Energy Signatures of Place

Over the last week and a bit I’ve been reading and studying the book The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature by Stephen Harrod Buhner. It’s a fabulous book, and I recommend it highly. The initial reason that it was recommended to me was as a way to take my healing practice and herbal knowledge to the next level. It has certainly done that. It has also given me some new metaphors to use for other areas of magickal work and thinking about the world around me. Perhaps the most striking of those metaphors for me — at least at the moment — is the metaphor of electromagnetic fields that are generated by all living things and even by different parts of complex living things.

If you imagine that the blood circulating through your body is creating an electromagnetic field, which it is, and then imagine that your body also has an antenna system which can pick up the signals of that electromagnetic field, you have the start of a metaphor for direct connection between living beings that is no more mysterious than the workings of a radio. Now, notice that your blood circulating through you is not the only thing producing an electromagnetic field. Your heart has one, too, and so does your brain. It’s possible to measure each of these fields separately, or measure the signature of the combination of all of these fields together.

All life has these electromagnetic fields. Plants and animals, and even single celled organisms. We use these electromagnetic fields to communicate with each other in ways that our logical minds do not generally process. When a baby lies on its parent’s belly, its breath and heartbeat line up with the parent’s breath and heartbeat. This is a form of communication. Studies have shown that time spent with cats, dogs and horses can each effect humans in different, therapeutic ways. Other studies suggest that time spent outside in a forest has a specific effect on human health. These therapeutic effects may come from the interaction of our electromagnetic fields with those of the cats, dogs, horses, trees, and all the other living things we share space with.

Mind you, before you either go off taking this all as precise scientific fact or else yelling at me for pseudoscientific babble, this isn’t mean to be an exact description of the scientific (capital-T) Truth. It’s only meant to be a metaphor based on ideas that fit our cultural understanding of the way the Universe is put together. It is a sort of little-t truth in as much as it gives us a form that we can use to understand the world around us and interact with it in a predictable way. There is scientific fact here, up to a point, and if you need more scientific precision, it’s a worthy area of study to explore further.

In The Secret Language of Plants, Buhner describes ways in which you can open yourself up to experience these communications directly through what he calls “heart-centered cognition” and then process the symbols you get from there with your brain. Using these methods, you tap into the shamanic tradition of asking the plants what they are good for and asking a sick body what it needs.

As I’ve been reading, I’ve been thinking about the way that this “heart-cognition” is related to the state in which I write poetry, as opposed to the “brain-cognition” which is how I usually write essays. Taking inventory of many different activities, I realized that some are always brain- or heart-centered and other activities take on a different flavor, so to speak, based on whether I am more brain- or heart-centered when I engage in them. I’ve also noticed that there are some places that make me feel more naturally brain-oriented and other places that make me feel more naturally heart-oriented. That led me to think about how one could think of the way different places feel different as being a result of the different electomagnetic signatures of place.

This isn’t a completely new thought, just a new frame to put it in. I’ve long thought that the spirit of a place — by which I mean here the feeling you get in a place — is made up of a combination of all the different activities going on in that place over a long period of history. The human activities blended with the wildlife and plants and even the stones in the area all combine to create that feeling you get when you enter a city or a park or just some undefined space in the middle of no where. This new frame gives me a new way to see how that feeling comes to be. I can now see a mental image of electromagnetic fields, some large and others small, all interacting with each other to create the overall energy signature of the place.

I think that this may be a useful way to visualize the spirit of a place, to understand how it is built up and to work with it both as a whole entity and through its component parts.

About Sterling

When Sterling was 3 years old, her parents packed everything they owned into storage, put a roof rack on their ‘66 VW Bug and spent three months driving with her across the US and Canada. She’s been a nomad ever since. She’s lived in El Salvador, Guatemala, Canada, England, Scotland, Israel and several states in the US. Every place is a new spirit to get acquainted with, fall in love with, or struggle with. Her path within Druidry is a spiritual dance of learning the relationships of all the people, human and otherwise, in the context of place. She has a collection of short stories, The Imaginary City and Other Places, which you can read on Kindle or in paperback.

  • Thisica

    When you say ‘electromagnetic field’, I say ‘chemistry’. I feel like that’s where I’m at, as a chemical being amongst others. Of course our chemical relations–which is always present by interkingdom signalling with bacteria–are animated by electromagnetism, but it doesn’t mean that chemical reactions matter less. I think that’s in part due to our ambivalence about chemistry, both biological and industrial-based, that we tend to either neglect it, or treat chemistry like an enemy.

    But then I don’t use scientific jargon to describe my sense of Being-in-the-world, as I have deep respect for the researchers who have built this magnificent structure of knowledge. I use my own language that steers well clear of it. For instance, I don’t use the word ‘energy’ that liberally, as I think of it as a physics term. After all, I’m a researcher in physics. Instead, I would use words like ‘affinity’, ‘the atmospherics of a place’, etc. Words matter for me, as a consequence of my situation. It may sound pedantic and rather annoying, but to me, I would rather not have the illusion of knowledge–which is by far the most injurious thing to have in research.

    • http://www.alwayssababa.com/ lishevita

      I agree with what you say about chemistry. I don’t think its an either or, but rather a both. Our bodies certainly communicate through chemistry, but also through electricity. We can’t have feeling in our nerves without both of these.

      As for the issue of precise language, I disagree with you there. There is a time for precise language and a time for carefully constructed metaphor. Don’t use metaphor in a physics lab, but don’t get over worried about mathematical precision in a slam poetry competition, either.

      • Thisica

        That’s OK–it’s that I do get fed up at times when people use the language of physics to support their beliefs…and take it all so much at face value. I prefer not to do that. Too much jargon, and we end up missing the vitality of our experiences.


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