Brigid's Hearth

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Wisdom of the Elements:

The Sacred Wheel of Earth, Air, Fire and Water



The Rules of the Magus

Most of us practicing the magical arts have, from time to time, come across the familiar magical motto known as the Magician's Maxim, or Rules of the Magus: "To know, to will, to dare, to keep silent." I remember learning these lines many years ago as part of my early training. Interestingly, these lines turn up in different sequences in different magical sources. I have seen this motto as to know, to dare, to will, to keep silent, but also to will, to dare, to know, to keep silent, as well as to dare, to know, to will, to keep silent. I have also noted with interest that the phrases have been ascribed to different quarters of the Circle, and thus different elements.

In this book I have chosen to ascribe Knowing to the East, Willing to the South, Daring to the West, and Silence to the North. But much thought on this subject has caused me to stumble upon the truth that, in reality, each of these phrases can be related to each of the Elements. Here are some of my thoughts.

To know: We usually think of knowledge as having been acquired by the mind; it is certainly used by the mind. Therefore it seems appropriate that this phrase be accorded to the East with the Element of Air. Our English word knowledge is related to the Latin gnoscere and the Greek gnosis, both of which mean knowledge and are from the Greek root word gi gnoskein meaning "to know." Yet the dictionary definition of knowledge includes concepts of discernment, recognition, experience and practical understanding - all of which seem more related to Earth Element than Air. One generally "knows things" from having had practical, earthy experience of them. And the elemental spirits of Earth are called gnomes - the knowers. So it is possible to see how to know can also be found in the North. Knowing involves perception: in order to recognize and discern one must first perceive, which frequently involves use of the physical senses. Usually the word perception is used in relation to the sense of sight, which cannot bring us information if light is not present. Sight seems to lead us back to the East again, while light can be found in the East, South and West, but most prominently in the South - time/place of the brightest light of the day/year (and therefore of the most direction perception), and ascribed the element of Fire. The light of the West is a fading light, it seems to go inward - just as we do to ponder and assimilate our experiences. Looked at from the West/Water perspective, to know means knowledge realized and deepened by inner reflection and process.

To will: The roots of this word go back to the Latin velle, meaning "to wish, to desire" and relates to the act of making choices or decisions, to setting an intention. Hopefully choices, decisions and intentions are based on knowledge (or at least information), and this shows us the East/Air aspect of to will. Intentions, choices and decisions are movements toward manifestation. As such, they are representative of the principle of growth, which is found in the South/Fire position of the Wheel. Will implies a power of "push" similar to that of a growing plant pushing its way upward toward the sun - a persistence and toughness, arising from deep, inner instinct, in service of a goal. Yet wishes and desires, in the human realm, have a strongly emotional component, and this relates them to West/Water. The desire to see our choices/decisions all the way through to manifestation brings will around to the North/Earth part of the Wheel.

To dare: To be daring is to be courageous, bold and venturesome. Courage involves the feelings, and thus, the heart. The word courage itself comes from the Latin cor and Greek kardia, both meaning heart. We tend to associate our emotions with the heart. Daring and courage involve facing, persevering and withstanding fear and danger. It is scary to go into the dark of the unknown. To ride off into the sunset - West/Water - requires courage and daring, be it the physical darkness of nightfall or the inner darkness of swirling emotion and desire. Though emotions are associated with the West, and the ebb and flow of the Water element, courage and heart can also be seen to be associated with the South/Fire, by virtue of the heat that emotions such as love, passion, hate and anger can generate. To be daring and venturesome, one must exhibit a strength that is often more spiritual than physical, thus linking daring again with Fire and the South. To be venturesome one must be open to new ideas and new beginnings, thus bringing in the powers and qualities of the East/Air. And finally, it takes tenacity and persistence to carry through on a dare, and these qualities are linked to the North/Earth.

To keep silent: Silence is one of the qualities associated with the element of North/Earth. Magically speaking, and this will be detailed more in later chapters, to keep silent is to conserve/reserve rather than dissipate energies. To keep silent is to conserve strength and build power, which can also be associated with South/Fire. Yet it is also possible to see the power of West/Water here, since West is the autumn/sunset place on the wheel, where night falls and its silence restfulness begins. It is the time of going into the silence, for rest, for visions, for dreams, for introspection. Silence is less understandable in the East/Air position, since this position is about coming out of the silence with the power of sound and light. As such, the best way to understand its relationship to East and Air is to think of it as the necessary balance. Silence is the balance to sound, rest is the balance to activity, introspection is the balance to seeing beyond the self, and inner vision/dream is the balance to outer vision.