Seasons and Temperament

Frequently astrologers ask whether the principles of astrology, which were developed in the northern hemisphere, apply equally in the southern hemisphere. This question is prompted by the fact that the Summer north of the Equator corresponds to Winter south of the Equator, and the same goes for Spring and Autumn. Also underlying this question is a notion that the principles of human “temperament” were originally derived from observations of the four seasons of the year. Such is not the case.

The development of the idea of “temperament” is a complex issue that has to do with the philosophical principles which the founders of astrology in the Hellenic world decided to incorporate into their invention of Western astrology. Centered in Alexandria, these early astrologers inherited the astrology of Mesopotamia, to which they added concepts drawn from Egyptian religion and culture and philosophical ideas from Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, etc.

Among these philosophical concepts, the idea of the four basic qualities (hot vs. cold, and wet vs. dry) was fundamental. Each of the fundamental four elements consisted of combinations or pairs of the basic qualities; that is, each element was either hot or cold, and wet or dry.

The planets, arranged in spheres or orbs geocentrically according to their relative speeds and distance from the Earth, were then categorized with reference to their primary qualities and elemental natures. For example, the Sun in the central concentric sphere of the scheme of nested spheres was obviously hot and dry, whereas Saturn (the outermost planet at the edge of the known universe and furthest from the Sun) was cold and dry.

Apiani Celestial Sphere 1539

All physical things were thought to consist of various combinations of the basic 4 elements.

In human terms, the elements could be seen in the behavior and physical characteristics of human beings. This led to the idea of temperaments and and the concept humors in medicine:

Fire – choleric (yellow bile, hot and dry).
Air – sanguine (blood, hot and wet).
Earth – melancholic (black bile, cold and dry).
Water – phlegmatic (phlegm, cold and wet).

This scheme was not derived from the seasons, but rather from the philosophy and religious beliefs of the epoch. The seasons were an example of the functioning of the four elements in nature. Ptolemy in the 2nd century attempted to apply these astrological concepts to weather and climate because he viewed astrology as a natural science, but the original ideas about temperament were based in the four primary qualities and the related four elements of ancient Greek philosophy.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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2 Responses to Seasons and Temperament

  1. Cinsight says:

    Hi Anthony

    Thank you very much for this post Anthony. I have been trying to understand how this system came about because it never seemed to me to marry with the seasons.

    Apart from the southern hemisphere issue, I have been unable to get my head around the seasonal

    Winter is cold and wet (fine)

    Summer is hot and dry (fine)

    But Autumn is when the weather is cooling and is usually a dry season, eg cold and dry

    Spring is warming but is usually the wettest season, eg hot and wet

    In the natural arrangement of the elements, Fire, Earth, Air, Water, (Air and water seem very out of place)

    What I mean is that Fire (HOT and DRY) is followed by Earth (Cold and Dry) followed by Air (which is a wrong fit for winter, which is cold and wet, whereas air is said to be warm) followed by water which is a wrong fit for Spring which is normally a wet season (fine) but also warming up, whereas it is said to be a mix of cold and wet.

    I also struggle with air being warm in terms of the general nature of air, which is left brained and rational hence not ‘warm’

    And water which is right brained and considered to be more ‘warm’ in its function associated with feelings and “human warmth” etc

    Thank you for your post which has helped (can I quote you in my new book? I’ll be in touch if so) however in terms of the basic nature of air and water and the psychological types that they marry with (Jung) there is still a bad fit for air and if you have any further insights I would be very happy to continue this discussion.

    Many Thanks

    Michele Finey

    +61 434356534

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