A Questionnaire of Sacred Places

Questionnaires are interesting! Just a short wandering…

On the one hand, collecting the stories and practices and place sites may keep the stories alive, maybe practices alive; give light to the human and non-human (Spirit, and non-two-leggeds) mapping of a place, region. More folk may tell those stories. More folk may cooperate with such places, keep them clean, safe. This keeps sacred places alive. And us also. This makes for us two-legged a connection to the land, to the roots wandering below ground, to the mycelium, to the birds which need so many different landscapes, to the stones that have been there for-ever-so-long. Very simple. Dangerous also to fall into…

…the other hand. These places have been used also by authoritarian states, by military, by religions, by business and capitalistic ventures in controlling and destroying. Or by making a product out of a sacred place (don’t get me started on North Karelia’s get the gods and goddesses out to the tourist public-project). So many places overrun with busloads. Look at Lapland. Look at Greece.

I recently went with a few folk to a spring near a highly popular ski resort city in Lapland. I was asked if I could lead a ceremony with them with the spring. We heard stories about the spring: of the travellers, the ones who used this spring from hundreds of years. The place was along the route to get from south to north through this small “dry” gap between mountains. The local Lion’s Club have built up a small platform so one can stand above the spring, step down, and also go across into the jänkhä. Contacting the mistress spirit of this spring led to giving instructions on how to care for it. We gave gifts, made prayers, drummed and listened. But this did not include how to increase traffic to the spring. And that seems to be the “product” which is now going to be offered by one of the participants. My eyes were not open to this. And I regret partially. Teachings about this place and honouring Spirit from myself, the hostesses stories about this place were just a rehearsal for part of a tour package, it seems. Let’s see how this goes. Maybe some also take with them something of prayer and spirit and water. Water is Life.

My dear friend Annie lives in Bath. An ancient place of springs, hot springs, healing waters surrounded by seven hills. An ancient sacred water place with River Avon flowing through the hills. Full of people. Full of tourists flocking to the shops, the Baths, Jane Austens’ house, the Georgian architecture, museums, the Abbey. The Baths are built up, covered, parts visible in the ruins – under thick glass with walking bridges over them. A gaze into the past. A museum. A shop. Many shops selling tourist items related to the seven hills, the stories, the Baths. Most made of plastic and epoxies and from far-away-mass-production-human rights’/environmental violators lands. But being who Annie is and knowing a thing or two, there are ways to honour the springs in the area and tell their very ancient pre-Roman stories when the springs were in woodlands. Rehydrating one’s connection to Life and keeping the sacred alive in those tourist Baths through those stories and gifting to the springs and river.

“Until we make connection with the earth we will continue to do the same (destroying, depleting, over-foresting/fishing/grazing etc)…. bring gifts continually” – Annie Spencer

A few words from her opening ceremony at Sacred Activism‘s Co-Creating the Emerging World: Heart, Soul, Faith and Unity

On my neighbour’s hand, which I gladly accept to use in formulating my theories and wanderings, this questionnaire’s information may help save places from mining, deforestation and other human interference (read destruction and ecocide).

honouring sacred place three generations of Mongush present. C. A-H

Victoria Peemot (click and you can hear the 52 min presentation), a Tyvan-Finn, completing her post-doc gave a story recently about her clan in Tyva collecting the stories of their place where an industry site is being planned. They are able to delay its arrival so far because of being able to prove that they had inhabited that region for ages: each tree, rock, outcrop, valley, hill, waterway has a place in their nomadism – in their livelihood.

For Tyvan people human-nonhuman kinship includes land, pastoralist communities and nonhuman animals; and they support each other to keep more-than-human memories and when facing the common threats to their relationship, for instance, mining projects. – Victoria Peemot

personal correspondence for permission to touch the story of her clan

My time in Tyva in June 94 – winter 95 brought this alive. Every boundary between khozuuns / counties/territories brought about gifts to the land before passing through. Every ova (cairn-like offering site) and sacred tree brought stories of the Master and Mistress Spirits of the place. Every song sung by a shaman brought forth places, nonhuman animals and human-like forth. The places remain current, alive, connected to ancestors and to the ones arriving. Well, that is subject for a another major wandering for another day.

