Sacred Earth Journeys is leading the way in 2022 pilgrimages for the post COVID world. According to a recent article by National Geographic, “More travelers than ever are embarking on pilgrimages, a trend that may boom in a post-COVID world, as people move away from short-haul city breaks toward fewer flights and longer trips with a sense of purpose.”
Enter Phil Cousineau. Working with Phil for over a decade has imbued our mission as promoters of pilgrimage with insight and magic.
Our participants who decide to travel with Phil always come away with a deeper sense of themselves as wanderers, artists, and mythopoetic journeyers through life at large.
One writer, Victoria Coen, had this to say after traveling with us and Phil on a writer’s retreat in Greece:
“Phil is an exceptional leader, teacher, writer, storyteller. . .I enjoyed his immense knowledge of Greek history and his incredible way of conveying it in engaging storytelling format which made the learning more intellectually stimulating as well as emotionally captivating.”
Whether it be via fueling their artistic endeavors, sense of myth and storytelling, or lust for adventure, Phil certainly has a charming way of instilling creative movement in the minds of his pilgrims.
Who is Phil Cousineau?
Phil Cousineau is many things. That is, his work has spanned multiple areas ranging from mythology (he’s worked personally with the prolific Joseph Campbell), authorship, TV host, and, of course, traveler.
In a recent interview we conducted with Phil, he revealed a bit about the 3rd edition of his popular The Art of Pilgrimage. This book has become a sort of travel bible for many adventurers worldwide. Phil’s goal with the book, after all, is to reveal “the seeker’s guide to making pilgrimage sacred.”
Phil is certainly a pioneer of sacred travel. In his book, he relays some potent advice:
“The time has come to set out for sacred ground…that will stir our sense of wonder. It is down the path to the deeply real where time stops and we are seized by the mysteries. This is the journey that we cannot not take.
The old hermit along the side of the road whispers, Stranger, pass by that which you do not love.”
We have over the years placed a deep trust in Phil as a facilitator of sacred travel. Thus, we’re especially excited for 3 upcoming pilgrimages Phil will be leading with us in 2022.
This journey is a love child of cultural appreciation and sacred pilgrimage. It’s all about experiencing Italy, arguably the world’s most artistic culture.
Many venture on into Italy to experience its many myths, art, literature, fashion, and crafts. These are the things that make up la dolce vita, translated as “the sweet life”.
Both delightful and transformational, here are some exciting things to look out for in the itinerary.
- Guided Tour of Rome: What better way to begin a journey through Italy than by checking out the seat of Roman civilization? We take a tour of ancient Rome’s classical sights such as legendary foundations by mythical Romulus and Remus (where Rome gets its name). Our visit includes the Coliseum, one of the most visited sites in the world, and Palatine Hill, one of the most ancient sites in the city and the so-called “first nucleus of the Roman Empire”. From there, we walk through the city to take in its other many architectural, mythical, and artistic sites.
- Basilica of St. Francis: Saint Francis of Assisi is Italy’s patron saint and one of the most venerated figures in Christianity. To be able to visit this site and contemplate on the life and spiritual aspirations of St. Francis is a special gift. The spectacular basilica is perched on a crescent-shaped mountain and contains the famous frescoes of Cimabue and Giotto. The tomb of Saint Francis is also contained within the basilica.
- Walking Tour of Florence: Florence is important because it represents the theme of our tour, la dolce vita, in all of its glory. Florence is the seat of the resurgence of knowledge of the Classical world, which sparked the Renaissance. In Florence, we’ll delight in sites such as the Cathedral of Florence and the thirteenth-century home-museum of famous poet-pilgrim Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy.
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for.”— C. P. Cavafy
Have you ever read Homer’s Odyssey?
We (and Phil) believe it to be an epic tale worthy of deep pilgrimage into its many myths, characters, and themes.
Phil has crafted an entire journey in Greece dedicated to “A Homeric Journey into the Wonderland: Heroes and Heroines, Gods and Goddesses”.
On this journey, we travel across the “wine-dark sea” to the world immortalized by Homer in the Odyssey, with a special emphasis on recent scholarship, archaeology, and a spate of extraordinary new translations, which gives long-overdue attention to Penelope, Circe, and Calypso, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera.
Here are some itinerary highlights to get excited about!
- Ancient Olympia: Who would have thought that Homer would someday be considered the world’s first sports writer? Well he is—all due to his description of the so-called Funeral Games for the fallen hero Patroclus. At Ancient Olympia, we’ll dedicate time to learning about the role of athletics in Homer and ancient Greece. This is a particularly interesting exploration given recent findings that pushed the beginnings of Greek athletics back to 1250 B.C.E.
- Ithaka: Anyone who has read Homer knows why Ithaka is a point of interest. It’s Odysseus and Penelope’s home, the point of departure for Odysseus on his long voyage to first the Trojan war and then his years-long detour abroad (relayed in The Odyssey). While in Ithaka, we’ll discuss variations of translations of Homer’s Odyssey as well as speculation as to where the true, mythical Ithaka is located.
- Nausicaa’s Cave: We’ll be exploring the legendary site where, in a final act of hope, Odysseus landed and sought refuge with Nausicaa and her parents, King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia. It is here that Odysseus recounted his long 20-year voyage to the family, before which he was granted the supplies and ships that helped him make it home to Ithaka.
The writing retreat in Hydra is perhaps Phil’s most hands-on retreat with us. It is a week-long retreat on the island aimed at sparking mythopoetic creativity, helping our writers become inspired, write from their heart of hearts, and release their material into the world.
You will be encouraged to spend time developing your manuscript rather than critiquing others’ work, and there will be opportunities for one-on-one consultations with Phil, as well as inspiring excursions.
Here’s some components of the trip to look forward to.
- Writing Class: “The Secret Strength of Storytelling”: We’ll be launching the retreat with this special class where Phil will explore the idea of bibliomancy, that is, divination through books. The goal of the class is to get participants started on drafts of original stories and essays.
- Sacred Time, Sacred Space: Another important class with Phil, this time having to do with the importance of the role of time and space in the life of a writer.
- Focusing On The Real Work: What is the “real work”? It’s a phrase thought-up by poet Gary Snyder expressing the need to get past the “false starts and fool’s errands” in order to access what is real in your work. This writing class is especially helpful for writers needing a sense of vision and purpose in their writing.
These three offerings led by Phil Cousineau represent his and our ongoing dedication to the sacred art of pilgrimage. For the sake of both outward and inward pilgrimage, consider embarking on these journeys with a man who’s prolific in his art as well as kind, open, and intelligent toward his participants.
~Jacob Lopez, staff writer