D is for Directional Orientations (North, South, East, West)–A to Z Blog Challenge

compassD is for Directional Orientations (North, South, East, West)

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

Coming and going from any which direction differs from coming and going to a specific direction such as North, South, East, and West.  Your fortune and the personalities you encounter depend on it.  Though, combine all those directions together and you have entered the cosmos that encompasses all that is around us.

Many times the directions or the winds blowing from those directions are personified and become intriguing characters with folklore.  The most forceful and intimidating of the winds has always been the North Wind, known to bring about miserable or wintry weather.  The four elements—earth, fire, water, and air—relate to the four cardinal points of the compass.  A square by itself or a square within a square can also represent those four cardinal points.  Each line of the square takes on a direction while declaring that we exist in a world that balances opposites.

The Egyptian pyramids were built upon an East/West axis with the entrance facing the Pole Star.  The pyramids acted as a world axis or were being the center of the universe.  Muslims face Mecca when they pray and use a special compass called a qiblah to determine which way to position themselves.  Squares and compasses emerge as main symbols within freemasonry and the use of compass points in imagery.

Here are some examples of what the cardinal directions mean for different cultures—

Chinese:

  • North = winter, water, has image of tortoise with a snaked wrapped around it
  • South = summer, fire, has image of the red bird/Phoenix
  • East = spring, wood, has image of blue or green dragon
  • West = autumn, metal, has image of white tiger

Japanese Buddhists:

  • North = Protection by Blue God Bishamonten
  • South = Protection by White-Faced Deity Zochoten
  • East = Protection by Red-Faced Deity Komokuten
  • West = Protection by Green-Faced Jikokuten

Celtic:

  • North = earth, home, security, fertility
  • South = fire, energy, passion, creativity
  • East = air, communication, new beginnings, new growth
  • West = water, emotion, psyche, movement

Lakota (Native American):

  • North = wisdom/thought
  • South = beginnings/purity
  • East = salvation/spirit
  • West = conclusions/fullness

Navajo Medicine Wheel (Native American):  based on wind directions, creatures of the Mother, and colors of the races within the spirit realm

  • North = Adult Phase, Image of the Buffalo, Place of Air, Animals, Mind, Heart, Wisdom, Balance and Harmony, Relates to White Races who know the ways of the Mind, Science, Research, and Technology
  • South = Child Phase, Image of the Mouse, Place of Water, Plants, Emotions and Movements, Relates to Red Races who knows how to Dance in Harmony with the Earth
  • East = Birth Stage, Image of the Eagle, Place of Fire, the Human World, Spark of Life, Spirituality and where one sets out on the Vision Quest, Relates to Yellow Races who have Mastered the Way of Meditation
  • West = Death Stage, Image of the Bear, Place of Earth, Minerals, the Body, Dreaming, Intuition, Memories, Relates to Black Races who know how to Dance and Drum the Natural Rhythms of the Earth

Nigerian Yoruba:                                                                     

  • North = Color red and with the god Ogun
  • South = Color white and with the deity Obbatal
  • East = Colors green and yellow and with the god Eshu
  • West = Color black and lightning deity Shango

Directions in Relation to Time:

  • North = Eternity
  • South = Present
  • East = Future
  • West = Past

Some stories that use the cardinal directions or at least personified wind forms:

  • “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” Norse tale, a girl must find the one-cursed-as-a-polar-bear prince and travels by the winds of all four directions
  • “The Lad and the North Wind,” Scandinavian tale, where the North Wind is kind and gives gifts to a poor boy that keep getting stolen by a greedy innkeeper
  • “The North Wind and the Sun,” Aesop’s Fable, contest of who can get the man to remove his coat

What stories do you know that involves the cardinal directions?  What stories involve personified directions or winds?  Please comment below and share with others of this post.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here: https://storycrossroads.com/2017-schedule/).  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.


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