December 07, 2022
S3:E4 Dual Pilgrimage: Camino de Santiago & Japan's Kumano Kodo

Drawing on their experiences from walking both the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo, Dr. Michelle Oing, Ph.D. and Dr. Christian Greer, Ph.D. discuss the contrast of these two UNESCO pilgrimage routes for pilgrims and look ahead to how pilgrimage may

Drawing on their experiences from walking both the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo, Dr. Michelle Oing, Ph.D. and Dr. Christian Greer, Ph.D. discuss the contrast of these two UNESCO pilgrimage routes for pilgrims and look ahead to how pilgrimage may play a deeper role culturally in the years ahead.



MEET OUR GUEST:   Dr. Michelle Oing, Ph.D.

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.

MEET OUR GUEST:   Dr. Christian Greer, Ph.D.

Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies and American culture, who specializes in psychedelic religion and spirituality. In addition to earning a BA (summa cum laude) from Boston University and an MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, he received his MA and Ph.D. (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam. While a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Divinity School, he led a series of research seminars on psychedelic culture, which culminated in the creation of the *Harvard Psychedelic Walking Tour,* a free audio guide detailing how the Harvard community has shaped the modern history of psychedelic culture. His research addresses popular culture & religion, radical politics & religious activism, esotericism and occultism, ecological spiritualities, pilgrimage, countercultures and subcultures, and drugs & religion.

His latest book, *Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots* (co-authored with Dr. Michelle Oing) analyzes the pilgrimage folklore associated with the rainforests of Japan's Kii Peninsula.

MEET THE HOST:  Kevin Donahue

Husband. Father. Backpacker. Pilgrim. Author.

Kevin Donahue began walking pilgrimage routes in 2019, joining the historical footprints of pilgrims seeking places and people to inspire questions and enlighten answers about faith, hope, and love. His passion for these historic footpaths and reflections from the journeys form the basis for his books: Sacred Steps: A Pilgrimage Journal and The Pilgrims’ Table.



Sacred Steps: A Pilgrimage Journal | Free Preview

At the crossroads of history and faith, a reluctant pilgrim embarks on a modern pilgrimage along some of the world’s most revered footpaths. Along the way, he discovers the places and encounters people that inspire questions and enlighten answers about faith, hope, and love.

Available from print and digital booksellers, Sacred Steps: A Pilgrimage Journal conveys both the historical context and the modern experience of pilgrimage through Portugal and Spain on the Camino de Santiago, along America’s Pacific Coast connecting the California Missions Trail, across receding tides to Holy Island, from London to Canterbury along Britain’s historic Pilgims’ Way, and onward towards Rome via Europe’s Via Francigena on a journey of discovery.

The Pilgrims’ Table | Free Preview
Brought together by fate for a memorable dinner, five pilgrims recall their emotional journeys along Spain’s Camino de Santiago. Powerful and moving, The Pilgrims’ Table is an emotional look at the transformational power of pilgrimage.

Born from the intersection of my experiences with those of other pilgrims,  The Pilgims’ Table is the story of five pilgrims from divergent paths who come together at a Spanish albergue. The deeply personal stories shared over dinner transform their outlook on pilgrimage and connect them as one pilgrim family.

★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★


 Walking virtually along the world's most revered footpaths and connecting the global community of Pilgrims. It's the Sacred Steps Podcast, available on YouTube and your favorite podcast app, broadcasting from the Chez Mer Studios in Florida, here's your host, Pilgrim Backpacker, and author Kevin Donahue,

Buen Camino. If you're joining us for the very first time, welcome to the Sacred Steps Podcast. I'm your host, Kevin Donahue pilgrim backpacker and struggling author. On this podcast, we're walking virtually alongside pilgrims and authors sharing their stories and connecting a community of pilgrims from around the world.

So far this season, we've been talking exclusively about the Camino De Santiago, but this show has always discussed pilgrim routes from across the world. So I'm happy to have our guests today, Dr. Christian Greer and Dr. Michelle Oing to discuss not only the Camino, but also its Sister Heritage Trail, Japan's Kumano Kodo.

So I know what you're thinking. There are gonna be two PhDs on the podcast today, and yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking when we recorded with Christian and Michelle. But let's face it, where else other than the Sacred Steps podcast, would you turn for lively and spirited discourse in academia? Right? But in all seriousness, it's great to have two heavyweights who can talk about these routes with us, with a depth and breadth that those of us who are passionate about these walks can truly appreciate, and they're great experienced pilgrims who love the Camino.

And quite honestly, we had a lot of fun recording this episode. We'll be discussing the pilgrimage routes, the changing demographics of pilgrimage, and factors that have influenced the recent resurgence of interest for pilgrims. I think you're really going to enjoy this one. So speaking of scholarly discourse, let's check in with Brian J.

Author of Through a Field of Stars trilogy and his partner Chelsea, for another update on their Camino France pilgrimage. Buen Camino, Brian and Chelsea.

Buen Camino, Kevin.

Oh my goodness. What a welcome. Where, where are you both today?

So you just heard our Camino family. We are in Tri Castilla today.

Brian, how is the journey going this week?

Uh, actually a lot has happened since the last time you heard from us. Uh, Chelsea and I actually got c when we were in, um, Estella. So we took two weeks off the road and had to. Um, quarantine essentially, but now we're back. We're back with our Camino family.

Well, I'm, I'm really glad to hear that you're both feeling well. Again, what are you noticing as you've been back with your Camino family.

uh, one thing that I've learned is it's so amazing to see people again after, uh, after being away for a little while and, uh, just how amazing everybody is and how supportive. So one more time. All right. Buen Camino, Kevin, and everybody on the podcast. All right. I hope you come and enjoy this wonderful paella.

Buen Camino, Brian, Chelsea, and everyone there Sounds like a party. I didn't know there was gonna be paella. That's another one of my food favorites. I digress.

If you are planning your pilgrimage walk or if you're already walking like Brian, I'd love to connect with you. Go to sacred steps and record your voice message online with your Camino plans. We may share your voicemail on the podcast in an upcoming episode. Today's voicemail comes from Donald, an American pilgrim from Minnesota.

Hi, this is Donald Room from Red Wing, Minnesota. I just finished, uh, Camino des Santiago, the perimeter route two months ago. Um, and I met, uh, someone at the end of the camino who said, uh, Caminos were addicting. And I thought at the time, no way. But as I reflect on, um, back on what happened on the Camino, I see how God met me where I was at each day, and, um, taught me stuff that I needed to learn. And, um, I saw how much more I need to learn and, and, um, about my, about myself and about God and.

I wanna go there again and I wanna learn about other Caminos. I, I would like to go with, um, next year with my, uh, my wife, uh, on the Portuguese route again in September. And if not with her, maybe with my son on the English route. Anyway, maybe I'll see you there. Buen Camino.

Buen Camino Donald, thanks for the voicemail. To share details of your next pilgrimage or questions for the podcast, just go to sacred steps and click send a voicemail. It's that easy.

Let me give a quick shout-out to everyone streaming the video today over on YouTube. Not only do we stream all of our podcast episodes to YouTube, but you'll also find my video series for beginner pilgrims, a playlist called Camino 1 0 1 with short videos answering your most common questions about Camino routes, budgets, where to stay, what to pack, and some of the best apps for your mobile phone on the Camino to Santiago. That's over at steps.

Lastly, we just got word from our podcast host that the show is now streaming in more than 50 countries. Um, and that is such a special honor for me just to think that I started this show because I felt alone and I felt that I was missing my Camino family during the height depth of the Covid Pandemic two years ago, actually two years ago this month. So Happy Birthday podcast, um, but to be streaming to pilgrims in more than 50 countries is such an incredible honor. Thank you for supporting the podcast, for liking our episodes on your podcast app. And really for all of your incredible emails, direct messages, voicemails, and, and chats, I am so grateful to be walking virtually alongside each and every one of Buen Camino. And most sincerely, thank you so, so much.

