Depending on how you look at it, there are three, four or five Celtic/Druidic elements. Sometimes it’s best not to try to logically systematise them into one all-encompassing ‘theology’, but rather view the number of elements as being three, four or five depending on circumstances, our need and view at the time.
In classical thought, the four elements earth, water, air, and fire were proposed by Empedocles
Ofcourse, if you’re taking school or college exams you may not get rewarded for talking about the elements in such the way those ancient Celts and Druids did, but it is good to allow this classic and ancient view to run parallel with modern thought.
‘The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.’ Gloria Steinem
After all, when I was at shool we were told that there were only five bodily senses, and yet I read recently that there are, infact, twenty-one senses, including the sense of time, proprioception (the ability to tell where your body parts are, relative to other body parts) and equilibrioception (the ability to keep your balance and sense body movement in terms of acceleration and directional changes) etc.
Some time ago we looked at nwyfre (pronounced noo-iv-ruh) an old Welsh word for ‘sky’ relates to life and consciousness.(See here)
Nwyre could be seen as represented by air.
‘You already are in the eternal flow…’ Richard Rohr
Then, recently we looked at gwyar (pronounced goo-yar) meaning ‘blood’, which relates to movement, flow, change, transformation. (See here)
Gywar could be represented by water.
‘We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not’. Heraclitus
Then the middle, and so far, missing ‘element’ in this list is calas.
Calas (pronounced cah-luss) comes from an old Welsh word, ‘caled’, and it means ‘hard’ or ‘solidity’, and refers to the physicality of a substance. Calas could be represented by earth.
‘Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. Khalil Gibran.
To the ancients calas, though they will have called it by another name, solidity (rocks) or earth (soil) played an important part in ritual.
There is a great story in ancient text of a man called Nehemiah who, converting from his old religion and going back home, takes a huge amount of soil with him so that he can be reminded of his new-found faith and worship the One on ‘sanctified’ soil. He believed calas, solidity, was important.
There is another ancient story of Jacob who slept on a rock, using it as a pillow (and I’m assuming it was just at the right height so his head didn’t ‘drop’ as he slumbered, rather than being soft). But, the next morning he awoke after having a revealing dream, and immediately set about using that rock as a large stone on which to place others and form a pillar to mark the occasion. Yes, to the ancients earth and rocks, megaliths, stone circles, dolmens and barrows were important markers, to mark important times and events.
Ofcourse, in these modern times, many don’t accept the importance of calas, solidity, of hallowed earth and special rocks. or do they?
Underneath the Speakers’ chair in the House of Commons in London, is the Stone of Scone (sometimes called the Stone of Destiny) which some believe to be the very stone that Jacob used as a pillow.
For many years it was housed in Scotland, until AD1296 when it was ‘captured’ as spoils of war and relocated to England, where it remained. A rectangular, old stone, and yet prized by both the English and the Scots, and used in the coronation of British monarchs.
A very special stone, indeed. In 1951 the stone was stolen by four Scottish students, and found some four months later, but was what was found the real stone or a copy? Theories abounded that what was returned to the Speakers’ chair was a mere copy, and the original stone remained in Scotland, thus fooling the English.
However in 1996 the stone under the Speakers’ chair was finally returned, by Parliament, to Scotland. So, did the Scots get a copy that was under the Speakers’ chair (if indeed it was a copy of the original made by those students) or did they get the original? And the one now in the House of Commons, is that a copy or was it the one that was stolen, and therefore the original. Has a double bluff taken place? It’s like that old tv program called ‘Soap’, where by way of introduction the narrator lists all the tangled and complex relationships of the characters in the soap, and then asks the viewer, ‘Confused? You will be!’
Sometimes it’s better not to know, and sometimes it’s impossible to know, but rather to believe. But, it does show that, even today, though they may use other words, or might not even use the word at all, calas (solidity), whether some admit it on not, is still very important.
With these three elements – nwyfre, gwyar and calas – we can ‘understand’ the physical nature of an object, it’s inner qualities, and the movement or flux between them. Without being controversial – you know me – it might be worth considering the idea of the Roman Catholic idea of transubstantiation. Even if one doesn’t accept the idea, it is clear to those that do and others, that there is a physicality or outward appearence to the bread, and inner quality, and an intangible movement from one to the other. All three elements interacting! Just a thought to think about (and without any stress).
With the three elements (and maybe one or two others to consider in the future) we can describe that which is around us, but we make a mistake if we think these elements are impersonal. They are alive, and are mutiple ’eminations’ of the one Source.
Could it be that we ‘swim’ through God?