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A pilgrimage in a Druidic expression, as it is in any other spiritual expression, is going to the depths of oneself, confronting the Guardian at the Gate and smashing through self-imposed barriers to healing, greater self-awareness, greater confidence and a fuller expression of one’s gifts.
Symbolically I experience this every time I hike with my precious Familiar, an eight-year-old Boxer named Mosely. We have a favorite hike in the Redwoods in Del Norte County California, outside the club where we attend clay target tournaments.
As we leave the noise and conversation of the tournament and enter the Woods, the path winds through a grassy, sunny meadow—easy! Then the trees close in and it becomes dark. The path ribbons through eerie, mossy branches. I am small and alone. The Guardian at the Gate confronts me: What if a bear or a cougar comes? Everyone who visits here has a bear or cougar story. What if you fall and no one knows you are here? We continue through the shadows, wary but determined that our sacred time not be cut short.
“If the Spirits of this ancient place take one of those forms they will not harm me. They will know I honor them and have called them here to share this time of respite and peace. They will keep me from falling into fear or onto the ground,” I gratefully confront the Guardian.
The Sacred overwhelms me; the mundane falls away. I hear the Nature Spirits inviting me to complete their small test, to continue, to find rest and Light for my Soul and restore my weary, cranky Spirit.
Soon the path breaks into Light, brighter this time, and we begin climbing. The second Guardian—my legs become tired and I feel the weariness left by my sedentary job.
“I will not let this sacred time be cut short,” I confront the Guardian, and continue to our usual stopping point marked by a deep gully—or even venture beyond it.
Joy overcomes me and I am near tears at my reward—a view of a Valley of ancient, sacred Redwoods offering me strength, peace and restoration—and telling me secrets I can only hope to begin to understand some day. I am whole, balanced and ready to return to offer my love and my gifts to my fellow tournament participants.
Another pilgrimage brought a confrontation with an infinitely more frightening, evil Guardian - my terror of death.
My brother drowned at age ten at a Fourth of July swimming party with his Little League team. Jack was his seven-year-old sister’s protector, joy and idol.
I had no chance to say good bye. Believing it was for my shelter and protection, my parents did not allow me to participate in any funeral. Jack simply disappeared. All I remember were aunts and uncles gathered at the house, my Dad escaping to the hills for a short while when grief overwhelmed him, and my Mom lying on the couch, sedated. Once I thought she had died too.
I cried myself to sleep, afraid to cry during the day. Was I allowed to? Would I be punished? I was seven years old and terrified my parents would disappear next.
Fast forward to February 1991. My father-in-law was dying. His last words to me were, “You have always been my daughter too.” They were spoken the afternoon before he died. I could not enter his room again. I hit the wall of terror, hard.
I tremblingly revealed my terrified seven-year-old self to my in-laws and to Sister Rosalie, a Catholic Nun who had stopped by. I explained I was simply too scared to go back into the room. “He understands; we all understand,” said Sister Rosalie.
“We need coffee and lots of it. That will mean more than anything,” other family members said.
Healing words! I could feel the wall melting in warmth! My loved ones were okay with me even though I had hit the wall. Gratitude overwhelmed me and the coffee perked all night. I was loved and accepted by everyone on both sides of the Veil even though I was too frightened to be in the room. My “second Dad” is now one of my precious Ancestors and offers me wisdom and guidance throughout my daily round.
Pilgrimages are hard but the rewards are well worth it!