Working with Elementals

June 1st, 2014

A witch works with the Watchers of the four quarters and their attendant elementals to cultivate the four powers of the witch, also called the four powers of the magus. When these have been developed sufficiently in a balanced way, the fifth power emerges, the power of aether. These powers and their associations are as follows:

 

Direction: East
Element: Air
Power: To know
Watcher: Paralda (Celtic), Alpeno (Stregheria)
Star: Aldebaran
Elementals: Sylphs

 

Direction: South
Element: Fire
Power: To will
Watcher: Djinn (Celtic), Settrano (Stregheria)
Star: Regulus
Elementals: Salamanders

 

Direction: West
Element: Water
Power: To dare
Watcher: Nicksa (Celtic), Meana (Stregheria)
Star: Antares
Elementals: Undines

 

Direction: North
Element: Earth
Power: To keep silence
Watcher: Ghom or Ghob (Celtic), Taga (Stregheria)
Star: Fomalhaut
Elementals: Gnomes
Direction: Zenith
Element: Aether
Power: To go
Watcher: Discussed below
Star: Not known
The names of the Watchers labeled as ‘Celtic’ above can be found in ceremonial magic as well, but as they are generally adopted by modern Celtic witches, they are understood in the context of Celtic folklore.
In some traditions, an initiate is assigned a personal elemental for each of the directions / elements (except æther), who serves as an intermediary between the witch and the relevant Watcher. The four Watchers undertake to direct the initiate’s progress in the Craft through however many lives are needed to develop the witch to the point where he or she is ready for transmutation into a special kind of elemental that has all four elements in balance. This generally happens on the other side, though it can happen here in Middle-earth; but this is rare nowadays in the absence of mystery traditions, and perhaps it is just as well, as the stregha report such a transformation here on the material plane to be an excruciating experience. However, the witch can just as readily call on the Watcher directly for help with the pertinent power, and this will be communicated via an elemental.
Once a witch travels in spirit to the Sun 1 and is there given a body of light, becoming an elemental being, he or she no longer needs the tutelage of the four Watchers, but instead is taken up into the sphere of a daimon or demigod, as described in Plato’s dialogue the Timæus. 2 Transmutation generally happens to all members of a given ‘witch family’ together, souls that have reincarnated together (though never all at once, some remaining on the Other Side as spirit helpers) to help each other evolve. Each witch family has a guardian Great One, a being on the same level as a Watcher, and this may be the same as the daimon who takes charge of the transmuted witches. 3 The witch may then serve the gods on the astral plane, or possibly may ‘pay back’ the assistance he or she has received by visiting Middle-earth as a household guardian or nature spirit. There are different accounts in lore, and the reader is free to accept these ideas or not, according to their usefulness.
Meanwhile, here we are in Middle-earth, with an indeterminate number of lives ahead of us, and we must practice the Craft with a view to developing the four powers and keeping them in balance, so that the fifth power will eventually blossom. This is the power to go, that is, to go on astral journeys. The first power, the power to know, begins in the eastern quarter of Air but is carried through the other three elements and quarters, its nature altering as it does. Consequently, knowledge takes three forms, plus a fourth or negative form corresponding to the northern quarter of Earth.
The power to know
Three kinds of knowledge enter into the Craft. What is usually called knowledge, where what is learned is separate from the learner, can be called knowledge-about. It includes science and most other forms of inquiry. Whenever a spell is cast, the problem witches seek to solve by the spell has already been investigated through this form of knowledge, and everything done that can be done to solve it by ordinary means. The first step in any process is to acquire as much knowledge on a given subject as one can. This knowledge is presided over by the Maiden, who is ever-virgin and therefore remains aloof from any personal or subjective involvement with the object of knowledge. The care taken by scientists and other inquirers not to contaminate the learning process and so invalidate it corresponds to her role in witchcraft as the Purifier. The difficulty of determining causes in nature is mirrored in her aspect as the goddess of the wild; her furtive nature is leant not only to wild animals but also to the complexities of investigation. Nature, as Heraclitus wrote, “loves to hide.”
