Wisdom of the Elements
Wisdom of the Elements
Although some people tend to mentally isolate each of the elements, and think of them each in a refined, purified form for magical purposes, there is nothing simple about the Element of Earth. It is a rich and beautifully complex element - being, as it is, the combination of them all. Earth is the manifestation - through form, structure, weight and density (i.e. substance) - of various combinations of the other three elements. Earth is mountains, valleys, caves, beaches, farmland, meadows, forests. Earth is the wood we burn for our warm cooking fires, or use to build into our shelters; Earth is the food we eat, the teas we drink, the medicines we take, the clothes we wear. Earth is the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, the human kingdom, but most of all - earthiest of all, densest of all - the mineral kingdom. In short, the Element of Earth is about substance and structure.
WESTERN MYSTERY TRADITION AND THE EARTH ELEMENT
Many of our European ancestors regarded the time period we call a day as beginning at twilight/sunset, so we will begin our study of the Elements and Directions with the direction of night - the North - and with the Element of Earth. Since we will be viewing the Four Elements in the context of the Four Directions in these chapters, we will start with a review of some information about the Direction associated with Earth. In the Western Mystery Tradition of which Wicca is a part, Earth is assigned to the Direction of North - the Northern Quarter of the Circle of the Year.
DIRECTION - THE NORTH
The North is the place of Winter, and of what is called in esoteric literature, the Midnight Sun. Because the sun never reaches North in the sky, North is the Direction of Mystery, of the unseen. The North Star is the Axis around which revolves the stars of the night sky. Altars generally face North in the Craft; sometimes they are placed in the North. The colors of North are the black of the Void, the black, brown and red of the soil, the browns, greens and russets of vegetation, and the white of winter snow.
North brings us the power to be silent (see the Magician's Wheel, pg 22), to listen as well as to speak, to keep secrets, to know what not to say. It is the direction of the Crone, the Old Wise One, who has seen it all, knows it all: the Goddess in her dark aspect. It is the direction of Death and Repose - the necessary rest that must come before the rebirth of Spring. As such it is the direction also of the various deities of the Underworld both masculine and feminine.
Since the element assigned to the North is Earth, the North is the place of the physical realm. Refer to the Table of Elemental Correspondences, pg 18, to see a more detailed list of these correspondences.
As East is the place of the sunrise and West is the place of the sunset, so North is the place of midnight - literally the middle of the night, the time of deepest darkness and most profound silence. Yet North is also the place of the "Midnight Sun," since it is at the year's Midnight, the point of winter solstice that the light of the sun is reborn. "From the darkness is born the light", as we say in our Yule ritual. Our survival of the dark, cold time of Winter is dependent upon the resources we have prepared throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn to sustain us through this time. 'To see the Sun at Midnight' (a very old, metaphysical concept) is to experience, while still in physical form, the mysteries that lie beyond the gate of death; thus coming to a personal, inner knowing of the realities of spirit. In the ancient spiritual traditions, this particular initiation was only embarked upon by those who had undergone much preparation and training - analogous to the above mentioned Spring-Summer-Autumn preparation of resources in order to survive the Winter.
To see the Sun at Midnight' is to realize that from the heart of the darkness (death) is born the light (life). It is to realize that in the deepest of darkness shines an inner light, and that, by extension, the most dense and solid of all the realms, the physical plane, is suffused and permeated with the light/presence of Spirit.
This is very akin to the concept of the "stars within the earth," another very old concept which reminds us that deep within the darkness of the earth shines the "earth light," reminding us that earthly substance is one with the substance of the stars: we are all made from stardust, and that the light of spirit shines in the heart of matter. The North is the place of these great mysteries.
"From the darkness is born the light" is true in more ways than one, we realize, as we travel the Wheel of Life with its many days and nights, births and death, beginnings and endings, manifesting throughout the many areas of our life and beingness. At length, what we come to in our lives is "the light born from the darkness" - a wisdom born of experience and the insight it brings; a glowing awareness of our own True Self and Beingness, in the midst of all the False Selves clamoring for recognition. Wisdom is the distillation of our experiences. Having boiled and brewed ourselves up in the Cauldron of Life, wisdom is the quintessence of all our experiences, reduced to a few magically potent drops.
Key words for this direction are silence, mystery, wisdom, darkness, cold, death, repose, peace, rest, solidity and patience. Other correspondences associated with the Earth Element are structure, form, the physical body (along with its sustenance and growth), the earth (and her fertility), sensation and sensuality, strength, density, groundedness. The list could go on and on.
The Elemental energies are powerful, and each Element has a powerful being whose function is to mediate the power of the Element for maximum benefit and minimum damage. As previously mentioned, these beings have been referred to by various names throughout the world (see the Appendices for names of these Beings in other spiritual traditions). In the Craft we know them as the Guardians of the Watchtowers, or simply the Guardians. In magic they are referred to as the Archangels, and in certain Native American traditions they are referred to as the Spirit Keepers of the Directions. These beings are often thought of as defined, distinct and individualized Governing Intelligences who have "evolved" (or have been brought into being) for the purpose of controlling and safely mediating the raw Elemental power. Again, it is always wise, when working with an Element, to journey to meet its Guardian Being and form a good working relationship with this Being - no matter how you envision this Being's appearance to be. I envision them to be large, glowing, androgynous Beings, often prominently displaying the magical, Elemental "tool" they use to perform their function of controlling and mediating the particular power of the Element. But I try not to be too distinct and defined in my mental imagery, as I find that sometimes this interferes with what the energy itself wishes to show me.