bedrock

The Living Bedrock of the Land

Introduction

We are living in a society in which most of us are thoroughly insulated from the rawness of the elements, & our idea of nature is a walk on a path through the agricultural countryside or a TV documentary. Our lives revolve around values which are far removed from those of our origins, & although we don’t dominate nature, we try to, & when that doesn’t work we try to sanitise it or retreat from it.

The problem of our loss of integration with the environment isn’t just a physical one about pollution, or an ecological one about our present lifestyle not being sustainable, it is also at the heart of the spiritual crisis which our culture has created for itself. More & more people are alienated, stressed out & suffering from subtle dis-ease resulting from the way we live, & are realising, at the heart of this sense of wrongness that they feel, a drive towards magic or alternative spiritualities. A number of movements have arisen in the past two decades, including the diverse community of modern pagans, some of whom try to address these issues in an holistic way; discovering that there is healing & transformation in contact with nature in all its depth & sometimes danger.

I have long held the view that one particular dynamic which has incredible potential for a return to a greater sense of wholeness is contact between people & special places with which they form relationships of mutual benefit. In one sense, animistically, it is about mediation between the human & non-human worlds; in a mystical sense it is about the recognition that the boundaries which divide up our lives can fall away, & we can experience the fundamental ground of being, the source & unity of all.

Here I am going to look at the potential of what might be called “Sacred Geology”, the idea that different kinds of rocks & rock formations can alter our state of consciousness & are worthy of consideration by those of us who turn to the natural world for inspiration, guidance & healing.

Science, Art & Magic

I don’t think of myself as a scientist, nowadays, despite my background & training. I still value the insights & knowledge which come from my scientific education & I have always been a keen amateur naturalist & geologist, but I am no longer a participant in any activity which could be called science. On one hand I accept, generally, the current models of the history of the earth & theevolution of life, but I place some of my own idiosyncratic interpretations upon them too; what is history after all?

The reason for this explanation is to clarify that in this article I am using geological nomenclature & some modern scientific ideas, but I am giving them other, non-scientific meanings or significance as well. I am not pretending that what is presented here is in itself scientific, nor would I rejoice to hear it described as quasi- or pseudo-science. I really don’t accept the model that says that you can do controlled experiments in magic. It is possible that in some future time science might provide some kind of workable hypothesis of how different kinds of rocks & minerals or landforms might alter human consciousness in a measurable, consistent way, but I am not interested in attempting to make such an explanation, rather in describing what my own & others’ investigations have suggested, in a way which will hopefully encourage others to make their own.

Finally I make no bones of the fact that I consider magic, divination, ritual, trance work or whatever as arts (not sciences) & that, in the long run, I consider science to be an art as well. This view may not be acceptable to many, but I offer it here, with no apology for a lack of explanatory philosophising, so that the reader will be able to understand how I have approached mysubject matter.

What makes a sacred site?

If you ask most people to name a sacred site they will probably choose somewhere which is famous for religious or mythical reasons such as Stonehenge, Tara or Durham Cathedral, & there is a lot of current interest in ancient or sacred places, not only among modern pagans but much of the population for a variety of reasons.

I was recently reading a book in which the famous American psychology writer Scott Peck (of The Road Less Travelled) was visiting megalithic sites in the UK. It was interesting to read the associations which he made with them but also to see familiar places through another’s eyes. He very soon began to address the question of why some places feel “holy” & others simply don’t. Obviously just because a site is ancient doesn’t make it feel sacred, & in the end we are going to attend to our own personal impressions more than anything anyone else has to say about the matter. On the other hand there are those who go on about “The Stones” but who light fires against them or daub them with graffiti or leave litter & inappropriate offerings. After removing litter from countless sites one can only imagine that such people aren’t really interested in what’s there at all, only in what it means to them in their own narrow little world view.

It’s a truism, I suppose, to say that a place is powerful or sacred because we feel it to be so ourselves, but much of what concerns me here is totally subjective. Often you get back what you put in, so if you approach a site with awe, reverence, or respect you are more likely to feel some kind of positive response. There is an argument that everywhere is sacred & it is purely a matter of our mind set, but that being said we still find ourselves for the most part in the relative world where some places affect us more than others. “Everywhere being sacred” is, if you like, another state of consciousness (although one well worth aspiring to). One of the reasons for these different effects is, in my opinion, the “local geology”, by which I mean the local rock types & the shapes & forms that we find them in. On a recent trip to Ireland I often found myself as awestruck when I encountered natural rock formations as I did at some of that country’s truly marvellous megalithic sites, if not more so.

Of course the whole ecology of a place will contribute to its atmosphere & its effects upon our mood or perceptions. This includes plant & animal life, time of day & year, weather, human history, use & abuse, folklore & so on; ideally I like to approach the subject in a holistic way & have written about that elsewhere; but underneath all of these is the ground from which they sprang, the living bedrock of the Land.

Finding Your Place

I am a great believer in the almost clichéd (a cliché is in the mind of the beholder!) saying “Think Global, Act Local”, & feel most strongly that instead of racing around the country visiting important places (so that we may feel important?) we should find, get to know, work with & look after our own local places of power. They may be sites of scientific or archaeological interest, places with interesting folklore attached to them or just anonymous spots where we feel something special & to which we find ourselves returning. If you think about it we all have such places or have had them at some time in our lives, & it isn’t hard to get in touch with that again. Reading books on local history & natural history & studying local maps is a good way to get started if you find yourself on new turf, as is getting out & exploring, whether in a planned way or just by aimlessly wandering to see where the Genius Loci, the spirit of the locality, might lead you.

If reading this article turns you on to considering geological factors in finding or working with local spots then you may decide to purchase a geological map. If you do, I hope that the following advice will be of assistance. Geological maps show different types & ages of rock as different colours superimposed on a monotone map of the area. It is useful to have a standard O.S. map to hand as well to make comparisons to locate sites of interest. Geology is a complex science & the maps are covered with a lot of technical terms. Some of them are briefly clarified elsewhere in this article but if you’re going so far as to get a map then get an introductory book on geology with a glossary in it (you’ll probably find one in the local library), & a local guide book too, which describes what the map illustrates. When you are choosing your map you will discover that they are expensive, & this means that scale of map(s) you choose will be dependent upon your budget. It’s cheaper to buy one which covers a larger area but shows less detail. There are also two kinds of maps, solid & flow. The former show the solid bedrock underlying the area covered by the map while the latter also show the deposits which exist on top of that such as those of rivers or glaciers. You need to choose which to use; I prefer solid maps.

If you are looking for potential power places to visit try finding:

  1. Places where there are lots of geological faults, (shown on the map as black lines) major fault lines or where faults meet. Rock faults are lines where a the rocks have split & slid along against one another. Studies have noticed a strong correlation between the concentration of faults in an area & the occurrence of stone circles, as well as reports of UFO’s (unidentified, right?), hauntings & other “strange” phenomena.
  2. Localized igneous intrusions (see explanation below). These are usually shown as red, pink or purple blobs.
  3. Places where a lot of different layers (different colours) are found close together in a single locality.
  4. Any obvious small sized islands or blobs of anything which contrast with the surrounding land.
  5. Interesting physical features such as caves, gorges, dykes, escarpments, etc.

Minerals, Stones & Rock

The rocks of the earth’s crust are made up from various chemical ingredients with their own clear identities. They are called minerals & most rocks are a mixture of them. Ultimately most minerals are in crystalline form but the crystals in many rocks are microscopically small in size. Larger crystals occur for a variety of reasons (see below). When I say rocks I mean types of rock. By stones I mean pieces of rock which have broken free from the bedrock. Bedrock, where it outcrops on the surface or can be accessed in quarries, caves or mines, or on the coast, is sometimes referred to as living rock because it is still in direct connection with the deeper layers or other structures beneath it.

A Zen Teacher said: “A stone has the life of a stone”, & there are parallels between stones & more animated objects such as people and other creatures. They are born when they separate from the body of their mother, whether bedrock or a larger stone. They exist as individuals for a period of time during which they may spawn smaller stones & eventually they wear away. They are broken up or eroded to the degree that their life has come to an end. Just as a mystic might say that we are continually dying & being reborn, so our stone, in its natural environment, is being constantly eroded by wind, water, ice & other stones. This is one explanation of why we feel an affinity with stones, & because their life span is often so much longer than ours (depending upon their hardness), hold them in reverence, like ancient trees or elders of the clan.

