Prayers of the Earth

Volume 43, Issue 3 :: Text and photographs by Cindy A. Pavlinac

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Sacred landscapes mirror the order of the earthly cosmos, providing context and defining regional culture. Terrain and climate inform society, civilization, spirituality, and attitude. The local spirit of place is greeted and given a precinct from which to interact with people ceremonially.

Prehistoric peoples built astronomical calendars with raised stones and petroglyphs. Classical Greek and Roman sanctuaries enhanced mountains and hot springs, aligning avenues and buildings for seasonal festivals. Medieval cathedrals rose on older sacred groves and wells, translating nature’s geometry into mathematical principles to depict spiritual order in soaring stone and glass.

Set apart from the secular, sacred landscapes have clear boundaries, gateways, foci, and protocol. A destination for pilgrimage, retreat, and rites of passages, they hold humanness in a larger context. They remind people of their place in the cosmos and evoke big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I belong? What is God? Where is home?

Sacred landscapes offer a philosophy where everything is holy, everything has layers of meaning, and everything experienced is symbolic. A mountain is a temple, a journey, a struggle, a triumph. The expansive scale of sacred landscapes humbles us, and our personal dramas are reduced to a fleeting blink in the presence of sites millennia old. Sacred landscapes teach us to recognize the cosmic patterns in ordinary things, and fosters a deeper way of seeing the world. Sacred landscapes align us to cosmic harmonics, so we may walk our path in the world awake and aware, balancing cultivated with wild, at home in the center of peace.

Cindy Pavlinac is a photographer, writer, and artist in San Rafael, California, who has traveled the world documenting sacred landscapes. Her work can be found at

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