Okay. On today's episode, I'm very excited to welcome two experts on pilgrimage Harvard's Dr. Christian Greer, and from Stanford University, Dr. Michelle Oing the two of a new book called Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Power Spots that looks not only at Japan's signature route, but also reflects on their experiences walking the Camino to Santiago, and a discussion on pilgrimage in the modern era.

Christian and Michelle are trained historians, so it was great to reflect on their understanding, both as academics, And as Pilgrims who have walked these routes, giving their personal experiences.

Dr. Christian Greer, Dr. Michelle Oing, welcome to the Sacred Steps Podcast.

Thank you. Thanks a lot for having us.

We were just talking before we started recording the episode, and I said, you know, you guys are like the second and third, uh, PhDs that we've had on the podcast. So clearly this is the place where people go for scholarly discourse, and I appreciate you . We know what the action is. Exactly, exactly. I appreciate you coming on to this poor little pilgrimage podcast to, um, increase the iq, uh, threefold just by having the two of you on.

So, um, no, but all in all seriousness, I I do really, really appreciate you coming on because you give a layer of insight into some of the conversations that we want to. Um, with our audience that blends your expertise with your passion. So I think the first question our audience is gonna want to know after such a huge introduction and lead up is what brought you, uh, to pilgrimage?

How did we get involved with the Camino de Santiago and, you know, what's the backstory here between the two of you? Hmm. You wanna take this away? Yeah. You know, I was actually thinking about this today, trying to remember when I heard about the community Santiago. Um, and it feels like something I've always known about, which is probably just a magical thinking process that I have.

But it was definitely something that I found out about as a young person. It maybe in high school or thereabouts, and then it just, I just kept returning to it. And then when we met, um, we realized that we had the same dream of doing it , which was a kinda unexpected occurrence, I think. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, personally, I remember when I was like 13.

I had the ambition of walking it however I could, as soon as I could. And I sent away for my pilgrim's passport at, and I got it in the mail. Yeah. And I remember I got it in the mail. And they do such a good job with the paper ephemera, like it had the, the shell on the envelope. I remember opening it carefully and taking out what was like, really, like in my eyes, like a magic document being like this is a passport to a different realm, a different mode of being.

And that, that, that pilgrim's passport was, uh, teles manic for me. And while I didn't get to take the trip, having that in my possession was important. It, it, it focused my attention. It the long term. And I, I really think while I, I really wanna locate this. I'm gonna have to ask my parents to go in the attic to look through my old things.

They're gonna dig through the Christian drawer. Yeah, the archive or something  and I have to say that, uh, sending away for it and, and getting it in the mail invited me into a process that while I wasn't on the trail at that time, psychologically it, it, it led me there. I think in some respects that's when my Camino began and it was not till many, many years later that I actually got to walk it.

But, uh, the paper culture. That's great. Now look, just if you don't mind, I'll delve into that for a second. Can you remember that, like the physical pilgrim passport that you received, um, was it vastly different? Cuz you said it was a bit of a talisman, so, you know, in, in more than just the, the, the symbol of it was, was the pilgrim passport that you carried on your first Camino vastly different because they've evolved quite a.

They have, yeah. The iconography used, and I think they're a little more sleek now, uh, maybe even a little bit more, um, how do you say? Practical. Yeah. Um, but yeah, and it's changed. And I remember as soon as I got the new one, Googling the different ones, and I, in our book, we mentioned the fact that, um, now we issue our own pilgrims passports to members of ACON fraternity.

And so we invite, uh, people who belong to our pilgrimage con fraternity to carry two passports. You know, you want the official one, you want the friends of the Camino one, the one that everyone recognizes. Um, but we also encourage them to, to bring the other one from, from our fraternity, if not only because it's new and it's a conversation starter.

Yeah. And you can really describe, uh, some of the iconography and, and what that means to you personally. And, um, you know, as we know, passports give you access to different places. And so a new passport, a passport that perhaps reflects your own journey. We'll bring you to new places. And so, uh, it's a, another fun aspect of the pilgrimage is we, you can really make it your own.

There's so much there waiting for you, but you can build on top of that and really fashion whatever type of pilgrimage you want. That's terribly interesting because I, I didn't know that you had begun issuing, uh, your own pa pilgrim passports. So both of you are on, I believe, the West Coast of the United States.

You wanna tell us a little bit about the comforter? Yeah. Uh, basically it's very open ended, uh, called The Order of St. George's Horse. And it's just for, it's a way for us to have intentional conversations with our friends and, uh, varying degrees of, uh, yeah, friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends.

But, uh, this day and age, I find myself on email so much I find myself really, um, alienated from those communities that would bring me joy and sustenance. And so, you know, I think we founded it in. Thousand 12. Yeah. There in Iceland when we were taking a trip around Iceland and, um, we had a lot of friends ask us about the trip.

And friends of friends were asking us about the trip and we realized that those conversations were really sustaining for, you know, one thing, Camino, is that it's a record of, of where you've been and, and it's, it's sure, it's like a trigger for memories. Mm-hmm. , um, you know, from our first passport of the time we did it, we have one of these great, like, you know, the wax someones in and maybe a charm, which are just so wonderful.

Andile. And I'm an art historian, so like any little object and me, um, and it's a record of what you did. And so it's also a way to share that map with other people who have done it, who haven't done it. Who, who just wanna kinda hear more than like, oh yeah, we worked through Spain and ate a lot of tortilla.

Like, no, here's this. Like, we found this strange pizza place. Yeah. That had like a weird. Really friendly waiter in, sorry. And really enjoyed that experience. It's like a, it's sort of a, a memory device obviously. Absolutely. And you know, that reminds me of another thing, which is pilgrims have, there's some conversations that you're gonna have every pilgrimage, you know, you'll talk with other pilgrims about land, terrain, you'll talk to pilgrim out they're dreams.

One of them that's really great about the queen's, something I'll get a compos Stella, is the conversation you have in Santiago with the group you've been walking with about how to preserve your passport. I've heard a lot of different kind of home home procedures. One is hairspray. Have you heard of this one?

You use hairspray on the ink, so it doesn't run. I, I don't know if this, if you notice how great ahead a hair I have, but uh, yeah, it's, I admire it. It's, yeah, no, it's, listen, I takes a lot of effort, but I don't have hairspray. No. Um, I hadn't heard of that. So what, what, what did you do to preserve yours? I, I ended up actually my.

Uh, framed my Ella and my pilgrim passport and the shell I carried. And so that's been sitting out as a bit of, um, you know, a little opportunity board, if you will, for my teenage son. And he's been walking past it for a few years. And now as he's, um, turning 14 and, and I'm getting ready to turn 50, um, you know, he's like, dad, I wanna do the Camino with you.

So well done. It works, it works. Way to go, mom. Um, so no, but how did you go about preserving your, um, pilgrim passports? Or did you Yeah, uh, I remember I did a arts and crafts project with my partner here and, um, created a pretty large banner, um, that includes the comella and includes the pilgrim passport, and then some nice embroidery.

And I think we used it in, in exactly the same way you did, perhaps, which is we displayed it prominently, uh, in our, in, in my office at least. Yeah. And so whenever students with Kim in. It's eye catching, but I've never mentioned it. And then, uh, when students would come in and say, oh, I've walked at the Camino Immediate rapport.

Yeah. And you can really share. It's a conversation starter, but put it like this, you know, it, the Camino really changed the way I think it, it was a transformative experience and I think it's, Not totally unsurprising that I'd wanna share whatever happened on the pilgrimage. And is this your, uh, experience as well?

