I Come From a Lodge Down Under

Brewing for a little bit following a conversation with a fellow Perth GD magician, this post was kicked out of me head after reading Lee’s excellent Chaos Witch post here.

Now, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the good thing about most magic and Golden Dawn folk is that we can agree to disagree. Without cursing each other…well maybe a bit under our breaths, like.*

As I’ve explained on MOTO a few times, practicing and living our magic in the southern hemisphere means we been led to change a few things from historical practice. For one thing we go round the circle anti-clockwise, that is sunwise to us antipodeans. To bring the elemental circle into harmony this means we have switched the correspondences of fire and earth to north and south respectively.

Not everyone in the Golden Dawn agrees with this…OK to be fair, as far as I can tell we are the only silly buggers anywhere in the Great Southern Land to do this mad act. Others have very good reasons for sticking with northern hemisphere practice while living south. Or they’re too lazy to think about it. Pat Zalewski spends some time in The Equinox & Solstice Ceremonies of the Golden Dawn giving a well reasoned and astute argument for sticking with northern practice. I can’t fault it. Still, there is one thing that makes the crucial difference for me – the Land.

Very early on, as I explain in this post, I started working with the Land. And really, once this happens there is no escape – I am committed to this particular Land of Perth, it has made me and I cannot but listen. Personally, I think the inclusion of the Land in western magic is essential. Josephine McCarthy in her novel The Last Scabbard, reviewed here, shows with fiction some of the results of excluding the Land. I once had a conversation with Druid Priestess Emma Restall-Orr who felt the exclusion of the Land in GD and ceremonial groups produced a structure without foundations or strength, like a deck of cards she could collapse by simply removing a piece.

I am not so convinced and have no problem at all with good folk working without Land connection or working northern in the south. I do wish to explain a few things here though, as it clears me head a bit. :)

Them Masons going sunwise :)

Tradition in the western magical practices has mostly been to move in our circles and lodges sunwise. This is clearly stated in some texts, even GD texts. Sunwise, not clockwise…following the sun as it is birthed in the east and appears to move across the sky until it disappears in the west. So, to be traditional and follow this practice, we in the southern hemisphere have to move anti-clockwise. As I say there are cogent arguments to counter this from some magic folk, like Pat Zalewski, but on a basic level this makes sense to me.

Looking at the elemental placing around the circle, it is based on the nature of the winds in the northern hemisphere (look here for the Whare Ra Pentagram Lecture describing this). Obviously the folk who created this attribution were at least in some measure connected with their environment and Land. If we want our elemental circles to match and meet our Land, as traditionally they did, we may need to change elemental placing. This could prove a big problem but fortunately in Perth we can do a nice, easy transposition.

I think it is obvious that lots if not most people in Perth would assign the elements to the quarters as we do. Water … obviously the sea and west. Though if you lived near a river, maybe different. The strongest winds come mostly from the east, so air. Hot and dry, the quality of fire, is to the north of Perth. Cold and dry is to the south, the qualities of earth. So this matches the simple switch mentioned earlier of having the traditional elemental order around the circle of air-fire-water and then earth. Phew! Goddess knows what I’d do elsewhere in this huge country of ours :)

Now of course, we can choose to ignore the reason for the placement of the elements described in the Pentagram Lecture, the winds, and assign them as London folk did and do. Our circle then becomes  metaphysically based. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I seriously think that’s fine and dandy. But for me and all my work, I personally choose to include the physical Land in my circle.

reversed tree mmThe problem however, and I am sure you saw it coming, is that once we make this basic change to circle direction and elemental attribution and still want to practice temple GD magic we have to change everything. And I mean everything – temple layout, hexagrams, diagrams, the structure of the Tree of Life – the whole sobbing lot.  Back when I was lad and first started on this change I almost cried. It is a lot of work. Still it can be done and doing things like mirror imaging the Kircher Tree of Life, helps us understand clearly these are constructs – powerful and wonderful – but mental constructs non-the-less. About the only thing we have not been able to change is the Gematria associated with the Hebrew names of the directions. Ultimately it was a wonderful thing to do, honouring and linking the Land as I went :)

Another blessing I have been given is training or membership of magical groups working northern hemisphere. Going along once a week to a group that does it all the opposite way makes one stay on one’s toes. There is no possibility of any habitual action at all – it really focuses my mind and consciousness. :)

One of the things I think some folk will be wondering about all these changes are is “do they work?“. This is a whole topic in itself, but touching on it briefly: elsewhere on MOTO I’ve explained I think magic works by a concept I call Orthometapraxy, that is a correct way of meta-action, ‘adjacent’, ‘beyond’, or ‘inner’ action.

