the chemistry of union

I have been saying for some time that I would do a follow up to the posts on Tammo de Jongh and Richard Gardner, and their work with the elements, so here it is.

If you’re new to this subject, you can find a bit of background here, here and here. What follows is a summary of information contained in the chapter on “sexuality” in The Future Will Be Green by Anelog (Tammo) and Brother Sebastien, with just a little of my own reflection. I will refer to Anelog as Tammo during the post, because though he was called Anelog towards the end of his life, most people searching for him will know him as “Tammo”.

Reading this chapter I am really reminded of Richard Gardner and his vision, expressed in books like the Purpose of Love or Evolution Through the Tarot. Tammo clearly did his own work and researches, but there are points in this chapter where Richard’s spark really shows through. I remember writing to Tammo in 1981, saying how much I was interested in transformation and bringing about mutations in consciousness, as per Richard’s ideas. He wrote back and told me that he was not interested in that. I think I can now (happily) see that was not entirely true. The reason I am choosing this chapter is that it has that spark so clearly, and deals with something that is also at the core of Richard’s teaching.

As I summarised in a previous post, Tammo’s scheme involved the ordering of the elements within a person, in terms of their relative strength, with the different positions working very differently to each other. So someone could be earth 1st, water 2nd, fire 3rd and air last, for instance. 1st element dominates the essential nature of a person. 2nd element is repressed and is a kind of shadow element (even though it is the 2nd strongest). 3rd element dominates the personality, and can easily become a relatively negative or superficial manifestation. 4th element is the one we reach fulfilment through, even though it is the weakest.

Tammo sees sexuality as being about an exchange of sexual energy, and one which can be miraculous in its effects:

“wonders happen where there is genuine love, expressed in a natural and spontaneous way as a true response”

Anelog/Sebastien The Future Will Be Green, 1996

Which sums up a great deal, and incidentally is pure Richard Gardner to my ears. What follows is a working out of the what and how of elementally magical relationship.

In Tammo’s scheme everyone is one of 24 types, based upon elemental orders and combinations (the above mentioned earth-water-fire-air order would be one of these 24).  The sexual relationship dynamics are strongly based upon polarity, but not the polarity of the biological sex of the people involved. It is a polarity of elements which is effective, not a polarity of genitals. Tammo here introduces two terms which encapsulate this polarity, while getting away from the idea of “men” and “women” (which is simply not relevant in itself). Depending on a person’s elemental ordering, they are either dard or voy. “Voy” we would think of as conventionally feminine in various respects, while “dard” we would think of as conventionally masculine, but we need to understand what we are describing by these terms, because they are not in actuality tied to a person’s biological sex. There are 12 dard types, and 12 voy types (making up the total of 24). What really determines a person’s nature is their last element, through which they gain fulfilment. If their last element is water or earth, they are voy. If their last element is fire or air, they are dard. The reason someone is dard  is not because they necessarily behave habitually in a “masculine” manner (they might or might not), it is because they gain their fulfilment through an element which is “masculine”. Similarly with someone who is voy. They may or may not behave habitually in a “feminine” manner (and there is a lot working against the expression of real femininity in our culture, especially for men), but their means of fulfilment lie in a “feminine” avenue of being. The terms “masculine” and “feminine” are of course misleading at the same time, because of conditioned association with one “sex” or the “other”, which is why using “dard”, “voy” and the elements is useful.

“each type has one of 12 essential natures which are the opposite of what he/she WANTS to be, once he/she becomes conscious of it. Everyone needs their ‘opposite’, the type they feel drawn towards – ‘opposite’ from an inner, psychic point of view – the kind of person they need for their inner growth and fulfilment”*


 “From a psychic point of view therefore, sexual attraction exists between dard and voy types primarily and generally between types opposite to each other, irrespective of gender”



“If people generally could become aware of the full potential of divine, receptive sexual intercourse they would be astounded at the power of love and the magic that would be released”


I think many occultists would not be surprised by the valuation of sex and sexuality here, and most people who have held on to a sense of innocence and romance instinctively understand the gist of this, but in the cynical, airy society we live in, sex has been reduced to reproduction, power plays or a superficial sport or recreation. That isn’t what drives sex though. We only become aware of what drives sex when we are opened by love to the inward. It is only in that state of innocence and defencelessness that two people can truly experience sexual love, and its transformative potential. But to whatever extent we can come closer to understanding ourselves and our own deeper desires, accepting ourselves and others, and welcoming love into our lives, we benefit thereby and live more fully.

