Overload

Visit sacred sites

Category: Actions

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

The definition of a sacred site is somewhat loose, but we can perhaps think of a sacred place as being sacred because : 

  • It symbolically represents something which is meaningful in a religious context  -  mountains, islands, walls and so on are all used  symbolically in the spiritual world and are found in many visions and hallucinations in a form of common symbolism.  Because they have a common symbolism in visions, physical sites which resemble them take on a special significance.
     
  • It is ideally situated to place an astronomical/astrological observatory – as astrology and astronomy were regarded up until relatively recently as one science, the site served a double purpose enabling astronomers and astrologers to measure the movement of the summer and winter solstices, the stars and the planets.  Examples include Stonehenge, and the Jantar Mantar, Jaipur [a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built between 1727 and 1734].  At Stonehenge, for example, the site is ideally placed to witness various astronomical events.  According to Paul Devereux the monument’s latitude is perfect for observing solar and lunar alignments and is a function of its latitude.  He discovered that ‘one has to go to the same latitude as that occupied by the Great Pyramid in Egypt to be able to place stones dealing with the same astronomical alignments in a regular pattern’.

  • It is a site where ‘perceptions’ are held – Thus an important battle or ceremony or event took place there and there is a belief that the place itself ‘holds’ the perceptions of the event

Paul Devereux – The Sacred Places
Scholar Edward Cases talks of places having a gathering action filling themselves with memories that belong as much to the place as my brain or body.

  • It is a site where the flora favours spiritual experiences – these spiritual experiences may include the ability to go into a trance like state or to hallucinate, go out-of-body or similar.  Sites where hallucinogenic plants grow – ‘magic’ mushrooms, peyote cactus, datura, etc are also often sacred.  In practical terms any site where the mechanisms of vision grow can be included.

  • It is a site where the geography favours spiritual experiences –   So, for example, if a mountain is extremely high and a person suffers from oxygen deprivation this may provide a spiritual experience.  Or there may be a waterfall able to do the same

  • It is a site where the geology favours spiritual experiences – The fumes from volcanic fissures and volcanoes, for example, may promote visionary states.   Low frequency sound  can produce hallucinations – promoting a feeling of well-being or the opposite - thus natural emissions from rocks and minerals which naturally ‘hum’ as some do, will be classified this way.    There may be sites which produce low levels of background radiation.  This may have given it the reputation of helping healing.  Examples of sites with a historic record of healing include places such as Men-an-Tol in Cornwall, and a considerable number of wells and springs.  Pyramids produce their own natural radiation. Alternatively it may be geologically a site having a fluctuating magnetic field and which may also produce telluric currents

  • It is a site where the geology favours real but unusual experiences – for example displays of odd ‘real’ as opposed to hallucinatory displays such as light balls.  Such sites may have high magnetism or fluctuating magnetic activity and may occur on fault lines.  But geological oddities such as the low marshy peatlands which covered some parts of Europe give off marsh gas – methane – which can spontaneously ignite producing light flashes and little flames.  There are numerous places where tiny light balls as well as enormous spheres have been seen, as well as odd effects such as electric shocks – The Fairy Stones in Shropshire, Ballowball Barrow [Carn Gloose] Cornwall; Castlerigg in the Lake District.  Places named as Flam or Flash indicate such as Flash Dam can indicate a place where this occurs.  The word Flam actually means a low marshy spot.

So, if I can summarise.  There are some sites that are sacred simply because they have symbolic associations.  There are some sites that are sacred because they are a place of stored perception. 

And there are some sites that are sacred because they help to produce a spiritual experience.

Background

The fact that a site is sacred may be interesting and a very rough indicator.  But there may be any number of different ways the site helps you to do this.  Perhaps only a small portion are on telluric currents or magnetic anomalies and because of the nature of telluric currents, they might have been there once, but may not be now.  It only takes the building of one motorway or new road or an overhead power line, to disrupt all the flows.  When they drained the marshes round Glastonbury, they might well have inadvertently lost all the energy concentrations the site had previously produced.

