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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 SageWoman Blogs
On (and Off) the Surface

Cross-posted at Goddessing From the Heart.

Many trauma survivors are familiar with the concept of grounding. From a psychological perspective, it involves (re)connecting with one’s body and (re)turning to the present moment. As of late, I’ve found myself encountering it in a new and visceral way.

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Everyday Elements Part 2: Healing and Learning

Welcome to Part 2 of Everyday Elements, which hopefully can help you find the magic of the elements in the “mundane” of everyday life and the tasks that rule our existence. Last week I shared ideas and information on Cooking and Cleaning, and their inherent energies of Fire and Water, respectively. Now we move on to Healing and Learning, which are influenced and driven by Earth and Air.

If you didn't catch Part 1, get caught up here.

Especially when we live in busy, bright, crowded cities and have packed schedules, it can get hard to maintain a strong connection to our spirituality, our magical practices, and to nature and the elements. But practicing awareness and gratitude and finding simple ways to incorporate the elements and their powers into things we do every day can ground us, raise our vibrations and enhance our spiritual/magical practices.



Healing – Earth

Everything in nature is self-regenerating and that includes our bodies. This ability to heal and regenerate extends beyond the physical, and allows us to heal emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Our bodies are the sacred, physical vehicles for our souls and every part of our being, and it is well known now that our body tells us not only the state of our physical health, but manifests the condition of our mental and emotional health. Yet it is circular, as taking proper care of our body and staying connected to Earth can also increase our mental, emotional and even spiritual well-being.

Nature contains everything we need to take care of and heal ourselves on every level; herbs, crystals, vitamins, minerals, flowers, spices, foods, and even sunlight and the beauty of natural environments all have nourishing and healing properties.

When I was a child growing up in south Florida, we had a handful of large aloe vera plants growing in our back yard. I spent a lot of time playing outside and, like any active child, I often cut and scraped myself. I didn’t run inside, crying and expecting one of my parents to put Neosporin and a Band-Aid on me. I simply went to the back porch, broke off the end of a thick, fleshy leaf, squeezed the cool gel onto my scratch or road burn and went back to playing!

Most of us probably don’t spend as much time outside as we did when we were children, and this is a great shame. Nature is a healer, plain and simple. Especially when I am at my most anxious, despondent, depressed and restless, I escape outside for a meditative walk and I breathe deeply, tune into the breeze, the singing birds and the abundance of beautiful trees in my area. Without fail, I always feel much better during and after such walks. Sometimes I don’t want to go back inside, even if it’s raining. That’s why I have a rain shell!

I often get my best writing ideas while walking, as the elements surround me and speak directly to me. They help me ground, relax, and not only sort out thoughts and ideas I already have, but make me more receptive to new and better ideas and inspiration.

You are probably familiar with the practice of “earthing”, which consists of simply walking or standing directly on earth in your bare feet, or laying down on the ground or on a boulder. If you’ve heard of it but haven’t really done it, do it! If you do it, do it more! It is one of the simplest things we can do to ground and connect but it is also one of the most powerful and healing methods as it puts us in direct contact with our Earth Mother. Think of it as a new baby being laid upon her mother’s breast to hear and feel her heartbeat, to rise and fall and synchronize with her calming breath and to relax upon her strong, warm support. This is what we do when we practice earthing.

Sometimes we don’t realize how separate from the Earth we often live in our day-to-day lives. Most of us, on average, probably spend much more time in our houses, then driving in cars, then in the building where we work than we do being truly in and with Nature. After a while of being deprived of a proper connection to Earth, we become more tired, more irritable, less focused and certainly less grounded.

We also often take for granted all those things that nourish and heal us all the time – herbs, flowers, vitamins, crystals, all the supplements we take, and of course even the food we eat. All the best and most natural food is healing and this ties in great with the Cooking/Fire element. When you’re sick with a cold and you brew a cup of ginger tea, you’re being healed not only by Earth but by Fire and of course Water! But all the ingredients come from the Earth herself. Even when you pop an aspirin for a headache you are enjoying the blessings of the Willow tree (Salix), the source of the active metabolite in aspirin – salicylic acid.

