Eclectic Elementals: The Magic & Spirituality of the Elements

This is not a specifically named, established path like Asatru, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Kemeticism, Wicca or Santeria. Yet the Elemental Path can be adapted to any traditional, reconstructionist or modern practice, and the Elements are indeed present and utilized in all traditions. It can also be, as it is for me, its own completely original, self-contained and self-defined path. It is the path of peeking behind all the named and well-presented curtains; of getting to the heart of All and of connecting to and honoring the mystical, essential building blocks of everything in existence, from the planet to our souls. No matter where your belief ultimately leads you or how you define it, the Elements are a part of it and, if nothing else, a great place to start.

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Meredith Everwhite

Meredith Everwhite

Meredith is an amateur writer and Tarot/oracle reader. Her own elemental affinity has led her to become a devoted water priestess and the creator of the website/blog The Oracle of Water where she shares and writes about all things aqueous in the worlds of metaphysics, spirituality and the occult. Currently pursuing her certification in Michelle Hanson’s seashell-based “Ocean Oracle”, she is also working to develop her own original water-themed divination system. She currently lives in North Carolina with her spritely feline familiar, Naia.  
Elementals and the Ineffable: Gods Not in Our Image

Man created God in his image. Before he (and I do mean he) decided to do that, humans venerated the powers and beings of Nature just as they were. They honored life-altering forces and powers that defied explanation, from the radiant rays of the Sun to the mysterious waters of woman’s womb, and all the delights and dangers of Nature in between.

These Nature spirits were held in the highest esteem, and propitiatory offerings were made to them. Occasionally, as the result of atmospheric conditions or the peculiar sensitiveness of the devotee, they became visible. Many authors wrote concerning them in terms which signify that they had actually beheld these inhabitants of Nature’s finer realms. A number of authorities are of the opinion that many of the gods worshiped by the pagans were elementals, for some of these invisibles were believed to be of commanding stature and magnificent deportment.” - Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Earlier humans were in awe of the thunderstorm. They saw all of creation in the glistening surface of the seemingly endless sea that supplied them with food, tools and decor. They listened to the lapping, splashing rivers and the tingling whispers and caresses of the winds. They knew that there was something moving them that moved in everything else, something they could not see, but rarely, that they could yet feel and see the result of.

There was once a greater sense of the ineffable – of that which is unknowable and unspeakable. Now humans are obsessed with themselves and with “knowing” and speaking, labeling, explaining, defining, compartmentalizing, and have been for ages.

They have also become obsessed with something that H.P. Blavatsky called blasphemous: anthropomorphism. She argued that if God is infinite and uncreated, then God is not a being but an incorporeal principle and therefore should not be anthropomorphized.

Despite the obsession with knowledge, humans don’t seem to understand how little they know, how little they are capable of knowing. Yet they have gone to war over what they think they know. Over what they believe.

Though these are impressions I’ve been having for a long time now, it was the recent encouragement I seemed to feel emanating from the fragments of a pre-Socratic philosopher named Xenophanes that got me finally writing this. He poignantly observed over 2,500 years ago that

Mortals suppose that gods are born, wear their own clothes and have a voice and body. Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black; Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired. But if horses or oxen or lions had hands or could draw with their hands and accomplish such works as men, horses would draw the figures of the gods as similar to horses, and the oxen as similar to oxen, and they would make the bodies of the sort which each of them had.

Xenophanes cautioned against misconceptions of the divine based on human tendencies and flaws, and supported a view of religion based more on rationality than on traditionally held beliefs. Yet he was not an atheist or humanist by any means. His almost mystical views and references to multiple gods, as well as the One God, “neither in form like unto mortals nor in thought”, confirm this.

I assume that most reading this might understand that “the gods” are metaphors and symbolic energies and that they have been (or should only be) anthropomorphized to make them more relatable and to serve as embodiments of certain forces and ideals to which we may aspire to emulate (let me here firmly exclude the contrarily wanton and immoral ancient Greek gods with whom Xenophanes was disgusted) or at least learn from. We have created them. It has become a circle, as our creations influence us and take on energies just as thought forms.

However, clearly many Pagans still heavily and pointedly anthropomorphize, dogmatize, name and strictly define and take the existence, forms and human characteristics of their gods every bit as literally as Christians do.

