Mad in Pursuit Notebook

North South East West Cardinal directions cosmogram

Sense of Place: North South East West

Feb. 15, 2016. [Cont'd. from Feb. 13, 2016] So... a cosmogram, a symbolic depiction of the universe. I backed off my Earth, Water, Air, Fire layers to consider North, South, East, and West. Who came up with the idea of the "four corners of the earth" anyway? And why are these "cardinal directions" persistent in just about every culture? I'm trying to see the world through ancient eyes.

Sunrise and sunset. The two big events of every day occur in the east and west. I read that the ancient Israelites oriented themselves to the sunrise, so east was the word for "facing." After facing, it's natural to understand left, right, and not facing. Of course.

In addition, the ancient Greeks used the constellation Ursa Major to guide them north and the noonday sun was south.

I had to remind myself how important it has always been to get from here to there. Some cultures have a fifth cardinal point: center. That could be the universal "you are here" starting point or the universal "x marks the spot" destination. As soon as tribes began migrating and sailing across open waters, navigational tools (whether oral, written, or fabricated) demanded some anchor points.

I also had to remind myself that maps were not a by-product of the printing industry. Maps are as old as cave drawings. From the beginning of time we've been trying to figure out where we are in relation to where we need to go. Maps, with compass points, are another way we have of carving order out of chaos.

They also point the way to chaos. Here I am, in my comfortable known place at the center. But if I take off north, south, east, or west, I will eventually run out of familiar territory and find four very strange and wondrous and frightening places -- terra incognita. On at least one ancient map, the cartographer wrote "here be dragons" when he ran out of known land.

I started off my cosmogram above with a simple NESW crossbar. Then I added a circle because, when we stand at the center -- at the crossroads, the horizon forms a circle around us. And of course, the cross and circle have richer symbolic meaning. I'd half-forgotten about the Daily Crossroads post I wrote last January of this topic.

A couple years ago, when I was researching the Holy Grail, I came across a definition that said the cross (male) part represented "regeneration," its "wings" capturing the motion of the divine spirit; the circle (female) represented the universe (and/or an egg).

This feels powerful. And it also reminds me to get back to my little stitched "interconnectedness" patches. Yes, we can fly off to the Four Winds, but like a family with four children, each straining toward her own independence, we are still one.

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THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.

 

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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]