Sacred Space Design Ideas Archives

Portals as sacred space can be distinct areas in a garden designed as a powerful vortex to draw in energy, creating a sacred space or as a portal through which one may connect with the Divine. I call these Personal Vortex Gardens as they should be designed to reflect one’s own belief systems and degree of spiritual cultivation.

sacred space garden portal

Here is a sacred space that balances the 5 elements of Feng Shui (fire, water, earth, wood and metal), but has as its theme, the element of water and the sacred circle. Here is the symbolism used in the design:

* The concentric circle patio reflects the sacred circle as the inclusiveness of the Universe and the center of creation in numerous cultures. It also symbolizes the cycle of life in terms of birth, growth and death. In Wicca, a magic circle is created to form a shield of protection and generate an energy field usually 9 feet in diameter as this one shows.

* The Balinese water maiden statue is pouring a ritual libation from a vase symbolizing an offering to the gods or the earth.

* The circle forms represent the element of metal in Feng Shui.

* The wooden beams and plants represent the element of wood in Feng Shui.

* The upright cactus and reddish rust colors represent the element of fire in Feng Shui.

* The adobe clay columns and slate stone planter represent the earth element in Feng Shui.

* The blue and white mosaic represents flowing water not only by the colors, but by the pattern in Feng Shui.


Portals are a spiritual doorway that trigger a remembrance of who we really are beyond our egoic mind. But its more than a memory, its an awakening and these triggers can be found in nature in the form of a flower, the ripples on a pond or any other “thing” we are perceiving. The portal is the physical environment in which you are in and within the sensitive consciousness of awareness, triggers become evident. What lies behind the trigger points to the realm of Spirit. For more visit ET:  Eckhart Tolle

Casual courtyard with flagstoneCourtyards as sacred space remind us of the town square where everyone could get together and connect. To feel a part of the greater community is what makes it sacred. A private courtyard in someone’s home evokes the same feelings, yet is more private and secure to the degree that it is walled off.


Courtyards by definition are open air, outdoor spaces which evolved from atrium like spaces within a building that was open to the sky. Courtyards provided air, light, privacy, security and tranquility. They were used as places to gather, to meet, to garden and to relax. They create what may also be considered a type of sanctuary. A sacred space that one could go to find respite, to reflect all within the confines of security and privacy. Thus courtyards as sacred space can also be sanctuaries and a garden within a courtyard could be called a sanctuary garden.

For many smaller lot residential subdivisions, the front yard near the entrance can be walled off from the street to create a courtyard and add much more usable space that would otherwise not be private.


formal courtyards as sacred spaceThis courtyard features the central fountain designed in a European style with colorful tiles and classic statuary. The flower beds soften the otherwise large expanse of clay surface and creates an inner walking area. A courtyard may also have a firepit or even a wishing well forming a focal point.


Recognition of earth as one of the four classic elements is the basis for why earth is sacred. In the context of garden design it would seem almost obvious in the fact that all gardens are inherently “outside” and already “of the earth”. Hence, all gardens are earthly by the nature of their physical proximity to the ground.

Earth can be seen as the home of all the aspects of nature, the ground, the soil, the plants, water, fire and air. Earth is our home into which we grow roots and plant seeds of aspirations and desires. We are anchored and nurtured by its solid foundation reinforcing our beliefs to justify why earth is sacred.

Mother Earth is a term derived from ancient cultures and religions including Native American and Pagan beliefs. Father Sky and Mother Earth are seen as entities that are revered because of what they provide all living things whether that be warmth, shelter, or food. The earth as a mother figure is the feminine energy of the planet — nurturing and supportive.

So in regards to designing with the four elements, earth can be represented in a number of ways while its manifestation in a garden may be obvious or symbolic.

One must have an appreciation of what earth means to them and revere its inclusion in the physical design of a garden for it to not lose its recognition. To consider earth a being rather than simply an element of nature is to support why earth is sacred and give cause to revere its existence.

Its manifestation may be so subtle that one may overlook its use as in looking upon a typical Zen style dry garden without using your “symbolic eyes”.

Our physical bodies are born into the lifecycle of a three dimensional existence that we call planet earth. Hence, life on earth is part of a larger cycle of birth, growth and death.

The earth as a physical form is grounding. Its surface contains an abundance of electrons that heal and stabilize life forms. When we lose that sense of being grounded, we feel disconnected with nature and yearn to renew that connection. By simply standing barefoot on the ground, we can rejuvenate the healing forces between our bodies and the earth.

