Patagonia is windy. Very windy, in places. So is Antarctica and the surrounding waters, at times. Both regions in the ‘extreme south’ bear the brunt of the westerly winds that travel around the globe, unheeded in these low latitudes by other land masses. So when you travel to these parts, as I did over the 2019/2020 summer season, you are well advised to take wind-proof clothing. Given that the winds are sometimes so strong that they can blow you over, these precautions only go so far! Visiting a part of the world where wind is so dominant has given me a better appreciation of this enigmatic and energetic element and the role that the wind plays in the history and climate of the globe.
Gongs and cymbals of all sizes and styles were a feature of MOFO (MONA FOMA)– an arts extravaganza I attended over the weekend in Hobart, Tasmania. As well as being a joy to listen to, these instruments gave me a new perspective on the elemental aspects of metal. So now music making joins Chinese philosophy, the chemical elements, alchemy, blacksmithing, sword-smithing, sculpting and jewelry-making in the fascinating story of metal.
Energy. Transformation. Renewal. Awe and wonder. Power. Passion. Life. These are some words from within to describe the element of fire. Of all of the intuitive elements, it fascinates me the most. My first post was called ‘Women on Fire’ and described the genesis of the ‘Fire Up Water Down’ blog. My 60th post further explores my attraction to this enigmatic element. I present, as it were, the personal perspective of a ‘woman on fire’.
Architecture and the elements are intimately interconnected. It is estimated that around 50% of the world’s population lives or works in earth buildings, constructed mainly of dirt (clay, gravel, sand, silt, soil, loam and mud). Stone, also of the earth, has been used to great effect by civilisations like the Tiahuanacu and Inka, as well as in buildings in Europe and their colonies. Iconic buildings like the Flame Towers in Baku, Azerbaijan pay homage to the elements. And ancient practices such as Feng Shui from China and Vastu Shastra from India use the elements to assist with the placement of buildings in a landscape, on a site and their internal design.
Saint Francis of Assisi is amongst the best known of the Christian mystics who celebrated God through images of the elements. On this Easter Sunday I leave you with ‘The Canticle of the Sun’, also known as ‘The Canticle of the Creatures‘. The prayer was originally composed in 1224 in an Umbrian dialect of Italian. While oft repeated, it is worth sharing the song again. It is a powerful demonstration of the importance of the sun, moon, stars and the elements to Saint Francis – the founder of the Franciscan Orders, protector of animals and Patron Saint of Ecology. At another time I will delve into greater detail about the works and legacy of Saint Francis and other Christian mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen. Today the focus is on praising and acknowledging the wonders of the elemental world and the cycle of life, whatever your religious leanings.
At the start of a new year, many people’s thoughts turn to how they can improve their wellbeing over the coming months. Certainly mine do. In addition to being inspired by beautiful views, enjoying the calming effect of water or warming ourselves with fire there are many other ways the elements can help us to be well.
On this solstice day in December our thoughts go to the sun, the bringer of light and life. In particular our thoughts turn to the element of fire, in the southern hemisphere to the warmth and energy the sun provides on the longest day of the year, in the north to the fires lit to provide warmth and signify a return to longer days. The importance of the Summer and Winter solstices is reflected in many cultures that celebrate them in ritual, ceremony, art and architecture. These activities are intimately entwined with the elements, reflecting the cycle of death, renewal and regeneration associated with the cycle of the sun.
The Aztec Sun Stone is one of the most famous and studied monuments of the Aztec civilization. The four elements – earth water, wind and fire – play a fundamental role in the complex cosmology represented on this impressive stone carving.
There is something very elemental about making pottery from clay. Clay is earth and water, the kiln combines fire and air, the artist provides the spirit. The Moche, or Mochica culture were masters of clay. They flourished in present-day northern Peru between around 100 to 800 AD. The diversity and beauty of their ceramics is a sight to behold.