The Bard's Grove

"There are times when people need stories more than they need nourishment, because the stories feed something deeper than the needs of the body."
Charles DeLint, The Onion Girl

Monday, November 11, 2013

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Scorpio, Death & Rebirth and Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry

          The sign of Scorpio ushers in the cold and dark part of the year in the northern hemisphere.  Coming after the last harvest, people celebrated year’s ending and honored their dead in holidays such as Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve and the Day of the Dead.  The rising of the dark during this time makes Scorpio the perfect time to honor the fact of death as part of life. 
          Scorpio is called the sign of death and rebirth.  Ancient star maps show a giant scorpion with its tail raised to sting the heel of the hero Ophiuchus or Aesculapius, the great healer, called the Serpent Bearer.   Death, healing and rebirth are all part of Scorpio’s cosmic story.
          The most intense of the three water signs (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces), Scorpio symbolizes our inner struggle to open up and allow intimacy with others, to acknowledge someone else’s values, and to learn how to work in deep emotional partnership.  With Saturn in Scorpio these past two years, we have been given a lesson in dropping old emotional patterns that no longer serve us and opening ourselves to an emotional healing and rebirth. 
          We are experiencing a breakdown in our culture, and we need to accept the Scorpio initiation of death.  With Scorpio’s ruling planet, Pluto, in Capricorn, the sign of our cultural institutions, and Capricorn’s ruler, Saturn, in Pluto’s sign, it’s a cosmic wake-up call to all of us.  The force is with us on this one.   It’s time to see that death is not the end, but merely a transitional phase to another type of life, whether here on Earth or in the spiritual realms.  We have to get over our fear of death so we can bring new life to our planet and our people.
          We have to help patriarchy die.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry 

        Once again, I want to talk about a series of fantasy books by my favorite author.  Yes, this trilogy is even more my favorite than Tolkien’s LOTR, which I must have read 40 times throughout the years.  It makes sense, since Mr. Kay helped Christopher Tolkien edit his father’s work after his death.  

                                                Martin Springett--artist

          The Fionavar Tapestry is Mr. Kay’s first fantasy novel, but don’t stop there.  He’s written 10 of my favorite historical fantasies.  I’m sure I’ll get a chance to talk about a few others at The Bard’s Grove in the future.
          The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy comprised of: The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire & The Darkest Road. It resonates with our times, because 5 of the many wonderful characters in the books are modern college students who find that they have big roles to play in saving the first world of Fionavar from a deep-seated darkness whose only passion is to unravel the tapestry of Life in all worlds.
          Sounds like some of the issues we face as we work to get rid of the end game of patriarchy—its monolithic corporations which are destroying our Earth and taking our freedom away!  With Uranus in Aries, we are each being called to our heroic selves, to stand up and help change the world.  In these books, these five college students find that they have a place in the last battle again evil alongside great heroes and heroines in a world where magic and mystery are still acknowledged and valued.

          We meet the main characters in The Summer Tree.  Four friends attend a summer lecture by a mysterious and reclusive genius and along with a fifth student, Dave, get invited after the lecture to his rooms, where he tells them he’s from another world—the first world of all worlds, Fionavar.  He has been sent to bring back five people to attend a great celebration in their world.  The five, for various reasons, all accept his invitation and are taken to a world of magic and wizards, kings and princesses, priestesses and seers, and an ancient evil which is rising again with intentions of destroying all the worlds.
          Each of these young people discovers who they are truly meant to be when they accept their roles in the army of Light which gathers in Fionavar.  Fionavar is the home of many races: the Kings of Men in Brennin and Cathal, the Dalrei, the native tribes of the Plains, the gentile Giants and people of Eridu, and the stalwart dwarves as well as the beautiful Lios Alfar, the Fair Folk.  This brief explanation tells you nothing about the finely drawn characters who I know will stay in your imaginations for a long time.
          The five chosen ones are all uniquely themselves.  Kimberly is a med student who discovers she has been seen and awaited for many years in Fionavar, and who must bear the burden of the War Stone.  Then there’s Kevin, the brilliant lawyer who goes so deep in lovemaking that he touches a goddess.  Paul is called to an especially hard task—to be tied to the Summer Tree and so become the Arrow of the God.  Jennifer, whose beauty enchants even the immortal Lios Alfar, must pay a debt from past lives and come through the fires of death and transformation to a new life.   And the fifth is Dave, who has always felt himself an outsider and who gets separated from the other four upon their arrival in Fionavar.  He finds himself called to become a warrior when he is found on the Plains by one of the Dalrei tribes.

