“In nearly every indigenous culture on Earth, all of life is thought to be made up of a handful of elements. Depending on where you get your information, there are either four or five of these sacred building blocks of creation, each carrying their own innate wisdom. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the elements are wood, fire, metal, earth, and water. In medieval alchemy, it was thought that four elements- earth, water, air, and fire, were the main players in every process on the planet. Many shamanic traditions, including modern New Age philosophy, have added a fifth element, Spirit (also called ether), to the alchemical collection, and we will explore these components here.
Our ancestors tapped into these elements for everything in life- nourishment, inspiration, knowledge, surrender, and empowerment. These five energies were essential to living in harmony and balance with all that is, and were considered the main “food groups” of daily existence. Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies are constantly being fed and supported by these elements, whether we are aware of them or not. Over the centuries, we have lost touch with the delicate frequencies of the five elements, and our relationship to them. Each one brings its own wisdom and intuition.
A quick note: this is the Western 5-element theory, which isn’t to be confused with the Eastern or TCM 5-element theory.
The fluid movements of water invite us into a place of creativity and surrender. Water does not get stuck on problems, but simply flows around them, finding a new path. This element works with our bodies to provide hydration, nourishment, and lubrication, and aids in physical movement, alertness, digestion, and detoxification. Water washes away what is no longer needed in the moment, and does not stop to second-guess its own power. In ceremony, water is used to bless, purify, and cleanse.
The air element is ripe with inspiration (a word that shares an origin with “to breathe”) and life force energy. Air moves in to blow away the dust, create change, and ignite our intellect. We can work with the air element with our own breath, inviting fresh, cleansing air to infuse our cells, awaken our minds, and move oxygen into our blood. Air is invigorating and clarifying, and provides the buoyancy for birds and other spirit messengers to travel and deliver their wisdom.
Hot and bright, the fire element is all about bringing the light where there is none. Fire burns with intense energy, warming our hearts and souls, in a flame of hope and action. The sun is a classic example of fire energy, rising and setting each day in a sacred cycle that reminds us of optimism and new beginnings. Fire is powerfully transformative- burning away the old to create space for the new, and calls us to keep our inner purpose burning bright. In ritual, fire is thought to cleanse the soul, as well as deliver prayers to the Heavens.
The grounded and stable earth element is the embodiment of our Pacha Mama’s (Earth Mother) wisdom. The earth provides nourishment, safety, security, and a place in which to sow our seeds of manifestation. We experience this element in the bounty of fruit, flowers, herbs, roots, and vegetables, as well as through the vibrations of crystals, minerals, and stones. The element of earth is protective and empowering, and is important for our survival.
The most ethereal of elements, pure Spirit is what gives the life force energy to all that we experience. This element weaves through every fiber of the natural world, infusing everything with a living vibration, an active aspect of the Divine. Pure Spirit is what animates the other elements, and forms our connection to the Universe. It is representative of the invisible thread that holds our existence together.
There are a lot of ways that you can work with the wisdom of the five elements.”