My plans for pilgrimage have crumbled. I’ve booked a trip to somewhere other than I had planned – again.
In six weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane bound for the United Kingdom. I’ve never been to Europe nor the British Isles, and the opportunity to go has come about through a complicated web of fates at work. It’s interesting to me that I have been journaling and planning for a visit to the United Kingdom in 2019 for years, but was unable to make it happen myself. The plan was to apply for graduate school in Scotland, spend as much of the year as possible in the Highlands, and return home. Unfortunately, other things worked against me that made this dream, this goal, crumble away. Yet, a month ago at the height of summer, I was given an opportunity to visit the United Kingdom for work and extend my trip to travel freely. That, to me, felt like a blessing of the Goddess – or that I had written down autumn 2019 as my first time to Europe so many times that the universe was compelled to make it true.
I have a very romantic view of ancestry. I’m Jew-ish and Scott-ish on my mother’s side and have felt a great pull to the landscape that fed the human beings whose lives ultimately created mine. Beyond a love for classic English literature, Welsh folklore, and Irish poetry, I’ve never been particularly invested in the idea of traveling to any country; my aim with the Isles has always been Scotland’s Highlands where my grandfather claimed heritage.
So you can imagine my surprise at myself when I, once again, have chosen to go somewhere completely different than my original goal. Last night I booked stays in Brighton, Glastonbury, and London – and that will be all.
I did this before, in 2017. After my two years in Japan came to a close, I shipped all my belongings to America, purchased a backpack, filled it with journaling materials and t-shirts, and planned to stay in a Cambodian village. The idea was that I would have two weeks to write, take a few yoga classes in town, volunteer on a farm, and recover from the drama from my life in Japan before going home.
When I sat down at my computer in my emptied bedroom to book a ticket, my mind and memory is blank. It was as if some unseen force descended on my body, took control and, within a few minutes, I had a nonrefundable one-way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal. I was beside myself. I knew nothing about Nepal – quite literally – except that Annapurna was there.
Yet that one-way ticket turned into a month-long stay in a village in the valley, where I didn’t take yoga classes nor do all that much in the way of writing. I spent a lot of time with people, volunteering, taking photographs and, most importantly, experiencing the presence of God.
I firmly believe that the reason I was overcome with the intent to go to a country I knew nothing about against all plans was part of a Divine plan. The village I stayed in was actually named for Vishnu and housed the oldest temple in all of South Asia to Him. Vishnu plagued my dreams and I was, at first, afraid. Over the course of a month, I became a new person; that experience with Vishnu’s energy was the defining time that led me on an authentic spiritual path. I guess it could be thought of as my first true, life-altering Spiritual Awakening.
As a polytheist, I’ve done as much research as I possibly can on the pre-Christian religion of the Scottish Highlands in an effort to incorporate the same Divine patronage of my ancestors into my current spiritual life. For anyone familiar with Celtic, Brythonic, and Gaelic paganism, you probably know just how near-impossible this is. I felt a great aversion to settling for the Irish pantheon. Though I knew from a scholastic sense that these Gods and Goddesses were very likely worshiped in Scotland, the general lack of temple proof frustrated me. Though Brigid and the Morrigan felt on some level to be a spiritual match for me, I decided to put off the whole idea until an experience of some sort came through. Well, I have that experience on the horizon. It’s already begun.
There is one reason I booked a stay in Brighton: colorful queer culture.
There is one reason I booked a stay in Glastonbury: I remembered a YouTuber I respect, Kelly-Ann Maddox, mentioning it was her favorite spiritual place in England.
That’s it. I knew nothing else yet felt compelled to go; to skip Stonehenge, to skip Scotland or Wales, to skip London or Manchester or Cornwall. Just Glastonbury. It may not come as new information to others but for me, when I learned that there is an active temple to Brigid there, that Mary Magdalene – one of my favorite Jewish women from history – is said to have lived and died there, that the Earth’s heart chakra Anahata resides there… I was dumbfounded. My journey to Nepal had turned into a sort of cosmic guidance to the arms of Vishnu at the location of Earth’s crown chakra. Now that I think about it, my first experience in Japan was actually a visit to Mt. Fuji – the 9th Gate – with my new host family. That experience, too, was a spur of the moment. I had one month off from school and took out a loan to visit Japan.
I’m starting to wonder if my world travels should simply follow leylines! More curious, though, is the timing of these trips and shifts. Thinking back to my journals and planners filled with the goal of autumn 2019 in Great Britain, my first journey to Japan, or how Japan pushed me out of it with such force that I landed in Nepal…. I wonder if these weren’t manifestations at all, but a kind of foresight of the course of my life. Indeed, if we plan our lives before birth there must be echoes of those decisions dancing within us from the very beginning.