"Pilgrims are persons in motion passing through territories that are not their own, seeking something we might call 'contemplation' or perhaps the word 'clarity' would do as well, a goal to which the spirit's compass points the way." Brother Pedro of Taize
When does a walk become a pilgrimage? The Cornish Celtic Way is considered a pilgrim’s way, a 125-mile walk past Celtic crosses, holy wells, and Roman churches who honor long ago travelers from other places. Some became saints because of what they did in their new locale. The pilgrimage's emblem is a spiral, like the Camino de Santiago's seashell. The Cornish Celtic Way comprises the SW Coastal Path, Coastal Path, Saints Way, and St Michael's Way. The way signs have not yet been marked with the emblem. Nigel Marns, a vicar from Ludgvan, created this new pilgrim's path called the Cornish Celtic Way that begin in St Germans and ends at St Michael's Mount, a stone’s throw from Ludgvan. Nigel sought to deepen his faith by walking and learning the history of the travelers who came to help the Celts in SW England between 400 and 700 AD. Missionary work involves hardship, poverty, and adventure. The strange tales told about these adventurous travelers found enough foothold that sainthood was bestowed on some of them.
New Horizons, New Ideas
From a 21st century perspective, I see these travelers as migrants who often escaped hardship at home (Ireland, Wales) or wanted to improve their own and other’s lives in the name of religion by exploring new horizons. St Germanus established a church and became bishop of the new religious order he brought with him, in St Germans, where our pilgrimage began.
Others were women who escaped persecution at home and just wanted to live compassionately with others. Saint Izzy was such a person. Saint Agnes was an escaped Roman martyr from the 4th century. Saint Carontoc came from Wales. He established a practice of hard work, study and care for animals. One adventurer lived on barley and pulses, showing that simple living is possible. He provided a light/beacon for lost seafarers.
Adventurer turned Pilgrim
I had no particular goal in mind for doing this pilgrimage. I intended to turn my yearly long distance walk into a more meaningful experience than a mere athletic accomplishment. When I walk I can think, I get clarity and I let the environment teach me. The landscape's beauty deepened my appreciation for life on this planet. The history revealed to me as I slept in old churches, smelled the musty stone walls, touched Celtic crosses and received the hospitality from strangers, humbled me and made me thankful for the privileges I have in life. I am a US immigrant, but I have the freedom to return to my homeland. I haven't needed to escape hardship or create a better life. I'm an adventurer with a deep love for home.
I am home again, reflecting on what happened on my pilgrimage. Saint Carantoc spoke to me of balance between work, study and caring for others (I care for plants in the garden alternating with weeding at my daughter’s ranch, I hike the mountains; I study Buddhism and work on my writing). St. Michael assured me of his protection as a traveler and advised me to appease the demons, who are my own creation and take the form of dragons. Saint Agnes let me dream I can step through time and alter my reality by paying attention to the moment and manifesting any reality I want. Can I?
Nine days of walking, up and down rocky coastal paths, through fields and woods, with rest stops on village benches, at cafes for Cornish cream tea and coffee, on grassy headlands overlooking the Atlantic ocean. An ocean that connects my native land and my adopted country. The ocean, like a meditative mind, conceals all thoughts and feelings beneath its waves. The breakers are an expression of what lies beneath.
There was just enough hardship - long light-filled days ( the 52nd parallel at midsummer), tired legs, sometimes a hard floor to sleep on - to stir my deeper waters. There was enough spaciousness - few tourists, few hikers on the trail, grassy headlands, empty beaches, to expand my mind and let me enter a space of inner stillness. These conditions fulfilled the criteria for calling this a pilgrimage. Besides going on pilgrimage, I visited family headquarters in Holland. I am re-connected to self and those who are dear to me.
Life Goes On
Back at my outpost I pick up where I left off: living a balanced life, building community, helping others. This echoes the journey of travelers to Cornwall in the 5th and 6th century.