|my mind: ???? (https://lovegodbob.files.wordpress.com)|
Salamanders used to confuse me. I remember being a Baby Pagan and reading about the elemental correspondences to the directions. I was familiar with the concept of elementalsthrough playing Dungeons and Dragons (true story) and elements and directions are simple enough, but I was confused about the elemental creatures and how they corresponded to the directions and physical elements. This is especially true with South, fire, and the salamander (and less so with the other three elements, elementals, and directions.)
So, in most traditions, the elemental creature that corresponds to the direction of South and the element of fire is the Salamander. What confused me was that I associated salamanders, reptiles, amphibians, and lizards with water. For some reason, lizards and salamanders seemed slimy and moist to me, slippery and fluid, not at all like the fiery, darting, flashing associations of fire. This really bothered me for a long time.
|adorable and moist. My mind: fire??? (http://zolanimals.tumblr.com/)|
Throughout this year, one of the Pagan Groups I’m involved in has been teaching workshops and generally focusing on the Spirits of Place. It was through exploring this topic that I finally began to understand salamanders and their association with fire, and it wasn’t until I did some good old fashioned research that I found out the answer. (aka Google and Wikipedia).
So, elementals are a common idea found throughout folklore, but it wasn’t until the 16th century and an alchemist named Paracelsus finally wrote his thoughts down, thus making it “official.” The reason he and others put salamanders in the south and with fire was because they all thought that salamanders came from fire. What would happen was that during cold months, salamanders would go and hide in wood piles where things were nice and cozy and protected from the harsh weather. People would bring the wood in from outside, add the wood to their fires, and then salamanders would go scattering everywhere, as if springing up from the flames themselves. Because of this, people thought that salamanders came from the fire (rather than coming from the wood that was eventually set on fire) so that is how salamanders become associated with the element of fire, which is associated with the south.
|my mind: ah ha! (http://freedomfortooting.files.wordpress.com)|
But the more I thought about this, the more I realized how wrong I was about salamanders and lizards and other crawly guys. I spent my youth in the Southwest, where there are plenty of lizards and not much water. In addition to having associations with fire and salamanders, many cultures have stories of fire breathing dragons and other majestic, powerful, and fiery creatures.
The association is simple, really, I just overthink things! (or don’t use enough common sense… but the end result is still the same.) And I’m happy for my new-found knowledge and understanding of South, fire, and the salamander, because finally, the elements are complete to me in a way they were not before!
What’s something really obvious about Pagans that took you a long time to learn or understand that you’re embarrassed to admit? Don’t hold back! We’ve all been there! Share it in the comments and we’ll all laugh together!