So while we recognise variants in the Qabalistic Cross for example, we understand that its correct use will have some interior action, intention and focus of connecting us with the highest divinity and linking, balancing and opening ourselves to it. The focus here is on the inner activity, the ‘meta’ aspect of this rather long word. So, for example, I do not claim the various inner workings in By Names and Images are ‘correct’, or ‘traditional’, only that in their principles they follow traditional themes and mysteries which help produce transformation and service. Other variants of the rituals, and even other inner workings would still be ‘correct’ if they produce the same transformation.

Once we focus upon orthometapraxy rather than orthopraxy or even orthodoxy and embrace this attitude we are moved to be more open to variants and changes within our tradition. When practicing southern or northern in Perth or elsewhere, if we are using the correct inner principles, our magic will ‘work’. This concept also explains why outer ritual variants that to one person seem bat-shit crazy will work for another person who sees them as the bee’s knees. It’s a nice principle to get our head around and helps me personally to avoid judging from afar…a bit :)

The whole question of ‘does it work?’ and the related concept, ‘as long as it works’ needs unpacking anyway – maybe next post? Thanks and bye-bye :)

*Yes, I just made a Pratchett reference.

About these ads

10 comments

  1. Karma Dorje · January 23, 2013

    The question of what works is the salient one. What is the intention and how does one measure progress? Anyone with any knowledge of the history of the GD knows that GD enthusiasts were largely not highly advanced magicians of the order of Hindu or Buddhist mahasiddhas that have achieved unchanging realization. While their material may have been inspired to greater or lesser degrees by inner planes contacts, there was also much dross incorporated and much adaptation because they didn’t have a fixed (or even particularly healthy) motivation and a clear goal.

    When we look to the magicians of Eastern traditions, there are both modalities that you describe in your article: on the one hand, deity mandalas are universal in nature. They are practiced the same regardless of location. On the other hand, there is incredibly rich and diverse cultivation of the energies of the land, whether kshetrapalas, bhumipatis, yoginis, yakshas, etc. in Hindu tantra or the sadag, dralha, nagas, etc. of Buddhist tantra.

    These two currents fulfill different goals– the former realization and ultimate benefit and the latter working with the individual circumstances of our daily lives. I would hazard that this provides a good framework to consider how ortho our praxis is, meta and otherwise.

  2. 01finrod · January 23, 2013

    This is an essay on the apparent motion of the Sun through the sky at various lattitudes, and the implications for circle-casting for those who take note of such things:

    Clockwise or Anti-clockwise, Deosil or Widdershins: How Does the Apparent Motion of the Sun Vary Between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres?

    It is often taken for granted in the Australian pagan/neopagan scene that circle-casting in the southern hemisphere should be done anti-clockwise. The usual justification for this is that the circle should be cast in the same direction as the apparent motion of the Sun (and all the other heavenly bodies) across the sky, and while that motion is clockwise in the northern hemisphere, it’s anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, so we need to reverse the traditional circle-casting direction when south of the equator. I shall examine the “following the Sun” concept by assuming it is true, and determining what it means for practitioners at different latitudes.

    The trouble with using these assumptions is that it is simply not true that the Sun always follows an anti-clockwise path through the sky in the southern hemisphere (nor does it always follow a clockwise path in the northern hemisphere). It is true that the sun’s apparent motion is always in the same direction when viewed from north of the Tropic of Cancer or south of the Tropic of Capricorn, but it is not true of any point within the tropics.