A Medicine Wheel Garden is a good example of a garden theme celebrating the earth in a way that connects us as beings of the earth, the Creator, the Heavens and the spirits of the four directions. The Native peoples of the planet know why the earth is sacred evidenced through their ancient teachings and traditions.

earth Poland formal gardenRaw nature is by virtue, a natural garden so to speak. The Garden of Eve was considered to be a kind of paradise or Heaven on Earth. But then man began to manipulate his surroundings by creating spaces within nature to accommodate his needs. He later became more ambitious with his creative abilities to the point where the creations were not seen so much as natural beauty, but as aesthetic creations by man and referred to as artistic expression.

The picture above is quite impressive in its complexity and visual appeal, yet what is it accomplishing in terms of reverence for nature or the earth? Some people find order and balance in such a design while others see the control over natural forms. Just because it is not natural (manmade) does that make it less remarkable?


water as a powerful element in garden designWater as a sacred design tool is one of the four classic elements along with air, fire and earth. It can be represented in the form of fountains, pools, ponds and a variety of waterfeatures. Water is the essence of life. Think of the “fountain of youth”. But in the context of garden design, the symbolism is not as important as the physical presence of water including its movement and its sound or sense of tranquility.

We all enjoy swimming pools, but not everyone wants them to cool off in the summer or to swim.  From a spiritual standpoint, a negative edge pool is looked at as an element of water that merges with the landscape beyond and not so much for its use as a pool for swimming.

This pool was integrated into the natural landscape and gives the illusion of water falling over the edge of a cliff as a waterfall. Its just as effective as a visual point of interest as it is as a place to cool off, relax and enjoy the weather.

bird bath fountainSince water adds a dynamic quality to the garden, it must be visible whether that is in the form of a bubbling fountain, a pool of water or flowing as in these tiered bird bath bowls.

Water adds movement to the design and the speed at which it flows can have an invigorating effect or provide a sense of tranquility as in a still reflecting pool.

Waterfeatures and fountains will attract wildlife if they provide access and platforms so they can drink.

Birdbaths as Sacred Drinking Fountains

Birdbaths not only provide perches, but they are shallow enough so birds can drink, take a bath and rinse their feathers. Thus water as a sacred design tool is evident in birdbaths as well.

Butterflys will be attracted if there are shallow stones placed just above the water surface.

The Use of Water Without Water

earth 1024px-Japanese_Zen_gardenSymbolically, sand, gravel or small pebbles can be used to represent water in the form of a lake, dry stream or ocean. The sand can be raked as shown in this picture to represent waves on the water’s surface.

Natural Boulder Waterfeatures

Red rock Sedona waterfeature

                                              Red rock Sedona waterfeature

Natural boulder waterfeatures mimic the way water flows in nature and thus forms a connection between us and nature. This sacred bond is something inherent in us as we attempt to connect Heaven and Earth. Water purifies our soul. Water washes away the negative emotions of our mind. Water removes the toxins from our bodies. Water as crystalline structures are sacred geometry.

Water is sacred no matter how you think about it. Water as a sacred design tool just makes a garden that much more interesting and provides that connection to nature beyond the plants, soil, wildlife and sky. It balances out the other essential and classic elements of air, fire and earth.

Firepits are very popular element in a garden

Firepits are a very popular element in a garden

Fire as a sacred design idea is most often reflected in the use of firepits. Fire is one of the four classic elements in addition to water, earth and air.

In this picture to the left, the fire pit represents fire, the stone patio and boulders represent earth, the spa represents the water element while air can be either the ambient breeze, sound or the oxygen that feeds the fire.

Waves O FireWe all have an inherent attraction to fire and feel the connection to nature in a subtle way. Used in a spiritual design, fire can be a powerful design feature including its symbolism of being transformative and purifying. Rituals can be performed around fire’s ability to change things, release things and transform not just what is burning, but the thought that is being symbolically burned or released as a kind of cleansing. Hence an example of fire as a sacred design idea.
Red fire burner

Fire as one of the four elements can be represented not only by actual flame, but anything that has a triangular shape or even the color red which is how fire is represented in the 5 Element Theory of Feng Shui.

Fire pits and fire places can be used symbolically to represent the element of fire as well as provide warm and ambiance which is the mundane reason for a firepit. The transcendental meaning for why a firepit may be used is to reflect fire as a sacred design idea.

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