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. :)
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.
The 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.