Modern pilgrimage is not sight-seeing. It is to meet the spirits of the land.
The meeting brings pilgrims closer to the spirit of nature in this time of change. And the pilgrims are changed by the encounter.
In their meetings with the spirits of the land they give and receive healing.
Pilgrims require tools (spiritual practices and procedures) to use in the places where spirits dwell. They approach their work with a pure heart like the hollow bone – unencumbered by preconceptions or the ideas of others.
However they must be prepared. Part of the preparation is to become familiar with the concepts needed to understand and perceive the outer and the hidden landscapes they will travel through, and the beings they will meet.
For example, the Inuit have many words for snow, and people of the forest can name every plant and animal, so they can see their environment very clearly and with great subtlety and discrimination. Many indigenous peoples have not only named all parts of their surroundings, but also have stories and songs intimately connected to them.
To perceive the hidden landscape, modern pilgrims need a spiritual vocabulary, some of which can be acquired by listening attentively and deeply to stories, music and songs woven around and through the places they visit. However, they shouldn’t believe or even try to remember what they listen to. Remember the hollow bone.
Reading or listening to the history of the place is also of great benefit to the pilgrim, giving a sense of the hidden roots of the present.
It’s best to treat accounts of other pilgrims’ journeys as story and myth, by listening intently and deeply without belief or attachment.
In fact, it’s good to treat history as story, and story as myth. Myth moves and changes. It changes perception, changes attitudes, is alive.
The modern pilgrim seeks what is alive in the holy places, not what is dead.