          And those are just the modern Canadian characters!  In Fionavor, we find out that the mysterious lecturer is none other than the wizard Loren Silvercloak along with his source, Matt, who was once King of the Dwarves.  The wizards of Fionavar get their power from their source, and we see both the good and the evil of this in the stories.
          Then we have some of the most marvelous warriors I’ve ever encountered in any story. The brilliant, daring, romantic and defiant Diarmuid, the youngest son of King Ailell and his solemn exiled older brother; the warriors of the Dalrei—Ivor, Levon, Torc and Tabor; Shalhassan, the Lord of Cathal and his beautiful, dangerous daughter Sharra; Na-Brendel and the host of the Lios Alfar; the goddesses and gods of Fionavar; the shamans and seers and the priestess of the Mother, Jaelle.  And so many other brave and interesting characters—a few which I will leave as a surprise for you.
          The main story is that Rakoth Maugrim the Unraveller, who has been chained under a mountain for millennia, plots to break free from his prison with the help of his lieutenant Galadan and the usual host of evil beings.  But even these characters are never one-dimensional and sometimes even sympathetic.  When Rakoth does break free, all our heroes and heroines must work to overthrow him on many fronts.  This they do, with great sacrifice and honor.
          Scorpio’s energies are part of this story of renewal.  In Fionavar, the old world is dying and everyone has to take up their archetypal roll if they are to defeat great evil and bring peace to the land again.  This can happen within an individual and within a society.  If we all make sure that we go through the death and rebirth ourselves, we stand a good chance of re-shaping our own world into a higher, better version of itself.  And this story of cultural renewal is a great guide for us.
          I can’t tell you anymore about the story because I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment.  This is the absolute best ‘end of the world’ fantasy you’ll read since you read the Lord of the Rings.  I suggest you order your copies now and spend the holidays inside a story that contains many aspects of our Celtic myths rolled into one in the most satisfying way. 
For more information about Guy Gavriel Kay, go to:

 From The Bard’s Grove,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Emerging Archetypal Themes: The Scales of Libra and the Ancient Celts: Relationships for Grown-Ups.

Libra’s Scales: Questioning How We Relate

Libra is the only sign of the zodiac that is symbolized by an inanimate object—a Scale.  And yet this sign is concerned with partnerships, unions, relationships, lovers, marriages, and social affairs, all very human preoccupations.  Libra is also concerned with divorce, litigation, justice, diplomacy, compromise and contracts—human tools for relating to each other.  There’s something about the Scales of Libra that demand fairness and balance in the human sphere, something that comes naturally to the rest of creation, which lives within the cosmic laws of birth/death/rebirth.  Our patriarchal fear of death and change, and its deep disrespect for the Feminine, doesn’t help balance the Scales.  Perhaps that’s why our understanding of relationships needs an upgrade.

                                                  Blue Light Lady

We humans have been given free will.  And we so often don’t use it.  Instead we get caught in unconscious beliefs and triggers that keep us from making the right choices for our lives. These beliefs and rules make us think that we’re being fair and balanced, but as we evolve in self-awareness, those very rules which once gave us discipline and focus might now be misguiding us about our real needs and purpose in life.  We see this happening in all aspects of our modern society—many things we used to believe in are no longer helpful or even valid.  We need new rules that reflect our more conscious society.

