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Claiming Sacred Ground

Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona

Adrian J. Ivakhiv

Publication Year: 2001

Claiming Sacred Ground
Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona

Adrian J. Ivakhiv

A study of people and politics at two New Age spiritual sites.

In this richly textured account, Adrian Ivakhiv focuses on the activities of pilgrim-migrants to Glastonbury, England and Sedona, Arizona. He discusses their efforts to encounter and experience the spirit or energy of the land and to mark out its significance by investing it with sacred meanings. Their endeavors are presented against a broad canvas of cultural and environmental struggles associated with the incorporation of such geographically marginal places into an expanding global cultural economy.

Ivakhiv sees these contested and "heterotopic" landscapes as the nexus of a complex web of interestes and longings: from millennial anxieties and nostalgic re-imaginings of history and prehistory; to real-estate power grabs; contending religious visions; and the free play of ideas from science, pseudo-science, and popular culture. Looming over all this is the nonhuman life of these landscapes, an"otherness" that alternately reveals and conceals itself behind a pagenant of beliefs, images, and place-myths.

A significant contribution to scholarship on alternative spirituality, sacred space, and the politics of natural landscapes, Claiming Sacred Ground will interest scholars and students of environmental and cultural studies, and the sociology of religious movements and pilgrimage. Non-specialist readers will be stimulated by the cultural, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of extraordinary natural landscapes.

Adrian Ivakhiv teaches in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto, and is President of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada.

April 2001
384 pages, 24 b&w photos, 2 figs., 9 maps, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, index, append.
cloth 0-253-33899-9 $37.40 s /

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

Human history has been a rather episodic affair. Depending on where and when one was born into it, the world may have looked comfortingly—or oppressively—certain, stable, and secure; or it may have been dizzyingly open-ended and uncertain. Ours is one of the latter episodes. The certainties that had held together much of Euro-American modernity—stories about human ...

One. Departures

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One. Power and Desire in Earth’s Tangled Web

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pp. 3-17

One of the defining narratives of Western culture has been a story of power and of knowledge: that science and technology—the disinterested pursuit of knowledge and its technical application toward human welfare— have established humanity as the reigning power on this Earth. Though this power might not always be equitably shared nor wisely deployed, it is a ...

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Two. Reimagining Earth

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pp. 18-43

The axis around which New Age and ecospiritual beliefs about the Earth revolve is the idea that modernity has alienated humans from the natural world, but that this alienation can be dissolved or cured. Three themes predominate in the expanding body of New Age and ecospiritual literature. First, there is the idea that the Earth is a living organism or being of which ...

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Three. Orchestrating Sacred Space

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pp. 44-62

Most societies distinguish places that are deemed especially significant, sacred or powerful, imbued with authority or prestige, or reserved for special uses, from those which lack such significance.1 The idea that sacredness inheres in a place, emanating from it of its own accord, is frequently taken for granted by believers in that place’s sacred status. The distinguished scholar ...

Two. Glastonbury

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Four. Stage, Props, and Players of Avalon

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pp. 65-92

Britain in recent decades has been a nation struggling to redefine itself amid a congeries of apparently irresolvable factions and tendencies: among them, long-standing English pride in a history glorified as the source of democratic ideals, of industrial and technological revolutions, and of a romantic, chivalrous, and royal past; a composite British identity, dominated ...

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Five. Many Glastonburys: Place-Myths and Contested Spaces

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pp. 93-142

The task of living in a place requires the elaboration of myths and historical narratives around and about it. I have introduced two of Glastonbury’s histories already: that told by scholarly historians (which figures its way into all the others to greater or lesser degrees), and that of the recently established alternative community. In the struggles between these and other interpretive ...

Three. Sedona

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Six. Red Rocks to Real Estate

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pp. 145-172

In an erudite essay on the many definitions of the U.S. Southwest, James Byrkit describes the characteristic physiographic features of this area, the boundaries of which are notoriously difficult to pin down: “Rugged mountains and large rocks; sharp, steep canyons; irregular basins and valleys; wide deserts; high plateaus; small but high-elevation meadows and parks; and ...

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Seven. Vortexes and Crossed Currents: Sedona’s Multichannel Wilderness

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pp. 173-208

Sedona’s New Age, or metaphysical, community—the terms are used interchangeably, though the latter has been in use for a longer time1—constitutes a tolerated and not particularly powerful minority of the city’s population. However, much of Sedona’s reputation in the world at large has resulted from its celebration by the New Age and alternative spirituality ...

Four. Arrivals

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Eight. Practices of Place: Nature, Heterotopia, and the Postmodern Sacred

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pp. 211-239

In the process of interpreting the sacralization of Sedona and Glastonbury, I have made reference to three distinct approaches or hypotheses. The first, a fairly conventional social-scientific view, typically interprets the construction of the sacred with the aid of social, psychological or political-economic explanations. The second, the explicitly religious perspective of the believer ...


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pp. 241-284


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pp. 285-316


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pp. 317-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780253108388
E-ISBN-10: 0253108381
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253338990

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos, 1 figures, 9 maps, 1 index
Publication Year: 2001