Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Elements

In ancient cosmology (e.g., Aristotle's), Alchemy and much Magic, these are earth, water, air and fire – regarded as mystic fundamentals of the Universe rather than as mere states or phases corresponding to the solid, liquid, gas and plasma of physics. A fifth element, Spirit, is sometimes added. The ancient elements are still symbolically used in Astrology – e.g., Aries is a "fire sign". Often they are personified as Elementals: in the magical system of Tanya Huff's Sing the Four Quarters (1994), power over each element is gained by commanding its countless elemental inhabitants through Talent and Song. In ancient Chinese science there were the five elements earth, fire, metal, water and wood. [DRL]

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.