The Four Elements
In the West, Earth's power is traditionally broken down into four components known as the elements: air, earth, fire and water. (Okay, in China they count five elements, including metal, but let's not worry about that yet.) Air and fire are usually considered masculine energies while earth and water are most typically perceived as feminine. Life springs from earth and water, but air and fire are necessary to spark the process and to provide health and vitality. From a magical standpoint, the power of each element is unique, specific and alive.
Each element, separately or in combination, can serve as a vehicle for spiritual and physical healing. Power comes in the interplay of the elements. Power is enhanced when the elements intermingle and form a threshold: air and fire, fire and water, earth and water. Thus steam, emerging from the marriage of fire and water, is a particularly potent vehicle of healing energy.
Earth is the battery, the generator. She provides stability, security, a grounding influence and the capacity for growth. In a wide selection of multicultural traditions, Earth is the material from which humans are created. Unfortunately, in English, there is confusion between the dirt that is “dirty,” unclean, a must to avoid, and the dirt that we trod upon. Avoiding Earth depletes our energy, as Earth is a cleansing force that revitalizes and purifies.
Simply being in physical contact with Earth can be healing and grounding. There are also many traditions of packing an ailing individual into hot dirt or sand for spiritual and physical healing. Mud packs can do more than improve the complexion. Although not yet as popular as aromatherapy or hydrotherapy, the ancient use of clay as a therapeutic material is currently undergoing a revival.
Anything alive is unique and distinct. Just as each person is an individual, Earth's dirt is not generic and identical: Dead Sea mud is used to soothe aching joints, moor mud for cleansing toxins from the body, whereas bentonite clay is used to soothe assorted skin ailments. Dirt can be pure magic, too: Thousands of pilgrims flock annually to New Mexico's Shrine of Chimayo to gather small quantities of the miraculous earth found there whose healing powers are reputed to fix everything from broken bodies to broken spirits and even, on occasion, broken computers.
· Plants and botanicals contain the concentrated essence of Earth Magic. Create magical gardens outside on Earth or inside in pots to further your magical goals.
Air serves as a transmitter and messenger. Air affects health, creativity and the capacity for hope. Magical philosophy (and some schools of upper physics, too!) asserts that nothing truly disappears, so the phrase “vanish into thin air” is meant somewhat literally. When you burn a candle, thin air is where the energy goes; your wish enters the atmosphere with the smoke.
Fragrance is the language of air. Direct inhalation of essential oils or the smoke from botanical materials is the simplest method of using air to heal. The smoke of a smudge stick cleanses the aura and soothes an uneasy mind. Fueled by water and fire, saunas, steam baths and sweat lodges nourish the soul as well as healing the body.
· Use fragrance via oils and incense to send smoke signals to your magical allies.
Water is where life originates, not just as an abstract concept but literally for each of our individual lives. We first emerge into consciousness in our mothers' wombs, floating in water and salt. Our first experience of sound is filtered through amniotic fluids. Our first familiar motion, ideally indicative of safety and security, consists of rolling waves of water. Babies carried on their mother's hips or backs transition gently to solid Earth.
Fairy tales recount adventures searching for the “water of life.” Many of Earth's most ancient shrines have been located near sacred springs, the mineral content of the water providing therapeutic benefits while the element itself nurtures body and soul. Hydrotherapy, healing through water, is a universally ancient practice currently in revival. Each source of healing water is distinct and unique, nor do they all serve the same function. Celtic water shrines were once famed throughout Europe for healing eye diseases. The Moulay-Yacoub shrine, at the foot of the Rif Mountains of Morocco, is now updated with modern medical facilities, to take advantage of its venerable reputation for healing gynecological disorders. On the other hand, a stay at the cold springs of Jesenik in the Czech Republic is prescribed for soothing neuroses, psychoses and psychic disorders. You may have your own favorite wishing well, proven to grant your secret desires.
· Water magic is performed in your bathtub and by creating magical floor washes and room sprays.
Fire, too, purifies but in a very different manner. Fire heals and energizes and is profoundly independent. Fire defies human illusions of control. Fire possesses a transformative energy and must always be treated with respect. Fire can be a beneficial, helpful, healing element but the potential for danger always exists. The fact that you're engaged in magic doesn't mean you can ignore standard safety rules.
When you are smudged with burning herbs and you can actually see, hear and smell the fire, not to mention feel the occasional spark, it is not only the botanicals that are performing the healing. Fire, too, revives and recharges us, albeit from a greater distance than the other elements.
· Create enchanted candles to further your magical goals.
Though the human body is composed largely of water, your psychic nature may be linked to any of the elements. Ultimately each individual's chemistry is unique. As you are inspired to do magic, you may find yourself pulled towards working with specific elements. You will be drawn to your allies. For many, magic is candlework, while others can only envision enchantments performed in the tub. Some call their desires through fragrant smoke signals while still others are drawn to Earth, creating patches of transformative, healing energy. The elements that you are drawn to indicate something significant about your own power.