Expanding the Cycle of Pilgrimage by Kate Brunner

Kate BrunnerAt the beginning of this year, I mapped out my assorted travel plans for 2014. We expected to be living in Australia through the end of the year, so I committed myself to the Sisterhood of Avalon’s August pilgrimage through Wales. Once the paperwork was done and my deposit paid, I focused on more immediate ventures during the first quarter of the year, intending to engage in more mindful preparation later on.

Just after the full moon lunar eclipse in April, we got word that our assignment here in this corner of Australia would end, not in November or December as we were previously told, but in mid-July, instead. It’s been increasingly chaotic since then. While we worked from that point on, pursuing every available job lead, we are still- less than one month out- unsure of what our future holds.

Meanwhile, that future continues to rush to greet us. Whatever it may be.

Other Sisters & members of the upcoming Pilgrimage are sending all sorts of emails back and forth with general joyful chatter about our itinerary. Their anticipation and excitement are palpable. I find myself unable to fully participate in those dialogues yet and after sitting with that reluctance, I realized my reticence is rooted in fear. Fear that, despite the sizable investment I’ve already made- financially and emotionally- I may not necessarily be able to go. After all, at this moment I cannot even buy a plane ticket because, while I know my desired destination, I have absolutely no idea where on this earth my departure point may be.

Rocky Valley Labyrinth, Tintagel, Cornwall, UK

Rocky Valley Labyrinth, Tintagel, Cornwall, UK

Instead, in between trying to prepare a household of five for a potential international move to an as yet unknown destination, I read, reflect, and pray. In The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau discusses the three phases of a pilgrimage: Departure, Arrival, and Return. These are not completely new concepts for me. In the Sisterhood, we make use of the Labyrinth as a tool, so I have both practice and study with that form of Pilgrimage; also often divided into a cycle of three: the way in, the center, and the way out. But, while the Labyrinth is the Cycle of Pilgrimage in micro, I am now looking to apply and expand this cycle into the macro.

At first, I was focused only on my intent to travel to Wales. After the last few weeks filled with illness, frustration. and sad or scary news coming from family, friends, and our nation of origin, I realized my focus was still too narrow. All cycles are One Cycle. Pilgrimage does not have to be so strictly defined. The principles and practices that guide a Pilgrim on that one journey to a Sacred Place can be of service to me now- can be utilized daily in period of upheaval. Lucy Clark Ellman wrote a beautiful guide to for those of us who could use such practices. Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life is designed as a seven week program to instill seven concepts of Pilgrimage in one’s daily round. Using her book to compliment my usual Avalonian work is proving fruitful, spiritually. Among other principles, she speaks to looking for the Sacred in the everyday and creating daily rhythms to ground oneself; practices that are extremely reassuring during the stresses of uncertain transitions.

The Longest Night approaches in the Southern Hemisphere and I am deep in the Avalonian Cycle’s Station of Confrontation. The primary tool of the Station is indeed, the Labyrinth. During the Station of Confrontation, my work is to attempt to discern the root causes of the energetic pattern I seek to eventually reweave. It is a Sister of Avalon’s cyclical pilgrimage to the very bottom of Ceridwen’s deep, dark Cauldron of Transformation. What will I find when I get there? When I reach Phil Cousineau’s phase of Arrival? Where will our family eventually arrive when this transition is all said and done? Will I actually arrive in Wales in August?

I don’t know. But what I hear when I read back over this litany of anxious questions are the words of Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, who Phil Cousineau quotes at the end of his Introduction in The Art of Pilgrimage:

Traveler, there is no path
paths are made by walking.


Kate Brunner is a freelance writer & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon, studying at the Avalonian Thealogical Seminary. She is an American expat, living in Queensland, Australia and homeschooling her children, with the world as their classroom. Before motherhood, Kate earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tulane University, while studying Economics, International Relations, & Religion. She served four years as a logistics officer in the US Army, after which, Kate became a doula and holistic birth educator.  She is a regular contributor to The Sisterhood of Avalon’s online journal, The Tor Stone and is active in the Red Tent Movement. Kate volunteered in Houston as a presenter for monthly Red Tents and semi-annual women’s retreats before relocating overseas. She enjoys international travel, perfecting her cooking, reading great books, & having fascinating conversations with friends, old or new.

Categories: Paganism, Pilgrimage, Spiritual Journey

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. So sorry your life and plans have been disrupted.

    I am a firm believer in the material world and the body, so while pilgrimage can be a metaphor, it is also a physical journey that engages the body as well as the mind and spirit. I think engaging the body is really important, especially in a world where we are tempted to live too much in our minds.

    So here’s hoping you will be able to enter into the pilgrimage in Wales in your body with your feet placed firmly on the ground in August.


    • I absolutely agree! Engaging the body IS so important! And, interestingly, a major part of my Cycle work this year. The Goddess is really pushing me back into my body this year- relearning how to honor the body & live fully in the body. As you say, I’ve been too much in my mind for too long.

      I am happy to report that I should have a plane ticket to Wales this week! I’m beyond thrilled that things are coming together for me to make this physical pilgrimage.


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