Saturday, March 10, 2012

Elemental Energy: A Collection of Thoughts

Last week I had the opportunity to lead a group of Christians in song.  We were having a workshop on leading music in worship spaces and each participant was asked to choose a hymn or other appropriate piece of music and then teach it to the group.  I was really excited about this opportunity because I love to sing.  The songs and chants in a pagan space are some of the most magickal and meaningful aspects of craft for me.  So I took a lot of time contemplating different chants to share.  I wanted to engage the fellow students and to share with them something about pagan musical traditions, but I didn't want to take them too far outside of their comfort zone or that would alienate them.  Despite the radical inclusion that I feel from my fellow students, they are not very familiar with pagan traditions.  I settled on this one:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath and
Fire my spirit

In my introduction, I took some time to talk about the use of elemental theory in modern paganism.  I explained what the elements symbolize* and how we generally use them in a worship setting.  Then I walked my classmates through the chant, explaining the embodiment that the words implied.  We sang together and it was wonderful.  I specifically love the embodied nature of this chant, which allows you to invoke elemental energy within yourself instead of calling external elemental energy into a space.  As we sang, the chapel shifted and I watched my classmates experiences some of this elemental embodiment with me.  I got great feedback and it felt like a really wonderful interfaith moment.

Foundational and grounding.  Firm, Strong, and Stable.  Can be Stubborn and Stuffy.
Fluid and Emotional.  Nurturing, Calming, and Encompassing.  Can be Overly Sensitive and Engulfing.
Logical and Filled with Movement.  Sharp, Quick, Changing.  Can be Flaky and Lacking in Compassion.
Passionate and Driven. Bright, Powerful, and Motivational.  Can be Overwhelming and Domineering.


We had an Esbat (Full Moon Ritual) last night.  We gathered at the ocean with a fire and a bright full moon and for the first time in a long time, I had ritual space with others.  When it ended, I returned home with my dear friend who has been slowing becoming more and more of a pagan initiate.  We talked at length about the ritual and her own growth in the craft.  I have been pretty hands of at this point, directing her to literature and answering questions.  But as we talked it dawned on me that her challenges in learning the tarot and astrology were rooted in a poorly defined understanding of elemental energy.  In my own work, I  haven't needed to overtly call elemental energy in many years.  That aspect of my ritual form left early, as my own work with elemental energy has always felt so natural.

I have been thinking a lot about how much ritual form I want to provide the students who come to me.  I have resisted it, knowing that my own growth is often dependent on having the freedom to see how my own magick best manifests itself.  But the energy paradigm tools that Marcia McFee provides about worship forms has had me thinking about what happens when your ritual has too much "Hang" and not enough "Shape", especially for people who are new to your path.  I think I will be incorporating more structured elemental calls in the future.


Outside of circle, there are a lot of ways that my life is filled with elemental energy.  I am personally quite fond of elementals, the small creatures that symbolize/embody the essential energies.  Taken from alchemic practices, many Neo-Pagans still work with elementals in their regular magickal practices.

There are four kinds - Gnomes (Earth Elementals), Undines (Water Elementals), Sylphs (Air Elementals), and Salamanders (Fire Elementals).  I think I like working with elemental energy in this form because in my experience, elementals are fun (in a child-like way) and they are easier for me to conceptualize and engage with than the essence of fire or water.  While there are a myriad of ways you can work with elementals (check out Scott Cunningham's "Earth, Air, Fire, Water" for some great ideas), let me share with you one of my all time favorites.

Whenever I need books, especially pagan books, I call on the Earth Elementals for help.  See, earth energy is not just grounding but it's also about stuff - material possessions and the like.  Gnomes are excellent for seeking things out and finding them.  So with the promise of pennies and hard candy (which I throw in my yard or some other wild space), I ask the Gnomes to find the books I need and pull them into the used bookstore right before I'm going to go visit.  I figure that there are always people in the world who having things that are no longer serving them but which would be very useful in my life.  Lining up that energy can be a very useful trick and I find that the gnomes are very good at it.  I do this work regularly when I'm headed down to my local used bookstore and most of the time, the books I need are there.  Just a little example of the kind of everyday magic that you can do to make your life run just a little smoother.