Western Elemental Correspondences

Different Presocratics proposed the “original stuff” comprising material existence is water1, earth2, air3, or fire4. It was Empedocles who suggested these four “roots” coexist in various combinations5, mixed by the motive forces of love and strife6. Plato put forth that particles of each “element” manifest in a particular form (the Platonic solids), which in turn influence its physical properties7.

Aristotle popularized the notion that the classical elements are matter with certain qualities and may be differentiated by their hot/cold and wet/dry characteristics8. The hot quality “associates” similar things, whereas the cold quality brings things together regardless of similarity9. Wet elements are adaptable in shape, whereas dry elements are not10. The elements may interact with one other, and one element may transform into another if its hot/cold and wet/dry qualities are altered11. Aristotle also integrated Plato’s aether12 as the quintessence (fifth element) that gave rise to the four terrestrial elements13. Aether transcends hot/cold and wet/dry dualities, and is instead associated with the celestial spheres and heavenly bodies14.

The Aristotelian model inspired the humoral doctrine proposed by Hippocratic authors15 and expanded by Galen16. Here, the four humors (body fluids) are the bearers of elemental properties in the human body. Their balance is responsible for our health and personality, with imbalance potentially leading to disease and discontent15,16. The optimum combination of humors varies among individuals, and further fluctuates according to season, age, and lifestyle15,16.

During the Renaissance Agrippa explored the elemental world, elucidating its esoteric properties through sympathetic correspondence17,18. He primarily focuses on the terrestrial elements, as aether (“Spirit of the World”)19 is the medium conferring their esoteric properties. Each terrestrial element expresses itself via a particular modality in the celestial, terrestrial, and infernal worlds17. Through various ancient and contemporary sources, Agrippa provided a valuable synthesis of Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, Jewish mysticism, and Christianity.

In the 1800s Lévi expanded the western repertoire of esoteric elemental knowledge20-22. In addition to updating some of the correspondences listed by Agrippa17 he presents new ones20. One of his major overall contributions was linking the Tarot to Qabala20,22, which in turn permitted him to correspond each Tarot suit to a classical element20,23. The elemental attributions of the court cards were developed by others24. Lévi’s synthesis also provides a ritual framework for commanding the elementals20 described by Paracelsus25.

Later, Crowley consolidated26 and updated27 many elemental correspondences of the time, while also presenting new ones26. He further linked core concepts of Buddhism and Hinduism to the elements through Qabala26. Note that his Qabalistic arrangement differs from Jewish mysticism28, Lévi20-22, and the Golden Dawn29. To this day, his magical synthesis remains relevant to magicians from a diverse variety of backgrounds and preparations.

Western correspondences for each classical element are shown below. Feel free to modify them to your liking or substitute your own. The oldest source, when available, is cited. A subset of additional correspondences, including Hermetic30 and Neopagan (witchcraft)31, have also been included. This is not an exhaustive table. Eastern correspondences have been deliberately omitted, as they deserve their own space so they are not overshadowed. Comments, criticisms, corrections, questions, and suggestions may be submitted via the Contact page.

