The Accidental Pilgrim – Part III

cologne cathedral-6

(my photo: Cologne Cathedral at twilight)

After five days in Prague, we went by car to Cologne. It was again, a pleasant and uneventful drive save for a bit of cognitive dissonance as I made the mental shift from Czech to German (the latter of which I can actually get by in). Our purpose for visiting here, as I’ve already noted in my accounts of my ancestor pilgrimage was to visit St. Ursula’s and the Goldene Kammer but I actually paid homage at three Marian sites as well.

Hermes guided and protected throughout this entire journey and nowhere was His presence stronger and more immediately palpable than Cologne. I suppose this makes sense: it began life as a Roman settlement and He certainly received major cultus there (in fact, one of the most touching moments of confirmation that I had successfully completed my ancestor pilgrimage occurred in Cologne. I kept feeling that we should go to the Germanic-Roman museum, though I’d been there before. I was tired, but we went in anyway and immediately in the gift shop I found the Hermes statue that I’d been searching for forever. It was exactly what I wanted and I felt it His way of telling me that this part of my journey was successfully concluded, a mark of His blessing and protection and all I can say to that is Hail Hermes!).

Hermes statue

(my photo of my Hermes shrine)

I had not known that there were two Madonna statues in Cologne cathedral that were traditionally visited and reverenced by pilgrims. The first I sort of stumbled upon. We went to the Cathedral about two hours after we arrived, so we were both pretty tired, but we wanted to at least get a bit of a peek before making a proper visit the next day. I went in and immediately saw about a dozen candle stands so I gravitated right to them. It was nice that they were all in one specific area (there are single candle stands also in various places throughout the cathedral). I lit numerous candles, praying for various people and then happened to look * up * and right in front of the candles, separated only by a series of benches was the most well-loved and remarkable Madonna that I have ever seen: Cologne’s jeweled Madonna.

jeweled madonna

(my photo: the Jeweled Madonna at Cologne Cathedral)

She is magnificent! Over the generations many offerings have been made to her, most notably jewelry, which has been appended to Her garb. I spent quite a long time meditating before this particular image of Mary. Of all the Madonnas that I visited in this long, long pilgrimage, I had the strongest sense here of Her connection to the well-being of Her people, and of how well-loved She was and is.

The other is the Milano Madonna. In contrast to the Jeweled Madonna, She is particularly regal. Both are lovely. The Cathedral also hosts a gold reliquary containing the skulls of the three magi, but while we could see it, we were not able to pass under it. That is permitted apparently only on very special occasions like Epiphany. Still, it was nice that there was another reliquary present.

Milano madonna

(this is a photo of a page in my travel journal. It’s a picture of the Milano Madonna that I collaged around)

We were scheduled to leave on the 25th and I woke feeling quite ill. I had also, the night before, discovered that there was a Black Madonna at a Church on Kupfergasse, what I have since learned is one of the most venerated images of Mary in Germany. I was rather wistful, wishing we had time to visit that as well, but technically my pilgrimages were over and we were leaving quite early the next morning. That’s not exactly what happened though. I happened to pray to Hermes something along the lines of “I’m feeling so poorly, I wish I didn’t have to fly like this. If possible, can You please help?” I meant, help with my pain levels. Well, He had other ideas and took the easiest way possible to provide assistance: we got to the airport the next morning to find our flights had been cancelled. After the initial shock, and a bit of cussing, I realized what happened, thanked Hermes, called the hotel, booked new flights, took a taxi back and MAG and I went to Kupfergasse and spent a lovely afternoon visiting the Black Madonna there, flying home the next day.

cologne black madonna

(My photo of the black Madonna of Kupfergasse)

When I returned home, it was to find a card from a Catholic friend with whom I took Latin Prose Comp. in grad school. He was in England and had visited Walsingham, a site of Marian devotion and pilgrimage reverenced by both Catholics and Anglicans alike. He had sent me a lovely card, with an image of the Walsingham Madonna. On the card, she is adorned as lavishly and beautifully as any of the Madonnas I visited in Poland, Czech Republic, or Germany. I took the card as a particularly favorable omen, as my friend did not know I was on a Marian pilgrimage.

statue

That is pretty much all I have to say for now about my pilgrimages. I have already noticed dramatic shifts in my ancestor practices, and in my religious taboos, particularly around miasma. I have no idea yet how they will ultimately impact my work but I think figuring that out is one of the things that will really root these experiences in the fabric of my devotional life.

I know that I will do this again (though it will be awhile. This is an expensive process). My military dead have already indicated that I should visit Verdun (and the ossuary there), Somme, perhaps Normandy and several other WWI and II battlefields, that there are things I must, for my work, experience there; moreover, the bone yards call with a siren song that is almost painful to ignore. I want to root myself there and if I could choose the work that most calls to me now, it would be tending those places of the dead and inviting their veneration. I think that I will go to many throughout my working life, that I must to renew and refresh my connection to the dead, to keep my work with them clean and honed. I think there is powerful medicine for this ancestor worker in such places. How I will manage it, I do not know, only that I think I must.

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Posted on August 23, 2015, in devotional work, marian matters, pilgrimages, Polytheism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Accidental Pilgrim – Part III.

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