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“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.” J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

The pandemic has reminded us that travel, seemingly mundane, is actually a risky endeavor. By leaving home, we enter into a zone of liminality, a realm in which the structures of the mundane world are dissolved. Embarking on pilgrimage places our responsibility to family, clan, and nation on hold, so that we can enter into a new community of fellow travelers, lovers, animals, plants, gods, stones, synchronicities, monsters, and all that is fantastic. Intercoursing with the spirits of the road, then, unbinds the imagination, so the mind tunes itself into the everyday dimension of the cosmic. At the core of pilgrimaging is the process of sacramentalization, or recognizing the sacred that dwells within ourselves and the world around us.

In this discussion, my co-author and I will use our latest book, Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots, as the jumping off point for a deep dive into the metaphysics of pilgrimage. Over the course of our conversation, we will survey the foremost pilgrimage sites of today, from the Marian shrine at Lourdes, France, to the vertices of Sedona, Arizona, and the psychedelic trips conducted within the human mind. Reflecting on our own weird experiences as pilgrims on Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela and Japan’s Kumano Kodo, we will open up discussion on the much-debated dichotomy between a tourist and a pilgrim, as well as the shifting demographics of pilgrimage in the contemporary world

Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies with a special focus on esotericism. In addition to earning a MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, he received his MA and PhD in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His forthcoming book, Angelheaded Hipsters: Psychedelic Militancy in Nineteen Eighties North America (Oxford University Press), analyzes the growth, diversification, and expansion of psychedelic culture within fanzine networks in the late Cold War era. He is currently director of the History of Hermetic Philosophy’s summer/winter school, hosted as the Uni. of Amsterdam, and a lecturer at Stanford University

Dr. Michelle K. Oing is a scholar of late medieval art and architecture, focusing on the intersection of sculpture and performance in Catholic Europe. She received her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture in 2020 from Yale University, and is currently a Postdoctoral Mellon Fellow at Stanford’s Center for the Humanities. Her current project examines the role of moveable sculpture in Northern Europe through the conceptual framework of puppetry, paying particular attention to notions of play and discovery. Bringing together insights from art history and performance studies, Dr. Oing’s work seeks to highlight the dynamic interaction of humans and objects in the creation of meaning. She is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, and lecturer at Stanford University.

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Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site and her website