Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 - A Year of Pilgrimages

Happy New Year y'all. It's been a long time since I wrote. I have had lots of deadlines and things to finish. In between I tried to keep a clear head and refresh myself.  I indulged in something over the holidays that has gotten me inspired to do something similar here on home turf.

Recently, PBS hosted a program called Sacred Journeys. The host Bruce Feiler, reported on six major pilgrimages - Jerusalem in Israel, The Hajj in Saudia Arabia, Shikoku in Japan, Lourdes in France, Kumbh Mela in India and Osun-Osogbo in West Africa. They were amazing, stirring and moving reports. Less travel log and more spiritual seeker material. I highly recommend them -- you can stream them here on www.pbs.org.

This got me thinking - in six days, I will be a Mambo Asogwe for a dozen years. Yes, for more than a decade, I have held the asson, held fets, written a book, designed a tarot and hosted kanzos. I need something to get me through the next 12 years, something to inspire me to even greater heights. Well, at least get me through this year's schedule of fets and services.

When the PBS program aired, I watched with deep longing and a little teary eyed, as the pilgrims climbed the hills of Japan and waded into the Ganges. What could I do from this little corner of the world? I'd love to travel to any of the above destinations, the budget is just not there right now. The houmfort is like a ship that needs 24/7 maintenance. That's what happens when you live in a 100 year old house: it needs attention. Constantly. When a weekend comes around, it means fixing, patching, painting, shoring up, tearing down or nailing together. Last weekend, we didn't do any of this, and the Oungan and I kept waiting for something to give. Or break. Or creak, crack and groan. Thankfully, none of that happened, but it will. You can bet on it.

So I thought maybe I could find a way to do a pilgrimage here. Maybe a month of them or even better yet, a year of pilgrimages. I will seek out the magical, mystical locations that are around this area. I will keep to no more than a four hour drive. That will get me as far north as NYC (so I can pilgrimage to the Dendur Temple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) It'll get me south to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and west to the Shrine of St. Anthony in Pittsburgh. Along the way, I'll blog about the places I go and what I get out of my journeys.

Bruce Feiler, the NY Times writer who hosted the program, says there are six stages that characterize every pilgrimage.

 It begins with the Call to finding meaning in this crazy world. Then there is Separation from the familiar. The Journey is the meat of the trip; actually traveling to the place you want to visit. Contemplation marks the way you go into the sacred place. Encounter is what happens when you are there. And finally, the Return where you try to hang onto some of the numinous quality you encountered.

I remember my first pilgrimage to Haiti's Sodo falls. We hit every point on the above list. I was compelled to visit, even though we were rushing to get in everything I wanted to do on a 6 day itinerary. Even our host was aghast, but she got us there. The Separation from the familiar was made very clear when she packed three rolls of toilet tissue for us. The Journey was not for the faint of heart or body. We had to make a back breaking ride to the foot of the mountains, then climb Goat Mountain to the village of Sodo. Once on top, we had to wade through the Artibonite River, climb down a very steep, narrow path and  pass over a rickety set of stairs before entering the grotto of the falls themselves.  But our reward was the icy electric kiss of the water in 100 degree heat. It was very much a sacred journey. I sat in Contemplation for an hour, letting the water pound down on me, clearing my head and taking my breath away. Returning to Port au Prince, I carried four liters of the water home (yup, back up the path, through the river and down the mountain. I was also younger...), to use in Lave Tets and in our Danbala basin. I have half a liter left. It's time to return.

I don't know if I can find anything like that here, but I am willing to try. I need to try, actually, And I'll keep you posted on how I do. Ayibobo.

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