Articles/Essays From Pagans
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
Hearing The Music And Dancing The Dance
A Tale of the Wood
June 9th. 2013 ...
The Nature of Sacrifice
The Magick of Buildings
Start your own Pagan Church in Canada - A Detailed Guide
June 2nd. 2013 ...
Maiden, Mother, Who?! (A Discussion of the Triple Goddess)
Gods Who Live In My House
Why the 'Redneck Pagan'?
Among the Greenwod - An Interview with Raven Grimassi
May 26th. 2013 ...
So You Think You've Found a Teacher...
Learning To Live Your Own Life
Raising Personal Magickal Energy for Spellwork
Casting The Wiccan Circle
May 19th. 2013 ...
The Role of Identity in Magic
Talking Trash? It's a Dirty Subject but Waste Happens.
My Wiccan Journey
13 Keys: The Victory of Netzach
May 12th. 2013 ...
Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
The Third Path
Nothing Special... Part Two
May 5th. 2013 ...
The Value of Multicultural Awareness
Put Your Back Into It (Our Lady of the Sacred Honey Badger)
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Red Lipped Bat Fish
April 28th. 2013 ...
Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
April 21st. 2013 ...
Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
To Be A Witch
The Archetypes are Gods: Re-godding the Archetypes
April 14th. 2013 ...
On The Inclusion of Children
'Wand Fun' With Grandson
Lessons from a Baby
Lessons of Freedom: On Divinity and Healing
April 7th. 2013 ...
Out of the Broom Closet... Sorta
A Journey Through the Witches Tarot
History and Science Behind Numerology
March 31st. 2013 ...
What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
March 24th. 2013 ...
Keystones of the Sacred Land
March 17th. 2013 ...
Why Some Pagans and Witches Still Hide
Witch Heritage 101: What Happens When Witch Haters Joke about anti-Witch Films
I'm Not a Broom. So What's with the Closet?
March 10th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
Hunting for the Real Witch in Film
The Collective Shadow
Lies - The Opposite of Truth
March 3rd. 2013 ...
Grounding and Releasing Negative Energy
A Patchwork of Magick
February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
Gardening with Crystal Energies
A Call from the Ancestors
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Black Water Snakes
February 10th. 2013 ...
We Are the Weirdos, Mister: A Completely Uncool Story of Origin
February 3rd. 2013 ...
"I'll Grind Your Bones to Make my Bread": Pagans and Animal Husbandry
The Role of Contemporary Culture in Magic
A Pagan Response to Endangered Earth
The Great Mother's Gift, Heinlein, and the Nature of Squirrels
13 Keys: The Glory of Hod
January 27th. 2013 ...
Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
On Travel Spirituality and Magick
January 20th. 2013 ...
Beloved Backs and How to Save Them
Building or Burning Bridges?
Plants, Magic and Intuition
Plagiarism - How It Harms Our Community
January 13th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés
The Magick and Power of Words
Aging Is Not Easy
The Riddle of Who We Are?
January 6th. 2013 ...
Wicca v Witchcraft
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Ripples Out From The Center: A Pagan Pilgrim in the Celtic Homelands.
Article Specs |
Article ID: 8702
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,202
Times Read: 3,541
Author: H. Byron Ballard
Posted: September 12th. 2004
Times Viewed: 3,541
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licuor,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour...
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...
Chaucer ~ Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
The old pilgrim paths sometimes beckon to us, teasing us from the routine of workaday lives with promises of spiritual glory and glimmers of the Divine, however we interpret that deeply human need. Santiago de Compostela, Ephesus, Mecca, Rome, Canterbury - the names are otherworldly and compelling, the stony paths call for our bare and reverential feet.
One never knows when the call will come, when the small voice inside grows clamorous and insistent. It is almost never convenient, barely rational. But the urge is there to be on the road, to call oneself "wayfarer," to find a cockleshell for the hat.
