|Drawing from the Wells
The F(a)eri(e) Goddesses of the Primal Elements
By Storm Faerywolf
From the underworld they come...
Beyond the world of space and time
Deep they are, to the very depth of the universe
And madness is their name. 1
The F(a)eri(e) tradition works with a veritable multitude of deities and otherworldly spirits. The beginning student is usually familiarized early-on with a particular group of celestial beings variously called the Guardians or Watchers, whose elemental associations are explained to be a convenient point of reference, but that comes nowhere close to summing up their own unique existence2. The Guardians are said to be capable of “invoking that which we cannot”3, and it is only after working with them for some time –and in particular in relation to the goddesses of the primal elements- do we truly begin to see the scope and breadth of such a statement.
We are taught that in order to commune with spirits we must do so via the holy daemon.4 One of the principal functions of the daemon is to provide a vital link between ourselves and those external spirits and powers that we wish to commune with. By attuning to our own higher selves, we can then petition the Guardians to assist us in connecting to deeper powers; powers that are normally beyond the grasp of our perceptual ability.
Some of the most strange and potent beings that are worked with in our tradition are the Goddesses of the Elements. These are beings of primal power that are quite beyond what is normally thought of when one considers the elemental powers invoked in the modern Craft. These deities are said to be older than matter itself, and provide the energetic blueprint for all of creation.
While much of the modern Craft works with elemental beings and Watchtowers as the elemental powers extant, our primal Goddesses exist first and foremost in a state of pre-manifestation and as such are understood to reside in a particular vibrational realm of that place known as the Underworld. They are the raw presence of the elemental powers that rise up from below and into to manifestation in the Middle World. As such they are quite beyond what we would normally associate with the physical elements, mainly because their physicality is merely one small facet of their existence as a continuum. For example, the Goddess of Air is not only the physical atmosphere of the planet and all atmospheric phenomena (including winds, storms, and interconnected processes) but she is also metaphoric Air: the very powers of inspiration, life’s breath, and intelligent awareness. She is Air beyond the boundaries of our planet; the solar winds and those that flow between the stars, as well as the secret knowledge that is kept hidden there.
In some of the lore passed down regarding these otherworldly-yet-immanent beings it is said that they are the “wells” of creation; entry points into vast store-houses of primal elemental power. In this they comprise not only the intelligence of their being, but also of the realm in which they inhabit, for in reality the two are one and the same.5
During my training I worked to form a personal relationship with these beings and at once found them to be quite different than other deities that I had worked with up until that point. It is sometimes said that we cannot invoke them directly as they are too vast, and so it is usually by way of the Guardians that we invoke them into our presence.
By approaching them in this manner I have come to see an interesting pattern in how the three sets of elemental beings invoked in various lines of Feri seem also to bear some relationship to the Three Worlds of folkloric faery tradition, as well as the Three Souls of our own Fae path.
The Guardians, as we are taught, are angels; celestial/Overworld beings that serve to oversee various spiritual processes with an intelligence and perspective that is deeper than our own. This transpersonal association can be personally applied using the hermetic law of correspondence, “as above, so below”; bringing the Guardians into the realm of our own holy daemon. They can then, effectively, be seen as the guiding intelligence that directs the flow of power from their respective realms. One who was familiar with the Tarot may see a resemblance in the relationship of the Emperor to the Empress; the Empress is the Goddess power, vast, untapped, abundant… while the Emperor, like our Guardian being, taps into that power and directs it in a useable way.
The Goddesses are primal beings; vast collectives of raw life-force, relating them individually to fetch and collectively to the Underworld. Their power rises from below, potentially bringing with it a wave of subconscious complexes and debris. This power impacts us on our most primal of levels and if we are not “clean” then we may suffer discomfort or even psychic harm if we attempt working with them too early. For the seasoned practitioner who has made a habit of Cleansing work, such issues will still present themselves but should not pose a threat to the stability of one’s psyche. As with all deep work, move slowly and remember your foundation.
Now that we have placed our elemental beings into nice little boxes let us remember that Feri is a wild tradition and not one that likes to pinned down, at least not in any constant way. Let us remember that one of the great powers of faery is that liminal state of being in-between. It was said that the faery folk could come and steal one away if the unfortunate soul should happen upon one of these such faery-gates which included beaches (where land meets sea), crossroads (where many worlds meet), and during twilight (between day and night). Our own beings enjoy such a “queer” status when we remember that the angelic class that forms our beloved Guardians are those that are fallen; they have transmuted their Overworld/angelic presence into the Middleworld. Let us also consider how the primal/Underworld nature of the Goddesses is likewise mediated into the Middleworld through the process of physical manifestation. So both of our elemental beings are shape-shifters, and “walkers between the worlds”.
The Primal Goddesses, like the Guardians before them, are beings of great power that often cause great change in those who dare to work with them directly. For some this change will manifest as a strengthening of one’s personal power and will, while in others it may bring to light issues and aspects of one’s psyche that would be easier or even kinder to leave alone. Herein lies a major motivation of some to keep this information from those who would seek it casually. My own experience with these beings, however, has clearly indicated to me that there is benefit in sharing them with a larger audience and as it violates no oath I am solemnly pleased to do so here.
Years ago my husband, Chas Bogan, a fellow Feri initiate, artist, and teacher, was inspired to create works of art in honor of these beings. While not secret in our line, I felt at that time that to share them widely had no real purpose and so I had declined Chas’ offer to help him with his aforementioned project. A few months later I participated in a ritual that would change my mind.
Standing in a meadow with a gathering of long-term students, a group of teachers invoked these Goddesses and sang their names into the night. They appeared with voracity, and inspired us to create… create… create… with an urgency I had rarely felt prior. Their powers combined and caused the very changes that they sought as we each took from the experience what we needed and were forever changed. The next day I knew what I had to do.
When I returned I began writing about them for a public audience so that others who were genuinely inspired might gain insight from my experience in the hopes that it may help them along their way. When I first spoke of writing about these beings I was met with some opposition; the argument being that since some held these beings secret6, then we should all hold them secret as a means to show respect for those who were trained in this way. While on the surface this might seem reasonable to some, in practice this would curtail discussion about any aspect of the Feri tradition, a stance that I feel stunts the growth that is engendered by being able to discuss these things openly. Some consider secrecy to be paramount in Feri tradition, but others, like myself, see the act of writing about our ways to be exactly what the tradition is about; we are a bardic tradition and as such we must express ourselves as our divine authority dictates. To do less dishonors the very powers that we serve. Since this lore is not passed as secret in BloodRose Feri (and indeed was not one of the very few things that Cora Anderson expressed as being an initiatory secret) I have made the decision to present it here in order to potentially inspire those who may have a desire to work with these beings.
In my opinion the formation of a relationship with the Elemental Goddesses may be attempted with relative safety, provided you have previously mastered the Feri techniques of Soul Alignment, Elemental Balancing, Cleansing, and Communion with the Guardians. If you have not yet mastered these practices then it is advisable that you do not attempt to work with the goddesses. This is in part for your own mental, emotional and psychic safety, but mainly because your chances of gaining deep insight from the experiences prior to doing so will be greatly reduced without the previous work backing you up.
After creating an altar or working area with appropriate elemental symbols and tools befitting working with such beings, perform a Soul Alignment and attune yourself to the Elemental power that you wish to work with. Coming into physical contact with natural objects that depict or carry the energetic qualities of the element will serve as ‘entry points’ into the elemental power. Invoking the Guardian and working with the appropriate ritual tool will provide the necessary addition of skill and discernment into the process. The Tool of the Guardian is used to wield (or focus) the raw elemental power of the Goddess. By the end of a full set of workings these objects will be attuned and charged by the elemental powers, and can serve as “keys” that allow you deeper access to the elemental realms when used as meditative devices.
When working with the Primal Goddesses of the Elements (as when working with any new Otherworldly contact) it is important to take one’s time to really observe and relish the experience. Don’t rush through your experiences with them. I would suggest that for someone who had not worked with them before that it would be wise to begin in the east with Air and take some time (at least a month, if not more) consistently working with just that Goddess alone before immersing yourself in the space of another. In practical terms, after having first attuned yourself to the Guardian, simply call or sing out their names and ask them to reveal themselves to you. Surround yourself with the symbols and trappings of their element. Build altars to them. Play music befitting their individual moods and energies. Ask them to teach you about their deeper magic. And, as always, remember to honor your own boundaries and to journal your experiences. Treat them with respect and they will have much to teach you. Do otherwise at your own peril.
What follows are some visual keys that have come to me in my own work with these beings, along with original sigils and invocations that you may use in order to deepen your experience. You may, of course, write your own. Better still to allow their primal power to instruct you directly that you may be their Voice.
She often appears to me as the silhouette of a hawk made of morning sunlight, flying from the east amongst the clouds. Hers is the raw power of inspiration, the first breath we take upon being born... and the final breath we take in this life. She is the power of the gentle breeze, the scent of wildflowers, the churning clouds, the hurricane, the cyclone, and the eternal whirlwind that strips away all illusion and grants the power of sight and true knowledge. She shines up from the darkness below (as the sun rises from the darkness beneath the horizon each morning) and embodies the presence of earthly (and otherworldly) knowledge.
Air in the east is the first station of our circle of progression, as it is the least tangible of all the physical elemental forms. Since air is also the realm of thoughts and ideas it makes sense to begin here, as things begin as a thought before achieving manifestation.
