From the Archives: “Pilgrimage as Ritual”

Having just completed our community’s 10th Annual Labyrinth Pilgrimage, now seemed like a perfect time to revisit this post from 2017. I’ve updated it slightly to reflect what is True now.

Pausing at the entrance between the stones, you take a breath and touch the Earth, humbly asking permission of the Ancestors of this place to enter the labyrinth in front of you.  In your hand is the Offering you created for the Goddess of this Holy Place. 

You breathe here for a moment, opening yourself to the energies of the Earth beneath your bare feet and the Cosmos above your uncovered head.  Sensing that you have been granted permission, you take the first slow step forward.

Connected with your breath and the Holy Moment of Now, you contemplate those things you have come here to release.  With each step, you feel them draining from your body, your mind, your spirit.  Releasing, releasing, releasing…

It seems like you’ve been walking for a long time, and you soon wonder if you will ever reach the center.  You’ve almost given up hope when finally, it appears in front of you. 

You stop again, silently requesting permission to enter, and then sit upon a flat rock.  You make your Offering to the Goddess, and open yourself to Her messages.  You will remain here, in the center of the labyrinth and in the center of yourself, until you feel complete.

Rising, you leave, taking the path back out.  As you walk, you call forth those things you wish to manifest, to become, to be…  You feel lighter and so does each step as you joyfully move from the center and back out into the world…

The weekend before Summer Solstice, I brought our Women’s Lunar Rites circle on our 10th Annual Labyrinth Pilgrimage.  Pilgrimage as ritual is essential for our communityit helps to shake things up, to quickly and easily move us a bit further out of our comfort zones, and usually grants access to new insights and new ways of being. 

Sisterhood of the Moon has been making this pilgrimage since the year of our birth, and so there is a familiarity combined with the sense of adventure that only fresh experiences bring.

As always, we were a merry troop as we congregated in the parking lot and prepared to set out together in foggy, chilly, moody weather.

Ritual done outside of our dedicated sacred space requires a different form of leadership: a type of “leadership on the fly” which includes a necessary surrender to *what is* and a considered detachment from expectations.

Be it due to weather conditions, interactions with people who are not part of the group, an animal wandering into Circle, etc.—as an act of devotion and trust, it is paramount that we yield to the current presenting itself.  Just the simple act of meeting up in a parking lot can cause minor issues; this time, the lot was full and several women had to park away from the site, walking in with all of their supplies for the day.

When gathering in an unfamiliar setting, holding center requires an especial finesse.  There are so many new things to see and feel and experience, and we are generally high-spirited, animated, and delighted to be together somewhere out of the ordinary. 

It’s often necessary to be louder, bigger, brighter, more expansive, and more patient in order to bring everyone’s attention into alignment.  This must be accomplished gracefully, deftly, and with a very light touch coupled with an exquisite awareness of the energies present and the flow desired.

We take hands in the parking lot, coming into resonance with one another, and I offer some guidance on grounding and centering as it relates to this sacred land, this particular pilgrimage. 

Together we send our roots down deep into the Earth Mother, our branches high up into the Cosmos.  We feel ourselves as part of the Earth and as part of the Sky—the pillar Between the Worlds.  We breathe collectively again, and then go around the Circle, announcing our presence with our names.

On the road, I need to give more instruction than when we are at “home”—both magickal and practical; it’s necessary that all are aware what we will be doing and how we will be doing it, and that everyone is acquainted with the same information.  Before we set out, we talk about safety—remaining grounded, centered, present—and walking with awareness.  Although we will be performing a formal rite once we arrive at our site for the day, the pilgrimage itself is the ritual:  providing both container and form.

Finally, we begin our hike to the labyrinth itself, in dyads, triads, individually; conversing intensely, lightly chatting, or simply holding a reverent silence.  No matter how we walk, it is clear that we all know the magick has begun.  Mindful are our steps, each one offered up to the path with great intention—our roots in the ground, our branches in the air, open to the messages that come through. 

As every year, messages come in the forms of hawk, of snake, of frog, of dog, of plant, of lizard, of vulture, of crow, of rabbit, and more.  Women with specific questions are finding them answered before we are even halfway through our ascent up the steep and rocky path.

We reach the overlook and briefly stop as I make sure all are well and accounted for.  Organically, we cluster again into one body as we look down upon the labyrinth, respectfully taking in the sight. 

This is a place so special to our community, and some of us have been coming here to do magick together for nearly twenty years.  For a moment, we laugh and share stories, drink water, take pictures.  One Sister finds a tiny wild turkey feather and tucks it carefully into her pocket. 

The day is one of the coldest we have every experienced here, the wind whipping the fog all around us, blowing our hair and pushing at our bodies to remind us of its power. I don’t think the air is ever fully still at this place but this is amazingly intense.

