In normal life, the principle of direction is one that we all use every day to determine where we are going and to guage how long it wil take to reach our chosen destination.
In magick, the concept of direction means something a little different. It denotes where everything is located with relation to ourselves and operates as a more static or stationary concept.
In Paganism, the eight directions are commonly referred to in connection with the primary points on a compass as well as to the turning of the Solar year as it passes through the cardinal points.
As we all know, these are important solar positions that are celebrated by all kinds of Wiccan and Pagan traditions.
In her book, Circle of Eight, Jane Meredith poses a simple, but fundamentally tricky, spiritual problem: that, whilst most books on magick that are written and published here in the Northern Hemisphere are strict in their designation of the compass directions and their relationships to the solar festivals, these traditional designations do not actually work in the Southern Hemisphere where their North is in fact our South.
This is a problem when it comes to learning magick because most books on the subject establish specific rituals connected to the passage of the sun through the north—correspondences that make no sense in Australia and the country where the book’s author currently lives.
However, the differences between the northern and southern hemispheric roots of Pagan magick do not end here. Jane Meredith opens her book by describing the significant differences that exist between them.
The major one is the connection between the psyche of the northern peoples formed through their connection to the landscape compared to the way that Australians interact with their sacred outback.
The author found these fundemental differences to be so great that she felt that for Pagan magick to work for her, she needed to break magickal convention altogether and create a new system of directional correspondences.
The method that she came up with was simple but powerful. She simply calculated the eight directions with relationship to where she was living but with the focal point at the exact location that she was performing her magick.
With a group of seven other individuals, Meredith formulated a ritual in which each member of the group connected themselves to one of the eight directions. This required one person to sit facing north, others to face North-East, East, South-East and so on. Together, they monitored the type of energies that each direction brought to them.
The author describes, with some detail, how the group established their working protocols and how they moderated the ritual to accommodate the cycles of the Sun and Moon.
She also explains how you can, through a simple adjustment in the way that you approach traditional magickal principles, create your own methods for working the Circle of Eight.
Whilst the author does advocate that rituals are worked by eight individuals, she does emphasize the fact that the process can also be undertaken by the solo practicioner.
The most important point to understand when creating the circle is, as the author herself states, that
The Circle of Eight localizes magic and ritual, placing it within the context where it occurs.
This means that the true relationship to the eight directions is determined by where you live rather than established through ancient magickal correspondences.
Having established a more useful working environment, Jane Meredith then provides guidance on how to establish the eight directions within your temple and then explains how you project these lines of force outwards into the wider world.
In the next section of her book, (‘Mapping the Geographic Circle’), Meredith explains how her group looked at specific natural features, the terrain of the ground as well as other important areas such as water courses, mountains and open plains as they aligned to each of the eight compass points.
Once again, she explains the various practical issues that emerge, weaving magick into a landscape that is so dramatically different from the one that first established the Pagan traditions in Northern Europe but more specifically in the British Isles—a place where even the physical effects of elements such as fire and air have a radically different contextual relevance to south of the equator.
The author advises on how to work with these elemental powers and how to integrate them into any Circle of Eight workings. Once again, the way in which this is achieved within a group working is explored along with advice on allowing the energies of the circle itself to reveal the dynamics that underpin each of the spatial directions.
So, armed with a working knowledge of how the Circle of Eight is formulated, you are then shown how the powers of the eight locations can be invoked into a ritual. Also included is an insight into the totems and correspondences that relate to each direction of the Circle.
Here, the author dispenses with tradition once again and questions our current understanding of magickal relationships.
The book next features the process of actual invocation with the various technical and energetic considerations that have to be applied when invoking your chosen deities, the actual length of time that the ritual should take and the intention behind it.
From what is essentially a simple form of practical magick, the author then extends the Circle of Eight concept and introduces some of its more complex features.
One of the ways in which she extends this form of Pagan magick was to create a second magickal working group for children—one that was attended for eight weeks by eight young children. This was a great success and seemed also to be an eye-opening exercise for the author!
Toward the end of her book, Jane Meredith examines the subject of myth and explains how her group integrated various classic tales of magick and mystery into their circle workings. In most cases, these included myths that were specific to each festival.
She gives specific advice on how you can do this for yourself in your own sessions as well as how to integrate your inner spiritual work into Circle of Eight magick.
As the book draws to a close, the author takes a look at the concept of endings and the endless cycle of change and rebirth that it always initiates. As an example of this, she describes how her group used the festival of Samhain as a way of letting go of the past, of connecting to those who had passed over as well as to celebrate all that has gone before.
In her concluding comments, Meredith encapsulates her personal magickal philosophy by saying that
There are no qualifications required to participate in the Circle of Eight. and that it
…offers opportunities to work deeply in the fields of personal development, group ritual, magic, mythic exploration, spell work, celebrating the seasons, and many other areas.
Circle of Eight closes with additional technical information regarding the Circle of Eight and magickal work.
Tradition has come to play such an important part of all magickal practice that we are led to believe that if we veer away from fundamental principles we will, at the very least, cause magick not to work and at the worst, run the risk of inflaming the wrath of the gods themselves.
Circle of Eight is a very good example of how this is just not the case at all and that tradition, whilst it should be upheld whenever possible, should also be freely dispensed with if it fails to work properly for us.
Jane Meredith is someone who is clearly prepared to reject Pagan concepts when her immediate environment and geographical location fails to fit conveniently into its most treasured and universally-accepted principles.
In her book, she makes a profound observation that practising occultists of all types should take on board and that is that all good magick takes place with respect to ourselves as magickians as well as our immediate environment and not with relationship to the deities that are invoked. This method of placating the gods might have worked for previous generations of magickians but it no longer works for our modern mindset.
Overall, the book itself is beautifully written and is in a deeply-engaging personal style that offers you the opportunity to understand and appreciate the thinking that went into the creation of the Circle of Eight concept.
What also came over so strongly throughout the book is that by listening to the universe and tapping into the powerful energies that underpin our natural world but within a structural framework, even the simplest of magickal practices can yield great results.
This is not just a book on magick; it is a GREAT book on magick. I thoroughly look forward to reading more about the Circle of Eight and hope that the author follows up this publication with further insights and information regarding her ground-breaking work.
Circle of Eight marks an important shift in the way that we operate 21st century magick and for that reason alone the book should be read by everyone in the occult field.