The five elements of fire, water, air, earth, and spirit are used by neopagans and occultists in magic and ritual to represent the forces of nature. They are not the same as the table of elements in science.
Below are the symbols and some attributes of each one taken from western magical tradition, which has influenced much of our current magical thought. Nature elementals and other correspondences such as neoshamanic totems are outside the scope of this article.
Warm and dry, active, incredibly energetic. Corresponding direction - South. It has the power to destroy and purify. It is seen as the beginning and end as it is considered the source of life and the destroyer of life.
Cool and moist, passive, creative, transformative. Embodied esoterically as the primal waters of all creation. Corresponding direction - West. Represents the subconscious, receptivity, and regeneration.
Warm and moist, active. Corresponding direction - East. Represents clear perception and intelligence. Associated with the first breath of life and speech.
Dry and cool, passive, fertile. Corresponding direction - North. Earth is born of the above three elements. Represents stability, groundedness, and the ability to manifest.
Spirit is above but is the connecting point of the other four elements (shown opening picture of this page). It is the embodiment of the alchemical phrase "As Above, So Below." As we come to understand the four elements, we come closer to understanding divinity as their source.
Using Elements in Circle Casting
In witchcraft, circles are commonly cast calling the elements at each direction in order to have balanced energy and as part of enclosing the circle. Students of magick and esoteric orders such as the Golden Dawn work with the elements to balance those energies within themselves.
A simple exercise to begin to align with the energies of each element is to draw the images above separately on paper and meditate on them. You can also visualize these symbols to bring more of one element into your life. For example, if you are feeling spacey or light-headed, you can concentrate on the symbol for earth to become more grounded.
Symbols are'nt necessary to evoke the feelings of each element. You may also create your own visuals or use none at all. They are simply tools to aid in connecting with the energies.
Most likely you will receive information from your own guidance about what the elements mean for you and your life. It is also perfectly normal to feel an affinity with one or more of these during different life experiences. This is invaluable information to record in your journal as you develop your own magical personality. While this work may seem basic, it is a powerful way to develop equilibrium in all aspects of your life.
Suggested free e-books to read:William Henry Davenport Adams - Witch Warlock And Magician Historical Sketches Of Magic And Witchcraft
Scott Cunningham - Earth Air Fire And Water More Techniques Of Natural Magic
Jesse Daniel Sloan - Gendered Alter Wiccan Concepts Of Gender And Ritual Objects