October 2013: sacred places and spaces

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ShadowCat
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October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 03 Oct 2013, 06:54

Sacred spaces and places

Many traditions and religions recognise some form of the concept of sacred space: the basic idea that a place can hold a special kind of energy, the sacred space. I’ve always felt strongly about this topic and volunteered to write about it a while back. As life threw quite a few roadbumps my way, it created time to refine my story and really think and rethink the subject. I do not pretend to be any kind of authority on the subject. Do not consider my writings as an absolute, it’s merely the way I see it, meant to be shared with you, and tickle your own ideas on this subject.

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Forest grove near my home
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Sacred places

As most of the readers will be students of the druidic way, there will be no need to explain that there can be places in nature that invoke a natural feeling of sanctity. Most of us model our inner grove on such places, wether real somewhere on earth or inspired by artwork.

Unspoiled nature, sometimes a grand forest grove, sometimes a tiny spot of perfect moss sprinkled with dew, does something to us. It invokes a feeling deep within, a feeling of connection. This connection is deeply consoling and comforting, especially in a world where a lot of people feel chronically disconnected.

The sacredness lies, beyond the definitions implemented by religions and traditions, in the ability of certain energies to give us a feeling of being safe, whole, accepted as we are and deeply connected to life itself. In this subjective feeling, that we all know in our own ways, lies the key to finding sacred space where ever you are.

The first sacred space we know when coming into our life, is the womb of our mother: nurturing us, keeping us warm, safe, enabling us to grow. After birth the circle expands and the lucky of us continue to find the sacredness of wholeness in our parents arms, in the circle of the family. Later we find friends, go to school, work, etcetera. In short, we continue to expand our circles. Sometimes we pull it back a bit, only to expand it once more to encompass what we cherish in life. This proces continues into old age, where at some point the circle starts to shrink back, until we finally leave this world. 

It would be my wish that everyone would find that everything one finds within his personal space and circle would invoke the feelings mentioned above: safety, wholeness, connection, acceptance. Yet, life as we live it is not designed to be that way.

The search for natural sacred spaces and the creation of manmade sacred spaces could be considered a search for healing the parts of us that are somehow hurt or starved of those base-values. We have been seeking, as a race from the dawn of humanity, safety, wholeness and nurturing in the world around us.

I don’t want to invoke a black and white image of “natural=good” and “manmade=bad”, because that does not justice to the multifacetted aspects of sacred places and spaces. Still, it’s a feeling that most of us have in some degree or an other. Just be aware of it and recognise whether your interpretations and feelings somehow impede your ability to be fully aware of the energy of a place.

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The Franciscan monks of monastary Sankt Ludwig build this chapel and graveyard in the middle of the forests surrounding them, blending natural reverance and manmade sacred space.
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The first sacred spaces where natural places on or in the earth where people would find the feeling of connection they were looking for. Yet, as soon as people set foot in a natural sacred space, they inevitably start to interact with it. Even an offering of flowers or rocks will change the place from purely natural, to - at least in part - manmade. Every footstep changes something. Foodofferings might change the balance in wildlife, people might track in seeds that change the flora. This is not a bad thing in itself: nature is constantly changing by interacting with itself and the human animal is just as natural part of the world as everything else. Yet, our species has refined the way of shaping the world around it in a way that no other animal has ever done.

The search for “unspoiled nature” as we know it today might well be a remnant from 19th century romanticism, the paradox lies in the fact that by discovering unspoiled nature, the explorer will be spoiling it, it will no longer be “untouched by man”. So instead of “unspoiled”, I would rather encourage a search for “harmonious nature”: natural places that are balanced and healthy, while in open interaction with the world around it. If you want to find sacred places and spaces around your home, look for a sense of harmony.

Most students of the druidic ways will search for these places primarely in nature or in their gardens. From long hikes to reach a remote grove in the wild to a child forming a circle of autumnleaves in the park, we seek and enhance natural places that feel sacred, in order to create a physical, more or less permanent, sacred place.

The epithome of manmade sacred place on the other side of the spectrum invokes images of grand godshouses created (mostly) by monotheistic religions. Cathedrals, mosques, synagoges are all stone giants of manmade sacred space. Interestingly, the sacredness is often dual: dowsers often find influences by the energetic lay of the land (crossing leylines before the altar for instance) and historians often discover that these large godhouses are build on older places of reverance, older sacred spaces (wells hold a special attraction). Yet, in most religions it is mandatory that the godhouse can only be “sacred” when it is ritually consacreted, often with complex ceremonies and by only a few able holy men. Whenever an old godshouse is taken out of service and for instance converted (in the Netherlands we have churches, restaurants and disco’s in old churches) the “sacredness” taken away with another ritual, leaving only a huge empty shell. 