Try to rely on as many natural healing methods and ingredients as you can. For millennia our ancestors managed just great, probably better in a lot of instances, without extra-strength Tylenol, Neosporin, Ny-Quil, and all manner of convenient, plastic-packaged “medicines”, most of which simply mask and numb symptoms and pain rather than offer any real healing. My cold medicine is vampire-hunter-level garlic in every meal, lots of ginger tea and rose hip tea (rose hips have lots of vitamin C) and constant self-pampering bed rest. I credit the garlic alone as the reason why I get over colds now at least twice as fast as I used to when all I took was the typical pharmacy stuff.

Consider putting together an “Earth-aid kit” consisting of essential oils (lavender and peppermint are great starters that help heal anxiety and headaches, two very common ailments), Bach’s flower remedies, aloe gel, ginger tea bags or ginger chews, capsules of skullcap and/or willow bark, your favorite grounding and healing crystals, natural bath salts, and even a CD of nature sounds if you aren’t able to get outside for a walk or earthing. I can’t live without my Lifescapes “Garden Rain” CD!



Learning – Air

When I was in elementary and middle school, I loved the zany Wayside School books by Louis Sachar. I think it was in the second book, “Wayside School is Falling Down”, where we learn that the teacher Mrs. Jewls tries to teach her class three new things every day, her reasoning being that if they learn three things each day, they will eventually learn everything there is to know.

This is obviously an absurdly over-optimistic approach, especially to creating a curriculum for grade school students, but the goal of trying to learn something new every day is worth implementing! Especially into adulthood and even after all formal education, there is an infinite amount to still be learned and discovered. Even if we don’t go through our daily life with the intention to learn specific new things, we are almost always guaranteed to learn something, even if it is as simple and temporary as our usual route to work being suddenly altered by construction detours.

Air is the element traditionally associated with the mind; with thought, intellect, knowledge, speech and communication. We are constantly surrounded by air just as we are constantly surrounded by knowledge and potential knowledge. Just as we rely on air to breathe lest we rapidly suffocate and die, we need knowledge and learning or we figuratively suffocate and stagnate, and even potentially still literally die.

We rely on certain knowledge to survive as much as we rely on air. If we don’t have enough oxygen at birth, or indeed if at any point in life we experience a sustained deprivation of oxygen, our brains are damaged as is our capacity to learn, reason, speak and even control and coordinate our entire bodies.

Sometimes we learn something, or think we learn something, that is not accurate or complete, or that may eventually become inaccurate, dated and need to be replaced with new knowledge. This is not unlike the constant cycle of the breath – inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. If we always take every single thing we learn or are taught by others at face value and never question it, confirm it or replace/supplement it with new, expanded and/or updated knowledge, we may as well hold our breath or keep breathing only carbon dioxide, remaining stale and unrefreshed. The learning becomes useless, just as breathing would.

A version of a popular quote that may or may not be entirely correctly attributed to Einstein, though poignant nonetheless, states that “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. So as air and our breath are essential to our existence, so too is our constant pursuit of both knowledge and truth and the constant desire to develop, improve and expand what we know.

Mindful breathing and various consciousness-altering breathing exercises, such as pranayama, are now well known both within and without Pagan and “new age” circles and practices. Among many other benefits and effects, awareness and control of the breath have been proven to have calming effects and to prepare the mind for concentration and meditation. This is probably the best illustration of and support for the traditional association of the Air element with the mind; they are directly connected.

So it not only greatly benefits us to try to consciously learn at least one new, helpful and interesting thing every day, but also to try to develop a regular mindful breathing practice. This isn’t hard to do if you already have a meditation practice that probably already incorporates pranayama or any mindful breathing exercise.

