The Call of the Spirit Keepers of the Directions - The Call: Remembering Who You Are

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

The Call of the Spirit Keepers of the Directions
The Call: Remembering Who You Are

Reverence and gratitude for the directions is beautifully captured by Charley Elkhair of the Delaware Tribe:

We are thankful to the East because everyone feels good in the morning when they awake, and see the bright light coming from the East; and when the Sun goes down in the West we feel good and glad we are well; then we are thankful to the West. And we are thankful to the North, because when the cold winds come we are glad to have lived to see the leaves fall again; and to the South, for when the south wind blows and everything is coming up in the spring, we are glad to live to see the grass growing and everything green again. We thank the Thunders, for they are the manitous [the spiritual and fundamental life force, understood by Algonquian groups of Native Americans]. It is omnipresent and manifest everywhere that brings the rain, which the Creator has given them power to rule over. And we thank our mother, the Earth, whom we claim as mother because the Earth carries us and everything we need [M. R. Harrington, Religion and Ceremonies of the Lenape: Indian Notes and Monographs. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, vol. 19, 1921].

In modern times, directions are something you hope your GPS will accurately relay. But, there is a more in-depth energy associated with east, south, west, and north. In some cultures “above” and “below” are added, making six sacred directions, and some even add a seventh, which is the center point. In native traditions, the directions are vibrant, alive, conscious energies that affect us in every moment. To embrace the native spirit, heed the call of the directions, which in some cultures are called the Four Winds, the Four Guardians, the Four Protectors, or the Spirit Keepers. In every moment the four directions carry messages to you . . . and when you answer, they’ll guide you in all areas of your life.

Indigenous people honor the Spirit Keepers of the directions. The Aztecs used the directions to divide the world into four regions. The Olmec temples in Mexico were built in alignment with the magnetic directions, as was the entire sacred Mayan city of Teotihuacán. Navajo sand paintings symbolize the four directions and are created during a ceremony reenacting the creation of the world.

When Black Elk was nine years old, he became very ill and was unresponsive for several days. During this time he had a vision in which he was visited by the Thunder Beings and taken to the Grandfathers—the spiritual guardians of the six hallowed directions. In his writings he says that the “spirits [of the directions] were represented as kind and loving, full of years and wisdom, like revered human grandfathers.” In his vision, Black Elk was then taken to the center of the earth, to the central mountain of the world at the axis of the six sacred directions.

Black Elk’s vision speaks of the holiness of the circle and the living spirit that flows from the four directions and above, below, and within. Even though you may not be aware of it, in this moment the directions are affecting you. Literally, they are encoded in your brain and their energy flows through you. From the beginning of time, we’ve defined the space around us in terms of four orientations—that is, we see things as being in front of us, behind us, and to the right or left of us. This corresponds to our experience of our planet, which rotates on an axis, defining north and south. Our awareness of the directions is also associated with the rising and setting sun, which gives us a deep-rooted sense of the east and west.

Our sense of direction may also be connected to the magnetic flows of energy around the earth, called the Van Allen belt. Birds navigate their migration routes by sensing these subtle variations in the earth’s magnetic field. Neurons in the brains of the birds are tuned to respond to signals from the directional magnetic field and register its strength. Research has shown that humans also have neurons that can sense directional magnetic flows. However, when we’re in our homes or in cities, there are strong electromagnetic fields from power lines, appliances, and other forms of modern life that disrupt our sensitivity and connection to the natural magnetic flows of the earth.

In many ways, as we’ve lost our ability to sense the directions of the natural world, we have lost our direction in life. However, we can still answer the call of the directions, and following is some information about how to do that.

Note: In the Northern Hemisphere, we associate the Spirit of the North with winter, coldness, and darkness; however, in the Southern Hemisphere since south is the direction of cooler climes, you’ll need to reverse these meanings. But because the sun and the moon always rise in the east and set in west, no matter where you are on the planet, these qualities remain the same and are relevant to both hemispheres.


The east is the place of the rising sun. In earth-based cultures, the morning was the time to face east and send prayers to the Creator. Often when homes were constructed their entrances faced east to allow Spirit Keepers of the East to enter the home and empower the coming day. The east is associated with awakenings. It is the place of hopes, dreams, and new plans. To answer the call, arise before dawn and then open your arms to the rising sun. Inhale the fresh morning air. If you’re not a “morning person,” you can welcome the rising of the moon. (The moon always rises in the east, though the exact location and time will vary depending on the time of the year and the phase of the moon.)

Symbolically, the beginning of the medicine wheel is in the east. The east is the home of new beginnings. The energy of the east symbolizes spring, the dawning of the day, and the waxing of the new moon. New life. New birth. Seeds are planted. New sprouts push through the soil. Eggs in nests wait to hatch. Babies are born. In the creativity cycle, the east is the place of activation of ideas.

