by Natalie Harter
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
Balance is an elusive quality that we all strive for, and the New Year is a particularly good time for us to start fresh in this arena. As pagans, the essence of our beliefs is captured by the notion of balance—the balance of the seasons, of light and dark, night and day, death and rebirth, god and goddess, body and spirit. One of the main ways this is reflected is in our use of the elements in ritual—invoking each in their quarter, and honoring them in turn. But the elements are important for more than just ritual. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, when present in complementary amounts, help to keep us steady, healthy and whole.
Balancing the elements is the theme of Deborah Lipp’s enjoyable and insightful book, The Way of Four. Not only does she take a serious look at the elements, their history, and their roles in our life, but she makes it fun with quizzes and fills it with practical suggestions for finding balance.
Ways to Balance
Using The Way of Four to discover which elements predominate in your personal make-up as well as which ones are lacking, take a look at how to balance the elements in our lives. Deborah Lipp argues that in order to balance, we must add. We don’t want to take away any of the elemental qualities we already have; instead we want to add those that we may be lacking. Following are some ways in which to add the elements you need into your life, through environment, dress, food, and other fun activities.
For More Air: In the home you can add Air by washing your windows, opening them up, and “airing” out your place. Use feathers, sun-catchers, and/or wind chimes, and burn sage or cedar incense. Air clothing is loose-fitting, breathable, and simple. Air jewelry is often symbolic and sometimes engraved. For a real Air indulgence, take a steam bath using the aromatic essential oils of eucalyptus, camphor, or peppermint. Top your fun off with airy foods like soufflés and mint juleps, and settle down for a long airy conversation with a good friend about your goals and dreams.
For More Fire: In the home you can add Fire by using candles, fiery colors, mirrors, and perhaps some discreet erotic art. Fire clothing is in bold colors—red, orange, yellow, and black. Black isn’t usually a fire color, but it suits for clothing due to its sense of drama. Fire people also often wear striking and large jewelry (think of the type Frida Kahlo would wear). For Fire indulgences, try the heat of a sauna and a hot oil treatment for your hair. End your fiery encounter with some spicy curry or flambée, and go out salsa dancing.
For More Water: In the home you can add water with a fish tank, an arrangement of old seashells in a bowl, a small fountain, or even a simple wine rack. Water clothing is flowing and often translucent. Water jewelry comes from the sea—coral, pearls, abalone, mother of pearl, and shells. Indulgences from the realm of Water include all soaks—especially when using scents like rose, jasmine, or ylang ylang—and any beauty treatment involving seaweed (of which there are many to choose from). Enjoy some fruit and wine, and end your watery time by doing some divination or creating something beautiful and artistic.
For More Earth: In the home you can add Earth with mohair pillows or a textured blanket, a wicker basket filled with stones, and some houseplants. Earth clothing is, naturally, in the “earth tones” of beiges, browns, and greens. The fabric is often natural and textured: think sweaters, velvets, and corduroy. Jewelry tends to the natural and chunky, favoring wood, seeds, and found objects in odd shapes. Earthy indulgences include massage—a very physical experience—but also all mud treatments and scrubs. You can finish your time with Earth by indulging in some comfort food and cuddling up with your pet or partner.
As you can see, it can be a lot of fun to create elemental balance. You just need a good understanding of what the elements are about, and a good imagination about how to use them. Check out The Way of Four for quizzes to determine not only your elemental disposition, but also your elemental life role, the elements in your home, and even in your perfume. Finding balance can be a wondrously enjoyable thing.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2005. All rights reserved.