The Element

Greek and Roman Tradition

Water is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with the qualities of emotion and intuition.

Water 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 BC) 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 BC) took over the four elements of Empedocles. In the Timaeus, his major cosmological dialogue, the Platonic solid associated with water is the icosahedron which is formed from twenty equilateral triangles. This makes water the element with the greatest number of sides, which Plato regarded as appropriate because water flows out of one's hand when picked up, as if it is made of tiny little balls.[1]

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BC) 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, water is both cold and wet, and occupies a place between air and earth among the elemental spheres.[2]

In ancient Greek medicine, each of the four humours became associated with an element. Phlegm was the humor identified with water, since both were cold and wet. Other things associated with water and phlegm in ancient and medieval medicine included the season of Winter, since it increased the qualities of cold and moisture; the phlegmatic temperament (of a person dominated by the phlegm humour); the feminine; the brain; and the western point of the compass.
Symbol for waterIn alchemy, the chemical element of mercury was often associated with water and its alchemical symbol was a downward-pointing triangle.

Indian Tradition

Ap (water)
Ap (p-) is the Vedic Sanskrit term for "water", in Classical Sanskrit occurring only in the plural, apas (sometimes re-analysed as a thematic singular, apa-), whence Hindi ap. The term is from PIE hxap "water".

In Hindu philosophy, the term refers to water as an element, one of the Panchamahabhuta, or "five great elements". In Hinduism, it is also the name of the deva, a personification of water, (one of the Vasus in most later Puranic lists). The element Water is also associated with Chandra or the Moon, and Shukra or Venus, who represent feelings, intuition and imagination. Water is also linked to the north east direction.

Chinese Tradition

In traditional Chinese philosophy, Water is classified as one of the Wu xing (Chinese: ??; pinyin: wuxng), 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.

Water is yin or feminine in character, its energy is downward and its motion is stillness and conserving. It is associated with the planet Mercury, the north, winter and cold, darkness, night and the colour black. It is also associated with the moon, which was believed to cause the dew to fall at night. It is also believed to govern the kidneys, ears and bones. The negative emotion associated with water is fear, while the positive emotion is calmness. Its Primal Spirit is represented by the Black Tortoise.

In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy; however, an over-abundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it. In the same way, Water can be fluid and weak, but can also wield great power when it floods and overwhelms the land. In the birth and nurturing cycle, water spawns wood, and is spawned by metal. In the conquest cycle, water overcomes fire, and in turn is overcome by earth.

Water also plays an important role in Chinese Astrology. In Chinese astrology water 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 water years end in 2 (eg 1992), while Yin years end in 3 (eg 1993). Water governs the Chinese zodiac signs Pig, Rat and Ox.

In Modern Magic

Ceremonial Magic
Water and the other Greek classical elements were incorporated into the Golden Dawn system despite being considered obsolete by modern science. Theoricus (3=8) is the elemental grade attributed to water; this grade is also attributed to the Qabalistic sphere Hod and the planet Mercury.[3] The elemental weapon of water is the cup.[4] Each of the elements has several associated spiritual beings. The archangel of water is Gabriel, the angel is Taliahad, the ruler is Tharsis, the king is Nichsa, and the water elementals (following Paracelsus) are called Undines.[5] Earth (Water) is considered to be passive; it is represented by the eagle, and it is referred to the upper right point of the pentagram in the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram.[6] Many of these associations have since spread throughout the occult community.

In Wiccan tradition, water is associated with the West, autumn, and the color blue on the physical plane. It is sometimes represented by a white crescent, a downward pointing triangle, the chalice, the bell, shells, sapphires, lapis lazuli, tears, and the cauldron. Water represents emotions, wisdom, the soul, and femininity. In rituals, it is represented in the forms of pouring water over objects, brew making, healing spells, ritual bathing, and tossing objects into bodies of water.

The manifestations of the element of water are rivers, oceans, lakes, wells, fog, all drinks, and the rain. Animals, especially the dolphin, seal, turtle, frog, and all types of fish, are also thought to personify the element of water. The astral creatures of water, known as elementals, are the Undine/Mermaid, Oreade/Naiad, and Sea Serpent/Dragon. Water’s place on the pentagram is the upper right point.

Astrological Personalities
People born under the astrological signs of Scorpio, Cancer and Pisces being one of the two drawn elements meaning it is part of two of the classical elements are thought to have dominant water personalities. Water personalities tend to be emotional, kind, nurturing, sympathetic, empathetic and intuitive; however, they can also be needy, sentimental, over-sensitive and irrational.

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