For many witches and Wiccans, the elements and their associated directions and correspondences are integral parts of their ritual practice as well as personal transformative work. I would like to take a little time to devote to understanding the elements, how our use of and work with them should reflect what resonates deeply within us, and how to adjust our work with them accordingly. I do this with a bit of a story of my own development.
My own official training in the “craft” began in the early nineties. During that era most of the publications were very basic and foundational in their teachings, the “net” or “web” was in its infancy. The information, regarding the elements, readily available to me at that time, as a practicing baby witch in North America, was what I playfully refer to as “pagan generic”; meaning that directionally; Air was associated with the East, Fire with the South, Water with the West and Earth with the North. I faithfully learned all of the correspondences and began establishing my relationships with this as a foundation. I was part of an established coven that worked with this system in this way for many years. Our original coven, was an amalgam of Gardnarian, Irish/Welsh Celtic Eclectic, 1734 and Faerie. I mention this only because the placement of our guardians at that time, (which are derived straight from 1734) did not resonate, for me, with the ascribed placement in our circle, at the time I had no idea why. During those days, there was little enough information available, and of 1734, published, there was nothing. So I simply went on and worked with element placement and our guardians as was handed down to me, without a great deal of questioning at the time. I give you this of story at the moment, as it will make a great deal more sense later.
To keep, us all on the same page with elements/ directions and correspondences, simplified “pagan generic”.
My original High Priestess became very ill, and eventually slipped past the veil. She had been a strong Priestess and had been the glue which held us together. Even though I was years now, into my path, I was not ready to lead or even to teach, there was still much for me to learn. Our small coven fell apart and I eventually found a new teacher, from who I also learned a great deal.
As part of our tradition, the elements as we worked with them had more of an alchemical placement. Meaning, there were situated in circle opposed to their alchemical opposite; fire opposite water, air opposite earth. There was also a bit of a trick to fire and water. Fire follows the Sun across the sky, much like the chariot of Helios, from midnight to noon, Fire was placed in the eastern quarter of the circle, representational of its rising and path; from noon to midnight, it resides in the western quarter, with its path representational of the setting sun. Water of course is where ever fire is not. This change in the placement of the elements, resonated with me quite a bit more, from my original teachings. Symbolism, for myself is incredibly important, it easily helps my conscious mind, reach into my deep conscious and effect change through the pathworkings. I found that my own magick, took quite the leap forward, things clicked more into place and the resonance I found with the change acted as an amplifier for my work. For myself, I was finding the tune of the energies and fitting into the flow. Magick works along the path of least resistance, much like electricity. I was coming much closer to that path, for my own energy tunes, and it was working!
Draconian Elemental Table:
Our paths are am amalgam of our sum total of experiences, so after many years, of following the workings of my second tradition, growing and developing as a Priestess, I felt a draw back to my original teachings, there were still things there I needed to explore. In truth, there was also a path I wished to restore. I dusted off, my old books, and began reworking the original tradition, infusing it with teaching I had acquired along the way, along with some of the working from my most recent work. Bringing it back and creating a coven with which to work with it, I went back to the original template “pagan generic” to start. For myself, though I ran back into the same issue with the original element placement. With the workings we were going into and our Guardian placement, it just didn’t flow, as the previous traditions had. It wasn’t until, one of my students ran across “The Forge of Tubal Caine” by Ann Finnian and a Gods touched meeting with a wonderful individual named Pagan that many things began to come into focus. Our original coven, had a base in 1734, it was where our Guardians (Gods) were derived from, however, as I was learning, my original High Priestess in her own pursuit for tuning to elemental energies that flowed with her, had shifted placement and our Guardians placement from 1734’s original placement. Now, my disruptions in flow began to make sense. So I shifted them back.
In 1734, Air is in the North, Fire/ East, Earth/South and Water in the West. This resonated with me far more than the previous “pagan generic” practices I had followed. My friend “Pagan” was from Wales. For them, he said, Air was seen in the North (different from both my previous traditions). This association, came from the height of the mountains to the North. Air is seen as up among the clouds, the cold North winds, that would blow through you, blasting the dust and cobwebs from our brains, and instilling knowledge and clear thinking in its place. Earth, on the other hand was seen in the south. The beauty if the ripe and fertile land, bursting forth with all measure of life. Additionally placement of the elements, were again alchemically opposed, which worked very well.
In shifting the elements into the 1734 view, aligned them with the Gaelic Airts. To the Celts, the directions were seen as Airts. Airts are Scottish Gaelic for Winds, or the four winds, or cardinal compass points. For the Celts they were Tuath (North), Deas (South), Aes (East) & Iar (West). The associated colors were also slightly different from the Greek systems which many Neo-Pagans works with today. Tuath is midnight and the color association is black. Deas is noon and the color is white. Iar is associated with Dusk and the color is gray, Aes is the breaking day and associated with the color red.
1734/ Gaelic Airt Element Table
While enjoying and working, exploring within this framework of elemental correspondence, I still felt a bit of tugging back to the system of my second tradition. For me what was missing, was the trek of Fire across the sky. Again, as I said, for myself, symbolism is very important and increases my resonance with energy flows and workings. So I made this small adjustment to the Gaelic Airts and I find I am very happy, in the flow of the energies with which I work best!
Many individual systems for working with the elements are based on geographical location. Obviously our brothers and sisters south of the equator experience the elements and directions in an entirely different manner than ourselves. In fact, their “pagan generic” places earth in the south and fire in the north. Working with your planetary geography as well as the flow of the elemental energy the way that you feel it, is working towards developing a system that resonates with you. These ways of working with energy need not be static, but living, breathing adaptive and growing! I am sure a visit to our Aussie families and a little down under magick would involve me, readjusting my elemental workings to fit my location.
The point of this little story, is not to convince you that my way of working is the best. It may not be. However it works best for me. The point I want you to take away, is that experimentation is an important part of developing YOUR path! It has to be what works and resonates for you! Each person tunes and feels the flows of nature and energy in unique and individual ways, they also project them differently. No one cookie cutter method will work for everyone. The method that works, is the one that you work out for yourself!
I hope, this had made you think, and possibly evaluate the way you work with the elemental energies and how they, in turn work with you. May it inspire you to experiment!
Many Blessings, Good Luck & Have Fun!