Sensing Sacred Objects

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Sensing Sacred Objects

“When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real. . . . It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time.” –Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit.

How does an object become sacred? The Skin Horse is correct; time and love can do it, and children are especially gifted at infusing their most cherished objects with sacredness in this way. Every parent who tires of searching when such an object gets lost and tries to give up by saying, “It’s OK. We’ll buy you a new one,” quickly discovers what a profoundly unacceptable idea that is. Reluctantly, most of them join the community of parents the world over who are forced to cultivate the strangely intuitive ability to find lost objects!
You might even want to gather a few trusted friends or family members together and create a mini-showing of those cherished pieces that can best represent you. Listening to each other tell your stories can be a powerful way to connect more fully with one another. Every fall, seniors in the psychology program at Naropa University would be assigned to small senior-project groups designed to support each other in their work. This activity of sharing important pieces quickly became a cherished tradition, helping them deepen their connections with one another as they began their journey together.
So far, we have been considering the sacredness of ordinary objects in our daily lives. However, some objects have earned the title of sacred for more spiritual reasons. The sacred objects of orality-based cultures hold far more than the memories of their lived experiences. They hold a spiritual energy that is easily sensed by all of their members and is of vital importance to their ceremonial lives. Often the creation of these objects becomes a conscious practice in reverence to those who create them.

In 1980, Kashiwaya Sensei, an aikido master and then director of the Rocky Mountain Ki Society, gave a public talk describing the energetic and mindful nature of ki, the life force at the heart of Aikido practice. In describing its far-ranging powers, he gave the example of wood carvers creating statues of the Buddha and commented, “If you carve a Buddha without ki, it will not sell. It will not attract a buyer.” In other words, the energetic focus and intention of the carver is critical. The carvers of saints, called Santeros, of the southwest United States would agree with him. Felix Lopez of Espanola, New Mexico, is a renowned Santero who is literate and has been a high school teacher, but is very commit- ted to the traditional ways of his Spanish Catholic heritage. He spoke eloquently of his practice in a video interview in approximately 1990:

“When you carve a santo, you have to be in the right frame of mind, because it’s actually like a form of prayer. At the end, you are tired, but you feel very good about what you’ve accomplished. This is the greatest feeling.” He concludes the interview by saying, “For me, being a Santero has been a calling, a vocation from God. And I’m very thankful to Him for giving me this opportunity to create spiritual images that can help people in their spiritual lives or simply can be enjoyed by anyone if they only see it as a work of art.”