Preperation – The nature of Pilgrimage

Reading around the Wiblog and other sites it is clear that the preperations for Greenbelt are in full swing and the anticipation is growing. As some of you know earlier in the year I looked in to Greenbelt (along with Spring Harvest and Keswick) to see if it was a form of pilgrimage for some people. Over the next couple of days I want to explore that on here, so perhaps Greenbelt can have a new dimension for some of us.

So today I kick off – what is a pilgrimage? (Please bear with me as this is a bit of hack it, paste it and then just amend it slightly from my essay- don’t worry you’re not going to end up with all 5,000 words – just edited highlights).

Well the key text that I used to get a typology from was Turner, V & Turner, E, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture, (1978), Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

This ideal type can be seen to have a number of elements but the following are the key themes throughout Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture.

1. Pilgrimage is not a static activity, rather the nature of the pilgrimage centre and the pilgrimage itself develops through time and is shaped by and indeed helps shape social and political history. Modern pilgrimage is seen in some ways as a reaction against the dominant secular ideas of the time. Within this pilgrimage is often seen as marginal and so can be endorsed or suppressed according to the time.

2. Within liminal pilgrimage there has to be an aspect of potentiality for change within the individual through undertaking the act of pilgrimage.

3. Pilgrimage is associated with miracle and revival of faith

4. Communitas, particularly focused around ritual is a key feature of pilgrimage.

5. Pilgrimage and the centres of pilgrimage are subject to a complex range of regulation (formal and informal) which develop as the pilgrimage becomes more established.

6. Whilst there are clear differences there are also clear links between pilgrimage and tourism, particularly as religion has become more individualised. Pilgrimage has a leisure element to it.

(*Note for those wondering what communitas is – Turner, V & Turner E, (1978), pp250 – 251 define this concept of communitas and explain that it is, “spontaneous, immediate, concrete, not abstract”, “undifferentiated, egalitarian, direct, nonrational” and “strains toward universalism and openness, it is a spring of pure possibility.” – if still confuddled don’t worry it will become clearer as this series progresses )