I was reading the beginning of a book called “A Grimoire For Modern Cunningfolk” by Peter Paddon. I hadn’t got through too many chapters before I stopped getting useful information out of it, but I had got to the point where he was suggesting some associations between cardinal positions and elemental imagery. Paddon suggests more flexibility in thinking about traditional aspects of The Path when it comes to adopting elements of ritual and association. I liked this way of presenting this part of the material, and it caused me to stop and think a while about my own associations relating to the elements and their cardinal positions.
One of the things I did early on in my Hedge Druid work was to discover that I felt more comfortable with elements being associated with cardinal directions that are different to other pagans. For me AIR is North, EARTH is South, FIRE is East, and WATER is West – in line with the Aristotelian method, I later found. Other traditional pagan systems have FIRE to the South and EARTH to the East.
Does this matter? Well, only in the sense that this means something to you. I came to my way of linking these elements to their cardinal positions because I had been thinking about the land in which I live. In my island the mountains are to the North where the cold winds blow. The sea is closest to my western shore. The majority of the land mass is to the south of me, and the Sun rises to the East of me – this being my fire element.
Paddon’s book prompts the reader to re-consider their associations because he uses totally different terminology than we are often used to. Instead of the elements he uses Sky, Land, Sun and Sea. Boom! My head shook! Of course! That was how I had originally pictured the elements when I came up with my associations. Why was I using Air, Water, Fire and Earth?
I thought back to the many rituals and energy workings that I had done when I had tried to meditate using the elemental associations. I realised that in every one of those thought processes I had been doing a double translation – from cardinal position (North), through my picture of the mountains, to arrive at the element of Air. Why not simply say “Sky” instead of “Air”. And “Land” instead of “Earth”, “Sea” instead of “Water”, “Sun” instead of Fire? These were the initial images. No translation required!
And thus my work has changed. Now my spiritual life is easier. All because someone pointed out the bleedin’ obvious!