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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: Elemental Symbol

DEFINITIONS

Elemental Symbols: Much of magic is done through the mediation of the four occult elements, Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. They determine both the type of energy that accomplishes the work and the avenue through which it acts. For this reason a clear understanding and proper use of the elements is vital in ritual. Each element is represented by its own material symbol, which is placed atop the altar beside the lamp in the appropriate elemental quarter. If a ritual concerns only one element, its symbol is placed on the altar alone; if all four elements are involved, all four symbols are present.

Fire is embodied in a short rod about nine inches long. This has a very specific design in the Golden Dawn magical system, but the details are not really necessary. It is the essential shape of the rod that is most important. The nature of elemental Fire is in accord with this strongly phallic symbol.

Air is embodied in a short dagger. Again, it is the associations of the blade—its flashing quickness, its piercing quality, its brightness——that are important, not details of the hilt and so on. The difference in tone between the rod and the dagger says much about the essential difference between elemental Fire and Air.

Water is embodied in a cup or chalice. It should be rounded and womblike, enclosing and protective. It is also more harmonious if the cup is made of a watery, or at least a natural, material. Blue hand blown glass is good, or earth-tone ceramic.

Earth is embodied in the disk or pentacle. This is a flat disk painted with Earth colors. Ideally it should be made of clay or stone. Usually it is of wood. It must not be too large to conveniently hold in the hand—four inches in diameter is a good size, because four is a material, earthy number.

So far as I know, the use of elemental symbols originated with the Victorian Order of the Golden Dawn in the last century, and received its inspiration from the symbols of the lesser arcana—the number cards—of the Tarot. Specific, formal symbols of the four elements were not used in medieval times, and are not strictly necessary. However, the employment of these symbols has become almost universal in modern magic, and they can be very useful. It is important that they be made to harmonize with the sensibilities of the one who will actually use them, not merely according to some arbitrary standard.
source: Truth about Ritual Magic, Donald Tyson

Also See: Elemental Symbol

ARTICLES

Number Symbolism
[The following is a description of the meanings of numbers as used by Corinne Kenner.] Zero. Most of us think of zero as a starting point from which we count our way up—or down into negative numbers. Because zero seems to precede all of the other ...
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Concise Dream Symbol Dictionary
This concise dictionary was developed by Dr. Joe H. Slate and is excerpted from Chapter Seven of The Llewellyn Complete Book of Psychic Empowerment. The interpretative significance of a dream symbol depends on a number of factors; among them, the ...
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The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot Review
Summary: Although the book that comes with the deck clearly illustrates how to do divinations, this deck is clearly pretty distant from most Tarot decks. However, it will be of extreme interest to ceremonial magicians, especial aficionados of the ...
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Review of the Witches Tarot
Summary: This deck is for every witch who wants a deck rich with magickal symbolism. In the magickal world as in tarot, associations and correspondences are of major importance. Ellen Dugan combines tarot and witchcraft together to create something ...
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Shamanic Symbols
Functioning as a priest(ess), healer and channel between the worlds, the shaman calls on a very unique abilities—that of divination. Divination is the ability to use perception and attunement to interpret signs and symbols. Shamanic divination is ...
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Review of The Quest Tarot
Summary: A brilliant, colorful, modern deck with 3D sci-fi imagery that will appeal to futurists and people looking for "something different" while keeping close enough to the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition that Tarot traditionalists will find it ...
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Principles of Ceremonial
Magical ceremonial can be built up and elaborated to forms of great subtlety and complexity, but the initial principles which cause its creation are simple in the extreme. In the first place, ceremonial is a different thing from meditation, and it ...
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The Zodiac Tarot Review
Summary: A unique deck that can aid in understanding astrology basics and the correspondences between the Tarot cards and astrology as made by the Golden Dawn. Also great for psychologically oriented readings. Name of deck: Zodiac Tarot Publisher: ...
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Color Symbolism
[Editor’s Note: The colors on Tarot cards often communicate meanings without the use of words. Here are the attributions given by Corinne Kenner, author of Tarot for Writers.] Black: The color of night, it is linked to darkness and sleep, when our ...
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Review of the Celtic Dragon Tarot
Summary: A deck that will appeal to lovers of dragons, especially in a Celtic context. As this deck follows the RWS "standard," it will be usable by beginners and pros looking for an additional deck to add to their collection. A must for lovers of ...
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