When the call comes, it is best to pack lightly, to take a sturdy stick and get on the road before it is too late, before the opportunity is forever lost. Make no mistake, each call is a limited time offer: once refused, it is gone. There will be other calls, if one listens, but each one beckons to a specific experience that, once denied, is irretrievably lost.
There is a strong pilgrimage tradition in both Christianity and Islam. Geoffrey Chaucer's tales continue to challenge the language skills of American students and the word "haj" has become part of our popular vocabulary. But there are older traditions of peregrination, traditions that predate the intentional wanderings of those Abrahamic cousins. The Greeks went to Eleusis and Delphi, the Celts left their homes to touch the Earth Mother in Dingle and Meath.
For peoples who revered all the planet as sacred, there was little need to visit a particular structure or relic for its inherent holiness. Tribal folk could look to the clan totems, to the burial mounds for inspiration and comfort. But our Ancestors kenned that some places are more lively, more powerful than other places, and this potency is explored through the medium of sacred geometry, through ley lines and stone circles.
There are also aspects of the natural landscape that command our attention: from the mountains to the deserts, rivers and springs, trees and stone outcroppings. The natural world is peopled with the elemental spirits that both delighted and stymied our Ancestors. Deity was to be experienced through rain and wind and fire - snowflakes on the tongue, avalanches through the spruce trees.
For those of us with Western European roots, the places of power are symbols of a Pagan past more legendary than historical, more remembered than currently experienced. Much of the lost language of European Paganism has been encoded in improbable locales. Fairy tales and ghost stories certainly contain the kernels of this story but it also lies deep in the strongholds of the victors, which hold bits and pieces of liturgy, worship practice and sacred lore. The Christian Church preserved much that was good in Pagan Europe, unknowingly saving it for the global revival of Earth Religions that we are experiencing at the dawn of this new century and new millennium.
Pilgrimage is traveling with intent, journeying physically as a symbol of an inward journey. As Pagans, we often talk of our connection on the Web of Life, but that is often more an intellectual exercise than a visceral one. Connection with the Divine, whether through art or ritual or travel, is a deeply-felt need for many people and yet our busy lives often keep us from achieving it.
How many times in your own work as clergy and counselor have you listened with patience and compassion to a litany of woes and troubles from a circle member or colleague? They are broke or jobless, ill or homeless. And yet, when you ask about their personal daily practice, you are met with a blank stare. They either don't know how to reconnect with the Divine or else they've forgotten that we live our lives "in the lap of the Goddess," as someone once wrote. That connection to the Web of Life and the life of the biosphere is a remarkable facet of modern Pagan practice that is often left out of discussions in both interfaith and intrafaith settings.
I was a pilgrim this spring. It is true that I spent the month of March in a formal pilgrimage to the Celtic homelands of Cornwall, Wales and Ireland. But as a priestess on a year-long sabbatical, every day is a new experience and I face the darkening of the year with something approaching the intensity I felt years ago, before there were congregational needs to press me, before I was a member of the clergy. The August sun seems brighter, the rainstorms of Lughnasadh more energizing than this time last year, as my beginner's mind grapples with the mystery of the changing seasons that make up the Great Wheel of the Year.
It was the time in the islands west of Europe, however, that set the tone for my "year off." We began planning it as a business trip in the autumn of the previous year. I confess to being a person who always gets a bit of wanderlust in the fall, though I'm not sure why. When the first cool air starts to nip the mountain evenings, there's always a sense of longing and sadness, a need to get on the road. Too much Tolkien in my youth perhaps, or a trace of the melancholy that haunts both the English and Irish sides of my family.
As we planned the trip, we considered every possible area of Britain as fair game - from Inverness to Penzance, from Dingle to Canterbury. For reasons of time, we sadly postponed Scotland for another trip and we concentrated our efforts on the Celtic lands in Cornwall, Somerset, Wales and the east coast of Ireland.
