Tag Archives: Earth

Allies of the Wild Earth

In my local woods the sunlight glows vivid through the leaves of downy birch and slants, golden, through the gaps between the pines. Where the earth steams and the buzzards call overhead, the spirits I meet have faces but no names. Sometimes they appear as guides, delivering a euphoric moment or a much-needed catharsis. Other times a new sigil appears in the form of a snapped-off piece of twig and I know exactly who has sent it. For me, nature is the source of life, magic and spirit. She is also my greatest inspiration, my safest refuge and my best friend.


Let’s be honest. The human world of the 21st Century has no great love for nature. Whether or not we choose to recycle or use energy saving bulbs in our homes, every day we are forced to interact with the toxic, extractive and wasteful industries upon which our economy is based. As I write, mountaintops are being removed for the coal underneath, people are being maimed and arrested for opposing a dangerous oil pipeline and the Pacific is becoming an irradiated soup of discarded plastic junk. A climate change denier sits in the White House, doing everything in his power to reverse what scant legal protections have been afforded the natural world. We are saturated with surplus and hemorrhaging waste. Humanity’s great battle to tame and reshape the Earth has reached the level of ecocide.

Out of Hiding

Enlightened non-attachment is a fashionable philosophy within New Age circles. However, in this desperate state of affairs, silence equates to compliance. I believe that as pagans, witches, animists and energy workers we no longer have the luxury of fence-sitting. It’s time for us to recognize that drawing power from nature whilst continuing to live high-Co2 lifestyles sustains a one-sided relationship with our sacred planet. The natural world is a place of beauty and the source of our strength, but too few of us are willing to actually step out from behind our altars to defend it. If she’s worth our reverence, she’s worth our allegiance.

It is time to come out of hiding, but for many of us this will go against our fundamental instincts. Globally, pagan and shamanic traditions have never been well-treated by the newer monotheistic organized religions. As a European practitioner I am constantly aware that my culture’s dislocation from its landscape is the product of an ultimately successful campaign of religious and misogynistic persecution designed to fracture rural community spirit, that ultimately paved the way for land enclosure and industrialization. The psychic resonance of our ancestors’ disenfranchisement and the violence directed at our spiritual forebears has left us wary, encouraging private or even secret practice to this day. However, by rendering ourselves invisible we are depriving the Earth and its defenders of our potential as allies and decreasing the likelihood that future generations will have natural energies to connect to. As energy workers we could be a powerful, possibly essential part of events to come.

Towards an Active Ecological Shamanism

From my vantage point in the UK, I am profoundly struck by the role of Native American spiritualities in some of the ecological struggles of North America. Although I have not been able to visit Sacred Stone camp, it is clear that land rights and ecological action are more powerful when backed-up by a genuine shamanic tradition with deep roots in the landscape. When colonizers and business interests get stuck into a place they show equal disregard to the ecology, indigenous access to land and the spiritual resonance between local people and their natural habitat. This applies equally in contexts as diverse as the Industrial Revolution in the UK, the frontier genocide of the Americas and the present-day struggles of indigenous Amazonians against international oil and logging interests. For humans maintaining both a material and spiritual connection to nature, these three issues are actually the same thing and must be dealt with holistically, rather than separately.

For Europeans, even more so. Industrialization, land enclosure and the crusade against paganism all started here. It is crucial that our spiritual practice addresses the alienating effects of our cultural dislocation. For European practitioners, perhaps it is doubly important that we are out there, not just confining our magick to our isolated homes.

However, our economically-enforced participation in the capitalist system keeps working-age adults largely disconnected from all three aspects of the struggle. As a result, frontline ecological movements are often characterized by a turnover of young idealists and a general lack of wise, experienced older participants. In occupied forests and protest camps across the world, we are creating new tribes based on equality between individuals and reverence for nature. But without our elders, we are struggling.

Spirit Warriors

I regret that this article is written from such a eurocentric perspective, however it is mainly the European pagan community that I intend to address. Within that community, we are facing a trap. Many of our more ancient European pagan religions, particularly the Norse and Celtic ones, originate from warlike societies with strong warrior traditions. Increasingly, I am encountering individuals who identify their pagan spirituality with a highly idealized take on their North European heritage and a worrying national-socialist sentiment. Despite having been fully and disastrously explored in the last century, such attitudes are actually missing the point. Supremacism according to race or gender creates a thematically similar hierarchy to the supremacy of humans over nature, which should be fundamentally at odds with any pagan belief system. As pagans we need to guard against any tendency towards nostalgia, ethnic division and violent, fascist leanings. Such elements only divide us from others across the world who are facing the same ecological destruction. Like it or not, we are not Vikings anymore. We are part of an interconnected global humanity.

