An important part of Paganism is sacred space. What is “sacred?” Sacred is defined as something highly valued and important; deserving great respect. Some of us define our sacred spaces by staking it out, laying rocks in a circle, smudging a particular area or casting a circle. There are those that believe all land/Earth is sacred and some who believe all space is sacred. My thoughts today tend to more lean toward sacred spaces that have been marked as such. A fair list of sacred places/spots are: ritual circles, groves of trees, pathways, crossroads, altars and altar areas, church grounds and sanctuaries, grave yards, burial grounds and balefires. More famous sights would be Stonehenge, Macchu Picchu and the Parthenon. These are just a few that come to mind. Sacred space can be manmade. Because it has been deemed sacred or holy by whoever created it, it is so. Sacred spaces are holy to those who develop, create, maintain and utilize the areas. Sacred space is an area sanctified, made holy and set apart from normal space. Certain sacred spaces are made sacred only for an intended period of time. For example, a temporary site in the woods for a ritual which is only borrowed for an hour or so. It is made sacred and returned to Mother Earth as we found it.
What is holy? We tend to feel that something defined as holy is connected only to the Christian religion. Not true. Holy is defined as “devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity.” This means any deity.
What is expected in sacred space? Many things. At Nefer, we have rules about what happens and doesn’t happen in our sacred space. Others may have more, fewer rules, or no rules. Below are some points that I believe pertinent regarding any sacred space.
FIRST: Do I have or need permission to be here? Yes. This is HUGE. Many sacred spaces are on private property – get permission. If you are visiting a burial ground, a grave yard, or some more open to the public sacred space, what is your intention? Are you there to just visit? If you are visiting to perform a rite or perhaps to obtain some graveyard dirt, get permission from the gatekeeper, seen and unseen. Graveyards are usually gated or have a semblance of a gate. Stop at the entrance and ask permission for what you would like to do. Also, make sure you bring something proper for an exchange. Either you are welcomed or not welcomed to do so – you will know. To proceed if you feel the slightest bit of negativity would be violating the sacred space of others. Turn around and possibly try another day.
SECOND: You are standing on sacred space. Do it right. In my opinion, all land, all Earth is sacred – therefore I do not litter. When I’m in someone else’s sacred space, it’s no different than if I’m at my own. Do not damage the property. Leave it more beautiful that you found it if possible. If you take, replace. If you dig, fill. Bad habits are readily seen at gatherings and events every year. Folks drop/leave their water bottles for others to pick up. Smokers habitually flick cigarette butts on the ground and walk away without even a second thought. I see household trash burned, beer cans and cigarettes in balefires. This is not acceptable. I realize that some do not even know what a balefire is. We must teach them as a society. Sacred grounds are not trash disposals. Sacred spaces are reserved for deity and for our honoring of them.
THIRD: Be respectful. Not only respect for the land, but respect for others there. This may include a property owner, other worshipers, or other gathering members. Be pleasant. You are there to honor something, someone, or a deity; to rejoice, to celebrate, to gather, to remember. Follow the guidance of those who have gone to great lengths to provide these beautiful spaces for you. In doing so, you also honor them. If you do not know the rules, or what is expected, ASK.
Some general rules for being in, on or around sacred space:
If you smoke, smoke in designated places only. Do not toss butts on the ground or anywhere except in a container denoted for such.
Do not put any trash into a balefire or ritual fire pit area. No beer cans, cigarette butts, etc. Only wood that has been prepared for the fire.
Tread lightly and leave it as you found it.
Always thank those who share their sacred places with you.
Nefer Folks are very proud of their sacred space and hope to expand and share it with others for many years to come.