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!

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Back in about 1995-1998, I think I liked the Four Elements better than anything else in Paganism; I was having some serious doubts about a variety of things, people, traditions, practices, and deities…and so, elements and their symbolism seemed to “work” in a way that was impersonal, and yet not less-appealing for that. Hmm.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      I’ve never been fond of the more literal expressions of the elements, particularly after I heard Isaac Bonewits tell his story of the origins of the Watchtowers. But as ways to organize things at a high-but-still-meaningful level, and as reminders of things to be mindful of, I find them very helpful.

  • Pingback: A Meditation on Air

  • Pingback: Huntsville City Council prayers -- should a moment of silence replace ... - Witchcraft And Sorcery


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X