Tag: Pilgrimage

The Holiest Mountain in Ireland

I’m currently lucky enough to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Saint Patrick’s Day – Paddy’s Day as it’s known here as elsewhere – is an unofficial holiday, not least because it often falls mid-way through lent giving those who observe this fasting period a “day off” and time of celebration before Easter. While winter still lingers in Newfoundland and the Shamrock green has yet to burrow its way up through the snow, my thoughts today warmly turn to memories of Ireland, with its rich folklore, inspiring landscapes and shrines connecting its spiritual past with our present pilgrimages.

 

Croagh Patrick, Ireland

Phil Cousineau, best-selling author, teacher and TV host, has been taking pilgrims to Ireland with Sacred Earth Journeys for some years now, and one of the places he will again lead a group to this September is Croagh Patrick, the holiest mountain in Ireland. It was on the summit of this mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD, and the tradition of pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in honour of Ireland’s patron saint stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption.(1) For the 2013 Sacred Earth Journeys tour Phil will lead the group up to the first prayer station – around a half hour walk – and will there share a fascinating history of St. Patrick and the tradition of pilgrimage.
Colloquially known as The Reek, Croagh Patrick also presents one of Ireland’s most breathtaking vistas from all stages of the ascent. Located close to the picturesque town of Westport, the mountain stands tall and proud distinguishing itself from its neighbouring rolling hills by its stature (2,500 ft above sea level) and conical presence. The place where, according to legend, Saint Patrick banished snakes from Ireland forever! Today, a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick is a fitting place to banish our own – more metaphorical – snakes and breath in that lung-expanding pure Irish air while absorbing the spectacular views over County Mayo.
There are still some places on the 2013 sacred journey to Ireland: The Mythic Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau if you’d like to experience for yourself the majesty of Croagh Patrick as well as discover Ireland’s stunning landscapes and vibrant cities. Until then, as the old Irish blessing goes, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Notes:
Visit the Press section of the Sacred Earth Journey’s website for a couple of recent fascinating articles by Phil Cousineau about the art of pilgrimage and what it means to be a pilgrim: http://www.sacredearthjourneys.ca/sections/about-us-x.htm
(1) Factual information taken from the Croagh Patrick Visitor’s Centre: http://www.croagh-patrick.com/visitorcentre/holy-mountain
~ Kim Bridgett

Sacred Pilgrimage

Have you ever longed to embark on a journey of pure wonder and transformation, a journey that may stretch your personal boundaries and open your heart, mind, and spirit to new possibilities and new insights? If so, a sacred pilgrimage is the trip for you. For centuries, people of all cultures have gone on pilgrimages to sacred sites around the world. These journeys acted as rites of passage, an expression of faith and devotion, an answer to a sacred call, or merely a seeking of spirit. In his book, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, Phil Cousineau writes that “in each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred… What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”
The reasons why modern day pilgrims embark on a pilgrimage are very personal and individual. For many, there is a deep desire to touch and connect with the sacred energies that are palpable at sacred sites. Perhaps one has a lingering question and feels drawn to a certain place for answers, or perhaps one wishes to find a community of like-minded spirits by venturing on a pilgrimage with others. There are many soulful reasons why one chooses to go on a pilgrimage rather than just travel some place new. Essentially, pilgrims are spiritual seekers, people who are searching for the divine, a force which can be found in a myriad of spaces. Cousineau describes a pilgrim as a “poetic traveler, one who believes that there is poetry on the road, at the heart of everything.”Phil Cousineau also explains how the sacred can be found all around us if we travel with a certain mindset. “The practice of soulful travel is to discover the overlapping point between history and everyday life, the way to find the essence of every place, every day: in the markets, small chapels, out-of-the-way parks, craft shops. Curiosity about the extraordinary in the ordinary moves the heart of the traveler intent on seeing behind the veil of tourism.” If you are able to see, feel and experience the sacred even in the most mundane of things and places, then you are already on your way, you have already become a pilgrim.

There is no better time to begin your sacred pilgrimage than the present. If you have been drawn here and are reading this article, then you have already been called. It is now in your hands to heed this call and respond as you will. I wish you an exciting, enlightening, and transformational journey, wherever the road may lead you.

~ Daniela Masaro

Ireland Forever

As I try to wrap up my thoughts, I realize there is so much more I can write about. For brevity sake, I will encourage anyone who reads this to visit Ireland and discover her many wonders. And I would direct you to the poetry of W.B. Yeats, the writings of John O’Donoghue, and the music of Christy Moore and Seán Tyrrell, just to name a few.

The last stops of our tour end in Galway and Dublin ~ urban, sophisticated, yet with a lyrical ambience. How serendipitous that we should be in Dublin for the misty full moon of autumn equinox, and the following day, September 23, 17:49 to raise a toast to Arthur on International Toast Arthur Day! For those of you who don’t know about Arthur Guinness, he is a revered man who founded his brewery in Dublin in 1749. He provided us with plenty of refreshment during our pilgrimage.

I write this last blog in the wake of Black Thursday, September 30, which feels all the more devastating after seeing Seán O’Casey’s play, The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre. Such a tumultuous history! But I leave with a bright vision for Ireland from atop the Hill of Tara; panoramic vistas, as far as the eye can see, and feeling the surge of energy coursing through the land as I joined hands with my roommate, Susan. This is a country that is no stranger to adversity, yet survives with a strong spirit.

At our farewell banquet, a final feast after days of consistently excellent meals, my fellow pilgrims and I are filled with gratitude – For Helen, who organized all the logistics and attended to every important detail. For our attentive driver Gregory, who took care of us with his unfailing hospitality and good cheer. For the great chemistry of our group; all of us undoubtedly have been changed by this experience. We are anam cara. For our extraordinary leader, Phil, who brought us soulful magic, mystery, literature, and music. And for all the people we met along the way who touched our lives.

What a blessing this pilgrimage has been. We can create our own Book of Kells with these rich memories and new understandings of the understory that is Ireland.

Suaimhneas (deep peace),
Joan Ishibashi

Highlights of Ireland Tour

George Bernard Shaw said, ‘We spend our lives circling around what we really want to say.’ That seems to be the story of my life. But the Celtic swirl has propelled me into new self-awareness, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. And also with thanks to a small kick in the behind from Phil’s pilgrim insights and pointed questions. That being said, I want to send a couple more blogs and feel like I’m circling the Hill of Tara, wondering how to wrap up a royal and epic journey. There is enough to fill a book, so I’ll merely mention a few more highlights.

• Coole Park – beautiful and serene, home of Lady Augusta Gregory, and inspiration to W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O’Casey, to name a few.

• The Abbey Theatre – a fitting birthing place for a true national theatre, in the heart of Dublin, near the O’Connell Bridge, site of creativity and revolutionary unrest.

• The lovely town of Clifden – where we experienced jaw-dropping visual arts and music at the Clifden Arts Festival, while mingling with the local artists. Once again I am swept off my feet by the romantic Irish. ;)

• A brief visit to the picturesque town of Westport – where I wanted to roam the streets and look for my new friend Aisling. Our conversation about her life, hopes and dreams was too short and I wanted it to continue. I didn’t find her shop, so I’ll have to e-mail her from the States, and hope I see her again one day.

• Who would’ve thought there would be a coral beach with pristine aquamarine waters? But there we were in Derrygimla, with most of our group dipping their toes in the ocean. I never saw such lush beds of kelp in all my life, so I had to sit in them while contemplating the starvation of millions of Irish. I was surrounded by opihi (cockles, I think), mollusks, and piles of delicious-looking kombu, a veritable feast already seasoned with ocean minerals and ready to eat. Here was an abundance of food, out of reach, and perhaps unknown, to the starving victims of English oppression.

• Images of the coffin ships are now seared into my consciousness. Entire villages, cleared of inhabitants, people sold into slavery or starved to death – these images haunted me as I stared out at the Atlantic and dug my feet into the kelp and coral. The dichotomy of our tragic human history set against the breathtaking beauty of land, sea and sky is jarring.

The beauty of this part of Ireland, the joy de vivre of the people who are embracing the fall of the Celtic Tiger as an opportunity for rebirth, will continue to speak to my soul.

From here we move on to city life, as we head for Galway and Dublin, and some final farewells. Guinness evenings help us on our way…

~ Joan Ishibashi