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Pilgrimage is a complex and mystical term signifying not only a physical journey to a special place but also an inner spiritual journey. In fact a pilgrimage can be a metaphor for life itself, as life can be represented as a journey full of twists and turns, challenges and triumphs toward a mystical destination.
The fact that a pilgrimage is often seen a “sacred” journey also points to the fact that the process of our journey through life can also be made into a sacred act.
Pilgrimage has a long history and is a widespread spread practice among many world religions including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. As well, Pilgrimage is practiced in emergent religions and spiritualities such as neo-paganism and the loosely defined “new age” movement with pilgrimages to such places as Stonehenge and Glastonbury. In each of these traditions, numerous centres have developed into important focal points to which followers are drawn.
These centres are often thought to be places of spiritual power where something extra-ordinary or miraculous is said to have occurred. Or they are places where holy relics or thought are be contained (eg. the Shroud or Turin, or sacred sites where the relics of various saints are house).
Sometimes these sites are landscapes of great physical beauty or that have acquired some spiritual significance and have become identified as “sacred” to a culture or tradition (such as Sedona New Mexico or the Ganges River in India). Whatever the particular significance These pilgrimages become journeys that reinvigorate faith by visiting places connected to holy figures or sacred experiences associated with their traditions and beliefs.
Pilgrimage can also have a secular dimension as well, where people travel to places of special significance with respect to sports (eg. going to the baseball hall of fame or certain stadiums), places of national or historic significance (such as the Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC) or to the resting places of celebrities (such as Elvis Presley’s resting place and home, Graceland).
There can be a close parallel between tourism and pilgrimage (one can turn into or incorporate the other) … in fact Pilgrimage could be seen as perhaps the earliest forms of tourism! (eg. the pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Holy Land that were opened up for Christians during the Crusades). However, pilgrimage of the spiritual kind usually involves a sense of the sacred and is usually done for the purpose of deepening or elucidating one’s faith.
Pilgrimage can be an important component of spiritual wellness. It is a time dedicated to that which is considered sacred and involves both a physical and spiritual component. Often there can be a component of physical and/or mental challenge or "ordeal" that may combine to make a pilgrimage a memorable and transformational experience.
Consider incorporating pilgrimage into your spiritual wellness plan.
Making a mini personal spiritual pilgrimage