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Magic in the Landscape

Earth Mysteries and Geomancy

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Learn to cultivate a traditional, beneficial relationship with the land by embracing the forgotten practices of our ancestors

• Details the ancient art of geomancy and Earth magic, including how to work with ley lines, astrology, and the four directions to honor a space and make it a place of power

• Explores the magic of the land around us and how our ancestors interacted with Earth energies and the forces of Nature

• Discusses the power of boundaries and magic circles, the proper “feng shui” of graveyards and cemeteries, and magically powerful places such as crossroads, fairgrounds, and the mystic triangles found in “no-man’s lands”

Our ancestors were deeply aware of the magical power of their local landscape, no matter where they lived. Every interaction with their environment--from building to farming to the layout of ancient cities--took into account terrestrial energies, ancestral memory, and the many seen and unseen presences in Nature. They developed sophisticated procedures for orienting their living spaces and respectfully working with the magic of the landscape. Yet, much of the art of geomancy and of working with the forces of Nature has been forgotten by modern builders, architects, foresters, gardeners, and homeowners. The treatment of land as mere property has led to a loss of its meaning for those who dwell upon it. Our landscape has become disenchanted.

In this book, geomancy expert and scholar Nigel Pennick details the ancient and sacred practices of geomancy and Earth magic and reveals how we can reenchant and reconnect to the sacred landscape that surrounds us, whether you live rurally, in the suburbs, or in cities. Pennick begins with a vivid look at our modern “wasteland” and what he calls “the ensouled world,” with specific examples from Britain and Iceland of our ancestors’ way of perceiving the world they lived in. Exploring the art of geomancy, he examines how its techniques work with ley lines, astrology, and the old understanding of the four directions and the eight winds to honor a space and make it a place of power. He looks at the power of boundaries and magic circles, including laying ghosts and dismissing spirits, as well as the proper “feng shui” for cemeteries and graveyards. The author then takes the reader back into the traditional landscape to discuss magically powerful places, such as crossroads, the occult nature of the “fairground,” and the mystic triangles found in what are popularly known as “no-man’s lands.”

Revealing how the landscape can be reenchanted, Pennick shows how the magic of place is a living system that each of us can interact with.

Chapter 7: Boundaries

Boundaries are primarily about ownership. Property rights, whether private, public or sacred, define the meaning of areas in culture and in law. Those who claim ownership to areas, which can range from a few square meters to a nation-state, essentially bar access to those areas by those whom the owners consider have no right to be there. This principle applies to areas deemed property as well as those deemed in the ownership of spiritual beings.

Boundaries are conceptual or physical lines of division between perceived areas, invisible or visible lines of demarcation that separate and define relationships between separated areas in contact with one another. Boundaries can be natural or artificial, passable or impassable. Natural boundaries like rivers, unclimbable ridges, mountains and seas are obvious to everyone; they create barriers to all that walk; only flying creatures may cross them without problems. These natural boundaries are geographical ‘givens’ with which human beings must come to terms. Human-made boundaries, though arbitrary, are invested with the characteristics of natural boundaries, backed up with human force.

Magic Circles and Conjuring Parsons

Although they are rarely viewed as such, megalithic circles in the landscape are de facto magic circles, the favored means of the magician who deals with spirits. Whether or not they were built for that purpose is, of course, unknown and unknowable, but they can certainly serve that function. Fairy rings, patterns on the grass caused by the growth of fungi, said to be the dancing-places of the wildfolk, are natural versions of the circles utilized by human magicians. Chapter 23 of H.C. Agrippa’s seminal work of magic, Three Books of Occult Philosophy (Antwerp, 1531) is titled, Of Geometrical Figures and Bodies, by what Virtue they are Powerful in Magic, and Which are Agreeable to each Element, and the Heaven. Of the circle, the 1651 English edition tells us: “Of these first of all, the circle doth answer to unity; for unity is the centre and circumference of all things .... a circle is called an infinite line ... whose beginning and end is in every point, whence also a circular motion is called infinite, not according to time but according to place; hence a circle being the largest [in relative area of any geometric figure – N.P.] and perfectest of all is judged to be most fit for bindings and conjurations; whence they who adjure evil spirits are wont to environ themselves about with a circle”. The circle functions as the magical protection of the magician who has called up powers that otherwise might destroy him or her.

