Why East isn’t Air

or why not to confuse the finger pointing at the moon with the moon

Recently I had read some posts discussing that age old topic of elemental associations and directions. For perhaps some unfamiliar readers, the elements that I am talking about are the classic elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire (and occasionally Aether). The directions I am referring to are the basic directions we are all familiar with IE: North, South, East and West.

A good many readers are probably familiar with some practice that makes a correspondence between the two, with a great number of variations based upon traditions that one practices within the sphere of Western Esoterica. A common one, used by many Wiccans is the following:

East – Air, South – Fire, West – Water, North – Earth

It is a handy way to work and to have the symbols drawn up so that when you face a certain direction, and you can invoke that element. The thing that I see people getting stuck on is the pushing of the rightness and absoluteness of one set of correspondences over another. What my own practice has lead me to is this. East isn’t Air. South isn’t Fire. West Isn’t Water. North Isn’t Earth. East is just East. It is the direction the sun rises. Depending upon where you live, it might be towards the ocean. If you are very euro-centric you might consider it the exotic East, where cultures and values very different from the Europe are to be found. But it isn’t Air. It’s only a symbol. A useful symbol perhaps, but still just a symbol. You can just as easily call up Earth from the East as you could any other element. You could turn west and evoke fire. You could in fact not have to face and specific direction and call up the elements, either as an energy, or an intelligence, or as primal and archetypal force that symbolizes something specific to you. The exacting debate over directions, elements and other correspondences of place and time, well, they are all just symbols. And while symbols can be useful building blocks help construct a practice, they can also become the bricks of the wall that hold you back and keep you from moving forward.

Rather then turning South and experiencing Fire, why not turn South and experience South. Whatever experience the spirits and powers of the South want to give, what message, guidance, or awakening they can bestow, without being locked into a specific element or other value.
While the needs of tradition continues, and if you are within the tradition, you should continue with the symbol set given, especially if you are conveying that tradition to others, for your own practice, you might try moving outside of the limitations of tradition.

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