In many modern-day Pagan belief systems, there is a good deal of focus on the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. A few traditions of Wicca also include a fifth element, which is Spirit or Self, but that is not universal among all Pagan paths.

The concept is hardly a new one. A Greek philosopher named Empedocles is credited with the cosmogenic theory of these four elements being the root of all existing matter.

Unfortunately, much of Empedocles’ writing has been lost, but his ideas remain with us today and are widely accepted by many Pagans.

In some traditions, particularly those that are Wiccan-leaning, the four elements and directions are associated with Watchtowers. These are considered – depending on who you ask – a type of archetype, guardian, or elemental being, and are sometimes invoked for protection when casting a sacred circle.

Each of the elements is associated with traits and meanings, as well as with directions on the compass. The following directional associations are for the Northern hemisphere; readers in the Southern hemisphere should use the opposite correspondences. Also, if you live in an area that has unique elemental characteristics, it’s okay to include those – for example, if your house is on the Atlantic coast, and there’s a big ocean right there to the east of you, it’s okay to use water for east!