Sacred spaces

I’ve started with examples of more or less permanent places: places that have a natural sanctity: a sacred space that is recognised, honoured, enhanced or even claimed, but in general always present.

Especially pagans are familiar with a whole different kind of sacred space: that of the temporal ritual circle. It is possible to create an ad-hoc sacred space through ritual and visualisation, at almost any given location. This space can be used for healing, magical workings, worship or whatever seems appropriate. Views on how to create sacred space differ: from simple visualisation to elaborate ritual with swords, wands, water, flour, salt, incence, quatercalls and all the trimmings. Different ways of creating might appeal to different pagans, and different circumstances might call for different techniques.

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walking a labyrinth is another way of creating a circular space and raising energy
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I have been part of a mass-ritual with relative strangers in the middle of Amsterdam, circles with people I knew in groups from 2 to 100, in nature, in scouting-centres, community-centres, backyards, livingrooms, at festivals and a few places that I’ve probably forgotten. Every circle was different and I’ve experienced some special effects of creating a strong circle, especially one time when it started raining, yet we remained dry within the circle. Those are moments that can fill you with awe.

Yet this kind of sacred space is different in an essential way: where natural or manmade permanent sacred places are open to the world and accessible for the seeker, looking to reconnect, temporal sacred space is designed to close off the people and energies in the circle to the world around. Within the circle people often consider themselves “between the worlds”, a way of expressing that by drawing the circle a new space is created, seperate from the mundane space that the circle might happen to be drawn in. Within this seperate space, energy is raised, cleansed, connected or otherwise manipulated. They are a tool, a technique, that allows something more then could be accomplished in the mundane.

As such a circle is energetic it is not bound by the limitations of the physical world. It can energetically expand though walls, furniture etcetera. The ritual that is needed to draw the circle is limited to the physical plane though, especially if you want to walk the entire perimeter of the circle. In those cases, feel free to create a sacred oval, sacred squared halfcircle or whatever fits best. Remember, it’s about energy, not about flawless geometrics.

It’s this type of created sacred space that confuses a lot of students in the druidic ways. Because there are a lot of steps to remember, specific words to speak, in sneaks the fear of doing it wrong. Then there are codes of conduct on how to behave in sacred space, which way to walk, how to turn, how to leave (if it is permitted). And, between traditions, some of these rules even contradict themselves, creating even more confusion. 

When attending a ritual as a guest, just ask what the rules du jour are. Then respect them, even if you might disagree. If you want to discuss the rules, don’t do so at the occasion of the ritual. It’s all about being a good houseguest.

When working for yourself: experiment. I think that it is wise to try a ritual in the druidic coursework at least once as it is designed, even if that just allows you to find out what parts of the ritual practice don’t agree with you.

It also helps to research the reasons behind the steps and rules i.e. why is a sword used, why are there quartercalls, why should I move sunwise, etcetera. I’ve found that in researching the why, it became a lot easier to remember and to adapt if something goes different. The workings of sacred space at this level can’t be summerised in a seminar: you have to experience what it means for you. How does it feel, how does it work. This is about passing on a mystery, and you have to discover this for yourselves.

Just play with it, laugh, lighten up. Don’t be afraid to do it wrong...

I remember one time when I was just starting practicing quartercalls many years ago: I’d done my ritual and was mighty proud of myself. I went to bed above the livingroom where I held my ritual and found out that I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I went back down only to pick up on some energy that hadn’t been there before. After retracing my steps I realised that I hadn’t released one quarter. In my minds eye there was this big bloke with a sword tapping his foot and looking at his watch, quite funny. I reconnected to the energy, thanked, said bye, and went back to bed. Stuff happens...


Is there unsacred space?



It is my personal opinion, nothing more, that there is no such thing as unsacred space. Some space might be more in tune, more in harmony, more pleasing to our human aesthetics, but since all spaces in this physical plane or otherwise are somehow connected and they exist only because of the wholeness of the universe, they are a part of it, and therefore sacred. That does include physical places of contamination or low energy.

A beautiful example is the region around Chernobyl: uninhabitable for humanity due to a horrific nuclear accident, yet as a direct consequence of that awful incident it’s becoming a place that might well become a wildlifesanctuary that is sorely needed in this world. As such it has its place in the world, and as such, is should be considered sacred.