Tammo divides the 24 types into three groups with different sexual dynamics: Nomadic, Agricultural and Urban. These don’t necessarily reflect actual social or economic lifestyles in themselves, they are more associative and suggestive. For simplicity I will use the archetype names for the element combinations shown in the diagram below.

circle of the 12 channels of consciousness painted by Tammo de Jongh, from "The Purpose of Love" by Richard Gardner

circle of the 12 channels of consciousness painted by Tammo de Jongh, from “The Purpose of Love” by Richard Gardner

The Nomadic group contains people with earth-fire (Slave) and fire-earth (Warrior) as their essence or nature, and attracts their opposites with air-water (Patriarch) and water-air (Child) as their essence or nature, so they complement each other. This group is described as relating to “animal force” or vitality, which we benefit from by controlling. “We have the image of the herd led by the Patriarch, the stag” (Ibid). This group unconsciously reflects characteristics of nomadic tribal attitudes according to Tammo, and finds monogamy difficult.

The underlying emotional-sexual “themes” of this group are conquest and surrender, and domination and submission. The dynamic is one of aggressor-victim, or master-slave. But these have to be understood in the context of love, sexuality and permission of course.

The Agricultural group relates to the “vegetable force” or kingdom, and a way of life determined by coupling and pairing, rather than living in a group. It contains people with earth-water (Mother) and water-earth (Enchantress) as their essence, and attracts those with air-fire (Magician) and fire-air (Joker) as their essence, who also form part of this group. These elemental “channels” are associated with cultivation, production, crafts, settled communities, growth and change. These elemental combinations tend to lead settled lives and relate monogamously.

The underlying emotional-sexual “themes” of this group are penetration and absorption, and manipulation and sensitivity. These involve a “total compensation” between the “masculine” and the “feminine”, as one partner has entirely “feminine” elements in essence, while the other has entirely “masculine” elements in essence. This is probably the most hetero-normative of the groups by tendency, though that doesn’t mean that its members will necessarily be heterosexual.

The Urban group relates to the “mineral force” or kingdom (characterized by dependence upon minerals and fossil fuels interestingly), and is more individualistic, with its sexuality tending more towards masturbation and stimulation. It contains people with air-earth (Observer) and earth-air (Old Woman) combinations as their essence, and attracts people with water-fire (Actress) and fire-water (Fool) as their essence.

The underlying emotional-sexual “themes” of this group are observation and display, and abandon and restraint. The dynamic here is of the desire for independence, and freedom to break with restrictions.

You can just see people being horrified or embarrassed by all this, because we still live in a society that demonizes sex and sexuality, even as it tries to use it in a distorted fashion to sell products and manipulate people. Difficult as it is to credit, we still believe, somewhere inside us, that sex is both primarily for reproduction, and yet also dirty in itself. We think producing babies in an overpopulated world is sacred, but that love is somehow perverted.

“For many centuries the connection between our psyche, or soul, and our sexual nature – which may include desires paradoxically considered to be ‘unnatural’ – was ignored and the majority of people today would still be frightened of and hostile towards it”


That really has to change.


How Does It work Out?

So we have people with different essential natures, who attract their “opposites” in an elemental sense, most crucially in terms of being dard and voy, and who can be grouped into a number of characteristic types. Remember though, we are not all equally self aware, and it is quite difficult for some types to be freely self aware in our present society. Some elements come to dominate our personality (notably the 3rd place element), but this will not lead us to our essential nature, or our way to fulfilment. My third element for instance is air, and I am superficially very airy, and sometimes that is what people latch onto. I write, I think a lot, I problem solve, I analyse, I think too much, I am too judgemental. And that is neither my essential self, which is far more earthy, nor my way to fulfilment, which is watery. If I identified with my 3rd element, and tried to relate from it, then I would probably be trying to act as a false dard, and it would not work, because I am actually a voy with water last. Similarly, if I sought out someone who say had a really fiery or airy personality (fire or air third), but who deep down needed to develop their earth or water, and where that fire was not part of their essence, it would not work, because they also would be a voy, and we would not fulfil each other.

I would not condemn or criticize anybody’s relationship where there is love, as love is always the teacher, not a theory, by Tammo or anyone else. But I think it is an uncomfortable truth that many miss their opportunity for deep happiness (when they aren’t denied it outright by our phobic and deluded society) through misunderstanding themselves, and the nature of real, deep, attraction. Most people know what it’s like to see someone and know, deep inside, that you have met your corresponding other, where the chemistry locks, and there is just no doubt of that chemistry. Relatively few people, unfortunately, believe in it with enough understanding, to know that “this is it”, when put in competition with credibility, ego, prejudice, cynicism, peer pressure, lifestyle, or past hurts. It’s a strange angel that helps us through this maze, but it does happen.

It seems that the things to watch out for negatively in this regard are:

 – relationships based on 3rd element, on superficial “personality” – because they will tend to be neurotic and unfulfilling

–  relationships between two voys or two dards, because these again do not provide the deep fulfilment that is sought in relationship

Tammo goes so far as to say that “the only valid relationships are in terms of the last elements”, meaning in terms of the kind of soul fulfilment we have been talking about. In terms of dard and voy, I understand where he is coming from. What I’m a little unclear on is how dogmatic he is meaning to be, in terms of which specific of the 24 types can fulfil which other types. I think the poetry of love can be surprisingly adaptable myself, but above all there needs to be chemistry.

