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The Fire Element
The Fire Element
Although all elements represent qualities that are equally valuable to our inner growth, the element of fire symbolizes a particularly dominant cultural force throughout the world. Fire is associated with "doing" rather than with "thinking" or "reflecting." It''s an action-oriented element that freely moves out into life to dynamically seize the moment-think of flames energetically shooting upward and outward. Fire''s "burning" urge is to experience life adventurously and with full gusto. Although not particularly organized, logical, or even considerate of others, fire motivates us to take quick, decisive action in the here and now-to strike boldly while the iron is hot and our passions are running high.
Until relatively recently, the archetypal world of fire has been the exclusive domain of traditional male behavior, reinforced by centuries of unquestioned and unbroken social conditioning. Society permits men to "do" their fire without much penalty-boys will be boys-that is, at least until males overdo their fiery expression and become destructively "macho."
Fire is a fighting element, ready to attack whatever tries to thwart its energy or get in its way. Applied on a mass level, this becomes warfare-a collective drama where men, historically, have released fire''s potential fury by engaging in large-scale violence. Many men of today also vent their fire by being active in sports, by sexual conquest, by hunting, or by plunging into exciting forms of physical risk-daredevils are born of the fire element. Abhorring timid, wishy-washy behavior, fire is no coward when it comes to finding ways to satisfy its urges.
Women today are also learning firsthand-and perhaps cautiously-that it is psychologically and physically beneficial to own and openly express what fire represents: our human ability to move bravely out into the world according to the spontaneous impulses of our desire and self-will. More and more females are joining the ranks in such fields as boxing, football, soccer, weightlifting, and so on-formerly all male-dominated activities. More women are also running big businesses in the corporate world, and are taking on high political office-all due to their readiness and willingness to embrace the strengths of fire, and thus break gender-based stereotypes.
Newborn babies come into this world already displaying their raw, untempered fire drives-they''ll cry a decidedly impatient and angry cry as their immediate way of asserting their being, as if claiming, "I am alive and I am here. Deal with my needs now!" Here is a purer, uncultured fire at work, accenting its customary focus on fulfilling "me" concerns. Although not exclusively associated with fire symbolism-despite the fact that astrologers relate it primarily to the Sun-the ego knows how to burn this element''s volatile fuel when needing to draw attention to itself. Fire pumps up the ego''s sense of commanding power. Thus, expect fire to be very self-focused and concerned with fulfilling its own desires, first and foremost. The signs Aries and Leo have very much been accused of this, but less so Sagittarius (and we''ll analyze why later).
Strongly fire-oriented people can spend an entire lifetime acting as if their personal needs require urgent attention-they are not to be postponed or denied. Instant gratification is what fire wants and expects. However, in the process of exuberantly expressing who they are, fire types can deplete the energy of others. They can indulge in too much of a good thing, and in an uncontained manner. We tend to assume that fire people give of themselves in abundance-they warmly and generously radiate their light and heat-but they also need fresh energy sources to refuel themselves. It''s exhausting to be around people who colorfully flare out all the time, who happily expend themselves, but then consume some of your vitality just to keep their own blaze going. Fire is thus a very demanding, even draining, force to be around for long periods of time. It can wear out other less-energetic elements-most so earth and water, who prefer cooler temperatures, anyway.
Still, it''s no wonder that this headstrong, self-assured element has long been associated with natural leadership ability and royal command (especially Leo''s proud and dignified, if not bossy, display of fire). Fearlessly moving ahead into the challenging world, to take chances left and right, while leaning on no one for supervision and support, fire will stand tall on its own. Yet again, once it has used up a temporary source of energy, leaving only ashes, fire needs a fresh supply to keep going. Fire can be a very hungry element, due to its huge appetite for living. "Give me more of what keeps me vibrant and active," roars fire.
So far, we get a sense that this element can come on strong and will fight to survive. It is willing to do battle to ensure that it will continue to thrive. Our capacity to thrust ourselves bravely out into life, and thereby develop a momentum for vigorous expression, belongs mainly to the fire element. Aries is a dynamic example of this. It''s also a cardinal sign-as we shall later explore-and thus has an advantage when it comes to initiating energized action in the world. Because it''s such a natural self-starter, fiery Aries proves a smart choice as the sign to begin the zodiac (our cosmic "Twelve Step" program for living a better, fuller life).
