The Elements

Spirits of the Elements

There are spirits associated with every element, flowing through the World and carrying out the natural processes of existence, and it is these that the practice of elemental magic calls upon. Most common and least powerful among them are the minor kami, and above them exist their older and more powerful kin, and the elemental dragons.

Minor Kami

Most numerous of the elemental spirits, the majority of kami are small and subtle creatures, shapeless accumulations of their element granted animation by the power of their spirit. Their awareness is basic, and their understanding of mortal ways is limited. They speak their own tongue, and will grant their power only to those who can address them in it, and who invoke their attention and blessing appropriately.

Major Kami

Those kami that grow old and powerful, or that emerge from potent confluences of their element, can become something greater than mere motes of elemental power, taking on more complex forms drawn from creatures and aspects of their element, and gaining a greater understanding of the world. They can sometimes even make themselves understood even by those who lack the ability to speak the kami's tongue, but they will still only grant their direct power to those who can.

Elemental Dragons

Dragons are the most significant embodiment of the elements. They are powerful spirits with dominion over their lesser kin, and unlike the kami, their awareness and understanding of the World is complex and nuanced. Their intellect is akin to that of Gods or Fortunes, and they understand mortal actions and motivations in ways that the kami do not. Their role is to govern and shepherd the lesser spirits of their element, and to watch over the natural order of the World and the World Beyond the World. They command respect from those who would borrow the power of the kami through elemental magic, and have been known to intercede against those who abuse such gifts, if they become aware of it. Elemental dragons respect and cooperate with the Gods, especially those of the Divine Court, but they do not answer to them. Dragons are able to speak freely with mortals, and are not limited to the tongue of the kami.


While flowing through the Universe, the elements shift back and forth between an active, yang state and a passive, yin state. Depending on the element, these can have very different properties. Maintaining the proper cycles of yin and yang is as important a duty of the elemental spirits as maintaining the cycles of element to element.

Air

Elemental Air:

Air surrounds everything, sensitive and reactive to all force. In its yin state, it is nearly impossible to pin down or capture; when one tries to grasp it, it slips through one’s fingers. When one tries to strike it, it parts before one’s blow and returns unharmed. It is invisible, concealing nothing within its depths. Passive Air supports the senses, permitting sight and conducting sound and smell to the observer.

In its yang state, Air is violent but unfocused. Air moves quickly, but with little force. It takes great effort to reach the heights of power other elements can command with ease. Air parts against force, rather than overcoming it, and carries on unhindered and unperturbed. Only that which it can lift up in its grip can it harm. But despite its relative lack of force, Air can grip many things, carrying with it small but deadly burdens, or impenetrable barriers against sight. In a violent state, air itself confounds sound and smell, leaving one dangerously unaware.

Kami of Air:

Air spirits are sensitive to change, but fickle; like the winds that they travel on, they rarely stay still, and they chafe at idleness. Their moment-to-moment awareness of their surroundings is nearly absolute, but they ascribe little importance static things, and their memory is as short as their attention span. They find stillness and weightiness displeasing, and enjoy things that are novel, and which they may cavort with and carry in their tenuous grip. Customary offerings include incense and other burnt offerings which produce a fragrant smoke, colourful feathers, bright, light ribbons and scarves, and high, light music, particularly from instruments that must be blown to play.

Air in the Body:

Air is essential for life, fueling the inner furnaces of the body which in turn drive the balanced processes of the other elements. Air enters on an inhaling breath, filling the lungs and stoking the Fire in the belly. When Air departs the body on an exhaling breath, it carries with it accumulated impurities, leaving the body refreshed. The cycle of breath is the root of physical cultivation, allowing the practitioner to refine all other aspects of their forms. Without breath, there is no life.

Traits of Air:

Awareness:

Just as Air touches all things lightly, sensitive to change but unfocused on any one aspect of its environment, Awareness represents a broad but shallow intake of external stimulus. It is the faculty that allows a person to detect things outside of the direct focus of their perception, to notice shifts, both in oneself, one’s environment, and one’s peers, without having to look for them. When something changes unexpectedly, whether a falling leaf or a momentary frown on a friend’s face, it is through Awareness that one may come to know of it.

Reflexes:

Air is omnipresent, and when roused to violent motion, its speed is the greatest among the elements, coursing with the celerity of the gale across the plain. When force is turned against it, Air is already gone, parting before the blow without thought or effort. Just as Air is impossible to strike, Reflexes represents a person’s physical ability to react instantly to change. Reflexive action is not powerful, but is as quick as lightning, and quicker than thought, allowing one to be where opposing force is not just as the breeze passes through a forest despite the grasping branches of the trees. When some action or motion must be accomplished in less than an instant without the interference of the mind, it is Reflexes that will allow it to be done.


