chapter  2
14 Pages

Dividing the landscape

If paganism is largely not a matter of belief, then it speaks the language of actions, the language of ritual. Like the language of words, ritual recedes beyond sight into the prehistoric past. It is characteristic of religious ritual to be laden with rules for the time and place at which it will occur. This chapter deals with place. Doubtless, some religious rituals may be performed instantly in any place if circumstances demand it - for instance, an urgent personal prayer or a vow. Most, however, are per­ formed in the place that is 'religiously correct', in Latin fas, and it is no accident that Latin ritual often takes place in a *fasnom, or, as they actually pronounced it, fan urn ('shrine'). 1 How is a place to be identified as fas? Why is it there and not somewhere else? What features of the landscape invite ritual? How is the sacred place to be positioned relative to the settlement?2 What power is felt in a feature like a sacred stone such that it magnetically attracts ritual?