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The Elements - Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Spirit


Guest WoodSong
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Quoting from a wiccan web page: "The Elements are connected with each and every process in Nature. They are symbolic of physical, spiritual and emotional attributes."

 

In terms of the age of the concept we're talking ancient Greek. They thought that these elements were the root of all existing matter. But I just don't understand why this theory is still proclaimed after 2000 years of scientific discovery.

 

I don't do spells (much) and I don't cast the circle with them. But this is purely my personal logic: I treat them as the 4 states of matter -

 

fire - plasma

air - gas

water - liquid

earth - solid

 

So they stack up vertically in that order, and are very much are a part of all nature, from ancient Greece to the present day. Sometimes I imagine that water is lower than earth, but often it sits on the earth. Spirit as the 5th state would be above them all, or encompassing them all.

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Hmm I agree and I don't. I'm sure there are people who have done a vast amount of research and who have not had a wiccan background who have (or could have) written books which could legitimately claim to be different from wicca. On the other hand, the ones that I've read that claim to be different seem to be more the result of blind arrogance.

 

I have seen some daft books. I also know of one person who claimed to have been inducted into coven that could now only meet on the astral plane (due to all the other members being dead), and did, from time to time. she claimed her tradition was completely uninfluenced by Wicca. for example, though they called the quarters, they used different colours to symbolise the compass points. A famous collector of traditional magic collected her tradition and put it in one of his books.

 

...and usually it seems in a circle they use representatives of the elements rather than even working with the actual elements directly (e.g. "Hail, guardians of the East, I summon the powers of air to stand firm to guard and protect and lend your energy to the work being done here" *waves a bit of incense around*). There's usually a psychological association attached too (water represents emotion because it's changeable but can run deep) and that is what is often called upon. It seems variable as to whether you view them as actual spirits of the elements or as energies or whatever.

 

That came into Wicca from OGD/OTO practices. I suspect the elements took hold from the Tarot. Medieval tarot packs had the four elements and had swords, cups etc, so that would have provided a ready made association with tools that might be used in magic with elements. But when they becamse associated with compass points, I can't recall. I did do some research, years ago, on this subject, and found something, in the end. Unfortunately, that was a private conversation and I lost those emails when my email mail programme crashed, six or seven years ago. I might be talking utter tosh! ;) Except I know the four elements existed in pre-Elizabethan alchemy. as you pointed out - they probably came from ancient ideas about the composition of the world.

 

Oh, that reminds me. You mentioned akasha. Yes, that's sanskrit. But there is a European concept that might have been the original idea for the fifth point on a Wiccan pentacle - aether.

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I have seen some daft books. I also know of one person who claimed to have been inducted into coven that could now only meet on the astral plane (due to all the other members being dead), and did, from time to time. she claimed her tradition was completely uninfluenced by Wicca. for example, though they called the quarters, they used different colours to symbolise the compass points. A famous collector of traditional magic collected her tradition and put it in one of his books.

 

Oh, that reminds me. You mentioned akasha. Yes, that's sanskrit. But there is a European concept that might have been the original idea for the fifth point on a Wiccan pentacle - aether.

 

Yes, sadly there seem to be many of those books :( but I'd like to think that someday someone will write one which can genuinely claim to be separate from wicca.

 

I do like the concept of aether and am actually in the middle of researching it in more depth. But if we can assume that the Greeks were the ones who suggested that these particular elements are the root of all matter, why do people insist on using "akasha" instead? :( it doesn't seem very respectful to the history...

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  • 2 months later...

My associations are similar to Herneoakshield.

 

Earth - East - Spring: Male energy begins to waken & seeds feel his power rising

 

Fire - South - Summer - Sun at peak, Light, strength, energy & activity

 

Water - West - Autumn - Energy leaves the plants & rains come to cleanse the soil

 

Air - North - Winter - Heat has left the sun & earth, water & soil is frozen so air has full reign

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Perhaps the modern Pagan doesn't have time to call in 118 elements? :lol:

 

I do use elements in my practice, not all the time. I can understand why people would use them to create a circle (helps to structure the circle in the minds eye, almost makes logical sense). I think you could adapt any element to fit with its surrounding: eg, if I walk outside air=wind, fire=sun/light, water=I live in England, water is usually somewhere!, earth=ground beneath me. In some ways, for me, its just a way to begin focusing, almost a meditation.

 

My associations:

 

Air - East, Spring, thought processes, clearing, freedom.

Fire - South, Summer, passion, motivation, impulsiveness, transforming/transmutation.

Water - West, Autumn, emotions, cleansing, patience.

Earth - North, Winter, stability, grounding, solid, proof.

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im not sure where i fit in in this topic, yes i followed at the beginning of my journey that you had to call the 5 elements every time, north - earth, east - air, south - fire and west for water, spirit was normally located on my alter represented by a pentagram. but when i started practicing in a coven, this concept of calling the elements was unfamiliar to them as most of them werent wiccans, we just did a simple protection round the circle to start off with. these days unless im doing a big ritual i dont bother with the elements, as i try to practice outside as often as i can i know the elements are around me anyway

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  • 1 month later...