Earth

Elemental Earth:

Earth is steady, stolid, and slow. And it is durable, suffering the constant erosion of the other elements without complaint. Earth rarely exerts itself, but when force is directed against it, that force is met with nearly impenetrable resistance. To fail to strike the Earth is impossible; to fail to harm it, inevitable— in its yin state, Earth turns aside all opposition directed against it with stoic resolve. But while passive Earth appears motionless, it is an illusion created by impatience, for the Earth endures against time as well as against strength, and moves with such slowness that the shift is imperceptible. In return for its patience, Earth is rewarded with overwhelming might, for though it may take millennia, only Earth has the power to heave towering mountains into the depths of the sky.

It takes incredible pressure for Earth to be roused to a yang state for even a fleeting moment, but in that moment, the force of the Earth is absolute, overwhelming all opposition with the speed and strength of the avalanche.

Kami of Earth:

Earth spirits are placid and stoic, and do not appreciate being disturbed. Silence and stillness suits their patient temperaments; to them, the events of a year are the concerns of a moment, and the concerns of a moment are as fleeting as the blink of an eye. Earth spirits seldom travel, as they are tied to the land in a way that spirits of other elements are not. Sudden change displeases them, and they enjoy things that will endure as they do, and which it takes great patience to create. Customary offerings include carved stone and wood, worked metal, and aged, preserved foods, particularly those grown underground.

Earth in the Body:

Earth is the foundation of the body, the frame within which the other elements commingle; it is the bellows through which Air blows, the pipes through which Water courses, and the furnace in which Fire roars. In turn, each of these acts upon the body’s Earth, allowing it animation and motion; Earth is the solid weight of muscle, sinew, and bone, brought to life by the fire in one’s nerves, the blood in one’s veins, and the breath in one’s lungs. When one practices physical cultivation, one sculpts one’s Earth like clay, using the other elements to refine base matter into a purer form.

Traits of Earth:

Willpower:

Like the patient, stoic calm of the Earth, Willpower is the mind’s ability to weather and withstand adversity. It is the stony bedrock of the personality. Fear, temptation, anger, pain, despair; all of these are fleeting against the enduring fortitude of the mind— and with sufficient mental discipline, they may never take hold at all. When one’s thoughts must be focused against outside influence, when one’s spirit must overcome the reluctance of the flesh, when the world commands one to move and one must answer no, it is Willpower that provides the strength.

Stamina:

Just as the Earth may be weathered by wind and wave and remain unbroken, so is Stamina the body’s shield against physical strain. It is the flinty endurance of a body ignoring external stress and its own limits: the slow, steady, imperturbable ability to exert oneself endlessly. When one must disdain all wounds, all exhaustion, all hindrance in the pursuit of continued effort, it is Stamina which will carry one forward.


Fire

Elemental Fire:

Fire is the most energetic of the elements, seeking constantly to grow and to spread, forever hungry for new fuel. Though it has little direct force, it has boundless energy. It dances and flickers with constant motion, throwing off light and heat as its excesses of vibrant energy overflow. In in its yang state, it is wild and aggressive, growing and expanding without regard for what it must burn. Provided with enough fuel, there is no limit to how great and hot active Fire may become. At the extreme, it becomes incredibly dangerous and destructive, burning with terrible heat and consuming all it touches with unceasing hunger.

In its yin state, Fire a smouldering ember, giving off only as much energy as it needs to maintain itself. Passive Fire creates heat and light enough to nourish, and little more. However, Fire yearns always to grow, and even in its passive state, it still has the potential to explode into aggressive and energetic motion at the slightest opportunity.

Kami of Fire:

Fire spirits are highly focused, forever concerned with feeding their never-ending hunger. In their endless quest to find fuel, they typically come to know a great deal about the world, but they rarely speak of what they know unless fed. Even then, they are wild and haughty, easily provoked and prone to extremes of attitude. If properly placated they can be among the most informative of spirits, but to negotiate with one is forever a tricky proposition. Fire kami appreciate rare or fine fuels, and environments in which they may grow, and dislike being penned in without good reason. They hate being starved or put at risk of being snuffed out, and will react with anger in such situations. Customary offerings include flammable materials of high quality or obscure provenance, such as expensive oils or rare woods. Objects which take great care to create are also appreciated, such as ritual candles or small items of burnable art.

Fire in the Body:

Fire is driving force of the body. It is the furnace in the belly and the lungs, burning food and drawing air to power the flow of chi in the body, firing the heart to pump blood and dancing across the nerves to give motion to the body’s Earth. When this Fire burns inefficiently, the body becomes slow and sluggish, and the other elements grow stagnant. When it burns efficiently, the body is supplied with boundless energy. When one cultivates the body, this Fire burns hotter on less fuel, permitting greater and greater physical acts.

Traits of Fire:

Intelligence:

Just as Fire moves swiftly and burns brightly, so too does the mind. Like a fire seeking new fuel, the mind consumes that which it touches on, and grows for being fed. So too, Intelligence is the energetic, hungry motion of the thoughts, dancing from idea to idea, burning the fuel of fact down to the coals of insight. When the mind must race to draw a conclusion, or to recall some distant fact, or act with fierce energy, it is Intelligence that allows it to be done.

Agility:

Like a wild and vibrant Fire, the body acts with energetic and aggressive motion. When the Fire in the body burns hot, flesh dances and darts like a flame; when the Fire is banked, it acts with precise and restrained motion, ever prepared to burst forth with greater energy. When the body must act with focused energy and speed, or with overwhelmingly fierce motion, it is through Agility that it acts.


Water

Elemental Water:

Water is fluid and adaptable. It has no shape of its own, instead conforming itself to its circumstances. In its yin state, it is clear and unperturbed, reflecting in its surface everything outside of itself. Passive Water seeks the path of least resistance, and where one part of it may go, the rest of it will following, finding and travelling through even the minutest and most obscure opening

It its yang state, Water is overwhelmingly strong. It flows around all obstructions, surrounding force with greater force and overcoming it. Like passive Water, active Water finds the path of least resistance, but active Water will transforms that path from a means of escape into a conduit for violent force. Active Water washes over and destroys everything lesser than itself, and erodes away at anything greater.

Kami of Water:

Water spirits are mercurial and changeable, and reflective of their environments, and of the way that they are approached. When calm, they are like a mirror, showing clear images of what they know, and of what they perceive of their questioner. When roused, they roil and cavort, obscuring the truth in their depths. Water kami are spirits of extremes, either in constant motion or placid and still, changing from liquid to ice to steam as their moods shift. They enjoy things that effect change upon their shape, or pure substances which may be suspended or dissolved into them, but dislike impurities. Customary offerings include fine inks or liquors, pure salts, tea leaves, floating objects with which they might play, such as paper boats or fresh flowers.

Water in the Body:

Water courses through the body as blood, sweat, tears, and other fluid humors. Propelled by the furnace of the Body’s Fire, it nourishes the limbs, carrying motive and healing energy throughout the body. When the body’s Fire burns hot, it helps to cool, and when the body’s Earth is torn, it helps to mend. When cultivated, it lends strength to the limbs and keenness to the senses.

Traits of Water:

Perception:

Just as Water will inevitably find the path of least resistance and pursue it, so will Perception find that which it seeks. When the senses are fluid and adaptable, they may take the shape of the world around them, conforming to circumstances in order to arrive at a perfect understanding of the truth. When the gaze must play across a scene to land upon the one minute detail of import, it is through Perception that it may be done.

Strength:

Like the tsunami, through Strength one may exert incredible force upon the world. As Water washes over anything lesser than it, so too may one bring their own might to bear upon all obstacles. When one must wield physical power to overcome or push aside material obstacles, it is with Strength that it is accomplished.


Void

The Void is beyond the physical. It is the unifying principle at the heart of existence, yin and yang in ultimate harmony, and the nothingness from which the universe was born and to which souls are able to return through attaining Enlightenment and transcending the Wheel of Reincarnation. The Void touches upon all things, and through it, all things are one. It is a well of limitless power, and by surfing upon it, the human spirit is capable of great and astounding feats.

Kami of Void:

Spirits of the Void are rare and enigmatic. They do not inhabit the natural world the way other elemental kami do, but appear in the Mortal World at times of great portent, attracted to moments and deeds of great spiritual significance. The ability to call upon them is exceedingly rare, and they have little love for material offerings, paying more heed to prayer and spiritual devotion. Their behaviour at times seems highly arbitrary, and it can be difficult to discern what pleases and displeases them, particularly given that they vary a great deal.

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