Re-covering an old sacred site, Tyva. Big ceremony. Remains of our fire which burned all night- and we drummed and sang our algyshes from mid-day all night and til next morning. 1994

As long as a (sacred) place’s story is kept alive, we have connection to our roots, to the roots of the place, the people, the history. And it matters not if we are born there or move there. The land “will open up to us”, says Annie, if we are true to being present with Her.

Go out onto your land, in your local area. Find again, if lost or not, the sacred places just in your local area. Give gifts to trees, to the rivers, the swamps, the lakes, the grand-rocks and cliffs. Give small things – give beautiful words in song and speech, question the place about the stories held there. Listen to stories of the neighbours. And Pass them on. Keep them alive. Give gifts.

The questionnaire –

The questionnaire is run by an Estonian-Finnish research project. Available in English, Finnish and Estonian.

Osallistu tutkimukseen pyhien luonnonpaikkojen käytöstä ja merkityksestä! Tämän suomalais-virolaisena tutkimuksen tarkoituksena on tuoda myös arkeologien ja kulttuuriperinnön kanssa työskentelevien tietoon erilaiset pyhiin luonnonpaikkoihin liittyvät merkitykset ja tavat käyttää niitä.

Kyselyyn vastaamisessa kestää noin 15-30 minuuttia. Takaraja vastaamiselle on 22.12.2021. Viestiä saa mielellään välittää asiasta mahdollisesti kiinnostuneille.

Linkki kyselyyn: https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/D475BC457F0BB5AF
Voit olla kyselyyn liittyen yhteydessä Tiina Äikkääseen (Arkeologia, Oulun yliopisto, tiina.aikas[at]oulu.fi)

Participate in research into the use and significance of sacred natural sites! The purpose of this Finnish-Estonian study is also to bring to the attention of archaeologists and those working with cultural heritage the different meanings associated with sacred natural sites and the ways in which they are used.

It takes about 15-30 minutes to complete the survey. The deadline for replying is December 22, 2021. You are welcome to forward this message to anyone who may be interested.

Link to the survey: & nbsp; https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/D475BC457F0BB5
You can be in connection with the survey in connection with Tiina Äikkää (Archeology, University of Oulu), tiina.aikas [at] oulu.fi )

Preseli Mtns Blue Stone close up. C.A-H.

Healing Song: Mother

My song begins. A healing for my relationship with my mother. A low, weaving murmur calling out to those who dwell around me. At once, I look out at the forest. Sloping down to the small field on the edge of the forest grow great aspens. Some the girth of my large rounded thighs. I look at the forest and Aspen with one great branch reaching out to the northwest. I am sitting upon the branch trying to saw the branch off with me sitting on it! 

“You can’t cut the branch from the tree from where you are from” they say. And we are off. I am seeing myself on that branch. I am singing a song with no words which carry me back into the room from whence I began. My drum calling me forward and to the inside outside. Spirit of Song, spirit of drum, all the keepers of knowledge that call to me as I call to them. All at once in many places.

And then a trickling, a pouring in begins. All these women are gathering under me, below my feet. All the mothers of me. All the ones who came before me. Strictly, mothers who birthed me. I see them as though through a watery glass-like ceiling yet it is the floor, for me. 

My feet, I am amazed! Are standing on a pair of shoulders. They are not my mother’s but her mother. My mother is still alive. I stand on this grandma’s shoulders, grey hair curled. This is not my grandmother I knew but the biological mother of my mother. I recognise her from a photo I have seen. Under her, another mother, then another mother, and another and another and another. Some mother’s are dressed in bright clothes, some are dressed in scrumpy clothes. Some are wearing pants, pantaloons, skirts, pant-skirts, vests, shirt-blouses, on and on. 

The call has been put out and they come running- there way below me. I am on the lingonberry coloured wood floor and they go thru the floor. Down, down, down, down. One woman- so small- in a light blue silky puffy pants and white blouse comes running in from the northeast to join in. She is waving her hands above her head, as if signalling, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” She is very young and brown skinned. Which draws me into peering at them more closely.

