Genius Loci (Cílek) p.2

Bees of the Invisible – Awakening of a Place (Part 2)

By Václav Cílek

uzkokolejka forest1

That time under Silbury I begun (for myself only) to compose the ‘pilgrim’s rules’. I finished them two years later amongst the Elbe sandstone, then forgot. Here they are – and they do not want to be taken too seriously, because the essence of a place, just as a human being and their essence, cannot be fitted into a single schemata.

The Rule of Home
A person is at home in a landscape, some people can encompass two or three landscapes, but no more. A small landmark of a place where we feel at home is more important than a more significant landmark of a different landscape. But despite that, we need to travel abroad – for comparison, for the recognition of the smallness of home, and the realisation of where we belong.

The Rule of Resonance
A smaller place with which we resonate is more important then a great place of pilgrimage, where one is only a visitor.

The Rule of Irreplaceability
There are places that cannot be replaced by other places. In our country these are for example Vysehrad, Velehrad and Rip. There are irreplaceable cities like Znojmo or Prague.

The Rule of Breezing
The spirit breezes, where it pleases, but some places prefers over others. Rarely does the ‘soul within us’ sense the ‘soul without us’. We are not angels, we need a material mediator – a place or an object. These deserve respect, but even greater respect belongs to those who move them.

The Rule of Various Viewpoints
One perceives the beauty of a place, the other myth or poetry, another understands the charge and flow of energies. None of these ways is superior to any of the others. Many say they know where and how the hidden force passes – but that is often only the knowledge of a technician, who knows how a ‘thing’ is made, where the wires lead, without perceiving equally important (or more important) aspects. Few people are able to listen to more than one muse.

The Rule of a Lid
Some places, or even whole landscapes, are open and friendly. Others are hidden under a lid – closed or injured and suffering. Deeper, perhaps, there is a crooked, but nonetheless beautiful inner life. An example: greater parts of the Krusne mountains and Sudetenland in general. There are landscapes such as Cesky Kras, whose being escapes, hiding in artesian rivers and only rarely rising to the surface. You can live in them for years, and never glimpse it.

The Rule of Return
Just as between people there exists love at first sight, so there exists one between a person and a place. Usually though, it is necessary to keep returning, to observe, and to grow intimate with the place. Truly powerful places only open for a few hours in the whole year. One needs to come to them at different times of the day and year. Suitable are moments when vision loses clear measures – in fog and in the dark. Certain places (and certain truths), only reveal themselves when they are not clearly visible. An experience from Avebury: a force like a giant mole is slowly finding its way to the surface and then it curls back into depth and the unknown. I never caught it again.

The Rule of Slow Approaching
The thought that you can arrive by a car, stay for a while and understand is in most places merely an illusion. Some places are shy, other places behave like a director in chief – they accept you, but you will need to wait. I know of one place (I am sure there are many, but I didn’t have enough time for them), where it is necessary to approach for three days. We never arrive to unknown sacred spaces directly, it is much better to walk slowly, to hesitate, to circle the place first and only then to approach. An unknown place is not only one that we do not know, but also one which doesn’t know us. Some places demand a great respect, but sometimes respect is in the way, and we achieve more with a smile.

The Rule of Friendly Teasing
If we want to get to know a certain place, it is necessary to vary an active and passive approach. In the active part of the approach one prompts a place with the question who are you, please? And after that usually nothing happens, the place lives in a different time than the human. Sometimes a reply follows. Quick replies are usually misleading.

The Rule of Sacred Games
There are places or lines where strange things happen and sensitive people perceive unusual images. In many cases these apparitions correspond to real events and deserve a proper attention. There are many playful places or those endowed with a strange (sometimes almost malicious) humour, that produce images which should not be interpreted.

The Rule of Culmination
A place, which is also a being, matures and grows. It can have several prehistoric meanings, later a Christian soul and today perhaps a deeply ecological significance. In places there is usually something of nature and something from people. Something relatively constant, but also something changing, which addresses each historical period in its unique way. Certain lazy and messy or enchanted places confuse times or even sleep through whole eras and then awake into a period in which they are disorientated. Some places, in a manner similar to local magnetic fields, move several tens of meters over centuries, and constantly, or in alternations, weaken.

The Rule of Reciprocal Awakening
By journeying to places we awaken and reinvigorate the earth, which returns this to us. A place within a landscape corresponds to a place within the heart.

If it wasn’t for this last rule, I might have not written this message. But land that is becoming awake longs to be visited. Repeatedly I see how places in Bohemia are rusty and unused. But they are starting to move. The number of quiet pilgrims is rising. On stones and in forests one comes across small offerings – a posy from wheat, a feather in a bunch of heather and a circle from snail shells.

My message is simple: the gods of the earth are awakening, the time of change is here, I say to myself with joy and apprehension.


uzkokolejka forest2

Václav Cílek is a Czech geologist, climatologist and a writer. Thank you to him for the original essay Včely Neviditelného – Probouzení místa.

Images and translation by Tereza Stehlikova

English translation of the article originally published in Artesian journal, 2008

10 thoughts on “Genius Loci (Cílek) p.2

Add yours

  1. I just read the book Railtracks and I’m here to thank you. It’s a fascinating job. As an amateur photographer, I will follow you with admiration and inspiration.

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