The Pagan Basics series is for those looking to find out more about the basic concepts, symbols and values of paganism. A series of short articles which give explanations to some of paganism’s most fundamental concepts, images and shared understandings.
A modern pagan ritual can be a complex thing. Although the precise structure of a ritual will vary according to the purpose of the rite, and the particular approach and outlook of the group carrying it out, there are some elements that are fairly widespread. One of these is the process of “Calling the Quarters”.
The reasons for such wording may also be in the fact that many pagan rituals are done out of doors, and so the opening of the ritual serves the purpose of making the area into a sacred space, and preparing the participants for what they are about to do.
Most magical Craft-based paths and traditions are organised around an elemental view of the natural world, and associate each of the cardinal compass points with a particular element. Usually these are earth for the north, air for the east, fire for the south and water for the west. In general, each of these elements also has a spirit or spirits associated with it (sometimes referred to as ‘elementals’ or ‘Guardians’), and it is these spirits which are invited to attend at the beginning of a ritual and thanked at the end*. Again, the format of the call or invitation varies, but in the main will progress clockwise around the compass to open the ritual, and anti-clockwise to end it.
A nice way of calling the quarters and opening your ritual is this:
I/we welcome you, Guardian of Earth in the North, to my/our ritual. Witness my/our words and intent today. May my/our feet be solid and may you bring grounding to me/us.
I/we welcome you Guardian of Air in the East, to my/our ritual. Witness my/our words and intent today. May my/our thoughts be blown clear and pure, and may you bring fresh breezes to me/us
I/we welcome you Guardian of Fire in the South, to my/ our ritual. Witness my/our words and intent today. May my/our lives be cleared and purified of all that is unwanted, and may you bring inspiration to me/ us
I/we welcome you Guardian of Water in the West to my/our ritual. Witness my/our words and intent today. May myself/ ourselves be washed clean by your presence and may you bring perseverance to me/ us
To close at the end of your ritual, you could say something like:
Hail and farewell to you Guardian in the (west/south/east/north) thank you for your presence this day
[* Some groups will summon and dismiss these elemental spirits; others believe this to be a little presumptuous in the face of the forces of Nature and so simply invite them to witness the ritual.]