The cross in the circle

This is the first in a series of 14 articles (12 of which have been written by now) about the celtic cross as a model for spiritual development and growth. This article serves as an introduction to the rest.


Let's start with some background information.

In western esoteric lore we can find several different manifestations of the four elements. We have the lesser arcana of the tarot, where the four elements are represented by coins or pentacles, swords, wands and cups. Modern witches and practitioners of ritual magic often use four ritual tools, a pentacle, a dagger or sword, a wand and a cup, and in their rituals they invoke the elementals of earth, air, fire and water. In astrology you have earth, air, fire and water signs. And the list could go on.

These manifestations of the four elements can be traced, via the Renaissance, to two sources: classical antiquity and the judeo-christian tradition. (Possibly the Celts should be regarded as a third source.)

In the bible, in the book of Ezechiel, we find four winged beings, and each of these beings has four faces: that of a bull, a lion, an eagle and a human. In the book of revelation John describes how he sees four beings, covered inside and outside in eyes, sing the praise of the Almighty: again a bull, a lion, an eagle and a human.

In classical antiquity the world was assumed to be made up from four elements: earth, air, fire and water. The renaissance combined a revival of interest in the science, culture and philosophy of ancient Greece and Rome with an intense fascination with ritual magic and all aspects of the occult. In ritual magic the idea of the four elements was merged with influences from, for instance, the cabbalist tradition.

This resulted in a complex body of lore where the four elements were associated with the four compass directions, with Greek and Hebrew names for the Almighty that were invoked at appropriate moments in the ritual, with parts of the body, with thoughts, emotions, and every aspect of the human experience... Mastery over the elements meant mastery over life itself.

Articles in this series

In the next articles in this series the practical aspects of working with the elements will be explored:
On-site link, opens in this window The elements
On-site link, opens in this window The circle
On-site link, opens in this window The cross
On-site link, opens in this window The centre (to be added)

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