With the Passing of Time


Posted on: May 20, 2009

\DEE-zil\ | adv

1 : clockwise

At first I thought this was either some fancy schmancy word that snobby people would use instead of clockwise, or some archaic word that no one would ever utter. But then I read the sample sentence and my mind changed completely.

“One pictograph shows a group of warriors dancing deasil around what appears to be a gigantic wild boar speared numerous times.”

Now, dancing around a dead boar is not so poetic but the phrase ‘dancing deasil’ is lovely. I can completely see why one would occasionally choose to use deasil. Especially after finding a much more thorough explanation of the word at World Wide Words:

Righthandwards; in the direction of the sun; clockwise.

It is associated with witchcraft as the opposite of widdershins, which is to move in the opposite direction of the sun or counterclockwise. The writer brings up an interesting point, one I’m embarrassed to admit I never thought of and didn’t quite understand at first. The definition as it relates to the sun really only works in the northern hemisphere. At first I thought he was trying to say that the sun rose in the West in the southern hemisphere and that was just crazy. But in fact, and this perpetual northern hemi person’s brain never even realized this, where the sun appears in the sky would have to shift if you’re south of the equator.

The example Astronomy Answers uses is a ship traveling from north to south. Far in the north when the sun is at its highest point it is directly in front of you (toward the south) but when you get far to the south the sun at its highest point will be behind you (toward the north). So if you follow the movement of the sun in the southern hemisphere, you turn to the left, not the right. Which means their sundials must be completely opposite as well. And now I need to find someone who routinely uses the words deasil and widdershins in the southern hemisphere to see if they just use left and right to describe the movement and leave out the sun bit or do they do something else. Too curious.

I went looking for a “deasil” picture but didn’t find anything particularly interesting to me. I did find one picture (of what I assume is a pomegranate) with a poem written on top but it’s either written really poorly or the person doesn’t understand what deasil means so I’m going to ignore it.

Unrelated to deasil, the picture that came up on flickr’s main page was this gorgeous shot:

© code poet; please click for original post

You should open this to the large size. It’s really lovely.

And because I can’t help myself, one of the random words in the sidebar at the deasil entry on World Wide Words was ninnyhammer (a fool) which has a Lord of the Rings connection so must be quoted:

“You’re nowt but a ninnyhammer, Sam Gamgee: that’s what the Gaffer said to me often enough, it being a word of his.”
— Sam to himself on forgetting the rope in “The Taming of Smeagol,” The Two Towers

Oh my lord it’s so much more fun letting my LotR fixation loose than trying to suppress it.

© 2009 With the Passing of Time


2 Responses to "Deasil"

Makes it seem even MORE fun to go down to New Zealand on a ‘research trip’, doesn’t it?

Seriously. It’s worth thinking about.

I know it comes as no surprise that that was the first thought that came into my head. Maybe I could put together some sort of directional etymologic research proposal. :-)

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Willingness to join soil, sound, hands; memory follows me ~ Viggo Mortensen
May 2009
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Daily words come from Merriam-Webster's word of the day. All rambling comes from my head.


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