© May 2010 by Fabienne Lopez
Here’s a brief explanation of how the elements relate to different functions in our personalities and temperaments: Fire is linked to action; Earth to common sense; Air to the thinking function and Water to feelings. That was all I was exposed to. Maybe every now and then some article would list a few keywords but had no in depth explanations.
An exception was Stephen Arroyo’s Astrology, Psychology, and the Four Elements: An Energy Approach to Astrology & Its Use in the Counseling Arts. Arroyo’s book is a must read for every student of astrology. I learned a lot from his book, but the book left me unsatisfied. Arroyo only goes into lengthy explanations with the traditional pairings of the elements: Fire to Air, and Water to Earth.
Only two measly paragraphs were dedicated to the less common pairings such as Fire with Water, and Earth with Air. The paragraphs contained useful details but did not elaborate on the challenges and strengths of these more unusual combination.
Being graced myself with on one of those oddities (water and fire), I was looking for more information to better handle the sometimes disruptive energy pattern of this combination. As I joke sometimes, water and fire combined are either too much fog and you do not where you are going, or they’re a powerful steam engine that can move things.
Then I came across Darby Costello’s 2 volumes series Water and Fire and Earth and Air where she studies the 4 elements in depth.
Just the title, Water and Fire, got my attention. Not the usual division of the elements. Maybe I would have some answers to my conundrum. And the book did not disappoint me.
The book review from Mary Plumb gives an excellent outline of the book: “In a very poetic and imaginative language, Darby Costello examines the element of water first through its expressions in myth, alchemy, philosophy and psychology, and then through the water signs and water houses in the horoscope. Each planet in a water house is described in terms of its meaning and expression; the three water signs on the Ascendant are examined; and planets transiting through the water houses complete a detailed analysis of all the permutations of water in the birth chart. Part Two takes the reader into the chaotic, inspirational realm of fire, beginning with the ways in which fire is symbolized in myth and philosophy, and then examining Mars, the Sun and Jupiter as planetary rulers of the fire signs. Each fire sign is then explored in detail, with an analysis of planets placed in fire signs and fire houses, the nature of a fire sign on the Ascendant, and the meaning of the outer planets in fire signs in relation to the generation group to which the individual belongs.”
But that’s not what sold me on the book. Yes, the book is quite thorough in its analysis of the water and fire elements. Yes, there is a lot of information to digest and yes, I learned a lot. But the absolute value of this book for me was the shift in perspective on how I consider the elements.
Traditionally, the 4 elements are displayed as follows:
Fire (action): Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius
Earth (common sense): Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air (thinking): Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water (feeling): Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
You don’t get a lot of information when it is presented this way. In the book she says that her first thought was the traditional view of the elements, “Fire, Earth, Air and Water.” But then, during a meditation she came across a diagram that showed a new way of looking at the elements:
Ruler: Mars, Sun and Jupiter
Earth: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn
Ruler: Venus, Mercury and Saturn
Air: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius
Ruler: Mercury, Venus and Saturn
Water: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces
Ruler: Moon, Mars and Jupiter
And that’s where I think Darby Costello’s book is brilliant. By using the old rulership (i.e., excluding the outer planets – Pluto, Neptune and Uranus), the author immediately alerts us that both water and fire share Mars and Jupiter as rulers. It also shows us that water and fire share more commonality that the more traditional views of the 4 elements have pointed out. With that table we can acknowledge as Darby Costello does that “the heart of fire is the Sun and the soul of water is the Moon. This attunes us to fire and water as expressions of the realms that we call spirit and soul. These realms are constellated most directly though our faculties of imagination and reflection.” (Water and Fire; page 15, ¶1, l:4-7)
Now that I could totally understand and relate to. Imagination, I had plenty of that; ditto for reflection. Seeing how the old rulership system tied those disparate elements together, I could start using them in a constructive way. I really did appreciate the shift in perspective that the book gave me, this shift being something my life coaching training has always valued as a method to get out of your rut and get you to start moving. Now I felt I had a way to constructively use those two energies. Personally, I believe the combination of Fire and Water provides me with the ability to moderate my fire enthusiasm with the water sensitivity and the capacity to express my feelings in a direct (fire) and tactful (water) way. In her book, Darby Costello speaks about fire and water healers. In my case, I can totally relate to the Pisces side of the Water healer as somebody who accepts other’s weaknesses completely while at the same time using my Aries healer side to galvanize others into action. I have noticed the expression of this two diverse energies more acutely in my practice. My astrology skills gives me skills to to understand human nature while my life coaching training allows me to use tools that will help my clients move forward with their lives.
My chart is mostly water and fire. Completely useless, I thought. Except for loving, tending, caring, inspiring, feeling anf being alive. Not a bad combination after all.
Photos Credits: Flickr Creative Commons