Accepted Paper:

"Bringing the forest to the city": spaces imagined in "sacred song circles"  


Ronit Grossman-Horesh (The Open University of Israel/Tel-Aviv University )

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses its analysis on the three places constructed in "sacred song circles": "urban", "rural" and "forest". Analysis of the songs and messages transmitted in the circles reveals the imageries of each of these places and the connections between them.

Paper long abstract:

The relationships between religious practice and space are a central theme in religion and religiosity research. One direction investigated is the religious symbolization of space. This perspective awakens wider questions: how does the religious imagination understand places? And how do contemporary spiritual imaginaries create various places.

Sacred song circles are mainly held at New Age movement festivals. For the last three years these song circles have also been held regularly (monthly) in urban settings outside the festival venue. The institutionalization of sacred song circles in Tel Aviv, "the secular capital of Israel", has given rise to song book collections of over 300 prayers — songs of gratitude and praises to nature in general and the forest in particular, from various spiritual traditions and languages. Most participants are urban dwellers, although the music circle leaders, without exception, live close to nature in rural communities in Israel and are members of groups that migrated to the "forest" in Costa Rica this past year and only come to Israel for visits.

My assertion is that sacred song circles create a break in the Urban/Rural hierarchical dichotomy. "Bringing the forest to the city" maintains spiritual activity in the city itself. At the same time, initiatives of some song circle leaders aspire to bring people to the forest in spiritual tourism/immigration enterprises, which are marketed in the song circles. As yet, there has been no discussion of how the forest would be affected.

Panel P17
"By leaves we live": the vital politics and poetics of the tree