I’m an animist. If you asked me do I believe that stones have an indwelling spirit, I’d say yes, but if you said do they have some kind of conscious awareness then I would say there’s no nervous system, so not like ours. One doesn’t have to believe that there’s a person living in that rock or stone in order to treat it with respect or enter into communion with it. You could say that rocks are non-human entities of an age & size beyond our imagining, which sounds a bit Lovecraftian, but how we approach them is surely a matter for the private conscience of the individual.

Types of Rock

There are unseen dynamisms within the earth. Huge currents & movements of the liquid & semi-liquid materials beneath the crust lead to what we now recognise as continental drift, a migration which takes millennia. On the surface there are other faster & more easily identifiable geological processes at work. We can all witness the three great processes which have shaped the land: erosion, transportation & deposition. The agents of ice, sunshine, wind & water have been playing with the basic materials of the earth’s surface since before organic life emerged in the soup.

Some of the oldest & deepest rocks, although they do emerge onto the surface in many ways, are those which are formed when molten material such as magma, under the surface, or lava, emerging, have cooled down & solidified. They are usually hard rocks composed of complex patterns of interlocking mineral crystals of varying sizes & types. Basalts, which form structures under the surface such as sills & dykes, maybe later revealed by erosion, tend to be composed of very small crystals. Granites, on the other hand , often have such large crystals that individuals can be seen clearly with the naked eye. Such rocks as these, born when the heat of down below cools, are called igneous rocks.

Such rocks, no matter how hard, cannot resist the forces of erosion & are broken, split, smashed & bashed into smaller bits, which are carried elsewhere by water or ice or wind. They become pebbles, gravel & sand & eventually even fine powders such as clay & silt. These materials accumulate on beaches & lake & sea beds, on river bottoms, floodplains & in deserts, & after millions of years of build-up the lower layers, now deep underground, are heated & compressed to form layers of rock. These are known as sedimentary rocks & they tell the story of what conditions were like in a particular place at the time when they were dumped there. They are the kinds of rocks such as sandstone or shale, which often contain fossils. Some sedimentary rocks are more organic in origin than anything else, such as chalk, limestone or coal.

Everything is constantly changing & rocks under the surface may be exposed to extreme conditions of temperature & pressure, causing them to change their appearance & composition. Both igneous & sedimentary rocks can be transformed, limestone into marble, or granite into gneiss (that wonderful stuff which they used to build Callanish!), & when this happens the new rocks are known as metamorphic rocks in recognition of their change.

With respect to the subtle influences & significance of these rock types, the following ideas are suggested as starting points for further investigation. They are based primarily on my own experiences & therefore are very subjective. Nevertheless I feel that they have a place here & will give at least an idea of how geological considerations can influence the feeling of a site or one’s work with the Genius Loci.

Igneous rocks, called plutonic rocks when structures from the deep places appear on the surface, can generate powerful energies with some degree of possible modulation & focusing available to the human operator. I imagine those tightly packed matrices of interlocking crystals as being like huge storage batteries & microprocessors. The former can release sudden bursts of energy & the latter are waiting for programs to run. The unwary can find themselves face to face with the animated contents of their own deep psyche in ill-prepared workings where igneous materials come to the surface. They may also meet that which inhabits such materials! This is very useful if one is considering evocative or magical operations, but one must be wary that one is clear about one’s intention & familiar with one’s own stuff. To be suddenly confronted by an animation from the plutonic region can be disconcerting to say the least!

Metamorphic rocks tend to affect our body awareness, & can be very useful in healing or trance work of various kinds. The keyword is transformation. They can be just as intense as igneous rocks, but the effect is much more likely to build up over a period of time before it knocks your socks off. This gives you more time to monitor & control the situation. Metamorphic rocks are usually the source of what are popularly known as “crystals”, i.e. large individual crystal forms which most people buy in shops & were probably strip mined in Brazil or some other developing country by exploited peasant workers. With the help of a good book on minerals we can go looking for our own (but read comments on conservation, later). It also means that specific spots in a metamorphic region may have strong concentrations of particular materials, & that we must choose our spot with care. One spot may be right on top of a big vein of lead pyrites with a strong grounding influence, while another may be near to a big lump of quartz which could give you a jolt.

