The Elements in Magic & Witchcraft: Earth – Meaning, Symbolism and Uses
“Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”
– Ancient Proverb
There are two ways of thinking about Earth Magick. First is the magick that we enact specifically for the planet to facilitate its ongoing well-being. The second is magick that’s centered around natural objects. This article focuses on the second approach.
As early as the third century, the Greek philosopher Porphyry spoke about the trees having souls. Saint Anthony told us that nature was God’s “open book” and Saint Francis basically became the patron of ecologists through his ardent love and care for wildlife. It was he who spoke of Mother Earth as nourishing humans (and I suspect he meant more than our bodies!). And these people are not alone. Numerous well-respected figures, from Jesuit priests and European alchemists to nineteenth-century writers and artists like Henry David Thoreau, were trying to define this great gift called Earth and all its wondrous energies. Now it’s our turn.
Earth Symbolism and Its Meaning in Magic
The Greeks placed Earth among the classical elements representing the physical world, matter, growth, sustenance and fertility. Interestingly enough, it also correlates to the season of winter, making the Earth Element one that embodied endings and beginnings, death and renewal.
The Earth Element symbolizes the Sacred Feminine, the Mother Goddess of creation. This Being nurtures us, grounds us and helps us to grow. She also teaches us the lesson of learning to live cooperatively with nature rather than dominating it. It is truly sacred ground upon which we walk.
There are a lot of aspects of the Earth Element worthy of a lifetime study. Take Ley Lines for example. These are like the earth’s geometric energy grid. Where these lines join, you’re likely to find a temple, church, standing stones or gathering place. Understanding these patterns gives us greater control over our magic.
Where the Air Element is elusive, Fire – blustery and Water – fluid, Earth is utilitarian and constant. Earth touches all things. In some regards anything on this planet can be placed partially under the Earth Element’s influence.
Earth Element: Global Correspondences
It’s interesting to look at how various eras and cultures saw the Earth in the greater scheme of things.
Aristotle: Said the Earth Element was the heaviest.
Aztecs: represent the Earth Element as a house. This may have ties to the Goddess Chantico whose name means “she who lives in the house.” Her domain was that of the hearth fire.
Confucianism: wrote of Earth as having the virtue of integrity.
Greco-Roman: Mythology is replete with Earth Goddesses like Demeter, Ceres and the Horae (who regulated the seasons).
Eastern Asian Tradition: represents the Earth as a white tiger. This creature appears when leaders rule with whole virtue. White Tiger is the guardian of the Western quarter of creation
Feng Shui: depicts earth as a square and symbolizes it with brass or copper. Earth’s colors are yellow and brown.
Indian: Mythology depicts Prithvi, the Hindu Earth Goddess with similar characteristics to Gaia. Here the Earth Element represents solidifying. When we are out of balance with the earth, it causes famine and earthquakes.
Plato: Assigned the Earth Element the form of a cube (four sides, four directions, four winds etc).
Defining the Element of Earth in Magic
In terms of metaphysical associations, many practitioners look to Earth for assistance with alchemy, safety, protection, understanding cycles, foundations and growth just to name a few. Druids and Shamans believed that Earth was the doorway to discovering plant and animal spirits and communing with them. Green Witches, herbalists, crystal healers, knot magicians and so many others have Earth energies to thank for their foundations.
Earth is fruitful and central to all magic. Gravity alone gives us “strong footing”. In ritual and spell work Earth might be called upon for assistance with finances, pregnancy, learning to receive, gardening magic, stone divination and matters of hearth and home. Most magical traditions place earth in the Northern sphere of creation and the season of winter. Some of the spiritual entities associated with the Earth element include dryads, gnomes and fauns.
One of the most important things we learn spiritually from the Earth Element is remaining in connection to this planet. Observing the seasonal round, watching for those first signs of spring, playing in the snow – the Earth fills our very souls. We cannot tap into this powerhouse if we do not first acknowledge it, honor it and show gratitude for the gifts it provides.
Earth Element Themes
- Improving stability
- Manifesting money or wealth
Energizing Magical gardens
- Sustaining providence
- Maintaining firm footing (grounding)
- Connecting (or Reconnecting) with the Sacred Feminine within and without
- Understanding the power of silence (and using it)
- Working Eco-Magic
- Honoring the Ancestors and history
- Preserving hearth and home
- Discovering our Animal Spirits and Nature Guides
- Nurturing self-love and wisdom
In all this, the Earth Element is both a helpmate and a teacher. Listen to her guidance:
Earth Crystals, Minerals, Plants and Animals
Crystals and Minerals: Hematite, Amazonite, Jet, Emerald, Jade, Lodestone, Peridot, Turquoise, Coal, Copper, Iron ore, Lead and salt.
