Upon returning from my trip to Peru, I started a practice of calling to the four directions because doing so engaged my heart, got me immediately grounded and centered, and made me feel embraced in a very supportive atmosphere. I got really curious about it because I noticed that the way my shaman opened sacred space seemed a little different from the method attributed to the Q’ero (here in Spanish and in English). This makes sense considering that practice is rooted in various indigenous communities around the Americas, so there isn’t one consistent way of going about this. I noticed that where people started their circle (some in the East, others in the South), and also what they called in (animals, plants, elements, attributes) differed depending on how a tradition constructs its medicine wheel. Aside from the First Nations of North America, versions of this prayer practice is also found in among Andean, Mayan, Nordic, Siberian, and Celtic communities, as well.
Faced with all this variety, I got a little overwhelmed. When I asked my Akashic Records about the best way for me to go about doing this for myself, they responded that I should keep doing what I was doing: letting my curiosity lead me to different versions of the prayer, trying each one out, and noticing what portions of each prayer seem to connect to my heart. They said that eventually I would find my very own way of doing it.
To be honest, this felt really awkward at first. I wasn’t sure if this was something that individuals did for themselves, or if you at the very least had to be leading a ceremony—ideally as a shaman—to do this sort of thing. But I discovered individuals who seem to have created their own blessing for their personal use as well. (Here is poet James J. Lafferty speaking briefly about how a Mayan couple’s prayer inspired him to write his own Celtic version of the four directions.)
I kept at it simply because it felt right and also really good to me, despite the awkwardness and uncertainty. I would set aside time before meditating, working in the Records, or playing with tarot cards, to open sacred space by calling to the four directions. It quickly became obvious that I wanted to call to seven directions (including up/Heavens, down/Earth, and myself/center). And I also started highlighting lines or concepts that I really enjoyed from various prayers, or changing words and omitting things I simply didn’t resonate with.
I also started experimenting by starting at different places (I found I definitely preferred East to South), and closing in different ways. This Celtic wheel starts in the North and then proceeds counterclockwise. After habitually closing, as I opened, in a clockwise fashion, I eventually realized that closing in a counterclockwise directions actually felt better to me.
I checked in again with my Records, at which point they recommended I place some crystals at each of the directions to mark my medicine wheel. I chose them according to the elements: quartz (air) in the east, garnet (fire) in the south, aquamarine (water) in the west, and black tourmaline (earth) in the north.
After a couple months of trying out different things and modifying as I went, I found that I dispensed entirely with my notes and started truly calling from the heart. This is, I believe, as it should be. As with Akashic Record blessings and any other prayers, it isn’t the words so much as the intention I invest in them and the feelings they generate in my being that matter most. You could say I know my blessing by heart, but I also practice with enough openness that if a new power animal walks in, I welcome it. [To take one example, Polar Bear walked in from the north, and I asked him why he came, and he responded, “I bring you the gifts of an animal in transition from land to sea.” This made a lot of sense to me because I’ve been working with dolphin energy since May and while it’s opened me to so much, it’s also ushered in a tremendous amount of change, which is always destabilizing.]
One of the many terrific things about customizing your own call to the four directions is that it doesn’t have to be the same every time you do it. So some days I will go all out with my smudge sticks, crystals, symbols of the elements, and take my time facing each direction and calling everyone in. Yet over my silent retreat I felt the desire to pare the practice down to the basics. I would simply light a candle, maybe anoint myself with an essential oil, and maybe construct a small version of my crystal medicine wheel before me. But in the end it was just about me sitting on my bed and calling out to all the directions in my awareness.
I encourage you to be open to discovering many different versions of this prayer before crafting your own. Aside from the Q’ero blessing, the Mi’kmaq smudging ceremony is particularly appealing to me. I also found this Ojibwe teaching illuminating. Here is a Lakota version, for comparison. Another very beautiful version is artist and teacher John Curtis Crawford’s invocation, which he shares in his documentary, Gateway to Faerie (skip to 38:28). It is simple and sweet, and he uses it pragmatically to center himself and connect himself to nature before walking in the woods to collect materials for the fairy houses he builds. Even briefer still, this smudging ceremony focuses on the elements. It is not my personal choice, but some feel called to integrate the four directions with the Christian tradition. Here are two examples of this.
In short, there are a lot of resources online for how to create your personal healing circle and information on the alchemical symbolism of the wheel of life. Let your curiosity take you far and wide and see what inspires you!
Some uses for the four directions:
- grounding and centering
- engaging heart energy
- opening sacred space for a ceremony, ritual, workshop circle, meditation, or other sacred / energy work
- calling in spiritual support
- connecting with inner wisdom/higher presence
Don’t be afraid to get creative and follow your own inspiration! I’ll be writing shortly about what happened when I started calling myself to the center of the circle in a more elaborate way than I started with. Magic really happens!