Relationships are suffering from old beliefs about men and women, about marriage, about partnership.  Whether we speak of gay rights or women’s reproductive rights, the old relationship rules of patriarchy are no longer valid—if they ever were.  I’m not only talking about our legal views of relationship, but also our inner beliefs about relationships and love.  Since the early part of the 20th Century, relationships—and therefore Libra—have been changing. 

The three outer planets which represent collective change—Uranus, Neptune and Pluto—have traveled through Libra in our lifetime, changing our beliefs about relationships on the most basic levels.  From October 1942-August 1957, Neptune moved through the sign of Libra.  The Baby Boomers have this aspect in our charts.  Neptune in Libra sets up a longing in us, a yearning for a soul mate, our perfect lover and match.  We long for men of honor and courage, who will love us and protect us forever.  Men long for their perfect match, women who will understand and support them.  

                                                Aladdin & Jasmine

What we got was disappointment and disillusionment, two traits of a misunderstood Neptune.  We had a hard time with each other’s reality, and therefore there was quite of bit of the other side of Libra’s Scales: divorce, litigation and contracts.  Our ideas about relationship changed, often for the worse.  But we needed to be disillusioned about patriarchal relationships—especially about romantic love—because these types of relationships were anything but fair and balanced.  Women and men were left with roles to play out which no longer served our souls needs. 

Then Uranus went into Libra in October 1968-September 1975, surprising us with openly gay couples, as well as mixed racial couples.  After the 60s’, it seems like anything goes regarding partnerships and relationships.  The more unique and surprising the better! And when Pluto went into Libra from October 1971-August 1984, the kids decided to renovate the whole concept of relationships.  They wanted relationships to be deep and meaningful to survive divorce, and they had to be between equals. Then every 12 years Jupiter went through Libra and every 28 years Saturn went into Libra, bringing the new emerging archetypal energies of partnership into our collective consciousness. 

With all the changes in our self-awareness, of course relationships are evolving.  And yet, when we look at the culture at large, we’re still fighting over marriage and children, divorce and fair sharing of family resources.  Our rules are patriarchal and while divorce courts overtly have to be fair, most divorces end up badly, with neither side happy with the results. 

And then there’s the whole question of infidelity.  Why would a partner turn to someone else?  In a patriarchal marriage, where there’s only one relationship allowed for an entire lifetime, infidelity becomes a problem which leads to divorce.  I think it’s because patriarchal marriages are based on ownership and possession.  When we marry, we unconsciously believe we own our partner.  So when one partner ‘strays’ we feel betrayed and abandoned.  A big part of this feeling comes from the secrecy of an affair.  Patriarchal marriage sets us up to maintain the secrecy of an illicit affair. 

What if we’ve been programed to feel betrayed?  What if seeking other partners on a short term basis is part of our human nature—a part that’s been vilified by church and state?  What if we could have it both ways—a loving marriage and a legal lover?

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s Keltiad Series

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison created an amazing Celtic-based world in all her Keltiad novels.  Ms. Kennealy-Morrison was the editor of Jazz & Pop Magazine back in the 60s and married the Doors’ Jim Morrison in a pagan handfasting ceremony.  She has an amazing understanding of the Celts and their culture and has created a world that mixes the best elements of Celtic mythology, science fiction and fantasy. 

The foundation of her stories is this:  She takes the story of St. Brendan the Navigator who supposedly took ship from Ireland in 453 AD and discovered the Americas and changes one essential element of history.  In Ms. Kennealy-Morrison’s world, Brendan and the ships leaving Ireland with emigrants seeking a new home were fleeing the persecution of St. Patrick (they were the snakes he drove out!) because they wanted to worship their old gods and keep their own civilization—not become Roman. 

Brendan was the son of one of the Tuatha De Danaan, themselves descendants and heirs to the secrets of Atlantis.  Together with the Celts, the surviving Danaans (the Sidhe or Faerie Folk) set sail in starships seeking an ancient legend about a new world in outer space.  After two years’ wandering among the stars, they found their safe haven.  They named this new world Keltia.  