So we, we did that with yours in this wonderful banner. And then we also have, um, uh, a kind of like shrine set up in our house with my passport. Oh yeah. Mm-hmm. . And then also after this trip that we did to Japan, to the sister pilgrimage, the Kuo Codo, they also have passports for that. Um, and in addition to those passports, they have this other ephemera paper thing, which is, um, when you visit temples, um, the Shinto temples, you can wait in a little line and then someone will come with this beautiful calligraphy pen and write the, the name of the temple in this beautiful way.

And so we have all these different. Passports in this shrine along with the shelves and, and you know, like patches that we were given by fellow pilgrims or, um, little, you know, sort of things that would be tap if they weren't associated with the, and now they're holy to me. So, yeah. Yeah. I, I'm curious again, have you, did you bring home a piece of pilgrim memorabilia that is especially important or that, that focuses your imagination?

I mean, I love this material culture of the pilgrimage, so anything in particular on your end? Yeah, you know, I actually, um, I think I left more than I, than I brought home. So I took, um, you know, I've had the opportunity to walk in several places as you have beyond just the Camino. And so after my first pilgrimage I was talking with, um, a Camino legend, uh, Johnny Walker Santiago, and he said, you know, it would be really great if on your next pilgrimage.

If you invited people to take part in it, uh, however they may see fit, maybe, um, and be from our conversations. I actually ended up carrying the prayers of pilgrims, uh, on two of my pilgrimages, one to Linda Far Holy Island, uh, home of the, when Fort Abby, and most recently to, um, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

And so, um, on my, on my second pilgrimage in the uk, I ended up, um, taking shells with me. And I try to make a very intentional, you know, time every day. And so I, I try to dedicate at least a portion of each day's walk to relationships that I have. And so on that UK pilgrimage and the on the cam, I was, you know, writing people's name and then leaving the shells, uh, along the way or as I would get to the sea, you know, um, casting them out.

Not, not the people, not the relationships, but the, the shells , you know? Uh, and then, you know, I, I did bring some shells with me. I carried, some people asked me, would you carry a shell for me? Or would you, you know, um, maybe pick up a rosary for me, or, or something like that. And so, you know, I had the, the traditional, what I'd call, you know, tourist take home things people ask you to pick up, um, a little memento for them.

And I did. But I, I think the thing that I took home the most from the, um, the, the different pilgrimage walks to, is I, you know, I always got the pilgrim passport, like you said. Mm-hmm. , regardless of where I was. Um, sometimes even on these walks, it's not that popular. Um, you know, where it's hard to get a stamp in some places, but it, you know, I, I journal every day and that's really been the thing for me that I bring with me is, You know, I try to record.

I'm not a great artist. I'm not a great writer. I'm not a great speaker. I just, you're a good podcaster though, . You know, I don't even, I think I'm, I think I'm number three in my segment out of three, but, um, we're getting there. We're getting there. Um, but, you know, for scholarly discourse, I think we're number two.

Um, so No, but let me, let me ask you, um, you mentioned some of the things that you brought home and that you've set out and inspired around your home and at university. Were there elements that you've said, Hey, I, you know, this really speaks to me. I, I want to take this home. And before we start talking about Japan, I want to, I wanna stay focused a little bit on, uh, your European pilgrimages, because I think those are, there's some that, uh, people identify most with and are very curious about how they, uh, contrast the Asian pilgrimages that you've done as well.

So we'll get into that in just a moment. But from the Camino or other places in Europe specifically? Well, you know, to take a different approach to the question. A real change in the way in which we do pilgrimage happened a few years ago, and I remember where it happened and when it happened, we were about 30 kilometers outside of Santiago.

We'd found our way to this fantastic tavern, and the the bartender there was just so sweet. All the best stories start to, I know, right? It's medieval, really. We don't wanna go in and just refresh ourselves with a nice service, uh, you know, get our wind three hours later, you know, we're in the back of the tavern.

She's showing us photo albums. We're having a great time. And before she, we left, she gave us this little plastic trinket. Mm-hmm. . And that trinket really changed the way we travel insofar as now we go with gifts to give. Hmm. So instead of taking things home, we actually find ourselves often, um, presenting little TILs manic objects and little ambulances to the people we meet.

And just to tell them, you know, as a means of saying thank you so often Pilgrims, I think are focused on. Transformation happening inside, which of course, it's a transformative endeavor. Mm-hmm. . But we wanted to go a little bit further and say, well, how can pilgrims give back? How, how can we participate in a economy of friendship, an economy of reciprocity?

And part of that for us was, uh, so we, we've created these little talismans and ambulance and our friend just left for the UK to walk a pilgrimage in Wales. And before he came over, you know, he is part of the fraternity, we're like, all right, here's, here's an allotment. But you have to be careful. You don't wanna take too many gi, you know, whatever.

Um, so anyways, yeah, that's, that's something we're focused on is how do we give back and how do we signal our appreciation to the people who take care of us, which such an important part of the Camino is, uh, the people who walk in and the people who allow us to walk in. Our guest today is Dr. Michelle Owing and Dr.

Christian Greer on the Sacred Steps Podcast. Uh, they have written several books. You know where to find the links down in the show notes below. Uh, but if you are inspired, uh, for more information about this pilgrimage walk, uh, or we're gonna be discussing the kimono codo, please check the show notes below.

So, uh, Michelle, you, you were just mentioning, uh, Christian was just mentioning the, the gentleman who was headed to Wales and you were gonna speak a little bit about that. I'm sorry. Oh, that's ok. Um, well I was just actually gonna speak about an object that we've collected both from the Camino in Oh yes, please.

Some parts in France and then also in Spain. And, um, and then this is also something we've done, uh, in our travels to India and to Japan. I think Christian, you started this, but this a special attention to bells to little Oh yeah. Portable bells and you know, in Sania you can get them with sort of St.

James with his little pilgrim crook. Um, we have one from when we were in, we did a little bit of the via to in, um, in Southern France. And so we got one with Roche. Um, so we have this whole collection of bells and bell are like beautiful objects of course. But then you get this wonderful. Of just ringing them, like, and they all have different sounds.

And so sometimes I'll wake up in the morning and Christian is ringing the bells,  quite literally ringing the bells out in the kitchen. And it's a real, it, it just, it's just a beautiful sort of full body reminder of that experience. And we ring them before, uh, other members of our opportunity go out on pilgrimage.

We'll ask everybody to ring bells and to take little, uh, phone, phone videos. And so before they go, they'll, uh, their inbox is filled with these, uh, little tinkling of bells. I love that because, uh, yeah, it really does focus the mind. And, um, if you read some of the pilgrim literature about the Camino, apparently, uh, there's a expression in Spanish, but I, it translates to ringing the bells.

Like this puts you on good terms with St. James  . It's a way of getting in the good graces of, uh, Santiago. And so, yeah, I think it's pretty fun. So many in our audience are familiar with the Camino de Santiago primarily, uh, as their, as their first and foremost exposure to modern Christian pilgrimage, um, and historic Christian pilgrimage.

Um, but you are dual pilgrims. You've mentioned you've done quite a few walks, but one of them where dual pilgrimage is now recognized is the sister pilgrimage to the Camino de Santiago in Japan, the Kim Codo. And so you've had the opportunity a few years ago to do the kimono Codo. You've written a book about it.

I would love to hear a little bit about, um, maybe introduce the kimono codo for those who haven't heard of it before, and then we'll talk in a little more detail about the walk itself. Oh yeah. Uh, come Kodo is the second UNESCO World Heritage Site pilgrimage. The first being the Santiago, the Costella. So, uh, and it's recently, I think recently, Kristin.

