Book Review: Elements of Magic

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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:

Reclaiming Tradition

Footnotes:

  1. XIX, “Foreword” by Starhawk
  2. Who is Reclaiming?
  3. 133
  4. 174
  5. 179
  6. 181
  7. 244
  8. 263

A Temporary Rest for Recovery!

Dear Followers..

Please be patient for new posts. Two-weeks out from a total hip replacement but on the mend and soon back to posting and sharing. In the meantime, there is plenty to read in the archives. Enjoy!

Blessings …Robin

Catching Up!

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I have not posted on this site for quite some time and I wanted to let you all know why. In the past several months, I have been busy in the process of hiving and birthing a new coven – Coven of the Mystic Path.

This coven came into being at the Winter Solstice!

Read more about this auspicious energy here…

Temple of the Cosmic Spheres: All Systems, Go!

My thanks to you all for being patient during this process and please check back on January 1.2016 as we continue this adventure together discussing new books and finishing the Kybalion…

Blessings…. Robin

The Path

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This lengthy poem was inspired after last weekend’s Climbing the Tree ritual. The Climbing the Tree weekend is hosted by the Tradition to which I belong, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. This is a large event requiring much planning, so it is only held every several years (the last being in 2009) and provides the experience of walking the lightning flash of the Qabalisic Tree of Life as an experiential grouping of 10 mini-rituals.

The Tree is laid out on the grounds of Seelie Court and participants move through the Tree, walking the paths and having a ritual experience in each of the spheres in accord with that sphere’s energy. I have had the honor of taking on the role of as one of the spheres for the past 3 runs, but never had the opportunity to actually walk the Tree in its entirety as a participant. This year, I had the good fortune to be able to experience the full Tree!

I wanted to share this writing as a source of inspiration for seeing the potential that is held in being a participant in your own spiritual journey. The lessons of the Qabalistic Tree are ones that are relatable to everyone’s mundane and spiritual experiences and the goal of study is one of self-knowledge and growth.

I invite you to walk with me on the Path of my experience of the Tree. The beauty is that you do not have to know anything about Qabalah to appreciate what this writing has to relate. You have but to set your foot upon the Path and be open to where that path may lead…….

I step upon the Path
And Earth’s energy
Stands as fertile ground.

Water flows from
Deeply hidden wells
Fire streams from
Sun’s quickened light
Air breathes life into
Earth that rises and shifts
Urging me onward.

The tool of my re-making
In heart –body –mind
And will is found.

I move along the path
Into the night sky temple
Of the moon where star
And dreamscape weave
A tapestry that tells of
Cycles of knowing and
Illusion’s sacrificial release.

The path is lit from celestial sky
And all clears with each step
Forward into clarity of mind
That holds creation’s intent
Breathed into life from
Library’s inspired great halls.

I move now with mind
Seeking the victory of
Beauty’s face and come
To pause in awe of Mother
Nature’s surrounding gifts.

Their power and wild beauty
Held within my own physical
Form now awakened and verdant
Mantle claimed as Gaia’s own.

I walk with tears of gnosis
Streaming from gates long
Needing the power of heart’s
Release and step out into the
Vast potential of the unknown.

Into Sun’s great downpour
Harmonious center of
Golden strands that demand
The sacrifice of full light’s scrutiny.

I scream into a breath that offers
Up true release and heat rising
From within empowers my intent
As I leave this place of synthesis
Ablaze with strength newly found.

The sun sets behind me as
Sharpened knife and the
Sword of truth challenge
And give fearsome dare.

Tears now flow freely
Reflected in shimmering
Blade of light and what I
Knew of myself is surrendered
To the pointed test of true worth.

From these fires of tempering
Comes new form that will wield
Its measure of might as warrior
As Goddess and as guardian
Of the sacred Great Work of self.

Courage has been tested
And mercy now awaits
What has been purposefully
Broken down to be birthed anew.

I walk to a place of mercy
I stand crowned as King of
My worldly and spiritual domains
The choice of ruler-ship and weight of
Responsibility now mine to claim.

Like pieces on a chess board
Each move affects the next
Each calculation of mind
Brings reality of heart’s consequence.

There is no winning play as the
Board continually changes and
The pieces transmute as the
Players evolve and grow.

Flexibility and mastery over
What holds me in chains as servant
Rather than ruler over how I would
Construct and command my
Worldly and spiritual domains.

The final realization is one hidden
In plain sight and boldly echoes
The truth of free will’s choice to move
Confidently in changing course and
Not lose sight of drawing to me
What is held dear in those conquests.

I breath deeply taking in all that has
Been learned as the next challenge
Awaits and the choice now at hand
To cross the abyss deep and wide.

I step moving cautiously along a
Path whose end cannot be seen
So great the veiling of light and dark
Faith and a silent promise my only guides
As I stand precariously balanced mid-point
Shedding the last of my mortal identity.

Mother’s voice calls to me gently
Into arms of dark black sea softly
Reminding of all that has been given
And what more remains in hopes
And wishes and dreams.

Time holds no false enchantment
As lifetimes flow as one and every
Pearl of dark sea’s creation has
Potential to be the great manifest one.

Dip deep into the waters
Drink freely from their source
Take one dream as heart’s most cherished
And bring it through the womb of manifest birth.

I breathe into the vision of potential’s hope
The path now one of nebula and galaxy
Of cosmos and starry birth.

I move as witness to the birthing of the Universe
The light of my being scattered as seeds
Of star-filled light moving and flowing
The memory of this potent exchange
Holding the understanding of re-union
And dissolution of what is contained in
Body of light and flesh and bone.

From this eternal cycle of cosmos
An awakening of key held within
Human’s birthing light and deeper
Place of manifesting star’s gift of sight.

I breathe out the light of wisdom
And enter the brilliance of liminal space
That blinds me from the child of the
Limitless All that I am.

What lays hidden in my being
That cries out to be brought
Into the crown of immanence.

I stand in the silence
No words or thoughts
No emotions or action
Can articulate the gnosis
That fills by Spirit and Soul.

All and nothing awaits
The next step upon this
Never ending Path.

The journey begins anew
The possibilities change
And every step has been taken
In all of its many forms.

And as the return of worldly
Affairs and knowledge of my
Place within.

I remain steadfast in my devotion to the Great Work
As the Kingdom of my manifest being
Seeks the Foundation that has been created
By the Glory-filled Victory of my inner Beauty.

Beauty that has been forged by my will to action honed
By the courage of justifiable Might
And cooled in the expansive waters of Mercy.

I have seen the fear of my own reflection in the
Knowledge of all parts of myself claimed by the Great Abyss
And these fears have been soothed by the ebb and flow of
The Dark Mother’s Understanding and my Celestial Father’s
Cosmic Wisdom.

I have experienced this and more in my journey upon the Path
Where the Crown of my Divine Kingship shines in brilliance
For all to see.