Coming Home to the Sacred by Carolyn Lee Boyd


My grandparents and mother at their home in 1929.In 1929, my grandmother wrote the word “HOME” in resounding letters across the bottom of a photo of a herself and my grandfather, smiling lovingly and confidently, with my infant mother propped in between them on a rattan chair.  Within a few years the Great Depression stole that house, rendering them desolate and homeless, cutting a psychic wound so deep that it never healed.

I recently found the photo and thought of our family’s ancestors who, millennia ago in Old Europe, worshipped the Goddess in peaceful, egalitarian societies.  Then and there, as in so many cultures outside modern western societies, “home” was a sacred place. As discovered by Marija Gimbutas and others, small statues of the Goddess were frequently found by the ovens inside family dwellings, and temples included rooms for both sanctuaries and workshops for making bread and weaving cloth. Houses and temples were extensions of one another. 

Clearly, my own family history showed that the yearning for a revered place where one experiences belonging, is accepted and loved, and feels a connection to the land, is among the deepest in the human soul.  For some “home” may mean their shelter and surrounding land, or be a whole village or city, or, for some, be many places they have lived or visited.  Ultimately, the whole planet is our common home to be revered and loved. I hear this longing in the continuation of ancestral ways for centuries after a family or community has migrated as well as in so many expressions of love for the whole Earth.

Yet, today, millions of people are living for years as refugees in camps, crossing treacherous seas in tiny boats, dying of thirst in the desert, and sleeping cold and hungry in our streets, or living in houses while knowing that any moment they will be beaten, humiliated, or killed there.  The importance of hospitality has been forgotten, for if home is sacred then it is a place of sanctuary that must be shared with those who come to our doors in need. “Home” has become “housing,” a commodity increasingly only available to the wealthy. “Home” is a prison for those women who are confined inside its four walls by the idea that women should not work or be seen in the outside world.

If these are the results of the devaluing of “home,” how do we bring back the sacredness of these places of safety, celebration, and nurturing for all? How do we again make “home,” whether our family dwelling, community, or the Earth Herself, central to the order of the universe and right relationships among all beings?  

To take that first step towards realizing a world where “homes” — personal, community or planetary — are sacred, let’s go beyond simply thinking about what a planet without the catastrophes mentioned above would be like and contemplate about who we, ourselves, might be in such a world. Real transformation, I have found, happens from the inside out, as long as it is followed by effective action.  How might you be different if…

…you had never had the fear and guilt of knowing that ours may be the last generation before much of the life on Earth becomes extinct. You and everyone you know have always lived in a balanced and sustainable way.

…you have always had comfortable shelter that has been an oases of harmony, peace, and nurturance and where you felt you belonged.   Domestic violence is unthinkable and unknown. 

…you have never worried about someday being homeless or knew that, while you are warm, fed, and safe, millions are not.

…if you choose to migrate, you know you will be welcomed for who you are and what you can bring to your new community.

However far away such a life might seem, you are probably already doing many acts to make “home” sacred. Maybe you are making your house or apartment more environmentally sustainable and simple to focus on the people rather than the objects within.  You may have an altar or other spiritual practice space. You may work to end homelessness or to help house refugees. You may in some way protect our waterways and public lands. Maybe you have created rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters where the trauma of others’ can be healed or community gathering spaces where people come together. 

We must also remember the importance of those small, everyday acts that can profoundly re-value “home” in our own and others’ attitudes and beliefs. What can seem inconsequential to us at the moment may unfold over years and years, reverberating beyond our imagining.  These acts happen when we truly have made the sacredness of “home” part of our souls and daily lives.

Outside my door is a lilac bush, perhaps the descendant of one planted by Sarah, who Lilacs from the bush that may have been outside my home for almost 150 years.lived in my house when it was first built in 1870.  For 150 years, everyone who has lived in the house, as well as the thousands of 19th century millworkers, 20th century factory workers, and contemporary commuters who have passed by, have enjoyed the delicate color of the flowers and inhaled their fragrance. The lilac declares that this home is a place deserving of beauty and connection to the abundance of nature. It has, for all these years, been a stunning statement hidden in plain sight that this small house and yard are sacred. When my grandparents finally lived in their own home again and planted colorful hydrangeas all around it, they, too made their new home sacred. 

We carry within us the wisdom and values we need to make our world the planet we need it to be.  Sometimes we may find it in inheritances from our past, like the concept of “home” as sacred. But we must make their insights fit our time and birth our own ways, and help future generations do the same.  May we together, make our whole world our global “home” and move our lives closer to our dreams.

