Strange to geologists is the geography of cultures and religions. Places on earth are not always defined by their physical characteristics but by their meaning in the memories of large populations. Perhaps sacred mountains are holy because of their height and size, but smaller hills can be precious and pinnacles ignored.

It’s hard for outsiders to recognize holy lands because they have to enter the histories and associations of people who treasure these places. Sometimes there are large markers, buildings or monuments, but not always. Even burial sites, obvious candidates for special regard, can be obscured. Unless rituals and architectural attention are given, any special place can recede into the ordinary.

We are constantly faced with the claims of groups for regard to their holy lands. Wars are fought over them, also political skirmishes and deed disputes. Ignorant explorers have desecrated sacred places to the dismay of locals and with consequent turmoil.

We might understand the psychology of holy places by thinking of our homes, houses where we grew up or lived in for decades. But there are peregrines who have moved so often that this rootedness is absent. Emigration can create a new homeland, a dissociation from previous personal attachments.

No matter one’s personal land identity, nations and religious traditions recognize places where they collectively were born and matured. These histories persist for centuries and have intense resonance as well as political ramifications. They are essential features of human life.

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