One of the most common and most popular uses of astrology in modern times is looking at personality. People desperately want to understand themselves. We live in a world that exalts the individual in theory but crushes them in practice; a world that sells us personalities of consumption. You aren't a Starbucks habit, you aren't that show you binged on Netflix, you aren't your job, you aren't that pizza you ate in one sitting, you aren't your followers on social media, you aren't a targeted advertisement. All of these things can be taken away and you'll still be you. So, who are you when everything else is gone?
What we call personality is shaped by the disposition or temperament we're born with and the socialization we receive from our environment. Think of yourself as a sculpture. Your temperament is like the material you're made of; wood, stone, metal, etc. Socialization is like the sculpting process. There's an artist, some outside force, that wants you to take on a certain shape. The material you're made of dictates how you react to these outside forces. If you're made of stone and someone tries to bend you, it's not gonna work. Wood and metal however, can be bent.
Society is trying to sculpt you into a shape that represents all of your labels. Labels cross over into what are called "schemas." Schemas are brain shortcuts that we use to categorize and process information. An example of a schema would be the word "cat." Everything that comes to mind with the word "cat" is part of your schema of what cats are. Now, let's say you asked two people for a cat sculpture. One brings you a sculpture of a house cat and one brings you a sculpture of a tiger. They're technically both right but maybe you had something else in mind.
If you asked someone to sculpt a woman they would probably bring you either an image of a mother or an image of a young, thin, delicate beauty. If you asked for a warrior you would probably get the image of a man. That's what socialization is. We learn schemas from other people then we're expected to fit them, whether we want to or not.
The Four Humors
A person's temperament is associated with the four humors, a concept from ancient Greek medicine. The humors are four body fluids that each person has in different amounts. The idea is that we each have our own unique balance between these fluids which determines our temperament; our own state of equilibrium. The main focus of this post is about the personality portion of temperament but there are many ways to use temperament. Temperament can be used to optimize diet, exercise, and health by identifying and maintaining your personal equilibrium. Illness was thought to be a result of an imbalance of the humors.
These four fluids are biological realities but we're talking about them in a more metaphorical sense. If you were found to have an excess of the sanguine humor (blood), ancient Greeks would literally drain some of your blood. Now, people who use temperament would suggest a cold shower or dry food. This is the kind of thing you would see a medical astrologer for.
Yes, there's an entire branch of astrology dedicated to health and the body. Medical astrology isn't opposed to modern medicine, it supplements it. Medical astrologers do things like identify the causes of illness, identify types of possible treatment, and determine the severity of illness. They aren't going to tell you not to go to the doctor. They'll tell you things like which type of doctor you may need, what tests to ask them to run, and what natural things you can do to prevent disease.
I am not a doctor, I have no medical training, and none of this is intended as medical advice. I am also not a medical astrologer so I don't offer these types of services.
Each of the four humors are associated with a temperament and each temperament is associated with a certain temperature and moisture.
· Blood - this is the sanguine humor, it's hot and wet
· Black Bile - this is the melancholic humor, it's cold and dry
· Yellow Bile - this is the choleric humor, it's hot and dry
· Phlegm - this is the phlegmatic humor, it's cold and wet
Complexional Qualities: Temperature and Moisture
This is how temperament is calculated. Several factors are examined in a person's nativity (birth chart) with each one adding points to the four qualities hot, cold, wet, and dry. These are known as complexional scores with complexion being another word for temperament. Each of these qualities have their own symbolic meaning.
· Hot - the hot quality is associated with passion, aggression, and action. Think about the phrase "hot blooded" or "real hot girl shit." They're talking about people who are bold. A hottie can be lowkey but a hottie isn't letting people walk all over them or letting challenges stop them.
· Cold - the cold quality is associated with being dispassionate, patient, and inaction. A hot person is more likely to act rashly while a cold person is more likely to stop and think before they act. A cold person is more likely to accept things the way they are. Coldness walks the fine line between pessimism and realism. This is what someone means when they tell you to "chill."
· Wet - the wet quality is associated with emotion, connection, and bringing things together. Wet people are more connective and interactive. They're more likely to do things in groups. Drip is literally a wet quality. People wanna fuck with someone that has a WAP not a DAP.
· Dry - the dry quality is associated with separation and logic. Think about a dry conversation or a dry article. It's formal, not very friendly, overly technical, not that interesting, and you want nothing to do with it.
The Temperament Types
There are many methods of calculating temperament with astrology that have been used over the ages. I prefer using Dr. Lee Lehman's modification of Dorian Greenbaum's method which can be found in her book "Traditional Medical Astrology." Traditionally, people were classified as having one of the four temperaments that are associated with the humors. Dr. Lehman posits that there are actually nine temperament types because the calculations often result in more of a mixture rather than one clearly dominant humor.
