Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Tell me what “the sacred” means to you. Win a $25 Amazon gift card.

The contest is closed. Thanks for all the great comments!




If I say something is “sacred,” what does that mean to you?

Personally, I don’t believe in sky fairies or genies in bottles.

But I do feel a sense of sanctity moving through all of life. It’s this feeling that a tree is not just a tree. The building I am living in is not just a building. The woman who made my coffee today is not just a woman. And that cup of coffee was not just a cup of coffee.

So what are those things, then?

I don’t know. To me, they are symbols of themselves, but there’s more to it than that. They are sacred.

I’m not inspired to worship this sanctity—if “worship” means to put something on a pedestal and honor it as being more sacred than myself. I’m not going to bow down and offer my obeisance to coffee (although sometimes I feel like I want to). I am tired of gods that put distance between themselves and me by demanding my worship. That’s hierarchical and authoritarian.

Anything that attempts to gain my devotion through hierarchy, classism, authority, or fear is not valid.

Whatever the sacred is, it doesn’t need authority or obedience.

So no—I am not inspired to worship the sacred.

I am, however, deeply inspired to honor it, and to connect with it by transcending who I think I am (and this does require humbling myself—or at least, humbling my ego.)

Because like I said, that tree is not just a tree. That coffee is not just coffee. That woman is not just a woman. And if these things hold true, then it holds true that I am not just myself.

If I can transcend who and what I think I am, and connect with my true sacred nature, then could I not also connect with that tree and that woman? With all of life and existence? With that sense of divinity I feel flowing through it all? Could I, maybe, possibly, feel the divine in my own soul—as more than just an idea? Could I experience godhead? Could I humble myself and feel myself exalted in the same movement? Could I connect with you as you read these words? Is the sacred essence that breathes life into you and me the same thing? Can you feel me as part of you as you read these words?

I don’t know.

In a previous article with this new-age-hippie slant, I shared my new personal definitions of “sacred.” Here they are again, slightly modified:

– Existing both higher than and deeper than the objects and experiences of everyday life.

– Facilitating the expansion of consciousness of love.

– Bringing an individual closer to the eternal within themselves, within others, and within the Universe as a whole; a source of, and point of connection with, awe and with love; a source of wisdom and love; a source of connection with life.

Now I’m wondering about you, my kin, my other self—what do you say? Do you feel the sacred, and what does it mean for you? How does it touch your life?

Come up with your own definition, and maybe an example of when you felt the sacred in action. Then share them in a comment on underneath this article.

I’ll choose a few of the most interesting, thoughtful answers and call them winners.


As with any contest, there are a few rules. Guidelines, I mean.

1. Don’t define “sacred” by saying it’s “holy” or “divine.” Those are just synonyms for “sacred,” and they tell me nothing.

2. Don’t copy a definition from another source. Come on, that’s plagiarism. Only lazy people plagiarize things.

3. I’m probably going to show favor to ideas that don’t reflect organized religion. Organized religion isn’t what I’m referring to when I talk about the sacred (although I do sense its presence there…sometimes). That said, share what’s in your heart. This is more about learning from each other than being right or wrong.

4. If you don’t know where to start, I have a bunch of questions in this article that can help you play with ideas about sanctity and defining/designing your own god. (If you click the article, scroll down; the questions are in a paragraph under the picture of the girl in the tree.)


Submit your comment and subscribe to the series “Redefining the Sacred.” (The subscribe button is at the bottom of this page. Click it to see a list of categories you can subscribe to. Check “Redefining the Sacred.” Sorry I have to explain all this right here—this website is pretty new, and I’m still working out kinks and simplifying things.)

I’ll pick two comments as the winners and send them a $25 gift card to Amazon.

Love to you!




Bronwyn Morgan says:

The Sacred describes a reverence for and a soulful connection to the the creative, harmonizing and ever expanding power of the universe, it’s as much individualized as it is collective.

mythraeum says:

Bronwyn: “…as much individualized as it is collective.” Love that! Thank you. 🙂

Melissa Berger says:

Sacred. When I say the word, I automatically feel as though I’m in the presence of something or someone extremely special. And in my mind, “it” or “they” belongs to me, even if only for a scant second, and then I’m able to express my appreciation and then let it go into the universe.