To illustrate some of the dynamics, Tammo gives the following examples:

– the “Patriarch” (essentially air-water) who wants to rein in his/her fire third opposite (which also helps his/her opposite actualize their voy last element).

– the “Warrior” (essentially fire-earth) that wants to blow up the icy detachment of his/her air third opposite (and ditto).

– the “Fool” (essentially fire-water) who seeks to shock their air 3rd opposite and bring them to life.

– the “Observer” (essentially air-earth) who has to remain impassive and not react to their fire 3rd opposite, so that their voy nature can emerge.

Note here: if I am reading Tammo correctly, then when you reverse the order of the 3rd and 4th elements, you get an archetypal combination which is really important for the person’s fulfilment, and this seems to be something which is facilitated in these “live” relationships. So when you switch round the personal self (3rd and 4th elements) you get something very magical for the person. It seems as if this is where the weakest 4th element is able to flower into the fulfilment it can really become, while the superficially over-developed 3rd element is able to dissipate and retreat somewhat (along with its associated neurosis), and allow the deeper voy or dard nature to emerge spontaneously. A personality-based self characterized by the Patriarch (air-water) would give way to the Child (water-air) voy expression. A personal self characterized by the Slave would give way to the Warrior (fire-earth) dard expression. A personal self characterized by the Mother (earth-water) would give way to the Enchantress (water-earth) etc.

So you can see here, even really compatible people could have challenges, working with each other sincerely and with honest and deep feeling and regard, to overcome the dominance of personality, and give each other the support to bring out their element of fulfilment (the last element).

With respect to sexual emotions, desires and fantasies, Tammo says:

“If these are objective and true, such feelings must become an aid to discovering a deeper part of ourselves, apart from being helpful to those to whom we are attracted”.


The price of not helping people through a soulful understanding of love and sex is immense, as it underlies so much of our dysfunction. As Tammo says, we all too often punish or leave vulnerable someone seeking out the fulfilment of consciousness through sex (whether it is through destructive laws, scandal, prejudice or other kinds of small mindedness), but we encourage the violent criminal expression of the same elemental forces, and with less of a sense of moral outrage (fire 3rd is a placement which according to Tammo can easily lead to criminal activity and anti-social behaviour, when it needn’t). But the basic elemental drives which we all experience are always open to the fulfilment they are actually seeking in love.

Tammo, like Richard Gardner, saw our problem as largely being due to what he termed fire consciousness, which (amongst other things) has reduced what sexual freedom we do have to a vision of frivolous license, unwanted pregnancy, venereal disease and statistics. What they both wanted was for us to embrace the poetic and romantic world of water consciousness, which would see sex through the eyes of imagination, intuition, deep feeling, symbol, and beauty, as it sees other parts of life also. Tammo felt that there was a brief flowering of Water consciousness in art, from the end of the 19th century until the First World War.

I think fire consciousness has given us a great deal; modern medicine, technology, modern freedoms, insight into all manner of things, but at a price, and one which is ravaging our world. We need the dynamic of water consciousness,  deep feeling, imagination, healing, intuition, romance, innocence. We are beyond both ultimately (represented by both The Fool and The World in the tarot), but we can’t live with just one and not the other. We need to be guided by Love.

“The Age of Pisces …….. was characterized by division, two fishes swimming in opposite directions, ‘a man is this and a woman is that’. With the Age of Aquarius and Natural Psychology, the knowledge of dard and voy, sex will be better understood and therefore with a more honest and conscious approach to it people will consider the consequences of their actions. This is what is meant by conscience. Aquarian spirituality will not be a denial of sexual feelings, but an imaginative and truthful expression of these”.


Amen to that.

“The Kiss” by Francesco Hayez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

* These 12 natures are shown in the diagram of the wheel of “12 channels of consciousness”. There are 12 of these, consisting of two elements each. The 24 types refer to the ordering of all four elements within a person.

a little goetic analysis

About a month ago I wrote a post that brought up the subject of demons in relation to psychological processes and forgiveness, and my friend Brent was wondering if there was any link between demonology and the shadow side of the elements. I had already ordered  a copy of The Goetia, so I had to have a look at this.

Two things I should point out first though: one is that The Goetia is just one book out of the 5 of The Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, though it does give descriptions and attributions of the demons. Secondly, this is not my subject and I was not about to embark on serious experiential study of Goetic demons in the practice of evocation, which would be far and away the realer deal, so this is just a paper study or analysis.

Now there is an elemental scheme to the Goetia: 72 demons, 18 per element, 9 for the day and 9 for the night. 9 demons, 3 decans per sign of the zodiac, 9 decans per element, it pans out quite nicely. Each demon also has a planetary correspondence (sometimes two).

