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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


The four elements of nature - earth, air, water and fIre-form the foundation of natural Magick.   Modem Witches and Neo-Pagans revere these forces.

The elements are associated with the cardinal points of the Magic Circle and with a hierarchy of spirits - lower-level beings called Elementals, who in turn are governed by higher beings, Devas, also called the Lords of the Watchtowers, the Mighty Ones and the Guardians.

In Western occultism, the four elements are con-sidered the basis of all life, not only on the planet but throughout the universe as well, linking mankind to nature, the heavens and the divine, and governing mankind's well-being. In the ancient Mysteries, the rays of Celestial Bodies become the elements when they strike the crystallized influences of the lower world.   The elements figured prominently in the Magick of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who ascribed to each one various attributes and characteristics.

Plato divided all beings into four groups based on the elements-air/birds, water/fish, earth/pedestrians and fire/stars-all of which are interrelated.   The magicians and alchemists of the Middle Ages ascribed elements to external and internal parts of the human body; various gems, minerals and metals; planets and constellations; the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; various species of the animal and plant kingdoms; human personality traits; and geometrical shapes.   Roger Fludd (1574-1637), alchemist and astrologer, related the elements to harmonics, while another Renaissance alchemist, Sisismund Bactrom, believed that if all the elements could be harmonized and united, the result would be the Philosopher's Stone.

The Mithraic Mysteries hold that man must rule the elements before he can attain spiritual wisdom; accordingly, he must successfully undergo the Initiations of earth, air, water and fire, each of which test a different aspect of his nature and being.

Some of the major correspondences. of the elements are: Earth: The north (ususally the south in the Southern Hemisphere); the Pentacle; female principle; fertility; darkness, quiet; practicality; thrift; acquisition; patience; responsibility; boredom; stagnation; the materialization of cosmic powers; the color green; the metal gold.

Air: The east, the wand (in some witchcraft Traditions, the sword and athame); male principle; intellect, energy, endeavor; sociability; squandering, frivolity; the expression of the magician's will; the color yellow; the metal silver.

Water: The west; the cup, challice and cauldron; female principle; fecundity; body fluids; magical brews; the rhythms of nature; emotions, sensitivity, receptivity; instability, indifference; the color blue; the metal silver.

Fire: The south (usually the north in the Southern hemisphere); the sword or athame (in some Traditions, the wand); male principle; action, courage, defense against hostile forces; struggle, animosity, jealousy, anger; the color orange; the metal gold.

In working Magick, Witches summon the subtle forces of the elements and their Guardian Spirits. Familiars are considered sources of vital elemental energy.  

Both Witches and ceremonial magicians consecrate their working tools and ritual objects with the four elements, by placing them on or touching them with a Pentacle, passing them over a candle flame and a Censer (air) and sprinkling them with salted water.   When a Magic Circle is cast, it is consecrated and purified with the elements.

Each element or its symbol is taken to its corresponding quarter, and its Guardian Spirit is invoked.

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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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