One of my long-lasting and still remaining dreams is to visit as many sacred places as I can so I can feel the earth vibrate. Vibrate not only with all the feet that have passed before me, but also with the energy gathered in those special places. People have prayed there, laid their head on the ground or just simply sat to let the special energy wash over them. You come back different with an enriched soul and a calmed mind in an otherwise fast paced world. These places ground you, let you take stock on where to go next be it inwardly or outwardly.
Although it has always been my wish from childhood onwards, I have to thank National Geographic writer and photographer Martin Gray for truly understanding sacred places better when I was already a grown up. In one of his articles and on his website Sacred Sites: World Pilgrimage Guide he explains the numerous aspects that create and resonate at a sacred place. Mr. Gray has recognized twenty factors that contribute to the mysterious power of sacred sites. Its fascinating. It opened my eyes and I often circle back to his site or reach out for his book on Europe. I love Europe. I am European so a natural bias exists and I know the world is so much bigger. However, after the years of Covid and the, be it late, realisation that all that traveling is not good for our planet, I’ve tried to stay closer to home.
Luckily I’ve had my opportunity to visit a number of sacred sites over the years: Places that resonated with me, that made me stop in my tracks and wonder about their magic. Places that made me think, feel and sense all at the same time.
There are the famous sites most already know and plenty have visited: Taj Mahal in India, Uluru and Kata Tjuta in Australia, Newgrange in Ireland, Borobudur on Java Indonesia, Teotihuacan in Mexico, Carcassonne in France and of course the religious places: Cathedrals, abbeys and chapels such as the cathedrals and abbeys in Vezelay, Cluny, St Davids, York, and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, the latter being ever intriguing on all accounts.
But, there are lesser known places I had the privilege of visiting: Wilpena Pound and its Ikara Flinders Ranges in South Australia, Mount Brandon in Ireland, Mount Bromo Indonesia and Nideros Cathedral in Trondheim Norway. These places might have been trodden by less feet but if they resonate, they resonate profoundly. I was given the peace and quiet to let it wash over me and leave an everlasting impression to this day.
And then there are the places that are not on any public sacred list. They are on my private list, “my own sacred places”. Places that inspired me so much that I keep coming back to them if I can. They whisper to me, fill me with a feeling of joy or contemplation, sometimes both.
I know every detail of “my own sacred places”. In the Drome Provençale, South East France, the hills play catch with the extensive vineyards and lavender fields. The light, especially in autumn, is soft and the earth keeps returning stone hearts to me on my wanders. After 8 years I have a collection of approximately 50 stones. I should count them one day.
Another one is on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. I had Mount Brandon (an official sacred place) in my back yard and the famous difficult Connor pass to negotiate by car to reach the lively village of Dingle. Driving the beautifully rugged coastline, I stopped to let out my dog for a run only to discover after twenty minutes that my feet were in the middle of a stone circle. There was no sign, no inscription, nothing but my feet in that circle.
Scotland and the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey gave me a fascinating sense of history and bygone days. On a beautiful January day, I had the ruins completely to myself, such an extraordinary feat that I spent the whole afternoon wandering among the old stones.
And, finally, the Stirling Ranges in West Australia. The stunning views and the beautiful emptiness made me sit for hours on end, watching the sun go down. I’ve never felt freer and more alive than in those Ranges.
I visit them often in my mind, these places and I would like to go back and retrace my steps, alone but also with my photographer friend. The photographer and the writer are in my view the ultimate combination. They both observe but from different angles. They both not only look but also see, not only feel but also sense. They both drink in a place, sense its meaning, feel its vibrations. They experience the same, but the expression is different. To be able to do both, like Mr. Gray, must be magic. The Irish poet Yeats, said: “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” I hope the magic will endure and these places will last a lifetime.