Types of Powerful Places Part 1

In the article, What is a Powerful Place? we describe a number of factors—underground energy lines, orientation, construction ratios, etc.—that contribute to making a place powerful. In How To Experience A Powerful Place we suggest ways to set your intention and consciously attune to a sacred site. In Types of Powerful Places Parts I and II, we focus on different kinds of powerful places—including mountains, islands, holy wells, trees, stones, and temples.

Location, Location, Location

A powerful place does not exist in isolation from its surroundings. As the earth-mysteries researcher Paul Devereux says, “Sacred geometry is where land and mind meet.” Ancient people often constructed several (or numerous) sites within a relatively close distance from each other. These sites have a visual, and probably energetic, relationship to each other and to prominent natural features such as hilltops, gaps between mountains, etc. This phenomenon is called intervisibility, and the landscapes themselves are called ritual landscapes. Today, we speculate about their purpose, but it is clear that they were created intentionally.

Extensive examples of ritual landscapes occur in Scotland around the Calanais Stones, Isle of Lewis; Kilmartin Glen in the Scottish Highlands; and Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, to name a few. Numerous megaliths, dolmens, and alignments cover the land around Carnac in Brittany; some are in very close vicinity–essentially, in the same “backyard.” Rathcroghan, Ireland, contains some 200 earthworks, burial sites, standing stones, caves, and ceremonial pathways. Numerous dolmens dot the ridges on the sides of Cap de Creus, where the Pyrenees dip into the Mediterranean in northeastern Catalonia.

Regions of the Isle of Anglesey in northwest Wales appear to have once been massive ritual landscapes that included numerous dolmens, standing stones, processional walks, and sacred lakes. Sacred sites surround Avebury Stone Circle, Salisbury Plain, England, including a holy well, a lengthy processional avenue, West Kennet Longbarrow, and the huge, human-constructed Silbury Hill.

 St. Just alignment, Cornwall, England. 

St. Just alignment, Cornwall, England. 

Many of these sites were chosen to take advantage of underground (telluric) energies. For example, numerous megalithic sites were placed over the Michael and Mary telluric lines that run across southern England. Later, churches dedicated to Mary and Michael were built next to or on top of the megalithic sites. Gary has dowsed fault (“fire”) lines and water lines that cross near the altar of a number of churches. He has also dowsed similar lines crossing inside of dolmens. Some stone circles were constructed with a blind spring (underground water source) in the center; others were constructed over fault lines or water lines, apparently to take advantage of these underground energy sources.

Astronomical Alignments

Not only were sacred sites constructed with an awareness of the energies of the earth and in relationship to each other and to surrounding natural features, they were also often built to interact with recurring solar, lunar, or stellar events. The interior descending passage in the Great Pyramid of Giza is carefully aligned to Alpha Draconis, the North Star when the pyramid was built. Churches were traditionally constructed so that the altar was in the east, facing the rising sun and signifying the resurrected Christ.

Callanish I 2011 17.JPG
"Callanish I 2011 17" by Nachosan - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

The entrance to Maeshowe Passage Tomb, Orkney, Scotland, is oriented to receive the winter solstice setting sun, and Cairn T, Loughcrew Megalithic Site, Ireland, receives the light of the spring and autumn equinox rising sun. Newgrange Passage Mound in Co. Meath is the location of a spectacular winter solstice event. On a clear morning, the light from the rising sun enters through the roof box and pierces the 62-ft-long corridor, reaching toward the rear interior wall. The Calanais Stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, appear to be arranged to mark the every-18.6-year Major Lunar Standstill. Bryn Celli Ddu Cairn, Anglesey, Wales, opens to the summer solstice sunrise. In the chapel at San Juan de Ortega, Burgos, Spain, a ray of light at twilight on March 21 and September 22 (the equinoxes) illuminates the Annunciation capital, a beautiful carving of Archangel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary.

If possible, visit these sites when their interaction with their surroundings (both earthly and celestial) is most obvious. That is when they are most powerful. Experiencing Cairn T at Loughcrew, Ireland, at spring or autumn equinox, when the light from the rising sun penetrates the rear chamber and illuminates a series of enigmatic carvings (http://www.newgrange.com/news47.htm), is quite different from visiting on a midsummer afternoon.

Holy Islands, Mountains, and Caves

“No man is an island,” but living on one can give you the sense that you are set apart, isolated from the mainstream of human society by the ebb and flow of tides. Numerous sacred sites are located on islands—including Malta, Bardsey Island, off the coast of Wales, and Skellig Michael, off the coast of Ireland—often because hermits and pilgrims were drawn there, seeking to escape from the mundane world. Islands in the middle of a small lake or river can also be cut off, as we discovered when we tried to visit Holy Island (Mountshannon), Co. Clare, Ireland. Even a narrow watery separation can be unbridgeable if the boat is small and the winds are strong.

Mountains are frequently the focus of folklore and legends, probably because their hard-to-access peaks are that much closer to the heavens. They provide panoramic views, making humans feel less important but paradoxically more brave and powerful because they have reached the summit. Dangerous to climb, places where the weather is fierce, mountains are often sacred not only to the Sky God but also to the Earth Mother.

 Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland.

Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Scotland.

Mt. Kailish in the Tibetan Himalayas is sacred to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Bön worshippers; mountaintop Machu Picchu was an Incan high place, chosen for its location in a sacred landscape related to important astronomical events. The sixth-century Welsh holy man, St. Brynach, frequently retreated to the top of Carn Ingli in Pembrokeshire, where he reportedly communed with angels. The holy mountain Crough Patrick, Co. Mayo, Ireland, was originally sacred to the Mother Goddess and the Celtic god Lugh but later became the major pilgrimage site dedicated to Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

A cave is an opening in the earth, an entrance into the Underworld, a journey into the womb of the Great Mother. Caves offer us mystery, danger, death, rebirth, initiation, and transformation. What lurks within? A treasure guarded by dragons? A hibernating hero? Numerous legends assert that Arthur and his knights, or Merlin, lie sleeping within one or another caves in England and Wales, waiting to be awakened. Female werewolves, malevolent birds, and a triple-headed monster are reported to issue forth from the spooky Cave of the Cats, Roscommon, Ireland. The Sacred Cave at Ste Baume, near Plan d’Aups in southern France, is associated with Mary Magdalene and has been converted into a popular Catholic shrine. The Cave of the Eggs is located nearby on the same massif. A pre-Christian pilgrimage site for millennia, it is difficult to find and takes courage to enter.

Holy Springs, Lakes, Rivers, and Sea

Our bodies are approximately 60-70% water: it is literally life giving. We use water for cleansing, purification, and transformation. Water is a central part of baptismal rites around the world. Rivers and streams, and the lands they nourish, are vital for life and important for transportation of goods—and raiders. Lakes are repositories of water and provide a source of food, both aquatic and avian.

Water is also associated with healing, especially when it flows up from the ground or out of the side of a hill. Visiting a holy well is an opportunity to interact directly with the sacred by taking it into your mouth and swallowing, or by dipping your hands into the flowing waters.

 Pedra d'Abalar (rocker stone) in front of Nosa Señora da Barca church in Muxía, Spain.

Pedra d'Abalar (rocker stone) in front of Nosa Señora da Barca church in Muxía, Spain.

Interior Miraculous wells are often thought to have resident anima loci (spirits of the place) and were dedicated to particular pagan deities. In Europe, a number of holy wells have been re-dedicated to the Virgin Mary or a Christian saint. Irish holy wells are often dedicated to St Brigit, originally a Celtic goddess.

Many legends describe cities sunken into the sea. It is possible that some of these stories are folk memories of millennia-ago changes in sea level. Strange beings, including selkies (seal-like humans) and mermaids are thought to cross the boundary between ocean and land and between human and animal. In Celtic tradition, the “Isles of the West”—located in the sea beyond the sunset—are the abode of the dead. Lakes, such as Llyn y Fan Fach, Wales, and the lake beside the chateau at Comper, Brittany, are often thought to be the realm of fairies.