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The Elements in Wicca

A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.

About the Elements

Elements are the building blocks of the entire universe. No, I’m not talking about the scientific elements, such as is found on the periodic chart. Sure, they are the building blocks for the physical universe. But I’m referring to the spiritual or classical Elements—they are the metaphysical building blocks.

Mention of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether (Spirit) is something Wiccans will come across time and again. Regardless of how big or small a role the Elements play in your personal spiritual path, they’re something you should learn to understand.

The elements

The elements

The periodic table

The periodic table

Big “E”, Little “e”

Sometimes I write ‘Element’, and sometimes ‘elements’. Sometimes I capitalize Air (Earth, Fire, etc.), and sometimes I don’t. There’s actually a reason for it.

Remember the Periodic Table of the Elements from chemistry class? There are 118 known elements and all matter breaks down to these most basic components. When speaking of scientific elements, I use the little “e”.

In ancient Greece, the concept of the Elements (the classical/spiritual ones) was born. They did not have the technology to see atoms and molecules, so they thought everything was made up of some combination of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether.

Fast forward a few dozen centuries-- now we know that air, earth, fire, water, and aether are compounds-- a mixture of smaller elements on the periodic table. For example, water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.

This is the reason for the distinction. The Elements (capital E) refer to the spiritual/classical Elements of our religion—those forces that we honor. The elements (lowercase e) refer to the actual scientific elements on the periodic table.

Greek elements

Greek elements

There’s More to Elements Than Compounds

We all know the Elements are Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether. Sometimes people confuse this with earth, air, fire, water, and ether. Note my use of capitalization here, because it's very significant.

The Elements—Air, Earth, Fire, and Water—are not the same thing as wind, dirt, flames, and H20. These compounds are meaningful representations of the Elements of course, but the compounds themselves are not Elements. The Elements (capital 'E') are so much more than the compounds for which they are named.

Elements in Wicca are often incorporated into practice

Elements in Wicca are often incorporated into practice

A bird's-eye view of elements in the quarters

A bird's-eye view of elements in the quarters

The Elemental Connection

The Elements represent and connect all things. Look at the diagram above; you can see the vertical axis contains the masculine Elements (Air and Fire). The horizontal axis contains the feminine Elements (Water and Earth). The circle is where the Elements meet, as if at a crossroads. The circle surrounds and connects the four Elements, just as Aether (Spirit) is the unifying and balancing factor that runs through everything in the universe—the soul, the divine, it’s what gives life and meaning to all things.

Notice how they are equivalent in length and well-balanced. When you go around the circle, you get the polarity alternating the masculine and feminine Elements, the projective and receptive, the positive and negative: Kind of like an electric charge (energy!).

You might even envision it as a compass, with each Element at one of the cardinal directions. You can even set up the primary altar tools as in some traditions in that same format: the athame is a symbol of Air, the pentacle a symbol of Earth, the wand a symbol of Fire, and the cup a symbol of Water.

Notice the harmony and the flow between the directions, times of day, times of year, times of life, elements and more

Notice the harmony and the flow between the directions, times of day, times of year, times of life, elements and more

Correspondences: Just the Start

Notice the innermost circle we have our compass and our male/female axis. Beyond that, we have correspondences to the directions, time of day, time of the year/season, the sabbats—even the life cycle itself. You get a taste right there of how the Elements correspond to everything, and everything corresponds to one or more of the Elements.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, really, as Elements also correspond to zodiac signs, tarot cards, runes, herbs, gemstones, deities, personality traits, occupations, body functions, activities, etc....the cycles and connections are endless.

From ether to gasses to liquid and solid

From ether to gasses to liquid and solid

In Relation to the Pentagram

Each pentagram point represents an element. This is why the pentacle is the ultimate symbol of balance—each equal point, all intertwined with each other—balance is a key tenet in Wicca.

Wiccans usually wear a pentacle point-up. We move from the point at the top (Aether) the intangible, to the semi-intangible realm (Fire and Air) to the tangible realm (Water and Earth).

I say usually because some Wiccan trads also occasionally use the pentagram point down. No, this does not represent Satanism; in Wicca, the pentagram has nothing to do with Satanism no matter which way it faces. When the pentagram is pointed up, it stands for Spirit (Aether) ascending over matter. When it’s pointed down, it represents Spirit descending into matter.

As you can see, the Elements are a rich, diverse, and complex system of symbols and energies that affect our world, our minds, and our spiritual practices. Take advantage of their potential by learning to work in harmony with them.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright


james on May 22, 2019:

hello I like this writing I have a question what elements in wicca are plodding and protective? :]

Dejarn on December 10, 2017:

No joke , i was at school and my friends and I did a quiz to see what element we are and I was air. When it was second break I decided to see if I had powers. So when the wind was going I pointed the other direction and it went that way. Do I have powers.

oriana on March 30, 2017:

what if you have like more than one and if you can really connect with it