Sunwise or Widdershins?

rynner2

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#1
Cycling around the wheel of time
Posted By: Mick Brown at Jan 8, 2009 at 17:01:00 [General]

The lovely Victorian park which I visit most weekends is laid out in a roughly circular fashion. Entering by any one of the three gates you are faced with a choice - to turn left and follow the broad carriageway past the football pitches and rhododendron walk, or turn right and proceed past the tennis courts and children's playground, in either direction eventually completing the circle back where you started.

I always turn left, clockwise - indeed have always turned left for the 20 or more years I have been going there. But it's only recently, since I've started cycling rather than walking around the carriageway, that I've noticed that I'm going against the flow. The vast majority of people on entering the park, appear to have made the decision to turn right and proceed counterclockwise. Why is this?

The term 'clockwise' originally arises from the daily rotation of the earth. The first clocks were made in the northern hemisphere and followed the model of sundials, which measured the movement of the sun from east to south to west - so 'sun wise' became 'clockwise'.

There is something particularly pleasing about completing a circle, and the act of circumambulation, usually around a sacred place or object, is a ritual to be found in all the world's major religions. Christianity has the Palm Sunday processional, which traditionally follows a clockwise direction - a fact probably determined by the old folk-belief that processing counter-clockwise, or widdershins, to use the Anglo-Saxon term, was considered bad luck. In Catholic churches, according to The Church Edifice and its Appointments by the Rev. Harold E. Collins, the Stations of the Way of the Cross may begin either on the Gospel side of the church (left of the altar) or on the Epistle side (right), but in either case they tend to follow a counterclockwise direction.

Pilgrims to Mecca also circumambulate the Ka'bah counterclockwise when performing Tawaf. In a note on the matter on Islamonline.net, Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, explains that this is following the example of the Prophet, but sadly gives no explanation as to why the Prophet chose that direction in the first place. Sheik Al-Munajjid also advises that circumambulation is an act specified only for the Ka'bah as part of worship and is not to be done in any other place or situation.

Hindus and Buddhists always circumambulate in a clockwise direction. This week at Buddhism's most holy shrine of Bodh Gaya, pilgrims are celebrating the Kagyu Monlam, a Tibetan Buddhist prayer festival, when each day tens of thousands of pilgrims circumambulate the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi tree where the Buddha is believed to have been sitting in a state of meditation when he attained enlightenment 2,500 years ago.

I was in Bodh Gaya for the Kagyu Monlam a few years ago, and one of my most vivid memories is of the informal ritual that takes place each day at dusk, when thousands of candles are handed to pilgrims, who place them carefully along their path, on stones, steps and the ledges and crevices of shrines, transforming the grounds of the temple into a vast sea of shimmering light.

Thinking of this prompted me to watch again Werner Herzog's haunting film about pilgrimage, Wheel of Time, which was filmed at Bodh Gaya during another Tibetan Buddhist ceremony, the Kalachakra Initiation, and at Mount Kailash, in Tibet. Kailash is one of the most sacred places on earth - venerated in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and in the pre-Buddhist, shamanistic Tibetan religion of Bön. The trek around Mount Kailash is almost certainly the most arduous circumambulation in the world. Pilgrims must hike some 32 miles at altitudes of up to 19,000 feet and each year there are fatalities arising from altitude sickness. There are extraordinary scenes in Wheel of Time of the long crocodile of Buddhist pilgrims, swathed in blankets, robes and coats, and sporting a weird and wonderful assortment of headgear, some with flags and prayerwheels in hand, others prostrating themselves full length, as they follow a route across the desolate rocky plain, under a yawning infinity of blue sky, towards the snow-topped mountain. Coming towards them, determinedly against the flow, are the Bonpo, who always circumambulate in a counter-clockwise direction.

My gentle excursion around the park hardly compares - as sparkling as the mornings have been recently. As to why I've turned left and am cycling clockwise, the answer has nothing to do with Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Bon - or even the movement of the sun. It seems to be, quite simply, because I'm left handed. Something to do with dominant brain hemispheres, apparently.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/mick_brown ... el_of_time
 

Timble2

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#5
What you really need is an an illuminated sundial, so you can use it at night...
 

escargot

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#6
Or one on a website on the 'net, so you can access it via netbook/mobile when you're out and about. :D
 

Felicity

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#8
Sunwise?

This question has crossed my mind so I prefer clockwise as it is consistent with the planetary motion... it is interesting to note- if I remember correctly, the only planet that moves counter clockwise is Venus?
Maybe as a woman I should take this into account?
I note, when I have a Meniere's episode, the spin is counter clockwise, so may be that's why I don't like it.

Felicity
 

rynner2

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#9
Re: Sunwise?

Felicity said:
This question has crossed my mind so I prefer clockwise as it is consistent with the planetary motion... it is interesting to note- if I remember correctly, the only planet that moves counter clockwise is Venus?
The planetary movements are usually depicted as seen from the ecliptic North Pole, in which case they are all (Venus included) counterclockwise.

