Elements in Interpretation

The interpretation of astrological charts takes on a new and deeper meaning when emphasis is put upon the elements; for in this way one is dealing with the specific life energies at work rather than concentrating only on the manifestations of these energies in outward behavior and personality characteristics. As we have stated before, every individual is, so to speak, composed of all four elements. A human being cannot exist if even one of the elements is missing, for he would then be totally devoid of the function of that energy both psychologically and physically. However, the elements most emphasized in a natal chart by planetary placement and the element of the Ascendant indicate the chief energies and qualities to which one is attuned consciously. Such dominant elements show what you're "in touch with" and therefore what energies you are capable of utilizing rather easily in your everyday life, as well as in what realms of experience you can participate naturally and spontaneously. Elements that are lacking emphasis in the chart indicate specific realms of life activity with which one is not consciously in contact, and hence these elements reveal an attunement which must be consciously cultivated and developed in order to afford the individual the minimal participation in that field of experience required for a full and well-rounded life.

A great deal may be learned about a person simply by analyzing any marked imbalance of the elements in the individual's chart. It is very common to find in this way a particular life problem that has perplexed the person (whether consciously or unconsciously) throughout life, and the increased awareness of his innate imbalance can appreciably help him to cultivate a more meaningful contact with areas of experience which previously had been alien to him. Naturally, one cannot change one's attunement simply through analysis and discussion of the prob lem, but one can begin to realize more fully the fact that there are fields of activity and types of people which can teach the individual something which he vitally needs. Likewise, those who have an over-emphasis on a particular element in the natal chart tend to over-value that realm of experience, to the detriment of their potential for wholeness.

When analyzing a chart in terms of balance of the elements, the most dominant element is usually — but not always — that of the Sun sign. Second in importance are the elements of the Moon, Ascendant, and Mars. And lastly, the elements of Venus and Mercury, followed in order of importance by Jupiter and Saturn. The elements of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto have very little to do with the conscious attunement of the individual, although they do indicate unconscious factors motivating the whole generation of people to which that individual belongs. However, for all practical purposes, the elements indicated by the placement of the trans-Saturnian planets should be disregarded in such an evaluation. I should add that the element of the planet that rules the Ascendant, as well as the element of the Sun sign's ruler, is given added emphasis unless the ruling planet is Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. If one has Scorpio rising, for example, the element of Mars would be given more emphasis, but not that of Pluto, Scorpio's co-ruler. The elemental placement of the Ascendant's ruler in particular is of such vital importance and has such a power of attunement in the individual's life that one should always regard that element as strongly accented. For example, someone with Libra rising and with Venus in Cancer, but with no other planets in water signs, would be strongly influenced by and would overtly express many of the qualities associated with the water element. In other words, such a person would be forcefully motivated by emotional needs, the urge to express sensitive feelings and affections, and the sympathetic nature of Cancer. This would be true even if the Sun and Moon, as well as the Ascendant, are in air signs.

Focusing on the element of the Ascendant's ruler provides the practitioner with an insight into one of the primary motivating urges of the individual, an insight that could easily be missed if one merely adds up the number of planets in each element and gives them equal weight in determining the dominant elemental attunement. The practice just mentioned is used haphazardly by many astrologers, and the resulting inaccuracy of their judgments based on this practice impels them to look for all sorts of "esoteric" reasons to explain the observed characteristics of the person they're dealing with. As always in the practice of astrology, if one truly learns the basics and understands their dynamic function on the level of energy expression, he or she will rarely have to rely on any of the myriad of secondary techniques commonly praised by their proponents.

An example of the strength of the elemental placement of the Sun sign's ruler can further clarify this method of procedure. I recently did a chart for a woman with the Sun, Moon, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, and Mercury all in the sign Aries. Naturally, one would correctly assume that such a person would exemplify fiery characteristics. However, unless one payed attention to the fact that Aries' ruler Mars is in Pisces (and this is the only planet in a water sign), it would be easy to describe this person as insensitively self-centered in the typical Aries way. The fact that the "dispositor" of all the Aries planets is in a water sign, however, tempers the expression of the fiery Arian drive and colors the person's self-expression with a sensitivity not usually found in someone with all these planets in Aries.

In analyzing the balance or imbalance of the elements in an individual's chart, therefore, one should not be too hasty in making generalizations. One chart factor can alter the expression of the whole energy field, and I strongly advocate for this reason that astrologers who merely add up the number of planets in each element should take another look at this practice and honestly face its limitations and proneness toward unjustifiable conclusions. The ideal to look for in evaluating the elemental emphasis in a chart is at least some attunement to each element. This results in the ability to achieve a balanced approach to living and the capacity to participate immediately in all the realms of experience. Naturally, very few people have this ideal balance, and the lack of it should not be judged as a necessarily negative feature of the person's approach to life. People are capable of compensating for their lacks and weaknesses, and they can consciously cultivate the qualities and attunements which they lack at birth. The balance of the elements should be seen more as a guideline for further growth, therefore, than as a factor necessarily limiting their lifelong self-expression.

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