However, there is still merit in the concept of the warrior. Whether in la ZAD or the Amazon, the modern day tribal warriors are not soldiers, but campaigners. Those who take on the cause of their neighbors and local ecologies, pitting themselves against state and corporate violence in order to affect change. Shamanic and pagan spiritualities can play a stabilizing, strengthening and motivating role amongst today’s warriors by encouraging unity, evoking catharsis, healing trauma and preventing burnout. Equally, for those unable to dedicate themselves in this way for whatever reason, spiritual practice can be used to strengthen the ecological movement as a whole, through intention, ritual and consciousness-raising. However each of us is able to contribute, it is important that we do so.

If we are to continue to exist on this planet, humanity needs a practical magick; a harmonious two-way relationship with the wild Earth. As pagans, witches and shamans we already know this and should now manifest our full power behind the environmental movement. Let’s build an active ecological shamanism, comprising psychic affinity groups of spirit warriors, supported by their elders, allied across continents and embedded in the landscape.

This Connection is Worth Defending

In another woodland one night not so long ago, the tribe was awake. As the red shadow of the Earth crept across the lunar surface high above, cries went up and torches were set alight. Under a gigantic blood moon, silhouettes howled through the treeline and shadows danced to the flicker of flame. Beating the bounds that night, we could not have known how soon the eviction would come. In a few short months, a property developer would unleash devastating violence upon the trees, gardens and scrub; this idyllic habitat of skylark, kestrel and wild boar. Although our wards were strong and our sigils were set, there were just too few boots on the ground. Now we are scattered to the four directions, but for all of us there will be a next time. Perhaps we will see you out there too.

Understanding the Four Elements

In most Wiccan traditions, the four elements are called at some point and in some form during a ritual or other working. Whether one calls to guardians of the watchtowers, archangels or the elements themselves, the purpose is the same. You are establishing an environment in which to perform your workings. The elements are part of the fundamental processes of the Universe.

In recent times, it was considered by the mainstream that the ancient belief that everything was constructed from four basic elements (Air, Fire, Earth and Water) was ‘quaint’ and yet totally incorrect. There are dozens of elements on the period table. The mere idea of there being only four is outmoded and ridiculous right? Wrong. Apart from their spiritual significance, which we will come to in a moment, they represent the three states of matter and the energy needed to move them between those states.

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Images used with permission


    • Solid – Element of Earth. Imagine this as a block of ice. It is hard. Solid. You can kick it.
    • Liquid – Element of Water. As the ice melts, it becomes water. Liquid and able to take on the shape of whatever vessel holds it.
    • Gas – Element of Air. If you heat the water, you get steam. Fast moving molecules whizzing about full of energy.
    • Energy – Element of Fire. The heat that causes the ice to become water, water to become air. Removing the heat source reverses the process. The more heat, the more energy. Less heat, less energy.

      So even in the physical, material world we live in today, these basic elemental principles still exist and still hold sway over the air we breath, the clothes we wear and the lives we lead. The spiritual nature of these four elements and their position has been an integral part of pagan and wicca traditions since their inception. We see them in the tools we use:

    • The Athame, Knife or Sword – Represents the male element of Air.
    • The Wand – Represents the male element of Fire.

Note the shape of both of these. No prizes for guessing which male organ they represent.

      •  The Cup or Chalice – Represents the female element of Water.
      • The Pentagram or Disk – Represents the female element of Earth.

They are expressed in the Tarot in very much the same form. In the Qabalah, they appear as the 2nd and 3rd Sepiroth (Air and Water) representing the King and Queen (Or Aleister Crowley’s Whore of Babylon and the Beast) and the 4th (or 6th) and 10th Sephiroth as the Prince and Princess. The Qabalah also represents them as the four worlds – Emanation or Archetype (Air), Creation (Fire), Formation (Water) and Manifestation (Earth).

