A certain piece of tradition is believed to be older than the sutras. It dictates the directions that many use in casting Circle(s).
Once we had the pleasure of participating in a circle held outside Bateman’s Bay on the east coast of Australia. We had thought we were well above the high-tide mark, there on the ocean sand, and were patting ourselves on the back for putting Fire in the North–but when we called the traditional Air in the East, a rogue wave came in and simply wiped the circle out. Okay. We didn’t think too much about it, but simply did it all again. Another rogue wave wiped out that second circle. Hmm.
It came to us that possibly we hadn’t gotten the directions right. Since we were in Australia and had already cleverly relocated North and South, we decided simply to rotate the whole circle (the circle to which we northerners were accustomed) clockwise 180 degrees.
That put Earth in the South, Air in the West, Fire in the North, and Water in the East–where the ocean was.
We had a very successful circle.
Back in the US, we began to discuss with others what should realistically be represented in each direction in the real world. The first and most obvious point was that we were standing on the Earth–so why imagine that North represented it? In India with the Himalayas at the north, it might make sense; but on the flat plains of Kansas or Missouri it surely did not.
Then we thought about East, the direction of new beginnings, symbolized every single day by the “rising”* of the sun to begin another day. Science tells us that all life began in the primordial oceans; so new beginnings should be associated with water and with such concepts as amniotic fluid or, back even further, with seminal fluid. Fire in the South, the direction of the sun at noon, seemed reasonable–except that some might argue that we are casting the circle at midnight … We broke our pick thinking about this one, and left Fire in the South.
In North America the winds come from the West. Watch any broadcast from the Weather Channel. Therefore quite simply it seemed that Air in the West was a natural pairing.
That left us with North. Since we had already called Earth as Down/Below, we had several choices. They ranged from Wisdom or Intelligence through Ice. Finally we settled on Time; for without Time, none of this work or even ourselves would exist. As a sixth direction to complement Earth, we decided that Spirit should be Up.
These correlations fit our own group. If you live on the west coast with the ocean to the west, or you live south of one of the Great Lakes–or, for that matter, if you live on the gulf coast–where would it be best to put Water? There is an old admonition that the Witch should work her tasks in tune with the environment of her habitation. Many abrahamic religions follow tradition without question, whatever the cost to their integrity or the compromise of their common sense … It’s all too easy to see the effects of that mindset.
So what say you? Do you prefer the tradition or the real world? Which works for you and your group?
Blessed be those who question. Gavin and Yvonne
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* If we draw back to get an overview, of course, the sun does not rise. The earth sinks.