In modern witchcraft, the elements are meant to describe feelings and flavors of energy, not literal substances. I believe this also applies to the elements within astrology, as well as the elemental alignment of each suit of the tarot. The symbol itself comes from the tradition of Hermeticism.
I’m working on getting a feel for the flavor of each element. I find that easiest to do by thinking about people in my life and how they feel. Occasional I’ll think about the feeling of a place or situation.
In trying to understand earth I’ve thought about myself, because I have so many earth signs in my chart, and people have always said I feel very grounding (which struck me as a weird thing before I underwent some big shifts in belief systems).
When I’m most myself, I feel still and deep as the forest. When I think of other earth signs I know, they also have a certain stillness and presence. I also feel slowness, deliberateness, and an interest in details. When I am most earthy, I am interested in what _is_, and drawn to explore, be with, and hold space for that. I love being attuned to what the plants and weather are doing each day, which gives me a sense of knowing exactly where I am… a feeling of “here-ness”. In my relationships I also feel drawn to push forward any latent potential in others, to encourage their growth in whatever direction they desire.
Earth is the deep container from which and within comes growth.