The four elements – earth, water, air and fire are something that we often take for granted. Within both the spiritual and scientific communities these are discussed and accepted as being the corner stone of life – though they may be seen and known as something slightly different, the foundations are still the same. Over the coming weeks I will be breaking down each element and discussing what it means, how to work with it and how it influences our life, though today I wanted to give you a brief introduction to what you can expect and a little ‘history’ lesson on the elements throughout our lives.
I will be making accompanying videos that will delve deeper into the magickal practices that you can do to connect to the element itself and how I incorporate them into my own everyday life but for now let’s get an overview of what they are.
You can see the mention of the elements within traditions from modern Western esotericism to Christianity, Buddhism, ancient pagan religions and everything in between. While these may all differ in how they are mentioned, the aspect of knowing there is other things that make up our life or are around us that create life and sustain it. For this article and the continued articles I will be looking at this from a Western approach though as I am talking through my own belief system which is an accumulation of the many different pieces of knowledge I have gained over the years and what resonates for me, this may not resonate for you and I always encourage you to do your own research.
Let’s go back and do a science lesson for those of you who like to understand in a modern way. Many people in our past – Pliny, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Manilius and Paracelsus to name a few of our more famous characters that are at the essence of modern science explored this concept of the elements that make up our life. For this I will be using Aristotle as our main example as he is the one I find is most mentioned in a lot of the scientific research I have come across.
The ancients believed that the elements made up all things and within Greece the common time I came across as this being widely accepted was around 450BC though I know that many cultures believed and taught this well before this time. Aristotle is widely known as introducing the concept of a fifth element known as aether and if you do a google search on this to this day you will see the conflict surrounding this element though modern science has “debunked” the theory – it is more likely to be accepted as the theory of dark matter and I will be dedicating an entire article to this fifth element. It was widely accepted through physics and alchemy within history as being the ‘space inside the particle or the material that filled the universe beyond the terrestrial sphere’.
Back to our science. In modern science they do not teach the elements as they do in spiritual communities and to some degree they “debunk” this theory of the four elements in replacement for the common acceptance of what they are now ( I will point out that though science is our most accepted “religion” and belief system today, it is constantly evolving and I believe it is just the second side to the coin with spirituality) Our modern four elements that are accepted as making up life are: Solid (earth), liquid (water) gas (air) and plasma (fire) so you can see though the words have changed, the concept is still very much the same and this is true to many belief systems.
So let’s leave science behind and delve into the spiritual aspect of the elements. The elements can be seen as our oldest ‘ancestors’, they were here before us and within us is the essence of these elements. To look at this simply – we need fire from the sun to keep warm and grow food, water to drink and sustain life, air to breathe and earth to support it all. Depending on the traditions you explore there may be a hierarchy to these elements in order of importance or power – within my own belief system I blend traditional Wicca belief that they are all equal with a little of the alchemy aspect too – which talks of the masculine and feminine qualities and as they were back in time – the masculine being more higher than the feminine. While my own beliefs may sound a little contradictory, I find that I do feel the masculine elements – which I will go over briefly momentarily, are more elusive in their essence so I do feel they are a little more “rare” or complicated to deal with.
So our elements can represent day to day qualities within our lives and often we associate other objects within the elements as well and this can complicate things – for example though we see plants as being an element of earth, within the plant world you will find plants that represent the element of fire or water depending on their qualities. The same can be seen for days of the week, planets, time of day, emotions etc. Let’s have a quick look at a basic list that can explain what the elements can represent – keeping in mind that this may vary slightly depending on the traditions you are exploring.
Earth: this is feminine, the “lowest” on the alchemical list as it is present in a solid form, it’s qualities are cold and dry, seen as the direction of the north, winter, midnight and time of the new moon. Its colour is green, the magickal tool is represented as the pentacle and the elemental being it is governed by is the gnomes. The zodiac signs are Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo.
Water: this is also feminine, higher than earth as though it is physical it is fluid in form. It’s qualities are cold and moist, the direction of west, autumn and the waning moon and time of sunset. It’s colour is blue and the magickal tool is the cup or chalice and the elemental is Undines. Zodiac signs are Cancer, Pisces and Scorpio
Air: This is masculine and as it is not seen though still present at all times it is the 3rd highest on the scale. Its qualities are warm and moist, seen as the direction of the east, spring time, sunrise and the waxing moon phase. Its colour is yellow and the tool can be either the want or sword/athame depending on your traditions – for me it is the sword. Its elemental is Sylphs with the zodiac signs of Aquarius, Gemini and Libra.
Fire: This is masculine and seen as the rarest and highest element. Its qualities are warm and dry, the direction of the south, summer, midday and the full moon phase. Its colour is red and the magickal tool is either the sword/ athame or wand – for me it is the wand (I use tarot as my basis here, the suit of wands is usually seen as fire and swords as air) the elemental is Salamander and the zodiac signs of Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.
Spirit/aether: This does not have the same kind of correspondences as the others – though it is seen as the “as above, so below and within” concept and can be represented with the colours of violet, orange and white.
So you can see here that the further we delve into the elements, the more interesting they become as not being just simple elements that make up our life and they are also something that deserve our respect and can be worked with on a day to day basis. I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction that has barely scraped the surface of what to expect and stay tuned for our more in depth look at each element throughout the coming weeks.
Love and Light