this sign, and powerful Pluto (it’s still a powerful symbol in Astrology whether you want to define it as a planet or not) is its ruler; before Pluto was discovered, Mars was Scorpio’s ruling planet, which if you recall in Fire: the element & its signs, Mars is a planet designated to represent war and assertion. No matter how you look at it, Scorpio is the all-powerful! Or so it reacts. Scorpio energy is, ironically, powerfully reactive – that means it must be affected by something, which means something else must have the power to move it. It’s a Catch-22 (or a power struggle created by Scorpio’s perspective on its outside environment): at the very least, Scorpio is effectively overpowered by its own emotional power. You never know what will move a Scorpio, for better or worse – this passionate water sign may sting you like a scorpion when you least expect it!
Pisces, the mutable water sign, finishes the earth water cycle and the Astrological archetype, as it is the last sign in the zodiac. Ruled by elusive Neptune, Pisces has a sort of otherworldly, illusory quality about it. It is reactive, but it tends to engage its surroundings in the reactive process as well. So when a swimmer dives into a pool, and we think he has gone to the left, we are baffled and amazed that he has actually gone to the right. Pisces elucidates this puzzling, shifty nature of water – and you can trust that that’s all Pisces will make clear because the point of Pisces is to blur the details so as to see the full picture: all is One. Of course we had to go through 11 categorical signs before reaching this realization. Thanks a lot Pisces. Oops! Just reacting with misdirected blame there! Sorry Pisces.
Of the four elements – earth, water, air, and fire – air is the only one we cannot see directly. We can feel it, we can see its effects, but not even in the instance of a tornado can we see more than one possible form or shape of air (thanks to the debris such strong winds can pick up). This detail echoes what air symbolizes: air correlates to the intellect, the mind, and the exchange of information and ideas. It is an abstract element, and it deals with abstract things. Even writing an article like this one doesn’t offer a concrete, tangible expression of air because words and letters are inert symbols in themselves. It is the mind, the intellect, the element of air that breathes life into these otherwise dead symbols.
Appreciating this ethereal quality to air is significant if one wants to get a real feel for the three air signs in the Astrological archetype: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. All three of these signs tend to the mental plane of existence but in different ways. What first distinguishes them is their mode: the manner, form or pattern in which something exists. There are three modes for every element: mutable, cardinal, and fixed. What further sets these air signs apart are their planetary rulers: Mercury for Gemini, Venus for Libra, and Uranus (Saturn traditionally) for Aquarius.
Without getting into detail on the planets for now, it might be easiest to first understand the modes as they correlate to the progression of seasons. For example, Gemini lands itself in the middle of spring, which makes sense because that’s when the air is changing, that’s when the air is mutable – Gemini is the mutable air sign. Conversely, Aquarius stands rather rigidly in the dead of winter, when the air feels stale, flat, and fixed – Aquarius is the fixed air sign. Libra is in the middle of these two, and it lands itself in the fall when the air is stable yet changing; it feels balanced (Libra’s keyword) in its cardinal position– Libra is the cardinal air sign.
There is so much more that goes into understanding each air sign – there is so much more to communicate! Understanding the planetary rulers to these signs is an important aspect to understanding each sign itself; however, that information will be shared in later posts. Plus, even writers need fresh air.
**A Gemini-like tidbit – Virgo, an earth sign also ruled by Mercury, creates an interesting fractal to the element of air: it is the only other sign that crosses over into the mental plane of existence.
Fire burns earth, consumes air, and can blaze on and in water. Fire appears to destroy, and yet its destruction is itself destroyed by creation. It can be unpredictable, though it can also be controlled and contained. Fire is the only element that produces its own light as it burns through any and all potential energy. All of these qualities of this element correspond to how fire is understood in Astrology: fire is the intuitive, the passionate and the creative or expressive.
While all four elements deal with our feeling nature in some way (sensual earth, emotional water, and thoughtful air), fire points to our “gut” feelings. Not to be confused with instinctual feeling, fire is more precisely aligned with intuition. It’s that voice in the back of your head or in the middle of your heart telling you what you ought and ought not do – that part of you that just knows. Instinct is of a more watery nature; linked more to survival, instinct tends to breed action without thought whereas intuition allows for thought to precede, surge through, and follow action.
This detail is noteworthy because it helps to shape the first of the three fire signs: Aries. Aries is the cardinal fire sign, and its planetary ruler is Mars. Mars is a raw, power planet and it is traditionally associated with war and assertiveness. Aries’ energy expresses itself as such, which can sometimes come off as aggressive or offensive – there is the perception that thought doesn’t occur until after action with this energy. At any rate though, Aries is still not instinctual – it is raw intuition, primal passion, and impulsive drive. Aries is definitely a go-getter; racing through life, this fire sign is that first big blaze, that initial spark.
Leo follows Aries, and this fixed fire sign is situated dead center in that brilliant heat of summer. That intense scorching, searing sun that we see and feel at the end of July through the end of August succinctly typifies Leo’s fire. Leo is, in fact, ruled by the Sun – a light so bright that it damages our eyes if we stare into it for too long. Leo is all about the Self and the Will – it is the light inside of us that will be seen and heard, and it will shine when it wants, how it wants, and where it wants. (It is no wonder a lion represents this dramatic display of fire). This type of fire is usually contained (remember, regal lion is Leo’s animal symbol), but it most certainly must be self-contained. If pride is hurt or loyalty betrayed (if you rub a lion’s mane the wrong way), this type of fire may raze (and raise) some eyebrows!
Finally, freedom-loving, philosophical Sagittarius finishes out the fire element. Sagittarius is the mutable fire sign, and it is most definitely not contained fire. Sagittarius scatters its energy in a big way – it is ruled by jovial Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. You never know where ever-changing Sagittarius will be from one day to the next, but you can bet fun will not be lacking! In fact, intuition suggests you get out there and travel with a Sagittarius right now! Stop reading, start packing – no, don’t even pack, just go!