Sitting with the spirits of place

One of the few reliable themes in my otherwise chaotic ritual tendencies, is honouring the spirits of place. With the weather mayhem this year, seasonal celebrations have felt a bit odd. I was out more than a week ago seeing hay and grain being harvested. If we’d been celebrating formally, that would have been more the time to do Lammas, I think. And while some fields were ripe, plenty others weren’t. Some of the cygnets are nearly adult, others look to be fairly recent hatchlings. I heard nightingales in early July when they should have given up weeks before. I can’t engage at all with the seasons, but the locality makes sense.

Today, the locality was a cathedral. Usually there are rows of seats in the main body of the cathedral, but today they were absent, leaving a huge, empty space. We were early, there were few people about, someone running a vacuum cleaner. While everyone around us was either working or being a tourist, we went and sat in the middle of the floor, and contemplated.

A cathedral is full of history. I thought about the ancestors who had worshipped there, all those centuries of Christenings, marriages and funerals. The dead buried on site. Many hands went to quarry, shape and place the stone. The stone itself has its own history too, and the earth beneath the stone. I thought about the music that had happened here, the worship, contemplated spirits of hope and dreams of better worlds. It is easy, as a pagan, to be tremendously negative about Christianity, focusing on all the worst bits. But, these are our ancestors, we are part of their story, and there is plenty there that we can think well of and celebrate.

As I listened to the building, I became aware of how sounds were interacting with each other. All the muted sounds of conversation around the space, coupled with the sounds of motion the low thrum of closing doors, combined. At times they suggested additional notes, far below the sounds being made. Sometimes there was a hint of music to it, a song being made out of the building and the quiet human presences within it. And then, a wonder. A high, soaring voice that rose right to the roof, perfectly resonant in the space, wild and unearthly. I was transfixed. A small pixie child in a pushchair, head raised, vocalising into the space and clearly aware of something happening. Echoes and resonances. It was beautiful.

There were a few of us having spiritual experiences in the cathedral this morning. Three contemplative druids and one wide eyed toddler. I can’t comment on anyone else, but they all seemed busy, or touristy. We must have seemed a tad odd to them.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Sitting with the spirits of place

  • Alex Jones

    Identifying spirits of a place is one of the first things I look for when I visit new locations. Great post.

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    Ah! You brought it home,here. And I so love the awareness of origins beneath it all, and no matter the religion, it is the people,art and the craft of it that sings the foundation note. How much more right, awesome, and powerful when one can encompass the depth and width of that timeline, in the ‘now’ moment.

    Love the descript! YAY for pushcarts, especially in the right places!

  • Buzzard

    Hello Nimue,
    Having took the day out yesterday to take time and celebrate Lughnasadh and the turning of the wheel it all ended up so chaotic.
    My intent was to honour Lugh and Mother Earth as she is about to give up the wonderful gifts for us to harvest which, I did.
    But, I think the seasons are so out of sorts at present and that’s how my day ended as a reflection!!
    Still, the wheel is undoubtedly turning and although it feels more like Autumn I, shall continue to celebrate Lughnasadh at this time and be thankful to the Sun Lord for the work he has still achieved.
    I wonder if we shall be balanced at the time of balance next equinox!

    Buzzard

  • angharadlois

    I remain stubbornly fond of cathedrals, in spite of my paganism. When I used to live in London, I would often sit in the back and listen to the choir practising at lunchtime, and each time I visit I always light a candle (although maybe not for the reasons that the clergy have in mind…). They are wonderful works of craft and culture.

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