Ba, UNESCO as the second pilgrimage with World Heritage Value. Um, the story of the pilgrimage itself reaches all the way back to really the origins of, um, the Japanese nation. The claim is that the gods of Shinto, the elder gods of Shinto, uh, touchdown first right there in the key peninsula, and in fact, which is kinda the southeastern portion of, of the Japanese arch.

And so, you know, a, a, a special place just because this is where the initial gods, uh, touchdown on earth to populate, uh, the world with all the myriad things that are in it. And so the, the pilgrimage in fact, takes place between the main shrines of Shintoism. Um, it begins, uh, the first shrine I guess you'd visit would be Hangu.

Taisha. Um, and then it. Concludes with a pretty spectacular waterfall, which is a Notchy falls. And really these are the bookends of the pilgrimage. So you begin with a grand shrined complex that it's almost like a little city. It's, it's huge. And it culminates with this. Yeah, as I said, extremely powerful waterfall.

And if you go to various art galleries across Japan, you'll see the most beautiful depictions of this particular natural, uh, feature. Um, really arranging over the last, you know, thousand 500 years. And to see the different ways it's portrayed, see the different ways. In fact, the shine has been used as a means of promoting a political agenda or a religious agenda.

Yeah. Or even a cultural agenda as in today when, um, the kimono coto, I think is most popularly represented as a pilgrimage, but not as a Shinto pilgrimage, but in fact, as a form of ecotourism. Now as a scholar of religion, I love, you know, exploring. Okay, what is Shinto, what's eco pilgrimage? How are those the same?

How are those different? But in terms of a big picture of you, it's promoted as a restorative spiritual journey. And there is less focus on the strictly religious aspects. And, and I think that's a main difference between the Camino de Santiago and the kimono codo. Today you see a fair number of, um, Catholic people walking the pilgrimage, and you can encounter them maybe half, maybe less than half, but there's certainly a presence, um, along Theo Codo.

I think they, they are, um, positioning it very much in terms of recreation, in terms of health benefits and this fantastic term forest bathing. This is one of those, uh, very, I think, effective forms of marketing. Uh, and they claim, oh, come to Theo Walk Dakota and bathe in these natural environments. Yeah, and I would say too that I think, you know, in sort of in the UNESCO story of, of these sister pilgrimage idea, there's also this kind of temporal aspect, right?

Which is that if you think about the Camino as something medieval Christian pilgrims did, the Kuo also has a history in medieval, um, of, uh, people walking in as well Then. So there's kind of, there's kinda a parallel in the stories there that, you know, we can talk. Um, how accurate sometimes those stories are in terms of thinking about the history of these pilgrimages.

But yeah, there's kinda a setup there of, of these as being really ancient pilgrimage routes, um, that thus are connected as kinda twin pilgrim pilgrimages. I should say, though, you know, you being a medievalist, it's always so interesting when I ask you like, um, why, so we're talking about the history of the community de Santiago, why the, why the Middle Ages so prominent as opposed to 1870 or 1970.

Um, and in fact, uh, within the literature, I think scholars of the community de Santiago really do a great job of inspecting and analyzing the way in which the medieval, the Middle Ages, what they represent, not what they were, but what they represent to people today. And I've always found that really interesting.

And you see that same narrative, you know, the de Santiago, if you look into literature, particularly in Spain, The focus is on the Middle Ages. And if you go to, to keep an insala, I'd say the literature on Theo is very focused on the Middle Ages as opposed to more present, uh, decades. Well, and you know, that combination of the, um, the religious and secular coming together is such a, a big part, which a obviously makes it, as you said, a little more accessible for everyone, right?

Because we're not exclusively attracting one specific audience. I mean, we do have to get the forest bathers in, right? So wherever that may fall, we need that. But, um, looking back, um, at the kimono kodo, um, there are more than one. Um, there's multiple roots for the kimono codo, and one in particular. Um, , at least, is told today as being, uh, exclusively for the Emperor and the Emperor's family.

Uh, historically, and the remaining roots, um, were very much part of a cast system, um, where certain members of society would walk one or the other. So, um, we've done a, we we've grown a bit, um, past the, the Middle Ages. So what, what is true of the roots of the Kimo Co today? And if you could comment on one or which of the roots you may have walked in Japan.

So we did the route, which is for sure the one that they are, that the sort of Japanese tourism industry is promoting for international pilgrims. Um, and that's in part because it is, so this, this was a shock to me on the Camino. You walk 20, 30 kilometers a day. It's tiring. It's a lot. But you know, for the most part, well I obviously the terrain, terrain changes, but 20 to 30 kilometers is a lot.

But it can be done depending on, uh, what you want outta your pilgrimage or your physical abilities. Um, I remember looking at the KU map for the nache and it was like 10, 12 kilometers. Yeah. And I was like, easy. We'll be done in two hours. We'll be able to eat all the robin we want. Yeah. But it's so steep.

Ooh. But there're you were really mountains there. And I remember so distinctly on climbing up this mountain, oh, this is it. I'm gonna die here. , I can't make it not another step. Um, and then not, fruit is actually the least intense  of all the different roots. And there are some that they really are very clear.

They say, don't do this unless you're a very experienced hiker. And you know, the trails often would be, Maybe a foot wide in certain places. So it's not, it does require a different kind of physical attention, I think, than a lot of sections of the Camino de Santiago, especially the Via France, which, you know, has kinda been built as a more accessible place, the most accessible of all the, all the Camino roots.

Right. Um, I had a great conversation with a, a good friend of mine, um, at least I call him a good friend. I'm not sure what he would say, but, um, Kevin Considine, who's, who's done a lot of global pilgrimages and he, he's done, uh, both of the most popular roots in Japan, the 88 Temples walk and the codo. And one thing that stood out to him as a great contrast.

You've mentioned the topography, the terrain is vastly different. Um, I, I think the saying goes, uh, the rain in Japan falls straight down because that's, the hills are going. I know the rain in Spain is just, it's only in the EDA, I guess, but, um, but in Japan it's, it's very laborious walking. You're going up and up and down and down, very steep, uh, terrain.

But he mentioned the vast difference in the hospitality of the Japanese people. Uh, and everywhere he stayed, he felt as if he was the, the most valued, most welcome guest, um, anywhere he arrived. Could you talk a little about that? Yeah. Well, I lived in Japan previous, so I had some experience when it comes to navigating the etiquette for being a guest and for being a traveler.

But, um, I, I have to say this is one of the reasons why pilgrimage itself has become such a focal point in my intellectual life is the texture. Of everyday relationships is different, at least for me on the road. And there's something in spirited about being on pilgrimage, about meeting other pilgrims and the people who tend to pilgrims.

And I have to say that while they are very different, I think the spirit that animates pilgrimage in Spain is particular and cultural, uh, in Japan. I have to say that, that that the, how do I put this? Excitement, enthusiasm, and glee and friendliness is, is matched. It's certainly there though, I would say, um, the demands on pilgrims are a little higher because the customs and etiquette is very different.

And um, I would say that, you know, before you go, yeah, I think it would be worth boning up on a little bit of, for example, um, very basic protocol for. Worshiping at a shrine, for example. You know, if you're born in the US or Western Europe, you might be somewhat familiar with Catholicism and how to behave in, uh, cathedral or a church.

Uh, very different rules are regulating the shrine space of Shinto temples and the um, or, uh, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. And even knowing the difference between those two, knowing, uh, the protocols for worship both, I think would really give you a leg up. And I, I should say, if you make a mistake, don't worry.

Everyone makes mistakes. They're used to it. But if you get it right, boy. You really do get, uh, applauded and they think, wow, this is someone who is a little special. And I think there's a lot, a lot to it.

The conversation continues momentarily. For information and links from the show, visit Sacred Steps Know someone considering pilgrimage share this episode as a text from your device. To support the show, please leave a star rating in your podcast app. And now the Sacred Steps Podcast continues.