The second sort of knowledge involves personal penetration of the object to be known. It can be called personal knowledge or knowledge by penetration. You can read as many books on skiing as you like, but you will not possess full knowledge of it until you have put on skis and gone out onto the slopes. The knowledge lovers have of each other is obviously of this sort, as is the bonding with a child and the knowledge acquired by artists, poets and musicians. It involves the first sort of knowledge to an extent, but goes beyond it and is often mutual in nature, the knower being known in return. This sort of knowledge is presided over by the Mother, who gives birth to all of Nature and manifests multiply as the Muses.
In spellcraft, personal knowledge enters into exercise of will, which always involves some form of sacrifice, and works through devotional contact with the Mother and the elementals. The magical tools or weapons are fetishes or spirit houses for the witch’s personal elementals, and these are invoked during the build-up of a spell.
The third sort of knowledge is knowledge of the uncanny. It involves going against settled habits, especially habits of perception, so that aspects of experience usually ignored or completely unknown (because always ignored) come into awareness. Because the objects of this knowledge are often known for the first time, we lack words to describe them, or else the words that seem to fit now have a different, more immediate meaning. An example is the word ‘head’. The Pueblo Indian chief Ochwiay Biano told the psychologist C.G. Jung that the white man is insane because “he thinks with his head” instead of his chest. 4 The head he meant is not the physiological head or brain, but a mental construct of which we are generally unaware. 5 We go through life ignoring our apparent headlessness, having learned at an early age that the thing we can see in the mirror is in fact our head (it is not). If we learn to keep our apparent headlessness in view, our whole relationship to sensation and thinking changes, and the mental construct that blocked that view, in being removed, becomes an object of uncanny knowledge, as does the new sensation that replaces it. One’s awareness is now ‘out there,’ in the sensory field, and thoughts feel as though they were happening in the chest, because that is the nearest part of the body that has any apparent completeness or solidity. Shamans are sometimes depicted as being without heads because they have eliminated their mental ‘heads’.
This wordless knowledge is presided over by the Crone, who teaches us to see beyond our habitual limitations. She is the ultimate authority in initiation and acquaints us with the power of death in our lives by removing those unreal entities, like our ‘heads,’ that we have lived with for so long in unconscious comfort. The power of daring always involves relinquishing some sort of comfort. Through this form of knowledge, the witch alters his or her state of consciousness and enters into the magical trance in which he or she will release the Cone of Power, casting the spell into the astral through the Height or zenith of the Circle, with the help of personal power raised from within, from each witch’s ‘Deep’.
Finally, the spell is put out of mind through the power of inner silence. This is the power of the North and the element of Earth. Excess energy from releasing the Cone is grounded in the Circle and the whole process of spellcasting, including the object of the spell, is put out of mind as if it had never existed. This is also, in a negative sense, a form of knowledge, and is presided over by the Lady’s fourth or Dark Moon aspect.
The powers of the four elements must be cultivated by certain exercises and changes in the witch’s life style. I will discuss some of these next.
