Sedona, Arizona

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Sedona, Arizona

The small town of Sedona in Northern Arizona has had a marked influence on late twentieth-century American religious culture. Characterized by its red rocks, and boasting a population of 15,000 people, Sedona is the New Age capital of the world. It is home to UFO enthusiasts, New Religious movements, New Age philosophers, and devotees of paranormal phenomena. Located in the high desert 120 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona, Sedona is on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, surrounded by a landscape of hellfire cliffs, buttes, and spires, and enjoys a climate that is described as near-perfect. Tourism and a thriving community of artists form its economic base. That more people do not live there is a surprise.

Like most Western tourist towns, Sedona is really two places: one where more than four million tourists a year stop to gawk and buy crystals; the other where the real Sedonians live. In popular imagination, however, Sedona is one place, where new churches form—some to die, others to thrive—to worship some alien deity, or follow Native American shamanism, or Eastern mythology. It is the Mecca of the New Age, where people flock to change their lives, and the place of Gabriel of Sedona, who Dateline NBC suggested was a fraudulent guru.

Sedona did not always have such a reputation. When the nearby Cline Library of Northern Arizona University began collecting materials relating to Sedona in 1992, little enough could be found to fill one box. Six years later, the collection had overflowed to 18 linear feet of ephemera on the Sedona experience. Things changed for Sedona when psychic Page Bryant announced the discovery of seven vortexes, or natural power spots, of psychic energy. Many today feel that the Sedona area contains the highest concentration of key lines, power centers, and vortexes in the world. These vortexes are said to be wells of natural power emanating from deep within the Earth that, some believe, act as a beacon for intergalactic travelers. People can also heighten their psychic awareness through the vortexes and are able to see beyond this dimension into others. The surrounding hellfire landscape of the place encourages these mystical musings, quests for circles of power, and the communing with spirits or aliens.

Hikers in the wilderness have reported suffering from inexplicable fatigue, and have recounted tales of three-foot-tall "rock people," mysterious rumblings beneath the ground, and floating balls of light. Some have also been confronted by dark-suited secret agents, the "Men in Black," who are said to guard the UFO base beneath Secret Mountain.

The area is also the home of many Native American cultures. Scattered throughout the landscape are ruins and wonderfully preserved examples of prehistoric artwork. Until the late 1800s the Yavapai Apache lived in the canyons; before them were the Sinagua and other ancient peoples, or Anasazi. All left their indelible marks on the landscape that spiritualists believe was a result of the magnetic attraction of the vortexes. The descendants of these people, however, believe otherwise, and are concerned that Sedona's popularity is endangering their own sacred sites.

Nearly 400 New Age businesses thrive in the Sedona area, which encompasses the nearby communities of Oak Creek, Cottonwood, and Jerome. These businesses include publishers, retailers, and so forth, but there are also many holistic health practitioners, psychic readers, channelers, Sacred Earth tour guides, and others, who service the demands of the town's ever-growing New Age reputation.

—John J. Doherty

Further Reading:

Dannelley, Richard. Sedona Power Spot, Vortex, and Medicine Wheel Guide. Sedona, Arizona, R. Dannelley in cooperation with the Vortex Society, 1991.

Johnson, Hoyt. What's the Name of That Rock? Sedona, Arizona, Sedona Magazine, 1994.

Mann, Nicholas R. Sedona—Sacred Earth, Ancient Lore, Modern Myths: A Guide to the Red Rock Country. Prescott, Arizona, ZIVAH Publishers, 1991.

"Sedona On-Line." April 1999.