So last year some time I bumped into the website of The British Pilgrimage Trust who are kind of funky, and their mission seems to be to restart the tradition of pilgrimage in the UK, which they define as an “unbroken journey on foot to holy places” (which … has some kind of ableist connotations) and they define holy places in a very vague sense:
There are many kinds of holy place. There are temples – i.e. chapels, churches and cathedrals of all faiths. There is water in the form of holy wells, springs, river sources and confluences. There are ancient trees, sacred stones and hilltops. And there are the places where great people were born, lived, died and buried.
They specifically include all temples (be they in use or not), including a suggestion of reworking Christian churches in your minds as nexus points for attempts to contact higher truth and also marking big events in life (births, marriages, deaths) even if you don’t agree with other things the church does, so that’s kind of an interesting perspective.
They also have lots of advice on when, why, also a lot of suggestions on where (either the “great routes” or things that just speak to you), and finally a whole section of articles on how to approach it (which while it does have lots of “do it now with whatever gear you have available!” also includes some suggestions of really expensive kit and a little bit of looking down on some cheaper gear in some ways) – oh and they also advise that you take a pilgrim staff along with you, which is quite sensible. The main how article is called The Pilgrim Pledges, which suggests the best way to approach this is to:
S: Slow Down – Seek Holy Places – Stop More.
I: Set an Intention – Be Instinctive – Improve the Way
N: Need Less – Notice More – Be Natural
G: Give Gifts – Practice Gratitude – Be Good.
First Pilgrimage: Heysham Rock Cut Graves
Being as today is continuing strike action for my Union and I’d been on the picket in the morning and Mish was working at home in the afternoon I got the idea into my head to go and do a simple pilgrimage, somewhere I’d been before, and that I knew was local and reachable as a good first starting point and I wanted to get out into the landscape before my enthusiasm for the idea went from “Oooh good idea” to endless planning and pondering.
So yeah, got in from town, ate a solid warm lunch, packed a bag, wrapped up warm, took up a staff/walking stick I already had in, then stepped out the door and into a wider world of adventure.
And it was nice, it was good to get back out there into the country side. I’ve been idle from doing a lot of direct paganism for a while now, burnt out on running pagansoc and then gender stuff got in the way of bodily interactions which put a stymie on things really, but its nice to get back out there and be active. Since this was a first go for me I tried to remember what it was I was doing but mostly concentrated on slowing down and paying attention. Things I noticed included:
- It was good to have layering options – I was cold at the start but once I’d gotten going I was warmer and took more layers off
- I needed more water because I hadn’t drunk enough that morning
- Grass walking is much more pleasant and relaxing than road walking, heavily trafficed roads (as formed a bunch of my route) got in the way of me slowing down and connecting with things
- I need a backpack with both side pockets for things and also straps that are good for wearing on my shoulders.
- People look at you funny when you’re carrying a walking stick
Once I got to the Morecambe bike/human path things were nicer, but over in Heysham itself things were calmer, I was more off road, I could interact with people passing more, enjoy the scenery, listen to the world (lots of birds were out, and the electric train tracks sound like insects).
There seemed to be some work going on at St. Peter’s church so I didn’t get to go in and see the hogback grave, but I did go up to St. Patrick’s Chapel and enjoy the view, sit with the graves a little, and sit on the cliff top, watching the sea, listening to the birds and some young people who’d also walked up there. I had a spot of tea from my flask, made offering and then walked back to the bus – which technically ended my pilgrimage.
So all in all an inspiring day, next time I’ll plan routes to use the canal and footpaths better to get to more places locally and see whats going on I think :)
I took some pictures along the way which are in a flickr album but I’ve inserted a couple of choice ones in this post.