The Signs of the Zodiac and the Elements

In the previous lessons, you've learnt that there are ten planets and twelve signs of the Zodiac. You know their symbols and you are somewhat familiar with their symbolic meanings. You also know that the planets travel along the Zodiac, and at a certain moment in time, say, when a person is born, the planets occupy specific positions in the Zodiac. A snapshot of the planets' positions against the Zodiac, as well as in relation to the local horizon in the place of birth, makes the basis of the person's horoscope (also known as his or her natal chart).

After the horoscope is calculated, we can apply the rules of astrology, plus our own knowledge and experience, to try and understand the person's potential, talents, strengths and weaknesses. Today, we'll begin the study of the rules that will help us to extract a meaning from the horoscope.

Each person has in his or her horoscope all the ten planets and all the twelve signs of the Zodiac. What makes the difference between different horoscopes is that the planets occupy different positions in different signs, and also the Zodiac is positioned differently relative to the local horizon.

Today, we are going to concentrate on the positions of the planets in the signs of the Zodiac, what information they can give us. First of all, we need to learn the two important classifications of the Signs of the Zodiac: the Elements and the Qualities.

The Elements

Philosophical and esoteric traditions teach us that everything in the material world is made of the four Elements: Fire, Air, Water and Earth. Each Sign of the Zodiac belongs to one of the four Elements (it is very important to remember this classification):

  • The Signs of Fire: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
  • The Signs of Air: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini.
  • The Signs of Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.
  • The Signs of Earth: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo.

Each Element has certain important qualities, and the three signs that belong to that Element share its qualities in a certain way, although each of them provides a unique manifestation of the Element's qualities.

Very briefly, Fire's important attributes are energy, activity, enthusiasm, idealism.

Air is predominantly about communication, information and connectedness.

The main qualities of Water are emotionality, mysteriousness, synthesis and a strong interest towards the hidden side of life.

Earth is mainly practical, pragmatic and materialistic.

All this sounds a little bit too theoretical so far but as we've said, astrology is an applied philosophy. So the distance from theory to practice shouldn't be too long, and now we are going to prove that.

The Balance of the Elements in a Horoscope

To remind you yet again, each horoscope has in it all the ten planets and all the twelve signs, but the distribution of the planets across the signs is different. Some signs can have several planets in them while others might have no planets at all.

If we calculate the number of planets in the signs that belong to the same Element, we'll get an idea of how strongly the given Element is represented in the person's personality and life.

Some people have all the four Elements represented more or less equally. That's a universal type of personality that can be good in many things but without any exceptional talent in some specific area.

Most people though have one or two predominant Elements, and they feel themselves more comfortable in the activities and situations that are typical for those strong Elements. On the other hand, the remaining Elements might be under-represented in their horoscopes.

Predominant Fire gives a person a powerful source of energy. Someone who has a fiery horoscope is very eager to do something, to act, to find a use for his or her energy. This person is typically optimistic, and only serious obstacles or lengthy periods of bad luck can temporarily reduce his or her level of optimism. A fiery person is usually more than happy to share his or her energy, enthusiasm and ideas with the other people. They are the Movers and Shakers of the World.

A lack of Fire is typically manifested as a lack of own ideas and motivations. Such a person can be actually quite active, but since his or her own source of energy is weak, they might have to wait until someone else, with strong Fire, will give them an idea or elucidate the problem - then they'll begin to act.

Predominant Earth gives a person a materialistic, practical attitude. She or he has both feet on the ground and recognizes only those things that are tangible. An Earthy person is typically economical, thrifty, efficient, can do things well with his or her own hands, appreciates the material value of the objects of the surrounding world. Earth people are the Flesh of the World.

A lack of Earth can manifest itself as a lack of practicality, poor understanding of the realities of the world. Such people can have many beautiful plans and ideas but might be unable to implement them into anything real.

Strong Air makes a person communicative, curious, interested in all sorts of information. They connect different people and parts of the world, often acting as carriers for someone else's ideas, emotions or material things. Air people are the Blood and Nerves of the World.

A lack of Air reduces the person's ability to communicate. He or she can be very clever, but nobody might ever be able to guess that, just because of the lack of communication. Orientation in the surrounding world can be an issue, and being understood by the others is usually a problem for such people.

Dominating Water makes a person emotional, romantic, imaginative. Thanks to their ability to empathise and understand others without words, Water people play an important role in the human society. One could say that they are the Soul of the World as the Element of Water has an ability to bring together many disparate details and create from them something that is whole and live.

A lack of Water in a horoscope can manifest as a lack of imagination. The person lives in the world of dry logical schemes, without emotional support or intuitive understanding of the other people.

Of course, these interpretations are here only to help you to start thinking. You will gain more understanding by studying the horoscopes of the people you know and seeing how their individual balance of Elements manifests in their personalities and their lives.

At this point you would probably wish to have some more detailed instructions on how to calculate the balance of the Elements in a horoscope, and here they are coming.

Calculating the Balance of the Elements

First of all, let's select some horoscope to work with. There is an invaluable collection of horoscopes for many, many different people, including many celebrities: Astro-Databank. This is where I found the birth data for Angelina Jolie, one of my favourite actresses. She was born on the 4th of June, 1975, at 9:09 am in Los Angeles.

I've created Angelina's horoscope using Solar Fire, a popular professional astrological program. Here is the result:

Angelina Jolie's Horoscope

By now, you should be able to find out which planet is located in which sign, so I will not list all the positions in the text. There are two factors in this horoscope that you might not be familiar with: Chiron and the North Node. Just ignore them for now. From time to time, you will meet in horoscopes some elements that you are not familiar with, so isolating Chiron and the North Node here might be a useful exercise.

There are two possible approaches to calculating the balance of the Elements in a horoscope. The simplest one is to calculate the number of planets in each of the Elements.

Let's see. Angelina Jolie has Mars, the Moon and Jupiter in Aries, and Neptune in Sagittarius. Alltogether four planets in Fire signs.

She has the Sun and Mercury in Gemini, Uranus and Pluto in Libra - alltogether four planets in Air signs.

Finally, there are two planets in Cancer, Venus and Saturn, which makes two planets in Water signs.

This gives us the following conclusion: a predominantly Fiery and Airy person. There is also some water that helps her to be charming but no Earth whatsoever - so we might guess she is not the most practical person in the world.

Another way to calculate the balance of the elements would be to take into consideration the relative importance of different planets in the natal chart.

The Sun and the Moon are very important, they are the Luminaries, so when calculating the balance of the Elements I would usually give them three points each. The personal planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars) are next in importants, so I would give them two points each. All the rest of the planets will have only one point. Of course, you are free to modify this system according to your own experience.

Let's see how the calculation will be different now.

Fire: Mars (+2), the Moon (+3), Jupiter (+1), Neptune (+1), alltogether 7 points.

Air: the Sun (+3), Mercury (+2), Uranus (+1), Pluto (+1), also 7 points.

Water: Saturn (+1), Venus (+2), alltogether 3 points.

In Angelina Jolie's case, the more detailed approach doesn't actually make any significant difference - although we do see that Fire and Air are really strong here, compared to Water - but in some other chart there can be a noticeable difference. Try to use both approaches when calculating the balance for your friends and family.

There is another interesting approach to estimate the overall balance of the horoscope: we could use the Qualities, and they could tell us something quite interesting about Angelina Jolie's personality. However, we are going to stop for now and leave the Qualities for the next lesson.