I tried looking at the elements and got the following:

Fire: predominantly corresponding with Sun, Venus, Moon and Mercury (equally).

Water: predominantly corresponding with Venus, then Jupiter and Mars.

Air: predominantly corresponding with the Sun, then Moon, Venus and Mercury.

Earth: predominantly corresponding with Venus, then Moon.

There were other planetary influences on the elements, but this keeps it simple by looking at the first two rankings per element. Venus is strong in most, though seems least dominant in Air, most dominant in Earth. Sun is dominant in Fire and Air, but not in Water and Earth.  Moon is strongest in Fire, and comparatively weakest in Water (surprisingly), but comes second in Air and Earth. Mercury features in Fire and Air. Jupiter and Mars come second in Water.

Part of the text mentions Belial, Bileth, Asmoday, and Gäap as being “chief”, all being returned to their confining vessel after having been released in Babylon, except for Belial who entered into an image and got worshiped as a god. You might think from this that we have four chiefs, so maybe four elements? But in fact of these four one is associated with Leo (fire), and three are associated with Aquarius (air). The text also mentions four “Great Kings” ruling the four quarters: Amaymon, Corson, Zimimay (Ziminiar), Göap. The notes give some alternative names, and if I take Paymon to be one of them, and Göap to actually be Gäap, then that gives me a Gemini and an Aquarius association according to the demon list, ie two air signs, and not much of a lead on Corson and Zimimay. It doesn’t really add up.

Going on to the natures and powers of the demons, it does read like a rather sad indictment of human desires and intentions for a good part of it, ameliorated by some reasonable and more lofty or simply pleasurable goals.

Things that were common to all elements were things such as: the teaching of various subjects, divination, transportation of people, causing love, finding treasure or the hidden.

Things shared by two or more elements included things such as: healing, causing diseases, transforming the shape of men, reconciling friends, giving esoteric knowledge, turning metals into gold, causing natural phenomena (eg storms), giving good familiars, making wise or eloquent, giving riches, killing, building towers, reading minds, creating illusions, and other such.

Things specific to elements were:

Fire: causes battle, gives good servants, grants requests, sends warriors, makes coins, sows discord.

Water: causes people to show themselves naked, sets buildings on fire, transports objects, travels without limit, return stolen goods and bring thieves back, punishes the wicked.

Air: causes feuds, reconciles with those in power, gives long life, recovers lost objects, gives ring of virtue, makes invincible, makes insensible and ignorant, causes hate, teaches consecration to Amaymon, can take other magicians’ familiars, afflicts with wounds and sores, can take away senses or understanding, discover things hidden by spirits, discover witches and wizards.

Earth: makes women barren, gives good reputation, drowns, protects from temptation by spirits, rules over spirits of parts of Africa.

You really have to hope this stuff is allegorical, because it is pretty grim, and difficult to translate into anything meaningful. Fire seems to deal a bit more with battle, water maybe seems a little more focused on goods and sex, air on interrelationships of power and intrigue (and cursing), while I’m not sure what to make of earth.

On the other hand, the most common themes across the board were reasonable ones such as teaching of knowledge, divination, causing love and finding treasure. Not entirely altruistic, but as the most common themes, they somewhat salvage the image thrown back by the mirror.

Things shared by a few elements range from the more lofty (healing, seeking esoteric knowledge, making wise, reconciling friends), to the neutral (giving riches, good familiars, reading minds, causing natural phenomena, creating illusions) to the abhorrent (killing, causing disease).

Like I said, one can hope this is meant as allegorical, or maybe these examples act as an illustration of the outward reflection of the inner problems and blockages that the “demons” point to as areas of the psyche. We can remember here what astrology looked like before the modern advent of a more “person centered” and psychological art. But it’s also worth remembering that both magic and life work through a synchronicity that is manifested in the “real world”.

I can’t say that I have found clear signs of the “shadows of the elements” in Goetic demonology (and one thing I haven’t examined here are the traditional images of the demons), but maybe that’s not so surprising. Grimoires aren’t doors one can go through by reading and analyzing them. The structure of the Goetia has clear elemental classifications and divisions, and it would not surprise me if the demons do in fact point to shadow areas of the psyche that may have elemental markers, but it would take someone better qualified and experienced than me to draw that map, and the conclusions that might go with it.

I’ll respectfully leave that to them, though I do take my hat off to the archaic poetry that even I can perceive, in these condemned and failed areas of the psyche, that seem to beg for a realization and a recasting.

Japanese Laughing Demon Mask – See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

a taster of the magic of the elements

We recently had some really wonderful hand readings from our friend Brent, who is also deeply interested in the elements work connected with Tammo de Jongh/Anelog and Richard Gardner. It was fantastic to have such in depth conversations with such a perceptive reader, especially one with whom you share an interest in an inspirational work. You can find Brent’s website here, his 500 Hand Project is really interesting, and I am so looking forward to seeing more of this stuff. I can confirm that this kind of hand work is potentially life changing.

