The four pagan elements that make up the world are earth, water, air, and fire. They correspond quite well with the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, plasma).
Not only are the elements a major aspect of paganism and magic in general, but they're also a beautiful way to metaphorically understand our universe.
If you've ever wanted to know more about the pagan elements that comprise our world, you've come to the right place.
Why Work With the Elements?
Working with the elements allows you to better connect with nature, the divine, and other people. Exploring their energies can help you learn more about yourself and the world, and thus grow as a person.
Working with the elements connects us to our ancestors. They are not separate but one and show us the interconnectivity of the universe.
Many Native American tribes view the number four as sacred and relate the directions to the medicine wheel. The medicine wheel is a circle divided into four equal parts and each quadrant represents a cardinal direction, stage in life, season, color, and animal.
What is the Plus 1? You probably guessed it.
The spiritual aspect of our being is very important. It’s the bridge between the physical and the soul and is present in the other four elements.
Spirit is sometimes referred to as Akasha which is a Sanskrit word meaning “sky” or Aether the Greek word for “air or clear sky’.
The great Greek philosopher Aristotle noted that four terrestrial elements moved in a linear fashion while spirit moved in a circular one.
Together, the four elements, plus spirit, make up a pentagram. This important pagan symbol shows the divine unity of reality.
The four elements are called upon for protection when casting a sacred circle and used when setting up your altar.
Wiccans typically use the pentagram pointing upwards, with the top point symbolizing spirit and, thus, the importance of the God and Goddess. However, all the elements are still seen as equal. Balance is more important than hierarchy.
Following is a breakdown of the elements. Keep in mind that the directional aspect applies to the Northern hemisphere. For our friends in Australia and other parts of the Southern hemisphere - you will need to reverse these.
The element of the sea, the storm, and everything in between, water is deep, versatile, and emotional. Water is our rivers, our rain, and our blood.
Water represents our subconscious because just as it has its depths, so do we. For this reason, water is the element of emotion, wisdom, and purification. It is also the most feminine element and is related to those aspects of love.
Use water magic for divination, protection, and cleansing. Keep in mind that water is also connected to the subconscious. Often, water magic can tell you more about yourself than anyone else, and that's great.
Dreams are also an important aspect of water. Water magic can help you with your lucid dreams, visions, and calming nightmares.
As well as soothing your mind, water magic can also be used to heal your body. It heals the feet and genitals, as well as a woman's breasts and menstrual pains.
Location on Pentagram: Upper Right Point
God: Dylan, Ea, Poseidon, Neptune, Osiris
Goddess: Aphrodite, Venus, Persephone, Isis
Cycle of Life: Maturity
Colors: Blue, Cyan, Black
Animal: Dragon, dolphin, fish, frog, toad
Trees: Willow, lavender, lilac, birch, apricot, apple, elm, rose
Stone: Aquamarine, amethyst, pearl, coral
Tools: Cup, cauldron, mirror
Positive Trait: Compassion
Negative Trait: Depression
Tarot Suit: Cups
Zodiac: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Fire is the element of passion, activity, romance, and light. Not only is it our emotions, though. You can find the element of fire in everyone, animating and encouraging them. You can see it in the sun and stars, too, as well in any heat source.
The energy of fire corresponds to energy, strength, and leadership, as well as magic itself. After all, what's more, magical than the change and wonders of a bonfire?
Of course, fire magic itself keeps up this dynamic trend. Fire rituals typically involve heat in some way and are always energic. Of course, take caution when working with fire. While burning offerings and cauldron work are awesome, they can also be dangerous.
It should be no surprise then that fire magic focuses on creation and destruction. Energy work, love spells, healing spells, and inspiration are all part of fire's portfolio.
But fire doesn't just consume. Fire also renews and reinvigorates, and we can see this in its powerful healing magic especially. This element heals your head, chest, and thighs.
Location on Pentagram: Lower Right Point
God: Agni, Mars, Horus, Ra, Sol, Vulcan
Goddess: Brigit, Vesta, Pele, Hestia
Cycle of Life: Youth
Colors: Red, Orange, Gold
Animal: Phoenix, cat, squirrel, hawk, snake
Trees: Cedar, cashew, juniper, rowan, oak, fig
Stone: Agate, jasper, amber, fire opal, ruby, carnelian
Tools: Spear, staff, candle, lamp
Positive Trait: Passion
Negative Trait: Anger
Tarot Suit: Wands
Zodiac: Ares, Leo, Sagittarius
The element of the sky, the wind, and all flying creatures, air is an element so common that most of us almost mistake it for being invisible.
