Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sacred Places, Spirit of Place.........

"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 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 EARTHcompiled by James and Roberta Swan (1989)

Bound To The Earth
Sacred Places
A few years back I was reading the above article by Debra Carroll, an expressive arts therapist and dancer from an important (and sadly obscure) book edited by the Swans in 1989.  James Swan is perhaps best known for his book Sacred Places and the Spirit of Place Symposiums that happened in the 1980's.  

In the anthology  found a wonderful description of a visionary experience Ms. Carroll had with the "Spirit of Place" (what the Romans called the Numen) at a site she visited in Mexico.

I was equally enthralled by a story she quoted by someone called Martin Gray, in which he described his own experience in Japan.   Ms. Carroll described Mr. Gray as a "pilgrim". Not a researcher, anthropologist, or photographer, but a "pilgrim". I loved that, as well as her story, and his. Because "pilgrim" embodies to me the humility necessary to approach a sacred site, the humility needed to listen to the voices of Gaia, in the places where Gaia may chose to speak to us.

In fact,  I was moved enough to order the book, which is a gorgeous book of photos and observations by Mr. Grey of his 20 year long Pilgrimage to sacred sites around the world.
Since then (2008)  Martin Grey, an anthopologist and award winning National Geographic photographer,  has produced several other books on sacred sites. including Sacred Europe and Sacred Asia.

An Exploration of Their Mysterious Powers

In all such qualities those places excel, in which there is a divine inspiration, and in which the gods have their appointed lots and are propitious to the dwellers in  them.
Certain areas on earth are more sacred than others, some on account of their situation, others because of their  sparkling waters, and others because of the association or habitation of saintly people.
—Mahabharata Anusanana
From Sacred and Magical Places by Martin Grey

I would add that certain places are particularly sacred and potent because of the confluence of elemental,  geo-magnetic and tellurgic force, because they are infused with the lifeblood of Gaia, and they are places that can naturally raise our energies and facilitate visionary experience.  They are places of Communion, which many people  believe is exactly why people from the earliest times went to great length and effort to lay stones, build circles, demark auspicious times in the cycles of the seasons and placements of the stars, and raised cathedrals.  Places to Commune.

I have a summer story that has been on my mind as well, a little mystery  I have always felt was a moment of communion with the "Numen of place" in the town I lived in in upstate New York in 1992.

At the time, I was living with my former husband on 40 some acres. Where we lived was a rural area rapidly being built up with new houses, as well as industry. One of the mysterious places in the area, to me, was a field I used to go to. 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 rusty double barbed wire fence, and then tramped through a living barrier of poison ivy, grape vines that snagged your hair,  and small trees. Braving all of this, finally a beautiful expanse of 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, somehow outside of time, 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, allowing small trees and bushes to grow up . In the center of the field I perceived a "fairy circle". Small trees, bushes, even tall grasses formed a circle if one looked. With my divining rods, I found there was a ley crossing in that exact spot - the rod "helicoptered" and whirled.  We came to revere the THE FIELD as magical.

Duncan and I were actively involved in Earth based spiritual practices, and Duncan facilitated a lively 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 aggressively thundered forward - and something pushed both of them backwards, again. They fell on their behinds in the snow! This (I was told) was enough strangeness for everyone. They turned around and went home. The next day, Duncan and I 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 and would not stop. I was, for that moment, the empathic medium for a prescence that lived there. I believe I felt the sorrow of the guardian spirit of that place. A year later there was an oil spill in a nearby truck depot, and the wetlands that bordered the Field suffered tremendous ecological damage.

