An elemental is a mythological being first appearing in the alchemical works of Paracelsus. Traditionally, there are four types: [Carole B. Silver, "Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness", p 38 ISBN 0-19-512199-6]
*gnomes, earth elementals
*undines, water elementals
*sylphs, air elementals
*salamanders, fire elementals.

The exact term for each type varies somewhat from source to source, though these four are now the most usual. Most of these beings are found in folklore as well as alchemy; their names are often used interchangeably with similar beings from folklore. [C.S. Lewis, "The Discarded Image", p135 ISBN 0-521-47735-2] The sylph, however, is rarely encountered outside of alchemical contexts.

The basic concept of an elemental refers to the ancient idea of elements as fundamental building blocks of nature. In the system prevailing in the Classical world, there were four elements: fire, earth, air, and water. This paradigm was highly influential in Medieval natural philosophy, and Paracelsus evidently intended to draw a range of mythological beings into this paradigm by identifying them as belonging to one of these four elemental types.

Elementals of Air, Earth, Fire and Water

In mysticism, magic and alchemy, an elemental is a creature (usually a spirit) that is attuned with, or composed of, one of the classical elements: air, earth, fire and water.The elements balance each other out through opposites: water quenches fire, fire boils water, earth contains air, air erodes earth. The concept of elementals seems to have been conceived by Paracelsus in the 16th century, though he did not in fact use the term "elemental" or a German equivalent. [Paracelsus, "Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et de caeteris spiritibus." in "Philosophia magna, de divinis operibus et seretis naturae. V. 1." Date unknown, but thought to be a later work.] Paracelsus gave common names for the elemental types, as well as alternate names, which he seems to have considered somewhat more proper. He also referred to them by purely German terms which are roughly equivalent to "water people," "mountain people," and so on, using all the different forms interchangeably. The Paracelsian elementals were:

Of these names, "gnomus", "undina", and "sylph" are all thought to have appeared first in Paracelsus' works, though "undina" is a fairly obvious Latin derivative. The other names are traditional terms, though the Paracelsian usage is thought to be novel.

He noted that undines are similar to humans in size, while sylphs are rougher, bigger, longer, and stronger. Gnomes are short, while salamanders are long, narrow, and lean.

In his influential "De Occulta Philosophia" of the same period, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa also wrote of four classes of spirits corresponding to the four elements, though he did not give special names for the classes. Agrippa did however give an extensive list of various mythological beings of this type, although without clarifying which belongs to which elemental class. [ [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/De_Occulta_Philosophia/Book_3/Part_1#Chapter_xvi._Of_Intelligences_and_spirits.2C_and_of_the_threefold_kind_of_them.2C_and_of_their_diverse_names.2C_and_of_Infernall_and_subterraneall_spirits. De Occulta Philosophia Book 3, Ch. 16] ] Like Paracelsus, he did not use the term "elemental spirit" "per se".

Elementals are commonly mentioned in grimoires dealing with alchemy and sorcery and are usually "called" by summoning.

ee also

* Elementals in fiction
* Elemental (video game)


*"undine." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 16 November 2006 .
* Theophrast von Hohenheim a.k.a. Paracelsus, "Sämtliche Werke: Abt. 1, v. 14, sec. 7, Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et de caeteris spiritibus." Karl Sudhoff and Wilh. Matthießen, eds. Munich:Oldenbourg, 1933.

External links

* [http://www.angelfocus.com/elementals.htm Angel Focus' Elementals Page]
* [http://faerie.monstrous.com/ List of Elementals]
* [http://bib1lp1.rz.tu-bs.de/docportal/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/DocPortal_derivate_00000702/intro.htm Collected Works of Paracelsus V. 14 at the University of Braunschweig (German)]

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  • elemental — adjetivo 1. Del elemento: análisis elemental. 2. Que es fundamento de alguna cosa, o que es muy importante o necesario: Es una norma elemental de cortesía que hay que respetar. El estudiante es la pieza elemental del proceso educativo. 3. Que es… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • elemental — 1. adj. Perteneciente o relativo a un elemento. 2. Fundamental, primordial. 3. Referente a los elementos o principios de una ciencia o arte. Física elemental. 4. Obvio, de fácil comprensión, evidente. No hablemos más de esto, que es elemental. ☛… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

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  • elemental — elemental, elementary Elemental refers primarily to the forces of nature and in particular to the ancient belief in the ‘four elements’ of earth, water, air, and fire, as in elemental fire / elemental forces / elemental spirits / etc. Elementary …   Modern English usage

  • Elemental — El e*men tal ([e^]l [ e]*m[e^]n tal), a. 1. Pertaining to the elements, first principles, and primary ingredients, or to the four supposed elements of the material world; as, elemental air. Elemental strife. Pope. [1913 Webster] 2. Pertaining to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • élémental — ⇒ÉLÉMENTAL, ALE, AUX ou ALS, adj. et subst. masc. A. Adj. Qui participe de la nature des éléments, des forces naturelles. L électricité est, comme la musique symphonique, un fluide élémental (MAUCLAIR, Relig. mus., 1928, pp. 22 23) : • ... il me… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • elemental — ► ADJECTIVE 1) fundamental. 2) of or resembling the powerful and primitive forces of nature: elemental hatred. 3) relating to or of the nature of a chemical element …   English terms dictionary

  • elemental — [el΄ə ment′ l] adj. [ME < ML elementalis] 1. of any or all of the four elements: see ELEMENT (sense 1) 2. of or like natural forces; characteristic of the physical universe 3. basic and powerful; not subtle or refined; primal [hunger and sex… …   English World dictionary

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  • elemental — index cardinal (basic), central (essential), elementary, essential (inherent), fundamental …   Law dictionary

  • elemental — (adj.) late 15c., “pertaining to the four elements,” from M.L. elementalis, from L. elementum (see ELEMENT (Cf. element)). Meaning “simple, uncomplicated” is from 1550s; that of “relating to first principles” is from 1570s. The noun… …   Etymology dictionary

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