You mentioned that you lived in Japan. Um, You, you said it, it afforded you some, some exposure to the hospitality of the Japanese people. Uh, when you went on your pilgrimage, was it surprising to you the way pilgrims were welcomed, um, and, and cared for in Japan? Um, ba based on your experience, does it, did it seem like something that was very common the way a family friend would be welcomed?

Or did it seem something that was transactional the way a, you know, a stranger might be passing through? No, no. I'd say it's, uh, because it's new too. Keep in mind Ono Kodo is somewhat fresh and I think that, uh, the shape of that pilgrimage is yet to be formed. And I think in many ways the people going now are really, um, participating in what is going to be, I think, a major global pilgrimage in the next 50 years.

Um, I should say that, uh, One of the cool parts of Walkon Co is we stayed with two hosts, two separate hosts, both of which had walked the community de san de Uh, so the first couple we met, this Japanese couple had this life in Tokyo, and we mentioned this in the book, but very successful business people.

Yeah, they're business people. Yeah. And they, they wanted a holiday, so they walked the community based Santiago and their lives changed and they were plugged into something that they couldn't explain, and they tried to go back to work after their pilgrimage, and they were like miserable. Yeah. Long story short, uh, they dropped out and relocated to the, and and now run a in, and it was that type of enthusiasm that I recognize that it's part of the Pilgrim community.

They, they knew what it's like to travel abroad and to, to make their way in a, in a new place. And so, I, I should say that of course the hospitality is fantastic, but on top of that, you're gonna meet ano a lot of people who have also done the cgo. I would say that's a very strong connection. I would say too, just kind of a caveat, um, about our specific experience, or not a caveat, like another layer is that it was in, um, March of 2020, um, and we were actually kinda stuck in Japan, which was not a problem.

Um, but that meant that we, our experience on the trail was very different and there was a lot of anxiety of course, as there was around the world. Um, but I think also Japan had been dealing with it for longer, um, just sort of geographically its closeness to China and other places that were dealing with outbreaks earlier.

And so, um, yeah, it was a, you know, pilgrimage is always transformative and always has its own anxieties and stressors, but to be also dealing with this communal fear, Everyone was super friendly, but there's also this kind of like caution going on. Of course, everyone's still trying to figure out what's, how this world is changing and, and is this gonna be forever?

Is this just for a little bit? Um, so mm-hmm. So that certainly colored experience, of course, the book is reflection,

Dr. Michelle, Michelle owing, and Dr. Christian Greer, our guest on the Sacred Steps podcast. Their book is Kimo Koto Pilgrimage to Power Spots. And we're gonna get into a little bit of the discussion about who pilgrims are today, how that's changed, and as Christian spoke to a little bit ago, um, how the UNESCO designation have maybe changed, uh, the popularity culturally of pilgrimage.

So, um, let me ask both of you. The kimono codo in its infancy, infancy as a pilgrimage, um, is largely a. Japanese, uh, pilgrimage. What is, what is the demographic breakdown and how do you see it expanding between, uh, other Asian, uh, nationalities and, and even western culture? Well, I would say that the first guidebook available to Western audiences was Hans Broms.

Kao Kodo. So this is a very intrepid German hiker. Oh, Swiss, yeah, yeah. Swiss Hiker who wrote a fantastic, I mean, really, um, this guidebook is so different from our own, really couldn't be any different. But what I really like about it was this is a person who took their own expertise. I think he's a financial auditor, so very, very business, right.

And he wrote this fantastic analysis of the trail coming from the point of view of someone who is auditing it for underfoot conditions. How well is the signage placed? What is the availability of water? So it was a very practical guide and I think that that speaks to a culture of international hikers that have always been on the lookout for new trails.

And I think the Koko has been a part of that map for hikers for a long time with the UNESCO designation. I think they're opening it up to the people who've done the community de Santiago and really had a transformative experience and are looking now across the world to other pilgrim pilgrimages that they could, they could attempt.

And I think that, um, in our own conversations, um, way more people have done the Kokoda than I thought. You know, when we first went, I hadn't met anybody. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And really the incitement to go was there are two members, two of the oldest members of our fraternity are Japanese. And so they were really excited about Theo and really encouraging us to do it.

And it was really great. But, um, yeah, I would say too, Uh, this is the case too with a lot of, um, roots that lead into like the via front says. There's also just, it's, it's also set up for hiking. Mm-hmm.  there many times we would be hing and huffing up the hills and like little old Japanese women would just zoom past me and I was like, right, well , you know, but so, so there's also this sort of local culture there for Japanese people from that peninsula, but also from all over Japan.

It becomes this beautiful, it's like gonna Yosemite in the States, for example, like this beautiful natural space that you can go to. Um, but I think there's a lot of pilgrims from kinda Australia, New Zealand, uh, who come and, uh, yeah. Then Americans, you know, slowly but surely Canadians, Canadians and everything is now in English and Japanese.

So that's one of the sort of innovations they've made. So obvious. English is not restricted to a few countries. It's kinda a lingua franca. But, um, they, they've set it up at those two languages thus far. I'm sure they'll expand. Well, this, this actually raises a really fascinating point, which is something that I should keep my eye on.

I didn't think about this before you asked a question. Would it be worth keeping tabs on the different languages in which Ku Koto guides are appearing so mm-hmm. . So to really keep track of how many there are in Korean now, how many there are in Arabic now, how many there are in Spanish, and to really keep it, cause this was something that fascinated me when I was on the, the first time is I remember meeting a big group of, uh, Korean, um, Methodists, and I was like, oh, can I see your guidebook?

Like, I wanna know like, what's the difference? Like how you explaining. And the differences were interesting and, and I really, I found that extremely valuable. And so now I'm going to start collecting, uh, I'll have to keep an eye on that. Well, that was really gonna be my follow up question because, you know, as you, you mentioned how important it's to understand the Japanese culture and traditions before you go and bone up a bit, I think is with the quote, um, Dr.

GR says bone up, um, which perfect. Um, that's what I'm gonna do. So, but the, you know, there's, there's an inherent language barrier, um, or at least the perception of a language barrier because the, the eastern languages are so different than the western romantic languages that people are used to from the Camino.

Um, and that, that is a real barrier for people saying, oh, I would just feel so. I would not know when to be respectful or how I might be perceived as disrespectful because I have that gap. So at, for obviously the advice for anyone going into a different country would be, you should learn as much as you can and you should try make an attempt to learn the language.

Um, but is this one of those, uh, roots where you can learn the, the 12 basic, um, conversations and there's enough, uh, translatability that, that this is accessible for everyone? Or is it, is there a real high barrier to entry here? I don't think, I mean, I don't, don't speak any Japanese. Um, I don't, I didn't find there to be a high barrier, but the, we did learn, or, well, you know, more, a little bit of jack more than me, obviously, but, um, you know, even just please and thank you in the, in the local language or hello, goodbye, you know, these just, just to show that you are not expecting them.

To be fluent in whatever language you're in that's not Japanese. And often, I mean, many of the people we met have flawless English on the trail. Obviously that's a tourism language too, of course. But I didn't find that to be a barrier. But I mean, it's a harder, of course to have conversations with, um, random Japanese people that you meet.

Mm-hmm. , you can only go so far with hello. Goodbye. But yeah. Yeah, I would say, um, yeah, because I lived in Japan, I can, oh, and we actually did study a little kacha. So, you know, there is three scripts in Japanese. There is, uh, Kaji, which is used in China and mm-hmm , you know, thousands of video grams. And then there is a special script designated to foreign words.

So pizza, alcohol, you know, these sort of things. Computer, computer. And that's actually quite easy to learn. It's only 24 characters and we were learning one character a day, you know, so this is tough, great tip, whatever. So we could just kind of sound out things. And I remember one of the first things I sound out was Patto power, power Spotto power spot.

And like keeping my mind centered on that particular exercise really did sort of prepare me to go Also, I should say, special shout out here to Mike Rhodes, who is a really, uh, how do I put this? He's part of the key NABE tourist bureau. Yes. And if you go on YouTube, he has these fantastic videos, well, that go through many of these polite, etiquette things.

Yeah. What to do about bathing culture or gonna shin. He's great. He's the best. So really, uh, can't say how much I, I can't really overestimate, uh, how much regard we have for, for Micros work. I just wanna piggyback on that as well, because Mike and I were set to record a podcast in April, 2020 because I was really interested in doing this walk.

And he's like, um, Listen, guy, I, you know, I don't wanna be disrespectful. I, I feel very bad, you know, about letting you down and not doing this podcast, but it, this, you know, the, the covid thing is really overwhelming and, and we, we need to give it some time. And I was like, yeah, but maybe we could just talk the two of us, because I wanna know so much, but, well, what a wonderful gentleman and what a great ambassador, uh, for the, the Kimo.

So, uh, please, I, you, you mentioned, um, how that has increased the accessibility for, um, those who may not be, uh, not, not just native Japanese, but, but, but no Japanese at all. Yeah. Yeah. And I should say this isn't a person who is like just a media person. We saw him on the trail, like he understand he's there and, and, and not someone who's like, oh, hi.

He was like, oh, hey, hi. What's it? How's it going? Uh, what's your experience like someone who we felt really welcomed. And someone who is an active part of that pilgrimage. It was just really cool, I have to say. And so that's another vote for the welcoming nature of the Koo Code, though it really is spectacular.

And, um, I should say that the nature, some of the views are really unique and, and really unmatched, particularly when it comes to the way in which, um, Shinto architecture is often blended into the natural environment. And it is not unusual to find rock faces that have been carved out with, um, small statuary.

Also, if you look at the Gizo, these fantastic Buddhist sculptures that line the way the 99 gizo that lead the way to. NA falls, I should say, that is not a tradition of religious architecture that I have seen in Western Europe. It seems to be quite particular. And I have to say it's breathtaking. It's stunning.

And a part of that is the waterfall that you reach. Na Falls, if you read into the history of it, there is a dragon in sold in there. So that's, that's the claim. And it's like, how, how can this be true? How can I make this true for me? And what was really cool is I set myself the task of, all right, I'm gonna sit here for however long it takes for me to understand whether that is a metaphorical claim or a religious claim or a poetic claim.

How can this be real? And I have to say, it's that type of engagement, that open-hearted what, what my friends like to say, opening the eyes of the heart to be able to, if not understand, at least appreciate the religious sentiments that really mark this path. They're quite spectacular. So a, a really great contrast between popular pilgrimage routes like the Camino de Santiago, um, to a, to a lesser degree, the Via French, uh, and the kimono Codo.

You've walked some routes that are much less, you know, they, they've left popular culture about centuries ago. Um, and, and we're starting to see the rebirth of some less popular or, or, you know, statistically more popular now, pilgrimage routes. One of them that I walked, um, it was very simple, uh, the Pilgrim's Way to Canterbury, um, the accessibility of which is nowhere near what you would find on the kimono codo, uh, nowhere near what you would find on the Camino de Sant.

But I wonder how much this exploring our cultural and religious, uh, lineage is bringing pilgrimage to the forefront, forefront, uh, socially and culturally, and where you see that going, uh, over the next, um, five, 10 years. Well, before jumping in, I have a lot to say about it. Just on one level, I think pilgrimage is really becoming its own spiritual tradition.

Mm-hmm.  its own autonomous tradition. Pilgrims are able to talk to each other across ecumenical lines that perhaps, um, representatives of those religions wouldn't be able to have those conversations so easily. Sure. If I see pilgrimage really developing as a global religious tradition, uh, but I just wanna turn it back on you.

What do you think, I mean, I'm curious, uh, you have all of these wonderful guests on and you really get to, you see all, everything. Yeah. You, yeah. You really have such a cool point of view. Is there anything that, that really jumps out at you as shaping the way in which pilgrimage is, is happening? Yeah, I think one of the things that's really, that's been transformative for the, the culture of pilgrimage, people who make a decision that they're going to actively seek, you know, a, a transformative to some degree experience, whether that's, uh, they want to go forest bathing, whether that's they're looking for some re religious divine, um, commune.

Whether that is the opportunity to, to simply have a cultural experience and a cultural exchange. Uh, and whether that is something that is deeply personal or deeply social. So, you know, I was talking to Dr. Guy Hayward, who, who heads up the British Pilgrimage Trust and their mission is to make pilgrimage accessible to all, um, which I really think is a great mission.

You just take it out of the context of just the British Isles, right? And how do we make pilgrimage sites. Accessible to people of all faiths and none, gosh, what? In the world I wouldn't give to have the opportunity to go to Mecca. Right. Um, and culturally, I, I, I, I couldn't, wouldn't shouldn't, but what a great place of, of storied worship, um, to see the things that that man has given to celebrate their faith, um, is, is so very interesting to me.

So when I talk to pilgrims that are looking for different roots, often it's. You know, some of these that we, that there's a guidebook for, but, but many times it's one where there's four guys on the internet that kind of did it and they wrote a blog. Right? And you really need, like, you know, you need a local to kind of get you through because you gotta cross this river and you gotta find the guy with the boat and Right.

You know, that, that's really a reflection of, of, you know, medieval or earlier pilgrimage where there was a, there was a pilgrimage tradition of this is something that was very acceptable to do. And so what, what guy was talking about, which reminds me now I think we've had four PhDs on the podcast. So. Uh, shout out to Dr.

Guy Hayward. Sorry, I You were, you were one of 'em that I was thinking of. I swear I didn't leave you off the list. Um, but, um, as, as we're thinking about pilgrimage, you know, they want it to be something like, what are you doing this weekend? Oh, well, we're going to, you know, concert fest. Um, and oh, okay, well, we are gonna go, you know, walk a pilgrimage route.

And they want to make it something that is so practical and so accessible to people that they would consider it, you know, a way in which they enrich their lives and find deeper meaning in the day to day, because that brings a healthy mindset. And whether, you know, that's a reflection of people who were walking to Avebury to go to Wood Hinge, you know, which completely off the map for most cultural tourists.

Um, or if it's someone who's, who's just going to their local cathedral, you know, there are, there are great ways to explore pilgrim. If you think of it as an intentional journey, right? If you take away all the trappings and all of the iconography of it, now we're talking about something that's just the intention of finding the, the, the method in the process, right?

I'm gonna do this walk and I'm gonna do it in an intentional way, or I'm going to put myself in this space, like you said, where I'm gonna look at this waterfall and really contemplate it a bit. And that, you know, whether you're walking across a country or you're walking across the street, you know, both of those offer the opportunity for pilgrimage.

And I, I think when I talk to pilgrims, a lot of times it's about, oh, I went to this shrine and I did this, and I did that. Um, those aren't the things that really resonate with me. Um, for me it's, it's more often than not. Intersection of history and faith, and both of them are very exciting for me. And I think that's where I really find myself, you know, wanting to seek more.

Absolutely. I I'm curious though, I didn't give you a chance to respond. Is there any trends future? Yeah. Yeah. That, that's something I definitely have to think more about because, you know, as someone who studies things that happened five, 600 years ago, um, there, like, there was always a sense that pilgrimage was changing in some way.

And there's always these kind of anxieties about like, what makes a real pilgrim, you know, there's a medieval pilgrimage literature, um, there's a great stories of of, um, people doing it for the wrong reasons, right? So , so you, you, you put on, I think in, in, uh, Chaser's Canterbury Tales, right? There's this, these stories of people putting on the pilgrim's gar, but really, They just wanna like rob somebody or have a good time or like get away from trouble, get away from debt, whatever.

