Pilgrimage infers travel, a journey undertaken with intent—not as a lark, although fun can be a part of it. Sometimes the mission is known ahead. Or it’s discovered along the way. Just as true, it may only be in hindsight, a lengthy time passed from the conclusion, that all comes into focus. Ah, there’s the reason I went…
One thing is certain. It’s a passage made with holy purpose, and you must leave the homeland in order for the pilgrimage to occur. I’m using the word ‘holy’ for a reason. It’s a term people usually back away from because of its connotations, often for the same reasons ‘pilgrimage’ is given wide berth. Here I’m using both for common purpose, giving them due because they take us to a place we normally don’t dwell.
To undertake a pilgrimage, your soul must come through, reaching out from that core level. It’s a call to engage, go deeper. It’s a yearning to venture into the unknown. Some conclusion is sought. It’s time to step beyond a threshold, out of the status quo.
Your soul is offering the invitation. But it’s your everyday self that has to accept it at some level because…
You’re offering yourself up to a foreign land…
Little is likely to be what you’re used to…
There’s certain to be physical, emotional or mental discomfort—maybe all three!
And it’s through such radical departure that you discover what you’re made of—sometimes quite the surprise. As a result, you’re enlivened. Your constructs are stretched. You’re taken beyond your limits. Your new world emerges.
Sometimes folks attempt to fool themselves into it by saying such things as:
I’m expected to do it.
I’m here to support my spouse…friend…(fill in the blank).
That’s a place I always wanted to visit.
Whatever it takes to get you there is fine. In the end, there will be certain recognition for most:
This is spiritual travel. And it’s pure medicine.
In early November I returned from The Heart of the Andes during which we made a pilgrimage to the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco, perched at 14,300 feet.* Harold Joseph, a Hopi Wisdom Keeper from the village of Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, was sponsored by Kenosis Spirit Keepers as an emissary for his religious leader Lee Wayne Lomayestewa with a mission to request prayers from the Q’ero community for continuity of threatened Hopi traditions. Harold said, “The Q’ero spiritual leaders make strong prayers!”
There is no road up to the village. In order to get there we sometimes rode on horseback, much of it walking through some of the most beautiful and steep landscape I’ve experienced. Harold stopped a number of places on our journey to give his own prayers and leaving offerings, as well as during despacho ceremony during our time in the village.* We were truly privileged to be part of all of it.
The highest point to and from the village is 16,000 feet before descending. On our return, as some of us were already ascending, I began to hear a voice echoing from the valley below, calling forcefully every few minutes. I couldn’t understand the words or see who it was. Later I learned it was Harold giving us all a message that Hopi Spirit Keepers used with each other during times of challenge in the kiva, after many long hours of prayer or enduring inclement weather during ceremonial dances.
He said it’s meant to strengthen spiritual warriors, to remind them they’re doing what they’re doing for more than just themselves. They’re doing it for their community and more…for all humanity. I will never forget Harold’s message bouncing from mountain to mountain.
After we were home for a few weeks, Harold sent me a note about our spiritual travel journey: “The effect on my life has been enormous in terms of the spiritual connections that was made in behalf of the Kikmongi.*** The awareness that we are spiritually connected to creators and keepers of life: Katsi. No changes in my life but emphasis on the importance of carrying on my responsibility as a Hopi and its ceremonial practices that rejuvenates life here on Mother Earth and the Universe for future generations.”
In early May I will begin walking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage in northern Spain. My old friend Oscar Panizo is going with me. People ask me why I’m doing such a thing. I can’t honestly give a concrete reason. I just know I’m called to undertake it. The whisper had been hovering in the background for a while, and now is the time.
I also know without a doubt: I will repeatedly hear echoes through time—Harold’s voice encouraging me.
*The next Heart of the Andes will be October 23-November 5, 2015 and include Bolivia and Peru as a special initiation journey mirroring the path designated by Viracocha, the Incan Creator God. Six Q’ero Spirit Keepers have been invited to accompany us in a pilgrimage that will take them back to their origins. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support their sponsorship.
**A despacho is a prayer or blessing bundle made in ceremony by Quechua and Q’ero peoples of the Andes.
*** Kikmongi is Hopi for religious leader.