The Virgin of Zapopan and Migrants: Pilgrimage in Movement against U.S. Oppression

By Ellie Stone

They were burned nearly black, their lips huge and cracking, what paltry drool still available to them spuming from their mouths in a salty foam as they walked. Their hair was hard and stiffened by old sweat, standing in crowns from their scalps, old sweat because their bodies were no longer sweating. They were drunk from having their brains baked in the pan, they were seeing God and devils, and they were dizzy from drinking their own urine, the poisons clogging their systems.[1]

This is Luis Alberto Urrea’s vivid description of the physical state of five Mexican immigrants emerging from the desert in his book The Devil’s Highway. Every year hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants cross the United States-Mexico border in hopes of achieving a safer and more financially stable life, but the risk to attain that goal is great. Compare this fatal journey to the annual pilgrimage of the wooden figurine of the Virgin of Zapopan, who flies safely in a jet from her home in Mexico to East Los Angeles. The stark contrast between the two journeys is startling but much can be learned from their comparison. Continue reading

The Sacred Blood of Our Fathers: An Exploration of Secular, Pilgrim-like Experiences at Gettysburg

By Lauren Booth

In order to understand the large amount of Americans that make battlefield “pilgrimages” each year, one must explore the preservation efforts, pilgrimage-like activities and ideals presented at sites; as well as the powerful religious language used in reference to and at these sites. Using the example of the Gettysburg Battlefield, the location of a pivotal battle for the Union army against the Confederate army during the American Civil War, this paper analyzes“battlefield pilgrimage” as a pilgrim-like experience. A pilgrim-like experience, for the purpose of this paper, is an experience that mimics and includes the key concepts or practices typically performed at traditional pilgrimage sites. Further, battlefield pilgrimages maintain very similar motives to traditional pilgrimage sites through mimicking activities that (1) give powerful sacred status to a profane space and (2) preserve an ideological tradition. There is a powerful sacred status at battlefields that Americans feel the need to preserve. This comes from the value given to the spilled blood of American soldiers. This “blood acts” sanctify the battlefield. Like traditional pilgrimage sites, battlefield pilgrimage sites highlight spaces where someone has participated in a selfless act of suffering and sacrifice. The ideological tradition that Gettysburg seeks to preserve is one of “orthodox patriotism.”[1] According to historian Edward Tabor Linenthal, “Patriotic rhetoric and monument building are designed to ensure continued allegiance to patriotic orthodoxy. Physical preservation is designed to protect the sanctity of the site itself and to separate sacred space from surrounding secular space”.[2] Using Linenthal’s discourse on battlefields and other scholars of battlefield preservation and pilgrimage, this paper will confirm the ideal of a trip to a battlefield as a valid pilgrim-like experience. Continue reading

The Center Out There: The PILGRIMAGE Goal

By Dani Turner

“Help me name my Camino book!” Marion Doyle posts on twitter next to a link. In 120 characters or less, she uses this website as a tool to reach out to her 300 plus followers. 500 plus people like her Facebook page called “Train for the Camino.” Many others discover her via her blog on, which is Google’s second result when you search “training for the Camino.” While her book has taken the backseat as she studies to become a certified yoga instructor, Doyle is currently working on a practical guide to this specific pilgrimage. She began posting in the summer of 2013 and left for the Camino the next summer. She spent about a year training for this journey and updated her internet followers every step of the way. Minute planning details such as the type of walking sticks she purchased or the snacks she ate while training were explained, sometimes in great detail. It may be surprising but a year is a normal amount of preparation time for a pilgrimage of this scale, and many pilgrims-in-training look to blogs like for advice and pointers.

In his 1973 paper The Center Out There: Pilgrim’s Goal Victor Turner says that “whenever we have satisfactory documents or oral narratives of the personal experiences and observations of pilgrims and detached investigators, we can envisage the social process involving a particular group of pilgrims during their preparations for departure” (Turner, 192). He notices the difference “between social life as it is lived in localized, relatively stable, structured systems of social relation” and the process of pilgrimage (Turner, 192). Before they depart, pilgrims prepare to leave the normalcy and routine of their everyday life and the society in which they live. Turner believes that pilgrimages “remov[e] the participants from their preoccupation with small group[s], convention ridden, routinized daily life and plac[es] them into another context of existence- the activities and feelings of the larger community” (Turner, 193). This is the pilgrim’s goal. Continue reading

Pilgrimage for the Goddess…or God…or Whatever Your Preference May Be: Being a Pilgrim on a Glastonbury Pilgrimage

By Crystal Dicks

As a pilgrim it is only logical to look up where one is going on pilgrimage aboard. Many pilgrimage areas have websites dedicated to the learning and figuring out what to do and which routes are best for pilgrimage. However, the Goddess Temple website for taking a journey to Glastonbury is the most interesting one that has appeared. As soon as one gets on their page its states “The Goddess is alive in Glastonbury, visible for all to see in the shapes of the sacred landscape. She is soft as the rounded hills of Her body and sweet as the apple blossom that grows in Her orchards”[1]. Then the page dissolves into a picture of a cat that has really nothing to do with the website. But, the website is well organized for the audience visiting the website. The website reaches out to the Neo-pagan and Wiccan community and tourist. However, the Christian community is completely wiped from the history of the temple and area of worship. The reason that this is interesting is because pilgrimage to Glastonbury is made up of many groups that are not widely known or scholarly articles are not focused on these groups as much as they are focused only on one group and only their actions with other groups. Continue reading

Reliving Trauma: Finding Shared History in Shoah Pilgrimage


It has often been said that tragedy has a way of bringing people together. Such may be the case with Holocaust pilgrimage. Holocaust pilgrimage, or Shoah pilgrimage, is a newly emerging ritualized journey that involves traveling to sites of Holocaust relevance, most often concentration camps. While most other types of pilgrimage denote traveling to sites of religious or spiritual significance, Shoah is unique in that it builds its foundation upon a period of immense historical and cultural trauma. Reasons for making these “trauma pilgrimages” are varied, and Shoah pilgrimage and its legitimacy as a pilgrimage has been a somewhat controversial topic in the academic world. Is it sacred or profane, religious or historical? This paper seeks to demystify the Shoah Pilgrimage by exploring the ways in which Shoah pilgrims strengthen religious, cultural, and even national identity by “bearing witness” to the past. Continue reading

The Religion of Roll Tide: God, Pilgrimage, and Alabama Football

It the moment I’m writing this, there are 121 days, 13 hours, 19 minutes, and 7 seconds until football season begins. Where I am from, this is sacred knowledge. When my college friends relive their childhoods, there is often talk of carefree Saturday mornings: cartoons while curled up in pajamas or reading the comics with Dad. For most of the year, my Saturdays mornings reflect theirs, but when the Alabama weather falls below 90 and school is back in session, there is only one agenda for Saturday mornings: football. My neighborhood at home is split. You can either drive two hours to Auburn (Auburn University) or forty-five minutes to Tuscaloosa (University of Alabama) for home games, and if the games are away, every member of your family will be staked out in front of the TV. This is every year, every fall, every Saturday.

Most people in the South do not look at their day-to-day lives and consider what they do outside of church as inherently religious. Most do not see their everyday lives as a place for practicing pilgrimage. Yet, most Southerners practice religions and go on pilgrimage every Saturday during football season. If we take an analytical framework, at least are two arguments for the relationship between pilgrimage, football, and religion: one, that football can be made secular pilgrimage, or two, that football is a religious pilgrimage because football can be made a religion. This essay argues the latter, stating that football fits the criteria for post-modern religious pilgrimage using classical and contemporary scholarly definitions of religion.  This essay contends that making the trek to Bryant-Denny stadium for Saturdays in the fall is just as much of a pilgrimage as walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Continue reading

“#AlmaMissingAmulek”: Contemporary LDS Missionaries and Theories of Pilgrimage

As of December 31, 2014, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) had over 85,000 missionaries serving in 406 different missions throughout the world.[1] Most young Mormon men and rapidly increasing numbers of Mormon women see missionary service as a rite of passage, a duty to their family, to their church, and to their god that will bring blessings to themselves and to their families for years to come. Over the course of two years for men and eighteen months for women, missionaries work in rotating teams of two to spread their Gospel and teach people about their beliefs, with the ultimate goal of baptizing as many new converts as possible before their mission is over. Armed with copies of the Book of Mormon and church-approved pamphlets breaking down the fundamental tenets of Mormonism, missionaries take to the streets with one goal: to proselytize. LDS missionaries, though, might also be thought of as pilgrims, of sorts, pilgrims following in the footsteps of the powerful, persuasive missionaries they’ve read about in the Book of Mormon. Continue reading