Danu's Cauldron: Wisewoman's Ways, and Wild Fey Magic
Living in a sacred landscape, walking between the worlds in the veil of Avalon Glastonbury. Where the old gods roam the hills, and the sidhe dance beneath the moon...wander into the mists with me and let us see what we may find...
A guide to working with Sacred Sites and the Powers of Place- part 1
I spend a lot of time in 'sacred spaces', especially ancient sacred sites. To be able to visit somewhere sacred that is thousands of years old is such a privilege in the modern world. To be able to spend time somewhere set aside from the everyday world, a place for sacred activities and communion with spirit is a wonderful thing. Yet we often we know little about what protocols were used there in the past, especially when it comes to the ancient Celtic, Bronze age and Neolithic sites so common across the British Isles. We can know a lot about the archaeology of a site but spiritually, psychically, energetically it's a different matter. These places can be so evocative, yet somehow remote from our lives today. So in this first of a small series of blogs on working with sacred sites I thought I'd start at the very beginning, and discuss a little about how to approach these sacred places, to get off to the best start with the 'powers of place'. I work with ancient places in Britain and Ireland primarily, but in my experience the same goes wherever you are.
I've seen people relate to ancient sacred sites in a variety of ways, and its always interesting. Sometime's the genius loci, otherwise known as the local residing gods or 'powers of place' work their magic on us even when we don't realise it, and sacred dramas, lessons and healings play out without any conscious awareness- people lose things, cars don't start, cameras and phones run out of batteries, people feel weepy or angry, push their own agendas too heavily, or feel so intimidated by the idea of unseen presences that they lose all ability to 'act natural'-and either assume the mantle of ego driven spiritual expert or spiritual supplicant, consumed by self doubt or even fear just by being there. Our model about how to be in a sacred space, is for many of us at least, guided by experiences of being in churches, where the spiritual hierarchy and etiquette is clear. But it's not the same in ancient sacred sites, there is rarely a human priestess or shaman for example residing there to oversee or guide what we do.
The first thing I do when entering any sacred space, is to take some breaths and centre myself. This is true in modern places- goddess temples and sacred groves as much as in ancient sacred sites. This allows me to change gear, and make a transition from the everyday world into a more subtle state of consciousness. It also means it's easier to be respectful and aware of what's going on- either energetically or logistically, especially in a public space or group working.
The second thing I do, is ask permission to enter/ participate from the guardian of the place. When that is a human it's as simple as saying 'what would you like me to do?' discovering clearly where you should go, what you should do, seeing what roles you can help with in a ceremony, what rules or customs the place has, etc. A human guardian or public space may well have this spelled out for you, but if in doubt, ask early on, in a clear respectful and gentle way. Remember this is sacred space, so don't go marching in loudly and dominantly.
When the guardian is not a physically present human, then the work is not as straightforward, and that is where No1- getting centred and present first comes into its own. I allow some time to really see and feel the place around me, from some threshold place- a gate, a doorway, a place just outside a group of standing stones- and I ask for the guardian of the site to make themselves known to me- if they will. I state aloud that I would like to enter, and that I come in peace and with respect, and that if I may I should like to learn what the etiquette is for this site, for these spirits present here. In my experience some ancient sites have very vocal and discernible spirit guardians, others less so, but by making it clear that I'm honouring them at the outset, I get the most out of the experience, I learn quicker how they'd like me to behave, how to work with them, and I also don't run into any trouble.
Whether you have 'the sight' or other psychic impressions, or not, take the time to stretch out your senses and really feel the place. Do you feel welcome? Do you feel drawn to something, a feature of the site, or a type of behaviour? Look around in a peaceful frame of mind. What does your common sense and any prior knowledge tell you about the place and the spirits here? What about your gut feelings- literally how does your solar plexus and your stomach feel? These can be useful indicators in the body.
I remember once hearing from someone that they'd been shot by a 'spirit arrow' after visiting an ancient site. Upon asking them what they'd been doing there, I discovered that they'd been performing a New Age working, bringing the energies of star beings down to earth to begin the new aeon, whilst sitting in a neolithic long barrow (stone chambered burial mound). Essentially they were saying- 'You ancestors! We don't want your wisdom anymore- we want new spirits!' whilst sitting in their grave. Yes barrows are commonly used as entrances into the Otherworld...and yes they sometimes have womb like chambers, places to connect to the Great Mother, but they are also host to a whole range of spirits, including those of people whose bones were interred there. This, I would say, is not how to work with an ancient sacred site. Try to resist putting your own interpretation on to it, and certainly don't try to make it serve for some purpose that is purely your own. Every man made place, stone circle, barrow mound, ancient temple complex, was built for a specific purpose, and the spirits who dwell there will still serve that purpose. Sacred landscapes will also have their indwelling spirits, who again, will have their own ways...they are not there to serve you. Ultimately they are for the good of all. You can go along with that, and learn a lot, and be filled to the brim, or you can try to act like a consumer, and take what you want and discard the rest- and you will get the response you deserve.
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