Practices of Personal Pilgrimage

A Pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey in to someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, or to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a pilgrim. In America, the term pilgrim is typically associated with an early colonial Protestant sect known for their strict rules of discipline. Pilgrims visit the Holy Land to touch and see physical manifestations of their faith, confirm their beliefs in the holy context with collective excitation, and connect personally to the Holy Land. (Stockholm Report 2011)

Christian pilgrimage was first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Surviving descriptions of Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land date from the 4th century, when pilgrimage was encouraged by church fathers like St Jerome and established by Helena, the mother of Constantine. Pilgrimages also began to be made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, Saints and Martyrs, as well as to places associated with the irgin Mary. Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales” recounts the tales told by pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and the shrine of Thomas Becket.

Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It should be attempted at least once in the lifetime of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so. It is the most important of all Muslim pilgrimages, and is the largest pilgrimage for Muslims. Another important place for Muslims is the city of Medina, the second holiest place, burial place for Muhammad.
The ihram (white robes of pilgrimage) is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah: that there is no difference between a prince and a pauper. Ihram is also symbolic for holy virtue and pardon from all past sins. While wearing the ihram in Mecca, a pilgrim may not shave, clip their nails, wear perfume, swear or quarrel, hunt, kill any creature, uproot or damage plants, cover the head for men or the face and hands for women, marry, wear shoes over the ankles, perform any dishonest acts or carry weapons. If they do any of these their pilgrimage is invalid.

Jewish pilgrimage usually involves the return to Jerusalem. The Wailing Wall is all that remains of the Western wall of the Temple. This was the center of the Jewish religion, until its destruction in 70CE, and all adult men who were able were required to visit and offer sacrifices. Following the destruction of the Second Temple and the onset of diaspora, the centrality of pilgrimage was discontinued. In its place came prayers and rituals hoping for a return to Zion and the accompanying restoration of regular pilgrimages. Pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall was off-limits from 1948 to 1967, when East Jerusalem was controlled by Jordan.

  • Where to?
  • Where From?
  • Who with?
  • With what?
  • When?
  • How long?
  • By what mode?
  • In what manner?


  • Marking the Way
  • Carrying a burden
  • Companionship
  • Journalling - text and art
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Hospitality
  • Reading
  • Hospitality
  • Physical Posture
  • Wearing garb
  • Singing
  • Communion
  • Holy Conversation
  • Silence
  • Testimony

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