An Iroquois legend states that after fire was born, air was created. Then Goah, the master of all wind gods, placed an animal in each quadrant of the Map to regulate the various other winds. He placed a bear in the North, a moose in the East, a fawn in the South, and in the West, a mighty panther named Dajoji. As the keeper of the setting sun, Dajoji signaled the end of each daily cycle. To Native North Americans, the panther plays a significant role in witchcraft, hunting, medicine, and healing. In Native South America, panther sightings are associated with wealth, the earth, and good fortune.
The West signifies celebrations, the end of cycles, and the physical body. Its location on the compass marks the end of summer and beginning of autumn. It is time to dance and celebrate. Wind energies that blow through this quadrant can help you reap the harvests of your efforts. Just as the final months of a calendar year represent a time for joy and celebration, as we reflect on the accomplishments of the previous seasons, you are supposed to enjoy the physical bounty of your labor.
The Western Landscape
The West represents the harvest, which contains both the preservation and destruction of life just like autumn, the season when crops are harvested and the fields are empty, but people’s bellies are full and the sharpness of the cooler air stimulates the senses. The invigorating chill and colorful palette of autumn can easily grab our attention, putting us at ease and possibly making us complacent. But this is actually a time to be alert, with our senses fully awakened.
Many traditions view the West wind as a harbinger of death. Of course shamans view death as more than an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Death wears many disguises, among them the loss of innocence, physical death, or a spiritual initiation. Taking a step over the edge of any cliff toward the completion of a project or achievement of a goal can feel like we’re crossing a chasm into the Underworld. Like the natural cycles of night and day, however, we are continually dying and being reborn. When sunlight retreats into darkness it is a blessing, allowing for the rejuvenation of our bodies, minds, and spirit.
The western quadrant has tricky features, many of which are well hidden. It is therefore imperative that you calibrate your Awakening Compass so that you can identify and avoid the many dangers and pitfalls found in this territory.
Our bodies are finely tuned vessels transporting us around all the territories. The western quadrant is about the physical. Aligning to Your Awakening Compass requires becoming aware of your body. Unlike the mind, the body is visible in the mirror, and loves to move. Caring for your physical self is an important aspect of waking up. Eating, walking, stretching, sex, exercise, and dancing are activities that can help you become aligned as you move through the cycles of your life. Because of our ability to reason in the East and feel in the South, we are capable of fine-tuning our compass to make more informed choices about health in the West. These choices allow the West to be celebrations of health and well-being. Bodies are resilient and capable of self-renewing, nonetheless we should respect our bodies, like a boat captain who continually waxes the deck, replaces ropes, and oils pulleys.
Before your body returns to the earth and your spirit return to the wind, in the days and months leading to your physical death you may experience a series of debilitating symptoms as your body wilts. Eventually your mind consents and your body collapses and finally expires. Exhaling your final breath (the wind of the body) brings you a state of relief and peace.
To shamans, dying while living is a true initiation. It is an opportunity for transformation, usually brought about by unforeseen events, such as when a house burns down, a parent dies, or a company goes bankrupt. Even when it is a grievous event, the death of one thing always heralds the birth of another. When you get married, your single life ends. Whenever you make a choice, no matter how positive and beneficial it is, you give all options back to the earth. When you relocate to a new home, the life you had in your old neighborhood withers away. When you graduate from school, the child who you once were no longer exists. All “deaths” inevitably lead to “rebirths” and give us a chance to redefine ourselves. Wind gods and goddesses who visit us in the West signal that we are leaving something behind, and creating a void that can be filled with something new. It is an invitation to celebrate what has been and who we are right now.
Christians believe in life after death, recognizing that death is merely a transition into a new life: a spiritual rebirth. In Hinduism, life and death combine in a repeating cycle known as reincarnation. Both traditions realize that nothing is permanent, including life and death. Indigenous medicine people know that we die many times before taking our final curtain call on the grand stage we call life.
Recent advances in brain science prove that the stages of falling in love are a physical event. Love hormones trigger a kind of euphoria that causes us to lose our bearings; the Greeks called this the “madness of the gods.” it is in the West quadrant where our love is tested. The West relates to issues like disappointment and rejection, the logistics of cohabitation and income generation, as well as the healthy expression of our sexuality, all aspects of a sustainable partnership. As we awaken, our goal is to find the “right relationship,” one that holds equality and propels us further forward on our journey toward wholeness, from which perspective we have become compassionate lovers.
Unable to deal with the pressures of modern-day living, many people now turn to medication for relief. According to the Centers for Disease Control, antidepressants were the third most common prescription in 2008 and more than one out of every ten people over the age of twelve are prescribed these medications. Those who do inner work typically rely less upon on prescribed medications than others; because their Awakening Compasses are better calibrated they respond more effectively when physical symptoms related to the dark night of the soul arise.
Again you will face the setting sun in the West when you are dealing with your own aging processes and the aging of your parents. After the loss of her father, one woman’s elderly mother became demanding and required a great deal of attention. Her extended stay in the West while caring for her mom delayed her from pursuing her life’s mission. In order for her to move forward in her career, it was essential that she learned the spiritual art of navigating strong headwinds. She did many card readings for insight.
Signs and Symptoms of Sailing Through the West
The West Wind is to the body as the South wind is to the emotions and the East wind is to the mind. Physicals symptoms include a heightened sense of smell, acid indigestion, colds, flus, and other lung-related issues. These internal winds mirror the winds of the wider world, and it is interesting that the lungs are sensitive to the pernicious external winds that are responsible for conveying airborne illnesses into our bodies.
Winds in the West often serve as catalysts for the spiritual transition that the sixteenth-century mystic Saint John of the Cross termed the dark night of the soul. Busy lives do not easily accommodate these types of experiences, wherein our sense of identity and stability is questioned. Dark nights of the soul often occur in midlife.