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Paul Devereux’s Sacred Geography Series

Gallery One: Where the Great Spirit Sits

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  1. Where the Great Spirit Sits (1)

    This sacred geography is to be found in the forested wilderness of Whiteshell Provincial Park in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Its two main focal areas are Tie Creek and Bannock Point. Of these two, Tie Creek is the best preserved, because it is the remotest and access is only allowed with an Anishinabe (Ojibway) people. This is a general view of Tie Creek.

  2. Where the Great Spirit Sits (2)

    This location is a broad area of tablerock scraped clear by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago, on which abstract and figurative designs, large and small, have been laid out by an unknown people long ago using small rocks. The designs, technically referred to as ‘petroforms’, include large-scale abstract and geometric patterns, such as lines, grids, curved and radial settings – like the one seen here.

  3. Where the Great Spirit Sits (3)

    A grid-like petroform setting at Tie Creek. No one knows the meaning of the petroform designs. Current First Nation, Indian, lore says that they are large-scale versions of the bark scrolls traditionally used by Ojibway people for teaching. Others interpretations say the designs are schematic depictions of sweat lodges, or of culture heroes, particularly Waynaboozhoo, the First Anishinabe. But today’s Indians do not claim that their ideas are necessarily the correct ones.

  4. Where the Great Spirit Sits (4)

    Another view of a boulder pattern at Tie Creek.

    The considerable antiquity of some of the features is indicated by dense lichen growth around the rocks, but their exact age is uncertain. Archaeologists have dated the remnants of a campsite found among the ground markings to c.500 A.D.

  5. Where the Great Spirit Sits (5)

    Around the perimeters of the tablerock area at Tie Creek, there are petroform depictions of wolf and bear paw marks a yard/metre across, as if giant versions of these creatures had padded in out of the surrounding forest.

  6. Where the Great Spirit Sits (6)

    At the approach to the Tie Creek petroform landscape is a natural boulder resembling a buffalo at rest, a simulacrum which in itself would have signified the sanctity of the area – indeed, an area so sacred that it is known to the Indians as Manito Ahbee, “Where the Great Spirit Sits”, and gives its name to the entire province of Manitoba.

  7. Where the Great Spirit Sits (7)

    At Bannock Point there are more figurative, representational elements than at Tie Creek, especially rock arrangements depicting serpents or snakes, an example of which is seen here.

    Ritual activity and religious observance is still undertaken at these petroform sites, and votive cloths tied to trees and the timber frames of long houses and sweat lodges are to be found close to the petroform designs.

    Present-day Anishinabe lore states that the designs were laid out by the First People.

  8. Where the Great Spirit Sits (8)

    At Bannock Point there are numerous turtle-shaped rings of rock that were vision quest “beds”. (In vision quests, an individual goes to a lonely or venerated place and spends a few days and nights with little or no food or sleep until a vision is had.) Many of the vision quest beds are ancient, but there are newer ones to, indicating the continuing of ritual practice at these sites.

In this 5-part series of galleries, we will look at a range of sacred geographies, the mindscapes of past times that can still speak to our souls. The power of sacred place.


Paul Devereux’s Sacred Geographies Series
Gallery One: Where the Great Spirit Sits

For several decades, part of my work has involved researching and visiting ancient sacred landscapes in many parts of the world – they are legacies of the ancestral mind and soul. The anthropological term is that these are “cognised” landscapes, which simply means ancient cultures invested the physical topographies of their lands with spiritual or mythic meaning.

Sacred landscapes come in many forms, sizes and types. They are usually visual, but can sometimes also involve sound and even smell – a beach in the Fiji islands, for instance, is considered a haunt of ancestral spirits because the sands there happen to smell like vanilla.

The examples I’ve selected for this first Gallery are Tie Creek and Bannock Point in Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. Access to Tie Creek is only allowed with a guide approved by the local Anishinabe (Ojibway) people. When I was being taken there, we first made offerings at Buffalo Rock, then proceeded along a forest trail. At points along the track, the guide pointed out paw prints in the moist, dark earth and informed that a timber wolf was circling us, keeping an eye on us. (I’d already had an encounter with a black bear when studying Bannock Point on my own, a day earlier. These places have their guardian animals!)

Eventually, we broke out of the dense forest onto a broad expanse of tablerock, scraped bare by glaciers many thousands of years ago. I gradually became aware that this flat, rock plain was punctuated by arrangements of smallish rocks. First Nation (Indian) people still make pilgrimages to this location, and venerate certain “grandfather rocks” among the rock designs, the “boulder mosaics” as they are sometimes called.

Left alone to wander among the rock patterns, I wondered about the long-ago people who had made them, and the enigma these rock arrangements present. But as I meditated there, a sense (rather than a specific knowledge) about the meaning of the patterns seemed to gently manifest in my mind. This is something I’ve noticed in other, often quite different kinds of sacred landscapes – if you give them (and yourself) time, these places of ancient spiritual significance can communicate in their own quiet, numinous way. And there is a curious sense of kinship with ancient minds, bridging thousands of years.  These archaic sacred landscapes really do whisper to the soul, and here at Tie Creek I could fully appreciate why the Anishinabe call this the place where the Great Spirit sits. Oh yes.

Paul Devereux

Click here to view the whole series!

Paul Devereux is a research affiliate of the Royal College of Art, London, and is a specialist in the anthropology of consciousness, archaeoacoustics, and psi phenomena. He is a founding co-editor of the peer-review publication, Time and Mind - The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture. He has field researched ancient places ranging from European Stone Age sites, to Mayan temples, to vision quest locations in the US, and many more. Besides articles, peer-reviewed papers and magazine columns, he has authored or co-authored 27 books in as many years, including Re-Visioning the Earth, The Sacred Place, Stone Age Soundtracks, and Sacred Geography.

Read more about Paul Devereux

Comments (1)
  • Paul Devereux surveys the sacred landscapes discerning the petroforms themselves and the forms within the forms, the turtle, the serpent, the bearpaw along with abstractions illuminating our understanding of the anthropology of consciousness.  Cutting edge visualizations that provide riveting glimpses into the ancient mind.  Priceless.

    — Michael Carmichael on November 19, 2013

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