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, drummer, community builder, herb gardener, home renovator, and denizen of Michigan, New York City, and New England. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in, among others, SageWoman, Matrifocus, The Beltane Papers, Feminism and Religion and The Goddess Pages. She would love for you to visit her at her website, http://www.goddessinateapot.com.

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Categories: Family, General, Herstory, place

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15 replies

  1. Inspired, inspiring post, both comforting anc challenging. Thank you!

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  2. So beautiful and insightful.

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  3. You write, ““Home” has become “housing,” a commodity increasingly only available to the wealthy. “Home” is a prison for those women who are confined inside its four walls by the idea that women should not work or be seen in the outside world.” This is electrifying! And too true. And frightening. I agree with you that we must do all we can to make home sacred again.Thanks for reminding us how the idea of home has changed so much.

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    • Thank you for your lovely comment! Reading it made me think of your fantastic novel, Secret Lives, and how we send our older people off to places that can be very un-homelike. So, in many ways, I think your book is another kind of commentary on what a “home” really should be.

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  4. The photo seems to me a great treasure, Carolyn. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    A short prayer I’ve been using for years arose in me during a time of silence: “Most gracious and compassionate One, may your Spirit find a home in me, your Way take root in my life”.
    I realized again in your post today, how much She has been re-arranging the furniture, and planting flowers! I’m grateful. Never was much good at house-keeping myself.

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  5. This is a profoundly moving essay raising important questions we need desperately to find answers to…

    I was struck by the words what would it be like to live if……”you had never had the fear and guilt of knowing that ours may be the last generation before much of the life on Earth becomes extinct. You and everyone you know have always lived in a balanced and sustainable way.

    …you have always had comfortable shelter that has been an oases of harmony, peace, and nurturance and where you felt you belonged. Domestic violence is unthinkable and unknown.”

    I personally can’t imagine…

    However, wherever I am I create sacred space within my dwelling because I celebrate my own Earth based ritual and need that space. I also create sacred space with plants and animals and outside I celebrate Nature…

    I also try to limit my exposure to this world that has gone out of control because I am simply overwhelmed by its horrors… while doing what I can in little every day ways to help others.

    it never seems like enough though.

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    • Thank you for your very kind words. I do believe that in these troubled times it is so important for us to take care of ourselves because it is so easy to be overwhelmed and in despair. In my opinion, doing what you can in little every day ways to help others is so important, even if it doesn’t always feel like its enough. These actions lay the foundation for the kind of world we want to live in and make the statement “this is how we should treat one another always” in the best way possible, by living it.

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  6. This was so exquisite … I sit with my hand on my heart and send you blessings and gratitude for sharing this depth of meaning with us. This: “small statues of the Goddess were frequently found by the ovens inside family dwellings, and temples included rooms for both sanctuaries and workshops for making bread and weaving cloth. Houses and temples were extensions of one another” is what comes to me most days now, that we humans must rediscover the sacred in ourselves and in all life. If one believes that memories of our ancestors reside in our very cells, in our genes, then we can each tap into those roots and make peace with the ambiguous loss of home and hearth, sometimes in violent circumstances, memories that when unseen can drive us to fear of present loss of home which is then projected upon others seeking refuge. Thank you, Carolyn.

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    • After having spent some time recently discovering my family history and ancestors, I agree with you that the memories of our ancestors do reside in our very cells and we do need to make peace with them if we are to move boldly and wisely forward. After I had written the post, I realized that one reason I wrote it was to try to bring healing to my grandparents and mother, even though they have all passed away, and to myself when I remember the sadness in my mother’s voice when she talked about that time in her life.

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  7. What a lovely post, Carolyn! And for me, amazing, because this week on my blog site, I write about “Home” as well (it will be posted Friday morning, but of course, it’s already finished – http://www.worldyouroracle.com/blog/). My post is a more personal reflection on where I feel “at home,” where I feel ease, comfort, contentment, and feel that I belong. But I love the synchronicity of both of us writing about the same subject at the same time. In one sense, I’m not surprised, because I felt a strong connection with you when we met at the ASWM (Association for the Study of Women and Mythology) conference in Boston 2 1/2 years ago. Thanks for this wonderful exploration of the sacredness of home.

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  8. Wonderful post, Carolyn! My home and the land around it are my sanctuary and I feel so sad for those who don’t have that. When my husband first brought me to Maine from California to visit his family I felt that I had come home because the landscape here speaks to me. I told him to get me here, and he did. Like Sara I have altars in my house and on my land. It all is holy.

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    • Thank you! I love the idea of having altars not only in your house but also on your land. On a hike I recently came across some cairns and other earthworks that had been created to align with the sky and express the sacredness of the land and it made me feel as if I had been transported into a mystical realm! And I love Maine! The landscape is magnificent. I’m so glad you have found your home there.

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