The volume and depth and intensity of the world is something that only those on foot will ever experience. HILAIRE BELLOC
Place works on the pilgrim . . . that's what pilgrimage is for. ROWAN WILLIAMS
Not long before I went to Spain, I read an essay in the journal Artesian by a Czech writer called Vaclav Cilek, cryptically entitled Bees of the Invisible. Cilek — himself a long-distance wanderer — proposed a series of what he called 'pilgrim rules', of which the two most memorable were the 'Rule of Resonance' ('A smaller place with which we resonate is more important than a place of great pilgrimage') and the 'Rule of Correspondence' ('A place within a landscape corresponds to a place within the heart.') 'The number of quiet pilgrims is rising,' he observed. 'Places are starting to move. On stones and in forests one comes across small offerings — a posy made from wheat, a feather in a bunch of heather, a circle from snail shells.' I had come across such DIY land-art often myself: the signs of unnumbered 'quiet pilgrimages', of uncounted people improvising odd journeys in the hope that their voyages out might become voyages in.
Perhaps, though, each era imagines itself to be increasingly on pilgrimage. As Merlin Coverley notes in The Art of Wandering, the pilgrim is among the most venerable figures of literature. The true boom-years of religious pilgrimage were, of course, medieval — but the Victorian decades saw a strong surge of interest in pilgrimage both as practice and metaphor. Hilaire Belloc's bestsellers The Path to Rome (1902) and The Old Road (1904) — the former an account of what he called his 'mirific and horripilant adventure' of walking to the Holy Sepulchre — carried that interest over into the 20th century. 'Pilgrimage,' wrote Belloc permissively and encouragingly, 'ought to be nothing but a nobler kind of travel, in which, according to our age and inclination, we tell our tales, or draw our pictures, or compose our songs.'
ROBERT MACFARLANE From his recent Guardian essay Rites Of Way: Behind The Pilgrimage Revival. (You can read this excellent essay in its entirety here.)