Walking the Walk
My Pilgrim Pathway weekends are nearly always the last weekend of the month, list below. Info in parenthesis are pencilled in already but may become available:
Stefan Wayfaring Weekends (accurate 12.02.23):
Jan 28/29 – Pilgrimage to Ely Cathedral, the Octagonal Tower and Evensong
Feb 25/26 –
Apr 29/30 (Shetland & Orkney Folk Festival?)
Aug 26/27 (Sensate Retreat)
Sep 30/01 (Snowden?)
Dec 23/24 (Solstice)
BTW, I’m 60 in August! Hold onto your hats…
If you Wayfared with me last year, then we will continue the Way this year! If we haven’t walked together yet, then let’s start!
Please choose one of the weekends for this year. I try very hard not to change dates once I have agreed them and ask that people do the same. LMK if you want to join ASAP and if you want to bring someone.
There are so many ancient paths that I would like to walk, the UK being particularly rich in traditional ways and monoliths, ancient buildings and ley lines.
BackgroundI plan for these journeys to be along and between places of exceptional natural beauty and historic interest.
Journeys are generally 15-20km (9-12mi) a day (it’s not a race). I set off early on Saturday morning and plan to overnight at economical and intentionally simple places, such as church’s, YHA, walkers’ lodges, camps etc, and end up near a train station on the Sunday for the return journey.
What is a Pilgrimage?
Pilgrimage: set your intention before you depart, and take a relic/ token with you.
The idea that walking is a spiritual pursuit, an inward journey more than an external traversing between defined places.
Pilgrimage (n.): A journey with purpose on foot to holy/wholesome/special places.
From the Latin, ‘peregrinus’, meaning ‘being away from your own land or home. Or, to leave your comfort zone (I take this to be a path toward increasing our innate antifragility, the most impotent task for most of us today I believe).
Walking is not Pilgrimage – Pilgrimage is Wayfaring with intention, meaning and purpose, as chosen by the Pilgrim. To turn a walk into a pilgrimage, at the beginning set your private ‘intention’ – dedicate your journey to something that you want help with, or for which you want to give thanks.
Incorporate a Ritual – carry an object, maybe found at the start of the path, and touch to important or sacred places along the route. At the end you can give the now sacred object to someone or keep for yourself. Pilgrimage can be used as a Vision Quest.
“Boots are the best medicine” Guy Howard tells us. Pilgrimage can be done on our own, with an imaginary friend or a group. Each experience is quite different.
People have made pilgrimage across countless geographies, cultures and eras. The UK has special rights of way paths and Scotland benefits from the Right to Roam act (but wild camping rights on Dartmoor have recently been challenged by a local landowner and are under threat). LINK
Pilgrimage is an act of rebellion! It was banned for 500 years by Henry VIII under the 1538 Injunction Against Pilgrimage, as part of his eradication of the Catholic church and it’s supporting rituals. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St James), and which my parents walked in 1995, many years ago before it became popular, is largely responsible for the revival of the Pilgrimage. Tourism in many ways was invented to replace Pilgrimage, which is what Thomas Cook was founded to originally offer!
I started walking 6km a day since January 2020 and have maintained around 32km a week, including monthly longer walks along Pilgrim routes. I am inviting you to join me on one of these journeys.
I was very ill much of November 2021 and lost 30lbs, a lot of it as muscle mass. Before falling ill, I was Nordic Walking 6km at least once a week and shorter walks several times a week. Now I’m walking further and enjoying nature more than ever.
I don’t go on walks.
I go on wayfaring pilgrimages, walking pilgrimages. I don’t walk for exercise or because I have a dog or because I’m trying to get from A to be. I stride these ancient paths as a way of walking towards myself discovery and exploration and as a rite of passage. mostly I walk alone and in silence using the steps the weather and the country I’m walking through as a meditation as a way of being in the moment. Noticing the different weather the change of seasons the flora fauna and funger that each season brings. Not just chasing the good weather but traversing the land in all weather and throughout the year just like we we need to do in life we can’t live in spring or summer and if we don’t learn to enjoy autumn and winter then those times will be lean and unbearable indeed when they do inevitably arrive.
As well as cultural and spiritual significance, walking has been shown to be almost certainly the single most versatile well-rounded and important form of exercise anyone can do.
I was asked today by a fellow Walker while Nordic walking why it is I do my Pilgrim walks, my longer walks to specific places. I have developed particular thoughts and ideas around the role of walking in human development over the last couple of years as I have walked more, in all weather and through all seasons. A I’ve done more research into the history and the importance of walking, so I’m of the opinion that human evolutionary biological development is intrinsically linked to walking and I’m certainly not the first person to say this or think this. As humanoids started to stand upright, perhaps initially a bit like meerkats do or some apes. on two legs to peer around them, we became able to see things in the distance, to view the horizon. We developed panoramic vision as an important aspect of brain development (Huberman) and we started to be able to spot food and pray further away. So there was an incentive for humans to cooperate and work as a team, as a group to be more successful in hunting this prey that we’re now able to see by having a higher perspective than we had before. Walking as a group enabled bands of humans to travel from place to place and almost certainly lead to the development of the first hunter gatherer groups. We know from research that groups that walk together tend to harmonise and coordinate their psychological and physiological rhythms (Holloway, Stories we Tell Ourselves? / Keltner?). Developing a group identity and feeling connected to a group of people allows the emergence of group identity and well-being to develop.
Walking upright also enables us to carry things in our hands such as tools, possessions, weapons, which becomes essential when moving from place to place gathering and hunting. Now language and communication with a number of people in the group becomes key to successful hunting; visual and verbal and sound based communication would emerge as groups of early humans coordinated their activities to be able to hunt and chase down game to be able to feed the group.
So I think it’s not too much of a stretch to say that humans evolved and developed to become the dominant species on the planet because they walked. Certainly this is a critical factor in that equation and as we walked we would have followed the game, followed the food from place to place. This is exactly what I spent last year doing, in Dorset, south west England, over a period of four seasonal ventures where a group of us became an Old Way tribe (www.oldway.?), following the abundance according to the seasons; from forest where we foraged to river where we fished and hunted for seafood to coast where we collected seaweed and hunted crab and shellfish and back to the high moor and the forest to look for game, mushroom, berries, roots and plants.
Ways to walk:
Stravaig – Celtic, aimless wander with no clear destination in mind
Wayfaring – to walk or wander with purpose but without a fixed destination in mind
Saha / salha (sp?) – Palestinian (Arabic), to saunter as on a pilgrimage
To saunter, stroll, amble, ramble, wander
It really does seem to be true that we evolved to walk; or rather we evolved because we walked. Besides being the best form of all round exercise for both mental and physical health (although Eli says ‘walking doesn’t require stamina but an excess of time’!). Walking is almost certainly the best way to reconnect with the Natural world and improve innate Anti-fragility*, which does appear to be the thing we all need to do.
Anti-fragility is not the same thing as resilience. Anti-fragility only exists within living organisms, whereas resiliency can be built into a very robust machine. Anti-fragility is the biological mechanism of getting stronger as a result of stress, like post-traumatic growth. A super-resilient machine will eventually break, and doesn’t get stronger as a result of stress.
Born into a house of traumatised, neurotic parents, was exposed to great benefit at an early age to Sufism, Buddhism, mysticism, alchemy, meditation and alternative healing. My parents, decided by dad, walked the Camino de Santiago Compostella in 19xx?, during a Holy Year, and before I had heard of Pilgrimage, well before the Way became popular. I still have one of the cockle shells they obtained on the Camino (The Way, the Dao).
My experience and opinions, since being ill in Nov and with significant tangential meanderings into my past or related points of interest that arise.
My articles HERE
The British Pilgrimage Trust is a brilliant organisation that is reclaiming many of the lost pathways.
The Modern Antiquarian is a very thorough exploration of the UK’s megalithic sites from Julian Cope (of Teardrop Explodes):
Pilgrim Cathedral Passports
This is a nice thing if you plan to visit the UK’s Cathedrals and sacred sites.
I may add more re: