Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Spirit of Place/Genius Loci

It became apparent during my recent trip across the northern border that I somehow more "in tune" with the spirit of Scotland than with England. Although I had only ever crossed the border whilst in an aeroplane before, and we were travelling on a motorway at the time, I immediately knew when we had crossed the border - the whole feel of the place changed and I felt like I was coming home. It was the same on the return journey, I instantly knew the moment we had crossed back into England - it felt flat to me, whereas Scotland had felt vibrant.

When I finally came back on-line, it was with interest I noted various conversations about genius loci and how some are welcoming and some are not. It was especially noteworthy given the conversation I had with Fae (from my tour group) about her experiences of local spirits in Derbyshire and how she had paid her respects to one at the entrance to a quarry, only to be ousted by another close to the quarry walls. It was interesting, too, in light of one particular member of the tour group, who insisted on overpowering the brí with her essential oils, crystals and ringing bells, rather than tuning in to the natural energies.

These past few years, it has been my practice upon entering a new landscape to attempt to acknowledge the local wights or spirits in order to ensure I am not encroaching on hallowed ground or stepping on anyone's feet. Sometimes I get a warm feeling, sometimes nothing and on the odd occasion I've received a very cold reception indeed and promptly left. If I remember, I try to take something as an offering - something appropriate such as local seeds for the birds in a wood, or fruit to be placed about the roots of trees for ground animals and so on. I refuse to use things that aren't biodegradable such as crystals or ribbons, such as can be seen at holy wells or even standing stones these days. I even offered something up to the spirits of the North Sea on recent ferry crossings - needless to say each went smoothly.

I'm not saing that everyone needs to make an offering or even acknowledge local spiritis/deity (or else suffer some horrific experience), just that a respect for the landscape, its history and your place in it is preferable to trampling all over the place with total disregard to the ecosystem of which humankind is a part.

As I have progressed along my pagan path, I have become more aware of the difference in energy and the individual guardians of various place. There are times when I still remain completely closed to such influences, but these are becoming less frequent as I choose to stay "open" to what is happening around me. I am not quite so sensitive as to be able to tell the difference between parishes, but I can tell some counties apart and a lot of rivers are beginning to show their individuality, too. At least, I can tell when I'm in Cornwall, England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland - each has its own feel. Scotland is very much a country of localised wights, as is Ireland. Wales has a different overall feel, but then I've only been there once, so perhaps were I to visit today, I would get a sense of difference between local areas. Cornwall certainly has a myriad of genius loci and marked difference between coastal areas and those inland, who appear to be a little more cautious than curious.

I have to admit to not knowing the names of any of these guardians/spirits/wights, but there is a definite sense of them and sometimes a vision occurs. Perhaps names are reserved for local residents who build up relationships with the landscape, rather than interlopers like myself.

Having had this conversation with Fae, I wonder how many others have had similar experiences?

1 comment:

WM said...

This is subject that speaks eloquently to me! I think you'd feel quite at home in Brittany, where I came to live without any previous connection and instantly felt a deep and connective love of the strange landscape of Finistere.