I had a question on Facebook from a bloke running a GD group in Auckland who is under pressure from his Wiccan members to change the circumambulation to anti-clockwise instead of clockwise to match the magnetic flows in the southern hemisphere.
There is a believe that the earth is a magnet and that the polarity in the Northern Hemisphere is the opposite than the southern hemisphere. This is why water goes down the sink in a reversed direction in the southern hemisphere. Apparently all this is confirmed by various earth spirits which operate down-under. Therefore, some wiccan groups have taken to circumambulating anti-clockwise to open and clockwise to close.
Like many myths there is a sort of truth behind the idea, but it is not magnetic it is climatic. In the southern hemisphere the cold winds do not come from the North but from the south and the seasons are the opposites from the North – while Europe has autumn, they are having Spring. If you were to put this onto a diagram, or ritual space, it would look like this:
Summer would not be in the South but the North. Wiccan’s used to being focused on the North would have to use the South instead. The Zodiac sign of Aries, which is associated with the Vernal Equinox in the North becomes the autumnal equinox instead.
If you were to follow the climatic symbolism, then you would still walk clockwise but your ritual would be orientated differently. A wiccan rite would be orientated towards the South rather than the North and a Golden Dawn style rite would be focused towards the East. In the Golden Dawn all the Northern symbolism would be transposed to the South and all the Southern Symbolism would be on the Northern wall.
Now let’s look at why this whole reverse circumambulation is barking mad.
Magnetism does not reverse in the southern hemisphere. A compass still points north and water still goes the same way down a plug hole (the plughole thing is a myth). The earth’s magnetic field is remarkably consistent. This one of the reasons why birds do not get lost in migration routes. So going anti-clockwise makes no sense from a magnetic point of view. Why local nature spirits might suggest that going anti-clockwise could be due to the fact that either you have unconsciously superimposed the message on them, or they don’t like pakehas that much and like the idea of messing with your mind.
So what about the climatic approach?
No one has ever suggested that the zodiacal attributions change with the winds. Climatic changes do not effect a person’s Zodiacal influence. A person born under the sign Leo is still a “summer” child even if that means they were born in a New Zealand winter. This is important because it suggests that most of the western magical symbolism must also flip when going into the southern hemisphere when the reality is that it doesn’t.
Even if you were going to factor in the climatic approach in the ritual and do a circumambulation walking a circle of the sun’s yearly progression in the north, you would go clockwise from east (spring) to Summer (south) Autumn (West) and Winter (North). But the same trip in the southern hemisphere would require you to go from West (spring), North (summer), East (autumn) and North (Winter) the journey would still be clockwise, it is just your starting point would be different. Now let’s look at why you don’t even have to do that, particularly within the Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn circumambulation
If you change something within the Golden Dawn you always have to be careful that you don’t break something more important. A reverse mystic circumambulation breaks the entire system. The Golden Dawn system is solar. Officers are told that every movement must be made “with the sun.” This is rather annoying because if you are in the south and you want to walk to the East you have to walk all the way around the temple to get to that point. In fact, even if you turn to face someone you have to move clockwise. What does “moving with the sun mean?” The sun rises in the east and sets in the west going clockwise across the planet (actually thanks to the earth’s rotation). It is a measure of time going forward. This powerful symbol does not change in whatever hemisphere you are in, otherwise time would go backwards in the Southern Hemisphere while it goes the normal way in the North.
Circumambulation is a spiral which goes upward measured by the process of time, in the 0=0 (and standard opening and closing) it is used to take the candidate upward towards the supernal triangle over a period of time.
For this reason, the idea of going doing a backwards circumambulation in a ritual has an important magical effect. You go backwards when you want to go back in time, or instead of going upward you wish to go downward to the underworld. There is nothing wrong with using this as a magical technique, but if you go anticlockwise expecting to find angels and enlightened beings and the face of the most high you are actually going to be disappointed. In fact I would think that taking outer order people on a day (or night out) to the underworld during their first initiation is rather a bad idea.
How important are climate considerations?
When considering this subject it is also important to question how important the climatic forces are to the Golden Dawn system. While I am prepared to admit that Wicca might find these things important, the winds are not important to any of the GD initiations.
Initiations take place in an astral Inner Temple which is placed over the top of the physical one. In the GD this astral temple is aligned to the Biblical Tabernacle and the Tree of Life. In the Inner Temple physical factors do not make an appearance. When you are present in an inner temple, it is always “perfect.” It is always meeting at the right time of day, always aligned to the right directions and all the symbols are in the right place. Flipping them over or changing them because of perceived physical realities is not necessary. What is more important is getting the symbols right.
If the winds were vital in orientating the temple you should flip the Stolistes and Dadouchos positions. After all the Dadouchos is fire and should be in the north in the Southern Hemisphere and the Stolistes should be in the coldest place – the North. But that ignores the fact that the floor plan of the 0=0 ritual is the tree of life. The Dadouchos is standing on the station of fire the sphere of Netzach and the Stolistes is standing on the sphere of Hod (water). In fact, in the 0=0 the directions of the winds are ignored. The north is the place of greatest darkness (s)he moves to an extreme of light (in the east) and is warned off (with a knock) he moves to another extreme (the western evil) and is warned off by another knock. This is more important than the extremes of the elements (which is a theme which appears later).
There is no mention of the winds anywhere in the Z documents which are the manuals of how to do a Golden Dawn ritual. It is in the elemental grades where the elements are laid out according to the Winds. But their positioning makes sense in way that goes far beyond the winds. What is interesting is that the GD follows the Tree of Life even as it goes through the elemental stations but it always balances them with a corresponding element. So when you enter the water grade you go through two fire paths. The Airy 2=9 is balanced by the earthy 31st saturnine path etc.
If the northern and southern winds were important then this elemental subtlety would be lost. Indeed, you would have to change all the Golden Dawn meanings tarot and cabbalah to reflect them.
Flipping the South and North for the winds you would also mean require flipping the East and the West so that it matches the patterns of the Southern Hemisphere Solstices and Equinox. This would require the gutting of what was left of the GD inner system.
Main circumambulation issue
The fact is that the Golden Dawn magical system works in whatever hemisphere you live. The longest running Golden Dawn temple was based in the Southern Hemisphere and never felt the need to change anything to adapt to its New World position, particularly the circumambulation . This is because its effect was symbolic and internal and not dictated by the outer world. Changing things by flipping elements and a reverse circumambulation would do tremendous harm to that symbolic system. This symbolic system runs deep in the human psyche and judges the ritual whether its participants accept it or not.
Going anti-clockwise is going against the course of nature, downwards instead of upwards, involutionary rather than evolutionary, underworld rather than upper worlds. Other required changes will result in abandoning the Tree of Life model along with Western Astrology, orientating your ritual to the place of the Egyptian Dead instead of the place where the sun rises, looking for the spiritual fire in the place of greatest cold and darkness. Sounds like a great black magic ritual.
And what is the reverse circumambulation pay off?
Well sod all really. You can feel nice and smug that you are doing something a bit different. But it is based on ignorance which is never a good starting point for any change to a magical system.