In our last lesson we learned about gender in the horoscope (introversion and extraversion) and now is time that we move on to the second ingredient to prepare for interpretation which is the astrological elements. Additionally, everyone can get a copy of their horoscope which you can get for free on my website. If you do not understand the chart, you can always check out the tutorial that I created to help you understand your horoscope.
Introduction to the Elements of Astrology
Although many in the psychological field want to credit Jung with the foundation of the psychological types, it is in fact a system that has more classic roots. If one studies the works of Plato or Sicilian philosopher Empedocles one gets a whiff of a system that is much older than our modern lens and even ancient alchemists dipped their feet in the ambiguous world of matter. Astrologers have also used a “system” of types for over 2,000 years and they were referred to as elements – they are fire, earth, air, and water.
So, what are these mysterious elements that ultimately lead to Jung’s typological map?
“Everything that you know about the elements is absolutely the same when it’s applied to the signs. The four elements, then – fire, earth, air, and water – act the same way in human form as they do in their natural forms. We all know folks who can only be described as “fiery”, “earthy”, “airy”, or “fluid”. Each of these words describes the general temperament and basic motivation of the three signs that belong in its group.” (pg. 59)
The four groups are as follows:
Fire signs – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius,
Earth signs – Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air signs – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water signs – Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Although Jung did not originate the concept of elements, he did extrapolate them and make them understandable through a psychological lens. Jung felt that the functions (elements) reflects a particular mode of perception that would allow an individual to understand life through his conscious mind.
A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis (Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter, and Fred Plant) describes the functions as the following:
Some individuals are more excited or energized by the internal world and others by the external world; these are the introverts and extraverts respectively. But in addition to these basic attitudes to the world, there are also certain properties or functions of consciousness. Jung identified these as thinking – by which he meant knowing what a thing is, naming it and linking it to other things; feeling – which for Jung means something other than affect or emotion, a consideration of the value of something or having a viewpoint or perspective on something; sensation – which represents all the facts available to the senses, telling us that something is, but not what it is; and, finally, intuition, which Jung uses to mean a sense of where something is going, of what the possibilities are, without conscious proof or knowledge. A further refinement is that the four functions divide into two pairs – a rational pair (thinking and feeling) and an irrational pair (sensation and intuition). (para. 1 pg. 153)
Now, before we go further — Jung’s functions were not mean to be a form of “typecasting” or “profiling”. In fact, Jung believed that our “type” changed over time as new material is integrated from our unconscious into our conscious mind. (In Astro 201 we will learn an astrological tool called progressions which is a great way to explain Jung’s ‘change over time’ belief). However, we can translate Jung’s typology into astrological language. Thinking becomes air, feeling becomes water, sensation becomes earth, and intuition becomes fire.
Samuels, Shorter, and Plant go on to say:
“We are now in a position to describe a person’s overall style of consciousness and his orientation towards inner and outer worlds. Jung’s model is carefully balanced. A person will have a primary (or superior) mode of functioning, this will be one of the four functions. The superior function will come from one of the two pairs of rational or irrational functions. Of course the person will not depend exclusively on this superior function but will utilize a second, or auxiliary function as well. This, according to Jung’s observations, will come from the opposite pair of rational or irrational functions depending on whether the superior function came from the rational or irrational pair. Thus, for example, a person with superior function of feeling (from the rational pair) will have an auxiliary function of either sensation or intuition (from the rational pair)”. (para. 3, pg. 153-154)
Like all Jungian theories, typology can be extremely dense and takes a bit of consideration in order to understand its complexities. Let me break it down for you.
In our last lesson, we added up the gender polarities to help ascertain whether someone leans more introverted or extroverted. It might be beneficial for you to review that lesson once again. We will do that again for the signs – here is a cheat sheet for the astrological glyphs if you need them. I will list them out for those who are not familiar with the glyph symbols.
Here is a list of all the planets currently in the heavens at the time of this writing.
Moon – 10 Libra 37
Sun – 06 Sagittarius 39
Mercury – 20 Scorpio 24
Venus – 19 Capricorn 55
Mars – 25 Virgo 12
Ceres – 10 Libra 17
Jupiter – 19 Cancer 44
Saturn – 16 Scorpio 52
Chiron – 09 Pisces 09
Uranus – 08 Aries 44
Neptune – 02 Pisces 38
Pluto – 10 Capricorn 08
Fire planets – Sun in Sagittarius, Uranus in Aries
Earth planets – Venus in Capricorn, Mars in Virgo, Pluto in Capricorn
Air planets – Moon in Libra, Ceres in Libra
Water planets – Mercury in Scorpio, Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Scorpio, Chiron in Pisces, Neptune in Pisces
Based on the current planetary standings, the energy leans more towards introversion and dominated by water planets.
