C O N T E N T S
THE ELEMENTS OF MAGICK:
Pyromancy, Aeromancy, Hydromancy, Geomancy
by Shade Oroboros
“… the seed should be taken
as representing Spirit… the stem as Fire, the blossom as Water, the leaf
as Air, and the fruit as Earth. Note that the fruit usually contains the
seed of the next generation…”
- Aleister Crowley, from 777
While the rather elaborate Holy Tree of Life connects the vertical axis of the otherworlds above and below to the center where we stand, our first view of the world is primarily horizontal: what is before or behind us, to our left or right. Many traditions orient themselves ritually by these four quarters of the world, and with this pattern we now turn to the most ancient Indo-European classification system: that of the primordial alchemical elements or principles of Fire, Water, Earth, Air, completed and unified by Spirit, sometimes called the Quintessence. These also pertain to the Hindu tattvas or the five suits of the essential Tarot, and they are keys to all magick. An ancient alchemical outline of their circular flow is as follows:
AIR SPIRIT EARTH
Fire and Air arise and expand, Water and Earth descend and condense. Meditation on the ways in which the interplay of these forces form the world by their permutations and transformations can include any aspect of existence. Whenever I travel by air, I enjoy the macrocosmic sense of viewing the world from above: the globe itself like the uterine alchemical egg of the Great Work of evolution, the solid fields of earth floating in vast oceans, the living rivers and streams forming the circulatory system, the envelope of atmosphere like the mind with clouds of memory and winds of thought, shining solar rays of electric sunfire or magnetic moonglow slanting down from dark space to spark all life. The flowing organic forms of the natural landscape are overlaid by the manmade grid of roads, fields and cities, a creative imposition of order upon chaos. On the microcosmic level, a walk through the woods enters a realm where stone and soil, cascading liquid rivulets, golden light and misty breath whirl in a slow stately dance of fresh green growth arising out of constant fungal decay, life born out of death and the season's sacred wheel of change. Here every tree and plant is an actual form of the archetypal Tree and every bird, beast, fish or insect is a true representation of the greater spirit that ensouls their species. For me one of the key places where magick and religion come together is in the numinous sense that the entire universe is a beautiful and awesome miracle, unfolding in a mysterious balance toward an unknown goal, and that the richness of all life itself contains at every point a purpose rooted in individual being. As the poet William Blake once said, "Everything that lives is holy". To participate in the world is to experience this flow of change, the constant mingling and separation ('solve et coagula' or dissolution and synthesis) of these elements at play, and to find their transformations mirrored in one Self. To feel the Earth, taste the Water, hear the Wind and see the Fire is to exalt the Spirit.
While walking on a mountain trail after this new year I had this thought on how we evolved: with Earth we have the solidification of this terrestrial sphere as order out of chaos, or solid matter cooling from the original star-stuff. In Water there are the first stirrings of micro-organisms and oceanic life, and the process of reproduction begins. As Air, plants create oxygen with photosynthesis, and so we have surface life and the breath that goes with it. By Fire evolves the power of mobility in all varied forms of animal life, the burning hunger of hunter and prey. Spirit itself is consciousness or Self-awareness, the divine spark reflecting back upon itself, and is not limited to humans.
