May the blessings of the earth be upon you,
A sheltering cave to bring you to birth and securely hold you,
The fertile soil to nourish you,
The green grass to lay soft under you.
– blessing from a Pagan handfasting ceremony
(via The Blessing Files)
If Water is the element of flow, Earth is the element of deep stillness and slumbering power. The element of caverns and fertile fields, of sandy shores and granite peaks. Earth is the embodiment of Nature–every rock and every tree, the living landscape of life and the recycling of itself in death and in the grave.
A human being’s Earth is her body. From Earth comes solidity, stability, and commitment. We call Earth our home, both the home of all life that is Mother Earth, and the house or apartment we live in. By extension, Earth is hearth and family and all those qualities that make us feel “at home.” To be an earthy person is to be pragmatic, realistic, and tactile. Good Earth qualities in a person make her “the salt of the earth,” but an excess of negative Earth qualities make her a “stick-in-the-mud.” Earth is that deep, solid, immobile place, both in the negative sense of stubborn and in the positive sense of patient. The Witches’ Pyramid describes this quality in the attribute “To Be Silent.”
Earth (unlike water) is a bit of a complicated element…when it comes to “earth” from a scientific perspective. It can refer to the planet in its entirety (either as a geological phenomenon or a ecological one), or it can refer to the solid stuff we walk on, known collectively as rocks and/or dirt.
Rocks: A rock is any naturally occurring mass of mineral matter. All rocks fall into one of three broad categories that are based on the formation of the individual rock type. Rocks are made (and destroyed) in a cycle known (how’s this for complex naming systems?) as the Rock Cycle (lol). The first type of rock, igneous rock, is made when molten rock cools and hardens, and includes granite, obsidian, basalt and pumice. The second sort of rock is sedimentary rock, which is formed by the layering of deposited pieces of igneous, metamorphic and other sedimentary rock, as well as dead animals and plants, which make fossils. Common types of sedimentary rock include sandstone, shale, limestone, coal and gypsum. The third type of rock is metamorphic rock, which forms when sedimentary rock or igneous rock is heated or pressurized, and includes marble, slate and quartzite.
Dirt: Soil forms the outermost layer of our earth. It is composed of minerals (45%), organic matter (5%), water (25%), and air (25%). Soil is formed by a combination of geological, chemical, and biological processes–geology determines the rock type and mineral composition while chemical weathering, erosion and organisms such as fungi, lichen and plants (roots) break up rock to help form soil. Developed soil forms layers called “horizons”, which make a cross-section of soil look a bit like a layer cake. All soils have at least one horizon, but most have 3 or 4. While the soil profile of any given location varies, the most common profile is the O-A-B-C-R profile, which is an abbreviation for the progression of horizons (Organic, A horizon–hummus, B horizon–subsoil, C horizon, Bedrock). The different compositions of soil form various soil types, which are globally sorted into 12 orders. In the United States alone, there are at least 70,000 soil types (though different countries have difference criteria and terminology for soil types and profiles).
In this worldview, the elements that made up existence were categorized quite broadly as the Classical elements of Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. Our term ‘Earth’, consequently, is derived from a much older word which meant simply ‘the ground’, or ‘the opposite of the sea’–much the way the word ‘earth’ can be used today. These early words for earth, in turn, are references to the Norse goddess Jörð, mother to Thor.
Star Signs: Tarus, Virgo, Capricorn
Other Correspondences: cattle, pigs, goats, salt, money, winter, fruit, pregnancy, midnight, milk, preservation, fertility, stillness, pentacles (Tarot), caves, fields, bears, bulls, rabbits, lions, stones/rocks/crystals, sand/dirt/soil, seeds and grains, cabbage, potatoes and root vegetables, coins, pentacle, gnomes, goblins, root chakra, the grave
Magical Associations: fertility magic, prosperity rituals, money spells, home protections and blessing, crop/garden blessings, grounding rituals and meditations, rituals and spells for jobs or business success, dying/rebirth rituals, death rituals
Colors: Brown, Black, Greens
Deities: Geb(♂) , Gaia(♀), Emesh(♂), Enten(♂), Hou Tu(♂), Cybele(♀), Magna Mater(♀), Veles(♂), Asase Ya(♀), Asintma(♀), Daikoku-ten(♂), Ninhursag(♀), Beira(♀), Dhara(♂), Coatlicue, Erecura(♀), Proserpina(♀), Enki(♂), Persephone(♀), Demeter(♀), Diti(♀), Pachamama(♀), Ida(♀), Jörð(♀), Sif(♀), Ki(♀), Ops(♀), Prithvi(♀), Liluri(♀), Tu Di Gong(♂), Mat Zemlya(♀), Zemyna(♀), Voltumna(♂),
Getting to Know Earth: After water, earth is probably the element I feel closest to. Earth is what stabilizes and grounds us when we walk upon it. It holds our energy when we need release, and recharges us when we are replete. But not everyone is an earthy type, and even the earthiest of us can get to know Earth a little bit better.
“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ”
~ Michael Pollan
- Play in the garden: if you don’t have a garden, volunteer at one or plant some plants in pots.
- Try out the art of rangoli–I once read something I have never forgotten the idea of (though I don’t remember the place, and its paraphrased because the exact wording is long forgotten, lol): “our feet are sacred because they are the place where our bodies are always engaging with Earth” and discussed the use of art such as rangoli (which has the added earth connection of its primary medium being sand or flour) or even the use of rugs and floor cloths as a way to more consciously think about how our feet meet the Earth.
- Go for a hike in the woods, walk along a trail in the park, or just sit under a tree
- Learn a bit about earth science or geology–from plate tectonics to types of rocks, learn about the mechanics and the physical properties of the Earth and of earth and how they work. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but Amazon has a free earth science high school textbook for the Kindle; and there are a number of field guides available on rocks and minerals at the library or book store.
- Make a sand castle, jump in a mud puddle or dig for earthworms
- Pick up trash at a local park or vacant lot, better yet, re-purpose the trash you collect into art (even plastic starts out as part of the earth)
- Sleep outside, just you and a sleeping bag or blanket …either as a nap, or all night long. I don’t recommend directly in the grass though…getting to know the earth is one thing, getting to know chiggers is something else.
Alternative/Adapted Correspondences & Earth in Ritual:
In my post about water, I wrote that I believe that witchcraft is about being able to *grok* the forces and cycles that are native to one’s location and to act as a force of change. The witchcraft I practice is an extension of geography and ecology and self…and that means that sometimes traditional correspondences get modified…and sometimes they don’t. My correspondences for Earth mostly match that of the traditional correspondence of Earth with winter and the North, as well as other traditional correspondences. In terms of deity, I tend to associate Earth as Gaia, but I also recognize deities such as Demeter and Persephone, as well as deities such Pomona and Floralia, as being connected with the earth. I also consider money to be a fantastic symbol for earth, as earth’s associations have to do with fertility and growth and abundance and prosperity (while this has been an association that I have seen bother some, historically, salt itself was used as currency). And something else (a bit random) that many people don’t think about–plastics are part of the earth element…they are manufactured from oil (which is really fossil goop) in the ground.
We can draw upon the energies of earth and of the Earth to energize ourselves and our rituals. While earth energy can be used in any ritual, it is more suited to some types of magic and/or ritual than others. Earth as an element works very well as a key component of spells and rituals for prosperity and fertility, in life-cycle rituals, and in grounding in ritual and meditation. In cooking magic, earth can be represented by milk, salt, potatoes and carrots, cabbage, grains, etc. These foods often make good offerings to the Earth itself or to the elemental energies or spirits of earth or of the land (with the exception of salt, which isn’t usually good for the soil). Tobacco is also often considered an acceptable offering in North America (since it was used by many Native American tribes) for land spirits.
Serving Earth: There are a number of threats facing soil specifically and land in general. Among these are soil erosion, deforestation, soil contamination, habitat fragmentation, urban sprawl, invasive plants and animals, desertification, solid waste pollution, wetland loss (drainage), suburban expansion and loss of farmland, and loss of biodiversity. All of these problems though, boil down to issues of land use.
Land use is one of the most striking manifestations of humans’ presence and physical impact on the planet. More fundamentally, humans have altered the global patterns and prevalence of species and ecosystems. Several recent studies confirm that human-dominated ecosystems now cover more of earth’s land surface than do natural or “wild” ecosystems. According to one estimate, more than 75 percent of the earth’s ice-free land shows evidence of alteration from human residence and activity, with less than a quarter remaining as wildland…
…Changes in land use can affect the distribution and type of land cover (such as forests, cropland and urbanized areas), the ability of ecosystems to provide valuable services that support life, and even elevation and terrain.
So, what are some things can you do, wherever you are?
- Replace a portion of your lawn with Certified Wildlife Habitat. Talk to your local school about creating a Certified Wildlife Habitat.
- Plant a native garden and get rid of invasive plants in your landscaping (like Bradford Pears, honey suckle, and some 1500+ other species)
- Support tree planting efforts locally and globally, to help prevent desertification.
- Get involved with local ecological restoration efforts! Nearly every community has them, and often they need help.
- Compost your kitchen and yard waste, rather than sending it into the waste stream.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle. Try to avoid falling into the “planned obsolescence” trap that companies have set up for you by thinking you just *have to have* X product. Check out the Story of Stuff.
- Eat locally. Buy from your local farmers… especially if they grow food sustainably (sustaibably is not always organic)
- Know about where your stuff comes from and try to buy it as close to home as possible (plus it creates jobs here), and with natural materials whenever possible (for example, cotton not Lycra)
- Pick up trash when you are out and about, at the park, walking down the street, etc.
Salt from seawater
Plate Tectonics Animations
Hymn to Gaia
Earth Meditation Ritual
Online Gallery of Minerals
History of Salt
Wikipedia Article on Earth as a Classical Element
Supreme Pentagram Ritual of Earth
*part 2 of my Serving the Elements series*