All posts tagged Pilgrimage

  • Going on Pilgrimage – Book of Lismore

    Going on pilgrimage without a change of heart brings little reward from God. For it is by practising virtue and not by mere motion of the feet that we are brought to heaven. – Book of Lismore

    This quote has been placed at the beginning of Tóchar Phádraig at Ballintubber Abbey establishing a meaning of pilgrimage which draws on the early Irish Church. I have referenced this quote in numerous public presentations and it is a sort of definition of pilgrimage that really resonates with people. It nicely combines the idea of pilgrimage as a physical journey and a spiritual/emotional (or meta-physical) journey.  As I have previously discussed, pilgrimage involves a number of characteristics that distinguish it from other types of travel and this quote captures that idea well. Pilgrimage is a type of meaningful movement, a journey or undertaking of significance, one that takes shape in doing, feeling and believing.

  • Máméan Pilgrimage

    Máméan is a mountain pass pilgrimage located in Galway between Connemara and Joyce Country. The traditional pilgrimage is practiced on the first Sunday in August, linking back to the Celtic harvest feast of Lughnasa. Pilgrims walked, sometimes barefoot, from either side of the Maum Turk Mountains to the site. St Patrick’s Bed, two holy wells and a number of leachtana are the focus of older customs, while more recently a revival of the pilgrimage has involved the performance of the Stations of the Cross and the saying of mass.

    The more recent additions of the small chapel and the statue of St Patrick stand next to the grotto containing St Patrick's Bed.

    The more recent additions of the small chapel and the statue of St Patrick stand next to the grotto containing St Patrick’s Bed.

    Pilgrims circling on of the leacht at the site. They throw a stone into the centre after completing their rotations.

    Pilgrims circling on of the leacht at the site. They throw a stone into the centre after completing their rotations.

    Tobar Phadraig or St Patrick's Well, one of two wells on the site. It is rounded as part of the pattern.

    Tobar Phadraig or St Patrick’s Well, one of two wells on the site. It is rounded as part of the pattern.

    The cross leads the pilgrims around the site, with prayers, reading and singing at each station.

    The cross leads the pilgrims around the site, with prayers, reading and singing at each station.

    The group following the cross in completing the Stations of the Cross

    The group following the cross in completing the Stations of the Cross

    These photos were taken during the 2012 pilgrimage.

  • An on-going prayer

    Rotating and kneeling, flow and pause, the intentions of the pilgrims immerse and emanate in this prayerful event: performing the Penitential Beds on Lough Derg.* The movements, gestures and bare feet call out in silence, a scene of activity, harmony and stillness.

    One of the aspects I find most appealing are the patterns of movements. Rotations around and within each bed continually being performed and punctuated by pauses. This beautiful, unfolding scene is an ongoing prayer. A prayer that continues every day throughout the summer.

    A certain reassurance radiates from these events, reminding me that all through the pilgrimage season (1st June-15th Aug) there are pilgrims praying on Lough Derg. Praying for personal intentions but also more universal themes of peace, well-being and hope. They are praying for me, for you, for us all. While I go about my daily life there are people praying the beds, as I eat they are fasting and every night as I go to bed, I think of those pilgrims preparing to undertake their Vigil. On a small lake island in Donegal, while we rest, they keep Vigil.

     

    * This short video clip of pilgrims on the beds, taken from the roof of the male dorms and enhanced through a Vimeo filter, captures some of the unique character of St Patrick’s Purgatory.

  • Lines

    Lines are traced and followed, made and extended, grooved and lived. I’m concerned with the lines of the pilgrim path. Using the ‘Pencil Sketch’ function on MS Powerpoint I altered some fieldwork photos taken while walking Tóchar Phádraig as part of different groups over the past few years as a way of exploring the role of lines. Starting with the literal lines of the images rendered as drawings, I wish to explore the others lines and meanings present.

