Thursday, March 15, 2012

E is for the Elements: European or North American?

While most Wiccans and other neopagan practitioners in North American have readily adopted the standard Western European elemental associations - Earth in the North, Air in the East, Fire in the South and Water in the West - this has never sat well with me.

The aboriginal peoples of North and Central America conceived of these notions in a slightly different manner. Like many cultures, Mesoamerican people conceived of a "World Tree" which defined the three dimensional world. In the North, we find the realm of the white Wind and the Mind. In the East is the land of yellow Fire and Spirit, where the sun rises. In the South we have blue Water and the realm of emotions. And in the West, where the sun sinks down into the horizon again, we have the realm of the red Earth and the Body.

But the map does not end there. In the center, we find The Void, that from which all things are born, the "I Am" and the Nothingness. Above us we find the Heart of Sky, that which throws down lightening bolts, the light around which our planet moves, the darkness in the center of the Galaxy, the point from which the Universe was born and to which it will return. Below us we see Heart of Earth, that which sends lightening strikes up to meet the sky, the fire in our blood, the hot core around which all life on our planet revolves.

Have you ever wondered about the origin of modern elemental associations? Do you think that the land itself speaks these associations to us? Do you resonate with the elements of your land or of your teaching?


  1. Great post Bex! Mike Nichols had touched on this in a brief article in the past, which made me really wonder where the direction for each element had come from.

  2. It doesn't make sense for water to be south when I live on the east coast of the US. My associations are as follows: north, earth; east, water; south, fire; west; air.