This is the first of four weeks of posts on pilgrimage as part of the seasonal ritual Walking the Ways of the Summer Light. The ritual began with four weeks of elemental Wisdom Wanders before the Solstice. You don’t have to have done the Wisdom Wanders to join in on the sacred travel at the center of this ritual time.
Three pilgrimage principles guide the sacred travel that leads us out from the Solstice and walking the ways of the summer light:
The Pilgrim is a Stranger. The pilgrim leaves behind not only the place that she knows, but the place where she is known. Her usual status, roles, responsibilities, and most relationships are left behind. This removal from the every day allows her to walk in the eternal flow. Since we are temporal beings, the eternal is strange to us, and it is this strangeness that demands we break our heart, soul, senses, and awareness out of their usual patterns and dip them into something unusual. To be strange is to be renewed.
The Pilgrim seeks a Center. Pilgrimages are journeys made with intention. The symbol of the intention is the destination that we seek. We make a shrine, well, stone, or house the center of our travels, but these are the outer manifestations of Center sought to find perhaps wisdom, healing, clarity, or soul purpose. Unlike the Wisdom Wanders before the Solstice where we journeyed without a specific aim gathering questions rather than answers, the pilgrim walks with a question or concern to bring to the Center for enlightenment.
The Pilgrim walks for herself, but also for the Greater Whole. The journey may begin out of personal need, but ultimately serves the Greater beyond the individual. This Greater might have one of the names of the Divine (Aphrodite, Jesus, Spider Woman), serve a value or cause (Peace, Justice, Reconciliation), or even honor the Earth on which the journey is made. The pilgrimage is the encounter with the Greater Than that enters into the one who travels. Then the pilgrim becomes the hands, the voice, the heart of this Whole held in physical form.
Departing for Pilgrimage – The Work of Week One
What to Leave Behind?
You probably know about the physical realities and every day work that you’ll leave behind, but consulting cards to identify deeper issues and strategy support helps the process of departure. You might ask questions like:
- What responsibilities of my outer life do I most need to pay attention to as I prepare to leave the every day behind? How do I do this leaving behind?
- What patterns of my inner life can I leave behind? How do I do this leaving behind?
What to Bring?
A Focus Question
If you have done Wisdom Wanders with their collecting of questions, you probably have quite a few. Here is a suggested process for finding the one to take on pilgrimage:
- Gather all the questions in one place. You might write them all on a piece of paper or write individual questions on note cards.
- Look for questions that are similar or connected. You can draw lines between questions on one sheet of paper or cluster note cards. You might see words that keep coming up or variations on what is really one question. Get a fresh piece of paper or note card and tinker with the words/common questions to craft that into one question that speaks to your soul.
- A question might jump off the page or cards and demand your attention. Did you give one question more space or write it in larger letters? If so, that is the one to take.
- If you have more than one compelling questions, pull a Tarot card and see if it reflects more one question than another. If you truly can’t decide, take more than one question on pilgrimage.
If you have not done any Wisdom Wanders, you can use cards to support the question development process.
- Longer version: Sort your deck into suits and pull a card from each suit. Brainstorm questions that each of these cards inspire. Let yourself generate lots of questions and don’t judge the ideas that arise. Then do the process above to find the one question to take on pilgrimage.
- Shorter version: Pull one card from a deck and let it suggest the question to take. You might even imagine the figure on the card asking a question of you.
Gifts to Offer
You will be a stranger dependant on the hospitality of the seen and unseen beings you meet on your journey. Before you leave, you might want to prepare to offer gifts of gratitude. These could be items that would help you to do a gratitude or honoring ritual, small natural gifts such as pebbles and ribbons, or a gift representative of the place where you live to give to people hosting you.
A ritual object, devotional book, a piece of jewelry, or a poem can be a touchstone to tune you into your deepest purpose for making this journey.
Who Accompanies You on the Way?
We do not travel alone (even if there are no other people traveling with us). You may know your Guide and just need to make an invitation to travel with you. Or you may need a process to connect with the Guide for the pilgrimage time. Pulling a card(s) from any Major Arcana or a deck like the Dark Goddess or Oracle of Initiation can connect you with a Divine Wisdom Guide. (I looked at all the Guides who had traveled with me on Wisdom Wanders and three of them stepped forward to continue traveling with me through the Pilgrimage time.)
How to Step Over the Threshold?
The preparation ends and the journey begins. For a moment, you’ll stand at the threshold between the worlds of the every day known and the beckoning strange. Here you are invited to mark the moment with a simple ritual or perhaps a prayer.
Crafting a prayer that is unique to your journey is a rich practice. You can say it for the first time at the Threshold and also as you start each day or phase of your journey. You might weave together a prayer by completing these prompts:
I thank/praise …..- name your Guide(s) and their beautiful powers – … for gifts already given and accompanying me on this sacred journey.
As I walk forward into this pilgrimage / day, I watch for / I seek ….
Release in me / Open my heart to / Free me from ….
Please protect me from ….
May I be / May all beings be ….
Blessed Be / Amen / Ho
Yes, blessings on you as the journey begins.
Next week’s post on the theme of Journey will be up by Tuesday.