When I say sacred garden, what do I mean?

Thinking about the meaning and use of the word ‘sacred’ when we talk about sacred gardens.

The Cosmic Gardener

Dictionary definitions describe ‘sacred’ as something that is entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things.

The word ‘sacred’ has its roots in Latin:

There is sacrum, which refers to the gods and their sphere of influence and sacerdos, the word for priest and sanctum, which means somewhere set apart in the vicinity of a temple. When analysed this way, the word sacred turns out to have quite a specific meaning.

On checking out definitions, I find that the true meaning of the word ‘holy’ is much closer to my meaning when describing certain gardens and places.

The word holy has its roots in ‘hal’, an 11th century English word meaning whole. From hal came ‘halig’, meaning complete, sound, healthy, uninjured and entire. The Scots word ‘hale’ also comes from this root and means wholeness and health.

However the word holy as used today is inextricably linked to specific religious beliefs and practices, whereas ‘sacred’ has become a universally adaptive term.

Image: The Message by Thomas Cooper Gotch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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