Plants and Herbs: Ash, Hawthorn, Patchouli, Vetiver, Wheat, Oats, Sage, Corn, Potatoes and Barley.
Animals: Bear, Wolf, Worm, Snake, Gopher, Stag, all burrowing animals and ants.
Astrological Associations for the Earth Element
Planetary Correspondences: Jupiter & Saturn
Astrological Birth Signs: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. All of these signs are truly “down to earth” people. They rarely take risks, being practical by nature. Dependability, facilitating, frugality and conservation come to them as naturally as breathing.
Earth signs are duty and responsibility-bound. They do not make promises lightly, and prefer traditional approaches over something experimental or new-fangled. Nonetheless, this doesn’t make them dull. People born under Earth signs love exploring their senses – listening to good music, enjoying a tasty meal, touching luxurious fabrics, smelling expressive aromatics and seeing the beauty in all things.
Element of Earth in the Tarot
In the traditional Tarot, Earth correlates to the Pentacles or Coins suit. This suit’s messages all focus on material life be it your work, home, contracts, budget etc. In the upright positions, the Pentacles cards speak of manifesting our goals especially when honest work is involved. These cards challenge us to think about how we create our reality from seed to harvest.
In reversed positions, this suit gets into the greedy side of human nature, or that of being a wild spender. Steadiness in all things. The material world is transient, but we do need stability there for taking care of our own.
In the Major Arcana Earth is the World Card (number 21). This represents the end of one cycle where you can stop and breath for a moment before starting a new. Major changes, positive conclusions and possibilities all hang in the balance.
Earth in Numerology: 8
In Numerology the Earth Element aligns with the number 8. This is the digit of needs and wants. Remember Earth is pragmatic. When 8 appears in your life often (and on a lesser level 4) it’s time to check your priorities. The council of 8 is be efficient, avoid waste and use those “street smarts.”
Forms of the Earth Element
Earth’s forms are a little different than some other elements in that some of these are places rather than basic structure. In the case of places, these can be used in visualizations. Or if you are fortunate you can go to one and work your magic there.
Canyon: Deep and harsh, canyons represent things we cannot quite see (like the bottom). They also have ties to feminine energies.
Cave: Traditionally a symbol of the underworld or our unconscious mind. This is the meeting place between humans and the Divine.
Clay: Transformation, creation, malleability. Clay makes an excellent foundation for poppets.
Desert: They say in the desert you will see yourself in total truth – naked to the very soul. In some myths this is the realm of the Hermit, Ascetic, and seeker.
Igneous Rocks: These begin as magma deep in the heart of the Earth. When cooled quickly crystals form and the resulting rock looks like glass. Granite, Obsidian (sometimes used for Mirror Magic) and Basalt are all examples that can be used when you want to blend fire and earth energies.
Loam: Rich soil. Use loam in spells for abundance (including in your garden).
Metamorphic Rock: Marble and Quartzite form under the earth from pressure and heat. The result is a beautiful piece of nature that sometimes tiny glittery crystals. Use these in transformation charms or spells.
Mountain: The peak of the mountain is absolute awareness. Seeing yourself climbing the mountain – overcoming obstacles or making headway (including spiritually). Also constancy (you cannot move mountains, as the saying goes).
Mud: Can represent things, particularly complications, that hold you back. Put a symbol of what needs to get moving in mud in a spell and TAKE IT OUT!
Plateau: Upward mobility. In a dream, often the condition of your consciousness or inner landscape.
Sand: Time’s passing. Write a wish in sand at the shore and let the waves carry it outward. Use sand to mark your sacred space (out of space, out of time).
Valley: Transformation and enrichment. A moment of arrival.
Sedimentary Rocks: These are formed from shells, small pebbles and other sediments over time. These are soft rocks that break easily so you might be able to use one (like a piece of shale) in magic by shattering it to likewise break free of something in your life.
On Being an Earth Witch
The Earth Witch has a conservative nature. She speaks slowly and purposefully, knowing full well the power of words. She also knows when being silent says volumes.
