As previously noted, the core of sorcery is manipulation of the six elements that make up all life in the world. The elements are: air, earth, fire, metal, water, and wood. Each is useful for particular spells and types of magic, and incapable of use for others. Under current Arcanum practices, every student of sorcery is required to study the basics of every element. Beyond the basics, they are free to choose one or more to specialize in, usually based on affinities, personality, or the role that the sorcerer wishes to play in society.
In the past, a sorcerer required a sample of the element to be called upon in hand. Quite literally. However, over the last millennium or so, sorcerers have learned to create or summon elements to them, not merely to manipulate them. Still, some elements are easier to employ than others. For instance, air is everywhere around us, except in rare cases. Likewise, water is all around, both in the air and in most living beings. On the other hand, wood or earth can be difficult to find, particularly in a skyscraper in a major city such as Hong Kong or New York. Metal has become easier in the modern era as it became plentiful and was used everywhere. Likewise, the inventions of mechanical lighters, matches, and even combustion engines has made the presence of fire more prevalent.
Some sorcerers cling to an old tradition that states the elements exist in binary oppositions—Air:Earth, Fire:Water, Metal:Wood—but this philosophy has been supplanted. Most in the modern world hold the view that the elements exist in a metaphysically, complementary balance. In this view, earth does not oppose air. Rather, earth’s grounded nature complements and makes up for air’s inherent flightiness and constant movement. Thus, the two work together to form a powerful balance of energy and strength.
The element air allows the sorcerer to clean, poison, move, and shape air. It also lets the sorcerer levitate and even fly in some cases. Air can be manipulated to decrease the rate at which the sorcerer, or another subject, falls. But, these are only the most obvious and elementary spells that air sorcerers are capable of. Air is also associated with all sorcery that involves movement of any sort, including freedom of movement or restricting a subject’s ability to move. Air is also the element associated with intellect, of all sorts. It can be used to enhance the intellect, memory, or information in general. Air sorcery can be employed to perform divinations and read omens. It has also been used for communications by aerial means and even mental or telepathic means. Finally, air is the element of the spirit, or soul if you prefer. It is said that some air sorcerers, the best and most skilled, are able to contact, travel to, and even manipulated spirits and the spirit realm.
Earth is the element of solidity, it anchors the other elements and the sorcerer. It is immovable and grounded. Earth sorcery controls the soil, precious gems, and rock. It allows a sorcerer to find her way anywhere in the world, on land, and to raise walls in no time. It ties the sorcerer to the Earth. According to legend, ancient earth sorcerers were even able to shape the land to their desires and call up earthquakes at will. Earth is also the element of matter. As such, it allows practitioners to create, shape, even reconstruct any form of matter, in theory, however they wish. The more artistically inclined often go into sculpting and other statuary. Combined with air sorcery, it is even possible for earth to create automatons of different sorts. Finally, earth is associated with the sensuality of both life and death. In this way, earth sorcery is often life or death aspected, depending on the proclivities, philosophy, and training of the sorcerer using it.
Fire is a powerful and useful element, but also one that can be difficult to control and direct. It is easy to lose control of fire and be consumed by it. Therefore, fire sorcerers need to master themselves as much as they master the element for the two are directly linked to each other. Fire wishes to burn and consume indiscriminately, so the trick is to focus it toward one’s desires. However, fire is the element of passion and energy. Thus, fire inflames and controls the passions of its users and their targets, should they wish it. Skilled sorcerers can also dampen the passions of others. Fire can, further, provide or absorb energy to and from others, leaving them frenetic or slothful, fueling other magics or spells, or dampening opposing sorcery. Those who study this element, or master it, tend to be very open emotionally or tightly controlled and seemingly emotionless, incredibly energetic or seemingly lazy, depending on their form of control.
Metal is a surprisingly versatile element. It is most commonly known as the element of strength and firmness. Metal is the element most commonly used for enchanted items, alongside earth (pottery) and wood. But, metal goes beyond control of its namesake and strength. It is also associated with determination and patient, including spells that enhance and affect both. Those who study the element of metal tend to become the armorers, inventors, and warriors of sorcerous society. The element also influences and affects matters of wealth, particularly wealth associated with precious metals. Those who wield metal sorcery possess and employ some of the magics and personalities of earth sorcerers. In fact, metal and earth sorcerers tend to either enjoy their similarities and relations or hate each other because their personalities are too similar to each other.
Water is fluid and adaptable, shaping itself to any container and wearing down even the most solid of materials. Students of this element control water, ice, and steam. However, water is also the element of change, which is why it was incorporated into the creation of the Guardians. In some ways, water is the element closest to chaos. It allows practitioners to change their appearance and form. Water is also the element associated with intuition and emotions, so it is adept at influencing the emotions of others. Water sorcerers can sway audiences with a handful of words or calm crowds with a song. They can become masters of controlling other people, even to the extent of permanent charms and loyalty. Water is also the healing element, used by the Arcanum’s greatest healers to cure illnesses and repair wounds. Some believe the use of water sorcery is the source of the Guardians’ regenerative capacity.
Wood is strong like earth and metal, yet flexible like water, yet not to the extent of either. It combines the best of earth and water into something wholly unique. It includes the sensuality of both and takes that into the area of fertility. For wood is the most fertile of the elements, the representation of life and growth at its best and most fecund. Despite its name, wood is capable of affecting both trees, living and dead, and any other plant life directly. Wood sorcerers are also able to affect the fertility of any animal, including humans and Guardians, as well as the strength of the same. Along with earth sorcerers, they seem to be at the forefront of the Society of Sensates among the Blue Order and play a role in the Black Order’s Serpent Circle next to water sorcerers. Conversely, wood sorcery tends to be rare among the White Order as it appears antithetical to that order.