Through the long centuries, the Kelts first settled on the Throneworld system of Tara, and later spread out to the Six Nations, the other Keltic star systems, taking the old Earth names of Erinna, Kymry, Scota, Kernow, Vannin and Brytaned.  And through the long centuries they became strong and prospered.  Ruled by many kings and queens of Brendan’s line, they established a solid and strong civilization, with starship technology—so they could even go back secretly to Earth to bring more emigrants to Keltia.  In their long history, they had their own Arthur and Gweniver who had to fight to win back Keltia from the powerful druid, Ederyn.  And 1500 years later, a young queen named Aeron is fated to be the one who reunites her world with Earth, and who has to reclaim Arthur’s power to fight off ancient enemies who have followed the Kelts back into the heavens.  As you can imagine, they are wonderful, daring, adventurous stories!  

Patricia Kennealy’s stories give us interesting insights into many of the components of Celtic society.  The stories show us the way their military functioned through the Fianna, what parts the Druid Order and the Ban-Draoi, the priestesses and sorceresses, played, the importance of the Bardic Association and the magical Dragon Kinship—all honed to use for the well-being of Keltia.  If you can find any old copies of any of her series, they are well worth the read.  

Just as important as the adventure stories and the Celtic mindset are the various relationships between the characters.  Parents and children, siblings and cousins, lovers and betrayers, leaders and citizens, Kennealy-Morrison creates uniquely Celtic characters. They have an inner sense of freedom and confidence, with a deep expectation of being responsible, that make for good role models.  While there is a straight-forwardness and innate respect that seems to be basic to the Celtic character, it is the freedom and passion of Celtic relationships that interest me.

Kennealy-Morrison’s understanding of Celtic traditions about marriage and relationships is very much a part of all her stories.  The Celts were very adult about relationships.  They were comfortable in their bodies, grown-up in their understanding of love and fair about what was expected from partnerships and marriages.

You see, the Celts believed men and women were free to pick their own mates and lovers.  One of the saddest stories in our culture is the tragedy of the love triangle between our King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and Lancelot.  This would never have been a tragedy for the Celts because they believed that everyone had a right to take a lover, even if they were married.  That included women, which is so very different from almost any other ancient society.   There are stories of Queen Maeve of Connacht having multiple lovers while married to the King Ailill. Some Celtic women had many husbands, while divorce was accepted and practiced (usually) without the rancor we see in modern divorces. 

The Celts had strong Brehon Laws and made sure that these laws included the rights and rules of human relationships.  Because of the Celts’ respect for these Brehon Laws, there was no need for any secrecy about taking a lover.  If your marriage partner had no real objection, lovers had legal status. What a grown-up perspective! 

Our belief that we can love only one person in a lifetime is childish and selfish, and comes out of the patriarchal need for domination, control and possession which causes us to feel unloved and uncared for—therefore the jealousy.  As we grow and learn more about ourselves, we will often be attracted to certain people, people who somehow resonate with our present needs.  But acknowledging this doesn’t discount what we might have in our marriage relationship.  Loving someone else doesn’t have to mean you don’t love your mate.

We romanticize marriage and often refuse to see that marriage is an economic relationship as well as a love relationship.   We expect that marriage only happens when we are ‘soul-mates’ but not everyone is lucky enough to find that one perfect soul to fit with life-time after life-time. Haven’t we baby-boomers proved that!?!  

Instead of condemning the desires of our hearts, perhaps we need to find ways to accommodate the changes we go through during our lifetime and the needs of our hearts. Why can’t our hearts grow out of jealousy and into a greater loving?  Who says we only have enough love for one other man or one other woman at a time?  Why can’t we love two people? Why can’t all three love each other?  

