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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in circumambulation

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Walk-Around

Here's one of those rare universals in human religion: you honor something sacred by walking around it.

In technical language, this is known as circumambulation, from the Latin circum, "around" + ambulatio, "a walking" (cp. amble) < ambulare, "to walk." In plain old English, the Sacred Language of the Witches, we could call it a "walk-around."

Probably the most famous walk-around in contemporary religion is the sevenfold circumambulation of the Ka'aba in Mecca during the annual hajj. But this is just Islam's version of something that pretty much everyone, everywhere, does.

A standing stone. A sacred tree.  A sacred spring. A statue. A temple. You honor them by walking around them.

There don't seem to be many particulars in this observance. In Western traditions, generally it's done with the right hand toward whatever Hallow it is that you're circumambulating, i.e. deosil. It's best to go around some sacred number of times: three, nine, thirteen.

Needless to say, you don't just walk. There's inner work here to be done while you're doing your walking: prayer, meditation, the singing of a hymn.

Of course, this isn't just something that humans do: it's much larger than that. The Moon circumambulates Earth, Earth walks-around Sun. The Sun circles the Galactic Center. Circles within circles within circles.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    And dogs....
  • Katie
    Katie says #
    I have the mental image of a cat turning and turning around their chosen napping place. We know cats take sleeping seriously. The
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    For some time now, when I visit my spiritual home, it's been my habit to walk around the perimeter of the ritual circle three time
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    An added dimension to casting circles.

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