The DruWitch Way: Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders & Undines – Oh My!

The DruWitch Way: Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders & Undines – Oh My! April 22, 2020

I read an article today on Teen Vogue about honouring Earth Day, which at of the time of writing this blog is today.  As Earth Days go it’s fair to say that April 22nd 2020 may be one that goes down in history.

Thanks to Covid19 the world has slowed right down, road and air travel have massively decreased, and News agencies are full of before and after photos showing how smog in major cities is decreasing. In the UK we are seeing sheep hanging out in McDonalds rather than adolescents, goats rampaging through seaside towns and even deer visiting the home of the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle. Everywhere nature seems to be taking over. There is a tiny little piece of my little hippy heart that hopes that this Earth Day is the day that we all decide we need to make a change.

I hope that this Earth Day is the day we all decide we need to make a change. Photo by 272447 via Pixabay.

Anyway, what inspired me to write was the use of Elementals in one of the spells in the Teen Vogue article. I’m going to confess I’m a little bit of stickler at times for traditional correspondences and I don’t always feel comfortable when people play fast and loose with them. Mostly because when it comes to spirits those correspondences are often as the result of tried and true experience.

But I do also try and put myself into that uncomfortable zone and challenge why I feel that way and see if I can learn something from it. Problem is with this one, my jury is still out. I am not a big advocate of invoking spirits to help with Ecological issues; they just don’t see the world the way we do. Ask a Spirit, Elemental, Fae, Angelic, Demonic to help cure the world of its Ecology issues, and unless you are very clever with the wording they will go straight to the source, which is us! Oh Man that is one heavy debate right there.

Their abode is of four kinds, namely, according to the four elements: one in the water, one in the air, one in the earth, one in the fire. Photo by M W via Pixabay.

So, I thought to counter the article I might give you a little bit of history of these elementals, and what their traditional correspondences are, and then you can make your own mind up as to whether they are the right entities for the job.

To start this tale, we need to discuss Paracelsus a.k.a Theophrastus Von Hohenheim; whilst the idea of elementals had been buzzing around renaissance Europe for a while he is the guy who really formalised the idea of the four elemental species known as Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines and Gnomes. It’s highly possible that with the exception of Salamanders, who had been established as a species since the beginning of the 1st Century C.E., the other 3 creatures or at least their names are entirely the creation of Paracelsus. This is what he says about them:⁠

  • They cannot be men, since they are spirit-like like in their behaviour. They cannot be spirits, since they eat and drink, have blood and flesh.
  • For these things are not daily before our eyes but very rarely.
  • Their abode is of four kinds, namely, according to the four elements: one in the water, one in the air, one in the earth, one in the fire.
  • Those in the water are nymphs, those in the air are sylphs, those in the earth are pygmies, those in the fire salamanders.
  • They also know all future affairs, present affairs and the past, which are not apparent but are hidden.
  • Thus, they give money to many people in the galleries of mountains, to make them get away; they buy them off.
  • They also must keep their pledges, when they are in service and have been pledged. But obligations to them must be kept also, in all that is due to them.
  • Know about them that they reach a very old age, but you cannot notice it, because their appearance remains the same from beginning to end, and they die unchanged.
  • Gnomes, Pygmies and Mani guard the treasures of the earth, the metals and similar treasures.
  • The same applies also to the fire people. They too are guardians, of the fireplaces, in which they live.
  • The nymphs in the water are guardians of the great water treasures, that lie in the sea and other waters, that have also been melted and forged by the fire people.

To summarise, they are: mostly invisible, eternally youthful in appearance, flesh and blood creatures who live in the elements of earth, fire, water and air. They are capable of divining the future, revealing things that are hidden and able to advise on current affairs. They guard “treasures” found in their elemental realm and if it pleases them, they can pass those treasures onto humanity. They are also capable of making deals and bargains with whomever they interact with but all contracts must be kept.

Nowhere are they called “growers & harvesters”, “air or water purifiers” or “sparks of global change” nor do they create those elements just because they live in them and are of them. So, the whole article has massive alarm bells going for me as far as teaching our new witches what’s what about the elemental realms.

Does that mean we shouldn’t consider them like that? I’ve really struggled with this because I love innovation and I work with the Fae and Elementals in loads on untraditional ways, but in this case I really feel that it is unwise, its poorly researched and poorly thought out – that’s a recipe for disaster for any spell in my book innovative or not.

Close your eyes and meditate on the element in which the elemental you want to contact lives. Photo by Bradley Hook via Pexels.

However, if you take away the poor descriptions the exercise isn’t half bad. Always one to try and be constructive in my criticism here is how I would do it:

  • Close your eyes and meditate on the ELEMENT in which the elemental you want to contact lives.
  • Ask an Elemental to come forward, be very specific what you want from them, like us they have skills and personalities so ask for a Spirit of X Element able to guide you in your care of the world around you.
  • Once you feel you have made a contact (please don’t join energies these things are not of us nor entirely of this world) ask them to reveal to you knowledge or wisdom that would aid in YOU facilitating world change (this is really important, remember if we leave it up to them goodness know what they might do to us).
  • If they ask for a deal or bargain to be struck, think very carefully about whether you can fulfil that obligation, failure to do so can bring a whole world of trouble.
  • DO NOT ASK them directly to help our planet more nor even think about that possibility, I swear they can read our minds sometimes (for the reasons stated above).
  • DO Thank them for their time, patience and consideration – remember there is no evidence they grow/harvest, purify, spark global change or generate/purify water, to thank them for those things may confuse the issue. So just stick to the facts. They took the time to talk to you about how you can fix ecological issues, that is good enough.

Give my exercise a go, see how you feel, I can guarantee you, it’s a safer variation.

About Tara Sanchez
I am a Gardnerian Witch with heavy Druidic tendencies which I think my coven mates mostly tolerate, or at least they humour me when I come up with oddball rituals based on snippets of folklore or myth. I can often be found getting up to mayhem and magick on the wonderful Island of Anglesey, a place where Gin is a sacramental offering. My love of divination is unbridled and I currently own well over a hundred Tarot decks (but please no-one tell my husband! ) and I love to teach and give talks and workshops on Magick, Folklore, Oracular techniques and not surprisingly the Tarot. You can find a whole host of articles and information about my current research at http://tarasanchez.com/. You can read more about the author here.
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