I conjure open the Well of Sunrise!
And peer into the Whirlwind!
Hawk of the Day!
You who shine with the breath of light
In the palaces of pleasure
Birthing day from night!
We salute thee, IAO!
She has appeared to me as liquid fire, sometimes molten magma, but at others simply plasma in a liquid-like form. Sometimes she appears as lightning, arcing from the sky and into the earth. She is often dancing wild, ecstatic, sparks and flames jumping from her burning aura as she moves. She is the explosive power of all fire, whether that be in the smallest candle flame, or in a raging inferno, or the nuclear processes in the heart of every star. She is the geo-thermal power in the center of the earth, as well as the heat and adrenaline in our bodies. She brings both change, and destruction, as heat can cause chemical changes in objects (as in food being cooked, or stones changing characteristics when exposed to higher temperatures while forming) or even completely obliterate them (a forest or building burning to the ground in a raging fire).
I conjure open the Well of Plasma!
And peer into the Eternal Flames!
You who burn with growth and destruction
In the Passion of Life and Death
Reveal now your grand seduction!
We salute thee, IAO!
West/Water: Heva Leviathan Tiamat
She often appears to me as a breaking of primal waters... opening up from the darkness below the waves and rising up to the surface. Sometimes she is the kraken itself; many tentacles stretching from the dark unknown waters below. She is the primal waters of birth; that which gave life to this planet and in fact sustains all life. But she is also the terrible unforgiving waves that lead to destruction.
I conjure open the Well of the Watery Abyss!
And peer into the Whirlpool!
Heva Leviathan Tiamat!
You who flow with primal waters
As the kraken rises from below
From the Deep come your sons and daughters!
We salute thee, IAO!
North/Earth: Verr Avna
This strange Goddess often appears to me as a decomposing corpse wearing a black wedding dress! She often will perform feats of physical prowess unattainable by the human form, such as walking on walls or the ceiling, as if to demonstrate that physical laws do not bind her, as she is physical law. She is the presence of earthly matter and space, and the processes of energy coalescing into a tangible form.
I conjure open the Well of Space!
And peer into the Outer Dark!
Black Veiled bride of death and renewal!
Cavernous tomb and womb in one!
You who stand with the strength of stone
Shining dark in The Crown of the North!
Reveal the truth of flesh and bone!
We salute thee, IAO!
Above, Below & Center/Ether: Sugma’ad
Beyond even the pre-extant elemental forms lies the conscious possibility of them. This consciousness is the Sugma’ad; the Star Goddess. She appears in a multitude of forms, most notably a woman with jet-black skin with the head of a lioness and great wings of a bat. She sits on a throne of polished onyx with the silver egg of creation resting in her lap. She is the primal Goddess of creation; the great cosmic womb from which all things emerge and into which all things return. She is life and oblivion all in one; the beautiful and terrible explosion of chaos and possibility.
I conjure open the Well of Stars!
To peer into the Black Hearted Vault of Heaven within the Earth!
Infinite Darkness! Infinite Light!
Womb of the Universe!
From You all things emerge
And unto You all things return.
Reveal your starlight in my breath!
We salute thee, IAO!
When working with these beings it will be important to notice how your own perceptions change over time, not just “in the moment” of the trance experience itself, but in day to day life. When working with Arida how do you find your inspiration? Are you able to work with the Guardian to translate (i.e. communicate) that power into a useful area of your life? When working with Tana how do you perceive your determination and Will to be impacted? In the time you spend communing with Water, how does Tiamat factor in to how you experience your emotions? What does Verr Avna have to teach you about living in a physical form? Keeping a journal is vital to being able to get the fullest benefit from this type of working. The Goddesses of the Primal Elements have the potential to be among the most powerful of transformative relationships that you will ever enter into. Whether this quickens your evolution, reveals your own blocks or complexes, or provides you with a spiritual or emotional challenge is entirely up to you and what you bring to the experience. It is a worthy journey, and I wish you the best on yours.
1 From my own Book of Shadows.
2 See my article, The Lords of the Outer Dark, Witch Eye #14. http://www.FeriTradition.com/witcheye/essay_LOTOD.htm
3 Oral teaching attributed to the late Victor Anderson.
4 A term used in BlueRose Feri to represent the GodSoul, Higher Self, or aumakua.
5 While this concept is not universal among the Feri, it can be understood in much the same way as in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series (Vertigo comics), in which the character Morpheus (Dream) is not only the primal being (or ruler) of the Dreaming (the realm in which all dreams are born and reside), but is actually the embodiment of the Dreaming realm as well. He (and our aforementioned Goddesses) are the very embodiment of those powers that they are said to represent.
6 The names of these Goddesses were previously published in 1979 in the pages of Starhawk’s famous work The Spiral Dance.