Witchcraft in Australia, Part 2

Witchcraft in Australia, Part 2

How we practice witchcraft in Australia can be a topic of much stress and confusion, particularly for new practitioners.

In Part 1, we had a general look at the lack of Aussie representation, as well as how Australian flora and fauna fit into things. 

Now let's have a look at astronomy and geography...

The Moon

One of the things I don’t often see discussed is that the view of the moon from the Southern Hemisphere differs from that in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to the angle we’re viewing from, our view of the moon is rotated by 180 degrees from that on the other side of the equator.

A major (and rarely-mentioned) impact of this, is that our view of the moon phases is ‘opposite’ the one we see most places: While in the Northern Hemisphere, the moon waxes from the right and wanes towards the left of our view, in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s first lit from the left of our view, and the light of the waning moon is to the right. 

The “Triple Moon” symbol (of the waxing, full, and waning moon) we’re used to seeing represents a Northern Hemisphere view. While it’s traditionally drawn as )O( the view of the same pattern from the Southern Hemisphere would be ( O ) in shape.

Directions

Being on the opposite side of the equator has a definite impact on directional energy. This is reflected both in terms of the way we relate to the cardinal directions, and in terms of directional movement.

Cardinal Directions and the Elements

Traditional Wicca has heavily influenced modern mainstream traditions surrounding magical practice. This was developed in England in the 1950s (and influenced by preceding British magical and occult traditions), and so the “traditional” associations between the cardinal directions and the elements are influenced by this location:

  • East is the rising sun, which is associated with air;
  • South is the equator, the direction the sun's path skews, that gets most sunlight, so it’s associated with fire;
  • West (past Ireland) is the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s associated with water;
  • North is the Arctic - they’ve associated winter with earth, so this translates to the direction which becomes permanent winter.

Obviously these become less appropriate and relevant when you have a practice based elsewhere in the world. I really feel like this is something that’s worth each practitioner putting at least a little thought into, to decide what makes sense to them personally in the space they live.

In South-Western Australia, I associate the directions thus:

  • East is the entire continent of Australia, with the forested Darling Ranges, which is earth;
  • South is the prevailing winds which come from the Antarctic, making air feel like the appropriate choice;
  • West is the Indian Ocean, which is water;
  • North is the equator, so fire.

As well as looking at how the elements might physically manifest in your location, Jane Meredith’s Circle of Eight (2015) offers a framework for working with the energy of the directions to form a relationship with them through experience.

The Sun’s Path

One of the things that might never come up, depending on the sources you read, is Northern Hemisphere resources using the terms “clockwise” and “deosil/sunwise” interchangeably.

The sun’s path over the course of each day (as viewed from Earth) travels across the sky from East to West, skewing towards the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, this means the sun starts in the east, moves slightly into the southern sky, and sets in the west. When humans started using sundials to track the time, this means that the shadows pointed westward in the morning, moving northward towards midday, and eastward in the afternoon. When they moved from measuring time by the sun to mechanical means (clocks), this pattern remained, and became “clockwise”.

However, “deosil” (or “sunwise”) specifically refers to the direction of the sun’s path. In the Southern Hemisphere, while the sun’s path starts and ends in the same directions, that skew towards the equator takes it Northwards, instead of south. This makes our view of its movement actually move in an anti-clockwise direction.

Traditionally, directional movement holds quite a lot of significance in magical practice. Circles are cast in a sunwise direction and released widdershins (travelling against the sun). Movements to draw something in traditionally move deosil direction (pulling the energy forward in time), and movements for banishing are done widdershins (pushing it away in time, into the past). By replacing these terms with “clockwise” or “anti-clockwise”, and using them as such on the opposite side of the equator, the way these movements tie in with the natural flow of energy is reversed. 

Sunset over the ocean

In Part 3, we'll talk about how our location affects the seasons, and how we might approach the seasonal celebrations. 

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