Perhaps not all marriages need to end in divorce if we can get over the fact that we don’t own each other!  What would happen if we were grown-up enough to understand that the human heart might have needs that one person often cannot fulfill.  What happens if we set ourselves and our lovers free?  What happens if we took seriously the idea that “All You Need Is Love!”

Ancient Celts and Marriage

While Judaism, Christianity and Islam have had a great influence on our beliefs about relationships, marriage, and partnerships, they no longer serve us as modern guides because they are innately misogynistic.  They never centered their ideals about marriage solely around love—in fact, it was quite the opposite!  Often, marriage was purely about economics.  It was rarely about the freedom and partnership of soul-mates.  We need to leave the limiting patriarchal beliefs about female sexuality and the masculine perception of sexual ownership behind and find other options and guidelines for engaging fruitfully and graciously in relationships as well as divorces.  

I happen to think that the Celts knew how to do it right.  The ancient Celtics had a renown legal system called the Brehon Laws, which acknowledged ten forms of marriage as well as very open relationships. You could be married and have another, much-beloved wife or husband.  You could each have official lovers and all children from any liaisons were legitimate.  You could be married for a year and a day—a short term commitment that was honored and valued.  You could be married at the Stones—formally uniting two great families—or you could be married by eloping.  Not so different from today, but today we are still seeing marriage from a patriarchal perspective.  That’s what needs to go, so we can validate new and different forms of relationships and partnerships.

                                                       Julie Raymond

Celtic women were free of many of the constraints women in other cultures had to live under and that made marriage into something different and viable.  Celtic women were sexually free, and they were free to be warriors, judges, midwives, priestesses, ambassadors, mediators and landowners.  While men overtly had power over women, Celtic women had the freedom to choose who to marry or divorce. And since women could own their own land or business, they had a great deal more independence than most ancient women.  They were, in fact, very much like women today.

 The Celts could marry in one of ten ways. As in other civilizations, marriage was considered an economic union, although love came into play just as often.   The first three types of marriages required formal, pre-nuptial agreements.  All the other types of marriage included the assumption of financial responsibilities for child-rearing.  There were no illegitimate children in Celtic society—that nasty concept grew out of the Church. 

Under Brehon Law, there were 10 forms of marriage, each diminishing in importance, legal rights and desirability (thanks to Epona Perry for this simplified list):
  1. A first degree union takes place between partners of equal rank and property.
  2. A second degree union in which a woman has less property than the man and is supported by him.
  3. A third degree union in which a man has less property than the woman and has to agree to the management of the woman’s cattle and fields.
  4. A fourth degree union is the marriage of the loved one in which no property rights changed hands, though children’s rights are safeguarded.
  5. A fifth degree union is the mutual consent of the man and woman to share their bodies, but live under separate roofs.
  6. A sixth degree union in which a defeated enemy’s wife is abducted. This marriage is valid only as long as the man can keep the woman with him.
  7. A seventh degree union is called a soldier’s marriage and is a temporary and primarily sexual union (a one night stand).
  8. An eighth degree union occurs when a man seduces a woman through lying, deception or taking advantage of her intoxication (equivalent to the modern definition of “date rape”).
  9. A ninth degree union is a union by forcible rape.
  10. A tenth degree union occurs between feeble-minded or insane people.
I love that the Celts considered the love lives of insane people!  As you can see, the Celts acknowledged the power of love as well as the power of power.  They believed that marriage was between two equal partners, and unlike the Romans, did not believe that the woman became the property of the man.   Celtic marriage was essentially contractual and social, not at all religious, but based on the freedom of the husband and wife.

Divorce was a relatively simple matter and could be requested by either party. Divorced women were not looked down upon and were always free to remarry. The ancient Celts were polygamous and Celtic women could have multiple husbands.  Most of us might not want to be polygamous today, but we’re certainly prone to having affairs.  Perhaps the old Celts can give us new ways of looking at love and relationships.  Maybe we can begin to have grown-up relationships that are loving and free.  May that day come soon!

So Mote It Be!

