E is for Elements

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Each of the traditional elements—earth, air, fire, and water—is associated with traits, meanings, and a direction on the compass. The information in this post is for readers in the Northern hemisphere. For my friends in the Southern hemisphere, please use the opposite correspondences:

Earth is associated with the north, the season of autumn, and the colors green and brown. Zodiacally speaking, the element of earth corresponds to Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo. Considered the ultimate feminine element, the Earth is fertile and has the aspects of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The Earth element is thought of as nurturing, stable, and full of strength and endurance.  

Air is associated with the east, the season of spring, and the colors yellow and white. Zodiacally speaking, the element of air corresponds to Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra. Considered the ultimate communication element, this masculine energy is wise and has the aspects of intellect, focus, and telepathy. It supports the powers of the mind—intellect and claircognizance.

Fire is associated with the south, the season of summer, and the colors red and orange. Zodiacally speaking, the element of fire corresponds to Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. Considered the ultimate masculine element, fire is associated with strong will, vitality, and endurance. Fire creates and destroys; it can heal or harm; it purifies. And like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, it can transform.

Water is associated with the west, the season of winter, and the color blue. Zodiacally speaking the element of water corresponds to Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio. Considered the most cleansing of the elements, this feminine element (Goddess energy) is associated with emotional healing. It is used in many spiritual traditions for consecration—setting something apart as holy.

Spirit is sometimes referred to as the fifth element. Spirit transcends, yet is part of all the other elements; it has no direction, yet encompasses all directions; it’s beyond seasons and times, yet is all seasons and time. It is the source of human love and compassion.

Depending on the culture and tradition, elements are used in ceremonies, rituals, meditation, and Zen practices. And while sometimes identified differently than I’ve described here, the basic meaning is the same.

Which of the elements do you resonate with the most?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan

www.HolEssence.com.

© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

39 thoughts on “E is for Elements

  1. sweet and simple,great topic for the wkend-
    Most of the time I am floating thru Air and with abundant spirit.It is nice to know who I am and where I am!

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  3. I’m all about setting things on fire! I love the energy and warmth of fire, its purifying and transformational power. Loved your picture of the bonfire! I will be making a bonfire this weekend as soon as the gale force wind dies down. I was born under the sign of Sagittarius. 🙂

    • Gil – With a seasonal permit from our city, we enjoy bonfires in our backyard throughout the fall (most of our neighbors do to). Their not giant conflagurations, just nice-sized bonfires to enjoy on a crisp autumn evening. But like you, we don’t make them when it’s windy — much to risky for something to get out of control. I’ll live vicariously through you this weekend as we’re expecting rain and the possibility of light snow by Sunday evening.

    • Jean – I can very much see that about you (no wonder you loved that hot air balloon ride this summer!).! I’m an air element, but I very much like the earth, with a huge helping of Spirit thrown in for good measure. Have a fantastic weekend!

  4. Hi Laurie

    For me, the old idea of four elements has a certain historical interest, about equivalent to the notion of a flat earth being the centre of the universe. For me they contain no more meaning or information than that. They were a stage of development that we had to pass through to get to where we are now.

    The concepts of elements, matter and energy that I use now, and are used by most scientists are far beyond the four elements – so far beyond that the idea of four elements (even 5 elements) seems like a child’s tale.

    Earth, the solid stuff on which we find ourselves, we now understand to be composed of mixtures of about 100 elements (from hydrogen up through helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc and up through the heavier stuff to the really strange and exotic ultra heavy metals).
    We understand that all of those elements are composed of smaller particles (electrons, neutrons, and protons), which are themselves made up of even smaller things called “quarks” with properties so unlike anything in the observable world of our common sense reality that we have given them names like “charm”, “up”, “down”, etc.

    We now understand that all matter and light are interchangeable, and that matter is in a sense, a form of condensed light, and that both seem to be manifestations of something described by “super string theory”.

    Air was the wind, the stuff that moved without being seen. We now call this atmosphere, and know it is a thin layer surrounding this rock on which we live (planet Earth). We now understand that this atmosphere is composed of many light elements, mostly nitrogen and oxygen, with traces of many others; and it owes its existence in the first instance to exploding stars, then to that exploded star stuff condensing into comets, and then to those comets crashing into the early earth; then to evolution by natural selection producing early simple bacterial life that altered the structure of the oceans and the atmosphere, producing the free oxygen and removing almost all of the methane and ammonia that was initially present in our atmosphere.

    Fire we now know to be the chemical combustion of hydrocarbons with oxygen, with the release of a certain spectrum of photons from the bonds between different elements within the matter, but leaving those elements fundamentally unchanged. Fire was also associated with the sun, but we now know that the sun operates on a very different set of principles. The sun is powered by the conversion of elemental matter itself, 600 million tons of hydrogen to helium every second, giving the sun it’s enormous power output, so high, that even here, 93 million miles away, we can still be burned by the intensity and the energy of the very tiny fraction of its total output that actually makes it to the earth’s surface.
    We also know that the sun is a vast ball of gas, vastly bigger than the earth. If you could drive straight through the earth, it would take you roughly two weeks traveling at the speed limit (60mph/ 100kmph) for 12 hours a day. To travel through the sun (were it possible) in such fashion would take over two years – it is huge.

    The sun has been “burning” (converting matter to light in a nuclear furnace) for over 5 billion years, and it is big enough to continue doing so for the best part of another 5 billion years before running low on fuel and changing dramatically. So even the sun is not renewable, it is being used up, and it will eventually die, but on a time scale that is measured in billions of years. And until then it could conceivable continue to power life, vastly more life than currently exists (billions of times as much, if we use our technology to colonise space itself), for billions of years to come.

    Water is an amazing molecule, composed of an oxygen atom with two hydrogen atoms arranged asymmetrically around it. It forms most of the ocean, and is fundamental to all forms of life that we know. It is as close as the universe has come to creating the “universal solvent”. Over time it can dissolve almost anything.
    It shows us the gravitational influence of the moon (in the tides) and has so many layers of effect and influence on us that it is truly amazing (almost magical) stuff. {I am reminded of Arthur C Clarke’s famous quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“.}

    Spirit, to me, is pattern manifest in matter, that is not itself matter. When we look at computers we can see the patterns of software running on the hardware that is these silicon based machines.
    Our spirits, are software running on the hardware of our brains and bodies, which are machines evolved through billions of years of differential survival of slight variations at different rates in different environments; eventually, over almost 4 billion years, leading to the diversity of life we see about us.

    Our brains are very different sorts of computers to the silicon based machines we are currently used to. These silicon computers use “one to one” correspondence in all their primary functionality. Our computing machinery is much more closely analogous to LASER holograms, we are fundamentally based on “one to many” relationships. Every bit of data stored in our memory is related to everything we have observed or experienced up until that point. The complexity and associative power that such properties gives each of us are many orders of magnitude beyond all of the computing capacity available on planet earth today.

    So I can understand why people thought about the 4 elements hundreds of years ago; as they lacked the evidence and distinctions available in today’s world.

    What I find difficult to comprehend is why we perpetuate such notions using the sort of technology we are, which technology is only possible if one completely consigns such notions as 4 or 5 elements to the trash can of history.

    That we are reading these words on computer screens ought to be all the evidence any of us needs to stop talking about 4 or 5 elements in any context other a purely historical one, and start using much more up to date and powerful ideas.

    We cannot proceed to peaceful coexistence on notions like these – simply not possible.

    Arohanui
    Ted

    • Ted – As always, I appreciate your perspective.

      Interestingly, yesterday our gas meter failed (due to deterioration over time), so Nicor Gas came out and replaced the gas meter. Len still had to light a fire for it to function. Granted, he used a piezoelectric lighter, but we still rely on fire. That’s how we heat our home as well.

      I’m so grateful for the clean, fresh water that we enjoy every single day. It’s conveniently piped right into our home.

      I was just outside admiring the breeze blowing leaves off the trees and the earth that the trees grow in; the planet that I live on—Gaia, earth.