As Agrippa described, the demonic empire has customarily been kept from entering the realm of humans through magical boundaries set up by magicians and magician-priests, and historically not only wizards and witches were adept in dealing with spirits. In the West Country, particularly in Cornwall, was a tradition of Conjuring Parsons, clergymen who practised the binding of demons and the laying of ghosts. In the West Country, as well as a triangular enclosure of ground, a magic circle is known as a ‘gallitrap’ and making such circles to trap and command spirits was the work of the conjuring parson. The best documentation comes from the seventeenth century, a period when such conjuration by those who were not clergymen laid them open to accusations of witchcraft. As far as can be told from the records, conjuring parsons appear to have practiced a form of folk-magic common with other cunning men. Parson Corker of Lamorna was a noted “huntsman, ghost-layer, and devil-driver”. As with Rudall, making a pentagram was part of his rites for subduing spirits: “the parson .... drew the magic pentagram and sacred triangle, within which they placed themselves for safety, and commenced the other ceremonies, only known to the learned, which are required for the effectual subjugation of restless spirits ...” (Rees 1898, 256). Conjuring parsons not only cast magic circles and expelled demons, but provided charms and talismans for protection and advantage. The Cornish story of Jackey Trevail and his wrestling-match with the Devil recounted by William Bottrell tells how the conjuring parson Wood helped him by giving him a charm: “”You must keep your word with the Devil ... I shall not go with you, yet depend on it I'll be near at hand to protect you against unfair play." Whilst saying this Mr. Wood took from his pocket-book a slip of parchment, on which certain mystic signs and words were traced or written. “Secure this in the left-hand side of your waistcoat,” said he, in giving it to Jackey; “don't change your waistcoat, and be “sure to wear it in the encounter ; above all, mind ye - show no fear, but behave with him precisely as you would with any ordinary wrestler, and don't spare him, or be fooled by his devices.”” (Bottrell 1880, 6). The banishment of spirits to the Red Sea by conjuring parsons of the West Country reflects the northern European traditional recognition of a kingdom of the dead beneath large bodies of water, both lakes and the open sea. The English word soul comes from an early Germanic word meaning “belonging to the lake”, referring directly to this ancient belief (Hasenfratz 2011, 72). In the northern tradition, seabound souls went to the goddess Ran, and in much later nautical tradition, to Davy Jones, in whose locker they are housed. Those who die on land may also go into the waters, to be reborn later as new babies. The motif of a baby being delivered by a stork is a remnant of this belief.

An authority on ancient belief systems, traditions, runes, and geomancy, Nigel Pennick is the author of several books, including The Sacred World of the Celts, Secret Games of the Gods, and The Ancient Science of Geomancy. He lives near Cambridge, England, where he follows the oral tradition and Pagan lore of his native East Anglia.

“Richly researched! A fascinating insight into a practice in need of returning, one that will go a long way in healing and reclaiming a magical relationship with the sacred landscape.”

– Philip Carr-Gomm, author of Druid Mysteries and Lessons in Magic

“More often than not, modern humans have stumbled obliviously and deleteriously across the landscape they inhabit. Accordingly, their perception of reality has become ever more shallow, superficial, and desacralized--or, worst of all, may now be abandoned entirely in favor of virtual simulacra. Swimming against this tide for over half a century, Nigel Pennick is a tireless explorer and surveyor of the ensouled and eldritch world that still persists around us, despite our blind and clumsy attempts to constantly ‘develop’ and smother it for short-term gains. At its root, Magic in the Landscape is a treatise about the authenticity that results from meaningful human interaction with the earth and its myriad energies. In this modest ‘spiritual gazetteer,’ Pennick reveals some of the countless crossroads where local traditions and topography intersect, always with the aim of shedding light upon the deeper soulscape that these practices reflect.”

– Michael Moynihan, Ph.D., coeditor of Tyr: Myth–Culture–Tradition

“In this book, Nigel expertly weaves together a narrative exploring the power of place and humankind’s changing relationship with it. It is a thought-provoking and well-written exploration of the physical and spiritual aspects of the landscape, revealing the world about us to be more than an impersonal backdrop against which we live out our lives. Within these pages, Nigel reminds us of the importance of how we choose to orient ourselves within this ensouled world and of the necessity for discernment in any mundane and magical interactions we might make with the land beneath our heels.”

– Martin Duffy, author of The Spirit of the Downs: Witchcraft and Magic in Sussex

“In this book, Pennick does what he does so well--wears his deep learning lightly and makes more profound and highly readable connections between magic and the visible world than you could shake a geomantic staff at. He reminds us of the necessity of sacred space and the disenchantment of the world, demolishing the prettification of rural Britain and our loss of magical tradition. He also shows that what we now call feng shui existed in Britain long before it got fashionable and that just a few centuries ago major buildings were founded at times and places indicated by astrology. Should we need such a reminder, a postscript on magic makes it clear that Pennick is not some tenured academic toeing the scientism party line but a practicing magician who is writing from real personal experience.”

– David Lee, author of Life Force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magic

"For me, the old stones also stand as reminders--to jog our collective memory, as it were--of something important the human race has lost, or at least forgotten, yet might find again. They are mystical places of 'earth magic' where the veil between the worlds is thin, especially at solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets, with which many of them are aligned. All such things make Nigel Pennick’s latest book all the more timely and essential, not only in emphasising the enormous value of re-enchanting the land through an honouring and internalising of the magical traditions of our ancestors, who lived more in harmony with nature and cosmos, but also in its potential to influence a new generation of readers hungry for meaning in a conflicted world."

– Geoff Ward, writer, poet, tutor and mentor in literature and creative writing

More books from this author: Nigel Pennick