In my garden just now there are raindrops clinging to the underside of twigs. They look like tiny pearls reflecting the light. I am reminded of a short story by the Dutch writer Godfried Bomans (1913-1971). The story is called The Rich Blackberry Picker (De rijke bramenplukker), who is convinced that he is the richest man in the world, because every morning the fields are filled with pearls. The other people get greedy when they hear his story. When the blackberry picker shows them his treasure, they can only see dew drops and they take their tragic revenge.
In this time of planetary crisis, the people of that story would be wise to consider the riches that water is. Without it, nothing can grow on the Earth. If there isn't enough rainfall for a long time, even great trees die, as they have in England these last few years. Because of changes in the climate of our planet, whatever their cause, many of the poorest people will see their supplies of water dwindle. And at the same time we are threatened by a great flood, by sea level rises that will inundate some of the worlds most densely populated areas.
The Element of Water is associated with human emotions. They flow and chop and change like the surface of a lake. They can be refreshing like a rain shower, or destructive like the waves of the ocean in a storm. Again, we do well to pay attention to the hidden riches of our feelings. If we deny our sorrow, or hold down our anger, these feelings will freeze and become hard as stone, causing blockages in our bodies and frostbite to our souls.
Water is cleansing and healing. The Goddess Brigit heals people with the water of her sacred wells. She has made herself known to me as the fire of the sky (Sun, Moon, or Stars) reflected in the Water. She combines the healing of Fire and Water. When I visited her sacred well at Kildare in Ireland, the Sun came out just long enough to make swirly patterns on the water of the stream fed by Brigit's well.
We keep ourselves and our houses clean with water. Our daily shower can turn into a healing and purifying experience if we consciously let the water flow through our energy field to cleanse it as it cleanses our body. We can also use the washing up and any cleaning chores to bring the blessing and harmony of Water to our homes.
In magic, Water is traditionally used for scrying. Look into calm water - any calm water, and allow yourself to see what it has to tell you. This associates water strongly with intuition and imagination. We have learned that what our imagination shows us is not true, that what we dream is not real. If we wish to learn the deeper truths of our lives and our lands, we must learn to trust our imagination again. It is the language of our souls.
The Element of Water is essential for the fertility and abundance of our lives, as it is for the fertility of our lands. It is associated with the Western Quarter of the Wheel, the quarter of the setting Sun, Autumn and old age. This is the quarter of harvest, where the Earth pours out her abundance and we have a chance to share the blessings of the Year with our community. Here our projects come to their completion.
Autumn is the time of gathering in. We have a chance to make the last necessary changes to our projects, and then we send them out into the world. It can feel a little like sacrifice, and certainly like surrender. The thing we have nurtured and given our loving attention all through the Year we must now let go. In the middle of the season at the Autumn Equinox, we celebrate the surrender of the Sun as we enter the dark part of the Year.
As people get older and become more aware of their mortality, they seek to balance their lives. They surrender some of the hard work they have been doing and concentrate on what is most important to them. Often these are things that bring emotional fulfilment, like spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a creative dream.
Water gives us the flow of our emotions and nurtures our lives. In return, we can offer it our love. Everything we do with love, and every act of love we perform, honours Water. Love, like water, has the power of healing.
The colours of Fire are the colours of the sea: the blue of the Mediterranean, and the grey of the North Sea. The black of a deep lake and the green of the sea before a storm. But also all the glorious colours of the autumn leaves that clothe Brigit, Goddess of this Quarter.
On my altar, bowl of water with sea shells represents Water. For my magical work I use a simple earthenware cup. It holds the water I collected at Brigit's well or healing tinctures and teas that I want to use. It helps me to hold the power of magic, but its waters also bless and cleanse the Circle. I use it in meditation when I want to feel my emotions clearly.
The fruit of a plant is filled with water that makes it juicy. Fruit collects the water so that the seed has the moisture it needs to germinate. In Autumn it ripens and is ready for harvest, at the peak of its flavour.