Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Common Mistake

I was recently reading a book called "The Witches' Sabbats" by Mike Nichols and he stated in it something that totally made sense. Most Pagans, when casting circles do it wrong. Wrong, you ask?? How??

When casting circles, in particular, assigning elements to the quarters, we have been taught/told that Earth goes in the North, right? He states that when he was a young novice witch back in the 60's, he was copying info out of his coven's BOS and that things weren't corresponding from each time he added to his. He asked his HP why the elements were different from one person's BOS to another. She told him that in order to keep the craft secret (mind you this was back when practitioners of the craft were still in the closet) things got changed to protect the craft. This is sometimes still done when putting things online for everybody to see. Unfortunately, the directional elements got changed and no one ever questioned it.

Wondering what the heck I'm talking about?? It only affects 2 elements: Earth & Air. They are switched around. Air should be in the North and Earth in the East. But we've been doing it the other way for years, you say. I know, but this is the way it should always have been. Say, you practice Celtic magick, for example. Picture looking at the map of the UK with the north on the top. To the East is land (Earth), so the South, warmer lands (Fire), to the West is the ocean (Water) and to the North is the cold Arctic with the winds (Air). Make sense?? No, want more?? Ok:

  • We all know the the 4 elements are divided into masculine & feminine. Air & Fire are masculine, whilst Earth & Water are feminine. When you cast a circle in a group situation, men & women are alternated, like the elements are in the circle.

  • Native American & First Nations place Air in the North, symbolized by the Eagle, and we all know the Natives are no slouches when it comes to ceremonial magic.

  • The seasons are associated with the directions: winter with the North (icy winds); spring with East (new life bursting from the Earth); summer with the South (fiery heat of the sun) and autumn with West.

  • The elements are often associated with Yin/Yang properties. Air & Fire are masculine (Yang) and Earth & Water are feminine (Yin).

  • When you associate cardinal points of a single day to the 4 compass points. Midnight is North; noon is South; sunrise is East; sunset is West.

  • You place your 4 main altar tools according to the directions: the Pentacle (Earth) is place on the East side of your altar, the Cup is placed on the West side (Water), the Wand is placed in the South (Fire) and the Athame is placed in the North (Air)

  • These are a few examples of how we have the Earth/Air is mixed up and why it makes sense to have them switched back. I sourced the book, "The Witches' Sabbats" by Mike Nichols. His 13 reasons are listed in chapter 12. So, before you debate with me over this, try to come up with something to debate this about instead "This is how we always did it" That really isn't a reason.

    ~Brightest of Blessings,


Rue said...

I have a hard time when anyone says "this is the right way." The right way for whom? I am a firm believer in personalizing your correspondences. If I use Basil for protection and you use it for love, is one of us wrong? I don't think so.

In this case, East is Air for me. Not because someone told me so. I live in the far West, so East represents wide open spaces, big sky, praries, strong winds and travel. North of me, in my Valley is lots of agricultural land, pastures, and then the Rocky Mountains - so North is Earth for me. South of me is a desert - so South is Fire. And living near the West coast - the ocean is West, and so it is water.

Having said that, I have a friend who lives on the East coast. The Atlantic Ocean is immediately to her East - and so she equates East with Water.

I think if you are on a strictly Aboriginal path, then following their standards may be in order. But Paganism to me means communing with Nature, and seeing how it speaks to you. Therefore I think it's up to each person to discover which correspondence resonates with them.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Diandra said...

Well, as long as it works for the person... I've seen huge debates ensue about where to start when creating a magic circle - and I'm the odd one out, I mess up directions completely (south-north-east-west).

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