Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Elemental Series: A Complete Guide to Spirit Folklore and Correspondences

spirit magic, witchcraft, spirit witch, spirit folklore, spirit correspondences, elemental magic

The final stop in our journey is the element Spirit. Paracelsus, the Swiss alchemist who classified the elements, said referred to this element as Ether. No matter what you call it Spirit or Ether (or Soul!) is the element of self-awareness, wholeness, and transcendence. We have spent the entire year learning about the elements and using them to become all that we are meant to be. Now it is time to transcend into our whole selves and walk the path of the witch with our heads held high. Let's start with the folklore surrounding Spirit, which will include folklore surrounding the ever-illusive soul.

Spirit is one of the most elusive of the elements, but that doesn't mean it's lacking in folklore. In fact, entire religions have been built upon the idea of the Spirit or Soul and what happens to it after death. So, where do we begin? 

Spirit has always existed within folk beliefs, with some of the earliest forms appearing in animistic religions and spiritual practices around the world. Animism, which is derived from the Latin anima which means breath, Spirit, or life, is the idea that all things, living and non-living, have a Spirit within them. It is this Spirit or energy that modern-day witches use when working with magical correspondences, and it's the foundation of nature-based spiritualities around the world. Later, humankind began differentiating living Souls or Spirit from that of non-living objects through the use of blood. Prior to the reign of Psammetichus (664-610 BC), Egyptians equated wine with blood, saying it was the life force of those that had warred against the gods. For this reason, they didn't leave wine as an offering and believed that drunkenness would drive a man mad for the drunkard supposedly had consumed the life-blood of their ancestors. We see modern manifestations of this idea in Christianity with wine being part of the sacrament as the blood of Christ. The idea that the Soul was derived from blood is also found in a number of myths around the world, including a Chaladae myth which says that humans and animals were born from the blood of a decapitated deity when it mixed with clay. 

Later, the Soul became something intangible as the breath of life. In Genesis ii. 7 we see an allusion to this: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." In Greece, this breath of life was referred to as stoic pneuma, which originally meant "air in motion" or "breath" and later became religiously known as the Soul or Spirit. It was believed to be a mixture of Air and Fire that when combined created life. Pneuma was adopted by Judaism and Christianity, sometimes being used to describe the Spirit and other times to describe the wind. No matter the religion, however, Spirit is often a central focus, and protecting the Spirit or Soul is believed to be fundamental in ascending into the afterlife.

Soul or Spirit separation was long believed to be the cause of a number of ailments prior to modern medicine, specifically those that affected the brain or wasting disease. Seizures, hysteria, multiple personality disorder, and continued loss of consciousness or fainting were often explained away as the person suffering from Soul loss. Sometimes this was blamed on witches, other times on evil spirits, demons, or even the Devil himself. In some traditions, it was believed these Souls were eaten. According to the Hausa people of Nigeria and Niger, Soul eaters inherited the ability to eat Souls from their parents or could acquire the ability from an existing practitioner. The capacity to eat Souls is rooted in special stones in the person's stomach and these stones allow the person to shapeshift into an animal to pursue potential Souls to eat. In European folklore, Soul eaters were men cursed by witches to eat Souls in order to survive. Furthermore, it is the Spirit or Soul that ascends after death, sometimes to be reborn sometimes to remain in the afterlife. However, not all Spirits or Souls are able to move on which results in restless spirits bound to the Earth, usually in the form of ghosts. Ghosts alone are steeped in folklore, but this folklore digresses from the topic here and will hopefully be covered at a later time. 

Below is a quick correspondence guide for Spirit, including a free printable page for your Book of Shadows!

Gender: Nonbinary
Planet: The Universe
Time: Infinite
Season: The Wheel in Motion
Direction: Central
Tarot Cards: Major Arcana
Zodiac: All
Symbolism: Transcendence, joy, hope, wholeness, self-awareness, unity, selflessness, transformation, ascension, harmony, mystery
Symbols: Infinity, spiral, the universe, light, helix
Deities: All
Nature Spirits: Sphinx, World Tree
Colors: White, silver, purple, black
Food and Drink: wine, liquor, beer, honey, sweets, chocolate, cacao, tea, pound cake, eggs
Herbs: Mistletoe, poplar, oak, chestnut, ash, apple, lotus, resurrection fern, cannabis, tobacco
Crystals and Gemstones: Quartz, pearl, opal, amethyst 
Animals: Dove, deer, cat

How does Spirit work with the other elements?

Spirit works with all the elements in the same manner: Spirit supports each of the elements and each of the elements supports Spirit. Spirit cannot be separated from the other elements as it is infused in all that we do.

Your task for Spirit is to journal about how you have changed and grown this year. 2020 was tough, but we knew this was going to be a year of transformation. Begin with Water. How did Water help you heal past wounds? Were you able to soothe past hurts so you could move forward? Follow with the other elements. How did Earth help you ground and center after healing your past traumas? Did it make you more stubborn or were you able to erode your prickly exterior? How did Fire help you burn away what no-longer served you? Did Fire reignite your passions or bring new ones to you? Finally, how did Air allow you to speak your truth? Were you able to set goals for the future and send your desires out into the Universe? Finally, write about how you are feeling. Even if you don't feel like you have changed that much, write about why or why not. 

2020 wasn't meant to be a year of outward productivity and grand adventures. Your success this year isn't defined by how much 'stuff' you did, but the fact that you will come out of 2020 having grown. Each of us experienced the events of 2020 vastly different. Some of us suffered from crippling anxiety and depression, scared of what the future may hold. Some of us fought oppression, demanding change everywhere we went. Some of us lost so much and were left feeling helpless and hopeless. Others still managed to fight the darkness lurking over their shoulder and made what they could of an awful situation. No matter how you handled 2020, you did it in the best way you knew how or could and for that, I am proud of you. You should be proud of yourself. Get out all your feelings and frustrations onto paper. You'll need this later when we put everything we have done this year together in the final post, just in time for 2021. 

Next week I will dive into how to connect more deeply with Spirit using a simple yet effective ritual.

Interest in the rest of the series? Here's what's to come!

Elemental Magic Series

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  1. The kindness and compassion of your closing lines tugs at the heartstrings. How right you are regarding the multitude of different ways in which we each (hopefully!) managed to endure and survive a year that simply wouldn't back down. Thank you deeply for your caring words, as well as for this terrific look at the wonder + importance that is Spirit.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. Always, my dear friend. In this capitalist society of hustle, hustle, hustle, its difficult to look back at our year when we think we should have done more. This idea that we have to be busy and productive all the time is killing us, especially during a pandemic. I am really hoping this past year has helped people realize they don't need to go all the time to be productive. That sometimes being productive is doing nothing at all.


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