A Hedge Witch and the Elements
I think many have the idea that a hedge witch is someone who lives and breathes herbs, or is simply a kitchen witch. In my family tradition, a hedge witch is someone who lives and works with the elements and psychism daily. My family tradition defines witchcraft as being able to work with all the forces of nature, those in the real world and those not in the real world.
For those that follow my blog, you will remember my entry titled Weather magic with clairvoyance in time and space. In that entry, I described how I built my relationship with the Element of Air. In this entry, I will further elaborate on that experience by stating I believe the direction and the element are separate things. The direction of East is the realm where the Element of Air lives. This precept is fundamental to how I work with the elements.
First of the elements as we walk the circle is Air.
So, what is Air? Breathing, or weather? Certainly, those are its most basic functions, however, the air has components. These components are part of air yet much more than just basic air. The components of Air are; the wind, a storm, lightning, weather, and the atmosphere, and each has a different function, action, reaction, and spirit. Each has a different feel, different energy, different smell. Each reacts differently when you speak to them or ask something of them, and some may even make requests of you in return.
Other aspects and components of Air are flight, levitation, psychism, invisibility, thought and sound, intellect, energy, intent, dreams, and my favorite, the astral planes.
The element of Air is the breath of life. When we are born the first thing, we do is gasp for breath, without it, there is no life. As without so within, meaning if the planet is not able to breathe it will not survive either.
East, the realm air lives in and is guarded by, is the place of dawn, it births a new day for us each time the sun rises, this makes it the realm of light. For me, its ritual tool is the wand. We wave it in the air and direct energy and use it to send energy and intent. Wands are typically wood, meaning trees that create oxygen and live in the sky. So this makes sense to me.
Next, as we move around the circle is Fire.
The Element of fire lives in The Direction of the South, it is the place of heat volcanos, deserts, and the sun. The Direction of South is the holder and guardian of the flame and the flame is the spark of life.
Many of us think of actual fire when we address the South and the Element of fire. Many forget the greatest fire our planet experiences, the sun. The sun is the fire that keeps this planet going. Without the sun’s heat, we, the plants, and animals could not live.
At Imbolc, the sun heats the earth just enough that the plants hidden in the earth quicken just a little. The energy of the quickening can be felt by those who are sensitive to it. The energy of the quickening is an energy of expectation, pregnancy, and re-birth. This energy is put forth by all living things, and we feel it as the hope of spring and the spark of life.
Each flame or fire transforms the things it burns to nutrient-rich soil through the ash it creates. The sun then turns into new growth. As the sun rises each day after a fire, we again see the dawn of a new day and feel its promise. This makes Flame and the sun, the actuators of rebirth. When you think of it the act of rebirth is both destruction and creation. Flame is transformative, for no one, no thing, is the same after being touched by flame. It is cleansing and purifying and like our sun it is both creator and destroyer, giver, and taker.
We humans would not be here today without either. We usually think only of what flame takes from our lands and not what it gives back. There are components of flame too, dryness, heat, intensity, stillness and sudden and fierce movement, blasts of energy and heat. All things that occur before a fire or during very hot sunny days.
In my practice, the athame is the tool for fire. The Athame is created by fire, a sword or knife are often used in an act of passion, destruction, or creation, and all are attributes of flame and the realm of the South.
Our hearts are the fire within us. Our hearts drive our passion, our desires. It drives our will to live, and each has a different spirit and energy that can be felt, noticed, watched, and interacted with. We consider something is alive when we can hear its heartbeat. Like the sun our heart warms us. It is the engine of our bodies, as the sun is the engine to our planet. Our hearts drive our energy, it gets our blood pumping like the sun does for the planet in the quickening, making fire the spark of life. Again, as without so within.
Following around the circle we are now in the West, which is water.
What do most of us think when we think of water? Drinking it, a river, the ocean, emotions?
