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We breathe it in every day. It surrounds us, fills us, yet often we don't even notice it: Air.
Of all the elements, Air is perhaps the most illusive. It can be the most difficult to describe, but can also be one of the most vibrant. Air brings us the light sensation of a cool breeze, the sudden rage of a storm, and the sweet smell of every scent we experience.
An Airy Aura
Think of what Air actually is: a layer of gases surrounding our Earth. When we visualize Planet Earth, we usually focus on a solid object, the round Earthly globe. But in reality, our world rests in the center of a gaseous atmosphere 560 miles high. Rather than a mere solid alone, Planet Earth is a solid object surrounded by a glow of gas. Likewise, many of Earth's creations are also solids within their own special gassy glow. Think of the way a fresh-baked apple pie fills your kitchen with its cinnamon-scent. The actual pie itself is only a few inches wide, but its Airy glow expands to fill the entire room! Perhaps it is the nature of solid things to be surrounded by a less-tangible outer cloak, an atmosphere of sorts. Knowing this helps us recognize things at their first blush, before they appear with full force. Just like we can smell the pie before actually touching it, we can sense many things around us by being aware of more than just their physical aspect.
People too have their own Airs about them. Our bodies have a natural scent that surrounds us like an aura. It changes uniquely from person to person, from day to day, even from mood to mood. As we expend more physical energy, our scent reflects that change and becomes even stronger. Don't underestimate the power of scent. When you are close enough to share a whiff of someone, it is as personal a gift as giving a lock of hair or a drop of blood. Your scent is a part of you; it may be even more personal than a solid gift. For example, if someone gave you a coin or stone or "lucky charm" you may merely put it in your jacket pocket. But the gift of scent is breathed in, actually taken deep inside you.
Air is one of the ways you can bond with a special place. You may eat its fruit, drink its waters, but you can also take time to smell its roses and breathe in a part of that place! You've heard the expression "you are what you eat?" Well, you are also what you drink, see, hear, feel - and yes, breathe!
Magically, the element of Air is often associated with communication. How fitting! Look how things in nature communicate with each other, how animals sense one another or flowers share pollen. We often augment ourselves with perfumes and oils, enhancing our personal scent to create the desired "atmosphere." Is this also a form of communication? Remember communicative Air the next time you hear someone whistle - an act performed how?
As a historical form of Airy communication, in the 17th century women used hand-held fans as a means to communicate romantic intent. According to the Harris Farmer's Almanac, fans fluttered in a certain fashion signaled the desire to be kissed and romanced. Held another way, fans meant "back off - this woman is engaged to be married," a similar gesture to the way someone today might wear a ring to ward off over-eager suitors.
Air wraps around the entire surface of the planet. It links all things together, tucked under the same sky like a big comfy blanket touching each and every one of us. This connection sounds like a very powerful medium for communication. On a more practical level, mass media like TV and radio travel through the Air to millions of people each day. Perhaps it is no accident we describe the act of broadcasting as putting something "on the Air."
In the cycle of life and death, all things die (and eventually smell dead too). Ever wonder why? Perhaps death's odor is an Airy signal within nature's food chain, alerting some little hungry creature to come along and enjoy a meal! Whether sensing a predator, a food-source, or a mate, smell is often the key way one part of nature communicates with another.
We can find Air Spirits all around us, just like we'd find other elemental Spirits in rippling lakes, the woodsy Earth, or dancing candle flames. Know that Air Spirits are nearby; try to feel them as individuals. Pick one out and just listen to it - whether a howling nightwind or the gentle whirring fan within your PC, household appliance, or the tingle of windchimes.
A family member of mine spends much of his leisure time boating, and has learned to sense sudden danger at sea with his sense of smell. As a storm blows in, he actually recognizes the scent of fresh water (rain) replace the usual scent of salty sea Air. I have witnessed this with my own eyes (and nose) seeing him pull up anchor in time to sail us to safety just minutes before a nasty squall hit! This may work well for sailors, but what about your own surroundings? If Air communicates, what aspects of your own surroundings might you want to learn? In what ways can you open yourself up to simply "breathing in" the messages you need to hear? Not sure how? Just follow your own nose!
The Air in your yard, your home town (and all across the world) is a unique mix of the scents, gases, and breath of all its inhabitants. All the tiny Airs around us - from the aroma of our incense to each breath we let out - all become part of the Air, like the way each drop joins to make up the entire sea. Air is a mix, a mosaic of many different things swirling together. Perhaps the lessons of Air apply to other mosaics - like diverse society, an ecosystem, or any other magical mix you might be a part of in your everyday life.
Want to try some Airy magical fun for children, even us big ones? Get a supply of colored balloons. Pick a balloon colored to fit your wish. Take in a big-big breath of the magic that surrounds you, and breeeeeeeathe it into the balloon. Whoosh! When your balloon is full, take a magic marker (yes, we do call them magic, don't we?) and write your wish upon the balloon. Or maybe draw and create a magical "balloon friend" with a specific job to do for you. Have fun with your new magical tool. Rub it on your hair or wooly sweater; stick it to the wall. Tap it with your finger back and forth, back and forth ad nauseum. Drag it around on a string like an imaginary pet on a leash. Be creative. Then with a sudden burst, break the balloon and release the energy stored up inside. (With balloons, the magic usually happens by being both creative and destructive. Pop!) A school teacher friend, someone wiser than I when it comes to kiddies, once taught me this type of balloon magic. Try it and see what results you might find for yourself. What lessons can you learn from a simple balloon? What else in nature might work the same way?
All out of balloons? Try just the simple act of breathing as a magical device. Inhale. Take in from your surroundings. Gather the energy around you. Take in as much as you can handle - your own body will let you take no more, and no less. As the seconds fly by, your body is absorbing millions of tiny oxygen atoms which the blood in your lungs will send to every cell in your body. Feel it change you; feel its magic become yours for just a moment in time. Then exhale... Release your magical breath out into the Air currents all around you. Send it forth with a sigh, and let the winds carry your wish wherever it needs to go. This can be a quiet meditative moment, or a loud joyous one filled with gasps of laughter and song. Remember Air magic next time you blow out your birthday candles and make a wish!
To understand the sheer power Air has compared to other elements, remember that we can survive weeks without solid food, days without water - but only a few minutes without Air. Paramedics do Air magic whenever they give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. They may breathe mere gases into a dying person's lungs, but they charge that Air with their healing intent and will. Their intent says "C'mon - breathe. Live!" Air magic is used for the simplest, or the most vital of intents. Remember this. (If you smoke, what intent does that action have?)
Sharing breath doesn't have to be the life-or-death act that paramedics experience. Try passing a single breath back and forth as a bonding experience with a loved one or magical partner. Work your way up to it, perhaps from a distance at first, then move closer until your lips meet. Exhale into your loved one's lips as they inhale deeply. Then reverse. Back and forth, breathing can be one of the many intimate rhythms of life shared with those you love.
Whether we do so purposely or not, all things on Earth share breath. Through the windy currents and chemical reactions that happen around us every day, the same molecule of Air that was a sea breeze yesterday, might be a baby's first breath today, or end up as car exhaust tomorrow.
Gases are less material than Earthy solids, so Air can be symbolic of that which does not exist on a material plane. Ideas, dreams, hopes, desires, fears, thoughts and wishes. These things are not flesh and bone, but they are certainly very real. Perhaps Air reminds us that something exists, even if you can't see or feel it. In the Zodiac, the fixed sign of Air is Aquarius - and just think of this sign's detachment from Earthly limitations! In the Tarot, Air is depicted as the Wand - quite a magical tool.
Air. Breathe it in...