When I first started this path I never heard people talk about Elementals. My first experience with the word and the concept came from sources of reading on witchcraft. I then mistakenly had the assumption that it was a word made specifically for the witch in mind. I was however mistaken.
As the years past, I continued to study shamanism, both traditional and ancient, I came across the word Elemental more often. Gradually, I changed my perception of it being a witch word, to a reference. I often found that the words Element and Elemental, were interchanged, and thought that perhaps they meant the same thing. I was not completely wrong in my assumption, but I was not completely right either. Elements and Elementals are commonly interchanged words but usually that is because the author or the speaker, do not understand the difference, subtle and gross.
The further I study the shamanic ways the more amazed I am at what shamans around the world have learnt. What I also have discovered, is, I had been working with the energy of Elementals for a long time, I just did not know how to name it.
Elementals are often considered to be the personification of the four elements. The four elements being:
The associated Elementals are
Fire – Salamander
Water – Undine
Earth – Gnome
Air – Sylphs
When I first began to study and learn more about Elementals I had a difficult time with the names of the Elementals Sylph and Undine, specifically because I had no connection at all to the words, I did not even understand how they got attached to the Elementals and then I found this:
Earth=gnomes (Greek gnoma meaning knowledge)
Air=slyphs (Greek silphe, a butterfly)
Fire=salamanders (Greek, salambe, a fireplace)
Water=undines (Latin unda, or wave)
I could now understand where the words Sylph and Undine came from, and I eventually learned to pronounce them as well.
The Elemental energies are powerful, and each element has a powerful Essence whose function is to aid us in focusing the power of the Element. Elementals, to me, are the presence of the Elements. They are the manifestation of the elements, and hence have a presence. In some cultures they are considered to be aspects of the Gods and Goddesses – Archetypes if you will. They have also been called the Nature Spirits, of which almost every culture can relay their own story, or have their own set of nature spirits. The Greeks had the nymphs, dryads, forest spirits; the Irish had their leprechauns… think of the gnomes, guardians of the Earth… The Persians, the Mongolians, African traditions… all cultures thought it worthwhile to name their Elementals…
In my tradition – shamanic – earth based spirituality – they are very rich in meaning and energetic texture. When I call the elementals I do not specifically call the Undine if I am thinking of water…rather I feel for the Spirit, the Aspect of Water to come and join me and create with me the sacred space that I need to do my work.
The Elementals themselves are groups of four- they are the four elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air – they are the four directions – East, West, South, North – they are the four colors – Yellow, Red, Blue, Black (or insert the colors of your teachings). They are the four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter – They are the four ages of humans – Birth – Childhood, Child to Young Adult, Young Adult to Senior Adult, Senior Adult to Death. They are the four aspects of the human condition – East is Spirit, South is Emotions, West is physical and North is Mind (strength, will, intellect and emotions). So, for something as simple as the four elements, you can see that in one short paragraph, we have given the elementals different layers. And those are only the ones that we can see.
Even though, for many of us, the elementals are invisible, they are responsible for the creation of all things. We would not be here except for the co-operation of the Elementals. However I could never describe Elementals better than Helena Petovna Blavansky, founder of the Theosophical Society who said “…[they] direct etheric matter for the production of physical effects as readily as humans can compress air for the same purpose with a pneumatic apparatus. They condense etheric matter so as to make themselves tangible bodies, which they can cause to assume such likeness as they choose, taking as their models the portraits they find stamped in the memory of the persons present”.
Christian mythology teaches: we, as man, had dominion over the land, plants and animals. To have dominion over literally means that we had “control” or “supreme authority over”. What we “control” cannot be considered our equal, rather our servant. What is our servant does not require our respect. What does not require our respect does not require our attention. What we do not give attention to generally fades into obscurity. And that is where it is today.
However all is not lost and all is not grim. Not all of the people forgot the Elementals. The care of the Spirits of Nature fell to the shamans, the medicine people, the witch doctors, the gypsies; people who could not, and would not, disconnect from Nature. If Blavatsky is right, is it because we did not forget that the shape of the Spirits of Nature is still similar to the tales and descriptions of our Ancestors?
A Swiss alchemist from the 1490’s, whose shortened name is Paracelsus, wrote about and studied the Spirits of Nature. He wrote “Whosoever would understand the book of nature, must walk its pages with his feet”. Each one of us, regardless of where we live, can connect with, understand and communicate with the Spirits of Nature. What we need to remember is how to listen. Nature never went away; we did. As man became more focused on industrial change and societal expansion; forgotten was the language of the world around us. Collectively, we forgot to listen to the sounds of the leaves and the wind rustling through them, we forgot their language. The Spirits of Nature do not necessarily speak in English and tell us “left from right”, rather, theirs is a language of subtlety and nuances. Perhaps an English translation of the movement of air is not necessarily the most viable way of interpreting and sharing the language that surrounds us. Perhaps it would behoove us to stop, be quiet and PAY ATTENTION. Be an active listener to the world that surrounds us.