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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Elemental Spirits and Lore: The Thunderbird

Only those who have had visions of the thunder beings of the west can act as heyokas. They have sacred power and they share some of this with all the people, but they do it through funny actions. When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the west, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier, for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm.” – Black Elk Speaks, as told through John G. Neihardt, 1932

The thunder beings and the thunderbird(s) are synonymous throughout Native American lore and cultures. This powerful spirit associated with water, storms, holy powers and the West is known and revered among tribes from the Pacific northwest to the plains to the Eastern coasts, including the Sioux, Arapaho, Lenape, Cherokee, Iroquois, Ojibwe, Salish, Menominee and many others.

To me, the Thunderbird represents a veritable symphony of all elemental powers. To Native Americans he was and is at once that embodied force of nature as well as a mighty cryptid creature, even if that creature only exists in our imaginations and hearts, without which we may manifest nothing. Why then must “imaginary” be inherently exclusive of reality? There is often a very fine line between the two.

There are theories that the earliest ideas for the Thunderbird were inspired by discoveries of pterosaur fossils (not pterodactyl, which only applies to a specific genus of pterosaur), if not perhaps by sightings of late-existing actual pterosaurs or some similar megafauna.

Thunder beings of various kinds are known in cultures the world over, most of which are anthropomorphic e.g. Thor-Donar of Norse and Germanic lore, and Zeus-Jupiter of Greek and Roman mythology. However, speaking of Norse cosmology, there is also a great hawk or falcon named Veðrfölnir  (Old Norse for “storm pale”, often Anglicized as Vedfolnir and roughly pronounced as VETH-fol-neer) who sits between the eyes of an unnamed eagle perched atop Yggdrasil, the world tree. 

From its three great roots the tree attained such a marvelous height that its topmost bough, called Lerad (the peace-giver), overshadowed Odin’s hall, while the other wide-spreading branches towered over the other worlds. An eagle was perched on the bough Lerad, and between his eyes sat the falcon Vedfolnir, sending his piercing glances down into heaven, earth, and Nifl-heim, and reporting all that he saw.” – Myths of the Norsemen by Helene A. Guerber

Eagles, Hawks and Falcons are all connected to or representative of the Thunderbird, and all share many powers and roles in common across many different cultures. Hawks have been appearing to me more and more in the past few months, even appearing and soaring low right over my head immediately after I inadvertently called them to me by simply wishing to see them.

While they are most strongly associated specifically with the west, in some tribal traditions the thunderbirds dwell in every direction and they come with the spring. This has been the “Spring of the Thunderbird” for me. I have been going through a storm of changes, terrors, and pains for just over a year now, but this spring has been bringing big transformations and powerful messages. The storm is clearing and new life and growth are beginning.

While journeying to a Native American ancestor on my birthday this past April, I was told to “listen for the Thunderbird”. More did the hawks appear. Just a couple of weeks ago I was honored to drum for a shamanic journeying group and in the drumbeat I felt the beating, thundering wings. I called the Thunderbirds to the circle and they visited a friend I had invited who was formally journeying with a group for the first time, showing her visions of their sacred quarter of the West.

Days after that journey, I acquired and charged a thunderbird pendant, closing the ritual with a request to experience them and their power more. Not two minutes after I finished and put on the pendant, a gentle thunder rolled and rain suddenly fell from a previously crystal-blue sky on a day when no rain was expected. I ran outside and walked in the beautiful shower that swept through the neighborhood in but fifteen minutes, moving from west to east.

Am I being called to be a heyoka, a sacred trickster and holy woman? No, I don’t think so. Am I being called to finally step more fully into my power, the roles I am meant to play in this life and to accept my ancestral and elemental birthrights? Absolutely. For this is the core message Thunderbird brings to all he visits.


Thundersong

Falling rage and desolation

Blow and howl as a sacred storm.

Purge the anger and the hate

Let them be, then let them fly

Into a dark and thundering sky

Where all pours down as tears of release

That in mercy cleanse and purify.

Thunderbird beats his booming wings

The fire and lightning flash from his eyes.

The vision is a blessing, a bestowal of sacred power

Felt in the mightiest of storms

And the gentlest spring shower.

 

© 2019 Meredith Everwhite (article and poem) - All Rights Reserved

Featured Image: "Under Thunderbird's Protection" by Norval Morrisseau



 

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Meredith is an amateur writer, Tarot/oracle reader, and a semi-agnostic, pan/metatheistic, Pagan mage & mystic. Her 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, mythology and occultism. Currently pursuing her certification in Michelle Hanson’s seashell-based “Ocean Oracle”, she is also working to develop an original elemental-themed divination system. She currently lives in North Carolina with her spritely feline familiar, Naia.  

Comments

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 29 May 2019

    The Foundation for Shamanic Studies website had some articles on it. In one of them the author described going to meet a thunder being. The Thunder Being was angry with meteorologists treating him as only isobars on a map or barometric pressure. I don't think your being called to be a heyoka, but I do think your being called to express the animist reality of storms and birds of prey. I hope you find the multimedia approach that works right for you.

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Thursday, 30 May 2019

    I don't think I am either, as I said. Actually I know I'm not. That is a very specific and very powerful role that few have been or will be called to. But I'm not quite sure what you mean by the multimedia comment...

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Thursday, 30 May 2019

    I think the thunder beings and possibly the birds of prey are trying to transmit a story through you. Humans are story telling creatures, the stories of our life stay with us and shape who we are. They may be buried under other stories but none of them ever go away. I read books, manga, magazines, and the morning paper. I watch television, play video games, watch anime on my computer and occasionally go to the movies. I also watch AMV's on YouTube, and collect table top roleplaying games. All of these are different media. "Sword Art Online" by Reki Kawahara begin as a novel, and is now a series of novels, an anime, a manga and a couple of mediocre videogames. I think your Thunderbird experience will grow to be more than just this one blog, sorry if I wasn't clear, sometimes I jump ahead.

  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Sunday, 09 June 2019

    I see. Yeah I definitely know what multimedia is, just wasn't sure what exactly you meant in context! Thanks for clarifying, good point and idea. :)

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