    Robert Stoddard, in his 1987 article Pilgrimages Along Sacred Paths, explored the geography of sacred space as points, lines, or areas, with the lines category referring to the routes of travel of activities associated with religious motives. This classification draws attention to the line itself, that is the pilgrim path in this cases, as having significance, rather than being a mere route to a sacred site (spot). Elsewhere, the anthropologist Tim Ingold, in his book Lines: A Brief History, explores the potential of the line as movement, through the concept of wayfaring.  The line is a pathway, it is movement, it is the means through a person engages with the surrounding environment.

    Through a few (geo) poetic stanzas I trace some thoughts on lines in this pilgrimage. I wonder where they will lead?

    TP Lines
    Pilgrims:
    A row setting out
    Near departure, pace emerging
    Movements and motions linking each person to the next
    Each person is the line
    Leading and following, a common rhythm, an alignment
    Pilgrims as line

    TP 3 Lines
    Path:
    The path is active
    It has been walked and will be walked
    Stretching across the boggy terrain
    A trackway towards the Reek,
    but also approaching other places
    Lines roaming out, in and beyond

    TP 2 Lines
    Landscape:
    Sweeping, reaching, gliding
    The path, the land, the pilgrims are spaced
    Each line mingles and flows
    The path is landscape, landscape is pilgrim, pilgrim is path
    All are lines

  • Path Croagh Patrick

    Path: Croagh Patrick
    Flesh & surface meet
    Foot & rock slide
    Belief & tradition imprint
    A pilgrimage, for some

    DSC_0001

  • Recreating Leaba Phádraig

    ‘St Patrick’s Bed’ (Leaba Phádraig) stands on top of Croagh Patrick as a focal point of ritual activity as pilgrims round the feature repeated sets of prayers. Small votive offerings and donations are also left there. In developing, my attempts to materialise or ‘Lego’ my research, I’ve tried to recreate a scene of pilgrims circling and praying at the bed.

    DSC_0211 DSC_0347 - Copy

    DSC_0061 DSC_0072 DSC_0075 DSC_0080

  • Touching Stone

    Touch is a sense that is frequently overlooked in academic research, and indeed, in our daily lives. We tend to think primarily in visual terms and then audio, whereas our other sense are relegated in our understandings. However, touch is brought to the fore in different religious-spiritual context. Humans seem to have an innate desire to touch important objects (that’s why so many museums, exhibitions and shops have signs expressing their displeasure at such!). In touching something we feel closer to it – it is intimate act. With religious, spiritual or supernatural objects by touching it we get closer to the origin of their significance.

    KnockWall 1

    Pilgrims visiting Knock, a Marion Shrine in Mayo, often touch a section of wall at the corner of the Apparition Chapel. It is believe that in 1879 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at the gable end of the parish church, along with St Joseph, St John (the Evangelist) and Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God. The stones of that section of wall are from the end of church where the apparition occurred.

    Some pilgrims briefly touch the wall in passing, others keep their hands there focused on feeling the stone, and others, as seen above, rest their faces against the spot. In the more purposeful and concentrated touches the prayers are made physical. The intentions and well-wishes are channelled into that touch.

    Suggested Reading:

    Geographies of Touch

  • Walking Tóchar Phádraig

    “As you ‘walk the Tóchar’, whether on foot or in fantasy, you will be going not only on a spiritual pilgrimage, but on a cultural and historical journey down through the ages also. And both experiences, if fully entered into, should bring about that change of heart and insight of mind which is essential to a pilgrim’s progress.” (p.v) Fr Frank Fahey in Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Tóchar Pádraig is a walkway that leads from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh Patrick. This old pilgrim road stretches c.35 km across mid-Mayo on a route that is both cross-country and on quite rural roads. Annually, Ballintubber Abbey organises four group walks during the summer months. This account is taken from one such event.

    Pilgrims gathering in the morning in Ballintubber Abbey. Mixing and preparing for the pilgrimage ahead.

