b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1885.JPG      A few paintings ago, "The Fish Are Confused", I noticed the fish I had painted were swimming in all directions.  Up, down, East, West, backwards, forwards, etc.  I felt confused just painting it and I assumed the culprit was global warming.  The water is warmer and the winters are wetter.  On land and in the ocean all of us are resetting our clocks and changing our calendars.  

     That was until I discovered the four directions on a trip to Lake Tahoe.  As my karma would have it, I should say the directions discovered me in the shape of a pair of earrings I purchased at the North Lake Tahoe GateKeepers Museum & Marion Steinback Indian Basket Museum in Tahoe City.  On sale in the giftshop are select items made by members of local tribes and the volunteer at the shop told me these earrings represent the four directions. This is where the fun begins.

     If you begin to study the four directions you may notice quickly that the colors equated to each may appear differently from reference to reference.  One reference book describes the Sioux Indian Religion depicting the correlations between the direction and color this way:  Black for the West, Red for the North, Yellow for the East and White for the South.  Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux holy man and The Lakota of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society - a group that uses the four directions and their corresponsing colors to identify their organization - describes them this way:

- White for the north, for wisdom gained through winter stories

- Red for the east, and enlightenment

- Yellow for the south, and innnocence

- Black for the west, and it's power

     Are we confused yet?  Which way is up?  Which way is west?  Here's where the shamans get involved.  These are the Four Sacred Directions, an aspect of shamanic cosmology also known as the four winds corresponding to the four natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air) and depending on the tradition, tend to vary in their correlation.  The four directions are ways of connecting with the seasons of our lives and understanding them greatly assists in the coming into harmony with our own natural rhythms and patterns.  Each direction typically has an animal, plant or mineral that holds the energetic quality that corresponds to it.  It also has a correlation to different cycles of time: day, year (season), and to our entire life.  The Medicine Wheel is a symbol that emcompasses the Four Directions where each of the Four Directions is typically represented by a distinctive color, as previously noted such as black, red, yellow and white, which stands for the human races and can also represent:

- Stages of Life

- Seasons of the year

- Aspects of life

- Elements of nature

- Animals

- Ceremonial plants

     In the mix of all this the Lakota are my favorites because they bring some humor to the party.  They laugh while we try to codify the colors knowing that the information is attained in a very specific and indivudual manner.  There is an emphasis in the metaphysical world of the Lakota on one's own vision.  The variations in the colors can easily and readiy differ from individual to individual.  Inconsistency may actualy be the way to a fuller understanding of the Great Mystery.  I like their advice, "Take time to make the world your sacred place.  Take your time and attune to the spirit and power of each direction.  Look at the gifts each direction gives you...but move out of the abstraction of the symbols and make it personal."  For example, "Face EAST and give thanks for the warmth of the sun and the coming new day.  Pray for the power of knowledge..."

     Perhaps the fish aren't confused after all.  In our search for purpose are we saying we've lost our sense of direction?

 

     Love, Deborah