The four elements are the basic substances that make up life on this planet. They were classified by the Ancient Greeks as Fire, Air, Earth and Water. This categorization influenced European thought well into the Renaissance period, and still remains important in modern magic and astrology. For example, the twelve horoscopes are divided into Fire Signs (Aires, Leo, Sagittarius); Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn); Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius); and Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces).
FIRE (Ignis) is plasma matter that can manifest as both hot and dry. Galen associated it with yellow bile and the choleric body. It is a positive power – or a destructive influence – depending on how it is used. Fire is also a transformer that can turn into heat, light, smoke, and ash, and is the energy that brings about change. Magicians use fire spells to inspire drive and motivation, particularly in the pursuit of passion or ambition.
AIR (Aer) – a gaseous matter – contains both wet and hot properties. Galen believed it was related to the blood and created the sanguine body. Air is a detaching element associated with the mind. For this reason it is used in magic to enhance human intellectual powers and inspire creativity.
EARTH (Terra) is dry and cold, a feminine solid matter. In Galen’s philosophy it partnered black bile and the melancholic humor. But Earth is also a binding element, and while it can freeze, liquefy, or dry into other states, it always retains the ability to return to its natural form. Because it represents the grounded soul, earth spells are used for guilt-free material gain, and personal happiness.
WATER (Aqua) is the cold, wet element that manifests as a liquid matter. Galen connected water with a phlegmatic imbalance of the humors. This substance not only nurtures and sustains all life on the planet but it also contains magnetic properties. It is a mystical element used by practitioners for communing with divine spirits.
Aristotle studied the heavens and decided to add a fifth element he named Aether. His concept of ETHER sounds like stardust – the substance beyond the material world that is heavenly and unchangeable. Some modern magicians believe this is the stuff from which all magic is made – that spells function by directing the energy in our own bodies to manipulate the flow of Ether as it swirls about the universe.
Perhaps Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock song is right in claiming:
“We are stardust
Billion year old carbon” . . .
Rees, Matthew. “A Metaphysical Theory of Magic” at http://www.sabledrake.com/2000a/metaphysical_magic.htm
“Fire, Water, Air, Earth” at http://www.spiritualknowledge.net
Wikipedia: “Classical Elements” and various Wiccan, Pagan, and Magic websites.