Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
There are only sacred places
And desecrated places.
―Wendell Berry, “How to Be a Poet”
The re-enchantment of the world is a core theme of practice for many Pagans. But the term re-enchantment presupposes that the world has become disenchanted, has somehow lost its mystery or spirit. On the contrary, it is we who have become disenchanted, not the world. The world is ever as it was: wild, wondrous, holy, changing. We have only to wake up from the “disenchantment of modern life,” as sociologist Max Weber calls it, pay attention to the world as it is, and practice as if we believe in its pervasive magic.
In Part 1 of this essay, I argued that sacred places are physically or culturally liminal, that their often striking appearances compel our attention, and that they are invested with story and ritual. Sacred places have the power to shake us into awareness. They are sites where it is easier to communicate with our Deep Self, places where something within us opens in response to something without. When we identify the sacred places in our local landscapes and reimagine our relationships with them, we re-enchant the grounds of our everyday lives. When we reimagine our relationships with the living land beneath our feet, we re-enchant and revitalize ourselves.
How do we reimagine our relationships with place? By seeking the liminal. By slowing down and submitting to wonder. By telling stories. By repeatedly showing up and performing ritual.
Seek the liminal.
Go outside every day, even when it’s uncomfortable. Find places where the elements interface in your part of the world, then ground, center, and observe. Mountainsides, shorelines, and the wood’s edge are good places to start. In the Hill Country of Central Texas, where I live, the karst caves are where you can hear earth whisper to air, the limestone creeks and springs where you can hear water talk to stone.
Keep noticing the edges, when you come back inside. Pause long enough to really notice the liminal space that is your home’s front door. T. Thorn Coyle, for example, describes how to establish “keys for remembrance,” short, simple habits of pausing and reconnecting with spiritual life throughout the day:
My most effective key is to pause and really notice every time I am about to put my hand on the doorknob. I will take a breath, look at the knob, feel my body, and let a calm space open up inside as I reach for and turn the knob. This can be done in about five seconds (22).
Liminal spaces are change embodied. Seek them out, and allow your physical place to turn the internal. Allow yourself to taste what it’s like to be between worlds.
Submit to wonder.
Two years ago, my daughter and I went for a walk along Walnut Creek. As we walked through a stand of Ashe juniper trees heavy with winter berries on our way to the creek, my daughter wondered out loud, “How wonderful would it be, if juniper berries could ring like bells?”
It was a spell that instantly broke my inattentive mind-trip of worry about unreal things happening elsewhere at other times. My daughter showed me how to submit to joy and wonder, and that moment, that place, became sacred. Children are often better and braver than adults about inhabiting their bodies in place, in the present moment. But we’re going to have to risk it, to dance, sing, and dream out loud where we are, if we want to re-enchant our relationship with the world.
What stories do people tell about the place where you live? Ask your oldest neighbors. Visit your local history museum or public library to find sources of information about the natural and cultural history of your area. Then become a story reteller. Reshape old stories, and seed new ones.
Also consider whose stories are told, and whose are appropriated or silenced in your area. Are there people and places that have been destroyed or hidden? Their stories must be told, too. Support, protect, and amplify their voices. May we commit ourselves to dismantling the systems of oppression that silenced them in the first place.
There are no spectator paths on the map to re-enchantment. Keep showing up at your sacred places and performing ritual. Grounding and centering and home base practice are straightforward, effective practices for opening yourself up to the magic of being-in-place. Celebrate sabbats at your nearest physical grove, instead of at metaphorical circles in your air-conditioned living room (guilty as charged), stop to pour libations at accidentally Pagan monuments, build and tend a land shrine.
It is we who either sacralize or desecrate a place with our behaviors. We protect our watershed, or we poison it. We pick up trash, or we throw it out the window. We observe and celebrate beauty, or we ignore it. The way we choose to relate with place matters most, in our search for meaning where we are. Our sacred places are, after all, only mirrors, reflecting back to us our own values, attitudes, and beliefs about the living world around us.
Seeking the liminal, submitting to wonder, telling stories, and performing regular, place-bound ritual are ways we can root our Pagan practice in sacred physical place. Our most local sacred places are as much within us as without. When we find and tend them, we re-enchant our relationship with the world.
Coyle, T. Thorn. Evolutionary Witchcraft. Penguin, 2004.
Weber, Max. “The Disenchantment of Modern Life.” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, translated and edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, Oxford University Press, 1946, pp. 129-156. www.yorku.ca/lfoster/2006-07/sosi3830/lectures/MaxWeber_TheDisenchantmentofModernLife.html. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.