Seeking magic in the land

We all know of places that are officially important, magical and powerful. Stonehenge and Glastonbury being two obvious examples. Ancient sites, ancestral sites, places of extraordinary beauty. Places that attract people. Wonderful though these sites can be, they are also problematic. For a start, having lots of people in cars visiting a site will change it. Car parks, visitor centres, toilets, ice cream vans and the loss of peace and atmosphere that comes with a steady stream of tourists. The carbon footprint of your pilgrimage always needs considering.

Important sites can create political problems. They can cause tension between Pagan groups and people with authority – again there’s a long history of this at Stonehenge. Even a small, obscure site can become a source of tension if two different groups want to use it. If you undertake ritual in a place, it is easy to feel a sense of both ownership and entitlement. A desire to identify yourself as The Druid for the site, and try to see off other Druids who might want to make the same claim.

All of this can also have the consequence of encouraging most of us to feel that the important magical places are away. Somewhere else. A sense of magic as other and unavailable of course gives more power to anyone who has some influence at an important site.

All land has history. There are ancestors in the soil everywhere. There are stories connected to landscape in even the least promising of places. And if there aren’t, you can take the place names and land features and start making your own stories. Everything has to start somewhere.

Get an ordinance survey map and you’ll easily see where all the ancient sites are. Some areas are richer than others in this regard, but you may be surprised by how much there is. Ancient trees can be found sometimes in the corners of otherwise unremarkable fields. Stone formations, caves, springs, magical pools in streams, tiny waterfalls, owl haunts… there are many kinds of magical places to be found.

You don’t have to get out into the wilds for this, either. One of my favourite magical places as a child was a pool supplied by a drainpipe on the side of an old industrial building. It was covered in ferns, and it had a discernible atmosphere. More atmosphere in fact that the pool caused by a spring alongside a much prettier and more ancient building nearby.

Magical places can be secret, they can be hiding in plain sight, they can be right on your doorstep. I think it’s much more exciting and rewarding to have a personal relationship with a place not so many other people even know about. Or a place other people can’t see. I like to go to a spring with a fairy hawthorn. It’s somewhere that gets a lot of footfall, but it is even so a secret place, largely invisible to the passer-by.

Finding the magic that is with you and around you has so much more to offer than assuming that it must be somewhere else.

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

7 responses to “Seeking magic in the land

  • manonbicycle

    Absolutely agree, the lesser known places often have more sense of that magic.

    Near where I live there is an old apple orchard with proper grown trees, along The North Downs Way, not far from an Iron Age hill fort. The apples are freely available to everyone.

    I know of another old apple orchard where two footpaths cross, there is a small pond there with tadpoles and frogs. These are very inspiring places to me.

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    This article is mostly about Britain, but America, too, has its sacred sites that are the process of being overrun by tourists and those who disrespect the energy of the landscape. Walking softly on the land was understood intuitively by many of our ancestors; it is time to revive that sense of the sacredness of place and the land upon which you live.

  • lornasmithers

    Yes I absolutely agree. My big struggle is that everywhere within walking and cycling distance is heavily industrialised. It’s not that there isn’t magic here but there’s very little that is undamaged even the great Ribble herself. I’ve wanted to run rituals at once-sacred sites maybe as a way of healing and re-enchanting them but been told quite vocally (like when you’re nearly hit by a falling branch on a not windy day) that it’s not what the spirits want. That’s something you have to sit with. But wildflowers growing through the cracks, otters returning, all speak of regeneration and hope.

  • manonbicycle

    A book I always find very inspiring is Secret Places of the Goddess by Philip Heselton, the author explores this theme in some detail.

  • Michael Creel

    The first thing that came to me as I read your article was a line from the song “Learn to Be Still” by the Eagles.

    “Now the flowers in your garden
    They don’t smell so sweet
    Maybe you’ve forgotten
    The heaven lying at your feet”

    My prayer is that we all become more aware and respectful of that which is around us.

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