Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Tetrasomia Pentacle and Finding Balance Among the Four Elements



I call this little creation of mine the "Tetrasomia" pentacle, named after the title of Empedocles’ venerable  treatise on the four elements. I designed it in a way to illustrate the relationship among the elements according to classical Western wisdom: The red part on the right side represents the masculine element of Fire, while the blue part on the left is the feminine element of Water. Above and in the middle of them is the neutral element of Air (yellow), which unites and harmonizes the energies of the two opposing elements of Water and Fire. And finally at the center of them all is the pentagram, the symbol of Earth, which represents materialization brought forth from the balanced interaction of Fire, Water and Air.

The colors representing three of the elements are the traditional primary colors, and the assignment is based on the Golden Dawn system of correspondences. Incidentally, they are also the colors of the Philippine flag, and with the same positions too as on the pentacle.

Elemental tools on my Samhuinn altar

The elemental tools are also depicted on the pentacle and can be found on their corresponding elements: the feminine cup on Water, the masculine wand on Fire, and the double-edged sword on Air. The fourth tool is of course the pentacle itself, again echoing the concept of Earth being the embodiment and the material form of those elements.

I created this as a logo for a local organization called the Philippine Wiccan Society, whose initials “P.W .S.” are written in Theban script around the pentagram. The letters also stand for the three Platonic virtues alternatively named as: Patience (Temperance), Wisdom (Prudence), and Strength (Fortitude), with the central pentagram symbolizing the fourth virtue, Justice (which may be also considered as Balance).


A depiction of the four Platonic virtues at the Strasbourg cathedral, France.

More than just an altar tool, this has also been a sort of a personal mandala reminding me of the human quest for evolution, which for me is basically an unending series of dialectic: something new and better arising from the harmony of two conflicting elements.

Over the years I have come to derive more meanings from this symbol, but the most important one so far is one which I discovered when I entered the Druid path. The letters P V S, coincidentally, corresponds to the First Triad of the Druidic teachings of Árn nDraíocht Féin, namely Piety, Virtue and Study. (Note that W and V is written using the same character in Theban.)

Virtue is the duty of every person who wishes to live well within society. We consider the many things that the old lore has to teach about virtue, and do our best to apply our insights to our own lives.

Piety is the duty we owe to the Gods and Spirits, for which They bless us in turn. When we choose to learn ritual, when we make our home shrines and altars, when we keep the customs and rites of the High Days, we bring piety to our work.

Study is the duty we owe to ourselves to grow by effort in strength, wisdom and love. To be more then we are when we begin, we must absorb new ideas, new methods and new goals we seek these in both scholarship and the work of inspiration.

Árn nDraíocht Féin
It's easy to see why balance among the elements of this triad is necessary: Focusing on Piety alone can make one a self-absorbed hypocrite, focusing on Study alone can make one a dry intellectual, and focusing on Virtue alone can make one a nice person - but dangerously naive.

I assume that Piety can also apply to magical practice or any spiritual work for self-transformation, so I think spiritual non-Theists can relate to this triad as well. What I like about it is that it teaches the balance of spiritual practice, scholarly learning, and applying the wisdom you gained to your actions in the everyday world. And of all of these points out to the development of the four elements in us - spirit (fire), emotions (water), mind (air) and body (earth).

Basbasan Nawa!

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