Element Earth Air Water Fire Aether
Greek [Gk.] γῆ [] ἀήρ [aēr] ὕδωρ [hydōr] πῦρ [pyr] αἰθήρ [aithēr]
Hebrew [Heb.] ארץ [ʾareṣ] רוח [ruaḥ] מים [mayim] אש [ʾesh] את [ʾet]
Latin [Lat.] terra aer aqua ignis æther
Ouranian Barbaric NOBO DIJOW THALDOMA ASHARA MEWZHIQUAL
Ancient Greek and Humoral
Poetic deity (Empedocles) [Gk.]5 Ἥρη [Hera] Ζεύς [Zeus] Νῆστίς [Nestis (Persephone)] Ἀϊδωνεὺς [Aidoneus (Hades)] N/A
Platonic solid7 cube (d6) octahedron (d8) icosahedron (d20) tetrahedron (d4) dodecahedron (d12)
Aristotelian qualities8 cold, dry hot, wet cold, wet hot, dry N/A
Humor [Gk.]15,16 χολή μέλαινα [black bile] αἷμα [blood] φλέγμα [phlegm] χολή ξανθή [yellow bile] N/A
Season (humoral)15,16 autumn spring winter summer N/A
Age range (humoral)15,16 maturity (25-45yo) childhood old age youth N/A
Temperament15,16 melancholic sanguine phlegmatic choleric N/A
General Magic
Stoic quality17 heavy (passive) light (active) heavy (passive) light (active) N/Aa
Energy31 female (receptive)b male (projective) female (receptive) male (projective)b N/Aa
Zodiac triplicities17 ♉, ♍, ♑ ♊, ♎, ♒ ♋, ♏, ♓ ♈, ♌, ♐ N/Ac
Cardinal direction20 north east west south N/Ad
Season31 winter spring autumn summer N/Ad
Time of day31 midnight dawn dusk noon N/Ad
Pentagram point26 bottom left middle left middle right bottom right top
Magical activities26 alchemy, geomancy, making pantacles divination the Great Work, talismans, crystal gazing, etc. evocation, pyromancy invisibility, transformations, Vision of the Genius
Power of Levi’s20 sphinx [Lat.]26 tacere [to keep silent] noscere [to know] audere [to dare] velle [to will] N/Ae
Qabala
Tetragrammaton letter [Heb.]17 ה [final] ו ה י N/A
Pentagrammaton letter [Heb.]26 ה [final] ו ה י ש
World [Heb.]26 עשיה [ʿAsiya] יצירה [Yeṣirah] בריאה [Beriʾa] אצילות [ʾAṣilut] N/A
Path [Heb.]26 32-bis (ת) 11 (א) 23 (מ) 31 (ש) 31-bis (ש)
King scale color26 citrine, olive, russet, and black (quartered) bright pale yellow deep blue glowing orange scarlet white merging into gray
Queen scale color26 amber sky blue sea green vermillion deep purple (nearly black)
Emperor scale color26 dark brown blue emerald green deep olive green scarlet flecked gold the seven prismatic colors, with the violet outside
Empress scale color26 black flecked yellow emerald flecked gold white flecked purple (like mother of pearl) vermillion, flecked crimson and emerald white, red, yellow, blue, and black (the latter outside)
Color in Malkut26 black citrine olive russet N/A
Deities
Egyptian26 Nephthys Nu Isis Mau Asar
Greek26 Demeter Zeus Poseidon Hades Iacchus
Roman26 Ceres Jupiter Neptune Vulcan, Pluto Liber
Norse26 N/A Valkyries N/A N/A N/A
Christian evangelist26 Luke Matthewf Johnf Mark N/Ag
Ceremonial Hierarchy
Divine name [Heb.]26 אדני [ʾAdonay] יהוה [YHWH] אל [ʾEl] אלהים [ʾElohim] יהשוה [YHShWH]
Archangel [Heb.]17 אוריאל [ʾUriʾel] רפאל [Rafaʾel] גבריאל [Gavriʾel] מיכאל [Mikaʾel] N/A
Angelic choirs [Heb.]26,h כרובים [Kerubim]i אראלים [ʾErʾelim]j תרשישים [Tarshishim]k שרפים [Serafim] N/A
Angel [Heb.]32 פורלאך [Forlak] חסן [Ḥasan] טל‪-‬יהד [Ṭaliahad]l אריאל [ʾAriʾel]j N/A