So many of us have crowed over the blatantly stolen and thinly veiled paganisms displayed in Catholic and other Christian rituals and practices. Yet I see an ironic amount of Christianity play out in many modern pagan writings, practices and attitudes.

It is no secret that most Pagans today have come screaming from Christianity or some offshoot thereof. So, it should be no surprise that many still bring with them much of the same attitude, belief, modes of worship and ritual, methods of “literalizing” and general understandings of deity and apply them to a pagan pantheon established by other mortals long dead, rather than to the decidedly masculine Christian “Trinity”, also established by other mortals long dead. Old habits die hard, after all.

I don’t think we need religion. Yet we don’t need to abandon notorious organized world religions to instead simply leaf through a catalog of alternative, indigenous spiritualities, gods and witchcraft and pick the regional aesthetic and system we like most (or a hodgepodge of several) and slap on the corresponding nametag either. At least not if we’re going to take every single thing as literally as Christians take everything in that old bugaboo, the Bible.

There are so many different names for the same thing. The One Thing, in fact. But also, many other things by which we are surrounded. 

There is a difference between Elementals and the One Thing; the Source; the original incomprehensible Universal Mind that is always becoming and never is. Yet the elements and the beings that inhabit them are a part and manifestation of that One; of what we mere, precious, silly humans, with our human opinions that Heraclitus called “toys for children”, cannot and will not ever begin to know or understand.

For, as my man Xenophanes says,

There never was nor will be a man who has certain knowledge about the gods and about all the things I speak of. Even if he should chance to say the complete truth, yet he himself knows not that it is so. But all may have their fancy.”

Indeed, Xeno. Let us have our fancies and our opinions, so long as we know that that is what they are, and that Zeus, Mithras, Jesus, Morrigan, Loki, Marduk, Amaterasu, Yemaya, Quetzalcoatl and the rest are just names. They are the creations of mortals. As such, they are little more than those names. But at their cores, what they represent and teach us are much, much more. 

The elements became “gods”. The sky above you is a god. The rains and rivers and oceans are gods. The flowers and the ladybugs that adorn them are gods. The mountain peaks and echoing caverns are gods. The trees, the animals, the flash of lightning and the howling winds are gods. All these things were so ages before any human deigned to give them - even the One - his own form and start naming them and saying what is so and what is not. None can say. None can know. We are surrounded by and composed of the magic of the ineffable and what we call God is not in our image.


© 2018 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved


Featured image: “Epiphany” 1940 by Max Ernst

References:
Insights into the Invisible World of Elemental Forces by H.P. Blavatsky
www.philaletheians.co.uk

The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
www.iep.utm.edu/xenoph/

Xenophanes of Colophon: Selected Fragments
people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/302/302xenof.htm

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Sound and Silence

The real in us is silent; the acquired is talkative.” – Kahlil Gibran

In my first post here, “An Introduction to Creating an Element-Based Spirituality”, I pointed out that Native American tribes, in addition to the four elements, also include in a fifth element of Sacred Sound. Shortly after I published that, it occurred to me that this was something I might want to verify.

I had remembered reading (or hearing) it some time ago in what I had believed to be a reliable source but now I can’t even remember where I read it or, by extension, just how reliable it may have been. Nor have I even been able to find any references or information online regarding any such specific belief.

Naturally, I know that sound is indeed sacred and powerful in Native American tribes and culture, as is illustrated by its use for healing (among many other spiritual contexts) via flutes and drums. I know that the Thunderbirds are sacred and dwell in the watery quarter of the West. I know that many vocables and wordless chants were also used for multiple purposes.

However, I’m no longer so sure that there actually was believed to be a fifth element of sound, per se, as far as any Native Americans were concerned. This served as a reminder to me of just how much modern, “New Age” and “Neopagan” information and enthusiasm regarding Native American spirituality, while usually well intentioned, is often simply completely erroneous.

I am loath to spread misinformation or fall victim to misappropriation (these days often unfortunately confused with the relatively less harmful and seemingly inevitable term and action of “appropriation”), so unless anyone can comment and maybe enlighten me as to where I may have heard/read this or if it actually has any basis in truth, I will have to clarify that, while a nice idea, it may not be contextually accurate.

