EARTH: The Element + Signs

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!


WATER: The Element + Signs

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.