Plant an Elemental Garden
If you’re a Pagan or Wiccan who’s into gardening, you might want to consider planting an elemental garden. The four classical elements are often associated with Pagan and Wiccan spirituality, so why not incorporate them into your gardening? Litha is a great time to work on your garden, so if you haven’t gotten out there digging in the dirt yet, now’s your chance! The sun is at its peak, the earth is nice and warm, and plants are growing all around. Move some of your existing plants (or put some new ones in) and create an elemental garden. By connecting different parts of your garden with the four elements, you can add a little bit of magic into your life each year. Here’s how to get started.
Before you plant anything, you’ll need to figure out how much space you have to work with. Ideally, you’ll want to make your elemental garden in a circle. To make a circle in your yard, figure out first where you want the center to be. Mark the center by driving a temporary stake into the ground. Next, figure out what diameter you want the circle to be. Using a piece of string tied to the top of the stake, walk around in a circle, marking the perimeter. You can do this with birdseed, a handful of dirt, or anything else you like. Once you’ve marked your circle, till up the soil. Although it’s good exercise to use a shovel, it’s also backbreaking work. If you’ve got a large space to cover, you may want to invest in a good rototiller.
Once you’ve tilled up the soil, figure out which way is north. You can do this easily with a compass, or if you know where the sun rises and sets, it shouldn’t be too hard to determine which way is east and which is west. After you’ve figured out your directions, divide your circle into quadrants, so that each direction has one quarter of the circle. Mark your spaces with stones. You can either use small ones, (don’t just throw away the ones you dig up!), or you can use large pavers
Each of the four directions is associated with an element. North is connected to Earth, East to Air, South to Fire and West to Water***. To plant your elemental garden, figure out which plants are connected with those particular elements – and this will vary depending on where you live. For example, Earth is associated with stability and security. Why not plant some herbs there that carry the same associations? Bryony, cinquefoil, honeysuckle, and pennyroyal * are all related to Earth.
For the East section of your garden, which is tied into the themes of Air, use plants connected with inspiration, wisdom and knowledge. Sage, marjoram, mugwort and members of the mint family are perfect for this quarter of the circle. In the South, select plants related to the passionate qualities of Fire, such as basil, betony, rosemary and rue. Finally, the West quadrant is where your Water-related plants should go – hyssop, yarrow, chamomile and ivy will do well in this section.
* Be cautious when selecting plants for your garden, and be sure to do your research. Some forms of pennyroyal are toxic and can cause miscarriage in pregnant women, and can be potentially fatal if ingested by small children.
As you dig a hole for each plant, you may wish to add a blessing. Get your hands in the dirt, dig in, and feel the soil. Thank the Earth for the gift it’s going to give you. As you place the plant or seeds in the hole, you might want to offer something like:
May the gods smile upon this plant,
bringing it strength and long life.
Or, you may prefer to offer a specific blessing for each quadrant – for the South section, offer a blessing of Fire, for the West, a blessing of Water, and so on. In some traditions, it’s popular to smudge the garden or perform some other purification rite after planting – after all, a garden is a sacred space.
If you’re going to spend any time in your elemental garden – and you’ll need to, if you don’t want your plants to die – it’s not a bad idea to add accessories that make you feel at home. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you might want to consider some of the following:
- Statues of the gods of your tradition
- A gazing ball
- A fountain or other water feature
- A fire bowl
- A small altar
- A bench or chair for meditation
- Wind chimes or bells
- A prayer pole or decorative flag
To tie in the accessories to the elemental theme, consider a Water feature in the South corner, a small brazier to the West, a pile of stones in the North, or a decorative flag on the East portion. Any of these will be perfect for bringing you closer to the elements in your garden. Make your garden a place where you can sit and reflect, and it will indeed be a spiritual and magical place!
Do you live in an apartment or dorm room, or some other location with limited space? Don’t worry – you can still grow things! Container gardening makes it a breeze. Use flower pots, hanging baskets, or other items arranged in a group of four to create your elemental garden. You can even paint them with colors or symbols associated with the four cardinal directions. If you’re really strapped for space, use one container with four plants in it. For more ideas, be sure to visit our Container Gardening site at About.com.
***Note from Dawtch – I have said this numerous times, but just in case there’s a new reader out there, my PERSONAL associations are different – North is Air, East is Earth. For more of my views, you can go here.
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