Knowing the Elements in the Turning of the Wheel
Meditation is a strong tool in connecting and bonding with the Elements. However, not every one is adept at reaching the deep meditative states that can lead to a successful outcome. There are other avenues that can be explored with equal success, if you are unable to attain deep meditative states. These other avenues also serve to awaken and unlock the creative and artistic abilities in all of us. When I first began actively walking my Path, I felt a pull toward the Elements. I wanted to embrace and incorporate them in my workings, but twenty years ago, scant little was available in the mainstream world that I could rely upon and build a strong spiritual foundation. I considered for a long time how the Elements would unfold and be revealed to me in my workings. It was not long before I realized that I was as much a part of each Element as each Element was a part of me. I began to outline my own course of study and rather than become so overwhelmed with the task of learning the aspects of the Elements all at once, I decided to invite them into my life, to learn each Element intimately and to make a connection with each Element and embrace it fully as I incorporated it into my Path and traveled down my own road to spiritual evolution.
Around Midsummer, the Element of Air becomes very dominant in my life. I explore all of the symbols that represent Air in my life and the themes that suddenly appear, as if by magic, in the surrounding world in which I live. When I first started feeling the Elements, it was as simple as noticing their subtle nuances and characteristics. With air, it started through yoga classes. Breathing became the most important aspect of stilling the mind and readying the body for postures. I learned how to breathe; how to take Air into my lungs from outside of my body. I allowed Air to change colors as it was taken in through my nostrils, down through my lungs, circulating through my respiratory system, and ultimately out through my mouth. I began to breathe deliberately and I noticed a subtle difference in my perception of air. I began to feel its life.
I sat out on the beach during a windy day, watching the sand blow across the beach, erasing the deep foot steps of joggers and passers by. I felt the wind rolling across the crests of the waves and crashing them into the shore and against the rocks. I watched as the sail boats on the horizon sailed quickly out of my view. I felt the strength of air.
As summer wore into fall, I watched the wind blow leaves into circles whirling with the laughter of children chasing each other and romping through piles of leaves melding with the wind. The Air changing from the heat of summer to a hint of chill in the fall, there is a feeling of happiness playing in the wind and whipping my hair every where. I felt its truth.
Fire is an Element that initially caused me a bit of apprehension about working with its energies. I could feel Air and not be harmed, yet some how in my mind, feeling Fire was something that frightened me. I began my experience by first taking note of the symbols and representations that Fire had in the world around me. At Mabon, I lit a bon fire and sat watching the flames, as the Fire sent brilliant sparks upward into the darkened sky. The Fire crackled and hissed and mixed its energies with the air, sending more sparks into the darkened sky with each new log placed upon the fire. I remembered Beltane when the bale fires were lit, surrounded by drummers beating rhythmically, dancers undulating around the Fire. I realized that if I could embrace Fire and make it a part of my spiritual evolution that my journey would be filled with much positive abundance. I envisioned everything negative in my life and I decided that Fire would be the vehicle for positive change that I required. As I began working more intimately with Fire, I came to understand that the fear that I initially had was not for the Element of Fire, but instead was my own fear of success. In order to move forward, I incorporated Fire into my ritual. I would have Fire as the vehicle to bring about fertility of my own fields and of my own creative processes and ideas. I wrote down everything in my life that was negative or that I wanted to be rid of and I invited the element of Fire into my workings. I lit a large bon fire and page by page, I invited the flames to carry every one of the negative aspects out of my life and to replace the negativity with the passion of Fire. I made this ritual my ceremony of Fire and Release as I watched the flames consume the slips of paper containing the negative aspects of my life and carrying them onto the wind and out of my life. Fire brought the realization that there is passion in its energies and it warmed me to the feeling of that passion.
In the fall, I began to seek the warmth of the fireplace, newly lit to stave off the chill of the coming winter in New England. I prepared myself for the death of the Sun King and realized that His warmth is a Fire in my very soul, and that Fire will carry me through the long winter, no matter how cold and dark it may become. At Yule, I used the last bit of the previous year’s Yule log to light the new Yule Log. The smell of the Fire as it touched upon the old Yule log was welcoming and warm and it brought a certain comfort and peace to the lighting of the new Yule log. The warmth of Fire stirred within me.
At Imbolc, I paid homage to the Goddess Brigid, and requested Her blessings upon my home and my family. The representation of Fire in my home burns brightly in the fireplace. Fire provides comfort for my family during the cold winter and as the flames flicker and dance my soul is warmed by the Fires of the season. This is the time of year that I am best able to feel the vibrancy of Fire.
During Ostara, when the fields are being readied for planting and the seeds are beginning to be sown, I found myself reflecting more on the nourishment of the soil and the seeds, not only in the fields, but also in my life and in my spiritual journey. I began to concentrate on the aspects of Water that cleanse and nourish and that would bring bountiful harvests in the months ahead. While Water brings nourishment and causes growth to occur in the fields as well as in my journey, I realized that there was a certain strength in this element that I needed to explore further. Water being the elixir of life, it plays a vital role in the bounty of the harvest from Lammas to Samhain and I searched for the comparison of the crops to my own journey. I knew, at this time, that my spiritual evolution had been suffering from a real drought and it would be Water that would cleanse and nourish me back to spiritual good health.