A spiritual conjuration, etheric projection, or visualized sensory immersion in such purely elemental streams can be quite useful in magical practice. These are the most ancient powers of the magus, and never cease to resonate. They are represented in ritual by the classical tools of the Magician as seen in the first trump of the Tarot: the Wand, Cup, Blade, Disk or Pantacle, and the Lamp. My personal version of some of the correspondences presently looks like this: (1/2/3/4/5)
Earth Water Air Fire Spirit:
gas energy aethyr/void
matter time space energy mind
physical emotional mental spiritual total
touch taste hearing sight smell
north west east south center
disk cup blade wand trumps, lamp
diamonds hearts spades clubs joker
fruit flower leaf stem seed
beasts fish birds serpents humans
field, forest waters mountains deserts space
gnomes undines sylphs salamanders gods/neters
merchants priests warriors farmers royalty
midnight sunset dawn noon now
winter autumn spring summer eternity
green blue yellow red black/white
melancholic sanguine phlegmatic choleric (humours)
sensation intuition thinking feeling (Jungian)
cold/dry cold/wet hot/wet hot/dry (alchemy)
infant adolescent elder adult afterlife
to keep silent to dare to know to will to go
Law Love Life Light Liberty/Laughter
Stone Seed Soul Star Self
Boreas Zephyrus Eurus Notus (four winds)
Uriel Gabriel Raphael Michael IHVH
Shub-Niggurath Cthulhu Hastur Azathoth Yog-Sothoth,
Ringo Paul George John The Beatles
They also correspond to the forms of the classical Platonic solids: earth is the hexahedron (aka the cube); water is the icosahedron; air the octahedron; fire the tetrahedron; and spirit the dodecahedron. Useful information? Perhaps instead we should examine the court cards of the Tarot, the King, Queen, Prince and Princess, who correspond to Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter in the qabalistic formula IHVH. Like the four suits, they also each represent Fire, Water, Air and Earth, so we may chart their permutations of human typography thus:
Queen Prince Princess
Wands fire of fire water of fire air of fire earth of fire
Swords fire of air water of air air of air earth of air
Cups fire of water water of water air of water earth of water
Disks fire of earth water of earth air of earth earth of earth
There are many ways
of absorbing these elemental forces to empower your being. For example,
you can employ yogic breathing (pranayama) to charge yourself with the
power of winds and aires, or any other realm in which you immerse yourself:
water ranging from ocean surf to hot-tub, fire from candle flame to bonfire
to volcano to the Sun, earth by giving way to gravity and feeling yourself
drawn to the peak of a mountain or the core of the planet.
The Hindu tattvas mentioned above are a yellow square for earth (Prithivi), a silver crescent for water (Apas), a blue circle for air (Vayu), a red triangle for fire (Tejas), and a black egg for spirit (Akasha). They can be combined to represent conjunctions of the forces they represent, used as gateways in scrying or astral projection, or visualized when projecting waves of etheric force from your hands in operations such as the charging of tools or talismans. The palm of the hand is a chakra or center most useful for the concentration of power; it is attributed to the Hebrew letter Kaph which is in turn ascribed to the Tarot trump the Wheel of Fortune, and the practice of palmistry has always taught that the individual destiny is imprinted in the lines and shape of the hand. In ritual terms these elemental categories may by applied in countless ways:
Earth: in addition to the disk or Pantacle, earth is represented with sacred stones (especially those with natural holes, called holystones), ash, gems, crystals, salt, colored chalk, etc. All forms of solidity and support, such as the altar or a globe of the world; food offerings such as bread or fruit; and sand paintings like those made by the Tibetans, Navaho or Hopi.
Water: containers like the chalice, cup, grail, drinking horn, offering or scrying bowls, cauldrons; the holy-water sprinkler or aspergillum; wells or fountains, all bodies of water; liquid sacraments like wine, mead or ale; bodily secretions such as saliva, blood, tears, or sexual fluids; scented oils, inks and paints; ritual bathing, baptism, purification, and swimming.
Air: incense, flowers or smudge sticks; smoking implements such as the sacred pipes of the Plains Indian tribes; fans and prayer flags; bull-roarers, bells, whistles, pan-pipes and flutes; feathers and branches of trees; yogic breathing, and the wind itself; the blade, sword or dagger.
Fire: sources of illumination such as candles, lamps, torches or bonfires; the pyre wherein sigils or prayer-offerings are burned (a classic method of transmitting something to the otherworld); all brilliant natural phenomena such as volcanoes, lightning or comets; the practices of fire-walking or gazing into flame, and the Chinese use of explosive fireworks to drive away evil; the Sun, Moon, and Stars; and of course the magician's wand or staff.
Spirit: images of the gods, the Shiva-Lingam or Stele of Revealing; also the Void as Nuit. In practical terms we may also discuss the symbolism of the major instruments of the Mage in much more depth.
Magical tools were
once made by hand from virgin materials by each practitioner, which is
a pleasant ideal, yet few of us now have the skills to forge our own blades.
