Earth (classical element)

Earth (classical element)

Earth, home and origin of humanity, has often been worshipped in its own right with its own unique spiritual tradition.

Greek and Roman tradition

"Earth" is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with qualities of practicality, restraint and materialism. It was also associated with the physical, sensual aspects of life.

"Earth" was one of many "archai" proposed by the Pre-socratics, most of whom tried to reduce all things to a single substance. However, Empedocles of Acragas (c. 495-c. 435 BCE) selected four "archai" for his four roots: air, fire, water, and "earth". Empedocles’ roots became the four classical elements of Greek philosophy. Plato (427-347 BCE) took over the four elements of Empedocles. In the "Timaeus", his major cosmological dialogue, the Platonic solid associated with "earth" is the cube which is formed from six square sides. This places "earth" between fire (four triangular sides) and air (eight triangular sides). A highly un-spherical solid, these clumsy little cubes cause dirt to crumble and break when picked up, in stark difference to the smooth flow of water or air. [Plato, "Timaeus", chap. 22-23; Gregory Vlastos, "Plato's Universe", pp. 66-82.]

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BCE) developed a different explanation for the elements based on pairs of qualities. The four elements were arranged concentrically around the center of the universe to form the sublunary sphere. According to Aristotle, "earth" is both cold and dry, and occupies a place between water and fire among the elemental spheres. [G. E. R. Lloyd, "Aristotle", chapters 7-8.]

In Classical Greek and Roman myth, various goddesses represented the "earth", crops and fertility, including Ceres, Demeter, and Persephone or Proserpina.

In ancient ancient Greek medicine, each of the four humours became associated with an element. Black bile was the humor identified with "earth", since both were cold and dry. Other things associated with "earth" and black bile in ancient and medieval medicine included the season of fall, since it increased the qualities of cold and aridity; the melancholic temperament (of a person dominated by the black bile humour); the feminine; and the southern point of the compass.

In alchemy, the chemical element of salt was associated with "earth" and its alchemical symbol was a downward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line.

Indian Tradition

Prithvi (Sanskrit: "IAST|pṛthvī", also "IAST|pṛthivī") is the Hindu "earth" and mother goddess. According to one such tradition, she is the personification of the Earth itself; according to another, its actual mother, being "Prithvi Tattwa", the essence of the element "earth".

As "Prithvi Mata", or "Mother Earth," she contrasts with "Dyaus Pita", "father sky." In the Rigveda, "earth" and sky are frequently addressed as a duality, often indicated by the idea of two complementary "half-shells." In addition, the element Earth is associated with Budha or Mercury, who represents communication, business, mathematics and other practical matters. Earth is also associated with the south-west direction.

Chinese Tradition

In traditional Chinese philosophy, Earth is classified as one of the Wu xing (zh-cp|c=五行|p=wǔxíng), or the Five Elements, also translated as five phases, five movements or five steps, by which all natural phenomena can be explained. The system of five elements was used for describing interactions and relationships between phenomena. It was employed in many fields of early Chinese thought, including seemingly disparate fields such as geomancy and Feng shui, astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese alchemy, music, military strategy and martial arts. The original foundation for the idea is based on the concept of the Five Cardinal Points. "Earth" is a balance of both yin and yang, the feminine and masculine together. Its motion is inward and centering, and its energy is stabilising and conserving. It is associated with the color yellow and the planet Saturn, and it lies at the center of the compass in the Chinese cosmos. It is associated with the turn of each of the four seasons and with damp. It is believed to govern the spleen, stomach, mouth and muscles. Its negative emotion is anxiety and its positive emotion is empathy. Its Primal Spirit is represented by the Yellow Dragon.

In Chinese thought "Earth" is associated with the qualities of patience, thoughtfulness, practicality, hard work and stability. The earth element is also nurturing and seeks to draw all things together with itself, in order to bring harmony, rootedness and stability. Other attributes of the "earth" element include ambition, stubbornness, responsibility and long-term planning. In pathology, the "earth" can represent selfishness and self-centeredness. In the controlling cycle earth controls water and is controlled by wood; while in the conducive cycle earth is produced by fire, and in turn produces metal.

Earth plays an important role in Chinese Astrology. In Chinese astrology earth is included in the 10 heavenly stems (the five elements in their yin and yang forms), which combine with the 12 earthly branches (or Chinese signs of the zodiac), to form the 60 year cycle. Yang earth years end in 8 (eg 1998), while Yin earth years end in 9 (eg 1999).

The element earth is associated with the planet Saturn on account of its yellow color. [ Wolfram Eberhard, "A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols", pp238 -9, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1986 ] However, some Western astrologers have suggested that the Western associations of Saturn give it greater affinity with the rigid, controlling Chinese element of Metal; while the Chinese conception of earth as a centring, harmonizing element has more in common with the Western notion of the planet Venus.

In Modern Magic

Ceremonial Magic

"Earth" and the other Greek classical elements were incorporated into the Golden Dawn system despite being considered obsolete by modern science. Zelator (1=10) is the elemental grade attributed to earth; this grade is also attributed to the Qabalistic sphere Malkuth. [Israel Regardie, "The Golden Dawn", pp. 154-65.] The elemental weapon of earth is the Pentacle. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", p.322; Kraig, "Modern Magick", pp. 149-53.] Each of the elements has several associated spiritual beings. The archangel of "earth" is Uriel, the angel is Phorlakh, the ruler is Kerub, the king is Ghob, and the earth elementals (following Paracelsus) are called gnomes. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", p. 80.] Earth is considered to be passive; it is represented by the symbol for Taurus, and it is referred to the lower left point of the pentagram in the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", pp. 280-286; Kraig, "Modern Magick", pp. 206-209.] Many of these associations have since spread throughout the occult community.


In Wicca, "earth" is associated with the North (or East in some variations), Winter, and the color yellow (or green in some variations) on the physical plane. It is sometimes represented by its Hindu tattva (a yellow square), or by a downward pointing triangle with a horizontal line through it, and may be symbolized by the following: percussion instruments, animal fur, coins, a pentacle, milk, a heartbeat, jewelry, bones, or a staff. "Earth" represents strength, abundance, stability and femininity. In rituals, "earth" is represented by burying objects in the ground, herbalism, and carving images out of wood or stone.

The manifestations of the "earth" element are found in plants, trees, mountains, forests, caves and gardens. The stag, boar, bull, sow, bear and snake are also thought to personify the element, as are all burrowing animals, such as the mole or rabbit. The astral creatures of "earth," known as elementals, are the Satyr/Faun, Gnome/Goblin, and Sylvestre/Dryad. "Earth’s" place on the pentagram is the lower left point.

Astrological Personalities

People born under the astrological signs of Taurus, Capricorn and Virgo are thought to have dominant "earth" personalities."Earth" personalities tend to be calm, practical, pragmatic, responsible and cautious; however, they can also be stubborn, intolerable and inflexible.

Other Traditions

In East Asia, metal is sometimes seen as the equivalent of "earth" and is represented by the White Tiger (Chinese constellation), known as 白虎 ("Bái Hǔ") in Chinese, "Byakko" in Japanese and "Baekho" (백호, Hanja:白虎) in Korean. "Earth" is represented in the Aztec religion by a house; to the Hindus, a lotus; to the Scythians, a plough; to the Greeks, a wheel; and in Christian iconography, by a bull.

See also

* Mother goddess
* Mother Nature
* Gaia (mythology)


External links

* [ Different versions of the classical elements]
* [ Overview the 5 elements]

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