The Elements: Air


**Inspired by today’s wind gusts of up to 50 mph**

Air.  It’s around constantly, outside, inside, sleeping, waking.  Our very lives depend on being able to breathe in air.  We can go a while without food or drink, but most of us can’t go more than a minute without breathing.

The alchemical symbol for Air

Of the four elements, Air is one of the masculine elements (the other being Fire).  In most tarot decks, Air is associated with the swords suite.  Generally Air is also associated with the cardinal direction East and the spring season.  Its color tends to be yellow.  The sun signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are Air personalities.  (Of course, other traditions may draw other associations and other meanings for the elements, so please keep in mind that these are only one way of looking at the world.)  In Greek, there are two words for Air: aer, meaning the lower atmosphere, and aether, meaning the bright upper atmosphere.  Aristotle explained this difference by saying that aether was an almost divine substance in the heavens and remained unchanged.

Constantly changing, this element is considered the most unstable, the most temperamental.  I’ve always thought of Air as a temperamental child that on some days is gentle and kind, on others playful, and on other days throws a temper tantrum.  It isn’t an easy element to work with, partly because of its nature and partly because this is the one element that can’t be seen directly.  We can hold Earth in our hands, drink Water, and feel the heat of Fire, and all three can be seen with our plain eyes.  But we cannot see Air, only the effects of the Air’s passing.  We can’t grasp it, we can’t hold it or carry it with us.

Air can be useful for cleansing, though it isn’t the element most used for cleansing.  We can use Air to cleanse our own bodies, similar in the way we use our breathing as a calming technique.  I have done this before and found it beneficial: close your eyes and find a calm place.  Then breathe in “good” air and breathe out the “negative” air with steady, even breaths.  “Bad” air can be negative emotions you feel you should let go of, emotional hurts, negative thoughts, and/or pain.  After five minutes of this you not only feel calm, but cleaner and lighter.

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