Being Native American I know my perspective on sacred space is a bit different from the norm, but I’m still surprised by how many people think that Sacred Space is about buildings and man-made structures.  I went looking for examples of sacred outdoor space and found a whole book purporting to be about that, but it was actually about standing stones and stone structures and various constructed mounds in multiple countries…everything to do with man’s handiwork and nothing truly natural.  It’s as if, because these sites are open air and because the cultures that created them no longer exist, they have reverted to some holier, more sacred realm than those spaces that are still in use by their initial culture.   Because not knowing everything about a place makes it more special somehow.  And open to interpretation.  Whew!  Some of those interpretations…

Anyway, sacred spaces come into existence, have existed, without the interference or creativity of human kind.  They exist because they do for their own reasons that don’t have much if anything to do with us.  That we find them, are called to them, are able to interact with them is a blessing and a gift, not a right or a mission.  And how we interact with them is a reflection on us, a visible manifestation of who we are and how we perceive the world.  One thing in particular that I have noted is that American’s seem to value sacred spaces everywhere but in their own country.  Well, other than Sedona, AZ and as far as I can tell that is as much because of its economic value as a tourist attraction and ability to bring in people who will spend money on spiritual experiences and items as it is about the inherent sacrality of the area.

Most Americans find sacred space is only so if it is exotic.  If it is enough “other” that it is special and worth traveling to experience.  Sites in South America, in the UK, in Australia are all sacred, but sites such as the sacred mountains of the Navajo in the SW or Mt. Shasta in CA or the Bad Lands of South Dakota are considered property and resources to be used instead of the sacred space the have been for centuries to the peoples who lived with, on and around them.  America has created a mythos that there was nothing here before colonisation and that all history started at that point and everything of value or any sacrality was created at the inception of that period.  And this continues today.  Native American history is not considered American history and therefore their notions of sacred space is not a part of the civil religion of the country.

I hope that one day the sacred spaces of America come to be valued as much as those of other countries and other cultures.  That we can return to honoring the land we live on and working with it instead of ignoring it.