From the Bard’s Grove,


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Emerging Archetypal Themes: Virgo’s Search for Wholeness & Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters.

The Bard’s Grove

I want to resume my Emerging Archetypal Themes Blog by sharing some of my favorite fantasy adventures with you.  Fantasy novels tell us stories that show how the archetypal patterns are shifting and being renewed.  Our human instincts are once again expanding, growing and deepening to meet the needs of our changing world, and these fantasy stories can help us understand how we are being renewed.  Add to this the astrological energies of the signs of the zodiac and I hope to tell you about bardic tales that will open your imaginations and spark your vision.

 From Guy Gavriel Kay to Judith Tarr, Patrick Rothfuss to Sharon Shinn, the archetypal stories are being transformed from a Disneyesque stereotype to a wondrous Lord of the Rings enchantment.  These fantasy stories evoke a strong response because the really good ones follow the archetypal path of ancient myths and fairy tales.   When stories grow organically out of the archetypal structures—the cosmic laws of life—they resonate with our DNA and touch our hearts and minds.   Archetypal stories change us.

Virgo:  Knowing Yourself and Naming Yourself

Virgo, the sixth sign of the zodiac, is the Virgin.  To be a virgin in the ancient world did not mean a woman was sexually chaste; it meant that a woman ‘belonged to herself’ – that is, belonged to no man.  Just as a virgin forest is overrun with life and possibilities, so too the Virgin Mother of Virgo is filled with a harvest of possibilities.  The Cosmic Story speaks of the energies moving through our skies, telling us of the new life generated each year here on Earth.  When the Sun travels through the sign of Virgo, we look at both our personal and collective harvest.    The constellation of Virgo imagines a woman with wings holding a sheaf of wheat, and this Virgin asks us each year from the middle of August until the Fall Equinox in mid-September – what have you made of yourself this year? (For more on the Virgo archetypal, see The Cosmic Story

The Virgo aspect of our journey through life is to get to know ourselves on all levels of our being.  We grow more self-aware as we experience life and as we integrate what we learn in life—when we come to acknowledge the meaning of our experiences.   As we do, we change and grow, so each year we need to figure out who exactly we are now.  Unfortunately, that is something many of us weren’t taught to do.  The old cultural categories we’ve been given to explain our personalities and our talents are work-oriented.  You are what you do.  So our usual measure of growth is how much more money we’re making or how old we are. 

In ancient times and other cultures, the wise women and sages knew that we are comprised of a mixture of the four elements of life: earth, water, air and fire.  And sometimes, the elusive and mysterious fifth element, the quintessence or spirit.  Our modern approach to life disregards our connection to Earth and her laws, and so we’ve lost touch with the powers within us that define who we are.

Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters: Knowing and Naming Yourself

One who neglects or disregards the existence
Of fire, water, air and earth
Disregards his own existence, which is entwined with them.
Lord Mahavir/Jainsim

But what would it be like if our cultural norm was not only to understand who we are and what our talents are but that everyone else understood them as well.  Imagine a society where everyone understands that there are different personality traits which give rise to different talents, which are fostered and trained.  Imagine a society where you start off knowing yourself and your possibilities and naming yourself.  

That’s the basis of the society that Sharon Shinn creates in her novel, Troubled Waters.   Instead of telling you the story, I’m going to describe the culture of knowing she creates.  That doesn’t mean that everyone in the novel is self-aware and honorable.  It just means that people have a common basis for judging actions, which is based in a good understanding of the psyche.  Something we are often lacking in our society.  So since we are dancing in Virgo, let’s look at how these fantasy characters know themselves.

Ms. Shinn uses five basic types of personalities, most likely based on the five elements of Chinese Medicine.  I find them fascinating, because each quality is associated with an element.  The five are Elay (Air/Soul), Hunti (Wood/Bone), Swella (Fire/Mind), Coru (Water/Blood), Torz (Earth/Flesh).   See what you think you are!

