In light of a recent sharpening of focus for me as a Temple Keeper, this blog has acquired a new subtitle: “A Dark Pagan Sanctuary and Temple Space”. (The previous subtitle was “A vision of Pagan monastic life, the joys of solitude, and the dark divine.”) I have also made some corresponding changes to the FAQ. These changes reflect my shift away from broadly exploring the possibilities of eco-village-based interfaith Pagan monasticism, and highlight a much-needed narrowing of my focus toward envisioning, planning, and eventually building a small sanctuary and chthonic temple space designed specifically for cave-dweller Pagan hermits like me.
Recently I spent an afternoon at a religious sanctuary in Portland, OR called The Grotto. The visit included a labyrinth walk (my first, although I’ve been reading about labyrinths for years), some contemplative moments in front of rock formations and a cave shrine, and some time in a beautifully designed meditation studio with a panoramic view overlooking the city of Portland. While I don’t connect with The Grotto’s Christian statuary or imagery at all, I am very moved by the beauty of the immense rocks and the urban forest setting, as well as the devotion and commitment required to maintain such a space for community use since its inception in 1924.
For at least 10 years now, I have felt a strong pull to build something like this for dark Pagans, Heathens, polytheists, and others of earthly mystical inclinations. Every time I go to The Grotto, it deepens and renews my vision of a somewhat similar (albeit quieter and MUCH smaller-scale) sanctuary and temple space – a haven for hermits and contemplatives who thrive in solitude of a deeper and darker variety. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, depending on how you frame it – all of my previous attempts to bring this vision to fruition have been derailed, for reasons mostly beyond my control. This year, however, the yearning I feel to do this seems to have taken on a new sense of urgency. The project feels as if it’s more within reach, although I can’t explain why.
As I’ve mentioned before, my role for the gods and spirits I serve is that of a Temple Keeper, but definitely not the New Age rainbow-white-light-and-transcendence sort. The work I’ve been tasked with is to create a space of dark sanctuary to connect with and honour the earthly divine. If my many previous derailed attempts are any indication, my assignment is not to start a Bohemian tea business (much as I once thought so), a Pagan community center, an interfaith monastery, or an eco-village/intentional community for hermits. I might very well appreciate and provide support to any or all of the above efforts elsewhere, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the primary work I must carry out is of a much less publicly visible nature.
Currently, the Hermitage occupies the studio flat that also serves as my living space. However, I will eventually need to introduce a greater degree of separation between my everyday home life and the temple space, which may mean I will need to move. I have virtually no idea where the new incarnation of the Hermitage will be located, how it will be laid out, who else will be involved, or how I’m going to find the necessary resources to pull this off, but…well, we’re taking this one step at a time. These things are for Them to decide. For now, my role seems to be one of “active waiting” and asking for guidance until it becomes clear where the temple wants to be located.
Unlike The Grotto, however, the future incarnation of the Black Stone Hermitage will not be open to the public. It will be a privately owned property, just as it is now, but there will be a certain element of community outreach. It will be a place for sacred solitude, personal gnosis, creative incubation, prayer, worship, offerings, divination, temple dance, tea ritual, and other devotional activities. It will be made available for these uses by appointment. It will feature some combination of the following:
* Lovingly tended shrines, including a serpent shrine and temple dance shrine
* Pagan goddesses and gods statuary
* Lots of black stone
* Cavelike enclosed spaces
* A labyrinth
* Dark Bohemian décor
* A chthonic, subterranean, “deep silence” feel
* Catacombs, grottoes, crypts
* Sacred groves
* Moss and bamboo
* Black hooded cloaks worn for ritual
* A theatre, tent, or other proper setting for dark fusion temple dance performances (featuring dark ambient and industrial music)
* Tea service
* A small media reference library
When the right place for this is found, and when doors start opening to lead me to the necessary resources, then it shall be done. It’s likely that even with strong and clear divine guidance, it will still take me many years to be in a position to properly carry this out. But I hereby publicly renew my commitment to do this – no matter how long it takes – or go to the ends of the earth trying.