elements The four elements of nature — earth, air, water and fire — form the foundation of natural Magic. The elements are associated with the cardinal points of the Magic CIRCLE and with a hierarchy of spirits — beings called ElementALS.
In Western occultism, the four elements are considered the basis of all life, not only on the planet but throughout the universe as well, linking humankind to nature, the heavens and the divine, and governing mankind’s well- being. In the ancient Mysteries, the rays of celestial bodies become the elements when they strike the crystallized in- fluences of the lower world. The elements figured prominently in the magic of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who ascribed to each one various attributes and characteristics.
Plato divided all beings into four groups based on the elements — air/birds, water/fish, earth/pedestrians and fire/stars — all of which are interrelated. The magicians and alchemists of the Middle Ages ascribed elements to external and internal parts of the human body; various gems, minerals and metals; planets and constellations; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; various species of the animal and plant kingdoms; human personality traits; and geometrical shapes.
Roger Flud (1574-1637), alchemist and astrologer, related the elements to harmonics, while another Renaissance alchemist, Sisismund Bactrom, believed that if all the elements could be harmonized and united, the result would be the Philosopher’s Stone. This is represented by the fifth element, spirit, which Carl G. Jung called the quinta essentia.
The Mithraic Mysteries hold that man must rule the elements before he can attain spiritual wisdom; accordingly, he must successfully undergo the initiations of earth, air, water and fire, each of which test a different aspect of his nature and being.
Some of the major correspondences of the elements are:
The north; the pentacle; female principle; fertility; darkness, quiet; practicality; thrift; acquisition; patience; responsibility; boredom; stagnation; the materialization of cosmic powers; the color green; the metal gold.
The east, the wand (in some traditions, the sword and athame); male principle; intellect, energy, endeavor; sociability; squandering, frivolity; the expression of the magician’s will; the color yellow; the metal silver.
The west; the cup, challice and cauldron; female principle; fecundity; body fluids; magical brews; the rhythms of nature; emotions, sensitivity, receptivity; instability, indifference; the color blue; the metal silver.
The south; the sword or athame (in some traditions, the wand); male principle; action, courage, defense against hostile forces; struggle, animosity, jealousy, anger; the color orange; the metal gold.
Connection to cosmos; the Self; the Mystic Center; the All That Is.
Familiars are considered sources of vital elemental energy. Ritual tools and objects are consecrated with the four elements, by placing them on or touching them with a pentacle, passing them over a candle flame and a censer (air) and sprinkling them with salted water (see witches’ tools). When a magic circle is cast, it is consecrated and purified with the elements. Each element or its symbol is taken to its corresponding quarter, and its guardian spirit is invoked.
- Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium. Revised ed. London: Thorsons/Harper Collins, 1996.
- Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat. New York: Magickal Childe, 1984.
Elements are the building blocks of the material world. In Western thought, there are four primary elements: earth, air, fire, and water; the esoteric tradition describes a fifth and spiritual element, the Quintessence.
Each element has its unique properties and characteristics, which in magic and alchemy as well as in ancient traditions of medicine, function on both physical and spiritual levels. In addition, there are beings called elementals that live in each element and embody its essence.
Associations of the elements are:
Earth: physical; the body; health; personal resources such as money, time, energy; solidity; fertility.
Water: emotions; intuition; the unconscious; vitalizing fluids and forces; rhythms of nature.
Air: mental effort; thought; rationality; communication; intellectual activities; decisions.
Fire: action; exploration; purification.
According to Henry Cornelius Agrippa in Occult Philosophy, the four elements exist through the universe in everything, even spirits and angels, and occur in three types. On Earth they are mixed and impure; in the stars they are pure. A third type are composite elements which are mutable and are the vehicles for all transformations. In kabbalistic thought, the four elements are represented by the four rivers that flow out of the Garden of Eden, described in Genesis. The four elements are associated with the four fixed signs of the zodiac, the four apostles of the New Testament, and the four directions of the world:
Paracelsus distinguished two types of substances, adamic and non-adamic. Adam is flesh, from which all human beings are made, is composed of the four elements, each of which rule different aspects of health and being. The body has a physical or mineral component, a vegetative or humid component, a fiery or warmth and motion component, and an airy or intellectual component.
- Bardon, Franz. Initiation into Hermetics: A Course of Instruction of Magic Theory and Practice. Wuppertal, Germany: Dieter Ruggeberg, 1971.
- Hall, Manly P. Paracelsus: His Mystical and Medical Philosophy. Los Angeles: The Philosophic Research Society, 1964.
- Melville, Francis. The Secrets of High Magic. Haupaugge, N.Y.: Barron’s, 2002.