Friday, August 3, 2012

Macrocosm in the Microcosm: A Metaphysical Look at the Hallows

The following is an article I have been working on that I will be submitting to the ADF publication, OakLeaves. For those that are interested in Druidry this is a great journal for learning about ADF Druidry and Indo-European studies.

There are many within the Pagan community that understand the phrase ‘the macrocosm within the microcosm,’ but how many have taken the time to look at that phrase to truly see how its meaning might apply to ADF’s cosmology and a few of the possible variations of the Sacred Hallows?  First we need to understand the definitions of the two concepts we are working. The word macrocosm can be defined as ‘the great universe; the universe considered as a whole’ (Random House , Macrocosm). Microcosm can be defined as ‘human beings, humanity, society or the like, viewed as an epitome or miniature of the world or universe’ (Random House , Microcosm).  With an understanding of the definitions for macrocosm and microcosm we can begin to take a look at how different variations on the Sacred Hallows are without as well as within us.

The first view point I want to take a look at is one of the more commonly used variation of the Sacred Hallows: Fire, Well, and Tree.

Each of these Sacred Hallows contains associations that correspond with various aspects of the ADF cosmology.  Cosmology is the central focal point of our Druid practice. The well is associated with the Sea, all the waters within all the worlds, and the Underworld.  The tree is a symbol of the Land and all that lives within the Middleworld.  The fire is linked with the Sky, the divine, and the Upperworld (ADF 26). Through the combination of the Sacred Hallows, no matter the variation, forms the Sacred Center. And through the Sacred Center all energy flows. These associations become very important to understanding how we can see the macrocosm within the microcosm.

The human body on average is made up of about 58% water (USGS).  This amount of course varies from male to female and according to age.  As the Well is associated with the Sea and all waters of all the worlds on the macrocosmic level it is a simple step to see how the Well can be associated with the human body on a microcosmic level. Every cell within our bodies is partially made up of water. We consist of around 10 trillion cells (Wikipedia , Human). Equipped with this knowledge we can visualize ourselves having just about that many Wells within us that can be accessed. So when we are opening the Well as a gate we’re not only opening a gate in the physical world to the Underworld but we’re also opening the Well as agate within our bodies. The very water that makes the 58% composition of our bodies becomes linked with all the waters of all the worlds making us one.

The other 40 to 42% of the human body is composed of organic materials (Wikipedia , Body).  These organic materials are a part of the Middleworld.  They live, grow, and die as part of the cycles of life. As stated before the human body is composed of around 10 trillion cells. These cells are largely made of organic material. This material links us with the natural world and the Nature Spirits. It is our anchor to the Middleworld. As beings of Middleworld we are intricately linked with the World-Tree. The World-Tree symbolizes not only the Nature Spirits and the Middleworld but also the pathway between the upper and lower worlds.  When opening the Tree as a gateway we also call upon our physical organic form to become part of that gateway. With 10 trillion cells inside us, we have the potential of opening a vast World-Tree. Our bodies themselves become the pathway between the worlds.

Fire has been seen throughout the ages as a symbol of spirit and the divine.  In this case fire can be seen as a representation of the life force that drives all living beings. Every cell has life. Through the collective cohesion of these cells we are given a form that permits us to live. The fire that drives this life can be seen in the bio-electrical currents and energy fields that living organic materials produce. Another aspect of fire within the body is that of heat. The human body retains an average temperature of around 98.5 ° F or around 37 ° C (Bets Davis). A strict balance of heat must be maintained internally, too high or too low and damage can occur. This can be seen as keeping control of the internal life giving fire. We must also control our external fire that serves as a gateway. When we are open the fire as a gate we are opening not only our spirit as the gate to the Upperworld but the very living essence of each cell within us.  We’re opening ourselves as the gate to the divine.

Another possible variation to look at when seeing the Macrocosm in the Microcosm is taking the view point of the Sacred Hallows or gates being the Three Realms: Sea, Land, and Sky.

The waters of the earth flow from springs and creeks which travel their way into ponds, lakes, and rivers. Some of these springs and creeks start out as glacial waters or subterranean sources. We consume water from these bodies to maintain life. Our bodies then process and use portions of the water consumed. What is not used is then removed from the body. The waters are then returned back to their flows which in many cases end up in the seas. If we call to the Sea as a Hallow and gateway we are calling to all the waters of all the worlds. This means not only the waters of the planet but also the waters within our bodies. Even with waters within our bodies at some point came from the cyclical water system of our planet. So to call on the Sea as a gate is to call upon the waters or smaller sea within us.

The realm of Land is not just composed of organic materials. Its composition is made up of various minerals, rocks, and elements. Many of these can be found within the composition of our bodies as well. Plants pull these elements from the soil. When animals eat the plants and other animals they then absorb the needed elements. We then consume both plants and animals which add to the existing amounts of minerals and elements within us. Through this process we become part of the land itself. If we are made up of some of the same materials both organic and non-organic, then calling upon the Land as a gateway is calling upon the very essence of ourselves.

Besides water the other requirement for most organic life is breathable air. Air is made up of many different gases. Some are harmful while others are beneficial. Most plants need carbon dioxide to perform their biological functions while most animal life needs oxygen. Organic life forms take in the needed gases to help fuel the conversion of their food sources so that they can live. The byproduct gases are then released back into the air. These gases, like the water so dearly needed for life, are present in every cell of organic materials. With that train of thought, calling on the realm of Sky as a gateway allows us to call upon another of the necessary components of life itself. It calls upon that which surrounds and permeates all living materials.

Within the ADF’s cosmology we have the Three Worlds: the Underworld, the Middleworld, and the Upperworld.  The middle world in which we live contains the Three Realms: Sea, Land, Sky.  We have three commonly used Hallows: the Well, the Tree, and the Fire which we use to connect with the Three Worlds and the Three Realms. There are variations that can be used to open the gateways to the Three Worlds, but no matter how you chose to do so, you are opening the gates within yourself.  And though this alone is a prime example of the macrocosm within the microcosm, the Sacred Hallows’ live within the human body bringing the macrocosm even closer to home within the microcosm. It allows us to see our connection with the Realms around us as well as with the Three Worlds and the Well, Tree, and Fire. The tools we use are merely a focal point for we are truly the Sacred Hallows; we are the macrocosm within the microcosm.

Works Cited

ADF. ADF Dedicant Program Handbook- Samhain 2005 Edition. Ár nDraíocht Féin Publishing, 2005.
Bets Davis, MFA. "Body Temperature." 20 February 2009. Yahoo Health. 22 November 2009 <>.
Random House. Macrocsom. 2009. July 2009 <>.
—. Microcosm. 2009. July 2009 <>.
USGS. "Water Science for Schools." 13 May 2009. USGS- Science for a changing world. May 2009 <>.
Wikipedia. "Body Water." 21 September 2009. May 2009 <>.
—. "Human flora." 29 October 2009. 14 November 2009 <>.
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