‘In truth, it is certain and without doubt,
that whatever is above tends toward that which is below…
… And whatever is below tends toward that which is above,
for the accomplishment of the One Perfected Thing…’
The Emerald Tablet
… After satisfactorily explaining
the nature of the Earthly Realm,
The Alchemists turned their attentions to the stars…
Crescent – Moon – Soul
To those heavenly bodies
which seemingly ‘wandered’ across the fixed backdrop of the constellations,
they gave the generic name planets,
and held them in especial reverence.
Cross – Earth – Body-Matter
The symbolic system they developed
to designate the planetary beings
also linked them to the human psyche.
… Not content with speculations
on the nature of the physical world,
their deductions led the Alchemists to contemplations
of a metaphysical nature…
If Magical Elements could be transmuted
each into the other
then they must ultimately be equivalent.
They posited a fifth element
which possessed all the properties of the other four,
and called it the ‘Quintessence’…
To lessen the confusion between Fire and Water
and to accentuate the difference between
Earth and Air, the Alchemists coloured their symbols…
… Alchemy is one of the oldest techniques known to mankind.
The Ancient who first cast a weather eye at the heavens,
licked a finger and held it aloft in the sky,
in order to ascertain which way the wind did blow… was an ‘Alchemist’.
One of the first things the Alchemists noticed about the elements was their mutability…
They seemed to be caught up in an endless round of transmutation,
and were forever striving to become each other.
That apart, they were incredibly stable in themselves, and also incredibly dynamic!
Small wonder then that the equilateral triangle,
with its base-line and its point,
presented itself as such a fitting symbol of their being.
These and other observations led the Alchemists to conceive a set of qualities
for the Magical Elements which would explain their transmutation from one to the other.
Earth is Cold and Dry… Water is Cold and Moist…
Air is Moist and Hot… Fire is Hot and Dry…
Make Earth Hot to get Fire. Make Earth Moist to get Water.
Earth cannot become Air without first becoming Fire or Water and vice versa.
Similarly, Fire cannot become Water without first becoming Earth or Air and vice versa.
All of which, upon consideration, is an extremely subtle conception
to be entertained by mere ‘primitives’.
From such simple devices the ancients sought to traverse the stars
Most people, if asked, would claim to be familiar with these elements largely because in the physical world they can recognise substances which, today, go by that name.
“I know what earth, air, fire and water are,” they might haughtily declare before moving on to something infinitely more befitting their lofty opinion of themselves.
But they would be wrong.
Nobody knows what the elements are.
We may be able to recognise them and in some instances we may also be able to predict what they will do, how they will operate, what results will follow from their mutual interactions, but we do not know what they are, anymore than we can ever claim to know what electricity is, except, perhaps, in very vague terms…
Electricity is a force of nature which can be harnassed…
The elements are forces of nature which can be harnassed…
So mysterious are these forces that some mystical schools refuse to call them elements at all, referring to them, instead, as principles.
For modern man this mystery is a failing, so it is not accepted and certainly not talked about…
For ancient man this mystery was a joy, embraced with open arms, and became something of a raison d’etre.
The ancients never tired of observing the kaleidoscopic interplay of these forces constantly taking place around them.
Consequently, they discovered some pretty amazing things about them.
They called this study, Alchemy…
Mother-Wild has not only the experience
of her forebears and the accepted rules
of the clan to guide her,
she seeks to learn also from
ants, bees, spiders and badgers.
She studies the family life of the birds.
To her and her child the birds are real people,
who live close to the mysterium.
The murmuring trees breathe its presence.
The falling waters chant its praise.
From the light place
To the dark place
A span… of I am.
Of maybe’s and supposes
Littered like the discarded debris
Of an I was
That the Shadow Net failed to trawl.
as stepping stones
To provide a tentative
From the dark place
To the light place
Beyond the span
Of I am.
Ish-na-e-cha-ge, First-Born-Being, roamed among the Animal-Nations.
He understood their ways and their languages.
They beheld him in wonder and awe and could do nothing without his knowledge.
He pitched his tent in the centre of the land and no spot was impenetrable to his gaze.
Even so he longed for companionship.
From a splinter drawn from his Big-Toe he formed Little-Boy-Man and taught him everything he knew.
Eventually the time came for their parting.
“What shall I do without you?” pleaded Little-Boy-Man.
“If you get stuck,” replied First-Born-Being, “look to the end of the road where two trees meet.”
…They do have something of the ‘other-world’ about them these places.
‘No un-authorised person beyond this point,’ said the sign.
‘But we are more authorised than anyone ever could be,’ said Wen.
It is difficult to disagree but then the village of Cerne Abbas is in itself quite otherworldly too.
I got exactly the same feel from it as when I first went to Glastonbury.
It felt like we had left England and gone abroad, perhaps to France…
‘Albion!’ smiles Wen, ‘the whole of these Blessed Isles used to feel like this…’