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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Find Your Elemental Tribe

Spring is, in my opinion, the best time of year to really connect with nature, the elements, and elementals. Everything is coming back to life and is fresh and new. 

Fire, the first element and initiating spark and spirit of all life makes its vibrant, solar return in spring and continues to gain strength and heat until the peak at midsummer. Fire burns, water flows and rains down, the fragrant air stirs and the earth bears new growth. All the elements have returned in all their glory. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Elemental Initiation

It is a safe assumption that every Pagan, particularly any practitioner of magic, is familiar with the Elements and the role of each in life and in magic.

What is less certain is the extent to which they are truly understood, the relationship each Pagan or mage has with them, and the ability to work with them in one’s spirituality or magical practice. Even less certain still is the humility and respect they are given. It seems easy for many to think of the Elements and “elemental magic” as accessories, mere branches of magical theory or of natural spirituality. Yet they are the roots, the trunk, every branch, every bud, leaf and blossom.

It is a continual, endless endeavor to learn of the elements. No one has ever “graduated” from elemental studies or magic as though it is as simple as reading those few, late-coming chapters in certain books and grimoires as I addressed in my earlier post “Back to Basics: All Magic is Elemental”.

If you really want to understand the elements, if you really want to base a deep, effective magical practice and/or spirituality upon them, you need to be initiated into their energies.

Many Pagans and witches undergo formal initiations into certain traditions, covens and paths. Yet how many of us pledge ourselves, not to any specific group or anthropomorphic deity styled and defined by others, but simply to Nature herself, to the Elements, and become devotees of that visible and invisible world that resides behind, under and throughout all existence?

Even if you are of a more solitary “wild witch” bent, and you have indeed initiated yourself as a witch, steward and priest/priestess of Nature, have you undergone any elemental ordeals to strengthen your connection to them and your ability to use them in magic? What are such ordeals, you say? Well…read on, dear one.

In “Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic”, the famed French occultist and magician Eliphas Levi informs us that,

“To govern elementary spirits and thus become king of the occult elements, we must first have undergone the four ordeals of ancient initiations; and seeing that such initiations exist no longer, we must have substituted analogous experiences, such as exposing ourselves boldly in a fire, crossing an abyss by means of the trunk of a tree or a plank, scaling a perpendicular mountain during a storm, swimming through a dangerous whirlpool or cataract. A man who is timid in the water will never reign over the Undines; one who is afraid of fire will never command Salamanders; so long as we are liable to giddiness we must leave the Sylphs in peace and forbear from irritating Gnomes; for inferior spirits will only obey a power which has overcome them in their own element. When this incontestable faculty has been acquired by exercise and daring, the word of our will must be imposed on the elements by special consecrations of air, fire, water and earth."

It is my opinion that certain beliefs and teachings such as these are perhaps, in ways, more valuable to the scholar and historian of the occult as curios on a shelf in an antique shop of magical and philosophical ideals. Yet many of them can still be of great benefit to the modern practitioner and student who can see the abstract lessons and inspirations between the lines of the grandiose notions and practices of high magicians of earlier centuries.

I hold this belief mostly due to the prior belief that it is not for us to “govern” the elements. We need not attempt to “reign over the Undines”, but to adapt to their fluidity, to learn empathy from them and how to benefit from their powers when we welcome them to a ritual or ask for their aid in a spell. I would simply adjust what Levi claims and say that one who is timid in water will be less able to understand or call upon the assistance of Undines and similar beings.

One who is (irrationally) afraid of fire will also not be able to form a close relationship with Salamanders and other fire elementals, or to effectively use such energy in rituals and spells. However, it is again folly to try to “command Salamanders”, but better to humble ourselves before the majesty of fire and to never forget how quickly it goes from a pleasant, single candle flame to a raging destroyer.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Paracelsus-salamander.jpg

For, as Manly P. Hall very wisely points out in one of my favorite references, “The Secret Teachings of All Ages”,

Man, incapable of controlling his own appetites, is not equal to the task of governing the fiery and tempestuous elemental spirits.

I could not have said it better myself. This is an age of excess, of indulgence and shallow, immediate gratifications; of technology, of countless insidious influences, energies, temptations and of more, more, more of absolutely everything. Including misconceptions and downright falsehoods.

Therefore, it behooves us even more than arrogant men of the 19th century to consider that we are lesser to the Elements and elemental beings in many ways, and that they are not “inferior spirits” at all, as Levi says. We must also understand that we have great ability and therefore responsibility with them. They answer to our very thoughts and they are attracted by our every motion and will. Yet they in turn can also influence and control us if we allow them to, with either positive or negative results. Elementals have even been known to pose as other beings and spirits.

That being said, this is still a wonderful concept and potential practice or tool for learning and enhancing magic. What then is the purpose or benefit of these “elemental ordeals?” Rather than overcoming the elements in their own domains to be able to govern or dominate them, we should do so in order to understand them better, be awed and humbled by them, and to form relationships with them that will enrich our magic, our spirituality and our very lives.

It is likely that over the course of your life you have already undergone what can easily be viewed as at least some degree of an elemental ordeal. Have you escaped a burning building or even extinguished one? Firefighters obviously experience ordeals of Fire all the time. Have you scaled a mountain or hiked up an active volcano? Many extreme outdoorsmen/women have endured a variety of ordeals of Earth and Water, possibly of all the Elements. Have you experienced a strong earthquake? Have you ever gone skydiving, hang gliding or on a long-distance swim?

I personally have experienced multiple ordeals of Water, primarily and unsurprisingly, given my personal elemental affinity, and also of a combination of Water, Air and Fire: a category 5 hurricane. I detail that experience and my resulting love for hurricanes and their power and purpose on my blog, The Oracle of Water, in two parts – “Cataracts and Hurricanoes”

While there is much to be said for elemental ordeals that come to us naturally and unexpectedly, there is also great power, if not greater, in consciously choosing to undergo such ordeals and even ritualizing them.

