Most charts have one of the four elements — fire, earth, air, or water — predominating. The way to figure out which one is the most emphasized is to see how many planets are in each element. In doing this some astrologers also include the Ascendant and Midheaven. I, like Marc Jones, do not.
For an element to be predominating there needs to be at least four planets in that element. Five planets in an element is a much stronger indication, and any number beyond five is rare.
If FIRE is the predominating element the person has the ability to put the past behind them and always start afresh. There is a tendency to see everything as it relates to the self, to be creative, original, and to be one’s own person. The person tends to have a lot of energy and vivacity. They can be solipsistic, but are much less likely to suffer from depression than are the other elements.
If EARTH is the predominating element the person is pragmatic, interested in what is and how to work within the limitations of the REAL. This individual is at their best dealing with tangibles rather than the vagaries of speculation. There temperament favors organization and structure.
If AIR is the predominating element the person is communicative and very interested in ideas. They need and love feedback. They like to look at multiple side of experience, and sometimes might have difficulty making up their mind or deciding something for certain. They may tend to seem more unstable than they really are.
If WATER is the predominating element the person is emotional, intuitive, can have a well-developed psychic sense and sees life in terms of universal principles. They can be presumptuous, assuming that others think or feel as they do. They are very responsive to love. They may not be so good at logical or rational thinking.
The water predominant individual feels a kinship with the whole of life, like a great ocean — connected to all other oceans and into which all water eventually empties, its expanse touching every shore with its waves.
Elements can also become important by their absence, and so if there is a complete lack of planets in the FIRE element the person can be, at best, unselfish and unconcerned with placing his or her unique stamp on whatever he/she touches. At worst this person may seem uncreative, and may need to make an extra effort to manifest their creativity. It is not that they aren’t creative, it is that the creative fires need extra stoking and support to fire them up.
The lack of focus on ego that is characteristic of the missing fire element is like an artist, for instance, who places the whole focus of his or her consciousness on their work, rather than on receive personal accolades for it or wanting personal attention because of it.
Symbolically a lack of fire might signify the person who upholds a tradition as it has always been done, to the letter of the law, because they do not feel a need to modify it by placing their personal, egoistic stamp on it.
If the person has an absence of EARTH signs they lack practicality, but on the positive side will not allow practical or real considerations get in the way of their flights of fancy or conceptualizations. This can enhance originality (fire) emotional involvement and intuitive sensitivity(water) as well as an ability to communicate, without having to place definite boundaries (earth) on what they do, or do the dirty work to bring their visions into physical reality (earth).
As an intuitive compensation for their lack of earth they may become picky, or over-organized in an attempt to get a firmer grasp on physical existence. These overcompensations can occur with any lack of element, no matter what the element, and technically the psychological urge to do this is known as a reaction formation.
An absence of planets in AIR signs can mean that the person is beyond the pale of the rational mind, and therefore not in need to justifications or reasons for his or her thoughts. The absence of air planets in a chart might enhance intuitive ability. This person tends not to be stopped or hampered by communication or the lack of it. Emotions (water), physical reality (earth), and the flow and change of energies (fire) are more important to them.
An absence of planets in WATER signs in a chart signifies a person who is not held down in any way by emotions. Do not think this means they have no feeling, it simply means that when needed they can overcome feelings — put them aside if need be to perform the task at hand. This might be a person, for instance who, even though they fall in love with someone, will not sacrifice their existence for that individual if the situation appears to be dysfunctional, destructive or in some major way detrimental to their well-being.
The beginning student often comes to the idea of missing elements with the bias that anything missing is a lack, is something that should be there. This is not always the case. Lack of an element can be freedom from that element and can be used, potentially by the person whose chart has that lack as a source of great power.
The essential modality of a chart, that is, determining whether the person is most strongly expressing cardinal, fixed, or mutable energy, is determined by looking at all of the oppositions between planets in the chart, as was detailed in blog 9.
Once this has been accomplished you can next look to see how many planets are in cardinal, fixed, and mutable. When you do this, the modality with the most number of planets will often be the same one as the modality determined by the oppositions. If it is not, this means that the determination by opposition is backed up or supported by a second modality as determined by a preponderance of planets in another modality. In other words, when it comes to modality, OPPOSITIONS ALWAYS TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER PREPONDERANCE, preponderance being the technical term for the largest number of planets in an element or modality.
For instance, if the opposition(s) in a chart is in mutable signs, it shows a friendly, flexible person who focuses on people as individuals, but if the preponderance in the chart is in cardinal signs, this focus is expressed in a way that initiates experience and which tends to deal directly with conflicts, as the cardinal signs do. If the oppositions in a chart are in mutable signs, but the preponderance of planets are in fixed signs, the persons friendliness and flexibility are guided by an idealism, with a focus on right/wrong and good/evil dichotomies as expressed by the fixed signs.
A lack of cardinal planets in a chart can signify a person who can easily get beyond conflict, as well as look beyond the sometimes obscuring nature of crises so they may see what is really going on. They can seem to have an immunity to confrontation.
A lack of planets in fixed signs will tend to not worry about the future and who is freed from ties to abstractions or idealizations. At worst they may lack moral fiber, and/or be swayed by any an all ideas because they have no core beliefs of their own strong enough to hang on to.
A lack of planets in mutable signs may feel no inner need to adjust to circumstances, or to be concerned with the unique and individual personalities of other people. they may also be relative free of worry, or of any need to modify their behavior to please others.