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Why is the Moon grade connected to the element of Air?

One of the questions we get asked the most about the 2=9 is why is it attributed to the element of Air. After all the Moon regulates the tides and there is all sorts of water symbolism that is associated with Luna.
It is a question that might not have occurred to students of the Golden Dawn before the twentieth century . This is because the association of water to the moon is a fairly modern attribution.
Until the wide scale adoption of the notion that the earth and all the planets orbited the Sun and the moon orbited the earth, there was a more hierarchical order to the universe.
Below was the earth and water which we could walk or swim in. The next level between these two elements and the moon was Air. The moon hung in the air and acted as a boundary between the sub luna elements and the more holy fire element which stretched to the throne of god and upon which the planets rested. Everything that was sub-luna was subject to decay while the heavens were seen as eternal. Demonic forces, humans, ghosts were all sub-luna.
The Moon was said to control all these things, earth, water and air but it was very often seen in a negative way. Luna goddesses such as Diana and Hekate always had a bad press but became associated with witchcraft because they dealt with that unconscious underbelly of humanities desires and fears.
Then, in the 1940s, a former Golden Dawn Magician Dion Fortune wrote a novel called Moon Magic. Although the book never identifies the moon with the element of water there is an lot of water in the settings and associations. The symbolism so impressed the founder of modern witchcraft Gerald Gardner that he assumed that since the moon controlled the tides (which was an important link in Moon Magic) then luna must be attributed to water.
Wicca, and Moon magic has influenced much of modern magic and alas Luna’s total dominance by the element of water has been taken as read. Even if the moon actually controls a lot more.
However there are some good sound cabbalistic reasons why Yesod, and the Moon is Air. There are three pillars on the tree of life. The white Pillar is attributed to fire while the black pillar is water. The middle pillar is attributed to air. Yesod is upon the middle pillar.
One of the famous side effects of a 2=9 initiation is that the person becomes an “air head” and a bit ditzy.  I

10 thoughts on “Why is the Moon grade connected to the element of Air?

  1. I can think of one more reason why some have associated the Moon with the element of water. The tattva of water is a crescent moon.

    Adesh!
    -Aghor Pir

  2. Hi Nick,

    nice post, great stuff. Makes sense. My first GD teacher tried to somehow have Water in Yesod for the Moon connection on his tree, cos he worked that way as a Wiccan (his main path). It was a weird mess.

    I would have assumed the water-moon connection was pre Dion. May look into this further at some point.

    Thanks 🙂

  3. It goes back a lot further than the 1940s. Check out Agrippa, plenty of water associations (after earth) in the Moon: 1st Book of Occult Philosophy, Chapter 24:

    These things are Lunary, amongst the Elements, viz. the Earth, then the Water, as well that of the Sea, as of the Rivers, and all moist things, as the moisture of Trees, and Animals, especially they which are White, as the Whites of Eggs, fat, sweat, flegme [phlegm], and the superfluities of bodies. […] Also Pearls, which are generated in shels [shells] of fishes from the droppings of Water, also the Berill [beryl]. […] Amongst fowle, Geese, Ducks, Didoppers, and all kind of watery fowl as prey upon fish, as the Heron […] Amongst fish these are Lunary, Ælurus, whose eyes are changed according to the course of the Moon, and whatsoever observes the motion of the Moon, as the Tortoise, the Echeneis, Crabs, Oisters [oysters], Cockles, and Frogs.

    And Hermetics teaches that the Moon is above Fire in the Corpus Hermeticum, Book 2: Divine Pymander. When the Logos descended, the elements separated to greet him, Fire leaping to the highest, then air, then water-earth, still mingled, before the spirit of the Lord hovered over the waters.

    1. The Moon also rules Cancer, which is Cardinal Water.

      Still, Nick makes an important point. The “sub-Luna” spirits in the grimoires (which includes all spirits beneath the celestial realm but above the underworld – hence all Elementals, Jinn, Faery, etc.) are called the aerial spirits. And, as we see in the Key of Solomon, they are governed primarily by the phases of the Moon.

  4. @Nick Farrell – If you would please clarify this for me… – The *symbol* used for the Water (Apas) Tattva by the Order of the Golden Dawn is not a silver crescent moon? I do understand that the Moon sphere (Yesod) is not associated with Water but with Air. I was referring to the Tattva symbol. Thanks.

  5. Zalewski addresses this issue of Moon for air instead of water in his Ritual Commentary book in the first paragraph under the Preparation for the Theoricus ceremony. Essentially he says its in the ciphers.

  6. I have to think this over a little longer because I do associate moon with water (tides, menstruation) and Yesod in general as a reflective sphere with attributions such as ever changing, connectedness, in flux, fluid, the (collective) unconscious. Also the location in the body, is much more watery than airy to me.

    But in the Golden Dawn, is Yesod really associated with air, or just the grade 2=9? It seems that in the 2=9 we have two separate currents coming together, the Yesod initiation (with moon qualities) and the air initiation, or am I as a pre-neophyte confusing the issue?

    If we look at the elemental attribution to Yesod, we should probably also look at Hod. The grade associated with Hod concerns with a water initiation, yet when I look at the mercurial qualities of Hod, like communication, rationality, separation, etc, these look much more airy to me.

    Netzach: well, both watery and fiery, but I have less problems with attributing just fire to it. Are we trying to fit elemental associations to seforit that do not perfectly accept these attributions?

    So maybe we can look at the grades in (at least) a dual way. On one hand we have the sefirot initiations (with more planetary qualities associated with them) and on the other hand elemental initiations which map less perfectly to the sefirot themselves.

  7. What I noticed was that the 3 Outer Order Grades have Planets that are oppositional to the elemental energies in the Grade. The key to this is in comparing the Zodiacal planetary rulership to the opposite or 180 deg Zodiacal sign; this is the classic primary-secondary flash.

    The three Inner Order grades are harmonious, the key to this is the solid-primary colours.

    The Outer is transformative because it invokes oppositional energies.

    YShY

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