Sedimentary rocks are the ages in an aeon-old book that tells the story of this place. Each layer is a landscape, quite possibly inhabited, with its own vegetation, climate & landforms, some familiar, some less so. The deeper you go, the further back in time you travel. Usually there are pages missing from the book. These are called non-conformities, when layers have been eroded away before the next were deposited. This means that the journey down may jump back millions of years in an instant.

What I love are sandstone surfaces which once were the strand & still bear the ripples of wave action hundreds of millions of years later. Huge mountains were eroded & their remains washed down in rivers & dumped as sand in estuaries & the sea. When, as rock on the beach, they are revealed by the action of today’s waves, you can see identical forms side by side, ancient & modern. I have a bit of a thing about steamy carboniferous forests full of giant amphibians too!

Limestone is a significant material worthy of much study. It is often full of fossils, is permeable & soluble to water & is responsible for some of our most dramatic & mysterious places. It forms cavern systems & steep sided ravines, like the lushly wooded denes of County Durham, & where the bedrock is laid bare the incredible forms of limestone pavement like the Burren, a possibly man-made desert in Western Ireland. Limestone was lain down in ancient seas which once covered much of this land & consists mainly of the excreted remains of tiny planktonic animals, shat by slightly larger ones. Chalk is of similar origins & is responsible for the famous downland landscapes of southern England. It is also the matrix in which we find flint, that mysterious, brittle, sharp edged stuff so important to us for most of our history.

Shapes in the Land

It would be misleading of me to try to categorise the forms that may be found in the landscape in the way I have rocks & stones. These forms are of course dependent upon the materials of which they are made & also upon events which have taken place there over the aeons. That little hill may be a baby mountain in its youth or it may be the scarred stump of some ancient Everest or Vesuvius. I have mentioned trying to look at places holistically & for me this means trying to see the big picture, the whole thing, to try to feel the identity, the meaning of the place. To enter into a relationship with the spirit of place is a noble but long term project. We must always be on our guard to recognise our own projections, fears or fantasies of wish fulfilment.

A very good way of studying the esoteric side to land forms is to study the folklore & mythology of different kinds of places. Some commentators speculate about such sources being the remains of, clues to, or codes of lost knowledge, & this may be so, but I enjoy taking the stories as I find them; they have much to tell us about the character of an area & a lot of insight into the challenge of contact between human & non-human beings.

One theme which stands out is that inaccessible places are often seen as the abode some kind of otherworldly being or race. Inaccessible often means hazardous, so people go there but don’t always come back. There may be injunctions against going there among local people. Should we respect them? It can be just as powerful (or even more so) to do one’s ritual just below, or in sight of the holy mountain or mound rather than on the top. On the other hand sometimes we need the danger & challenge of taboo-breaking to test our knowledge of ourselves against the world or society. It must also be said that in my experience, if you are going to work on the hill, then you should work on the top where the energies are usually both stronger & more coherent. A certain power place known to me has been known to reduce people to gibbering wrecks, but it is interesting to note that they are usually people who decided to do their thing in the woods on the flanks of the hill rather than at an obviously central location on the top. It can still be powerful & challenging there but there is a clarity about it which is simpler & more direct. Put in other terms, you get to play about with the lesser, more dodgy spirits around the sides, whereas on the top you’re dealing with The Boss.

Areas with lots of faulting seem to have a lot going on. They can be very active in terms of what most people would think of as “strange” phenomena such as hauntings, & they often show striking seasonal & lunar cycles which can be fairly easy to tune into. It must also be said that such places attract “strange” people too & they aren’t all necessarily people you’d want to meet on a dark moonless night down the pub never mind the old quarry!

Sills & dykes are sheets & ridges of intruded igneous rock which can stretch for hundreds of miles under the surface. Where they come up as outcrops can be particularly striking & powerful places. Imagine some millennia-old leviathan breaking the surface of the sea for a moment! Working on such an outcrop one senses the other places where the same great body touches the sky. One senses the powerful presence of the landscape as a whole in such situations. These great beings are truly Titans. We can touch them, & if we do so with awareness, they might respond to us!

