The Four Elements
The Four Elements (as a metaphysical concept)
The tangible, physical reality we are surrounded by is known to be composed of well over a hundred chemical elements and numerous mixtures thereof. The higher, spiritual planes however are subject to slightly different rules and are believed to be in balance through the agency of four (somewhat opposed) elements - those of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Now widely used in Hermeticist teachings, astrology and tarot, they were first defined by philosophers and mystics of Ancient Greece. The energy of each element carries with it a unique set of positive as well as negative influences and affects our lives and our inner being in different ways.
Fire denotes strong will and energy, and a more masculine disposition. The astrological signs under its rule - Aries, Leo and Sagittarius - all tend to possess a choleric temperament, being decisive and vigorous, uncommonly brave and assertive but also excessively passionate and quarrelsome. It is an element at once creative and destructive, igniting the spark of life but well capable of turning everything before it into ashes. On the astral plane, the elementals representative of fire are salamanders and the tarot suit carrying its symbolism is that of wands.
Water rules all the emotions, whether those of love or anger, pure bliss or deep grief. Its thoroughly feminine and somewhat phlegmatic character make it receptive and easily impressed by external influences. The water's realm is that of the subconscious, the soul, and is populated by elementals called undines. People who naturally possess psychic powers are often believed to have a personality infused with its meditative and placid qualities, making them excellent healers too. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are water signs and cups (or chalices) represent the element in tarot.
Air presides over the intellect. Communication and clarity of mind are its main characteristics and, while they may occasionally tend to overthink, those born under the signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius will always be more inclined to assess a situation from an objective point of view instead of allowing to be guided (or misguided) by emotions. Air is the playground of new ideas, hopes and dreams and its creatures are sylphs. The swords denote this essentially sanguine element in tarot.
Earth as an element carries with it abundance and prosperity. Thoroughly stable, it enables fertility and its solid form gives it immense endurance. The prevalently melancholic nature can give people under its influence an overly cautious and somewhat conservative outlook but overall it is a positive, grounding force. In the astral realm, it is represented by gnomes and, in tarot, coins (also sometimes referred to as pentacles) are the symbols of earth. The element rules over the astrological signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
Ideally, our personalities should possess a balance of all four classical elements, thus creating the fifth - Aether. Achieving the equilibrium can be a life-long journey but one that brings us closer to perfection and to being one with the universe.