The directions, or as they’re called in Gaelic, the Airts play an important part in my life, as I’m sure they do for many pagans. So why have I decided to write about them? Well, for starters I find the associations and correspondences attached to the directions very interesting. Culturally and traditionally these differ depending on whether one is a Wiccan, a Traditional Witch, a Shaman, a Celt, or from another cultural or native path. When I began my pagan path for earnest back in 2006 I learnt the correspondences from a Wiccan viewpoint, which as we all know is derived from ceremonial magick and Masonic sources. However, it is really interesting to me to see how my practices have changed over time, not completely but definitely significantly.
So, this post is really a way of expressing those changes publically and to assure those ‘newbies’ out there that it is perfectly ok to adapt ones practices as your path evolves over time. Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any traditions ideas about directions. I definitely believe that each person’s path is unique. We are, after all, individuals even though we are all connected within the Web of Life. To me this is a wonderful and blessed thing and I most certainly am not dogmatic about how we each walk our unique paths. I think that is one of the grandest things about paganism – the opportunity to express ourselves, worship and believe in a wide range of ways but still retain the glue that holds us together, that of respect, love and compassion.
So, let’s get on to the Directions.
Now, for me there are six directions – North, South, East and West plus Above and Below. They form a sphere with me in the centre as Axis Mundi. The circle (or sphere) is important because of the connection with cycles. Everything is cyclic, the Universe as macrocosm and our internal worlds, even our circulatory system, as microcosm. Life does not remain static but continually ebbs and flows around and in the sphere. Moreover, the sphere connects us to the Web of Life. Look at spiders’ webs…they are circular; even funnel web spiders’ webs. So I honour and celebrate the directions on the sphere because they act as a compass for my life. Without the directions I am disorientated on my path.
In the North (Tuath) are densely forested mountains, harsh and cold. Here my guide is Boar. He knows these mountains and forests better than anyone. You know the old saying ‘here be dragons’, well there most certainly are dragons there. Not so much dragons but my own demons – my shadow lurks in the sharp crevasses and between the dark trunks of the inky black forest. Boar is my ferocious guide here, allowing me to have the courage to face these demons and overcome them. Afterwards, when I’m bruised and battered boar nurtures me like a mother, keeping me safe and protected.
The colour of North is black, midnight black, and the element is Air symbolising the cold winds descending like a tumultuous avalanche from the high mountains. The trees and plants are primeval – pine and mosses.
In the South (Deas) is a farm with bee hives and hard working bees collecting nectar from flower strewn meadows, making delicious honey for the delectment of mankind. Here is productive work for the mind, body and soul. My guide here is, of course, the Bee who shows me how to work constructively and productively so my soul sings.
The colour of South is white – the bright white light of the hot noonday sun, when all you can hear are the buzzing of insects busy about their work. South is grounded in the material, like how solid things fall straight to the earth when dropped from a height. Therefore the element is Earth.
In the West (Iar) are the twilight woods along the shore of a grey misty lake. Dusk is a time of rest, a going home to the ‘grey havens’ and Fox is the guardian here. He knows how to navigate the twilight times without being seen. He flits along the woodland edges like a shadow, guiding me to the water’s edge where the water gently laps the pebbly shore. It is here I can drop my feelings and emotions into the soothing water to be cleansed. The water purifies, the water holds me in its embrace like a womb.
The colour of West is grey (or sometimes lavender depending on the light) but the colour is always subdued and misty. The element here is, of course, water and the time is dusk. The going home of the soul.
In the East (Aiet) is a flowering wild cherry tree in full blossom, framed by the beautiful red and orange sky of day break. Blackbird sings his heart out, confident and joyous of another new day with all the possibilities and opportunities that brings with it.
The colour of East is red and the element is Fire, the gorgeous flaming orange-red of the sun breaking through the clouds heralding the start of a new day. Blackbird sings the thoughts and praise out to the sun and the sun answers, radiant and full of promise.
Above is Grandfather Sun, as old as time itself, riding across the sky in a boat. He provides the seeds of possibility and opportunity, showering them upon us as sun beams. He can be gentle and warming allowing us to take these seeds and gently nurture them, or he can be fierce forcing us to take action NOW! Either way, the seeds come to fruition but if we don’t take some kind of action they wither and die.
Below are the Ancestors, those who have gone before, those who have learnt what it is like to be human and no matter what they chose to do while on the earthly plane they have wisdom and offer guidance. My guide here is Horse; she carries me safely on her broad, dappled back down into the Underworld and waits to bring me back.
These are just my associations with the directions, yours may be similar or completely different. The wonderful thing is no matter which associations you have, they are tools to help you on your path through this life and into the next. May your guides from the Airts bless you!