Why Do We Call in the Directions? And How to Make it More Personal

Full Moon in Virgo: March 2023 Ritual

Virgo is an earth sign, a grounding energy known for its organizational skills. This full moon, take the time to write your own call to the directions. Practice personalizing them, and making them specific to your rituals. And begin by learning more about why we call the directions, and its origins as a practice.

What is Calling the Directions?

The directions are associations of each element with a particular direction. The usual associations are:

East – Air

South – Fire

West – Water

North – Earth

and most people see Spirit as a fifth element, represented by the heavens or the space above us (whereas Air is more of the air around us, if that makes sense; of course, both are around us!)

Calling the directions is a practice that asks us to invite the elements to join us in ritual. They are there as protectors as well as guides. They set the ritual space, and protect us within it: not allowing uninvited energies to enter.

The Origins of the Practice

Some people call in the elements as Watchtowers, which have a stronger association with archangels and Enochian magic; others call in Guardians, which come from the same roots but are thought to be a newer way of saying it. They also have a stronger association with Celtic paths, whereas Watchtowers are called in with most Wiccan paths. The concrete origins are not known, but most resources point to John Dee’s Enochian magickal practices, written down in the 1500s. These practices were adopted by the Golden Dawn in the 1800s, which heavily influenced Wicca and other modern occult practices. So long story short: many paths have been doing it for a very long time.

Calling the Directions: How to Personalize

For most people in Western paganism, they choose to start in the East, as Air is associated with new beginnings. But others, especially in some historically Celtic paths, begin in the North, with Earth. Others still associate different directions with different elements, but these are the traditional directions and elements.

The traditional way to call in each direction is:

“Guardian of the East, Element of Air, creatures of wind, direction of new beginnings, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

The underlined parts are where you can customize. So for example, in a ritual of gratitude for beginning a new job you’ve been wanting, you might say, “Guardian of the East, Element of Air, creatures of high places, direction of new opportunities, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

Some people even include mythical creatures in the “creatures” section. In the Faery tradition, my tradition of initiation, we call on fae for each element:

East – Air – Sylphs

South – Fire – Salamanders

West – Water – Undines

North – Earth – Gnomes

These are the more European associations, coming from the work of Paracelsus, a Swiss alchemist, in the 1500s. I choose to work with the fae of the land I’m in: they don’t always have a name, so in that case they become “fae creature of Air”, etc. But here in Greece, I work with the four winds (the Anemoi) (Boreas (North), Zephyrus (West), Notus (South) and Eurus (East)) for Air; the Jinn for Fire; the Neireids and Naiads (sea spirits and river spirits) for Water; and the Oreiads and Dryads (mountain spirits and tree spirits) for Earth. Look around you and reach out to the spirits of your land to see who you might call on. And research to see if there are names you can start using.

Here’s one example that is a great jumping off point for your own rituals.

Start in the East and go clockwise towards South, West, then Earth:

“Guardian of the East, Element of Air, creatures of wind, direction of new beginnings, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

“Guardian of the South, Element of Fire, creatures of heat, direction of passion, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

“Guardian of the West, Element of Water, creatures of river and sea, direction of emotion, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

“Guardian of the North, Element of Earth, creatures of forest and field, direction of grounding, bring your guidance and protection this night. hail and welcome.”

At the end of ritual, to dismiss the Guardians, at each quarter in reverse/widdershins, (beginning with North) repeat:

“Guardian of the North I thank you for your presence and protection. Go if you must, stay if you will, hail and farewell!”

In Conclusion

The invitation of the elements, and/or the invitation of the directions, is found in many cultures around the world, from Hinduism to Native American practices to the rituals of the ancient Greeks (they even named four different winds from each direction.) And of course, all pagans are connected to the earth and the elements in their practices. How you invoke or honor the elements in your practice is always completely up to you, but these are some jumping off points and ideas for embracing them.

Try it all, see what works; and don’t be afraid to discard or move it around for each new ritual. We often want to just find the “right” one, but sometimes there’s only the right call for the right occasion. Magick is like life: always changing. It’s best to keep an open mind and keep trying new ideas.

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By Elyse Welles

I am a practicing witch for over ten years on 3 continents, with 5 years of experience in an eclectic Faery Tradition coven. I am a regular contributor of pagan articles for Sunflower Journal, and the Metaphysical Times, and have been published in The Wild Hunt, Yellow Arrow Journal, Free Verse Revolution, and Gypsophila Magazine, among others. My debut novel, "Witch on the Juniata River", is forthcoming from Running Wild Press. I also cohost the Magick Kitchen Podcast and teach spirit of place, sacred travel, and magickal living online, as well as through tours of Greece's temples and spiritual sites. For more information on upcoming workshops and more, and to sign up for my newsletter, visit seekingnumina.com or follow me at the social links below, as well as my YouTube channel, Seeking Numina, for tours and meditations at spiritual sites around the world. Learn magickal living with me at patreon.com/elysewelles

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