That being said, Sound is still a very powerful and sacred force and my search to correct myself led me to reflect on it and realize that maybe it can still be considered a sort of element. On the same token then, so too is Silence.

Many creation stories have to do with sound, a word or words being used to create realms and life. Or to destroy them. In the Finnish epic poem, Kalevala, the main hero is called a wizard and a minstrel, and his famous singing of legendary songs leads a young rival from the North to challenge him to a fantastic, mountain-crumbling, ocean-heaving duel of magical songs and chants that have power of their own.

Sound is vibration, more technically defined as pressure change, particle displacement, and simply the changing motion of molecules through matter. So, sound has the power to influence or create, but sound itself is the result of something else that already exists and that is moving and vibrating, thus putting out compression waves. Creating sound is a great power. In all our different practices we all know about names, words of power, of sacred songs, chants, mantras, etc.

We also know, at least on some level, that even all of our everyday words have power. Yet this seems to be something easily forgotten, particularly in an age where communication is made faster and easier all the time, yet ironically leads to more communications breakdowns and misunderstandings. “Raise your vibrations” is first accomplished by raising your standards of both behavior and speech, both of which put out and define your vibe.

How often do even the most intuitive, learned and “enlightened” of us still say things we don’t mean, things that hurt others, or that attract energy we’d rather not want? Probably far more than a lot of us realize. Perhaps you’ve known someone who simply loves to hear the sound of their own voice, someone who will carry on and on talking about everything they (think they) know, everything this god told them or that they read in that book or this UPG or that thing that so-and-so claims that is actually bullshit, so on and so forth? Or have you simply had your heart broken or your world turned upside-down by hateful or false words?

Well, ‘tis the season to be silent. Literally. We’re coming into Winter now, a time when life slows down (in theory, natural life anyway), much life even ceases, blankets of snow muffle the Earth and fluid, babbling water freezes up into her solid, silent form.




Water is a very relevant element this time of year. It is the only element – pretty much the only thing – that exists in three different states: solid, liquid and gaseous. What if we would truly “be like water”? What if we allowed ourselves to shift and adapt more naturally, to really mirror the energy of the season, to know when to flow and when to freeze? When to speak and when to be silent? There is such power in sound and speech, and there is just as much power in silence; in knowing when not to speak or make sound.

When was the last time you sat in complete silence for an extended period of time? I realize I might be putting the question to the wrong crowd, albeit rhetorical, assuming that many of you do indeed meditate in silence regularly, or otherwise spend significant time not talking, not typing away texts or emails, not blaring music or a show in the background. However, I think we could always use even more silence.

This is an overstimulating age in which so many people are competing to be heard, in which we often can’t go to any social setting and have conversations without everyone talking over and interrupting each other. There is still a general desire, even expectation, to fill everything up with sound, noise, talk, busy-ness, distractions. Much of this gives many people, or is the result of, an inflated sense of self-importance. Mankind in general has a terribly grandiose sense of self-importance and feels like it just needs to make noise because it can, like an infant shrieking while discovering its own voice.

Winter humbles us. Winter silences us. Winter wants us to go inward, to reflect, to think, to really know ourselves long before we start opening our mouths and letting all kinds of energy and noise spill forth. We need to learn our truths instead of trying to tell others what theirs are or should be, in any way. We need to know how little we know, and understand that even what we do know doesn’t have to be shouted out all the time. We need to enjoy the sound of silence.


After all, as Maurice Switzer put it, "It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt of it."


Featured image: The Hermit (detail, enhanced) by Pamela Colman-Smith
"Seasons - Winter" by Erté

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True Samhain & New Moon Oracle of Water

October 31st may be Halloween, but it is not Samhain. It is but an arbitrary date and day like any other in a modern, man-contrived and Vatican-imposed calendar. The cross-quarter days – the days halfway between the Solstices and Equinoxes – astronomically and astrologically occur at 15° of the sign of the season. Tomorrow, November 7, is when the real Samhain energy wells and flows, and when the floodgates between this world and the Other are truly open.

