Book of Blackbirds: Honouring Sacred Spaces, Part Three – Saving Space

Book of Blackbirds: Honouring Sacred Spaces, Part Three – Saving Space September 27, 2016

[Author’s Note: This is Part Three of a three part series contemplating the use of sacred spaces. Part One discusses whether non-indigenous people, pagans in particular, have any right to claim spiritual connection with traditional native sacred spaces such as Uluru in Australia and the Black Hills in the United States. Part Two talks about finding our own sacred spaces and why this is important.]

The places mentioned in the articles linked in Part One, Uluru in the Northern Territory of Australia and the Black Hills of South Dakota, are two of the most well known, but there are thousands more places around the world also considered sacred by local indigenous cultures.  Many of these are seriously threatened and under attack right now, and I don’t just mean by a few well meaning though perhaps overzealous pagans with western, first-world ideas of borrowed spirituality.

The real dangers faced by indigenous sacred lands come from money-grubbing, oil-slippery politicians and vested corporate interests who see nothing wrong in profaning native sites and lands for the sake of say, installing an environment-ravaging, water-poisoning pipeline directly through the centre of them.  With dollar signs in their eyes and all previous treaties to the contrary be damned, these greedy souls will stop at nothing to enrich themselves at the cost of all our natural birthrights, and sadly often have court authorities standing behind them as they commit their environmental atrocities.

a young girl holds a sign reading "people over pipelines"
Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, St. Paul, Minnesota, September 13, 2016 / Fibonacci BlueCC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Perhaps then, a good way for us to show our respect to these sites would be to give our support to those valiantly serving on the forefront of ongoing battles, working to preserve sacred heritage, theirs and ours, by keeping these piggies at bay.  That is, it is all well and good to attend these ancient sacred sites (when and where appropriate), say our prayers, offer our thanks, shake our rattles, and importune the ancient spirits who dwell therein, and I do not at all mean to deride these practices for I practice them myself.  But I would also think the ancient spirits are much more interested in the real world care and disposition of their sacred sites in the here and now, and whether or not there will be anything left of them for future generations, whether indigenous or not, to discover and contemplate.

a panoramic shot of the native american settlement at standing stone camp
Sacred Stone Camp, August 25, 2016 / Tony WebsterCC BY SA 2.0 / Flickr

Respecting sacred sites is obligatory if we wish to keep our souls intact; this goes without saying.  Truly honouring them though might mean doing a little more.  We plead with our deities and spirits to give us wisdom and direction, so it seems only right we occasionally do something for them in return.  In so doing we truly honour the Sacredness of All Things, and our spiritual quests become more than merely giving lip service to a few smoky prayers.  If we can afford to travel the sometimes great distances to visit these sites, and can afford to pay for suitable temporary lodgings nearby while on our pagan pilgrimages, then we can also afford a few coins here and there donated to the ongoing efforts by locals and others to preserve these sites for the edification of everyone.  If not that, then we can at least sign the petitions and send our well directed cards, letters, and emails to the appropriate officials in which we decry those practices that are destroying land and nature faster than it can ever replace itself.  We can make a real sacrifice and so put some real wings on those prayers of ours.  This to me is how we best honour our own ancestors, as well as our precious, irreplaceable native heritages, even if we never visit these sacred spaces ourselves.

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