Between this and contact I have had with another of my readers (Steve) who has shown great enthusiasm for Richard Gardner’s work, I wanted to put out just a little something about Tammo’s elements work, which was a key part of what Richard applied himself to.

In about 1971 Tammo published a booklet called “the magic circle of the soul – the 12 aspects of the mind”, with hand drawn illustrations and calligraphic lettering. I remember finding a copy at a bookshop in Victoria in maybe 1975, as a school boy on my lunch break. The whole of this work is based upon the traditional elements of earth, air, water and fire, their combinations and their reflections in art, psychology, love and human types. It is a relatively early expression of the study that Tammo was working on, which he had started with Barry Slater (a mathematician) and Kenneth Carter (a historian) following an awakening journey that Tammo undertook in 1956, and which Tammo (later called Anelog) continued for the rest of his life with Brother Sebastien and Herewood Gabriel at the “Green Monastery” in Kentish Town. In “The Magic Circle” Tammo mentions Freud, Horney, Jung and Gurdjieff as being influences on this study, which at this time he refers to as “cosmology”, though I think in later years it gets referred to as “natural psychology”.

As with Richard Gardner, the impression you get is far from a dry or theoretical study, in fact it is anything but, for it seeks to be a living understanding that a person must participate in to grasp. The elements cannot be a theoretical study, for they make up our experience and colour and shape our consciousness. A theoretical study of the elements would be like a book about water, as compared to finding yourself immersed in the sea. Both Richard and Tammo wrote books (though Tammo also painted and drew and made things like puppets and masks), and both worked to communicate something that could not be experienced in writing alone.

I would like to just talk a little about one idea from the book here, and that is the order of the elements in a person (if you want to see what I have written about the elements before, you can find that here), which affect so much for a person. By “order of the elements”, I mean the preponderance and relative strengths of them within an individual, 1st being the strongest, to 4th being the weakest or least preponderant.

1st element is strongest, and it dominates the essential nature of a person.

2nd element is next strongest, but it is repressed or denied (I found this quite fascinating).

3rd element is not our essential nature, but comes to dominate our personality.

4th element is the least preponderant, but crucially shows how we reach fulfillment or realization. This last is very important for a person’s relationship orientation amongst other things, and at the time The Magic Circle was written Tammo was classing “types” as feminine (for earth and water 4th) and masculine (for air and fire 4th), while emphasizing that this had no necessary relation to the physical sex of the person. Later I believe he came up with original terms to describe the types, without resorting to the terms “masculine” or “feminine” (which I thought was very intelligent and consistent with something not being dependent on maleness or femaleness).

As an example, I am earth 1st, fire 2nd, air 3rd and water 4th. There isn’t an easy way of ascertaining your balance (though in my case it follows my astrological chart fairly well), as you have to examine and observe your life and experience, though Brent Bruning is finding correlations with the hands, and did so with both Phil and myself. So I can say that I have at least some confirmation of what my elemental order seems to be.

I am actually very earthy. It’s not something I think of as myself especially, but it is right there, slap bang in the middle of things. I am essentially sloppy and accepting, sensual and settled. I’m stable and grounded in the way that usually gets you dismissed by “terribly psychic” people and flashy intellectuals alike, as kinda dull. But that’s ok, I can watch paint dry and be happy if it’s warm, there’s food, and no demands made of me, or there’s a handsome man in the room.

My second element of fire is …….. complicated. I’d say it’s my shadow element. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, there are times when it has been central to my sense of a search for meaning, but biographically it has been a hard one to integrate, even if it was creative and eventful when it did get activated. It is my sense of personal lack though, that big, heroic, shining, adventurous, dominating, “fuck you” energy, that creative spark that the world quite rightly pays to see. I have actualized an amount of it after all this time, but I’ve had to get it by accepting that sometimes hell fire needs to do the job, so hell yes. And it’s funny, because it is my second strongest element, but that is how this stuff works, 2nd place is the last thing you get, but not because it isn’t there in you somewhere.*

3rd place, air, yeah. I am not an essentially verbal person at all, but I learnt, and then I ran with it. Air isn’t all comfortable, it’s a little too easy to get carried away with, too easy for me period, and personality is right. I do appreciate the element, but I also appreciate that it isn’t really me, nor what I most love. But its virtues are real even if its pitfalls are too. I can do air really well, but it’s kinda “so what?”.

