The ancient Celts understood the significance of the sun in driving the seasons and energising life. We now know through science that all life on earth is fueled by solar energy, that plants through photosynthesis use solar energy and in turn feed the animal kingdom, create fertile soil humus, influence local climatic conditions and play a significant role in the cycles of water and nutrients.
Seasonal day length and temperature, determined by the cyclic journey of the earth orbit around the sun, triggers the growth and behavioural patterns of plants and animals in temperate climates. Working in harmony with the sun’s path and earth cycles is central to pagan ritual and practice. In ceremony all things move in a sun-wise direction, which in the northern hemisphere is clock-wise.
In the northern hemisphere the sun lies lower to the southern horizon during winter, thus the south is the solar aspect, the direction from which comes the life-giving warmth of the sun, while the north generates the cold polar winds and represents darkness, death and decay. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, facing the solar aspect and embracing the sun in the southern sky, the pathway of the sun moves from left to right, or ‘clock-wise’.
Here in the southern hemisphere our orientation is reversed. For us the north is the realm of the winter sun and the south of cold and darkness. When we face the sun in the northern sky and track its path from east to west it moves from right to left, anti-clockwise. In Australia, or anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, to work with the life-giving energy of the sun we must translate all our ritual to the appropriate sun-wise direction, which is anti-clockwise or from right to left. You will thus find all my diagrams for the southern hemisphere move from right to left, in an ‘anti-clockwise’ direction.
Widdershins is the opposite of sunwise, which symbolizes drawing in the energies of darkness.