Classical Elements: Water

Water is emotion.
Water is the flow of feeling.
Water is blood through our veins.
Water a cool mountain spring.
Water is clear mirror-still lake.
Water is the crashing of the ocean tide.
Water is a wide, sluggish muddy river as it meets the sea.
Water is rain shower.
Water is seepage though the cracks of the basement.
Water is a sudden lump in the throat and a tear in the eye.
Water is a burst of affection and nostalgia as you watch a child happily playing.
Water is feeling that someone is false, even when they haven’t said a word.
Water is a sudden worry about a loved one who is far away.
Water is an octopus nimbly crossing the ocean bottom.
Water is a blue whale with her calf, singing to her family members miles away.
Water is a school of thousands of silvery fish, shimmering and darting.
Water is an iceberg floating in the arctic.
Water is the heavy damp of a swamp.
Water is a burst of anger over being hurt years ago.
Water is the wave of relief when the doctor says “The surgery went fine. You can go see him in the recovery room now.”
Water is joy and pride when a family member wins a prize.
Water is letting your partner complain and vent.
Water is the icy feeling of dread and fear.
Water is feeling uncertain and insecure.
Water is trying to find just the right gift for that special person.
Water is a brisk shower to make you feel clean and refreshed.
Water is the sunken ship hundreds of feet below the surface, silent and forgotten.
Water is remembering a dear friend’s birthday party from years ago.
Water is the warm connection to family, both biological and chosen.
Water is letting someone else shine and being in the background.
Water is wearing away at a problem, like a stream wearing down the canyon walls.
Water is feeling alone in a crowded place.
Water is having a couple drinks and getting a little loose.
Water is letting the other one win the argument (even when you know better).
Water is being empty.
Water is overflowing.
Water is finding the way down into hidden areas.
Water is a mirror.
Water is gazing into a crystal ball.
Water is filling a glass of cheer at the punch bowl.
Water is feeling that you can step into the fantasy world of a novel.
Water is letting your mind drift into imagination.
Water is listening to what the spirits around you have to say.

Water is one of the four classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. In many cases, a 5th element of Spirit, Aether, Quintessence or Akasha is added. The concept comes from ancient Greece, but many cultures through time have had similar systems. In today’s scientific terms, these correspond more to the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma) than the elements of the periodic table. I find them useful as a way to understand states of mind, aspects of personalities, and the ways the world works. I will explore each of them in separate blog posts and then address some of the ways that they are used in spiritual practice

Classical Elements: Fire

Fire is Will.

Fire is desire.

Fire is inspiration.

Fire is creativity.

Fire is a bonfire.

Fire is the burner of gas stove.

Fire is a candle flame.

Fire is the magma at the center of the earth.

Fire is the combustion of a star.

Fire is listening to a political pundit you disagree with, just to feel righteous anger.

Fire is the urge to lash out at someone who has hurt your loved one.

Fire is impatience with annoying people.

Fire is acres of burning forest.

Fire is a scorched desert landscape.

Fire is the kiln that bakes pottery.

Fire is turning simple sand into clear molten glass.

Fire is baking the batter into a cake.

Fire is a volcano belching ash.

Fire is the lava flow creating new land.

Fire is a political protest march.

Fire is furiously pouring out your thoughts onto paper while they’re still fresh.

Fire is burning your embarrassing high school journals.

Fire is the midday sun on hot summer day.

Fire is the electric current coming out of the socket.

Fire is the filament of a light bulb, glowing enough to light a whole room.

Fire is a lightening bolt in the storm.

Fire is the desire for a sexy person.

Fire is the passionate rush of sexual contact.

Fire is running until you get an endorphin rush.

Fire is lifting weights to feel the burn.

Fire is a light in the window of a comfortable home on a cold dark night.

Fire is the burst of realization about how to fix a problem.

Fire is an explosion, sending burning debris hurtling out.

Fire is burning away the clutter that holds you back.

