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Author Topic: Lore on the origins of the Elements  (Read 1620 times)

Sefiru

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Lore on the origins of the Elements
« on: March 17, 2020, 07:59:35 pm »
I'm looking into a bit of ritual-crafting regarding the classical elements (earth, air, fire, water). Ths far in my practice, I've been invoking the elements at the start of a ritual, but in a very bare bones manner, pretty much "this is the Fire corner" etc.

I'd like to make it a bit more meaningful, and since Kemetic practice links ritual space with the moment of creation, that seems like a good direction to go ... but I'm at a bit of a loss on how to bring the two together.

So, I'm hoping someone here can point me in the direction of myths or other lore about
a) how the classical elements came into being,
or
b) how the classical elements were involved in creation,

if any such thing exists.

Haptalaon

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2020, 08:42:32 am »
I'm looking into a bit of ritual-crafting regarding the classical elements (earth, air, fire, water). Ths far in my practice, I've been invoking the elements at the start of a ritual, but in a very bare bones manner, pretty much "this is the Fire corner" etc.

I'd like to make it a bit more meaningful, and since Kemetic practice links ritual space with the moment of creation, that seems like a good direction to go ... but I'm at a bit of a loss on how to bring the two together.

So, I'm hoping someone here can point me in the direction of myths or other lore about
a) how the classical elements came into being,
or
b) how the classical elements were involved in creation,

if any such thing exists.

Hello! You haven't had a reply yet so here are my 5c  :)

I don't know much about the classical elements or their role in creation. I'm not a huge fan of the four elements, in part because they don't seem to be rooted in mythology in quite the same way.

But what I do have is an attempt to write a Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram with Egyptian forms, because I love the LBRP and my husband won't let me summon angels in the living room. I tried to root it in Egyptian mythology, not just copy in names; and I arrived at a similar point about trying to reproduce the elements of creation.

I'm not Kemetic, I just love mucking around with magical systems.

So, I have no idea whatsoever if it has any value: I don't use it, I just made it for the fun of tinkering about five years ago. But I'm going to share it so this thread has at least one response, and maybe you'll be able to make more of it than I did (I gift it freely - if you like it, use it, change it, ignore it - it's yours, do whatever makes sense with it)



(Last edited by Morag to fix URL code.)
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 02:58:57 pm by Morag »
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Haptalaon

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2020, 08:47:42 am »
I'd like to make it a bit more meaningful, and since Kemetic practice links ritual space with the moment of creation, that seems like a good direction to go ... but I'm at a bit of a loss on how to bring the two together.


Also, now I re-read what I wrote, it's also very clearly rooted in some of the ideas that are central to Fencraft (rather than Kemetic, ceremonial or generic Neo-Pagan forms): a focus on primal terror, the hugeness of the sky, the blackness of the waters and so forth. So that might not work for you
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Sefiru

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2020, 07:01:07 pm »
Ha, I nearly forgot I posted this :P

I don't know much about the classical elements or their role in creation. I'm not a huge fan of the four elements, in part because they don't seem to be rooted in mythology in quite the same way.

I'm sort of the same way; the classical elements apparently have significance for me solely because of background osmosis, and I'd like to justify that by crafting a mythology for them.

Quote
I'm not Kemetic, I just love mucking around with magical systems.

It's certainly a place to start :)

PerditaPickle

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2020, 09:38:14 am »
I'm sort of the same way; the classical elements apparently have significance for me solely because of background osmosis

I can sympathise with this notion  :)

Also, apologies in advance for the forthcoming thread driftage:

Also, now I re-read what I wrote, it's also very clearly rooted in some of the ideas that are central to Fencraft (rather than Kemetic, ceremonial or generic Neo-Pagan forms): a focus on primal terror, the hugeness of the sky, the blackness of the waters and so forth.

I'm becoming more and more intrigued by Fencraft - if I recall correctly you'd mentioned else-forum that this is a path (largely or wholly) of your own devising?
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Haptalaon

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2020, 06:06:22 pm »
I can sympathise with this notion  :)

Also, apologies in advance for the forthcoming thread driftage:

I'm becoming more and more intrigued by Fencraft - if I recall correctly you'd mentioned else-forum that this is a path (largely or wholly) of your own devising?

