Water (classical element)

Water (classical element)

"Water" has been important to all peoples of the earth, and it is rich in spiritual tradition.

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. [Plato, "Timaeus", chap. 22-23; Gregory Vlastos, "Plato’s Universe", pp. 66-82.]

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. [G. E. R. Lloyd, "Aristotle", chapters 7-8.]

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.

In alchemy, the chemical element of mercury was often associated with "water" and its alchemical symbol was a downward-pointing triangle.

Indian Tradition

"Ap" ("IAST|áp-") is the Vedic Sanskrit term for "water", in Classical Sanskrit occurring only in the plural, "IAST|āpas" (sometimes re-analysed as a thematic singular, "IAST|āpa-"), whence Hindi "IAST|āp". 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 (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.

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. Practicus (3=8) is the elemental grade attributed to water; this grade is also attributed to the Qabalistic sphere Hod and the planet Mercury. [Israel Regardie, "The Golden Dawn", pp. 154-65.] The elemental weapon of water is the cup. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", p.322; Kraig, "Modern Magick", pp. 149-53.] 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. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", p. 80.] 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. [Regardie, "Golden Dawn", pp. 280-286; Kraig, "Modern Magick", pp. 206-209.] 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 Ondine/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.

See also

* Water
* Sea and river deity


External links

* [http://www.friesian.com/elements.htm Different versions of the classical elements]
* [http://www.healthspace.eu/health/regular/healthspace.php Overview the 5 elements]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Classical element — For other uses of 4 elements, see Four elements (disambiguation). For other uses of 5 elements, see Five elements (disambiguation). Many philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements believed to reflect the simplest essential parts …   Wikipedia

  • Air (classical element) — In traditional cultures, air is often seen as a universal power or pure substance. Its fundamental importance to life can be seen in words such as spirit, inspire, expire, and aspire, all derived from the Latin spirare ( to breathe ). Greek and… …   Wikipedia

  • 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 …   Wikipedia

  • Fire (classical element) — Fire has been an important part of many cultures and religions, from pre history to modern day, and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different fashions throughout history.Greek and Roman Tradition Fire is …   Wikipedia

  • Aether (classical element) — According to ancient and medieval science, aether (Greek gr. αἰθήρ aithēr [ ether . The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language . 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.] ), also spelled æther or ether, is the material that fills the …   Wikipedia

  • Wood (classical element) — In traditional Chinese philosophy, Wood 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… …   Wikipedia

  • Metal (classical element) — In traditional Chinese philosophy, Metal 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 …   Wikipedia

  • Water (disambiguation) — Water is a chemical substance with the formula H2O. Water may also refer to: Contents 1 Film 2 Television 3 Albums …   Wikipedia

  • Water sign — Unreferenced|date=March 2008In astrology a water sign refers to any of the signs Cancer, Scorpio, or Pisces.CharacteristicsAccording to astrological theory, water signs are characteristically deeply intuitive, imaginative and emotional. In human… …   Wikipedia

  • Classical elements in popular culture — Classical Elements v · d · e …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”