I visited central Arizona in the American Southwest, along a wet green valley cutting through the red rock desert. This is the town of Sedona, once a humble ranching and retirement community, and today a mystical Mecca popular with art galleries, new age shops, restaurants, and (most importantly) its energy vortices). What exactly are they? Some describe them as places of concentrated energy that people can sense and be healed by. The intersection points of energy lay lines. There are four main energy vortices in Sedona: the Airport Vortex, the Boynton Canyon Vortex, the Cathedral Rock Vortex, and the Bell Rock Vortex. Do they work? While there are authentic seekers and believers living here (most of them self-proclaimed New-Agers),a huge tourism industry has been built up around these mystical constructs.
The New Age movement is characterized by alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, with an interest in spirituality, mysticism, holism, and environmentalism. Before my travels out West my research online indicated that the vortex believers and skeptics were cut straight down the middle. I was looking forward to having the opportunity to find out for myself. *[Hours before arriving at Bell Rock I stopped at the Grand Canyon. Here I began collecting scrap materials I found on the ground so I could begin constructing a totem for a healing spell I was writing and planning to perform at the vortex].
My fiancé, her best friend and I traveled to one of these vortices, the Bell Rock Vortex, to see if we could have the healing and consciousness-expanding experience so many locals and New Agers claim to have had; or at the very least feel a mild tingle. Does any of this stuff actually work, we wondered? The crystals and talismans, the meditation and the retreats? Nature is a mysterious thing. Might we be ignorant to her abilities? Or might this be a clever tourist trap utilizing the placebo effect? We were told by many that we would start feeling a shift in energy the moment after we parked our cars and got out. We didn’t. Though we did travel down the trail to the Bell Rock Climb to see if we could.
We got a late start to our hike and the sun was fading fast. We climbed Bell Rock as high as possible while still allowing ourselves enough time to head back before dark. Searching for an ideal spot to stake my totem I noticed a sun beam shining on a vibrant patch of red soil. I began preparing my original healing ritual for my group and I. My totem was planted – I called her LAEH (heal backwards), The Goddess of Energy, and explained the steps of the spell to my group, which were as followed:
LAEH HEALING ENERGY SPELL
1. The group stands in a circle on fresh soil.
2. Each member draws a circle around them, making sure each of them overlap with each other like a ven diagram. The totem must be planted in the center of the overlap.
3. Each member bends down and grabs a handful of soil. They stand again. Eyes closed. Everyone must reflect on something painful and negative they wish to release.
4. The ritual begins with the leader speaking the incantation. On the last four lines everyone must repeat them together three times and then release their soil into the air.
LAEH, let this totem reflect the text of the one who wrote them.
LAEH hand on me,
LAEH hand on us,
so what was our pain fades by your touch.
LAEH, store for me, Chelsea and Lex, the sacred energy of your vortex, and let our pain be met by your healing lead.
Feel us, feel you
Heal us, heal true.
5. The members step out from their circles and erase them completely.
We remained silent after the ritual until we walked back down the trail. We’re not sure why. Maybe my group was staying quiet out of respect for all my hard work creating the spell? Maybe they were embarrassed or confused? Maybe it was the vortex messing with our field of energy? Maybe we were just tired and ready to call it a day? Hours after the ritual was complete we enjoyed a drink at a nearby pub, where my fiancé spoke up, “I think that ritual might have worked.” Then our friend Chelsea, “Yeah, I think so, too. I feel better.”
Unfortunately, I felt no different, for as the spell-writer I was too aware of its mechanics for it to be effective. So why did my crew believe it worked? Was their emotional investment in the potential powers of the Bell Rock Energy Vortex great enough to make my LAEH ritual effective? Were the New-Agers right about the transformational powers of these mountains? Was it all just an elaborate placebo?
In the immortal words of George Constanza in the series, Seinfeld, “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe in it.” Put another way by occult writer and Chaos Magickian, Phil Hines, "what matters are the results, not the authenticity of the system used. "