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Air (Classical Element)

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Air (Classical Element)

Post by CJWatso on June 25th 2009, 7:31 pm

Air (classical element) -In traditional cultures, air is often seen as a universal power or pure substance. Its fundamental importance to life can be seen in words such as aspire, conspire, inspire, perspire, and spirit, all derived from the Latin spirare ("to breathe").

Air is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. According to Plato, it is associated with the octahedron; air is considered to be both hot and wet. The ancient Greeks used two words for air: aer meant the dim lower atmosphere, and aether meant the bright upper atmosphere above the clouds. Plato, for instance writes that "So it is with air: there is the brightest variety which we call aether, the muddiest which we call mist and darkness, and other kinds for which we have no name...." Among the early Greek Pre-Socratic philosophers, Anaximenes (mid-6th century BCE) named air as the arche (first principle of the world). As it grows warm and rarefied, air becomes fire; as it cools and condenses it becomes water, then earth and rock. A similar belief was attributed by some ancient sources to Diogenes Apolloniates (late 5th century BCE), who also linked air with intelligence and soul (psyche), but other sources claim that his arche was a substance between air and fire. Aristophanes parodied such teachings in his play The Clouds by putting a prayer to air in the mouth of Socrates.

Air was one of many archai proposed by the Pre-socratics, most of whom tried to reduce all things to a single substance. However, Empedocles of Acragas (c. 495-c. 435 BCE) selected four archai for his four roots: air, fire, water, and earth. Ancient and modern opinions differ as to whether he identified air by the divine name Hera, Aidoneus, or even Zeus. Empedocles’ roots became the four classical elements of Greek philosophy.[5] Plato (427-347 BCE) took over the four elements of Empedocles. In the Timaeus, his major cosmological dialogue, the Platonic solid associated with air is the octahedron which is formed from eight equilateral triangles. This places air between fire (four triangular sides) and water (twenty triangular sides), which Plato regarded as appropriate because it is intermediate in its mobility, sharpness, and ability to penetrate. He also said of air that its minuscule components are so smooth that one can barely feel them.[6]

Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BCE) developed a different explanation for the elements based on pairs of qualities. The four elements were arranged concentrically around the center of the universe to form the sublunary sphere. According to Aristotle, air is both hot and wet, and occupies a place between fire and water among the elemental spheres. Aristotle definitively separated air from aether. For him, aether was an unchanging, almost divine substance that was found only in the heavens, where it formed celestial spheres.

In ancient Greek medicine, each of the four humours became associated with an element. Blood was the humor identified with air, since both were hot and wet. Other things associated with air and blood in ancient and medieval medicine included the season of spring, since it increased the qualities of heat and moisture; the sanguine temperament (of a person dominated by the blood humour); hermaphrodite (combining the masculine quality of heat with the feminine quality of moisture); and the northern point of the compass


Symbol for airThe alchemical symbol for air is an upward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line.


Indian Tradition
Main article: Vayu
In Hinduism, Vayu (Sanskrit वायु ), also known as Vāta वात, Pavana पवन (meaning the Purifier) , or Prāna, is a primary deity, who is the father of Bhima and the spiritual father of Lord Hanuman. As the words for air (Vāyu) or wind (Pavana) it is one of the Panchamahābhuta the "five great elements" in Hinduism. The Sanskrit word 'Vāta' literally means "blown", 'Vāyu' "blower", and 'Prāna' "breathing" (viz. the breath of life, cf. the *an- in 'animate').

In Indian tradition the element Air is also linked to Shani or Saturn and the north-west direction.


[edit] Chinese Tradition
Air is not one of the traditional five Chinese classical elements. Nevertheless, the ancient Chinese concept of Qi or chi is believed to be close to that of air. Qi (pronounced [tɕʰi˥˩]; spelled qì in Mandarin Pinyin romanization and ch'i4 in Wade-Giles) or ki (in Japanese romanization), is a fundamental concept of traditional Chinese culture. Qi is believed to be part of every living thing that exists, as a kind of "life force" or "spiritual energy". It is frequently translated as "energy flow", or literally as "air" or "breath". (For example, "tiānqì", literally "sky breath", is the ordinary Chinese word for "weather"). In Mandarin Chinese it is pronounced something like "chee" in English, but the tongue position is different. (See Media:Difficult Sounds.GIF.) The concept of qi is often reified, however no scientific evidence supports its existence.

The element air also appears as a concept in the Buddhist religion, which has an ancient history in China.

Some modern occultists equate the Chinese classical element of wood with air.


In Modern Magic

Ceremonial Magic
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888, incorporates air and the other Greek classical elements into its teachings. Theoricus (2=9) is the elemental grade attributed to air; this grade is also attributed to the Moon and the Qabalistic sphere Yesod. The elemental weapon of air is the dagger, which must be painted yellow with magical names and sigils written upon it in violet. Each of the elements has several associated spiritual beings. The archangel of air is Raphael, the angel is Chassan, the ruler is Aral, the king is Paralda, and the air elementals (following Paracelsus) are called sylphs. Air is considered to be active; it is represented by the Man and the symbol for Aquarius, and it is referred to the upper left point of the pentagram in the Supreme Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram. Many of these associations have since spread throughout the occult community.

In the Golden Dawn and many other magical systems, each element is associated with one of the cardinal points and is placed under the care of guardian Watchtowers. The Watchtowers derive from the Enochian system of magic founded by Dee. In the Golden Dawn, they are represented by the Enochian elemental tablets. Air is associated with the east, which is guarded by the First Watchtower.


Wicca
Air is one of the five elements that appear in many neopagan traditions. Wicca in particular was influenced by the Golden Dawn system of magic, and Aleister Crowley's mysticism, which was in turn inspired by the Golden Dawn.Common Wiccan attributions include:

The cardinal direction of east.
Yellow, or pastel colors. (Some associate air with green or even a light blue.)
The wand or the athame.
Woodwind instruments.
The suit of Wands or Swords in the Minor Arcana of tarot. Swords are traditionally associated with Air, and still are in most Tarot decks, however, increasingly decks are being published with Wands associated with Air and Swords with Fire. This is still a matter of debate within the esoteric and Wiccan community.
Mind, intellect, consciousness, study, communication.
The alchemic notion of Azoth.
Sunrise, childhood, spring, beginnings.
Incense.
Birds, insects, flying creatures.
Masculine energy.
Many gods and goddesses, including Aradia, Athena, Hermes, Mercury, Nuit, Shu, Thoth, Uranus and Zeus.

Astrological Personalities
People born under the astrological signs of Libra, Gemini and Aquarius are thought to have dominant air personalities. Air personalities tend to be kind, intellectual, communicative, social, and helpful.


Other Traditions
Enlil was the god of air in ancient Sumer. Shu was the ancient Egyptian god of air and the husband of Tefnut, goddess of moisture. He became an emblem of strength by virtue of his role in separating Nut (sky) from Geb (earth). He played a primary role in the Coffin Texts, which were spells intended to help the deceased reach the realm of the afterlife safely. On the way to the sky, the spirit had to travel through the air, as one spell indicates: "I have gone up in Shu, I have climbed on the sunbeams."

In East Asia, "air" is seen as the equivalent of "spirit" or "chi". Air is represented in the Aztec religion by a snake; to the Scythians, a yoke; to the Hindus and Greeks, a sword; and in Christian iconography, as mankind.

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Fire of the Dragon, Water of the Naiad, Air of the Pegasus, Earth of the Minotaur, Light of the Sun, Shadow of the Moon

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CJWatso
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