The Solace of Holy Stone

I am on pilgrimage for a couple of weeks. I have also called it “field research.” And sometimes “visiting friends.” I am in Britain to teach a workshop at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference and am using some time ahead of that adventure to see some old standing stones, some old churches, and some old riverbeds. It has me thinking about this element of earth and how we begin to approach it in ways that we deem holy.

Certainly there is the phrase “holy ground” and there is also “the Holy Land.” But neither speaks to the sense of deep and abiding sanctity that accrues to some places, regardless of who the current occupant may be.

We know of many instances when the victor and colonizer of an area destroys the holy places of the indigenous people and rebuilds their own holy place on the same spot. This is both an act of oppression and an odd acknowledgement of the power of that place, a power so old that cutting down a sacred grove and building a temple on the summit of the same hill does not dim the deep thrum of its power.

Are places powerful naturally or do they accrue power from use? I wonder that about place like Stonehenge where there are ley lines and fountains of surging earth energy that are nearly visible.

Today I passed an old church here in Carlisle, near the winding bed of the old river, and I wondered how many people had deemed that spot holy and for how long. And it brought me to a place of wondering about commonalities of stone, in an interfaith sense. Certainly the heavy old church carries a kind of sanctity with it, as does the river and its stony banks. Those standing stones in the ladies golf course and the other bunch in a part in a housing estate–do they retain their sense of the holy, even there? Even with no one to put a flowered wreath on their tops come Midsummer morning?

As we work in our interfaith and multi-faith circles, may we find the wisdom to bring our sense of sacred into a great weaving of the holy. Not layer upon layer of conquered and conquering but a great tapestry of divine and stony power, flowing up from the earth and through us all and back into the bosom of the planet again.

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About Byron Ballard

H. Byron Ballard, BA, MFA, is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and other gatherings. Earlier this year, she presented “Gnarly Roots: Exploring the British Sources of Appalachian Folk Magic” at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference and will facilitate a workshop on Deep Grounding at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in August. Her writings have appeared in print and electronic media. Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press). She blogs as “Asheville’s Village Witch” (myvillagewitch.wordpress.com) and as The Village Witch for Witches and Pagans Magazine (witchesandpagans.com/The-Village-Witch). Her pamphlet “Back to the Garden: a Handbook for New Pagans“ has been widely distributed and her first book “Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo” (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on “Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet”. She facilitates the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum in Asheville, NC and was active for many years in the United Religions Initiative.

  • epredota

    So mote it be!

    But I wouldn’t be sure no-one’s paying their respects on the festival days :-)

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Glastonbury is (roughly) my neck of the woods.

    If you are looking for places to explore, then Wessex is the place to be. Glastonbury, Avebury, West Kennet Longbarrow, Stonehenge, Uffington, Wayland’s Smithy… The list goes on and on.

    A couple suggestions I would make that might not jump to the top of everyone’s lists:

    Knowlton Church and Earthworks in Dorset – a rare example of a church built within a neolithic henge.

    Hambledon Hill in Dorset – not the largest of hillforts, but my favourite.

    I could go on, but it is an endless list, really.


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