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The Llewellyn Journal
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East is West and North is South

This article was written by Ann Druffel
posted under

East is east and west is west,” the old song goes, but this perception of the world-whether applied to cultural differences or compass directions-does not always hold true. There seems to exist a subjectively experienced phenomenon about which very little has been written. It can be described as shifting of subjective direction in susceptible people. It occurs often to individuals who are, for the most part, totally unprepared to experience it.

Evidence suggests that this phenomenon occurs near what are known as “leys,” an English word describing places found on every continent which prehistoric inhabitants considered sacred and which they used for various rituals. In the United States, such places are known as power spots or sacred sites. The basic cause of the direction flip phenomenon might be linked with as-yet-undefined earth energies associated with these sacred sites.

There are two common types of subjective direction flip. Go into a movie theater, for instance, situated on a northeast corner in your home town. Emerging a couple of hours later, you might discover that the theater now seems to be situated on the southwest corner, exactly opposite to where it was when you entered. The direction anomaly in this instance is not lasting, for the environs “flip back” while you walk to your car or wait on the corner for a bus. If you discuss the incident with friends, no one offers an explanation except to say, “Yes, that happens sometimes.”

Getting Turned Around
Another example: a school-age youngster lags behind his parents while hiking in a forest. Deep in the woods, the child protests that he’s tired and asks to go back alone to camp along a well-marked trail. The parents, thinking the child can find the way back unaided, give permission. But the child does not make it back to camp, and a massive search effort is started. After an anxious time, the child is found, in an area which is exactly opposite to the direction of the camp. What happened?

Adults who are familiar with the forest will tell you that at times their subjective directions do get turned around. They have learned to verify north by observing the moss on trees, or to tell west by the setting sun. The child, on the other hand, had apparently experienced a 180-degree direction flip without realizing what had happened.

It is common for many people to lose their directions, whether in the forest or a city. I have friends who can’t tell north from south anywhere, but in their home cities they memorize which directions various streets run, or they use landmarks to get around.

It is apparent from the examples above that most people do not have a built-in sense of direction. Most people’s sense of direction is acquired early in childhood. But put people in unfamiliar surroundings, and their sense of direction vanishes until they acquaint themselves with new landmarks.

Some people, however, do seem to have an in-built directional sense that does not depend upon reference to geographical landmarks. These people are most likely to notice subjective direction flips. They obtain their directional sense in several ways. Some are born with it. Others have an interest in astronomy and learn east, west, south, and north in relationship to the movement of the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies. Many develop a sense of living on a planetary body in space. To them, north is “up,” toward the top of the world, south is “down” toward the bottom of the planet, and east and west are where the sun rises and sets on their spinning earth.

It also helps to grow up in a town where directions are precise; that is, where most streets run precisely north and south, east and west. Many New World cities, especially modern ones, are built in this way. The rare exceptions of five- or six-point intersections only serve to reinforce a sense of the four cardinal points of the compass. In contrast, the streets of many Old World cities are curved and crooked; the streets in Dublin, Ireland, for instance, were originally cow paths. (The Irish are noted for being unable to give precise directions. The old joke about Irish telling visitors, “You can’t get there from here” is an actual fact which I’ve experienced myself.)

My Own Experiences
My own perception of direction flips began in childhood with flipping movie theaters in Long Beach, California. In 1956, our family moved to a hillside home on the western edge of Pasadena. Having grown up in Long Beach, which has precisely laid-out streets, I had a definite “feel” for north, south, east, and west. An early interest in amateur astronomy also helped.

I did most of our shopping in the adjoining town of South Pasadena, which was reached by traveling southeast. For the first six weeks, I invariably got lost driving home because the directions never seemed right. It was not a temporary situation like flipping movie theaters; this was something permanent. By rote, I learned a couple of dependable routes between South Pasadena and our home, and the problem faded.

Later, when our children started school in central Pasadena, I ran errands in the larger city-and consistently got lost again. In large sections of central Pasadena, north seemed to be east, south seemed west, and so forth. The 90-degree skewing began in the middle of Pasadena and continued south.

Ninety-degree Shifts
Ninety-degree skewing of subjective directions is common but seems largely unrecognized. Ask friends and acquaintances if it happens to them. Some will look at you blankly, and then, suddenly realizing, excitedly describe difficulties they experience finding their way around certain sections where they live. A member of our square-dancing club lived in La Crescenta, north of Pasadena proper. For him, the whole line of hillside cities above Pasadena, from Montrose to Sierra Madre, are subjectively skewed 90 degrees. Since these cities adjoin that part of Pasadena where, for me, north seems east, and since all of those hillside towns are skewed 90 degrees for me as well, I share his plight. Other friends I’ve asked about this situation aren’t concerned or puzzled. They reply, “The mountains are to the north in Pasadena. What’s the problem?” These are people with no inherent sense of direction.

Louise Ludwig, Ph.D., is a psychologist and a retired Los Angeles university professor. She experiences a recurring problem whenever she visits Victorville, a town in the Mohave Desert in eastern California. When she was 16, she and her family moved from Colorado to California, traveling southwest by car. As they drove through Victorville, she felt as though the car was taking an abrupt 90-degree turn toward the northwest, even though the highway was perfectly straight. In subsequent years, she vacationed rather frequently in Victorville, and invariably, while proceeding northeasterly and approaching town center, she abruptly feels she is going 90 degrees opposite from where she was headed. After initial disorientation, Dr. Ludwig accepted the phenomenon but never lost her curiosity about it.