They represent our physical body also:

    • Air – Our thoughts, our brain. The ability to have a sense of self. Our connection to the Godhead.
    • Fire – Our passion and ideas. The ability to make decisions.
    • Water – Our emotions. The blood supply. The ability to be moved by something.
    • Earth – Our senses. The Muscle and Bone. The ability to manifest our desires.

Their order is important also. Many assume that they were placed in their positions (East for Air, South for Fire, Water for West and North for Earth) because geographically that was where they were found in Northern Europe. The strongest winds blew from the East. The sun was always in the southern segment of the sky (because of the latitude), to the West lay the Atlantic, which extended to the edge of the World, and to the North lay the mountains, hard and unyielding.

But there is more to it than that. Air represents the environment of thought. Fire, the spark of an idea. Water the formation of that idea into something that can manifest, and finally Earth – the ultimate creation of the idea itself.

So the elements are welcomed into ritual for many reasons. Not the least of which is that without them, no working can be successful. Even if they are not called by name or by correspondence, an idea must have an environment in which to form. It must have a means of coming to fruition, and of producing a desired result. In any working, be it a business meeting or a protection spell these elements are always with us, and it is for that reason we welcome them into ritual.

So remember, as you go through your ritual, not just to welcome the elements at the beginning of the ritual and thank them at the end, but to recognize and acknowledge their presence as the working takes place.

  • Air – As you begin your working
  • Fire – As you state the purpose of the ritual
  • Water – As you chant and begin the process of manifestation
  • Earth – As you end the ritual and anticipate it’s successful outcome.


Elemental Correspondences


Direction: East
Archangel: Raphael
Qualities: hot and moist, light and active
Colors: Crimson, yellow
Incense: Galbanum
Magical phrase: noscere, to know
Zodiacal signs:  Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Tattvic symbol: blue circle (Vayu)
Tattvic tide: June 21 – September 23
Season: Spring
Hour of day: dawn
Celtic name: airt
Magical tool: Dagger
Types of magic: To find object that have been lost or
stolen, magic of the four winds,
visualizations, divination.
Major Arcana card: Fool (0)
Minor Arcana suit: swords
Symbolic creatures: eagle, human
Alchemical symbol: Right side up triangle
Elemental spirits: Sylphs
Elemental king: Paralda
Egyptian elemental king: Ameshet (a young man)
Symbols: sky, wind, clouds, incense
Plants: aspen tree, mistletoe
Reflections in humanity: the super conscious, knowledge,
instruction, freedom, travel
psychic abilities
Parts of the body: chest, lungs, throat
Humour: Blood
Positive characteristics: kind, joyful, communicative,
intelligent, intuitive, diligent
Negative characteristics: gossipy, boastful, spendthrift,
untruthful, selfish, fickle,
Overbalance: chatterbox, or one who tends to intellectualize
to much
Underbalance: muddy thinking; one who has difficulty
transmitting thoughts and ideas

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Image used with permission

Air is the element of thought, the harsh reality of logic. It is the medium of communication and business, the place where we dream and plan, plot and scheme. It is as hard to pin down as the wind.

Air is pure and clear, and constantly moving. It is the element of visualization and the catalyst for change.

Air rules the East – where the great light rises each day. Air is the light of wisdom and of consciousness.


Direction: south
Archangel: Michael
Qualities: hot and dry, light and active
Colors: white, red, orange, scarlet
Incense: Olibanum
Magical phrase: velle, to will
Zodiacal signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Tattvic symbol: red triangle (Tejas)
Tattvic tide: March 21 – June 21
Season: summer
Hour of day: Noon
Celtic name: deas
Magical tools: fire wand, lamp
Type of magic: tantra, healing, candle magic
Major Arcana Card: judgement (XX)
Minor Arcana suit: wands
Symbolic creature: lion
Alchemical symbol: right side up triangle with a line
through the middle.
Elemental spirits: salamanders
Elemental king: Djinn
Egyptian elemental king: Toumathph (a jackal)
Symbols: fire, sun, stars, volcanoes
Plant: nettle
Part of body: head
Humour: choler, yellow bile
Reflections in humanity: the life force, sexual energy,
will, Passion
Positive characteristics: energetic, enthusiastic, daring,
stubborn, faithful
Negative characteristics: stubborn, greedy, jealous,
vengeful, angry, resentful,
aggressive, possessive, egotistical
Overbalance: one who is dominating, egotistic, violent
Underbalance: one who feels inferior or apathetic; lack of

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Image used with permission

Fire is the element of Energy, of Action It is the most primal of elements, holding our passion and will, drive and ambition. It is the cry of war and the essence of divinity.