Ever consider how we carry water with us every day? And I do not mean in a plastic bottle. Our very bodies are 2/3rds water and so is our planet, again as without so within. Water in my tradition is the great nourisher of our bodies, our planet, and our very souls.
Ever notice how sitting next to running water soothes most people? That is water soothing our souls. We are carried in water for 9 months in the womb and our planet cannot flourish without water. In short, we cannot live or come into the world without water.
Water is the birth of all living things. Our bodies die without water, this makes it the nourisher of our bodies. Water is also for cleansing and not just in the spiritual sense. We use it to clean all the time without a thought.
Water purifies and dilutes, which is what it does as we sit next to it and feel soothed. It dilutes our stress, purifies our thoughts calms our passions. Water represents the waves of our emotions, our tears, our moods, and holds our soul.
Water gives us rain, nourishing the planet. It provides fog and humidity which in its way also provides water to nourish the planet in which we live. Fog, humidity, rain, and ice are all parts of water. All with a different job to do and each has a different energy and spirit, different actions, and reactions within our atmosphere. Each of them can be worked with if one pays attention and builds a relationship with them.
The realm of the West is the place of thresholds, liminal space. Liminal space is the between spaces and places. The West and Water both, are the dark realms, not just because of the depts of the oceans but because that is where the sun sets each day. In ritual, the tool for water is the challis, the bowl, and any vessel holding the water or drink to be used.
The last element in the circle is Earth.
Earth is the mother of our bodies she is the great provider of all. Earth is both life and death in the great cycle. Without Earth there is nothing. No plants, no food, no place to live, no air, no fire, no water, no us, for she holds it all. We are born here, it is the home of our bodies and she provides our very way of life in all aspects.
She is the great womb from whence all things are born. Including the other elements. There is no breathable air or atmosphere in space, no fire or flame except the sun, and no plants or animals. All those things may exist on another planet but not so much in space itself. As a hedge witch, I see the other elements as parts of the earth, individual, but parts just the same. The Earth provides the plants, which provides oxygen, Earth holds the water, also partially made of oxygen, Earth and her natural cycles, of heat and cooling help, provide rain, ice and all-weather. She provides what fire burns. Without her gases, there is no atmosphere it is her breath and ours, as without so within.
Like any mother, she provides all that we, her children need. She allows us to live on her, to flourish, or run rampant. She has her way of telling us she has had enough to by using her elements of storms, fires, floods, drought, or famine to speak to us if we listen.
Daily she gives us hints as to what the weather will be like. She tells us what needs to be watered, or tended to, her children the plants are signaled by her to show us their needs we can see when a plant begins to droop or turn brown. Animals are signaled by her to show us their needs for food, water, or shelter. The land talks too, is it dry? does it need to be fed? tilled or raked? All signaled by her if we watch, listen to feel, and speak to her.
The Great Mother also takes all our woes, our energy our garbage, and our bodies back into her and turns it back into something full of life for she is the great regenerator of all things, the place of life and death and everything in between. Earth represents stability, home, hearth, health, and prosperity in all aspects of life and for all living things.
The realm of the North is the realm of creation and destruction, home of the gnomes, home to all things ice, all things magnetic, home to fluctuating energies, and is the gateway to the cosmos. The tool I prefer to use in ritual for North is the staff. It stabilizes us as we walk on the earth, it is born on the earth and holds and directs earth energy.
In ritual as I begin calling the elemental quarters, I draw up the sacred connections I have with each one. I draw their awesome powers within me till they vibrate then I begin my vocal call to them loaded with those vibrations. I let those vibrations channel through any tool I may have in my hand as well.
Such are the relationships, I as a hedge witch, hold with the elements. Their realms and their tools are alive and a way of being. They help me live with the forces of nature each day. They make it possible to call them on a moment’s notice if there is a need. I remain aware and mindful that each element and each realm is symbiotic to the other. For one cannot exist without the other, just like in our bodies. We and the elements have symbiotic need of each other as is represented in the saying, As above, So below. As without, So within, So the universe, So the soul.