Eclectic Elementals: The Magic & Spirituality of the Elements

This is not a specifically named, established path like Asatru, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Kemeticism, Wicca or Santeria. Yet the Elemental Path can be adapted to any practice, traditional or modern, and the Elements are indeed present and utilized in all practices and systems. It can also be, as it is for me, its own completely original, self-contained and self-defined path. It is the path of peeking behind all the named and well-presented curtains; of getting to the heart of All and of connecting to and honoring the mystical, essential building blocks of everything in existence, from the planet to our souls. No matter where your belief ultimately leads you or how you define it, the Elements are a part of it and, if nothing else, a great place to start.

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An Introduction to Creating an Element-based Spirituality

No faith, no magical practice, and no school of philosophy has the monopoly on elemental belief. From Aboriginal animism to Druidism to Shinto to Plato, “the Elements” have played a huge role in how humans have related to and deified the natural world around them.

Though the four “classical” elements – Earth, Fire, Water and Air – are understood primarily by the familiar explanations of the Swiss alchemist and mystic Paracelsus, the concept itself is far more ancient and can be found, with variations and additions, within most (if not all) cultures.

As Manly P. Hall tells us in his occult encyclopedia The Secret Teachings of All Ages, “The civilizations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, China and India believed implicitly in satyrs, sprites, and goblins.” (i.e. elemental beings) Native American tribes also believed in the basic elements Water, Earth, Wind and Fire (or sometimes Sun), which, like Paracelsus, they also assigned to the four directions. They also include a fifth element of Sacred Sound (unverified, see my post entitled "Sound and Silence"), which corresponds to the European alchemical element, or source of elements, Ether. So too do the Chinese work with a fifth element, but that of Metal.

In their book Neolithic Shamanism: Spirit Work in the Norse Tradition, Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova point out that “It’s important for a shamanic practitioner to have at least some kind of relationship with each of the elements, although everyone does better with some than with others.” This applies to far more than shamanic practice though, which is a specific, disciplined path and not one to be taken at all lightly.

One need not undergo intense shamanic training to develop a relationship with the elements. I have been of the opinion for some time now that if one is seeking personal truth, their place in the natural world, a new spiritual path or how to first approach magic or witchcraft, the elements are the best place to begin. Sages and mystics of centuries past have clearly been of the same opinion.

The German physician, theologian and occultist (and a feminist far ahead of his time), Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, offers these intriguing promises and admonitions on the importance of the elements and understanding them…

“…This is the root and foundation of all bodies, natures, virtues and wonderful works; and he which shall know these qualities of the elements, and their mixtions, shall easily bring to pass such things that are wonderful, and astonishing, and shall be perfect in Magic.

“There are, then, as we have said, four Elements, without the perfect knowledge whereof we can effect nothing in Magic.

and, lastly and most plainly…

“Let no man, therefore, without these…Elements, and the knowledge thereof, be confident that he is able to work any thing in the occult Sciences of Magic and Nature”.

-Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book One: The Philosophy of Natural Magic, 1531

Beyond the fact that all cultures and religions have some understanding of and belief in the elements, let us elaborate on Manly P. Hall’s statement and not forget belief in and work with elemental beings.

In seeking a spirituality which involves a relationship with deity beyond Abrahamic monotheism, one will benefit greatly from understanding the elements, elementals, and how they affect us. Famed theosophist Madame Blavatsky tells us that “Polytheism is based upon a fact of nature. Spirits mistaken for gods have been seen in every age by men – hence the universal belief in many and various gods, who are the personified powers of nature” (Insights to the Invisible World of Elementals)

Hall also states, again in his Secret Teachings, that “A number of authorities are of the opinion that many of the gods worshiped by the pagans were elementals, for some of these invisibles were believed to be of commanding stature and magnificent deportment.”

So just how to begin exactly? Obviously, we are each composed of all the elements, but I believe that everyone has an affinity for a particular element, as well as personal guides from within their strongest element. You may already have one or more of these in the forms of power animals, plant or mineral allies or other natural spirit guides. I recommend finding your primary element first (if you haven’t already) and then seeing what new elemental guides might present themselves. Rather than describe an elaborate ritual, suggest a meditation out in nature, or some oracle reading, astrology or dreamwork to help you find your primary element (though these are all great tools I also recommend and which I will eventually cover here), there is actually but one simple question you should ask yourself…

Which is your favorite?

Everyone has one and that alone, at least for starters, can actually be very telling. As with most things in magical practice and spirituality, just trust your intuition and your own preferences and inclinations. Do you light candles left and right and love to wear warm, sensual tones? You might be a spirit of Fire! Can you not go swimming enough or stop buying ocean-themed décor? Water might be singing out to you. Are you addicted to gardening or rock climbing? Earth might be your soul’s foundation. Do you feel exhilarated by being windswept in an open field? Air might be seeking to carry you.

Elemental work goes even deeper, and becomes easier, if you find that you yourself are an incarnated elemental being. I believe it’s possible that many people are. At least to an extent, and for want of a better description or higher understanding of what all truly IS, so much of which we cannot even begin to comprehend or take in through any of our human senses (hence the glaring and irrefutable dangers of the illogical, even impossible, absolute truth claims of so many dogmatic religions).

This is a theory of mine (and I’m sure others) that I think can help explain many differences and preferences, as well as certain unique abilities and sensitivities, that vary in each individual. Within that theory I believe that it is of paramount importance for people to have their own unique and personalized spirituality because, though we are all connected and technically very much the same as flawed, emotional humans in this incarnation, our souls and the origins and compositions thereof are as unique and varied as our fingerprints.

I believe that some (or perhaps all) people are the physical incarnation of powerful, cosmic elemental emanations from the Source. I believe that some souls are naturally attached to/composed of ethereal Water because that element - that emanation - gave form to their immortal, indestructible energetic essence. Same as some being from or composed of Fire, or higher representations of fire; ethereal Fire. And so on with Earth and Air. And since those ethereal elements also have physical forms in our realm – rivers and rain, fires and lightning, soil and rocks, air and wind – obviously there will still be more pure and primal living beings dwelling within and controlling those forms. They are among us but parallel to us, in between matter and spirit.

So, if we are composed of all the elements and surrounded by (sometimes) invisible elemental beings, why not base at least some portion of our spiritual beliefs and magical practice upon the nature of our own beautiful, complex composition and even recognize precisely whence all deities and magical forces originate?

For so says Agrippa, “…the Soul itself…the understanding resembles fire, reason the air, imagination the water, and the senses the earth. And these senses also are divided amongst themselves by reason of the Elements, for the sight is fiery, neither can it perceive without fire and light; hearing is airy, for a sound is made by the striking of the air; the smell and taste resemble the water, without the moisture of which there is neither smell nor taste; and lastly, the feeling is wholly earthy…”


© 2018 Meredith Everwhite - All Rights Reserved

Featured image by Jacek Yerka

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Meredith is an amateur writer, Tarot/oracle reader, and a semi-agnostic, pan/metatheistic, Pagan mage & mystic. Her elemental affinity has led her to become a devoted water priestess and the creator of the website/blog The Oracle of Water where she shares and writes about all things aqueous in the worlds of metaphysics, spirituality, mythology and occultism. Currently pursuing her certification in Michelle Hanson’s seashell-based “Ocean Oracle”, she is also working to develop an original elemental-themed divination system. She currently lives in North Carolina with her spritely feline familiar, Naia.  


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 03 October 2018

    My hardcover copy of Runequest Roleplaying in Glorantha arrived today. Every character in the game; not just the players, is aligned with one of the five elements: Darkness, Water, Earth, Fire, or Air.

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