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What Are The Quarters?

by: Witchy Crypt, Posted and edited by: Magickal Winds

What are the Quarters?

The ’Quarters’ often refer to the elements of nature that are forces honored by Pagans and Witches. They are named many things, but you will often hear them refered to as corners, quarters, Watchtowers, elements, Elementals, etc. All of these related titles have different meanings and represent different forms of energy. As with nearly everything in the Craft or in Paganism, these forces are seen differently by each individual. This is a general explaination of what they are and how they are ’called’.

The elements are associated with the cardinal points of the magic circle and with a hierarchy of spirits- lower-level beings called elementals, who in turn are governed by higher beings, devas, also called the Lords of the Watchtowers, the Mighty Ones and the Guardians.

So from that we see that the elements are Earth, Air, Fire and Water Elementals are said to be ’lower-level’ beings, meaning very generally that they are not God/desses. Elementals are ruled over by higher beings, devas called by names such as the Lords of the Watchtowers, the Mighty Ones, and the Guardians.

The Cardinal Points

The four corners refer to the four cardinal points of the compass, North, South, East & West.

The occultist, or sometimes ceremonial magician, uses different techniques than a Witch might use. This of course is not an absolute for all Witches. Being very practical people, Witches will often utilize whatever techniques appear to work, so long as they are in line with the beliefs of the Old Religion. The occultist or ceremonial magician will generally evoke a spirit, often using the names of gods, angels and demons from the Judeo-Christian and Mohammedanism tradtion. The magickal traditions of these paths are based in the Zohar (Quabalah), Hebrew based numerology, Notarikon, Gemetria, and are influenced by Egyptian, Chaldean and Babylonian magick. These sources have little to do with Witchcraft except that the techniques have been adopted by some Witches as being useful and that they may have been adapted by these sources from originally Pagan folklore. A Witch generally invokes an energy, using techniques gained through experience and learned from nature and intuition. If techniques derived from other traditions prove effective and do not run counter to Wiccan (used in the sense that Witch=Wiccan) belief, it is proper to use them......the Witch uses the techniques in the service of the Old Religion, just as, let us say, a Christian doctor might utilize drugs which were discovered first by Indian shamans and used by them in the service of their religion" (from The Practice of Witchcraft, Robin Skelton) Some Witches utilize the elements, seeing them as general energies that are inter-connected, that make up all of life. Often you will encounter an author or practitioner who feels the hierarchical division and labeling of particular energies of the elements are not Witchcraft, but rather are more ceremonial in nature.

Others utilize the ’Guardians’ or ’Guardians of the Watchtowers’ or some similar title. These energies are called to the circle for many reasons, often to ’keep the element energies in line with the working’. Again, we can only speak in generalities because each practitioner has a different view of these things. Because many of the rituals in the Craft have been lost through time and persecution, they are merely echoes of what the Old Ways may have been. In an attempt to reconstruct some of the old techniques which were probably more shamanic in nature, modern practitioners will ’borrow’ from other magickal traditions. These more modern traditions of magick often consist of grand hierarchies of energies (angels, demons, etc.). Many Witches however, feel that these hierarchies are an over intellectualization of the energies of the universe and are too limiting.

The elements correspond to the cardinal points. These again are up for interpretation. Generally:

  • North is Earth
  • East is commonly attributed to either Air or Fire (depending on the Pagan Tradition)
  • South is commonly attributed to either Fire or Air (depending on the Pagan Tradition)
  • West is Water

Even these correspondences are often altered according to a particular tradition or according to the area in which the practitioner lives. For example; if you lived on Long Island, you might consider East to be Water (Atlantic ocean) and West to be Earth (N. America continent). Others use different magickal references (grimoires and other books) to determine which is proper for them, or they follow what they were taught by their mentors. This is a difficult area in which to find a consensus and can cause tension in covens of Witches with varied or eclectic backgrounds. Each of the elements is also associated with a magickal tool, or tools. These too vary according to tradition, training, or intuition. You may have noticed that these are the symbols represented on many tarot cards.

Here are some general correspondences:

  • Earth is the pentacle, and often considered a female principle
  • Air is the wand, staff ( or sword or athame for some) considered a male principle
  • Fire is the sword or athame (or wand or staff for some) considered to be a male principle
  • Water is the cup, challice or cauldron, considered a female principle

The combination of the 4 elements is also sometimes represented by the cauldron.

Herbs of the Quarters

  • North: corn, cypress, fern, honeysuckle, wheat, vervain
  • East: acacia, bergamot, clover, dandelion, lavender, lemon, grass, mint, mistletoe, parsley, pine
  • South: basil, carnation, cedar, chrysanthemum, dill, ginger, heliotrope, holly, marigold, juniper, peppermint
  • West: apple blossoms, lemon balm, camellia, catnip, daffodil, elder, gardenia, grape, heather, hibiscus, jasmine, orchid
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