Cardinals

It is hot and bright, and ordinarily I would wear my shades, but I let my eyes adjust to where I don’t need to squint anymore, and I enjoy the colors and sky and clouds, the trees still green at this point. I have a bottle full of ice and water, and as I walk, I begin invoking the directions.

I begin with the Four Kings, speaking their names aloud (O Eastern N.—O Western N.–), visualizing them as titanic forms in each of the cardinal directions. From there, I speak the names of the Four Winds.

These winds are not the classical Four Winds—or, if they are, they did not present themselves as such to me. To the East is N. the Cloud Prince. He has flowing hair the color of clouds, changing as they change, dusky skin, sailing the clouds as if they were ships, a pirate fleet, floating islands, across the sky—he looks down and observes the distant lands below.

To the West is N. of the Western Storms. Hir has dusky, dark skin and two pairs of horns, floats in the western skies, gazing out as storm clouds roil behind hir.

To the South is N. of the Summer Breezes. Hir has long, curved horns, swooping out a bit like longhorn…well, horns, with dark blue skin and clouds for hair, soaring and joyous and calling the winds from behind hir.

To the North is N. of the North Winds. He sits atop a bare limbed tree alone on a northern plain. He has stag’s horns and two long curved blades. He sits and gazes south until it is time for the winds to cut, at which point, he pulls the blades and sings the winds forth from the north.

I then invoke the four landmarks that I’ve seen in the cardinal directions. To the East is N., the Eastern Windswept Hills, the Shining Plain, the Gates of Dawn, beyond the Crystal Arch. If I gaze out far enough, I can see the bright banners and the pavilions on the Plain blowing in the breezes.

In the West is N., the Silver King, the Other Path to Faerie, the Tree of the Zephyrs—a birch tree on the far bank of a river, a well or basin nearby, priestesses waiting for those who rise from the waters.

In the South is N., the Great Tree, the Great Oak, Rising and Descending through All of the Worlds. It is titanic, often obscured by the bluing of the atmosphere—and before it dances a barefoot dark-haired woman in a blue dress.

In the North is N., the White Mount, Mount Qaf, Cyprian’s Holy Mountain, Rising to the Outer Dark, to the Shard, to the Crown, to the Throne, to the Tower—a gleaming white mountain pointing at the Great Bear and the darkness within.

I move through these three cardinalities as I complete the first leg of the walks. I used to then launch into a kind of litany of spirits and allies and so on, but this got rather entailed and ponderous—and rather beside the point while out walking. I am walking not just through my neighborhood but through these Cardinal Realms, with myself at the center of them. I will end this invocation of directionality with reminding them who I am and then with a simple prayer for peace, protection, and so on as I walk through the World, upon this earth, under these trees, under this sky.

Much of this directional litany seems easier during the day with a partly cloudy sky, the sun out. I have found that overcast or cloudy skies make it harder to gaze beyond them, and indeed, without the sun, the trees and land themselves seem all the more present. With the sun and clouds and sky, the airs are far more immediate—the sun, too, of course. The trees seem preoccupied, turned to the sun, singing in their solar chorus. The “gnomes” are far less obvious, and indeed, I think they withdraw to the most shaded spaces: they are far more active in the night, under the shadow of the trees. The airs are brighter with the sun out, and I can see the “sylphs,” I can see the shining serpents coiling through the air. I can see to the horizons and gaze beyond them.

When it is cloudy, the trees seem far more attentive: with the sun, their attention is to the sun. But at night or under the clouds, their song shifts or pauses. They look down at us, at me. I find it easier to see and feel the individual trees at these points. Sometimes, I can see them as humanoids—as giants and giantesses, or perhaps as tall men and women at other times. The “gnomes” are also far more obvious then—even more so at night when the shadows under the trees and hedges are pitch black.

With the cloudy days and nights, I can see wind giants—cloud giants?—settle into the tops of trees whose branches undulate and murmur—as if they were leaning upon the trees and looking down at you—or, perhaps, as if they are moving through and into and as part of the trees—for the trees and the wind are not the same as the wind-through-the-trees. They will otherwise move through the low-lying clouds and keep to their congresses.

