The Alchemy of Earth Magick
by ShaRyn Maatthews
“The leaf in its time falls to the dirt that nourishes the tree, and that tree in its time grows the leaf again. Nothing is ever lost, the wheel returns all” Tuatha-an in the Wheel of Time.
The Sabian Mysteries teaches us that the dimension of Earth magick revolves around the two concepts of Space and Time. Earth magick occurs when these two things come together in awareness – a sacred point in time held within a sacred space.
My own sacred points in time revolve around the wheel of the year, not only observing the old festivals but by observing nature herself. I began this a few years ago when I connected to a huge sweet chestnut tree directly outside my office French doors. I could see her in all her glory from earth to sky, she became my sacred space. As the wheel of time turned, so began my journey with the leaf.
My first insight came in meditation as I pondered the old adage, that to receive you must first purge and create space. You’ll see this in many teachings especially around de-cluttering or working with your unconscious, shadow self. The falling of the leaves on the trees are often used in this metaphor to demonstrate the need to release the old to make way for the new. The act of purging or transmuting parts of yourself that no longer serve you to make way for new life, new growth.
Intuitively, I felt uneasy about this. Certainly, there is a time and place for purging, but the absolute correlation – that to receive you must first experience the pain of letting go – felt like a reward system, patriarchal, controlling and outdated. I was guided to explore the process of the leaf falling.
I’m sure we all know of the photosynthesis principle from school days: the green leaves of a plant or tree receiving sunlight and carbon dioxide turning them into food for itself and oxygen for the atmosphere. Then, the turning of the seasons and the changing of the colours as summer turns to autumn; the stark imagery of bare branches as the tree rests in winter; the hope in new shoots as winter turns to spring. But did you know that each of the stages in this cycle occurs as a type of call and response, the tree responding primarily to the call of the light?
At each of the movements through the cycle, whether the tree is receiving the light that encourages the sap to rise or whether it is gathering in the harvest to store for the leaner winter months as the light begins the wane, the way of the leaf is to receive and prosper in call and response. The letting go is not a reactive, painful process. It is an easy and joyful one that naturally occurs as the harvest is celebrated – and the leaf, having played its part, gently falls away to next stage of its cycle. We too have no need to pull and tug at our ‘leaf’ armour to encourage new growth.
Indeed my second insight into the way of leaf is related to that new growth. There is a place for work and toil and, in the way of the leaf, this is the time the leaf bursts forth from the bud, with combustive fire-like energy. However, the rest of the growth is a call-and-response to light and water; it happens slowly and almost imperceptibly a little each hour, each day, each week, and is only truly noticeable as we reflect backwards. As it is for the trees, we simply need to receive the bounty of nature and the rest will happen with grace and ease. For a ‘recovering workaholic’, who finds it much easier to give than to receive, this challenged the very foundations of my world-view, yet at the same time demonstrated the alchemical nature of the Earth we inhabit.
In ancient times Alchemy was practiced by experienced magicians who were searching for the Philosophers Stone, defined as natural philosophy or the Magnum Opus (Great Work) – “the purification or maturation of base metals into noble metals or the perfection of the human body and soul” (Wiki). I see Alchemy as the intentional combination of 2 or more elements or states to create a third improved element or state. Cosmic Upcycling as the old becomes the new, the new becomes the old again This can be observed throughout our earthly existence let’s explore this in relation to The Way of the Leaf.