So a sacred site is a sort of rough indicator that something may once have been there, but you may need to do some extra work with instruments to find out if it still exists.  You might find yourself to be better off standing on the Eiffel tower waiting for a solar flare than standing in the middle of the Callanish stones.

The existence of an observatory on the site may be a pointer to the fact that the ancients knew their solar cycles and used the equipment on site, as it were, to predict times of high solar activity.  So the site was marked as special and the observatory used to decode when people needed to be there to get the best effects.

We should also not ignore the fact that sites can be multi-purpose, like Stonehenge.  It is clear that the more purposes and functions a site can satisfy, the more important it became.

The only difficulty, as you can well see, is that most of us now have no idea which of these reasons is the one that made any one site sacred – the plants, the geological activity, the fumes, the height and so on; nor whether it is only sacred because of its symbolic associations not its ability to provoke spiritual experience.

We could go to a site thinking we were going to have some profound healing experience without ever knowing that it was sacred because of its symbolic associations with water, springs, wells and mountains.

Method

Here are some suggestions for how to find sacred sites and establish their importance spiritually.

Using sacred geography

One of the more exciting intriguing and interesting ways of finding sacred sites and also learning a little of our very ancient history is to use the information on maps which gives us a clue as to the  Sacred geography of our countries.  A sacred landscape maps spiritual features and symbols onto the physical landscape using a mix of naturally occurring features and sites which have spiritual 'power'. 

The objective of all sacred landscapes was to recreate heaven on earth - to recreate the symbols and features seen in spiritual experience using the physical landscape, thus reminding people of both spiritual truths but also guiding them to places where such experience could be obtained.

It had the added benefit that if a person was unable to gain spiritual experience, then at least he had some approximate idea of what others had seen and experienced from the physical recreation of it.   The landscape at one time must have been immensely beautiful as a result.

Sacred geography - 'using initial sites'

Where the sacred geography of an area is unclear, it is often best to start by using what Alfred Watkins [a pioneer in this area] called Initial sites

Finding sacred sites

Once you have some idea of the sacred geography of a site then the next stage is to understand something of the symbolism of sacred geography. The link takes you to a description of the basics of this symbolism.

From this point we are then looking for specific features and these are just a few of the ones to look for, the link takes you to a much fuller description:

  • Altars - the altars in churches in both the UK and other countries were often reused altars from the original pre-Christian site.  Those who built Churches tended to build them over the sacred places of the people who lived there, and the altar was left in place as a sort of X marks the spot, in an odd combination of spiritual and religious.  Kneel or lie on an altar and you could be at a fairly potent spot spiritually!  An altar is symbolically a casket or coffer
  • Bailey hills - The legends that often surround bailey hills often feature some kind of myth that treasure is to be found within. Knowing that our soul cone has at its pinnacle our Higher spirit, then indeed, symbolically, treasure may well be found ‘within’.  Bailey hills are symbolically 'hills'.

Alfred Watkins – The Old Straight Track
Mrs Leather in her ‘Folklore of Herefordshire’ gives five instances of legends that the mounds of local castles contain hidden treasures and such legends have an earlier origin than Norman times.

