|The Natural World
Without trying to communicate with and understand nature, we cannot ever begin to interact with the world around us. Many humans and even youkai are surrounded by human habitation, and this has become integrated with what many think of as 'nature' because this is the world's state in many parts. Even asphalt and tall buildings have their place in nature as part of a habitation, and in some cities parks are built with huge and all but enclosed ecosystems side by side with apartment buildings, stores and other similar things.
However, in many cases habitations are not occurrences of nature itself but instead attempts to control nature and bend it to the will of whomever might wish to be shielded. This is true for all animals, humans included, and too widespread a habitation often intrudes upon others. Humans are most guilty of extending their cities, towns, and villages far outside of their need, which can make it difficult to live for both humans and any other creatures who happen to be near.
It is not impossible to live in harmony with nature, though, wherever you happen to be. Even within the middle of a city one can bring nature and commune with it. Without trees and plants, for example, cities look bleak and inhospitable indeed. It is much the same with homes. Even if you live in an apartment, it is advisable that you keep at least a few living plants in your house. It is always best to grow them from seed, but if you feel uncomfortable doing that you can purchase many affordable plants at nearly any store. If you insist that you have no 'green thumb', many types of ferns (especially the popular 'air ferns') and bromeliads are easy to care for and lush, beautiful plants that will bring color and life to your home.
Location is not as important as mindset. However, natural things like plants, trees, and wildlife can help you to achieve a more harmonious mindset. By observation of these things, one may even begin to make sense out of the chaos surrounding. By finding a focus and a still point in nature, we can find the same in ourselves.
Traditionally the five elements in the lands where onmyoudou were practiced were fire, water, earth, metal, and wood. These continue to be thought of in much the same way today, in most of the East. In the West, however, the elements are four, with an occasional variable fifth that tends to be called spirit, magic, or a similarly profound element. The other four are fire, earth, wind or air, and water.
If we use the traditional Eastern elements, we come up with cycles. The first is the constructive cycle, in which water allows wood to grow in the form of trees, wood is burned and fuels fire, the ashes from fire are turned to the soil of the earth, the earth creates metal within its depths, and as the metal cools then water condenses upon it, starting the cycle again. Conversely there is also a destructive cycle, in which water douses and extinguishes fire, fire melts metal down, metal slices or smashes through wood, and wood overgrows earth.
The five elements are fire, water, metal, earth and wood. The five elements interact in numerous ways. They can interact in a constructive or destructive manner.
In the constructive cycle water is a source of moisture for wood (trees) to grow, wood is a source of fuel for fire, the remnants of fire is ash (soil) of the earth, the earth forms metals, and metal allows moisture (water) to condense on it as it cools. In the destructive cycle, water extinguishes the flames of fire, fire melts metal, metal cuts through wood, and wood controls the earth by over growing it, while earth absorbs and shuts in water.
This is a simple concept at its base, with an added ability to look at the constructive cycle in reverse to see which elements draw their power from the others and, thereby, weaken them. Although these are not always absolutes, they are helpful guidelines that may assist you in positioning of things and also in dealing with certain matters. It is important to have a balance present when it can be achieved, since imbalance only furthers the chaos and challenges and strains the serenity and focus desired.
In terms of directions, colors, and elements, feng shui can be helpful to some in positioning things. These principles were sometimes used by onmyouji traditionally to assist with auspicious layouts of cities, districts, and houses as well. The most important thing is that the area feels comfortable and serene, not that it adheres to any sort of strict positioning, color scheme, or the like. The following are guidelines, not absolutes, and they may vary from practitioner to practitioner.
~Using Modern Feng Shui~
north - white - water
northeast - brown - earth
east - blue - wood
southeast - green - wood
south - red - fire
southwest - yellow - earth
west - orange - metal
northwest - pink - metal
This uses some colors that are not seen in all traditional feng shui diagrams, but it is a functional chart that you can use for your own practices until you decide which colors and directions are appropriate for you. Note that fire and water occur both only once and oppose each other, whereas earth occurs twice and in opposite directions, which leaves wood and metal to oppose each other, and two opposite ends of the compass again.
~Using Classical Elements~
north - earth
east - air
south - fire
west - water
center - spirit, magic
In the classical elements, those of the West, there are only elements associated with each direction and not always necessarily colors. However, appropriate colors are often used in modern practice, such as brown for earth, white for air, red for fire, and blue for water. The central element is not always used and is often debated about since the center would be different for everyone, because the center is the practitioner himself. Those who use this tend to use an iridescent color, a combination of colors, or other imaginative articles to express the feelings and sensations pertaining to it.
In feng shui, positioning, and even living, it is important to foster the kind of environment that makes you personally feel more at peace. If this means you would prefer to use grey to communicate fire and green for metal, then by all means use it. If you feel that fire belongs more westward rather than south, if it works for you please employ that method. The most important thing is that it puts you personally in a peaceful mindset, not necessarily that others share that mindset or even understand why you have done these things. The approval of others is unnecessary when you are arranging your own personal living space, because only you will be living in it.
If you choose to pursue the traditional methods of placement and wish to employ a compass, you need not pay high prices for bagua or overly complex compasses created for feng shui masters. If you are only beginning, chances are you won't know how to use it anyway. So a simple compass will suffice, one you can find anywhere. You can also make your own compass if you want. Remember that in reading a compass, the needle almost always points north. Be very still in order to allow the compass' needle to settle so that you can read it accurately if this is important to you.
Remember that balance is most important, whatever that means to you. You don't have to buy expensive mats, chimes, or fountains to balance the elements in your living space. All you have to do is use your imagination, and you can balance it to your liking with a few original touches. Metal can be represented simply by metallic things, such as decorative garlands. Fire can be represented by a string of festive lights or lanterns. Wood can be represented by any paper, and so on. There are many ideas to use and many ways you may employ them. Be creative and do your best to bring this to your living space and that of others who may consult you.
The stars and the celestial movements are things that have long fascinated many. In the development of onmyoudou, the study of the stars and their bearings on the world (such as observed in the underlying legends of the Tanabata festival) have regularly proved important and extremely applicable to the study of onmyoudou. For quite some time onmyouji would study charts of the stars and observe their movements, and accordingly their discoveries would assist them in their everyday duties.
Some used the stars to plan out the most auspicious times to call upon their magical arts, whereas others simply consulted the stars for divinatory purposes from time to time. Whatever their purposes, the stars were indispensible to most for their versatility and mystery.
As there are so many resources related to astronomy and astrology the topic will not be explored in depth here, and as with any other research it is up to the individual onmyouji whether or not he or she includes it in practice. Many find astrology to be too complex and difficult to do ably, or simply feel it is not worth the trouble necessary to derive meaningful results. Still others would not imagine going very long without consulting a star chart!
Whatever your decision, remember that any divinatory method or consultation is advising only, not written in stone. Do not live your life strictly by these things. They must be tempered with your own feelings and intuition on the subject, and any onmyouji who does not trust his own inner feelings is less effective.
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