The four elements form the bedrock of the Astrological model and consequently deserve a prominent role in Astrological education, so in order to stimulate a group of beginning students of Astrology, I created altars depicting natural items, colours, objects and visual images associated with each of the four elements. In the fire corner there were bright coloured cloths and costumes, candles, sparklers and chilli peppers while in the earth corner I had earthy textured cloths, sensual food, different types of earth and natural objects, similar themes were followed for water and air.
I asked the class to chose an element they felt drawn to and to discuss the following questions in their assembled groups. Here is the “earth group’s” response.
What is your immediate feeling response to the element?
Sensual, beautiful, heavy, calming, want to touch it, simple, heavy, oozy, messy
What are some common ways you come into contact with it and some unusual ways?
Gardening, cooking, craft, pottery, feet in mud, building, the body, bush walking, stones, barefoot,
What are some of the properties of the element?
Heavy, life-giving, sustaining, nurtures, cyclic, rhythmic, stable, bountiful, fleshy, rotation, slow, natural movement, supportive,
What happens when there is too much?
Landslide, smothers, covers everything like blanket, weighed down, squashed
What would it feel like if this element were lacking?
Ungrounded, flimsy, unreliable, chaotic, scary, future unknown, can’t trust, nothing to hold on to, off the planet, out of touch with reality
What are some word associations or expressions?
Solid as a rock, grounded, stuck in the mud.
As a whole group they then explored how to translate the above observations into a psychological picture, concluding with a synopsis of the potential needs, wants and values of the earthy self. The group arrived at the following conclusions: the earthy part of us seeks stability, security, a life that has some routine and rhythm, concrete achievements and goals, to create tangible and useful things and have experiences that please the senses. They also discussed what it would be like if someone was not in touch with his or her earthy needs or if the earthy side of them dominated their psychic life.
This approach encourages students to recognise the spirit of the Astrology in their immediate environment, to see the connection between the mundane and archetypal as well as bringing a spirit of intuitive play to learning. By trusting their instinctive responses to the physical world around them, an appreciation of the knowledge that resides within develops which in turn provides a foundation for further Astrological study.
Using the physical body as an instrument of learning assists students to make the Astrological knowledge ‘real’. Astrology is essentially a language of energy, expressing it through the body can give students a direct experience of Astrological principles. For example I used a simple movement exercise to deepen student’s understanding of the three quadruplicates; twenty words describing movements that mirrored the various modalities were placed upside down on the floor (e.g. kick, thrust, push for cardinal energy). As students turned the cards over, they allocated them to either cardinal, fixed or mutable, then in small groups created a movement sequence expressing all three modalities.
The group then discussed how these differing energies felt, e.g. while expressing fixed energy, students expressed a feeling of solidity, power and strength while also recognising the dangers of staying too long in this position i.e. getting stuck or bogged down. Students were then asked to reflect on their individual preferences, and how that related to the balance of modalities in their chart.
By using natural and practical teaching tools for the elements and the modalities, the Astrology teacher provides beginning students with a felt experience that they can draw on for the remainder of their Astrological education.