E is for Elemental

Earth, Air, Water, Fire

With the advance of technology, it’s easy to feel a disconnect from the natural world. In some ways, that can make the natural elements seem more mystical. Even without technology, the fact that these basic elements provide us with everything we need to live is pretty miraculous.

If you’re creating a society or world where you want to contrast technology vs. nature, or have people who are more connected with nature, you may want to work in elemental magic.

The elements are usually defined as earth, air, water, and fire. Depending on where you look, a fifth element may be included: metal. You may also consider using spirit as an element. How many of these you use for your magic system is up to you. You may also have elements that are completely fictional, if your fictional world is drastically different from ours.

Elemental magic can be as simple as having magic practitioners gifted with the ability to manipulate a single element, or as complex as someone needing to be able to work with multiple elements. You do not need to have elemental magic be the only type of magic in your world, though it is an option.

Worldbuilding Exercises:

  • What elements exist in your world, and what are their basic forms?
  • How might different forms of elemental magic function in your world?
  • Is a magic practitioner gifted with a specific ability, or can elements be manipulated by other means—perhaps someone gifted with magical ability being in contact with an element?

View 2019 A-Z Participant list here.


  1. (This is a long one).

    In my world, magic is the art of manipulating the elements. The ability to use magic comes through study, practice, and experience, as well as the mage’s own power. Anyone can learn magic through study and practice (I’ve never been a fan of the “magic gene” trope), those from families with long magical heritages possess a natural affinity for magic.

    There are six types of magic, each involving the manipulation of an element: air, water, earth, fire, aether and nether. The four core elements (fire, water, earth and air) each have a sub-element that acts as an extension of the base element: air-lightning, earth-plants, water-ice, and fire-heat.

    Aether and Nether were based on the concept of yin and yang. They’re abstract elements, possessing more traditional powers and compliment as well as oppose each other in a natural balance. Aether is positive energy, light, physical, hard and warm, and its sub-elements include (light, psychic, illusion, healing, gravity, space-time and transmutation). Nether is negative energy, dark, spiritual, soft and cold, and it’s sub-elements include (shadow, blood, bone, death, curse, spirit and time).

    While it’s possible to manipulate the elements without spells, they’re useful in commanding the elements to perform specific tasks, like creating shields, forming weapons, or moving at a specific target.

  2. Well, there are spirits in my magic world and they are basically elemental sperits. They connect with humans, but humans don’t need to know magic to connect with spirits. It’s quite a natural reletionship when it is willing and based on awareness.
    Personally, I consider the spirits in my world a fantasy element, not a magical one 😉

  3. In one of my settings, I have something that would fall into the “elemental” drawer – some spirits are bound to elements, and skilled spirit speakers can convince them to do their bidding – create fog, infuse medicine with more power, and so on.

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