We catch our breath and begin the careful hike down, down, down into the magickal bowl waiting for us at the base of the cliff.  Arriving here, we arrange ourselves around the perimeter of a miniature labyrinth, the little sister of the main spiral.  A small native bee buzzes by in greeting and we hail her with appreciation and respect, acknowledging her presence as sign of Ariadne’s welcome.

The land itself is our altar.  Still, I open my backpack and set up a candle, other women making their own Offerings of flowers, seeds, and fruit around it.  I take off my shoes and then my co-Priestesses try to shield me enough from the wind to light some white sage to pass around.  Where we sit is dry, but due to late rains, there is still some moisture left within the furrows of the land.

Again we return to our breath, making contact with our roots and branches.  Just as in our home space, we pass the rattle and express our intentions for the day.  Our shared purpose is to name what we are individually calling into our lives and to release that which blocks us from manifesting our desires.  

As we shift into this special vortex sheltered by the high rock face, I feel the enduring vibrations of the magick done here in this holy place from time immemorial.  Lingering in the stones and plants and in the very air itself, I also feel the energies of our community’s past work and the magickal work I have done here over the years alone and with others.

I prompt us in calling out to the Grandmothers and Ancestors of this land—Ohlone, Bay Miwok, Northern Valley Yokut—asking their permission to be here, to do this magick in this, their sacred place.  We call out, too, to the Grandmothers and Ancestors of our own personal lineages—blood and otherwise—asking for their wisdom and assistance. 

We sing to the Grandmothers—for the Grandmothers—our Grandmothers, the Grandmothers of this land, the Grandmothers of the Earth, the Grandmothers throughout all space and time.

We call out to Ariadne, Lady of the Labyrinth, asking Her permission to enter Her home.  Our voices gently trail off and hush as we take in the energies present.  The wind continues to beat upon our human bodies and we bundle up further.

We sit again to pass the rattle and discuss the labyrinth as a spiritual tool; this symbol of wholeness, this physical illustration of the Spiral of Birth, Death, and Rebirth.  We will enter it as a metaphor of endings and beginnings as we gather under the last Full Moon of Spring and prepare ourselves for Summer.

Our conversation winds to a close and we are finally ready to approach the labyrinth itself and do our sacred work.  Each woman pauses before entering, touching the Earth, asking permission, giving gratitude.  We each walk at our own pace, some of us rattling, drumming, singing:

We are the weavers, we are the woven ones

We are the dreamers, we are the dream

We are spiraling into the center

The center of the Wheel1

Some women move quickly, dancing, skipping; some move slowly, baby step-by-baby step, pausing to right rocks that have rolled into the path, or to leave Offerings where called.  I enter last and am blessed by a view of the labyrinth filled with women, each at a different place in the spiral, each individual, yet One:  A living, moving metaphor for life.

We meet again in the center.  Women are presenting gifts to Ariadne, contributing representations of what they wish to call forth, and gently setting down and releasing that which they wish to leave behind as compost.  Some Sisters are crying, some meditating, some smiling.  There is no conversation here; we are each doing our own work in our own time, yet bearing witness to one another’s magick.  I begin to hum quietly and everyone takes up the song.

When all solitary work is completed, we stand to weave the Web of Dreams.  Hand-to-hand the thread passes, our web growing larger as we each name our intentions aloud.  The little ball of yarn we use has been with us for every one of our Labyrinth Pilgrimages, and I feel an unexpected pang of sorrow as I kiss it and then reverently lay it down in the center, its final resting place.

Web completed, we raise it high above our heads for the blessings of the Cosmos, then delicately lay it over the center for the blessings of the Earth.  Pouring local honey over our web, I offer our salutations and gratitude,

…For the Lady of the Labyrinth, a jar of honey…2

One by one, we leave the center of the labyrinth, following the spiraling path back out.  With small strips of orange and yellow cloth, we fasten our wishes to the little trees in the grove that border one side, tying our knots with focused intention, keeping company with the wishes of past visitors.

Gathering again at our blankets, we share food, picnic-style, and I pass the rattle for those who desire to share their experiences within the labyrinth.  The energies have peaked and are starting to ebb and so we stand to thank Ariadne, the Ancestors, and the Grandmothers of each Element.  It is done, it is done, it is done, done, done.

Now, the last Full Moon ritual of Spring has ended and we step forward into Summer—cleansed, prepared, ready.  As solitaries, in pairs, and in small groups we start the hike back to our cars, scattering out to the remainder of our day like so many seeds.  We will gather together again with everyone in our community for Solar Tribe’s Summer Solstice rite the following Friday. Our next pilgrimage is our much-beloved women’s Mermaid journey to the sea in August.

With Love, Lady Jesamyn



All pictures by me.

1: Shekhinah Mountainwater or Lorna Kohler

2: Linear B Tablets, Knossos, 1500 BCE

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