Air energy is closely tied to movement, change, and the human intellect. Not only that, but air also represents freedom, hope, new beginnings, and excitement. After all, air is clear, boundless, and constantly moving.
In terms of magic, the air element is what you turn to for divination. Above all others, air helps you to visualize, concentrate, and anticipate. Air magic can help you find lost things, new ideas, and the paths to your goals.
For healing, air magic excels in soothing your limbs, shoulders, kidneys, and respiratory system. From everything from coughs to sore throats to sprains, look to the air.
Location on Pentagram: Upper Left Point
God: Hermes, Thoth
Goddess: Danu, Aradia, Arianrhod, Cardea, Nuit, Urania, Athena
Sense: Smell, Hearing
Cycle of Life: Infancy
Colors: Silver, White, Yellow
Animal: Spider, Raven, Eagle
Trees: Hazel, Linden, Pine, Acacia, Almond, Aspen, Wildflowers, Ash, Lavender
Stone: Topaz, pumice, amethyst, alexandrite, rainbow stones,
Tools: Athame, sword, censer, wand, incense
Positive Trait: Curiosity
Negative Trait: Disloyalty
Tarot Suit: Swords
Zodiac: Aquarius, Libra, Gemini
Earth is the element of the land, of strength, structure, and prosperity. Whenever you're standing outside in nature, look down. That's earth. Our planet is earth.
The earth turns on its axis and with its partner the moon gives us the seasons and months of the year.
You can read more in our article Nature’s Cycles and the Modern Pagan.
As you might've guessed, the energies of earth are related to stability, grounding, and security. However, the earth also holds great wealth, both in farms and in mines. Earth magic is closely connected to both fertility and prosperity.
You can understand earth magic just as you would earth itself. Slow and steady, but capable of tremendous, world-shaking power. Usually, however, it's subtle and beautifully so.
Most earth rituals involve returning something to the earth, often by burying it or covering it in soil. Other times, you might be digging something up instead, harvesting what you've planted or sculpting effigies from clay.
Earth magic isn't just gardening, though. Stonework, binding, spells for money and treasure, and magnetism is all covered by the earth element. So are runes.
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Not only that, but earth magic has great healing potential as well. Use earth spells when healing your neck, knees, bowels, and bones.
Location on Pentagram: Lower Left Point
God: Adonis, Athos, Arawn, Cernunnos, Pan, Tammuz, Dionysus, Mardyk
Goddess: Ceres, Gaea, Mah, Nephtys, Persephone, Rhea
Cycle of Life: Age
Colors: Black, Brown, Green, Yellow
Animal: Cow, Dog, Ant, Bear, Bull
Trees: Cypress, Honeysuckle, Jasmin
Stone: Rock crystal, emerald, onyx, jasper, salt, azurite, amethyst
Tools: Pentacle, Pentagram, salt, images, stones, gems, cords
Positive Trait: Persistence
Negative Trait: Stubbornness
Tarot Suit: Pentacles
Zodiac: Virgo, Taurus, Capricorn
Also called aether, spirit is not a physical element. However, it's still vitally important. Spirit holds all the other elements together, connecting them and providing the space they need to exist materially.
Because of this, spirit is essential to maintaining balance and harmony. It is the element responsibly for joy, love, transformation, and transcendence.
You can understand the element of spirit as the energy of the God and Goddess in its purest form.
Spirit magic is first and foremost focused on understanding your place in the universe. For many pagans, this means searching for enlightenment, while others see it as a quest for spiritual knowledge.
To connect more deeply with the spirit element, pray and meditate. Open yourself up to the energies of the universe and what's holding it all together.
Direction: Centered, without direction
Location on Pentagram: Upper Point
Season: The turning of the Wheel of the Year
God: Horned God
Goddess: The Lady
Sense: Intuition, higher perception
Cycle of Life: Eternity
Colors: White, Black
Animal: Dove, pigeon
Trees: Mistletoe, flowing almond
Stone: Quartz, diamond
Tools: Rope, cord, pentacle
Positive Trait: Wisdom
Negative Trait: Self-destruction
Using the cardinal directions and elements really helps you to bring everything together and to connect to the natural and metaphysical world. Invoking the elements is a daily part of my practice.
As many of you know, I am an environmental educator and seek to grow closer to mother earth as well as live in an environmentally friendly manner. I use products from Zero Waste Outlet. I love their hair care products. My favorite is the Tucuma Orange conditioner which smells heavenly.
Author, Ame Vanorio, likes to joke that she is 1/2 pagan and 1/2 Catholic due to her Native (Cree) and Italian heritage. She is a lifelong pagan, an environmental educator, and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Ame writes about honoring nature and animal spirit guides. She also does our social media pages. Check us out on Facebook and Twitter!