Elemental Powers and Finding Your Wiccan Element
On a lot of websites for Wiccans, Witches, or Pagans in general, you’ll see a lot of talk of controlling the Elements, developing Elemental powers, and finding your Element. You will see on Youtube videos of people making candles flicker or spinning little bits of paper under glass bowls. On my Wiccan message forums and in my E-mail box, messages are always popping up that ask questions like, “How do I know my Wiccan Element? I think I have an affinity for water because I love to go swimming and hang out on the beach, does that mean Water is my Element?!!”
These issues are confusing to beginning Wiccans, and I want to do my best to help straighten it all out. Let’s explore exactly what it means to find your Element, and to control the Elements, by looking at Elements logically in a traditional Wiccan context.
For more on elements in Wicca and their correspondences, read here.
The Four Elements
Traditional Wiccan Chant:
Earth my body, Water my blood,
Air my breath and Fire my Spirit
Finding Your Element In Wicca
A lot of young Wiccans are eager to find their elements. I don’t mean to burst any bubbles, but traditionally in Wicca there is no such thing. Yes, you read that right. I know that’s not a popular opinion these days because the idea has gained recent popularity, but please follow my reasoning before you dismiss it.
I remember when this idea began popping up in the last 10 or 15 years, a lot of us long-time Wiccans looked at each other with furrowed brows and asked, “Huh?” I tried hunting down the source—nearest I can tell, the idea came from fiction and cartoons and made their way into bad Wicca 101 books and the kind of websites I tend not to recommend because they present every New Age concept as Wiccan.
First, it should be understood that Elements Earth, Air, Fire, Water are not the same thing as dirt, oxygen, flames and H20. The Spiritual Elements—capital “E”—together make up everything in life.
For example, the Element of Water (capitalized) is not just the stuff that pours out of your faucets or fills your pool. Water is H20, and H20 is the most pure symbol of the Element, but the Element of Water is so much more than that. It’s also intuition, it’s string instruments, it’s silver jewelry, it’s fish, it’s the moon, it’s being wishy-washy, it’s being nurturing, it’s both compassion and depression, it’s drowning, it’s the sunset hour, it’s peeing and drooling. The Element of Water is infused in every aspect of life, and this is so with the other three as well.
Second, the very notion that someone is “an Element” would contradict a key tenet of Wicca—which is to find balance in all things. If you were one Element, you would be an incredibly imbalanced person. If you lean that heavily toward one Element, it would mean you need less of it, and you need more of the other three.
Some would argue, saying something like: But my astrological sign is (fill in the blank), making my Element (fill in the blank)! Yes, I know—astrological signs fall under the Elements as well. Just because your astrological element’s influence is Water doesn’t mean Water is your only Element. For one thing, your Sun sign is not your only astrological sign (you also have a Moon sign, an Ascending sign, and all those houses in your chart with different planets).
Water touches everyone’s life in many ways, as do all the Elements. One of the ways it influences you is through your Sun sign; that doesn't make it your one and only Element.
But I have an affinity for (fill in the blank) because (fill in the blank)! The word “affinity” simply means you like something. I have an affinity for chocolate, that doesn’t make me the element of chocolate (though—it might be fun).
Basic Element Info
Masculine, projective element connected to rational thought, the mind, intellect, wisdom, communication, etc.
Corresponding to the North, the winter season, middle of the night.
Feminine, receptive, connected to stability, practicality, materialism, the physical world, etc.
Corresponding to the East, to the spring season, to sunrise time,
Masculine, projective, connected to the will, passion, creativity, etc.
Corresponding to the South, to the summer season, to midday (noon).
Feminine, receptive, connected to the emotions, intuition, mysterious, the subconscious, etc.
Corresponding to the West, to the fall season, to twilight time.
The idea of controlling Elements in Wicca is another misconception. I’m not going to argue here whether it’s even possible to control fire or water or air with your mind—and I don’t even know how someone would go about controlling earth (other than gardening or making mud pies). Even if this was possible, this would fall under the category of psychic abilities. While a Wiccan might believe in this stuff, or attempt to perform these tasks, it does not make doing these things part of our religion.
I do have to note here, the idea of "controlling elements" seems to me an incredible waste of time and energy. Let’s assume here for a second people who claim they have these powers can actually do what they say they do. They cause a flame to flicker or a little feather to bounce around or water to ripple at will. That’s all fine and good, but I ask… what is the spiritual lesson and benefit in this?
The amount of practice and effort that goes into what amounts to little more than a neat trick to show off with at parties is ridiculous. How does it actually help someone’s spiritual journey to waste an hour or two a day for months to learn how to make the candle flame bob up and down? It seems to me there is no actual spiritual benefit from being able to do these things—it’s just something you can use to impress yourself and your friends, like juggling 3 oranges or finding someone’s card in a deck.
Allow me to repeat myself, because I feel it’s a very important point that many Wiccans miss: the Element of Fire is not just flames, the Element of Water is not H20, and so on. Controlling a flame with your mind (even if you could) is not the same thing controlling the Element of Fire. You’re just controlling a bit of fire (small “f”). Controlling H20 is not controlling the Element of Water; it’s controlling water (small “w”). And so on.
Really Controlling the Elements in Wicca
In Wicca, controlling the Elements isn’t about making candle flames dance or creating gusts of wind with your mind. Controlling the Elements is about finding self-control and balance within yourself and your life.
You want to control the Element of Fire? Don’t play with candle flames—learn how to control your temper. Learn how to nurture your passions and channel them productively. Work on expressing yourself artistically.
You want to Control the Element of Water? Don’t play with running faucets to see if you can make the flow shift an inch over—learn how to master your emotions. Learn how to be more compassionate and understanding. Learn how to listen to and interpret your intuition. Learn how control your mood swings.
You want to Control the Element of Air? Study, learn, and apply your knowledge to life. Practice speaking, help yourself learn to think more carefully about what comes out of your mouth and express yourself more effectively. Don’t allow yourself to give into cynical attitudes. Cultivate wisdom.
You want to Control the Element of Earth? Have courage, and do the things that need to be done in your life-- even the hard stuff. Be strong and steadfast—but try to work on not being so stubborn and closed off to anything new. Be practical and pragmatic, put the work and time into developing useful skills.
Learn to work with Elemental Energies—not by playing with one, single physical manifestations of each Element, but by learning to open yourself to them and all they mean. Think about what they symbolize in ritual, what aspects of life they correspond to, and how you can better utilize that understanding to improve yourself internally. Find Elemental balance.
Finding True Balance
While it's true that a certain Element can be dominant in your life (either for your whole life, or for certain periods of it), that doesn't make you "an Element," and it doesn't mean you are intrinsically tied to it, like it or not. It doesn't mean it should be your focus, either in your life or in your spiritual practices (again, it could indicate your need to bring better Elemental balance). Further, it doesn't imply supernatural connection to or power over the Element.
I know a lot of people who came to Wicca more recently and started with books and websites that tout the “find your element” concept, and it’s very hard to think of things differently when you get used to them. Some will even get defensive when such ideas are challenged. I also know some people like the idea of having supernatural mastery over nature, and this very idea is what drew them to alternative religions in the first place. I understand that learning to control your temper is not as exciting and flashy a representation of Fire to some people as making a candle flame do flickering tricks. “You can’t tell me what to believe!” some might cry. And I’m not telling you what to believe. You can believe what you want.
I’m presenting a perspective that I feel needs to be heard, and that some may find more useful. I believe the ideas about the Elements presented here makes real sense within the context of the Wiccan religion, as well as in life. It may contradict a lot of the more feel-good, fanciful ideas you come across, and if that makes you angry, feel free to ignore anything I have to say on the topic.
However, if you were looking for something a little deeper than parlor tricks and games, if you were looking for a spiritual path to actually impact your life, your personal growth and your spiritual development, I hope this lesser known perspective on the topic will help you along.
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright