Long before the discovery of magnetic north, the early Mesopotamians understood direction by studying the prevailing winds. This concept of the relationship between the winds and direction travelled west and was passed on to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who numbered and named the winds.


Medieval and early Renaissance mapmakers placed the winds in appropriate corners of their maps, often named and depicted with personalities. From the Mesopotamians through to the Renaissance mapmakers and philosophers, twelve winds were used, but over time the number varied from four to thirty-two.

By the 14th century, mapmakers began showing the directions of the winds on round legends called wind roses. When magnetic north was discovered, the names of the winds were replaced by the designations of North, South, East and West. The wind rose became the modern compass rose.

The concept of the winds also travelled east from Mesopotamia to China. As early as the second century BC, Chinese philosophers talked about the twelve winds, identifying them as having different characters and bringing different omens for the Emperor. Chinese philosophy used the concept of the winds not to understand direction, but to explain the importance of balance in nature and society.

Twelve Winds Consulting learns from both the Western notion of twelve winds as a concept of direction and the Eastern notion of twelve winds ensuring balance.

We assist our clients to set their strategic direction and ensure the balance and sustainability of their business practices.