Preparing for Pilgrimage

The yellow man waymark will become a welcomed companion on the Wicklow Way.

The yellow man waymark will become a welcomed companion on the Wicklow Way.

How to prepare mentally and emotionally for the pilgrimage?

If you’re thinking about going on pilgrimage, then you’ve already begun. Start journaling right now.

  • What are you experiencing as you think about walking Ireland?

  • What are you feeling?

  • Your concerns?

  • Your fears?

  • The things you are curious about?

  • Excited about?

  • What do imagine will happen?

  • What do you hope doesn’t happen?

  • What are you dreaming about as you prepare for the pilgrimage?

  • Has a major event happened while your preparing? (In March of 2012, while I was getting ready to walk across Ireland, my mother passed away. The process of my grief was a significant part of my 350-mile pilgrimage.)

Then, over of the course of your preparation, keep all your notes about what to take, your physical preparation, your musical preparations, and travel arrangements—keep it all in one place, your journal. And bring that journal with you to Ireland. The journal can be a container, a friend, even a lover—the one you love, and the one you love to hate. I’ve been walking for years and I love to look back over the experience as I continue on my pilgrimage through life. - Gil


What should I read before going on this pilgrimage?

Wisdom Walking: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life, by Gil W. Stafford. The author is a storyteller and Vox Peregrini is one of this central characters in this book about walking Ireland. Stafford has walked across Ireland and now the Wicklow Way seven times with different groups. He shares his wealth of knowledge about how to prepare physically, mentally, and spiritually. He also lets you in on what to expect during the long days of pilgrimage.

Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland by Malachy McCourt provides a breezy sweep through 2,500 years of Irish history. He starts before Saint Patrick with pre-Christian history and then carries through the Irish narrative with interesting and entertaining stories. This book is a quick and worthwhile read.

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill. Written in 1995, the book remains a bestseller and is considered a classic read for understanding the intellectual current that flows underneath Celtic history, which effects its modern culture and politics.

People need wild places.  Whether or not we think we do, we do.  We need to be able to taste grace and know again that we desire it.  We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers.  To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about us in our place.  It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.        BARBARA KINGSOLVER, Small Wonder