“Pilgrim coaches: a new phenomenon” – by Dane Munro

pilgrim coach
Photo: Yolanda van Diepen

Academic Dane Munro from the university of Malta has written a research paper on “pilgrim coaches”, using the Walk of Wisdom and our volunteer and pilgrim coach Lidia van Engeland as a case study. It was written in the International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage.

Read the full article here.

Here is the conclusion.

The Walk of Wisdom is a prime sample that a pilgrimage route can be invented without losing any of its ‘pilgrimhood’ significance and relevance. The lack of historicity and religiosity is not regarded as a negative but as a positive issue. Newly designed routes or trails need to have an extra dimension or drive, otherwise it is just an empty path. In this case, environmental sustainability was the inspirational drive. […]

Motivations for going on a pilgrimage do not seem to have changed much, the yearning for fulfilment seemingly unaltered. Millennia-old pilgrimage phenomena are still very much alive in the experiential world of the recently invented Walk of Wisdom, including near revelatory appearances of Homeric similes, moments of synchronicity, (divine) provision and providence. Spaces are provided for recognisable rituals, similar to those developed over time along the historical pilgrim routes and trails.

What does seem to have changed for many people, is the purpose and content of pilgrimage, shifting from walking to come closer to God, to come closer to oneself, not to save their soul but to save the world. Fulfilment has made great strides in the register of meaning, as now the celebration of good things in life are added as motivations to embark on a pilgrimage, while in the past, the emphasis rather was on sin, injustice or illness. Secular pilgrims are discovering the spiritual benefits of pilgrimage to overcome the inadequacies of some of their character traits, their insecurities or fears.

Due to secularisation and loss of knowledge of pilgrimhood, its preparation and execution, the services of a pilgrim coach are a welcome addition to the field of pilgrimage and pilgrimage studies. In the past, the established Church prescribed what a pilgrim should do and feel. At present, people may feel at a loss what to do, as those prescriptions have been spirited away by secularism. Nonetheless, human needs and the human need for fulfilment remain the same. Pilgrim coaches are filling a large need gap, providing new insights and managing to give old remedies new relevance. Since psychology and health sciences have taken an interest in pilgrimage, it is foreseen that this will lead to a new direction in pilgrimage research over the coming years and the application of its findings by healthcare and health insurers.”

Dane Munro, International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage.