Establishing Sacred Space
by Skye Alexander
The distinction between ordinary space and sacred space is an important one when it comes to magickal workings. Just as Christians go to a church to commune with God, Wiccans and witches practice magick in special areas designated for that purpose. The hallowed space may be a natural place, such as the oak groves where the early Druids performed rituals. Or it can be a structure built by human hands. Witches often erect altars in their homes; the place where the altar stands is considered sacred.
Many ancient ceremonial sites, such as Stonehenge, embody sacred space. Often Europe’s cathedrals were constructed at places the early pagans considered sacred. In part, this was done to ease the transition as Christianity supplanted the Old Religion. But sacred sites, as anyone who’s been to the Chalice Well in Glastonbury or Machu Piccu can attest, resonate with extraordinary energies that inspire reverence.
“Sacred space is a place where we honor the divine …. The purpose of sacred space is to awaken an awareness of our intimate connection to the spiritual world and to the universe as a whole.”
— Carolyn E. Cobelo, The Power of Sacred Space
Within a sacred space, it’s easy to sense the presence of a higher power and to connect with it. You step outside your ordinary world and move into a realm where wondrous possibilities exist. Many people experience physical and psychological changes, such as those that occur during meditation. At some sacred sites, such as Lourdes, miraculous healings are believed to occur.
Some sacred places are permanent — indeed, many have existed for millennia. Others are designed to be temporary, perhaps lasting only for the duration of a ritual or spell.
A Place for Magick
You’ll probably want to designate a special place for working magick. Depending on your locale and personal preference, you can choose a spot outdoors or indoors — or both. It may be a private spot for your use only, or a public area that you feel drawn to.
Perhaps you’ve already chosen a place. If not, you might decide to dowse certain prospective sites to determine which is best for your purposes. You can dowse with special rods or with a pendulum. Many sensitive individuals simply tune in to the energies of places, without using a dowsing device. If a place feels right to you and the input you receive from your own guides, deities, or angels supports your choice, you can proceed to sanctify it for magick rituals.
Labyrinth-wright Marty Cain always dowses an area to locate the best spot for a labyrinth. She also asks for divine guidance and requests permission from the earth and earth spirits before she builds a labyrinth in a site she has chosen for this sacred circle.
Feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placement, can also help you find the ideal place. Although there are many different schools of feng shui, each with somewhat different principles and perspectives, the most popular version in the United States utilizes a tool called a bagua. This simple device allows you to assess your home, a single room, your yard, or any other space. The bagua contains nine sectors that correspond to the various parts of your life. One sector relates to wisdom and spirituality. Aligning a bagua to your home or yard lets you instantly see which portion will best support your spiritual and magickal pursuits.
Some people like to site their sacred spaces along compass lines. This helps to ground you and align your own energies with those of the earth. It also makes it easy to call the four directions, which is part of many rituals (see “Calling the Four Quarters/Directions” later in this chapter).
Clearing Unwanted Vibrations
Whether you choose to establish a sacred space inside or out, you’ll want to clear it of unwanted energies before you begin doing magick there. According to feng shui, all objects contain energy and affect the overall environment. If possible, remove items — furniture, artwork, equipment, etc. — that you find distracting or that aren’t harmonious with your intentions. Everything that remains in your sacred space should pertain to your spiritual and magickal path.
Don’t use chemical insecticides or other poisons in your sacred space. Whatever you put into sacred space — physical, emotional, and mental — is amplified. Outside, use natural insect repellants, and salt or mulch to inhibit weed growth. Inside, use only “green” cleaning materials.
Perform a cleansing ritual to get rid of ambient vibrations. The most popular way to do this is called “smudging.” Light some dried sage and allow the aromatic smoke to waft through the area, purifying it. (You can purchase sage wands for this purpose at stores that sell New Age or Native American products.) Burning incense will work, too.
If you prefer, you can play a bell, gong, or drum to break up old energy patterns and chase away unwanted influences. Some people sprinkle salt in the corners of a room or mist the area with saltwater. Witches often use brooms to sweep sacred space clean. In conjunction with any of these clearing rituals, consider chanting an affirmation such as “This space is now cleansed of all harmful, disruptive, and unbalanced energies.”
It’s a good idea to clear your sacred space regularly, especially after other people have entered it.