The theory that the nature and complexity of the universe is explainable with the existence and interaction of five basic elements had been a common pre-scientific concept in most cultures from ancient times until the beginning of the scientific revolution in the 1600s.
The interpretations of different cultures – and often even individual philosophers of the same era and society – differ widely on the attributes, interactions and relations of these elements, but the descriptions of the fundamental character of the five elements are surprisingly similar. Fire, air (wind), water and earth were considered the four ‘material’ elements, with a usually more abstract fifth element called aether, void, akasha, spirit – only to name a few.
These theories had been an essential component of scientific and everyday thinking, religion and mythology, philosophy, physics and medicine through centuries – no wonder that the symbolism of the elements is deeply connected to both western and eastern astrology, and the conscious or unconscious associations of certain qualities with one of the elements are still present in 21th century modern men’s thinking.
Astrology assigns each of the 12 signs to one of the four elements in three cycles, and a birth chart altogether represents the fifth element: the Spirit. The assigned signs and the associated principal qualities are as follows:
FIRE – Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Fire is impulsive, rush and ardent, it’s action and energy, creation and will. It’s the beginning, the force that suddenly changes things, the active power that keeps the world moving. Fire is revolution and renewal, without it there’s no development, but it can also destroy everything – just to start something new from the ashes.
EARTH – Taurus, Virgo, Capricornus
Earth is solid, warm and firm, it’s stability, the strength of consistency and durability. It’s the known things, the safety of predictability, the unchanging cycles of nature. Earth is life and nurturing, but it can be heavy and dull, blocking everything outside the limits of the known territory.
AIR – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Air is lightness, movement and interaction, the power of the capability to adaptation. It’s observation, communication and reaction, constant changing and morphosis. Air is the invulnerability that comes from mutability, but also the passiveness, hesitance and detachment of that approach.
WATER – Cancer, Scorpius, Pisces
Water is intuitiveness, pureness and passion, the world ruled by the emotions. It’s the unidentifiable connection to a deep, irrational and unmaterial level of existence that every living being feels sometimes. Water can be a silent, slow and soft energy that quietly works in the background, but it can also be an invincible power that uncontrollably washes away everything standing in its way.