In modern day society with all the rushing around work and social pressures we often become disconnected with the spirit that is all around us and we forget that we are part of it. The earth and the natural world have almost become our slaves providing resources for the now with little consideration for our future generations.
But how big does a landscape need to be? The ivy on the hawthorn in the snow, a sacred landscape in its’ own rite.
Labyrinth of Rocky Valley near Tintagel, an intimate landscape, somewhat hypnotic when one traces a finger along the lines. Some would argue that its pattern is a map of the brain.
Our ancestors realised that they were part of nature, moving with the herds and seasons and had respect for their prey. The Sans bushman of the Kalahari among other traditional societies still say a prayer to their kills not dissimilar to the honour given by the charaters of Jake Sully and Neyteri in the film Avatar to their successful hunting expedition, in fact the whole film was a shamanic journey relating to the sacred landscape
Landscapes are often a forgotten part of our spirituality with an increasing population that needs housing and the almost unstoppable road building schemes that bulldoze their way through whatever gets in their way. Damh the Bard’s song ‘The Tomb of the King’ sums this up quite eloquently.
Wayland’s Smithy, a long barrow that has attracted its’ own legends and mythology from the Proto-Celts to Heathenry.
Standing stones, burial mounds are all obviously constructed in the landscape by our ancestors to indicate the significance of the area as a ceremonial meeting place in honour of the spirits of place. Some however are subtler such as mountains, tree and lakes and even the place where the fairies live at the bottom of the garden.
The sun setting behind one of the burial mounds of Nine Barrow Down, Dorset. Multiple burial mounds on high places are sometimes referred to as ‘Ghost Fences’.
Just have a look around you to see and feel what you see; every place has sacredness about it, where’s yours?
The unmistakable megaliths of Stonehenge.
We should not also forget the sacredness of what is above us the universe or is it the multi-verse, the stars, planets and moon of the landscape of the night sky. These all influence our live to a greater or lesser extent (obviously from your point of view). The greatest forces we have on us and the earth is obviously from the sun and moon with heat, gravity, tides and light. Our ancestors realised this and creation myths were born from the energy and spirit that make up the gods.
The study of Ancient Landscapes using your own senses and body
Well that sounds a bit technical! But its not really, here’s the key concepts
- Ancient man had the same body as today’s humans
- Ancient man had the same senses
- Would move around the landscape following the easiest route
- The landscape gave a ‘sense of place’
- Cultural and biological perception remain the same
As with the hunter it is possible to track the steps of your ancestors in the landscape, as they are the same steps that you will take.
Look to the hills of the open fields and moor and down, see the bumps on the horizon, the ‘ghost fences’, a place where our ancestors dwell, how do you connect with this ancient place of the past?
Is it possible that in some distant part of your modern part of your brain, there is a memory, not of what you are comfortable with, but one of your biological perception that has never gone, just suppressed. Suppressed by a modern culture of conformity, money and an international prescription of behaviour.
Take away the overlays and look around, phenomenallogy is what is phenomenally clear, we are still all part of the landscape.
To find out what our ancestor thought of the landscape is still locked away in our own perception and spiritual connection of refuge and resource.
In a field what do you see, cows or sheep – a resource
See a farmhouse across the fields – a refuge
The same sort of things would be present in the psyche of our ancestors
European Neolithic man thought much in the same way as Native Americans or Australian Aborigines, (well until they were persecuted by modern European ‘values’) that you could not own the land, as you were part of it, indeed ‘you’ belong to the land.
Phenomenallogy is your spiritual connection and pragmatic approach to being in the landscape, ancient or otherwise.
© Glenn Lane-Yule 2013