Symbols and Meaning of the Four Elements

meaning of the four elements
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Exploring the Basics of the Four Elements – Symbols and Meanings

To date, I’ve written over 1,000 articles about symbols and meaning on my websites. Imagine how dumb-struck I was upon realizing, out of all these posts, I haven’t given decent exposure to the meaning of the four elements! What!?! I know! Insanity!

This is a grave oversight on my part, because the four elements are the fundamental building blocks for interpreting any sign or symbol.

Why? Because the four elements are the scaffolding upon which all life is built. Consider, not much life get crackin’ without one or more of the following elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water.

We can thank the ancient brainiac Aristotle for coming up with the theory of elements around 450 BCE. Other philosophers like Empedocles, Plato and Pythagoras added their own ingredients to the recipe of the elements, but really Aristotle was the cool-dude who cooked up the whole four-layer cake that results in basic elements matter.

He proposed that all life and all matter is formed from one or more of four…yep, you guessed it: Fire, earth, air, water. He also identified a fifth element called ‘aether.’ This is an intangible element that implies balance, unity – it is the ‘all that is’ and it is the non-matter element of the material world. Think of aether as the energetic-super-glue that sticks all the other four elements together in a balanced, harmonic way. Want to know more about the fifth element? No prob! I’m currently mad-scientist’ing an article on aether, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got that published on the website.

Triangle Elements
Four Element Symbols Plus the Fifth Element
ElementGovernsEnhancesElemental PersonificationZodiac SignLocus of Focus
fire element meanings
Fire
SpiritInspiration, Passion, Desire, Motivation, Resurrection, ReinventionSalamanderAries, Leo, Sagittarius“What lights my fire?”
earth element meaning
Earth
BodyStability, Security, Health, Wealth, HomeGnomeTaurus, Virgo, Capricorn“What keeps me grounded?”
air element meaning
Air
MindIntellect, Perception, Communication, StrategySylphGemini, Libra, Aquarius“What is the lesson here?”
water element meaning
Water
SoulEmotion, Renewal, Flow, Clarity, Healing, IntuitionUndineCancer, Scorpio, Pisces“What stirs beneath the surface?”
Basic Correspondences for the Four Elements

I included correspondences between elements and Zodiac signs, and elemental personalities because it helps to flesh out and give personality to the elements. Standing alone, elements seem like these inert, blobby things. But, if we learn the personalities connected to the four elements we can see these elements pop with life. Observe how an Aries sun sign behaves…as a fire sign, that’s a neat clue as to fire element personality.  Consider the Greek goddess Gaea, her mythological legends are very revealing in developing the personality of the earth element.

What about elementals? What’s an elemental? Well, these are also the brain-children of Aristotle. He understood that elements imbue life. So, he recognized and assigned personifications to each element. For example, the Sylph is the personification of the air element. Sylph’s are guardians and spirits of the air realm. Same idea for Gnomes, who are the protectors and power-rangers of the earth realm. Learn more about each elemental energy by clicking the link in the table above.

four elements meaning
Interpreting life-experiences using the Four Elements

So what’s the big deal about elements? Why are they crucial for interpreting signs and symbolic meanings? Because these are the ultimate Legos that builds our world, these deceptively simple energies reveal a ton of data when it comes to deeper meaning.

For example: Let’s say you’re sitting pretty in a park, pondering a perplexing pickle of a problem you’ve been struggling with. Suddenly, a blue heron swoops over a pond nearby, nabs a fish from the water and flies off as quickly as it snagged its lunch! What’s that all about?

Well, we can start interpreting that experience in relationship to the prickly problem by relating elements to the heron sighting. 1) Heron flies, so they are aligned with the air element. 2) Heron, pond, fish…all water-based, so obviously a natural fit in the water element category.  In terms of human behavior, air is symbolic of intellect and communication, and water is symbolic of emotion, renewal and clarification.  Having identified the elements, and understanding their core meanings in human terms we can start to form a symbolic narrative from all these tidbits.  In this example, the narrative should address the perplexing issue. So, the narrative might go something like this: “Are my thoughts (air/heron) clear (water) about this situation? How can I brainstorm (air/mind) ways to cleanse or heal (water) myself and this situation? What kind of opportunities (fishy lunch caught by the heron) am I not seeing that will help my emotional (water) growth?

You see how the knowing the meaning of the four elements can augment and enhance our perception? And, in so doing, we can gain answers and insights in elegant, natural ways! Cool, eh?

This is just the tippity-top of the iceberg when it comes to the meaning of the four elements.  There is tons more to these seemingly innocuous energies. I mean, these are Lincoln Logs that create structure to our entire existence! That makes them crucial when we need answers, formulate insight, gain inspiration and so much more.

If you want more information on this symbolic topic, you’re in luck! I’ve got a ton of elemental information on the website; just check out the related links found below. And, stay tuned, as I intend on writing more in the future!

As always, thanks so much for reading. If you liked this article, please feel free to share it with your peeps on your social networks! Thanks!

Keep it elemental, keep it symbolic!

Brightly,

Avia

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