This describes the orbital motions, referred to as revolutions: the spin of a planet on its axis is its rotation, and for most of the planets this is again counterclockwise. The exceptions are Venus (the rotation is described as retrograde), and Uranus, whose rotation axis is close to the ecliptic plane (ie, it's lying on its side).

(I don't count Pluto as a planet.. ;) )
 

PeniG

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#10
My husband and I are both right-handed and tend to automatically go right when we're walking around the local artificial lake. If we're thinking about it, we vary it, because the less habituated you are to a route the more you notice on it; and during nesting season we sometimes start left in order to count the yellow-crowned night herons in the cypresses around the casting pond. Otherwise, we start walking and suddenly notice we've gone right.

I have a hard time with spatiality, and it's hard for me to track which way is clockwise or widdershins. If asked in those terms, I will always say "go clockwise," because in my early folkloric readings I imprinted on widdershins as the "bad" direction, unlucky and unhallowed, but if asked right or left, I always say "right" because left is the sinister direction! This appears to be one of those things on which the superstitious can't win for losing.

In our gaming group, when entering any sort of labyrinth, our history geek player always says "Right hand rule?" and unless we have information telling us different, we accept it. He says that classical mazes were always set up so that the right-hand turn will take you to the middle fastest, and in any case if you always turn the same way you can always find your way out (unless the GM has done something wicked and set up shifting or vanishing doors, mapped on a tesseract, etc.). One of our number put his Big Bad in the center of an elaborate, monster-filled maze of the classic dungeon crawl variety, never noticing that the "right-hand rule" bypassed every single encounter. The Big Bad was a lot easier to deal with than intended, because we arrived fresh and undamaged. (I'm not sure why he didn't summon minions to attack us from behind; possibly a case of being so dismayed by your last mistake that you lose your mental footing entirely and compound it.)

(To Felicity: You notice which way your head spins during vertigo? Wow, you're alert. I'm always too busy cussing and trying to find a fixed point to focus on to notice details.)
 

Felicity

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#11
Sunwise or Widdershins

Hello Great Old one and PeniG,

Thanks for your insights and explanation of rotations, orbits etc.... I always have trouble with directions as have a degree of dyslexia (my excuse).

The observation was very interesting about mazes... I have constructed a few large labyrinths at fairly large art events here in the Mid North of South Australia, the Bundaleer Weekend. They were based on the Chartre labyrinth and the first turn is counterclockwise, then it oscillates left and right... this could be because the labyrinth has a different intent, to centre rather than confuse...maybe it works with the counterclockwise on the inner journey and then after centering oneself it moves to the clockwise as you leave.

Felicity
 

Krepostnoi

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#12
Mount Kailash, in Tibet. Kailash is one of the most sacred places on earth - venerated in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and in the pre-Buddhist, shamanistic Tibetan religion of Bön. The trek around Mount Kailash is almost certainly the most arduous circumambulation in the world. Pilgrims must hike some 32 miles at altitudes of up to 19,000 feet and each year there are fatalities arising from altitude sickness. There are extraordinary scenes in Wheel of Time of the long crocodile of Buddhist pilgrims, swathed in blankets, robes and coats, and sporting a weird and wonderful assortment of headgear, some with flags and prayerwheels in hand, others prostrating themselves full length, as they follow a route across the desolate rocky plain, under a yawning infinity of blue sky, towards the snow-topped mountain. Coming towards them, determinedly against the flow, are the Bonpo, who always circumambulate in a counter-clockwise direction.
On the subject of Mount Kailash, and as if to prove @Yossarian 's excellent point about outsiders who think they know better and their dubious motives, a Russian eye doctor believes he has solved the mystery of the mountain. It is, obviously, a man-made pyramid inhabited by being or beings unknown.

Muldashev’s team came to the conclusion that Mount Kailash is actually a massive man-made pyramid that was built in ancient times. He claimed that it was surrounded by many smaller pyramids and could be the centre of all paranormal activities.

“In the silence of the night, there often were strange gasping sounds in the belly of the mountain,” Muldashev, author of ‘Where Do We Come From?,’ wrote in an academic paper. “One night both my colleagues and I distinctly heard the noise of a falling stone that undoubtedly came from the interior (of the mountain).” He suggested that some beings lived inside the pyramid.

“In Tibetan texts it is written that Shambhala is a spiritual country that is located in the north-west of Kailash,” Mulsashev wrote. “It is hard for me to discuss this topic from a scientific point of view. But I can quite positively say that Kailash complex is directly related to life on Earth, and when we did a schematic map of the ‘City of the Gods,’ consisting of pyramids and stone mirrors, we were very surprised – the scheme was similar to the spatial structure of DNA molecules.
 
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