One of the first things you learn in witchcraft is that the four elements of earth, air, fire and water are involved in almost all the work you do, depending on tradition. The fifth element, which some people recognize and some do not, is spirit. But what do the elements mean in witchcraft and Wicca?
While the physical components of the elements are often used in spell craft and ritual - for example, burning spell candles uses fire, burying items in the ground uses earth, etc., the real power of the elements is not so much in their physical form, but the essence of their form. What energy lies inside of each element? When you call the elements into your circle, what exactly are you invoking? Let’s break it down.
Symbolism of the 4 elements in witchcraft
Earth. The element of earth corresponds with the cardinal direction of the North. It is rocks, dirt, bones, plants, and the ancient trees that outlive us over lifetimes. Earth energy is old, slow moving, wise and lives much longer than us. Consider how long a rock's existence is compared to your own. Calling upon the spirit of earth in magick is most often used for workings for balance, stability and logic. Earth is also associated with abundance and food, the things that keep us alive, which in modern times translates to employment and finance. For that reason it is called upon in money and prosperity workings.
Air. The element of air corresponds with the East, and is found in the wind, our breath, feathers, sound, and distance. Air energy is swift moving, and usually used in workings regarding communication or sending messages. Air encompasses our ability to spread vibrations, call to others for assistance, or send a message or energy far and wide. Elemental Air is called upon when we need to blow the winds of change upon a situation or get our voices heard.
Fire. The element of fire corresponds with the South. It's found in the tiniest candle flame, the heat of our blood, the friendliest of balefires, and in the most tragic and destructive of forest and house fires. Fire is both a creator and destroyer. It can turn anything into smoke. In witchcraft, it's called upon to create change, inspire creativity, and to bring about big life transformations. It's also considered passionate and dramatic, and is used often in love spells. Like love, it can keep you warm and cozy or it can destroy your life.
Water. The element of water corresponds with the West. Water makes up a large part of our physical body, and is found in rivers, rain, snow, lakes and oceans. Water is deep, mysterious, and often murky. It's mesmerizing and full of hidden undercurrents, much like our human emotions. This is why water is associated with feelings, intuition, hunches, and gut instincts. Water is associated with deep emotional ties with others, and the underlying mysteries that live inside of us.
Spirit. The fifth element is Spirit, and this of course means different things to different people depending on their beliefs. Spirit is the great unknown force that holds the entire universe together. It is the reason we are alive right now, our life's purpose, and our destiny. It is our ancestors and our future selves, the great cycles of time and nature. Spirit is the power that resides in all living things and that which connects us all. In witchcraft practice, this sometimes takes the form of goddesses, gods and other deity forms.
Understanding the role of the elements in your witchcraft practice is important to connecting with nature through your rituals and spells, and will help you create your own simple workings. Try meditating with each of the elements one at a time to get a feel for their power and energy.