Around the Cauldron · Pagan Blog Project 2014

Changing the Directions

Most people I know, when they’ve begun looking into this path, tend to head towards the Wicca for Beginners books because there are so many out there. My first was Scott Cunningham as a friend insisted I read it just to help me along in finding my way.

As most books out there for beginners are written by authors in the United Kingdom, Europe or North America, they all have one thing in common – when calling the quarters, Fire is in the South.

So when I first began, I tried the Cunningham way – north for earth, east for air, fire for south, water for west. It felt so wrong, I was adamant I wasn’t doing something properly. My mind kept telling me, “no that’s wrong. THAT’S WRONG!!!” but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. Was I not saying the words right? Were the spirits upset with me for some reason?

Living in the northern hemisphere, fire is in the south for the equator, and where the sun sits in the sky.

I’ve mentioned this workshop before, but I was given an explanation when I attended the Witchcraft Intensive Weekend with Wendy Rule. We in Australia (and the southern hemisphere) do it differently. Because the equator is north for us, and as the sun sits in the northern sky, fire is therefor in the north. So most people simply switch north and south around.

But that STILL didn’t feel right for me.

One summer afternoon I was standing on the shores of Anglesea and began to think about what I was doing. Looking around, I realised why it all felt wrong.

When I face the south, I see the ocean (South – Water). When I face the west, I see the cliffs (West – Earth). When I face the north, I feel the equator (North – Fire). When I face the east, I feel the sea breeze (East – Air).

Everything felt normal from that day.

When I moved to Sydney, I realised how common and just how many people do change the directions for where they live. We have the “Standard Sydney Directions” here where North is Fire for the equator and the sun; East is Water for the Pacific Ocean; South is Air for the Antartic breeze; and the West is Earth for the great expanse of land.

This feels so normal for me now, and it’s become a case of “what’s normal for me is strange and alien for everyone else.” I used to have a friend who lived on Canada’s eastern seaboard, and she would call the quarters by the traditional northern hemispheric way. I questioned her about it as it made sense to me, and her response was “because that’s the way I was taught.”

So my question to you, dear readers, do you change the directions to suit your geographical location, or do you go with what’s traditional for your hemisphere?

23 thoughts on “Changing the Directions

  1. I love this post. You have given me something very interesting to think about. Sometimes the directions here (I’m in North America) don’t necessarily feel right to me either, but I was too afraid of “breaking the rules”.

  2. I’m also in the Southern Hemisphere and have adopted a similar method of determining directions. If I see/feel physical representation as you did at Anglesea, I will use those as reference and if I can’t see/feel physical representation, I will feel it out intuitively and go with my gut – it feeling right is more important to me than what authors have written.

    1. Absolutely. It took me a while but eventually I took what authors wrote with a grain of salt and realised what works for them doesn’t necessarily work for me. If the wind is blowing in from the south, that’s where I call it!

  3. love this post ^~^ i go with the “conventional” directions, but now it has extra meaning for me because my magic space happens to be next to a west facing window looking out onto lots of water.. 😀

    1. Oh fantastic!!! What a wonderful happenstance!! It’s nice having shells or seawater for representation, but for you to see it out the window must be wonderful!! Slightly jealous, right here!!

  4. I am an European expat living in Australia.

    When we moved at first I was going to change around the holidays and directions and all “as by the book”. But ultimately it didn’t work for me and just kept feeling *wrong* and distracting me from my practice so I ended up deciding that my bonds to the northern hemisphere were what I wanted to orientate to.

    Also I find it makes for a nice reminder of the duality of things and how there is never one “truth” to keep the southern hemispherical ways in the back of my mind as well and pay tribute every once in a while.

    1. Personally the holidays don’t work for me flipped around, either. But that’s a future blog!

      I’m glad you found your balance. That’s what’s most important.

  5. The directions make sense for me where I live, so I’ve ever changed them to suit my purposes, but I can see why you did that. Lots of folks these days seem to be taking a bio-regional, or at least “regional,” approach to their practices. The challenge where I live isn’t that the directions don’t match up, but that the traditional Pagan holidays don’t happen at the right time of the year. For example, in northern Ontario we still have snow on the ground and are wearing our winter clothes when Beltane rolls around – so you can see how a fire festival and a herald of spring feels incongruous!

  6. Great post! When I first read about calling the quarters, immediately I changed my directions. Since I’m on the East Coast of the US, east is water and west is air. There is no right way to call the quarters if you call them at all. Somewhat related is the casting of circles. Since my son is left-handed, when he chooses to participate in ritual he goes counter-clockwise while the rest of us go clockwise to cast and vice versa to clear.

  7. Great post. I keep the directions the same as by most books. I am N. America so it lines it up well; however one thing I disagree with which seems pretty common is associating wands with fire and sword/athame with air. I flip them, ’cause the obverse makes more sense to me.

  8. I’m an American Wiccan recently moved to Melbourne and I think about this a lot. For now, I’m following the same element and direction correspondences for a few reasons. For starters, it’s what I’m used to, it feels right, and comfortable. Second, I’ve never considered the elements and quarters in terms of geography, but rather as a tradition handed down to us from ancient Greek philosophy and Hermetics (and you’d have to agree the climate of Greece is pretty different from that of Europe too). Third, I’ve been unsuccessful in resolving other issues that emerge from moving the directions. For example, gnomes are the elementals of North and earth. If I make North fire, then I leave gnomes either without their direction or without their element. Neither approach is entirely satisfactory to me so I continue to reflect on it. Glad to discover your blog, by the way!

    1. As gnomes are an earth creature, I see them following the earth. So here where most go with earth being in the south, they move to the south. As i call them in the west, they’d go to the west. They live where there is land. Living in Victoria that can work for you with all the land above you!

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