The Triadic Elements of Druidry


In the realm of spirituality, there as a common thread throughout many practices known as “the elements.” These elements are not as commonly thought of in secular society corresponding to the ninety-two modern elements of the 'Periodic Table' as taught in the educational system. They actually hold little value to such educational systems of which teach to memorize and regurgitate rather than inspire and innovate. Rather, the classical elements predate the modern educational system, and the periodic table mentioned.

The classical elements or philosophical atmospheric forces of earth, air, fire, and water -the four things regarded by the ancients as the constituents of all things which heavily influences western occult practices can be found in ancient cultures across the globe.

In ancient Greece, these elements were known as “stoikheion” meaning: any first thing, or principle, something rudimentary in orderly arrangement. In latter times, the Greeks added the element of aether to explain nature in its simpler substances.

In ancient China, a system of five elements was recorded as “wood, fire, earth, metal, and water” which were widely viewed as states of transition and forms of energy rather than actual material composing all of reality. This notion of the elements form a vast systematic format of healing in the East.

Also, India has has a deep history in its own elemental system known as the Vedic “pancha mahabhuta,” or the "five great elements" of earth (bhumi), water (jala), fire (agni), air (vayu), and aether (akash). The sages of ancient India state that all of creation, to include even the human form, is made up of these five classical elements and that upon death, the human body dissolves into these five elements of nature, bringing balancing the cycle of nature. Not to digress much here but for those who find the Vedic notion of the classical elements to be of value, I suggest that one does some research upon the extraordinary connections and similarities found between European and Indian languages, culture, and the possible impact on Druidry.

While the aforementioned elemental systems are by no means exhaustive, they are meant to demonstrate to the reader the importance of the classical elements to cultural and spiritual practices across the globe. Druidry is no exception!

Within the path of Druidry, an elemental system of it's own containing is found within its lore. We cannot say for sure what Druids believed on this matter (due to lack of writings). We find the first formalized notion of Druidic elements in the writings of Iolo Morganwg (a Welsh antiquarian and researcher of Druidic lore and practice). The validity of these elements being a legitimate extraction of historical sources, or an invention of his own is up for debate, but there is no debate on the impact that these elements have had on contemporary Druidry. For this reason, they are an important factor in a druids practice, and certainly not without substance.

Not unlike the sacred tradition of the utilization of the number three in Celtic philosophy, law, poems, wisdom, etc. Three is not only a number of growth, but also a number of balance. It philosophically demonstrates there is a middle ground between polar opposites. Three shows that there is a medium, a balance between black and white, good and evil, left and right, male and female. It does not have to be one or the other. It is easy to see why triads were do important in Druidic thought. Thus, it is no surprise that Druids are said to have adhered to the 'Triadic Elements' of Nwyfre, Gwyar, and Calas.

Nwyfre (pronounced “NOO-iv-ruh”) is an old Welsh term meaning “sky” or “heavens” It is directly related to consciousness, the life force, and the mind. It is associated with the spirit within all things. It is similar to the Chinese concept of Qi, or the Vedic concept of Prana. but on a higher level. It is not to be mistaken with Awen as the two are separate in nature.
Awen is an energy that brings illumination, inspiration, and often wisdom connecting us to the supernatural world. It contains a consciousness of it's own, coming and going at will.
Nwyfre however is the very life force within all that lives. It is always flowing and connects us to all that is within the natural world. As an element, Nwyfre is often seen as aether or spirit. In secular understanding, it is often viewed as 'life.'

Gwyar (pronounced “GOO-yar”) is an old Welsh term meaning “blood.” It is directly related to change, growth, decay, impermanence, movement, etc. and thus is often explained as the fluidity or process of things. It is often associated with emotions. As an element, it is often seen as water. In secular understanding it is often vied as 'energy.'

Calas (pronounced “CAH-lass”) is an old Welsh term meaning “hard” or “solidity.” It is directly related to form, substance, manifestation, stability, distinguishable traits, etc. It is often associated with the physicality of things. As an element is is often seen as Earth. In secular understanding, calas is often viewed as 'matter.'