4th place element is like your key (and it occurs to me that in some ways it’s a bit like the North Node in astrology). It’s the element you start off the weakest in, but because it holds that key to your fulfillment it is also a big deal for you, and you actually have a great potential to develop it in a way which is really valuable and transformative. This element is likely to be very positive for you. With me it is water, and the world of water (mysticism, love, imagination, enchantment, dream, feeling) was something I valued from early on, yearned for, but felt myself to be excluded from. I longed to be it, but felt I wasn’t really. The blessing in 4th place element’s tail is that its fulfilling potential for you actually does give you a place, and a special place, in that element’s world. There’s a karmic feel to this. The doors are actually unlocked. You just have to walk through them, and when you do, you’ll be amazed. Over the years I’ve actually developed a lot of water, and it even shows up in my hands. And the other thing that is accurate for me about Tammo’s scheme is that I end up as a “feminine” type, and though the language at this stage of Tammo’s writing is binary gender conditioned, I understand what he means, and he’s quite right. You need to take it out of the “biological gender” context (and ultimately away from the psychological “ghost” of biological gender, if you get what I mean), but I believe there is an important perception there.

Tammo’s work also combined elements in pairs, and illustrated them as archetypes, such as people are familiar with from Jungian psychology; eg the wise old man, the mother, the child, the divine fool, the warrior etc. You can see Tammo’s original paintings of the archetypes here, and Herewood Gabriel’s updated versions here. In terms of his elemental psychology he termed 1st and 2nd element as the essential self, 3rd and 4th as the personal self, 1st and 3rd as the usual self, and 2nd and 4th as the shadow self. The archetypes give a flavour of the character of the elemental combinations.

Tammo and his co-workers did refine and move on from the work expressed in “the magic circle of the soul”, but I hope you have found this interesting or helpful.

mo-tammo* Note 29th November 2013: if my own experience is anything to go by, second element is also a highly transformative element for a person, as it carries some of the quality of integrating “the shadow” with it, but it is very different in quality from 4th element, which a person needs and can benefit profoundly from exploring. 2nd element does not need developing, and may resist being developed, but it will need to be made conscious for someone to express their full potential. At least that is my impression.

burning bright

Fire. What a star. Can’t really get around it. The elements have so many different strengths and characteristics, but none quite like fire. Tricksy, dependable, erratic, heavenly, subterranean. Lightning strike, volcano, sunshine. Cook, comforter and forest fire.

Like many children I was fascinated by fire, and I loved bonfires. It was palpably, manifestly magical, and burnt fingers couldn’t diminish that. It licked and transformed everything into living light and warmth, created worlds within its glow and incandescent ashes, and called to something atavistic, waiting to wake up.

To all appearances it is the most vulnerable of elements in terms of controlled human use, easily quenched, smothered, burnt or blown out. But that is natural fire democratized to common utility. Nothing vulnerable about Sun, lightning, magma streams. And deep within all matter, all bodies, lies that potential, as it glows within the Earth, and it billows and seethes within stars. Within each atom a secret fire dances. Fire of all the elements appears most like our idea of energy, though energy is a more subtle concept in truth.

What fire points to in us is our individuality, our genius, and our capacity to do, whether that action is physical, mental, emotional, or the lighting flash of a certain kind of intuition. Fire makes us different. You can’t really be here and now without it, alive and awake, yet it also makes one somehow not of this world too, not just of this world.

The original, natural power of fire is kinda titanic, yet even our fragile initial experiments with fire quickly run away and get out of hand, consume in brightness whatever is there and leave us with ashes, once the sheer joy has departed with flames, or the flames have got too hot. Fire is transformative, so the transformation needs to be well and judiciously done, otherwise it can just turn out to be destruction. You want to cook dinner, but everything is dinner for fire.

So change and purification are part of fire, and in a more biological sense, warmth, incubation, passion, an irreplaceable part of life sustenance. And because fire brings light into our darkness at our own will, fire is also linked to uncovering our own shadow natures, and ultimately purifying them. For some magicians fire has a reputation of “hatching out” the eggs of our unresolved karma, and I think this is a slightly creepy way of saying the same thing. As fire has such a strong and seemingly single minded inherent intelligence (which is what gives it its capacity), you can reasonably expect the purifications of fire to be swift, direct and not a gentle ride. The fastest, consumable route from A to B, is all it says on the ticket. You get what you pay for, no refunds, no delays.

The reputation of fire is in some ways as unparalleled as it is morally ambiguous. Light of science, Sacred Fire, stampede of conquest, impulse of genius, fire of Hell. I think that is because it is titanic, inhuman (as indeed the greatness of Nature is, out there), and dramatically so, yet also it is the most dramatically democratized to human use, with world changing effects. A little goes a long, long way. But it is also spell binding, and culturally spell binding, and just a bit “too much” is not easily reversible. Reversible isn’t what fire is about.

Fire gives individuality and originality, passion, impetus, urgency, a hunger for action and consummation. It gives us exploration, and humour, and abandon. It puts us on our own map. But it needs containment to be sustainable at any one level. Genius and mad scientist. Champion and invader. Hearth fire and atomic bomb. Awakened individual and mental health issue. Passionate lover and violator of will. Wise, freeing laughter and cruel cynicism.