Although fire can foster selfishness, it''s this element''s somewhat innocent self-absorption that allows it to retain its streak of independence, which then reinforces its instinct to follow a self-chosen path. Pioneers and trailblazers thus honor the fire principle within them when they show guts by going off in new and even controversial directions. They don''t need permission to go where they wish to in life, nor is gaining the approval of others what determines whether fire types single-handedly embark on a chosen course of action. (Sure, they''d enjoy having such support, but ultimately they don''t need it to initiate a major undertaking of personal interest.) "I''m here to please myself, first and foremost," fire honestly admits.
There is a bit of a "loner" streak in fire. This is not an element that easily attaches itself to others for long periods of time. Fire doesn''t comfortably settle into structured relationships, and even the security of enduring intimacy is not what it wants-especially if that means its freedom to spontaneously move about will be curtailed. (Trap fire in a tiny metal box, and eventually it''s life-spark will extinguish.) Thus, in matters of close involvement, expect fire to have problems with total commitment (although loyal Leo has more staying power in this area, as long as few restrictions are imposed; this is because Leo is also a fixed sign, a factor that will be explained later). Settled relationships also hint at a shared life of expected behavior and routine habits, something that fire fears will prove too tedious to bear. Where''s all the excitement and pizzazz of living? That''s what fire craves.
Since fire isn''t all that deeply absorbed in others-it''s not one to merge or share-it won''t allow itself to get sucked into the complicated worlds of people in need (that''s more water''s dilemma). Fire doesn''t even feel it has to blend with the other elements in order to enhance itself (which is not true). It''s too self-centered to even realize the value of exploring other ways of perceiving the world-it''s much too sold on its own way of sizing up reality. Still, our growth process involves a skillful and conscious integration of many astrological factors that initially appear to have little in common, or that typically clash when combined (the old "incompatibility" issue).
Some of us may be born with a heavy fire emphasis: besides Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, there are also "fire" planets to contend with-the Sun, Mars, and Jupiter. Since there are other signs and planets in our chart associated with the three remaining elements, we need to better combine our fire energies with these other components. This will help us develop a more well-rounded awareness of ourselves and of the world in which we live. We can''t afford to take an exclusively fired-up approach to living, plus others would soon take issue with such a headstrong manner of behaving-we''d be accused of being arrogant, pushy, conceited, bossy, opinionated, or even too self-righteous.
So, when it comes to courageously living the life we were meant to live-unfazed by the attempts of others to censor us or "rain on our parade"-fire is the element that points us in the right direction. It believes in authentic self-expression and relishes displaying an upfront, spirited sense of self-and to heck with what the neighbors think! Fire has a hard time bowing down to the dictates of others. It won''t blindly follow set rules of conduct, especially when they prove to be stifling. We need fire in our veins to give us the gumption required to take on the world in a lusty, passionate manner. Dramatic fire makes sure that our life won''t be dull and anemic. It''s good to note where our fire signs are located in our chart, for here is where we will be supported by a more robust and honest approach to people and situations.
Now let''s move on to the next element: earth.
The Earth Element
The fire element appropriately begins the zodiac with energetic Aries because this element symbolizes the vital thrust behind the "will to be" that gives rise to all action. Life means movement, and fire stirs our basic need for motion. Think of fire as representing the essential, vital spark within every seed just waiting to explode into a rush of activity that initiates a plant''s growth cycle (amazingly, seeds found in the tombs of ancient Egyptian mummies have been known to come alive and sprout-their inner life force, although dormant, survives for centuries of time without weakening). Thus, all sorts of beginnings and births in life are associated with fire. Freshness and newness belong to this element. Yet at some pivotal point, fire''s expansive energy will need structure and organization to be useful. Such necessary containment comes from earth, an element that logically follows fire throughout the zodiac.
We live in a material realm that imposes all sorts of constraints, yet activity on Earth requires a slower pace so that we can better deal with most issues of physical reality. The heaviness of gravity abounds, and time is ever present, but together they help us feel securely anchored to the solid, comforting world of form. Fire is more at home with a rapid, even agitated, alteration of conditions-it''s a highly kinetic force-but to undergo too much of that could prove hectic and disorienting (not to mention physically debilitating). We instead need a more leisurely pace in order to function reliably, and thus earth makes sure that fire''s dynamic energy is grounded and better conserved. Humankind long ago learned the value of preserving actual fire, rather than wasting it by letting it burn itself out. Astrological earth is urging us to do the same, especially on the psychological level.
