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Clockwise and Counterclockwise Witchcraft

Clockwise and counterclockwise refer to the direction in which you move when practicing witchcraft and ritual. You might be walking in a circle around your altar, stirring a potion, or pointing with your wand or athame. You can do witchcraft without paying attention to movement and direction. But the concept of clockwise (deosil) and counterclockwise (widdershins) is a powerful way to sharpen your intent and work with energy. It is a spell enhancer that should not be overlooked.

Clockwise motion is also known to Wiccans as “deosil,” which may have come from ancient Gaelic words for “sunwise” or “toward the sun.” It refers to a right-hand motion in which you are always turning to the right. Picture yourself standing at the center of a huge clock and facing the twelve o’clock position. You turn with the hands of the clock, shifting from the numeral 12 to face the numeral 1. Picture yourself walking around your altar. You travel around it while keeping it on your right-hand side. If you stir a potion, you use an outward motion as if pressing the back of your hand away from yourself.

Counterclockwise motion is also known to Wiccans as “widdershins,” a Scottish term that may come from Middle German words for “opposite course” or “against the way.” It refers to a left-hand motion in which you are always turning to the left. Picture yourself standing at the center of a huge clock and facing the twelve o’clock position. You turn against the hands of the clock, shifting from the numeral 12 to face the numeral 11. Picture yourself walking around your altar. You travel around it while keeping it on your left-hand side. If you stir a potion, you use an inward motion as if pressing your palm toward yourself.

Deosil has positive, righteous associations in the minds of most Wiccans, probably because the ancient Celts venerated the sun. Since the Celts were a Northern Hemisphere people, it is probably also thanks to them that widdershins gained the sinister connotation that it has today. To this day, being left-handed is considered unlucky and the "Left Hand Path" refers to black magic. Celtic and other northern European folklore is filled with tales of bad stuff that happens to people who walk widdershins around a church or other holy site. But in the Southern Hemisphere, shadows cast by the sun move counterclockwise through the day. Counterclockwise is not a traditionally unlucky direction in that part of the world.

Think of deosil and widdershins as two sides to the same coin. They reflect the natural movements of the Earth in the same way that cyclones spin counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Deosil and widdershins are of equal value and neutral connotation – that is, neither is inherently good or evil. When practicing witchcraft in the Northern Hemisphere, use a deosil motion to summon energy and a widdershins motion to banish. Do the reverse if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.

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