It is from these 'Triadic Elements' that classical Druidic philosophy demonstrates everything in the infinite Universe is comprised of in one combination or another of these elements. However, unlike the elements of the Periodic table, these Triadic Elements are not meant to explain the exact composition of matter, but rather to present a methodology of understanding the natural world (to include one's self), and often the supernatural world as well, through its patterns which provide insight to unlock the theosophical mysteries it contains. Let us utilize an example of everyday life to further one's understanding of this concept.

The Druids of old were people often still invested in a hunter gatherer lifestyle. To eat, one would carefully select the ingredients of one's food (whether that be meat, vegetables, herbs, etc.) from the desired environment. The Druid would then carefully prepare the ingredients, cooking them by the desired method (stew, open flame, etc.). Upon completion, the Druid would then enjoy his or her meal.

The raw ingredients of the herbs, meat, vegetables, etc. are of the calas element, the very substance of the meal. The process of cooking these ingredients to become ones meal are of the gwyar element, the very process of changing from raw materials to ones complete meal. The selection of the environment for the selected ingredients, the choice in method of cooking the ingredients, the skill-set of the Druid in cooking the meal is of the nwyfre element, the mental aspect and energy involved in creating the meal.

The Triadic Elements are further exemplified in the process of birth, life, and death. These three combined are a demonstration of gwyar, the changing from young to old, life to death (the impermanence of life), the development and growth of the fetus to birth, etc. are a reflection of gwyar. Upon birth, in our manifested form as infants, we are embraced and held. This manifestation as an infant is a direct reflection of calas, the substance as a human. From the moment of conception, we are imbued with consciousness. This is a reflection of nwyfre, the life force within. As conscious beings we learn as we grow, make choices, gain knowledge, etc. Nwyfre is active within.

There are many other examples that one could bring forth. In fact, I implore the readers of this essay to spend time in meditation, reflecting upon the Triadic Elements and their relationship to the world around us. In doing so, one begins to train the brain to recognize these patters in the environment around us, thus making the unlocking of its mysteries much easier.

This process of meditation and reflection upon the Druid's philosophy of the Triadic Elements is akin to the turning of a key to unlock a door. To merely know one has a key is not enough. One must first place the key in the lock, then it must be turned. Likewise, to merely memorize and formulate the Triadic Elements is not enough. One must 'know' and understand them. Then, one can apply them. To truly know them, one must experience them consciously (we all experience them subconsciously). We must approach them in mindfulness.

Once one has an understanding of the process of the Triadic Elements, how does one apply them? My preferred form of meditation is 'Earthing' (walking barefoot) in the the woods. In doing so, it lowers my gaze allowing me to observe (nwyfre) the soil, rocks, flora, fauna, insects, animals, etc. around me (calas). I notice how each plant lives in a cyclical nature of seed, to sprout, full grown, death, then beginning again (gwyar).

I then reflect on how this applies in my life, realizing that the cyclical nature of birth, growth, death applies also to humanity (calas). I realize that each time a plant, insect, or animal (calas) dies (gwyar), it becomes (gwyar) part of the nutrient rich soil that feeds the seed (Calas) to sprout (nwyfre) and continue the cycle again. Its very life and death impacts those around it.

I awaken (Nwyfre) to the notion that what I do in this life will in some way impact others. It changes (gwyar) how I (calas) choose to live my life. I learn to see this Triad in every aspect of my life. It becomes part of my thought process, and thus when facing a difficult decision, I ask myself in choosing to do this, what is my reasoning (nwyfre)? What affects (gwyar) will it have (on me, others, the environment, etc.)? Will things remain the same (calas)? While this is a simple example, one can see that the Triadic Elements are much more than descriptions of the reality of out natural world. It is a road-map to discovery of the hidden.

It is easy to see why the Druids of old would adhere to the Triadic Elemental philosophy. It is a clear demonstration of balance and harmony in all facets of life. In the deeply polarized society we live in today, the importance of such a Triadic philosophy should be an integral part of the contemporary Druids path. After all, the path of the Druid is one of balance. What better way to tech such a philosophy that living out the teaching as embodied in the Triadic Elements!