Pilgrim's Progress, or Lack Thereof
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," pleasant chit-chat on the nature of the universe and the proper protection techniques for exotic upholstery! Just settee and forgetee!
Today I mulled two topics:
1. Know Your Professional Dry Cleaner, or
2. Making Pilgrimages to Sacred Shrines
The winner is #2!
One of the regular attendees at the Spoutwood Fairie Festival is a fellow named Andrew Steed. What a fascinating man! Andrew is the official bard of the festival, and his activities there run the gamut from extreme silliness to deeply moving Alchemical Fires. Perhaps you've met people like him who can dance from alpha to omega and be comfortable every step of the way.
Andrew gave a talk at the festival about spiritual pilgrimages to ancient sites in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. He leads tours to these places and is given access to shrines that are otherwise off limits to the general public.
Who among us wouldn't just love to venture to the Old Country, to commune with the Ancestors on the very ground they held sacred?
Okay, okay. Go ahead and say it. Sour grapes, Anne! You don't have enough bread to go to Luray Caverns, let alone Stonehenge! Stop kvetching and start saving your milk money!
Seriously, it's not the money. Although I must admit that if I had the money, I sure would sign on the dotted line with Andrew and toddle off with him into the Yorkshire heath. But as he talked about pilgrimages, I began to ponder the nature of a pilgrimage and whether or not I'd ever taken one.
Turns out I'm an intrepid pilgrim.
EXHIBIT A: ANNE ON HER MOST RECENT PILGRIMAGE, IN NATIVE CLOTHING
My family has lived in the Appalachian Mountains for twelve generations. I don't have a single ancestor on either my mother's or my father's branches who arrived in America after 1740. The story is the same on both sides:
*Ride in little wooden ship to a Tidewater port.
*Stop at the first batch of mountains, set up camp, and breed.
Andrew talked about visiting the site of the Battle of Culloden (1746). By the time that conflict took place, my people were busy building farmhouses for their grandchildren in Pennsylvania and Maryland. There were Johnsons in the Revolutionary War, the Whiskey Rebellion, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Members of my family participated in the Underground Railroad. A few are buried at Andersonville Prison. Granddad designed filters for gas masks used in World War II. Dad made the tires they put on the Jeeps.
And so, though my DNA traces back to the British Isles, my heart remains in Appalachia. Having been the first generation of my family to move away from the mountains, I have always been willing to crawl back to them on my hands and knees if necessary.
Appalachia is my pilgrimage destination, the place where I honor the Ancestors, the ground I crumple in my hand and kiss before I throw it to the wind.
Perhaps this spiritual link to Appalachia has been the inspiration for "The Gods Are Bored." My philosophy has been influenced by an author named Rodger Cunningham, whose book Apples on the Flood: The Southern Mountain Experience talks about how the core people of Appalachia survived on the margins of "civilization" not just in America, but in the British Isles, not just from the time of King James, but for millennia. And one of the hallmarks of these people is a modicum of adaptation, meaning that whatever deities are worshipped around them, they'll more or less accept.
Professor Cunningham did not apply his thesis to spiritual search, but I have. I don't know if my ancestors arrived in the Isles as Celts, or as Britons, or as Fir Bolgs, or maybe they were even there when the Ice Age ended and the English Channel formed.
This leaves me with two options on the spiritual front.
1. Adopt the popular deity of Appalachia, Jehovah, or
2. Interact gently with all deities.
I guess you know by now which choice I've made!
But when it comes to making pilgrimages, my footsteps forever and always will return to Appalachia -- to the graveyards with unreadable stones. To the rocky gaps too steep to be timbered. To the springs and the streams, and to the the winter ridges where you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles. And miles.
If you want me to broaden my horizons, by all means send me a check, and I'll blissfully go tramping with Andrew. But only after I make that trip to Andersonville, Georgia. That's as far as I go beyond the mountains, unless the Goddess Fortuna plans otherwise.
Tomorrow: Chenille or Jacquard: Essential Fabrics or Passing Fads?