Our world is viewed of in terms of four physical elements – earth, water, air and fire (which roughly correspond to the four scientific forms of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma) – plus spirit. Together, these elements form a united whole, as is symbolized in the pentagram. All are necessary and should be in balance.
Circles are generally cast through the use of all elements. Incense (fire and air) and salt water (earth and water) is the simplest method, with yourself representing spirit. Candles (fire), incense (air), water (water), and (especially if you’re outdoors) the ground beneath your feet (earth) also work. The compass points of a circle each represent an element as well, with the circle itself being spirit, uniting and binding all together.
Each of these elements correspond to certain aspects, and when attempting to do work concerning a certain aspect, we address the appropriate element. Ceremonial magic and alchemy have given us a great deal of other correspondences with the elements, everything from tools and colors to numbers and letters. Here I shall restrict myself to common Wiccan usage, what I find useful to religious ritual, and what helps illustrate the interconnections of various cycles. For instance, you will see similarities between the elemental aspects listed here and the aspects of the Triple Goddess listed elsewhere.
Celtic name: Airt
Direction: East Time: Sunrise
Season: Spring Moon: Waxing
Tools: Incense, Wand
Major Aspect: Intelligence
Air is the element of intellect, study, and book-learning, and therefore of the sciences. It is also the element of youth, creativity, and spontaneity, and of communication and travel.
Celtic name: Deas
Direction: South Time: Noon
Season: Summer Moon: Full
Tools: Candle, Athame
Major Aspect: Strength
Fire is the element of strength, especially physical strength but also strength of will, and energy. Fire is also the element of passion, courage, protection, purification, transformation, chaos, and sex. Fire is life and health as well as destruction.
Celtic name: Iar
Direction: West Time: Sunset
Season: Autumn Moon: Waning
Tools: Chalice, Cauldron
Major Aspect: Wisdom
Water is the element of wisdom, clarity, and common sense, especially that which comes from experience. It is also the element of emotion, intuition and divination. It is the major element of healing, and also contains aspects of transformation and purification, and can also represent death and rebirth.
Celtic name: Tuath
Direction: North Time: Midnight
Season: Winter Moon: New
Tools: Salt, Pentacle
Major Aspect: Stability
Earth is the element of stability, order and grounding. It is also the element of fertility, both literal and figurative, and therefore of pregnancy, growth, birth, material gain, business, prosperity sustenance, and creativity. As the element from which came and to which we will return, earth is the element of death and rebirth, beginnings and endings, and silence.
Because earth symbolizes endings and beginnings, I cast my circles starting in the north.
Also referred to as Ether or Aethyr.
Direction: Center and circumference
Tools: Circle, self
Major Aspect: Everything and nothing
Spirit is the element of transcendence, transformation, change, the void, everywhere and nowhere, all time and no time. It is the primal force that flows through all of us and all things. It is not often addressed directly in ritual, because it is the element of ourselves, our will, and the gods, all of which are already actively invoked.