More unusual than the 90-degree direction skewing is the unsettling 180-degree flip. These unforeseen occurrences are apparently of two types: First, the temporary flip such as occurs with movie theaters and other buildings described above, and second, abrupt 180-degree flips which do not entail entering and leaving buildings but which seem built into the terrain. Unlike the 90-degree type (which also seem permanently “built into” the terrain and extend for many miles), subjective 180-degree flips seem associated with small areas. In my experience, the terrain involved is never more than a couple of hundred yards in diameter and often much less. When one leaves the affected area, subjective directions just as abruptly flip back to normal.

For example, in 1968 our family joined the Gerrish Swim Club in Pasadena, several miles northeast of our home. We settled down to enjoy the summer, grateful that our five small daughters had an outlet for their energy. Soaking up the sun one day, I realized that the mountains seemed to be due south from the swim club. This astonished me. I knew logically that in Pasadena the mountains lay to the north, as so many of my fellow Pasadenans constantly reminded me.

At Gerrish Swim Club, however, the sun and moon set in what was, to me, the east. When we stayed late in the evening, the North Star was in the south and Scorpio sprawled along the northern horizon! Being curious by nature, this was quite unsettling to me, but no one else seemed bothered by it. I tried repeatedly to make Gerrish Swim Club flip back into place, but it wouldn’t. Through experimentation, I found that the “flip” occurred in the street and parking lot in the front of the club. To this day, the Swim Club is subjectively but permanently skewed 180 degrees.

Ley Lines
Many readers are no doubt familiar with what are called leys in Great Britain, Native American sacred sites in the United States, and by other terms in various other countries. The English term is applied to megalithic stones and other ritual sites which lie along straight lines, to which the common term ley line is assigned. If the straight lines that connect prehistoric sacred sites are longer than about 80 miles, they are no longer true straight lines as drawn on a map, but “great-circle” segments due to the curvature of the earth.

Researchers who have studied the ley-line phenomenon hypothesize that it might be linked with undefined earth energies associated with prehistoric ritual sites. The only mention of subjective direction flip associated with leys that I have come across is in John Michell’s Secrets of the Stones. It describes how a group of researchers were camped by an English megalith, conducting experiments in an attempt to monitor geomagnetic energies. At a late hour, one of the team headed north back toward his home. Within a few minutes, he was seen walking back toward the site. His amazement matched that of his colleagues. His only explanation was that somehow he had become “turned around.” The only difference between this researcher and anyone else who gets turned around is that his experience was possibly related to the megalithic site on which experiments were being conducted. But what possible connection could there be?

I knew nothing about ley research when I had my own 180-degree flip experience. But in 1983, during a three-month concentrated study of possible patterns in UFO close encounters, a few hints began to emerge that might eventually serve to clarify the mysteries of UFO flight patterns, ley sites, and subjective direction flips. In this study, I hoped to discover whether Southern California UFO close encounters might fall in straight line patterns, such as had been found in earlier studies by Aime Michel in France, Dr. David Saunders, Dr. Jacques Vallee, and other UFO researchers in various countries. In preparing a paper on this subject for the 1983 Annual MUFON Symposium, I selected several dozen UFO close encounters where the location was documented within 500 feet, and plotted these locations on a U. S. Geological Survey map. Because of the apparent relationship between sacred sites of Native Americans and their legends relating to UFOs, I also plotted several sacred sites which are situated in and around Los Angeles.

The study confirmed the earlier work of Vallee, Saunders, James and Carol Lorenzen, and others. Southern California close- encounter UFO cases, including reported landings and occupant sightings, did fall into straight line patterns-ruler-straight across the map-each line connecting four or more events. All of the Southern California sacred sites I plotted fell along the same straight lines. This fact might indicate a possible link between UFO close encounters and Native American legends about sky visitors, as well as legends of sky roads along which the sky visitors reportedly traveled in the distant past. UFO encounters, of course, have nothing to do with the subject at hand-that is, subjective direction shifts-but the sacred sites certainly seem to, as explained below.

Eagle Rock
One of the sacred sites plotted was Eagle Rock, a pudding-stone formation about 60 feet tall situated on the western border of Pasadena. I often walked there for exercise and found that just being in the vicinity of this so-called power spot gave me a feeling of great tranquility. Sitting close to the caves in the northwest side of the rock, I found it easy to slip into meditative states where answers to troubling problems came spontaneously. This all began before I even knew what a sacred site was. Situated several hundred feet to the north from the rock itself is a pudding-stone water reservoir. In 1984, the first time I walked up the winding road that leads to Eagle Rock Reservoir, I was surprised to see that a certain golf course, which I knew was situated a couple of blocks east of the reservoir, seemed to lie to the west. I realized that, near the reservoir, my subjective directions became abruptly skewed 180 degrees. The flip occurred in the process of walking up the curved road and was permanent; it happened every time I walked to the reservoir. I wondered if there was any significance to the fact that a sacred site was within a few hundred feet of another place where subjective directions, at least for me, did a sudden 180-degree flip.

With a few hiking buddies who understood the value of research, I began to explore other Native American sites around Los Angeles that lay along the straight lines, as well as other sacred sites which came to our attention after the 1983 study. Hiking toward the sacred sites, subjective directions were sometimes skewed 90 degrees, but as we neared the sites, directions turned true. At every sacred site, subjective directions were true-a constant factor. Another determinant was the presence of peaceful, tranquil emanations in the immediate vicinity of the site. Most of my research companions were sensitive to these feelings as well; this served as confirmation-a precaution against imagination coming into play. Among the four or five hiking buddies who participated in this research, most appeared not to experience the abrupt direction flips.


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