"I experienced contact with something or someone sentient and much greater than my individual self. I had experienced contact, even momentary communion, with the "essence" of what could be called a transpersonal presence. Afterwards I was told by the local shaman or caretaker that I had met with the guardian spirit of the place.....Pilgrim Martin Gray described a (similar) unification experience he had while attending a Shinto religious festival."
Debra D. Carroll "From Huacas to Mesas"
DIALOGUES WITH THE LIVING EARTH, James and Roberta Swan (1989)
I have been thinking again about my Pilgrimage to sacred places of Southern England last year, and thinking about the Sanctity of the Earth of place in general. In light of the terrible destruction that is now going on, the destruction of the Amazon, of the Arctic temperate forests, of the forests of Africa, thinking of the ignorance and greed that is fueling this................and thinking about the numinous, intelligent, living sense of "presence" I have experienced so many times in nature, and in particular in power places.
I have a book (which is now a rather rare book) by Martin Gray, who spent some twenty years of his life visiting sacred places around the world as an international pilgrim. ( I take the liberty of sharing below an article from his amazing book, SACRED EARTH.**)
I myself have experienced things "paranormal" at places of power, inexplicable experiences that include heightened energy, dowsing rods that go crazy or "helicopter", orbs, strange photographs, dreams, visions, and other phenomena. Some of those places, if I pause to consider, influenced me to make changes in my life that were significant.
When I climbed the Tor in Glastonbury, I remember that all my photos were oddly infused with violet light.....which is the color associated with the Lady of Avalon, the "Numina" or Genus Loci of Glastonbury.
My camera hasn't taken "purple photos" before or since.
I remember when I was living with with my former husband in upstate New York in the 90's. Where we lived was a rural area rapidly being built up with industry. One of the mysterious places in the area, to me at least, was a field I used to visit. To get to that field, which bordered our property, one had to go through a kind of obstacle course - you crossed an old stone wall, immediately ran into a rusted barbed wire fence, and then tramped through a barrier of poison ivy, grape vines and small trees.
Braving all of this, a beautiful field appeared. Bordered on all sides by trees, you could stand there in the tall grass, or the snow, and see nothing of the warehouses or homes nearby. It felt, oddly, as if it was somehow protected, as if you entered a special, quiet, mysterious place. The land had obviously once been worked, but it had been left fallow for many years, and in the center of the field, if you looked, was a "fairy circle". Small trees, bushes, even tall grasses formed a surprisingly visible circle. With my divining rods, I found there was a ley crossing in that exact spot - the rod "helicoptered" and whirled.
We were actively involved in Earth based spiritual practices, and my ex facilitated an enthusiastic men's group. One night when the moon was full the group, energized by drumming, decided to visit the field. There was snow on the ground, and as the young men strode to the stone wall, something pushed two of them into the snow! Being young, they got up and chose to go forward again - and something pushed both of them backwards once more! They fell on their behinds in the snow! This was apparently enough moonlit strangeness for everyone, and the group turned around and went home.
The next day, we took offerings to the edge of the field. I remember placing crystals and flowers on a stone, and as I did, I felt such an overwhelming sense of sorrow that tears ran down my face. I believe I was feeling the sorrow of the guardian spirit of that place. It was a very intense feeling, and sadly, a year later there was an oil spill in a nearby truck depot, and the wetlands that bordered "the Field" suffered tremendous ecological damage, and a big tree we associated with our "Green Man" died.
I don't know what the "meaning" of this experience was, except that I and my former husband experienced communion with an intelligence of nature that belonged to that special place. Perhaps it was the "Guardian" of that place? The Numina that cared for it, the spirit that sensed the advance of industry that would destroy the beauty and ecological balance that was there? I can't know, I only remember what I recount in this story.
The mysterious influences of spirits, devas and angelic beings associated with sacred sites
by Martin Gray
Sages and seers from antiquity have repeatedly remarked that the dimension we see with our physical eyes is not the only dimension of existence. Many other realms exist and within them a variety of beings, spirits, energies and entities. Traditional peoples the world over have spoken of the existence of these presences, calling them such names as elves, gnomes, leprechauns, devas, fairies, genies and ghosts.
Since time immemorial humans have sought contact with these unseen forces. Shamanic practitioners communicate with the spirits of animals, ancestors and the plant world. Psychics, clairvoyants and mediums conduct séances to speak with entities from nonvisible realms. Religious mystics affirm the presence of angels, deities and other heavenly beings. Whatever we choose to call these entities, and however we attempt to explain them, it is certain that something mysterious is happening in dimensions other than those perceptible by our normal senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell.
These mysterious presences seem to be especially concentrated at the power places and sacred sites. In some holy places, particularly those of remote forest and desert tribes, these unseen presences are the sole focus of ritual activities. No Christian church or Buddhist temple will be found there, only a small shrine indicating the abode of some nature spirit. In the world's more celebrated pilgrimage shrines, these presences receive less acknowledgment than the primary religious deities. While the presence of the unseen forces usually long precedes the arrival of the historical religion that now maintains the pilgrimage shrine, those forces are frequently denied, dismissed, demonized or given only marginal importance. In the temples of Burma where we find great monuments to the Buddhist faith surrounded by small shrines dedicated to a host of pre-Buddhist spirits called Nats. In the Christian churches of Europe, Britain and Ireland flow springs long ago dedicated to pagan earth goddesses. And in the courtyards of enormous south Indian temples stand numerous small shrines housing various spirits called yakshas, nagas and asuras.
These unseen forces may affect pilgrims without their having any knowledge of the forces, or they may purposely be summoned to appear by the performance of ritual actions and invocations. Traditional rituals practiced at many shrines are potent, time-honored methods for invoking various spirit forces. Such methods are not the only way to summon the mysterious powers. Focused mental intention is an effective method of invocation, and prayer and meditation are the tools of spirit communication.
It is beneficial to first learn something about the nature or character of the spirit entities that inhabit a sacred site. Reading guidebooks concerning the mythology and archaeology of the site or questioning shrine administrators and priests are good approaches. The unseen forces will be described in terms such as spirits, devas or angels. These terms are simply metaphors for the actual character or personality of the forces. These terms also serve as metaphorical representations indicating how the forces will psychologically and physiologically affect human beings. Next, carefully consider the character of the unseen forces dwelling at a sacred site - this important point should not be lightly dismissed. Those forces may have either beneficial or disturbing effects on different people. Invocation of unseen forces at sacred sites is a powerful practice. It is important to exercise caution lest unwanted forces be admitted into an individual's personal energy field.
** Sacred Earth is written and photographed by Martin Gray and is the culmination of twenty-five years of travel to hundreds of sacred sites in more than one hundred countries. Gray’s stunning photographs and fascinating text provide unique insight into why these powerful holy places are the most venerated and visited sites on the entire planet. Maps adapted from the National Geographic Society show the locations of all the sites presented, and a thorough appendix includes a comprehensive list of over 500 of the world’s sacred sites. The book can be purchased from the author on his website: www.sacredsites.com