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Four elements and cardinal directions

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  • Four elements and cardinal directions

    Hi all

    I was unsure where to put this post but finally settled on this forum, sorry if I got it wrong.

    I joined this forum two years ago though am only now coming to my first post. Slow developer me

    My Question;

    I first started working with elemental energies about ten years ago and the person who led me through my teaching had me go within and discover the elements of earth, air, fire and water and their corresponding directions from within me. I had no prior experience (came from a scientific and medical background and hadn't come across this thinking before) but I was a natural journey maker and easily found 'my' directions.

    The trouble is, they're not the same as the Gardnerian, Golden Dawn correspondences and I've tried to live with this for a long time. I discovered a fascinating article by Mike Nichols about the reasons he had found for his tradition's allocation of Air in the North and I relaxed to have found someone else who had the same orientation as myself.

    Until now, when I have resumed my interest in Qabala (primarily looking from Ellen Cannon Reed's startpoint) and again am at odds with the rituals that are based in Golden Dawn history such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I'd really like to do this, the other ones such as the Qabalistic Cross and Middle Pillar Exercise have had great power for me. But I am unsure how viable it would be for me to re-write the LRBP with the elements and correspondences moved around the circle. If I did this, would it be important to still start in the East or to start with Air?

    I'm just curious whether anyone else has found themselves in this situation and how they resolved it for themselves? I was on the verge of just sticking to the LRBP as written but it just feels all wrong inside me. It's as if I can feel to the core of my body that Air is in the North in my world (perhaps it's with living in Scotland... I understand the Celtic witches often saw Air in the north too.)

  • #2
    Call me crazy, but...

    The way I see it, when you utilize the traditional correspondences between the elements and the directions, you also tap into the energy of those who've used those correspondences in the past. For example, if you call air in the east when calling a quarter, you are also tapping into the energy that those before you have called. I've heard it referred to as tapping into the egregore. The similar repeated action itself draws energy.

    Same thing with the LBRP. I re-wrote it myself, because I the archangels precense didn't mesh well with my personal practice. However, I ended up using the traditional one, because it felt more powerful, and "worked better" than my version. Sure, my version was okay, but when I used the traditional one, I feel that it tapped into a different kind of energy.

    Of course, this is just my opinion... YMMV.
    Ivy Artemisia
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    • #3
      Thanks Ivy, I believe you are right in this. I have discovered great power in words repeated many times, even if I am not actively part of the religion they belong to such as the time I stood in the Notre Dame Cathedral and was entranced by the words of the Lord's prayer being recited and could feel the impact of those words being said down through history.

      I've been doing a huge amount of reading trying to get to grips with this whole topic and have discovered just how recent the correspondences were, and how the original allocation being the Enochian Great Table was altered several times in which direction the Watchtowers and elements were placed. It both helped an hindered in that I could see that there IS no right answer but that the effect you mention is very present, this system is the one that millions of people have followed in their lives and it will have left it's traces.

      I'll just have to experiment like the scientist I was trained to be

      Thanks for responding.


      • #4
        Hey, Piffy? I hope you don't mind, but I dropped this into Paths: Ceremonialists because I think they are the best ones to answer your question within a Ceremonial perspective. I'm not sure the general Pagan answer I might give would apply at all, since you're doing rituals within a very specific (Ceremonialist) context. The folks over here in Ceremonialists are better equipped to give you a good answer that suits what you are doing.

        Not that I think you posted in the wrong forum, but I do think the people over here can give you a better answer than any other members.
        Om Namah Shivaya.

        "Im finding seeking the sacred, well, that its rather like falling in love, the harder you seek it, the less likely it is to happen." - Brightshores

        "When your consciousness is directed outward, mind and world arise. When it is directed inward, it realizes its own Source and returns home into the Unmanifested." ~ Eckhart Tolle


        • #5
          I don't really know anything about the Quaballah or even the Lesser Banishing Ritual - but perhaps it would help you to take a good look at why you associate certain elements with certain directions rather than being concerned with doing it the same way as Gardner was taught and passed down in his own tradition.

          For me fire is associated with the south because that is when the sun is at it's strongest point and therefore associated with the summer solstice.

          West is the direction of water, of twilight and dying and emotions, and the autumnal equinox.

          North is the earth, midnight, mysteries, going underground to renew and refresh, the winter solstice.

          East is air, sunrise, which means new beginning, new life, the spring equinox.

