Air (element)

From Occult Encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alchemical symbol for the element of air

Air is one of the classical elements, in some systems being one of the four along with earth, fire, and water. Air is one of the five elements that appear in most Wiccan and Pagan traditions.

The alchemical symbol for air is an upward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line.

Greek and Roman tradition

According to Plato, it is associated with the octahedron; air is considered to be both hot and wet. The ancient Greeks used two words for air: aer meant the dim lower atmosphere, and aether meant the bright upper atmosphere above the clouds.

Air 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. Ancient and modern opinions differ as to whether he identified air by the divine name Hera, Aidoneus or even Zeus. 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 air is the octahedron which is formed from eight equilateral triangles. This places air between fire and water which Plato regarded as appropriate because it is intermediate in its mobility, sharpness, and ability to penetrate. He also said of air that its minuscule components are so smooth that one can barely feel them.

Golden Dawn teachings

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888, incorporates air and the other Greek classical elements into its teachings. The elemental weapon of air is the dagger which must be painted yellow with magical names and sigils written upon it in violet. Each of the elements has several associated spiritual beings. The archangel of air is Archangel Raphael, the angel is Chassan, the ruler is Ariel, the king is Paralda, and the air elementals (following Paracelsus) are called sylphs. Air is considerable and it is referred to the upper left point of the pentagram in the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram.

In the Golden Dawn and many other magical systems, each element is associated with one of the cardinal points and is placed under the care of guardian Watchtowers. The Watchtowers derive from the Enochian system of magic founded by John Dee. In the Golden Dawn, they are represented by the Enochian elemental tablets. Air is associated with the east, which is guarded by the First Watchtower.