1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Help me assign elements and animals

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Lea`Brooks, May 4, 2016.

    Just a quick question. I have four gods in my novel, and I'm trying to assign one of the four elements and a related animal to each of them. I obviously want them to be related to their magic, but I'm struggling with a couple. Here's what I got:

    Life/creation: earth, deer
    Death/destruction: water, snake
    Spirit/illusion: air, crow
    Time/precognition: fire, fox

    My issue is with the last two. Time could be related to air, but I keep seeing the Goddess of Time as a feisty deity with flaming red hair, and it's hard to separate her from fire. Other than that, I can't give a good reason why she would represent fire. Spirit could be related to fire (rebirth and all that), but the crow is related to air and is often considered to bring messages from the afterlife (which relates to spirits). And the crow is a very important part of my story, so I need it to be related to either Time or Spirit.

    Opinions? Does what I have make sense? Any better combinations? Any additional insight you may have? Please and thanks. :D
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Hmm... I don't think there's really any answer that's better than any other, as a lot of these concepts have had an awful lot of self-contradictory symbolism over the ages. But for what it's worth (2 cents), my thoughts:

    Life/creation I'd pair with either water (as in aqua vitae, water of life; water being pretty hard to live without) or earth (most life humans are familiar with springs up from the ground). Of the four animals, deer is probably the only real fit (to me, it's kinda the 'leftover' animal that doesn't have as obvious a symbolic connotation as the others), and probably works better with earth than water.

    Death/destruction could go with just about any of the elements (earth: we all return to the earth; fire is obviously a destructive force; air along the lines of 'disappearing into the ether'... actually now that I'm writing, I can't really see how water relates to death [other than drowning, but that's just one specific way of dying amongst plenty of others]). Of the animals, I have a hard time relating any but the crow to death. Crows have strong symbolism as harbingers of doom and gloom because they're carrion birds (and even if they're messengers from the afterlife... well that's as much about death as it is about spirit). I suppose snakes and foxes are both predatory though (foxes will kill absolutely everything they can, even when it's way in surplus of what they can eat).

    Spirit/illusion I'd pair with fire, hands down. Spirit, as in 'having a fire inside', 'fire in the belly', etc. And illusion in the way you can stare at a fire and imagine all kinds of little visions. Air would be a distant second to fire, as (like fire) it's intangible, just like spirit (c.f. earth, water). I think the fox works best for illusion; they're renowned as cunning, sly tricksters (particularly in the Japanese mythology, they have kitsune, a tricky spirit-fox thing). I think just about any animal can work for the concept of 'spirit' though. How about a naked mole rat as a spirit-based earth elemental?

    Time/precognition is a bit hard to place an element with, but probably water or fire as a) for 'time', they're dynamic things that change as time passes (well, flowing water does...) whereas earth and air are more constant, and b) for 'precognition' I think it's easier to imagine seeing visions of the future in a fire or in a reflection in water than... somehow in earth or air. I think the snake works best for time: it's hard to tell where a snake starts and finishes, just like time, and you have the ouroboros (snake eating its own tail) symbol that implies cyclicity and eternity and whatnot.

    So I suppose my consensus would be:

    Life/creation: earth, deer
    Death/destruction: air, crow
    Spirit/illusion: fire, fox
    Time/precognition: water, snake

    But that's just what occurs to me :) There are so many possible symbolic interpretations you could wangle most combinations (or just come up with your own and justify them in-universe!).

    Hopefully some food for thought anyway, and hopefully doesn't scupper what you'd already settled on. Good luck!
     
