The word ‘sacred’ has cropped up often this month. Or maybe this word has always been prominent, and I’ve been slow to notice it. I attended a powwow orientation class through the Episcopal Diocese, where I learned that the space inside of a talking circle is sacred. So are the sage, cedar, tobacco and sweet grass plants that we received as gifts. And so are the eagle feathers worn by the dancers at that day’s Muckleshoot Powwow. I love this learning, and I soak it in. But, to be honest, I don’t really know what ‘sacred’ means.
In my mind, ‘sacred’ seems similar to ‘holy’ . . . except that it’s somehow different. There are some things that I hold sacred, such as my faith, my wedding vows, and the relational space that is created when people trust each other with their hopes and dreams. But if asked to define the word ‘sacred,’ I would be left stammering. What is it about my culture, my theology, my life experience, that makes the sacred such a fuzzy concept?
If I can wrap my mind around the sacred, it will probably enrich my own understanding of the world. My own belief system might differ from that of the original native peoples, but I think most faith traditions have some form of appreciation for the sacred. A quick scan of the Bible shows over 120 appearances of the term ‘sacred’ in the TNIV translation. Hmm, maybe I could just start out with Genesis . . .
At the same time, understanding what the sacred means to others, on their own terms, would help me to grasp what it means to live on First Nations land. Many of the landforms that surround me are considered sacred. Snoqualmie Falls, and the mist that rises from it, are held sacred by the Snoqualmie Tribe. Mt. Rainer, also called Tacoma or Ti’Swaq, is sacred to many. So, what does it mean for me, as a descendent of European immigrants, to live in and near those sacred spaces? I’m thinking about it. If and when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.