Despite being frowned upon by local laws and ordinances, a portion of my youth was spent having bonfires—and drinks—on our local coastline. As a Florida native, this is a favored pastime amongst many who reside here.
When I dredge up this memory, it is so clear, it’s almost as if I am there even though it’s been a solid twenty years. I can picture the delinquent, teenage version of myself basking in the elements with a clarity I’m rarely granted. I can all but taste the Zima accompanied by a disintegrating jolly rancher.
These nights had all the trimmings: the ocean water, the bonfire, the breeze from the waves, and the white quartz sand.
Earth, air, fire, water.
By this age, movies like Hocus Pocus, The Craft, and Practical Magic, had long since captivated my interest. So much so that I dutifully made a beeline to the “New Age” section of the local bookstore at every opportunity. Anything of the occult was of great interest. Further, worshipping the earth made the most sense to me. So, naturally, on nights like the above, I had my intentions in mind. I wanted to eat, drink, and be merry while connecting with the elements.
To this day, the elements remain in high regard in my practice. So, I wanted to touch on them here. This article will be more of an overview than a deep dive, but still a resource for those interested in learning more about the elements and ways to bring them into our practice. To hear me discuss these at length, you can preorder a copy of my upcoming book, “Eclectic Witchcraft: Old Ways for Modern Magick,” now.
The Four Elements
The Four Elements, sometimes referred to as the Classical Elements, are earth, air, fire, and water. These elements were thought to summarize all of the intricacies of existence and that everything was composed of some variation of them. Later, aether was added as a fifth element by Aristotle. In some traditions, metal is considered the alternative fifth element.
Regardless, the four main elements at the heart of most pagan practices are what I will discuss here. Please note that these correspondences can easily be customized to your own traditions and association with these elements. It makes the most sense that you form your own connection to these elements based on your location as well as your beliefs.
Additionally, I’ve included the elemental jar graphics from my Instagram page and the text recipes. The recipes included for the jars are great to incorporate into an elemental altar but can also be used to embody the particular element. These jars can be made in any sized containers you have on hand.
Earth is all around us. It’s the dirt beneath our feet, the trees outside our windows, the rainforest, the deserts, and even that white sand I spent my youth on. We exist on its fertile land. Our journey begins and ends here. It’s an easy element to bring into our practices, and one of my favorite ways is through tending to my herb garden.
In astrology, the earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. These signs reflect our material and tangible world. The element of earth bestows upon these signs practicality and steadiness. Think of the term “down-to-earth.” These signs are the physical embodiment of this.
North is often associated with the element earth in pagan traditions. However, there are other associations with this element. A pentacle is the tool that corresponds with this element and is also the suit of Pentacles or Coins in Tarot. Winter is the season, and night is the time of day associated with the element of earth.
- Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Direction: North
- Tool: Pentacle
- Tarot: Pentacles/Coins
- Season: Winter
- Time of Day: Night
- Sense: Touch
- Governs: Foundations, Instinct
- Types of Magic: Crystal Magick, Herbal Magick, Using Dirts/Soils
- Corn Kernels
- Tigers Eye
Relax. Unclench your jaws. Take a deep breath. Feel that?
That’s air. Thankfully, air surrounds us at any given moment. If it didn’t, we would have a big problem. For about four minutes, anyway. This element, though omnipresent, is sometimes easy to miss, with the exception of a glorious windy day. Air can be a purifying element, so one simple ritual I like to do is take a walk on a windy day. This helps carry away my woes and provides a factory reset of sorts.
In astrology, the earth signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. These signs reflect the mental and intellectual world. The element of air bestows upon these signs a lightheartedness and a quick wit. These signs have agile minds and are highly adept at matters of the mind.
Air is associated with the East in many pagan traditions. The corresponding season is spring, and dawn is the time of day. Depending on the tradition, an athame or a wand corresponds to this element. Swords, however, are usually associated with the air element in tarot decks.
- Signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
- Direction: East
- Tool: Athame or Wand
- Tarot: Swords
- Season: Spring
- Time of Day: Dawn
- Sense: Hearing & Smell
- Governs: Intellect
- Types of Magick: Smoke Cleansing, Wind Magick, Breath Work
- Star Anise
Few things are as captivating as fire—the strength of the flames, the heat, and the crackling as it consumes its fuel. Fire is a powerful element and a force to be reckoned with. Fire transforms wood into ash and smoke, which makes this element one of transformation.
In astrology, the fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. These signs embody action and taking charge. The element of fire grants these signs a sense of passion and drive. These signs are known for their tenacity and their fiery approach to life.
According to many pagan traditions, the direction of fire is south. This element corresponds to summer, and noon is its time of day. In accordance with tradition, the tool associated with this element may either be a wand or an athame. That said, in most tarot decks, the suit associated with the fire element is wands.
- Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
- Direction: South
- Tool: Wands or Athame
- Tarot: Wands
- Season: Summer
- Time of Day: Noon
- Sense: Sight
- Governs: Willpower
- Types of Magick: Burning Items, Candle Magic, Bonfires
- Pepper Flakes
- Hawaiian Red Salt
Water is the element of emotion and memory. It can take the shape of a gentle stream or powerful waves and rapids. In this fluidity, there’s an adaptability and persistence. This element is one of purification and is often used to cleanse both ourselves and our tools.
In astrology, the water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. These signs reflect our internal and subconscious world. The element of water imparts intuition and depth to these signs.
Pagan traditions often associate water with the west. The season associated with water is autumn, and dusk is the time of day that corresponds with the element. The tool associated with this element is cups and cauldrons, and it also represents the suit of Cups in tarot.
- Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
- Direction: West
- Tool: Cups and Cauldrons
- Tarot: Cups
- Season: Autumn
- Time of Day: Dusk
- Sense: Taste
- Governs: Emotions, Intuition
- Types of Magick: Spiritual Baths, Cleansing Items, Floorwashes
- Sea Salt
- Lapis Lazuli