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 practice, traditional or modern, and the Elements are indeed present and utilized in all practices and systems. 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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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!



© 2018 (All original material) Meredith Everwhite - All Rights Reserved


The above image is of Ilmatar, painted by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin.

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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.  

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