In BattleTech:

Elementals were the first power armor units that were seen in battlefields. They were a Clan invention (Clan Wolf, to be precise). The Clans bred, through their artificial breeding program, warriors specifically for power armor warfare.

Give 'em almost impenetratable, self-fixing armor plating, jump jets, a detachable SRM-2 launcher, laser and machine gun, and you have a fearsome opponent that can take out a lot of unarmored soldiers. A point (squad of five) of these armored warriors can also be dangerous against light BattleMechs!

Victor Ian Steiner-Davion thought, when first confronted with these things, that they had been attacked by an alien race. He called them "toads". Of course, later it turned out that they were just humans (with admittedly somewhat alien ways of thinking).

Elementals were, for long time, the only armored fighters on the battlefield. As with OmniMechs, it took some time for Inner Sphere to get on to the same technological level.

elemental : A lower order of spirit being that exists as the life-force in the natural world, whose task it is to maintain harmony. In occult lore, elementals are said to govern minerals, plants and animals; the four elements of earth, air, fire and water; the planets, stars, signs of the zodiac; and hours of the day and night. They are ruled by angels. Most are viewed as benevolent, though some are malicious or trickster-like in behavior.

The Neoplatonic Greeks grouped elementals according to the four elements of life. Earth elementals are gnomes, ruled by the angel Ariel; air elementals are sylphs, ruled by Cherub; water elementals are undines, ruled by Tharsis,; and fire elementals are salamanders, ruled by Nathaniel or Seraph. In the fifth century, Proclus added a fifth group which lives beneath the ground, and in the eleventh century, Psellus added a sixth group, the lucifugum, which means "fly-the-light."

The term "elemental" is applied to a broad range of spirit beings, also including elves, who live in the woods and along the seashore, and household spirits such as brownies, goblins, bogles and kobolds, and fairies.

Elementals appear in a variety of forms. Some are humnan-like, such as the dwarfish gnomes. Sylphs appear as butterflies and undines as waves. Some are more like angels, and area amorphous shapes of white light surrounded by flowing, colorful auras of energy. British Spiritualist Grace Cooke said that elementals enjoy human company, can understand human speech, and respond to music. They have their own karmic evolutions, progressing toward higher forms of life.

British medium Geraldine Cummins channeled information about elementals, purportedly from the deceased Frederic W. H. Myers, one of the founders of the Society for Psychical Research in London. In automatic writing, "Myers" described elementals as the essence which emanates from forms of life such as trees and plants, and which coalesces into a form perceived by the human mind as a sprite.
source for additional reading/information:

Hall, Manly P. Paracelsus: His Mystical and Medical Philosophy. Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, 1964.
Steiner, Rudolph. The Influence of Spiritual Beings Upon Man. Spring Valley, N.Y.: Anthoposophic Press, 1961.

Elementals are beings that are representative of the elements - especially the traditional four elements as found in Greek or Indian philosophy; earth; air; fire and water. These beings are something that appears to be, in my opinion, a demonstration of the way that the human mind more often than not likes to work with archetypes and to represent natural forces in a (roughly) anthropomorphic way. The abstract notion of an element is much easier to relate with, especially magickally, if it's in the form of an actual being, hence their commonality in Hermetic and alchemic texts. But the traditional four elements are only the basic bunch - in many philosophical systems there are others, such as wood, metal, space and consciousness etc. But could new ones develop in time?

Religious beliefs have changed over time, becoming more abstracted through history, and this is roughly indicated in the way in which the natural world has been personified and represented in religious and mythological terms. First nature was personified in a very direct way, with the likes of the Green Man and Pan being the mythological form - a very direct and personal way of relating to the world. But modern religions have a different way of approaching things, and God is a much more removed concept. The ultimate abstraction, since he's not actually a part of things in the Judeo-Christian description of the world. Although he may make his presence felt from time to time, he doesn't live in the nearby forest.

But the personification of things so that we can relate to them better is something that I think is very much alive and well. As we come into contact with new arenas of life and experience, we have to relate to them too, and may do so in the same way we have over thousands of years, albeit in an unconscious way. Inanimate objects, such as electrical goods and vehicles are given personalities, especially when they start acting up - when the gremlins have moved in.

Over the last century, humans have realised that our future may well lie outside this planet, and that we inhabit a small ball of rock in a massive and bewildering universe. So how have we dealt with this on murky level of the Collective Unconscious? I'd say what we've done is conjured a new elemental being with which to relate. One that represents the mysterious and possibly dangerous and unknowable nature of the cosmos. It's the alien, as typified these days by the Grey, that's become our new Space Elemental, becoming the personification of Out There, with its lack of emotions and its inky, black eyes.

El`e*men"tal (?), a.

1.

Pertaining to the elements, first principles, and primary ingredients, or to the four supposed elements of the material world; as, elemental air.

"Elemental strife."

Pope.

2.

Pertaining to rudiments or first principles; rudimentary; elementary.

"The elemental rules of erudition."

Cawthorn.

 

© Webster 1913.

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