Earth is admittedly less showy and vibrant than fire. It appears passive and inactive (a clump of dirt or a log of wood seems inert and dull compared to the high drama of a raging inferno). Nevertheless, earth provides a necessary stillness and an economy of movement that helps fire''s energy endure longer and thereby extend its potential. Earth doesn''t like to use things up too quickly or to run out of needed supplies prematurely. Less refueling is required by this stable element because it conserves fire''s life force in smart, effective ways. Actually, earth is not so much "smart" in its operations as it is blessed with common sense-an instinctual "know-how" that is not based on mere intellectual knowledge.
As a result, earth is very savvy when it comes to understanding the material world and figuring out what can and cannot be accomplished with available resources. Earth signs all share a respectful awareness of life''s inherent limitations. Fire may balk at accepting that life issues restraining orders now and then, but earth makes peace with this obvious fact and learns to function well within such conditions. (By the way, all elements have their own take on "reality," but earth''s version of what actually exists-something highly dependent on what our physical senses register-seems less open to debate or subjective interpretation; at least that''s how earth sees it.) Earthy reality is tied to the tried-and-true rhythms of the physical world, with its predictable, natural cycles. Earth depends on repetitive, reliable phenomena. It''s obvious that this element plays a key role in the scientific disciplines, where an earthy capacity for clear-headedness, painstaking testing, and sober observation are a must.
As humans, we are so unavoidably earthbound and attached to our physical impressions of life that it''s no wonder this element is so darn sure about what it regards as real. After all, the tangible proof that earth needs to function is clearly found all around us-matter undeniably exists. Earth signs steadily focus on this most evident level of experience, yet they run the risk of assuming that this tangible realm of ours is what counts the most and what truly makes up our prime reality-the only one on which we should fully depend. All else has less worth in the long run. Well, we can quickly see how this attitude may lead to narrow, materialistic assumptions concerning life''s potential. Things in the outer world potentially hold more attraction to earthy types than do internal, psycho-spiritual realms of being. Earth is skeptical of anything as abstract as a soul or a psyche.
If close-mindedness and inflexibility can be avoided, then earth becomes a wonderful element blessed with the power to manifest the deeper potential of the other elements. Earth helps less tangible energies incarnate and enclose themselves in matter suitable for their purposes-earth gives spirit needed shape. We all have the signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn located somewhere in our chart, indicating areas where we can express our needs and demonstrate our abilities in worldly, concrete terms. Earth has a talent for building something solid and supportive for us, and it believes in working long and hard to achieve what it wants. Patience is its virtue, and time is its friend.
And yet, because it is astrology''s less glamorous element-one not given to colorful display, emotional depth, or imaginative thinking-earth is typically treated with less fanfare. It evokes a "ho-hum" response. (No one ever says, except sarcastically, "Wow, it must be so exciting to be born with all that earth in your chart!'') Earth is more like a little brown sparrow, in contrast to fire''s gloriously strutting peacock. Earth is as plain and functional as a "sensible" pair of shoes, compared to diamond-studded high heels. It''s as comfy and familiar as an old sweater. Being highly praised as someone who''s trustworthy, dependable, and humble-all earthy traits-seems less a compliment than being touted as dashing, witty, and effervescent.
Nonetheless, earth quietly makes sure that much of our ordinary world runs in a timely, organized fashion-it tries to keep things operating smoothly, day by day, and this typically involves setting up systems of efficiency. Should this conscientious element decide to pack it up and archetype itself elsewhere in the Universe, chaos on our planet would soon spread like wildfire, and we''d all be horrified at how messy life would quickly become, as everything broke down or became misplaced (nothing would stay put). Earth signs thus do what they can to keep such chaos at bay, mainly by devising and enforcing necessary rules and regulations that ensure order. Earth is the custodial element of life, dutifully straightening up the world whenever it gets out of control, while also carefully attending to all-important details, no matter how small, that help prevent future trouble from brewing.