Water is the element that has all dominion over this powerful time. On this true Samhain day, the Sun reaches 15° of Scorpio and is joined by the Moon; the invisible, submerged New Moon. It is also Jupiter’s final moment at the critical degree of Scorpio before moving into its second home of Sagittarius. The Moon forms a favorable, creative trine to Neptune, that supreme ocean lord whose power is currently enhanced by retrograde motion his own home, shared with Jupiter, of Pisces. This Moon also creates opportunities being sextile to the chthonic water-dweller, and younger ruler of Scorpio, Pluto.

Water is my path and my deity. My way is the flow of the Daughter River to the Mother Sea, where the sweet, fresh waters that quench us mingle with the salty womb that bore us; the way of the falling rain, the fleeting morning dew and mists. I listen to the Water and I speak for Her.

This Samhain’s message and lesson comes from both the sweet waters and the salted.

The energy and power of Water reaches its darkest, deepest fathoms in the fixed water sign, the sign of upheaval and transformation, secrecy, deception and death. The salt of the benthic womb of She who is both Mother and Destroyer - Tiamat, Thalassa, Yemaya, Ran – gathers into eerie brine pools at the bottom of the oceans, into the most intense concentration of that essential substance. These dense pools are like submerged salt lakes, existing at the edge of comprehension where underwater shores form one of the most mind-bending between spaces on Earth.

It is from this realm that the first message comes, from the primeval matrix best represented by the dragon goddess and coiled serpent, Tiamat, the Sea Herself.

In the somewhat Lovecraftian, so-named Grimoire of Tiamat, Asenath Masen states that “…the salty waters of seas and oceans can hardly be considered a nourishing substance. They do not quench the thirst of living beings and they do not make the crops grow. The waters of Tiamat are dissolving, corroding, poisonous and deadly.”

While an understandable point in context, to an extent, this is not altogether true. There are some living things that do not have thirst to quench. There are some living things that are indeed nourished by the deep salt of the sea. The waters of Tiamat are not poisonous and deadly to everything.

Much life is to be found at the sweltering mouths of hydrothermal vents, as well as at the shores of the staggeringly saline brine pools, even though they can be toxic to some marine animals. These few creatures to whom they are not toxic, however, exist and are called extremophiles. It is from these submarine shores and these extreme creatures that we receive a powerful message…

You are all living in extreme times. Many of you are living in extreme conditions, be they literal, physical surroundings and circumstances, or intense, extreme emotional states. These are likely the most burdensome and noxious emotions that are running highest and burning you out – fear, anger, hatred, depression, anxiety, regret, sorrow, loneliness, and all manner of loss that is the result of unwanted change.

But not all that is corroded and dissolved by change need be mourned or missed. There is much to be learned and to be gained from extreme states. Some of you will be poisoned and defeated by them and others will grow through them.

You must learn to adapt and to navigate the harshest conditions with confidence and self-control. Be present in all that you are experiencing and feeling, and find the balance between embracing and understanding those feelings - even the most painful and uncomfortable ones - and thriving in spite of them. Or because of them.

Rise above and beyond what you think simple society or any pretender is expecting of you. Look at yourself and ask what you expect of yourself, and why, and learn to be true no matter who may end up judging or shunning you. Know that those who do so are not worth your time as long as you stand in truth.

Transformation has nothing to do pleasing others, or with lowering or weakening yourself. It is for, by, through and because of the Self. Transformation is a choice, but one that may be made for you if you don’t find that balance.



"Rhinemaidens" detail, by Maxfield Parrish



But there is a light overhead. There is peace and passionate renewal to be found after enduring and rising above the turmoil. In the second part of the message, the fresh rivers, lakes and the falling autumn rains ask us to then surrender, to simply…

Rise up.
Let go.
Breathe.
Flow.


You have been like the monkey who got his open, slender hand into the narrow trap but will not release the petty prize in his closed fist which is now too large to let him escape. It is time to release your death grip on all that is trapping you in your pain, your sorrow, your anger, your illusion, your delusion. Give up the game. Relax and let go.

Sometimes your best laid plans and intentions are simply not meant to be. It is time to drift with the currents of life and trust that the cosmic rivers will carry you to safer, sweeter shores.

Perhaps you have been obsessing over everyone else and what they are doing. You may be worrying about everyone but yourself. You cannot control them. You can only control yourself, your reactions and your choices.

