Magical correspondences are generally thought of as simple correlations among the elements, directions, seasons, and colors that are frequently used in ritual. Dig a little bit deeper, especially for spellwork, and the number of correspondences seems to increase exponentially—which can become confusing. It can even make you wonder why we use them. This is a good question; however, once we understand what correspondences are all about we can use them more effectively as magical tools.
It is often noted that the purpose of correspondences is to help us focus and direct energy for ritual and spellwork. This is true; however, our use of them is more complex and operates on a significantly deeper level. Using magical correspondences helps us foster our intentions and energy to develop a clear vision of what we want to accomplish or how we want to handle an issue in our lives. They can also help us create a magical home. While correspondences can seem like nothing more than rote lists and tables, it is how we choose to view them that makes a difference.
I can almost hear you saying, "What, we have a choice?" Yes, we can choose how to view correspondences, and as Pagans who celebrate cyclical time it should be easy to stop thinking of them in a linear fashion. Having written a number of books in which I included lists of correspondences, I admit that this is a practical way to organize and present information. However, to be Pagan is to use our imaginations, creativity, and intuition, which is how we breathe life into correspondences.
One of my aims in putting together Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences was to present this information in a way that is well organized, straightforward, and easy to use. However, my second aim was to introduce the concept of using correspondences to create a web of energy. Instead of isolating them from each other and only looking at how they relate to your intention, consider how correspondences might also connect amongst themselves. These interconnecting relationships can provide a dynamic experience that empowers rituals and spellwork. Not only are correspondences like threads with which we weave our tapestries of magic, but they are also fundamental to how we think.
Let's take a closer look at this. Correspondences are fundamental to how we think because our brains are constantly making connections called patterns of association. As new information is received, the brain tries to connect it with existing information, expanding its web of associations. It is also through these connections and associations that we retrieve information. However, this goes further than mere data that is recorded and later retrieved, because the information in our heads is multidimensional. For example, when we call the direction south during ritual we may refer to the element fire, noontime, or summer, all of which serve to evoke more than data. In the moment of ritual we may feel the sensation of heat or the brightness of the sun because our brains store patterns of association on many levels that can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. As a result, our brains can translate flat information from a book into a multidimensional experience.
Now that we know how our brains deal with interconnected information, let's take a look at how to create a web of correspondences. In this example well use the intention of manifesting abundance. You might start with the rune Feoh, the Ogham character Ruis, and the zodiac sign Virgo, all of which are associated with abundance. Then, you might want to add a gemstone and a plant, but how do you decide which ones to choose? There are certainly more than one gemstone and one plant associated with abundance. This is where we look for interconnected associations among the correspondences.
I find that sketching out my ideas often makes it easier to develop them, so take a piece of paper and write the word abundance in the middle of the page. We will start adding correspondences beginning with the elder tree and element earth. Leave some space above abundance on the page and write the word elder and the word earth with a little space between them. To the right of abundance, continue around in a circle and write peridot, Virgo, honeysuckle, and Gaia, indicating a gemstone, zodiac sign, plant, and goddess, respectively. Next, draw a line from each word to abundance. At this point, the diagram looks like a hub with spokes as each correspondence connects with the intention.
With this hub in place, we can start to build a web of interrelationships among the correspondences. Begin by drawing a line from elder to earth, from earth to peridot, from peridot to Virgo, and continue around the circle connecting each correspondence to its neighbors. Now we have a wheel, because all of these correspondences are associated with each other. Inside the circle and above the word abundance we can write the names of the rune and Ogham, Feoh and Ruis, respectively. Draw a line from each of these to abundance as well as to elder because they are also associated with the elder tree. In addition, we can make other connections in the circle by drawing a line from earth to peridot and another from earth to honeysuckle.
Using this concept of a web can aid us in selecting correspondences that will add the most power for achieving our intentions. Continuing with our example of manifesting abundance, we could have used the gemstone moss agate or citrine; however, peridot is associated with more of the other selections. Unless you really prefer a shotgun approach, the goal with a web is to find as many connections as possible with the fewest number of correspondences. However, if a particular correspondence resonates with you (citrine rather than peridot in our example) use it and adjust the other correspondences accordingly to create your web. The important thing to keep in mind is to select those that through mutual association provide a foundation upon which to build energy for your intention. I think of correspondences as forming a base structure that supports and amplifies energy.
Now that we've examined how to create a web of correspondences, let's look at the things we use to represent them. Plants have been important for nourishment and healing since ancient times, and it's no wonder that they are powerful allies for magic and ritual. Because parts of plants carry their own symbolism, such as a seed for fertility or growth, we can couple this association with correspondences for an extra boost. In our example, using elderberries, the fruit of the elder tree, would help bring our intention of abundance to fruition (no pun intended). Minerals, metals, and seashells are perfect for magical work because they are formed through the dynamic processes of the natural world and carry this potent energy. With a long history of use in healing practices, many gemstones and crystals have mystical and otherworldly aspects that can enhance the energy we build for our intentions.
Like plants, animals have been magical allies since prehistoric times, serving as symbols of power as well as representing desirable qualities. In general, because they live more intimately with nature, animals possess wisdom of the natural world as well as the ability to guide us to other realms. Unlike plants, tapping into their energy is trickier as nowadays we prefer to put the welfare of animals before our own desires. While the energy of a lion might be fantastic for magic work, not many of us have access to them (nor would we want to put ourselves in danger just to tap into their energy). This is also true for poisonous plants. However, we don't always need physical things to accomplish our goals. Symbolism provides us with the ability connect with animals as well as deities, runes, planets, and other things that we use as correspondences. Symbols help because they function as surrogates to provide the power we seek.
Although we may not be aware of them, symbols are an integral part of daily life in the form of road signs, laundering instructions, and mathematical or secretarial shorthand. In addition, as you read this article you are using the symbols of written language. While these symbols communicate information, they are mundane and don't hold significant personal meaning. However, in art, myth, and religion we find symbols that convey deeply intuitive wisdom. Throughout time people have used a wide range of symbols to represent things, express abstract ideas, and draw energy. Since most symbols are multi-layered and operate on the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels, they awaken a response from our inner worlds.
Writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell noted that a symbol is something separate and different from what it represents and that it suggests rather than creates. For example, a rune and Ogham character are simply lines if you don't know the meanings behind them, but when you do understand them they provide a wealth of information. Likewise, the circle is a powerful symbol for Pagans: with no beginning or end it represents cyclical time, the seasons, life-death-rebirth, the full moon, and much more. Through symbolism, correspondences allow us to connect with ideas as well as anything that we are unable to touch firsthand. In this way they also serve as links to the past allowing us to connect with ancient myths and ancestors as well as other realms.
Regardless of form, we find relevance in correspondences because of the energy they activate within us. Explore the web approach and follow your intuition for insight into how they can support your unique energy. Ultimately you will discover how they can help you bring this energy out into the world to fine-tune your rituals and boost spells as well as create magical personal surroundings.
Sandra Kynes (Portland, ME) is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids and the author of seventeen books, including Star Magic, Llewellyn's Complete Book of Correspondences, Mixing Essential Oils for Magic, ...