The Four Elements & the Coils of the Dragon

Note on the Astronomical Tarot

by G.H. Frater S.R.M.D.

(S.L. MacGregor Mathers)

It is here advisable to transcribe the following from Cornelius Agrippa:

Of The Four Elements and Their Natural Qualities:

“It is necessary that we should know and understand the nature and quality of the Four Elements, in order to our being perfect in the principles and groundwork of our studies in the Talismanic or Magical Art.

“Therefore, there are four Elements, the original grounds of all corporeal things, viz.:

Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, of which elements all inferior bodies are compounded, not by way of being heaped up together, but by transmutation and union; and when they are destroyed, they are resolved into elements.

“But there are none of the sensible elements that are pure. They are more or less mixed, and apt to be changed into one into the other, even as earth being moistened and dissolved becomes water, but the same being made thick and hard becomes earth again, and being evaporated through heat it passes into air, and that being kindled into fire; and this being extinguished into air again; but being cooled after burning becomes water again, or else stone or sulphur, and this is clearly demonstrated by lightning.

“Now every one of these Elements has two specific qualities: the former whereof it retains as proper to itself; in the other as a mean, it agrees with that which comes directly after it. For Fire is hot and dry; Water cold and moist; and Air hot and moist; and so in this manner, the Elements, according to two contrary qualities are opposite one to the other, as Fire to Water, and Earth to Air.

“Likewise the Elements are contrary one to the other on another account. Two are heavy, as Earth and Water; and the others are light, as Fire and Air.



Heat, dryness, excessive lightness, brilliance, excessive subtlety, motion rapid.


Cold, moisture, weight, obscurity, solidity, motion.


Heat, moisture, lightness, slight obscurity, subtlety, excessive motion.


Cold, dryness, excessive weight, excessive obscurity, excessive solidity, rest.


Fire and Water.

Slight weight, some subtlety, intense and rapid motion.

Fire and Air.

Great heat, intense lightness, slight brilliance, intense subtlety, intense motion.

Fire and Earth.

Great dryness, slight obscurity.

Water and Air.

Great moisture, intense motion.

Water and Earth.

Great cold, intense weight, intense obscurity, intense solidity.

Air and Earth.

Some weight, intense obscurity, little solidity, little motion.

Therefore the Stoics called the former ëpassives,í but the latter ëactives.í And Plato distinguishes them after another manner, and assigns to each of them three qualities, viz.:

To the Fire brightness, thinness and motion. To the Earth, darkness, thickness, and quietness. And according to these qualities the Elements of Fire and Earth are contrary. Now the other Elements borrow their qualities from these, so that the Air receives two qualities from the Fire, thinness and motion, and from the Earth one, darkness. In like manner, Water receives two qualities from the Earth, darkness and thickness; and from the Fire one, motion. But Fire is twice as thin as Air, thrice more moveable, and four times lighter. The Air is twice more bright, thrice more thin, and four times more moveable than Water. Therefore, as Fire is to Air, so is Air to Water, and Water to Earth. And again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is Water to Air, and Air to Fire. And this is the root and foundation of all bodies, natures, and wonderful works. And he who can know and thoroughly understand these qualities of the Elements and their mixtures shall bring to pass wonderful and astonishing things in Magic.

“Now each of these Elements has a threefold consideration, so that the number of four may make up the number of twelve; and by passing by the number of seven into ten, there may be a progress to the Supreme Unity upon which all virtue and wonderful things do depend. Of the first Order, are the pure Elements, which are neither compounded, changed, nor mixed, but are incorruptible and not of which but through which the virtues of all natural things are brought forth to act. No man is fully able to declare their Virtues, because they can do all things upon all things. He who remains ignorant of these, shall never be able to bring to pass any wonderful matter.

“Of the second order are Elements that are compounded, changeable and impure, yet such as may, by art, be reduced to their pure simplicity, whose virtue, when they are thus reduced, doth above all things perfect all occult and common operations of Nature; and these are the foundations of the whole of natural Magic.

“Of the third Order are those elements which originally and of themselves are not elements, but are twice compounded, various, and changeable unto another. These are the infallible medium, and are called the Middle Nature, or Soul of the Middle Nature; very few there are that understand the deep mysteries thereof. In them is, by means of certain numbers, degrees and orders, the perfection of every effect in what thing soever, whether natural, celestial, or super-celestial. They are full of wonders and mysteries, and are operative in Magic, natural or divine. For, from these, through them, proceeds the binding, loosing, and transmutation of all things – the knowledge and foretelling of things to come, also the expelling of evil and the gaining of Good Spirits. Let no one, therefore, without these three sorts of Elements, and the true knowledge thereof, be confident that he can work anything in the occult science of Magic and Nature.

