A few years ago, I stopped invoking the elements (earth, air, fire, and water) at the quarters when casting a circle. Working with them in this way had felt wrong to me for some time.
I feel it’s important to say here, I’m in no way suggesting anyone else removes them from Paganism or Wicca. I also insist all the candles are extinguished before the lights go on. My athame lives in my underwear drawer and very rarely comes out, even for rituals. The Wiccan community would be a strange place for sure if I insisted everyone did what I did. We all have our quirks.
I like the idea of earth, air, fire, water, and spirit as the building blocks of the universe. There is a lot of value in balancing them within you.
I see them as something we can work with to help understand ourselves and the way we interact with the world. For example, I might say “I feel a little fire-y today”, or “I need a little extra earth this week”. I think they’re a valuable part of understanding Paganism and Western Mysticism.
But I no longer invoke the elements at the quarters.
When I first started learning about Heathenry, I realised a lot of the more mainstream material gave examples of ritual which seemed based on the Wiccan circle.
Edred Thorsson’s hammer rite for example which took the quarter points of the circle into the square.
Having a small amount of knowledge of the origins of Wicca, I find it hard to understand why the ritual magick style circle casting would be used but with heathen terminology. I’d be really interested in hearing the ‘why’ from people who do this, but for me it always seemed like it should be one or the other, not an amalgamation of the two.
I’m proud of my Wiccan lineage and training, I don’t use the words “but what you’re really doing is Wicca” to denigrate anything. But when I started learning about heathenry, I expected something different to what I already knew. Surely there had to be something else. If we were reconstructing, why did we borrow so much from modern witchcraft traditions?
This thought trail led me to do something a little differently when I sanctified my space.
When I’m working in a larger group, I use the disir circle (I’ll add more about this in a separate post – but you can find it in my Seidr book)
However, when I work alone, I simply use rune intonation. I invoke Kenaz to clear the energetic space, Laguz to clear emotional space, and Othala to call the ancestors.
When I’m outside I mostly just request permission, peace and space from the land spirits.
I considered using runes to invoke the elements too but the longer I thought about it the less necessary it felt, particularly as you can interpret Kenaz and Laguz as fire and water anyway.
Where I live, the elements naturally feel balanced.
The sun shines brightly in the big open sky. We have few hills and no mountains. Nothing blocks the great expanse of sky from view. On the beach the sun soaks into the sand and reflects the warmth and energy back. The ocean is a walk away. The salt water in the air means you can feel the presence of the sea whether you’re physically facing it or not. The chalk from the cliffs is in the soil, the sand, and you feel it in the energy of place. It permeates everything. The wind is ever present. Balance lives within my world. Consistently.
Often, I’ll work on the beach or in my garden but even if I’m indoors the elements here are so all encompassing, I feel no need to invoke them specifically.
“You have to make sure you banish them afterwards”
I haven’t heard this so much in recent years, but back in the early days of my practise a lot of books and teachers explained how important it was to banish the elements properly post ritual.
If they’re so likely to cause trouble and don’t seem to do much, why do we even invoke elementals in the first place?
I completely understand the need to ask permission from the land spirits, but do we need to ‘summon, stir, and call them up’? Surely if they want to play they’ll be there.
Were the Mighty Ones ever elemental?
A few years back I was speaking to a friend who’d studied the Brickets Wood coven extensively. I explained my confusion with the elements and how I felt they just didn’t ‘fit’ for me.
He felt the Mighty Ones of Gardnerian craft were different from the Watchtowers of Alexandrian craft.
The watchtowers were linked to ritual magick, whereas the Mighty Ones were the witches who had gone before. By calling to the Mighty Ones you called to the witches who’d worked with you in the past and were currently taking their turn as guides rather than in physical form.
Sophia Boann in this article, explains the reincarnation beliefs of Wicca far better than I ever could.
One day the Mighty Ones, like ourselves, would be reincarnated and be physically present again in circle but until then we invite them to our rites to be present with us in the space between the worlds.
Understanding the quarter invocations in this way helped me to see the part of the Wiccan circle I was misinterpreting.
By separating the Alexandrian addition from the Gardnerian core, I rediscovered the Mighty Ones and began to work with them.
Now when I create a Wiccan circle, I call up the Mighty Ones not the elements. If I’m leading a group ritual, I’ll include the words “air, fire, water, earth’ to describe the element the Mighty Ones in that quarter might have felt more connected to.
But I no longer invoke the elements as I learnt them.