(Is it a thread derail to answer this here? I am so sorry if it is; give me a mod warning, & let me know what I ought to do in future)

Yes,& it's kind of you to take an interest  :)

The elevator pitch is something like...land-focused animism, traditional witchcraft, mythic pop-culture, folk horror, hauntology and lost spirits of the land. It started with some specific desires, like religious witchcraft without gender; ceremonial ritual, but without appropriating from Jewish culture; and wanting something more focused for myself than Being An Eclectic.

It's kind of a Mood

I find that Making A Path is a really effective way to structure my own work; I like imagining that I have a student to whom I am explaining things; it helps me focus, spot questions I want to answer, and also model my own practice with more integrity (like, it's harder to justify staying in bed and not bothering to do ritual when you self-identify as the Grand Poobah Of Fencraft)

Some of the values/emotions/themes focused on include...re-enchantment, curiosity, the sublime, awe and terror, children's books, the landscape & local history, and the role of memory/amnesia/imagination as a parallel to the land's process of forgetting, dreaming and remembering itself.

Practices include going for regular aimless walks, and assembling your own DIY "bible" from bits and bobs of other books and music, a sort of overlapping palimpsest jumble which mirrors the sacred jumbling and forgetting of the lost myths of the land, and practicing cultivating experiences of isolation/awe/terror/bliss from the natural world.

Spirits include reconstructionist gods, local spirits, fairies, pop culture figures, and some new amalgm gods which characterise certain themes which recur in mythic fiction. There's room within it to find and serve spirits in a specific way, or to be focused on a broader sense of abstract animist presence. I'm developing a new correspondence system which seems to respond more authentically to the British landscape, that's a proper "fit" for earthy paganism. No angels. The folklore is rooted in the 20s, the 70s, and the witch trial periods: in other words, NOT reconstructionism per se, but eras when people were reinventing land-mythos and the pastoral. Because we're seeking for the lost gods, and so, these kinds of hunches and uncertainties and really embracing the way that our spirits blur and overlap, the power that's within this mutability, as opposed to seeing the "lostness" of lost lore as a problem, sadness, or something to be fixed. Lostness is a key characteristic of ancient spirits in Fencraft.

There's also a focus on horror - on ghostliness, on the way that standing stones are unavoidably haunted by what we don't know about them, or the ways that memory/lost memory is a kind of absent presence; and cosmic horror, and awareness that humanity is small in contrast to the immense fathomlessness of (space, the sea, the gods, time, the forgotten things, magic...)

The primary spirit is the Landweird: a mighty presence encountered unawares, hidden in the valleys and stones; the presence that spoke to Tolkien, to Syd Barrett, to Alan Garner, and so many other authors who have half-remembered, half-recovered, half-invented what was lost; that sense of the something . The Landweird is voiceless, wordless, and no one knows what it is; but I think you know at once exactly what I'm talking about.

Another "problem" i was trying to fix was like, the absence of a Bible or a set of sacred texts for Paganism; so the Landweird also acts as an overarching concept for drawing in the works of non-Pagans as our Michaelangelo, our Caravaggio. So works like , , , there is a LOT of work being done in this area of landscape/mythos/memory by non-Pagans which are nevertheless deeply spiritual. As a disabled person, there's a big focus on practices where I can just sit down and watch a movie, the way a Christian can sit and listen to a Sunday service. So because of this, a lot of it isn't "mine", it's just a bringing together of strands that others are already exploring and bringing them explicitly into Paganism.

I'm slowly uploading my notes at landweird.wordpress.com/

It's an open tradition: I welcome people using whatever bits they like of it, however they like (with some caveats about, not publishing my stuff without credits; and a very strong prohibition on racist/nationalist types coming within a bargepole's distance, as I'm told these guys flock to folk music and folk horror like flies to a turd).

