The Elements are the metaphysical building blocks of everything that is. They are individual energies whose combination determines what the resulting form will be. In the Western view, there are four physical Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, as well as Spirit, the animating factor which is no less than that glowing little spark within all life that is nothing short of Divine.
While it is possible to work with these energies individually (this practice does, in fact, comprise a major part of a traditional Wiccan ritual: the Calling of the Elements and the Gods,) but it is important to remember that each of us is a compilation of these energies: one person is not one element (i.e. my Element is Earth, your Element is Water,) this is a huge misconception. However, it is possible to have an imbalance in the amount of a certain Elemental energy within you, but this is entirely different and does not mean you have any sort of affinity or correlation to that Element.
Each element has its own correspondences and association, which vary from one tradition to another as well as from culture to culture. The focus within this series of short articles will be on the Western view of the Elements, with traditional European based associations that many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans are familiar with.
This element is comprised of the other four elements yet it surpasses them all. It is divinity without the personification or implied sense of consciousness that we give to individual deities, for Spirit is all deities. It is the driving force behind the Universe. It is everything and it is nothing. It is the cause, the effect, and the affected. It is you, me, all animal life (no matter how large or small,) all plant life, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, everything (and nothing.) It is simultaneously the connection between all things and every individual thing -yet it is also that which keeps all things separate and it is the empty spaces in between.
As such, nothing can truly be attributed to it as all are its attributes (just as none are its attributes.) For more on this, I suggest a good cup of tea and a nice quiet spot outside, preferably in the shade of an old tree or a large rock, in which to sit and think away the day.
Formless and life sustaining, the ebb and flow of Water is the very rhythm of our lives. It governs our emotions, movement and change, sleep, and psychic abilities. The lesson of Water is one of detachment, of letting go and moving on.
Just as the Earth is comprised of about 80% water, so too are we. Water is the very “blood of life,” without which we could not exist, and it is also the very blood within our bodies.
In Western Magickal Tradition, Water is most commonly associated with the West and the season of Autumn. Its colors are generally blues and blue-greens, but Water is also associated with grey, silver, and white by other cultures and traditions.
Water is also strongly tied to the Moon, as the Moon elicits great force upon Water, seen in the tides of both the Earth and of plants and animals, including humans (i.e. the Moon pulls on the waters of our being, physical and emotional, effecting sleep patterns, female reproductive cycles, mating habits, and emotional levels.)
By far, the most complicated of all the physical elements, not only is it the very spark of life, but Fire also has the ability to sustain life (it keeps us warm, cooks our food,) and the ability to destroy it. It is an element of transformation, for nothing it touches is able to remain the same.
The heat of this element lends itself to passion and lust, but not just the kind that pulls two bodies together but also to blood lust and war. As such, Fire is also the Element of protection, courage, and physical strength. In certain situations, it can be used for healing, to burn away disease.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Fire rules the direction of South; in the Southern Hemisphere it rules the direction of North.
The most common color attributed to Fire is red, but also appropriate are bright orange, scarlet, blood red, and black.
More than just the wind rustling through the tree leaves, it is also the very breath within our lungs and the thoughts within our heads. It is that which inspires us to continue searching, imbues us with wanderlust, and gives us hope.
The lightest of all the Elements, Air is the Element of constant change, the mind, communication, and travel. It keeps things “fresh” and, as such, Air rules over new beginnings and the season of Spring.
In Western magickal tradition, it is most commonly aligned with the direction of East, as this is the direction from which the Sun rises and thus the direction from which the Day begins, however some may align it to the West as this is the direction from which the Jet Stream comes. Color association is commonly yellow, but other cultures and traditions do assign it white, blue, or gold.
It’s the very Earth beneath your feet, the bones within your body, and that feeling of safety and calm when everything is good and certain within your life.
The Element of Earth is the heaviest of all the Elements, lending itself to stability and all things that are “fixed” or “set.”
It can be cold and unmoving, harsh and intolerant. No wonder then that it is the Element governing Winter and, appropriately, in the Northern Hemisphere it rules the direction of North while in the Southern Hemisphere it rules the direction of South.
Yet, like the very Earth for which it is named, it is full of life. This Element encourages growth, fertility, expansion, and prosperity. Common color association in Western magick is green, like growing plants and paper currency. Other cultures color it black (as in fertile soil,) yellow, and brown.
Ritual is the term given to all Wiccan acts of worship and magick. This is because whether it’s a Sabbat celebration, Handfasting, or work of healing magick, there is a prescribed way to go about things, certain steps that are considered integral. The exact manner in which these steps are carried out may vary from individual to individual and group to group (as well as from Tradition to Tradition) and there may also be additional steps added, as per preference of the participants, but there is a basic format adhered to by all.
A ritual consists of six basic steps:
Using these steps as a guide, one can create the perfect ritual for any occasion or need. While the rituals found in books and online can be very nice and powerful rituals, a ritual that you compose yourself, perfectly suited to your situation and personal taste, is sure to serve you better. It’s that personal touch, that incorporation of personal energy that makes all the difference.
Believe it or not, practicing Witchcraft doesn't have to be expensive. Granted, yes, nearly every book on the subject seems to have endless lists of materials and tools that are essential to being a good Witch, but you really don't need any of it!
