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Lesson 4 – Elements and Forces
The Ancients divided the world into four basic principles or elements — earth, water, fire, and air. That viewpoint has mostly changed with advances of science, but the four elements are still accepted in magick, for they are more closely linked with emotions, the human psyche, and with nature than are modern explanations of the world. These magical elements are also of some importance in astrology. Many occultists think of the magical elements as forces, or as qualities of energy; especially within the astral world. Each element has a symbol and color. (Common symbols are — fire: a triangle pointing up; air: a triangle pointing up and with a horizontal line through the middle of it; water: a triangle pointing down; earth: a triangle pointing down and with a horizontal line through the middle of it.) Colors of the elements are — earth: brown and green; water: blue; fire: red; air: yellow…The Eastern tattvic system uses different symbols and colors. (The tattvic symbols are briefly described later on in this course.) The elements are often used in magick ritual.
Magick sees relationships between things. These relationships are called ‘correspondences’. Although magical correspondences are not literally equal to one another, you can think of them that way (such as gold equals sun). Tables of these relationships, called ‘Correspondence Tables’, are available (an important one is Crowley’s ‘777’). Thus one thing or symbol can be used to suggest another. This is important in magick, for the magician may surround himself with as many appropriate correspondences as he can to vividly affect the senses; thus making his magical contact with the inner planes more lucid.
The magical elements have correspondences with the tarot cards as the four suits. The four quarters (directions of the universe as used in magick ritual) and the Archangels also correspond with these same elements —
Element Suit Quarter Archangel
earth pentacles north Uriel
water cups west Gabriel
fire wands south Michael
air swords east Raphael
Astrological signs also correspond with the elements. Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are earth signs. Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are water signs. Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are fire signs. Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are air signs.
The magical elements are said to be peopled by spirits and mythological entities called elementals or nature spirits. These are grouped into four main categories —
Gnome (earth) Undine (water) Salamander (fire) Sylph (air)
dwarfs nymphs jin (genies) fairies
elves tritons storm angels
Elementals are usually only visible to those with clairvoyant sight and are more likely to be seen at night in the mountains or country away from cities — especially if you are tired or sleepy. Although elementals exist naturally, it is also possible to create one which will exist for a limited time — no elemental has immortality. A created elemental is called an ‘artificial elemental’.
To the Ancients, elementals were the physical explanation of the universe. However, some contemporary occultists see them only as symbols for forces and otherwise not ‘real’ at all. Another word sometimes used for elemental is ‘familiar’ (usually in medieval witchcraft); the term is ambiguous, as it might merely be an ordinary household pet such as a dog or cat.
Chinese philosophy and acupuncture talk of yin yang. This is the idea of polarity, or opposite pairs, as shown:
The list could go on. In Chinese literature it is quite long. Some occultists suggest everything can be similarly arranged into related opposite pairs.
Here is a simple magical technique you may wish to try. It is a variation of affirmation, which was discussed in an earlier lesson…To help you to achieve your goal (magical or otherwise), find a word or short phase which sums up what it is that you want to accomplish. Write the word (or phrase) down 10 times each day until you achieve success.
1) List the four elements.
2) What is an elemental?
3) What are correspondences?
William Britten, Art Magic (long out of print, but in some libraries).
Pete Carrol, Liber Null.
Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy.
Manly Hall, Unseen Forces.
Copyright (c) 1988 by Phil Hansford.
This article was published on Sunday 01 March, 2009.