We have lots of mentions of the four primal elements in Twin Peaks. What do they mean? Why are they so powerful and how are they connected to the magic present in the series? This will explore the principles of Earth, Air, Fire and Water and how they are connected to Twin Peaks in obvious ways and less obvious ways. Some of the parallels that are drawn can be tenuous, but the author was trying to be as comprehensive as possible. Consulting websites normally used by magical practitioners provided some very illuminating connections in regards to the elemental magic found in Twin Peaks.
Air. Not only do we have the words from the Arm present in the Missing Pieces but we have many connections to air in Twin Peaks. The Arm said, “From Pure Air we descended, from Pure Air, going up and down, intercourse between the two worlds.” Then we also see The Part 8 Woodsman doing the exact thing. We see the wind and hear it in the sound effects. Lynch heard the wind and became inspired to seek out film as a medium. Lynch used wind as a descriptive word for Angelo Badalamenti to use when composing Laura Palmer’s theme and other music pieces in the series. The musical piece Windswept is so important in Season 3. Sound floats on the air. “There’s always music in the Air.” The fan brings Laura’s attacker in and takes her over. The vacuum machine is a fetish of Emory Battis. The Owls fly through the air.
These are the uses of Air, but what do they mean. Why is air so important to magic? What are the magical uses of Air?
According to Patricia Telesco, air is a masculine element so it’s no wonder that the “wind” takes over Laura when she’s lost in the woods and Bob in the diary uses wind against her. “In the dream I was walking through the woods out by the Pearl Lakes, and there was this very strong wind, but only around me. It was hot. The wind. And about twenty feet away from me there was this man with long hair and very large, callused hands. They were very rough and he held them out to me as he sang. His beard didn’t blow in the wind because the wind was only around me….Then he lifted his hands up in the air very, very high, like he was growing bigger and taller every minute, and as his hands went up, I felt the wind around me stop and everything went silent. I thought that he was letting me go because he could read my mind, at least it felt that way. And so when he stopped the wind with his hands like that, I thought he was letting me free, letting me go home.” (July 23,1984) This is also proven when Leland uses the fan. It is interesting that to use air magic, Telesco, and other magic user’s websites consulted, say that waving a hand fan over the altar is a recommended way to begin the practitioner’s spell. Almost like BOB/Leland is starting a spell over Laura.
The Element of Air according to the Magic Practitioners, also represents new beginnings and also is associated with the Cardinal direction of East. This is interesting as Laura was killed in the Eastern Half of the town thereby signaling the beginning of the show. Some of the characters which come from the East signify a new start or a freshness, including many of the FBI men who, though come from the Seattle offices, truly hail from Pennsylvania and DC, hence the East.
It is interesting to note that Witchipedia, in their compendium about the Element, said that Air is supposed to support “gathering of information, encouraging cooperation, communication (especially verbal).” In light of Season 3 and the Fireman, we were to “listen to the sounds.” In Dale’s first Red Room dream we were supposed to note that “the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.” It also noted that it was supposed to be good for luck spells. So perhaps there is something there about little images of the Lodge appearing in mid-air over the luckier slot machines in the Silver Mustang (also the color silver according to Wicca Living is a color associated with Air).
Air magic was also good for necromancy and the communication with the other realm (Telesco). So the fact that there is a forest called Ghostwood which lies in the East of the town is of note. Also a lot of the communication with the ghosts and spirits happens on a plane that is very airy and is accompanied by many odd sounds like clanging (as in Baladamenti’s Red Room track), whistlings, bell tones (in the Great Northern).
Other interesting associations is how the soul of the little boy flew up into “the upper air, aether, was tied [to the ancient Greeks] to the soul and the human psyche.” (Telesco). Sometimes the number 8, as associated with its numerological meaning of transformation, is connected to air. It is interesting then that the now airy Philip Jeffries uses this number for Judy’s number. It is sometimes associated with the planet of Jupiter (as in Jupiter and Saturn). The pine tree is a plant associated with air. This is interesting that air is a masculine element and with its connections with Pine, and a possible connection to Margaret’s Ponderosa Pine log that some say either houses her Husband or is a medium for the Fireman. The clouds are also associated with air, so the new beginning granted to Norma and Ed was signified by clouds zooming across the screen.
The reed and wind instruments are associated with the Air. So is it any wonder that the magical Dance of the Dream Man, the song Windswept, or the lost in the woods portion of Laura’s theme have heavy reed/wind instrument usage?