          I do not call the Watchtowers, never could understand what Guardian Angels have to do with witchcraft. Since it doesn't work for me, I don't use that. I simply call to the elements, often visualizing a breeze blowing softly against my face, warming my hands in front of a blazing fire (with a nice pot of soup cooking), cupping cool water in my hands and rinsing my face, and scooping up some fresh turned dirt from the garden or holding a nice smooth stone with energy of it's own.
          If you make a customer happy, he'll tell 3 other people.
          If he's not happy, he'll tell 20 others.


          • #6
            No, I don't mind it being moved at all. I was puzzling for ages where best to put it but as I can only really describe myself as 'new' to all this settled on the 'new' section

            Thanks Lunacie, I love your evocative descriptions of your experience with the elements.

            Well I think for me the reason why I felt so resistant to simply changing my associations to fit with the majority was because the initial meditation I had done in which I had walked northwards to discover the element there had been so powerful a meeting with Air that it seems to have rooted very deep. There I found cold, dark, wise, thoughtful, airy senses, of wide open arctic spaces blown by the northern wind (I did say I lived in Scotland? and in one of it's windier east coast areas...). I met and talked with an air creature... oh so much that defies words really.

            Earth is also a place of spring and sunrise and new life for me but that led me to greenness, earthiness, the smell of the ground as the cold drops away and plants start to burst to the sky.

            I'm with you on Fire in the South and Water in the west. Probably the hardest of them to sense was Water for me and that tallies with problems I have actually feeling my feelings etc (though I've worked hard on that since that first meditation ten years ago).

            The Guardian Angels feel ok for me once I realised they were nothing to do with Christianity. Not that I have anything against Christianity either, I am still a member of a church even if I don't attend services any more and just have changed direction towards a more nature orientated way of worshipping.

            In fact, my wiser times seem to happen in the mornings and as I woke this morning I heard the wisdom that I need to spend less time dwelling on fitting into rituals and more time out in the woods and on the hills with my dogs ie, get a bit more natural perspective again rather than worrying about 'getting things right'.


            • #7
              Ah, that makes sense as well, new growth and beginnings coming from the earth - as well as burying the past in the earth. Could be either. But because I follow the wheel of the year in my practice, it makes sense to me to have the quarters/elements following the wheel of the year, spring to summer to fall to winter.

              People who claim to belong to only one element I think are missing out on a bigger picture, and I suppose the same could be said of equating each element with only one direction. It could be an interesting exercise for my group to try finding associations between each season and each element and each direction instead of limiting them to only one connection. Cool.
              If you make a customer happy, he'll tell 3 other people.
              If he's not happy, he'll tell 20 others.


              • #8

                The Golden Dawn attributions are fairly common being:

                East: Air
                West: Water
                South: Fire
                North: Earth

                However, in Liber V Vel Reguli*, Aleister Crowley employs:

                East: Earth
                West: Water
                South: Fire
                North: Air

                *AC's re-vamped pentagram ritual to 'invoke the Energies of The Aeon Of Horus'.

                I think the most important point is that whatever attributions one uses, they use them consistently and understand why they are using the symbols that they are.

                93 93/93
                Hierophantic Initiation, Magick, Esoterica, Occult, Books & Supplies


                • #9
                  Thats so funny.
                  We are going through the same thing.
                  Gardnerian, but rethinking the Watchtowers.
                  I made a wheel, with these correspondences....

                  Its very rough, as I dont have any fancy photoshop program.
                  But to me...
                  East: Yes, the sun rises in the east.. it rises over the Earth in the East and sets in the Water in the West.
                  East: EArth, life is stirring, and when you apply the wheel of the year to it, you see how Earth in East is at Imbolc (if Celtic year)or Ostara... and also, if you look at the lil wheel I made, you'll see that where the male/female seasons meet up is at the solstices/equinoxes.
                  Samhain, in the North, Air... when nothing else is growing. The time of the Lord of Misrule, and into Yule, another very male time of year. Not really (to me anyhow) appropriate for the feminine energy of Earth to be in the North, marking the time when the earth is at her least active point.
                  When all is dark, when the sun gives no warmth, at the time of Samhain and Yule, you have.. Air.....


                  • #10
                    During the time I practiced the more ceremonial side of rituals, I always employed the attributions from the Golden Dawn for the elements. This worked fine for me, but when I look back on it I can't help but think that it only worked well because of the tradition that went with it. There's power in following a tradition many others have followed before you... and in that respect, working with these correspondences was awesome.

                    However, I'm inclined to switch elements around a lot now that I've stepped off the ceremonial way of doing things. The only element that never changes here is water, which is always located in the west for me. The rest changes at will... depending on the season we're in, depending on the way I feel, depending on what I sense from the world around me... and so, it would be entirely possible for me to have fire in the north or earth in the east. My preferred attributions, however, are air in the north and earth in the east.

