How to read your Birth ChartPart Three: The Elements and Qualities
Your birth chart or horoscope, is usually shown in the form of a wheel, symbolising the cycles periodically undergone
by all living things on this planet. The symbols ("glyphs") displayed stand for the astrological signs, planets and other chart factors representing forces which may affect your life at any given time.
Each of these astrological factors represents a coded set of drives in your sub-conscious. Drives may be activated and brought to your awareness by circumstances in your life, presenting you with a range of choices. Of course, your choices are to a considerable extent limited and determined by your character, which is itself revealed through an understanding of the symbols that make up the chart.
The Elements and Qualities
The basic structural components of the world are known as elements, modified, or flavoured by their modalities, or qualities. In astrology, four material elements are recognised: Fire, Earth, Air and Water (see table). Originally conceived by Empedocles in ancient Greece and identified as elements by Plato, they are easily observed in nature but have a subtle character, not to be confused with the chemical elements of the modern periodic table. The astrological elements are expressions of spiritual energies, rather than blind forces.
The Elements (Quadruplicities)
Astrological signs are categorised by their ancient, elemental identities of
Fire (spirit & energy),
Air (intellect & communication),
Water (emotion & nurture) and
Earth (material things & security).
These elements are considered the building blocks of existence at all levels, the universal forces upon which life depends. They interpret a much broader range of experience than the "chemical elements" of modern science, and should not be confused with them. They are also known as the quadruplicities, or modalities.
A fifth element, or quintessence, is the underlying spiritual essence out of which the four material elements are precipitated. The quintessence is not used in practical astrology, though the idea of a spiritual ground has been widespread in science since Aristotle. The quintessence, or Šther, is central to spiritual development in many cultures. It is also known as the astral light, or the collective unconscious, and in yoga, the akasha, a sanskrit word meaning "shining". The karmic memory of nature is held to be stored in the akashic records.
The Qualities (Triplicities)
Each sign is also identified by its quality, or modality, that is whether it is
Fixed (determined) or
Mutable (changeable) in character.
These features are known as the triplicities and are usually interpreted in conjunction with the elements or quadruplicities.
The Fiery signs, for example, are Aries, the Ram
(cardinal-fire), Leo, the Lion (fixed-fire) and Sagittarius, the Archer (mutable-fire). The other signs follow a similar pattern (see table).