Chapter 18- Elemental Origins, The Four Elements- part b
The sequence of elements in the original ancient Greek model sees each element share a quality with the elements on either side of it when placed on a square. Thus Earth is followed by Fire, then Air, then Water, and back to Earth. This differs from the Golden Dawn model, which has Air and Fire transposed. The Golden Dawn also created the sequence of elemental attributions to the point of the pentagram used in Wicca. This draws once more from the magick of John Dee, as the elemental attributions to the points of the pentagram can be seen to be drawn from the four Enochian Tablets, or Watchtowers as the Golden Dawn called them.
The Greek influence on early Kabbalah was significant, and one part of this was the transmission of concepts such as the elements into Kabbalistic philosophy. This can be seen in the first great Kabbalistic text, the Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Formation), written sometime in the late first or second century CE. The third of the six chapters refers to the elements, though the emphasis is more on Air, Fire and Water, with Earth being secondary. Thus we see in Sepher Yetzirah 3:4 -
“Heaven was created from Fire
Earth was created from Water
And Air from Breath decides between them.”
The influence of the elements was not a dominant theme in the grimoires, which tended to be more planetary in nature. However the four elements as manifestations of the three alchemical principles (salt, mercury and sulphur) were a constant theme through the magickal and mystical writings of the medieval and renaissance alchemists. The transformation of the three into the four was also an expression of the astrological aspect of alchemy. The three (cardinal, fixed and mutable) principles are manifested through the four elements, giving the twelve (zodiacal signs) steps of the alchemical process. This relationship between the four elements and the alchemical process is clearly illustrated in Simon Forman’s sixteenth century work Of the Division of Chaos:
“Then out of this Chaos, the four elements were made:
Heat and cold, moist and dry, in like wise,
Which are the beginning of all creatures wide,
That under the globe of Luna do abide.”
The qualities of the four elements were well known in the Renaissance world, as can be illustrated by an example from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65, written in 1609, where he equates Air to thought and Fire to desire:
“The other two, slight air and purging fire,
Are both with thee, wherever I abide;
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These present-absent with swift motion slide.
For when these quicker elements are gone
In tender embassy of love to thee,
My life, being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy”
 This spelling is used to indicate the Jewish branch of Kabbalah.
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.