Elay             Hunti            Sweela           Coru             Torz
(Air)          (Wood)          (Fire)         (Water)          (Earth)
Joy            Courage          Innovation    Change        Serenity
Hope          Strength         Love            Travel         Honesty
Kindness     Steadfastness  Imagination   Flexibility  Health
Beauty        Loyalty          Clarity          Swiftness    Fertility
Vision          Certainty   Intelligence     Resilience   Contentment
Grace          Resolve          Charm            Luck           Patience
Honor          Determination Talent         Persistence   Endurance
Spirituality   Power           Creativity     Surprise       Wealth
SOUL          BONE            MIND        BLOOD        FLESH

The grace and power and imagination and surprise and wealth of this form of personal power—this knowing your name/element/Self—is what helps move this story forward.  Perhaps if we want to move ourselves forward in understanding our true nature, we might see which category we fit into and live consciously with it, embracing our strengths and weaknesses alike.  It makes for a much rounder personality.

The first thing I loved about Ms. Shinn’s world was that when a baby is born, the father must wait five hours (they do everything in terms of five) and then go out into the street and ask three strangers to give his child a blessing.  They have these blessings (the above qualities) inscribed on coins which you can get at any Temple of the Five Elements, a place to go meditate when you need to rebalance yourself and ask for guidance.   When you ask your question, you can take a ‘blessing’ coin out of a giant cauldron, see which quality of character you pick and find an answer to your question.  Then you carry that coin with you until you are asked to give it to someone else.  

So, each baby gets three random blessings which define their future.  But they also carry within themselves these traits in greater or lesser amounts, with one as their defining element.  So a woman who is Coru might be open to feelings, changeable as water, flexible in situations.  A man who is Sweela meets the world head-on with intelligence, charm and imagination.  And all the world knows that’s just who he or she is.  The naming helps people accept each other.  That doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for your actions—there’s still a moral imperative to live to your highest abilities.

Here are some examples of how Ms. Shinn describes these elemental qualities.


“Sweela (fire) was not a restful element at the best of times.  It exhorted you to feel, to care, to think, to love, even to remember.  Zoe closed her eyes and unlocked her heart and let her mind flood with images of her father.  Laughing.  Arguing.  Dancing with her mother.  Flirting with a strange woman.  Reading by candlelight.  Listening to music.  Meditating.  Sleeping. Coughing.  Suffering.  Dying.”   

“He was a sweela, with brushy red hair and ruddy complexion. … He kept a neutral expression on his face, but it was clear he was a passionate man, quick to anger, quick to laugh. She had a sudden, swift, visceral memory of boisterous conversations at his house, loud arguments and outbursts of gusty merriment.” 

When I think about these traits in my fire sign friends, I often forget that they are related to their inner connection to fire.  Always on the move.  Always creating something, whether a meal or a garden or a dress.  Sometimes destructive, like their passion fierce.  They are Fire!

“But that was the torz gift—connection to humanity, connection to the world.  You might apologize for bumping into your neighbor, but then you would smile, you would whisper a comment about the weather.  You would feel human again, part of the great, messy pageant of life.  You would cease to feel so alone.” 

“The big man…looked like a creature made entirely of soil and clay—a little dull, a little slow, but powerful.  Patient. … he could wait for a decade to destroy his enemies, but when he had the chance, he would crush them under his relentless weight. … Then he smiled at her and she saw the other side of the Torz (earth) personality—not charm, no, but a certain earthy appeal. … he was the kind of man who always had a dog at his heels, a grandchild on his knee, a serving girl bringing him an extra portion.  The kind of man who liked to surround himself with other people and who won their affection without even seeming to try.”   

I have a brother who has all earth signs for his Sun, Moon and ascendant.  He is so very much like this, especially the part about winning people’s affections without even trying.  Everyone loves him—he’s easy going, kind and finds something to enjoy about everything and everyone.  And he is always there when you need him.   He is Earth!


