The Four Elements

When magicians refer to the elements, they don't mean the table of elements you learned about in high school chemistry. Rather, these four — earth, air, fire, and water — are fundamental energies that operate in the physical world. You could think of them as the building blocks of life. Their physical aspects are readily apparent — rocks and soil, wind, the sun, lakes and streams. In magic, however, the vibrational qualities of these four elements are equally important.

Alchemical Symbols for the Four Elements

The elements play a key role not only in magic but in many metaphysical practices as well. In astrology, each of the twelve zodiac signs falls into one of these four elements. (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are fire signs; Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn comprise the earth signs; Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius make up the air signs; and Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are water signs.) The four suits of the tarot correspond to the four elements: wands relate to fire, pentacles to earth, swords to air, and cups to water. Each of the four compass directions discussed earlier is also associated with one of the four elements: north is linked with earth, east with air, south with fire, and west with water. Colors, shapes, sounds, smells, textures, food — just about everything — can be grouped into one or another of the elemental categories.

Part of your development as a magician involves understanding and learning to draw upon these elements in order to produce the results you desire. In some instances, you may wish to emphasize one of the elements; in other situations, you might find it advantageous to combine the elements to create balance. Each element has its own properties, and it's up to you to decide how to use them. In later chapters, you'll learn more about the elements and their applications in magic spells.

The following table serves as a simple guide to the elements and their correspondences.

The Elements

Element

Qualities

Direction

Color

Magic Tool

Fire

Action, vitality, passion

South

Red

Wand

Earth

Stability, sensation

North

Green

Pentacle

Air

Communication, thought

East

Yellow

Athame

Water

Emotion, intuition, creativity

West

Blue

Chalice

Fire

Fire's fundamental vibration is masculine or yang. Its energy is active, assertive, stimulating, hot, dry, outer-oriented, energizing, individualized, and self-directed. Metaphysicians also connect the fire element with Spirit and will, for its creative force animates matter. In alchemy, an upward-pointing triangle serves as a symbol for the fire element.

To understand the nature of the fire element, consider the sun. The centerpiece of the solar system, the sun's warmth, light, and vitality are essential to life on Earth. The color red, sports, physical combat, vigorous activity, spicy foods, rock music, cactus, and Corvettes all partake of the fire element. Can you ascertain the common denominator that underlies all these seemingly disparate things?

Fire magic brings the energy of the fire element into your spell. Candle magic is perhaps the most popular form of fire magic. The process of charging a crystal in the sun is an example of another simple fire spell.

Magicians draw upon the fire element when they wish to initiate new projects, break up stagnant situations, or add zest to any endeavor. If you lack initiative, fire magic can help you get started. If you're doing a spell to launch a business venture or stimulate passion in a lackluster relationship, you'll want to include a hefty dose of the fire element.

Earth

Earth's vibration is feminine or yin. Fire may serve as the activating force, but earth provides the substance that gives form to your desires. Stable, receptive, fruitful, passive, nurturing, quiet, slow-moving, inner-directed, and enduring, earth energy is depicted best by Mother Earth herself. In alchemy, a downward-pointing triangle with a horizontal line through it symbolizes the earth element.

The color green, agriculture, oak trees, rocks, massage therapy, bread, cashmere, leather furniture, and government bonds all correspond to the earth element — can you see why? Magicians tap earth's energy when they want to encourage growth and/or abundance, to make a dream a reality, or to produce a long-lasting result. If your goal is to attract wealth or protect your home, you'll want to incorporate the earth element into your spell.

Earth magic often involves drawing upon the fertility of Mother Earth. Some prosperity spells, for instance, recommend planting seeds to represent your objectives. As you water and care for the seeds, you symbolically nurture your dreams. As the plant grows and flourishes, your intentions will bear fruit.

Air

Air's energy is masculine or yang. Its alchemical symbol is an upward-pointing triangle with a horizontal line through it. Usually this element is associated with ideas, the mental realm, communication and language, instability, flexibility, rapid movement, and social interaction. If you want to get a good sense of the air element, think of the wind. The wind is never still and can quickly change from a balmy breeze to a gusty gale. The wind also carries pollen to fertilize crops, just as ideas move between people to enrich cultures.

Air magic involves communication. Words of power, such as the fabled word “ABRACADABRA,” invoke air magic. Magicians frequently use chants, affirmations, and incantations in spells and rituals. Whether you speak these words aloud or write them down, specially chosen words and phrases can help activate your intentions.

Here are some familiar things that fall under the domain of air: the color yellow, computers, books, birds, flute music, telephones, fans, voile, and incense. Can you see the underlying similarities between these objects that link them to the air element? If you wish to stimulate new ideas, to enhance communication or cooperation between people, or to help someone ace a test, consider drawing on the energies of air to empower your spell.

Water

Water's vibration is feminine or yin. Alchemists use a downward-pointing triangle to symbolize this element. Receptive, passive, cool, quiet, inner-directed, adaptable, fluid, intuitive, undifferentiated, and creative, the water element is usually linked with the emotions. To understand the characteristics of this element, observe its many natural forms. The ocean's tides, the rain that nourishes crops, and the stream that erodes soil and even rocks over time all depict various aspects of water.

Water's essence is present in the color blue, sailboats, alcoholic beverages, poetry, painting, dreams, and perfume — can you see why? Spells designed to encourage romantic feelings between two people, to inspire imagination, or to defuse antagonistic situations can benefit from a splash of the water element.

Water spells often involve liquid of some type, such as water, wine, or fruit juice. Pour the liquid you've chosen into a special goblet or chalice. Focus on your objective, mentally projecting your intentions into the liquid. Then drink the beverage to make your wish come true. If your spell involves a relationship with another person, invite him to share the magical drink with you.

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