Practical work

1. Collecting

Geological conservation is a serious problem. There’s a big fuss if ancient woodland or wetland is destroyed or damaged but you don’t hear of many scandals about sites of geological significance being trashed. Everyone complains about the idiots who chip bits off the Rollright Stones, but if they’re at the seaside for their holidays they don’t think twice about hacking away at something interesting. Certain famous & not so famous localities have been ruined by keen collectors of fossils & minerals chipping away at them for specimens to keep in boxes & cases & on shelves, so please don’t contribute to this problem. If you must, try collecting stones rather than removing any living rock. Beware picking stuff up willy-nilly as well; in a house full of different stones its sometimes hard to tell which ones are really significant.

It is useful to maintain what I think of as a gift protocol with respect to natural history specimens or “power objects” of any kind. One approach which I use is: it has to be on the surface, in my path, & looking like it was put there for me to find. Then I ask it if it wants to come with me. Whether or not you’re an animist this is a useful exercise because it gives you time to take a breath & find out how you really feel about the situation, & you never know it might reply! Some stones I’ve picked up have given me an instant headache or sense of discomfort, in which case I replace them carefully with my blessing.

If you do receive some kind of gift from a place you visited then spend some time meditating with it, find out the best way of keeping or treating it. Does it need to be cleaned in any way? If so stick it in a jar of salt for a while or wash it in a fast flowing stream (with the stream’s permission of course!). Be warned though, you can destroy whatever made it special in the first place if your preparation is too strong! Intuition is needed.

Sometimes if something grabs my attention I don’t just collect it, I put it somewhere where someone else will notice it, either to admire it or take it themselves. Sometimes one can do little spontaneous pieces of art, as long as they’re not intrusive. Give them a blessing to heal whoever looks at them or something. It’s not a major operation to do so, just wish it, whether out loud—always preferable in such acts—or inwardly. Don’t leave powerful personal stuff lying around for others to pick up though! If you do an outdoor working always close down, ground the energies thoroughly, & sit still until you feel in a good state to continue your journey.

2. Tuning in

By tuning into the rocks & stones in a particular setting you can also start to make connections with the landscape generally. I like to study maps & guide books a bit so I have some idea of what is going on, but it’s a matter of taste.

Approach a site or stone outcrop with respect. Delay getting hands on as long as you can; use your other senses first. Take time to make a connection with the whole situation, not just some object in front of you. Touch with your hands. Keep them still. Push. Stroke or rub the rock. Lean against it. Breath with the rock. Place your cheek or forehead against it, but don’t rush. Get your shoes & socks off! Bare feet are a great way of making contact with the power of rocks & stones. Now try practising whatever meditation you are familiar with. Make sure that it is appropriate though. By this I do not mean that it must have a direct cultural or historical link with the place, although that can be helpful, but that whatever you are doing is sensitive to what is already there; in harmony with the energies that you find. If you must make offerings, which is a very good thing to do, try to be unobtrusive. One person’s offerings are another person’s litter, & the bits of food & flowers which you so carefully arranged might just be a horrible mess after the wind, rain & local beasties have finished with them. Try picking up all the litter which you find there, that’s a kind of offering. Not all offerings are material!

3. Trance Workings

Most everyday states of consciousness are trances of one kind or another. In order to be successful in trance work I suggest:

  1. Daily meditation practice at home in a safe, preferably designated place.
  2. Practising moment to moment awareness of what kind of trance you’re in now.
  3. Finding a good teacher who won’t play games with your head &/or wallet.
  4. Practising all techniques indoors in your safe space first before you do them outdoors if that is at all possible.
  5. Always keeping your bum or another stable body part on terra firma while you’re working & not doing trance in potentially dangerous places (see later).
  6. Having a clear intent & raison d’être for the working. State it out loud when you start & do so again as & when it is helpful. Learn it off by heart & make sure that you are clear enough to fully understand & really mean what you are saying.
  7. Debriefing yourself. Be honest. If you feel comfortable commit to do it again if you can. If not don’t try it!