I find myself greeting different trees, especially when the wind blows through their branches. Sometimes, I will come around a corner and see a particular tree or two—and the wind is there and other things are happening. Once, a line of birds had assembled amongst the trees. At another time, the way the sunlight came down through the wind-jangled branches stopped me. At these times, and when I notice the giants or the Winds or others—I find myself often getting this fierce smile, a fierce feeling of kinship and sisterhood and brotherhood, like finding family and friends you’re involved in a conspiracy with. It’s not quite the laugh when an enchantment lands, but it comes from a similar place.

As I am walking, I have to maintain a curious double-vision—if I go too far one way…well, I can see the landscape as a wondrous place—almost as if all the human stuff wasn’t there. Around here, I’ve seen it as a grassy plain or hills, or I’ve seen forest and woodlands. I live at the western edge of Texas’s eastern woodlands before it starts turning into plains and rocky desert, so this vision makes sense to me, even if the scale sometimes seems off.

It’s like looking at the world from a particular slant. I remember when I first glimpsed it in Pennsylvania when I spent some time there back in the ‘90s, and I saw grassy hills and trees in the distance, and I had a profound sense of longing for that place. I thought I’d found “Faerie” or the “Summerlands,” and I had—one part of them. I think of it as a deeper perspective of this world: this world with all the spiritual stuff there, as if the human, civilized, industrial surface hadn’t been dropped down onto the landscape. I came up with a name for this “world.” I don’t think giving it to you is very important, and it might even be counterproductive. But, I wonder about the visions of a garden or paradise or even of grasslands or wheat fields that seem to accompany many NDEs and visions of just-after-death.

But, I feel like I’m juggling a double-vision of seeing these cardinal realms, of seeing the land and sky where I walk, of that nearby “Faerie”—and also of here, moving through streets and past homes. This physical world is very distracting—it demands attention. This is a good thing as I am, gentle reader, quite duteous about checking for traffic and dangers and so on because I’d rather not get hit by a car. The damn dogs always surprise me, though.

Developing Directionality

I describe my experience above because it’s been part of how I’ve been, honestly, very gradually discovering my own local spiritual landscape. Ever since I first began with the weird shit in 1994 or so, the local landscape and its spirits of place featured large, even if I didn’t recognize or acknowledge that fact at the time. Over time, I’ve had several headslapping moments when I realized that I’d been dreaming of particular places in the physical world—there’s a cemetery I’ve lived near for years that, I realized, had appeared more than once as a “flea market” filled with old timey radio cabinets that the dead were trying to speak through, and old television cabinets, and so on, including the fenced-off area where the hottest spirits inhabited thrones. It took me quite a while to realize, as I passed by the cemetery one day while in a reflective mindset, Oh, that’s THERE. That’s what that is. I had a dream years ago of someone drawing a map in reddish sand. Only recently, as I walked over some reddish sand in my current neighborhood, did that sand and that dream click together.

Directionality is fundamental in magic. However, the western mode of magic has conserved this in only a basic manner. The Golden Dawn and descended lines recognized this importance, even in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, but the system seemed to do little with it in favor of obsessing over the Kircher Tree. But, the cardinal directions have always been important.

I have to admit that I have occasionally felt that twinge of forced humility when I work with directionality and wind up, of course, at the center of the universe that emerges. But, that’s the point. One is asserting one’s place within that larger reality even as one is working to realize and to pay attention to it. The way that we sense the world and move through it—we are always at the center of our attentional world. For as much as magic circles can be protective in nature, they are also points of access through which we can get at that larger, magical reality. Or, perhaps more accurately, they can allow us to temporarily immerse ourselves into that reality even as they provide us support and protection for navigating it and confronting its denizens.

My approach to directionality began haphazardly when I started magical practice again in 2012-ish. I led off with working with the Anderson Feri Guardians, at least as described in T Thorn Coyle’s Evolutionary Witchcraft and other books. At the same time, I also did a lot of meditative, reflective, receptive trance work. I’ve written often about my off-loading of consciousness into trees and the countryside, but my trance work had me begin with a sense of what the local “Nearby” was like in that “Faerie” attention/reality I had stumbled upon.

