What Makes a Space Sacred?

On our recent summer vacation, I was surprised at the national park which was the favorite of the ones we visited.  I had expected that the Shenandoah National Park and Smoky Mountains would wow me with their beauty and gorgeous views.  And they did.

However, my favorite experience was in Mammoth Cave, which I had just thrown in to the trip on the drive home to add another destination to our national park passport book.

It wasn’t just the mammoth caves that impressed me, it was the feeling of sacred space around the caves and the whole park, which felt missing, particularly in the Smoky Mountains where there are so many tourist traps.

Mammoth_Cave_National_Park (Kentucky)

Mammoth_Cave_National_Park (Kentucky) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of my partiality to the caves may have been the refreshing coolness of that dark space in contrast to the hot and humid exterior.

The other thing that brought me to awe is that human beings have been visiting the world’s largest cave for thousands of years.  If I’m remembering correctly, scientists who have researched the caves have evidence of humans living in the caves five thousand years ago.

The darkness is what we picked up with most of our camera shots inside Mammoth Cave.

The Park Ranger showed us how we could experience the whole 390 miles by turning off the lights.

I have to admit to feeling very uncomfortable with the pitch black darkness.

My kids were thrilled to see a single bat fly through the cave while we were there.

I wonder what ancient humans thought of the cave.  There seems to be some evidence that it might have been considered a sacred space as well as a place for shelter.

Daily Contemplation:

Moving beyond your own personal space today, if you had to choose the most deeply sacred places and spaces in the world, which would they be for you?

Do you feel we’re doing enough to care for and preserve these sacred spaces?

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17 thoughts on “What Makes a Space Sacred?

  1. eof737 says:

    Great question… I think it’s an individual experience. I was in Woodstock this weekend and advised to visit a “magical” place. It didn’t seem that way to me at all… it was magical for the person who recommended the spot. 😉

  2. Writerlious says:

    Squeals! Mammoth Cave is only an hour and a half from my house. I love the cave tour.

    Did they tell you the part about carbonic (sp?) acid carving out the cave? When they told me it was the same stuff in Coke, I kind of cringed at how much soda I drank (and what it’s doing to my insides). *grins*

    • Karen Wan says:

      You live in a beautiful part of our country! I had never really been through Kentucky before except passing through, and this was a very different experience of all the loveliness that is there.
      I didn’t hear about the carbonic acid, but it makes me wonder if I have some stalactites and stalagmites inside of me! 🙂
      Thanks for your comments!

  3. Three Well Beings says:

    I have never been, but I would love to visit! I had a sense of that same sacredness when hiking up to the volcano on Mt. Lassen in Northern California. Natural wonders do that for me!

    • Karen Wan says:

      My kids and I went to Mt. Lassen a few years ago, and loved that place too. We’re so lucky that there are so many beautiful and sacred spaces in America’s national parks.

    • Karen Wan says:

      It was gorgeous. Mammoth Cave is not as far from my home as I thought, so I plan to go back to the caves again either this autumn or next, so I can see experience the park in another season!

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