“But whosoever shall know how to reduce those of one order into another, impure into pure, compounded into simple, and shall understand distinctly the nature, virtue, and power of them, into number, degrees and order, without dividing the substance, he shall easily attain to the knowledge and perfect operation of all natural things, and celestial secrets likewise; and this is the perfection of the Qabalah, which teaches all these before mentioned; and by a perfect knowledge thereof, we perform many rare and wonderful experiments. In the original and exemplary world all things are all in all. So also in this corporeal world. And the elements are not only in these inferior things; but are in the Heavens, in stars, in devils, in angels, and likewise in God Himself, the maker and original example of all things.

“Now it must be understood that in these inferior bodies the elements are gross and corruptible, but in the heavens they are, with their natures and virtues, after a celestial and more excellent manner than in sublunary things. For the firmness of the celestial earth is there without the grossness of water, and the agility of Air without exceeding its bounds. The heat of fire without burning, only shining, giving light and life to all things by its celestial heat.”

Now the successive effect of the passage of the Aces over the Stations above the place of a sign in the excitement of the Forces of that Sign may be readily calculated by the tables of the qualities of the elements simple and mixed, always being careful to take also into account the effect of the Throne upon the Season as well, and the nature of the Sign.

It is said that Kether is in Malkuth, and again, that Malkuth is in Kether but after another manner.

For downwards through the Four Worlds the Malkuth of the less material will be linked unto the Kether of the more material. From the Synthesis of the Ten corruscations of the AOUR (Light) proceedeth the influence unto EHEIEH, the Kether of Atziluth. And the connecting thread of the AIN SOPH is extended through the worlds of the Ten Sephiroth and is in every direction. As the Ten Sephiroth operate in each Sephirah, so will there be a KETHER in every MALKUTH, and MALKUTH in every KETHER. Thus:

Adonai Melekh – This will be the Malkuth of Atziluth.

Metatron – This will be the Kether of Briah.

Sandalphon – Metraton – Nephesch ha-Messiah – These will be the Malkuth of Briah.

Chaioth ha-Qadesh – This will be the Kether of Yetzirah.

Aschim – This will be the Malkuth of Yetzirah.

Rashith ha-Gilgalim – The Kether of Assiah.

Cholem Yesodoth – The Malkuth of Assiah.

Thaumiel – The Kether of the Qlippoth.

The symbol of the connection between MALKUTH of YETZIRAH and KETHER of ASSIAH will be of a form somewhat resembling that of an hour glass. The thread of the AIN SOPH before alluded to, traversing the center thereof, and forming the AIN SOPH connection between the Worlds:


So that the symbol of the connection between the two planes is this. And also the modus operandi of the translation of force from one plane into another is in this, and hence doth the title of the Sphere of Kether of Assiah signify the commencement of a whirling motion.

Now also, in the diagram of Minutum Mundum, there be four colors attributed unto Malkuth. Citrine, russet, olive, and black. And if we consider them as in a vertical sphere, we shall find citrine uppermost and horizontal, russet and olive midmost and vertical, black lowermost and horizontal.

And again, these four represent in a manner the operation of the four elements in Malkuth; for example:

Citrine – Air of Earth.

Russet – Fire of Earth.

Olive – Water of Earth.

Black – Earth of Earth.

From the diagram of the hour glass symbol it will be manifest then that MALKUTH of YETZIRAH will be the transmitter of the Yetziratic forces unto KETHER of ASSIAH, and that the latter will be the recipient thereof, and that the Hour-glass symbol or double cone, will be the translator from the one plane unto the other. Here, therefore, let us consider the Yetziratic nomenclature of the Tenth Path answering unto Malkuth, and of the First Path answering unto Kether.

The Tenth Path: It is called the Resplendent Intelligence and it is so-called because it is exalted above every head, and sitteth on the Throne of Binah, and it illuminateth the splendor of all the Lights, and it causeth the current of Influence to flow from the Knight of Countenances, i.e. Metatron.

The First Path: It is called the Wonderful or Hidden Intelligence (The Highest Crown) for it is the Light to cause to understand the Primordial without commencement, and it is the Primal Glory, for nothing created is worthy to follow out its essence.

Whence it is plain that MALKUTH is, as it were, the collector together and synthesis of all the forces in its plane or world. While KETHER being superior unto all else in its plane or world, will be the recipient and arranger of the forces from the plane beyond, so as to distribute them unto its subordinate Sephiroth in a duly ordered manner.

And therefore any force of the multitudinous and innumerable forces in Malkuth may act through the upper cone of the hour glass symbol, and by means of the lower one translate its operation into KETHER below, but its mode of transmission will be through the cones by the thread of the Am Soph, or of the Unformulated.