Elemental king20,m Gob Paralda Nicksa Djîn N/A
Elementals25 gnomes sylphs undines salamanders N/A
Magical tool26 pentacle dagger cup wand N/An
Demon king (Goetic)26,o Amaimon Oriens Ariton Paimon N/A
Divination
Divination method17,20 geomancy aeromancy hydromancy pyromancy N/A
Divination method confirmation20 cartomancy oneiromancy crystallomancy magnetism N/A
Tarot suit20,26 Pentacles [Diamonds] Swords [Spades] Cups [Hearts] Wands [Clubs] N/Ap
Tarot court cards26,27 Princesses Princes Queens Knights N/Aq
Agrippa’s “Mixed Bodies”
Mixed body17 stones plants metals animals N/A
Stone types17 dark, heavy light, transparent clear, congealed bright, burning N/A
Plant parts17 roots flowers leaves seeds N/A
Metals17,r lead, silver copper, tin mercury gold, iron N/A
Animal types17 burrowing, creeping flying swimming walking N/A
Animals, Plants, Stones, Incense
Kerubic animal26 bull mans eagles lion N/Ae
Plants26 oak, ivy, cereals aspen lotus, all water plants red poppy, hibiscus, nettle almond in flower
Stones26 salt topaz beryl, aquamarine fire opal black diamond
Incense26 storax, all dull and heavy odors galbanum onycha, myrrh olibanum, all fiery odors N/At
Alchemy
Alchemical process30 putrefaction evaporation mixture combustion N/A
Alchemical element26 salt mercuryu saltu sulfur N/A
Human Body
Sense26 touch smellv tastev sight hearingv
Organs26 excretory organs, skeleton respiratory organs organs of nutrition circulatory organs organs of intelligence
Body parts26,w solid structures, tissues breath chyle, lymph blood semen, marrow
Bodily functions26 excreting, matter speaking, thought holding, nutrition moving, moving generating, magic
Diseases26 sluggishness fluxes chill fever death (full insanity)
Judaica
Part of soul [Heb.]26 נפש [Nafesh] רוה [Ruaḥ] נשמה [Neshama] חיה [Ḥia] יחידה [Yeḥidah]
River out of Eden [Heb.]26 פרת [Perat] חדקל [Ḥideqel] גיחון [Giḥon] פישון [Pishon] N/A
Holy city [Heb.]x חברון [Ḥeberon] צפת [Ṣefat] טבריה [Ṭeverya] ירושלם [Yerushalem] N/A
Shevaṭim triplicities [Heb.]26,y אפרים [ʾEferaim], נפתלי [Napṭali], זבולון [Zebulun] מנשה [Menasheh], אשר [ʾAsher], ראובן [Reʾuben] יששכר [Yisasakar], דן [Dan], שמעון [Shimeʿon] גד [Gad], יהודה [Yehuda], בנימין [Bineyamin] N/A
Hermetics
Color30 yellow, gray, black blue greenish-blue red deep purple (nearly black)
Sense30 taste, smell hearing perception sight all senses together
Body region30 coccyx, reproductive organs, genitals, feet chest abdomen head N/A
Finger30 ring little thumb index middle
Aspect of the spirit30 consciousness intellect feelings will conscience
Witchcraft
Colors31 black, brown, green, white white, bright yellow, crimson, bluish white, pastels blue, bluish green, green, gray, indigo, black red, gold, crimson, orange, white clear, white, black
Magical tool31 pentacle athame, sword, censer cup censer, wand cauldron
Miscellany
Cardinal virtue17 fortitude temperance prudence justice N/A
Judiciary power17 experience science opinion faith N/A
Infernal river [Gk.]17 Ἀχέρων [Acheron] Κώκυτός [Cocytus] Στύξ [Styx] Φλεγέθων [Phlegethon]z N/A
Jungian function34 sensation thinking feeling intuition N/A