Also, since humans differ in spiritual and cultural sense around the world and even within societies, different places will seem more sacred to different places. For a catholic the Vatican will be more sacred than for a pagan. The same places can even be sacred for different reason to different believes: the wailing wall, or more closer to home, the holy places of Glastonbury, are examples of this. When interacting with places sacred to others, again, be a good guest: respect the rules even if you don’t agree, and see if you can sense the sacredness the place holds for others.

And don’t forget your own body and soul in this. Although sentences as “my body is a temple” might sound to farfetched for some, it is an idea to work with. Even without a ritual circle, when disconnected from any special places of harmony, your body is with you until the end. Allowing it to become a sacred space for yourself will not only change your own experience, but also the harmony around you. Learning to find solace, wholeness and connection within is a part of druidic work, and for good reason: it creates a sacredness that brings you in contact with life itself, regardless of the circumstances.

Conclusion
I set out on this writing exercise to put forward my idea that sacredness of space is much more than a ritual circle, a place with standing stones or holy wells. Sacredness is an essential part of everything around us. It is my wish for you, dear reader, that you will find the path to this sacredness within and around you. 





A special thankyou goes to Oakapple, Dathi, Scienthe and DaRC for proofreading and suggesting several wonderful improvements and additions. :hug:
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the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Sacred spaces and places

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby Dathi » 03 Oct 2013, 08:16

Remember, it’s about energy, not about flawless geometrics.


Love this ShadowCat. So much to ponder and practice. :love:

I chuckled at the "waterproof" circle, but have seen the opposite. During a Druid camp some years ago, several days of unbroken hot sunshine were interrupted by a vigorous thunderstorm with heavy showers. A multitude of parched Druidy types leaped up and joined in a spontaneous rain dance around the "fire". Buckets of energy, you might say.

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby Alwin » 03 Oct 2013, 12:45

Thanks for sharing your beautiful images and inspiring thoughts!
I will take this for my next meditations: :hug:
ShadowCat wrote:And don’t forget your own body and soul in this. Although sentences as “my body is a temple” might sound to farfetched for some, it is an idea to work with. Even without a ritual circle, when disconnected from any special places of harmony, your body is with you until the end. Allowing it to become a sacred space for yourself will not only change your own experience, but also the harmony around you. Learning to find solace, wholeness and connection within is a part of druidic work, and for good reason: it creates a sacredness that brings you in contact with life itself, regardless of the circumstances.
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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby kimellis » 03 Oct 2013, 14:44

Beautiful I love the part about being a good 'house guest'. Honoring multiple traditions is possible when we release dogma & become curious.

Thanks
Wild & Bright Blessings!
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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 06 Oct 2013, 09:39

Dathi, I've found the book "Weathershamanism" (Moss-Corbin) a really compelling read regarding the influences of ritual and connection on weather, both the actual systems of weather and the experience of weather. Maybe you'll like it too.

Alwin, kimellis, thank you both for your kind responses :hug: :hug:
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the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby DaRC » 11 Oct 2013, 12:08

:applause: good work ShadowCat I love the photo's especially the barefoot labyrinth walking :grin:
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 11 Oct 2013, 15:11

Thank you... I made that one the oldfashioned way with the ancient Minolta Riva camera I got as a child from my grandma. It's a labyrinth at Centre Lothlorien in France, where I spent a few days in solitude in a hut in their private forests.
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby Taurus » 13 Oct 2013, 22:59

Hallo Shadowcat,

Mijn Engels is niet van dat niveau dat het voor onze Engelssprekende mede-druiden begrijpelijk wordt, dus reageer ik maar in het Nederlands. Ik wil je graag complementeren voor de prachtige foto's maar vooral de bijzondere en inspirerende tekst behorende bij de Grove. Ik heb zelf een Grove gesitueerd op ons grondgebied, je kunt de beschrijving lezen op de Bardensite, en mij afgevraagd of je op een voorheen gebruikt weiland die energie kunt opwekken behorende bij een geheiligde ruimte. Ik vond je uitleg heel duidelijk en bemoedigend, dank daarvoor! :shake:
Met een hartelijke herfstgroet uit, jawel de Veluwe,
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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 14 Oct 2013, 06:16

