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Earth Fairy

The ancient Greeks debated the composition of the world. Thales, looking around and seeing the plentiful nature of water, considered that it was the basic element of creation. In contrast, Heraclitus concluded it was fire and Anaxagoras thought it must be air. The first person to suggest that the world was created from four elements - earth, air, fire and water- was Empedocles in the sixth century BCE. These were not elements as we think of them in modern scientific terms but four basic qualities that are embodied within everything that is manifest. Following this theory, the Neoplatonists in the third century CE, spoke of spirits associated with each of the elements, and divided them into four classes, each associated with one of the elements. However, it was the sixteenth century alchemist, doctor and philosopher Paracelsus who gave these ‘elementals’ their familiar names. He called the spirits of the earth Gnomes, the spirits of the air Sylphs, spirits of fire Salamanders and water spirits Undines.

According to Paracelsus, while Sylphs and Undines are kindly disposed towards humans, Salamanders cannot be approached or approach humans and Gnomes are usually malevolent. However, Gnomes can be persuaded to become servants to a magician and "if you do your duty to him, he will do his duty to you." He went on to say that elementals hate dogmatists, sceptics, drunkards, gluttons, and the quarrelsome while they love natural, child-like, innocent, and sincere people. "…to him who binds or pledges himself to them they give knowledge and riches enough. They know our minds and thoughts also, so that they may be easily influenced to come to us."

Paracelsus declared that while man is made of three substances - the spiritual, the astral and terrestrial - elementals live exclusively in only one of the elements. They occupy a position between men and pure spirits, though they have blood and bones, they eat and sleep and mate and produce offspring. They live in dwellings that are made of special materials ‘as different from the substances we know as the web of a spider is different from our linen’.

The powers and influences of each the four elements are embodied in its Elementals. Elementals are specialized spirits concerned with their own spheres of influence and have no special interest in human affairs. Though the water elementals may be involved in floods, they do cause them out of malice to the people affected by it. Air spirits may be involved in hurricanes and tornadoes and are simply going about their own business, and this is part of the natural world, however inconvenient or dangerous it might be for humans.

Witches and Pagans work with Elementals, inviting them into the circle or ritual space. One of the basic principles that any witch or shaman learns is that almost everything in the Cosmos is made up of some combination of the four elements. If you can know the four elements directly then you can understand anything in the Cosmos.

Working with elementals is fraught with danger, and they must be treated with the utmost respect. Any requests for their help must be carefully phrased, since they tend to take things literally, and properly directed to the correct type of elemental. Earth elementals are concerned with the physical world, with growth, formation, strength and health. Earth elemental magic might include working with plants, crystals, gardens, and the wild-wood. Air elementals are concerned with movement, communication, the psychic senses, inspiration, and the powers of the intellect. Fire elementals are concerned with passion, transformation, purification, and energy. Water elementals are concerned with the ebb and flow, with tranquility, purification, cleansing, scrying, and the emotions. The most usual representation for the elemental in ritual is a stone for the earth elemental, a feather or incense for the air elemental, a candle for the fire elemental, and a cauldron of water for the water elemental.

The spirits of earth inhabit the old burial mounds, the caves and potholes that burrow deep into the earth. The Gnomes are the best known of the earth elementals, referred to by Paracelsus as pygmies or gnomi who could move through the earth as fish move through water. The word may relate to the Greek verb gnosis ‘to know’ or to ge-nomos, which means ‘earth-dweller’. Gnomes have captured the popular imagination as guardians of the earth- particularly the suburban garden- depicted as jolly faced little men wearing red caps.

Other legends of earth spirits include the dwarfs, which live in the underground caves, away from the daylight. Early sources do not mention that dwarfs were short in stature, but emphasize that they were great craftsmen and very wise. They possessed stones that gave them great strength, and others that made them invisible. They mine precious stones and metals, guard the earth and its riches, and are spirits of rocks and caverns, kin to the subterranean Knockers and Mine Fairies that miners must appease. In popular lore dwarfs live within the Scandinavian and German mountains. They move easily through the earth and are masters of all its minerals.

The earth has many guardian spirits, such as the Icelandic Landvættir [‘Land Wights’] who protect the land itself, and live within the stones, streams, trees, rivers, and features of the landscape. There was a legal requirement that Icelandic long ships had to remove their dragon head carvings when approaching home to prevent them frightening away the Landvættir. A multitude of Landvættir in various forms chased away a scout of King Harald’s invasion fleet. Certain areas were not settled at all, but reserved for the landvaettir. Ceremonies were performed in their honour and offerings left for them.

In addition, earth fairies include those spirits who inhabit trees, such as dryads, plants devas, vegetation spirits, forest fairies and mountain fairies, green ladies and the woodwoses or wild-men. Woodwoses have a shaggy appearance, often naked and covered only in their own hair. They are connected with the Green Man who personified the life of the vegetation spirits. In Britain this spirit of vegetation is still portrayed on May Day by the Green Man, Jack in the Bush, or Jack in the Green, in the guise of a mummer clad in green leaves and fresh boughs. He also occurs on numerous pub signs and church carvings as a head with shoots and leaves growing from the mouth.


What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves, since we are connected with it. We have lost our natural ability to contact the earth spirits, and this can only be regained by regaining our spiritual contact with nature. From the earth spirits we learn that we mist be rooted in the physical realm; it connects us to who we are, to the past, to our ancestors, to our land. Any plant disconnected from its roots will wither and die.

To connect with the spirits of earth, look with eyes open to the sacred, rather than the mundane. Try to maintain a feeling of reverence and observation. When Australian aborigines visit a new place they first 'sing up the land', to greet it and announce their visit in a respectful way. When visiting or working with a new site, you should approach in silence and with deference, demanding nothing- this is not your right. Some places welcome you with open arms and are happy to work with humans on all sorts of levels; other places will permit certain activities but not others. Some may be protected by elemental spirits and barrow wights that do not welcome human contact, and who will cause accidents to drive people away.

The powers of earth are concerned with what is manifest, the material, the fixed, the solid, the practical, with what is rooted. Earth elemental magic might be concerned with manifestation, business, health, practicality, wealth, stability, grounding and centering, agriculture.

People who have a lot of earth in their psychological make-up are practical, stable, hard-working, dextrous and reliable, determined, patient, logical and ambitious. However, too much earth can manifest as laziness, bigotry, gluttony, pedantry, snobbery, clumsiness, stubbornness and inflexibility.


Symbols: stone, mirror, shield, tree, pentacle

Colors: green, ochre, brown, rust, black

Direction: north

Season: winter

Time: midnight

Life Tide: death and rebirth

Magical Influences: manifestation, practicality, health, wealth, crystals, image magic

Gems: Green moss agate, emerald, green jasper, jet, malachite, olivine, peridot, green tourmaline, turquoise

Quality: silence

Vowel Sound: A

Sense: touch

Key Words: darkness, reflection, returning, coldness, winter, rest and peace, practicality, the material world, health, stability, roots, grounding, foundation, permanence, structure, crystallization

Herbs: cypress, patchouli, vervain, honeysuckle, mug-wort, fern, vertivert, primrose, horehound

Animals: goats, hibernating creatures, dragons, mythic animals


To Contact the Earth Spirits

Go out into the countryside at dawn or twilight. Practice the dreaming with the eyes open technique and watch the sun rise or set and the light change. Be aware that the spirit of the landscape changes with it, and power floods in during the between times.

Dowsing a Power Spot

Every place has its own spirit, its own power. Some places will resonate with your own energies, and you will feel stronger when you sit or stand there. You can try this yourself in your own house or garden; use a pendulum to locate it if you like. You probably already do it unconsciously- you may feel more comfortable sitting in one chair than another and so on. Try performing your meditations and exercises in this spot and feel the difference. Try locating a spot that has an opposite effect- one that drains or confuses your energies.

Planting the Seed

During a waxing moon when the energies are increasing, plant a seed in a pot as a token of your wish to grow spiritually. Care for it and as it grows, so will you.

Hag Stone Amulet

Search a beach until you find a natural stone with a hole through it. This is called a Hag Stone, and is sacred to the Goddess. Take it home and wash it in salt-water. Keep in on your altar and when you take a bath place the hag stone in the water along with a little salt. Feel the warm healing water surrounding you, imbued with the power of the water spirits. When you pull the plug, imagine your illness draining away with the dirty water.

Taking Magical Plants

If you wish to take wood or herbs from the forest, you must seek the permission of the Green Lady. Mark the plant you want with a piece of thread, then tell the Green Lady why you want its gifts, asking her permission to take it. If you don't think you've had a reply, or are not sure, leave it alone. Only take a little of any one plant, and don't strip it bare so that the plant will die, or the Green Lady will not welcome you back into her domain. Traditionally you should leave her an offering of three handfuls of flax seed.

Ash Tree Healing Wand

The buds of the ash grow in a spiral formation, an ancient symbol of life, growth and rebirth. Therefore an ash wand can be an important healing tool. Search in spring until you find an ‘even ash’ i.e. an ash tree with an even number of branches on each side. With the proper rituals, cut a branch approximately two feet long saying ‘Sacred ash, sacred ash, give this wand to me’. Pass the branch though a candle flame, sprinkle with water, pass it through the air and ten touch it to the earth and say: ‘Through fire, water, air and earth, I consecrate this wand in the names of the spirits of the elements.’ Use the wand to channel healing power.

Traditional Oak Healing Spell

For aches and pains take a handful of oak leaves and a piece of red carnelian and sew them into a muslin bag. Rub it over the affected parts then go at dawn to an oak tree and place the muslin bag into a hollow on the east side of the tree saying:

Oaken tree, oaken tree

Take these pains from me

Stop the hole with oak bark and walk away without looking back.
Paracelsus [1493-1541], Liber de nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et caeteribus spiritibus.

EARTH FAIRY is a term applied to fairies who dwell under the earth in mounds or caves, as opposed to those who dwell beneath lakes or wells, since most fairies are to be found below the surface of the earth. The term may also refer to nature fairies like devas, vegetation spirits, tree fairies, or earth elementals like gnomes.

Mounds are associated with fairies and are credited with magical properties. From Scandinavian to Celtic and Slavonic lore earth mounds are described as occasionally glowing or giving off a strange light. They are also the home of ghosts, who live there in company with the ancestors. At certain phases of the moon, the Scottish Highland fairies may be seen inside their mounds, feasting and drinking, since their habitations are raised on pillars for a short time. Burial mounds, dating from the Neolithic period onwards, are found throughout Europe. There are upwards of 40,000 in Britain alone. They vary in size from a few feet across to over 300 feet in diameter. Some contained treasure and other grave goods, while others seem never to have had any occupants and their function is still obscure. Tumuli or earth heaps, found on hills and inside earthworks may have had a defensive purpose, while the several types of barrows contain chambers that may have been used for burials.

It seems likely that some mounds had a ritual purpose. They were not sealed, but the interred bones were brought out to witness special events, allowing the tribe to commune with the ancestral dead. Other barrows were designed so that at certain times of year shafts of sunlight would strike the inner chamber. This is possibly a symbolic fertilization of the earth womb, allowing the souls of the dead to attain rebirth or travel to the other-world.

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