Chance is not a word that appears very often in the Earth Witch vocabulary. She prefers to weigh things using caution and wisdom. Quick fixes aren’t typically long lasting, and she has lots of patience.
Professionally the Earth Witch often seeks out service-oriented jobs. These aren’t flashy professions; they are simply necessary. The Earth Witch thrives as a financial consultant, teacher or social worker (for example).
Earth Witches love their home and prefer to bring friends and family into that domain. Her social circles are small, preferring trustworthy company. If you have an Earth Witch in your life take care to stay on her good side. When angered enough an Earth Witch may very well “bury” you.
Metaphysically the Earth Witch has many possible interests that include:
- Feng Shui
- Folk magic
- Goddess Gardening
- Green Magic
- Root Witchery
- Sacred Geometry
- Stone circles
In terms of both personal and social expectations, the Earth Witch has strong standards. She walks her talk and surrounds herself with those that live likewise. Within this tribe, the Earth Witch gives of herself and her abilities freely, staying firm and steady no matter the weather. You could not ask for a more dedicated friend and companion. Loyalty thy name is Earth Witch.
Many of the Earth Witch’s characteristics resemble those of Kitchen Witches. Both find ways to bring magic into every moment, be it simple or sublime. Home and family are the nucleus from which all else vibrates outward. Freshly grown foods, magically blessed herbs, rock gardens and earthy colors are all passionate parts of the Earth Witch’s environment.
Divination and Spells with the Earth Element
The ancients tinkered with the Earth Element in their attempts to peek into the future and influence the present.
There are several forms of divination that feature Earth.
Divination by Dust: Known as Amanthomany (hey, check out your TV table before you clean it next!). More accurately this system can use sand, silt and even pyre ashes. The system is a bit like tea leaf reading in that you are looking for symbols or images. So, if you were wandering the beach and saw the pattern of a heart in the sand, it could mean that love is coming your way, or someone who loves you is thinking tender thoughts (for example)
The Art of Placement, Feng Shui: Feng Shui is a class of geomancy that looks at everything in and around an environment hoping to improve the flow of life energy (chi) therein. This ancient system has been used for determining the most auspicious placement of important buildings, like temples.
Geomancy: This is a very complex divination method that begins with 16 random figures. The Geomancer draws lines of points moving from right to left in the soil or sand. These lines are grouped into fours, then further counted by twos making pairs. These pairs become the foundation for the reading, each symbol having specific meanings.
Mineral Divination (Oryctomancy): Oryctomancy looks at excavated objects, specifically fossils and minerals for potential signs and omens. Any images seen on an item become the starting point. From here the interpreter considers where the item rested, the time of discovery and any unique conditions during the excavation.
Rock Casting (Lithomancy): If you’ve ever watched run castings, then Rock castings are similar but for the media. In this case various crystals would be chosen. Each one would be assigned a specific meaning. That meaning would have variations depending on where it landed, the configuration of the other sacred stones, and the crystals nearby. This particular system is easily adaptable for the modern Witch looking for a resilient divination method.
Prosperity is one of the central energies associated with the Earth Element. When you find your wallet looking slim, try this spell.
What you need: A green pouch, two silver or gold-toned coins, a cup of honeyed-milk, a small garden shovel.
Where: You will need to find a healthy tree near your home, preferably one where you can dig in the ground without raising eyebrows.
Timing: Waxing to full moon. Noon. Early Spring, Moon in Taurus and/or Thursday.
Take all your components with you to the tree on the date and time chosen. Pour the honey milk into the soil beneath the branches saying,
“Great Mother accept my gift of gratitude. Today I come to you in need, and ask for your energy. Where there is want, let there be plenty. Replace scarcity with providence.”
Reach down beneath the tree and gather some soil for your pouch. Replace it with one of the silver coins by way of reciprocity with an incantation like:
Here planted in the Earth, begin my spell, and nurture it well
Here planted a coin, a prayer, given into your gentle care
Put the soil and the other coin in your pouch saying:
I trust this spell in verity; I hereby claim prosperity.
Carry the pouch with you as often as possible particularly when spending or picking up money. Otherwise keep it safe with your checkbook, loose change or ATM card.
This article gives you a proverbial touch stone (pun intended) regarding the Earth Element in all its forms and characteristics for your magical workings. We are sure you will find many more. It truly is sacred ground upon which we walk. Let it vibrate all that rich goodness into your life every day.