In many sources, I read about the cardinal directions in Druidry being corresponded to the four classical elements. Penny Billington refers to this circle so divided into quarters as a Celtic Cross. My many previous years in eclectic paganism have given me ample familiarity with this system, but my more recent years in Traditional Irish Religions like an Creideamh Sí have taken me out of the habit of this system.
In fact, in American systems of Druidry, more reconstructionist in nature, a system has been devised called the Nine Part Dúile, which is a set of nine elements corresponding the many elements of the world with the many elements of a human body. It is a modern system based on a medieval tract called The Seven-Part Adam, which runs thus:
‘There is this to be known concerning the creation of Adam from seven parts. The first part is from the earth; the second part is from the sea, the third part from the sun, the fourth part from the clouds, the fifth part from the wind, the sixth part from stones, the seventh part from the Holy Spirit. The part of earth that is the body of man. The part of sea that is the blood of a man. The part of the sun is his face and countenance; the part of cloud, his thought; the part of wind, the breath of man; the part of stones, his bones; the part of the Holy Spirit, his soul…’
I am inspired, by Imbas, as is any good bard, to create a unique directional mandala based on these elements and the Celtic Cross, which is further informed by my particular location, and what is found in each of the directions where I live. As the elements here list seven, my directions, in addition to the cardinal four, will also include above, below, and center. This is how I arrange them:
Beginning with the direction of sunrise, and hence beginnings, in the East I place the element of Stone, to represent the Cascade Mountains to my east, especially Mt. St. Helens, which I call Loowit, as some of the native peoples here do, which I see as the local home and representative of an Cailleach, giantess and creatrix of the land, and Queen of Winter, dwelling in snowy mountains, where she imprisons Brìde, the spring maiden and Queen of Summer, both of whom are central to my ancestral mythic worldview.
Moving sunwise, as is proper, to the direction of South, I place the element of Sun, noting that the south is from where our warm weather comes, and that it is in this direction that the daily sun primarily resides during hot summer. This also relates well with the classical orientation of summer and midday as seasonal and daytime correspondences to this direction.
In the West I place the element of the Sea, because the Pacific Ocean is to my west, from my home in Cascadia. Also keeping to the theme of the sun’s path, I can envision the morning sun rising over eastern hills and mountains, brightly illuminating the southern skies, and setting over the sea, as is recorded in the Sun Prayer in the Gaelic Carmina Gadelica, which I sing each morning to greet the sun and new day.
In the North, I place the element of Wind, as the north is the direction of cold, is where the sun sits in the sky during cold winter, and whose chilly winds often come down from the north. This also synchronizes well with the classical placement of winter and dark night/midnight in the north.
Moving into the middle of the circle of the cross now, I look down and place the element of Earth in the direction Below, well, for obvious reasons. The land is beneath us, supports us, and vitalizes us. It is literally the Ground of our Being. She is also a Land Goddess of Sovereignty in each region, an ‘anima mundi’ or soul of the world.
Conversely, looking up, I place the element of Cloud in the direction of Above, also for obvious reasons. Clouds bring our weather and climate, which in turn determine the nature of our environment, the land beneath and around us.
And in the very Center of the circle of the cross resides Spirit, which animates all. In Irish tradition, I also think of this as Neart, which Irish author and scholar Seán O Duinn speaks of as being the vital essence of the universe, apparent in all forms of life and all natural formations. In Reiki it is called Universal Life Force Energy, and in British Druidry it is called Nwyfre.
With this mandala, I can relate the directions with these seven elements, which in turn correspond to those seven parts of myself, and in turn are evident in the aspects of my own landscape all around me, in a prayer of thanksgiving for each, which can also create a contemplative meditation on the relationships between them along opposite poles.
If ever a part of a wider druidic ritual I will be very familiar with the system is use by the wider community, but for myself, I wish to explore more deeply the system I have drawn up here, to see how it helps me develop connections and relationships with nature in general, and my landscape and location in particular.