By Charles McBride
Properties of the elements are always a good topic for discussion. The primary elements we know of in this day and age are from Greek Philosophy and encompass 4 primary elements and one “quintessential” element. While traditionally the concept was not used in magick we have adopted this system and it finds its way into many systems of modern mysticism.
Listed as cold and dry the element of earth is primarily a force of grounding, solidity, and has to do with the physical realm. Earth is the element of solid, and is the only truly solid element in the bunch. While water can take on the properties of earth’s solidity only the element of earth is naturally solid in all conditions in the physical realm. It is for this reason we associate the element of earth with the physical realm, the concept of grounding, and the idea of manifestation of physical things. The element of earth has properties beneficial for wealth, defense, and healing. When we talk about grounding or focusing on earth energy we are speaking more on focusing on the physical, the body, and the connection between the body and physical world. Earth is often represented with crystals, pentacles, or plates.
Said to be hot and wet, like vapor, air is the element of thought and the mind. Thought is the least containable and often least visible force in the world. For this reason air is associated with the concept of thinking and the movement of the mind. The mind shifts with currents, similar to the wind, yet is not containable in the way water is. Air is a powerful element of change, excellent for cleansing, and is associated with incense. Air is perhaps the least defensive rune directly and is better for encouraging movement, or delaying movement, as the storms do when in travel. Since intent and focus are two of the most focused on areas of mysticism the element of air is considered of primal importance in magickal workings. Air is considered an element of life primarily, however as it is taken for granted most associate water with life more than air. Most often it is represented by a blade, incense, a feather, or a fan the element of air has many symbols.
It is obvious that what would be listed as wet, but it is considered to be cold as well in classical methods. This is because water removes heat form that which it touches over time. Water is connected to underlying states of being, emotions, and emotional well being. Water however does not relate to passions, for that element is fire. Water instead are underlying emotions such as being satisfied, dissatisfied, content, or troubled. Water is one of the core elements of cleansing, and water is used in cleansing rituals planet wide. The element of water has nurturing properties also, having to do with life and the growth of plants. Without water nothing grows, and therefore water is considered one of the core elements of life. Looking at water, life, and healing as energies it is easy to see that life exists with water, within water, but life does not exist without water. This element is considered the element of adaptability as well, and is used for easing change or creating easy change. Water is often represented with the chalice, a bowl of water, or other containers having water in them. As a protective element water is strong, yet not as functional as earth. Some crystals have a water like appearance and are used as well for this.
Hot and dry are the properties of the element of Fire and for good reason. Fire can not exist when wet, nor is it ever cold. Fire is the power of change, and is great in spells used for manifesting change. Fire is such a core element of change in magick that candles are perhaps the most used symbol in all of magick. Passion is a core part of fire in the emotional system. Where water has to do with underlying emotional states fire has to do with drives, needs, and desires that are prevalent in the mind. The element of fire is only somewhat useful for defense, as fire is overcome by smothering or being but out by the other elemental forces, and instead is considered an aggressive element. Some use fire in shielding to create an aggressive defense and this is arguable in its application, yet none the less viable. While fire can be put out by wind, fire is fueled by air just as passion is fueled by focus of thought. Fire is connected to the tools of the candle, wands/staves, and is even represented along with air when using incense.
Traditionally called Aether, we will reference this element as Source. This element some see as the combination of the other four but it is my belief that these other elements spring forth from this. This element is all points and is what it needs to be, being able to be both wet and dry, hot and cold, as well as being the only element truly capable of being neutral. The Source as a concept of an element is an understanding of the underlying current of the universe. No single witting can hit upon all the properties of The Source, however it could be said it is the driving force under all the other elements and indeed all of reality.