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Author Topic: element positions  (Read 3586 times)
sparrow125
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« Topic Start: March 31, 2010, 05:37:50 pm »

If you have an altar with the elements on it, I was wondering what positions you put them in. (I mean, North, East, South, West.) I've heard several different versions, so I was curious what everyone else thought. Also, what are your reasons for putting them in the positions they're in?
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« Reply #1: March 31, 2010, 09:55:50 pm »

If you have an altar with the elements on it, I was wondering what positions you put them in. (I mean, North, East, South, West.) I've heard several different versions, so I was curious what everyone else thought. Also, what are your reasons for putting them in the positions they're in?

I do the fairly standard western Europe-derived one:
East = Air
South = Fire
West = Water
North = Earth

My reasons: the tradition I work in has links between the directions and other parts of our ritual practice: it'd be possible to shift them for my personal work, but I don't have a sufficiently good reason to do so, and find the overlays of connection handy.

The reasons for that get a good bit more complicated to explain (because it's layer upon layer in different part of the practices), but I'm glad to dig into it a little if someone gets me started with specific questions.

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« Reply #2: March 31, 2010, 10:24:06 pm »

I do the fairly standard western Europe-derived one:
East = Air
South = Fire
West = Water
North = Earth

Same here, mainly because it is what I'm used to for magic work and it works.
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« Reply #3: April 01, 2010, 01:11:42 am »

I do the fairly standard western Europe-derived one:
East = Air
South = Fire
West = Water
North = Earth


In General that is what I do, but when i lived near the ocean water was always east as the ocean was east. There was just a strong energy pull for water in that direction so i went with it.
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« Reply #4: April 01, 2010, 07:16:22 am »

In General that is what I do, but when i lived near the ocean water was always east as the ocean was east. There was just a strong energy pull for water in that direction so i went with it.

Water's east for me, too, but for no good reason other that that's how it settled into my brain.  I have in the past been known to be slightly dyslexic with east and west (and occasionally left and right); when I learned the positions of the elements, water and air got flipped in my mind, and they just kind of stuck that way.

Barring working in a specific tradition with specific requirements (as Jenett mentions), I think probably whatever makes sense to the person doing the working is probably what will work best.  Wink
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« Reply #5: April 01, 2010, 08:25:36 am »

East = Air
South = Fire
West = Water
North = Earth
Why? Because that's what I first learned when starting on my path so many years ago and it stuck. I, too, live in an area where the largest body of water is about a hour East of me. However, this has never once affected how I positioned elements during rituals.
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« Reply #6: April 01, 2010, 08:31:41 am »

I do the fairly standard western Europe-derived one:
East = Air
South = Fire
West = Water
North = Earth

This is how I was taught to do it too, and it seems like, once you have learned it, it becomes second nature and you can't do it any other way.
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« Reply #7: April 01, 2010, 10:33:36 am »

This is how I was taught to do it too, and it seems like, once you have learned it, it becomes second nature and you can't do it any other way.

Mmm, that's how I learned from books back in my neo-Wiccish days, and every time I ran into it I stalled out on "But it doesn't make any sense!"
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« Reply #8: April 01, 2010, 11:32:10 am »

I, too, live in an area where the largest body of water is about a hour East of me. However, this has never once affected how I positioned elements during rituals.

Perhaps the distance, when I lived near the ocean I was less than a block away and could see it from my driveway. Smaller bodies of water don't affect it and even now I have a large pond 5 minutes east, that doesn't do it either.

It was just right when I lived near the ocean.
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« Reply #9: April 01, 2010, 12:41:25 pm »


Thanks for your answers guys. I've always done it: N;earth, E;air, S;water, w;fire.

I was wondering if it was symbolic in some way or if there was some meaning to why earth was in the north, etc. If not, then I guess it doesn't matter one bit where they go!
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« Reply #10: April 01, 2010, 12:50:49 pm »

This is how I was taught to do it too, and it seems like, once you have learned it, it becomes second nature and you can't do it any other way.

This.
And it makes sense where I live.

Though I feel awkward with changing the main directions after all those years of work, I don't have a problem with the fact that every element is found in every direction.

I was wondering if it was symbolic in some way or if there was some meaning to why earth was in the north, etc. If not, then I guess it doesn't matter one bit where they go!

I'm sure there is some deeper or more elaborate sense within the western magic tradition to put earth in the north for ex.
But I can't answer this question, I'm afraid.

When I've read about a Mexican healer, that north is seen as the direction of the ancestors, this made so much sense to me, that I added it to my symbolism.

I think personal symbolism is very important here.
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« Reply #11: April 01, 2010, 04:06:07 pm »

If you have an altar with the elements on it, I was wondering what positions you put them in. (I mean, North, East, South, West.) I've heard several different versions, so I was curious what everyone else thought. Also, what are your reasons for putting them in the positions they're in?

I always did
E-Earth
S-Fire
W-Air
N-Water

I'm not sure where I came up with it. I think I had it engrained at an early age with Feng Shui, but I honestly don't know- it's just how I've always done it and associated it.

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« Reply #12: April 01, 2010, 08:48:26 pm »

I was wondering if it was symbolic in some way or if there was some meaning to why earth was in the north, etc. If not, then I guess it doesn't matter one bit where they go!

Well, yes, in the sense that the symbolism comes from the geography of western Europe, and over time got carried into other parts of practice in some ways. If you're not using stuff derived from those traditions (which admittedly includes not only traditional Wicca, but a lot of European folklore, folk magic, and a certain amount of the more ceremonial practices too), then changing them is less of an issue.

One thing I think about when I'm in circle - though I happen to live in an area where there's no compelling location of water (except 'walk a mile or three in any direction, there'll be some' brought on by living by the Mississippi in the land of 10,000 lakes), where the south is the warmth of the sun, that it depends on what you're doing, north is a whole bunch of earth, and .. well, ok, our prevailing weather sometimes comes from the north west, but I'm not sure we actually want to *encourage* the frozen tundra winds that come from Alberta. The eastern ones are balmier, when we get them.

For my tradition, the directions in circle are called 'north' and 'east' and whatever. But what they really are is creating the compass for the circle: and there's no reason that that compass necessarily has to match up one to one with the physical reality. After all, the circle's a space between worlds.

It's more like 'here's the set of constructions that we're using here, so we're clear about what's where.' Having them consistent - and being able to anchor to the other connections they have within the tradition - turns out to be helpful. It's just not the only possible answer.

But having the ties - that water is west, that west is the unknown, the things that are not obvious, the things that take courage and daring, that come from western European lore, tie together. That the dawn in the east, the brisk winds of spring, the growing light of knowledge connect. That the fires of the south, the warm of noon, that echoes the hearthfire and cooking stove, but that takes focus and attention to handle well. And the north, reminder that things grow, but they also fade and die in winter. The flowering plant and the dark cave. We could rearrange those, if we had to - but there's so many pieces interwoven there that I'd need a really good reason to even want to do the work to see how to begin, since the existing methods work so well.

There is also the slightly flippant part of me that goes all librarian at people, and calls the elemental associations the Dewey Decimal system of magic: each item needs its place, and putting the same thing in every section makes them hard to find. We're humans, humans seek patterns, and giving it some framework to play with - whether we call those directions or quarters or 'to know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent' or something else entirely are all really just ways to be able to lay hands on the resource when we need it.

 
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