What is elemental magick, and why is it relevant to intuitive witchcraft? In a nutshell, elemental magick works with and calls on the elements to manifest specific outcomes and goals. There’s not a single person who goes through their day without experiencing any of the elements. We may walk outside in the morning and feel a breeze, go for a walk and sense the heat of the sun on our skin. We could water our plants, or choose to compost/recycle. All of these experiences are simple ways that we experience (and sometimes take for granted) the elements, often without much pause.
On the most basic level, we have four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. But those of us who are pagans know there is a fifth element: spirit. The average person can’t interact with, see, or physically feel spirit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I don’t personally work with this element, but just because I don’t do something doesn’t mean it isn’t something to examine and be aware of.
I would be remiss to touch on elements without briefly hitting alchemy. In The Dark Arts, Richard Cavendish writes, “In modern occultism the four elements are four conditions in which energy can exist. Fire stand[s] for electricity, air is the gaseous state, water the liquid state and earth the solid state. All things exist in one or other of these conditions, or in a mixture of them, and one condition can be changed into another.”
In our day-to-day lives, we perceive most things to relate to one primary element (think plants as earth), but nothing on the physical plane is made up of one single element alone. Without water and earth, we wouldn’t have plants; without earth and fire, we wouldn’t have crystals and gems; without air, we wouldn’t have fire. The elements lend each other their strengths, and in doing so lend us the energy of their strengths as well. Let’s take a look at each of the five elements in a little more depth.
Fire is a strong element of life, love, and passion. It is associated most often with the sun and governs aspects such as desire, intuition, intellect, and manifestation. On the flip side, fire can be as destructive as it is creative. It is an element that requires patience and care, because if it gets out of control it has the potential to destroy everything around it. Governing the south aspect of the compass of life, the fire element relates closely to our outward personalities (think sun sign in astrology).
Fire can be invoked in many different ways. The more obvious way is with a literal flame. This flame can be in the form of a candle, match, bonfire, or even electronic candle. Additionally, there are ways to invoke this element that don’t require any purchases or tools. The sun is a great way to invoke fire. Additionally, the passion of sex can be used to invoke each of the elements separately, but especially the fire and earth elements.
Earth is the strongest element of stability. The earth is a versatile element, having strengths in both growth and death, present through all the various cycles of life. Unlike fire, the earth has an abundance of features such as forests, deserts, mountains, beaches, and plains that can play into and diversify this element magickly.
One of the unique factors about the earth element is that it can exist independent of other elements, and it can also coexist uniquely with each of the other elements. Water, fire, and air each have unique ways that can literally change and alter the physical condition and makeup of the earth element, leading to magickly tied energy and elements. When working with the earth, it is important to remember that it can be as destructive as it is stable. Earthquakes and volcano eruptions are examples of how stability can be altered drastically with the addition of other elements, pressure, and stress over long periods of time.
The earth element is associated with the cardinal direction north. While not a traditional correspondence, I like to associate the moon with the earth element. The moon is an extension of life on earth, lending to the ebbs and flows of our tides and cycles. It is guided by the gravitational pull of the earth and in return gives us the movement through the other elements that provide life through our planet.
Invoking the earth element is as simple as walking outdoors and making the conscious decision to be a part of the earth. Walking outdoors, whether it is in the rain, heat, snow, sun, or night, is a great way to experience the energy of the earth. Other ways to connect include gardening, composting, working with animals, and cooking. There is hardly anything more grounding than taking the time to walk up to a tree, putting your hand against it, closing your eyes, and taking a deep breath. By doing this simple practice, witches are able to connect with the grounding energy of the earth and feel literal mountains being lifted off their bodies and spirits.
Earth can also be invoked through kitchen magick. Cooking with vegetables, fruits, and roots brings the earth element into our kitchens and into our physical bodies, imbuing us with nutrients and life-giving energy. If you live in an urban area or an apartment, kitchen witchcraft is one of the easiest ways to welcome in and invoke the earth element.
Don’t let water pass you by—it is stronger than you think. Water is the element of the source that sustains all life. No plant or animal could survive without it, which makes it the most important element that there is (water witches everywhere, rejoice!). What makes water unique and especially versatile is that it can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas. It can come as a river, fog, steam, or ice. It can come to us as snow, hail, sleet, or rain. Water not only purifies us but also heals us, sustaining our life force more than any other element.
Water, just like every other element, has the power to destroy. Unlike fires or earthquakes, though, water floods us in ways that the other elements simply cannot. When combined with air, water can create hurricanes and storms of massive proportions. One only has to think back to Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy to be reminded of the damage that water can inflict.
While it is said that water is most closely related with the moon (due to the moon’s effect on the tides), I believe that water is most closely related to Neptune. Neptune is considered both an ice and gas giant, made up of fluid “icy” materials including water. Neptune rules Pisces, and it is associated with intuition and spiritual enlightenment. The element of water is associated with west on the compass of life.
There are many ways to invoke the element of water in your everyday life. One of the easiest ways is to drink water intentionally, welcoming in the healing properties of this element. We all shower, swim, and brush our teeth with water. We cook with water, and we give our plants and animals life-sustaining water. We can also intentionally invoke the element of water through connecting with natural bodies of water!
Going to places like the beach, lakes, or rivers are ways that can ground us to the elements of water and earth. If you happen to live somewhere where finding all of these elements is a little bit hard, you can always fall back on man-made swimming pools or water fountains.
Air is versatile and an element of movement, similar to water. The element of air is always present around us on earth, but usually isn’t noticeable until we lack it or feel inconvenienced by it. For those who live in colder climates, air can be physically seen as they talk outside during the winter. It’s not uncommon to become out of breath while hiking in the mountains. In times like this, it is common for people to express sentiments about the “air being thin.”
I like to think that air is unique in its transformative life-giving (and life-taking) powers. For example, a fire without air is extinguished. Air is vital for life to thrive, especially on earth. It is a sacred resource, something that we take into our bodies instinctually to sustain us. A person could live without water or food for a few days, but it only takes a few minutes without air to extinguish the life it once sustained. As such, air is most associated with east and gods in general. Additionally, any of the gas giant planets can be associated with the air element.
The easiest way to invoke the element of air is through meditation. When we meditate, we focus on our breathing, which means we are literally taking in and letting out air within our physical bodies and spirit. Other ways to experience the air element include walking outdoors during a particularly windy day, turning on the air-conditioning if you live in a warm place, or even going outdoors during a particularly hot and sticky day. That might seem counter intuitive, to intentionally make yourself uncomfortable, but experiencing the earth and elements without the breeze helps to highlight how important it actually is!
*Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, Year of the Witch by Temperance Alden is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087