  •  Barrows  - or other place of burial.  Barrows and man made mounds used for burials are similar to caves in their function and symbolism.  Burial barrows and mounds are often found in landscapes where caves are very few and far between.  A barrow also has certain advantages over a cave
  • it can be precisely aligned along spirit lines
  • it can be laid out cosmologically
  • it can be more easily found on the landscape being visible pervasive and exalted
  • Beacons are exceptionally important in sacred geographies and are well worth visiting.  They are important symbolically, a beacon is one of the many symbols of enlightenment [as are torches].  The link gives you some more clues as to place names to look for.  The beacons were pointers  - direction finders - as to where enlightenment was to be found, either lighting the way to the place or marking the place itself.
  • Bridges - take on the symbolism of bridges.  If they have been built over water  - a stream or river for example, or a marsh, where there is no obvious reason why the bridge is there, other than perhaps it appears to link ley lines or other parts of the sacred geography.  If it links two hills even better, especially if they are artificial
  • Castles - particularly when sited on the top of a hill.  Castles being a symbol frequently employed in myths and legends are exceptionally important  within a sacred landscape, and often apply to a god, not an ordinary person.  Your own house is a castle as such it is worth exploring something of the house you live in to know its symbolism and what it represents.  it may well be an ideal place to obtain a spiritual experience - for example see Living in a stone built house.
  • Citadels - A citadel is a fortress protecting a town, sometimes incorporating a castle or palace.  As a part of the sacred landscape it is often a combination of a  whole host of other symbolic features – the island, the wall, the levels and layers, the palace and so on.    Symbolically it is closer to a pyramid than to a city.  There are some wonderful citadels off the coast of the old Yugoslavia [now Croatia] - the island of Rab is but one example. 
  • Caves - some physically existent caves are sacred places and are so for very good reasons, the link will explain why.  The symbolism of the cave is also important in many shamanic societies.  If there is no cave then it may be simply a crack or crevice in a rock face, representing the symbolic crack or crevice!
  • Cities - symbolic cities are closely allied with actual cities because they represent a system of human origin.  They are thus ideal as an indicator of just what the human system underlying that culture is like, but they generally serve no purpose from a spiritual point of view - they are not a place one would normally  go to get spiritual experience.  Perhaps the only exception to this is one city and that is Amsterdam, which is remarkable in that its symbolism is almost complete even though it is a physical city.
  • Crosses - which have extremely important symbolism unrelated to Christianity and go back thousands of years. The symbolism of the cross is universal and extremely important.   There are celtic crosses, for example, so a cross can be a symbolic reminder or a place where the cross can be removed from our backs - a place of spiritual experience
  • Enclosures and camps - which have, superficially, a military purpose, but on closer inspection are part of the sacred geography.  An enclosure is possibly the nearest representation there is to a Cell
  • Henges - are often both symbolic and functionally active
  • Iona
    Gardens - Gardens are symbolic, they may also mark sites of especial interest spiritually.  One prime example of this is the Japanese garden, whose layout and positioning are all geared towards achieving spiritual experience
  • Islands - islands are exceptionally important symbolically and spiritually.  Islands were often a primary site for performing the ceremonies associated with the Mysteries because of the number of symbolic objects associated with them.
  • Isthmuses - The isthmus is symbolic.  Thus any sort of physical isthmus connecting an already [physical] sacred island to the mainland is itself a sacred site. A causeway is in this context also an isthmus.  Symbolically, it is the means by which one passes from the physical world of the mainland to the spiritual world.  Thus if you walk a causeway, for example, to a sacred island you are in some respects performing a sacred act
  • Labyrinths - physical labyrinths were once used extensively as part of the Mysteries, but these sorts of complex and somewhat frightening structures no longer exist.  What tends to be left are the labyrinths used in the technique known as Walking the labyrinth - a milder method of provoking spiritual experience which is just as effectively achieved using crop circles, for example, as it is from the labyrinth in chartres cathedral.  The Labyrinth is also a symbol.
  • Lighthouse - symbolically a lighthouse may be an even more important place than a beacon, although the symbolism is identical.  Lighthouses are found on islands surrounded by the ocean and sea, as such they are quite special.  They were markers of spiritual experience in a sense , but they were specifically markers of where wisdom was to be attained
  • Mark stones - are used to mark out ley lines and sacred ways, but they also occasionally have a more fundamental and important purpose, follow the link to find out more. 
  • Mines - Many mines used for flints or ores took on a spiritual use being ideal for sensory deprivation.  They are ideal ‘portals’ to the underworld.  They are also ideal replacements for labyrinths [see above] as part of the Mysteries.  In some cases there is reason to believe they were labyrinths and not mines.
  • Mounds and artificial hills -  If you find an artificial mound which is extremely well constructed, then it is likely to have once been a sacred site.  A mound can vary considerably in height and size.  They can be round or rectangular or square.  Look for signs that the mound was stepped at one time.  Although the earth and grass may now cover them, the indentations of the stepping should still be visible.  Longtown Castle, for example, which is a mound with a castle built on its top is built on a stepped pyramidal mound, so is Glastonbury Tor a natural hill which has been artificially stepped
  • Mountains - symbolically mountains are exceptionally important, thus any greatly venerated mountain is likely to be so for its symbolic value.  There is a practical aspect to this, however, as high mountains can indeed provoke spiritual experience - see Climbing high mountains
  • Mundus Cereris  - were pits found throughout Europe and specifically mark spots of ancient spiritual experience -' where the world opened' to reveal alternative worlds.  It may well be that geologically they favour experience, but these underground pits were markers of the sites where  sexual stimulation and stimulation using trigger points were used as the mechanism of inducing spiritual experience.  Ceres was the god of 'grain' [sperm].  It is probably no accident that the word for a storehouse of  'seed-grain' is Penus. A site of the Mysteries
  • Paths roads and 'ley lines' - If you look at most Ordnance survey maps [or their equivalent] you will probably find that sacred sites are linked via a vast network [a truly vast network] of straight lines that link them to form a sort of sacred geography, a sacred geography that exists in Europe, but also exists all over the world, as such sites and straight line roads exist on every continent.  One of the very specific types of road that are worth looking out for are the Hollow roads which also incorporate notches.  There are also Cursus.

