April 3, 2013

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Three: C is for Calling the Corners

Have you heard of witches calling the corners (or quarters as some say) and wondered what it meant? It's a term that's often used but not really understood even by some witches. What's even more confusing is there are many magical traditions that use a calling of the corners in one form or another.

Usually calling the corners is done after a witch or group of witches has cast a protective circle and entered into it. The protective circle of course provides protection against forces that would harm the witches, kind of like a shark cage provides protection for divers. Calling the corners provides even more protection since the corners are kind of like guardian angels, only they're not angels.

The four powers witches call upon are called elementals. Usually they represent earth, wind, fire and water but sometimes one of the elements is different depending on the tradition. The person calling the corners literally calls out these guardians by saying something like "hail, guardian of the watchtower to the east, powers of air and intuition" and then continue with a variety of phraseology to complete the calling of the corner.

Each elemental is attached to one of the four cardinal points: east, north, west and south. Which elemental is attached to which cardinal point is a topic of great debate among witches since different traditions do things differently. Often the orientation of the elementals had to do with local geographical features as they relate to the original geography of the tradition's origin.

There's great debate about what the elementals even are. Some witches say they are spirits while others claim they are faeries of different types. Many European traditions associate a gnome with earth, a nymph with water, a sylph with wind and a salamander with fire.

Watch this scene from The Craft where they call the corners, which gives you a very Hollywoodized depiction of the practice:


Carol Kilgore said...

Interesting. Stopping over from A-Z. FYI, VR Barkowsky is doing A-Z about Wiccans.

Lexie C. said...

I don't think I've ever heard of this, so this was really interesting! I'm loving your theme :)

Steven said...

Carol, thanks for the tip! I'll have to check that out.

Lexie, glad to educate! Come back for more paranormal fun; I'll be here all month :)

VR Barkowski said...

Great theme, and excellent post. I plan to tackle Calling Down the Quarters once we get to Q. Writing about Wicca is proving a challenge because as you point out, there are so many different traditions, and for solitaries (neo-Wiccans) individual paths. That's not even taking into account other Pagans and non-Wiccan witches.

~VR Barkowski

Steven said...

VR, the sheer variety of magical traditions out there makes studying it so fascinating for me and I think so frustrating for others. Have you ever looked into curanderismo, for example? I could have done that for my C, but maybe I'll do a blog post about it later...

Anonymous said...


My favorite use of the quarters is in the ritual magic of the Katherine Kurtz Culdi books, where the participants in each quarter invoke an Archangel: Raphael the healer in the East, Michael the warrior in the South, Gabriel the messenger in the West, and Uriel the angel of mystery and death in the North. Much more fun than those ward cubes. ;)

Steven said...

kelworthfiles, I'm not familiar with Katherine Kutz Culdi's work, but it sounds like she writes about Christian practitioners of the craft. Most people are astounded to learn there is such a thing.