In calling the directions to create sacred space, we traditionally place Air in the East, Heat in the South, Water in the West, and Earth in the North. The question has arisen many times as to where this set of directions came from: The word tradition is insufficient.
The answer is clearly: the Punjab. The Punjab is an area in northeastern India and southeast Pakistan, and the word itself means five rivers. It is the area of one of the oldest civilizations yet discovered: the Indus Valley civilization. It is also an area subject to disastrous floods, and may actually be the source for ideas of Noah’s flood, if we trouble to scrape off our shoe the old habitual assumptions.
Go to the web or to your public library, and look up trade winds. You will find that in the area of the Punjab the wind blows from the east: therefore it is logical to assign Air to the East. Similarly, the Himalayan massif is to the north, so that putting Earth in the North is logical.
Today most thinking occultists and Wiccans acknowledge that the directions should be called depending on the location of the worker. To do so is a symptom that the workers are thinking about the significance of what they are doing, in contrast to passively, numbly continuing to work the old patterns handed down on who-knows-what authority from who-knows-what distant land. If you are on the east coast of North America, it is logical–rational, mindful–to put Water in the East. If you are on the west coast, vice versa: you would put Water in the West. From the perspective of the northern hemisphere, Heat is in the South. Again, in the southern hemisphere the thinking is flipped.
Thus we can develop a set of directions for a ritual on the east coast or on the west coast of North America with the only decision left to make being what to put in the north. For many years now we Frosts have recommended putting Time in the North. This equates to old age, white hair, and (we may hope) wisdom. Many of us also add the sixth direction; that is, Above. Here it is logical to use either Spirit or Grandfather Sky. Since Time is in the North in our circle, we prefer to use Spirit.
Thus to fit our location USA east, we use, Earth (what workers stand on): below our feet.
Water in the East (the place of new beginnings; e.g. dawn), Heat and emotion in the South, Air in the West (since the winds blow from the west), Time in the North, and Spirit Above. If you tune your calls to fit your location, we think you will feel more comfortable with the result than you would by using the ancient Indus Valley/Punjab system. Do your research, and let us know.
Blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne