Articles/Essays From Pagans
February 1st. 2019 ...
Paganism and Witchcraft in the Media
September 25th. 2018 ...
Understanding the Unseen
August 25th. 2018 ...
A Little Magickal History
Men and the Goddess
Back to Basics Witchcraft: Magical Creativity for Small Living Spaces
Kitchen Magic and Memories
Why the Faeries?
Magic in Daily Life
An Open Fire: Healing from Within
Cernunnos: The Darkest Wood in the Moon's Light
Gudrun of the Victory Gods
Ares and Athena
La Santa Muerte... The Stigma and the Strength
The Lady on the Stairs
The Wheel of the Year in Our Daily Lives
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The Importance of Unification: Bringing Together Community Members to Invoke Cohesivity
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Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
April 20th. 2018 ...
Nazis Made Us Change Our Name
January 25th. 2018 ...
Finding Balance: Discipline Wedded to Devotion
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September 30th. 2017 ...
July 31st. 2017 ...
Sin Eaters and Dream Walkers
July 2nd. 2017 ...
On Cursing: Politics and Ethos
June 1st. 2017 ...
The Sacred Ego in Mediterranean Magical Traditions
April 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Knight of Pentacles
March 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Ace of Swords
January 10th. 2017 ...
The Gray of 'Tween
Becoming a Sacred Dancer
Little Dog, Big Love
December 9th. 2016 ...
A Child's First Yule
November 10th. 2016 ...
What Exactly Is Witchcraft?
A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities
On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans
What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)
September 11th. 2016 ...
The Shadow of Disgust
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
An Open Mind and Heart
June 13th. 2016 ...
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
The Fear of Witchcraft
Magic in Sentences
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
December 20th. 2015 ...
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
May 6th. 2015 ...
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
January 1st. 2015 ...
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
August 24th. 2014 ...
The Pagan Cleric
A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)
August 17th. 2014 ...
To Know, to Will, to Dare...
On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
It's Elemental, My Dear Wiccan: The Elements Turn 2600
Article ID: 13009
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,731
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Author: Marty Couch
Posted: January 4th. 2009
Times Viewed: 3,805
The Elements turn 2600.
As we head deeper in to the dark (and cold) half of the year, it seems each day I am feeling more my age. But even feeling on the older side myself, it can boggle the mind how old the stuff we are made of (or were thought to be made of) is. So, when we talk of the elements, it seems fair to ask how these ideas came about. And when. Well, fasten your seat belts as we hit the way back machine (Wow, I am old!)
Just as a note, the information in this article is specific to the elements typically used in current Wiccan practice, those of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. This article does not cover the traditional Eastern elements such as the Chinese Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water or the Buddhist Void, Water, Earth, Fire and Air. It is important to note that all these concepts came about at primarily the same time and for the same reason, the learned thinkers of the time were trying to answer, “What exists?” For the purposes of our discussion, we will talk about the emergence and acceptance of the European beliefs in the elements.
So, how far back does this go? Well, let’s go all the way back to Greece, say around 600 B.C. The city of Miletus was a prominent center of trade. Because of this, the scholars of that city were likely to have been exposed to some of the philosophies of the East as well as their goods. So it started them thinking. What makes all this? What are we formed of? One of the first to answer this question was Thales of Miletus. He concluded that every thing in the Universe was created from and resolved itself back to Water. Well, there might have been a couple holes in his theory. First, if this took hold we would be saying “River to River, Lake to Lake” instead of “Ashes to Ashes…” But there was an even more critical error in his thinking, according to others of the time. He was not attributing anything that was created to any of the Gods. Hmmm…It should also be noted he never committed any of his theories to paper. Probably a good idea.
So, along comes Anaximander, also of Miletus. He reasons that everything comes from indefinite substance which he termed The Boundless (sounds a bit like Spirit, huh?) and that this substance when acted on produced the other four elements. When it was hot and dry, it was Fire, when cold and wet it was Water, when hot and wet it was Air and when cold and dry it was Earth. Ultimately he reasoned that everything was of this source as opposed to the idea of independent elements. Many, such as Plato and Aristotle had their input, but the one who declared that everything was made of a combination of the four main Elements was Empedocles. Plato was the first to use the term Elements in connection with these four primary building blocks. And the idea really took off. Hippocrates used the Elements to develop his concept of the human body and medicine. He did this by discovering and treating the four humors.
So, mystery solved. Everything in the entire Universe was made of these four Elements. Case closed. We could now go on and no longer question it. Actually, that really is what happened. Through the Roman Empire, the teachings of Christ (when he was just a Rabbi) , the rise of Christianity, The Renaissance, The Hundred Year War, The Black Plague, Wars of the Roses, The Spanish Inquisition, Christopher Columbus, all the way up until 1669. That was the year that a merchant in Germany by the name of Hennig Brand was trying to make a Philosopher’s Stone. The idea was that this stone would turn metal in to gold. Well, accidentally discovered Phosphorus, the first recorded element of the current periodic table.
Now, let’s think about this. For over 2200 years, it was accepted fact that everything was made of some combination of the four elements. This was not a passing fancy. This is what the most advanced scholars of the time were learning and accepting as complete fact. The Alchemists of Europe relied on these principles. The Roman Catholic Church supported some of these concepts. As Wicca and Witchcraft grew in Europe, these concepts were utilized in ritual practice.
This is not small. Our very lexicon is based on this (he is an air head, she has a fiery temper, he is flooded with emotion, etc.) So, why is this so important to us today? Well, have you ever felt a ritual was lacking something? Maybe unbalanced? In need of more power, more energy? When we realize in our ritual that we are not just invoking the Elements because that is what we learned, but rather that we are invoking a philosophy, a belief, a truth over 2200 years old, we are gaining a power to our ritual that is beyond measure.
The reality is, we practice an ancient Religion in a modern time. What was thought of as fact only 340 years ago is thought of as “out there” thinking. But think about it. 340 years ago means our great grandparents parents may have lived when the four Elements were the accepted reality. Many people reading this may have met their great grandparents. This is only 1 generation removed from our current reality. To truly use these ideas and energies in our ritual today is not as big a “leap of faith” as some might believe.
Next time you invoke the Elements for your ritual, take a moment. See these great thinkers and experience the reality of the Elements as it hit them. Feel the connection with these Elements in what you are doing at that very moment. Don’t think of them as abstract concepts, but as real sources of power and energy that have outlasted the ages. Then see if there is a difference in the work you are doing.
In future articles we will be looking at the Elements individually as well as seeing how they still hold power today. Until next time…
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