  • Palace - a palace takes on the symbolism of a palace.  Rather than being a place of spiritual experience, a palace is the home of a symbolic king or queen.  These days the actual kings and queens we are still left with have very little of the spiritual left in them, but at one time kings and queen were essentially shamans and 'gods'
  • Petroglyphs and patterns on rocks -  a pattern on the ground such as a geoglyph or abstract line marking on stones, [known as petroforms - boulder outlines or boulder mosaics], are good indicators.  If you are in Africa it tends to be a little more straightforward.  In Zulu art, for example a spiral painted on a rock indicated that the rock has been found to emit ‘healing energy’.  Such spirals are also to be found in other countries, but whether this is a universal symbol system I do not know.  Without instruments, ancient man found these sites by experiment and observation and marked them appropriately with carved symbols.  But they may not have known exactly why they produced the effect only that they did produce the effect.
  • Poles - occasionally quite permanent poles will indicate or mark sacred sites because of the link with the celestial pole
  • Pyramids - are simply artificial hills as are ziggurats.  Borobodur, the Great Pyramid at Giza, all the other pyramids are all ultimately representing an artificial cone with its stairs up to the gods.  Pagodas are pyramids.  Pyramids have a good deal of symbolism attached to them.  Their square shape is due to the symbolic use of a square or rectangle to represent the Earth
  • Rivers and streams - there are numerous sacred rivers in the world that take on the symbolism of rivers and streams.  The Ganges, for example, is especially sacred because of the known association with mountains as its source.  All rivers that have their source in a mountain range are thus likely to be sacred in some way
  • Sacred hills - unlike an artificial hill, the sacred hill is a natural feature that has been adapted for use. The adaptation will usually be similar to that employed for artificial hills.  They have the same symbolism as all hills.
  • Spires and steeples - which are often found on religious buildings but may indicate the building was built over an older religious site, another sort of hill symbolically
  • Standing stones - may be markers of sacred sites or simply markers of ley lines - the paths between them. 
  • Stone circles - stone circles are also similarly symbolic and functional.  The symbolism is explored in the page for this link.
  • Towers - indicating a place of symbolic wisdom and possibly a place to obtain it, some towers - such as pagodas also have the dual symbolism of being a pyramid.  Towers are also symbolic

  •  Waterfalls - a natural site with symbolic associations which has a proven record of producing experiences
  • Water sites - Moated islands, islands with causeways leading out to them - the causeways in this case acting as a sacred way to the place of the Mystery site.  Artificial lakes - again if they have islands in them even better.  Islands in the sea - Ocean and sea.  All are potentially important sacred sites principally because of their symbolism, but they may also have other capabilities. 