I can’t give a more earnest, cautionary disclaimer here though: please don’t suddenly attempt to walk across hot coals or jump out of a boat in a raging sea or do any such thing you are unprepared for. There is a reasonable way to go about things and a terribly stupid way. Yet these are indeed ordeals for a reason – where Nature and the Elements are involved, there is always going to be an inherent degree of risk and possible danger.

Fortunately there are many different types and levels of the experiences and ordeals that can still thoroughly enhance your understanding of and connection to the Elements. For example, especially if you’ve never done it before, something like going camping and sleeping under the stars near a (well-contained and easily extinguished) fire you built yourself is a great start.

We are privileged to have the Elements and elemental spirits come to our aid in all manner of spiritual practice and magical workings, but we do not necessarily have a right to them. At least not if we are going to try to “command” them and therefore open ourselves up to either abuse them or be controlled by them ourselves. Honor them, and they will be there for you and they will teach you. They are always there, and they usually teach us regardless of whether we like it, want it, or are even aware of it. Yet all the better if we can ever have it on our own terms!



© 2019 Meredith Everwhite - All Rights Reserved

Featured image: The North Wind Went Over the Sea from East of the Sun, West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen

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A Winter Solstice Mystery: Beauty in the Belly of the Dark

As the wheel of the year turns to the Winter Solstice, Nature settles ever deeper into Her cloak of darkness and repose. At the opposite end of the scale, our Western culture marks the holiday season in a flurry of shopping, social obligations and overconsumption — a busy end to a busy year in an outward-focused, ever-doing, hungry-for-more world.

Nature remembers what we humans have forgotten:
every cycle must return to stillness, silence, the dark;
every out-breath requires an in-breath;
every outer endeavor turns back inward to its origins and begins again;
from death comes new life; from the darkest night, the new dawn is born.

Beauty sleeps in the belly of the dark, be it the seeds of the green growth of Spring, the powers and mysteries of the unknown, and our own dormant gifts and potential. Yet the dark has a gatekeeper; our pain, losses and the denied, repressed parts of our life story and humanity also await us in the belly of the dark. We cannot reclaim our beauty without also embracing and healing our wounding; both dwell within the shadowed folds of our inner world, side by side, a mirror of the other, each with gifts and blessings to share.

The part of you that holds your wounding is not your nemesis; it is the truth keeper of how you were hurt, what was taken from you and the choices you made in order to survive and even thrive in the face of adversity. It has stood guard and shielded your tender, beautiful, true Self, waiting for the ripe moment of your healing and blossoming.

If you are one of the fortunate ones, with few bumps and bruises in your life story, still the darkness has gifts lying in wait for you. Because the sacred dark is the truth keeper of the profound potential and mysteries of our authentic, whole/holy humanity that have been denied and repressed in our collective culture.

Open to the ways of Nature at this turning into the Winter Solstice. Heed the call arising from the belly of the dark that invites you to stillness, silence, and opens portals to your inner darkness. Let go of the frenetic activity of the season; follow your breath inward and return to your center in search of the fragments of your life story and true Self ready to return to the light.

So without, so within; as the new dawn is born of the darkest nights, so too can your beauty blossom from the depth of your wounding, and your whole/holy humanity shine forth into the returning light of a newborn day.

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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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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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    It only creates an obstacle if it is taken too far or too literally. The Ineffable, by its very definition, obviously cannot be ex
  • Steve
    Steve says #
    Who can explain the ineffable? This seems to be a difficult concept for many to grasp, particularly those Christians you mentioned

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Nature of the Four Elements

When you say 'medieval drama' people generally think of mystery and morality plays. Mystery plays, after all, are how many people in the later Middle Ages knew their bible stories. In addition to the colourful paintings on church walls, they were probably the most vivid information they had about what Christianity was meant to be all about. The comic approaches may surprise you if you've not encountered them before. Noah's wife has to be dragged onto the arc because she didn't want to leave her friends. Then there's the thief who tried to disguise a hidden lamb as a newborn babe; the suspicious shepherds think it's an ugly baby but they don't catch on at first that it's the lost sheep they're looking for. The morality plays are more generalised but have characters that embody good and bad qualities like Mercy. Mischief and Mankind. 

But between the Middle Ages and Shakespeare's time there are many other kinds of plays, from adventurous episodes in Robin Hood's life (all probably more entertaining than the new film) to seasonal mummings to more philosophical works. One of these is John Rastell's Nature of the Four Elements which may well appeal to folks here. The play is dated to about 1517-18. The one surviving copy is imperfect, but it gives an interesting insight into how people conceived of the four elements and their effects on the natural world.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
For the love of leaf snow

For perfect leaf snow, you need to be in a wood on a bright autumnal day with little wind. It’s magical to stand under the trees as the leaves fall softly around you, very much like large snowflakes. Different leaves interact with the air in different ways, so if you’re in mixed woodland you can see the differences in how leaves fall. It’s enchanting; a colourful, magical leaf snow that patters softly to the ground.

Like so many encounters with nature – seasonal and otherwise, much depends on being in the right place at the right time. You’ve got to have trees, and deciduous trees at that. You’ve got to be in amongst them – it doesn’t work to try and watch this from a distance. It may be pretty if you can see it, but it won’t be the same as being in the leaf snow.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Deborah Quartz
    Deborah Quartz says #
    Leaf snow is the one event that actually happens here in Florida, we have some lovely Oak and Sycamore trees and in the fall the s
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    So true, and so relevant for this time! Much of what you said echoes the Samhain/New Moon messages I received from Water & shared

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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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