That being said, & assuming that you’re familiar with some kind of meditation or trance work, here are some ideas:

  1. Going down from where you sit or lie, through the layers, back in time, explore, see what you can find, make sure to come back up!
  2. Going into some kind of structure like a hill, mountain or cave, try to find its centre. You may not succeed first time even if you thought you did; debrief properly afterwards, was it really that profound?
  3. Lying on the ground, once in your trance imagine that you stand up & open your eyes. Then:
    1. Explore your surroundings. You may want to spend time building up a visualisation, but I recommend that if you are successfully tranced just take it as it comes, assuming that you have clearly stated your intent.
    2. Imagine that light or lights appear in the ground or rock around you. Note what it is like & investigate it/them.
    3. Call to the Guardian/s of the place & request a meeting. State your intent clearly. Remember, a statement of intent is not enough, you have to understand the significance of what you are saying & really mean it.
  4. Try to enter into conversation or communion with a stone or rock formation, whether worded or just empathic.
  5. Expand you awareness to take in more & more of the landscape. Rap with it if you can.
  6. Use or follow the water present in the place to sense more about what’s going on there on a more subtle level.
  7. Dreaming. Spend the night there, sleep & keep a dream record as the night progresses. Build a simple ritual around it. Make sure that you are properly prepared for the physical conditions which you might find there.

N.B. Remember to ground any energies carefully when you are finished.

These are just a few suggestions to give you ideas, take them as far as you like or think up your own. It is probably a good idea to build some kind of simple ritual around them so that you have a set of boundaries & can orientate & protect yourself if necessary. What happens & how you deal with it are up to you. I advise that you never cease to question yourself about whatever you think may be happening & urge anyone prepared to try such practises not to abandon common sense & psychic hygiene along the way.

Danger!

The kinds of places which I am writing about are seriously hazardous. Don’t be complacent in the mountains, in quarries, on rocks or crags of any kind, & on the seashore be sure that you know what the tide is doing. Negligence of these matters kills many people every year. Please observe the country code & basic rules of personal safety at all times if you are intent on practising out of doors.

There are other dangers too. If you are unfamiliar with altered states be warned! Certain kinds of places, whether they be fault lines, bare basalt hill tops, caves or whatever can have effects as strong as certain proscribed chemicals under the right circumstances. Make sure that you feel confident & healthy enough for any challenges which you might face. I don’t think that I am recommending dangerous practices but please give this careful consideration. Extreme situations are quite rare & in my experience there’s always a point at which you can opt out. If you feel any doubt or discomfort then do so. Debrief yourself & talk to a friend, co-worker or advisor about whether or how you should proceed.

I mentioned H.P. Lovecraft earlier. Well where did you think he got a lot of his ideas from? The natural world, I say. He seems to be horrified by the vastness of time & space & the diversity of natural forms, a horror which strikes a chord because everyone, at some point, has at least been awestruck by these things. Geology & geological time feature strongly in his work & although I think that his mythology is spurious in many ways, some of the experiences which befall his protagonists are not beyond the realms of possibility in this work. The huge tentacled horror which has slept beneath my house for millennia may well be a fossilised cephalopod from the Palaeozoic Era & meeting her face to face is quite a trip!

Our own fear is one of the most dangerous things which we may encounter & it is important to acknowledge this & do some work on it. The “dark side” hinted at by macho occultists is not really about the “dark glamour” (sexy succubi in leather gear?), but the stuff which we really don’t want to know about ourselves & our world, so much so that we have sealed it in an impregnable vault deep down somewhere. Contact with the primal energies which may be released by magical workings at certain geological structures can open that vault. Are you ready for that kind of experience? It can be overwhelming.

Something to remember should you find yourself in an extreme situation is don’t make any sudden moves. This includes suddenly stopping whatever you were doing at the time. I remember well a situation in which something unseen but gigantic brushed against me while I was drumming & for some reason filled me with horror. I focused on the drumming itself & the energy of my horror entered it & was released with a rush of excitement & euphoria. If I had stopped, which I nearly did, no doubt the horror would have settled, lasted & maybe even got worse. One very useful technique for dealing with extreme emotional states involves entering rather than struggling with or trying to rationalise the feeling, & instead of mentally going over & over it, trying to recognise it as a sensation within the body & focus on that. To manage this however one would have to be experienced in some kind of basic meditation practice.

