THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS

Author: 
anne

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FOUR ELEMENTS  

EARTH, AIR, FIRE ,WATER ...

 which are the four major elements found in metaphysics and used for millennia by the ancient and later the medieval philosophers in astrology, chemistry, and alchemy.

 

WILD VOICES CARDS

As in most card traditions, we have used the four elements in our Wild Voices pack.Each of the Animal cards in the Wild Voices pack has been placed into one of the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each Animal is influenced by the element into which they fall and this further helps us to interpret the message for that card. In Wild Voice each of the four elements has been given an African symbol (or glyph).  Each card has the symbol for that element in the top left hand corner.

FIRE – DIVINING BONES

EARTH – DJEMBE  

AIR – ASSEGAI/SPEAR

 

WATER – COOKING POT

[We have also given each card a gender – Fire and Air being Male and Earth and Water Female, which further aids in interpretation of that card/Animal.]

 

FIRE

THE DIVINING BONES

KEYWORD – ANIMATING SPIRIT

Fire is the extroverted (assertive) aspect of the masculine expressing the qualities of:- 

                                                THE VISIONARY      CREATIVE DRIVE       INTUITION     ACTION     HEALING

INSPIRED BY FIRE I SAY: “I AM IMPELLED INTO ACTION.”

The Divining Bones, bleached white by the Fire of the sun, are read intuitively by the African Sangoma / the medicine person or shaman. The Bones, as a physical manifestation of the healer’s inner wisdom, show us our way forward. They are thrown with the shout or invocation of “vumisa”, meaning, bring out the truth.

Fire is associated with warmth, passion and inspiration, with creativity and intuition. Our spirit is enthused by the energy of Fire. Fire impels us to action. It is the animating or creative principle.

When you draw a Fire card, inspiration sparks your life. Surround yourself with whatever stimulates and motivates you; spread your light over the Earth, feel the sensual warmth of contact with another. The ‘the Fire in your belly’ gives you strength, confidence, motivation and direction.

It is apt that Fire, in most traditions, is associated with healing. Can you endure the Fire that cleanses and heals, that burns off the dross – the fires of purification? The fires of initiation are not for the faint hearted but if you have the endurance you will see the rewards. Watch as the once molten gold manifests in nuggets around you.

Leap with the flames into your destiny!  

 

EARTH

THE AFRICAN DJEMBE

KEY WORD – STABILITY

Earth is the extroverted (assertive) aspect of the feminine expressing the qualities of:-

                                                 ENDEAVOUR       SECURITY        HEART    LOYALTY    MANIFESTING IN THE OUTER WORLD

INSPIRED BY EARTH I SAY: “I DANCE. I CLIMB TREES. I PLANT MY FOOD IN THE HUMUS RICH SOIL.”

 

The djembe, traditionally made from Animal hide and wood, is placed on the ground and hit with the hand. Hand on skin, bare feet on ground – senses alive!

It is the heart beat of Africa – firm, direct and constant. The beat of the drum vibrates through the land. Stamping feet on Mother Earth grounds us and draws us closer to her heart. It focuses us in the here and now; when we are in touch with the Earth, we are in present time, totally alive. This element puts us in touch with our roots, and in Africa we are told, that means a heredity that goes back to the first humans.

Earth is terra firma, associated with all that is stable, enduring, loyal and dependable – it is also the One, the totality of existence.

If you draw an Earth card you are touching your sensation function, your physical, material world; you are dealing with what you can see and touch.

Earth reminds us of our status in the world and how secure we are.

An Earth card urges you to use your common sense and to tackle problems in a practical way.

Drawing an Earth card means it is a time for modelling clay, collecting windfall apples and making love in the wild veld grasses.

 

AIR

THE ASSEGAI

KEY WORD - SERVICE

Air is the introverted (restrained) aspect of the masculine expressing the qualities of:- 

                                            CONGRUENCY         DIRECTION        CUTTING THROUGH        CLARITY        SPIRIT

INSPIRED BY AIR I SAY: “I FIND JOY IN SERVICE.”

 

The Spear and Arrow have been used by African men in war, for hunting and as a sign of virility since they first learnt to craft these tools. It is through the element of Air that they take flight, as direct and unwavering as from the hand that releases them. The assegai/spear and the arrow, like the sword, cuts through and penetrates to the heart of the matter.

Drawing an Air card encourages us to expose falsehood and pretence and to break through old, stuffy ideas. Air is associated with our thinking, our mental capacities and our intellect; with thought processes and vibrations - the unseen. Air is also associated with what is rational, clear, uncomplicated and to the point.

An Air card gives you the confidence to employ your powers of intellect. You need to think rationally about the question you have brought to the cards and the answer you receive.

In the Xhosa tribe in Africa, Wind and Spirit share the same name – Omoya.