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  3. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    My choices, sticking to the same four animals, are:

    Time / precognition: earth, deer
    The phrase "sands of time" comes to mind

    Death / destruction: fire, fox
    Granted, any element can cause death and destruction, but fire is the first one I'd associate with it

    Life / creation: air, crow
    Oxygen is part of the air and is important for life

    Spirit / illusion: water, snake
    Vapours in the air can cause mirages that look like puddles of water and snakes have a mystical quality to them

    Opinions may vary, but it's quite easy to place these selections in almost any combination given the right arguments.
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I actually like your choices. And I like how they aren't entirely conventional to the real Western world. It's your own world I get a little bored of fantasy worlds following high levels of standard Western ideas.
    To give you a thing for time, it's actually quite simple. What does time allow for in the universe? Things to happen. Change. time is a dynamic force. It's a force of action, of excitement.
    I agree with the others that there is no wrong answer/s. Which is why you should use your pre-existing worldbuilding. Is there any relevant ideas and influences that might affect this choice? Are there any real world cultural elements your incorporating? Because they would be relevant.
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you! :D

    I had a talk with my husband and roommate about this after no one had responded. lol My roommate and husband both said air for Time, water for Earth, fire for Death, so I guess that left earth for Spirit? We didn't get that far. Anyway. After a short discussion, I said, "fuck it, I'm keeping what I have." And my roommate actually agreed with me. He said it's more refreshing to go against the norm and do my own thing, which I hadn't even considered.

    I'm not sure what you mean by relevant ideas and influence affecting my choice... But I did have a few ideas as to why these gods were over what they were. For example, I just can't desperate life from earth. I know water works too, I just can't do it. lol My Life Goddess has green skin and hair, bark on her shoulders, and antlers. The reason I paired Death with water is because I have one country that prays almost exclusively to him -- and it's a fishing country. I know water only brings death by drowning, but... I dunno. I really like the two together.

    As for Spirit and Time... I agree that Spirit should be fire. But I can't do it. lol The Goddess of Time is over fire. I don't have a choice. I see her, and that's who she is. A warrior with bright red hair, fighting with a lion at her side. I can't separate her from that image, no matter how hard I try. So then Spirit is air by default. Which is fine, because his personality fits the element.

    Like Sifunkle said, do my own thing and justify it (or not) in my universe. :D

    Thanks everyone!!
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I didn't say do spirit for fire. I explained how fire and foxes work for time as a force of change and motion and thus tied to dynamics. Spirit would also work for fire though. A lot of thing would work with a lot of them. Some combinations make more sense than others but hey.
    Also, some cultures actually do associate water with death in ways. The Slavic underworld ruler Veles was associated with it. "Flow of life into death" you see. And it's also something that deep and formless in the form of the ocean, which is the imagery and idea of the underworld in that culture.
     
  7. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh sorry. I didn't mean you said it. Sifunkle did. My bad. :p

    But yes, there are many different combinations that could work. But I think I'll stick with what I have. When you know, you know, yanno? ;)
     
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  8. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Justification for Fire == Life: Fire is not just a force of destruction, but of change and rebirth (clearing out the old so you can build the new).

    Water == Death: This one's a little harder. Water is a force that swamps and drowns and submerges; it's also ice. What is death, but being frozen in time, forever?

    This site might give you some ideas for animals.

    (By the way, when I was writing this up, I noticed a duality in the portfolios here - Death and Time (see here) vs. Life and Spirit. If you want to bring back the Goddess of Time, why not split Death's power - some of it goes to Life, and some to resurrect Time?)
     
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  9. Tobin
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    Tobin New Member

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    Water tends to figure in a lot of Afterlife mythos: the river Styx act as a boundary between Earth and the Underworld on Greek and Roman mythos; Egyptians, If I'm not mistaken, thought the Nile too acted as a barrier between them, while the Finnish Tuonela has the crossing of a river as a necessary step to reach the realm of the dead among what I remember from the top of my head.

    You can say water is often seen as a border between planes, generally with some supernatural being tasked with handling the passage of the souls (Death?)or/and as a force for purification and renovation If you see death as cyclic or benign.

    As for the snake, there's this huge snake in Norse mythology I forgot the name that surrounds the world, biting her own tail. You could try to interpret it as a cyclic symbol ("Ouroboros), but for a more explicit example Veles is a Slav god that was associated with water and death, and was snake-like.

    Time and fire is... well, fire has been associated with transmutation and transformation, all things that can be related to time. Or as "lighting" the future since you mentioned precognition, like a lighthouse of sorts.

    As for the fox I have no idea. Mozilla Firefox anyone? Lol.

    Nevertheless, you can always create your own symbolism. The ones we have today were created by someone afterall.

