The Elements and the Cardinal Directions

In our Tradition we are taught that Earth belongs to the East, Fire to the South, Water to the West, and Air to the North.  This places Spirit in the Center at the axis of the other four Elements.  This is different than the majority of both Wiccan and Ceremonial Magick Traditions.  There are several reasons behind this particular symbology.

First, both female Elements (Earth and Water) are placed upon the horizontal axis of the circle.  Both masculine Elements (Fire and Air) are placed upon the vertical axis of the circle.  The horizontal axis is traditionally ascribed to the feminine, and the vertical to the masculine.  At the center, where they are joined together, we find the crossroads of the Spirit.

Secondly, when starting in the East and going deosil (clockwise) around the circle, you alternate polarities (feminine, masculine, feminine, masculine) thereby creating a smoother and better flow of energy.

In addition, our Tradition teaches that all things begin their material existence in the East. To be incarnate on this planet one must be born through the Gate of Earth and the East in order to wear a body and make the journey known as life.  As we progress through life, we pass to the South and embody Fire through our activity and exertion of will. Later in life we move to the reflection of Water in the West, until we finally leave incarnation through the Gate of the West.  At this point, in the incorporeal, we pass to the arms of the Goddess, to dwell with her in the Northern land of Air, awaiting the time for reincarnation through the Gate of the East.

Further, our directional correspondences correlate with the seasons of the year (and by association the seasons of a human life), with Spring’s green growth and fertility of the Earth in the East, Summer’s fiery heat and sunlight in the South, the cleansing rains of Autumn and change of colors in the West, and the Winter winds in the North.

The directions and their elemental correspondences can also be related to the times of day.  The Sun rises in the East, making it’s first appearance there and connecting it with the beginnings associated with the Earth explained earlier.  The Sun reaches it’s highest point in the sky over the Fiery southern quadrant at noon, then bids farewell to us in the West, associated with Water and the time of endings.

In some areas of the world, the geographical correspondence of the elements may be more apparent than others, but if one remembers the British/European origins of these Traditions they become clearer.  The major land mass of Earth is in the East, the warmer climates and their association with Fire are to the South, the major mass of Water is to the West, and the cold winds of Air blow from the North.

The Primary Tools and Their Correspondences

Each of the five elements (Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and Spirit) has a primary tool associated with it.  These elemental tools convey qualities of the element and are used to focus the energy of that element in circle and in other workings.  One of the tenets held by the Unicorn Tradition is that a tool cannot be consumed by its own element.  Therefore, in contrast to some traditions, wands represent the element of Air and swords the element of Fire.  A wand, as part of the living tree, participates in the process of creating oxygen from carbon dioxide, and is therefore a fit representative of the element of Air. Swords and knives are forged and created in Fire, and therefore represent the process of the will and its tempering.

The Pentacle:  The primary tool of Earth is the pentacle, or five pointed star (pentagram) surrounded by a circle.  Each one of the five points of the pentagram represent one of the five elements and collectively it represents the human body or the microcosm of humanity.  When the pentagram is placed within a circle, making the pentacle, it represents the human microcosm in harmony with the Universe or macrocosm.  The pentacle therefore also corresponds to the body of the Earth and sits to the East side of the altar as a representative of the element of Earth.

The Athame:  The primary tool of Fire is the athame.  This is the Witch’s primary tool and is an instrument and extension of the individual’s will.  The athame symbolizes many properties of Fire: transmutative force; energy; fiery reds and oranges; and the quality of human will.  This tool is used to focus your will and energy and is a symbol of life, protection, the father sun, and the male force within all of us.  The athame sits to the South side of the altar, where it should be sheathed or otherwise covered.  It has a three-fold dagger (double edged) blade and traditionally has a black handle made of wood wrapped in cloth or leather.

The Chalice:  The primary tool of Water is the chalice.  The goblet or cup is the symbol of Water, the great mother ocean, and the female principle.  The filled chalice can be used for scrying or divination.  It is the tool of Water and sits to the West side of the altar.  Your primary chalice should be filled with water for the casting of the circle.  A second chalice is usually filled with wine or juice and is used during the ‘cakes and wine’ portion of circle.

The Wand:  The primary tool of Air is the wand.  The wand is an extension of oneself used to focus and direct power, especially that relating to the intellect.  It is symbolic of the power of the mind, the power to know, and the power to understand.  It is the tool of Air and sits to the North side of the altar.  The scepter, as a glorified form of the Wand, represents law and measure.

The Cauldron:  The primary tool of Spirit is the cauldron.  It is womb, tomb, inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, rest, and rebirth.  It may be used as a vessel to hold water for scrying, brewing, or purifying.  It may also be used as a vessel for fire, with a candle placed within it symbolizing the fusion of female and male energies in the Spirit.  It is the tool of Spirit and sits in the center of the altar or of the circle.

There are many other tools used in the syncretic witchcraft, each with their own purpose and elemental correspondence.