Particularly before you do any reading, studying, attend a class or important work meeting or before you set off on your daily adventure to learn one new thing (or Mrs. Jewls’ recommended three), try spending just a few minutes to focus on, slow and control your breath and to cultivate a heightened feeling of both awareness and gratitude for the ubiquitous invisible element that directly affects and refreshes your mind and keeps you alive.

So remember to look for the Elements in all you do every day because chances are, no matter what, they are there in some form or another and they all make everything possible. Recite to yourself this popular, simple yet profound chant now and then to remind yourself of the magic that composes your entire being and the world around you...

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath
and Fire my spirit


© 2019 Meredith Everwhite - All Rights Reserved
(except for elemental chant, author unknown according to the Pagan Chant Library at www.earthspirit.com)

Image credit: Hygieia, detail from "Medicine" by Gustav Klimt

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Birds and the Elements

Hummingbird (Ruby-Throated): Fire
The Aztecs of Mexico regarded the ruby-throated hummingbird as a warrior. Despite the ruby-throated hummingbird’s delicate appearance, she is a bold, quarrelsome bird who will readily attack any intruder that strays into her territory. With the frenzied beating of her wings, the ruby-throated hummingbird will defend herself with her long beak.

Quail (Old World): Fire
Thought of as stout little birds, Old Word quails are remarkable for their hardiness. When Old Word quails are cold, they form star-shaped bevies (flocks) to receive warmth from each other. For the Chinese, Old Word quails were the Fire Phoenix of Spring and Summer. Among the Hindus, these birds represented the returning Sun.
(Note: Old World quails belong to the pheasant family, while New World quails are in their own Family. They are only distantly related, and are not the same species.)

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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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Elements: Spirit and Cats, Coyotes, and Wolves

Cat (Domestic): Spirit or Water

Spirit: Throughout the centuries, the domestic cat’s fortunes has risen and fallen. In Ancient Rome and Egypt, she was a goddess. Because a domestic cat symbolized the Egyptian god Bast, any person who killed a domestic cat was put to death. As the Cat-Mother, Bast embodied the benevolent aspects of Cat: fertility, love, and life-giving heat. In Rome, she represented the Goddess of Liberty. Roman legions carried images of domestic cats on their shields and standards.

In early Christian times, the domestic cat was regarded as a helper. Aboard Noah’s Ark, she kept out the Devil, who had taken on the form of a gnawing mouse. The “M” on her forehead was placed there by the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for her aid in putting the Baby Jesus to sleep. Stories of the saints featured a domestic cat killing the mice that tormented various Catholic saints.

Water: A late arrival in Japan, the domestic cat did not appear in Japanese folklore until about the 1400s. Since the Japanese believed that she brought good fortune, they made statues of this cat with her front left paw raised for good luck. In addition, Japanese sailors believed that the domestic cat kept the evil spirits away that dwelled in the sea.

Coyote

Among the Native Americans of the West, the coyote is revered for many things. The Shoshone say that Coyote and Wolf created the world. Among California Indians, Coyote taught people lessons about the mistakes they make in life.

Meanwhile among the Lakota, Coyote was a representative of Wakinyan (Thunder Beings). Those who saw the Coyote in a vision were considered Heyoka (Sacred Clowns), who taught, through example, by doing things the wrong way. Within the concept of Heyoka was an acceptance of Coyote’s innate wisdom of purposeful chaos.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Elements

 

The Elements

The five elements are very important within Witchcraft.  Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit make up the elements.  Each one has its own unique energy and characteristics.

Earth

When I think of Earth I think about soil.  Soil contains and keeps all the minerals and moisture that all the plants on the planet need to live.  Earth is everything we are and everything we have comes from the element of Earth.  We are born of it and we return to it at the end of our lives.  Earth is the foundation so it is no wonder that the element of Earth is associated with abundance and prosperity.  Earth also stabilises and grounds us, think of the grounding exercise mentioned earlier – it involves not only trees that grow but the earth, soil and rock of the planet.

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