CALLING THE QUARTERS
by Christopher Penczak
(Originally appearing in Green Egg Magazine.)
Quarter calls are part of the magic circle, a ritual used by witches and other mystics the world over. In this ceremony, the practitioner is creating a boundary for protection and to raise energy. Through intention, this energy is infused with the goal of any spells done in the circle. The four quarters are called to balance the circle and manifest the results of a spell. Each quarter draws upon the four element, the primal powers of creation. Everything is made from the four elements. Everything has an Earth or physical aspect and a Fire, or energy component. Less obvious is the Water aspect. Water is expressed through the emotional and astral forms. The Air aspect is expressed through the mental realm. Everything is created by thought. Even if something has no consciousness and emotions, it has an astral form and a structural geometry. By calling upon the four elements, you manifest your desire more quickly. Guardian entities are often called upon and visualized with each quarter, to aid in protection and manifestation.
The primary difference between quarter calls is the correspondence between the direction and element, and what form of guardian you are calling upon for aid. Some traditions claim they perform the one true way, and all others are wrong, but I've found as long as you call upon all four, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, and do so with love and respect, it works. Some combinations may resonate better with you than others, but it never hurts to try something different. Traditionally quarter calls start in the north or east and move clockwise. They are released and wished well at the end of the ritual in the opposite direction, usually starting where the quarter calls began. All beings who help in your magic should be honored and thanked.
The angelic circle is a very traditional quarter call. The four archangels, or watchtowers, are asked to protect the participants in the magic circle. Start in the north, call upon the element of Earth and the archangel Auriel. In the east call upon the element of Air and the archangel Raphael. Then to the south, call upon the element of Fire and the archangel Michael. His flaming sword protects Eden. Lastly move to the west, calling upon the element of Water and the archangel Gabriel.
Some choose to work strictly with elemental energy, and not call upon angels. The elements are called upon and visualized through their elemental form, often from mythological references. The directions and elements stay the same, but for the Earth, you could call upon and visualize Gnomes or Dwarves. For Air, call on Sylphs, which are small winged fairy like beings. For Fire, call upon the Salamanders, red lizard like beings living inside the flame. For Water, the elemental is Undines, looking much like mermaids. The elemental may appear in a humanoid form, but made entirely of the element. Fire elementals usually appear to me as men made of fire.
Others go direct to the source, calling upon the chief elemental, or elemental king, named after the four winds of Greek mythology. The king of Earth is Boreas, often depicted as an old man with black or gray clothing and hair. The king of Air is Eurius, a fair haired youth dressed in blue. Notus is the young warrior king of Fire, in red armor. In the realm of Water is King Zephyrus, a middle aged man with rusty hair and sea green robes. They often carry their elemental "weapons" from the Tarot suits, a shield, sword, spear and cup respectively. You may even try calling upon elemental queens.
When I first learned to cast a circle, my teacher had some different correspondences. We worked with Totem animals. I was told this is a more Celtic tradition. I'm not sure if that's true, but I really like combining the elemental world with the animal kingdom. In the north we called upon the element of Earth and the Stag. But you could also use the Bear totem. In the east we called upon Fire, for the Sun rose in the east. We called on the Red Fox as our totem. In the south was the element of Air and the Raven or Crow. Water was in the west, with the Salmon of Wisdom.
My own tradition incorporates different gods who I feel are guardians and guides to me. I call upon these gods and totem animals. For the Earth I call upon Cernunnos, the horned lord of the forest. For Fire I call upon Lugh, the bright and shining one. Macha is my patron from the Air realm. And I call upon the waters of transformation from Cerridwen's cauldron.
In ancient Egypt, the Shemsu-Heru, the sons of the avenging god Horus were associated with the directions. Each has a different animal head, much like the traditional four mummification jars holding internal organs of the deceased. Other Egyptian deities are associated with the directions. To the east is Tuamutef with a jackal head. He represents the element of Air. Ra, Osiris and Bast are patrons of the east. Akeset is the only human, associated with fire and the south. The fiery lion goddess Sekhmet is from the south. Qebhsennuf wears the hawk head, like his father and works with water and the west. Other gods of the west include Hathor, Anubis and Nephthys. For the north and Earth comes the ape headed Hapi. This Hapi is most likely not the Nile River god of the same name. North is also the direction of the great goddess Isis. Personally many of these animal and deity association do not resonate with me, but they worked well for the Egyptians.
For those into astrology, you can use it as a model for your magic circle. An astrological chart is a picture of the sky, having all four directions. In a natural chart, each sign, planet and house lines up with their natural rulers, the ones sharing common traits. In this chart, the four directions match the four cardinal signs. North has the sign of Cancer, the crab, a water sign. Its planet is the Moon. East is Aries the Ram, a fire sign. Mars is the ruler. South is Capricorn, the goat, an Earth sign. In the west is Libra, the scales, an Air sign. Venus is the planet of Libra. In this ritual, while calling on the elements, you can invite the energy of the signs, or gods and goddesses corresponding with their ruling planets.
The Native American traditions also honor the four elements and directions. Though not witchcraft, their spiritual practices are strongly comparable to the natural religions from Europe. The Medicine Wheel ceremony places the element of Earth in the south, Water in the west, Air in the North and Fire in the east. The Central and South American natives may have similar correspondences in their world tree. The Aztecs associated Omeciuatl with the Earth, Tezcatlipoca with the Air, Ometecutli with Fire and Tlaloc with Water.
I have a student who has placement of the elements similar to the Medicine Wheel. She may have a past life in those traditions. She starts with Air in the north, because she faces north and sees the sky above her. We are on the east coast of North America, and she feels water is obviously to the east. Earth is below her, or behind her, putting it in the south and the Sun sets in the west, so that is the direction of Fire. It makes sense to me, even though I don't use it. Do what makes sense to you. These ideas are to get you started. And always go into a circle with a light heart of love and trust for the Goddess and God.
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