Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit, by Jane Meredith and Gede Pema Llewellyn Publications, 9780738757148, 336 pp., 2018
We can always use a refresher and new perspective in our understanding of the alchemical elements which form a strong component of our spiritual/magickal work. This title fits the bill nicely….
The values of Reclaiming tradition come from our understanding that the earth is alive and all of life is sacred and interconnected. We see the Goddess as immanent in the earth’s cycles of birth, growth, death, decay and regeneration. 1.
Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is a collection of the voices and shared experiences of those following the values and practices of Reclaiming tradition. The title is a purposeful play on words; acknowledging the teachings within its contents as being those provided within the Reclaiming tradition, as well as the reminder of re-claiming the elemental nature we hold organically and imminently within and without.
The book is separated into six segments, five aligning with each of the alchemical elements and the sixth providing a ritual of synthesis and completion. The format provides the reader with a scaffolding of theory, practice, exercises and ritual focused on the specific element of topic and builds a solid foundation for deeper exploration. Each sub-section within the element is written by several authors, and the overall feel of the book is one of collaboration and being completely aligned in its efforts with one of the core values of Reclaiming tradition; that of Unity.
To fully appreciate the intention of Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit it helps to know a bit about the Reclaiming tradition. The “Foreword” is written by Starhawk, co-founder of Reclaiming and gives some background information about how this book came to be. But, the broader story of Reclaiming’s teachings and the underpinnings of the collaborative efforts of this book are based in Reclaiming’s “Principles of Unity” and its Mission Statement.
“Reclaiming is a community of people working to unify spirit and politics. Our Life Force. We see our work as teaching and making magic: the art of empowering ourselves and each other….We use the skills we learn to deepen our strength, both as individuals and as community, to voice our concerns about the world in which we live, and bring to birth a vision of a new culture.” 2.
Reclaiming evolved from the collaboration of Starhawk and Diane Baker in the Bay Area of San Francisco, CA in 1979-80. The intention was to teach classes in the basics of modern Witchcraft including core classes of the Elements of Magic, the Pentacle of Iron (from Victor and Cora Anderson’s Feri Tradition) and Rites of Passage. The classes were so well received and sought after that a working collective of individuals trained and experienced in these and the emerging by-products of new teachings core began to share and expand general interest in what would later become the Reclaiming community.
Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit continues that spirit of teaching, learning and sharing, now being able to reach a wider community of those interested in the basics of magical practice and wanting to know more about Reclaiming. Each chapter is full to the brim with three or more author’s experiences and understanding of the particular element and practice exercises to further engage the reader in developing their own patterns of reference. I especially appreciated the addition of “length of time” and “what you need” accompanying each of the exercise components. This gave me the option of selecting which exercises I could accomplish in the time I had available.
The recommendation given for getting the most from Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is to give yourself a six month period; each element having one month to integrate and the sixth for the concluding ritual. I cannot say that I had a favorite chapter since by its very nature, the study of the elements requires an integrated approach of exploration as everything we are and know is comprised of these in alchemical and etheric form. But, to offer some highlights of the studies, there are a few exercises and writings that struck a deeper chord for me.
The “Playing with Your Boundaries” practice written by Catherine Gronlund in the “Fire” segment of Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is a simple, yet very powerful exercise to expand on the way in which the reader perceives energy and bring awareness to the same construct of energetic patterns that are part of our bodies-physical and subtle.
“ Just as our skin defines the edges of our physical body, we have an energetic boundary that defines the edges of our energy body and interacts with the universe.” 3.
The exercise begins in establishing the reader’s sense of their boundaries while standing in place and feeling connected to the energy of earth. The exercise then goes trough a series of testing this boundary you’ve sensed; changing its texture, how far it extends beyond your body and more. Each change is encouraged to have pause and time to fully engage your senses in what is being experienced. I found this to work on multiple levels in allowing me to be more fully present in mundane activities as well.
“Water” stands out with the interview between the editor, Gede Parma and Rose May Dance, one of the “Mothers of Reclaiming” who has been part of the collective since 1980. The interview focuses on discussion of the element of water and the prominent use of trance work in the Reclaiming tradition.
“RMD: In Reclaiming we work a lot with group trance. Everybody goes to the same place and speaks aloud together what we are seeing and sensing. In this way we create or make accessible an inner landscape through evolving consensus.” 4.
The use of trance is further exemplified by the two exercises which follow this interview. The first is called “Place of Power” by Thibaut Laure and is a mini-ritual that….”will help you find your place of power, the safe place within you from where your magic emerges and is anchored to.” 5. The second is entitled “The Barrier and the Well” by Heidi Marian and its work is one of allowing….”you to enlist your own power and ability to overcome obstacles and find new strength.” 6.
The “Spirit” segment included a wonderful exercise by Rae Eden entitled, “Elemental Pentacle”. Being leadership of a coven and having a strong personal practice, I liked that this exercise could be done individually or in a group. And, the simplicity of its technique was very appealing given the big pay-off in being able to palpably experience each of the elements.
“To prepare for this exercise, use the tape or string to make a pentacle about three feet long on each side…..Label each point, starting with spirit at the top point. Going around clockwise as you look upon the pentagram, label the next point air, then water, then fire, then earth.” 7.
The reader is directed to walk from point to point, pausing at each to completing immerse yourself in your new found connection to the element and offering a blessing in the name of each element to complete this scribing. As I moved from elemental point to point, the energy was palpable, sweet and powerful.
The final segment, “Creating a Ritual” provides the reader with the tools and understanding of how to craft a ritual from start to finish with samples to guide the way and checklist for consideration. The ritual provided is the same used to conclude each of the Reclaiming trainings of Elements of Magic.
“We are gathered under a tree in a summer garden….after a weekend spent immersed in an all-ages, skills-based Elements of Magic class. We have travelled the paths of spirit, earth, air, fire, and water, returning to spirit, and we delight in the power and magic
an all-ages, skills-based Elements of Magic class. We have travelled the paths of spirit, of this group as we come together, irrespective of age, and put on a ritual created by the class that celebrates the unique magic of each one of us.” 8.
The reader is guided step-by-step through the process of creating a ritual, the necessary components and structure for crafting a successful and meaningful experience. There is a very gratifying feeling from doing a ritual that has been tested and tried by a collective of like-minded individuals and the astral inroads that have been laid.
Elements of Magic: Reclaiming Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit is a read that satisfies on many levels. I especially appreciated the concluding “Glossary” and “Resources and Recommended Reading” as enticement to learn more. The content and voices of the authors providing their work with the elements is clear, on point and accessible to anyone. The reader immediately has a sense of the work and layers of evolution that have gone into crafting this course of study. Additionally, this book is a wonderful resource for diving more deeply into the Reclaiming tradition, its values and its work in the pagan community. I could say so much more about this book, but it truly is a work that has to be experienced for oneself and to that end, the reader is offered the tools for a successful practice and a jumping off point to find their own particular path.
To learn more about Reclaiming Tradition and its work:
- XIX, “Foreword” by Starhawk
- Who is Reclaiming?