Sacred Space and Sacred Time


1.    Mirea Eliade (historian of religion) – studied the ways in which the sacred appears in space and time.  No preset assumptions from any given tradition.

a.    Sacred and Profane = two fundamental modes of being in the world, as assumed by humankind throughout history

b.    Sacred is always something extraordinary and distinct from profane

c.    Anything can be set apart as sacred – objects, buildings, places = used to manifest the sacred

d.    He referred to the manifestation of the sacred as a hierophany


2.    Space itself varies in its qualities for the religious.

a.    Examples:

                                                                         i.     Moses on Mt. Sinai – the Lord says “Put off thy shoes from they feet for the place where thou stands is holy ground.”  Eliade: the space is strong, significant, consistent and often structured, with form.  The only real and really existing space.  Surrounded by formless expanse.

                                                                       ii.     Temple grounds at Kanda; mosques – purification before entry


3.    The establishment of a fixed point of sacred space is equivalent to founding or creating a world.

a.    Provides a hierophany

b.    The center point provides orientation and order amidst the chaos of profane space.

c.    A holy space reveals a reality other than the one a person participates in throughout ordinary life.

d.    Axis mundi: An opening to, or connection point with, the holy or divine; an epicenter or central point from which sacred power emanates.  A central point at which communication with sacred power is possible.  = the center of the world.  Umbilical (feminine), world post.  Establishes a world


                                                                         i.     Jacob’s ladder

                                                                       ii.     Maypole in section on Morpheus

                                                                     iii.     Tree in the Lakota ceremony

                                                                      iv.     Stump of revelation in Lilydale

                                                                        v.     Yggdrasil – world ash in Norse mythology

                                                                      vi.     Totem pole


4.    Sacred Time is also set apart – holy days, worship, festivals.   A break in the profane.

a.    Eliade: sacred time is reversible.  A primordial mythical time made present.

b.    Reactualization of a sacred event (often the event of creation) that took place  “in the beginning” - in illo tempore.  Mythical time

c.    Ritual reenactment actually recreates renews the world – passage from chaos into order.  Life renewed, cycles of time renewed (e.g., seasons, creation).

d.    Archaic experience – nostalgia, desire to overcome and abolish profane time.