Fear can unhinge the mind but it can also cause physical danger too. Make sure that you are fully aware of a safe exit from the place in which you are working. Panic & you could do yourself or someone else some damage.

In the City

In the city any large stone or rocky outcrop is a potential pace of power because even if it has been shaped in some way or placed there by men it still represents contact with a world far more ancient & deep than the increasingly symbolic, virtual image that urban people inhabit. Even a railway cutting or an artistically placed boulder in the park can put you in contact with the magical power of the earth. For this reason geological features of note near population centres are often very popular places with a lot of stories attached to them. Be careful that you handle the human energies or disturbed natural energies that you may find in such places with care & don’t leave a big charge behind you when you’re done. The vast majority of the population are just as sensitive to these things as you are, they just don’t know it or don’t want to know.

In the same chalk, as they say, such places may need some kind of healing or cleansing work to be done for their own good as well as that of their human visitors. If you embark upon such work make sure that you can handle what you might find. Be prepared to look at the place as holistically as you can. If you don’t feel up to the task right away just monitor the situation. I once did this with a very disturbed spot near my home & found that after a year or two the intensity of whatever it was that repelled me died down & I could gain safe access & do my work without worrying about picking up anything nasty. That said, try not to be too judgmental. If that’s the place on the common where the kids hang out its probably been the place where the kids hang out for years. Maybe its their place, not yours. Maybe you should be cautious before you rush in to try to heal something which was there anyway & they were attracted by in the first place. There are a number of places near where I live that fall into this category. (One is called “The Devil’s Playground”!) Don’t forget, the earth has seen far worse than this in her long life, it’s the human beings that are really fucked up!

Another way of connecting with urban rocks is to study the building stone which may be found in your town, but I will leave that for others to look into.

Conclusion

Geological factors are of great significance in the study of earth magic, geomancy & sacred ecology, yet they have largely been ignored. Practitioners of outdoor meditation or ritual & those trying to enter into communion with the life of the land or the spirit of place can find a wealth of material for exploration & practice in this field. It is my hope that this short essay may stimulate more people to think of these things. I pray that in going out into the field that they will show sensitivity to what they find there, & that the Dragons of Albion will be kind to them.

Reading list

  • The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abrams – Vintage 1997
  • Toward a Transpersonal Ecology – Warwick Fox – Shambhala 1990
  • Discovering Landscape in England & Wales – Andrew Goudie – Chapman & Hall 1992
  • Sacred World – Jeremy Hayward – Rider 1996
  • Pseudonomicon – Phil Hine – 2nd Ed, Dagon Productions 1997
  • British Geological Survey Maps & Guides – HMSO (Or contact the B.G.S. Shop & Office in the Natural History Museum, see below)
  • New Penguin Dictionary of Geology – Phil Kearey – Penguin 1996 (N.B. not recommended for total beginners!)
  • At the Mountains of Madness – H.P. Lovecraft (currently available in many anthologies)
  • Ages of Gaia – James Lovelock – Oxford University Press 1995
  • Highland Landforms – Robert Price – Aberdeen University Press 1991
  • The Black Goddess & the Sixth Sense – Peter Redgrove – Paladin 1989
  • Rebirth of Nature – Rupert Sheldrake – Century Hutchinson 1993

N.B. There are loads of good guide books to rocks minerals & fossils & the following are just selections. Dorling Kindersley do good ones but I don’t have the details.

  • Collins Photo Guide to Rocks, Minerals & Gemstones – Walter Schumann – HarperCollins 1996
  • British Palaeozoic, Mesozoic & Cenozoic Fossils (3 vols, my edition is ancient!) – The Natural History Museum Bookshop, Cromwell Road, London,SW7 5BD

(None of these authors or institutions would necessarily endorse the views that I have expressed here & some would no doubt not wish to be associated with them!)

This essay forms the basis of a chapter in the book The Art Of Conversation With The Genius Loci (Capall Bann, 2003).