Finding Yourself

Johnathan and Amanda,

Here’s another thing that doesn’t much fit anywhere. Such things are seldom taught.

Picture your distant ancestors wandering. In the morning when they arise first they need to find where they are. Polaris is not yet in the North. There is no pole star at the time. The compass is yet to be invented. They wake before dawn and look for the sun. As rosy fingered dawn approaches they know what quarter of the sky is East. At dawn they know closely. So to know one’s orientation is to find the East. The Orient. And the Sun was the guiding light. Even in metaphor.

What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Look to the sunrise. The South, the right, is the path the Sun takes to its destination. The right path to the South is warm. The right is light. The wealthy lands lie in that direction. It is the direction of your strong, agile hand. The left is the side the Sun avoids. It the direction of shadow. Crops grow less well in the North. It is the side of your weak, clumsy left hand.

The obvious idea is that the gods live in the East and the West. The South is favored, and the North is ill-omened. The other is that the left hand, the clumsy weak one is also disfavored. This is reflected in language. The word for left is taboo and replaced. Right is good. Right is correct. Right is dexterous. Right is proper. The word for left is gauche. Sinister. Left is valueless; what is left, not kept. Spanish is Izquierda. Izquierda doesn’t even look Spanish. That is because it is not. The tabooed word was replaced by a word from Basque. By the way, Spanish words with a ‘z’ are borrowed, generally from Basque.

If one wishes to know East more closely, one makes a circle on the earth. One stands in the center of the circle and has a child place a stone at the sunrise and sunset places. Repeat for a year and the line between the East and West piles is very close to East and West.