Honour your ancestors, the unseen Spirits, and remember that it is on the Air, in the form of smoke, that the passion of Fire rises to meet the gods.

 

WATER

THE COOKING POT

KEY WORD – NURTURE

 

Water is the introverted (restrained) aspect of the feminine expressing the qualities of:-

                                                     ADAPTABILITY    SHADOWS   IRRATIONAL    THE UNCONSCIOUS     ADHESION  

INSPIRED BY WATER I SAY: “I TRUST THE RAINS TO FALL AND BLESS MY LIFE.”

The Cooking Pot, holding the cooking Water and standing over the hearth is the heart of the home. It is where the women are; the ones who nurture and nourish. Steam moistens the faces of our African sisters as they crouch over their cauldron, their muted voices and the soft bubbling of the stew underline the feminine principle that is Water.

Water is mutable, adaptable; associated with our emotions, feelings. It is a symbol for the unconscious which is unknown to us, often irrational and yet when we are able to access the unconscious through dreams, deep meditation or transpersonal psychological methods, the information we receive is disarmingly accurate.However, Water when still is the leveller, giving us balance and poise, helping us to maintain equilibrium. 

A Water card will come to you when the time is right for mystery and secrets, for remaining hidden in the undercurrents. Move with your instincts; abandon rational thought, flow with what feels right for you. Give attention to your dreams.

Find a cave or a hollow (both feminine symbols) or make yourself a nest among the fallen leaves, muse there … ponder on the mysteries in your life. Peer into shadowy rock-pools, what lies below in their inscrutable depths? Slip naked into a river at sunset; allow the darkening waters to embrace you.

 

HISTORY OF THE FOUR ELEMENT TYPES/HUMOURS/TEMPERAMENT

 

The theory of the four Humours has its roots back as far as ancient Egypt or Mesopotamian times. Hippocrates developed his medical theory around what he called the four Humours or the Temperaments – people are either:-

 Sanguine – Air

 Phlegmatic – Water

Choleric – Fire

Melancholic – Earth

or a mixture or an ideal balance.

Hippocrates would medicate appropriate to the type or the type-mix. This theory is not used in modern allopathic medicine although it is used widely in psychology, the behavioural and social sciences and pedagogic studies to analyse personality, human development and learning theories.In the ancient sciences these four elements were thought to be the “first causes of things” or “things that do not change”: the study of ontology and cosmology.

 

        C J Jung

C J Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist had a great fascination for the medieval alchemists. He developed what he called Psychological Types which he divided into four functions:

  1. Thinking and Feeling (how we evaluate/weigh up/process our world)
  2. Intuition and Sensation (how we perceive/how things just seem to come us about our world)

We are each of us either evaluating our world through our Thinking or our Feeling function #1 as well as automatically perceiving our world either through our Intuition or our Sensations #2.

THINKING being the AIR function

FEELING being the WATER function

 

INTUITION being the FIRE function

SENSATION being the EARTH function

 

This means you could be a THINKING/SENSATION type or a FEELING/INTUITION type or a THINKING/INTUITION type or a FEELING/SENSATION type.

These four psychic functions correspond to the basic four elements found in alchemy and astrology.

 

Most of us have come across the four elements through knowing our astrological sign, for example:-

Aries – Fire

Taurus – Earth

Gemini – Air

Cancer – Water etc

 

If you play ordinary cards you will recognise the four suits:

Diamonds – Fire

Clubs – Earth

Spades – Air

Hearts – Water

 

In the tarot they appear as:

Rods/Wands – Fire

The Queen of Rods/Wands

 

Pentacles/Coins – Earth

The Queen of Pentacles/Coins

 

Swords – Air

Queen of Swords 

 

Cups – Water

Queen of Cups

 

In WILD VOICES our African Animals cards, they appear as:

The Divining Bones – Fire - an example of a FIRE Animal is LEOPARD

The Djembe – Earth - an example of an EARTH Animal is ELEPHANT

The Assegai – Air - an example of an AIR Animal is BUCK

The Cooking Pot – an example of a Water is MOUNTAIN GORILLA

In the Wild Voices pack we have one card which embodies all four elements/types. In some traditions he is known as the Trickster or the Wise Fool. We leave you to ponder on what African Animal takes on this role.

Looking at these lists you will see an interesting correlation. Working with the basic four elements can be a fascinating study - we have just skimmed the surface here. Read the Wild Voices book for more information on this interesting topic

 

The tarot examples of the QUEEN in all her four guises is from the beautiful LEGACY OF THE DIVINE DECK by Ciro Marchetti

Visit the websites below for more information re. testing for the different Psychological Types.

www.myersbriggs.org

www.humanmetrics.com/personality/type

www.transpersonalscience.org/types.