Pottery, however, is one of the oldest forms of true alchemy, and can employ
the traditional four elements in the making of Cup or Disk. I think that
at the very least everyone should carve their own wand, and the electric
wood-burning pens available in hobby-stores do an elegant job of marking
them. The Finding of appropriate instruments in the world around you is
a form of proof of success in the quest for power. Whether from an art
gallery or antique shop, blacksmith or cutlery, garage sale discovery or
Renaissance Faire or some ancient family heirloom, if it speaks to you
it is ripe for use. Magical tools bear some resemblances to African fetishes,
or to the concept of the surrealist object. Take delight in your artifacts,
fondle them to infuse them with your vibrations, make them an expression
of your own aesthetic. Fill them with mana and belief. Drink from them
and cut with them, be sustained and illuminated by them.
Ancient representations of Shiva Ardhanarisvara depict a twin-sexed divinity holding a scepter, sword, skull-cup, and lotus. The Magus of the Tarot juggles the instruments of the elements; conjure the spirits representative of these forces, then visualize them charging your instruments and presenting them to you as gifts. The four major traditional weapons of the magician are again the symbols of the elemental arcana of the Tarot: the wand, blade, cup and disk.
The Disk, pantacle or coin rules Earth and serves as the symbol of both the Self and the physical universe; the magus must devise a diagram expressing this. In some traditions one side depicts the human being and the other the cosmos (microcosm/macrocosm), so perhaps one's horoscope could be inscribed around the rim. It is most usually round and made of metal, wood, stone or earthenware. There are similarities to the Native American medicine shield, or to the heraldic tradition of the coat-of-arms in chivalry. In another sense, the disk serves as a storage battery for psychic energy and a symbol of this whirling globe or material world as the terrestrial culmination of all the celestial spheres. The lamen is a smaller version worn as a badge, and may be the seal of an order or the totemic focus of a group or a coven symbol. I have found that an actual Globe of our Earth makes a very powerful symbol as well. As a Coin the pantacle is a useful focus for wealth magick.
The Cup or chalice is the symbol of Water or Wine and of the Yoni, of the flow of the Tao, the Holy Grail of offering and ecstasy, inspiration and rebirth, passion and communion, devotion and grace. It incorporates many elements of the womb/cave/cauldron complex and the thelemic imagery of the vessel of Our Lady Babalon. Custom suggests silver, crystal, clay or a human skull-cup, and some traditions emphasize that it should be a gift from a loved one. Offering or divination bowls, cauldrons and all containers share in this liquid realm. The Lotus or padma of Asian tradition also appears in Egyptian myth, a symbol of unfolding manifestation seen as the Rose in the west. Norse traditions employ the drinking-horn that outpours the sacred honey-mead of mystical and poetic inspiration called Odroerir. The Cup is the sign of Love as the Wand is of Will, and sharing of water-brotherhood or communality in drunkenness is a bond as lasting as blood: Life itself, born from the oceans.
The Blade, whether
sword, dagger, knife, kris, purbha, saex or athame, is the tool of Air
and the mind, the powers of intellect, reason and analysis, of battle,
protection and command. Its double edge dices duality. It is rooted in
the weaponry of attack and of defense, as well as the technology of blood
sacrifice. In form it may reflect the user's cultural cosmology, and is
the major instrument employed in banishing. The Censer or incense burner
is a secondary tool of air. Note that a sage smudge-stick provides excellent
cleansing of all kinds of atmospheres.
In the Viking world fine swords were given names and passed down through family lines, and there was a custom of meditation by focusing the vision upon the sharp edge. Once while engaged in this practice, it occurred to me why the blade still retains the aura of potency in banishing rites even today, when we seldom use such tools: weapons are ultimately designed to kill, and to hold one is to have the power of death in one’s hands, the ultimate authority. They are certainly among humanity’s oldest personal possessions, and their use in hunting or combat suggests an intimate connection with magick, fate, and luck. Recall also the Arthurian tales of Excalibur as the symbol of royalty, drawn from an anvil on a stone. Here may be as good a place as any to say that blacksmiths as workers of fire have ancient magical origins that blend with many traditions of shamanism, and evolve into both the science of alchemy and the secret rites of the miners who delved into the spirit-ridden dangers of the earth. Smith-gods such as the Greek Hephaistos or the Norse Volund were often lame, the common shamanic motif of the wounded healer. The earliest iron artifacts were made from sky-born meteoric deposits.