Traditionally you would calculate the complexional qualities of hot, cold, wet, and dry then whatever combination of temperature and moisture have the highest totals, that was your temperament. However, in many cases a person may only have one dominant complexional quality. For example, someone has 6 more points in hot than cold and 1 more point in wet than dry. We can say they're clearly hot but they're neither particularly wet or dry. This creates a hybrid temperament that's a combination of the two hot types (Sanguine & Choleric) since there's no dominant moisture quality.
· Sanguine - this is the "hot and wet" temperament. Sanguine people are typically outgoing, optimistic, and jovial. They're the life of the party. The hot quality is bringing the active, outgoing traits and the wet quality is bringing the connective traits. Think about how the environmental qualities of hot and wet affect life. They make things grow, like plants in a greenhouse or mold in your bathroom. This is generally seen as the most desirable type since it's the most conducive to life although it does have its downsides. Sanguine people can also lean towards being hedonistic, always trying to turn up, and being shallow. An extreme version of this would be Charlotte from the Princess and the Frog. A more balanced example would be Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA). He just wants to play and have fun. This temperament is associated with the element of air. Air rises upward, swirls around, and goes everywhere.
· Melancholic - this is the "cold and dry" temperament. Melancholic people tend to be more low energy and apathetic. An extreme version of this would be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. It isn't all bad though. Think about what a cold, dry environment does to organic matter. It preserves it; like a fossil or beef jerky. Melancholic people are resilient and tend to be more level headed. A more balanced example of this would be Toph from ATLA. Toph just wants to chill and be left alone most of the time. This temperament is associated with the element of earth. Earth tends to sink and not move.
· Choleric - this is the "hot and dry" temperament. Choleric people tend to be more aggressive and abrasive. An extreme version of this would be Grumpy from Snow White. The good news is your favorite short-tempered, rule breaking characters are also probably choleric. A more balanced example would be Sokka from ATLA. He's always yelling and trying to fight lol. Another ATLA example would be Zuko who is definitely more "dry" than Sokka. This temperament is associated with the element of fire. Fire spreads outwards but once it's burned all the fuel in an area it isn't coming back.
· Phlegmatic - this is the "cold and wet" temperament. Phlegmatic people tend to be more introverted and emotional. Melancholic people would say the world sucks, phlegmatic people would say the world sucks and cry about it (crying isn't a bad thing). An extreme example of the phlegmatic temperament would be Zenitsu from Demon Slayer who is constantly crying, freaking out, and afraid. A more balanced example would be Katara from ATLA who is generally more calm, peaceful, and caring. This temperament is associated with the element of water. Water shifts and flows but without a container it spills out.
· Sanguine-Choleric - this is the hybrid hot temperament. It shares the hot qualities of sanguine and choleric of being active and outgoing. Since neither wet or dry are dominant it has a more balanced expression and can show traits of both qualities.
· Melancholic-Phlegmatic - this is the hybrid cold temperament. It shares the cold qualities of melancholic and phlegmatic of being introverted and less outwardly active. Since there's no dominance between wet and dry it exhibits traits of both. This becomes a more balanced expression of dry logic and wet emotion.
· Sanguine-Phlegmatic - this is the hybrid wet temperament. It shares the wet qualities of sanguine and phlegmatic of being connective and emotional. Since neither hot or cold are dominant, sanguine-phlegmatic types tend to be more balanced between introversion and extroversion.
· Choleric-Melancholic - this is the hybrid dry temperament. It shares the dry qualities of choleric and melancholic of being more logical and unfriendly. Since neither hot or cold are dominant it shares qualities of both; an ambivert. This honestly has know it all energy. Jumping in with trivia but no real action, directionless logic.
· Balanced - the ninth temperament is when the scores of hot, cold, wet, and dry are pretty much equal. The balanced type can display all the qualities but in a much more tempered way since nothing is extreme.
Your temperament can change over time and fluctuates with all kinds of environmental factors. In the summer people become more "hot" and are generally more active. In the winter people become more "cold" and want to stay home and bundle up. If you eat spicy, "hot" food you start to sweat, it wakes you up, increases circulation. Knowing your temperament can help you understand how you react to situations as well as environmental factors. Maybe you're melancholic and you tend to get discouraged easily so you make a conscious effort to get motivated, whatever that looks like for you. Maybe you're choleric and have a quick temper so you try to have more patience. Maybe you're phlegmatic and you get depressed in the winter so you plan ways to cheer yourself up.
Remember, these types all have a lot of variation. Cold and wet (phlegmatic) can range from a cool drink of water to freezing rain. Hot and dry (choleric) can range from my back yard to a desert. The important thing is maintaining the balance between your extremes, whatever they are.