    Pilgrims gathering in the morning in Ballintubber Abbey. Mixing and preparing for the pilgrimage ahead.

    The gathering in the Abbey is a starting point where Fr Frank Fahey gives an introduction to the route and the concept of pilgrimage. Although some people arrive in the groups – in my case, my father accompanied me – most people don’t know each other. During the day people, through chat and travelling together, will get to know each other better, leading to the emergence of a camaraderie or communitas. My research was a nice topic of conversation which I shared with different people throughout the day.

    Pilgrims are invited to light candles before they begin walking. It serves as a means of connect with an intention and the Divine.

    Pilgrims are invited to light candles before they begin walking. It serves as a means of connect with an intention and the Divine.

    A tóchar is an historical route way which served an important land-based transport systems in ancient and medieval times. They were particularly associated with pilgrimages and ecclesiastical foundations. It is speculated that Tóchar Phádraig is based on an earlier route from Cruachain, Roscommon, the seat of the Kings of Connacht to Croagh Patrick, which itself is a site of ancient ritual activity.

    The group setting off on the Tóchar, walking across the fields adjacent to the abbey.

    The group setting off on the Tóchar, walking across the fields adjacent to the abbey.

    The route meanders through the landscape, as we move in meadows, walk along ridges and navigate boggy areas. The removal from the everyday is most definitely expressed in the cross-country sections where soft paths carry us away from the world through quiet patches of nature. Even the on-road sections can be very sedate with little traffic coming by. This withdrawing from the rest of the world and our own lives is a central part of pilgrimage. The landscape itself, is central to the creation of this liminality.

    Walking through one of the many fields the Tóchar passes through, the group spreading out as people chat and walk.

    Walking through one of the many fields the Tóchar passes through, the group spreading out as people chat and walk.

    The Tóchar follows is known route as much as possible which involves walking on road and through countryside. However, many of the roads are very quiet boreens on which you encounter little, if any, traffic.

    The Tóchar follows is known route as much as possible which involves walking on road and through countryside. However, many of the roads are very quiet boreens on which you encounter little, if any, traffic.

    Gathering for mass on Boheh stone (St Patrick's Chair) a former mass rock with ‘cup and ring’ motifs which are a fine example of neolithic rock art.

    Gathering for mass on Boheh stone (St Patrick’s Chair) a former mass rock with ‘cup and ring’ motifs which are a fine example of neolithic rock art.

    On the long stretches of road in Teevenacroaghy the group is very spread out. It is in the latter part of the day, as we approach Croagh Patrick.

    On the long stretches of road in Teevenacroaghy the group is very spread out. It is in the latter part of the day, as we approach Croagh Patrick.

    Only a few climb to the actual summit of Croagh Patrick, as it is an extra undertaking: it is explained to us that the main part of the pilgrimage is the route itself, in doing this you have completed the pilgrimage. This speaks to an ideal of pilgrimage as a journey, rather than a destination. The typical outlook would see the summit of the Reek as a requirement, but in this event our attention is called to other ways of walking and being. It is a readjustment, a pleasant one.

    Beginning the climb of the Croagh Patrick ridge form the northern, Teevenacroaghy, side. The path is less clear here, as we walk across rough ground.

    Beginning the climb of the Croagh Patrick ridge form the northern, Teevenacroaghy, side. The path is less clear here, as we walk across rough ground.

    As the bus takes our group from Murrisk back to Ballintubber, we chat and rest. We say our goodbyes and each of us, in our previous groupings or as individuals, go on our own paths.

    “Reminding yourself that life is a journey not a destination, you now let slow motion time drift past on diaphanous wings while you absorb the timeless sensations and colours of the Mayo countryside.” John O’Dwyer, Pilgrim Trail, The Irish Times, Jul 14, 2012.

    Reading:
    Tóchar Phádraig: a Pilgrim’s Progress. 1989, Ballintubber Abbey Publication, Mayo.