Elementals and Watchers, or Watchtowers, come from the ceremonial magic tradition of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This tradition can be traced back, through the Greek magical papyri, to Mesopotamia and ancient Assyrian practice. The Assyrians no doubt derived it from the Sumerians, their cultural mentors, but the bulk of literary evidence comes from the Assyrians themselves, who cast the magical circle called the usurtu to keep dangerous spirits at bay while using their power to accomplish desired goals. This tradition influenced the Jews when they were captive in Babylon, and most of it can be found in their apocryphal writings, such as the Book of Enoch and the 6th through 10th books of Moses. A little of it has strayed into Genesis, where we read that the sons of God 6 lay with the daughters of men, and the resulting offspring were giants. This has been called the most primitive level of Hebrew religion, and it reaches back into the antiquity of the ancestral Aramæan religion before Abram.
We could investigate the magical tradition for information about the elementals and the Watchers but we would not be closer to establishing relations with these beings. As the old magical tradition states, they are beings poised to teach. The Nephelim, giant beings including the Watchers, brought in many categories of knowledge, much of it secret and occult. When I discovered the Cabbalistic origin of the Watchers and elementals, my magical partner in the U.S. remarked that she wanted to continue using those names as she had long-standing relationships with those beings. This alerted me to a fact that ceremonial magicians and strict reconstructionists seem to have missed: the knowledge that counts in witchcraft is not scientific or scholarly knowledge-about, but personal knowledge-by-penetration. What is important, therefore, in dealing with the elementals and Watchers, is to establish personal relations with them, both through ritual and through prayer and the struggles of inner Craft work in daily life. In this way they can fulfill their purpose of teaching the witch.
The witch is introduced to the Watchers of the four directions and their elemental helpers at dedication and enters (or re-enters) into an agreement with them at the first degree initiation. At this point, in some traditions, the witch receives four elemental helpers, who enter into their magical weapons and tools as spirit houses or fetishes. The witch names his or her tools, and these are also the names by which he or she will call and talk to the indwelling elementals. Thus, a sylph enters the wand, a salamander the athame, an undine the cup, and a gnome the pentacle or fossil stone. But that is by no means the end of the witch’s relations with them.
Now the witch must enter into an active partnership with each Watcher and elemental. When a difficult situation lies ahead and the witch must be careful in his or her speech, Ghom or Ghob should be prayed to at the start of the day, with the power hand on the pentacle or stone, and asked to restrain the tongue when the difficulties begin. Ghom or Ghob are names of the Watcher of the north, the quarter of earth, and one’s personal gnome is asked to accompany one throughout the day and remind the witch to observe silence when it is prudent to do so. At the close of the day, one should talk to one’s gnome and to Ghom and discuss how it went and how it could have been better. 7
In the same way, Paralda and one’s personal sylph are asked to promote understanding or help the witch to solve a problem (holding and stroking the wand), Djinn and one’s salamander are asked to boost one’s will power in keeping to a specific commitment (holding and gesturing with the athame, perhaps kissing the hilt), and Nicksa and one’s undine are entreated to lend the witch daring sufficient to leap beyond current limitations to a new life situation (drinking from the cup).
A witch works with the Watchers and elementals as keys to his or her own inherent magical power. Books of spells organized like cookbooks are of some use to witches who have liberated a portion of their inner power, but provide little guidance otherwise. Most of our power is already deployed in habits which gradually leach it away and so waste it. Those whose power is almost completely reserved in this way are easy to spot: they have no zest. Dancing is meaningless to them, and most jokes go over their heads. They stick to certain routines and fulfill them mechanically as a way of avoiding depression, which ever looms in the background. They have no energy left over for daring new paths, new adventures, in the quarter of the west.
Such people are often very efficient at coping with everyday life, and know how to allocate their daily ration of free energy to make the decisions required by circumstances. It is when things run off the rails that they appear at a loss. Someone must step in then who has a surplus of energy and who is consequently more flexible in using it.

