Robert MacFarlane’s word of the day – “numinous”

The author Robert MacFarlane today asks:

have you had experiences of landscape/nature you would characterise as “numinous”? What/where were they, & what was the nature of the nūmen?

He shares a “word of the day” via Twitter, and his word for today is “numinous” – revealing the presence of the divine; giving rise to a feeling of spiritual transcendence, especially in nature or art (from Latin nūmen – divinity, divine power).

Isn’t this what people ultimately seek when they go to remote natural places? The foothills of such an experience are perhaps being deeply refreshed by a walk or profoundly moved by a view. But it goes way beyond that.

 At Sue Boyle’s writing workshop we heard the profoundly moving raw experience of a recently bereaved woman who had been transfixed sitting on Kelston Roundhill looking out toward Bristol and Wales: engaged, transformed, unable to move for hours while processing her bereavement. We tried to evoke something of her experience in our input to the work; a sensitive whiff of it survives in the shared poem (text here).   She described it as compelling, neither loving nor frightening, relentless. If we were being analytical we would have called her experience numinous. Our original input is below.

Blinded by pain I’m drawn in pilgrimage to this place
Now for three, four, five hours I cannot move
I welcomed me, now it sustains me
Lost voices speak, and wisdom comes to me.
Anger and grief has locked up half my life
and in this place I feel death on the wind
but I feel no fear. Nor comfort.
I’m alone but not alone; held and sustained.

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1 Response to Robert MacFarlane’s word of the day – “numinous”

  1. sueboylepoetry says:

    How lovely to be reminded of that truly magical afternoon. Thank you! And thank you again to all the writers who shared their thoughts and experience so generously and with such trust and sensitivity in Kelston Barn.

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