So that in the transmission of force between two worlds the Formulate must first become Unformulate, ere it can reformulate in new conditions. For it must be plain that a force formulated in one world, if translated into another will be unformulated, according to the laws of a plane different in nature. Even as water in its fluid state will be subject to different laws to those governing it when in the conditions of either ice or steam.

And as before said, there being in the Minutum Mundum diagram four chief elemental divisions of the Sephira MALKUTH, each of these will have its correlative formula of transmission unto the succeeding Kether. Hence also in the Order Tarot teaching is there the Dominion of the four Knaves of the Tarot pack around the North Pole. Why then is it that it is the Four Knaves answering unto the final Heh of YHVH, that are here placed, rather than the Four Kings, Queens or Knights, or one of each nature?

We are taught that these are the Vice Regents of the Name in the Four Worlds, and that they are thus attributed among the Sephiroth.

Yod – Chokmah and King.

Heh – Binah and Queen.

Vau – Tiphareth and Knight.

Heh (final) – Malkuth and Knave.

Now as Kether of Assiah is to receive from Malkuth of Yetzirah, it is necessary that in and about Kether there should be a force which partaketh of the nature of Malkuth, though more subtle and refined in nature. And therefore is it that the final Heh, or Knave force, has its dominion placed about Kether. They are so placed that they may attract from the Malkuth of the Higher and form the basis of action for the Aces. So that a refined matter may attract its like, and the spiritual forces may not lose themselves in the void, to produce but a mistaken and whirling destruction for want of a settled basis. And herein is the mutual formula in all things, of a spirit and of a body, seeing that each supplies unto each that wherein the other is lacking, yet herein also must there be a certain condition, otherwise the harmony will not be perfect. For unless the body be refined in nature, it will hinder the action of a spirit cognate unto it. And unless the spirit be willing to ally itself unto the body, the latter will be injured thereby and each will mutually react on the other.

e2Hourglass Connection of Malkuth and Kether.

Therefore, also, let the Adeptus Minor understand that there may be fault of the spirit as well as of the body, and that there is little difference between the material and sensuous person, and the envious, malicious and self-righteous person – save that from their being more subtle and less evident, the sins of the latter are more insidious than those of the former, though both are alike evil. But it is as necessary to govern the Spirit as to refine the body, and of what use is it to weaken the body by abstinence, if at the same time uncharitableness and spiritual pride are encouraged! It is simply translating one sin into another.

And therefore are the final Heh forces so necessary in Kether, as it is said in the Tenth Path of the Sepher Yetzirah: “It is so called because it is exalted above every head, and sitteth on the Throne of Binah.” Now, in the Tree, the two Sephiroth, Chokmah and Binah, are referred unto the Briatic World which is also called the Throne or vehicle, that is of the Atzilutic World unto which latter Kether is referred on the Tree. And referring unto the dominions of the Four Knaves, thou shalt find that in the sphere they include Chokmah and Binah as well as Kether.

Now there will be, not one, but four formulae of the application of the Four Forces of Malkuth, unto the revolution of the Aces in Kether, and these acting not singly but simultaneously and with a different degree of force.

Were Malkuth or Kether in the same plane or world the transmission of these forces from the one unto the other would proceed more or less in direct lines. In this case, seeing that Malkuth and Kether be in different planes or worlds, the lines of transmission of these forces are caught up and whirled about by the upper cone of the hour glass symbol into the vortex where through passeth the thread of the unformulated, i.e. the Am Soph. Thence they are projected in a whirling convolution (yet according unto their nature) through the lower cone of the hour glass symbol unto Kether.

Whence it resulteth that these formulae are of the nature of the Dragon, that is to say, moving in convolutions, and hence they are called the Dragon or Serpent Formulae.

Now imagining MALKUTH of Yetzirah to be in a vertical position above KETHER of Assiah, it will be plain that the whole of the black part of Malkuth will be towards Kether, but only a portion of the russet and olive parts, and that the citrine parts will be entirely removed and on the further side. Wherefore the natural operation of these four forces towards Kether will be: black, rather horizontal than vertical, and acting fully.

Citrine rather horizontal than vertical but acting at the edge of the circumference of Kether, and slightly rather than strongly. Russet and olive rather vertical than horizontal, and acting moderately.

Now these four formulae will imply four simultaneous movements in the revolution of the forces symbolized by the four Aces round the Northern Pole.

The first and most forcible in its immediate action will be that answering unto the Earth of Malkuth of Yetzirah, transmitting unto Kether of Assiah, and following the convolutions of the Constellation Draco. It is called the Direct or Creeping Formula and for this reason the Dragon may be wingless and footed as regards its symbolic representation. This formula has been thoroughly explained in the beginning of this section on the revolution of the Aces. In the expressions Earth of Malkuth, etc., it should be remembered that these do not imply pure but mixed elemental natures, seeing that Malkuth receiveth the ultimate effect of all the forces in the Tree of Life, even as the colors which be attributed thereto be not primaries, but tertiaries. Therefore each element in Malkuth will be counter-changed with others, even as the Kerubim in the Vision of Ezekiel have each, not one but four heads and counterchanged.

