I’m currently co-teaching a six week class titled “Elements of Magic”. It is one of the core pieces of magic taught in the Reclaiming Tradition and I use the term “core” rather than “beginning” or “basic” for specific reasons. You see, I hold that there’s nothing particularly basic about this exploration and I find myself returning to the Elements of Magic work year after year as a teacher and, more importantly, as a student. Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Center. They are the foundation of my personal practice and the actual ground on which I base my interactions within the temporal world.
Air, Magic, Breath
It’s a blustery afternoon. I’m standing on the top of a cliff, just on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco. The wind is whipping around me, blowing up dust and sending chills through my altogether way too flimsy t-shirt and shorts. My shirt comes off, it’s not doing much anyway, and I expose my bare skin to the elements. I have two raven tattoos on my chest and it feels like I’m letting them out so that they can soar up into the sky.
Immediately I’m aware of several things all at once – There are two, very real, large ravens just beyond the ridge of the cliff. They are hovering in place, neither moving forward nor backwards. They are cawing loudly. There’s an almost arctic bite to the wind up here and it’s swirling around me, rather than blowing from just one direction. It’s so strong that I’m finding it hard to keep my balance and I notice that I can’t reel in my thoughts or my breath.
My breath. I’m gulping in the air. Through my mouth, through my nose, and though my skin. I can’t get enough of the stuff and as I’m struggling to take it all in, I find that I’m not really breathing. All this air and I’m not breathing. I concentrate on my next few inhales and eventually I take in one long, deep breath. All of a sudden I can hear a single word, a single thought.
The word is “fly” and so I do. I stretch out my arms, expand my chest, tilt my head back and lift one leg up from the rock I’m perched on. I imagine myself with those two ravens, buoyed by the wind, and unattached to the rock. It’s exhilarating. The wind and I are now allies. Something in my awareness has changed. No longer cold, the air is crisp and full of scents from the nearby ocean and coyote bushes. No longer chaotically swirling, there’s a discernible pattern of gusts and eddies and waves to ride on. No longer separate from me, I recognize just how much I resemble the wind.I am filled with half-remembered lines of poetry from the sixth century Welsh poet, Taliesin –
I have been a multitude of shapes,
Before I assumed a consistent form.
I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been in the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book in the origin.
-Llyfr Taliesin (Book of Taliesin)
These enchantments, which come from another age, reach out to me across the centuries and are made new and relevant again.
An Adventure with Air
Before I fold up my wings and come back down to the earth, I shout “alright! I will follow you on this adventure”. Two days later I was unexpectedly on a plane bound for New Zealand. I had barely caught my breath before that adventure began when a smaller, more subtle, quiet version of air became all too important to me; the final, laboured breaths of a beloved.
When I returned home, my own breath was taken away again by the sight of my partner waiting for me at the airport – Air Port. I felt her breath in me as we kissed. The air escape from me as sobs and gasps and laughter and stories and shouts and even snores, as I fell asleep nestled in our bed. As my partner held me close their long, calming, deep breaths reminded me that the story was not fully told and even if I didn’t believe it in that moment, more breaths were coming.
So I spend time reconnecting with this element and making it something I am consciously aware of in each moment. It’s not simply some distant element that I call into the ritual space and have no real connection to. Air is Breath and Air is Laughter. Air is Song and Air is Flight. It carries hints of hidden wisdom and Poetry. Air is full of Ideas and potential. These are all Air in its magical, elemental form. This Air is part of me and I am part of the Air. This Air is part of my daily life and part of my daily practice. Air. I honour you.