Four Directions Models, Traditions, and Rituals

May 3, 2007

I am fascinated by the search strings that people type in that lead them to this blog :) Almost every day someone types in four directions. This makes me really happy! It makes me picture men and women all over the world seeking to create personal rituals from indigenous traditions – what Bill Plotkin in Soulcraft calls Self Designed Ceremony. (I do get a few hits each week on Soulcraft and Bill Plotkin ;) If you want to learn more about that – visit the Animas Valley Institute (AVI).

In a discussion today – I threw together this quick compilation of ways of working with the four directions and being short of time am recycling this writing by posting it here. Sometimes I feel so split between the intimacy with which I write in closed groups and the anonymity that at times limits my writing here. Another both/and inviting me to sit with the irreconcilable!

So here is the post from Divine Feminine Wisdom:


Everybody has their own internally consistent way of working with the four directions. The ways that I use are VERY different from the reclaiming community so if you start to use this in your life and one day run into someone from that community – they may tell you you are doing it “wrong.” When I began this work – I learned that the Celtic wheel differs from the Lakota Medicine Wheel, and those are only two of the ingineous traditions that have been written about.

When I attended my first AVI intensive – the most powerful thing I took away was applying Steve Gallegos’s four ways of knowing with the four directions. Steve took the four ways of knowing from Jung’s typology – but changed intuition to imagination. If you are wanting to become more balanced about how you “know” things about your interior life and the world – that is a powerful wheel to create and work with.

North – Thinking (rational, analytical, scientific)
East – Sensing (what I take in with not only sight (overdeveloped in humans) but also touch, taste, sound, scent)
South – Feeling (including mad, sad, glad, and scared – but more importantly to me connecting memories and experience with emotion and the body)
West – Imagination (the place of the mystery, the unknown, the unconscious of Jung)

Another model that I worked with came from Angeles Arrien. She is an anthroplogist and came up with a cross cultural wheel using archetypes, visionary, teacher, healer, and warrior. Each archetype has a task. Instead of focusing on our woundedness – her model is about developing our potential and character. What I love about her model is that it doesn’t wallow in what isn’t working – instead she has specific work that we do to develop all these aspects of Self and then we go around the wheel to balance ourselves.

You can read an interview with her here:

North – warrior
South – healer
East – visionary
West – teacher

In the interview she talks about the work of each of the directions.

Much of the work I talk about here that has to do with the subpersonalities – Loyal Solider, Nurturing Parent, Indigenous Child, etc. comes from the AVI model. Let me know what you are looking for if it isn’t what I have laid out here.


How do you bring balance into your life? What are the unexpressed and undeveloped archetypes that are waiting in your unconscious to find expression? How might they assist you in living your larger life?


  1. Great question! I worked intensely with Angie’s book when it first came out. At the time I was quite actively living on a Warrior-Healer axis and had very consciously left the Teacher archetype undeveloped. I associated the teacher quite powerfully with my mother, and didn’t care to (a) be like her; (b) use her life and actions as a yardstick for my own. Since then I’ve spent a number of years consciously developing the Teacher aspects of myself; smoothing the ruffled feathers and rough edges of the Warrior and allowing the Visionary to be extremely private and inclined towards hibernation/introversion.

    In the past five years I’ve discerned a problematic pattern which I’m now actively working to reconfigure. Whenever the Visionary began to wake, I found it was difficult or impossible to integrate those aspects into the outward motion portions of my life. It had very little to do with my own inclinations or evolving skill set; it had to do with expectations and projections that were placed upon me by others and coming to (largely unwelcome) terms with a deeper understanding of how thoroughly many people employ control mechanisms within inter-relationship.

    For a long time I held compassion for others, myself and the general situation. Life’s not easy after all – at the singular or collective level! This type of awareness was followed by a period of feeling very impatient with myself for also feeling resentful of others’ limitations and how I was consistently drained by such things. Why didn’t I know better? Why were these kinds of individuals still drawn to me when I didn’t want that dynamic surrounding me? How could I magnetize a different strata of “other people” without also walling-myself off from uncomfortable but necessary growth experiences? Etc. Etc.

    Eventually, right around this time last year, I began to feel internalized shifts that were profound enough for me to realize that I needed to evolve *beyond* what I’d built in the larger world. First and foremost, I needed to accept the need as fully valid. It took me awhile to be fully clear that what I needed and wanted was growing far more compelling to me than what others had grown VERY comfortable expecting and/or demanding from me.

    This was an uncomfortable phase which took awhile to process thoroughly enough to begin implementing my self-discoveries firmly and reasonably rather than reactively. I’m now taking A LOT more time for myself because the most innately organic archetype for me has always been the Visionary. I can now claim responsibility for allowing those aspects to simmer or languish while I worked on other things that didn’t come nearly as naturally or easily.

    At this time I’m going through an extremely uncomfortable phase of examining the ways all these archetypes continue to be “ransacked” by those in my spheres of influence who tend towards energetic vampirism. The healer aspects have definitely suffered for that in ways that have *provoked* the warrior aspects, rather than nourishing or supporting those parts of me. The visionary has grown organically depressed. And the teacher is growing very very weary of teaching by an example that can’t be perceived by those who have no inclination to embrace such perception.

    I’m bringing greater balance into my life by making the kind of hard choices that I’d previously avoided out of the sense that they kept me too isolated within myself. It’s like coming home after travelling the world for a solid decade of hardcore exploration “out there” in all sorts of arenas that simply aren’t related to my truest nature. I’m rediscovering my personal comfort zones rather than paying homage to the same zones in other people. I’m finding balance, in other words, by doing the polar opposite of many of the things I did when I first read the book. The learning curve is steep and frequently perplexing, but every day I do feel a bit more settled and equalized at the internal level …

  2. Acey,
    What a heartfelt reply and response to those questions. I love hearing how others use the various four directions teachings in their own life.

    I tend to retreat to the north – the the realm of thinking or wallow in the south in the realm of feeling and emotion. Since attending Sweet Darkness with animas.org, I am much more conscious of the feeling of wholness that comes to me when I live from each of the four ways of knowing.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. wow! This is great! So much here. I’m so glad to know you’re out there. Looking forward to reading, getting acquainted.

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for pointing out that there are different traditions for 4 directions. I tend to think of it more in terms of elements. The system I use (Interior Alignment and Soul coaching) is:

    East – air – intellect & reasoning
    South – water – emotions
    West – fire – spirit
    North – earth – physical

    I also use Archetypal or western astrology. By my birth chart I am fairly well balanced in all four directions/elements. I have a Scorpio sun (water & emotions) but Scorpio has two rulers – the other is a fire planet so there is that influence there as well.

    I’m looking forward to learning more about the archetypes. Thanks for the link.


  5. Thank you. I googled “directions”
    and this is what I found….exactly what I was looking for !
    Can you say something about the vertical directions?

  6. I was looking for Clarissa pinkola Estes– and came across your site–this is wonderful– I have done work with Jungian dreamworkers in the past–need a brushup!

    thank you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: