For most, a clear, stereotypical image comes to mind when visualizing the word pilgrimage: an ancient tradition reserved for Christians, who sailed across oceans on a large, rickety ship, yearning to reach a holy, sacred ground. The concept of a pilgrimage is a notion as old as humanity itself; it was, and still is, a universal practice transcending boundaries in the hopes of showing devotion and seeking answers that seem to be lost in the roots of one’s heart. We see this in old stories and tales, such as “Canterbury Tales,” and in the modern world today. Though the idiosyncrasies specific to pilgrimages have changed and evolved over the past centuries, still, the purpose of a pilgrimage is to reflect on the journey, and modern-day pilgrimages are the perfect method.
The novel, “Canterbury Tales,” displays the conceptualization of pilgrimages, in which it is a time for a renewal of virtues, a reawakening of one’s spiritual and mental capacity. This can be seen through the opening lines of the Prologue, specifically when it is depicting the richness of spring as “the engendering of the flower,” which emphasizes a rebirth of life, a linkage to the self-examination and transformation present in pilgrimages (“Canterbury Tales” 4). This growing flower can be linked to the spiritual seed that grows in oneself when they embark on a pilgrimage, or journey. Setting out on a spiritual expedition helped those ancient pilgrims reflect on and analyze their own personal identity and values, especially in regards to a sacred or holy figure. They grew and transformed just like a flower in the beginning of spring would as well.
Today, pilgrimages still offer those same experiences of transformation and inner illumination, as well as presenting many benefits. One does not even need to be religious to go on a pilgrimage; reasons for going are different for everyone. If you are at a difficult time in your life “going on a pilgrimage may give us a new sense of awareness and wonder,” as well as revealing a “greater sense of purpose” in your life (“Why Pilgrimage?”). The benefits of pilgrimages have not diminished since the beginning of its origin, and they are the perfect chance of rediscovery and the release of old, weightful mindsets. Transcending from your normal, ritualistic routine allows you to attain something more, whether that is spiritual restoration, religious devotion, or personal re-evaluation.
It is quite clear that some aspects of pilgrimages have changed over time, as most things do, yet the prominent point central in both age-old pilgrimages and modern day pilgrimages is the importance of the journey itself. Practices and certain beliefs had changed over time, and the cultural inclusivity in pilgrimages had changed dramatically as well. However, the prevalent values specific to these journeys allow those embarking to engage in a time of reflection and renewal. Pilgrimages were, and will remain, as a beneficial quest for change.
“Canterbury Tales.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Literature Grade 12, 2012, pp. 255.
“Why Pilgrimage?” Pilgrims Way, www.pilgrimswaycanterbury.org/why-pilgrimage/.