The following are excerpts from Real
Energy, Phaedra and Isaac's forthcoming book This text
file may NOT be freely distributed on the Net.
Before we can understand the "elemental" system
that Western magicians and mystics have used for so many centuries,
we first need to look a bit at the common cosmological beliefs
of the ancient Indo-European peoples. "Cosmology" means
people's theories about how the universe or cosmos was created
and/or how it is put together now. The Indo-Europeans were (and
are) a motley assortment of tribes from about 5,0004,000
years ago who spoke (and whose descendents still speak) related
languages in territories stretching geographically from India
to Europe and beyond. Most Europeans, people living in the Indian
subcontinent, and current inhabitants of the Americas are descended
from these people and the many languages they spoke.
These people thought of all reality as composed of what we
could call three horizontal "worlds" of organic beings
(the Land, the Waters, and the Sky) and three vertical "realms"
of inorganic existence (the Underworld, the Middle Realm of Land/Waters/Sky,
and the Celestial Realm of sun, moon, and stars), in which the
Three Worlds were present or reflected. There was also a "This
World" and "the Otherworld" polarity between the
places where mortal and immortal beings resided, which passed
through all the other worlds and realms; and a set of three "gateways"
passing between all of them in the form of Sacred Fires, Sacred
Wells, and Sacred Trees (or sometimes mountains or big stones)
which grew at the center of all things.
Each of the Three Worlds had physical beings such as animals,
fish, and birds, associated with it, as well as spirits of various
sorts that we might call "nature spirits." There were
"ordinary" creatures, both wild and domesticated, who
came to symbolize different concepts such as courage (lions),
faithfulness (dogs), fierceness (boars), wisdom (salmon), cunning
(foxes), nurturing (cows), as well as wildness (wolves) and domesticity
(sheep) themselves. To these were added various mythical animals
such as dragons, gryphons, satyrs, fauns, etc.
Trees, with their roots growing in the Land, needing Waters
for nourishment, and growing up into the Sky, not only symbolized
all Three Worlds (or Three Realms, as in the Baltic regions),
but also had species-specific associations. Oaks were connected
to clergy and matters of knowledge, strength, stability, trustworthiness,
truth, and order. Yews or other evergreens were connected to
warriors, the ancestors, and all matters related to the dead.
Birches were connected to the producers, to fertility, pleasure,
marriage, and so forth.
Animals obviously had their own spirits, but so did plants, special
places, and even inanimate objects, whether natural or human
made. We'll talk more about these ideas in Chapter 00, but for
now it's sufficient to say that the cosmology of the Three Worlds
was one rich in organic metaphors and doctrines based upon them.
To the ancient Indo-Europeans, including the Vedic/Indian
peoples, the Iranians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans,
the Celts, the Slavs, the Norse, the Germans, etc., Fire was
seen as the tangible symbol of deities and other spirits. Tribes
such as the Aryas ("Shining Ones") of ancient India
or the Gaels ("Shining Ones") of Gaul and the British
Isles, took their names from the association of Fire with deities,
light, brightness, intelligence, creativity, beauty, and other
valued concepts. Fire was present in all Three Worlds, on the
Land as normal wildfire or human hearths, in the Waters as swamp
lights, in the Sky as lightning. It was also seen in the Three
Realms, in the Underworld in the form of coal fires and burning
lava, in the Middle Realm as just described, and in the Celestial
Realm as the sun, moon, and stars.
Now the Sacred Trees could be metaphorically connected to
the Underworld and Celestial Realm by extending the roots and
branches infinitely, and the waters of the Sacred Well could
seen as connected to them as well, but neither were as visibly
ubiquitous as the Sacred Fire.
Perhaps this is why, when looking at the physical world around
them, these ancient peoples tended to think in patterns of "three-plus-one,"
that is, the Land, the Waters, and the Sky (or sometimes the
Underworld, the Middle Realm, and the Celestial Realm) plus Fire.
This pattern matched their social systems, which were originally
composed of three main classes or castes of Producers, Warriors,
Clergy, plus Royalty (the tribal chieftains). So how did this
three-plus-one pattern become the modern magical and mystical
cosmology of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Spirit, which is a
system of "four plus one"?
An Elementary Theory:
Ancient Greek philosophers from about 600 BCE onwards tried
to figure out what primal substance or substances had given rise
to the world(s) as they knew them. They called each of these
suggested substances stoikheion, meaning "a step
or component part." This term became "elements"
in English from the Latin elementum, which the Romans
used to translate the Greek term. The ancient Indo-European concepts
of the Three Worlds and Fire became somewhat abstracted by these
intellectuals into Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, and different
philosophers argued over which had given rise to the others.
One named Empedocles (490-430 BCE), believed that everything
in the universe was made up of varying amounts of all four of
these now abstract concepts. Later Aristotle (384322 BCE)
completed the abstraction process by discussing these Four Elements
as representing combinations of the "specific being-ness"
(Greek ousia, Latin essentia, from esse-,
"to be") or the "essence" of two sets of
polarities: hot/cold and wet/dry, thusly: Earth was cold and
dry, Water was cold and wet, Air was hot and wet, and Fire was
hot and dry. Aristotle thought that there must be something that
would be beyond, or the origin of, these four essences (heat,
cold, dryness, wetness) that would be a "quint-essence"
(quint = five), which he called the fifth Element of Aether.
In India the clergy originally had a system of just three
"elements" or original substances of Earth, Water,
and Fire. Simultaneously, they had the three-plus-one system
focused on the Three Worlds. After encountering the Greek system
around 400500 CE (there was a lot of trade between India
and the Mediterranean and philosophers and clergy traveled in
both directions), the Hindus added Air and Aether (which
they called Akasha) as elements. Then the system was brought
back to Europe, where medieval clergy and magicians translated
Akasha/Aether as "Spirit," calling it the fifth
element. By this time, the original Indo-European concept that
Land, Waters, and Sky represented organic realms of living beings
and that Fire represented spirit had been forgotten in Christendom,
which preferred nature to be dead and exploitable in keeping
with Christian theology and philosophy. So medieval and Renaissance
magicians and mystics used the expanded Greek elements, often
representing them by a five-pointed star of interlaced lines,
now known as a "pentagram" ("five-lines").
It should be obvious that these mystical elements are not
the same thing as what modern scientists call "elements,"
although an argument can be made that they represent the "states
of matter," thusly: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire could be
seen as the solid, liquid, gas, and plasma states respectively,
while Spirit might represent the quantum field, or perhaps dark
energy, if we want to annoy the physicists. To keep matters clear
in this book, we will capitalize the word "Elements"
as well as their individual names when we are referring to the
metaphysical ones and leave it lowercase should we need to talk
about scientific ones.
However they originated and developed, the idea of the Five
Elements today (and for the last fifteen centuries or so) is
primarily used as the basis of a core Western "system of
correspondences," linked to other systems such as astrology
and the tarot. Systems of correspondence or associations give
us a framework for categorizing things and experiences according
to how alike or unlike they are. Many modern magicians and mystics
(at least in Western cultures) believe that everything can be
categorized by how well it corresponds with (how similar it is
to) the qualities of "Elemental energy" represented
by Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and/or Spirit. You will have noticed
how often Lipp uses the phrase "is associated with"
in her elemental descriptions. This is because for most moderns,
the Elements are more useful for their correspondences than for
their abstract philosophical meanings.
Things that are similar attract and support each other. In
magical terms, these are the laws of similarity and contagion
discussed in Chapter 00. Like laughter, magical similarity is
contagious; just as laughter draws more laughs to it (while a
frown encourages frowns), the presence of that which corresponds
to an Element encourages the presence of other things that have
similar qualities. Thus, the more we understand about the tangible
and intangible qualities of an Element, the more we can utilize
the principles of similarity and contagion in our magic.
Here's an example. The Element of Fire is associated with
the tangible quality of heat and the intangible qualities of
courage and passion. If we want to work magic geared toward the
intangible qualities of passion or courage, we would enhance
the effectiveness of our work by including things that have the
tangible quality of heat. Heat is a quality associated with hot
peppers, roaring furnaces, high summer, and the color red; hence,
all these things have Fire correspondences, and therefore have
something in common with everything else that corresponds with
Fire. So, in order to align ourselves most powerfully with our
desired result of passion or courage, we surround ourselves with
things that have a fiery nature: we eat spicy food, wear red,
use images of furnaces in our visualizations, and do our ritual
at high noon on Summer Solstice.
Since everything there is corresponds with one or another
of the Elements, the presence of all four Elements together symbolizes
completeness. Thus, when we call Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and
Spirit to be present in our rituals or meditations, we are calling
upon all there is in the universe (the "macrocosm")
to be present and to help us in our work. Here/facing/on the
next page is a brief summary of some typical (not universal,
not absolute) elemental correspondences as used by most modern
Western metaphysical and esoteric movements.
A Brief Summary of Common Elemental Correspondences:
||Center / Circumference
||Inspiration, creative breakthroughs,
||Energy, passion, courage, determination,
transformation, purification, peak experiences
||Love, hope, caring, compassion, fear,
dreams, change, flow, ebb, Gate to the Summerland
||Concreteness, reality, stability,
||Centrality, encompassment, merging
||The mind, intellect, breath, the
voice, hearing, smell, birth and childhood
||True Will, sexuality, blood, sight,
prime of life
||Emotions, unconscious, heart, womb,
aging & death
||Body, touch, afterlife
||The soul, astral self
Spring, sunrise, first crescent
& waxing moon, birds, feathers, clouds, wind, windy places,
high cliffs, open fields
|Summer, noon, full moon, heat, deserts,
dry places, cactus, peppers, volcanos, fires
||Autumn, twilight, waning moon, lakes,
rivers, oceans, rainfall, dew, seaweed, other water plants,
||Winter, midnight, dark of the moon,
mountains, forests, caves, crystals, precious gems & metals,
||Seasonal cusps, twilight/dawn and
||Birds, bats, feathers
||Lizards, lions, other big cats
||Fish, dolphins, whales, sometimes
||Stags, bulls, badgers, bears, wolves,
||Totem animals, animal spirit guides
||Dragons, the phoenix
||Dragons, sea serpents, mermaids
||Dragons, satyrs, fauns
||Yellow, sometimes violet, grey, sky-blue
||Red, orange, sometimes gold
||Blue, sometimes sea-green, purple,
||Green, sometimes brown, black, gold
||Athame, dagger, incense, sword
||Wand, candle, flaming cauldron
||Cup, cauldron, mirror
||Pentacle (pantacle, shield), salt,
||Sylphs, ruled by Peralda
||Salamanders, ruled by Djinn
||Undines, ruled by Neknar or Niksa
||Gnomes, ruled by Ghob