When we were young and innocent (in the days when Jesus walked the streets of Chicago), we used four directions in our circles: east/air, south/fire, west/water, north/earth. Pretty soon, after some gentle guidance from Native Americans, we added above/Grandfather Sky, and down/Mother Earth.
Now we had a problem. To wit: If earth is down, what to put in the north? We decided that Time was appropriate. Chronos is the elder god of the Greek pantheon, and Father Time with his snowy-white hair seemed fine. After all, if there is no time, nothing exists.
That’s how things went for years and years. In the center of our circles was a seventh position: the fire in the stone fireplace (the pentanfaen) representing the Spirit in the stone (that is, the mineral) of our bodies. We thought of the smoke as Self or soul in the act of ascending.
Then we traveled to Korea. We learned that at the center of the Korean circle too there was a position–it was You, the center of your universe. Here You is actually composed of a triplet, as depicted on the Korean spirit fan painted in the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. The colors are said to represent body, spirit, and Deity; or earth, sky, and human.
We always questioned what element is appropriate for which direction. Obviously in Australia, for example, fire is better in the north. If you are working on the east coast of the United States, surely water should be in the east. Remember that east is the direction of new beginnings; and we all began and begin in a fluid environment. Since for most of North America the winds blow from the west, well, now we can put air in the west and everything seems to balance.
But, but—TRADITION! Well, where did the traditional directions come from? The more we study the roots of most old religions, the more we become convinved that the Indus Valley and their adaptation of the Vedic religions is the root. Basically we are considering the Punjab or five- rivers area.
Now we know that several of the characters who put together Witchcraft and other occult traditions were retired British administrators of the Raj.
In the Punjab, the prevailing wind is from the east; that the Himalayan massif is to the north. Hence the reasoning of those administrators, natural enough, in assigning traditional directions. But we are not Hindus and we’re not working in the Punjab; therefore we think it rational to honor air in the west and the earth in the below.
Because we believe a Wiccan should always maintain awareness of where he or she is, and because it’s only rational to work in terms of the real-world environment, we are attaching a new circle calling: for your amusement, your education, and perhaps your use.
As usual, we invite your comments. We are not trying to offend anyone; we do not scorn any tradition. Please be constructive. Our hope is that we all may arrive at a shared understanding of what we are doing. If you know a better way and can suggest the reasoning behind it, please share that better way with the community.
Here is a specific example of a circle and its dimensions, designed and adapted for group work. We owe this to a friend whom we meet at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beckley WV, Al Youmans. Thank you, Al, for creating something we all can share.
Below Below our Mother Earth sustains us and gives us life. May we honor the Earth. May we be ever vigilant to protect her from pollution and from rape of the land.
All:- Hail to our Mother Earth. May we always remember who gave us birth. May we always protect Her from harm wrought by humankind. Let there be peace on earth.
East In the east we see the sun rise and we know a new day is beginning. Each day is indeed a new day and a new beginning for the rest of our lives. May we all give thanks for the blessings of the east, and may we forgive the mistakes of the past as we begin this new day.
All:- Hail East, and hail this new day. Let there be peace in the east.
South Here in the northern hemisphere the sun is southward. From the south come warmth and heat and fire. May we all honor the blessings of the south. Let us rekindle and strengthen the fire of passion and the commitment of our spirits for the just work of this fellowship.
All:- Hail South. May we strengthen our commitment to what is just. Let there be peace in the south.
West Here where we are, the prevailing weather arrives from the west. From the west come the air and the healing waters that fill our wells and rivers, waters that enable our crops and forests to thrive. May we give thanks to the west. May we share new air with them, with all those here today, and with our neighbors, that we may all have good health.
All:- Hail West. We give thanks for healing powers. Let there be peace in the west.
North To our north the jet stream moves with the seasons and brings us cold and sometimes snow. Here in the Appalachians we live in four-seasons country. Beauty is all around us. As the seasons circle round, so do our lives. We are reminded of time and of our mortality. We are reminded that we must use this time to live our lives to the fullest.
All:- Hail North. We recall the passage of time and we express our gratitude to the north. Let there be peace in the north.
Above To the great Above we have the sky and the heavens. Traditionally the sky represents our Father. From the sky we seek knowledge. May we honor the great Above and our fathers, and may our knowledge grow and serve us well.
All:- Hail to the great Above. May we be ever mindful of knowledge given from above. Let knowledge bring peace.
Center In our center resides Spirit. Spirit dwells within each of us and in all things. Thus are we connected to all things. May we always remember how we are interconnected and that we thus must not do harm to others but must promote peace.
All:- (Here do not speak in unison. Instead turn to someone near you. Give them a hug or a warm handshake. Say to them, “Peace be with you.” Or, if it is your tradition, use another phrase that has a similar sentiment.)
Blessed be all. Gavin and Yvonne.