Activity 1: Get out your own chart. If you do not have a copy you can get one for free on my website. Use the instructions above and generate your own personal profile. What element dominates your chart?
Interpreting the Four Astrological Elements
Jung felt that each of the elements had an opposite and although they do not match up with astrological opposites (we will get into those when we do aspects), my experience has found them valid. Let me give you the quick astro-formula:
Thinking (Air) ————————————- Feeling (Water)
Intuition (Fire) ———————————— Sensation (Earth)
Activity 2: Get out your own chart. Which element dominates your chart? What is your opposite element? For example, if Water (Feeling) dominates your chart as it does in our example, then the opposite or shadow element is Air (Thinking).
Now, let’s go through the four elements.
The Fire Signs: (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
I decided to start with the most difficult to understand first. The element of fire corresponds with Jung’s idea of intuition. However, in modern pop culture, the word intuition is highly charged and is defined as anything from a “gut feeling” to “precognition and mediumship” – many of which would be more appropriately defined as perceptive. Fire signs, though, are not necessarily motivated by talking to the dead (although some may be) or being overly sympathetic and emotional, they are more concerned with potential and possibilities.
In mythology, the element of fire is assigned to the gods. It is volatile, imaginative, uncontainable, and separated the godhead from mere mortal flesh. The most famous story, of course, is Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals. Zeus has a fit and punishes Prometheus to hang off a mountain for eternity having his liver eaten out by an eagle. For the gods, worship by human beings is intrinsic to their survival. If humans could envision the future and/or experience insight (all fiery qualities), then the worship of deities (that are really not concerned with the plight of man) would become irrelevant.
So, what is this potent thing we call fire? Simply put, it is the power of the imagination. Fire is our ability to look into the future and hope for tomorrow, and all three of the fire signs have copious amounts of this inspired vision. You can find them everywhere using their creative powers to make the world a better place (which can often be as ill-conceived as any other vision). However, if the fire signs blaze has been snuffed out, it tends to smolder, is often angry, and can suffer maladies such as depression and apathy.
The biggest difficulty with the fire signs is that they have problems with physical reality. The world of rules, responsibilities, and structure are rather dull, banal, and boring for the fiery types. After all, fire cannot be contained and when it is trapped it will often burn itself out. Fire needs to be free in order to envisage a vast world of colorful creations in order to tap into their own unique style and purpose. Being ordinary is not acceptable and when one is entrusted with the element of the gods; it should be taken seriously.
The Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
The element of earth is the most tangible. We can see it, feel it, touch it, smell it, and taste it. It’s connected deeply to our senses and Jung referred to it as the function of sensation. The world of earth and its signs represent the material world. It’s our banking institution, our values, the rituals we do on a daily basis, our career, jobs, and our position in the world. Earth is the skin we wear that protects us from external influences and allows us to adapt to the physical world and survive. Earth signs are motivated by what they can achieve and what is accomplished after hard work is performed and these industrious signs will work endlessly to achieve their goals.
In mythology, the element of earth is symbolized by the Great Goddess. The Greeks called her Gaia and she represented the laws of nature and physical reality. She presides over the seasons, time, life, and eventually death. As human beings became more advanced, the worship of Gaia eventually became more humanized and morphed into the worship of her daughter Rhea and eventually her granddaughter Demeter (we will meet her when we study dwarf planet Ceres) who presided over the Eleusinian Mysteries. In the age of Judea Christianity, much of the worship of the cycles of time have been discarded by more fiery ideas of everlasting life and the redemption of the soul through faith, yet as much as we try to run from her domain, the goddess always (one way or another) comes to claim us.
Earth is what provides our lives with structure and foundation. You can find them thriving in the financial world, business management, pet clinics, and in our agricultural fields. Individuals who are dominated with earth have a need to actualize their desires in concrete form and tend to avoid areas of life that are “iffy” or based upon random speculation. If earth is not working properly within a horoscope, then problems with the body and health can begin to occur and in many cases blind fanaticism can erupt from their unconscious forcing them to form allegiances with curious bedfellows in order to feel grounded and stable.
