This and the next post were replies to an email on a list, though I’ve removed the parts that are relevant only to the message I was replying to. I liked how I said what I said and figured I’d share it with anyone who wants to read it.
In Kabbalah, the way I was taught, the three elements are tied to the three Mothers in the Hebrew alphabet, Shin, Aleph, and Mem. The world began with the first Breath, G-d breathing into the universe and giving it life. Breath is words and words is breath, the world was spoken into being, the world is made of breath, the breath became sound, the sound, became letters, the letters became words, the words became creation. “Let there be light.” The Breath is the letter Heh. Heh is breathed more than spoken. Notice the similarities between the Hebrew Heh and Hawaiian Ha, breath and four. Kether, Crown is that Breath, Chokmah, Wisdom, breath from breath. In the Jewish Tree, Heh connects Kether and Chokmah. Chokmah is like Kether, and Binah, Understanding, reflects Chokmah. With Binah there were two, duality. Vev connects Kether and Binah. Vev is the hook that hangs the Veil in the Temple. Vev is And in Hebrew grammar. With Binah, there were two, Chokmah AND Binah, Abba and Imma, Father and Mother. But I digress.
G-d breathed into Adam, giving him life. That breath, that Ruach (wind, breath, Talker) gave life. The mud man became the living man. Just so, G-d breathed into the universe of Void and Chaos, which sounds a lot like mud in the Zohar, and gave it life. As above, so below; as below, so above.
The first Breath filled the void that is the Tzimtzum, the Contraction, the Womb of the Star Goddess. Breath is Air with heat and moisture, Fire and Water. Heat rises and water condenses on the lower surfaces, hence Fire rose above and water condensed below, leaving Air in the middle. Fire is Shin, the upper Mother, which connects Chokmah to Binah, and is the upper world, Atziluth, the World of Emanations. If you look at the form of the letter, Shin is three flames. It’s said that in the world to come, it will have four flames. Air is Aleph, the middle Mother, which connects Chesed to Geburah, and is Briah, the World of Creation. If you look at the form of Aleph, it is a bar with a Yod on each side. There’s other symbolism, but you can see it as Air being the bar, with Fire above and Water below. Water is Mem, the lower Mother, which connects Netzach to Hod, and is Yetzurah, the world of Forms, which is the Great Lower Sea, Binah being the Upper Sea. Mem literally means Water, but also the Womb. If you look at the form of Mem, the top looks like a wave on the sea.
Now, in Kabbalah, the masculine is that which gives and the feminine is that which receives. This is why G-d, who is both male and female, and neither, for there’s no duality at Kether and above, is seen as male. G-d gives and his Bride, Israel, receives. Heaven gives and the Earth receives. The metaphor is sexual. The male “gives” his penis, and the female receives it into her vagina. The male gives semen and the female receives it into her womb. In the Tree, above gives and below receives, so above is masculine and below is feminine. Kether is masculine to everything, and Malkuth is feminine to everything. For the rest, it’s relational. Chokmah is feminine in relation to Kether and masculine in relation to Chesed. Likewise, this is true left to right. Chokmah is masculine to Binah’s feminine. Which brings us to the Pillars.
The three Mothers rotate and become the three Pillars. So, the Pillar of Mercy, the Pillar of Chesed, is the Pillar of Fire. The Pillar of Severity, the Pillar of Geburah, is the Pillar of Water. And the Middle Pillar is the Pillar of Air. The Pillar of Mercy is masculine and is made up of Chokmah, Chesed, and Netzach. The Pillar of Severity is feminine and is made up of Binah, Geburah, and Hod. And the Middle Pillar stands between them, the balance. I’ve written a lot in my LiveJournal about the three Pillars, but most of it isn’t important here.
So, at least in Jewish Kabbalah, Netzach would be Fire and Hod Water. Of course, most of the attributes of Netzach are things that the modern Western world associate with feminine behaviour and traits, and most of the attributes of Hod are things that the modern Western world associate with masculine behaviours and traits, so many Westerners flip the two, making Netzach feminine and Water and Hod masculine and Fire. But this is because we have different cultural biases and stereotypes and don’t understand that everything is both male and female, Fire and Water, for all is in G-d, in the Star Goddess, and there is no duality in that True reality, only in the illusions of this world.