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Article ID: 3289
Posted: February 2nd. 2001
Days Up: 5,416
It's The Journey That Matters: Neo-Pagan Travel and Retreats
"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked... In other words, I don't improve, in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable." (from the book Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck).
Like Steinbeck, I find that age has not cured me of the travel bug. I still feel the need to see new places, to go beyond what it is I think I know. Sometimes I travel with a destination in mind and sometimes the journey is all the matters. On days like today, when it's dark and cold outside, I sit and dream of warmer days to come and of roads not yet taken.
Like all Pagans I mean to step lightly on the earth. Before I go anywhere I search for "green" hotels and tours. One place I like to start my search is a website sponsored by EarthWise Journeys: http://www.teleport.com/~earthwyz.
EarthWise Journeys is an independent resource and clearing house for eco-travel worldwide. They promote the travel programs of responsible tour operators and non-profit organizations that focus on local cultures, wilderness programs, learning adventures, personal growth and environmental awareness. They list all sorts of travel options including retreats and/or vacations with a spiritual focus, travel/study plans, world culture tours and women's travel.
Some Pagans I know love to take what are called "volunteering vacations". Here is what EarthWise says about these trips:
"They involve some form of service, giving of one's time and talents for scientific research, community development, or education projects... . Volunteers become part of a team, led by on-site scientists, researchers, or service staff. It is not necessary to have research experience, but teamwork is essential. Volunteer vacations are perhaps the best examples of Socially Responsible Travel. Service program fees, lodging, meals, and even airfare, may be tax deductible".
Many footloose Pagans love to travel but they don't want to spend a lot of money doing it. If you're a gypsy and you have a flexible schedule but you don't have a lot of money to spend then consider traveling as an Air Courier. As such, you trade part of your luggage space for a discount that ranges from 30% to 85% off the price of your ticket. You can book flights up to three months in advance, but last minute fares are the best. Courier runs are from major USA and international cities. Check out the EarthWise website for more information about becoming a Courier.
My perfect vacation combines the experience of natural beauty, a look at the local wildlife and a bit of education on the side. I can get all that from Footloose Forays, a company which specializes in natural history trips. These excursions are lead by the Owner, Michael Ellis.
Michael has degrees in botany and marine biology and is an outstanding Field Naturalist and teacher. Every year he leads natural history tours to the Serengeti, Zimbabwe, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Antarctica, and the wilder parts of California. Want to get in touch with nature and learn something at the same time? Then check out his website at footlooseforays.com
Some travel companies specialize in trips by and for women. One such company is called Sacred Journeys. It is owned and run by a lovely woman named Aloura O'Dell. Sacred Journeys offers spiritual tours for women to sacred sites in England, Ireland, Crete and Hawaii. You can see their planned itineraries if you visit their website: sacredjourneys.com
Sacred Journeys also offers a 3-day Spring Retreat for women at The Mother Tree in Sonoma County, CA. I attended last year's retreat, which was co-run by the author Vicki Nobel and Jennifer Berezen, a talented singer/songwriter based in the Bay Area. I came away from my weekend at MotherTree feeling spiritually renewed and refreshed. I owe much of that to the powerful women's rituals that took place that weekend. I also credit the chocolate cake they serve there...and that hot tub ...and all the laughing we did. Oh, and that shower. I could write a poem to that shower. Here me, oh Pagan folk, if you have ever had a hot shower on a misty morning in a redwood grove then you have truly had a spiritual experience.
Jennifer Berezen also leads a woman's sacred pilgrimage to Malta for a ritual during the Fall Equinox. Jennifer's latest CD, titled "Returning", was recorded in the Hypogeum in Malta. The Hypogeum is a three story underground chamber that was carved with bone tools over 6, 000 years ago. For information on her music, her concert dates and her travel tours, visit her Edge of Wonder website at: edgeofwonder.com..
