Esoteric Work II
Everything written in this section of this two part article is the opinion of the author, based on personal experiences from working with sacred sites. By no means is the approach of the author the only possible or valid approach. There is always more than one path in a forest.
What are sacred sites?
There is a paradox in the work with sacred sites. The Divine is able to appear and leave its mark everywhere. It is ever present in any place, and yet the Divine presence, or the presence of spirit beings, seems to be stronger in special places. Most people on earth make this experience at some point in their lives, whether they are esoterically interested or not. Sometimes this presence is so dense that you can physically feel it.
These are the places that we call sacred places, while we are fully conscious of the fact that every place on Earth is basically sacred.
Sacred places can be places that inspire us through their natural beauty, where we can feel the hand of the Creator stronger that elsewhere, by example on mountain tops, on lonely beaches, or simply in a clearing in an old forest.
Other sites have an aura of sacredness around them because our ancestors worshipped the Divine there long ago. These are places I want to deal with in the following.
As we have seen in the historical overview of part one, remains of ancient cultures, extinguished or living, roughly fall into three categories: settlements, burial sites and sites where actions with a religious background were carried out.
All of these sites are basically suitable to connect ourselves with the spirit(s) of the past.
From practical work you will soon notice that not every ancient place is giving off the same amount and quality of energy. It seems that a place retains a certain amount of the energy that was raised there. Settlements, castles, villages were places of trading, daily work, everyday life. There is energy in such places, but usually not of the type you want for the support of your esoteric work.
Spiritual work with sacred sites is best supported by spiritual energies as they are usually created during religious acts. Religious acts have been carried out at places of worship as well as places of burial. No culture would have let depart the deceased without rites of passage. Some people say 'What's so sacred about burial sites if we know that the departed persons may have incarnated a dozen times in the meantime?' It is not the (former) presence of a body that makes a burial site sacred. It is the rites of passage, which at a larger cemetery like Hallstatt might have taken place thousands of times over the centuries the place was used. In addition, burial sites and cemeteries have always been used for communication with one's ancestors up to the present day.
All places that have been used for religious purposes are potentially sacred. They offer not only windows into the past of the land, but also into its spiritual heritage.
This is especially true for the Viereckschanzen. By intuition, I have always thought of them as gateways for inner journeys into other times and other worlds. This has been confirmed in practical work.
What can sacred places offer?
You will soon notice that such a sacred site has its powers. One of them is that it can put you into the context of the many generations that have used it. This can lead to the effect that suddenly some of your present problems look much less important, as you integrate yourself into the stream of your tribal tradition.
Sacred sites are meeting places. You can meet nature spirits, since almost all sacred sites are situated in natural surroundings. You can meet the spirits of the ancestors who have used the place or visited it after it fell into disrepair. Places may have been chosen by them because they felt an especially strong presence of the Divine there. You may be able to feel that presence, too. A place may be sanctified by the prayers that were spoken there. And there is a connection being made by geomantists between sacred sites and earth energies, there are indications that some sacred sites were chosen because of the high amount of earth energies present. In this case, you could work with these energies as well. Trees are often more energetic in sacred places than elsewhere. I know of places where animals are guardians of sacred sites. There are lots of possibilities to work with such a place.
What can we give to sacred sites?
There is not much that we can offer to a sacred site besides
- spiritual use.
It is without question that we offer our deep respect to a site where our ancestors have worshipped the Divine. It should be without question that we take care to leave the place as we found it, or even better. Even in esoteric circles it doesn't seem unthinkable to litter such places with garbage as empty beer cans or food packages, or ritual remains like candle stumps, empty candleholders etc.
By spiritually working with a sacred site we initiate ourselves into the long line of human beings that did so from the time of the first use of the place until today. It is safe to assume, by the way, that the use of e.g. Celtic sites did not stop with the arrival of the Romans or with the coming of Christianity. Throughout history there have been men and women who appreciated the potential of sacred sites and used it.
By spiritually working with a sacred place we confirm its sacredness. We add our prayer or meditation or ritual energies to the energies already present. I think this is the greatest gift that we can make to the place itself: add to its sacredness.
What is the purpose of a sacred site?
What is the purpose of a temple? To go there and work with those aspects of the Divine that the temple is dedicated to. The difference between the temple and the sacred site is that a temple has statues, altars and inscriptions in it, which normally make it clear what aspect of the Divine is to be venerated. In a sacred place, we might just see a mound, a ditch, a hill or a little spring. We will have to interprete the place ourselves. We will have to contact the energies present and find out about their nature and quality.
How can we work with a sacred site? How should we proceed?
The first necessary ingredient for visiting a sacred site is time. This sounds simpler as it is!
A good way to set your mind for the work with a site is to approach it by foot, on a ten minutes or longer walk. This gives you the time to leave your everyday concerns literally behind you as you walk towards the place.
Plan to stay at least one hour, depending on your intent. Take your time, walk around, "feel" the site from different angles. If you want to hold a ritual or a meditation, don't start immediately. Allow the energies to enter you first. Be open.
Another thing you will certainly need is patience. It may be that a certain place just isn't right for you or what you want to do, but you should give it more than one chance. The energies of a place change with your mood, with the seasons, sometimes even with the time of the day. Energy is a flowing, everchanging thing.
Make yourself known to the specific energies of the place and them to you. It has been said that politeness is always a good idea while dealing with spirit beings. It is not our way to command spirit beings around. We just politely ask, as we would do in normal life. And hopefully we will be given.