We are amongst many scenes at once. From below, the gathering. From the sides, the coming in. From the sides travelling towards many lands. Colours of landscapes, colours of clothes, colours skies, colours faces and hands, shoes and feet! Flooded with this deluge of women. I see them coming in from Canada, from England, from Wales, from Scotland, from Finland, from Eurasia, mainland Europe, from further east and south. Ah, Persia! I notice. Oh! How did she slip in from Peru? No one tells stories of this. Some are short, some are tall, some are thin and gaunt. Some are wide and round. The tall and short is fascinating to watch how they all, how we all stack upon one another! Like a matryoshka doll! Like the golden woman. Like the three headed gold piece – one face upon another, with hair hanging down. 

I yell out to them, this teetering tottering tall standing stack of mothers my question, a healing for my relationship with my mother. Who is not yet standing under my feet. And they “yell” up to me or vibrate – for not sure how to convey this coming through of the words: COMPASSION for your sisters!”.

Plaque showing winged female diety. 7th or 8thc. Cast bronze in openwork; 15.7 x 7.5 cm. From the settlement of Kurgan, Cherdyn district, Perm region. Inv. No 1927/1. 
From: The Animal Style of Perm, 1988, The Historical Museum, Moscow.

Visceral, multi-sensorial overwhelming on the everylittletinymolecularcelllevel I feel this weight. This strength. I am one with this tower of mothers. Anchored feet to shoulders. I feel sadness. Grief. That this all ends with me. I have no daughters. I apologise to them and to my mother. I feel grief that I have no daughters for I so did want them also. I know a stillborn was a daughter. I see her other half, I see my fathers part that travel beyond, just aside of this veil. They say you show the same things to them and the others as if they were your daughter- adopted daughters. While saying this we see all of life, all of the teachings, all of experiences, all adventures. I feel the links the attachments to all these – there are so many of us. These I can pass on even without my own daughter. My, my. Visceral.

This goes on for a long time – for ages – for so much song. Which is keening and full of tremolos, full of winding, weaving, trilling. Feeling this connection under my feet on their shoulders! Ah it is also so entertaining this standing on so many shoulders. Ahhhh the beauty! Weeping at the beauty of them, of the length of time, of all their stories of wellness, illness, suffering, greatness, just existing, short lives, young lives, old lives, twisted lives, rapes, old men, young men impregnating them…. My core is struck with all their shoulders and feet.

Then we are on the branch. Travelling back in time. The song singing me. I am in the east, now going south, now east again and going south. Sometimes we jump north, one time we went so west as to be in a place full of humidity and jungle. Why did no one talk about her? 

I ask about my mother and healing – The picture of the empty boat! Ah! Why did she paint it? What was her message? What I remember was she painted it when she was down – days in depression about Dad, about them, their story, and her deep within, small winding, ultra-thin strand of dislike. Hate? No. Anger? yes. Grief? yes. Injustice real or imagined? yes. Why did she give that energy to me in this painting? Why did she do this? What was she trying to convey to me? What to do? Signed “Mom”! 

Then we are in the sea, Pacific Ocean we swim and dive. There she is amongst the tall growing forest of kelp and asking this same question and about now. Now! Learn how to paint with your mother. Go to her and paint beside her. Ahhhh I am afraid of their religion, their extremism, their hidden whiteness and colonialist hallelujah. I have lived thru their demeaning, their denial, their badgering and holier than thou because we believe in the one true god. How do I get thru that? Will you be with me there? And I carry my disdain also.

Colours and multi-layered veils flowing around the entry hall. We travel, I am praying. Bending at the hips, up and down, up and down, back and forth back and forth. The motion, the way of being. Drum continuous rhythm. I cannot pray any harder and cannot stop the movement. Forever praying forever praying and travelling over lands.

