The other right

 After blogging about Christmas in July in the Southern hemisphere, and while reading Through the looking-glass by Saturness, I began to wonder about the everyday terms “right” and “correct”, and how they relate to the sunwise (deosil, from deiseal) direction of movement advocated for working positive, creative, invoking magic.

The fifth rune (Raidho: The way forward) is generally a positive rune representing among other things movement and progress. In the corresponding Rune Oracle card illustrated by Nigel Jackson, a horse-drawn sun chariot is pictured moving from left to right in the sky. A sun-wheel symbol is also depicted on the hub of the chariot wheel pictured in the foreground.

The apparent rightwards and clockwise direction of the daily movement of the sun in the sky when observed from the Northern hemisphere (facing South) is considered auspicious in European folklore. The opposite leftwards and anticlockwise direction is viewed in a negative light.

Quoting from The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Wisdom: A Celtic Shaman’s Source Book by Caitlin and John Matthews, “widdershins; walking, ‘against the sun’, rather than deosil, ‘towards the sun’ (clockwise) is a foolhardy or malicious act in Celtic lore, contradicting the natural order and courting misfortune”.

I remember having been corrected in the past when using the word “right” instead of “correct”, so I was somewhat surprised to discover that “right” really does mean “correct”, “good”, “proper” and “straight”. But why is my “right hand” called my “right” hand?

The only explanation I could find for why the “right hand side”, or “right” direction, is called such, is that for the majority of people the right hand is the stronger, dominant hand. Could the general belief in a favourable sunwise movement to the right in the Northern hemisphere also possibly have had something to do with it? The left-handed minority were viewed suspiciously and stigmatized in the past, which could have simply been related to their minority status, however the superstitious dim view taken of anything going “against the sun” in the past could also at least partly explain it.

“And left! Think of Left! And think about BEFT.
Why is it that beft always go to the left?
And why is it so many things go to the Right?
You can think about THAT until Saturday night.
Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the THINKS you can think up if only you try!”

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991)

This post was originally published on July 16 2011

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