But just so we don''t pigeonhole earth as all work and no play, realize that the realm of bodily sensation also belongs to this element. Earth (especially Taurus) enjoys the creature comforts of being human. It believes that there''s nothing wrong with feeling contentment in very physical ways. The body is not such a bad thing to own and satisfy. Earth wants us to proclaim, "Yeah, I''m part animal and proud of it!" Varying degrees of sensuality play a role in the life experiences fostered by this element. We shouldn''t automatically think that means sex, since our earthy needs can also be met by taking a long, hot bath or even by having a professional massage-and let''s not forget the satisfaction of eating a wonderfully cooked meal while in comfortable, visually pleasing surroundings.
Earth also realizes that physical well-being is very important in life, and thus this element will urge us to listen to our body''s signals and know when to quit doing whatever could turn out to be abusive to our health. It''s as simple as this: When tired, earth rests. When hungry, earth eats. When stressed out, earth . . . shops! (I''m only half-joking). Fire, in contrast, will keep going until it runs out of gas. It often can''t even tell that it''s exhausted until it collapses (and even then it expects to rally quickly). Wise earth respects its physical limits. In real life, however, people with a Virgo or Capricorn emphasis in their charts need to monitor their workaholic tendencies, since overwork and other taxing mundane pressures can drain a body''s resources. I still contend that it''s the fiery factors of our chart that make us never want to stay still and relax-fire always looks for more excitement, more action, more hustle and bustle.
Earth is an element that carefully plans its activities, but it needs sufficient time to do so. Nothing is to be rushed, since haste makes waste (earth is less forgiving of its "dumb" mistakes than fire and air are of theirs). Poorly organized folks depend on earthy types to get things finished, and done correctly. As a result, earth can take on more responsibilities than it should. It can carry heavy weight on its shoulders by over-obligating itself, which becomes burdensome. Remember, earth likes to have things running efficiently and will therefore see all projects to their completion, no matter how demanding (it may complain a lot, but it gets the job done). Nothing is to be left in the air, dangling. All bothersome loose ends are to be wrapped up. Earth can therefore run a tight ship, especially when a deadline is fast approaching. It''s no wonder that all the other elements tend to leave poor, dependable earth holding the bag-earth is a sucker for doing "the dirty work" that no other element wants to touch. Yet earth is quietly confident that it can handle the task and successfully end up with solid results.
A common problem with earth is its tendency to hold back emotions, to restrain feelings that sometimes need proper venting. This kind of self-control makes earth look composed and mild-mannered on the surface. This also gives this element the appearance of awesome strength and composure-no wonder the weak and the easily frazzled are drawn to "Rock of Gibraltar" earthy types. Still, more animated elements (fire and air) often want to give earth a good shake, and tell it to loosen up. They feel earth needs to show what it''s really going through on the inside for a change, and to start reacting to life more dramatically.
Well, sorry, but earth doesn''t get fired up quickly about anything. It would rather evaluate people and situations with a degree of levelheaded calmness and from a safe position if possible (''You never know who or what''s going to explode in your face," warns earth). Still, earth needs to work at learning not to repress its emotionality or even its anger, in favor of playing it safe throughout life by not making waves.
Now let''s change the scenery and explore the world of the next element: air.
The Air Element
First, brazen fire urges us to go out there and do it, whatever it is. Don''t think about it, don''t analyze the pros and cons, just act! Get yourmotor running, jump on the opportunity, take the big plunge, and hit the ground running-now, not tomorrow!-and don''t fret too much about the possible consequences of any bold actions taken. Next, it''s security-conscious earth, wanting us to slow down the tempo, get settled, and start to consolidate what we''ve enterprisingly initiated for ourselves. Sustaining our earthy focus helps us fortify our efforts better, thus enabling our accomplishments to last longer (in contrast, fire''s outcomes can have a "flash in the pan" quality-sparkling and energizing, but here today, gone tomorrow). Earth is looking for permanent results, even if this takes time and demands much stick-to-it-tiveness. The earth signs advise us to ground our actions more fully in the practical world by laying down solid foundations, and by attending to all pertinent details. We can then keep our steady system of operations running as reliably as a Swiss watch.
''Whoa," gasps air, "let''s call a time-out to think about all this talk about full-time commitment." Sure enough, this next element seeks a bit of breathing space. Air doesn''t want to become too immersed in earth''s big building projects. Creating a little healthy distance helps air get an objective handle on things-some needed perspective-so that it can think more clearly about what has materialized thus far. Air is afraid that earth will want to stop fire''s momentum for good and instead remain stuck in dull, even stagnating, routines. It''s air''s nature to circulate and to distribute its energy broadly-air is not comfortable with becoming too settled in matter. It''s not interested in tightly compressing energy into something that ends up densely packaged and immovable, so air intuitively backs off from any condition that appears time-consuming or too slow to take shape.