Fire acts upon all the other elements. It creates change, brings destruction. Without Fire’s changing influences, there would be no progress, no development, no desire.

Fire rules the south, where (from the Northern Hemisphere) the Sun always shines upon the world bringing warmth and growth.


Direction: west
Archangel: Gabriel
Qualities: cold and moist, heavy and passive
Colors: brownish gray, blue
Incense: Onycha, Myrrh
Magical phrase: audere, to dare
Zodiacal signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Tattvic symbol: silver crescent (Apas)
Tattvic tide: September 23 – December 23
Season: Fall
Hour of day: twilight
Celtic name: iar
Magical tool: cup
Type of magic: fertility, mirror magic, purification,
healing, divination, dream magic
Major Arcana card: Hanged Man (XII)
Minor Arcana suit: cups
Symbolic creatures: scorpion, snake
Alchemical symbol: upside down triangle
Elemental spirits: undines
Elemental King: Niksa
Egyptian elemental king: Kabexnaf (a hawk)
Symbols: waterfalls, all bodies of water, waves, fog, rain
Plants: all water plants
Parts of body: stomach, (liquids elimination)
Humour: phlegm
Reflection in humanity: emotions, fertility, the unconscious
Positive characteristics: Forgiving, easygoing, gracious,
sensitive, modest, flowing,
Negative characteristics: overly emotional, weepy, lazy,
insecure, sly, fridgid,
indifferent, dependent
Overbalance: hypersensitivity
Underbalance: a cold, emotionless nature

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Image used with permission

Water is Life. Without it we cannot survive. Water holds our emotional self – our love and hope, our fear and despair. It is the element of our sub-conscious self – our intuition and creativity.

Water is ever-flowing and, over time, will erode the greatest obstacles.

Water rules the West where, to the ancient peoples of Europe, the great mysteries of the Atlantic held tales of other worlds and mythic creatures.


Direction: north
Archangel: Auriel (Uriel)
Qualities: cold and dry, heavy and passive
Colors: brown, black, green
Incense: Storax
Magical phrase: tacere, to keep silent
Zodiacal signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Tattivic symbol: yellow square (prithivi)
Tattivic tide: December 23 – March 21
Season: winter
Hour of day: midnight
Celtic name: tuath
Magical tools: pentacle, cyrstals
Types of magic: fertility magic, tree magic, herbal lore,
prosperity, runecasting, knot magic
Major Arcana card: Universe (XXI)
Minor Arcana suit: pentacles
Symbolic creatures: bull, sphinx
Alchemical symbol: upside down triangle with a line through
the middle
Elemental spirits: gnomes
Elemental king: Ghob
Egyptian elemental king: Apephi (an ape)
Symbols: mountains, caves, gems, fields, rocks
Plants: red poppy, thrift plant
Parts of body: bones, sex organs
Humour: black bile, melancholy
Reflection in humanity: the physical body
Positive characteristics: reliable, punctual, stable,
Negative characterists: greedy, sensualist, materialistic, stodgy, unprogressive
Overbalance: materialistic; one whose circle of ideas is
Underbalace: Unreliable, careless, tasteless

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Image used with permission

Earth is the unchanging law of the Universe. It is the fertility of Mother Nature, the great source of all Life. It is the Rock on which all things are built.

Earth is solid and unmoving. It represents the greatest, immutable truths, our loyalty and our stubborness. It represents stability, but also resistance to change.

Earth rules the North, where the great mountains of the highlands lay, always constant, never changing.


Direction: the Center
Archangel: Metatron
Color: brilliant white light
Qualities: timelessness, spacelessness
Magical Tool: The Cord
Tattvic symbol: black oval (Akasha)
Major Arcana card: Fool (0) and Judgement (XX)
Tarot suit: Major Arcana
Symbols: spiral, the cosmos
Part of the body: the spinal column
Reflections in humanity: one’s immortal soul or
Plants: Mistletoe, Flowering almond

Copyright (C) Brigid Ashwood
Image used with permission


Above all the other elements, and yet part of them, lies the fifth element – Spirit.

It is the ethereal, without direction, yet encompassing all directions.

It is beyond the physical world – the pure essence of the Universe and of us all.