Another key ingredient for actual work with a sacred site is your intent. Better than to aimlessly wander across a place is it to have a clear goal, which is best worked out at home before setting out to the place. Curiosity alone may be a strong motive for yourself, but no spirit being will consider this as the sole reason to show itself to you. Nature spirits usually have tasks to fulfill. They will be grateful if you help them, but your help should be delivered at the spot (a prayer, a blessing, care, etc.).
Ancestor spirits tend to be cooperative if approached with love and respect. They are the only ones who are inclined to react to curiosity, although this is unpredictable. Sometimes they are willing to explain something to you just because you want to know it. They also may respond to prayers for help to show the way. Please remember that ancestor spirits are not necessarily wiser, just because they are not incarnated at the moment. Always retain some scepticism and do not take all for granted what might be revealed to you.
Not all people are equally receptive to all of the above noted spirits and energies. There seems to be such a thing as talent, or natural ability. Some people just stretch out their hands and feel earth energy flowing. Other people just have to look at some ancient site, with their focus slightly shifted, and they receive vivid and colorful pictures of the past. You will have to find out where your strength lies and where the places are that correspond with it.
Famous places like Stonehenge, Glastonbury or the Extern Stones (Externsteine) in Germany are places where many people have made uplifting spiritual experiences; that's why these places are famous. But even in such places there is no guarantee that something will 'happen'. I have been to Stonehenge on a normal day with thousands of other tourists and I just saw all those people and the buses and tried to concentrate on what my audio guide said. It was impossible for me to give my visit any spiritual dimension on that day. During the same trip I visited Glastonbury and had what I call an initiating experience. It was after that Glastonbury visit that I set out on my path of Celtic inspired spirituality. It was as if a veil had been lifted before my eyes. There were only a few days difference between the two visits, and yet there were worlds between them.
How can we work with sacred sites on the inner planes?
Maybe you happen to live in a big city and don't have the time to go out to some distant sacred place on a regular basis. Or maybe you live in a country that has no traces of ancestral cultures, or only of cultures you can't identify with. Then you can still work with sacred places on the inner planes! You need to establish an inner picture of the specific place, by example through reading a book about it, looking at photos, or watching a TV documentary. Once you are able to see the place with your inner sight, you can visit it on the inner planes, from the circle of your Grove!
To my experience, visits to places in the apparent world feel sometimes more 'immediate', more 'direct', maybe because you can literally lay your hands on something. On the other hand, inner visits can sometimes bring experiences that are impossible to be made in the material world. And you can much more act like you want to do. Famous places are often crowded with people and as soon as you raise your arms, you feel a hundred pairs of suspicious eyes resting on you. This can be rather unnerving!
On the inner planes, you are free to act, as long as the usual rules for inner work and behavior towards spirit beings are followed. Of course you can also visit a place in the material world, save as many pictures and impressions as possible in your mind, and return to the place later on the inner places, as often as you want. According to my personal observation, inner visits work better if you have been able to visit the actual site at least once and were able to establish some bond with it. But this should not discourage visitors using the 'TV documentary method'. In this work, nothing is impossible, and constant exercise may bring you literally everywhere!
The following is a prayer to the ancestors. Part of it was adapted from the Order's Samhain ceremony. It is suitable as centerpiece of every kind of remembrance of the ancestors, from privately spoken prayer during a visit to a sacred place (material and inner world) to full blown group ritual.
The following is only a suggestion. Try to find your own words to express your feelings of remembrance, respect and honor towards the ancestors. You may of course include ancestors that you have known in person.
A Prayer to the Ancestors
Our ancestors are not only those individuals with whom we are connected through blood lines. They are all people who gave form to our present-day life. We owe them gratitude, because it is upon the foundations of their findings and inventions, their craftsmanship and artistry, their inspiration and search for wisdom, that our way of life today is erected.
They, our ancestors, have left to us the results of thousands of years of their struggle for material and spiritual progress as our heritage.
We, their descendants, give our best to honor and respect that heritage, to study it and develop it further - with respect to the ancestors, for the benefit of the Earth and all living beings, and to the greater honor of the Gods.
For this work, we want to ask for the help and the blessing of our ancestors:
Oh Ancestors, who you have given form to our lives, who you share our search for truth and wisdom! We ask you to show us the way, because we are but slow on our path towards the light. Please help us to interprete and understand what you have left us. Help us in difficult times. Remind us that it is not important to follow in your exact footsteps, but to seek what you have sought. Please help us, and ask for us for the help and the blessing of the Gods!
The Sun of all our lives sets in the West
but the veil of midnight discloses the shining stars
and the Sun is reborn in the setting stars of dawn.
We remember our ancestors in silence....
Oh Ancestors, oh Spirits, we have thought of you today and remembered you in love and respect. We thank you. May you live in peace in the lands of the West until the Sun of this Earth rises for you anew.
The first light
peels rugged mountains out of distant haze
still white with snow
across bare brown fields, wet from spring rain
Not far from the oak
ancient earth walls are rising, crumbling from time
a holy place
a gateway through time, blessed by generations
A place of worship
protected by high grassy walls
through the milennia
at the crosspoint of the dragon paths
In moments like these
they say that dancing shadows can be seen
circling the temple
the temple of the Uncreate, under the fire of the stars
And the old oak stands watch
as the blackbird's song, lifting the veils of darkness
lays the shadowy dancers to rest
until they'll rise again, in another night...
From the poem Alban Eiler by Eilthireach