    Well, good lucky with your story and hope it helped.
     
  10. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    It's kind of difficult, because I can see all of these as aspects of each other. Like with Time: Earth to represent permanence and the past, Fire for instance and the present, Air for the unformed future, and the mutability of Water, flowing from one to the other. Same with the animals: the Deer for the turn of seasons, the Crow for memory and history, the Fox for forethought, and the Snake for personal change and transition.
     
  11. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    Well you could pull the myth about Prometheus into her coloration.
    Prometheus brought fire which the Gods had made and gave it to the humans.

    Prometheus was then sentenced to be chained to a mountain with the eagle eating his liver everyday. Caught in the same cycle for all eternity while the humans progressed and moved forward.
    Food for thought :)
     
  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Resurrecting this thread because I'm second guessing some of my choices.

    I'm sticking with fire for Time and earth for Life, but now I'm wondering if water and air should be switched. So then air would be related to Death and water for Spirit.

    The reason for this change is the appearance and location of the gods. When Death becomes overly powerful, he resembles the Grim Reaper, dark and misty, floating above the ground. And Spirit lives in the mountains, surrounded by ice, snow, and rivers.

    But other than that, I can't think of a way to justify Death being over air and Spirit being over water.

    Ideas?
     
  13. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I really love fire for Time. I know you aren't asking about that now, but reading through the thread from its beginning, I wanted to say that. It's very different and thrilling to think of the paralells between fire and time. I'm happy you're keeping that. Not that my opinion matters to your story, but it just made me glad.

    As for Death and Spirit, I think it could go either way. I initially liked water for Death, as the idea of being buried in water/the River Styx/ various connections of similiar thinking coming together in my mind at the pairing.

    But Death could easily go with air too. It prompts ideas like a dying breath, everything a person was vanishing into the air, howling winds, the misty veil that obscurs whatever happens after death. Bad air bringing sickness and disease, the withdrawing of air causing asphyxiation, how air accompanies all of us, every day of our lives without our being conscious of it - so death follows us until air fails us and he collects us.

    And Spirit being water conjurs images of the fluidity of the soul, the illusion of a watery mirage in a desert, one's own reflection on still water, how water is constantly changing and shifting, formless except in whatever contains it. You can't hold it in your hands (not well, anyway) and it's tangible but not solid, real but somehow not real.

    I don't know if that's helpful, but it is where my mind went when thinking of connections between the pairs. It sounds like your instincts have so far led you where your story needs to go, so I say trust yourself. If that's what you think needs to happen, go for it and see how it shakes out.
     
  14. Kerilum
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    Kerilum Member

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    I would honestly, instead of a snake, use a mouse to symbolize death. It always means disease and deadly uncleanliness.

    A snake I think would more with betrayal and slyness.
     
  15. Iain Sparrow
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    Iain Sparrow Senior Member

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    I would actually use a moth to symbolize death.
     
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  16. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you! That was incredibly helpful.

    I still can't decide if I want to change their elements or not.. But if I do, it's good to know what my options are!

    A moth is interesting... I hadn't considered that before. Thanks! :D
     
  17. froboy69
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    froboy69 Member

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    I've found that the best way to gain some ideas for animals in relation to elements depends on what culture you're pulling it from; I remember that in myths and legends, Europeans viewed the dragon as death and destruction where as Far Eastern cultures like China viewed the dragon holding a wealth of life and wisdom.

    I suppose it would depend where the setting of your world is influenced by but that should be something to consider. I've never heard of a moth to symbolize death but now that has me thinking...
     
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  18. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want Fire to represent time, then think about how all fire is a chamical reaction. All forces are reacting to each other, fire being one of the most exciting reactions. And time can be viewed as the bind of all these forces, as what allows them to react to each other in the first place. SO you can make it make sense, even if it isn't obvious how right away.
     
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  19. TheWriteWitch
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    TheWriteWitch Senior Member

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    I recently read that cicadas are symbols closely associated with time. They are dormant for long stretches of time and come out only when it is the optimal. It also might work with the association of fire because cicadas come out in the heat of summer?
     
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