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Stillness and Storm and the Shaping of the World

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet Top View

In our way, the directions are sacred: They have their own identities, names, powers, and gifts. So, too, do the winds associated with them, instruments of stillness and storm and the shaping of the world.

Around this world, there are numerous winds, at least by name. Some belong only to a specific place, such as a mistral or a levanto. Others are named for a place, such as California’s Santa Ana winds, but the way in which they manifest is found in other places under other names, too. In our way, the winds have their own names in our various languages, their own identities and roles and functions, their own risks and rewards. In some indigenous cultures, their existence is intertwined with origin stories; in others, they may be tricksters even now. Some associate them with medicine wheel or shield, including applicable colors and directions and other aspects. But in many (most? all?) traditional cultures that recognize them, the winds have distinct, discrete animating spirits, and like other elemental forces, they have the power to shape our world.

Today’s all-new featured work, just completed by Wings, is a tribute to their existence and power. From its description in the relevant section of the Bracelets Gallery here on the site:

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet Side 2

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet

The Four Winds move and shape our world, within the storm and without. In this cuff, Wings honors their elemental power with this return to one of his own informal signature series and an old classic, traditional Native style of silverwork. It begins with a beautifully simple band of heavy, solid nine-gauge sterling silver, hammered by hand on both sides in the old way, with hundreds of strikes of a silversmith’s hammer, to create a spectacularly refractive surface. On the inner band, a long line of directional arrows traces the length of the center, some consecutive, others reversed, still others pointing outside their slender line, representing the wind’s own changes of direction, sometimes capricious, sometimes intentional. On the band’s surface, its sole adornment consists of four square bezel-set lapis lazuli cabochons set next to each other at the center, each stone lightly domed and the brilliant cobalt blue of deep waters and stormy skies, each represent one of the winds of the Four Sacred Directions. Ends and edges are all filed by hand, with each end rounded and smoothed, also by hand, for comfort. The band is 6″ long and 6/16″ across; each lapis cabochon is 6/16″ square (dimensions approximate). Other views shown above and below.

Sterling silver; lapis lazuli
$1,675 + shipping, handling, and insurance

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet Inner Band

Stories abound of wind spirits creating mischief, wreaking havoc, bringing the storm, and sometimes serving as agents of death and destruction. As forces of nature, such caprice should be expected, to some extent — caprice, at least, by our own mere mortal reckoning. Then, too, of course, there are the times when they decline to blow at all: an enforced stillness and silence, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. As our ancestors have always known, there is always an internal cosmic logic to their behavior, even if it seems arbitrary to those of us whose existences are too-often centered wholly on ourselves.

Now, though, the sense of whimsy we often associate with the winds is transforming into something darker, more dangerous, and it’s due entirely to our own actions. In our small world here, we have been witnessing the effects of climate change in real time for at least a decade now, effects that continue to ramp up in scale, force, and impact.

Where once the winds of this place, often wild and extreme, were nevertheless predictable in timing and trajectory, now all bets are off: the vortex-like patterns that accompany monsoonal storms now visit even in cold dry weather. Wind direction now often begins in the cold north, moves to the east, then alternates for the remainder of the day mostly between south and west, with an occasional foray into their opposites, even after sundown.

The Four Winds Cuff Bracelet Side 1

What the four winds bring is very different now, too. Where what was forecast for today was high westerly winds with snow we instead have bone-dry air. Oh, a few slushy, sleety flakes fell early on, melting before they could touch the earth, but now, the clouds are circling around us on all sides, and air and earth alike are ashen and gray. If we do get precipitation in any measurable amount, it is now at least as likely to hammer the earth mercilessly as it is to fall gently enough to soak into the surface of the land.

We owe this state of affairs to ourselves, of course — to humanity collectively, to too many shortened eras of continued technological advancement that have made us arrogant, filled with hubris, convinced that we can control the environment, the weather, the winds themselves.

But the winds are a cosmic power, and they will win in the end.

It is our task now to relearn the old lessons of respect for forces greater than ourselves, of honoring the spirits of the cosmos and caring for the earth that holds us all. Reacquainting ourselves with the identities and powers of the winds that shape our world is a start.

~ Aji









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