Deepening Into The Elements Part 1: Feeding the Fire
Deepening into the Elements
Feeding the Fire
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Understanding the elements can strengthen a foundation of knowledge that gives greater context to our comprehension of the zodiacal signs. The twelve signs of the zodiac break down into four elements, rotating evenly through them all from fire to earth to air to water. How does the essence of each element express through each of its signs? Is there an arc to the evolution of the elements through the zodiac? Let’s start with fire and see what we find.
Fire on the Whole
Establishing some of the consistent qualities of fire will ground our exploration into how it shows up in each of the fire signs, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. In order to do that, let’s develop a holistic sense of what fire does, how humans experience it and how it relates to the other elements.
It’s no wonder the moment humans cracked the conundrum of how to make fire was a significant one. Suddenly heat, light and protection against predators became available on a whole new level. Beyond those practical life giving and life saving offerings, fire provided entertainment, a powerful addition to ritual and something around which to gather in the cold and dark.
As time marched on and our relationship to fire evolved other uses emerged including the forging of tools and weapons and the capacity to transform one material into another. Harnessing the power of fire expanded our own powers and potentials for growth in many directions from medicine to magic to scientific discovery to military advancement.
To break it down, fire generates warmth that spans the spectrum from comforting to life-sustaining to destructive. Similarly, the light we get from fire can illuminate the darkness as a guide or inspiration or blind us such that we must look away. Fire’s transformative aspect bridges the gap between productive tools and weapons we can use either to defend ourselves or act out our aggression. It’s important to note that fire requires fuel to keep burning regardless of whether that’s the fuel of action, ideas or meaningful missions. The natural directional flow of fire is upward, away from earth, towards the heavens. Let’s see how this range of qualities manifests in the three fire signs.
From Bonfire to Flamethrower
According to the tropical starting point used in Western astrology, the zodiac begins with Aries and ends with Pisces.
As the first sign of the zodiac and the first cardinal sign, Aries is associated with the beginning of the season of growth. In the context of fire, this is ignition, that burst of energy that initiates new life. Another way to think of it is source fire, the first, most direct version of them all.
Aries is the fire sign ruled by Mars, archetypically depicted by the warrior, the hunter and the blacksmith. Mars’ heat provides the power to engage in combat successfully and to transform metals into productive creations. On a more seasonal note, in the northern hemisphere, the directional thrust needed for plants to push through cold ground seeking the light and heat of the sun is one tangible expression of Aries’ martial potency.
Fire holds the potential of fun, whether it’s the mesmerizing joy of a candle or the excitement of watching flames leap toward the sky. Aries’ preference in the world of fun tends to be toward the immediate thrill whether it’s a fast ride or setting off a firework.
There is a wildness to the flames of the ram, an uncomplicated surge. When well directed, this driving energy can boldly face what for others is too frightening. When misdirected or mismanaged, there can be an impulsive violence to this sign. However, it’s common for whatever anger flares up settles back down just as quickly. The flip side of the fun loving quality of fire is its potential for orienting toward some form of combat. In Aries’ case, the need to defend their independence and right to do things their own way can be fierce. Just as fierce is the power of their love, as warm, bright and pure as the first fire.
Life of the Party
If Aries is the primordial fire of ignition, Leo is the warmth of the hearth, the light of the Sun. Where Aries is cardinal and initiatory, Leo is fixed and constant. Leo is ruled by the Sun, the great giver of life who illuminates our daily experience and plays a major role in growth and the sustenance of our earthly cycles. The same way the light and heat of the Sun can provide joy, ease and beauty on the one hand or exhaustion and sunburns on the other, the fire of Leo can delight, inspire and cheer or overwhelm and control. There is nothing more pleasant than a loving, balanced Leo magnanimously sharing their creative uniqueness and few things more challenging than a tyrannical, self-absorbed Leo for whom all ways are their way. Day after day, the Sun gives everything it’s got. When treated with kindness, Leo mimics this generosity. Make a lion an offering and you won’t regret it!
The majesty of the zodiac prefers cultured gatherings, high times with fine wines and elevated conversation about the arts or current affairs. They love a party, but not the rowdy amped up Mars version. Imagine a fire in the hearth, a well laid table and elegant guests dressed to impress.
Fire’s transformative action applies to Leo in the realm of creative expression. The immediacy of the fire element takes shape in artistic flare, in the ability to express an impression, a feeling, an experience with vibrant passion. This can manifest in a creative practice, a leadership role, a style of relating or a way of being in the body whether that’s through dance, athletics or sexuality. Leo has the capacity to stoke the undying flame of creativity in all they do.
Blue Flame of Truth
From the ignition of Aries through the steady burn of Leo we arrive at the mutable magic of Sagittarian fire. Sagittarius tends the subtle fire of the mind, akin to the fire that burns so hot it changes into blues and greens and can enter advanced realms of alchemy.
The expansive giant Jupiter rules Sagittarius, connecting this sign to the sovereign ruler of Olympus in the world of myth. Philosopher, teacher and truth-seeker, the centaur shoots its flaming arrow of thought in pursuit of some absolute verity. The skyward motion mentioned in our exploration of fire’s qualities expresses uniquely in Sagittarius’ case. The quest for truth and adventure always has its compass oriented around the heavens. Whether rejecting and disproving or righteously trumpeting, Sagittarians hold their truths up against the highest level of reference.
Jupiter generates more heat than it receives from the Sun, an impressive and unique quality. In the same vein, Sagittarius is the sign that puts out the most energy in an expansive way. Expansion is one of the ways the centaur embodies Jovian fire power most fully. Another is the mutability of this sign. This reflects the nature of Jupiter’s composition which contains some mystery in that it changes significantly and continuously from the perimeter to the interior of the planet. This could also be connected to adventure as the flavor of choice for Sagittarian fun. Whether it’s through outdoor travel, campfires on mountain peaks or the titillating sparks of a meaningful dialogue about high ideals, what they enjoy is a sense of discovery.
Sagittarius synthesizes the instinctual fire of the animal with the intellectual and spiritual fire of the human yielding a force that can carry higher truths across great distances, bringing meaningful missions to fruition for the benefit of the whole.
Fire and the Other Elements
Now that we’ve looked into the ways fire expresses differently through each of its signs, let’s get a sense for how fire interacts with other elements. Remember these dynamics are always on a spectrum. They’re never just positive or negative. It all depends on perspective!
Fire and Earth
The cycles of energy exchange between these elements are impressive. The hot Sun gives energy to plant life on Earth and those same plants then give their energy back to a fire whether it’s a controlled burn or a wildfire. In some cases this is destructive for Earth. The shape of Earth can bank a fire, giving it some structure and boundaries. As fire can be destructive for Earth, this structure can also be seen as limiting fire or holding it back. Another example of the two relating occurs from the small scale of flint knapping to the larger one of tectonic plates shifting. In both cases, Earth’s patterns initiate fire from a tiny spark to a volcanic eruption.
Consider the phrase ‘grounding electricity’. The electrical charges we use for so many things must connect to Earth in order to be safe. This is yet another interweaving of these elements. As you contemplate how the different signs impact each other, play with how these elemental metaphors might apply to human behavior.
Fire and Air
Fire needs earthly fuel to burn but it also needs oxygen. Bellows bring the flames in a woodstove to the next level, high winds carry wildfire over thousands of acres in a flash and the gentlest breath makes a candle’s flame dance. Fire and air share the sky. Neither has solid form the way Earth and water do. This gives them a special resonance with each other, a kind of understanding.
These elements love to play, to dance, to spar. Air can disperse fire, either spreading its message or diffusing it until there’s nothing left. Fire heats air, sometimes to the perfect warmth for animal comfort, other times beyond a temperature that can support life. It’s worth specifying what happens to air when it’s heated; the molecules move faster and faster and closer together. There’s more and more energy with the rising heat. In this way, fire pushes air into highly charged activity. One extreme example of this is the space surrounding the Sun where no living being can survive. On the flip side, it is warm breath on cold hands or the welcome heat of a wood-burning stove that can mean revival for a frozen body.
Fire and Water
Air dances with fire in its own playful way. The dance between fire and water is quite different. Water takes heat and light in, reflecting, refracting, absorbing. Again this combination exists on a spectrum from the nourishing quality of tea and bath time to the scalding pain of boiling water on skin.