Gaia and Psyche: The Spirit of Place

“grid” of energy meridians called “ley lines” was thought to criss-cross the Earth’s ambisphere, connecting all sacred sites . These sites come in many forms, and live in many places: • Native American cosmology recognizes many types of sacred places — graves, cemeteries, and burial grounds. • Purification places, such as icy streams, sweat lodges, and sacred wa - terfalls, cleanse and remove negative energies. • Some sacred sites are connected to plants and animals : the Druids’ oak groves; the red and yellow cedars of the Northwest Coast tribes; and the ash tree of the Iroquois. • Astronomical observatories: Stonehenge, the Big Horn Medicine Wheel near Sheridan, Wyoming, and Chaco Canyon, NM . • Shrines, temples, and effigies. Historical sites . Places of spiritual re- newal, and mythic and legendary sites. • Vision questing and dreaming places, such as Bear Butte in South Dakota’s Black Hills . Rock art places, such as Canyonlands National Park in Utah . Quarries, such as the Great Pipestone Quarry in Pipe -


Human beings are an expression of their landscape. ~ Lawrence Durrell

I live at the foot of Big Bastard Mountain in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . I have a deep love for the Blue Ridge, a connection old, and bone-deep. I once wrote a poem about Rappahannock, and the Spirit that lives there: Here in Rappahannock I belong to God. I have no memories of the past; the future cannot claim me. My ghosts keep a respectful distance. Mystery calls me home. My prayers mingle with the woodsmoke, and call as little attention to themselves. Peace claims me, insistent as a scorned lover. I surrender. The Spirit of Place, the genus loci, is an ancient term which refers to the sacred power and deep spiritual connection we feel in Nature’s holy places. “Awe-inspiring”, “breathtaking”, “spectacular” — these describe scenery, but not Spirit. And sacred places are all about Spir- it. Although many are visually dramatic, the power of a sacred space derives from its essential connection to the ineffable, the unknowable, the Great Mystery . As the late mythologist Joseph Campbell reminds us, “The idea of a sacred apparently as old as life itself.” We are stirred by the names alone: Delphi, Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, Mecca, Lourdes, Jerusalem, the Black Hills, Joshua Tree, Mt. Sinai, the Ganges River, the Great Pyramids. They are the chakras of the Earth, “a microcosm of the macrocosm”, the sacred energy centers that empower the “buzzing, blooming” life of all that inhabit the plan - et. Eco-psychologist James Swan observes: “We are drawn to them like ants to honey.” The Earth’s surface is dotted with sacred sites: springs, rivers, rock outcroppings, caves, mountains, valleys, deserts. According to the Hopi, these are “the spots on the fawn”, the Earth’s places of light, creativity, healing, and power. Drawn to these magical magnetic sites, ancient Earth religions erected shrines, performed rituals, conducted sacred ceremonies, and celebrated seasonal agricultural festivals, such as Solstice and Beltane. Kivas, temples, and other religious structures were sited and de- signed to amplify the healing energy of the land, and an underlying

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Joshua Tree National Park: Photo by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash

Stonehenge: Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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