How to Visit a Sacred Place
EcoChaplain Roger Wharton
Lecture Notes from: Eco-Tourism Class
Prof. Susz Ross ‘s Class
What are sacred places?
places revered (held special) by people because they believe that the “holy” is encountered there is some way
what is holy? God, Spirit, spirits, totems, a place that is thin between dimensions, etc.
Three types of holy or sacred places:
[More info in “But you, O Bethlehem or Ephrathah” and personal experience on the Web site]
Historic – connected directly with a traceable historic event or archaeological evidence
Traditional – a place connected with an event, but the exact site is unknown, – it has been held to be this place for a long time
Pious Sites – places that have been associated with events for various reasons that are not historic or traditional
examples — The city of Bethlehem (historic place)
Birthplace of Jesus — stable/cave – traditional
Place of the Last Supper – pious site.
Other examples of sacred/holy places (Power Points) (Earth acupressure points)
Mt. Zion — 10 Commandments
Jerusalem = The Jewish Temple covered now with a masque of the Rock which commemorates the places where Mohammad ascended into heaven
Many religious people build structures over holy places
Australia – Ayers Rock
The Pyramids – Egypt and Central America
Mountains all over the world
Mt. Tamalpais (reclining maiden) – Ring Mt (Fertility Stone) Mt. Diablo (her lover)
Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming
Pyramid Lake in NV
The Big Island – Mt. Pele
Inca Sites in the Andes
places of beauty, strange rock formations, water, hot springs, etc.
(male/female [birthing] symbols)
places where animals congregated — Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands –
Red Tail Hawk was a bird of special powers to the Miwok and Pomos
places where many species cooperate and get along with each other
or act strangely
The Artic National Wildlife Area — caribou
Pacific Grove – Monarch Butterflies
Sacred places were the first tourist destinations
people went, however, not as tourists, but as pilgrims
the trips were call pilgrimages not vacations
the trip was a very important part of the spiritual journey — the danger, expense, discomfort, etc.
much longer than the stay as the destination
so you traveled in a sacred or holy way — fasting, being extra kind, walking instead of riding, etc.
for the poor, working, etc.
Stations of the Cross in the Church instead of Via dol rosa (the way of grief) in Jerusalem
Labyrinth at Chartres
there were also lived pilgrimages
the seasonal migration of people took them from sacred place to sacred place (Native Americans — Buffalo Gap — The Great Race)
In religious ( not spiritual) traditions holy places serve to:
connect people to the history of their religion
a place of ritual and worship
aid people in making contact with the holy
In nature based spiritualities (shamanic) religion they play a different role
all of creation is experienced as sacred – ceremonies help gain access to the sacred at any location
Special sacred places are recognized in nature as
amplifiers and portals to other worlds
places where the spirit speak
places where the animals will approach you
ecological balance — rituals and ceremonies that maintain the balance of the world — not only for the tribe, but for the benefit of all beings
Varieties of Sacred Experiences Associated with Sacred Places
1. Ecstasies —
is a personal experience of great intensity which involves an inward turning stimulated by contact with some environmental condition which seems to trigger the onset of transcendence
unitive – deep feeling emerging from the unconscious followed by insights which reveal new levels of meaning and higher truth
adamic ecstasy – involves plunging into negative emotions like fear, guilt, depression and then bottoming out in a moment of pure ecstatic clarity of joy and realization of truth
knowledge ecstasy – in which a person has a deep and profound insight into the nature of truth and reality that is not personal, such as the “aha” moment.
2. Visions of Mythical Beings —
myth being what Joseph Campbell call the connection between waking consciousness and the mystery of the universe
Moses – Burning Bush
Visions of the Virgin Mary – Guadalupe, Fatima
White Buffalo Calf Woman (pipe) – among American Indians
3. Unification with an Aspect of Nature
If one sees an animal, plant, stone, or some other aspect of nature change into human form in a dream or vision, then that transforming piece of nature is an object of great power says medicine man Wallace Black Elk.
That person then becomes a more powerful person of prayer and perhaps able to manipulate nature — rain maker
4. Vivid Dreams
a place where people come to dream
The Dream Corridor in the Southwest
in ancient Greece, temples where build at special places as dream incubation chambers
5. Interspecies Communication
animals communicate – relay knowledge, ask for help, give guidance
6. Sighting of Monsters and UFO
Yeti, Big Foot, Sasquatch, Green Man
7. Unusual Odors, Sounds and Ambiances
bells on Mt. Shata
music at locations – each has it own harmony (music of the spheres)
odors that cannot be explained — a spiritual fragrance the permeates a place
8. Hearing Voices
the best magic words are those which come to one when one is alone out among the mountains. These are always the most powerful in their effects. The power of the solitude is great beyond understanding.
Mohammed – Mt. Arafat
Moses – Mt. Sinai – Ten Commandments
9. Death and Rebirth
At the crux of every transcendental experience is a process of surrendering the ego, resulting in a psychic death and rebirth.
For some people, an encounter with the sacred at a special place involves an actual feeling or experience of dying and being reborn.
How to Visit a Sacred Place
you may choose to seek out a sacred place in hopes of having one of these experiences
the sacred place may choose you (Close Encounters)
you may be refreshed just as you would be in visiting any outdoor location
you may also experience something special
Go in sacred way — consciously — realizing it is holy ground
“Care for the place and it will care for you” don Juan told Carlos Castaneda
pick up litter, clean it up, keep the path clear
find out if the place you are visiting is being used for ceremony at the time you are planning on visiting.
if you arrive an ceremony is going on — keep back unless invited in
realize that some places should not be visited unless you are invited
if traveling there – do so as a pilgrim and not a tourist
when you arrive — don’t rush off — take time for the ambiance to sink into your mind so you can walk gently on your pilgrimage
Move slowly as you walk
Be attentive to plants, animals, insects – especially the ones that seem to stand out or you feel drawn to (nodes of power)
make offerings of food — corn meal, tobacco, rice, flower petals, pour water on the ground
do ritual — from what you know of the place — say your own prayers
be careful with fire and fire scars — maybe a small white candle – (pick up wax)
circumlocution — walk in circles around —
mark off some space for yourself — spread a blanket – directional stones (returned) — or better yet find stones that occur naturally and visually use them as markers
don’t have expectations — what ever happens is right for you at that time
sit and be quiet – observe – outer world and inner world
crying is common
don’t expect to gain POWER — ego trip —
the purpose is to come into harmony with the greater unity of all life so that you can become who you are and then serve others according to who you are.
The greatest power in life comes from surrendering to a higher force, not from gaining control of people and things.
do what you feel moved to do
dance, sing, explore, do energy exercises,
it takes time — not like going to a movie — hours, days, weeks, months,
sometime have to work at tearing down the walls that separate us from that reality
there is a psychological bonding that takes place — over and above intellectual knowledge
sacred places are gifts to us —
if you go in a sacred way seeking knowledge you have to be prepared to follow through with what comes to you
and what comes to you is what you need, not necessarily what you want.
May sacred places be your friends, and you theirs. They are there to help people find out who they are and become themselves, in service to the Earth and all its creatures.
Three really good books:
Sacred Places: How the Living Earth Seeks our Friendship, James A. Swan
The Power of Place: Sacred Ground in Natural and Human Environments, by James A. Swan
Dialogues with the Living Earth by James Swan & Roberta Swan#