Fire is ripping out the old kitchen cabinets to make room for the new ones.

Fire is the rush of energy after making a major life decision.

Fire is the golden glow of a healing touch.

Fire is the determination to repeat and repeat until you get it right.

Fire is just doing what you know must be done without much thought.

Fire is action.

Fire is a chemical reaction.

Fire is a verb.

Fire is the motivation to make a change in your life and in the world around you.

 

Fire is one of the four classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. In many cases, a 5th element of Spirit, Aether, Quintessence or Akasha is added. The concept comes from ancient Greece, but many cultures through time have had similar systems.  In today’s scientific terms, these correspond more to the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma) than the elements of the periodic table.  I find them useful as a way to understand states of mind, aspects of personalities, and the ways the world works.  I will explore each of them in separate blog posts and then address some of the ways that they are used in spiritual practice

Classical Elements: Air

Air is intellect.

Air is communication.

Air is a breathing in a fresh breeze.

Air is the cool morning at sunrise.

Air is a deep breath to calm the nerves and clear the mind.

Air is making a clear-headed and logical decision.

Air is making a pun.

Air is finding the perfect words to present your argument.

Air is sending a kind thought to a faraway friend.

Air is sweeping away unpleasant thoughts.

Air is spring cleaning.

Air is deciding what makes good sense.

Air is researching a question.

Air is reading a detective novel.

Air is completing a crossword puzzle.

Air is smelling flowers in bloom.

Air is the smell of incense.

Air is looking out from the top of a skyscraper.

Air is the silvery sound of a flute.

Air is the sound of wind chimes.

Air is appreciating harmony and balance.

Air is determining that a certain person is a drag on your life and needs to be let go.

Air is judging someone in a fair and dispassionate way.

Air is telling a silly joke just to get a laugh.

Air is witty party banter.

Air is a sharp insult.

Air is listening to a Mozart symphony.

Air is listening to a lecture on a complicated topic.

Air is a inspired idea for a new project.

Air is a realization that you may be able to streamline thing to make life easier.

Air is laughing at a light-hearted comedy.

Air is feeling the warm Spring breeze across your skin.

Air is math calculations.

Air is sharing gossip.

Air is making up a little white lie to cover an inconvenient situation.

Air is acting out a character on stage.

Air is typing a blog post.

Air is watching TV and listening to the radio.

Air is looking at a new website.

Air is listening to opposing politicians present different side of an issue on talk radio.

Air is looking critically at the text of a speech and realizing that the politician’s platform is playing on fear and emotion and ignoring actual facts.

Air is the 4-year-old learning to manipulate to get what they want.

Air is sending an email.

Air is writing a report for school.

Air is commenting on a friend’s funny Facebook post.

Air is words and speech.

Air is technology like television, cell phones, texting, email, skype and internet.

Air is thinking clearly and logically.

Air is being informed about facts.

 

Air is one of the four classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. In many cases, a 5th element of Spirit, Aether, Quintessence or Akasha is added. The concept comes from ancient Greece, but many cultures through time have had similar systems.  In today’s scientific terms, these correspond more to the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma) than the elements of the periodic table.  I find them useful as a way to understand states of mind, aspects of personalities, and the ways the world works.  I will explore each of them in separate blog posts and then address some of the ways that they are used in spiritual practice.

Classical Elements: Earth

Earth is the physical world.

Earth is the body and the knowledge that we are not just “in” our bodies, but we are our bodies.

Earth is the soil where plants grow.

Earth is the cave where strange hidden plants and creatures grow.

Earth is cooking a beautiful meal.

Earth is satisfying our hunger.

Earth is providing food for those that are hungry.

Earth is a hug from a good friend.

Earth is a caress across the skin that awakens the sense of touch.

Earth is the pleasure of sexual stimulation.

Earth is a good night’s restful sleep.

Earth is snuggling under the covers on a cold morning.