Instead, the realm more natural to air is that above the ground. It''s obvious that the higher up we go, reaching even cloud level, the more widely we can observe the terrain below. Details may seem less sharp, but the greater our altitude, the grander the overview we can achieve. We can also feel an expansive sense of freedom. Thus, expect this element to be interested in comprehending life''s bigger picture.
Air also likes to mix life''s ingredients and then step back to witness the unpredictable results. This element enjoys observing how two or more things link up. It looks for apparent similarities between such factors as they combine, while noting obvious contrasts to be found as well. "If I join this with that, what will happen and why?" wonders air. This sounds like the dawning of scientific inquiry, or perhaps just human mischief in the making. Our capacity to undergo experimental, trial-and-error stages in life that hopefully enlighten us is something related to air, an element that''s always eager to teach us something new.
Highly conscious and wide-awake, air is related to our ability to think and reason. It''s the brainiest of all the elements, the one that loves to live life in its head and to create brilliant ideas to share with the world. Where would we be if we couldn''t connect our words and thoughts in intelligent ways? We''d sound unintelligible, and that could lead to social isolation, something that all air signs dread.
Not a big fan of gibberish, air demands that language be clear and precise if real communication is truly our objective (air can set the standards here, Iguess, because it even invented language). Yet that doesn''t mean air can''t have fun playing with words. It comes up with new, catchy phrases now and then; plus, lots of (hot) air produces chatterboxes at times. As air rules the wind, it''s the element of windbags, talking up a storm.
Air is the one element of the cycle that keenly focuses on cause and effect: Bang head against wall, get dizzy, pass out. One condition not only influences another, but apparently can be the very cause or the catalyst of that other condition. That''s basically what air notices, as it busily takes mental notes on how life appears to work-at least on the surface. Of course, it''s on life''s more observable surface where many superficialities are to be found, being the home turf of much that is shallow and trivial. Yet air gladly takes it all in, appreciating such things as momentary stimulations or fleeting distractions, if nothing else.
Fire can be passionately singular in its short-lived interests, while earth can be downright fixated on its long-range goals. But all air signs need a lot of variety and change; they wither from too much monotony or a life that lacks detours (or even a room without windows). Air doesn''t enjoy feeling as driven as headstrong fire, nor is it as task-oriented as earth. Actually, air can adapt to these and other states of consciousness, as long as they are experienced in small doses for short periods of time. The bottom line, however, is that air is elusive and cannot be pinned down for long. It''s not an easy element to grab onto and tightly control.
Highly curious air believes that life is a buffet table: Sample an assortment of whatever items look tasty, but don''t pig out on any one thing and fill up too fast. Life is too short not to spread one''s attention everywhere, and thereby mentally benefit from the open-mindedness such diversity encourages. Air types can be very cerebral in temperament. They sound smart and seem to know a lot; they even make up the bulk of life''s "eternal students," forever feeding their minds knowledge. Along with such brainpower comes a cool detachment that can be invaluable when confronting life''s more unsettling twists and turns. When others become hysterical during disruptive times of great chaos, those with air emphasized in their charts are apt to keep their wits about them and not abandon logic or clarity. However, this airy, cool-and-collected disposition doesn''t work as well with life situations that require emotional depth and intimacy.
While it can appear to understand someone else''s life predicament sympathetically, air does not empathize very easily (that''s more a strength of the next element, water). There is a bit of aloofness to be found hidden beneath what otherwise seems to be an alert, inquisitive, likable nature that is eager to meet life straightforwardly. Air''s cleverness at times can make it seem to be a bit of a trickster, playing loose with the facts, but by nature it''s not a deliberately sneaky, deceitful element. Still, it has a hard time being real with itself and others in the realm of gut response. Air would sooner analyze feelings (preferably somebody else''s) rather than simply "feel" its power at full potency. Even the previous two elements weren''t equipped enough to prepare air for the powerful underground world of emotionality, since that''s not their expertise, either.
Being emotionally disengaged with life is actuallynot a fault of air, since venting deep feelings isn''t part of the job the Cosmos assigned this element to do-and we shouldn''t blame one element for not behaving like another.