The Wand, baculum,
rod or staff is the quintessential tool of the magus and that oldest of
human devices, the stick or club which evolves into the first weapon, the
pointed stick or spear; the flaming torch of Fire, the crook of the shepherd,
the scepter of the king, the wizard's staff, the hunter’s or farmer’s tools,
or the baton of a herald which was later the caduceus sacred to Hermes.
It is the sign of the ever-growing power and wisdom of the soul, the Dionysian
thrysus, an eternally green-leaved and flowering rod. It is the vector
of the True Will of the psyche, the clearly phallic symbol. Among the earliest
surviving human artifacts are so-called 'batons of authority' carved with
human and animal figures, made from bone or ivory, emblems of proto-shamanism;
there are also some examples of paleolithic dildos. There were also curved
atropaic (protective) wands engraved with various spirit forms, designed
for protection and healing; some show wear-patterns that suggest they may
have been used to draw magick circles in the ground, and there are references
to their being laid upon the stomachs of women in childbirth, or used to
protect infants. In ancient Egypt the staff was the regal symbol of office,
ultimately derived from the solar god-descended power of the Pharaoh; varied
forms of wands were employed in both the major temple cults and in private
magickal practice as well. There were many different forms of wand portrayed
in both Egyptian and Babylonian art, and some may have evolved from the
primitive and easily-carried symbolic fetishes that represented pre-historic
tribal god-forms. One of the most common is the ‘uas-scepter’ held by many
deities, which has the stylized head of the Typhonian Set-Beast, and the
opposite end is forked like his tail.
The wand also shares in the core symbolism of the central pole or tree of the world-axis, and the measuring-rod of the sacred science of geomancy that is used to establish the boundaries of the sacred precinct or the territory of the kingdom as a whole. Early runic calendars were also often carved upon staves, a binding of time, and their gandr or wand is again the symbol of the Vitki or wise one in Scandinavian sorcery. In tantra we find the dorje or vajra, the thunderbolt or diamond scepter. The Golden Dawn employed a wide range of brightly painted wands with a complex symbolism. Ultimately, the wand becomes the quill-plume of the scribe, expressing the magick of the Word; we have often found that the power of the pen can change the shape of the world. It is also the serpent-entwined and winged caduceus that has become the sign of all healing and medical arts, a symbol that has been found carved on stones from at least 5,000 years ago.
There is also a considerable amount of arcane lore regarding the Arrow in different cultures, with a number of deities who mastered the bow including Artemis and Apollo who are the moon and sun. The arrow symbol has really worked for me in recent years, as the Law of Thelema balanced with the Chaosphere. The arrow is feathered and tipped with a steel barb, incorporating the plume or quill of Maat with sword of truth symbolism, an interesting composite magical weapon. In terms of the Double-Wanded One, crossed arrows are the symbol of the egyptian creatrix Neith, a very ancient and complex neter who is also a dual-sexed gynander and who I consider cognate with Nuit (along with Nu or Nut the night-sky goddess, Isis the mother of magick, Nephthys her darker sister, and the primordial waters of the void called Nun).
There are also forked divining wands used to find water, mineral deposits and buried treasure by the science of rhabdomancy. Oak and ash are traditional for Thor or Odin respectively; willow or birch often more goddess-related, as for Freya. Some sources suggest a fruit-bearing tree for fertility associations, or blackthorn for a blasting rod, while Abra-Melim the Mage recommends almond or hazel. I tend to go for the one that presents itself as feeling right; my primary wand was made from anonymous driftwood. The customary length is one cubit, which is the distance between your elbow and the tip of your longest finger. If you are cutting a branch from a living tree you should do so ritually and respectfully and leave an offering or libation or coin behind. Medieval grimoires often specified that it should be severed with a single blow. Often words of power are painted, carved or burned upon the wand, or the alphabet (whether Runic, Greek, Enochian, Hebrew, Ogham) from beginning to end is spiraled about it, containing all possible words and names of the gods. The Wand is the major symbol of a mage’s creativity, and the form thereof should reflect every aspect of the initiate’s methodology.
