Chapter 18- Elemental Origins, The Four Elements- part a
As a core concept in Wicca, the four elements need to be quantified and qualified to make their path into the Wiccan tradition clear. The four elements are perceived as being part of and making up everything. They are not merely Earth, Air, Fire, and Water - but are concepts, energy states, states of being, and philosophical concepts. The philosophy of the four elements originates with the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles, who came up with the idea in the fifth century BCE and elaborated it in his work Tetrasomia (“Doctrine of the Four Elements”). Empedocles expressed the idea that the four elements were not only the physical building blocks of the material universe, but also spiritual essences.
In fact Empedocles equated the sources of the elements to deities, with Zeus as Air, Hera as Earth, Hades as Fire and Nestis (Persephone) as Water. From this you can also see the origins of the attributions of Air and Fire as masculine elements and Earth and Water as feminine elements. Interestingly the goddess name Hera means ‘Lady’, recalling the use of this term sometimes found in modern Wiccan traditions.
“Now hear the fourfold Roots of everything:
Life-bringing Hera, Hades, shining Zeus,
And Nestis, moistening mortal springs with tears.”
We should observe that Empedocles did not call his four principles ‘elements’ (stoikheia), but used the terms ‘roots’ (rhizai) and ’root-clumps’ (rhizômata). Empedocles was an herbal magician or root cutter (rhizotomoi) and applied his theory to developing a doctrine of occult sympathies in plants. Aristotle in the fourth century BCE expounded further on the elements as spiritual essences, concentrating on their qualities in his De Generatione et Corruptione. In his work Timaeus, Plato postulated a different view of the elements, suggesting that the elements were changeable as qualities of the primary matter.
Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d’Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ https://amzn.to/3Ay4HJr. Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.