Earth is tasting salt on your tongue.

Earth is the satisfying snap of biting into a crisp apple.

Earth is filling the kitchen with the scent of simmering stew.

Earth is baking bread.

Earth is being still and watching a deer in the woods.

Earth is the kicking a pile of fall leaves.

Earth is paying the bills.

Earth is doing the filing.

Earth is taking the car in for service.

Earth is admiring the look and feel of a beautiful gold ring.

Earth is running your hand across a velvet pillow.

Earth is building a table with your own hands.

Earth is sewing your own shirt.

Earth is realizing that the old, beat-up chest of drawers just needs a coat of paint and some contact paper in the drawers and it will work just fine.

Earth is loving that your body can walk, run, jump, crouch, stretch, lift, and climb.

Earth is knowing that you’ve pushed your body too hard and need to rest.

Earth is cleaning out the refrigerator.

Earth is making the trip to the store to pick up toilet paper.

Earth is buying a new mattress because you’ve been waking up with a backache.

Earth is looking at a cup and realizing and appreciating that someone gathered the clay, kneaded it, shaped the cup and its delicate handle, covered it in glaze and painted a design, fired it in a kiln so that we can have this simple dish.

Earth is shoveling snow from the sidewalk and then deciding to make a snowman.

Earth is helping a friend move.

Earth is changing a baby’s diapers.

Earth is listening while an elderly neighbor complains about her ailments.

Earth is planting geraniums in the window box.

Earth is planting tomatoes and green beans in the garden.

Earth is planting acres of corn in the field.

Earth is realizing and dealing with the world as it is.

Earth is loving what is beautiful and realizing what is necessary.

 

Earth is one of the four classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. In many cases, a 5th element of Spirit, Aether, Quintessence or Akasha is added. The concept comes from ancient Greece, but many cultures through time have had similar systems.  In today’s scientific terms, these correspond more to the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma) than the elements of the periodic table.  I find them useful as a way to understand states of mind, aspects of personalities, and the ways the world works.  I will explore each of them in separate blog posts and then address some of the ways that they are used in spiritual practice.

Reconstructionism and Syncretism

In a previous blog post, I made reference to Reconstructionist traditions, which refers to those who are reaching back to pre-Christian traditions in certain areas where Christianity and Islam have become dominant and largely erased traditional practice.  These include Norse, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Hellenic (Greek), Religio Romana (Roman), Kemetic (Egyptian) Celtic, Romuva (Baltic), Rodnovery (Slavic) and others.  These traditions use texts, archaeology, and folk traditions to recreate the practices that have been forgotten for centuries.

In many cases, these traditions have re-emerged in the areas where they were traditionally practiced. Many of them have also moved out of their traditional homes and found practitioners in other parts of the world.  The internet has, of course, helped this spread of ideas and practice.  Here is Chicago, I know that there is a group of Hellenic reconstructionists who have some festivals and practices.  I know of people following Norse, Roman and Celtic Reconstructionist paths, but there don’t appear to be any formal organizations or events (although it’s possible I just haven’t discovered them yet.)

I have noticed that there is some tension between those following certain Reconstructionist religions and the larger Pagan community.  I recently heard a guest on the Modern Witch podcast articulating that within the Hellenic community, they feel that the witchcraft and spell work that are staples of some neo-pagan practice was distrusted and discouraged by the historical antecedents of their religious tradition.  They practice veneration and prayer for the gods and goddesses and they celebrate holiday and feasts, but they do not perform the kind of magical rituals often seen in other types of Paganism.

There is also a political tension between certain kinds of Reconstructionism and the larger Pagan community.  The Pagan community tends to be liberal and pluralistic in its ideals, but certain Reconstructionist traditions, particularly Norse/Germanic and Rodnovery traditions, can have a nationalistic and sometimes racially exclusive tinge to them. Some white supremacist groups within the United States have taken a page from certain Nazi thinkers who link a revival of Norse traditions with the superiority of northern European ancestry.  This linking of religious outlook is certainly not universal in either direction and most people in the United States interested in the Norse traditions are definitely not white supremacists.