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It’s apparently a Pexels kind of day (Pixabay)

This work also put me in contact with allies and spirits who worked to get me to pay attention to the directions and what was there. My early Feri Guardian work evolved towards the Four Kings.[1] With the “landmarks,” I began by seeing the Great Tree to the South (after having been given a glyph that “opened” my eyes to it), then the Northern Mountain and the Western Tree and so on. The Winds I only found while sitting outside in the middle of summer, or while walking in the heat and trying to divine ways to make it less hot—and I first found the South Wind, then the West, the East, then the North.

Here’s the thing: my experience of all this strikes me as highly my own. I strongly feel or suspect that others’ experiences are going to be localized and personalized. But, this process has helped me come at my practice in fruitful ways, and it has helped me haunt and enchant my landscape and myself.

How would I suggest you work at doing something along these lines for yourself?

Trance work is a good start. If you’re already working with directional rulers or beings, then sit, meditate, invoke one, and trance out with them. Journey or use active imagination to communicate with them. Ask Michael or Oriens or Star Finder or whoever to show you the East. Or light some incense, do the Orphic Hymn for Eos the Dawn and ask to be shown East before moving on to the others. Or call up your spirit guide and ask them to show you those cardinal kingdoms.

Give yourself time to see and form some kind of understanding or story for what you’re seeing. You probably won’t do this in a weekend.

Or, sit outside or otherwise get good and tranced, facing the direction in question, and try to imagine what’s on the horizon or just beyond it. Or sit outside, or look through a window, and just stare. Look beyond the landscape outside to what’s just beyond, under, within it.

What does it look like without the buildings and roads and more?[2]

Of course, the point is not to “just” imagine, though that’s a starting point. The landscape and directions have to come alive, and not just become some Disney countryside. You have to find the presence there, preferably presences. You also have to be receptive, open to what you might find, not what you expect.

I would honestly recommend against reading up about these things first. I’d worry about tainting your expectations. Well, this is here in this tradition or book, so… I have found that I stumbled into features and things that I later found analogues for—if not outright correspondences—in particular traditions or myths.

What’s the point? The use of directionality, as I noted, is well-conserved, so I would say that having your own sense and experience of directionality is operationally beneficial. Are you opening with an invocation to the Four Kings or the Guardians? Do you see what’s there in the distance? Do they become that much more present and alive for you and your practice? Are you that much more present and there in that reality? Furthermore, I have found, perhaps accidentally, that this process has been a way for me to connect with my local landscape, but also to, quite literally, orient myself within it.

One more thing: although I have pointed to how my experience of the Nearby, of that “Faerie” realm is as if the human civilized world had never been (more or less), that’s just that way of paying attention to the Otherworld. For me, I feel that the urban Otherworld, the Urban Nearby, requires a different kind of attention, and I have had my own experiences there, as well. Please don’t take my comments as some kind of luddite avoidance of human architecture or urbanity or habitation. It’s a different kind of enchanted reality, and it’s one that demands exploration. I suspect the idea of the “Four Cities” (for me, most immediately, the Four Cities of the Tuatha de Danaan—with whatever authenticity they might have historiographically) is one way to come at this idea—the enchanted urban, as it were. And I think crossroads spirits and the mazes and walls and boundaries of cities have very much their own spiritual ecologies that demand our attention as practitioners.

Featured Image: Pexels | Pixabay

[1] I do note that Anderson Feri associates the Guardians with the Four Royal Stars and as being star spirits themselves, which seems an apt linkage (for me) with the Four Kings of the Four Directions from certain threads in the grimoire timeline. That said, I would certainly not say that I have “bound” or pacted the Four Kings from within the context of the Solomonic method, but my experiences as a stumbling newbie have very much informed the Solomonic work I have done, and it has often felt like I am punctuating sentences, to use a metaphor that may be opaque to many readers but which makes sense to me, I began uttering years ago.

[2] In my experience, deformations or changes to the landscape do seem to carry over to some degree into “Faerie”: an interstate highway seemed to be overgrown grassland, but still in the hollow between two hills from where the earth had been shifted to build the freeway. That said, I’m pretty sure if you looked deeper, you’d find the “memory” of the land at an earlier—or at least at another—point.

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