Paths of Pilgrimage

Photo by Lady Dosalena


Lucita di Cosima and Talia, aka “Panda
Ears”, were the first Pilgrims on the Pennsic

By Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Editor-in-Chief, PI
Some call Pennsic "home," but for others of us, the medieval model that best corresponds to what Pennsic means to us is the pilgrimage destination. The idea of some sort of journey to fulfill a vow and reach a sacred destination is one common to a number of faith traditions. In the Middle Ages, the ultimate Christian pilgrimage was to the Holy Land, but there were other pilgrimage routes, ranging from the local to the exotic. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a collection of tales ostensibly told by fellow pilgrims on the way to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Equally famous is the 'Camino', the pilgrimage route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain -- route that is still traveled by pilgrims to this day.
The idea of Pennsic as a pilgrimage is not new. Merchants have been selling Pennsic pilgrimage tokens for many years. I started viewing my morning walks as my annual pilgrimage and have been adding one of those tokens to my walking staff each year. However this year, there are a few special opportunities to further explore the idea of pilgrimage at Pennsic and beyond.
The Guild Mirandola merchant booth (#167) is your starting point for the Pennsic Camino. Lady Dosalena Sophia della Mirandola was inspired to create the Camino after walking 200 km of the actual Camino in Spain in 2016 with seven other SCAdians. Walking this portion of the ancient pilgrimage route took two weeks, and she is planning a return trip to do the Portugal route some time in the future. Lady Dosalena had taken a few classes on the Camino at Pennsic, and had wanted to do it for many years. "We thought up the idea of a Pennsic Camino while we were in Spain, but were unable to do it last year." This year, over 60 (as of this printing) merchants, camps, and Pennsic landmarks have signed up as stops on the Pennsic Camino.
"The Pennsic Camino is open to all and is free to participate," said Lady Dosalena. Pilgrims obtain their passport at Guild Mirandola (one free per person; additional passports for small fee to help cover costs). There they will find a list of merchants and camps participating throughout Pennsic. (new updates will be posted.) Merchants will have a scallop shell or some other identifier in their booth to say they are a stop on The Way. Participating camps and merchants will then stamp the passport. She adds that if you do not see a marker, you can always ask. "Some more might join if they aren't alreadythe more the merrier! You can visit the stops in any order.
Once you have 25 stamps, head to Shadowclans Cathedral at N33, where you will receive your certificate for completing the Camino de Pennsic! The Camino is already proving quite popular, especially with young people who are enjoying collecting the stamps. I was the fiftieth pilgrim to sign up Thursday afternoon.
If you are interested in travelling the Camino de Santiago, there are two classes offered this year. Today at 4 pm, Master Morien MacBain will examine the legends, history, and lore of theÊCamino de Santiago, with special emphasis on the nature of medieval pilgrimage, sites of special historic, religious, and cultural importance along the route, plus advice for planning and completing the pilgrimage today. This class is taught by former pilgrims. Mistress Orlaith Ballach Inghen Flainn will be teaching a class on walking the Camino in medieval clothing on two dates: Sunday at 3 pm in AS 3, and Wednesday at 11 am in AS 1.
Perhaps the historical Camino is out of reach for you, but you are still interested in the experience of pilgrimage? Inspired by an image in the Luttrell Psalter, Dame Helen of Greyfells researched the idea of pilgrimage appropriate to a 14th century English woman, made or acquired appropriate gear, and mapped a route on trails within her hometown of Ottawa, ON (including 'monasteries' - homes of friends - where she might stay overnight.) She spent several months training for the actual 'pilgrimage', which in length would be similar to the distance from Gravesend in London to Canterbury Cathedral. She also made sure she had medieval food she could carry with her (as well as stocking each of the 'monasteries' with appropriate food). Over nine days in November, she completed her pilgrimage, walking over 66 miles. Dame Helen will teach a class on her research and experiences on Wednesday starting at 9 am in RS 2 (Runestone Campus). Can't make the class? You can read her amazing class notes and see photos (both from period sources and of her journey) at
Dame Helen sang on her pilgrimage. If you would like to learn songs that medieval pilgrims sang, Mistress Arianna Morgan will teach a class on pilgrim songs (including historical background) on Wednesday at 2 pm at the Performing Arts Rehearsal tent.
As for me, I will see you on the pilgrimage roads of Pennsic - whatever road you travel.