Awhile back, I performed a ritual I created to better understand earth as an element. I intended to work through each element according to a program I designed for myself, one that I hoped (possibly still hope) to make a useful book from at some point. Today, after a year of nagging and setting aside due to distress, I finally wrote a ritual of air. I was referring to the earth ritual for format consistency and saw the date where I’d scribbled notes about the experience: 2005.
Holy crap. It took me five years to get to the next step in the elemental mastery exercises I designed. I haven’t scheduled when I’m going to perform this ritual – I’m on the fence about waiting for Mercury Retrograde to end, and since it is Mercury Retrograde I can assume that any divination I do at this time will also come out muddled. I was warned that at certain phases of life, mastery programs repeat and take longer…and longer…and longer.
I’m hoping that this is not the case, since this is the only explicit training I’ve ever gotten on elemental work (or that I’ve really ever seen.) I’m training myself through it, and hopefully Joel a bit, too. I have attended workshops on elements when I was still doing pagan mini-conventions, but I always left a bit dissatisfied. I did find one or two things in the Wiccan book offerings that at least touched on the topic. Margie MacArthur’s book is excellent help, and DJ Conway’s book is interesting if you enjoy the fairytale approach to witchcraft. But in terms of Wiccan elemental mastery, I believe that there are some very common perceptual gaps and people rely on imagination but don’t really know how to go about building a field in which to inquire with detail into the elements and how they work. Since I’ve encountered a few Wiccan priestesses who absolutely do not want their students even touching Ceremonial Magic ((under the false assumption it all leads to Skypeing with demons)) we end up with this void where we’re using all this language about elements as a standard quarter call but even when asked to consider it more deeply we simply don’t. When I finally broke away from the “avoid CM” conditioning and cracked open the Bardon and Agrippa, I finally found the connective tissue I needed.
Typical elemental understanding exercises usually consist of word lists and nature scenes. These are definitely a start, but most people never get to the point where they bridge the gap between simple knowledge of categories and a deeper understanding of how they fit together. So while I may write about air’s qualities: communication, travel, movement, hot and moist, this is just rote. It doesn’t demonstrate I can apply them to anything. I may recognize certain things commonly recognized by air: a bird! a plane! Superman! I may want to cast a spell to ease my ability to interact with others, and I realize on an intellectual level (air, also) that I need things associated with air, so I gather things off a little chart and talk to the sylphs from my point of view and if I’m really concentrating I send forth visions and images from my frame of reference.
But if you take it deeper, you understand air from air’s point of view. A bird pooped on my windshield while I was driving once. Since I was driving 70 mph down a state highway in crowded traffic, I assumed it was a message from air. Not much of a message, I admit, but given that it landed exactly in my line of vision and I was a rapidly moving target, I allow the possibility that something wanted my attention and was quite probably signaling disapproval regarding things I was involved with at the time.
It came from a bird, which lives in the element of air. I was in a moving car – motion belongs to the element of air, as does travel. A song I’d thought about earlier that day came on the radio. Sound is a manifestation of the element of air. These were reminders that I was utterly connected through air, and while each element harbors that utter connection, each does it in a different way that you need to understand.
I’m trying to remember where I read that some of the old-school philosopher/alchemist/occultists sometimes posited that air was in fact not an element, but a medium through which all the elements passed. While Agrippa still went on quite a bit about the virtues of air as a separate element, he had to know about that theory. While I don’t think it’s a medium alone – I think all the elements serve as mediums through which to pass energy and intention – it definitely is the most recognizable and used medium.
So if I work with air, I need to understand the language of air and appreciate how a whirlwind might think. Paradigm shifting is a key part of magic, and it starts with truly mastering and appreciating the elements as individual powers and kingdoms/dimensions.
I just hope that once this work commences, it takes me less than five years to get onto the next aspects. Because truth be told, I’d really like to write this book – something that revolves entirely around direct magical experiments I’ve done myself.