Grasslands, drylands, desert lands, snake lands, tufts of grass lands, rolling hill lands, mountainous lands. On horse I ride. Warrior lands. All the ancestors, the mothers, all fighting, all warriors in the blood sense. In the scimitar and sword sense, The bow and arrow rising from my arms on horseback, a funny peaked cap upon my head, curled toe’ed boots in the straps. Persian, Assyrian. My heart is weeping, my tears are streaming. Oh, the grief, the longing, the suffering, the fierceness, the survival. All there, all being – in Canada, going back going back, slipping in those who we just cover over, in East Europe, more south, in Persia, in southern siberia, a maid, long pants. Long lives short lives, so many so many…. The visions swirl and swirl and the landscapes roll under this tall stack of mothers. All their stories.

These are just fighting cultures! Why? The source the source, where does this end? – Ahhhhh, a book arises, a dark blue cover of a book 1001 arabian nights! My mother reading. My mother’s desire to be a traveller, to go, to be elsewhere than here. I feel this in her. I am in her. Her favourite book, reading aloud to me. Me reading in the night skies. 

Fire draws my attention. No, I do not burn the painting of the row boat on water, two oars dipping into the water. One oar visible, the other just showing the tip. A fishing rod with a line out into the water. There is no human in the boat. The name of the picture is “Dad gone fishing”. The flat water reaches the sky – there seems no distance between them- on the horizon a trace of yellow-gold-  and purple, perhaps mountains. Perhaps not.

Dad is waiting for her. Put them in the same boat. I see their spirit animals/guardians in the boat together. Paint them in- draw them in with a felt-tipped pen. Their spirit beings or stick figures, no matter! One day.

Then we move onward seeking out peace. Bowing and bowing and bowing some more. Arising of ecstasy feeling all those shoulders and feet and hearts and wombs in-between. Seeking peace. All this fighting all this whore-mongering, war-mongering. Looking for the Goddess? Not in the Glastonbury sense, I laugh aloud. Where is the one who contains all life and death, who just is the Giver – for there is no taking – just giving – the one who was before we were on horses and scimitars flying. Ahh, must say that it was exhilarating! The fierceness of wind, thud of hooves flying over the grasslands, the dry lands.

And before is a wall of stone – stone work, square chiseled blocks of stone- somewhere in India I feel – for this is where a few mothers came from it seems. This great wall I stand close to. Humid air, thick forest air. The wailing wall? No. A temple wall? Maybe. Tree branches, tree roots around parts. Old old stone. Somewhere up that wall is a figure. The drum beating, the song murmuring, and we are trying to find peace- looking for the Goddess cause not all this war like riders- or fighters -something must have been before, all the mothers says there was is… further and further digging out the one who was taken over by the warriors in this stack of mother upon mother upon mother. There she is. The last of her kind and we were fertile. The one on the edge of the change to these war-makers, conquerors, putting down peoples. And my mothers were part of this – split beings.

And I asked once more for a healing the relationship with my mother and she (the goddess, or the mother of mother’s) gushed out a river from the branch of the tree where I sat and I understood Paint with Mother and snorted and laughed, pointless/funny to try and cut the branch – from the tree, the source. The water will stop flowing from the tree, the source of life. And that we do not want. 

Täkänä. Reversible woven cloth- mirror image and colours on the other side. Date unknown. Maker unknown. Personal. Photo: Christiana Aro-Harle
Täkänä. Photo: C. A-H.


Follow-up after this song. Checking in with the painter. Grief. Their favourite boat, a fold-up to be placed on top of their trailer. They had such good times in that row boat and now he is no longer in the boat. He is gone. He has left this world. The line out into the water, still fishing. The sorrow of loss. Of good times, strong memories of a fold-up rowboat, adventures, water, fishing, being together at peace. And in the distance, fog – with the sunlight still further on the horizon, coming through. Travelling to a land that is through the mist of fog. If you have ever seen the fog rolling in over mountains and hills, you know that feeling, sensation. If you have seen the sunlight seeping through fog, “burning it off”, they say, then you know the feeling. If you have no eyes to see, you have felt all this on your skin, your hair, perhaps a sharpness or coolness or clearness or shimmering on your face. 

So we shall wait before we paint. For the be-ing time, I shall place that dear painting on the ancestral altar. And re-member and rehydrate all those standing under my feet. And as for my mother, I shall call her on zoom.

Painting by Mom, 2016ish. All rights reserved to my mother. Photo: C. A-H.