Using place names

Some of the names of places may give you a clue.  Some of the meaningful terms used in ancient days may have been incorporated into the current place name, but you do have to know old languages and their meanings to be able to do this, for example in Greece….

Paul Devereux – Earth Mysteries
The ancient Greeks had two words for place, chora and topos.
Chora was a holistic reference to place, referring to place as a point of experience, as a trigger to memory, imagination and the sense of mystic presence.  In his Timaeus, Plato claimed that chora could not be apprehended by the senses alone, but required a kind of spiritual reasoning and the ability to ‘dream with our eyes open’.
Topos on the other hand, signified places in much the same way we think of today – simple location.

In the UK, the words Blake [as in Blakeney] Lee [as in Brightholmlee] leigh [as in Slayleigh], ley [as in Slapton ley], Coel, Cole or variations of this, Blag, Brent [as in Brentwood], are all examples of place names containing symbolically important names.

Any site with the words castle in the name are also important. Watkins, for example,  noticed a 'puzzling number of mound sites' which had the word ‘Castle’ in them, but had no defensive purpose, - hills, mountains, enclosures and so on.

Alfred Watkins – The Old Straight Track
A puzzling fact is the frequency of places with no sign of ever having had defensive buildings, still bearing a castle name such as ‘The Castle’, ‘Red Castle’, ‘Ragged Castle’ and ‘Castle Farm’.  A mound or ring earthwork far earlier than the Norman period often bears the name.  It seems certain that the word ‘castle’ originally indicated some kind of earthwork 

or not.  As we have seen this is a clear indicator of spiritual purpose.

A large number of sacred sites included trees at one time, of course the trees themselves have long since disappeared.  But their existence is often recorded in place names, for example, Gospel Oaks, Mark Ash, Mark Oak, Broad Oak, Weobley Ash, Cross elms, Cold Ash, Cold Oak and so on.

 Indicators of timing

There may also be indications on site that timing was important there.  Timing applies to any geomagnetic site that is affected by solar cycles flares and similar.  But we should not forget that timing may of course be related to the plants that grow there.  Henbane, for example, a common ingredient in a number of shamanic brews, is only available in the form needed at certain times of year. 

Old roads were sometimes built over fault line anomalies and as we have seen in the other entries, occasionally crossed fault lines produce magnetic anomalies of higher and thus more potent intensity than simple fault lines do.  Combine this knowledge with knowledge of when solar flares occur and you have a recipe for a solar experience.

How it works

Numerous mechanisms - sometimes it doesn't work at all

see Stimulation via Resonance

I can well imagine there are thousands trekking to some far ‘holy mountains’ thinking they will receive the most intense spiritual experience of their lives without realising that these holy mountains  are ‘holy’ because symbolically they represent important features in the local cosmology.  And many wells and springs, mounds and hummocks, hills and fountains are just the same – physical counterparts to the symbolic landscape of heaven.

Advantages

  • It is free and legal.
  • It is fun
  • it gets you away from having to darn socks
  • it is far more exciting than knitting and watching east enders

Disadvantages

 

  • There is absolutely no guarantee that  a sacred site still produces a spiritual experience.  And there are a vast number of sacred sites – vast. 
  • You could visit every sacred site on this planet and still get nothing.
  • Over the years our sacred geographies have been muddied - here is some more detail - the muddying of the maps
  • So totally unreliable, but exciting, the thrill of discovery

Related observations