“This was always the element that spoke to Zoe the least, conveying as it did a sense of spirituality, occasionally even visions.  But elay also equated with hope, a renewed belief that the world could be restructured or at least comprehended.  Yes—of course—she was puzzled now, a little lost, but eventually the world would make sense again.” 

“Most of them were elay (air), people of soul and air.  The women frequently were great philanthropists and social reformers, always working to improve the lot of the poor, while the unmarried daughters often went off to serve in the temples.  The men tended to be philosophers or tinkerers or writers.”  

Because of my air ascendant, I can relate to this element a lot.  I think my writing is very hopeful, sometimes has vision and is definitely connected to my spirituality and my Soul-Centered Counseling practice.  There are other air people I know who live their values, believe in fairness and justice or are witty and mentally agile.  We are Air!

“Gradually Zoe felt her muscles relax, her hurt and confusion start to drain away.  In the temple, this was the gift of the coru; it washed you clean of worries.  Your troubles were carried away in the river’s insistent hands.”

Describing the coru (water) heroine: “There is humor in you, is there not? A deep appreciation of the ridiculousness of the human condition.  And a certain tolerance for the vagaries of human nature.”     

 “From my coru mother, I inherited a certain amount of resilience.  I think this means that, no matter what my situation, I can look about me, I can appreciate what it offers, and I can adapt.”  “I am a woman of water…I am more likely to slip away in stealth than to blaze up in wrath.” 

“A coru woman seeks and seeks for passage through an unnavigable space.  She will rise to any level or turn into any channel.  And if you attempt to block her way, she will flood the banks and sweep everything ahead of her.”

“I love you,” she whispered against his mouth.  “No matter what changes, that will always be true.  Spoken from the heart of a coru woman.”

I can relate to this element too.  I have a water Moon, and I am more at peace floating in the water than anywhere else.  Water calls to me, and I have been learning how to channel the power of water, of feelings, of the imagination.  But I never connected to the fact that it is my watery nature which is open to change and travel, gives me my flexibility and resilience, my swiftness and persistence.  I am Water!

“In the Temple, the hunti pew…was painted a handsome ebony and seemed to be so solidly bolted to the floor that no catastrophe could budge it by so much as an inch.  Zoe felt herself grow stronger, surer, as she sat before the sigil for wood and bone.  Her spine stiffened; she drew herself up taller.”

And descriptions of the hunti (wood) hero:  “After that first greeting, she didn’t say a word.  She simply watched him, simply waited.  He was hunti, he could be as stubborn as oak itself, but she was not going to yield.”

 “And there is no ending an argument with a hunti man.  He takes a stand and will not yield it, even when the battle no longer rages.”

“I love you,” he answered.  “And that will not change though the rest of the world is made over.  Word of a hunti man.”

Someone you can depend on.  Someone who is strong and safe and yes, utterly sure of himself.  My three sons have this quality.  They all have some earth in their charts, and because I raised them on good fantasy stories, they had an ideal to look up to.  And so yes, these are other people you can depend on.  They are Wood!

How We Might Prosper by Knowing Our Name

We could do worse than see ourselves in terms of the four or five elements that comprise the powers of Nature.  If you are into astrology, perhaps you need to explore which elements rule your Sun, Moon and Ascendant.  You can discover a lot about yourself by naming which qualities are innate to your personality and purpose.  Then you can see which qualities you lack and work to incorporate them into your life.

When you name yourself through an element, you can also begin to own your power, instead of denying it.  If you are a water person, then you have to learn to use your feeling nature and trust it.  If you are a fire person, perhaps you are scattering your energies instead of focusing them into some creative project.  If you are an air person, are you sharing your vision?  And if you are a wood person, are you shouldering your responsibilities?  If you are an earth person, your connection with other people is your gift.

Ms. Shinn has created an interesting world where people name and own their powers.  And while we might describe this story as just fantasy, I say we can learn a lot about ourselves if we just step into the imagination of these personality traits and discover how we are connected.

From The Bard’s Grove,