We know today that the five classical elements of fire, earth, air, water, and spirit are different from the 118 chemical elements of the periodic table. The scientific chemical elements refer to quanta, or tangible, measurable, atomic compounds of matter, made of protons and neutrons. The classical elements refer to qualia, or immeasurable “energies”, packets of non-physical information which are bound together by consistent function and pattern.
These qualia or energies could also be called archetypes (like Jung's archetypes). These are themes which are found through culture, art, and myth, explaining the observable and unobservable phenomena of the world. These classical elements or archetypes can be found through cultures across history, including Greece, Persia, Babylonia, Japan, Rome, Tibet, India, China, and pre-European America.
Alchemical Symbol for Fire
To many early-Greek philosophers, Fire was the most important of the elements. To them, Fire gave rise to the other elements and had the power to transform one element into another. In day-to-day life, Fire has the capacity to provide warmth, cook food, concoct cures and medicines, and provide light in the darkness. It also has the power to destroy, consume, to leave barren, and to transform.
With the mastery of fire, humans left their caves, began to master the use of tools, and developed other technology. Our development as a society was guided by our mastery of fire. In this way, it represents our enlightenment, acting as both a literal and metaphorical light out of the darkness. But we can see the dark side of fire when we look at humanity's tendency towards violence and our development of new and advanced ways of waging wars.
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It’s easy to see the power of Fire, the potential for creativity and rebirth, to do great work. It’s also easy to see the potential for destruction and the importance of balance when working with fire. Applying the same principles of fire on a personal and spiritual level, it is easy to see how important that balance is.
A person who is lacking the qualities of Fire, without a strong sense of identity, who feels powerless, and who is unable to create and maintain healthy boundaries may be lacking spiritual Fire. They may need to re-light their own fire, claiming their own space and identity, finding their power and becoming an authority in their own life, holding that space unapologetically.
A person with too much fire, with a massive, unchecked ego, one who thinks they are entitled to other people’s space may have a Fire that is burning out of control. If they put their ego identity and their unchecked authority over the needs, boundaries, and autonomy of others, that person’s fire is burning out of control, Nero-style.
A healthy fire is one that is fed, checked, and tended to regularly, with plenty of safety precautions: stone fire-ring, a bucket of water, plenty of clearance, don’t build the woodpile too high, only use the fuel you need.
In the same way, a healthy person regularly checks in with their emotions, reflects on their actions, acts mindfully, engages with their body in a healthy way, interacts regularly with a creative outlet, and acts as the authority over their own life. That person will be like a warm light to those around them. They will appear as a beacon of self-mastery to those stuck in the darkness of suffering.
In magical philosophy and thinking, the element of Fire has a whole list of correspondences across various esoteric practices and beliefs like Tarot, Astrology, and the Kabbalah. One can use these different tools to reflect on ways to relight their own spark or to better contain their wild fire.
Fire is a Yang element (traditionally “masculine”, though more accurately “outward” or “active”). It is also associated with the heat of Summer and with the Eastern cardinal direction and the rising sun.
In Tarot, the suit of Staves or Wands represents the element of Fire. The sticks represent the potential energy and fuel for Fire and the potential creative force that lives in each person.
In Astrology, there are four groups of three signs with each corresponding to one element. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are the three signs which embody the different primary qualities of Fire.
The Archangel Michael is of the realm of Fire, as is the Angel Aral. The elemental being of Fire is the Salamander. This is because Salamanders used to rest in rotting logs; when logs were gathered and thrown on the fire, the Salamander would wake up and jump out of the logs, leading people to believe they were born of fire.
You can work with any of these symbols or concepts in your mindfulness or magical practice, or you can use the power of the internet to find other symbols and concepts to charge your fire. We also have many musical instruments inspired by Fire to help you bring the heat (or keep it in check).