Every element has it vices and virtues. Fire is easily demonized in our culture, even as our culture pursues it at every turn. Yet fire is not a collective element for me. Of all of them, it is the one which needs to be owned and taken responsibility for at an individual level. I say that because I believe we need the lessons and potential of fire to be realized at such a level, where responsibility is really possible. I feel we need that, and not just the collective use of fire, where it is so easy for no one to morally be at home.

This is also why I think that fire is the most dramatically democratized of the elements. It’s not the easiest to actualize, but it is the unfailing accompaniment of a separate selfhood which makes a kind of magical democracy possible.

We may have deluged the world in the collective products of fire (aka technology), but we haven’t really got it. And that is because the shadow work that fire brings about is something which we avoid. In some ways the story of fire is the story of leaving the collective, and entering a world of real and conscious relationships. It is because of this aversion to shadow work that we still fear ourselves, our own individuality, and see it as something somehow monstrous. And from that, all the projections and demonizations of the world may issue. That indeed seems like the problem to me, not fire itself. An element commonly associated with pride, it actually requires great humility to understand.

Nevertheless, it’s probably worth bearing in mind, with all the elements, that they can be medicine and remedy for each other, even if none can do each other’s job.

So ends my initial series of reflections on the elements.

an image I found while searching for “fire spirit” on Wikimedia Commons. The man is Australian Aboriginal artist MUNDARA KOORANG. By Novyaradnum (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons


Autumn seems like a very natural time to be reminded of the element of earth. The nights draw in and the days grow colder, and home beckons to us, to withdraw into warmth and comfort. We almost literally go to ground, or wish we could.

Earth is a sleepy, physical, resistant element, the least flexible, the slowest element, the most sheltering and anchoring. It is the most concerned with structure and form and a basic integrity, and the limitations and measures of time. It is an element of great richness and potential.

We don’t so much perceive the elements in their purity, but generally in combination and through nuanced expression. So we think of the complex manifestations of health, wealth and physical fulfillment as being earthy. We think of hearth and home with their warmth and fire, of fertile soil and growth, with its moisture, we think of gems and crystals and metals from within the earth, though these have been tempered and incubated with great heat. We think of the kaleidoscope of physical pleasures and appetites met.  These are indeed all earthy, but of course nothing actually is constituted beyond interdependence.

In popular western occult culture the element of earth has become associated with the pentacle¹, maybe starting with associations from 19th century occultism referring to one suit of the tarot. Certainly with the publication of the Smith-Waite (aka Rider-Waite) tarot deck the link between the element of earth and the circled five pointed star was depicted as implicit, and I think this deck has been very influential. The older tarot decks don’t show this association (and I don’t think ceremonial magic would have put it quite that way), as the earthy discs on the cards were previously things like coins, but the association has stuck and entered popular subculture, which I personally find interesting and think is of valid note.

Of course, the pentagram (without circle) is used in elemental invocation and banishing, for all the elements. A twist here is that popularized Witchcraft has passed on the usage of pentagrams in invoking and banishing, but has tended to simplify the practice down to tracing invoking earth and banishing earth pentagrams as stand ins, applicable to any direction and element as needed. This practice is actually derived from the lesser invoking and banishing  rituals of the pentagram, of the The Order of the Golden Dawn. It interests me again that the pentagram has succeeded in growing an association with its earth form in a somewhat more popularized form of occult subculture. Again, the pentagram is not specifically associated with the element of earth, but popular consciousness reinforced that possible association, which I find interesting.

Earth could be so many things to us, as many things as being in a body in a physical world entails, which runs the whole gamut from bliss to suffering, wonder to boredom and alienation, gestation to death. The tarot card on the edge of everything that physical existence is, well that would probably be The World. It is the final funnel of influences leading to us on the qabalistic Tree of Life, and the first gateway. It is ruled by the planet Saturn traditionally, ruler of a “golden age”, devouring father, sickle bearing reaper, dweller on the threshold, patron of the unlikely carnivalesque, old god, sea goat, teacher. Israel Regardie I remember said in The Garden of Pomegranates that it* represented both the lowest dregs of the astral, and looked at another way the summation of all the influences coming down the Tree to Malkuth, our familiar world of form. A vision of the Divine All. What occultists of a certain generation might have called the vision of Pan.

Earth has many scents and textures to it. Leaves fall in rains and frosts to the ground, and decay does its work. Earth is intimately connected with waste and its impossibility, regeneration, reduction and re-ingestion. Reducing, integrating, rebuilding. We are surrounded by a grand, chaotic merry go round, moving in all directions, inwards and outwards, of form, energy and intelligence.

And here, in the world of form, special things are possible, things we couldn’t learn or grow anywhere else. Whether it is the bottle that contains the fermentation, the hammer and tongs that work the metal, or the apparent separation of bodies that confounds our deeper intuitions of union, earth has a resistance which while it can frustrate, it can also beget ingenuity, application and vision. It offers benediction, healing and rest, as well as the crucible. It is a good part of the “footsteps of Nature” in which the alchemists sought to follow.