The second and least forcible in its immediate action will be the Dragon formula answering unto the Air of Malkuth of Yetzirah, transmitting unto Kether of Assiah, and following the convolutions of four serpents upon the four triplicities of the elements in the Zodiac or more properly speaking, upon the stations in the Dominions of the Knaves above them.


Now also the Throne in each Dominion is marked in the Book T as embracing more than a third of each dominion, because of the enduring effect of its force. This formula is also called the looped or Flying Formula, and hence the serpents may be represented footless, but winged. Its action is more round the circumference at its edge, than that of the other formulae. This formula of operation will be readily understood on reference to the diagram thereof, but more especially from the four diagrams showing the change of order and course of the aces. In this formula the heads of the four serpents will be above the four cardinal signs.

The Third Dragon Formula, moderately forcible in its immediate action, is that answering unto the Fire of Malkuth of Yetzirah, transmitting unto Kether of Assiah, and following the law of the attraction and repulsion of the elements of the triplicities of the Zodiac. This is also called the Leaping or Darting Formula, and its serpents may be represented both footed and winged – footed to represent the attraction of the elements, winged to represent the repulsion by the contrary elements. This formula is more vertical in action, while the preceding two are more horizontal as before shown.


This formula will be readily understood from the four diagrams thereof and also from those showing the change of order in the course of the Aces. As before the heads of the serpents rest upon the Stations above the Cardinal Signs.

The explanation of the course of one of the four serpents will be sufficient to explain the whole. Let us take that of Fire:

Fire is strongly attracted by the Station above Fire,

Fire is strongly repelled by the Station above Water,

Fire is slightly attracted by the Station above Air,

Fire is slightly repelled by the Station above Earth.


The Head rests on the Station above Aries.

The Serpent is repelled into the lower Cone by Pisces,

The Serpent is slightly attracted by Aquarius,

The Serpent is slightly attracted by Capricorn,

The Serpent is strongly attracted by Sagittarius,

The Serpent is strongly repelled by Scorpio,

The Serpent is slightly attracted by Libra,

The Serpent is slightly attracted by Virgo,

The Serpent is strongly attracted by Leo,

The Serpent is strongly repelled by Cancer,

The Serpent is slightly attracted by Gemini and Taurus.

The tail is strongly attracted by Aries, where it is united with the head again. (The course of the Four Serpents is shown in four different diagrams to avoid confusion.)


The fourth Dragon Formula and moderately forcible, is that answering unto the Water of MALKUTH of Yetzirah, transmitting into the KETHER of Assiah, and following the Law of the Zodiacal succession of the Signs in gradual Order. This is also called the Revolving or Flowing Formula, and its serpent may be represented neither winged nor footed, but with fins to symbolize its flowing movement. This formula will be more vertical in action, and can be readily understood from the diagram thereof, and from those showing the change of order in the course of the Aces.

This formula may be best symbolically represented by the four Aces revolving as in a smaller wheel upon a great circle whose body is composed of the powers of the twelve Signs, so that this latter in its turn revolves upon the stations above the Zodiac. The effect of the revolution of the Wheel of the Aces will be to excite by the Ace of Wands the Fiery Signs, by the Ace of Cups the Watery Signs, by the Ace of Swords the Airy Signs, and by the Ace of Pentacles the Earthy Signs. Yet through the forces of the revolution of the Serpent as well, the forces of the Aces will be in their turn modified by the zodiacal natures in the body of the Serpent.

And as before said the action of these formulae will be simultaneous though differing in degree, and of them all that first explained which followeth the convolutions of the Constellation Draco is the strongest in operation. And it is to be noted that in two of these formulae, the heads of the Serpents are with the Order of the Signs, and in the other two against the natural order of succession of them in the Zodiac.

Also the action of the Spirit of Malkuth of Yetzirah transmitting unto Kether of Assiah will equal that of continued vibratory rays, acting from the center to the circumference, and thus bringing into action the force from the “Thread of the Unformulate” MEZLA.

Recall that which is written in the Chapter of the Chariot – (Ezekiel, 1.45.)

“And I beheld, and lo! a tempestuous whirlwind came out from the North, a mighty cloud, and a fire violently whirling upon itself, and a splendor revolving upon itself, and from the midmost as an eye of brightness from the midst of the fire. And from the midmost the forms of the Four Chaioth.”

From  also at and TheCompleteGoldenDawnSystemOfMagicVol9.pdf