    To visualise the reasons for this, we start with a simplified model of the situation by assuming that the Earth is not tilted on its rotational axis relative to its orbit around the Sun. Later we will build on that model to arrive at a correct understanding of the Sun’s actual motion through the sky (within reason; I’m not going to go into more arcane matters such as the precession of the equinox, only what we need to determine the Sun’s true apparent motion with regard to direction).

    Let’s start by imagining we’re standing on the North Pole. Before us is the Sun, burning with attenuated light right on the horizon, appearing to be half set. If we remain there for a full 24 hours, the Sun will seem to move clockwise around the horizon through a full circle and return to its starting point.

    Now imagine us travelling south from the north pole. The Sun rises as we move south, soon clearing the horizon altogether. If we stop at various points on our journey and observe the Sun through a 24 hour cycle, it still travels through a full circle to return to its starting point, but that circle is no longer identical to the circle of the horizon. The southernmost edge of the Sun’s path is now above the horizon by as many degrees as the degrees of latitude we have moved south from the north pole. No matter where we are in our journey from the pole, the Sun will always rise precisely in the east and set precisely in the west. The Sun’s path acts as if it’s a great circular hoop attached at two points to the horizon, directly to our east and west, with the hoop being tilted further up into the sky to the south (and down below the horizon to the north) the further south we go. As we continue our journey south across the northern half of the planet, the Sun’s apparent motion remains clockwise.

    Eventually we find ourselves arriving at the equator. The Sun, which was previously due south at local midday is now directly overhead. We have reached a critical boundary in our journey, for there is now no objective way to ascribe either clockwise or anti-clockwise motion to the Sun’s path. To do so would require selecting which direction along the north-south path you’re taking to ‘face’ the Sun from, and there’s no objective reason for either choice. This is why some practitioners who accept the ‘Sun-wise’ casting paradigm will often state that the equator is an exceptional place in this respect.

    We continue our journey south of the equator, and once again it makes sense to speak of the Sun going around in a particular direction, but now that direction is the opposite of that for the northern hemisphere. From the southern hemisphere, the Sun appears to go around anti-clockwise. This evolution continues until we reach the south pole, and we once more see the sun half-sunken beneath the horizon and moving around it once every 24 hours, but this time it is clearly appearing to move in the opposite direction to its motion at the north pole, anti-clockwise instead of clockwise. Of course, the Earth is still spinning in the same direction as before, but we are seeing the results from a new perspective. We are effectively standing upside down relative to our orientation at the north pole.

    Imagine that Earth is at the centre of a very large hollow sphere and the sky above is the inner surface of the shell. Directly above the north pole is a point on that imaginary sphere called the north celestial pole, and above the south pole lies the south celestial pole. A point above the equator will trace out a great circle across the celestial sphere over a 24 hour period called the celestial equator. In our simplified model, the sun always remains exactly on the celestial equator, and if that were true in reality, the claim that northern hemisphere = clockwise solar motion and southern hemisphere = anti-clockwise solar motion would always be true, regardless of our latitude or the calendar date.

    Because the Earth’s rotational axis is tilted away from a right angle to its orbital plane, the true situation is more complicated. The Sun spends some time close to the celestial equator, but it’s usually perceptibly removed from it, and reaches 23.5 degrees north or south of it during solstices. When it is some distance away, it’s path is not a great circle, but a nearly circular spiral sweep at some particular celestial latitude in the northern or southern tropics. Once again, anyone north of that path (i.e., the point on the celestial sphere directly overhead from them is north of that path) will see the Sun moving clockwise and anyone south of it will reckon the Sun to be moving anticlockwise, but that path could be as far south as Rockhampton or nearly to Alice springs, or a bit further north than Hawaii. The closer a tropical location is to the equator, the more evenly the time is divided between being north or south of the Sun’s path. Darwin is over halfway to the equator from the Tropic of Capricorn, and so spends about 25% of the time being north of the Sun’s path, whereas we would need to drive a few dozen kilometres north of Rockhampton to ensure at least one full day of seeing the sun passing to our south at southern midsummer. Residents of Honolulu might get several days of seeing the Sun pass to their north around midsummer for the northern hemisphere.

