‘Elementary, my dear Watson…’

July Meeting 2012

Not so much an educational evening as one for a bit of idea sharing and friendly debate led by Briseilid, whom acted as chairwoman and hostess for the night (thanks for the wine, though I can’t help but feel I’m getting a bit of a reputation for drinking in the Grove- probably because I can’t drive).

Tuesday’s meeting was about the magical elements, or should I say Alchemical elements; and what we thought about them and how we worked with them  You know the ones: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.  The latter was an interesting point as we seemed to agree that the modern term (when introduced around the 19th Century) is a bit too, well… fluffy.  Especially when you consider that the original name for it was Ether which seems, well… more cool.  On the serious side, it’s only a name and despite what we call it, Spirit seemed more or less to be the force within the elements and in and around ourselves, therefore it couldn’t be considered an element because is contained within the others.

In the Bardic Grade, we work with four elemental forces, so it was also a good time to compare notes among the Bards present, and see how we are progressing (or not).

So, it was very interesting to find that some of us used variations in regards to points of view: Léithin Cluan Preferred to work with Earth, Sea and Sky, which is indeed given in the course and actually made sense if you are looking for traces of the elements in Celtic myth; as the working of four elements was introduced in Medieval times (around the same time as Alchemy’s beginning and the Celtic myths being written down, though it must be said that a lot of them could have been written from a medieval imagining of what the pre-Christian ages were like).  Luchdorca discussed the Scandinavian concept Ice as an element in it’s own right, though admittedly he found it difficult to work with.

The main subject was the comparison between the five elements of Chinese tradition and our own.  Instead of the usual E/A/F/W/S(Et), Briseilid, when healing others, finds it easier to work with the Chinese elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.  E/F/W are near enough the same as our own, Wood is associated with the East and the season of Spring.  It is attuned with the physical in a very real sense and almost with the impatient power of being born.  Metal is associated with the West and the season of Autumn, which makes perfect sense when you discover that Metal has an affinity with our sense of smell.  Autumn, to me, is a time of smelling the air and those first inhalations of the crispness indicating winter’s approach.  It’s when you can begin to smell the mulch of fallen leaves and the fruits now given by the trees.

There are some differences, such as Earth is regarded as being in the centre of things (instead of being in the North) and it’s time is late summer, not winter.  Water is associated with winter and the North and with the colour black.  In fact, if you cast your memory back to Samhuinn 2011, myself and Briseilid, whilst waiting our turns for initiations (Sorry LadyMorgana, I guess you just aren’t meant to take part in this subject), we were discussing how it seems more natural to have Water in winter (snow and rain), and Earth in autumn (fruit, vegetation, decomposition).

When you look at it, the usual circle and quarters, are based on the assumption that you have mountains and high land to the North, the wind flows from the East, the more Southern you go, the warmer the Climate and that the ocean is to the West.  So what if you lived somewhere where there were deep hills to your South, a great lake was in the centre of where you lived, and the best sunlight came in the evening because you lived in a natural basin shaped area?  Not to say the traditional point of view would be thrown out of the window, more that it would need to be re-worked to fit in with how you see the world.

Luchdorca said “It’s a tool,” and he’s absolutely right; whether it is the traditional correspondences of the elements, or the Chinese, or the Druidic three, as long as you make it work, it works.  People are individual and what works for some won’t always work for others.

I think we in the Grove should experiment with this to see the differences that occur, or what we find that works better or less.


About locksley2010

Based in the Midlands, Locksley2010 is now studying the Ovate Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. He is an actor and storyteller, he likes cats, honest people and thinks he's hilarious. Do not feed after midnight!
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One Response to ‘Elementary, my dear Watson…’

  1. cthulhudruid says:

    It was the Pre-socratic philosopher Empedocles who first developed the concept of the four elements or roots (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) around 450bce

    I’m not 100% sure, but I believe it was Plato who coined the concept if ether/ aether as the invisible element that held the stars in the sky

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