Well I have typed the title and now I have some words on the page; which is a good start. It seemed like a good idea. I really do want folk to meet Anima Loci, The Spirit of Place, but can I do it? I mean can I do it in words; black type on a white page.
Right at this very moment my soul is screaming NO. It is almost impossible. And the voice in my head is saying ‘Fool, do you think you are good enough with words to convey a quality so that people actually feel its numinous (presence of divinity) nature just through reading about it?’
Always being one to rise to a challenge and very rarely listening to the voice in my head. I know that my soul is right; it is almost impossible. Therein lies the rub ‘almost impossible’. Which means that it isn’t totally impossible. And it is only you, yes you – the one reading this, who will be able to tell me if I achieve it (in for a penny, in for a pound as the saying goes). So, come on, let’s see if we can meet Anima Loci; The Spirit of Place – together.
In the first place it really doesn’t help that the term ‘Spirit of Place’, in becoming secularised, has got itself confused. It is now being used to describe a thing that really should be called ‘sense of place‘. At times it is also used to refer to what should be known as ‘spirits of place’ (plural, not singular). So let’s put those two terms to bed first.
Every place is unique, having a distinct character that identifies it and sets it apart from everywhere else. The majority of places have many aspects which are cherished (town or country). Places engender feelings within us; fondness, nostalgia et. al. This is a ‘sense of place’.
Many places have echoes; of people, of events, which have become imprinted upon them, for better or for worse. These are indeed ‘spirits’ (plural) of place but neither one are ‘Spirit (singular) of Place’.
The term ‘Anima Loci’ literally means the ‘soul of a place’. A concept, echoing through the ages, that particular places have a natural residential spirit of their own. A personality that is the ‘Spirit’ of the place. This is the basic definition/description. Creating a meeting with ‘Anima Loci’ is going to take a lot more than a definition.
The reality of Spirit of Place is about far more than the component parts of the place. However special these parts may be, or what they make us feel about the place. It is what makes a place sacred and it is absolutely ancient.
There are several aspects that are indicators of Spirit of Place:
- Quiddity – an inherent nature, essence, distinctiveness, a peculiarity that causes it to be ‘a place apart’
- Intense energy fields
- A presence of special beings – Deity, Spirits, Fae
- Possesses its own consciousness (Animism)
- Manifests its own power
- The empowerment of people
Any one of these on their own is powerful. But where Spirit of Place resides a place will possess ALL of them. And the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It is immense – an invisible constant that manifests an influence on the place. An inherent complexity that materially affects everything within the place. A phenomenon that is tangible and speaks directly to your soul.
Even those who have no knowledge of Spirit of Place will know that it is there. They may not recognise what it is but they will definitely know, they will feel its presence.
The heading image on this post was not chosen at random. It was chosen because here the Spirit of Place has the strongest manifestation that I have ever felt. This is Llyn Cau on Cader Idris. Cader Idris is a masif (a mountain with several peaks). She has, since time immemorial, been known as a sacred mountain. The sheer amount of folk-lore and myth surrounding her is indicative of her importance and the power attached to her. Vast numbers of mountain walkers having traversed Cader will tell you that “there is something up there, on that mountain – you can feel it”.
Put yourself into this image. Into this sacred landscape. The mighty majesty of the highest peak, Pen y Gadair, facing you, takes your breath away just by its very existence, but that isn’t the most noticeable thing. The majesty of Pen y Gadair is almost dwarfed by the most noticeable thing. Although you cannot see it you most definitely know that it is there. The feeling is intense, it totally surrounds you. Almost like a pressure coming at you from all sides. You get the sense that it is exploring you. This is a place like no other that you have encountered before or will do anywhere else. There is a knowledge within you (not a belief, not a feeling, but a true knowledge) that there are beings living on this mountain that are not of our realm. Where that knowledge comes from I cannot explain but you just know.
Where is this energy, this power that is creating such intensity coming from? It is that tangible that you are convinced that if you extended your hand you could touch it. Is it the mountain Herself? Is it the lake? There are tales of things that live in that lake; there are very good reasons why you never swim in that lake. A realisation dawns; this isn’t ‘coming’ from anywhere, this exists in its own right, it is alive and it is aware. It is aware that you are there……… and it is watching you.
It is in places of this magnitude that you really do meet Anima Loci.