I feel we opened a portal, a conversation if you will, because we were practicing ritual, and making art, that was about the earth, and doing it in that particular place. The spirits  responded to us, simply because we were listening. Reading the experiences of Debra Carroll and Martin Gray brought that time back vividly to me.   Since that time  I have visited many sacred places, including Glastonbury, Boynton Canyon in Sedona, many places............but I will never forget my moment of sadness with the Guardian of a magical field.
"There is an earth-based energy available to human beings, concentrated at specific places all across the planet, which catalyzes and increases this eco-spiritual consciousness. These specific places are the sacred sites discussed and illustrated on this web site. Before their prehistoric human use, before their usurpation by different religions, these sites were simply places of power. They continue to radiate their powers, which anyone may access by visiting the sacred sites. No rituals are necessary, no practice of a particular religion, no belief in a certain philosophy; all that is needed is for an individual human to visit a power site and simply be present.
 As the flavor of herbal tea will steep into warm water, so also will the essence of these power places enter into one’s heart and mind and soul. As each of us awakens to a fuller knowing of the universality of life, we in turn further empower the global field of eco-spiritual consciousness. That is the deeper meaning and purpose of these magical holy places: they are source points of the power of spiritual illumination."
.........Martin Gray


Roll Cage Mary said...

A timely post! Back on 11 November 1980, I had an interesting experience
on the slopes of Maunga Taranaki in New Zealand, that I was too young and green
to understand, only being 19 years of age.

There's a delightfully named "Forgotten World" highway in that part of the southern hemisphere with a "Bridge to Somewhere" and a "Bridge to Nowhere". Long story-to-be-continued, there was a WWI soldier settlement in the Mangapurua Valley. The numina of that valley selected human guardians: the Bettjemans.

We rarely hear about sites from this part of the web. Contrary to popular opinion, the Maori chiefs and prophets of the late 19th century knew that the survival of the iwi was interconnected with that of the colonizing pakeha.

I wonder; have you made a mask of the feminine specifically Kiwi?

Lauren Raine said...

Interesting comment.......thank you! To be honest, I know absolutely nothing about the goddesses and gods, the mythos of New Zealand, and very little as well about the native peoples of Australia. I would be happy to learn more.......

I am currently working on a mask for Pele, Goddess of Hawaii, truly a "numina" spirit, as She is the heart of the volcano, Kilauea. Brings up a lot of energy, trying to get a sense of what Her mask might look like.

There was a time, as you well know, when everything was alive, and had intelligence, a "voice". This understanding of an ensouled world informed all of our ancestors, no matter where we originate from.............I feel very dedicated, in my own very small way, to trying to re-awaken some of this experience of living in a Conversant, re-enchanted world.

Roll Cage Mary said...

"There was a time, as you well know, when everything was alive, and had intelligence, a "voice". This understanding of an ensouled world informed all of our ancestors, no matter where we originate from."

Why do you use the past tense?

According to stories, some say the Maori people originated from Hawaii. Others say from Rarotonga.

I love Pele, she has been in my life since I was a squirt!

Maunga Taranaki is a 'quiet' volcano, it's brother, Ruapehu, is more active and appeared in the trilogy, Lord of the Rings. He's had a big head ever since! Then there is White Island, which is off-limits.

Have a scoot about these links on a wet Sunday:



http://www.temarareo.org/ (The Language Garden - Tane Mahuta)

I used to live in the Waikato where Te Mara Reo is located. I was there when
the first McDonald's was built!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Fascinating post, Lauren!

Lauren Raine said...

Thanks to you both! And thanks for the links........I will enjoy indeed following up on them.
And yes, not all of the understanding of the living earth is in the past; let us hope that this just keeps growing and reemerging in humanity.

I loved Avatar's idea of the people of Pandora being in contact with Eowa, their living planet............

Roll Cage Mary said...

Found some more links for you, small people dedicated to working a path.


Google Madonna Falls for the low down on the wai-o-tapu (sacred waters).


Denis Glover was a firebrand poet born in Dunedin. A real hard case, as we say.

The idea presented in "Avatar" has always been a reality in Aotearoa.
We think James Cameron is a wanker, by the way.

Roll Cage Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Macabre Ballerina said...

I agree, indeed a timely article!

Lauren Raine said...

Thanks once again to all of you - I'm currently on the road (driving through Missouri at the moment) so unable to followup on these wonderful links, but I do look forward to "landing" and having a chance to explore.