I write this in the simplest form possible, for if I become too complex in thought, the sacred loses the hierarchy disappears into anonymity.

mythraeum says:

Thank you Melissa! I feel like you touched on something in the way that using too much intellect can make us feel a little less “connected” to the sacred…what I mean is, we can talk about it but that’s not the same as experiencing it. Like thinking is not the same as being.

Patrice says:

I know that it exists because I can feel it. It’s a sense of complete peace in moments of utter stillness in the presence of something that I find amazingly beautiful that I am contemplating as well as a sense of immense gratitude when something I really needed to solve an issue or complete a project just shows up from a source I never considered. In short I think that’s synchronicity and serenity as one. If people could experience this more frequently or even realize that’s what they are seeking, harmony would begin to build rapidly and become the world’s dominant vibration. But it is most definitely a loving presence.

mythraeum says:

Beautiful way of putting it, thank you!

Patrice says:

I am not seeing the subscribe button. Can you point it out? Thank-you.

mythraeum says:

Argh, sorry Patrice! I should have a sign up that says “pardon our dust.” The subscribe button is all the way at the bottom of the page, in the toolbar with copyright information on it. I know, it’s not the best location for it. I’m asking my web guy to fix that up and make it a little more obvious.

When you click “subscribe” a box will pop up that gives you options for which categories to subscribe to. You can just click “Redefining the Sacred,” and then you should only get updates for posts in this series. But let me know if something doesn’t work out so I can fix it up. 🙂

M. H. Pascal says:

Giving it a go, I’ll use an analogy. As a children we learned that if you spoke a common word repeatedly enough, the term was reduced to a meaningless utterance. Language was lost. Linguists refer to that phenomenon as “semantic satiation”.

As infants when our mother, the bottle or a toy, etc… is taken from our sight; the object exists no longer. During our first year we learn that objects do exist independent of our present sensation of them.

I posit the term, “existential satiation” to explain sacred experience. In man’s pursuit of meaning, he loses all meaning. His contemplation renders his search itself meaningless, just as the word repeated becomes a detached sound. So, the meaninglessness of man perceiving himself as meaningless/meaningful; puts man in the presence of something deeper, wider, more expansive and possibly other dimensional. That is the sacred – recognizing, perhaps in a fleeting moment, that which is beyond your sight.

Your existence, like language, loses its coherence. You meet sound face to face. You recognize that things might exist beyond your own senses.

mythraeum says:

“Existential satiation.” Brilliant concept! I love this analogy, it really made me think. That fleeting sense that something exists beyond our sight–I hope to cultivate this as a way of seeing the world so it’s not so fleeting.

M. H. Pascal says:


Christa Avampato says:

A force that makes me believe in magic and wonder. A force that makes me feel connected to those around me as well as to those I will never meet. A power that shows me we really are all in this together.

mythraeum says:

So simply stated and I feel this through and through. Thank you!

Lori Blankenship says:

Being Native Sacred can hold many meanings depending on the way you are raised. Should it be by Traditional ways growing up speaking our language, growing our foods and eating them. Or by modern ways Hi technology, wi fi, cell phones and GB. Maybe it just getting by with just enough. Whatever it is in all things there is a respect. This is what Sacred is to me. It’s a respect you have for yourself, our elders, our young people, our beautiful land and our customs. You are not worshiping these things you are giving thanks for them. I may hold many things sacred not to worship but to give thanks. We always give thanks. For there is always someone worse off than we are. So we might consider them sacred for teaching us to be thankful and always show respect to our teachers and be thankful they were put in our path.

mythraeum says:

I feel like you’ve offered a great insight into Native spirituality. It sounds like such a state of mind and a way of looking at the world around you—like instead of thinking of this as a philosophy, it’s just what you see/experience when you look at the world. I used to work at a church (it was non-denominational, but technically Christian) where the pastor’s wife was Mohawk. Our services were always infused with Native symbols, singing, and dancing. it was such a reminder that, although we often talked about Christ, what we were REALLY talking about was present in all things. Thanks for sharing!

