Over the next couple of weeks I'm really going to focus on some of the more basic aspects of Paganism, the elements. With the Autumnal Equinox, also called Mabon from the Celtic tradition, just around the corner I felt it was time to really start focusing on the Elements. I follow the European tradition of the elements though I am aware of the Taoist version due to my Reiki training. I have included some of the eastern traditions for reference.
At the same time we need to touch on a symbol. For many it is THE symbol of their religion, like a Christian cross or the Jewish Star of David. For others it is the symbol of ultimate evil. I am not here to tell you what to believe, I am here to tell you what I believe and I believe in the former rather than the latter. What I am talking about is, of course, the five pointed star, the pentacle. When enclosed in a circle it becomes the pentagram. They symbol represents the elements that create life (the star) and the continuation of that life (the circle).
In European paganism there are 5 elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. The four elements correlate to a compass directions while the 5th, Spirit is everywhere and no where.
In Japan the 5 elements are: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void. They do not traditionally correlate to a direction but rather a type of energy.
In Hinduism and Buddhism there are 5 - 6 elements: The 4 main elements of Earth, Water/Liquid, Fire, Air/Wind and the two "lesser" elements: Space and Consciousness.
In Chinese culture and Taoism the 5 elements are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. There are two cycles within this group of elements: growth and destruction, which can be seen in the image below. This set of elements is seen as the seasons: wood=spring, fire=summer, metal=autumn, and water=winter. Earth represents the transitional time between seasons.