      Yes, I have to admit I’m a bit old fashioned in that I enjoy those four elements—daily. Along with Spirit—I’m an extension of that source energy.

      I realize that these aren’t the only elements, but they’re an integral part of my daily experience.

    • Hi Laurie,

      I enjoy and appreciate the earth on which we live, its atmosphere, its weather, its life, and all the levels of complexity that life has yet managed to manifest; and I do so without any thought to “four elements” (or 5 elements) except in conversations such as these.

      The reality is so far beyond four elements (or 5).

      To me, I would no more think of describing anything in terms of 4 elements than I would think of building a rocket out of plasticine (not a model, but a real rocket).

      The reality, the explanatory power of the modern synthesis, is so far ahead of the “four elements” that I can no longer think about them in any meaningful (as in explanatory) fashion.

      Arohanui
      Ted

      • Ted,

        I look forward to your posts and enjoy that we are all so different. The word, elements will never be the same to me. I never realized the sun was so big. I do however know that the ocean is magical ( Laurie, I am surprised at your choice of water photo),

        You said you can no longer “think” about them ( 4 elements) in any meaningful fashion – our difference is that I NEVER think about them, I just know what FEELS good.

      • Lisa – I bet you thought I would have used an ocean shot, right? Either from the Bahamas, or from southern California. I have terrific shots from both locations. And I almost did. But… we got a brand new park (Three Oaks Recreation Area) in Crystal Lake (it just opened October 1st) and I went there and took a photo of the lake.

        By the way, I love your distinction between think and feel 🙂

      • Ted is SO back! I was worried, now I know he is fine as he ever was. It’s good to feel him coming through…

      • Sandi – Your comment about Ted put a great big face-splitting grin on my face! 🙂

        I can just see you with grubby knees and a basket full of produce! I’m with you on the neat and organized, but I’ll be the one buying from your garden, rather than helping you to grow it. My thumbs are definitely not not green.

      • Hi Lisa

        I both think and feel about everything.

        I think and feel my way, recursively, through the layers and levels of organisation and structure that seem to populate the world in which we find ourselves.

        For me, both modes, the logical thinking, and the intuitive feeling, are both important. Either by itself is prone to error, and both together, each testing and informing the other, give us abilities vastly beyond any machine yet produced.

        For me, there is pure joy in using these two sets of tools to explore the infinite space of the possible; and relate it all back to the real in which we currently find ourselves.

        Thanks Sandi & Laurie

        I have a big grin on my face reading your comments.

        Had big tears in my eyes as we put our 14 year old daughter on a plane bound initially for Sydney Australia, then for San Francisco, then Orlando.
        At her age, I couldn’t leave home for more than a day without being overwhelmed by home sickness. She was crying as she walked away, and she went. Took me about 10 minutes before my tears stopped flowing.
        We heard from her a few hours ago that she was safe in Sydney, with an 8 hour layover. Very soon she will be boarding for the USA. A big adventure for a young lass alone. And it is what she most wanted – to go and meet her best friend in the flesh.
        She has left home for 2 weeks, the first time in 18 years Ailsa and I are alone at home together for 2 weeks without any children (I was a solo dad when we married).

        A very interesting time!

        Arohanui
        Ted

      • Ted – Did you peek ahead at “H”? You must be reading my mind in regards to thinking and feeling, just you wait. Oh my gosh I can just imagine all of the different feelings from both ends of the scale and everything in-between that everyone must be feeling with your daughter winging her way to Orlando. An adventure of a lifetime, to be sure! But 2 weeks without any children…I hope you and Ailsa KICK UP YOUR HEELS 🙂

  5. I’m an earthy woman myself! I love to dig in the dirt. I love the feel of it. I love putting a plant into the ground and watching it grow. I love zoning out to hours and hours of weeding with my fingers plucking those weeds out like hairs under my eyebrows!

    I love walking a new path. Be it graveled, dirt or a mountain. You can get around the corner and see something new and interesting.

    But I love fire too, snap crackling in the fireplace or under a pot on the stove. Cooking up some cabbage, onions and apples into a sweet savory side dish to go with some pork.

    Water is my blessing to the many many flowers in my yard. And living without a shower for so long makes me sigh every time I take a shower in a normal functioning shower or soak in a tub filled with bubbles.

    I love the wind blowing around outside on a snowy blizzard day. I’m in my house knowing I don’t have to step a step outside even to shovel. That will be changing, so I hope to grow to love that wind!

    And spirit. I’ve ignored that for long enough. It’s time to spend some focus on spirit in my life. Yes I used to be a cheerleader and know how to cheer other people on. But I need to learn to cheer myself on so I get to a happy place.

    Thank you I really liked today’s topic.

    • Beth – Having been to your home on numerous occasions, I very much associate you with the earth — your magnifiscent garden! Which, of course, takes air and water as well. Then there’s your Feistiness (notice the capital “F”) – there’s that fire element! And I know that you’re cultivating and nurturing the aspect of spirit. Have yourself a fantastic weekend. I know your dancing at the Thirsty Whale this evening in Algonquin as you mentioined on your blog post today.

  6. sorry I am so late to class! Miss January is visiting this evening so I have been playing grandma. Being born a Taurus, I resonate most soundly with the Earth. I am definitely an earth-bound creature, perferring to walk rather than fly. I like being close to outside and on the ground floor. And, I am forever grateful that it lends me its strength and endurance.

    • Barbara – Oh how fun that you’ve been Januaried! I love what you said about the earth, “And, I am forever grateful that it lends me its strength and endurance.” Yes! Have a great weekend!

    • Kim – Ah, yes, water. The water element symbolizes intuition, motion, emotion, psychic perception, and transition.

      Now The Sweater Curse is a whole nother topic. In addition to shopping for them for winter, head on over the Leanne’s website to read about her new book — The Sweater Curse — that’s due out any minute!

  7. I guess I am part of every one of these elements (true for most I’m sure), though I’m not sure what the astrological connection would be. (I’m Virgo-Aug. 26th). I’m inclined to think that the qualities of “Air” would resonate with me most profoundly, as a primary aspect would be ‘focus,’ something that is always required to create and move forward.

  8. Laurie, it will be no surprise to you that I most resonate with Earth however, I need all four elements expressed in my everyday to feel balanced and whole. This extends as far as the diversity of people who resonate with the various elements.

      • Thank you Laurie, day one was steady and delightfully relaxing with much success. So I am in good shape going into day two. For a relative recluse, it is a pleasant surprise when people-time brings energy instead of gobbling it up… must be your sacred space influence my dear friend!

  9. Earth is the element that resounds in my soul though it must be balanced with healthy doses of water….being able to play in the dirt, to watch things grow, to pour water on their roots and to walk gently in it.

    I’m a Capricorn/Christmas baby – does that have anything to do with it?

    Psst! Excuse me, Miss Laurie…Just wanted to say that I’m really enjoying class with all of you. Learning is also one of my favorite things!

    • Cindy Lou – My mom was a Capricorn too, great people! Isn’t it funny how many of us love to “play in the dirt?!” I just watched an old Peter Sellers movie last evening — Being There — and the least scene of the movie reminds me of what you said, “pour water on their roots and walk gently in it.” In the last scene the star character, “Chance” walks on water because he doesn’t know he can’t. In the background you hear a voice saying, “Life is a state of mind.” We got it from the library. If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying this class – I am too 🙂

  10. I am the woman with grubby knees and a basket full of produce, I am a Virgo. This is not to say I am fussy, overly critical and compulsively neat, I just like a neat garden, organized closet and clean counters in the kitchen. But what I really love is to grow, flowers, food ,herbs, what have you. Then get someone else to take it.

  11. I have been reading a book recently–don’t remember the name!–where we meditate upon ourselves as each of the elements. We say, “I am earth” and meditate upon the earth-elements of ourselves. We say, “I am water” and meditate on the water-elements of ourselves. We begin to sense, deeply that we are interconnected and interwoven. We are so much more than we think we are!

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