As long as magic itself, one of the most fundamental abilities of a magician has been to attempt to control the four raw powers of the elemental system. The four refer to Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. The ability to feel these energies, understand them, and to move them is the study of the Elemental Mage. Throughout their practice different casters will experience different degrees of success no matter which art is practiced, but Elemental magic is often considered one of the most difficult arts to progress in and thus there are few practitioners. It is also difficult because of the nature of the magic itself: it deals purely with the real and tangible facets of the four elemental powers, not with the ethereal correspondences of the elements as an Enchanter would. As such, it tends to be seen as an "all or nothing" art where you clearly succeed or fail every time. Also, as a matter of practicality, few have a real need for this kind of power anymore (due to many of the necessities being provided for by technology) and thus the caste tends to be left behind, to a certain extent. Regardless of this fact, however, many have felt the call to gird themselves with elemental knowledge and harness the natural powers around them.
Focussing only on the physical manifestations of the four elements, each has unique uses and capabilities when properly applied. "Heat" energy, as we know it, is not perfectly synonymous with Fire magic. Though to an Elemental Mage the two are very similar, there is a missing aspect in the concept of heat which restricts it to this level. For the Elemental Mage, all things which produce heat are also giving off the mystical equivalent of heat energy. In this way, Fire energy can also be used to metaphysically detect things which produce heat, and even, in extreme circumstances, to focus the ethereal form of heat into a physical manifestation of flame itself, thus creating pure flame from seemingly nothing. Keeping in mind the physical principles governing combustion it becomes readily apparent why feats of this nature are rare, at best. Through enough practice and concentration, however, the Elemental mage learns how to absorb heat energy from all things around them, as a unified action, and bring it to bear against a target. This can be to warm the caster, to warm an inanimate target, or a friend. It can be used to find things generating heat, and to control preexisting sources of heat such as flame and mirage.
Air is another of the elemental manifestations, and is usually the first element an Elemental Mage finds control of. Due to its already volatile nature and tendency to change the Elemental Mage can find their first successes, usually, in attempts to change wind direction. Breezes can carry smell, keep away noxious fumes, cool the caster or something targetted by the caster, and may be the edge required to start a fire that just will not light. There are far too many uses of wind and air to be listed here; truly, we see the effects of wind every day, as even now we breathe the air and can describe what the wind conditions in our area are like. It can be used to regulate heat, it can affect our senses in various ways, and is an overall good place to start. Wind constantly moves, constantly changes, and in that spirit we may influence them without much resistance.
Earth, however, is the difficult counterbalance to Air. It is firm and reists all kinds of change, hence the Elemental Mage must exert themselves to a rare degree to find anything more than a nominal skill with this element. Earth is the foundation of most life, and by this merit it can be used to lend aid to dying plantlife, choke out undesired plantlife, sense creatures within the caster's spell range, and to basically know that which the earth would be able to relate (not as an intelligent entity, but as an extension of one's own senses, such as feeling the tremors of other animals, feeling the stability of a certain area to step on, etc.) Some Elemental Mages claim the ability to predict and cause certain events such as earthquake, famine, drought, siroccos, frost, snow, hail, sleet, fog, and other types of natural manifestation by making full use the the Earth element to gain knowledge and control of the environment.
Lastly, there is the practice of controlling the water. Water can be used in much the same way as Earth in that the tremors it carries can be interpretted by the Elemental Mage to extend their range of sensation and know things they would normally be oblivious to. Water abides in many of the things that we see daily. The air contains some, the ground contains some, and various materials or substances (including human flesh) have quantities in them. Elemental Magic concerning water can be seen in a great deal of cultures which still rely heavily on agriculture, and in the history of cultures which did. The "Rain Dance" is a prime example of water elemental magic at work. To cause rain to fall at will, or conversely, as the Biblical characters of Moses, Elijah, and the Two Prophets of Revelation 11, to cause it to stop is the baliwick of the elemental magician.
The abilites of the Elemental mage varies greatly, and intimate knowledge of the elements gives intimate knowledge of the physical world around and its innermost mechanics. To truly understand the world around an Elemental mage is only a matter of learning and harnessing the ways of nature.