Strip it down to the most basic aspect, and magick is the art of manipulating the energies present around us and within us as well: everything is energy. That's it. That's all it really is. All the fancy tools are just props to help you tap into this energy. And, like I said before, you really don't need any of them! All it takes to successfully work magick is focus and a strong will.
I firmly believe that two of the hallmark traits of any competent Witch are innovation and practicality. That means that when you don't have something you need for a particular spell, you can come up with an appropriate substitution with what you do have or simply work without that item without any problems.
Admittedly, being able to work magick takes practice, and working it without any tools at all takes even more. But, using what you have on hand is easy, and can add a lot of fun to your magickal practice. Excuse my kitchen witch, but everything you need for that perfect spell is right in your kitchen, either in your spice cabinet or junk drawer!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Pepper- Black, Cayenne, or whatever, Pepper is a powerful protective herb and is great for banishings or for lending you courage
Basil- great for when your confidence is lacking as it hands a bit of success to your working; also good for peace, protection, prosperity, and love magick
Parsley- eat it to induce lust, also useful for protection and purification
Garlic- great for all cleansings, banishings, exorcisms, or purification rites
Salt- a basic purifier and protector
String- useful for knot magick, making charms, can be laid on a flat surface in a particular shape to aid in meditation
Crayons- go ahead and steal them from your kids! they come in a plethora of colors and can be useful in crafting charms and wards
Glass Jars- save them from your pasta sauce, they're great for storing your herbs and finished herbcraft items in; useful for Witch Bottles as well
Pins/Needles- they correspond to Saturn and are great in Witch Bottles or for banishings and protective magick, pins with colored tops are especially useful
Sugar- it's fundamentally attractive, use it to draw things to yous, especially money
Yeast- a catalyst, it can be used to add that little "oomph" to your working
A prominent concept within Neo-Paganism is Karma. Many people equate this with the Law of Three: everything you do comes back to you, times three. Interestingly, though, the Law of Three and Karma have nothing to do with each other. They are merely similar concepts on the idea that every action has a consequence that must be dealt with.
Karma is originally a Hindu philosophy. It has been mistakenly equated with the Law of Three, a purely modern Western invention, because of this similarity, however Karma does not deal with "amounts" of payback. Nor, as is commonly believed, is the point of Karma to acquire "good" Karma through good deeds. Karma is neither good nor bad: it is simply the consequential energy that must be handled, either in this life or a future one, that comes about from any action, good or bad. This energy accruement is what perpetuates samsara, the cycle of reincarnation.
The goal, here, is to end samsara and attain moksha: enlightenment. This is accomplished by achieving a balance and by not creating Karma all together. This allows one to break the cycle and return home.
With so many varieties and forms, the idea of working with crystals can seem daunting. Everyone seems to have their own opinion of what stone is best used for what, and in what form it should be in for best results. And then there’s actually using the stone! The entire thing can seem like quite the complicated mess that’s better off just left alone. But working with crystals is actually very straightforward and can be quite rewarding as it is a rather basic and hands on form of magick.
While certain stones do possess certain qualities and attributes, basic correspondences for all stones, be they expensive gems or simple stones found in your own backyard, come down to one thing: color. There’s no need to memorize endless lists of correspondences for crystals to be able to use them successfully, just look at it. Oh, you’ve got a lovely purple stone? Why not use it for developing psychic powers and intuition. What, you found a small red stone walking to your mailbox? Bet it would be perfect for a protection spell or balancing your root chakra. It really is that simple.
Using crystals is also pretty straightforward. They work because, like all matter, they’re made of energy and this energy vibrates at a certain frequency (dependent largely upon what color the stone is, though not entirely.) For this energy to effect the change that you want, it must be near to what you want to be affected. For example, if you are using your crystals for healing, they should be near or touching the person you are healing, or their representation in the case of distant spells, for as long as possible. If you’re going to use crystals to protect or cleanse a space, the stones should be placed throughout the space, so that their energy can affect the space as much as possible (i.e. place crystals about on shelves, in corners, above doorways, etc.)
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that your crystals will need to be cleansed periodically. It is often suggested to soak stones in a mix of salt water, but this is highly ill advised, as certain stones can and will dissolve in water. The safest bet to ensure you don’t accidentally damage your stones is to pass them through incense smoke. Just pass the stone through or hold it in the smoke until you feel the energy of the stone change. It will feel lighter and stronger.
And as for what form the stone should be in, this truly does come down to personal preference. Smaller stones are easier to work with as they travel well. Tumbled stones are less likely to get damaged while traveling. Raw, uncut, unpolished stones can be quite powerful, especially if they contain a bit of the matrix material. Large stones are great for permanent displays, such as in a healing or sacred space, and work well for magick regarding the home. And stones that are set in jewelry are great for personal use as they are very discreet (who would ever guess you’re wearing those Ruby earrings for protection?)
When first purchasing crystals, the most economical thing to do is to get one or two small stones in each color. Not only do most metaphysical stores carry small crystals, raw and/or tumbled, at a very low cost, but that way, you’ve a stone for every need you can think of. An initial cleansing is advised. After that, you can begin using your stones immediately. As for what you use them for, well, you truly are limited only by your imagination. Good luck and have fun!