Vicki Nobel is the author of the Motherpeace Tarot Deck and the book "Shakti Woman". To read an article by Vicki Noble on her research into Goddess history go to: http://www.serpentina.com/origin/goddesseur-oldeurope.html
Another tour to consider is led by a visionary artist from Shasta, California named Cheryl Yambrach Rose. Most Pagans know Cheryl from her paintings, CD covers and book covers. What you may not know is that Cheryl leads sacred tours to Britain and France. In September, she will lead a pilgrimage to Renne le Chateau. Cheryl's paintings will also be on exhibit at Spirit Vision London, the first international festival of the visionary arts. This will take place at Porchester Hall from May 10 --20th, 2001. For more information about Cheryl's artwork and her tours, visit her website at: cherylrose.com
In my tradition, this is the time of year when we pay homage to the Goddess Brigid. The great Triple Goddess of the Celts, she appears as Brigantia in England, Bride in Scotland, and Brigandy in Celtic France. She is also the Catholic St. Brigid. She is the Goddess of smithcraft, poetry, inspiration, medicine and healing. You can read about Brigid and the rituals that take place in her honor in an on-line publication called "The Goddess at Glastonbury". This can be found at the Isle of Avalon website: isleofavalon.co.uk.
The Isle of Avalon website contains a wealth of information on the rich history of Glastonbury, England. The same site has pages about the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, which takes place every summer, and offers links to the Goddess tours that are available there all year long.
Brigid's influence is felt throughout Ireland. Many of the holy wells and sacred springs located there are sacred to her. The most famous is called Brigid's Well. It is located in Kildare. If you visit a website called Celtic Crossroads: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Troy/7080/wellstext.html. you will find an article on the sacred wells of Ireland which discusses the importance of water in Celtic mythology. The picture gallery at this site includes photos of Brigid's Well and the place where her sacred fire was kept lit.
Here are two final websites to dream on. One is by Robert Scheer, a travel writer and a photographer who specializes in articles about spiritual travel to sacred places around the world: paganpilgrim.com. The other is called The Stones of England. It has wonderful pictures of sacred sites with standing stones throughout England: http://www.stonepages.com/england/england.html
This is by no means a comprehensive list of sites that pertain to Pagan Travel. For more information on sacred sites around the world, I recommend you visit The Witches Voice Search Engine and do keyword searches under terms such as: "retreats", "pagan travel", "sacred sites", "sacred tours" and "goddess tours".
I will leave you with a verse by J.R.R. Tolkien:
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
Blessings on your Road...
Artist's Credit: Both images in the feature are by Cheryl Yambrach Rose (cherylrose.com), and are used for this article with the artist's permission. Cheryl's prints and greeting cards are available for sale via her site. (top left -- "Encounter in Wistman's Wood" ... middle -- "The Blessed Green")
Author's Bio: Sia
Council Leader: Full Circle Events (FullCircleEvents.org)
Sia recently completed a two year term on the Board of Directors of the Wildlife Rescue Effort. Overall, she has worked with a total of 5 different non-profit groups on a variety of social & educational issues. She has over 15 years of experience working behind the scenes at a variety of conventions and gatherings; mostly in the Neo-Pagan, Science Fiction and Feminist communities. Her academic background is in English Literature, with an emphasis on Women's Studies and Art History.
She practices in a Green Tradition and is active in several Ritual Circles in Silicon Valley and in Santa Cruz. For the last 6 years she has presented lectures and led workshops on such topics as wildlife preservation, conflict resolution and Neo-Paganism.
Sia is the Owner of Snapdragon Gifts (snapdragongifts.com). She lives with her husband and 4 cats in Santa Clara, California. In her spare time, she gardens and works as a volunteer Rehabilitator for various wildlife and cat rescue groups. She is currently writing a book on the use of humor in Ritual.
Author's Note: If you have enjoyed reading this piece, I would ask the you help support the Witches Voice in their efforts to celebrate and support the Pagan community by becoming a Witchvox Sponsor. They rely on our support to keep this non-profit website up and running, so please, do your part to help our community and send them a donation. With thanks, Sia
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