Updated: Oct 4
One of the things I felt drawn to explore more when moving back to Finland last Spring, was the spiritual practice of walking and pilgrimage. Nature has always been an important part of my spiritual life and it became even more so after becoming a mother. Moving to a new land and landscape called me to let my feet teach me again how to be and pray.
It has been such a joy to find beautiful Finnish language books about the Nordic spirituality and its deep roots in nature and pilgrimage practices. To my delight, I have found several pilgrimage routes close to our home in Helsinki as well.
While most of my "pilgrimages" have been daily trips to playgrounds and grocery stores, we have ventured out on a few marked pilgrimage trails with my family in the woods as well.
Do you walk and pray? Have you ever gone on a pilgrimage with children?
Pilgrimage in Short
Pilgrimage can be described as "a walking prayer", or "a journey of the heart". It is about movement, practice of silence and a search for meaning and encounter. Pilgrimage is found in all world religions and it moves millions of people annually worldwide. Anyone who is curious and dares to slip under the cloak of silence and put on the shoes of slowing down can embark on the pilgrim’s journey.
The destination and the length of the pilgrimage can vary greatly, however its purpose sets it apart from a regular hike or a stroll around the park. Pilgrimage is not merely a physical journey but an inner journey of the soul, hence it can be done anywhere. We can go on a pilgrimage through the legs of our imagination even whilst staying indoors.
Seven Keywords of a Pilgrim
Hans-Erik Lindström, a Swedish veteran pilgrim and priest, summarizes the word pilgrimage with seven keywords. Each keyword have also been attributed with a symbol.
Freedom (Hiking sticks)
Quiet (Seashell or a Cloak)
Spirituality (Torch or Cross)
Which one of these words or symbols do you feel most drawn to? Which one do you dislike or struggle with the most?
If you were to consider your own life as a life long pilgrimage, which keywords would you choose to describe your life and the values you live by? Notice that these most likely change over the span of our lives and depend on the season in which we find ourselves.
Perhaps you feel drawn to choose one of the seven keywords of a pilgrim above as an intention and guide for your next daily “pilgrimage”, or a longer period of time, or even a season of life as you try on the ancient practice of prayerful walking. I am currently trying on "a hat of lightheartedness":)
Create something visual with the word that serves as a physical reminder to come back to.
I had fun trying a new art form and I drew on a digital drawing pad simple illustrations for each symbol. You can find my illustrations in the attachment below. Let them serve as a spring board for your embroidery or felted pilgrimage patches, or print them out and make them into stickers by using adhesive tape or stick on a card stock to make a small pocket cards. You can use the images with all ages as you talk about what you like about walking with God and observing nature.