Pilgrimage paradox

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Pilgrimage paradox
   A sense of pilgrimage Resume:  A pilgrimage is the result of a bodily experience full of sights,sounds and smells. It is accompanied by ritual, relics and rite.This forms the essence of arrival at a sacred spot. How much of thisis necessary for a true pilgrimage? Introduction Pilgrimage presents an interesting paradox, particularly to 21 st  century man. Whilst grounded in the physical experiences and challenges of a journey, and encounters with sites, relics and history, it simultaneously presents a focus on the devotional or metaphysical. Why am I making this visit to a placethat others have seen as sacred and holy? Am I expecting on return home some personal change in identity and a real difference from my former life and home?This long lasting practice in former times would often result in danger, pain and a one way journey to a foreign land. In current times pilgrims normally return to their starting point with a transformation that they have shared with thousands of others with a common goal. Each day a pilgrimage engages our bodily senses to reinforce the knowledge gained along the way. The risingof the sun, the dawn chorus, the scent of early morning flowers, the feet aching after a long day with a heavy rucksack, snoring in a refuge dormitory; these feelings resonate for some as an essential experience of the pilgrim  journey. Pilgrimage studies  An interdisciplinary conference “ Pilgrimage and the Senses ” (1)was held in June 2019 under the aegis of the Oxford Pilgrimage Network at the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford. It aimed to explore sensory experiences in pilgrimage across the world. The Confraternity was honoured to sponsor this meeting of research academics from around the world. This brief account of the proceedings highlights some of the messages from the event. The world of academe has long been a part of the CSJ mission and this gave an opportunity to survey current interests and passions. The call for papers produced over 100 submissions which were focussed into an international agenda from three continents and six countries.  Attaining personal fulfilment and self knowledge is recognised as a complex process. Most philosophical models are rooted in Neo -Platonic thought that vilifies the body and denies access to higher truths by common physical  means. Intimations from one's senses do however lead to a richer comprehension of the Pilgrimage of Life. A pilgrim's eyes interpret the physical detail of his journey into lasting and higher memories. Reflection on such vistas can help to clarify the messages and meanings of the journey. Ultimately the culmination of the pilgrimage may translate into a dream of moral progress.  The Holy City Mediaeval pilgrimages were inherently more difficult, challenging and often dangerous. Thus approaching within sight of the destination, the pilgrim's burden of doubt and pain was relieved. The vista of imminent arrival translates into a landscape of dreams and feelings of joy. The resulting emotion is a phenomenon in many cultures and pilgrim routes. The Mountain of Joy is epitomised in Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago as a necessary geography for pilgrimage.. The concept of the Holy City has attracted the faithful of religions across the world. A pilgrim does not merely travel towards and enter the sacred places, rather is spiritually called and transformed at the culmination of his journey. This often results in lasting change to their subsequent life.This effect can be encapsulated by objects and religious practices that reinforce the pilgrimage experience. Badges from the earth at Mecca, olfactory flasks from Jerusalem and the pervasive shell from Santiago all stimulate the pilgirm's memories and emotions. A soundscape to a journey The soundscape of music as a background to long miles and days of pilgrimage can be so evocative. Singing reforms time and space in a pilgrim'smind. Around the world poetry and music is central to the practice of pilgrimage. The Spanish cantiga is just one illustration . The British Pilgrimage Trust in its work with songs and chants now relates the current day to those who have walked before. Indeed Blake and Parry's “ Jerusalem ” commences “ And did those feet. ..” Such is the trust’s intent to rewild pilgrimage into “the deep English interior”…Music can evoke communitas  and continuity in the pilgrim band! There are further illustrations among the Jahriyya community in north west China. Melodious recitations of poetry are integral to their rituals of pilgrimageen route to venerating the Sufi saints. Sound thus becomes for many Jahriyyaa contentious site for forging identity. Indeed  jahr   means to be loud in Arabic!The Milanese priest Canon Pietro Casola on his visit to Jerusalem via Venice  in the fifteenth century produced a guide with advice for pilgrims. He speaks in this diary of his enthralment and the employment of pilgrim music. In addition he encounters on his vessel the fullness of a galley’s sound ;a background of the beating of drums, the blowing of trumpets ,the praying of pilgrims, the lowing of animals. This was in an age of religious splendour withfeasting , the parading of ornate reliquaries and rich ceremony. Relics ritual and rites The role of ritual in relating to relics and venerated objects are regularly observed in pilgrimage. In particular the Hajj   concludes with formal ritual at the Ka’ba in Mecca. Circumambulation and the touching of the Black Stone isa necessary feature of establishing Moslem identity. It may be that the Jacobean behaviour of hugging a statue of Saint James and touching the treeof life in Santiago resonates across the world as a normal pilgrim rite. This may be extended in the culture of devotional statuettes, souvenirs and holy water. The change of identity of a pilgrim who has completed his journey is reinforced by the wearing of symbolic jewellery and display of keepsakes so as to sustain the pilgrimage experience.“Just as people today often buy a souvenir to bring back from their travels, (as Becket 2020   informs(2)) many pilgrims would buy a badge which could then be pinned to their hat or cloak. These badges had many purposes. They provided a source of income for the shrines and stopped pilgrims breaking off and stealing parts of the shrines as souvenirs! In addition they helped to advertise the shrine, gave a livelihood to local traders and gave the pilgrim proof that he or she had indeed visited a special holy site and were a true pilgrim. Perhaps of even more significance, the pilgrims badge itself was considered a secondary relic and therefore had its own special power. It couldtherefore give saintly protection to its owner.” The true pilgrimage? In conclusion the impact of the journey’s experience upon the total sensory experience of a pilgrim cannot be denied or avoided. Literature, maps, and signage are somewhat anodyne compared with the deep feelings and memories personally treasured . Ritual, veneration, and souvenirs provide a structure or symbolism for the pilgrim. Yet the deepest effect on a pilgrim spiritare the personal sensations of sight, hearing and scent. Only a portion of this can be captured in words and images. . Perhaps one should reflect on how far the emotions of the journey from one's senses are necessary and inherent for a true pilgrimage? (1) www.pilgrimagesenses2019.com(2)www.Becket2020.com
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