Pilgrim and pilgrimage are words that have carried many meanings over the centuries. The English term 'pilgrim' originally comes from the Latin peregrinus -meaning a foreigner, a stranger, someone on a journey, or a temporary resident.
Pilgrimage is a wide-ranging topic, touching on many aspects of human existence, signifying not only a physical journey to a special place but also an inner spiritual journey leading to a process of transformation. For some people, pilgrimage acts as a rite of passage; for others, it involves seeking spiritual and/or material rewards.
Pilgrimage is almost a universal process amongst all religions. Examples of the more well-known sites are Lourdes (Christian), Mecca (Islam), Nepal (Buddhism) and Benares (Hindu). In recent years, this practice of pilgrimage has spread beyond the confines of established religion with contemporary travellers of every belief travelling to sites they hold as sacred. The destination of the 21st century pilgrim is usually a place given prominence by significant events, the shrine of a saint or other notable figure or a remarkable geographical feature. The experience usually contains the following aspects:
- Journeying alone or in a group
- Reaching a destination
- Encountering special rituals, objects, geographical features and architecture
- Enjoying particular experiences and benefits
- Returning home
The Processes of Pilgrimage within a Glastonbury context
As a Medieval Christian centre of pilgrimage, Glastonbury is still recognised today by annual pilgrimages of the Anglican and Catholic churches, but these are one-day events and perhaps not typical of the classic pilgrimage of the Middle Ages. Alongside the Christian pilgrimages, individuals and groups from a wide variety of faiths and beliefs are drawn to Glastonbury. In fact, the one common factor that they share may be ‘a Call to Glastonbury’.
The start of any pilgrimage is awareness of potential pilgrims that they need to undertake such a journey. The reasons might be varied but generally include a desire to visit a particular holy or sacred site in order to worship, give honour, seek answers to questions and receive healing and spiritual guidance. Combined with these objectives, is the satisfaction of the journey itself.
There is no longer a firmly established custom for making such a journey to Glastonbury and instead, the potential pilgrim will have heard about the place from friends, books or the internet, which may have sparked the interest. This can be followed by a strong call to visit, and for some, to even come to live in the town.
The various stages of a Pilgrimage.
Return to the Glastopedia page.
Pilgrimage Authors: Morgana West/Barry Taylor 2007 Edited MW 14.08.15 / SD 14.08.15 / DP 22.08.15