The power to keep silence
This surplus of energy is built up from small things. The witch often begins in the north, the quarter of earth, and seeks to save energy by suppressing small nervous movements of the hands, feet and eyes. The power to keep silence includes a physical dimension as well, the power to keep still. In order to promote bodily stillness, it is necessary first of all to get adequate exercise, so as to avoid periods of nervous fatigue. The witch will walk, or work out, do yoga, ch’i kung, or other disciplines designed to provide muscular exercise and also promote flexibility. Tapping the feet, scratching the head, indulging in nervous habits generally confined to privacy and only admitted with embarrassment, and continual tracking with the eyes take up an enormous amount of energy that can be appreciated only when we endeavor to stop them. This is when the witch begins to acquire practical knowledge of spirits, for long-standing habits behave as though they were conscious entities and we have to speak to them and try to work out compromises with them. When we take everything that happens between the ears as ourselves, we set ourselves up to fail in the struggle to reclaim surplus energy locked up in habits. Psychologists, though committed to the view that all subjective experience pertains to the human subject, will advise their patients to dialogue with ‘parts of themselves’ as a way of working through inner problems. In this way they follow pagan religion, which is concerned with having traffic with spirits whether or not one believes them to be separate entities. Additionally, asking the Watchers and elementals for help will alert the mind to the onset of the habit and so help the witch to avert it. One really feels, in time, that help is coming from something somewhere.
These energy leakages also involve speaking, either silently to oneself, or directed at others, whether heard by others or not. Keeping silence can include staying calm while driving without uttering insults against other drivers, either silently or aloud. Mentally repeating or continuing conversations after they are over, or rehearsing conversations that may or may not occur later on, are habits which squander a great deal of energy and lead the mind into mild obsessions or troublesome moods. They should be replaced by attention to present surroundings when they are noticed. Once we begin watching for energy leaks we soon come upon habits like these.
After we have learned to suppress smaller habits, larger ones emerge, such as expressing opinions on a hundred-and-one pet subjects, especially pet peeves. The witch realizes with surprise at some point that he or she can answer “I have no opinion.” Fellow grousers, used to getting one’s input on certain matters, may complain that you are becoming dull. When you hear this, rejoice, for it is a sign you are making progress in keeping silence. It becomes clear that nine times out of ten, you didn’t really care one way or another about the subject under discussion; and when you actually do care and have a genuine opinion about it, it feels quite different, and you can deliver that opinion calmly rather than aggressively.
After curbing unnecessary talk and giving of opinions, the witch may notice next that he or she makes too many commitments. Life, complicated enough on its own, is further complicated by making multiple plans that cancel each other out, or saying yes when one means maybe, and then having to apologize afterwards when one cannot come through. There are people who go through life saying they are sorry; they actually seem to prefer it. But if words are to have power, we must be both sparing of them and ready and willing to back them up with action when called upon to do so.
We must become truth-tellers. Bertrand Russell doubted the virtue of always telling the truth. He gave as an example how he was hiking in nature one day and saw a vixen run across his trail and into the bushes on the left. She was evidently in the last stages of exhaustion. Presently, the fox hunt came by. “They asked me if I had seen the fox, and I said I had. They asked which way she went, and I lied. I don’t think I would have been a better person if I had told the truth.” 8 He is quite right, but the witch sensitive to his or her energy flows will note, none the less, a considerable loss due to lying. Lying opens up a mental file for storing questions like “What will I say if the fox leaps out in view and it is apparent that I lied?” This file may not be used, but it is there, and requires a minute but definite expenditure of energy to maintain. The best thing for a witch to say in that circumstance is nothing. This is precisely where ‘keeping silence’ is important.