I do have a feeling that part of the appeal of certain Reconstructionist traditions to people is that there is a kind of “purity” to them. The gods and goddesses are clearly defined in a certain cosmology and that they are tapping into a whole and coherent belief system which is inherited from an age when the ancestors were more closely in touch with the natural world. The complication and messiness of a pluralistic society can be a struggle and frustration.

I have a personal interest in Religio Romana, in part because like our modern society, the Roman Empire was a pluralistic society and the presence of many differing traditions was simply a part of their reality.  The Romans from the pre-historic period had certain traditions and certain gods and goddesses.  From the earliest days, they grabbed onto the traditions of their neighbors and incorporated them into their religious practices. The Greeks were among the first sources of inspiration and many of the Roman gods and goddesses became intertwined with older Etruscan and Latin deities.  People often learn from mythology that Venus=Aphrodite and Mars=Ares, etc.  In reality, it was a bit more complicated and the Roman Venus and Mars did have some distinctly Roman features that made them more than simply copies of Greek deities.  In other cases, like Apollo, there was no Roman equivalent and they just adopted the Greek name and identity.

As time went on and the Roman Empire grew to incorporate many conquered cultures, the Romans typically encouraged the local people to continue worshiping their traditional gods, and often they restored and built new facilities in traditional places and revived ancient festivals.  Sometimes these deities would be imported to Rome itself and disseminated throughout the Empire, like Mithras from Persia and Isis from Egypt, whose worship could be found in every corner of the Empire. Sometimes, the identities of gods from various cultures were merged with existing Roman gods, and there are instances of statues of Isis-Aphrodite and worship of Minerva-Sulis (Sulis was a Britannic goddess).  This is called syncretism – the melding of different religious traditions, practices or schools of thought.  It was an essential part of Roman religion, and one of the reasons why I think that Roman religious model can fit very well into our modern pluralistic society.

Syncretism also refers to other combinations of religious traditions, like the way that Voudou and Santeria combine Christianity with native African religion with New World flair.  Unlike syncretism involving Abrahamic religions, none of the different traditions combined by the Romans had an exclusivity requirement that had to be ignore to make the combination work.  The Romans were pretty free to mix and match (with a few restrictions).

Now, it is certainly true that the Romans were Imperialists (it’s from them that we get the word, although they certainly weren’t the first to create a multi-ethnic empire), and they did have a religious element to their political domination of other nations and peoples. In conquered areas, prominent people and city administrations were supposed to conduct honors and sacrifices to the gods and goddesses of the Romans.  This varied by time and place, but often included Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and sometimes Juno and Minerva as well.  As Emperors became deified, it was considered good form to maintain a cult of the various Emperors to give them honor.  It was actions that were required, though, not statements of faith. In some instances the religious institutions were sources of political resistance and then Romans set out to destroy them, motivated by politics rather than religious feeling.  This happened both in the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem and the destruction of the Druids of Britain at Anglesey.

This is a far cry from some more modern imperial campaigns such as the Spanish in the Americas or the United States in Native American territory. In these instances, the goal of the Empire was not just political domination, but a total destruction of the traditional religious beliefs and practices of these areas.  The Romans were more likely to partially adopt a conquered people’s religious tradition than to attempt to eradicate it.

As I follow my path, I am inspired by the messiness of the Roman traditions, the syncretism and the ability to see the value of a different culture’s cosmology, mythology and practice and to let that inspire my own outlook. The Romans were hardly an ideal in terms of their political structure and the patriarchal and sometimes warlike nature of their society. But their pragmatic nature in recognizing a good idea from any source, even from their enemies, extended to their views of religious practice. I see some lessons to be learned from them and their approach to pluralism that can be helpful to us today.