“In the labyrinth of the alphabet the truth is hidden. It is one thing repeated many times.” - A.O. Spare
The Lamp of light in the darkness, whether candle or oil lamp, is generally recognized as the instrument of Spirit. A central point of light radiating into darkness casts the original magick circle in a manner similar to the creation of the world as “Let there be light!” In religious traditions worldwide candles are both offerings to and signs of the presence of God. An eye of light in the night: perhaps yet another way to understand Hadit in a cosmic sense is as the Big Bang, the primordial explosion of energy that began our universe, and Nuit as the maximum expansion to the total entropy at the end of time, heat death in the infinite void.
"Unless the eye catch fire,
the god will not be seen.
Unless the tongue catch fire, the Gods will not be named.
Unless the heart catch fire, the Gods will not be loved.
Unless the mind catch fire, the Gods will not be known."
- William Blake
The sacred Cord about the waist, symbolizing both a token of initiation as the serpentine umbilical cord of recurring rebirth and the magical power of binding by knots, also shares in Spirit; as do the Holy Oil and the permeating sound of the Bell (whose bowl & handle represent the Yoni & Lingam). The Stele of Revealing and the sacred Shiva-lingam are good representations to have on the altar as the 0mphallos or central point, and the images of your chosen God or Goddess are powerful totems also.
"Aiwaz! Confirm my troth
with Thee! my will inspire
With secret sperm of subtle, free, creating Fire!
Mould thou my very flesh as Thine, renew my birth
In childhood merry as divine, enchanted Earth!
Dissolve my rapture in Thine own, a sacred slaughter
Whereby to capture and atone the Soul of Water!
Fill thou my mind with gleaming Thought intense and rare
To One refined, outflung to Naught, the Word of Air!
Most, bridal bound, my quintessential Form thus freeing
From self, be found one Selfhood blent in Spirit-Being."
- 'Invocation', from Crowley's Book of Thoth
We may also discuss in some detail the four classic powers of the magus: to Know, to Dare, to Will, and to Keep Silent:
“To attain the sanctum regnum,
in other words, the knowledge and the power of the magi, there are four
indispensable conditions - an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity
which nothing can check, a will nothing can break, and a discretion which
nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. To know, to dare, to will,
to keep silence - such are the four words of the magus.”
- Dogma & Ritual of High Magic, Eliphas Levi
To Know: may be interpreted both in the conventional sense of the accumulation of wisdom and skills, and in esoteric terms as Gnosis, that deeper knowledge or understanding which is so transformative as to be virtually identical with the ecstatic state of magical or yogic trance. Books and teachers are a necessary strand of the weavings of mystery, but so is direct experience. In either sense, learning is an essential: magick can be as perilous to the careless amateur as any other laboratory explosion, and a little knowledge is indeed quite often a dangerous thing. Folklore ancient and modern abounds with tales of those who did something stupid just to see what would happen, and the cemeteries and madhouses overflow. To know someone in the biblical sense, of course, is another story completely…
To Dare: emphasizes sorcery as a path of action rather than passivity. The history of our Art, like today's academic community and far too much of the Internet, is full of armchair magi who freely criticize others without any real comprehension, attainment, or personal accomplishment. Courage is now often fashionably seen as a rather evil-male-dominator-culture attribute by our coddled and comfortable society; on the other hand, it evolved to insure survival in a considerably less artificial environment. To dare is a leap, perhaps not of faith, but of resolve.
To Will: is the key to success; without focus, drive, and sheer bloody-minded determination nothing is ever likely to actually happen. The Word of the Law is Thelema: Will! Desire alone is not enough. According to Robert Anton Wilson, Thelema also has linguistic roots meaning 'spells or sorcery'. The concept of the True Will, the raison de’tre, the core purpose in life of each individual, is at the very center of Crowley's system. Virtually every true magical action in its essence is simply the expression of a deliberate act of Will, and every system is driven toward change by conscious intent.