Additionally, if there is interest in making this Your Path in like, a more formal way - that's awesome, & I'm happy to help in any way I can. I think the structures lend themselves to a very personal process of seeking the Landweird, rather than it being a dogmatic thing; I envisage everyone's understanding of the Landweird being ultimately very different; and it's also naturally flexible. A lot of pagans and witches could blend what they're doing already right into Fencraft without making any changes, I just like having a name and a framework for the particular spiritual focuses. 

But yeah, even though I slip into using the word "we", it is very much a *me* and a couple of my friends on Dreamwidth who are using little bits of it. I'd like it to be a we; but covid interrupted the process of trying to put together an in-person community, and also I think there's a very natural awkwardness about Joining A Tradition when it's at such an initial stage because, like. It *is* awkward in a way that relating to the dead Crowley through his books isn't. Additionally, Jennet says that a tradition isn't A Tradition until it's been sustained for three generations; and I think that's a good benchmark, so maybe a different term is better, maybe a proposed/potential/proto-Tradition; a possibility.

Thank you for asking. I'm happy to answer any other questions - now or in future (maybe if you want to have a good ole in depth natter, we should make a thread away from Sefiru's original question  :) )


Edit: to restore all the text of the post to the standard board size for accessibility reasons - PerditaPickle
« Last Edit: July 04, 2020, 06:30:04 am by PerditaPickle »
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Sefiru

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2020, 06:39:38 pm »
(Is it a thread derail to answer this here? I am so sorry if it is; give me a mod warning, & let me know what I ought to do in future)

It's not against the rules to derail threads (on most of the board).

That said, *Uno Reverse Card*!

I've been thinking about different structures for origin stories.

- Sequential: where the elements come into being one after another
- Cyclical: where the elements all create/are created by each other (sort of how the Chinese  5 elements work)
- Differentiation: where opposite pairs of elements separate from each other; this is similar to aspects of Kemetic mythology

It also occurred to me that there's a good historical reason that there's no creation myth for the elements. It's easy to forget in modern times, but the classical elements were an early part of *science*.

Altair

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2020, 10:06:13 pm »
It also occurred to me that there's a good historical reason that there's no creation myth for the elements. It's easy to forget in modern times, but the classical elements were an early part of *science*.

While obviously I don't consider it science, this relates to why I've had so much trouble answering the original question. I have no creation myth for the elements because to me they're tools: handy mental constructs for organizing thoughts and principles, and for making meaningful connections. As such, they're artificial, even if they resonate with me and prove very useful. So a creation myth for them isn't a priority for me. I don't think it would add to their utility.
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

PerditaPickle

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2020, 06:24:04 am »
I have no creation myth for the elements because to me they're tools: handy mental constructs for organizing thoughts and principles, and for making meaningful connections. As such, they're artificial, even if they resonate with me and prove very useful.

This is at once true for me, and at the same time not so.  (I hadn't really thought about it before you posted this though, Altair.)  The elements had existed long before us peoples - the mental construct is perhaps artificial, but the elements themselves are obviously ancient.  So it seems to me that there may be something about the way we conceptualise the classical elements?

Perhaps there's a reason we've such a proliferation of creation myths for celestial things (the moon, sun, stars etc), but not so much for the tools which we've had at hand ever since (for the most part) we came down out of the trees?

Maybe those celestial things, and other phenomenon such as meteorological events (the success or failure of harvests, natural disasters), were such a mystery to early people that they needed some explanation, whereas those things which we could actually lay our hands on and utilise (water, the soil) weren't quite in that same category?

I don't know.  I'm sure there's probably some anthropological material examining this, so this thought could perhaps stand some Google Scholar-ing.

Anyway, a very quick internet search did turn up this Wikipedia item on the Theft of Fire which I thought may be of some interest to Sefiru and others reading this thread.  It asserts that "the theft of fire for the benefit of humanity is a theme that recurs in many world mythologies", and gives examples.

Also,

Thank you for asking. I'm happy to answer any other questions - now or in future (maybe if you want to have a good ole in depth natter, we should make a thread away from Sefiru's original question  :) )

thank you for answering!  I shall peruse your reply in detail when I've an opportunity - and I also think your new thread suggestion definitely has legs   :)
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Haptalaon

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2020, 03:42:16 am »
It's not against the rules to derail threads (on most of the board).

That said, *Uno Reverse Card*!

I've been thinking about different structures for origin stories.

- Sequential: where the elements come into being one after another
- Cyclical: where the elements all create/are created by each other (sort of how the Chinese  5 elements work)
- Differentiation: where opposite pairs of elements separate from each other; this is similar to aspects of Kemetic mythology

It also occurred to me that there's a good historical reason that there's no creation myth for the elements. It's easy to forget in modern times, but the classical elements were an early part of *science*.


....re-railing?

Is there inherent in the concept of "the elements" that there is nothing smaller than them, similar to the atom: they cannot be subdivided any further down than these four things?

I've got a couple of sketches of 8-elemental systems, where the four elements then combine (so, fire + earth = clay or mud or soil, depending on the version). Somehow, I always manage to get nuclear power in there. But I don't think I've ever considered trying to break them further down.

In Finnish mythology and my own, the first things that existed were the sea, space, and the void - so, water and air? Followed by earth? In Christianity, light is invented first - which I guess would come under fire. It's an interesting question.
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Sefiru

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2020, 07:12:16 pm »
Anyway, a very quick internet search did turn up this Wikipedia item on the Theft of Fire which I thought may be of some interest to Sefiru and others reading this thread.  It asserts that "the theft of fire for the benefit of humanity is a theme that recurs in many world mythologies", and gives examples.

Oh wow, I totally forgot about that ... I've been thinking in terms of a myth for the whole set, and now I need to look at origin myths for single elements as well *jumps down rabbit hole*

Sefiru

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2020, 07:17:02 pm »

Is there inherent in the concept of "the elements" that there is nothing smaller than them, similar to the atom: they cannot be subdivided any further down than these four things?


I imagine them more nebulous/fluid than that; like all matter regardless of size contains each of the Elements in some degree. (I keep thinking 'pantheism' but that's specifically for deities).

Geosmin

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2020, 06:38:08 am »
So, I'm hoping someone here can point me in the direction of myths or other lore about
a) how the classical elements came into being,
or
b) how the classical elements were involved in creation,

if any such thing exists.

I'm not sure that I specifically have the answers you are searching for, but I am a follower of the classical elements. I work mostly with them.
Here are my 2c on them and what they are to me, maybe it will point you in a direction you need.

To me, the classical elements, are not things that were created, but are the very tools used to create. Or even the oldest most original form of our planet. Everything includes them and resonates with them. Nothing can be with only one. Taking a plant as an example. With only the warmth and light (fire) of the sun and nothing else it could not exist, but only dry up and burn. With only water and no light it would turn slimy and wither, have no energy etc. Without the soil (earth) it would have no nurishment and could not grow. Without air, they would have no CO2 to breathe, which in turn also means no oxygen and no life on his planet whatsoever. So to me Life itself, on our planet, is not possible if the elements do not work in harmony with oneanother. As soon as one becomes off balance things go to shit. Thats just the way I look at things, and is why I love them dearly. I like how each one has their own personality and they are wonderful protectors. They have become such a great part of my path that they have nearly replaced all sort of deity.
I did in a way give them a "face" if you might say. Whenever I call the elements I give each and every one a greeting and parting of respect, I light an elemental candle for each one and as they show up one after the other they show themeselves from their strongest and most natural breathtaking side.
 
I can really recommend trying to work in a more depth way with them, it may sound like something not worth ones while in the beginning, hence the practice seems fairly simple. But sometimes there is a diamond to be found beneath the coal.

Also, mediatating on each and every one of them, for itself, could also be a great way to find a connection or even a history of some sort.
.:*:゚。If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere:*。:゚..

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Re: Lore on the origins of the Elements
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2020, 09:19:58 am »
I imagine them more nebulous/fluid than that; like all matter regardless of size contains each of the Elements in some degree. (I keep thinking 'pantheism' but that's specifically for deities).

Pan-elementism?
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