One of the most fundamental aspects of Wiccan thought is the importance of the four Airts (pronounced; "eights"). The four Airts, or Quarters, are the guardians of the Magic Circle.
The four Airts are sometimes visualized in abstract form, and sometimes personified as Guardians, or personal Deities for the Quarters.
The four Airts are invoked at the begining of almost every major Wiccan ceremony. The Airts represent the totality of all existence, and the furthest extent of being. The Airts correspond to the four Directions and the four Elements. From ancient times all of existence was defined by these -the Universe was believed to stretch outwardly toward the four Directions, and to be composed inwardly of the four Elements. By invoking the four Airts we symbolize our connection to all things which exist.
Airt is a Scottish word meaning something to the effect of "Wind." Throughout history the four Directions have often been represented by the four Winds -especially in classical times. The Airts take their elemental correspondence from the character of the prevailing winds of the region, and so the relationship between Direction and Element varies according to different systems.
The Scottish names of the Airts are these; East -Aes, South -Deas, West -Iar, and North -Tuath. These were the guardians of the Directions, who marked the extent and nature of existence, and who defined the limits of the Magic Circle. Clockwise movement in the circle is called Deosil, or Southward, and is used to raise or charge energy. Counter-clockwise movement was called Tuathail, or Northward -though Gardnerians have popularized the colloquial term "Widdershins" in many circles. Counter-clockwise movement in the circle is used to cleanse or release energy.
The normal Wiccan correspondence of Airts to Elements are these; East -Air, South -Fire, West -Water, North -Earth. These are based in their origin on the prevailing winds of Britain, but are commonly used by Wiccans the world over, today.
The four Elements were believed to be the building blocks of creation. All things which exist are believed to have these four Elements within them. The credulous might take this literally, but in fact it has always been understood that the Elements refer not to the physical substances of air, fire, water, and earth, but to qualities represented by them.
Simply put Air represents thought, ideas, conceptions. Air represents beginings and new things. Fire represents action and physical manifestation -creating and doing. Water represents emotion and reaction -the natural effect of responding to what has been manifested. North represents integration, wisdom, and understanding.
This will be seen to be a microcosmic version of the process of creation. If you remember the creation story from the Vangelo Delle Streghe, this will become even more obvious. Air represents the period of Diana's pre-existence and Her thoughts and dreams. Fire represents Diana's creation of the God -that is the manifestation of physical existence. Water shows the
Goddess' reaction to Her own creation -how She was filled with emotion and desire by the beauty of the Light, that is; the God. And North is integration -how the Goddess reunited with the God by sending souls into matter. Everytime we invoke the four Airts we are symbolically reenacting this process.
Other systems of thought have had other correspondences between the Elements and Directions. In the Ceremonial tradition East is usually thought of as being Fire, while South is Air. Many ancient people's, notably the Egyptians (at least in some periods) considered West to be the direction of Earth, and North to be Water. But these variations are only different ways of understanding the same process.
The four Airts are at the center of a vast system of CORRESPONDENCES which are integral to the transmission of Wiccan thought. In earlier times wisdom was transmitted orally, rather than being written. The Airts and their correspondences were used as a system of memory and patterned thought.
Some of the correspondences of the Airts are as follows;
EAST - Air, Dawn, Spring, youth, the Maiden Goddess, the Young God, thought and beginings of all sorts.
SOUTH -Fire, Noon, Summer, adulthood, the Mother, the Sun King, manisfestation and action. WEST -Water, Dusk, Fall/Harvest, parenthood, the Queen, the Judge, emotion and reaction. NORTH -Earth, Night, Winter, old age, the Crone, the Sorceror, wisdom and integration.
The Airts are further associated with several systems of color. Some common ones you may encounter are;
Gardnerian Wicca Air -yellow, Fire -red, Water -blue, Earth -green. Traditional Wicca Air -red, Fire -white, Water -grey, earth -black. Hindu Tattwa Air -orange, Fire -red, Water -white, Earth -yellow.
The Correllian Tradition favors using the Gardnerian colors for the Quarters, but the Traditional colors for the Guardians of the Quarters.
In recent years many people have suggested that the four Quarters are a recent development in the so-called Western Traditions. This is not true. The presence of the four Quarters can be demonstrated over the course of thousands of years of history, particularly as guardians of the physical world. It is harder to document their use in the Magic Circle, yet if the Magic Circle is considered a microcosm of the Universe, the presence of the four Quarters is clearly inferred at least.
Most civilizations in the "Western Tradition" have included the concept of the four
Quarters, usually personified as their Guardians. Some of these are as follow;
Egypt -The four sons of Horus; East -Qebesenuf, South -Tuamutef, West -Amset, North -Hapi.
The four Goddesses; East -Nephthys, South -Neith, West -Isis, North -Selket.
Rome -The four Winds; East -Eurus, South -Notus , West -Zephyrus , North -Boreus.
Ceremonial -The four ArchAngels; East -Raphael, South -Michael, West -Gabriel, North
The four Kingdoms; Air -Sylph, Fire -Salamander, Water -Undine, Earth -Gnome.
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