The biggest difficulty for earth is the world of the irrational and intangible. For earth, if you can’t use one of your senses to experience something then it simply does not exist. However, this creates a black and white construct of the world, which often lacks color, originality, and spontaneity. Many later in life, often look back at a life that has been unlived and replaced by the pursuit of the physical which leaves one wanting more of the physical in order to feel accomplished. Earth needs reality and its ability to cope with the world is admirable, yet in order for earth to feel fully complete it needs to couple reality with inspiration and success to achieve individuality.
The Air Signs: (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius)
We move out of the world of the imagination and the physical realms and land smack in the middle of the vast fertile land of ideas which is what the air signs are all about. You see, they dig communication, education, understanding, and most of all sharing their ideas and opinions with others. The fastest way to drag an air sign down is to eliminate their freedom of speech and you strip them of their capability of relating to others.
In mythology, if one wants to breathe in the freshness of the airy realms, one only needs to look towards the heavens, which is the home of God or the mountainous realms of Olympus where the 12 Olympians Gods decree their will upon more chthonic mortals. Of the 12 Olympians, the daughter of Zeus, Athena, is the most humanized and represents the power of mental prowess and diplomacy. She is the goddess of Justice of the mental and cerebral worlds and it is through her domain that we have evolved into democratic societies with legal systems that are just and appropriate for the offenses committed. Further, through the Orestes myth, she formulates the first human jury – where an individual is judged by his peers rather than by the systems of authority alone. In essence, Athena represents progress. The progress of the human mind as it acquires knowledge and experience then applies it to everyday life.
Air represents the human mind which has the capacity to learn, think, and reason. It’s responsible for all those groovy and cool electronic devices that you have scattered throughout your house. Every time you make plans, create strategies, come up with that brilliant idea, or sit around in conversation with friends you are using the airy functions. In addition, air provides us with our capability of having relationships with others.
The difficulty for the airy realms is the world of emotions. They are messy, sticky, and overly connected to the instinctual realms. They can be overwhelmed by emotional outbursts or covert moods which air finds manipulative, controlling, and uncivilized. Although relationships are in the airy domain, this is an arena of great difficulty for many air signs because relationships require emotional connection and empathy not problem solving and rationalizations. At times, this gets air into enormous trouble because those of a more sensitive nature might feel undervalued or ignored. Although air needs the rational intellect, in order for air to evolve and live a more rounded life they need to embrace their feelings and primal connection to their roots which ultimately matter more to them than abstract ideas and concepts.
The Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
The element of water is magical, mythical, destructive, monstrous, and redemptive. Jung referred to water as the function of feeling in his typological system, and astrologically water refers to the world of human emotions. Water loves to feel – in fact it thrives on it. Water signs are usually found in the helping professions and doing good charitable works because it helps them inwardly feel connected to the human condition. They become connected to all of life which is the primal waters that the cold blooded creatures that represent the water signs crawled out of.
In Mythology, water deities are elusive, at best. In Greek myth, the lord of the seas is Poseidon who is not really that watery of a deity as he is most noted for being the god of earthquakes. In many myths, water is simply the primal life force that all life emerges and eventually the depths of where all life returns. In essence, the sea reflects the cycles of time and is a close cousin to the introverted earthy realms. Yet, whereas earth is structured and firm, water is elusive and mysterious and filled with monsters and creatures that have terrified people for aeons. However, behind that monster (which often reflects an inner monster) is the buried treasure that holds the secrets to our individuality.
Water is our connection to the instincts. It connects us to the primal world of the animal kingdom, which despite our modern airy attempts (see above) to rationalize and civilize society, we are part of. It joins us to our family and our roots, our heritage and our patriotism, and our urge to protect and sustain. The element of water connects us to the similarities of man rather than the differences, and through this experience we experience compassion, understanding, and unconditional love.
Water does have its weak points. Our urge to be part of a group and feel bound to other individuals, not only through our need for community and our binding connection through our DNA, often minimizes our need to be individual as a unique. Those with a strong emphasis of water, often have difficulties expressing their own opinions, and instead opt to repeat arching collective idealisms that are not truly their own. Although water signs often have strong values and loyalties, those values are often based on societal and familial allegiances rather than the true essence of their individual nature. For water to experience wholeness, it is necessary for them to leave the “pack” long enough for them to experience what they truly believe themselves and add those beliefs to society, rather than allow society to dictate and often dominate their lives.
In our next lesson, we will add modalities to our understanding of the astrological signs and then put it all together to give you a profile of your temperament. However, we will explore the elements more deeply as we begin to move through each astrological sign.
Please feel free to leave any questions or comments in the section below. If you are confused by anything or need further clarity, I am here to assist you.