If you are practicing your observational skills, the Elements are something you should definitely be making note of.
They are, in no particular order, Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
The fifth element goes by a few different names – Love, Spirit, Heart, Source…take your pick. But I’m not going to go into this one just yet. For now, let’s start with the four pillars.
Each element can be gentle, creative and loving or harsh and destructive. It is important to acknowledge the extremes of the elements and all the variations in between. The elements are nature at it’s most simplified.
Nature is not evil – it simply is.
Sure, we personify the elements and give them representations with personalities, but at the end of the day, the true essence of an element is just that – the element. Neither good nor bad, but just itself.
In each element I ask the questions:
What comes to mind when you think of ___?
What symbolizes ___ to you?
I give my own answers, but these are questions you should ask yourself and perhaps write the answers down in a notebook or journal of some kind.
Our dear Mother Earth. She gives us life as easily as she can take it away. Literally the ground under your feet, it is her that gives you life and sustenance. In her watery womb are you grown from bits of her which are strong enough and pliable enough to hold the other three elements. Water is given to lighten you, give pliability and to carry around the other elements in this earthen form. Air is breathed into your lungs (air that she makes from her flora) to spark the fire of movement, animation and growth. From her soil you are fed, nourished and healed until the day your flame goes out and the materials she built and sustained you with are given back. And so goes the cycle. She is home to ALL of her creatures.
What comes to mind when you think of earth? Stability, grounding, nurture, roots, nourishment, Mother, home
What symbolizes the earth to you? Animals, rocks and stones, crystals, metals, gems, bits of trees or plants, food, seeds, nuts, berries, flowers, salt, dirt, sand, greens, browns, earth-tones
The breath in our lungs that ignites the fires of movement. Without air, fire can’t breathe. It’s all around, and it’s the one element you can’t see. You have to feel air. Sure, you can experience this element through your other senses: You can watch it blow in the full force of a hurricane or tickle the grass on a spring day. You can hear it as it whistles over fields and through trees, around corners and down streets. You can smell the fragrances it carries and taste them as well. But you cannot see it. To truly know air, you have to feel it, sense it.
What comes to mind when you think of air? Lightness, strength, breath, flexibility, movement, stirring
What symbolizes air to you? Feathers, birds, incense, smoke, clouds, balloons, kites, flying transportation, flying toys, dream catchers, wind instruments, light blues and white
The spark of life. The hypnotizing dance of flames across a field or on a candle wick. It is destructive but also regenerative – destroying the old to make way for the new. It’s energy moving, and moving fast. Heat on a cold day, the warmth in your chest.
What comes to mind when you think of fire? Power, strength, heat, movement, persistence, life, death, destruction, regeneration, passion, love
What symbolizes fire to you? Candles, bonfires, heat, cooking/cookware, matches, lighters, salamanders, dragons, phoenixes, yellows, reds, oranges
The medium from which life is created. It is in the water, or womb, where the other elements meet and form their many, many different shapes. And because water is the medium of life in creation, it is the medium throughout, well, life as well. Water is what cools you down and cleans you, refreshes you and flows through you.
What comes to mind when you think of water? Life, power, cool, regenerative, healing, supporting, quenching, drowning, flowing, refreshing, soothing, cleaning, washing
What symbolizes water for you? Sea creatures, shells, sand, salt, rain, dew, streams, beaches, oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, water-dwellers, canteens/water bottles, turquoise, dark blues, greens, dark purples
Is one more important than the other?
This is a tough one and one that has been debated over for ages. Sure, water is essential for life and arguably all life originally comes from water. Yes, but water does not create different metals and minerals, the earth does, and it’s these things that make up your cellular structure, not just water. And you can live for about a week without food, three days without water, but how long can you live without air? Fire keeps us warm, and is one of the tools of man’s evolution and survival throughout creation and/or evolution, and is really difficult to live without in many regions. And if you couldn’t sweat out toxins and create a fever to burn up bad viruses and infections, what then? Or if you didn’t have the fire of movement in your system for proper digestion and organ function? And what if you cannot be sustained by the earth – lack of food or clean water? Natural disasters, which are a mix of all four?
Personally, I think they’re all vital, and they all play their roles in different balances. I find it hard to believe that one is technically more important than the other. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my favorite, or the one or two I connect to the most.
Which Element to Which Direction?
Each one also takes a cardinal direction. Depending on where you are, Water and Fire are swapped. However, this seems to be the most accepted and used in Europe:
North – Earth
East – Air
South – Fire
West – Water
Yes. In many traditions, the elements are assigned a gender. In many, you’ll find that Earth and Water are female and Air and Fire are male. Does that mean a woman can’t connect the most with Fire? Absolutely not! Gender as we think of it has nothing to do with that. I’ll do a blog post on this later, but for now, let’s just go with it, k?
In some circles, these are the “mythical” creatures used to represent the elements in rituals and ceremonies. So if you call upon the elements, you could be visited by representatives from these guys. Or not. Depends on you!
Earth – Gnomes, dwarves.
Air – Sylphs
Water – Undines
Fire – Salamander
I hope this introduction to the elements has been helpful. Feel free to share any of your thoughts and insights about them below!