To Keep Silent: serves several functions. Secrecy is traditional for a variety of reasons: the primitive notion that power shared is power lost, and that the true name of a thing gives you power over it; the desire of the practitioner to avoid long drawn-out painful discussions with the Unholy Inquisition or the local Baptists; and the very definition of magick as a secret art whose effects are worked in a deliberately concealed and unconventional manner, unknown to those it seeks to influence, by means and methods effective in part by being hidden from the profane. There is also implied the yogic practice of stilling the mind, suppressing the random monkey-chatter of mundane consciousness. On the level of practice every word spoken in ritual is meaningful and extraneous nonsense should in general be avoided, although this may not apply to frequent laughter! Silence is very often to be found in the instructions of occult texts: the practitioner should journey to and from the place of power without speech, to maintain full concentration upon the vital actions; in a world set apart from the normal the enchanted circle of magick becomes a lens to focus more sharply the intensity of being. To cultivate silence by stilling of the mind leads to experience of the emptiness that permeates all things, for there is no light without darkness. The territory of magick overlaps with that of religion, and thus trespasses upon the realm of the sacred, since many of the arcane arts were birthed in the temples of the ancient mystery cults. Hoor-par-kraat, the lotus-born child-form of Horus in Liber AL, is the god of silence; his typical gesture of the finger to the lips is a rite of powerful banishing by simple inner stillness, and can be accompanied by visualization of oneself encompassed in a protective mirror-egg of blue light. This practice can ultimately lead to the power of invisibility. The symbol of silence was a black rose, and when conspiracies met they would hang a rose above them as a reminder of secrecy; hence our phrase sub rosa.
In the next aeon we
might require a fifth power, and some have noticed that a pyramid, while
it comes into focus upon a single point, also has in fact five sides when
counting the hidden base. This last has been nominated as:
To Go: the power or activity of motion sometimes expressed in the Egyptian symbol of life called the Ankh, traditionally said to represent a sandal-strap, but also resembling the union of the Lingam with the Yoni. Life, motion, action, and vitality: the gifts of the gods, the Way of the Tao. Momentum has a life of its own, and much of magick involves setting the wheels in motion and guiding them on their way. Karma, for instance, I see largely as a simple matter of results logically arising from thoughts and actions rather than the imaginary ledger of some moral bank account. Consider also the Tarot trump of the Chariot, which is strongly linked to the Aeon of Horus and clearly evolved from the late-classical image of Helios-Apollo as the charioteer of the Sun. That which Goes is the Way of the Tao.
Odd as it may seem
to some, playing the great game of magick may often involve some light-hearted
juggling with symbols. The other day I was watching a documentary on the
legendary demise of Russia's infamous mad monk Rasputin. It is said that
his aristocratic assassins first massively poisoned him to no effect. After
awhile they panicked and repeatedly shot him, but he still did not die;
they then stabbed and bludgeoned him, and after a long and strenuous evening
finally threw him (still alive) into an icy river were at last he drowned.
Great story, and it occurs to me that it works as an elemental magical
initiation: Poison: is of the Spirit; Shot: with Firearms; Stabbed: swords
are Air in the Tarot; Bludgeoned: would be physical Earth; and Drowned:
Finally, I have a theory relating these elemental forces to modern physics: Fire as electro-magnetism, Water as the strong nuclear force, Air as the weak nuclear force, Earth as gravity, and Spirit as string theory. String theory itself fits well with so many metaphors of magick, the weaving of the Fates and binding of spirits, the age-old use of knots and cords, the webs and nets in which power is snared.
"Enough for now. In urbanized,
technologized society - that institutional home for the orphans of Pan
- there may be few who can even relate anymore to the Four Elements. At
least not in any primal sense. V'lu Jackson, for example, once inquired
of Madame Devalier if the Four Elements weren't some Motown jive group,
while Ricki the bartender has defined the Four Elements as cocaine, champagne,
pussy, and chocolate."
- Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins