Updated: Sep 28, 2021
The Five Elements Theory is based on an ancient Chinese philosophy concept discerned thousands of years ago. The cliff notes version is that the interaction between the elements can have generating effects, or, it can cause challenging ones.
In the picture, the elements starting from the top moving down clockwise: wood, fire, earth, metal and water...
So how do the elements influence our personality?!
The five elements are the properties which support a universal principle of cause and effect. It defines the property of an element and how it interacts with other elements - and it describes how humans are, and how we interact with one another because we are made up of these same elements.
Imagine yourself as the Fire element. Your friend, who's a wood element, comes along and starts hanging out with you... So what happens next?! Your friend Wood stokes your fire and you burn even higher and brighter. You tell some jokes, you both burst out in laughter and the good times roll. Now, imagine that your mom, a water element, decides to rain on your fun, and tells you that you got to clean your room... Your fire is immediately doused out. No more fun! Not cool mom.
However, in Chinese astrology you can have a combination of traits based on an identified major element personality type, as well as some minor elemental influences. For example; you may have major water element personality traits, with minor influences of fire traits. This could mean you are mostly dreamy, gentle, quiet and reserved most of the time, and yet at other times during special occasions or close family events, you're able to come out of your shell, be completely extroverted, excited to have a good time and ready to socialize.
Here are three methods commonly used to discover your element personality types.
1. Element by Animal Sign
If you are the following animal sign:
Tiger, Rabbit = WOOD
Snake, Horse = FIRE
Ox, Dragon, Goat, Dog = EARTH
Monkey, Rooster = METAL
Pig, Rat = WATER
2. Element by Birth Season
If you are born in the following season:
Spring = WOOD (March, April, May)
Summer = FIRE (June, July)
Late Summer = EARTH (August, September)
Autumn = METAL (October, November)
Winter = WATER (December, January, February)
3. Element by the Last Number of Your Birth Year
If your birth year ends in the following:
0 or 1 = METAL
2 or 3 = WATER
4 or 5 = WOOD
6 or 7 = FIRE
8 or 9 = EARTH
In addition to the birth year, animal sign, and/or season, you can also use your intuition- or ask your friends to see which element resembles your personality best.
We all make choices in how we demonstrate the best or worst of ourselves in different situations. These are typically referred to as strengths or weaknesses of character.
I prefer to use words with a mindful vantage point of evolved traits (engaged in a benevolent way), or imbalanced traits (traits offering an opportunity for growth when we reflect on imbalanced mental/emotional energies). When we have a harmonious outlook we consciously engage our evolved personality traits. Alternatively, when we experience discord, we may engage our imbalanced traits.
Examples of descriptive traits for each of the element personality types:
WOOD ELEMENT PERSONALITY TYPE
ARCHETYPE: THE PIONEER
Example 1: Steve Jobs - born in 1955 (a wood element year), in the month of the Tiger, (a natural wood element animal), this meant that Steve was a major creative visionary wood element personality. Because Steve was born in year of the Goat, he also had minor Earth personality influences, which made Steve stubborn, practical and grounded in achieving his goals. Steve Jobs' powerful drive and visionary goals in building the brand Apple made him infamous. He also built Pixar Studios, a top animation production company producing hits like 'Finding Nemo', 'Up', 'Cars', 'The Incredibles', 'Toy Story' and many more. His imbalanced traits were his lack of patience, volatile emotions, arrogance and insensitivity to others feelings. Ones that were acknowledged and verified in many a biopic on his life story. He usually subjected those who were closest to him to his worst traits when striving for something larger than life. A commonly found trait in Wood personalities.
FIRE ELEMENT PERSONALITY TYPE
ARCHETYPE: THE MAGICIAN
Lover of art/ beauty
Life of the Party
Burnt out (over exhausted)
Insensitive to others feelings
Example 2: Kanye West - Born in 1976 (a fire element year), born in the month of June (a fire season of summer) means Kanye has tons of Fire to spit when he creates his artistic works. He is also year of the Fire dragon, which makes him that much more exciting to be around and charismatic, with Earthly elemental traits of musical talent. As a well known personality, Kanye has received admiration and criticism alike for his passionate/outspoken views and attention seeking conduct at events and awards shows.
EARTH ELEMENT PERSONALITY TYPE
ARCHETYPE: THE NURTURER
Advocate to kids/animals
Afraid of change
Example 3: Adele - Born in the year 1988 (an Earth element year), she was born to love music and be a singer! Her birthday is May 5 (a Wood element season) which adds minor influences of being an adventurous, creative artist and a powerhouse in developing her innovative, yet deeply evocative sound. Adele embodies strong Earth element traits as her major element. She is a sensual Earth Dragon who loves the beauty of life and cherishes those closest to her! You can tell when listening to her songs, Adele overcomes her challenges of over-thinking by channeling those imbalances into beautiful harmonies and with expressive, soul moving lyrics.
METAL ELEMENT PERSONALITY TYPE
ARCHETYPE: THE ALCHEMIST
Respectful of elders
Seeker of knowledge
Example 4: Sza - Born in 1990 (a Metal element year), and on November 8, (a Metal season of Autumn) her personality naturally emanates a spiritual essence. Sza is also born in the year of the pig, an animal sign that naturally represents water element characteristics, which contributes to her desire not to be pigeon-holed to one mold musically and why she can channel her thoughts into musical form with the discipline of metal element traits supporting her. Sza is an expansive soul who taps into the energies of crystals, meditation with chakra activating singing bowls and centres herself regularly with daily rituals. A trait that metal personalities can't live without is routine, routine, routine! As a metal element personality, Sza may become imbalanced when she is being overly rigid or too strict with her routines and rituals.
WATER ELEMENT PERSONALITY TYPE
ARCHETYPE: THE PHILOSOPHER
Lover of stories
Example 5: Emily Blunt - Born in 1983 (a water element year) as well in year of the pig (pig is naturally ruled by a water element), Emily is a go with the flow kind of girl. She is also born on February 23, making Emily another example of a Triple whammy element personality type. She may even feel the ebb and flow of emotions with the moon cycles! This confirms her water element traits of possessing a vivid imagination, a playful nature, a love of stories - all which are fantastic characteristics for portraying authenticity in her acting roles. When she is engaged in her imbalanced traits, she may become self indulgent or flirt with the propensity to practice escapism in negative situations.
Now that you've learned how to assess your own Elemental traits, which element types represent you the best?! What is your major element type? Which are your Minor element types?
With the three methods listed above, you can figure out your combo of element types for more clarity on your most distinguishing personality traits.
Be sure to check out my previous article about Chinese Philosophy and the 5 Elements Theory, so you can gain a greater understanding of yourself and the people closest to you.