Soon you will heal and you will dwell by the waters of life that glisten in the Sun, no longer toiling or sorrowing deep in the stinging, extreme crucibles of Fire and Water that are forming you into the diamond you are meant to become.


May you bravely dive down deep into the sea of transformation during this Samhain time, and in so doing rise up and connect to your higher self and the higher truths that are ever reflected in and carried by the primordial, cosmic waters that flow all around us here on Earth.


Cross-posted to The Oracle of Water, with additional images -

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Leave the Leaves Alone!

When your heart is heavy and needs to be uplifted, when your head is muddled and needs to be cleared, what better way to achieve those needs than to get out into the fresh, crisp autumn air for a leisurely walk?

The sky is bright blue and invigorating after two days of soothing overcast and rain, the cotton clouds are swift and shapely, and an enchanting breeze is singing through the lofty boughs of multi-colored trees...

Ah, all the elements are alive and stirring! What message has the wind for me? What words of wisdom and comfort can I hear in the dancing branches of the tr -

BRRRRRRRR! BRRR, BRRRRR, BRRR! BRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Not just one invasive, pervasive leaf-blower on one block, not just two over the course of a few blocks…but seemingly endless leaf-blowers on any and every block! Leaf-blowers, leaf-blowers everywhere! And nothing else to hear!

Have none of you anything better to do on such a gorgeous afternoon? And just what is it you are even accomplishing?

Here is one guy (always a guy) just standing in his yard, blowing a small pile of leaves over the curb and into the street. Here is another a couple blocks later, I kid you not, just standing in the street and blowing a small pile of leaves over the curb and into his yard!

There are others on those blocks over there that I can’t see, but oh I can hear them, and what difference does it make which direction they’re blowing the leaves that the blessed wind is going to scatter however it wants as soon as they’re done?

What are you accomplishing and why? Is it a contradictory idle chore because you truly don’t have anything better to do? Is it a male thing? A "muggle" thing? A male muggle thing? Is it the pleasure of holding and pointing around yet another phallic tool and having even a modicum of fleeting control over one tiny, yet ubiquitous, part of nature?

Is it because those cheeky leaves can’t just lay where they fall, not on your watch? Are the ones in the street blocking that Escalade from getting through? Are the ones in your yard upsetting your dog and making him bark? Surely you want the leaves to do their job and decompose on your lawn and nourish your trees' roots and other growing things, right? No..?

Why can’t the leaves be left alone? And for the love of the gods, why the noise? Ever hear of a rake? Why the endless, merciless, accosting noise pollution, needless burning of fuel and the wasted minutes of barely rearranging the precious jewels of autumn? Can the leaves have no peace? Can I? 

If you want to truly enjoy the season, if you want to connect with nature and hear her subtle whispers, or if you even care enough to let others do the same, then please, I beg you…

Just leave the leaves alone!


© 2018 Meredith Everwhite - All Rights Reserved

Featured image: "Fire Red and Gold" by Eyvind Earle

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Ethereal Ways 2: Ilmatar, Goddess of Ether

If you were to ask your average pagan what deities come to mind in connection to any of the four main elements, most would probably have at least a couple ideas, if not a plethora. But does anyone in particular come to mind regarding the element of Ether?

As wonderful synchronicity would have it, I recently discovered a beautiful goddess who is in fact called “Ether’s Daughter”. Her name is Ilmatar, and she is the primordial mother of creation in Finnish mythology.

If you are enough of a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you may be aware that today, October 25th, is the day that the Council of Elrond occurred at Imladris. In honor of that (especially as we are in 2018 and the Council took place in their year of T.A. 3018!), it is most fitting to describe not only this elegant goddess, but how Professor Tolkien led me to discover her.

Tolkien’s Elvish language is strongly based upon Finnish, which is probably the most beautiful language I have ever heard and certainly it must have been to philologist Tolkien as well. Earlier this month, when I was watching the Appendices of the Extended Edition DVDs of the The Fellowship of the Ring, I was reminded of something I had learned when I saw them for the first time, years ago; that it was the epic Finnish poem Kalevala that largely inspired Tolkien to create the Elvish language and lore.

