Tomorrow is the first day of October. The fall equinox has passed. The wheel has definitely turned from summer to fall, from South to West. The four shields model of working with nature and psyche has much to teach us, and enticing doorways of exploration to offer through the West.
To place the West in the context of a wheel, picture that the North is at the top of the wheel. Then moving clockwise, East is at the right of the wheel. Continuing clockwise, South is at the bottom of the wheel, and the West is at the left side.
Each direction has different qualities associated with it. Are these qualities inherent to the direction? I would say sometimes they are not, though often they seem to be. For example, in the northern hemisphere, the North is ultimately the direction of the North Pole, which is white with ice and snow. At least it will be for a while longer, I hope. So to associate white with the North makes sense. But in the southern hemisphere, it would make more sense to associate white with the South, because in the South is the icy South Pole and Antarctica.
The East is associated with the colour yellow, which makes sense when you consider the sun rising in the East. Similarly, the West is associated with the colour black, in part because the sun sinks below the horizon in the West, causing darkness to fall. The South is associated with the colour red, and there are reasons for this as well, which I will discuss another day.
The interesting thing about the colours is that peoples from all over the world have devised systems similar to the four shields, including the medicine wheel of the North American plains peoples and the wheel cosmology of the Dagara people of Africa, and they choose the primary colours of the earth and sky—red, black or blue, white, yellow, green—although they may place the colours in different directions of the wheel.
Returning to the question of whether the directions have qualities inherent in them, I have come to view the four shields and other models as ways of organizing and working with aspects of reality, including the outer world and our inner nature. The four shields can be used as a tool for contemplation and understanding, just as the I ching, runes, tarot cards, and many other tools can help us look at an issue in our life and see something new.
Over the next few postings I will be exploring more qualities of the West with you. I invite you to join in an exploration of the West.