At Samhain, celebrating the beginning of the Pagan year and another turning of the wheel, I reflected back on my own harvest. I had invited Water into my life at a time when I was spiritually thirsty and my crops appeared to have suffered from drought. I found myself seeking to be in constant communion with Water. I would walk to the lake to sit in quiet contemplation as Water gently rippled away from the shoreline. I watched as the drought of the summer had caused the level of the lake to drop significantly. It was in this moment that I realized that my own journey had been suffering from a spiritual drought. I had neglected to ebb and flow with my journey and I required Water to cleanse the feeling away and allow for my continued growth. I looked toward the lake where the Water level had varied for years without being fully depleted and I realized that once again the rains had come and the Water had risen and reclaimed its shoreline. With Water present in my life, I realized that no matter what occurred, my journey would never be the same. My spiritual thirst would never be completely satisfied and there would always be the ebb and flow of my spiritual evolution.
I began to feel the abundance of my own crops and I realized that the seeds that I planted have not only been nourished by Water and had grown, but my journey had been cleansed and purified with Water. I take the time to be thankful for the ebb and flow of abundance, and I acknowledge the learning and growth that have transpired in my life in the previous year. Like Water, I travel a path of least resistance and fill every aspect of my Path with life, with positive abundance, and with honor. There is strength in Water, yet there is also a peaceful calm in knowing that all life emerges from and is sustained by Water.
Earth is an Element that I find myself constantly thinking and feeling. I am an avid gardener and my world revolves around what I am planting, when I will be planting it, where I will be planting it, and how I will be planting it. Ideas, thoughts, projects, spells, and everything else in my world are considered “plantings” and, therefore, my life has many earthy aspects. I look inward at my life and my path me as if it were a field, being readied for planting. Earth is not just represented by dirt. Earth represents itself to me as steadfast continuity, strength, and compassion.
Earth is the core of my existence, the solid foundation upon which my spiritual journey takes place. I see the Earth as the dirt under my feet, the wooded mountains in the distance and the place where the sand meets the sea. I feel Earth as the nurturing soil in which I have planted the seed of my soul’s evolution.
Spirit is the embodiment of each and every other Element. Spirit holds them all together, at once, very closely and represents them all united as the One True Source and Center, the Great Divine. In each Element, in each plant, animal and human, there is Spirit. I cannot look at any living thing and not see the Divine in that entity. Spirit is every where, is all things, and is constant. Of all of the Elements, Spirit is the most consistent and ever present Element in all aspects of life.
When I had garnered all of my initial experiences of the Elements, I realized that simple knowledge of their characteristics was nice but, as a human being, I wanted to embody the essence of the Elements and to create something unique to represent each Element in my life. I decided to create representations of all of my experiences with the Elements, individually.
I took photos of the sea, the whirling leaves, birds soaring over head on the gentle warm uplifted breezes, and trees swaying in the wind. I painted a scene of the ocean waves crashing against the rocky shore, I painted the autumn foliage on the mountains surrounding the valley, and I painted the bale Fire in the black night. I took acorns and pine cones from the forest floor, and sand and rocks from the beach. I decorated my sacred space with all of these representations of the aspects and characteristics of the Elements as they revealed themselves to me.
Over the years, as my experiences with the Elements have changed and my relationship with them has deepened, and so have my representations of these experiences. The representations of my experiences have become, at times, simpler yet more meaningful and at other times, more complex and profound. In learning about the various aspects and energies of each Element, I can feel the firm foundations of the Earth in my Path; I can see a bird soaring high on the winds and feel the energies of Air; I can feel the warmth of the bale fires and feel the energies of Fire; I am able to now look at a sea shell and feel the energies of Water flowing in my life; and in all things, I can feel the connected nature of Spirit.
I conduct a yearly ritual, usually on the full moon preceding Samhain, to invite each Element, in its turn, into my life and I take special care to be thankful for the experiences of each Element in my world. When I had initially begun this exercise of creating a representation for each Element, I realized that I had spent the better part of an entire year becoming acquainted with each Element, individually. I realized that this was a project that was going would be ongoing for the rest of my journey and would not be completed until the very end.
This is an exercise that is ever changing and growing, bringing deeper realization and understanding of the Elements into my practice and into my life as each turn of the wheel brings me more in tuned with the Elements and deepens my spiritual connection. I learned that in feeling the Elements and calling them into practice, not only in ritual, but in every aspect of my life, I am more in sync with the world around me and am traveling my path more directly to fully realize my own spiritual evolution.
About the Author:
Shirley Lenhard has been a practicing Witch and a Pagan since 1983 and lives in New England with her husband. She is employed full time in the legal field and has her Masters Degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida. Shirley looks forward to living her best possible life by giving back to the Pagan Community and has created the Facebook group “Pagan Plannertarium” where she provides a safe home for fellow pagans to have discussions about their path and to get free planner stickers and layouts. Shirley is a past writer for Llewellyn Publishing and The Peace Paper.