There are four kinds of sacred places—
- Places that communities have decided will be holy to them, and where they have sited their local church, chapel, synagogue, mosque or temple. Whenever a site is chosen, marked out, blessed and made special, it becomes through choice and use, a holy place. It is a place that over time becomes redolent with prayer, with celebration, with mourning and with the cycle of the religious year. We create sacred places for our everyday lives and they become sacred through our intentions.
- Places where we are overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and magnificence of nature that surrounds us. It is that moment when we are both caught up in being part of something so much greater and grander than ourselves, but thinking of these places as “sacred” is also about a sense of gratitude to whatever or whoever we understand to be the Origin of all this beauty – what many people call God.
- Places made holy by what happened there according to history or legend – the life of a great saint, for example, or the site of some terrible event such as a persecution
- Places that are meaningful to you as an individual. They might be places where you go to think; they might have special meaning because of something you or your friends and family experienced there, or perhaps because there you made a decision which has shaped your life ever since. We each have our own sacred land map, even if we have never quite called it that.
In all of these kinds of sacred places the underlying truth is that they tell us about ourselves in relationship to a greater story, a greater purpose than just our own individual lives. They are sacred because they link us to the Divine and give us a sense of meaning.
Here “meaning” refers to seeing ourselves as part of something much greater than just us. Also, by thinking this way, we give meaning and significance to what lies around us, to our work, to our families, to our community, and to our histories. Believing that some places are sacred means that we do not just see ourselves as selfish genes or as random acts of procreation but as part of a greater narrative within which we can play a part if we so desire. It is this combination of the sense of the sacred and of meaning which has literally shaped our landscape and which the Sacred Land Project works to promote.