As some of you know, I've been doing quite a bit of traveling to places of power over the last few years; both "big name" sacred places (like Eleusis) and personal sacred places (like The Gateway to Arcadia). I always come home with a bag full of rocks and dirt. My most precious is probably a small stone which fell from the cave wall of the Plutonion, the great Entry into the Underworld at Eleusis. I use them in a lot of different ways, including some of the ways the other bloggers have spoken about. However, today I want to talk about one very specific way I use them, as keys to open astral temples.
There is some debate, among magicians I know, about just how places of power become so. Some believe that it is human agency that empowers them, the legacy of centuries of magic and worship. While I think that can have some effect, that is not my belief. I believe that power arises from and abides in the land, and we humans, when we build our most sacred temples, are really only acknowledging the indwelling power of the place. No matter how they get that way, Places of Power are powerful links, powerful gateways between our World and the Other Place.
One of the oddest Jewish names for G-d is המקום, HaMakom. Although it's sometimes translated as "The Omnipresent", it literally means "The Place" or "Space". Let's not sugar-coat it; that's a real weird thing to call your god, and it raises a lot of questions. It has a lot of strange connotations; G-d is, we know, non-physical and transcendent. Isn't "The Place" the most physically instantiated, most locale-specific thing we could call a deity? It hints at the great mystery of spiritual ascent, which St. Augustine perhaps sums up best: Intus Deu altus est, the highest God is deep inside, and we find it by journeying to that Other Place.
It's not at all clear, from the way the word is used in Torah, that's it's even intended as a name. However, by the time of Talmud, it was certainly understood that way (at least sometimes). For example, Genesis 28:11-16 has Jacob stopping in Bethel en route to Haran, fleeing from Esau, and soon to meet Rachel and Leah.
When he came to haMakom, he stopped for the night because Shemesh [the sun] had gone down." He lays down, and dreams a famous dream, called Jacob's Ladder. "Then Jacob woke up from his sleep and exclaimed, “Certainly, HaShem is in this place, and I didn't know it!” Filled with awe, he said, “How awe-inspiring haMakom is! Certainly, this is the house of Elohim and the gateway to heaven!”
In a classic commentary on Genesis, we read: "Rebi Huna in the name of Rebi Eliezer said, “Why is The Holy One, Blessed is He, called ‘Makom’? Because He is the place of the world, but the world is not His place." Whatever the fuck that means.
The place most (Jewish) people know the name from is the prayer of comfort for mourners, "המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים" "HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion vee'Yerushalayim." "May The Place comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." It seems odd, doesn't it, that the name we'd choose to use when we pray to console the grieving is HaMakom. Wouldn't HaRachamim (The Compassionate) or even Shaddai (the Nurturing Breast) be more intuitive a choice?
And yet, each of us has been to a place, somewhere, sometime, where we felt ensconced in safety and love. The prayer brings us back to that place, to the Place of Power and the indwelling god thereof. And so, where we make pilgrimage to a sacred place, either in the body or in the spirit, we commune deeply with HaMakom.
What does any of that have to do with magical links? I'm glad you asked! For many of us, traveling the Other Place is a hard-won skill, and it can be difficult to navigate, even with a guide. But by using a rock (or other physical talisman) as a "key" we can enter directly into the astral temple associated with the place, and commune directly with the spirits that abide there.
How? Well, for me, I like to like down, and place the stone on my forehead. I feel the weight of it, and slowly, as I enter into trance, I feel myself merge into the stone. I sing the stone's song, know the stone's place, return to the stone's home. And then, just like that, I am there, just where I took the stone from, where the coin I payed for it landed. Once there, I can draw on the power of the place to energize my work, or consult with the spirits of the place. I can collaborate with the millennia of other seekers and priests and magicians who have worked there, learning from them. I can travel from there to other places under its auspices.
And so, that's why I bring home a bag full of rocks and dirt, no matter where I go.