    Practitioners living in the tropics who adhere to ‘Sunwise’ casting may want to learn about how the Sun’s apparent motion varies throughout the year, and cast in the direction indicated by local astronomical conditions. What is correct one day might not be on the next. People who live in the tropics and wish to experiment with the results of casting the circle this way or that relative to the Sun’s apparent motion have an interesting opportunity to check an extended range of possibilities.

  3. alexsumner · January 23, 2013

    The Golden Dawn tradition works with the land as well. Unfortunately, that land is neither in Australia, nor England, nor anywhere on the physical plane: it happens to be the Hall of Dual Manifestation in the Egyptian after-life. Hence, when you work a GD ritual, you are not necessarily making contact with local forces, but astrally transporting your temple through Time and Space and across dimensions.

    What traditions other than the Golden Dawn do with their directions is their own business.

  4. Matt Stone · January 23, 2013

    Makes sense to me that it should shift with the hemispheres.

  5. Gordon · January 23, 2013

    Two things:

    – Extra points for the post title. Genuine LOL.

    – When I lived in Australia (east coast) I used the same North/South as you and a reversed East/West… for the same reasons. As for the circle casting we went widdershins as well. 01finrod’s comment looks sound to me (not that I’d know) but it felt ‘right’… and I’m talking vigorously ‘right’… like going deosil was trying to push two of the same magnetic poles together.

    For whatever that’s worth. Not that I’m from a lodge but I’m definitely from down under. :)

  6. Pat Zalewski · January 23, 2013

    Putting aside many of the pros and cons for reveals in the Southern hemisphere I would like to add another very vital component here and that is the holographic effect that Michael Talbot outlines. If you look at this theory it allows for an effect to work in a situation that is theory it would normally not.. If we believe in the GD system or wicca etc that going certain direction works and going in a counter direction also works then the egregore allows for this. The egregore and holographic paradigm are on parallel tracks here. .

  7. Andrew · January 23, 2013

    Delicious.

    Because we’re northern hemisphere, I think North American pagans have a tendency to accept this Eurocentric model of the universe. I’m doing a ritual tomorrow night, in honor/memory of the last witch executed in Connecticut (alas, probably just a rich widow rather than a spiritual ancestor — greed rather thought police issues, but still awful). Yet guess what, we are still using earth/north, fire/south, east/air and so on. The Land anywhere has its own things to say about this, but The Land is going through profound changes: biological, in the form of the Columbian Exchange; cultural, in the massive outflow of Indo-European language and culture to the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia; and economic-industrial, in that this flow has happened simultaneously with three different kinds of industrial revolution – mechanical, energetic, and computing….

    I’d say our magic, all over the globe, in every tradition, is going to be bouncing for a little while yet. :-)

  8. Tony Fuller · January 23, 2013

    On precisely the basis you suggest in 1978 Will Chesterman of BOTA (GD tradition) changed Corpus Christi from June to December for the 2nd Order.

  9. Peregrin · January 23, 2013

    Hi Tony – this very interesting, and yes as I have mentioned in another post, the entire Christian liturgical year changes (being based on the Spring Equinox, not Mar 21). Do you have some references for this you could pass on? THANKS :)

  10. João Cláudio · January 23, 2013

    Hi Peregrin – This is very interesting indeed , and resonates with somequestionings i’ve been making to my self about it for some time , trying to adapt this ‘imported’ magical systems from the Northern Hemisphere , living in Brazil, deep down under :) .I found this article here ( by a fellow aussie of yours :) very helpful , and matched my impressions http://aussiewytch.wordpress.com/circle-casting/southern-hemisphere-circle-casting-which-way/
    But also Coleston Brown’s book , The Mystery of the Seven Directions .
    Yet , as you point to , there may be some local variations to that basic ‘inverted’ scheme .I imagine that in Amazon , for example , it could be different .Here where i live , attributing Wind to the East ( as it comes basically from Southeast ) , Water to the West ( there is the only and major lagoon of the city near by ) , fire the the North ( towards the equator ) , and Earth to the South ( the coldest region ) , is perfect . But , there is that other issue that intrigues me …the inversion also of the sun signs in Tropical Astrology in the SH …any thoughts about it …?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s