The power to will
As we open fewer files in the mind, we actually begin to feel physically lighter. At the same time, as with expressing genuine opinions, we acquire the ability to open files deliberately, as when taking an oath, or undertaking what the Celts called a geas. Having control means also that we can refrain from opening a file, as with the aftermath of spellcasting. After the spell is cast, the witch will immediately forget it and its purpose so completely that it might never have happened. Taking energy from habits, which go on semi-automatically, increases the number of things we can do deliberately.
The power to will involves the use of thought, and thoughts have power in proportion to the level of inner quiet enjoyed by the witch, for then they are not contradicted or interrupted by contrary thoughts. We have already noted how words acquire magical power if we either tell the truth or remain silent, and if we make fewer commitments and fulfill those we do make. The same principle applies to thoughts, which are generally words spoken silently in the mind.
Once thoughts and spoken words acquire power, the witch must be especially careful with them, for he or she will be constrained by fate, which inexorably rules acts of magic, to carry out those decisions and stand by words thought or spoken. The empowered witch enters the realm of Faërie, and as we know from fairy tales, the inhabitants of that land are constrained to tell the truth and to stand by their words forever.
As the mind of the witch grows quiet, a process that can be extended indefinitely, its structure changes. This enables the witch, through the Crone’s uncanny knowledge, as mentioned above, to become aware of its usual structure and processes. Ordinarily we apply a synopsis of events, based on a selection of largely recent memories, to our ongoing everyday experience. This process can be observed more easily in dreams, for at the inception of a dream (which usually begins in the middle of a story) we are supplied with the background of the dream situation, together with what we are supposed to be doing in it.
The same thing occurs in waking experience, though it is less readily observable because of the wealth of sensory input engulfing awareness. As the mind grows quieter, however, the waking synopsis becomes more noticeable, and old, forgotten memories begin to surface along with those forming the basis for the synopsis. We find ourselves recalling how we felt and thought many years ago, even (perhaps) in former lives. These memories come accompanied by recollections of events, but the events are colored by the way we perceived when much younger. In this way we recover forgotten aspects of ourselves, and in time these aspects coalesce with our present personality and then engulf it. The witch’s personality eventually extends backward through time, and a sense of the overall direction of his or her life emerges.
As mechanical habits are replaced with inner quiet and deliberate actions, a residue of strong inner predilections replaces the compulsive and only half-desired whims that formerly drove the will. These predilections provide the new motivation for the emerging magical personality.
In order to extract the energy locked up in a habit, the habit must be disassembled. This can be done in a number of ways, always remembering that a habit is a linked chain, and every chain has its weakest link. Every habit, for instance, has one or more situations, spatial or mental, which favor its occurrence. If you waste energy by cursing other drivers, try taking a different route to work, perhaps one with less traffic. If you get together with fellow news-hounds and grouse about current events, try skipping a few news shows and cultivate a few new friends who are not into the news in a big way.
Another component of energy-wasting habits is the way in which we justify them. We may have the habit of being sarcastic but do so in humorous ways, and fancy ourselves quite the wit. Do not be too sure that the smiles and chuckles of your acquaintances are always signs that they are enjoying your material, particularly if you tend to stick to certain topics. They may be heartily sick of hearing about it, even the ones who tolerate it because it gives them an opportunity to perform in turn. Much cruelty masquerades as wit or humor, and one often crosses the line between the two without knowing it. Do you blame others for lacking a good sense of humor? Then perhaps you are belaboring them with your cutting remarks.
Both of these components point to the fact that often we cannot tackle a long-standing habit directly but must first suppress or at least re-direct one or more components of the habit. We may not be able to stop grousing about a pet peeve right away, but we can inwardly criticize the justification of the habit when it arises, whether it takes the form of ‘wit’ or ‘righteous indignation’ or something else. When we do, we should criticize it from the standpoint of conservation of energy. If we try to repudiate it ethically we can easily fall back into some alternate expression of the justification, for ethics tends to be a two-edged sword when used to criticize behavior. Thus, if I think “Oh, poor Mabel! She must have been hurt when I said that,” this can be answered a moment later by “Well, she should know by now that I was only kidding. She knows I am a great kidder. She must just be out of sorts and hypersensitive today.” If, instead, you monitor your energy after upsetting Mabel, you will see that you have lost a good deal of power by worrying over her response and feelings. Perhaps it would have been less wasteful energetically to remain silent or even say something kind to her. To this the justification can answer nothing. Each time we criticize a justification from the standpoint of energy, it will grow weaker, and eventually it will go away and the habit will have lost a major prop.
These are some of the ways in which cultivation of the power to keep still (or silent) works with the power to will in the life of the witch. And although the witch is ultimately responsible for his or her work with the four powers, the elementals are on hand to help the initiate by giving an extra push when it is needed. That is why this article is called ‘Working with Elementals’ instead of merely ‘Working with the Elements’; for if we talk from time to time with the Watchers or their elemental representatives, when we are about to fall into the power of a habit that wastes our power, we may find ourselves suddenly alert, and able to extricate ourselves in time from its grip.

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