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21 November 2012 @ 04:55 pm
YaaD Work: Class 7: Ritual Framing  
This is one of the reflection papers I wrote as part of my Year and a Day (YaaD) of study with Fieldhaven Coven.

The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/

Class 7, Paper 1 (after reading, before class discussion): If you are not already familiar with the Elements/Directions, pick any two systems and compare/contrast them, in a one-page paper. If you don’t write entirely from scratch, you need to cite your resources for everything you borrow from another source.

Note: This is the revised version of the paper from my previous post. It passed.

Assignment submitted January 5, 2012

Writing Assignment: YaaD Class 7 – Ritual Framing

The system with which I am most familiar is the European (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), and I will compare it to the classical Chinese (Water, Fire, Wood, Metal, and Earth).

Both systems assign each element to a cardinal point, as follows:

  European (GH) Chinese (WX)
North Earth Water
East Air Wood
South Fire Fire
West Water Metal
Center n/a (or,
in alchemy, Aether)

Both systems assign correspondences to each element, such as (examples only; not comprehensive):
  • In the European system, Earth is associated with Samhain, the body, the pentacle, cedar, Cerridwen, and Cernunnos (Galenorn); with the color green and with gnomes (Ravenheart). In the Chinese system, Earth is associated with late summer, the color yellow, the spleen, and the stomach (WX).
  • Air is associated with the mind, spring, the athame or sword, sylphs, birds, Athena, and Mercury (Galenorn); with the rising sun and the color yellow (Ravenheart).
  • In the European system, Fire is associated with creativity, noon, the color red, the phoenix, Brighid, and Hestia (Galenorn); and with vitality and salamanders (Ravenheart). In the Chinese system, Fire is associated with summer, the color red, the heart, and the small intestine (WX).
  • In the European system, Water is associated with Lughnasadh, emotions, the unconscious, shades of blue, fish, Aphrodite, and Poseidon (Galenorn); and with intuition and undines (Ravenheart). In the Chinese system, Water is associated with winter, the color black, the kidneys, and the bladder (WX).
  • Wood is associated with spring, the color green, the liver, and the gallbladder (WX).
  • Metal is associated with autumn, the color white, the lungs, and the colon (WX).

Finally, the Chinese system views the elements as forming a cycle – or, more accurately, four related cycles: Generating and Controlling are considered cycles of balance, and Overacting and Insulting are considered cycles of imbalance (Wiki WX). Just as in the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock, no one element is ascendant; each has strengths and weaknesses, causes and effects.

The cycles of balance are referred to and expanded on in many areas of Chinese natural philosophy, including cosmology, feng shui, the I Ching, medicine, martial arts, and tea ceremonies.
  • In the Generating cycle, each element is generated by another element and creates another element. One mnemonic for the cyclic order is, "Wood feeds Fire; Fire creates Earth (ash); Earth bears Metal; Metal carries Water (as in a bucket or tap, or water condenses on metal); and Water nourishes Wood." (Wiki WX)
  • In the Controlling or Overcoming cycle, each element controls one and is controlled by one. The memory aid here is, "Wood parts Earth (such as roots; or, Trees can prevent soil erosion); Earth absorbs (or muddies) Water (or an Earth dam can control water); Water quenches Fire; Fire melts Metal; and Metal chops Wood." (Wiki WX)

The cycles of imbalance are discussed more thoroughly in Chinese medicine. Each element is associated with specific organs and parts of the body, and in good health all the organs work together smoothly. Sickness is interpreted as an imbalance in the relationship between organs associated with specific elements. (Aung) Chinese medicine requires the practitioner to determine whether a bodily imbalance is caused by over-action of a normal generating cycle or by a reversal of a normal controlling cycle.
  • The Insulting cycle is the inverse of the Controlling cycle. When this is occurring, organs tend to act on or control those organs by which they normally would be acted on. So, for example, the liver is a Wood organ, and would normally control Earth organs such as the spleen and stomach. However, if one of those is overactive, it may "insult," or act upon and cause problems with, the liver. (Aung)
  • The Overacting cycle occurs when the Generating cycle is out of balance, and one element becomes "excessively" controlling of another. For example, if the liver is overactive, it may cause problems with the stomach and spleen. (WX, Aung)

The two systems have some commonalities (both recognize Earth, Fire, and Water as elements, and both have Fire assigned to the south), but are sufficiently different that familiarity with one is not going to carry over to the other. Barring a specific reason to use the Chinese system, such as a ritual directed to a Chinese deity, I'd be strongly inclined to stick with the European system.


"The Five Elements (Wu Xing)." Retrieved 5 January 2012 from http://www.acupuncture.com.au/education/theory/thefiveelements.html. In-text reference: (WX)

"Samhain." The Greenhaven Tradition. Retrieved 5 January 2012 from http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/samhain.html. In-text reference: (GH)

"Wu Xing." Retrieved 12 January 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wu_Xing. In-text reference: (Wiki WX)

Aung, Steven K.H. and William P.D. Chen. Clinical Introduction to Chinese Acupuncture. Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.: New York. 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2012 from http://books.google.com.hk/books?id=I6NclaeDWjgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Clinical+introduction+to+medical+acupuncture&hl=zh-CN#v=onepage&q&f=false. In-text reference: (Aung)

Galenorn, Ysamine. Totem Magic: Dance of the Shapeshifter. The Crossing Press: Berkeley, CA. 2004. Retrieved 3 January 3, 2012 from http://books.google.com/books?id=sVDiuWuWhI0C&pg=PT147&lpg=PT147#v=onepage&q&f=false. In-text reference: (Galenorn)

Ravenheart, Cainwyne. "Rituals & Ceremonies Part II - Casting Circle & Calling Quarters." PaganSpace.net. Retrieved 3 January 2012 from http://www.paganspace.net/profiles/blogs/rituals-amp-ceremonies-part-ii. In-text reference: (Ravenheart)