‘Sacred Ground’, by Barbara Wood
‘It was a place that would one day be called California…’, so announces the title cover page of the book.
The fictional work begins with hot shot archaeologist Dr Erica Tyler rushing to the scene of a massive earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale, in California. The temblor happens beside and beneath the mansions and playgrounds of the rich and the famous and the bold and the beautiful people of the place, which, of course creates problems. Even more startling is the fact that when one of the swimming pools disappeared into the ground, the avalanche of mud that it set off, also threw up human bones and a deep, mysterious cave. When Erica was finally allowed access to the cave, she was stunned by what she saw in it, around it, and beneath it.
The scene then shifts to 2000 years before the present day and age.
Using meticulous research, myth and stories, the author recreates an age and time when humanity had stopped leading a nomadic life and had just begun to put down roots. The tribe was the centre of life, and the centre of the tribe, was a woman, the clan shaman woman. The story is intricate and detailed. But what I found intriguing was that the basis of life itself, at the time, and centuries after, was respect for nature and every agent of nature, and the belief that there was no need to be greedy, to hoard, or to destroy the things you cannot have. I wouldn’t call this superstition, but a belief system that we would all do well to abide by. I was reminded again and again, of Rising Appalachia’s track ‘Medicine Woman’; the conviction that anything nature gives us, should be accepted with respect, and treated accordingly.
From Opaka and Marimi, 2000 years ago, to Teresa, 1775 C E, Angela, 1781 C E, Luisa, 1792 C E, Marina 1830 C E, Angelique 1850 C E and to the present, runs an unbroken chain of, literally, visionary women, who heed the call of the earth and everything in it, and realise what she is trying to say.
The story of the book is told at two levels: the present day with Dr Erica Tyler, her assistant, Luke, Jared Black and Sam Carter, and the chronological narrative beginning from 2000 years ago, centred on each of the shamanic woman who decided the fate of the clan and every member in it.
The climax of the story is rather unexpected, so I would rather not give it away.
If you are the kind of person who is squeamish about women in positions of authority, about powerful women who control men, about the monthly cycles of blood, about procreation, about myth and legend and the stories that inform the narrative of women across ages and cultures, I suggest you don’t go anywhere near the book. But if you can respect life and all the choices that come with it, and not regard it as ‘superstition’, if you know that there is no anger like that of a woman fighting for her child, and the one she loves, that however timid a woman or girl is, if push comes to shove, she can overcome all hurdles, and be both destroyer and creator, in one, then you can and must read this book. It will change your perception of life and value systems, subtly, but permanently.
The book is not a casual read, to be ‘finished’ while waiting at the airport, or a train station. You need time and a willingness and patience to know things that you have probably not come across, ever. Try not to begin the book with all the settled, unshakeable paradigms that cause you to baulk at anything new. Prepare to be both shaken and stirred.
And then you need to acknowledge, that at the heart of all things, is love…and gratitude.