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Author Topic: Correspondences of Elements and Senses  (Read 7065 times)
Altair
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« Topic Start: October 01, 2009, 06:08:52 pm »

I'm big on the Western classical elements--the four (earth, air, fire, and water) plus a fifth, spirit--but I don't have any "authoritative" source for which of the five senses go with which (if there is such a thing as an authoritative source in the broad collective we dub paganism). Maybe I've just forgotten that bit of neo-Wiccanish lore.

Anyway, my instincts/common sense (pardon the pun) tell me this:

Earth--touch
Air--hearing
Fire--smell/taste (lumping them, since they're closely related)
Water--sight

Spirit has no sense, though it occurs to me that it could correspond to "the sixth sense", aka second sight, psychic powers, ESP, etc., if one accepts the possibility of such things.

So for those of you who work with the system of classical elements, I'm curious what correspondences for the senses you follow/believe/have been taught/have heard.
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« Reply #1: October 01, 2009, 08:00:31 pm »

So for those of you who work with the system of classical elements, I'm curious what correspondences for the senses you follow/believe/have been taught/have heard.

Qabalistically speaking, to me, all the senses belong in the Sphere of Malkuth/Earth, because it's how we experience the physical world.

If I had to assign elements to the senses... touch would definitely be earth, smell would be air because it's how scent molecules travel, taste would be water because of the saliva connection... and I'd be torn on sight and hearing. None of our senses seem fiery to me at all.
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« Reply #2: October 01, 2009, 08:27:35 pm »

So for those of you who work with the system of classical elements, I'm curious what correspondences for the senses you follow/believe/have been taught/have heard.
I gave up bothering with a lot of the correspondences ages ago; I found it didn't really fit with the shape/flavor of my practice - though at one time I was quite interested in such things.  I didn't realize just how much of it I'd forgotten until you posted this!  At one time I made up a table with info from several different sources, including footnoting what came from where - I might well have several copies, since I did it up as a printout, but I hardly know where to look.  I'll have a go, though, since it might be useful here - at minimum, the footnotes will be handy.

The tables (lists, really) in the back of Starhawk's The Spiral Dance give air=smell, fire=sight, water=taste, earth=touch, spirit=hearing.  I'm surprised at this, because I know it was one of the major sources for the table I constructed, but that's definitely not a system I've internalized, even academically; I'd have sworn my table had air=hearing (probably because, of all the possible combinations of element/sense, that's the one that I find most intuitively obvious).

I don't think, at least when speaking of the whole of eclectic-and-Wiccish paganism, there's anything more authoritative than, "this book is/was very influential on Wiccish eclecticism, therefore there's probably a significant number of people using its system of correspondences" - since there are at least half a dozen books that both have correspondence systems and are sufficiently influential even before the pop-pagan book boom of the '90s, and their correspondences don't all match, it's up to the individual to determine what constitutes "authoritative" for hir, and why.

I'll probably respond again after I've done some digging around.

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« Reply #3: October 02, 2009, 08:49:55 am »

I haven't given it much tought myself, but you will also find such correspondences for the Chinese 'elements' in TCM. I can't remember them all at the moment.
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« Reply #4: October 02, 2009, 02:29:46 pm »

The tables (lists, really) in the back of Starhawk's The Spiral Dance give air=smell, fire=sight, water=taste, earth=touch, spirit=hearing.  I'm surprised at this, because I know it was one of the major sources for the table I constructed, but that's definitely not a system I've internalized, even academically; I'd have sworn my table had air=hearing (probably because, of all the possible combinations of element/sense, that's the one that I find most intuitively obvious).

I'm surprised, too. My correspondences for fire (smell/taste) and water (sight) are perhaps a bit tenuous--fire/smell because of the smell of smoke or burning incense, and of cooking food (heat activates odors); water/sight because one can see through clear water and yet it is the only element that can reflect an image (in fact, I hung a mirror on the western wall of my bedroom as a proxy for water)...

...but tenuous as they are, they seem more intuitive to me than what Starhawk has got.

But as you said, there really isn't an authority on this; whatever works for oneself, or even, as you use, nothing at all.
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« Reply #5: October 02, 2009, 02:30:39 pm »

I haven't given it much tought myself, but you will also find such correspondences for the Chinese 'elements' in TCM. I can't remember them all at the moment.

The Chinese system is a bit different, though. I'm working with the classical elements of the Western esoteric tradition.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 02:33:24 pm by Star, Reason: Fixing quote code » Logged

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« Reply #6: October 04, 2009, 02:29:09 am »


What about for spirit Vestibular/Kineomotor (spatial awareness) senses
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« Reply #7: October 04, 2009, 01:58:47 pm »

What about for spirit Vestibular/Kineomotor (spatial awareness) senses

This makes sense to me. 

I've given this some thought, and I would go with:

Sight = air.  Because air is the element usually linked with thought, foresight, ideas, intelligence, vision.
Taste/smell = fire.  Taste & smell are so closely linked that they can be grouped together I think.  Linked to fire because of some of the spicier or hot foods we eat.  Food is fuel for our bodies.
Touch = water.  Because water is the emotive, sensing, feeling element.
That leaves hearing with earth.  But I can't link these two as strongly together as the others.  If you put your ear to ground, you can hear through vibrations (think ear to the train tracks). 

I would almost rather link to earth to sight, being that sight is for me, my most concrete sense.  I can't argue that one correspondence is better than another on this topic. I'm not really even sure there is reason to try and link them together!
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« Reply #8: October 04, 2009, 04:38:33 pm »

...but tenuous as they are, they seem more intuitive to me than what Starhawk has got.

I'm just the opposite, Starhawks seem just right to me -- except "spirit=hearing" really bothers me. The others all seem "logical". This one seems to be more like "well, spirit and hearing are left."
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Altair
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« Reply #9: October 05, 2009, 10:58:57 am »

I'm just the opposite, Starhawks seem just right to me -- except "spirit=hearing" really bothers me. The others all seem "logical". This one seems to be more like "well, spirit and hearing are left."

Do you Greek recons work with the classical elements? They're "classical", after all, since like so many other things their roots in Western culture come from the Greeks.

Or maybe "work with" is the wrong term (too Wicca-ish?); do you guys appreciate/acknowledge them, or perceive any value in them as a conceptual framework?
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« Reply #10: October 05, 2009, 11:27:09 am »

Do you Greek recons work with the classical elements? They're "classical", after all, since like so many other things their roots in Western culture come from the Greeks.

Or maybe "work with" is the wrong term (too Wicca-ish?); do you guys appreciate/acknowledge them, or perceive any value in them as a conceptual framework?

One thing to keep in mind is that most Greek recons I've seen talk about practicing magic do it as a separate practice from their religion.  Magic tends not to be integral to Hellenic recon-type worship as it is in some other Pagan religions.  There is also a school of thought that says Greek recons have no place practicing magic at all, of course.  So--no, I don't think the classical elements have the same place in Hellenic Reconstructionism that they do in Wicca, but I wouldn't be shocked to see a Greek recon working with them magically either.

Personally, I don't do a great deal of work with them, but find them sometimes interesting.  Not in a religious sense, just in the sense of being a way to describe things by association.
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« Reply #11: October 05, 2009, 03:13:44 pm »

One thing to keep in mind is that most Greek recons I've seen talk about practicing magic do it as a separate practice from their religion. 

I may have caused some confusion with my word choice; by "work with" the elements, I didn't mean to imply magically (though that's an option).

For example, I don't really practice magic, yet I find the elements an extremely useful mental construct.
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« Reply #12: October 05, 2009, 03:18:54 pm »

I may have caused some confusion with my word choice; by "work with" the elements, I didn't mean to imply magically (though that's an option).

I guess I'm not following you, then; generally when I've heard people talking about "working with" one or more elements, that's what they've appeared to mean--work in a magical sense.  Could you elaborate a little more on what you mean?
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« Reply #13: October 05, 2009, 05:23:46 pm »

Do you Greek recons work with the classical elements? They're "classical", after all, since like so many other things their roots in Western culture come from the Greeks.

Not really -- at least not in a religious sense. Those of us who do magic often make use of them in magic, but that's fairly different area than religion (in the same way science is a different area than either).
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« Reply #14: October 06, 2009, 08:31:25 pm »

I'm surprised, too. My correspondences for fire (smell/taste) and water (sight) are perhaps a bit tenuous--fire/smell because of the smell of smoke or burning incense, and of cooking food (heat activates odors); water/sight because one can see through clear water and yet it is the only element that can reflect an image (in fact, I hung a mirror on the western wall of my bedroom as a proxy for water)...

...but tenuous as they are, they seem more intuitive to me than what Starhawk has got.

But as you said, there really isn't an authority on this; whatever works for oneself, or even, as you use, nothing at all.
I didn't find the table I made up, but I did check all the books I own that I would have had access to at the time I made it, plus a few that I didn't (either because I'd had access earlier and could have used notes I'd made when I read them in compiling my table, or because - for general reference on the topic, unconnected with my compilation - they seemed likely to include info of that sort) - and the only one that had correspondences between the classical elements and the five senses was Starhawk.  I've certainly been exposed to other sets, but durned if I know where.  (I have a lot of lore-stuff like that in my head, that I absorbed somewhere along the way but haven't a clue about the sources.)

So, evidently, it's not all that common a set of correspondences to make/use - possibly because it does tend to break down partway through, in the way that you and Randall have mentioned; one starts with the strongly-intuitively-obvious, but eventually finds oneself trying to correlate whatever's left over.  That's why I don't use correspondences all that much in general; much as I can get intrigued by the exercise of mapping concept-sets onto each other, the bottom line is that each concept-set is its own thing, and they don't always fit neatly into each other's boxes.  (Though drawing correlations can be very useful for gaining a better understanding of the ideas being correlated.)

Yours don't resonate all that much for me personally, though I can see why they work for you, much better than I can see why Starhawk's would work for her/someone (I could much more easily temporarily adopt yours as a "shared symbolic language" convenience for ritual purposes, if you and I had opportunity to circle together; hers is counter-intuitive enough that it'd disrupt my focus rather than enhancing shared focus).  Also, your description of your reasoning led me to consider a different way of looking at it, a different reason for trying to make such correlations:  not just as intellectually-satisfying "table of correspondences" stuff, but in the very practical context of constructing ritual to stimulate/resonate with all the senses (something Jenett has, IIRC, posted quite a bit about).  While elemental correlation isn't (IMO) necessary to full-sensory ritual construction, I can see where it could be useful in that context, and might well elicit a different set of correlations than the tables/symbols POV.  I may try revisiting the elements/senses correspondence from that angle to see what happens.

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