Druidry for Beginners – The Elements
During last month’s House Concert we did a little divination using an apple cut through the centre. If you do this you will see that the centre of the apple reveals a pentagram, and depending on where the pips are in the pentagram the divination will reveal to you clues as to the answer to your question. After so many years working with magic I sometimes forget that not everyone knows the connections and correspondences of the Elements and the directions of the pentagram, so I thought I would do a very simple introduction here on the blog as part of the (very slowly developing) Druidry for Beginners series.
When we talk about the Elements many people think of those used by the Western Mystery Traditions which are Fire, Water, Air and Earth – with the Fifth Element being Spirit. If we look at our Druid ancestors’ poetry and stories we can see that they revered three Elements, those being Land, Sea and Sky. I came to Druidry through Ceremonial Magic and so for years had already worked with those of the Western Mystery Traditions. When I discovered that the Gwersi of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids also worked with the Circle, the Pentagram, and the Elemental Four Directions I immediately felt right at home.
So for the time being let’s talk about the Four Elements.
Fire, Water, Air and Earth (and Spirit) can be placed upon the symbol of the Pentagram, and the meaning of the Element is really very much down to common sense.
Keeping things very simple they are:
Fire – Active, hot, passion, action, the Wands of the Tarot, will.
Water – receptive, flowing, wet, the emotional world, the Cups of the Tarot, intuition, the Moon.
Air – the intellect, thoughts, ideas, the Swords of the Tarot.
Earth – Groundedness, security, home, finances, the Pentacles of the Tarot.
Entire books have been written about Elemental correspondences so I’ll just leave it there and leave the deeper explorations to you, if you feel you want to take things further. The inscription of the pentagram using visualisation in the air before the magician, using the paths between the Elements, are often used in ritual. Maybe that is also for another time.
The Four Elements also sit beautifully on the Pagan Wheel of the Year and include the four directions.
Air – The East, sunrise/dawn, the Spring Equinox, the youth of our lives, the early waxing Moon.
Fire – The South, noon, the Summer Solstice, the prime of our lives, the full Moon, the Sun at its zenith.
Water – The West, sunset, the Autumn Equinox, the Harvest of our lives, the waning Moon.
Earth – The North, night/midnight, the Winter Solstice, death/rebirth, the veiled dark Moon.
NB – To add a little complication, these directional correspondences work very well in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere sunrise and sunset are still in the east and west, but the sun moves anticlockwise through the sky, so noon/Fire is in the north, night/Earth is in the south. The mandala still works beautifully with these Hemispherical changes.
This Elemental Mandala speaks so much to my soul, and shows the turning of the Sun and Moon, the seasons, our life cycle, the cycle of the crops in the fields and on the hedgerows, the eternal dance of the Sun in the Heavens with the Equinoxes and Solstices, the cycle of night and day, so many parts of the Natural World fall with such exquisite elegance upon this mandala. It speaks directly to my soul. Which is why, if I find myself in a physical space where there may be a mountain in the south, I cannot simply shift the Element of Earth to that direction, because the mountain may be a physical aspect of the Element, but all of the rest of the symbolic associations that correspond to that Element stay where they are. I know moving the Elemental correspondences works for some people and it might work for you, but if you are beginning your path I would suggest getting to know the Elements through the mandala of the Wheel of the Year for a good amount of time, and then experiment to see how moving things around feels for you.
So getting back to our apple divination – think of your question and state your intent – then cut the apple through the centre, not from bottom to top, open it up to see the pentagram, then you can see where those pips are, and what messages they are offering to you in your life, using the image and correspondences in this little article to help you understand.
But what of the three Elements of Land, Sky and Sea. When I work ritual I start every time by taking three breaths – one with the Land beneath me, one with the Sky above me, and one with the Seas that surround this Sacred Island. These three breaths connect me to the three Elements of my ancestors. I then go on to invite the Spirits of the four directions to be with my in my ritual and call to the Four Elements. To me the Land is the Element of Earth, the Sea is the Element of Water, the Sky is the Element of Air. Where does Fire fit in with this triplicity? Always to me Fire is that great blazing ball of heat in the sky. The Being that brings light, warmth, and life to this glorious world. Those who only work with the three Elements of Land, Sky and Sea may include the Sun in the Sky part. For me? I feel the Sun deserves direct recognition – an Atheist friend once said that if you are going to worship anything, it makes sense that those things are the physical Sun and Earth that support and give us life, and that is another reason why the South, Fire, the Sun, Summer, are honoured in my rituals.
Every morning I begin the day with a ritual that I detailed here. Looking up that article to link it I saw that I started it in 2012, but it became most important to me since the start of the Pandemic. Having a Daily Spiritual Practice has been so important to keep me connected with my Path. If you are, for whatever reason, feeling a disconnection, please do have a read and if it speaks to you use it or adapt it to your own needs. Tuning in each morning to the gifts of the four Elements has been one of the rocks I hold onto when life gets more difficult. I stand at the centre, surrounded by those energies, and then I feel them all within me, holding me, supporting me, guiding me, and they are always there, for all of us.