Find and Use Places of Power
by George D. Jackson
Most of us have been in areas where we have experienced a certain alignment of comfort, creativity and sometimes awe. The waves of positive probability seem to be especially high in these locations. Some locations, in contrast, cause one to feel uneasy and unwelcome. In magickal terminology, this sense of presence is often called the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. This phenomenon can vary in size from a whole region to areas just a few inches in measurement.
How this presence makes itself felt frequently depends on a person’s mental, spiritual, and emotional makeup. It has been said that no matter what your educational background, emotionally you’re an alchemist. You live in a world of liquids, solids and gases and the heat transfer that accompanies changes in state. These are the things you perceive, the things you feel. So when it comes to the day-to-day sensations of living, you treat with the five elements of the ancient philosophers: earth, air, fire, water and spirit.
Experienced magick users generally use these five elemental levels of sensation to acquire a consciousness of their environmental conditions — including the genius loci. Tools to use to acquire this consciousness include observation and invocation. Emotion is the prime fuel for magickal operations of most sorts, and experienced magick users actively seek out positive places of power where evocation can be practiced to focus various emotional energies. For example, if one determines a place makes one feel creative, and one has magickally explored it by observation and meditation, it may well be a good place to focus energies in spell work for creativity.
With all of this in mind, I would like to relate to you how the genius loci in various places have affected me during my life.
In July 1973, I decided to move to the High Sierra. I owned a cabin in an area called Cold Springs, which is on the western slope of the mountains. Highway 108 leads to this place, which is about 30 miles above Sonora, California. The location is thickly forested and marked in places with old lava flows, some of them over a hundred feet high. I hadn’t spent any real time there before, a couple of days now and then, but now I was settling in for a long stay.
In a very short time, I began to feel I was being watched, combined with a sense of isolation. However, to balance this I felt a strong flow of creative energy. After being there for a few months, I invited a friend who was a professional astrologer to come up and stay for a while. During his visit, I found two how-to books on witchcraft at a nearby resort village and started studying and experimenting with the Art. At the same time, my friend began to develop a new style of approach to astrology. After about three months, he returned to Southern California, and in July 1974 so did I.
All during my residence in the High Sierra, the genius loci made me feel a bit alienated and unwelcome. I found out from talking to some of the long-term dwellers in the area that this sense of disapproving presence was not uncommon among them. States of depression often bedeviled them, particularly during the winter when snowfall made travel difficult. The spirit of that area extracted a heavy toll for living in its province, alive with scenic beauty as it is.
I remember driving up the mountain one winter night all alone on the highway. The sky was clear, and the moon was full. The whole landscape blazed with a silver fire reflected off the snow-covered lava flows and the branches of the trees. It filled me with awe, and I will never forget that experience. The genius loci seemed to say, “This is what I am in my glory.” Still, the price for moments like this was very high, and in the end I fled the raw, aggressive presence of that place.
Southern California is a vortex of creativity, dreams and illusions. This is epitomized in Hollywood, which could be considered the world capital of illusion. Surrounding this center of illusionary activity was at one time more than 50 percent of the nation’s aerospace industry, where dreams were converted into reality. The Los Angeles basin is border on one side by mountains and on the other by the Pacific Ocean. The land on which it rests is crisscrossed with fault lines that cause movement often enough that the locals have come to accept earthquakes as relatively normal occurrences. Further, they consider this a small price to pay for being able to dwell in a place where the overall climate, semiarid, is close to ideal. Over this area hangs an inversion layer like the lid on a pot that has a tendency to allow the several million cars traveling on the area’s many roads to turn it into a gigantic gas chamber. This does have the effect of mitigating the otherwise idyllic climatic conditions. Be this what it may, the regional genius loci draws people to it like a magnet does iron filings. However, it is not the only spirit of the place that is in residence there.
It was to Southern California I returned in 1974, and after a year or so of moving about in the area finally settled in a district in Long Beach called Belmont Shores. The apartment I moved into was about four blocks from where the ocean meets the sand.
During this period, magick had become an established part of my psyche, and the years to come would only reinforce this. I took a part-time job in an occult store located in Sea Port Village in San Pedro and began to further develop my magickal outlook and practice. Thanks to my part-time job, I began to meet like-minded people and finally became able to engage in group rituals.
About six blocks or so from my apartment, a stairway led down from the top of the bluffs facing the ocean to the beach below. Many years before, I had often come to this place to contemplate what was going on in my life. The genius loci in that immediate area had always had a welcoming and calming effect on me. Now I went there to practice spell work on the beach and call upon the powers of the ocean to aid in my efforts. The Spirit of the Place seemed to revel in this activity, and some of my most successful rituals were accomplished there. Years later an elemental force, probably the genius loci, manifested in this location as a whirlwind of sand and water, clearly visible to all of the participants in the ritual who had unwittingly helped to raise it. The experience left some of them a bit shaken and me in a high state of elation. That is a true place of power.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that some places of power can be quite small. Among the most common places of this nature are certain fishing spots. Fishermen frequently refer to their secret fishing holes as places of power, though not often in this exact terminology. My astrologer friend and I had one at Don Pedro Reservoir in central California. It consisted of a boulder that extended a bit over the water. It never failed to yield fish when the water levels were right. I’ve been a fisherman for many years and have read all kinds of explanation for why certain areas draw fish. The last time I visited that place, the lake had been lowered and the rock was 50 feet above the water line. No surface structure in the ground below the boulder was apparent that would make it a gathering place for fish. I suspect that the genius loci of that spot attracted fish.
I have noticed the spirit of a place can change over time. Perhaps, like a battery, constant use saps its energy, or in some cases changes positive to negative. Maybe the attitudes of the people who come to live in such a place help to effect this type of change. In chaos theory, there is a phenomenon referred to as strange attractors, which are outside forces affecting flow. We may fit this description in the case of spirits of place. How often have you returned to a place to find the presence you expected changed or in some cases vanished?