Also's, very enlightening. Yeah. Yeah. And, and I think he really captures the fun and of pilgrimage and also the darker, the darker, the dark of the soul that you go through on those experiences. So there's always the kind of concern of like, who's doing it right and how do you do pilgrimage? Right. And I, and we still hear that today.

You know, and we talk about this a little bit in the book, but like the pilgrim and the, and mm-hmm. , you know, my, my initial reaction is like, oh, I don't know if I, my, my sort of greedy reaction is like, I know if I want it to be accessible to everyone, I want there to be more, um, thought or contemplation into it.

But then it's like, who am I to say what your experience is or how, how you go about it is, is right or wrong? And so, um, yeah. It's, it's a, it's a tough one cause I, it's something that I'm always turning over in my head of, of. What, what do I want the future to, to be like and doesn't matter, , what will it be like?

You know, who knows? It's kinda science fiction to imagine, but fun science fiction to imagine. I should say though, that it's conversations with you that really changed my mind on this topic between the authentic pilgrim and the tourist. And we both taught classes on pilgrimage, and that's the first question that really comes up among students is, oh, uh, how do I do it in the most authentic way?

How do I really do it? And, and so I'm not like a tourist, but. And discussions with you and the medieval literature you've shown me demonstrates that there's no such thing as authenticity. You know, I, I personally, I remember I thought the first time I did it, it's like, okay, I'm not gonna have lunch. I am not gonna take any alcohol.

I'm gonna be a true pilgrim. And then I read the literature and they're all getting drunk every day. They're having fun, they're going, it's really jolly and joyful. And, uh, yeah. So I, I think like a little excessive. Yeah, excessive. And really you have people just, they're doing it for every reason. And so I, I think that that map's perfectly on today.

I don't think we can really claim, we, we don't have an authentic a meter. We can't measure this scientifically. I think everyone has their reasons and everyone should be. Ed in those reasons. I think everyone, everyone should be, we should consider the variety of experiences that bring people to pilgrimage.

And I don't think anybody has the authority to determine what is authentic, not think everything's authentic in its own way. I would say one thing as we're talking, I'm thinking about is I do really appreciate on that sort of via front the affordability of it, talking about a different kinda accessibility.

I think the KU codo is, um, beautiful and wonderful, but you're certainly not gonna be paying the equivalent of 10 euros a night for a bed. Um, some of you can really go way up into hundreds of dollars because people have built these beautiful ins and they give you all your meals that are multicourse, you know, so you can have a really luxury experience.

And so the base, the bottom line is not as low financially. And I think that that is something that I really appreciate about the Camino. Cause it also, yeah, you just, you're gonna meet a lot of different people and, and having that budget and that, you know, Can I get this bottle of wine or do I have to get the one that's a Euro cheaper?

I think is, is adds a, adds a kinda communal sharing aspect. That's a really, really great point because the accessibility of wealth, you know, as a determining factor for, for privilege, um, yeah. Is no escaping it. Right. These trips are incredibly expensive. Um, you know, I don't know what a ticket from Florida to Tokyo is, but, um, it's not, it's not 10.


are still welcoming, you know, they're great. I also want to piggyback on what you said about, you know, looking back and being reflective of how pilgrimage took place. Um, and just share with you my very layman interpretation. Um, completely zero research has gone into crafting my own specific opinion, but, you know, I, I think a lot of the, the.

Pilgrimage traditions that we reflect on and we say, oh, that's the way it was done in this period. So, um, it, you know, we have, we have Pilgrims Day that wanna mimic that. Um, but those were very authentic ways to, to travel, to eat, you know, you, you, you had to do these things because that's what there was, right?

Um, you wore these clothes because that's what there was. Um, you took a cloak because, you know, that was the best option. You know, now North Face can outfit you in a completely different manner. Um, but it doesn't make you, you know, the, the, the thing that you're doing any less. Um, I also have had some great experiences with people that I think have defined pilgrimage in different ways for me.

Uh, one of which was, um, uh, was actually out in California. Um, and I was visiting the, um, the Spanish missions out in California and walking the California Mission Trail. And I was at, um, San Juan Capistrano. And, um, for those that aren't familiar in the, I wanna say it's the fourth grade, it might get corrected here by, uh, the professors in the room, but I think in the fourth grade, the California system has asked, uh, children to research and do a project about the California missions.

So there were two little girls that were there, and they came up to me, they saw, you know, a I'm busted here. I actually remember something that I do pick up on my pilgrimage. I, I try to pick up some kind of patch or something, you know, to, to go on my backpack. So they saw my backpack and I was carrying, I had a shell on my backpack, and they, they saw the patch, uh, in the shell.

And they said, oh, are you a pilgrim? Which, you know, you can't fool a fourth grader, right? , um, if you remember that show, are you smarter than a fifth grader? No one is more clever than a fourth grader. Um, and so I, you know, I started with the very, um, you know, Complex answer of, you know, I'm not really sure.

And they're like, well, what are you doing here, ? And I'm like, okay. So eventually they outed me as, as a pilgrim and, um, you know, they said, well, I want to be a pilgrim. And so in California, the, the missions as part of their, uh, system have started a pilgrim passport for those who want to visit the 21 Spanish missions.

And so we went to the gift shop and we bought pilgrim passports for the girls, and we each got our pilgrim passport stamped. And because I happened to be carrying shells with me, you know, I wrote, I wrote out shells for them and, and gave the girls shells. And um, you know, that was one of those afternoons, 30 minutes with these, these girls and their mothers.

That really helped me understand how they. Perceived pilgrimage and their desire to be seen as pilgrims, that what they were doing at the mission was intended to be, you know, it was this intentional act and they wanted to celebrate the intentionality of it. Um, and then I was in Spain and I was super proud of myself for walking Thedo.

Let me just tell you, I had, I had Mr. Iid sitting right there on my shoulder and I was very, very proud of what I had accomplished. And we were in the cathedral, um, in Santiago de com Costella, and my family was sleeping in because, um, it was Spain and we had had a great night and I had been accustomed to getting up at the crack of dawn.

They had been accustomed to not getting up at the crack of dawn. So I was in the cathedral, they were in the, the hotel and there was this old lady. And I say that with all due respect because, you know, we're all getting older, but. She was easily 85, maybe 95, I don't know, frail what you pick. You look up at the dictionary, old lady, there's a picture of like a bent over old lady with a stick.

This was that lady. And she was going in the cathedral from the, from the back pew apu up towards the altar to take communion. And I was talking with her daughter and she said, oh, you know where you from? And we were talking about the Camino. And she said, my mom does this pilgrimage every day. And for her it's that, that incredible physicality to walk from the back pew to the altar to take communion.

And I was like, wow. Yeah. That's beautiful. I mean it. It puts everything in perspective as to, you know, what sacrifice is required of us in order to call ourselves pilgrims, what act, uh, you know, of, of what physical act, what mental act is required for us to consider what we are doing an act of pilgrimage and define it that way.

So both of those really put a lens on it in from, you know, the, the, the child to the, to the oldest adult, um, of how we define pilgrimage. So I, to to go back to the question about a billion years ago, uh, you know, what do we think that the unesco, uh, heritage and the, um, really the, the ways in which we promote tourism, the ways we promote pilgrimage, how does it, how does it help and define in these areas?

I think pilgrimage is an incredibly, um, diverse trend. I think it's gonna continue to grow in popularity and I think. You know, we see it today in modern American culture where people say, oh, you know, I'm, I'm quitting, I'm doing this, or I'm gonna take a few years off. We never had in American culture at least, um, you know, a real appreciation for gap years.