                    The thing is... there's a fifth element. Spirit moves in every single one of them, as well as in the centre... and so this makes them interrelated and interchangeable depending on the way you want to use them.
                    Can you touch the root that feeds us?
                    Can you hear the words that I say?
                    Can you feel the music move you?
                    Can you feel alive today?


                    • #11
                      I feel like a dunderhead for not mentioning the fifth element - spirit - myself. But in my defense I've been very sick with a cold virus, very fuzzy headed. I agree that spirit connects everything, making the other four elements interrelated. But I'm not at a place where I can make them all interchangeable. I need to know that earth lies in the north, that air blows from the east, that fire comes from the south, and that water moves in the west.

                      Which brings to mind a chant I love...

                      Earth turns, air blows, fire burns, water flows.
                      If you make a customer happy, he'll tell 3 other people.
                      If he's not happy, he'll tell 20 others.


                      • #12
                        I consider myself to be representative of the 5th element.
                        For me also, fire is in the south, water, west, air is now north and earth east.
                        As i mentioned, when I place it in conjunction with the wheel of the year, it makes no sense to me to have Earth in the North where it is the time of the Lord of Misrule, when the earth has stopped growing and is turning to sleep now. To me, North is where the North Wind comes from... and when in conjunction with the wheel (such as I posted on page one), seems that earth does best in the East... after all, the sun rises over Land in the east and sets into the ocean in the west. Back and forth.
                        North-Male, East-Female, South-Male, West-Female... and as we go round the circle, hitting each of these directions, male,female,male,female.... we build up energy as a generator.
                        Earth in East is new beginnings, Goddess is awakening at Imbolc and the earth warms until Beltaine/Litha in the south, which is a God time of year...
                        It all boils down to what makes sense for each of us.
                        My 'truth' doesnt need to be anyone elses, only my own.


                        • #13
                          Thanks everyone for your thoughts and contributions, it all gives me much to muse upon.

                          I really like Moonrise's map of the correspondences. I must admit, the part that particularly clicks for me both with Mike Nichols and with Moonrise's statements are that it matters to me to have male to male and female to female across the poles. I guess there is always going to be some discrepancy whatever system we work with and it just matters to find out which are the most important and unadaptable for each of us and which we can afford to be flexible about.

                          That was fascinating about the re allocation of elements in the pentagram ritual to 'invoke the Energies of The Aeon Of Horus'. I hadn't come across that but my understanding of Thelemic writing's is too poor to really grasp what is being done in that ritual. I've mainly been coming across the LRBP because of the interest in Qabala that was particularly nourished by Ellen Cannon Reed's Witches Tarot. ...Which brings up a whole different dilemma because she has Swords correlating with Fire while I have them in line with the Waite tarot system with swords being Air. I'm afraid I've worked with Tarot to the Waite system far too long for me to be able to adjust that one so I'll just have to admire the Witches Tarot from afar I think.


                          • #14

                            i found more comfort in placing the elements in this formation

                            east Air
                            west Earth
                            south Fire
                            north water

                            this was ininspirtation to the flow of life. Air youth, Fire adult, Earth elder and Water the womb or the embryo.

                            Aleister Crowley's formation is interesting. the elements are in proper oppositions to gain maximum power before releasing it to its directed cause.


                            Today's Mighty Oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground -Anon.


                            • #15
                              For the long, convoluted response:

                              It depends.

                              If I'm working something dependent on GD symbolism, I use the traditional E-Air, S-Fire, W-Water, N- Earth. Also, my wife prefers those, so she uses them.

                              I find that for Thelemic work, Crowley's E-Earth, S-Fire, W-Water, N-Air works better. I like that better, so I use that most of the time.

                              I don't like using elemental quarters in religious contexts, as I've got my doubts as to whether they have a place in non-magickal practices. Also, as they're ceremonial/QBL ideas, and I'm working with non-QBL deities when I'm doing my religious practice, I don't insult them by trying to enforce a foreign concept.

                              However, the ultimate point is that you're supposed to - at some point - control the elements. If you want Water in the south, Air in the west, Fire in the East, and Earth in the North, and you make it work, go for it. Or, for that matter, if want to call upon the firey part of water by evoking fire in the quarter you associate with water, and then call upon the watery part of fire by evoking water in the fire quarter, go for it. You're the Magus, and in control of your World. Do what thou wilt.

                              If I wanted your opinion, I'd read it in your entrails.

                              My astral realmz; let me show you them.