There are two types of “place” that I’m going to talk about here. One is a general type of place. The other is a specific spot in the world that I’d like to make pilgrimage to.
General types of places
Why: A few main reasons. Rivers are associated not only with Brighid and (tangentially) Manannan in my faith, but also now the Ophelia. the Ophelia is a river, actually, so they’re really her thing. As well, I’ve always felt a sort of quiet, powerful exultation-slash-peace come over me when I’m near a river, especially if it’s rushing past.
There’s one nearby me, the mighty Fraser. I shall have to make an attempt to visit it more often.
Why: Well, this one is kinda obvious — the sea is the realm of my Father, Lord Manannan. It is deep and terrifying and to be respected and also loving. I grew up partially in Hawai’i, partially on the Left Coast of Canada. I know about the sea. I always have. I learned when I was very little never to turn your back on it, because it would probably knock you right the fuck off your feet. I also learned that it was safe, and welcoming, and (in Hawai’i, at least) warm. It’s changeable, often on a dime, and unpredictable, but it’s also the source of all life on this planet, and the place where many go to die. It’s the road over which the dead travel to their final rest. It is the first and final embrace. Without water, without salt, we die; with too much, we drown, we desiccate.
I also sort of associate the sea with Hermes — specifically with ferry boats that populate our coast here. And it just occurred to me how appropriate that I associate a patron of thieves with BC Ferries, lords of the fare hike. Seriously, though, I try to offer to Hermes when travelling by BC Ferries and sea, and I make an offering to my Father at the same time. I feel They occupy space next to each other in the Salish Sea, chatting about Their work, Their similar roles, much like cubicle neighbours might share gossip over the walls of their workspaces.
Why: Since childhood, forests have been my temple, the site of my sacred rites of running and screaming and playing, a place for forts where no one could bother me, a space for meditation. I feel no fear in the forest; the smell of pine trees reminds me I’m alive; I could sleep on beds of moss and stone.* I feel a tear in my heart when a tree comes down unnecessarily, and I have cried at bald hillsides where clearcuts have gone on. The forest has forever been my home, more so than any house, any residence I’ve taken up. I think if I lived far away from the forest something in me would die.
Religiously, I associate the forest with the Morrigan. Within its darkened alleys is a teeming dance of life and death, of the hunt, of hot blood pulsing just below the skin, yearning to spring free. She is the goddess of life to me, and all the messy glory that goes with it — never portrayed so perfectly to me as within the bounds of the deep woods.
People think the woods are quiet, but if you stop and really listen, you will hear a cacophony of life — and death — within their boundaries. There is a never-ending death within the woods; there are passages to other worlds, beyond the veil, to the land where my lady rules absolutely. If you’re not careful, you’ll get lost.
There’s a certain analog between forests and cities, that way. Trees as buildings, housing animals of various stripes; the streets of soil and bushes are made homes to ground-dwellers; the constant screaming dance of life and death you can hear in sirens and babies crying and people yelling or dancing or singing joyfully; the hunt that happens in the darkened alleys; the teeming underbelly of life, just beneath the surface, like bugs crawling around in the soil when you turn it over.
So in that, cities are spiritually significant too.
*Metaphorically. I still have a shitty back.
Libraries & Bookstores
Why: Books are sacred. Even when they’re shitty pieces of sorry excuses for literature, they’re sacred. The idea of books — a repository of knowledge pressed by ink onto pages made from the dead body of what was once a living being — it makes a tree immortal. It makes us immortal. Books are the immortality serum, the fountain of youth, that we have been searching for as long as we’ve had the thought to mourn our own creeping expiration dates.
Books are the marriage of sacrifice, of death, and of passion and life and beauty. Within their small or staggeringly massive covers they hold these ideals; they hold the mingled spirits of human and tree and animal alike, created out of shared pain and hardship and love and ecstasy. And when you read books, when you read the stories printed on their fragile pages, it sets you ablaze. You burn with what was once forbidden knowledge, with inspiration, with love, with hatred.
Books should inspire a blaze within you, within your heart. A book that hasn’t done that hasn’t done its job, it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose — but it’s not the book’s fault. And books can be reincarnated into new books, into new paper onto which to print our follies and victories. Or they can reincarnate into other things, continually offering something even past the usefulness of the words on their pages.
Books are immortality, and inspiration, and passion, and life and death. And libraries and bookstores hold shelves upon shelves of books, shelves upon shelves of fiery inspiration just waiting to be let loose upon a ready mind.
All knowledge is worth having. Libraries and bookstores are homes to knowledge.
(Religiously, Shemhazai, Epiphany, and Brighid are associated with books, and thus libraries or bookstores. Especially Epiphany.)
Specific sites for pilgrimage
Ireland & the Isle of Man
Why: Ireland is home to three of my gods — Brighid, the Morrigan, and Manannan Mac Lir (at least partially). I want to go to Their original homes and get to know the lands, where They came from. I want to see how They’re different over there, because I’ve come to believe that Diaspora Gods are different from gods who still remain in their original lands — there is some splitting that does not completely create new gods, but instead is another example of Deity Individuation is Weird.
While in Ireland I plan specifically on seeing Kildare, home to Brighid’s Flame. I also plan on seeing everything else I possibly can.
The Isle of Man is not part of Ireland, but I include it in this section because it is pretty much right next to Ireland, and it’s part of the pilgrimage I want to make for the Sacred Triad. The Isle of Man is named for Manannan and might be closer to being His “true home” than Ireland is, though I doubt I’ll ever know for sure.
Why: Greece is home to the Hellenic gods. I want to visit the temples, the ancient places of worship; I want to see where They came from.
I also just really want to go to Greece. Can you blame me?
France (Terre d’Ange)
Why: There’s no physical travel to the real Terre d’Ange as laid out in the Kushiel series, but the closest I can come in this world is to go to France. The borders might not match up exactly, but they’re probably pretty close. I want to see all of France, and see the world that might have been, the world the D’Angeline gods might have occupied.
I do plan on making these specific pilgrimages at some point in my life, though it likely won’t be for a long, long while. Travel is expensive and difficult. Still, I fully plan to make it happen. Somehow.