Over the last few posts, I have been describing some of the working techniques that I use. Or, if you prefer, some of the tools that I have been using to provide me a better boost through the trying times I have found myself in. One of these tools, or methodologies, that I have referred to is that of “sacred space.” In my solo practice, sacred space is a defined area from which I can work directly with focus to achieve a calmness or stillness.
A sacred place is first of all a defined place, a space distinguished from other spaces. The rituals that a people either practice at a place or direct toward it mark its sacredness and differentiate it from other defined spaces. To understand the character of such places, Jonathan Z. Smith has suggested the helpful metaphor of sacred space as a “focusing lens.” A sacred place focuses attention on the forms, objects, and actions in it and reveals them as bearers of religious meaning. These symbols describe the fundamental constituents of reality as a religious community perceives them, defines a life in accordance with that view, and provides a means of access between the human world and divine realities.Encyclopedia.com, “Sacred Space”
For me, this definition is not ultimately satisfying for how I see the concept of sacred space, except for the last part noting that “sacred space is a means of access between the human world and divine realities.” Even then, its not a snug fit for my perspective. Sacred space is a means of such access, but the overall aspect of sacred space is a means of sliding between the realities of our mundane world and the worlds of divinity, for lack of a better term. In the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD), you may hear some members of the Order refer to one’s “Inner Grove”. My sacred space is the same as that Inner Grove, except that I refer to it as sacred space.
I use my sacred space as method to put myself into a proper state of mind, specifically for ritual. However, I do not use it in bringing a setting to a public ritual or to a ritual where there will be more than just myself. I don’t expect others to be able to settle into my sacred space – nor would I expect to be able to place myself into their Inner Grove. That space is intensely personal. I do suppose that through shared meditation techniques, a group of people could create such a space before a ritual – placing the individuals that are performing the ritual into a proper frame of mind. Personally, I have never tried any such technique with a group of people before, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility, simply because I’ve never tried.
My Processing of Creating and Closing Sacred Space
My first steps are to create the proper mood to take the first steps towards sacred space. A ritual bath (or even a shower) is my usual starting place. Once finished, I dress in comfortable clothing. Usually, I’m barefoot. Ritual clothing? Well. Search through the blog, and you’ll find that I’m not big on playing dress-up for ritual. I’m far more geared toward comfort than presentation. Once I am ready to get started down the road to getting sacred space started, I light a candle – usually a white pillar candle, but that somehow disappeared after my move from Houston. However, any candle can do in a pinch. I just prefer pillar candles out of years of habit. Once the candle is lit, I take a few minutes to calm my nerves and my mind. Then, I focus my mind. I also include the large white stone that I refer to as my “focus stone” in the setup. Usually, it’s right next to me so I can physically feel it.
My usual start to entering my sacred space is to find myself walking through a thick forest of pine trees. I slowly push my way through the branches. Sometimes I suffer small cuts from the branches, other times I don’t. No rhyme or reason to things that I have been able to discern. After going forward for a bit, the growth starts to thin out, and the walking gets easier, until I come to an egg-shaped meadow. In the middle of the meadow are three trees: a very large Oak standing between a much smaller Birch tree and a slightly larger Apple tree. The trees are aligned east to west. Just a few steps to the south is a large boulder. The boulder usually serves as a place to sit when discussing things with my Gods. When my Gods are not there, I can see five to eight crows in various places on the boulder. Again, no rhyme or reason to things. A dozen yards to the east of the trees is a small, one-room building. In the past, it was still built up and maintained. These days, it is in extreme decay. Again, no idea why it is in this state, but I don’t spend a lot of time near the building.
Once I enter the meadow, I always check for the three trees, the boulder, and the ruin of the building. In surveying that, I can usually locate if anyone is in this sacred space. Ninety percent of the time, there’s no one there. Once I have my bearings, I start whatever ritual I was coming here to do. I can hear my voice in my mind, but I know that I am not speaking. Most of my individual rituals are silent, except in the voice I can hear within my mind. I go through the process of creating a ritual space by thanking whatever direction I stand facing. I don’t cast a circle, though that is what typically happens in rituals where I am with others. In my individual rites I start in the East then move to the South, then the West, and finishing in the North. Once finished, I pick whatever direction feels right to me and thank whoever has decided to come and attend to the rite. That’s about as complicated as my individual rite will get. I can understand the more complicated aspects of drawing a circle, calling on the Gods to witness the rite, and going through the needs for protecting oneself. I prefer the simplicity of my own approach.
To close out my rite in personal sacred space, I start by thanking whoever has witnessed the rite, and then thanking the directions in the reverse order. Once I have finished that, I take a few moments to feel the energy that was raised during my time in scared space. Then I walk towards the edge of the meadow, feeling the energy I have created dissipating as I grow closer to that boundary edge. As I start to walk into the forest and feel the growth of the trees getting thicker and having to expend more personal energy to move forward, I feel myself being pulled back to this reality. That pull is created by the focus stone, which is my anchor here. The focus stone serves a lot of other uses in my personal rites, but this is its primary purpose. Its usually just underneath the screen of my monitor.
Now, I am more than aware of how different all of this is compared to what OBOD teaches. I am also aware of all the people that are saying “You’re doing it wrong.” Yeah, I get it. My process is not the same as a lot of other people. But I am not trying to be them. I’m just trying to do what works for me. To be honest, if you are looking at all of this and going “that’s what I want to do.” Sure, go ahead. Just remember, if you are in a tradition of some sort, you need to learn their stuff too. In fact, I would say that you should work in their tradition’s process until you have it down good and well. THEN you can step into experimentation. That way, you have a strong base to work from. Just my opinion.
As for creating and entering your sacred space or Inner Grove, work through your process until you can do it in your sleep. In fact, when I am having trouble sleeping, I have utilized my sacred space to bring myself to a much calmer state so that I can get to sleep. What you create will most likely not look like mine. How you enter or exit it will likely be very, very different from my own. Remember, this is YOUR sacred space. Uniquely YOURS.