Earth, Air, Fire and Water: the building blocks of life. The states of matter (solid, gas, plasma and liquid). The Witch’s Pyramid and the Elemental Weapons. Most teachers of the Craft would agree that these are essential parts of a basic Craft education. Here are some suggestions of methods and exercises to teach students about each of the elements; what they’re like and what they mean.
When I’m teaching about the elements, I start in the North with Earth. I ask my students to spend a month communicating with that element and getting to know what it’s all about. The qualities of Earth, according to tradition, are cool and dry. Other qualities include stability and fertility. Some exercises I have suggested are:
- Gardening or planting
- Crystal gazing
- Making mudpies
- Sitting in the dark
- Carving or sculpting
- Making a crystal grid
- Scrying by watching leaves rustle (the druids used to do this)
- Going for a walk in the winter
- Going for a walk in a cornfield (or other farmland)
- Making your pentacle
- Work with the suit of pentacles in the Tarot
- Getting to know your body
- Eating a 100 mile diet for at least a week (becoming aware of what you put in your body and what its growing season is)
- Working with delta waves (brainwave entrainment) to remove pain and induce deep sleep or trance
- Gathering rocks
- Experiencing the sense of touch; trust exercises, sampling different sensations, etc.
- Learning chants: The Earth is Our Mother, Hoof and Horn, We Approach the Sacred Grove, Horned One, Lover, Son, Earth Spirits Chant, The Lady’s Bransle.*
After a month focusing on Earth, I move on to the East and Air. Western occult tradition tells us its qualities are warm and moist, and its other qualities are changeability and intellect. Some exercises include:
- Flying a kite
- Mountain climbing (it’s the moment at the summit that’s important)
- Singing or whistling
- Watching a sunrise
- Making incense or perfume
- Cloud watching
- Going for a walk in the springtime
- Going for a walk in a windstorm
- Making your own athame
- Work with the suit of swords in the Tarot
- Writing (music, stories, articles, poetry; there are many options)
- Learning and studying
- Working with beta waves (brainwave entrainment) to improve concentration, focus, study and communication
- Gathering feathers
- Experiencing the sense of smell; perfumes, oils, incenses, smoke & smudging, etc.
- Learning chants: Spirit of the Wind, Be Like a Bird, Wearing My Long Wing Feathers.
Moving on to the South and Fire, which the Western occult tradition tells us is warm and dry, as well as passionate and powerful. Some exercises might include:
- Building a campfire
- Practicing a martial art
- Making love or dancing
- Being aware of the sun at noon, preferably on a beach
- Making candles
- Learning & practicing candle magick
- Scrying with a fire (candle, campfire, fireplace; whatever)
- Going for a walk in the summertime
- Going for a walk in a desert
- Making your own wand
- Work with the suit of wands in the Tarot
- Celebrating passion (there are many options; hopefully I don’t have to spell them all out! And remember, be careful!)
- Taking up a regular exercise program
- Working with color and light magick
- Working with alpha waves (brainwave entrainment) to increase psychic ability and induce a light magickal trance
- Learning about the constellations (star watching)
- Experiencing the sense of sight; light, noticing small details, color, art, etc.
- Learning chants: Rise with the Fire, Fire Flow Free, Burn Fire, Fire Soul, The Fire Chant.
I finish up with Water because that’s the natural flow of the circle. Traditionally it is cool and moist, emotional and cleansing. To acquaint your students with it, you can get them to do some of these exercises and practices:
- Getting a fish and caring for it
- Making teas for magickal or health-related purposes and drinking them
- Watching a sunset, preferably on water
- Taking a ritual bath
- Making a fountain or a pond
- Pool-gazing or river-gazing (scrying)
- Going for a walk in the autumn
- Going for a walk in the rain
- Going for a walk on a beach or by a river
- Making a ritual chalice
- Work with the suit of cups in the Tarot
- Juicing all meals for a week; or undertaking a body cleanse (doctor-supervised and approved, of course)
- Practicing the development of your intuition and empathy
- Working with theta waves (brainwave entrainment) for trancework and journeywork
- Experiencing the sense of hearing; music, nature sounds, crystal bowls, etc.
- Learning chants: The Ocean is the Beginning of the Earth, Moon and Sea, Waters of Life, Born of Water, The River is Flowing.
Techniques for All Elements
There are techniques to teach the elemental qualities that work for any of the elements in general. Here are some ideas to make it all fun and interesting:
- Elemental Pathworkings – I have some great elemental pathworkings created by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, which are excellent guided meditations that take you through the elements as they manifest in the seasons. You can use them or write your own guided meditations.
- The Witch’s Pyramid – Working with the Pyramid, also known as the Four Powers of the Magician, can be very enlightening and helpful for this purpose.
- Working with the Archangels – If your tradition does not object to working with the Archangels, they are thought to be associated with the Four Elements. Uriel – Earth, Raphael – Air, Michael – Fire, Gabriel – Water.
- Spend some time getting to know about the creatures associated with that element, and watching them or handling them if you can; land mammals or crawling insects for Earth, birds or flying insects for Air, reptiles or stinging insects for Fire and fish (or cetaceans) and aquatic insects for Water.
- Learn about the symbols and colors associated with each element and practice drawing them and working with them. There are lines, triangles, pentagrams, runes, sigils, astrological signs; the possibilities are great! Include working with those symbols as part of the time of acquaintance.
- Chanting – There’s nothing like well-written chants to guide you through the qualities of the elements! Some chants for all four elements include:
- Earth My Body
- The Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water
- Air Moves Us
- Rise on the Elements
- Air I Am
The options really are unlimited when it comes to making the elements real and living for your students. Give them more than just a list of correspondences; give them a real experience!
Next column: The Witch’s Pyramid
* I must thank Panpipe (Ivo Dominguez Jr.) for his exceptionally valuable resource, the Pagan Chant of the Month Archive; as well as the following artists (in no particular order): Libana, Damiana, Parnassus, Reclaiming, Gwydion Pendderwyn, Lindie Lila, Trigoddess.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.