Pilgrimage is defined in most people’s consciousness as a trip towards sacred destinations. These sacred destinations are a metaphor to redemption, forgiveness from God and celebration of a cosmic existence of life. Abstracting the meaning of god and god’s cultural and philosophical creation, combining it to modern life’s necessities it is easy to come to a different, much more broad definition of pilgrimage.
God; this cosmic existence, born from peoples constant need to explain their context of existence, the environment. Ancient Greeks searched for “νέμεσις" (nemesis) and “τίσις” (tí.sis: punishment) which were provided as goddesses by the Gods in order to relieve them from their actions.
Derived by these feelings of justice and punishment, religion shape the ethics of human interrelations and human to nature interaction. Evolving this background of God’s creation by the human’s modern psychologists and philosophers detached religion from an a priori statement or existence to a psychological necessity. Nietzsche’s famous words: “God is dead” as provocative it is, summarises the belief that religion intended to more to shape morals and therefore for him being free from God meant having free will, by denying moral phenomena believing in the moral interpretation of phenomena. Sigmund Freud always mentioned that God is a wish-fulfilment and relief from the fear of an end. Is also growing fears of hope of life extension and destiny or purpose.
These two opinions on God are considered a major breakthrough for the formation of the modern perception of life.
Communication is what shaped the human race as we know it. Not only between humans but between humans and their environment. To communicate we built paths, roads bridges and recently the world wide web. By communication we discover, we compare our discoveries and by comparing we reach the knowledge. We become fearless to walk through forests, we become engineers to cross rivers; and all to explore the unknown.
One of the most ancient rituals of knowledge is travelling. Herodotus is known as a historian who documented history in its making. Charles Darwin was able to develop his ideas by experiencing knowledge. Therefore, travelling and especially walking can be described as a sacred procedure which praises the knowledge.
After industrialisation, people started transforming towns into cities, and cities into metropoles. Shaping larger and larger residential environments, the habits of incomes and the realisation of the world also changed. Nature became a spare time privilege, detached from everyday routine. Thus the connection to nature became sacred and rare. The word environment divided into two entities, built and natural, with the former sometimes invading brutally the latter.
Within this context, our conception of the world changed. The rarest is the connection to the natural environment the most thrived we are to experience it. After a pause of some thousands of years, we are looking for our sacred connections with nature and its phenomena, those which allow us to live.
Trying to summarise this contextual evolution around pilgrimage we will always conclude on an expanded concept; never on a definition. Looking on the pilgrimage origins, the journey had to do with a cosmic world and answers beyond our existence. Pray for redemption, searching for detachment from the physical existence and praise the environment as a creation almost separate from us.
The contemporary thinking as is shaped with solid knowledge and human origins set onto sturdy history; we, as “homo sapiens” aprons are seeking for those connections with our physical and cultural context. The context we experience during our physical and the only known existence.
Thus, wanderers still exist and will continue to exist because as human beings with active neurone we will be in a constant exploration of this world. Although as vagabonds - never settled travellers - of modern times we need more connections to our origins, cultural and natural and not that much the contact to the cosmic universe of religion. Therefore, the concept of pilgrimage is a tree with a lot of branches that lead to all those aspects - religious or not. But as a tree has roots which demand exploration, escape and connections.