aAether transcends light (active)/heavy (passive), male (projective)/female (receptive), and other dualities.

bLévi20 classifies earth as male (projective) and fire as female (receptive).

cIn some traditions, aether is associated with the zodiac wheel itself.

dAether transcends space and time. In witchcraft31, it is attributed to the center or everywhere. It is also attributed to the wheel of turning seasons.

eCrowley27 proposes ire [Lat. to go] as the emergent power of the sphinx, which he associates with aether.

fCrowley26 swaps Agrippa’s17 associations of John (air) and Matthew (water).

gCrowley26 associates the Holy Ghost with aether.

hSingular angelic choirs (orders) are listed in The Key of Solomon the King32 and called the “elemental ruler” in many occult texts. Agrippa17, Crowley26, and others list a singular order for each element. The plural of each is shown in the table.

iAgrippa17 associates the Kerubim with air.

jThe name אראל [Aral] is the elemental angel of fire identified on the Seventh Pentacle of the Sun in The Key of Solomon the King32, while אריאל is identified as the ruler of elemental fire. The names אריאל [Ariel] and אראל [Aral] appear to be swapped, as the other rulers listed are singular angelic choirs. Aral is an alternate Romanization of Erel, the singular form of the choirs collectively known as אראלים [Aralim or Erelim]. To further complicate things, in Agrippa17 אריאל [Ariel] is identified as the ruler of elemental earth, and in 777 Revised26 אריאל [Ariel] is identified as the ruler of elemental air, while אראל [Aral] is the angel of elemental fire.

kIn The Key of Solomon the King32, תרשישים [Tarshishim] is spelled תרשים [sic].

lCrowley26 omits the hyphen in טל‪-‬יהד [Taliahad], spelling it טליהד.

mLévi20 never states the source language of the elemental king names.

nI’ve seen the lamp associated with aether in some traditions.

oThe demon kings are related to the elements via the cardinal directions they rule. Agrippa17 attributes Amaymon (an alternate spelling of Amaimon33), Paymon (Paimon33), Egyn (an alias of Ariton33), and Oriens (Uriens33) to earth, air, water, and fire, respectively. Many variant correspondence schemes exist in various Medieval and Renaissance grimoires.

pCrowley26 associates the Major Arcana with aether.

qCrowley26 associates the Aces with aether (and Keter).

rAgrippa’s17 elemental correspondences for each metal somewhat reflect his elemental correspondences for each planet (via its respective metal). Lévi20 also relates the metals to the elements but deviates from Agrippa’s correspondences, assigning lead to earth, gold and silver to air, mercury to water, and iron and copper to fire. Crowley26 attributes the metals only to the planets.

sCrowley26 swaps Agrippa’s17 and Lévi’s20 associations of eagle (air) and man (water).

tIn witchcraft31, mastic is associated with aether.

uLévi20 associates azoth with air and mercury with water.

vAgrippa17 associates hearing with air and taste and smell with water. He does not address aether.

wAgrippa17 associates bones with earth, flesh with air, humors with water, and the spirit with fire.

xI don’t know what the original source is. טבריה [Ṭeverya] was added last, though.

yCrowley26 links the Tribes of Israel to the zodiac, not the elements directly. Here, they are related to the elements via their zodiac signs for the sake of consistency. Agrippa17 assigns ראובן [Reʾuben], שמעון [Shimeʿon], and גד [Gad] to earth, יהודה [Yehuda], יששכר [Yisasakar], and זבולון [Zebulun] to air, מנשה [Menasheh], בנימין [Bineyamin], and אפרים [ʾEferaim] to water, and דן [Dan],אשר [ʾAsher], and נפתלי [Napṭali] to fire.

zThis river is also called Πυριφλεγέθων [Pyriphlegethon].

