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Finding Your Birth Element and Its Meaning

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

As I write this, I have two and a half months left to finish of my year-long Cowry Shell Divination training program with one of my teachers, Elder Malidoma Somé. I will share more about this ancient, divinatory medicine with you as soon as I complete my certification in September! But, for today, I wanted to introduce the five Elements of the Dagara cosmology wheel and how they can help you better understand yourself.

The Dagara people are members of an indigenous tribe in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. I was first introduced to Malidoma's work in the summer of 2016 by my friend, Susan. I was so fascinated that I soon began reading his autobiography, Of Water and the Spirit. While reading, something deep within me began to awaken and I knew, without a doubt that I was being called to work and study with this incredible diviner and African Shaman.

The Medicine Wheel

Most people are quite familiar with the western medicine wheel that is taught by many indigenous cultures: fire, air, water and earth. These elements are often associated with the four directions. Western Astrologers also teach us that each of the 12 zodiac signs are equally divided into these four elements.

The Dagara medicine wheel is slightly different as it contains five elements: nature, fire, mineral and water, with earth situated in the middle. In the Dagara tradition, each of the five elements are associated with these corresponding numbers:

  • Earth; 0 and 5

  • Water; 1 and 6

  • Fire; 2 and 7

  • Nature; 3 and 8

  • Mineral; 4 and 9

Malidoma teaches that the year you are born determines your predominant qualities and the elemental properties that will be your strongest in this lifetime.

To find out which element you are, you simply need to know the last number of your birth year. For example, I was born in 1987, so my birth year is a 7. The 7 tells me that I am a fire person; somebody who is a voice and bridge of the Other World and somebody who is deeply connected to her Ancestral roots and wisdom. If you've ever worked with me, then you know that is an accurate description!

The last year, 2020, was an earth year. It was a year where many focused on returning back home while much of the world was locked down and restricted. It was a year of connecting to family and discovering our sense of belonging. It should be no surprise that home, family and belonging are all properties of the earth in the Dagara tradition.

This year is 2021 which means that we are in a water year; a year of peace, reconciliation and deep cleansing. I sense so much reconciliation and cleansing happening on a worldwide scale and throughout all of humanity. This healing frequency is exactly the kind of restorative energy that our planet needs right now!

So, now that you know which element you correspond with, let's breakdown each one.

Earth People

Grounded and rooted, the earth person was born in the years ending in 0 or 5. They are, as Malidoma would say, the "Great Mothers" who helps everyone around them feel at home, nourished, supported and comforted. Earth people love taking care of others and have a knack for accepting others as they are, without judgement.

A person who embodies earth energy is firm, solid, stable, patient, strong and wise. They care deeply about creating a safe and loving home and family. They have a strong sense of belonging and identity. Essentially, they know who they are and where they're going, which is comforting to those who have lost their way.

Earth people are able to bring out the best in others. This helps to empower others by building them up and making them feel a sense of belonging. If you are an earth person, then you know all about unconditional love and you are generous with your care and attention.

The downside of being an earth person is that they can give so much of themselves to others that they often forget to fill their own cup up. Earth people need to consciously care and nourish themselves first and foremost so that they have more to give to those they love. As the saying goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup."

Water People

If you were born in a year ending in 1 or 6, then you are a water person, a peacemaker and a harmony seeker. Water represents compassion, empathy, deep feelings and emotions, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. A water person's strengths are often centered around community, relationships, friendships, love and harmony.

The voice of a water person is smooth and peaceful. They're often good at resolving conflicts and helping others to find harmonious solutions. They know how to reconcile differences with others and within themselves. Someone with a lot of water energy will appear cool, calm and collected even while weathering the storm. They are flexible and adaptable.

Water people are also very reflective and focused. They like to move at a slow and flowing pace so they have time to observe and understand the bigger picture and what's best for the greater good. A water person takes the term, "Going with the flow," to a whole new level. But, because of this, they can sometimes appear to others as moving too slowly or lacking motivation and ambition.