Winter’s slowly hastening approach tends to remind me of that.

Meno Mühlig [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

¹ “pentacle” is used here to denote the circled 5 pointed star, which is its common modern usage,  though it’s older use in ceremonial magic is not so fixed to a specific geometrical figure.

* ie the 32nd path of Tau on the Tree of Life, assigned to the tarot trump “The World”

wheeling worlds and pirate havens

Continuing some reflections from Tammo de Jongh‘s work (and I have to acknowledge the great conversations with Jemmy here), I keep returning to the realization that there are many different worlds which we experience and can tune into through the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

The trigger here for me is something which breaks through the sense that consciousness is something stuck in your head, because when we actually experience a different state, we see and connect with a whole world through it. That would be the crux of it, beyond intellectualizing consciousness in the way which is so typical of our culture, and seeing that there are worlds out there. Of course we are trained to think that there is just one real world out there, but it’s actually a real multi-world beyond our preconceptions. We can’t get away from the subjectivity and interrelationship, even when we are striving to be externally objective. When we think there is just one real world it’s because one channel of consciousness has become dominant in the world we live in. 

The corollary of such a domination is that there is just one kind of consciousness, and one kind of person (or limited range of people) that gets accorded validity. The rest must try and find a niche somewhere, or learn conformity and suppression of their deeper perceptions and sensibilities. A lot of people learn to view themselves as some kind of failure, become alienated from themselves, and loose the faith they once had in life, if only in glimpses.

But that “failure” is actually a clue to our greater wholeness. That some people actually cannot fit, however hard they try, finally at the end of day, is a blessing. That’s why we love heretics and outsiders, and the creativity they bring to bear on the job we all face of living with both ourselves and the world. Though being such an outlander is not the point of multifaceted reality (quite the opposite in fact), such an arising of individuality is pretty awesome when it is in its own rhythm and flow. The “fuck it” principle is pretty unavoidable here I think, in getting past the dogma of a one-channel world. You know – you can’t do that, can’t be that, because you’ll lose, be alone, poor, excommunicated, ugly, laughable, dangerous, suspect, unwanted, unemployable, have your kids taken away, be unhealthy, non-credible, fat, stupid, mad, not like us, and die.

Fuck it.

When you realize that the world is not just one way, though it gets presented that way in the interests of conformity and consensus, then your position and your assumptions about yourself and everybody’s place become open to a great exercising of imagination, and alternative intention. Life becomes palpably magical in its inherent potential, because it actually already is.

Of course this is only heresy to the one-track world, because these “heresies” are the greater whole, while the one-and-only reality is an artificially maintained island. So I wouldn’t play the heretic tag too much. Just think of it as a beautiful kind of piracy. Think of it as a recreation of culture.

It should actually be play, the great game, the great adventure. But sometimes you have to say “fuck it” first.

Charles Laughton & John Carradine in Captain Kidd. Film screenshot (Benedict Bogeaus Productions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


I have felt for some time that air is a quite misunderstood element, or at least a lopsidedly represented element.

I always learnt from books that the element of air was represented by the suit of swords in the tarot (though a minority of authors say it should be wands, and a few packs show it that way). As a suit, swords have the grimmest reputation by far in the tarot, traditional interpretations running the range of strain, conflict, illness, separations, mental torture, up to all kinds of disaster and death, with some respite for solitude and recuperation, and passage out of danger. A lot of commentators since the 70s have given a lot more wiggle room to make those cards more human and workable, but it’s pretty hard to make sword cards positive without being a bit philosophical about it.

Maybe it would be better to say the suit of swords deals with conflict, its causes and issues, but the association with air is still there. In some ways it is easy to see how, for structures of thought underpin enmity and the pursuance of trouble, the perpetuation and justification of conflict. And the old chestnut of mind being “the slayer of the real” does have something to it. Anyone susceptible to worry and a bit of paranoia (and that is basically the human race) would have to agree with that once they have calmed down. Anyone who has even listened to the ideologically driven will also recognize the link between the more fixed forms of air consciousness and the sharp, pointy, metal things.

There’s no doubt that air can be trouble. But there is another side to air which is really beautiful, light, subtle and freeing.  It doesn’t suffer glamour, it sees straight through illusions, and it chooses freedom. It facilitates peace, and it is genuinely honest and principled. It is a great equalizer, and it frees from identification. Not only that, but it gives us our capacity to negate, to think and imagine differently. I think that is a capacity which can be at its greatest when its touch is lightest.

That sylph takes everything back to when all the swords were sheathed, the sky clear, and there simply is nothing to forgive. It is I think part of what people commonly mean when they refer to something as “angelic”.

That lightness, clarity and subtlety is also a quality of air.

altered public domain image, derived from the painting “Golden Angel” by Teodor Axentowicz, via Wikimedia Commons