The Spirit Keeper of the East is calling you. To answer this call, face toward the sunrise. Allow the coming light to ignite new energy in every area of your life. When you answer its call, you activate the energy of new beginnings, potential, new ideas, inspiration, optimism, growth, vigor, and enlightenment.


Moving around the sacred circle in a clockwise direction, you journey to the south. This is the symbolic home of summer, the midday sun, and the full moon. Corn is high. Days are warm. It’s the time of fullness and expansion. As the east represents the time of birth, the south is associated with growth and the time of childhood.

Ideas born in the energy of the east are nurtured and magnified in the south. Imagine yourself embraced with sunlight and feel your heart expanding in all directions. This is the energy of the south.

The Spirit Keeper of the South is calling you. To answer this call, face toward the south. Imagine that the light of the midday sun is illuminating your heart so that your heart may illuminate the world. When you answer its call, you activate the energy of expansion, fruitfulness, passion, activity, exuberance, vitality, and life force.


In the cycle of life, the west is the realm of autumn, the setting sun, and the waning moon. Crops are harvested. Leaves are falling from the trees. It’s the time when the new beginnings of birth and childhood have been surrendered, and the teenage and early adult years have emerged. It is a time of discovery, transformation, and experimentation. In the creativity cycle, after you activate an idea in the east and nurture it in the south, you then experiment with it in the west. To put an idea into form, you need to see what works and what doesn’t work. In order to do this, you must try it out, watching it change and go through various transformations.

The Spirit Keeper of the West is calling you. To answer this call, face west and travel in your imagination to the top of a high plateau. The sun is setting. The colors of the day are fading into the deeper colors of the night, as the warmth around you ebbs into the coolness of the evening. A profound peace settles over the land. When you answer its call, you activate the energy of completion, harvest, transformation, change, transition, surrender, release, and letting go.


As you complete the circle, you arrive in the north. In the cycle of life, the north is the realm of winter, the darkest night, and the dark of the moon. It’s also rest, contemplation, completion, and consolidation. In the human cycle, the north is associated with the achievement of maturity, the accomplishments of the middle years of life, and the transition to old age. The energy of the elders resides in the north. The north is the home of darkness and inner mysteries. It’s also the realm of death and rebirth. An idea that was conceived in the energy of the east, nurtured in the south, and tried out in the west, now reaches the place of consolidation and realization in the north.

To answer the Spirit Keeper of the North, face north and imagine that you’re standing in the cold darkness of a winter night. The stars are shimmering overhead, and a blanket of snow covers the land as far as you can see. But, you’re aware that beneath that stark chill and quietude, preparations are under way for a time of new beginning. When you answer the call of the north, consolidation, introspection, tranquility, meditation, retreat, rest, renewal, dormancy, inner guidance, incubation, wisdom, and reflection fill you.


The Spirit Keeper of Above, sometimes called Grandfather Sky, is calling you to see things from a higher perspective. Allow your spiritual branches to rise high into the heavens. Raise your arms overhead. When you answer the call of above, openness and freedom fill your life.

The Spirit Keeper of Below, sometimes called Grandmother Earth, is calling you to take your spiritual roots deep and to honor the earth and gain wisdom from her. Stand with your arms at your side, palms open. When you answer the call of below, you stand tall in your truth, grounded, stable, and strong.

The Spirit Keeper of the Center is calling you to the place of unity, wholeness, and healing. The center is where all the directions emanate from and return to. It’s where the separate parts of self come together to become whole. The Hopi of the American Southwest use the word tuwanasaapi, which means the place of belonging, the place where you’re in your true home, the centering place, or the spiritual axis of the universe. When you understand the hallowed energy of the four directions, you began to understand the cycles within your life, and your own journey around the sacred circle of life. You recognize that each part of the wheel symbolizes a different aspect of yourself and your life. The center of the circle is the dwelling place of the Creator, where the forces of the universe merge into one.

The Spirit Keeper of the Center is calling you to remember who you are and from where you have come, and to know that the Creator dwells within you. Stand with your hands on your heart. When you answer the call of the sacred center, loves flows through you and to you.



This exercise is most powerfully done in nature, but you can also do this in your home as long as it’s quiet.

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re standing in the center of a medicine wheel, and in each direction there’s a gateway. Through each gateway, a spirit guardian approaches you with a message. Turn to each of the four directions to sense the energy flowing from that direction, and then ask yourself, If I knew what the Spirit Keeper of this direction would want me to know, what might it be?

As you connect with the sacred center of the directions, find the sacred center within yourself. From this place, all things are possible.