The Four Directions

The traditions of the Potawatomi honor the Four Directions of East, South, North and West during prayer, during ceremony and throughout the day. Each direction has unique significance.

East is the direction from which light comes, and therefore the direction of illumination. It is the direction for birth and rebirth. Rebirth can mean learning new things or gaining a new level of understanding. It is the direction of guidance and leadership. The gifts of the east include clear speech that help others understand, light, purity, truthfulness, childhood, innocence and uncritical acceptance of others.

South is the direction of the sun at its highest point. It is the place of summer, of fullness of youth, physical strength and vigor. Symbolically, it is a time of preparing for the future, of getting ready for the days ahead. The South is also a place of the heart, of generosity, of sensitivity to the feelings of others, of loyalty and love. The most difficult and valuable gift to be sought in the South is the capacity to express feelings openly and freely in a way that does not hurt others.

West teaches that its greatest lesson to be learned is to accept ourselves as we really are, as both spiritual and physical beings, and to never cut ourselves off from the spiritual part of nature. Gifts of the West include darkness, contemplation, deep inner thoughts and the unknown.

North is the place of winter and the white snow that reminds us of the white hair of our Elders. It is the place of true wisdom and survival. Survival sometimes means physical survival, that there is enough food and wood to keep us warm. It can also mean emotional and mental survival against loneliness and depression, keeping our spirit and heart strong. Gifts of the North include our Elders, insight, wisdom, moderation and justice.