Monday, April 18, 2011

Myths, Folklore & Symbolism: Pilgrims & Pilgrimage

The principal places of medieval pilgrimage were the Holy Land, Compostela and Rome. The pilgrim in art generally wears a broad-brimmed hat, sometimes turned up at the back and pointed at the front. He carries a staff. His wallet, or scrip, hangs from it or from his shoulder. The scallop shell, seen on the hat, wallet or elsewhere, is his special attribute." (Hall)

In the imagery of many religions, the pilgrim signifies earthly human life, which is not final but merely a transition to another life. (The Herder Dictionary of Symbols)

A journey to a sacred place undertaken as an act of religious devotion, either as an act of veneration or penance, or to ask for the fulfillment of some prayer… Miraculous cures were sometimes effected upon those who worshipped at these shrines and spiritual and bodily welfare was the main concern of most pilgrims; for others a pilgrimage was an occasion for a holiday and an opportunity to visit distant parts or foreign lands. (Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Ivor H. Evans, ed.)

A journey to a spiritual centre, symbolizing trial, expiation or purification, and the achievement of a goal or ascension to a new plane of existence. In an emblematic sense, the pilgrimage is as much an initiation as an act of devotion. Its rationale is the ancient belief that supernatural forces manifest themselves most powerfully at particular localities…Typically, a cockle shell in the hat denotes a pilgrim, who would also wear a simple cloak and carry a staff. (The Complete Dictionary of Symbols, James Tresidder)

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