There are also some complications with Air’s connection to Twin Peaks and that comes in its association to Tarot suits. It is either associated with the Wands Suit or the Swords Suit (interesting that the sword bifurcates a pine, two very masculine images in the Bookhouse Boys insignia). When the tarot morphed into common playing cards the wands and swords changed to Clubs and Spades respectively. With Windom Earle putting three of Twin Peaks’s Beauties and Dale himself on Cards, it is interesting to draw connections to elemental magic there too. If Air means Spades that means Windom was thinking Shelly and Dale represented Airy qualities. If it was Clubs, that means Donna’s the airy one. Neither sound like Airy personalities. Donna was the “fresh, young innocent” at the beginning of the series, but air always helps in communication and she definitely had problems communicating with others. Shelly has a definite impermanence about her, especially with her constant changing tastes in men, but she isn’t the luckiest woman in the world. Dale has a lot of Air energy about him, so this may truly connect Spades, Swords, and Air but not so much with the ladies.
There are some negative associations with Air in Twin Peaks, as well. Since air does signify new beginnings, the new beginnings don’t always have to be positive, the new beginning signified by the “Descended from Air” Woodsman in Part 8 gave Sarah a frogmoth (a flying creature) lodged in her. The Murderer is revealed in a heavy storm. It also signifies changing and in every iteration of Twin Peaks, change happens rather quickly, sometimes too quickly for characters to catch up with.
“Fire Walk With Me.” The Mill Fire. All the quotes. Electricity as a form of fire. All the close ups of fire during the series. Fire is an obvious symbol in Twin Peaks but what does fire mean in the world of magic? Are their deeper meanings?
The magic of Fire in Twin Peaks has been properly explained to us fans well. We do know it’s power, its danger, its difficulty to work with, its purifying properties, its connection to sexuality and love, its dual natures of creativeness and destructiveness. But there are some interesting parallels that bear exploration. Telesco notes, “As with any magick, fire is but a tool. You are still the enabler. Please be careful and wise. Let your fires burn slowly, and tend them well so that they don’t go out, nor spark something that you did not intend.” This advice is reminiscent of Margaret’s advice to Laura in Fire Walk with Me about when this fire starts it’s very hard to put out. It’s also interesting to note that she touched Laura’s forehead. The head was associated with Fire, so it’s interesting that Windom’s fire exited from his head in Episode 29 and in Part 8, Laura’s orb came out of the golden fire of creativity from the Fireman’s head. (Witchipedia)
Fire also is represented with truth magic. The magic to reveal something and make it come out of the shadows. That’s why Leland’s reveal during a thunderstorm signaled a new beginning of the show. The combination of the new start of Air and the burning quality of the Fiery lightning combined to reveal what was truly hidden in the shadows. It’s interesting that according to Witchipedia “Fire magic can be used to activate oils.” Oils are also fiery. So the burnt engine oil which was used for fire magic but was probably activated by it as well. So is the golden oil at the Fireman’s portal.
It’s also a masculine element which is logical considering how many men use “fire magic” or plain old fire against women in Twin Peaks. Men like Leland, Leo and Ben for example use fire against women. Of course Norma being a wiz in the kitchen is also using the element of fire for her efforts in a positive way.
Fire is associated with the Cardinal direction of the South. This is interesting when considering that many of the negative things that come into Twin Peaks or happen in the show originate in the south. The Novik’s move to southern-laying New Mexico introduces a fire to their family which they can’t put out. Teresa’s death happens in the south. (Maybe even the negative event of the Ghostwood fire that eventually kills Margaret’s husband starts in the south).
A few more notes about the magic of Fire. Again, the same problem exists in the Tarot because the Swords or Wands are debated for Fire. Again, neither Dale or the ladies really fit Fire much, except Donna, maybe as she was so close to the Fire of the Palmer family. But it’s also interesting that it’s connected to the desert. Carrie is trapped in a fiery desert town full of deadly masculine energy; the Las Vegas strip is surrounded by fiery deserts. Deserts are very much a part of Season 3. Perhaps it’s just the way to signify how Fire is consuming everything in Season 3 and how there is “Fire where [we] are going.” Remember, according to Wicca Living, “Fire can be extinguished by any other element, but it is also the only Element that must have another substance to consume in order to maintain its existence.” So Fire magic must always consume something in order to work.
“This is the Water, this is the Well, Drink full and descend, the Horse is the White of the Eyes and dark within.” White Tail Falls. Bob exiting Leland using water. Teresa and Laura’s bodies being borne by water. The concentration of water imagery in Dispute between Brothers. The many fish of Twin Peaks.
We all know that water is transmutable. It flows. It is a cleansing element. It quenches thirst. But the magic of Water is interesting. It is associated with the Moon and along with the Moon is associated with the feminine and the receptive. Therefore Laura being found in the water is interesting. The fact that the image that we were never supposed to ask about is stationed under the Moon is also of note. The receptive energies needed for the frogmoth to come into Sarah is connected to the Water element. Frogs are also a water animal; therefore the combination of air and water is merged with this beastly creature of the frogmoth.
Water is, as all magical elements are, connected to a cardinal direction. This time it’s West (are you noticing a pattern from where this essay started, it will make sense soon). It is interesting that the most pointed water element in the town, White Tail Falls is located in the West. Some potent transmuting magic happens under those falls, don’t they? The color blue (Lynch’s most carefully used color) is associated with water. We are always trained to look out for when blue is used. Dreams are associated with water, along with psychic awareness.
According to Witchipedia, “In many traditions, the soul travels westward after death. Many traditions also tell that the soul crosses water of some sort to go to the afterlife. Moving bodies of water are a good conduit for messages to those who have crossed over.” Therefore, it is interesting that Leland/BOB used the river to ferry both Laura and Teresa away after their almost ritualistic murders. Laura and Maddy end up somewhere westward of where their bodies initially traveled from. Dale also goes underneath the Water to proceed to the realm of the dead, if you take it that way, in Part 17.
The symbols of water are the chalice and the cauldron. Could a cup of coffee stand for a chalice? Or is the vast quantities of wine consumed by the Blue Rose Task Force supposed to signify them invoking the power of water? Again, as previously mentioned, many of these explorations are supposed to be exhaustive.
This comes back to the Tarot and thus Windom’s playing card. The Chalice suit in tarot transmuted into Hearts. Who was hearts? The eventual winner of the Miss Twin Peaks Contest. At the point that Windom presented the cards to Leo, there was no one on it, representing the transmutable nature of not knowing who the winner would eventually be, perhaps. When eventually it is Annie, her nature is very transmutable and feminine.
The Woods. Flora goods which are grown in the earth (corn, cherries, coffee beans, wheat for pies). We get earthy characters of Norma and Margaret. We get the sycamore. We get the engine oil which emerges from the Earth. We have Owl Cave in which we are literally encased in the Earth. We have the jade ring. The mountains.
Earth is another feminine element and another element that has creative properties. Wicca Living describes it as “grounding.” Telesco states that it’s utilitarian and constant. It covers the hearth, home, and material life. So is it any wonder why Pentacles/Diamonds is a natural choice for Audrey as both her choice at One Eyed Jacks and Windom’s scheme? She is of the material life. Also is it any wonder why the more maternal characters on the show, like Margaret and Norma, are described as earthy?
It is also interesting that this element honors ancestors and the Hornes are all about nostalgia. Emerald and Jade, the material girls of Invitation to Love, are named after gems associated with the element of Earth and used in Earth Magic. So is the Jade ring associated with Earth Magic too? The colors of brown, black and green are earth colors, like the title colors of Twin Peaks credits. The grain fruits (corn, oats, and wheat, all used in Twin Peaks in some fashion) are ruled by the Earth.
It is invoked from the cardinal directions of North. It’s interesting then that some of the strongest female personalities in Twin Peaks live in the North of town or above the town: Josie, Catherine, Blackie and Nancy.
Summing it up or Calling a Circle:
In ritual magic, it is often useful to call a circle to evoke and invoke the powers of all of these elements. Typically the practitioner also moves along with the directions to invoke each power at their cardinal point. But depending on what type of spell one is casting, according to most of the sources consulted, depends on what direction one moves in. If the practitioner moves from East clockwise to North (as this article did), then the spell will be a positive one. If the practitioner moves from the West counterclockwise (or widdershins) to the North, the spell is bound for negativity and probably dark spell of some sort. So it is interesting that chronologically the first invoking words uttered, “This is the water” begins with an invocation of the West and Water. Was the Woodsman moving widdershins? Or is it the case that the whole magic of the Black Lodge is widdershins magic, backwards magic? It’s also interesting to note that the whole town kind of forms a circle if Black Lakes are omitted. The Mountains in the North signify Earth. Ghostwood has its airy spirits in the East. Westernmost White Tail Falls has powerful water magic. But what of the south and fire. What lies in the south and is fiery? Maybe Big Ed’s Gas Farm?
The four major elements play a big part in Twin Peaks but they also help evoke some powerful magic and play an important part in the symbology and the uses of magic in the series.
Author note: She hopes that no Wiccans or other true magic practitioners are offended by the comparisons drawn or the use of their sacred symbols to draw connotations to magic found in a fictional show. No offense is at all intended and the author’s exploration is purely academic. If also the author’s interpretation is in error to how the practitioner understands their craft, she apologizes.
Patricia Telesco’s Wise Witches and Witchcraft. https://witchcraftandwitches.com.
Wicca Living. https://wiccaliving.com
Witchipedia https://witchipedia.com (all of its Elemental articles, written July 9, 2019)