This term has been on my mind for awhile, because as a medium who focuses on locations, what does genius loci mean to me?
Traditionally, genius loci, is the idea from Roman classical religion to refer to the protective spirit or presiding god of a place. These spirits were often prayed to and given offerings in their place of ruling. Similar concepts are seen in many Asian cultures with spirit houses, city pillar shrines, and household shrines. The idea is also echoed in Native American and other indigenous traditions where spirits of the land, water, air and rocks are acknowledged and honored.
To the Western contemporary, the phrase has been used to mean “the spirit of place” or the prevailing character or atmosphere of a place (aka its “vibe”). Many have started to use this term in building architecture and in decorating the home.
But to me this term means way more than referring to the feeling of a home. To me genius loci applies to all places.
Every step, every inch of land, has a genius loci atmosphere. It is just another way to refer to the “feeling” of a place which I have previously described. This to me is sort of a conglomeration of all the intrinsic and extrinsic factors of the location. All the plant, animal, weather, and activity energy/spirit together formulates its unique genius loci. The genius loci of a site can be hard to describe and usually has to be felt or experienced by the individual.
But there is more!
Often places, in addition, also have a Genius Loci!
What I mean by capitalizing this term is to designate it as an individual instead of a general atmosphere. Genius Loci contribute to the atmosphere, but they are also individualized Beings. This can range from Devas, Angels, Earthbound individuals, and ancient land Beings. These individuals do watch over a location and can be Gatekeepers at a location.
Examples of Genius Loci that I have come across so far are The Beast at Bound Brook, Whispering Winds at Mountainville, and even The Mine Manager at St. Patrick’s Cemetery and Mr. Pelgram at the Mill Building in Boonton.
I have also heard a first hand story from a cemetery grounds keeper who experienced a very large Angel at his cemetery towering over the grounds. This is a perfect example of a Genius Loci!
Genius Loci are not in my experience bound to a location, although some are, instead they are there protecting the place and watching its care.
To honor a Genius Loci, and the genius loci, is to honor the place and its history.