by Avalon De Witt
In ancient times, scientists, philosophers and magi divided matter into four basic elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. It has been said that these elements are the building blocks of life.
A scientist and philosopher named Empedocles set this foundation for science in Sicily during the 5th century B.C. Empedocles belonged to the tradition of "Root Cutters," which means that he was an herbal magician and healer. He defined these elements, or "roots," as not only physical substances, but also as "spiritual essences." He even assigned gods and goddesses to these energies:
Air - Zeus
Fire - Hades
Water - Nestis (also known as Persephone)
Earth - Hera
About a century later, Aristotle assigned properties of hotness and coldness to the elements:
Air - hot/moist
Fire - hot/dry
Water - cool/moist
Earth - cool/dry
Mystics throughout the ages have recognized these elements as four spiritual modes of being. Air, Fire, Water and Earth are represented by the four suits of the Tarot - Swords (Air), Wands (Fire), Cups (Water) and Pentacles (Earth). I have seen that a dominant suit in a card spread can be very telling.
You will also find these elements in astrology:
Air - Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Fire - Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Water - Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Earth - Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Alchemy, Hermeticism and Gnosticism hold understandings of the four elements, too. We can see them in the Jungian theory of the four personality types - thinking (Air), intuiting (Fire), feeling (Water) and sensing (Earth). Even our modern Meyers-Briggs personality test shares this four-fold concept.
The idea is that nature and the Self are equal. The four seasons of a year can be compared to the four stages of human life - birth, growth, maturity and death. We can utilize the four elements as dimensions of psychic and spiritual growth. The natural way would be to strive to achieve an equal proportion of each. Understanding the psychic energies of these elements can help us balance our lives and experience greater harmony. If you know which elements to call upon and how to connect with them, you can manage whatever life throws your way much more easily.
Season - Spring
Time of Day - Dawn
Direction - East
Color - Yellow
Archangel - Raphael
Every time you think or communicate, you are drawing on the element of Air. Our connections with others are formed through Air. Air is the most elusive of all the elements. It is uncontainable, unseen, and changeable. Whenever you seek insight, discover a new idea, change your mind, clarify a vision, develop a plan or concentrate on your breathing, you are becoming Air. Air is intellect, Truth and wisdom. If you have difficulty making decisions, taking action, understanding or being understood, Air can help you.
To awaken your connection to the Air element, open your windows and clear the air around you by burning some incense or smudging your home with sage. Play music that inspires you. Or go outside and feel the wind on your face. Pay attention to the way it masters its own destiny, moving constantly. Its flexibility makes it unstoppable. Try to block it with your hand. It will only go around.
Singing or toning, whistling, even dancing are all Air activities. Crystal singing bowls and tuning forks are useful tools for invoking Air energy. Inventors utilize the element of Air. Read biographies of inventors to understand the inner workings of Air.
Season - Summer
Time of Day - Noon
Direction - South
Color - Red
Archangel - Mikael
Have you ever really, really wanted something? That's fire. Fire is desire. It is dynamic, passionate, bold, enthusiastic, active and hopeful. Fire is the life principle. It provides heat and light. It is the element of Spirit. Fire is charming, flamboyant and inspirational. Fire transforms. If you would like to improve your sense of humor or build courage, confidence, or motivation, look to Fire.
To open up to the power of Fire within you, you can light a candle and see what the living flame has to show you. Watch a sunset and take in the brilliance of this vital element. If you really want a mega-dose, try dancing around a campfire and watch the way the fire dances with you. Let the heat of the Fire element penetrate and warm your soul. Competitive sports and games are also good ways to stimulate the spark of Fire in your life.
Do something spontaneous. Search within for your purpose. Set some life goals for yourself. Complete a task you've been meaning to finish. Learn to trust your intuition. Listen to a motivational tape or energize yourself with affirmations. Empower yourself with divine thoughts and let your ideals awaken.
Season - Autumn
Time of Day - Dusk/sunset
Direction - West
Color - Blue
Archangel - Gabriel
If you have ever loved, you have experienced the element of Water. Serenity is a result of Water's presence in our lives. Water is the most psychic of all the elements. It cleanses, nourishes and reflects. It is passive and malleable - it takes on the shape of whatever contains it. The Holy Grail is associated with Water, the original Primordial Chaos. Water rules the emotions and the subconscious. If you have prophetic dreams, you are using the element of Water. If you are lonely, depressed, overwhelmed or having trouble opening your heart, let Water clear the way for you.
To get water flowing in your life, the easiest, most accessible tool is the bathtub. Add essential oils or milk and honey to cleanse and nurture your Higher Self. Drink pure water to purify your body. You may try taking a walk in the rain. Notice how it gathers together to form puddles and pools. Throw a stone into a lake or a pond and watch the endless ripples. See how beautiful it is when it is contained.
Feeling compassion, shedding tears and giving to charity are the workings of this gentle element. Scrying bowls and table fountains are easy ways to get more Water into your life. Read poetry to get a feel for Water's subtle, soothing properties.
Season - Winter
Time of Day - Midnight
Direction - North
Color - Green
Archangel - Uriel
When you eat, exercise or save money, you are interacting with the Earth element. Stability is Earth's unique gift. Seeing, smelling, tasting and touching are functions of Earth. Earth is solid, rich, sultry, strong and dependable. It is the foundation for all the other elements. Earth is commitment, permanence, form. It is facts and law, practicality and consequence. Earth is about getting results. Poverty, insecurity, safety issues, obsessions and a sense of being "weak-willed"or incapable can all be resolved with earth.
If you would like to strengthen your connection to Earth, put your bare feet on the ground. Walk, run, jump. Let the immovable nature of the Earth element support you. You could also plant a garden or start a houseplant on a window sill. Roots such as potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips are known as "grounding" foods that can increase your personal Earth energy.
Learn to respect yourself, accept yourself. Define what dignity is to you. Stimulate your senses. Work with your hands. Knit, string beads, or do pottery. Place stones or a dish of sea salt on your altar, or wear a hematite pendant, to represent the Earth in your spiritual workings. Strive to be at home in your body.
Figure out which elements you are lacking and integrate them into your life. Let the elements of nature bring you into closer contact with your True Self. As you grow on each of these levels, you will experience greater and greater joy.
Don't let yourself get too much of one element. Too much air can make you spacey. Too much fire can cause burn-out. Too much water can make you "wishy-washy." And too much earth can make you rigid. Keep your personal elements balanced and your life will reflect that balance back to you by giving you all that you need, on every level.
TCM Infocenter for details about the influence of elements as
suggested by Oriental Medicine.