Wednesday, 3 April 2013


As my time lately has been taken making plans for my upcoming trip to the UK I thought I would talk on what I believe a pilgrimage to be. It will be something different for everybody but it will have great impact and perhaps even life changing effects upon those who take the journey.

A transformational journey to our sacred centre. I like this phrase “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” sorry I do not know who spoke this very authentic sentence. The travel to historical sites is the outward and visible sign the drawing closer to our divine source is the inward journey.
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Pilgrimage differs from a regular holiday as it is a deliberate act of travel from that of just relaxation and sightseeing. The most obvious difference I have experienced is that it is a calling a sense that there is no other way to go. It comes to mind over a period of time from chance events, programs you watch on TV, things you read, different people coming into your life, synchronicities that happen. Circumstance seem to change and move around and opportunities offered to you all within a short space of time. This is when you know that your path has opened up before you and it is your choice to walk down open to all that may occur. There is a quite acceptance that this is the right thing to do.

It is a journey without and within, when we take time to connect with the ancient, the earth and hear the messages that are given to us along our path. These can be from fellow travellers, things that we read, inner knowings we connect with as we view an ancient site.

When we are in a particular place it is about taking the time to commune with our divine essence shutting out the outside world of chatter and distraction. Taking in life's wonder and magnificence, through the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of our environment. Sitting still beside giant forests, trickling waters, ancient ruins, holy buildings and allowing our internal source to be filled and nourished by all that is around us.

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Whilst taking the journey of the pilgrim it is about being in the now, not thinking of the past or future just totally allowing the moment to devour our every sense. Knowing that for many thousands of years our ancestors have taken these same roads and their presence and knowledge can still be felt today when the time is taken.

This is a solitary journey even when shared with loved ones or friends, our experience of each moment is ours alone, whilst our fellows journeyers will be having their own sacred moments. It is also about being completely open to whatever may happen, feelings may arise that need to be purged from our soul, allow these emotions to flow with no fear as this is all part of the process the pilgrim will experience. Where these openings are made they then can be filled with the new truths we have learned.

No pilgrimage can be repeated even if we follow the same trail our experience will never be the same as the last. We will be created anew at the end of the journey and our life experiences going forward will therefore  be different to those if we had not made the journey at all. These changes will continue long after we have returned home as our physique slowly shifts and moves within us. Each experience we have will call upon the new truths we have gained and our dance in life will be to new steps.

For me personally my pilgrimage is to visit the ancient sites of our ancestors, places where Mother Earth and the Goddess where worshipped such as Newgrange, Stonehenge, Kildare, Glastonbury, Tintagel, Orkney Islands, and the list goes on.

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I am very excited to be taking this journey. Having travelled extensively previously it has never been with the intent and purpose on which I take this trip. I know that I shall return a very different person, with a deep richness to my life and I am in deep gratitude to have this opportunity in my life.

T S Elliot in the Four Quarters put it this way:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

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Pilgrimage is important to many people for religious reasons.

It is important for Muslims to have pilgrimage in their 5 pillar of Islam which hold the religion. It is called Hajj. In Hajj, Muslims from all over the world go to the city of Mecca, a city where only Muslims can go in. Inside, Muslims go to the Ka'bah which is a black cube and circle it 7 times.

Christians see life itself in terms of a journey, coming from God and returning to God. A pilgrimage is a symbol in action. It represents the journey of the Christian life from earth to heaven. The Church is sometimes described as a pilgrim people.

Ancient Judaism pilgrimage practiced by Jews was going to the “western wall” three times a year. When Jews settled down after leaving Egypt they used to go to Shiloh to worship. They also visited Bethel where they believe that Abraham had built an altar. But when, in about 960 BC, Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, the city gained special significance for Jews.

Pilgrimages have a great importance in Hinduism. Millions of Hindus travel across India for pilgrimages every year (Hindufacts). There are about 29 pilgrimages in Hinduism. Some of them may require going to more than one place. For example, the Twelve Jyotrirling Yatra consists of 12 places to go. The greatest of Hindu pilgrimage is Kumbh Mela. It is considered the greatest human gathering in the whole world. Once every 12 years about 10 million people bathing at the Kumbh Mela festival at Allahabad in order to wash away their sins.

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Back in the Middle Ages pilgrimages were very popular. It was not like going on holiday. Pilgrimages often took years. Journeys were long and dangerous and many died en route. They usually travelled in groups and would stay in monasteries or hostels on the way.

Pilgrims undertook these journeys to holy places because it was important for their faith. If they had committed sins they believed that by going on a pilgrimage they could show God how sorry they were. Sometimes they were sent on such journeys by a priest as a penance. Sometimes they went for healing of a physical condition.

The earliest centres of Buddhist pilgrimages were the places associated with the life and Teachings of the great Master. These four places are Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kusinara. Lumbini, in what is now Nepal, is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. The others are in India: Bodh Gaya was the place, under the pipal or Bo tree, where the Buddha was enlightened after practising meditation for several years. Sarnath was the scene of His first teaching and Kusinara was the place of His death or final Nirvana.

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The four major pilgrimage places are: Jerusalem, Lourdes, Mecca, and Varanasi. However there are many places around the world popular with people taking pilgrimages:

Allahabad -South Asia 
Amritsar - South Asia 
Ayodya - South Asia 
Badrinath & Kedarnath - South Asia 
Czestochowa - Eastern Europe 
Dwarka - South Asia 
Emei Shan - East Asia 
Fatima -Western Europe 
Guadalupe - Latin America 
Gaya & Bodh Gaya - South Asia 
Hardwar & Rishikesh - South Asia 
Ise - East Asia 
Kanchipuram - South Asia 
Kandy - South Asia 
Kerbela - Southwest Asia 
Lhasa - East Asia 
Loreto - Southern Europe 
Medina - Southwest Asia 
Montreal - North America 
Puri - South Asia 
Rameswaram - South Asia 
Rome - Southern Europe 
Santiago - Western Europe 
Shikoku Is. - East Asia 
Tai Shan - East Asia 
Tirupati - South Asia 
Ujjain - South Asia 
Vrindaban & Mathura - South Asia 
Wutai Shan - East Asia 

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