Mind your language

‘Sacred space’ has become a crowded marketplace

20 March 2021

9:00 AM

20 March 2021

9:00 AM

‘This is the book that horses wish every equestrian would read,’ says the blurb for Sacred Spaces: Communion with the horse through science and spirit by Dr Susan Fay. It might sound like putting the cart before the horse to have equines deciding our reading list, but everyone wants a bit of space at the moment.

‘Thank you for giving us the space,’ said the Duchess of Sussex to Oprah Winfrey at the end of their ample airtime. This is not Star Trek’s ‘space, the final frontier’, nor yet the spatium verae paenitentiae, the time for repentance, that the Christian asks before death. Yet space is the prime thing now seen as sacred.


The ancient Greeks had their sacred abaton, a space ‘not to be trodden’, and they walled the sacred space round a temple with a peribolos, as indeed the Temple in Jerusalem was enclosed. But in the past generation the sacred space industry has grown exponentially.

In 1976 Linda H. Graber gave us Wilderness as Sacred Space, a study in ‘geopiety’. By 1990 Geraldine Hatch Hanon was making a bid for the wilder shores of space with Sacred Space: A Feminist Vision of Astrology. It opened a decade in which scarcely a week seemed to pass without a new book on sacred spaces. In 1998 even that old Suffolk leaning post Ronald Blythe chipped in with Divine Landscapes: Pilgrimage through Britain’s sacred places.

Sacred space gained a boost from Buddhism and from fashionable feng shui. Pagans were not far behind. For those who wanted to do it themselves, there was Sacred Space: Turning Your Home into a Sanctuary by Jill M. Angelo, not to be confused with Creating Sacred Space in the Home: A gentle guide toward healing from heartbreak, trauma and loss by Katie Lynne Smith. For those who found this too demanding, Peg Streep wrote Altars Made Easy: A Complete Guide To Creating Your Own Sacred Space.

For sacred space-fillers, there is the Sacred Space Journal, with embellishments by Toni Carmine Salerno. It’s an empty commonplace book, frankly, or ‘a sacred space for you to plant the seeds of your future creations’. I hope the sacred hoe will also be wielded on the sacred weeds.

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