God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”  Genesis 1:6

The chemistry of the Middle Ages concerned with the transmutation of base metals into gold. Any preternatural power or process of transmutation. The process of synthesis through which the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. In very practical mundane terms, composting is an alchemical process, and it requires the four elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

Earth = the discarded matter; manure or garbage

Water = rain and the liquids of the decomposing process

Air = the play of the wind as well as our intentional aeration by pitchfork or tumbling

Fire = the internal heat generated by the process of decomposition

This alchemical process naturally turns nature’s discarded organic matter into the best of all fertilizers – organic compost. It’s what grows the healthiest produce. Though when left to itself composting happens slowly in the forests and fields and barnyards, we can be part of this natural alchemical process. By intentionally building a compost pile and turning and airing it out, we can manage and speed up the transmuting of garbage into fertile gold.

In our process of self-development the alchemy will eventually work its magic without us if, as some feel, we really do evolve over many lifetimes. When we are brave enough to take a stand in the pile of discarded, buried and disowned ‘garbage’ of our past though, and air it all out, we can participate in and speed up the process! We can turn it into compost, and then draw on that fabulous fertilizer of our own life experiences to grow healthier and more empowered and to fulfill our potential! It’s a messy process, and it’s wet. First wet with our tears of pain and regret. Then we feel clean as if fresh from the shower, and afterwards come the tears of joy as we revel in the freedom, and celebrate our blossoming!

In Celtic mythology, Boand, sometimes known as the Bride of the Waters, was involved with many men, one of whom was Nechtan, who jealously guarded the Sacred Well of Segais. Although he only allowed his three cup bearers access to the well, Boand secretly went there and walked counter-clockwise three times in a circle around the well. This caused the waters to rise up and overwhelm Boand and to become the great river Boyne, making her a Goddess and the embodiment of the river itself. Now Boand took a risk and broke the rules and she did become overwhelmed by those watery emotions. And yet as she let go and immersed herself, she became the river and the flow, and as she became empowered she became the Goddess.

The ancient Celts saw water as the boundary between our world and the other – unknown realms. It was the source of the wisdom and knowledge of the ancestors. Later, St. John the Baptist led Jesus into the river Jordan so he would be washed free of human sin by the waters and prepared to take on his God-ness.

While the Celtic Goddess Ceridwen mixed a brew of inspiration and wisdom in her cauldron, now we may brew a cup of tea and contemplate a project or decision. We may throw a coin into a fountain or wishing well, asking that our wish be granted. In doing that we make a small sacrifice hoping for something greater. We spend nine months in a sack of fluid in the womb in order to be birthed into this human form. We still baptize with water. Later we may go to natural mineral springs and immerse ourselves wanting to be healed.

Let’s face it, our species evolved out of the brew on the floor and edges of the sea! We have long told tales of enchantment by inhabitants of the sea, and though we’ve drawn images of sea monsters on maps of uncharted waters, we’ve gone there anyway! Water is the source of life and its mysteries, and an essential element in the alchemical process!

As with compost, clay without water is just powder – dust. Without water it can’t take and hold a form. As the pot is built the water content must be carefully managed …too dry and it crumbles…too wet and it sags and slumps. In our own self-development our relationship with our watery emotions and intuitions must also be balanced. If we overindulge our emotions we’re weakened…we may slump into self- pity. If we over rely on our intuition we may neglect the part of our lives that need our left brains and in that slump we may stop paying our bills on time! Yet without these watery components, life is dry and brittle, and we cannot flow into and hold our proper form. Water suggests depth. When we‘re willing to ‘plumb the depths’, to break the surface, delve into and explore the depths of our emotional wisdom, we are free to find our sunken treasure.

The Voice of Clay is committed to encouraging conscious living. In order to live consciously we have to come to terms with who we are. We can’t fulfill our potential while suppressing the parts of our nature that we tend to disown. When we’re in a therapeutic process, whether it’s creating with clay or applying it to our body, exploring our astrological contract or our dreams, or intentionally breathing into our fear and pain, we may shed those tears of sadness, release and joy. Experiencing physically, emotionally and spiritually that alchemical healing, allows us to reclaim and celebrate who we truly are an invites us to dive more deeply into that magical ocean of consciousness of which we are an essential part!

shannon BurkeVoice of Clay