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An Elemental is a spirit embodying one of the (originally) five elements of antiquity: Earth (solid), Water (liquid), Wind (gas), Fire (heat), Aether (quintessence); however, many media forms also show other elements beyond these that an Elemental could also embody in that particular universe. The original four Elementals described by the alchemist Paracelsus are: Gnomes (earth), Undines (water), Sylphs (air) and Salamanders (fire).

Though most Elementals in modern media are shown as beings constructed of the element they embody (for instance, an Earth Elemental is usually depicted as being made of rocks or dirt), the term originally encompassed many mythical creatures no longer associated with Elementals. These include Fairies, Elves, Devas, Brownies, Leprechauns, Gnomes, Sprites, Pixies, Banshees, Goblins, Dryads, Mermaids, Trolls, Dragons, Griffins, and numerous others. These original nature spirits were governed by the Archangels. Like Angels, Elementals have a recognisable appearance consistently depicted by the archetypal language of art and literature. For example, it is easy to determine if a drawing is an Angel or a winged elemental. Angels have feathered bird-like wings and the winged Elementals have wings that look like a butterfly.

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