Symbolism of the Compass – Meaning of the Four Directions

Symbolism of the Compass. Meaning of Cardinal Directions

One of my readers asked me about the deeper meaning of the four directions (north, south, east, west).  Specifically, she was given a powerful mandala, and wanted to know in which direction would be most auspicious to hang the mandala in his home.  My response follows…

Dear Coordinated Coordinates: 

Excellent observation.

We can honor and enhance the attributes of something (such as your mandala gift) by placing it in an area that is aligned with appropriate energy.

Different cultures have assigned different meanings of cardinal directions.  Here are a few brief samples of directional energies and what they represent to various cultures:

In Chinese Feng Shui, each direction correlates to the Chinese zodiac animals:

  • North =  Rat: Adaptability, charm, creativity, sociability, wit.
  • East = Rabbit: Trust, sincerity, love, compassion.
  • South = Horse: Physical strength, health, adventure, loyalty.
  • West = Rooster: Confidence, business, energy, persistence.

In ancient Celtic symbolism and tradition, the cardinal directions were acknowledged in several ceremonies and festivals.  Handfasting ceremonies and other earth-based belief systems (pagan) still honor the directions today.  Here is a brief outline of these directional representations:

  • East = air, communication, new beginnings, new growth
  • South = fire, energy, passion, creativity
  • West = water, emotion, psyche, movement
  • North = earth, home, security, fertility

In certain divinatory practices the directions represent time phases:

  • North = Infinite Possibility (no-time)
  • South = Present – Now
  • West = Past
  • East = Future

Native Americans have their own meanings of cardinal directions.  The Lakota, for example hold to the following guideline:

  • North = wisdom/thought
  • East = salvation/spirit
  • South = beginnings/purity
  • West = conclusions/fullness

I’ve written a feature post on Navajo and their meaning of the four directions here:

The astrological zodiac provides yet another aspect of the four directions and their symbolism:

  • East = Earth corresponding with Taurus
  • South = Fire corresponding with Leo
  • West = Water corresponding with Scorpio
  • North = Air corresponding with Aquarius

In conclusion, I would encourage you to meditate upon your purpose with the placement of your special gift.  Ask yourself “what are my intentions?”  Invest the time to determine what you truly wish to accomplish.

I’ve only given you a brief background on multiple resources here.  Ultimately only you can decide what is meaningful in directional symbolism.  Trust in your ability to soul-navigate effectively and you will know where to put your mandala in order to achieve the results you are wanting.

I trust this information helps you on your path.


“There is only one guaranteed, no-risk, high-yield investment and that is SELF-investment.” ~Anguis

24 Comments on “Symbolism of the Compass – Meaning of the Four Directions”

  1. Happy Winter Solstice!
    I was doing some major house cleaning/clearing and changing my directional perspective. Was just curious about south/southeaster facings…thanks for the insights.

  2. Thank you so much!
    These information really helping me for some research of compass!

  3. This is all fairly new to me, but I am fascinated with the cardinal directions and their meanings. Someone told me recently that East used to face upward instead of North. Is that true?

  4. I got this website from my friend who told me about this site and now this time I am visiting this site and reading very informative articles or reviews at
    this time.

  5. In ancient Celtic symbolism and tradition, the cardinal directions were ?

    East = air, communication, new beginnings, new growth
    South = fire, energy, passion, creativity
    West = water, emotion, psyche, movement
    North = earth, home, security, fertility
    this is not correct this arrangement comes from the Ezekiel’s vision …….and the north is cold and dark and certainly did not symbolize fertility

  6. Google, or was it the East Wind, brought me here when I was looking for the meaning of an fresh breeze I felt after praying for guidance.

    I helped me to find the answer I was looking for. The excersize permitted me to identify and integrate my feeling of assertiveness. I had to put in the work to anchor the feeling.

    Thank you Avia for the suggestion to meditate on my intentions.

  7. What I amn trying to figure out is why I have a strong attraction to the “direction “Northwest”? Even in my mother’s back of her house and with some plants, I feel at ease sitting at the corner that faces the Northwest. Right now, I live in the Northwest area of the city. I like San Francisco and from dallas or texas, it is Northwest from these areas. East is my area-Gemini. Actually, the Big Dipper is also Northwest in the sky. I even like the movie, North by Northwest. Northwest is also by the hour of 11, also my day

  8. Hi..wondering if anyone can help. ..I keep getting a synchronisity of a line from NE to SW any ideas…thanks

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