Chapter 7 Sensuous Encounter Where Journey and Festival Meet: a Phenomenology of Pilgrimage

In: Pilgrimage as Transformative Process
Kip Redick
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Just as the festival offers participants an opportunity to express communal experience, a communion connecting lived-bodies in the celebration, pilgrimage and other forms of spiritual journey afford similar encounters. Along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, towns and villages enact festivals associated with their adopted saints; the culmination of these celebrations associated with the Camino happens on July 25 in Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims who happen to be in one of these festival locations join the celebration, which intensifies the communion of lived-bodies amongst pilgrims and erases the divide between indigenous people and those on spiritual journey. A similar happening has been occurring along the Appalachian Mountains in the Eastern United States. Though not associated with any particular religion, long distance hikers of the Appalachian Trail have spiritual journey experiences similar to more traditional pilgrims. Several “trail towns” along the Appalachian Trail have inaugurated festivals celebrating the trail. Hikers and town’s folk experience a lived-body communion similar to what happens on the Camino. This paper explores the sensuousness of the spiritual journey as it happens on the trail and in the festival. Walking through Spain or along the Appalachian Mountains awakens the hiker’s senses to embodied beings both human and extra human, affording a communion of shared encounter. Merleau-Ponty’s exploration of the intersubjectivity of embodied beings, Geradrus Van der Leeuw’s exploration of sacramental environments, Emmanuel Levinas’ unfolding of alterity, and Georges Bataille’s discussion of sacrifice will serve as hermeneutical lenses from which to disentangle tourism versus pilgrimage as approaches to festival participation. Festivals as enactments of sacred encounter along the way allow villagers to participate in the journey and pilgrims to express their newly discovered insights to those fellow celebrants.

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