In Wicca we honor and call upon four elements, that of Water, Air, Fire and Earth. Some traditions also work with a fifth, that of Spirit. There are other traditions that will use other elements, such as the Chinese who use Wood as an element, but I cannot speak to those since I don't practice them. Also, you may have seen the elements called in different directions than the ones my tradition uses. If you want to put water in the west, for example, instead of in the east, then do so. It really is a matter of personal distinction, and there is not one right direction for each element. Go by what you are comfortable with, or what way the group you work with does it.
In our tradition, we do not call upon the elements themselves in circle, rather we call upon the Guardians of the elements - also called the Mighty Ones - the evolved beings who direct and guide the elemenal powers. In my experience, the elements can be playful and capricious, so I call upon the Guardians to watch over them. So, when we are calling in the attributes of fire, we call only for the attributes, and not for the fire itself to come to our circle.
If you talk with experienced witches, you will certainly hear some stories of how an element was called so strongly (or not dismissed properly) that it caused a flood, or pipes to burst, or a fire to occur - by calling on the Guardians of the elements rather than the elements themselves, we seek to avoid such "accidents". We seek rather for the qualities of fire, and not for fire itself, in other words.
Here are the qualities and attributes of the different elements:
|rules the emotions, feelings, love, courage, rivers, springs, wells, emotional intuition, mystery, birth, blood, the unconcious mind, the womb, generation and beginnings, fertility, charity|
|Scorpio, Cancer, Pisces|
|spring or fall|
|blue, blue-green, green, grey, indigo, black, Any colors of the sea also.|
|chalice, cauldron, cup, (rain stick also)|
|Aquamarine, blue topaz, chalcedony, aventurine, moonstone, amethyst, fluorite, rose quartz, sodalite, turquoise, jasper, lapis|
|Aphrodite, Isis, Selene, Mari, Yemaya|
|Llyr, Manannan, Osiris, Neptune, Poseidon|
|rules the mind, all mental, intuitive and psychic work, knowledge, abstract learning, theory, windswept hills, plains, windy beaches, high mountain peaks, wind and breath, creativity of the mind, ideas and ideologies|
|Gemini, Aquarius, Libra|
|spring or fall|
|black, bright yellow, gold, crimson, blue-white, pink, pastels|
|censor, sword, wand, bells (also harps)|
|yellow topaz, amber, clear or smoky quarts, flourite, rhodochrosite, rose quartz|
|Aradia, Arianrhod, Nuit, Urania, Kwan Yin,|
|Mercury, Thoth, Zeus, Khonsu|
|rules energy, spirit of the flesh, heat, flame, strong passions, sap, life, the will, destroying and purification, bonfires, hearthfires, and candleflames, sun, deserts. volcanoes, hope, youth, courage of the heart, violence|
|Leo, Sagittarius, Aries|
|red, orange, crimson, bright yellow (like the sun), white, (as in the sun's noon light), orange-red, colors of the flame.|
|incense, candles, athame, (also rattle)|
|fire opal, agates, bloodstone, carnelian, sunstone, dark amber|
|Pele, Bridget, Hestia, Vesta, Tiamat|
|Haephestus, Giobanu, Prometheus, Horus, Vulcan|
|rules the body, growth, nature, sustenance, material gain, healing, money, business, death, silence, chasms, caves, caverns, groves, fields, rockes, standing stones, mountains, metal, bones, structures, grounding and centering, strength, fortitude, stability, nurturing, hunting, laws, undertanding, old age, wisdom|
|Virgo, Taurus, Capricorn|
|green, black, brown, grey, white, wood brown, Any colors of the forest.|
|pentacle, staff, stang, salt, (also drums)|
|agates, amber, jet, bloodstone, geodes, malachite, obsidian, tiger eye, hematite|
|Ceres, Demeter, Gaea, Nepthys, Persephone, Rhea, Rhiannon|
|Adonis, Athos, Arawn, Cernunnos, Dionysus, Marduk, Pan, Tammuz|
To use these tables, you would use these qualities as a focus when calling in the watchtowers. So, to call in Earth, you would be asking for stability, control, perhaps nurturing qualities, etc. When you are doing a magickal working, you would use the element energies most closely associated with your magick. You can always use more than one element also.
These tables are by no means complete. There are many more correspondences that people have made through the centuries, such as plants, animals, trees, winds, incenses, oils, etc. I have only included here the basic ones which I have either worked with or seen often, just to get you started. Please feel free to add your own correspondences as you find them. In addition, there are many traditions and groups that use a different direction for these elements, or have some other correspondences different from the ones listed here. These are not written in stone! Use what works for you and disregard the rest.
I have also been asked what is the difference between an element and an elemental. An elemental is a manifestation of the spirit of the element and can be used to personify, so to speak, that element. Thus, sylphs are used to represent air, in that they are of the air and they fly. Similarly salamandars are the elemental of fire, and when you gaze into a fire you can certainly see them there racing about the logs and playing peek-a-boo with each other. Undines are quick moving, wet and slithery creatures that can undulate in the water, and likewise Gnomes are slow moving , green and brown creatures that love plants and rocks and can speak with them. You can also call upon the elementals in your magickal workings, but do some research and meditate and communicate well with them before doing so. They can be helpful if you have an affinity for them, or they can be troublesome if you are not able to communicate effectively and clearly exactly what you wish them to accomplish for you. This can take time and practice.
To develop an affinity for the elementals themselves you need to work with the element singularly and intensely. For example, for water, you might go to the beach and feel the rhythm of the sea, immerse yourself in the water, try to become the sea itself and be one with the life and forces therein. You can also feel the forces in a river, and the forces feel very differently in a still lake or small pond. The rain has a very different feeling also, and these are all manifestations of natural water. To connect properly with the Undines you must connect deeply and spiritually with these different manifestations of water. This takes time and effort on your part, but would be very worthwhile, as in your magickal workings you would then have a deep affinity for and understanding of, both the element itself, and the elemental.