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New Mexico’s Sacred Places

New Mexico was for hundreds of years as a place where many people fought to make it their own. Native American, Spanish and Mexican people all felt a connection and significance to this land.

The Native Americans have designated many places in the state as sacred. There are places in nature such as mountains, rock formations and caves that had been designated as having sacred powers. Man made structures (some that have become ruins) are also designated as having spiritual as well as historical significance.

The Spanish and Mexican cultures have designated many areas in this state as having historical as well as spiritual significance.

With that being said I will name and describe some of these places I think are of interest.

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

These are the ruins of the Anasazi people. The Anasazi are said to be the oldest pueblo and the present day pueblos are all said to be descendents of the Anasazi.

This pueblo was huge. The floor of Chaco Canyon and the surrounding mesas have extensive ruins done with precise rock work.

Chaco Canyon

The whole place is a spectacle of awe. You can spend a day or more here and take in a unique experience of an entire society that lived their lives communing and respecting nature.

There is a 300 foot tall group of rocks standing upright in front of two spiral petroglyphs. called Fajada Butte. This construction was done to allow light to shine thru the slabs onto the petroglyphs which depicts the yearly solar cycle as well as the lunar cycle.

Communities within Chaco Canyon were placed on precise locations of the equinox and solstices. Like the people who built Stonehenge and the Maya , Toltec civilizations, the people of Chaco Canyon created in their construction a timepiece of sorts measuring the cosmic movements.

At Chaco Canyon you can see petroglyphs that depict cosmic occurrences such as Haley Comet and a Supernova explosion.

There are 15 large Kivas (A round covered ceremonial chamber built into the earth) that were so big thousands of people could fit in here to worship.

The largest ruin is Pueblo Bonito which was once the size of the Roman Coliseum with 600 rooms and 40 kivas.

Remember there are very few facilities and the ride is 16 miles of dirt roads. You must bring water and food and remember there is no availability for gasoline. Come prepared with sun protection and water.

Chaco Canyon is a must to see in New Mexico

El Morro National Monument

Ramah, New Mexico

El Morro in Spanish means the bluff. You can see this nature spectacle from far away but as you get closer you will see it is even more beautiful. This is a 2 mile trail at 7,450 foot elevation and ascends about 200 feet.

For thousands of years people were drawn here because there are permanent water holes that connected the Zuni and Acoma Indian pueblos.

Near the visitor center you will find a silent pool. This is filled by snowmelt and rains and not a spring. This is unusual for New Mexico especially in the recent history of draught and little snowfall. When the pool is most plentiful, it is 12 feet deep and contains 200,000 gallons of water.

As people came to drink in history- the Indians, the Spanish, the Mexicans and American soldiers and early day businessmen on their way to California, they carved their record in the stone. You can read words of all these travelers and imagine their lives.

The path continues and ends in a Ponderosa pine area. Up the path again you come to the top where you will see a spectacle of beauty very difficult to describe. Here is where you will find Indian ruins of a pueblo that was estimated to have at least a thousand people.

Bathrooms and water are available here. Gasoline is a far drive from here. As in other hikes in this part of the country, remember to use sun protection and have water and beware of snakes.

Rocks with Wings

Shiprock, New Mexico

This rock structure to the Navajos is a centerpiece of sacred and mysterious stories. One myth is that very very long ago the Navajos were threatened by their enemies. As the healers prayed for their safety the ground broke open and the rock formation rose up releasing them from harm. Here is where they settled. They left the rock only to plant crops and collect water. One day a lightening storm hit the rock and formed a sheer cliff and many people were left on top trapped. They say their bodies and spirits still remain their today. Not to be disturbed.

Another belief is that the Navajo emerged at this spot where a stone ship stands as the symbol of their voyage.

This blood red sandstone formation is very powerful to look at and seems to connect heaven and earth.

This formation is off limits to all but the Navajo, but can be seen from a distance.

This is a driving site so hiking precautions do not need to be taken. Shiprock is a town a few miles away with all you need.

Rock with Wings –a Navajo mystery and sacred ground to behold.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs

Ojo Caliente

I have to put this fantastic place in the category of sacred places/retreat all by itself.

Although it is advertised as a spa with mineral waters that heal and relax and it has excellent spa services like the spas in Santa Fe, it too is a sacred area in New Mexico to the Tewa Indians. The Tewa Indians thought of this place as a gift from God.

Poseyemo a Tewa hero is said to live in one of the springs. Today a pool is set aside for tribal elders and other members of the Eight Northern Pueblos.

In the 1300 and 1400’s the Tewa lived in the pueblos alongside this area. The ruins still can be seen. A hike is required to check them out.

In the 1500s the Spanish rediscovered the springs and thought of them as a fountain of youth. In the late 1800 and 1900s it was thought of as a healing place where people came from afar to heal their ailments.

The springs themselves contain iron, arsenic, soda, and lithium. Iron they say is good for the blood when you soak in it. Soda is good for stomach problems. The Lithia spring is good for the stomach, kidneys and depression.

There is a modest hotel of significant historical value on the premises, as well as modest cabanas, and a restaurant.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is an hour and a half north of Santa Fe.

I think Ojo Caliente is a great escape and spiritual experience for a day or a few. It truly is a combination of a retreat and sacred place.

I hope you have a chance to try these special sacred spaces of New Mexico and find a few of your own.

On this page you will find a great book about these sacred places plus, retreats and sanctuaries. We also have some beautiful calendars with New Mexico’s nature at its best and a great water bottle and carrier that you can take on your hikes of the Sacred Places of New Mexico.

Eileen Richardson

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