Sharon Bohnenberger says:

We have all experienced moments in our lives when our words seemed to fail us, and we could do nothing more than stand in absolute awe of Life. I have experienced this when standing on the beach at twilight as the first stars became visible, when sitting beside a mountain stream in the forest-filtered sunlight, or lying in a tube being pulled across a massive lake behind my dad’s boat. I know the science. I know what makes the stars shine and what makes a tree grow. I know how lakes are formed. None of that diminishes the wonder and beauty of all that surrounds me.

An old Native American proverb acknowledges that, “The Wind that gave me my first breath also received my last sigh.” I believe that we (every living thing on this planet) are far more connected than we have yet realized. Our lives, our words, our thoughts, our actions affect everyone and everything around us. Faith, for me, is trust in that connection. The Source of that awe, the Ground of Being (whatever that is) is where words fail and Life is experienced.

Imagine how vastly different the world would look if we realized our interconnectedness with all of life. What could be accomplished in terms of cleaning our environment, feeding our hungry, healing our sick, and sheltering our homeless if we would simply, and honestly, love each other? The sacred is here, now, in the dirt and the muck of everyday life. It is seen in the innocence of childhood, in the waves on the shore, in the man who gives up his life to save a stranger’s, in the mountain spring, but also in the homeless shelters, in the asylums, in the jailhouses, nursing homes and hospitals.

There is nothing supernatural about it, except that most people do not consider it “natural” to love the entire world so much that you would give up everything you have for the life of another. Our lives consist of many small decisions that, in the end, either leave this world a better or worse place than when we found it. We die (as everything does) into the very Ground of Being, the Source of Life. We return from whence we came and continue nourishing new life. Life isn’t a holding pattern until we get to “a better place.” Life is our chance to make this a better place.

mythraeum says:

“I know the science. I know what makes the stars shine and what makes a tree grow. I know how lakes are formed. None of that diminishes the wonder and beauty of all that surrounds me.”

So well said! I have always felt this way, especially about things like birth. We know what happens, but that doesn’t diminish its sanctity. Far from it. Carlos Nakai (Native American musician) said that he considers the elements and science very sacred, because they are eternal. Just because we have categorized everything and broken it down into intellectually digestible bites, doesn’t mean it’s any less awe-inspiring. If anything, it’s more so to me. Thank you!

Wakefield says:

Sacred is a quality conferred on a moment or object that calls the very fabric of a human being to stand in awe and wonder and allows that human to touch a realm which super cedes definition. One of my favorite memories was that of my twelve year old nephew in a hall of first nation totems at the UBC Museum of Anthropology waving me over “uncle, stand here, feel it.. just feel it”. Another was a morning when the smile of a coworker restarted my entire day as it reflected the warmth she possessed since childhood.

mythraeum says:

Such awesome memories! I think there’s something we can sense as kids—at least, I remember being able to sense it—that reminds us of where we really come from. (I remember that when I was a little girl and would wake up in the mornings, I had this immediate, empty sense that I had just forgotten something that I very much wanted to hold on to. It was like that feeling you have when you know you had an amazing dream, but you can’t remember what it was, and you’re trying to hold onto it.) I love the thought that those totems were still radiating sacred energy and your nephew felt it.

Gerry Grant says:

Each living thing is The Sacred. It is within us. “Our Father who art in Heaven.” means we are the children of God.

Historically religion has been an explanation for science. In Egypt they worshiped the Sun.

Nicolas Copernicus said in 1543: “What I know, the public does not approve, and what is approved, I know to be in error.”

“The center of the earth is not the center of the universe, but only of gravity and of the lunar sphere.”

Religion and science identifies living things as The Sacred.

Libbs says:

Untouchable, without fault, timeless..

Wow, can’t believe how hard it is to describe that word. Thanks!


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