I have called them seperately but gave up rituals for a while due to them not feeling 'natural'.

 

These days I don't call them by area / type. I do however represent them on my alter (which is small) but I have, water, feathers, candle and it's a rock.. so that is Earth for me. :)

 

I actually use a lyric from a Damh the bard song

Lady Spin your circle bright, weave your web of dark and light, earth, air, fire and water, bind us as one
.

 

The origins of this I have no idea, but it is in a song and it related to me better. I do visualise protection first and then my song comes in (I sing it), and then I'll meditate / think or say a few words to become my spell I guess. It's funny as I'd have said I don't do spell work as it doesn't seem like I do. I don't light different coloured candles, but I am considering a meditation on the full moon as have never done a meditation / spell with shared moonwater (from a group ritual I'l be doing on the eve of the full moon) and also under the full moon.

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Found the full version where the lyrics are from:

Maiden, spin your Circle white,

Weave a web of shinning light.

Stag and Hawk, Bear and Wolf,

Bind us as one.

Mother, spin your Circle red,

Weave a web of glowing thread.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water,

Bind us as one.

Wise one, spin your Circle black,

Weave the wisdom that we lack.

Moonlight, Sunlight, Starlight, Shimmer,

Bind us as one.

Lady, spin your Circle bright,

Weave your web of dark and light.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water,

Bind us as one.

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Thank you for finding those words, Imbolc Faery - I have often used the last verse but had never heard the other words! It can be sung as a round - the second group starting at the end of the first line!

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I was curious myself I must admit. :) I use that verse too from a song with just that in but sung as a round - I love singing and it helps it stay in my mind. I sing it rather than say it! lol

 

It is from a druid artist but seems to be used in wiccan paths too, not sure on that, but it feels right to me so I'll still use it,

 

Glad it helped :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The first place I came across the 5 elements as a concept was through Kung fu. In traditional chinese medicine and also some martial arts the five elements are also used but are slightly different: fire, water, earth, metal and wood

 

They also correspond to seasons, and parts of the body, colours and emotions, there are diagrams that show how they relate to one another that interestingly make circle and pentacle shapes.

 

The different elements: metal (that relates to lungs) I find equivalent to the Wiccan type element air. And wood to me is equivalent to the Wiccan type element spirit (because wood is obviously a living thing: therefore I equate it with life force)

 

I don't know how long these elements have been a part of Chinese culture but I've been told it is thousands of years.

 

It is very interesting that all over the world people have found meaning in the same or similar elements. Even though we know there and a hundred and something elements on the periodic table and that everything is not physically made from a combination of fire, water, earth, air/metal, wood/spirit there is some kind of significance I can relate to. I think the elements are archetypal (we have a kind of instinctive response to them, they represent something to us)

 

Here is a link to a bit more about what the chinese elements represent and how they work...

 

http://www.energymedc.com/Five%20Element%20Healing.htm

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Interesting post. I think the Chinese theory is more to do with energetic relationships and the associations that arose through observation, the western elements seem to me more literal in nature- earth energy actually being earth energy etc.

 

I look forward to being corrected should that be an incomplete picture I just painted. :)

 

The Chinese theory is strong in terms of emphasising flow and change. But there is an emphasis at times on accumulating energy which seems at odds with that in some ways....just my own experience of it mind...

 

ED

 

 

 

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I don't call quarters and so don't do this elements etc-based stuff. However, reading this, it made me think of T S Eliot's Four Quartets and wondering if I can somehow relate the themes there to any work I do.

 

Eliot was writing in a milieu that happily exchanged pagan ideas - it was the time of C S Lewis, Tolkien, Graves, the OGD and other figures who were playing with pagan ideas friom many sources, and this suffuses Eliot's poetry.

 

So, for the elements, he supplies the pattern:

 

air and high summer (heat) , where time is suspended and we learn to live in the timeless moment

 

earth, autumn and time as a repeating cycle, that teaches us about death and letting go

 

water and spring and time stretched out, without end, that teaches us that, when we are past all things and still the things we find it hard to bear are with us, we can only carry on in hope there is something more, that our actions will produce gold:

 

fire and winter and the spiritual centre of eternity:

 

I think, if I assigned colours to those, it would have to be white, black, greeny-blue and red. White for the colour of the sun, if you look at it; black for the fertile earth (the colour of earth for the ancient Egyptians, or in the Fenlands, where everything grows); green and bluw are ther same colour in many cultures. I would picture water as a teal colour; and red = fire virtually everywhere, as far as I know.

 

Oh, and directions? Hmm...no. I can't do those within this schema. I've tried several times, and nothing feels genuine - it all feels as though I'm imposing something artifical. If anyone wants to give it go, I'll be interested. :)

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