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The ability to cast spells is a gift that is as rare as it is powerful. While most individuals in the world possess large amounts of magical energy within them, only a fraction of those are able to control those energies, and manifest them into spells and the like. The Elemental Body is a representation of how the mortal body (in particular, the human body) is built and what elements it consists of. As Tariel was once ruled by the Elemental Lords before the arrival of the Creators, the world became dependent on the energies that the Planar Elements provided. Any beings who came after would be affected by this dependency, and as such most mortals to this day consist of mainly six elements.

The mortal body is built from the elements of Air, Water, Earth, Fire, Ethereal and Mana. The first four elements (otherwise known as the Planar Elements) are the result of the elemental powers the Elemental Lords infused into the world before their banishment. All living creatures consist of these four elements, and all living creatures need them to survive. Some theorize that the Planar Elements within the mortal body are what control and empathize emotions.
Ethereal is the element of spirituality and divinity. It provides the mortals with a link between themselves and the gods; something the Creators infused upon the mortal body to ensure their connection to most mortals. Though even so, Ethereal can also mean the connection between mortals and the spiritual powers of the world; of the spirits who existed in Tariel long before Creators and Elemental Lords ever came into power. In short, the Ethereal part of the body's elemental structure is what provides a mortal with a soul. Ethereal, in theory, allows a mortal to communicate with the gods; most typically through prayer. This is why some priests, with enough dedication to their chosen deity, can control powers temporarily granted to them by the gods.
It is the last element, Mana, which is the deciding factor as to if a mortal will be able to control magic. Mana represents the magical energies that surround the world, as well as the Mind. While a majority of mortals possess Mana, it is only a minimal amount. Most beings are unable to tap into the very core and power of their Mana supply, but those who can are known to possess a large amount of said Mana. This is what determines whether a mortal can control magic or not.

It is typically not noticeable until a mortal reaches an adolescent age, most commonly as soon as puberty hits.
This is when an individual's magical energies begin to manifest upon the Mind and Body, and the inner pool of Mana is unleashed and expands rapidly; hence why it is so important to learn how to control one's magical energies as soon as possible, or else any hope of controlling those energies rapidly decreases.

A person typically knows that they are magically empowered when they start to feel different; such as feeling slightly queasy or experiencing repeating headaches, or through visual hints such as flames appearing from their hands or eye-colours suddenly changing. Sometimes the changes are very subtle, and the affected person won't realize it for a longer time.

When an individual has gained access to his inner Mana source, he is thus also able, with the right amount of training, to access his other elemental powers. This is how a mage can cast, for example, fire spells even when there is no residual fire anywhere in the vicinity, and how priests are able to call upon the gods for favours and such. It should be noted that the latter example depends more on a person's Ethereal power than his Mana; hence why priests in general do not go around casting fire spells and the like, and instead depend on their soul's connecting to the greater spiritual and divine powers of the world and universe.

While the Elemental Body is a very precise model as to what elemental powers the mortal body consists of, it is worth noting that there are some exceptions to the model. Some mortal races only possess five elements instead of six; such as the Mel'zarai. And then there are the Dwarves who, while some are able to wield magic, are mostly very poor at spellcasting due to their much more dormant and miniscule Mana supply. The Torians, despite hailing from a world of much magic, appear to have lost all their connection to anything to do with magic and spiritual, and as a result are not affected by the prospects of the Elemental Body.