Connecting to the powers of the Four Elements is a foundational practice for many Pagans. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water move through us and inspire us. As ideas, they help us to make sense of and to describe a complex world. Even the simplest of Pagan altars usually have some representation of the Elements.
Some Pagans have specific ritual tools consecrated to each one of the Elements. (The Wand, Cup, Disk, and Sword are the canonical tools of the ceremonial magician.) Others take a more spontaneous approach, grabbing everyday items that symbolize the elemental powers. There are traditional and non-traditional ways to evoke the four elements.
Speaking of which, there are no rules when creating an elemental altar. There is no such thing as a “perfect” elemental tool. Remember that every object you might find on Earth contains more than one elemental energy blended together. Just choose things that are meaningful to you and that appear harmonious when brought together. The lists provided below are suggestions only. (Your tradition may have others.)
Here are some different ways to represent the Elements on a Pagan altar:
The Element: Earth
Traditional Tool: Pentacle or Disk
The meaning of Earth: Earth is perhaps the most overlooked Element in Pagan magick. Earth is everywhere, and it appears passive. It doesn’t really “do” anything with the same force as Air, Fire, or Water.
Yet the Earth gives us our birth. While we live, it sustains us. When we die, it covers us. Earth encompasses a multitude of magickal ideas: Nourishment, protection, obstruction, wholeness, stillness, plant and animal life, interdependence, prosperity and rest. The objects that can represent Earth are similarly diverse.
Altar Objects for Earth:
- The altar (base) itself.
- Plate, paten, or disk.
- Cast metal.
- Rock or stone.
- Dish of soil, sand or salt.
- Food (especially fruits, vegetables or grain foods).
- Flowers or herbs.
- Gems (Garnet, Hematite, Jasper, Aventurine).
- Candle (Green, brown, or black).
- Deity statue (Gaia, Macha, Saturn/Chronos, Pan).
- Horn or bone.
- Images of trees and mountains.
- Animal art (Cattle, Tortoise, Rabbit, Deer).
- Oil (Patchouli, Vetivert, Evergreen).
- Altar tile decorated with symbol of Earth.
- Tarot Ace of Pentacles.
The Element: Air
Traditional Tool: Sword (or Wand, in some traditions)
The meaning of Air: As Air passes over the still Earth, the world moves into action and consciousness. Air is the Element of communication, exchange, and ideas. Air is invisible—we know it only through its effects on the world.
Air is also swift-moving, changeable and self-aware. It is the most human of all the Elements. Choose your Air items based on what Air means to you at the time you’re assembling the altar.
Altar Objects for Air:
- Athame or sword.
- Wand or staff.
- Lamp or lantern (symbolizing knowledge).
- Spoon or stirrer.
- Wind-blown flowers and seeds.
- Brightly colored ribbon or streamers.
- Crystals (Clear Quartz, Citrine, Smoky Quartz/Topaz).
- Candle (Yellow or white).
- Musical instrument (especially strings or woodwinds).
- Images of clouds and sky.
- Animal art (Birds, Dragonfly, Butterfly).
- Air freshener or diffuser.
- Deity statues (Hermes, Thoth, Saraswati).
- Oil (Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Lavender).
- Altar tile decorated with symbol of Air.
- Tarot Ace of Swords.
The Element: Fire
Traditional Tool: Wand (or Sword, in some traditions)
The meaning of Fire: Elemental Fire is the pure power of heat and light. The energy of Fire is strong, primal, and often dangerous. In Fire, we find the heat of passion and the warrior’s fighting spirit. Esoteric meanings of Fire include courage, willpower, lust, protection, spiritual aspiration, destruction and impending renewal.
Altar Objects for Fire:
- Flame (candle, lamp, or brazier).
- Lighter or matches.
- Spicy foods.
- Cactus or thorns.
- Candle (Red, orange, or gold).
- Images of flames or the sun.
- Volcanic stones or ash.
- Bright yellow or orange plants.
- Gemstones (Ruby, Carnelian, Amber, Opal).
- Oil (Cinnamon, Frankincense, Dragon’s Blood).
- Deity statues (Ra, Vulcan, Brigid, Pele, Sekhmet).
- Animal art (Lion, Lizard, Phoenix).
- Altar tile decorated with symbol of Fire.
- Tarot Ace of Wands.
The Element: Water
Traditional Tool: Cup
The Meaning of Water: Water is the great partner of Earth in creating life as we know it. Like Earth, Water appears gentle, but contains immense potential power. It is cleansing, calming, and healing. Elemental Water also governs the magick of love and emotion, intuition, pleasure, and introspection.
Altar Objects for Water:
- Chalice, cup, or goblet.
- Beverages (especially water or wine).
- Scrying bowl or crystal ball.
- Blessed or holy water.
- Driftwood or seaweed.
- Gemstones (Aquamarine, Lapis Lazuli, Sodalite, Amethyst).
- Images of ocean, rivers, or lakes.
- Candle (Blue).
- Oil (Rose, Lotus, Jasmine).
- Animal art (Fish, Dolphin, Frog).
- Deity statue (Poseidon, Aphrodite, Yemaya).
- Altar tile decorated with symbol of Water
- Tarot Ace of Cups
I hope you enjoy putting together your elemental altar!
I hope that this was informative and helpful. If so, tell me in the comments below.