Astrology and the classical elements

Astrology and the classical elements

Astrology has used the concept of classical elements from antiquity up until the present. In Western astrology and Indian astrology four elements are used, namely Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Chinese astrology uses a different system of elements totalling five, namely Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth.

Western astrology

In Western tropical astrology, there are always 12 astrological signs; thus, each of the four elements is associated with 3 signs of the Zodiac which are always located exactly 120 degrees away from each other along the ecliptic and said to be in "trine" with one another. Most modern astrologers use the four classical elements extensively, (also known as triplicities) and indeed it is still viewed as a critical part of interpreting the astrological chart.

Beginning with the first sign Aries which is a Fire sign, the next in line Taurus is Earth, then to Gemini which is Air, and finally to Cancer which is Water. This cycle continues on twice more and ends with the twelfth and final astrological sign, Pisces. The elemental rulerships for the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac (according to Marcus Manilius) are summarised as follows:

* Fire — 1 - Aries; 5 - Leo; 9 - Sagittarius - hot, dry, ardent
* Earth — 2 - Taurus; 6 - Virgo; 10 - Capricorn - heavy, cold, dry
* Air — 3 - Gemini; 7 - Libra; 11 - Aquarius - light, hot, wet
* Water — 4 - Cancer; 8 - Scorpio; 12 - Pisces - wet, soft, cold

Elements in classical astrology

Triplicity rulerships

In traditional astrology, each triplicity has several planetary "rulers," which change with conditions of sect – that is, whether the chart is a day chart or a night chart. Triplicity rulerships are a very important essential dignity – one of the several factors used by traditional astrologers to weigh the strength, effectiveness and integrity of each planet in a chart.

Triplicty rulerships (using the "Dorothean system") are as follows: [ "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus (with the Scholia of later Latin Commentators)". [Translated by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum.] Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts [ARHAT] [] , 2001. P.6. (This is a translation of Paulus' "Introduction" along with the "Commentary" by Olympiodorus and related Byzantine scholia.)]

"Participating" rulers were not used after the Hellenistic period. [ Joseph Crane, "A Practical Guide to Traditional Astrology." ARHAT publications (Reston, VA). 1997, 2007. ISBN 9-780966-226614. Pp.6-10. ]

Triplicities by season

In ancient astrology, triplicities were more of a seasonal nature, so a season was given the qualities of an element, which means the signs associated with that season would be allocated to that element. The seasonal elements of ancient astrology are as follows:

* Spring - Earth - Aries, Taurus, Gemini
* Summer - Fire - Cancer, Leo, Virgo
* Autumn - Air - Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius
* Winter - Water - Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

These associations are not given any great importance in modern astrology, although they are prominent in modern Western neopaganism, druidism and wicca

Elements in modern astrology

In modern astrology each of the elements are associated with different personality types. The following table summarizes their characteristics as follows:

Indian astrology

Indian astrology shares the same system as Western astrology of linking zodiac signs to elements. The following table gives the correspondences:

In addition, in Vedic thought each of the five planets are linked to an element (with ether as the fifth). It was said in the Veda that everything emanated from the one basic vibration of"Om" or "Aum." From "Om" the five elemental vibrations emerged representing thefive different tattwas (or elements). The five planets represent thesefive vibrations – Jupiter for Ether, Saturn for Air, Mars for Fire,
Mercury for Earth, and Venus for Water.

Chinese astrology

Chinese astrology uses the Five Elements of (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal,and Water, ) on top of the twelve animal signs in a sixty year cycle. These are modifiers and affect the characteristics of each of the 12 animal signs. Thus, each of the 12 animals are governed by an element plus a Yin Yang Direction.

Although it is usually translated as 'element' the Chinese word "xing" literally means something like 'changing states of being', 'permutations' or 'metamorphoses of being'. [ Wolfram Eberhard, "A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols", pg 93, pg 105, pg 309, Routledge and Keegan Paul, London, 1986 ] In fact Sinologists cannot agree on one single translation. The Chinese conception of 'element' is therefore quite different from the Western one. The Western elements were seen as the basic building blocks of matter. The Chinese 'elements', by contrast, were seen as ever changing and moving forces or energies - one translation of "xing" is simply 'the five changes'.

The balance of yin and yang and the five elements in a person's make-up has a major bearing on what is beneficial and effective for them in terms of feng shui, the Chinese form of geomancy. This is because each element is linked to a particular direction and season, and their different kinds of or life force. Each of the elements are also linked to a different planet.

木 Wood

*The planet Jupiter
*The east, spring
*The color green
*Liver and gallbladder
*Generous, warm, persuasive, co-operative, seeks to expand and grow
*Idealistic, ethical, enthusiastic, seeks to explore Wood governs the Tiger, Rabbit, and Dragon.

火 Fire

*The planet Mars
*The south, summer
*The color red
*Circulatory system and heart
*Dynamic, energetic, passionate, enterprising, adventurous, restless
*Competitive, leadership skills, strong, single-minded, loves a good laugh

Fire governs the Snake, Horse and Sheep.

土 Earth

*The planet Saturn
*Center, three enclosures, change of seasons
*The color yellow
*Digestive system, spleen and stomach
*Patient, prudent, stable, reliable, hard-working, ambitious, stubborn, and very energetic
*Disciplined, logical, governed by service and duty to others

Earth governs the Dragon, Rat, and Ox. It is the central balance of the elements and can lend qualities to all 12 animals as well.

金 Metal

*The planet Venus
*The west, autumn
*The color white
*Respiratory system and lungs
*Determined, self-reliant, unyielding, strong, persistent, forceful
*Reserved, needs personal space, sophisticated, seeks pleasure Metal governs the Monkey, Rooster, and Dog.

水 Water

*The planet Mercury
*The north, winter
*The color black
*Skeletal/excretory system and lungs
*Diplomatic, charming, intuitive, compassionate, sensitive, creative
*Flexible, compliant, good at communication, intellectual

Water governs the Pig, Rat, and Ox.

Element cycles

The doctrine of five phases describes two Cycles of Balance, a generating or creation (生, "shēng") cycle and an overcoming or destruction (克, "kè") cycle of interactions between the phases.

*Wood feeds Fire;
*Fire creates Earth (ash);
*Earth bears Metal;
*Metal collects Water and
*Water nourishes Wood.

*Wood parts Earth;
*Earth absorbs Water;
*Water quenches Fire;
*Fire melts Metal and
*Metal chops Wood.


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