Taurus wrote:Hallo Shadowcat,

Mijn Engels is niet van dat niveau dat het voor onze Engelssprekende mede-druiden begrijpelijk wordt, dus reageer ik maar in het Nederlands. Ik wil je graag complementeren voor de prachtige foto's maar vooral de bijzondere en inspirerende tekst behorende bij de Grove. Ik heb zelf een Grove gesitueerd op ons grondgebied, je kunt de beschrijving lezen op de Bardensite, en mij afgevraagd of je op een voorheen gebruikt weiland die energie kunt opwekken behorende bij een geheiligde ruimte. Ik vond je uitleg heel duidelijk en bemoedigend, dank daarvoor! :shake:
Met een hartelijke herfstgroet uit, jawel de Veluwe,
Kees ( Taurus)


Hi Kees,

Bedankt voor je complimenten. Een interessante vraag: ik zet hem zo terug om naar Engels zodat er meer mensen kunnen reageren (en ook als kwestie van beleefdheid). Ik maak uit je bericht op dat het Engels lezen voor jou geen probleem is. In het Nederlands kunnen we altijd via PB of in het Nederlandse subforum verder gaan. Hartelijke groet uit Midden-Limburg...

And now in English:
Taurus is writing that he can't write English to that degree that it would be understandable, so he's asking me in Dutch. He has a sacred Grove on his own land in the middle of the Netherlands, near the Veluwe, and is wondering whether it is posible to raise the energy of a sacred space on land that has been used as a pasture for a long time.

In my opinion, a pasture is not a bad place to start from. Pastures have been taken from nature at some time in the past and have been plowed, resowed with grass, grazed and mowed. General concerns in reverting an agricultural plot back to a more natural, sacred, space are pollution by over-fertilisation or pesticides, acidity in the ground, buildup of certain bacteria and a general unbalance in micro-organisms in the soil, often as a result of the use of antibiotics in the animalfeed. It is good to know that Dutch pastures are still relatively "natural", they hold no resemblance to the American open-aired confined animal feeding operations, from which a massive amount of misery and suffering drains into the ground. Here, it's mostly used for grazing either recreational horses or dairy-cattle that is still free to roam on actual grass.

So, when reverting back to a natural state and a grove, I'd start at the base, thinking about the health of the soil, the history of the land, and start to balance things out using sustainable methods (check out http://www.permies.com for a boatload of information on that. Also, look in to the history: what has the land been before it was a pasture? Have there been buildings, settlements, battles... Checking with a local history-society can give you insight in some of the energies still present on your land.

If you plant a grove, there's a booklet in for Bardic coursework on how to do that, so I won't repeat that booklet here. But when the land feels good, either by dowsing or just by feel, walk the land and feel if any places either attract you or repell you. Take note of that and respect those insights. Use a compass to dertermine north. Look around and see if there are any cosmetic things you feel like adressing: like blocking the line of sight to a local street by planting a dense line of shrubs. Continue to combine common sense and intuition.

When things are about right and you feel like it, start raising the energy by grounding yourself, doing the LBE if you feel so inclined, and connect to the energies of the earth around you, below the pasture. Below the surface of the earth the place is neither pasture nor grove, but something more eternal. Use drumming, chanting, dancing, or just visualisation and raise the desired energies. Leaving frequent offerings, both spiritual as well as mundane (birdseed from non-invasive plants) is a great way of connecting to a place over time.

Don't expect to "swish and flick" a magic wand once and having a fully fledged sacred grove/sacred space. Work with it, grow with it, and both you and the place will benefit and grow from the process.
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby Taurus » 14 Oct 2013, 09:59

Thank you very much for your detailed explanation on the Grove and your nice English! Of the two I have learned a lot.
Kind regards,
Taurus.
P.S. (To be honest, i used the translation site on Internet.) :)

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 24 Oct 2013, 11:55

Well just PM me if you want to discuss something in Dutch. Because of your reaction I realised I had somehow lost the access to the Dutch bardic forum, but that has been fixed now too.
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Sacred spaces and places

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby mistletoeoak » 03 Nov 2013, 20:07

Thank You !!! Really enjoyed reading your seminar, lots to ponder and it has come at a time needed! Love teh timing of Druidry and how everything seems to link up
Lisa (mistletoeoak)

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 04 Nov 2013, 13:25

Hi Lisa,

Synchronicity is a marvelous thing, ain't it?

I feel like studieing the bardic ways has opened my eyes again for this phenomenon.
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Sacred spaces and places

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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby D'Arzhur » 18 Nov 2013, 18:46

Hello Shadowcat !
Well done! :tiphat:
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Re: October 2013: sacred places and spaces

Postby ShadowCat » 19 Nov 2013, 14:53

Thank you D'Arzhur :hug:
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

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Sacred spaces and places


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