Journeys: Thoughts from a Druid Path

Journeys through the world around us, from a Druidic perspective.

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Pilgrimage: Earth

Oxford Dictionaries defines "Pilgrimage" as a pilgrim's journey, or a religious journey or religious expedition. I have gone of several pilgrimages myself, self-described, most likely, but pilgrimages nonetheless. I ventured to Brittany in France and visited Carnac, with its row and rows of standing stones. I visited a number of off-the-beaten tracks places like "Merlin's Grave" (I am pretty sure he wasn't buried there), the Val-sans-retour, the Fountain of Barenton, the Forest of Broceliande, the odd Celto-Christian Church at Trehuerentec. All of these places were known to others, all of them had some history, a few of them had some authenticity.

Last year, at the OBOD Summer Gathering, I made the trip up Glastonbury Tor, indeed an effort and a pilgrimage all in one. To do ritual in a holy places makes the religious journey or religious expedition even more powerful, all the more memorable. The journeys are all the more memorable because they require a journey of distance, of effort, and of time.

I think that there are other pilgrimages that we can make that are equally effective, but much less noteworthy. Journeys and expeditions that take less time, are closer to home, and are basically unknown to any other humans. I call these Pilgrimage: Earth, because they are indeed journeys, but they are journeys along the pathways of the Earth and do not necessarily represent prior journey or prior expeditions.

I like to believe that a journey of discovery, which is ultimately what a pilgrimage is, requires the presence of all the senses. Going on pilgrimage with headphones on certainly defeats part of the purpose, in my opinion. One must be able to experience the place and the spirits of the places to fully invoke all that there is to find in this place or on the pathways to this place. I do believe, however, that a photograph or two of the journey or the destination might be helpful for personal recollection or remembrance.

So what exactly is one of these unusual pilgrimage:Earth treks? Let me give an example of two:

Journey to a local metro park, state park, provincial park, or even a city park, especially one that has a waterway that runs through it. Find what you consider to be the starting point for your journey, typically along the banks of said stream, and just sit. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Let your nose bring you some olfactory impressions of the place. Feel your body seated on the ground and how you fit to the earth of vice versa. If you have a relationship with the Earth Mother, say a brief prayer of thanks to her for the opportunity to commune with her this day. Feel what that feels like.

When you have properly settled into the place, stand up and slowly follow the stream further into the site. Walk along the bank and look and listen: what do you hear? what do you see? what do you feel? If the stream is an active stream, stop and listen to the sound of running water. If you have never listened to the gentle movement of water within a stream or a brook, it is a sound like no other. it isn't musical, but it is assuredly lyrical. Look into the water and see what there is to see. Look along the banks of the waterway: are there animals tracks or other trails or signs of life? Are there other waterways that spill into this water way? Is there garbage in the water? What should one do if there is?

There are several types of pilgrimage, some are active, some are passive. In the passive pilgrimage, one merely absorbs all the sights, sounds, feelings, and impressions that are to be found from the entry point to the end of the trail. In the active pilgrimage, various activities can be undertaken, such as praying, chanting, making offerings, worshipping, cleaning garbage out of waters, cleaning garbage wherever it is found. It may very well be the case that a passive pilgrimage can be undertaken and then an active one can follow after that. This is a matter of choice and intuition, I would guess.

How does one know when the pilgrimage ends? In a park, I would say that the pilgrimage ends when a boundary is encountered that cannot easily be traversed or when the process has carried on long enough. If the appreciation of the journey is replaced by a loss of interest, it is time to turn around. I think it is best to go back the same way that one first wandered and one should try to disturb as little as possible either on the way in or on the way out. "Leave no footprints" I think might apply.

Another pilgrimage is a little trickier - following pathways and waterways on private land. In order to properly undertake this pilgrimage, one would need to obtain the permission of the landowner to do this and this might be a little more challenging, especially when the question of "Why?" arises. If one is not so inclined to call this a religious pilgrimage to get in tune with nature, one might want to characterize it as  a nature walk. Assure the landowner that you are not there to disturb anything nor are you there to take anything. You just want to follow the pathway for exercise and relaxation. In the event that the landowner says "No", please respect their wishes and find someplace else to pilgrimage.

Repeated pilgrimages to a certain location - especially is combined with the leaving of offerings in the Druid's Way, will help one establish a relationship with the place and with the spirits of the place. I expect that with the variances of weather and seasons, the pilgrimage to a given location will never be the same. If one is so inclined to help clean up the area, I will suggest that the location will not only look better, but it will feel better as well. For the Spirits of Nature that may be immobile or less than mobile, this will be a wonderful offering and gift that will benefit the pilgrim, the place, and the Earth Mother all at one time.

It is time to find the sacred local places in your world. Find a nice day (or any day, in reality). Find a few hours, and find the time to walk, listen, and feel, and pilgrimage to a location not far from you. It may not be Glastonbury or Carnac or Stonehenge or any already-established place, but it might very well be a place that is just waiting for you, and you for that place.

Keep a journal, take notes and photos, share your experiences, you may even share them here. Walk the pathways of the earth and become an occasional pilgrim. Sing to the Earth Mother. Experience the beauty and presence of these places on the earth, not all that far from where you are right now.

Pilgrimage: Earth; for the Earth Mother. For you.



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I am a long-time pagan and charter member of ADF, Ar nDraoicht Fein, a Druid Fellowship. I am a Senior Priest in as well as the Arch Druid of ADF. I am a Druid of the Third Order, RDNA; Druid Grade, OBOD; and a Second Degree Druid Companion in AODA. I love Druidry!  


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