Perhaps because the climate of their winters is so harsh and the nights so long, the legends of many far-northern cultures speak of a hero who must defeat a monster in order to rescue a captive spring and return it to its rightful place among the people. In the Scandinavian folktale “Saving Spring,” spring has been imprisoned by Old Man Winter and a witty young man, Oscar, volunteers to make the treacherous trek to rescue it, despite a warning that all of his predecessors have been transformed into wild animals.1 Up North Oscar is lulled into a deep sleep by the bitter cold. Upon waking, he realizes he has been transformed into a tiger. Driven by ravenous hunger, he forgets his original mission and pursues a rabbit, but in a fortunate moment of clarity, Oscar wakes up from the spell, remembers his mission, and recognizes the rabbit as his ally.
The northern region of your inner landscape is where the pursuit of spiritual excellence occurs. The catch, if you will, is that it requires all of us to pursue our purpose, including the shadow sides of our personalities. In order for Oscar to serve his community he had to undergo a spiritual transformation and embrace his dualistic nature, which included fierceness that originally made him uncomfortable. Confucius said that although we will always fall short, we should, “Abide in the highest excellence.”
You will need to work with the wind energies of the barren North again and again until you fully realize your human potential, which is to be of maximum service to others. Bus-i-ness left unchecked will always overshadow your humanity. After Oscar overcame his fear of starvation, he was able to restore spring to his village. The winds that blow through the northern quadrant of the Map in any of your card spreads should help you to find acceptance as of your shadow self.
The Northern Landscape
The North is a place of service. The qualities of your experiences will be either pleasant or arduous, depending on your choices and the attitude you bring to each challenge. Large challenges always present greater opportunities for growth.
The North can be like taking a walk with a reluctant friend who demands your complete attention. Its sharp, cold grasp requires you to wear a warm overcoat. A question you must answer for yourself when you are reading cards placed in the North quadrant is, “Are friends only those who help us?” Great lessons can often be learned from great adversaries, so look at the challenging energies of the wind gods and goddesses as opportunities to look around and reframe your response to threats.
Self-realization is about developing clarity and focus, and discovery. Your visit to the land of the North need not be a mission of darkness, sorrow, and suffering. It can be about pausing to reflect before starting something new, taking a silent retreat or even an afternoon nap.
Wisdom keepers have always known that everything is composed of energy, and all forms of life are spiritual in nature. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in South America, the Natives embraced the idea of “more god,” without realizing that their acquiescence to the European soldiers would soon force them to hide their traditions and rituals. If you remember to pursue your spiritual mission, even in secret, you won’t have to worry about being transformed into a hungry tiger.
If you ever lose your bearings spiritually, it is wise to pause and reflect on the energies in of the wind gods and goddesses that are currently frolicking in your North quadrant. Listen carefully to your Awakening Compass, as your intuition uses it to whisper words to you of long-forgotten wisdom. Every reading is a perfect occasion to make a sacred journey, a time for a contemplative retreat into nature. Relax, smile, and surrender to the peace and serenity in the stillness of your frozen northern caves.
While the energy of the North may appear passive on the surface, it is active below. The North is an essential gateway to a deeper spiritual realm inside you, wherein lie powerful, fertile energies. Like a Douglas fir rooted on the edge of a cliff, we stand poised and ready, waiting patiently for the winds of change to buffet us.
The North is a place to hibernate and reflect. It signifies the end of a cycle. Moments of wisdom and clarity like this can arise during yoga class, while hiking, in meditation, or when confronted by an unexpected gust of wind. There are many predictable patterns in our lives—the cycles of work and relationship, annual cycles, and astrological cycles—but the darkness of night and unexpected problems can arise anytime, creating stress and discomfort in our lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Sailing Through the North
Courage, strength, and patience are required when visiting the North. We must be brave like the buffalo as we enter its uncharted territories. Our vision must be as clear as the Great Plains after a snowstorm. Friends, enemies, lovers, and teachers may come and go, but ultimately we have to plan our journey, draw our maps, and travel our spiritual paths alone. The North is a place for introspection. Stand firm as you answer your enemies or pursue the deeper calling in your life. Be vigilant, for the monsters within you could beckon you or rear their ugly heads many times in your life. It is better to face your demons consciously right when they reveal themselves, than it is to be ambushed by demons you denied, leading to illness, loss, or tragedy.
In the Andes Mountains, young men of the Quero undergo initiation either by spending a night alone on a cold glacier, where they pray for a vision, or by jumping into an icy lagoon tethered to the shore only by a rope. Initiation rituals such as these signify the commencement of a period of spiritual maturity wherein they no longer require a teacher and dedicate themselves to becoming one with nature. They ask the wind to bless their naked hearts with a new map for the future. Symbolic objects representing this spiritual experience are added to the medicine bundles they carry with them always. Like them, we gain skills through our icy-cold initiations. Wind cards placed in the North often point to the spiritual medicine we are gaining by meeting our challenges.
With spiritual awakening, there is an initial acceptance of a power greater than you. After surrendering to this power, you learn how to live in harmony with nature by making inner adjustments. Whenever a sustained chill fills the air, it may be the North wind reminding us to reset our sails.
At times, life can feel like we are walking through a harsh winter storm without a scarf, causing us to react to the winds with bitterness and rage. During these chilling experiences, it is essential to exercise patience and practice tolerating the wind. A wise teacher, the North sometimes employing tough love to align us to our destiny, or magnetic north. Spiritual Advisors are great allies when you feel lost in a blizzard, so it is wise to cultivate these relationships throughout your travels. The North is a place when good habits make barren times easier to navigate.
In feng shui, a shamanic tradition from China, the North is understood to govern the eternal natural recycling of water, from its evaporation from lakes and oceans into the heavens, eventually returning in the form of clouds and as replenishing rain. We all possess the water of wisdom. We are destined to sail through the territories of the North many times until our bodies are finally reabsorbed by the earth and our moisture rises to the heavens for the last time.