Most witchcraft follows some form of earth-based framework, meaning that it draws power and inspiration from the natural world. While some forms invoke or evoke deities and spirits of nature, others delve into the elemental powers themselves.
This is called elemental witchcraft, and can be a very dynamic practice full of all of the power, surprises, and unpredictable energy that the elements personify.
What is Elemental Witchcraft?
Put simply, elemental witchcraft is magic that uses the energies of earth, air, fire, and water. It’s a very simple kind of magic, but that doesn’t make it easy or less powerful — it takes a lot of learning and strength to use the energy of a storm-tossed sea.
Most spells in elemental witchcraft focus primarily on one element. Most other branches of witchcraft try to have a representation of each element in a spell, ritual, or altar setup, but it’s not uncommon for an elemental witch to use a single element at a time.
If an elemental witch wanted to overcome a bad habit, for example, they might call upon the power of fire to burn away their urge to indulge in that habit and give them the strength to master themselves.
A different elemental witch might call upon the power of earth instead, to help ground them and nourish their ability to grow past their negative habits.
Like most types of magic, elemental witchcraft is a highly individualized, personal practice with a few common central beliefs.
Beliefs & Practices
Elemental witches have a few shared ideas, like:
- There are four elements, earth, air, fire, and water. Some witches also include a fifth, spirit.
- Each of the elements has its own spirit, and is associated with different tools, gems, herbs, and powers.
- Elemental witches may focus on a single element, and avoid that element’s opposite. An earth witch, for example, may avoid using the air element in spells.
- Energy is the foundation of all spells. Elemental magic involves the practitioner tapping into their own personal energy, as well as working with the elemental forces.
What are Elemental Spirits?
Each element has its own spirit, often called an “elemental” (not to be confused with nature spirits, also sometimes called “elementals”). These elementals are the magical spirit-forms that witches interact with in elemental magic.
While they will almost always have a physical representation of their chosen element in a spell, they will also call upon the elemental spirit for assistance.
These elemental spirits derive from Paracelcus’ writing on the subject. He posited that, just as nature is inhabited by untold numbers of living things, the nature’s spiritual counterpart must also be inhabited by its own denizens.
He divided these beings up into four categories, from which we get the elemental spirits of today. They are:
- Gnomes are earth elementals, and appear as diminutive humanoids.
- Sylphs are air elementals. Some sources describe them as invisible, while others describe them as faun-like creatures akin to the “wild men” of medieval European art.
- Salamanders are fire elementals, and appear as small, lizard-like creatures. Some sources say they have six legs.
- Undines are water elementals, and appear similarly to tall, graceful humans.
Invoking, Evoking, & Working With Elemental Spirits
In magic, there’s a significant difference between invoking and evoking. Both words come from vocare, the Latin word meaning “to call,” and both of them deal with summoning some kind of spiritual force.
Evoking a spirit is an external summoning. The witch invites the spirit to come hang out and lend its energies to the proceedings.
Invoking a spirit is an internal summoning. The witch allows the spirit to manifest within them, and it may speak with their voice.
An elemental witch working with the air spirits may evoke the sylphs, asking them to attend and aid a spell. That same witch might invoke the power of air, drawing the energy of the air element into the witch’s physical body.
Both of these practices have their place, though evoking is generally easier and safer for beginning witches.
As was mentioned previously, each element has its own associations and powers. During elemental witchcraft, witches may choose to wear colors, gemstones, and symbols that correspond to their chosen focus.
Earth is considered a receptive energy. Older grimoires often conceptualize it as feminine. Picture a freshly tilled field, ready to be planted, or figures like Mother Nature or Gaia.
Its colors are greens and earth tones. Gemstones like malachite, brown agate, and smoky quartz are often used to symbolize earth, and pentacles or pentagrams represent the earth element on an altar.
In spellwork, earth may be represented by a dish of soil or salt.
Its direction is north, and its season is winter. It corresponds to the pentacles or coins suit in tarot, which match its powers of abundance and prosperity.
Water, like earth, is a receptive energy. Its colors are blues, light greens, and light purples (all of the colors currently popular as part of the “mermaid” aesthetic).
Celestine, aquamarine, amethyst, and opals are all used to symbolize water, and the chalice represents it on an altar.
In spellwork, water may be represented by a dish of water. Some elemental witches prefer to use natural water taken from rain, the sea, a lake, or a river.
Its direction is west, and its season is autumn. It corresponds to the cups suit in tarot, and its powers are purification, emotions, divination, and dream work.
Fire is a projective energy, usually conceptualized as masculine in old grimoires. Its colors are all shades of red and orange, and its gemstones match — think red carnelian, ruby, and tiger’s eye.
On an altar, it is represented by the sword, athame, or, in some traditions, the wand. In spellwork, it’s generally represented by a candle.
Its direction is south, and its season is summer. It corresponds to the swords suit of the tarot, and its powers are passion, creativity, vitality, and strength.
Air is also a projective energy. Its colors are yellow and white, though some witches use any pale, pastel color to represent it.
Its gemstones are citrine and mica. On an altar, its represented by the wand or censer. In spellwork, it may be represented by incense or feathers.
Its direction is east, and its season is spring. It corresponds to the wands suit of the tarot, and its powers are healing and purification.
Getting Started With Elemental Witchcraft
Many elemental witches choose an element to work with, or allow one to choose them.
Some make a decision based on factors like their zodiac sign, or simply go with whatever they feel the most drawn to. Some stick with one of the traditional four elements, while others specialize — an elemental witch might choose to work with thunderstorms, for example, or ocean waves.
From there, the elemental witch must spend time experiencing their element. They can meditate with it, work simple spells with it, and see what insights come. When they become comfortable working with their chosen energies, they can move on to invoking and evoking elemental spirits.
One simple routine to try might be taking a symbol of an element — a dish of rain to represent the element of water, perhaps — and simply sitting quietly with it.
Visualize the symbol as filled with the powers of that element, like the peace and purification of water. Feel your energy flowing down your arms and into the symbol, mingling with the energy of the element. Breathe in, drawing your energy back, and feel how the element’s energy affects you.
Elemental witchcraft is one of the simplest kinds of magic to learn, but one of the most challenging to master. The energy of the elements is nothing to sneeze at — it can be as gentle as a breeze, or as destructive as a volcano.
After conscientious, diligent work with elemental energy, it’s possible to work magic with nothing more than your intention and a representation of your element.
Elemental witchcraft isn’t an exclusive, initiatory path, so it can also freely combine with other types of witchcraft to create a unique practice that’s entirely yours.