A Meditation on Air

The four classical elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth were very important to my early Pagan practice.  Like so many, I came into Paganism through Wicca, and the four elements and their corresponding directions, tools, and themes are foundational to Wiccan practice.  They’re also a part of OBOD Druidry and many other groups with roots in the Western Mystery Tradition.

As my practice has become more polytheistic I’ve found myself working less and less with the four elements.  Though they have their origins in ancient Greece they weren’t a part of ancient Greek religion and they aren’t a part of most modern polytheistic religions.  They aren’t wrong, they just aren’t particularly relevant to honoring the Gods and ancestors.

But the four elements are part of our wider Pagan culture and I think it’s worthwhile to revisit them occasionally.  Today I’d like to ask you to join me in contemplating the element of Air.

To Aurora (a Goddess of the Dawn)
A Hymn of Orpheus

Hear me, O Goddess! whose emerging ray
Leads on the broad refulgence of the day;
Blushing Aurora, whose celestial light
Beams on the world with red’ning splendours bright:
Angel of Titan, whom with constant round,
Thy orient beams recall from night profound:
Labour of ev’ry kind to lead is thine,
Of mortal life the minister divine.
Mankind in thee eternally delight,
And none presumes to shun thy beauteous sight.
Soon as thy splendours break the bands of rest,
And eyes unclose with pleasing sleep oppress’d;
Men, reptiles, birds, and beasts, with gen’ral voice,
And all the nations of the deep, rejoice;
For all the culture of our life is thine.
Come, blessed pow’r! and to these rites incline:
Thy holy light increase, and unconfin’d
Diffuse its radiance on thy mystic’s mind.

Air is the element of the East, of dawn, and of Spring.  In the Tarot, Air is represented by Swords, the tool of the intellect and the conscious mind, of justice and of wise decisions.

It’s easy to forget air and yet we cannot live without it.  Our breathing is reflexive – we don’t have to think about it and it continues while we’re sleeping.  Cut us off from it and we quickly die.

In 2000 Cathy and I visited Oregon, and as part of that trip we drove up Mount Hood.  There’s a parking area and a ski lodge at about 6000 feet of elevation – we got out to look around.  The ski lodge had a long, beautiful stair case leading up to an overlook.  It grabbed my attention and I started running up the stairs.

I was much younger, much lighter, and in much better shape then.  I had completed a marathon six months earlier, had recovered, and had returned to running about 20 miles a week.  I expected to bound easily up the stairs.  Instead, I started fast but found myself gasping for breath before I reached the top. Though it looks the same and it feels the same at rest, the air is 20% thinner at 6000 feet than at sea level.

It’s easy to forget about the physical air and it’s just as easy to forget about the metaphysical Air.  How many decisions do we make reflexively, not even recognizing that they are decisions?  How many of those unconscious decisions stack up, creating what appears to be destiny but is really the cumulative effect of running up the stairs at high altitude?

Every morning we have a new beginning.  Every dawn brings the call to use our intellect and to mindfully live according to our Pagan values.  Every sunrise brings the call to live justly, and to help build a more just world.

And the Air is there, filling us and sustaining us.

Come, blessed pow’r! and to these rites incline:
Thy holy light increase, and unconfin’d
Diffuse its radiance on thy mystic’s mind.

May the blessings of the morning Air be with you and your Great Work!

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.


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