Compass Points – not all they seem

Symbols and signs are fascinating don’t you think? So full of mystery and history.  This last week I’ve been re-reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code. Perhaps you recall how controversial that book was when it first came out. Brown was taken to court several times, sued  for plagiarism and the Vatican’s attempts to stop its release and subsequent boycotting of the film only fueled the fires of people’s imagination giving him lots of free publicity.

I have the illustrated versions of these books. It’s a fascinating romp around Europe following the trail of murders, secret sects, the symbology of sacred feminism embedded in art, architecture and other unexpected places.

Whatever you make of all of the brouhaha about Brown’s book being sacrilegious and offensive to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, I still think that they make for good reading.

And that brings me to the Compass Rose, which makes its appearance early in the Da Vinci Code.

Credit – Google Image

Did you know that it first appeared on charts and maps in the 1300’s? It’s called a rose because the compass points resemble the 32 petals of a rose. The points indicate the directions of the winds – eight major winds, eight half-winds and sixteen quarter-winds.  The 32 compass points are bisections of the directions of the four winds. In the Middle Ages, apprentice seamen were expected to be able to  name all of the points, a feat that was known as ‘boxing the compass’.

In early charts the northern point often has a fleur-de-lys,  a sacred feminine symbol embedded in the plot of the Da Vinci Code. The colours in early Compass roses were designed to enable  clear visibility by mariners when sailing on the high seas.  The eight principle points are black. Half winds were often blue or green, and the quarter winds red.

Raili Tanska

Connect with your internal compass

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