Somehow, I was finally really moved to actually look it up and read it. After sampling just the first few lines on the internet, where the poem can be found in its entirety in both English and Finnish, I knew I had to own a real copy and so ordered one the next day. I didn’t take me long at all to get a strongly intuitive sense of how much real magic and mystery was actually to be found within the lengthy text.

This was even confirmed for me by two 1888 reviews included at the beginning of the edition I had ordered, one from the Theosophical magazine The Path, as well as a review by Madame Blavatsky herself!  

The Path stated, “We have read the poem because it is full of Occultism and Magic, and shows the ancient Finns to have been believers in Reincarnation and other such theosophical doctrines. There is much in it drawn from ancient magic that will not be understood except by those who really know what true occultism is.”

In her review, Madame Blavatsky says, “The last proof in the universality in time and space of that grand system of philosophy, called by its disciples the Archaic Wisdom Religion, or the Secret Doctrine – comes to us from a little-known people, inhabiting a bleak, wild, and seldom-visited land. In the “Kalevala”, the national epic of Finland, we find many traces of the Archaic philosophy, some clear and luminous, others more veiled and hidden.”

The first runo, or rune, literally “poem”, is entitled “The Birth of Väinämöinen”, and tells mostly of that hero-shaman’s mother, Ilmatar, and the creation of the world before (and during and after) his birth.

In primeval times, a maiden,
Beauteous daughter of the Ether,
passed for ages her existence
In the great expanse of heaven,
O’er the prairies yet unfolded.
Wearisome the maiden growing,
Her existence sad and hopeless,
Thus alone to live for ages
In the infinite expanses
Of the air above the sea-foam,
In the fair out-stretching spaces,
In a solitude of ether,
She descended to the ocean,
Waves her coach and waves her pillow.

It is interesting to note that the primary elements named along with the anterior Ether are Air and Water. Perhaps we can surmise that those two elements are the ones most closely connected to, and alike in nature, the Ether. Many creation myths and their references to early forms of the world speak of an expanse of air, water or both; often a void and/or an abyss. Usually, no land is yet seen until the rest of the story unfolds.

Ilmatar’s name literally means “Female Spirit of Air”. She is also later named the “Water-Mother” when she becomes magically impregnated with Väinämöinen by nature itself, and gives birth to him into that primeval sea – the first water birth!

The element of fire mentioned in this first runo is within Ilmatar herself as she sits still in the sea to allow a wandering, hapless mother duck to lay her seven eggs upon her knee which rose like a hill out of the water.

Warmer grows the water around her,
Warmer is her bed in ocean,
While her knee with fire is kindled,
And her shoulders too are burning,
Fire in every vein is coursing.

The stiff, warming goddess cannot help but stir uncomfortably and so sends the seven cosmic eggs tumbling into the sea. They did not perish, but “transformed in wondrous beauty”, their fragments and contents forming the rest of the world.

Three different times are the directions of the movements of the three characters in this poem – Ilmatar, the duck, and Väinämöinen – described in a pointed order. Ilmatar swims east, then southward, west, then northward, creating a circle. The duck, searching for a place to lay her eggs, flies east, then west, then north then south, forming a cross. Finally, Ilmatar’s son and the primary hero and wizard of the rest of the epic, emerges into the sea from his mother’s womb and swims northward, then south, then eastward then west, also forming a cross but in a path opposite to that of the duck. This creates a well-known, beyond ancient symbol of an equal-armed cross inside a circle, which beautifully represents all of creation; all of life inside in the womb of the mother, and all the four elements inside the circle of Ether from whence they are born and which they also come together to form.

Use this symbol to meditate upon and connect to the beauteous, primeval maiden Ilmatar, as well as to all the elements and their sacred matrix, the Ether. She is a most comforting and empathetic mother goddess, who understands that

All this life is cold and dreary,
Painful here is every motion.

Or that, sometimes, it certainly can be.

We must begin at the beginning if we are to learn to harness the elements for magical workings or even to understand them, which of course we must do before we attempt to work with them. So many modern texts about elemental magic are seriously lacking in more than a passing reference to Ether, at least from what I have seen, so I hope this serves as at least an effective starting point to enlighten and inspire you.

By all means, visit www.sacred-texts.com and read this magical epic or buy a physical copy, which is always better!