On the suggestion of a friend of mine (Hello V.M.!), I’m going to post a question, once a week, to this blog for people to discuss with me and with each other. For I am committed to the idea that our most significant philosophical ideas emerge from our conversations, dialogues, and relationships – when such dialogue is carried forth with good heart and enquiring mind.
For a first question, it befits the theme of The North West Passage to talk about something to do with travel and adventure. So let us speak of Pilgrimage, and of all things Pilgrimage can mean.
I am generally in favour of pilgrimage as a spiritual undertaking, and I think that the contemporary pagan movement may be much enriched if we encourage each other to visit a few “original” (you know what I mean) pagan sacred places at least once in our lives. It would probably be unhelpful, and perhaps also contrary to the individualistic character of much pagan discourse, to phrase the encouragement in the form of a law-like demand. It might be preferable to voice this encouragement in the form of a purpose-specific option: if you have a particular spiritual reason, such as a need for some kind of healing or empowerment or knowledge, or passage into a new stage of life, then you may be benefited by a pilgrimage to such-and-such a place.
About a dozen years ago, I argued that those who have committed themselves to a Druidic path should visit a Celtic holy place, at least once in their lives, and spend time there, to better understand the ideas and experiences that the path is supposed to embody. Some who read that argument inferred that I was claiming that those who have not visited a Celtic holy place cannot call themselves Druids. And thus they got rather cross. I think it’s safe to assume those critics didn’t understand the point I was trying to make.
Let us entertain the possibility that a culture of pilgrimage, with all that it can entail: a folklore and literature of traveler’s tales, the construction of shrines at pilgrimage destinations, etc., may well benefit pagan culture generally. Other religions have such ideas in their cultures. Everyone knows about the Hajj by now, but it is not the only sacred pilgrimage that people have done. For instance among Hindus there is great merit to be gained by one who visits four special temples in India at least once in their lives – I don’t recall which exactly, but that they are positioned in the four geographic quarters of the country.
I wonder what places do you, good readers of my blog, recommend for pilgrimage? Are some places to be sought out for particular purposes? Which matters most: the destination, or the work of getting there?
I was recently inspired by my re-discovery of “The Pilgrim”, an orchestral suite composed by Shawn Davies. Here’s the only sample I was able to find on YouTube: entitled “A Ghrian”, it is an old Scottish prayer in honour of the sun. I’m also inspired by Heather Dale’s The Road to Santiago – my copy of which seems to have gone missing.