We scanned books and websites for stone circles and ancient monuments and even secured permission to do a dawn ritual within the precinct at Stonehenge. If you looked at our itinerary you'd think we were bouncing from quoit to holy well to stone circle and you wouldn't be far wrong. We scheduled rituals - sometimes several in one day - in both famous and obscure sites. There were a couple of significant dates - including the Vernal Equinox and a full moon - and for reasons of my own, I very much wanted to be in Kildare on 17 March, to spend a traditionally "Irish" day in the land of Brigid. One of our group had never seen London, though, so we arranged to fly into the airport at Gatwick, spend a little time in that grand old city and travel by train across the island to Bristol.
We left Atlanta and spent the next day connecting with the Thames and Boudicca and supporting in our own tired way the Iraq war protestors outside the Houses of Parliament. There's a charming photo of my travel companions giving the statue of Oliver Cromwell a one-fingered salute. But it was in the West Country that the real journey began, in lands steeped with Celtic legend and pre-Celtic ruins.
We took the train from Paddington Station to Bristol and passed white horses rampant on the greening hills. We picked up a car at the airport outside Bristol and began our sojourn into the West Country with a stop at Tintagel and Boscastle. Penzance was our destination for the evening and we arrived there already full of the energies and sights and smells of the area.
In our three weeks in Cornwall, Wales and Ireland, we saw amazing sites and felt remarkable spirits abroad in the land. In one day alone, we did our dawn ritual inside Stonehenge, traveled to Avebury, the Ridgeway and Silbury Hill and finished the afternoon with a ritual (including libations) to Sulis Minerva in her sacred precinct at Bath.
I can't tell you how important and life-changing this trip was for me at this time in my life, both temporal and spiritual. And while I realize not every American Pagan has the resources for this sort of pilgrimage, I encourage each and every one of you to take up your staff and become a pilgrim in whatever way seems appropriate for you. See the world with new eyes, even if it's the world of a familiar city park or the apple tree in your own backyard. Go outside, onto the breast of our Mother, and see what riches lie spread before you.
But if you can swing it and your heart tells you it's the right place and the right time, if you lean toward the ancient Celts and their predecessors for your spiritual juiciness, then take yourself to the homelands. Eat the food, touch the dirt, drink the beer, experience the terror and joy and transcendence of opening yourself fully to your world, your Ancestors and your Gods. It will change you in ways you cannot even guess from the comfort of your computer chair.
Now, several months later, I continue to process what happened to me on this journey. I met new firends and reconnected with old ones. I laughed and cursed and cried, often in the span of a few minutes. We heard the trees speak to us at the Madron Well, crawled through the holey stone at the Men-An-Tol and met Basil Fawlty in Penzance. We argued and giggled and sang and danced. From my dark night of the soul in Bristol to the unforgettable whirlwind tour of Anglesey, my spirit was honed and shattered, broken again and again. I heard the voices of the Ancestors, I felt the chill of the Goddess in her wrath and splendor.
In Anglesey, on Ynys Mona, standing on a hillside surrounded by the ancient stone foundations of circular houses, a stone was thrown into the deep still pool of my own spirituality and the ripples keep moving out, ever widening, from this center.
How does a fact-finding business trip turn into a life-changing pilgrimage? What happens when a modern day Witch opens her soul to the Ancestors? A pilgrimage is a wonderful thing. Wonderful and terrible. Worlds collide, souls are broken and reforged and lives are irrevocably altered.
Not your average three week vacation.
Try it, my friends...it will transform you.
H. Byron Ballard
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Bio: Byron Ballard is a garden variety Pagan who is also a writer, gardener, traveler and Goddess-junkie who takes great joy in flying a Jolly Roger on her vintage Toyota. If you want to join her for her next pilgrimage, it's Sacred Cornwall in September, 2005. You can contact her at byron@ceres_wnc.org
Other Articles: H. Byron Ballard has posted 8 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email H. Byron Ballard... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2013 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).