Rocky Mountain High : The Power of Pilgrimage

Many are familiar with Colorado poet, John Denver’s song, “Rocky Mountain High”. Different people interpret in varying ways, but what he says is true, there is a high, a buzz, an inebriation that is bestowed by Colorado’s stunning wilderness. I count myself lucky to be a Pagan living in Colorado Springs, where scores of untouched wilderness parks are available within minutes of my home. One of my favorite places of meditation is Palmer Park, which is literally a five minute walk from my backyard.

    Here one can find beautifully alien rock formations, breathtaking views, and, if one knows what one is looking for – places of Power. It is here, in this park, that I discovered an emanation of the World Tree Yggdrasil. This gnarled old evergreen stands on the north end of a huge mesa, towering over the other trees like a grandfather overlooking his progeny. Upon this weather-beaten tree are strange markings caused by squirrels, wind, time and perhaps even the fingers of the Fey. These markings appear runic in nature, and many of the Futhark can be seen upon it’s skin. The branches have twisted into sculptures of the mythic beasts said to reside in the branches of the World Ash. The Deer, the Eagle, even the quarrelsome gossiper Ratatosk the squirrel can be seen. This tree has three of it’s roots exposed, and a small cavern beneath where one can almost see the Norns weaving the fates of Men and Gods. It is there, to that sacred tree, that I make pilgrimages.

 

It is as John Muir says, “In every walk with nature, he receives far more than he seeks.” I find this to be a magnificent iteration of the mystic experience of pilgrimage, of questing for a sacred place. For, as one finds, it is not the object of the quest that fulfills the spiritual need, but rather the quest itself. I just got back from a wonderful hike. I had only myself, my dog, and a satchel of simple ritual objects I planned to use when I arrived. Shortly into my hike over the varied and sometimes technical terrain, my legs began to burn, sweat beaded upon my brow and my heart thumped like a tribal drum, calling the village to ritual. I tasted my life-force upon my drying tongue, coppery and salty, like sweat and blood. I pushed on, refusing myself a break. I sought and received an ecstasy that can only truly come from pushing one’s body, the burn of oxygen deprived muscles, the slamming of the heart, the pulse running hot and high like a steam engine.

The mind is freed, at this point, the spirit elated. The body is no longer running the show, but a servant of it. As I crested the top of an adjoining mesa to the one I sought my heart soared. Below me were tiny cars parked on the dirt road that winds serpentine between the hill of my habitation and the object of my quest. The sun was sinking behind the Rocky Mountains with much pomp and orange circumstance. Below me plummetted a nearly sheer hillside, to my north, a cliff, to my south, a winding labyrinth of trails. I weighed my options, wander through the shaded woods, or take the thrilling trek down the near-cliff. My faithful dog decided for us, looking at me tongue hanging lopsided, she seemed to smile and pulled towards the cliff-posing-as-hill. I could have laughed as she and I half slid, half ran down the precipice.

It was then, as we slid and ran, half tumbling down that hill that I realized that this was allegorical to life. Life often gives us options, many times we can take the easy, confused route of mediocrity, or we can take a chance, leap off the rocks and into the rolling chaos of joyful abandon. The Gods often place these options before us, to test our mettle, our courage, and our zest. They will not punish us if we take the easy way, but we may not reach our destination in time for their presence. I took the dangerous way, and was rewarded by a powerful presence. It felt as if Woden literally sat with me in spirit, listened to my concerns and shared the cheap wine from the flask I had brought along! Had I taken the twisting, level route, I would have probably missed that sacred “In-Between-Time” known as dusk, when the sun still peeks over the horizon, arriving just minutes too late to partake in communion with my beloved Valfadher.

 

I encourage all Pagans to get out into the local wilds. I encourage them to seek out places of spiritual power and divine alag (onlay). They are all over this country. Many are forgotten, polluted and forlorn, yet they wait for us; the nouveu Pagani to return and restore them. 

Get out there and get a “Rocky Mountain High”!

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