References

1Thales in Aristotle, Met. 1.3, 983b6-27 = DK 11A12

2Anaximenes in Theophrastus, quoted by Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics 24.26–25.1 = DK 13A5

3Xenophanes in Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 1.14.3–6 = DK 21A33

4Heraclitus in Plutarch, On the E at Delphi 338d–e = DK 22B90

5Empedocles in Aëtius, 1.3.20 = DK 31B6

6Empedocles in Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics 158.1–159.4 [lines 1–35] + Strasbourg Papyrus ensemble a [lines 26–69] = DK 31B17 + Strasbourg Papyrus, ensemble a

7Plato, Timaeus 55a-57d

8Aristotle, Gen. et Corr. 2.3, 330a30-b7

9Aristotle, Gen. et Corr. 2.2, 329b25-31

10Aristotle, Gen. et Corr. 2.2, 329b31-33

11Aristotle, Gen. et Corr. 1.1, 314b15–27; 2.1, 329a35–b3; 2.4

12Plato, Timaeus 58d

13Aristotle, DC 1.3, 270b20-26

14Aristotle, DC 1.3, 270b1-19

15see Nature of Man and Humours, in Page, T.E. et al. (Eds.). (1959). Hippocrates IV. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

16discussed in Arikha, N. (2007). Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours. New York, NY: Ecco.

17Agrippa, H. C. (2004). Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited and annotated by D. Tyson. Translated by J. Freake. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

18Agrippa, H. C. (2009). The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy: A Companion to Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited and annotated by D. Tyson. Translated by R. Turner. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

19Agrippa, H. C. (2004). Of the Spirit of the World, what it is, and how by way of medium it unites occult virtues to their subjects. In Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited and annotated by D. Tyson. Translated by J. Freake. pp. 44-45. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

20Lévi, E. (2001). Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. Translated, annotated, and introduced by A. E. Waite. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

21Lévi, E. (2000). The Great Secret, or, Occultism Unveiled. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.

22Lévi, E. (2000). The Mysteries of the Qabalah: Or Occult Agreement of the Two Testaments. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.

23discussed in Place, R. M. (2005). The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.

24discussed in Greer, M. K. and Little, T. (2004). Understanding the Tarot Court. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

25Paracelsus (1996). A Book on Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies, and Salamanders, and on the Other Spirits. Translated from the German, with an introduction by H. E. Sigerist. In Four Treatises of Theophrastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus: Translated from the Original German, with Introductory Essays by C. L. Temkin, et al. Edited, with a preface by H. E. Sigerist. pp. 213-254. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

26Crowley, A. (1999). 777 Revised. In 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Edited by I. Regardie. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

27Crowley, A. (2004). The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot). York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

28Kaplan, A. (Trans). (1997). Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice, rev. ed. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

29Regardie, I. (2006). The Golden Dawn, 6th rev. ed. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

30Bardon, F. (2001). Initiation into Hermetics. Salt Lake City, UT: Merkur Publishing.

31Starhawk (1999). The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, 20th anniversary ed. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

32Mathers, S. L. MacGregor (Ed.). (2009). The Key of Solomon the King. Edited and translated by S. L. MacGregor Mathers. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

33Mathers, S. L. MacGregor (Trans.). (1997). The Goetia: The Lesser Key of Solomon the King: Lemegeton, rev. 2nd ed. Translated by S. L. MacGregor Mathers. Edited, annotated, and introduced by A. Crowley. Illustrated 2nd ed. with new annotations edited by A. Crowley, edited by H. Beta.

34Jung, C. (2017). Psychological Types. A revision by R. F. C. Hull of the translation by H. G. Baynes, with a new foreword by J. Beebe. Abingdon, England; New York, NY: Routledge Classics.

Suggested Reading

Agrippa, H. C. (2004). Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Edited and annotated by D. Tyson. Translated by J. Freake. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Arikha, N. (2007). Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours. New York, NY: Ecco.

Bardon, F. (2001). Initiation into Hermetics. Salt Lake City, UT: Merkur Publishing.

Crowley, A. (1999). 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley. Edited by I. Regardie. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

Curd, P. (Ed.) (2011). A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia, 2nd ed. Edited, with introduction, by P. Curd. Translations by R. D. McKirahan. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Lévi, E. (2001). Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. Translated, annotated, and introduced by A. E. Waite. York Beach, ME: Weiser Books.

Last updated: September 28, 2018