I found it interesting that the three books I’ve read in the past couple months on pilgrimage have each depicted a distinct energy of Maiden, Mother or Crone (with a few overlaps), although not in that order. This was not consciously planned. The first two books I read before even making a decision to try again to journey to Crete. In fact, I only realized this morning during Sadhana that there was a reflection of the Goddess Trinity through the three books. For, while the Divine Threesome have been making themselves re-known to me in a variety of ways, this particular reveal was unexpected.
In early July, I started reading The Trail ~ a true tale of the Camino. The author Elizabeth Sheehan surprised me with how quickly I was captivated by her tale; I didn’t expect to be. I bought the book simply because I was curious. I had watched the movie The Way recently (which is fantastic), and recalled that Elizabeth had written of her own experiences on The Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile walk from one end of Spain to the other that is a 1000-year-old pilgrimage. And, since I knew a little about Elizabeth from reading her mother Molly’s blog for years now, I figured I’d give it a go.
Elizabeth brings her unique perspective truthfully and earnestly in to the story. From the beginning, I applaud her honesty in revealing her desires and demands upon herself and others, and admire how she reveals enough backstory of her follow pilgrims to create a connection yet beautifully respects their confidences by not sharing intimate details of their deeply personal journeys. Elizabeth’s writing straddles the arrogance of youth (she’s 24 when she begins her walk) and a lovely budding wisdom firmly founded upon her spirituality and her family.
Ultimately, I couldn’t put the book down because I felt Elizabeth’s angst and desperation, and wanted to know what would happen, and … because she returned me to my own feelings and experiences of early adulthood with its challenging path of growth from youth to maturity. Throughout, she beautifully alternates between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the journey.
After reading The Trail by Sheehan, I was captivated by the mystery of the Camino de Santiago and all her pilgrims over the ages. Of course, by my nature, I wanted to read another non-traditional experience of the journey. I picked up a copy of Shirley MacLaine’s The Camino ~ a journey of the spirit and proceeded to immerse myself within its pages during the early part of August.
Ms. MacLaine is quite an outspoken, remarkable and individualistic woman; someone I’ve been intrigued by for years, although this is the first of her books that I have read. As a bit of trivia, I smiled to discover that we have the same birthday (not year) and, to add the personal, her mother, like mine, was told to enroll her in ballet classes when she was very young due to weak ankles that would be strengthened by the dance structure. While I, like many, knew her first from her movie roles — my favorite being her duality of saint/sinner in Two Mules for Sister Sara — during the past several decades she has also become known for her expansive views on past lives, UFOs, and the lost continent of Atlantis.
For brevity, the back cover provides a better overview than I could: “For Shirley, the Camino was an intense spiritual and physical challenge. A woman in her sixth decade completing such a grueling trip on foot in thirty days at a rate of twenty smiles per day was nothing short of remarkable. But even more astounding was the route she took spiritually. Through astonishing visions and revelations, Shirley saw the meaning of the cosmos, including secrets of ancient civilizations, insights into human genesis, the essence of gender and sexuality, and the true path to higher love.” Most of what Ms. MacLaine shares in her book is definitely not what those in either the Maiden or the Mother phases of life would either desire or seek. She describes in the first few pages how, as a mother and grandmother, as well as experiencing her senior years, she felt “fear that we were now almost completely out of touch with what we were intended to be in the first place.” She was still seeking the meaning of life, our purpose here. I enjoyed her journey, and appreciated her willingness to write about the perspective of the Crone, the Wise Woman.
Last week, I found myself yearning for a September reading of a pilgrimage; I immediately thought of Peggy Tabor Millin’s Mary’s Way ~ cultivating a peaceful heart in trying times. Hers was also a somewhat atypical pilgrimage in that she was invited to join a group of pilgrims to chronicle the journey, and “she did not expect to be affected by her journey.” I knew of Peggy from her book Women, Writing and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine, which I thoroughly loved, so felt she could speak to me on a level with which I already felt connected.
Mary’s Way was unexpected, although touching and lovely. I knew of Mary as a Mother figure, of course — mother to Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, she who eases the sufferings of so many who seek her out, comforting and providing solace. From other writings and comments, I knew she exuded strong Mother energy wrapped in a soft, sweet embrace. What threw me was the academic feel to the sharing of what must have been a profoundly moving experience. And yet, I was also drawn into the journey as if I could feel the edge of distancing had a purpose.
It’s possible that the ‘distance’ I felt was all from my side as the reader, especially as I have been undergoing challenging mother-daughter issues with my own mother this past year. And that makes it all the more poignant considering the fragility of my inner Maiden as she/I heal from patriarchy. Certainly, there are places in Mary’s Way where the patriarchy of the Catholic Church reminds me of the criticism and judgment of fathers (personal, religious and societal) for the Divine Feminine.
Taking all of this into consideration, however, there is still no doubt that Mary’s Way is a Mother-energy book.
* * * See how this realization of the Goddess Trinity portrays herself through my catharsis in Survival.