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‘Calling the Elements’

‘Calling the Elements’ is geographically based in performance, it has on occasion caused some confusion when being undertaken in specific locations.  

Prior to ‘calling the elements’ candles are placed at the East, South, West and North points of the circle – the alter may be at either East or North and the guardian elements at each of the quarters.   North is equated with Earth, East with Air, South with Fire and West with Water: North is the ‘blind side’ of the sky and represents all that is mysterious.   The sun and moon are generally in the South representing energy and initiative.   The West is for empathy, feeling and wisdom.   The Air spirits in the East are youthful and to do with the power of thinking.

The horizontal layout and references to compass points are fine when ‘calling the elements’ inside, but confusion can occur when carrying out this ritual near the sea for example – wanting to refer to the sea, but the sea not necessarily being in the designated geographical position. ie West.   For it is common practice when ‘calling the elements’ to start by facing the East or North; then turn to each of the remaining compass points.  Some degree of flexibility may therefore be required when in specific locations. 

A Native American tradition (these traditions vary between the different tribes) is the power of six directions which represent different aspects of the creator – you are in the centre and you can see all around you – in front, behind, to the left, to the right, above and below.   The four directions of the compass is the power of the medicine wheel navigating the spirit worlds.   In an open space you can observe the qualities of the natural world in each of the six directions around you.   In the Northern Hemisphere you see the sun rising in the East (rebirth and renewal), in the South is where the journey of the sun travels each day (life blood), in the West is where the Sun goes down (the place of endings and night), the North is the home of Winter, above you is the sky (spark of life) and below is the green of Earth (life is born).

While it is important to retain the ethos of a ritual to enable ‘common usage’; flexibility and subtle changes can be incorporated.   Therefore consider the Native American power of six directions when ‘calling the elements’ – make ‘calling the elements’ as natural to your ‘setting’ as possible.


Heidi Von Zilpke

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