We never had a real appreciation culturally for, for, you know, taking a sabbatical and the vendors are Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, and that's something that, that socially in other societies is, is such an investment in yourself and an investment in your own culture and those around you that I think pilgrimage is kind of beginning to occupy that space more and more so in the Western culture.

Cool. And you know, what you just said brings to mind a, a few ideas. One is we have a pretty active intercon fraternity dialogue going. We send letters and we have a elaborate system, whereas letters are always circulating amongst the people. Responding to earlier letters, and we talk about subjects like, what is tourism?

What is pilgrimage? How do we get to the bottom? And a few lines jump out at me. One is, um, pilgrim's welcome the pain and discomfort that tourists pay to avoid. I thought, oh, that's very pithy. I don't agree, but it's very pithy. I like it. Pilgrim's, welcome the pain and discomfort that tourists pay to avoid.

Mm-hmm. . The other was, this was really, it totally knocked me, uh, knocked my socks off. A person said, oh, you can. Whether you're with pilgrims or tourists, because tourist definition, uh, tourist destinations, um, become a drag. The more people show up, Disney's no fun when it's overcrowded. Whereas shrines become more powerful the more people show up.

And it's the same with Tori, uh, tourists and pilgrims. If you're with a bunch of people and you find yourself enliven and, and, and strangers, but you find yourself having conversations and thinking deeper and, and opening up your heart, well those are pilgrims. But if you find yourself in conversations about, you know, conversations that, that really deplete your energy, oh, well those are tourists.

I thought those are really two really fascinating lenses to look at the subject, but I should also say one more thing, which is, I think you put your finger on something very, very important. Which if you go back through the pilgrim literature, especially in the last 200 years, and especially with the Camino, what you see is one theme really reappearing again and again, and that's crisis.

Crisis was such, is such an important motivation for taking the Camino. Whether that's a personal crisis or a crisis that's happened in your circle, there is a healing function to pilgrimage across culture, space, and time. And I think today seeing the damage done by the pandemic, not just physical but emotional and psychological damage, the isolation, cause I think pilgrimage presents a fantastic opportunity to address that hurt and pain.

And so I guess what, whatever I can do to promote pilgrimage as an alternative to other forms of therapy or, or maybe not an alternative, but maybe. In concert with other forms, but really pushing the curative potential of pilgrimage alongside the joys, uh, and the cultural enrichment, but really focusing on the way in which pilgrimage is an ancient form of healing.

And I think that that is particularly important because, you know, we work with young people, we teach undergraduates, and I do, it seems as though more young people are coming to me with psychological issues. And I, I always have an eye open for a way that I can address that appropriately. And, um, I am not quiet about my enthusiasm for pilgrimage and it's healing, functioning.

And, um, yeah, so that's just one thing I wanna mention that as we find ourselves in more crisis, uh, I think pilgrimage offers a fantastic palliative to that, to those. Dr. Michelle owing, Dr. Christian Greer. The book is Kao Koto, pilgrimage to Power Spots. In the brief time we have left, I have to ask you, we've talked for the better part of an hour about pilgrimage mm-hmm.

and we've talked about all of these things that are so personal and mean so much to, to us. So what are your next steps?

We have a case file this big and it's like just got wind of a new trail. Of course. Uh, the island of a 10,000 Saints. In Wales. In Wales. I am reading about it all the time. I'm tubing it, I'm, I'm absorbing all I can in the hopes that I will clear a path somehow. Mm-hmm.  that, that I'll start dreaming about it, daydreaming about it, and it would, uh, it would welcome us.

Yeah. I think we would find a time I. You know, ideally doing the Sheku pilgrimage. That was my, the 80 temples. That was my first trip to Japan. You know, I grew up in Singapore as a kid, but I never made it to, so I would to Goku pilgrim are Ted, I know they're working on kinda updating the mage to attract your international forests, so I'd be interested to see how that's going.

And I know you've mentioned the, um, the route through Portugal. Yeah, yeah. To Santiago, you know, from, this looks spectacular. I should also mention one additional thing and then I'm gonna ask you that same question. One thing I am addicted to picking up is local pilgrim literature. If this cathedral has a self-published pamphlet mm-hmm.

or little booklet, I am such a sucker for that. Like no ISBN on it. Oh my. I need it. Yeah. And that is where I found some of the most. Rich details are local, and you know, whether it's, uh, when we were doing a pilgrimage around Ireland, the Standing Stones and the Megaliths mm-hmm. , we couldn't go into a puppet scene.

Like, oh, it's a great way to start a conversation and to really become a participant in, in whatever township you're in, but asking, Hey, is there a local historian around here? And then it's, it's a means of being generous too. Can I buy all of your literature? Like, what, what do you have? What have you written recently?

Yeah. So yeah, local literature. I'm just a sucker for it. Uh, but yeah. I'm curious, how about you's? Where are you going next? Well, uh, I mentioned that, you know, I'll be doing the Camino Portuguese, uh, with my son next June. Um, that's something that, that he and I are looking forward to doing. I have to tell you, I loved my UK pilgrimage walks.

Um, I would really, really like to get, uh, back to the uk. I don't know if I'm gonna make it in. I know I won't in 22. Um, I would love to make it in 2023. There's a walk, uh, from London to Washam, um, that I would really like to take, um, because that has such historical significance in the uk and it's UK pilgrimage is so fascinating to me because, you know, from the breakage of the veneration of Saints and, and the English Reformation, um, and you know, you kind of take all of what existed in English pilgrimage, which was a incredibly rich history up to 1538, and then you just like an Etch a sketch.

You just shake it and it goes away. Yeah. And. To me to see some of that reawaken, um, is so interesting to me. And like you said, there's so much that you have to go there to uncover because it's not as well documented and you are relying on the legacy of the local historical retail or, um, you know, a few authors who are putting in and doing great work to research and, and recover really the British pilgrimage tradition.

So I think those are two walks that I'm really personally looking forward to doing. Um, I would love to go, I thought we were gonna go in 2020 to Japan and I have just not gotten that monkey off my back. I really, really would love to do this pilgrimage, uh, Koo Kodo pilgrimage to Power Spots is the book.

Uh, thank you both so much for being on the Sacred Steps Podcast with us today. Appreciate all the time you've given us. Uh, check below in the show notes for links to the book to, uh, Dr. Michelle Owings, uh, books as well as Dr. Christian Greer. Uh, we'll link as well these roots and, uh, information on YouTube where you can find out more about these specific pilgrimages.

Thank you both so much, uh, until we're together next, uh, be well and stay safe and Buen Camino.
Buen Camino.

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Dr. Michelle Oing, Ph.D.Profile Photo

Dr. Michelle Oing, Ph.D.

Scholar / Author

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.

Dr. Christian Greer, Ph.D.Profile Photo

Dr. Christian Greer, Ph.D.

Dr. J. Christian Greer is a scholar of Religious Studies and American culture, who specializes in psychedelic religion and spirituality. In addition to earning a BA (summa cum laude) from Boston University and an MDiv at Harvard Divinity School, he received his MA and Ph.D. (cum laude) in Western esotericism from the History of Hermetic Philosophy department at the University of Amsterdam. While a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Divinity School, he led a series of research seminars on psychedelic culture, which culminated in the creation of the *Harvard Psychedelic Walking Tour,* a free audio guide detailing how the Harvard community has shaped the modern history of psychedelic culture. His research addresses popular culture & religion, radical politics & religious activism, esotericism and occultism, ecological spiritualities, pilgrimage, countercultures and subcultures, and drugs & religion.

His latest book, *Kumano Kodo: Pilgrimage to Powerspots* (co-authored with Dr. Michelle Oing) analyzes the pilgrimage folklore associated with the rainforests of Japan's Kii Peninsula.