The Septagram: Seven Directions and Seven Qualities, by Emily Carding
(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)
The seven-pointed star (or, alternately, septagram or heptagram) has accumulated many levels of meaning over the centuries. One of the oldest recorded meanings given to this star may be found within Kabbalistic tradition, where it represents the sphere of Venus and the power of love. It is also found within Christian tradition as a symbol of protection, the seven points representing the perfection of God and the seven days of creation. This resonance with the days of the week carries through into its use as a planetary symbol, as each point not only represents one of the traditional "seven wandering stars," but also the corresponding days of the week, (as well as other magical correspondences that come under the influence of the planets). The 7/3 septagram (the "3" indicates the distance between points) is a common sight within neo-paganism, where it is known as the "Elven" or "Faery" star. However, this is a surprisingly recent addition to this symbol's catalog of meanings, having only risen to prominence with the appearance of the "Otherkin" movement in the 1990s.
The very first use of the Septagram as the "Elven Star" can be traced to a group in San Francisco during the 1980s called, "The Elf-Queen's Daughters." Although they adopted this strongly feminist title, the group consisted of both men and women who believed themselves to be incarnated elven spirits in human form, sent to bring about an acceleration of consciousness and a peaceful paradise on Earth. Over time, their work and influence spread, with many taking inspiration from the idea of otherworldly spirits being born into human form to come out of the closet themselves. Not only did we find that there were elves in human form walking the earth, but also other kinds of fae, mer-folk, dragons, angels, demons, and earthly creatures such as wolves. With the spreading of the "Otherkin" movement came the wider usage of the Septagram as the "elven star" as well as a symbol for otherkin nature in general.
As the popularity of the symbol spread, more meanings were attributed to it, including a loose and often individual assignation of the seven directions—North, South, East, West, Above, Below, and Within—and similar creative and elemental systems that appear to be inspired by the qualities of the pentagram as used within Wicca but with an extra Faery flavor. When I created my Tarot of the Sidhe (Schiffer Books, 2011), in 2005/6, I was also inspired to create my own meanings for the points of the elven star, based on the seven directions, with the additional layer of Sun (Within), Moon (Below), and Stars (above), for a Tarot spread designed to reveal the state of the whole self. When I came to start writing my latest book, Faery Craft (Llewellyn, October 2012), I returned to this same version of the septagram when I realized that I needed a strong faery-based magical structure to hang the work on. With the rationale that no one could fault me for making up my own use for the symbol, as it already had evolved and been tweaked for individual use so much in recent years, I added yet another layer of meaning to the seven points. The "Faery Craft Septagram," as I named it, also represents seven essential qualities, corresponding to the seven directions, that are needed for faery work. The book takes a quality for each chapter, ending with an eighth quality of "balance" that ties them all together.
So what are these qualities? In the order in which they appear in the book, we start with "Knowledge," which is the quality that comes from the East and the element of Air. Knowledge provides the strong foundation that informs all the following work and is an indispensable check against a developing intuition, which is sometimes fallible.
Once this is in place we build upwards with "Connection," the Stars and the direction of Above. We are all connected, not only to each other but to the world, its inner light and the Universe as a whole. Learning to truly embrace and realize that without blocking awareness through an over-emphasis on the limited physical senses, i.e. being desperate to "see" faery beings, is crucial on a Faery path.
From here we can learn to "Trust," the quality given to the North and element of Earth. Trust leads to co-operation with the inner realms, including establishing allies and places of power. To walk truly with our faery cousins we must learn not only to trust them, (being careful to establish who and what can be trusted), but to be worthy of their trust in return.
This trust is built upon using the fourth quality of "Honor," which coincides with the direction of Within and the Sun. Each of us carries an energetic sun at our center, the spiritual light through which we are judged by otherworldly beings. For this light to shine true and pure, and our energy to be untainted within both their realm and our own, we must live every breath with honor and learn how best to honor our alliances, friendships, and the land itself.
When these qualities are firmly established, then the world of "Magick," the fifth quality, related to the Moon and the direction of Below, will start to reveal itself. Through this art, and collaboration with established allies and co-walkers in the Otherworld, we can start to implement positive change within ourselves, the microcosm, and thus affect the macrocosm, or outer world.
The indispensable sixth quality is "Joy," which comes from the West and the element of our emotions, Water. To feel true joy is to be open to the ecstasy of the Universe, to celebrate life, existence, and each other, even in adversity. When the previous qualities have been thoroughly explored, then the natural inclination of the pure spirit towards joy is unlocked. There is always beauty, true beauty, to be found in the world and beauty is the nourishment of joy.
Joy, and the culmination of the previous qualities, give birth to the seventh quality of "Inspiration." This encapsulates the ability not only to be inspired to action, but also to inspire others to action in return. Otherworldy forces may inspire, but so may people living and working within the world through their impulse to create. It is the passion, action, and transformative potential of inspiration that make its designation of the element of Fire and the direction of South so appropriate.
Some time after finishing Faery Craft I took another look at the "Faery Craft Septagram" and realized that the more traditional symbolism of the seven planets, and thus their accompanying correspondences, would also work as an extra layer of meaning along with the seven directions and Faery qualities (although not with the directions that they are assigned in Western Mystery Tradition, so in this way it is another original addition). The Sun (Honour) and Moon (Magick) remain as they are, but the other planets can be placed according to their inherent qualities: Mercury in the East works perfectly with the Element of Air and the quality of Knowledge. To choose a planet that could stand with "The Stars" for the direction of Above was less obvious, but as the "Morning Star" herself, Venus fits this direction well. After all, she is the Goddess of love and matters of the heart, and it is through the heart that we experience "Connection." The stability and structure of Saturn make it the natural choice to lie in the North with the element of Earth and the quality of "Trust," which leaves jovial Jupiter in its natural placement in the West with the quality of Joy and Mars as the planet linked to Fire, the South, and the quality of Inspiration. This particularly emphasizes the need to act upon inspiration, as Mars is the planet of action.
This assignation of the planets to the seven directions and qualities gives us an extra tool to use in our Faery Craft—the planetary vowels. These vowels originate in the magick of Ancient Greece, and hence are represented by Greek letters. They are:
|(East, Air, Knowledge)
|(as in bet)
|(Above, Stars, Connection)
|(as in aye)
|(North, Earth, Trust)
|(as in toe)
|(as in fit)
|(as in far)
|(West, Water, Joy)
|(as in cut)
|(South, Fire, Inspiration)
|(as in rot)
These sounds could be intoned as part of a meditation of magical working that involved the related quality, or as a focus to emphasize and unlock that quality, or they could all be strung together as a mantra to help bring all the qualities together in balance within the self. This might be a very effective method to use in parallel with the voice exercises featured in Chapter Two of Faery Craft.
It is my hope that this small article has shed some light on the use of this particular symbol within Faery Craft and Faery work as a whole, and that perhaps you will be inspired to adopt these meanings yourself and work with them. Symbols are a language of their own, and as such, are constantly evolving. We should not be afraid of adapting their uses, so long as they do not contradict the essential nature and energy of the symbol itself. Once a book is written and in print, the work does not become static and fixed. If it did, whilst the words would remain, the life of the work would inevitably fade, as all things must when they resist change. Knowledge is a living, breathing changing thing, and when we embrace that, we may dance in the arms of wisdom.
Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2012. All rights reserved.