Divestiture – Donning the Pilgrim Garb

Monday, 17 March 2014

As I mentioned previously, I had more luggage than I need for walking the Camino but which I have and need for the other parts of my sabbatical.  I had arranged to leave the excess with a friend and collect it when I have completed the Camino.  So I sorted out my belongings accordingly.  I was very careful to pack only what I really needed.  My motivation was not pilgrim piety or religious simplicity.  It was sheer, bloody-minded practicality!  I had to carry everything with me, so I didn’t want to have anything unnecessary weighing me down on the way.  The advice I had received from those who had gone before me and on blogs: Keep it simple!  Take only what you really need!  Note all the items that might just come in handy …. and leave them home!  Take only the absolute essentials, nothing extra.   

So I settled for two sets of light-weight clothing, one to wear walking during the day and one to wear on arrival at day’s destination, fleecy jacket, gloves and beanie for cold mornings, wet weather coveralls for rainy days, sleeping bag and sleeping wear, walking boots for the day and light weight sandals for the evening, walking poles, toiletries, broad-brimmed hat for shade from the sun, water bladder for hydration, pocket knife, camera, and in today’s world, both a luxury and a necessity, an i-pad and i-phone for communication and blogging, the latter electronic goods each with assorted cables and plugs and adaptors (something with which the pilgrims of old would not have had to contend!), all to be worn or carried in a backpack.    

As I was sorting my belongings into “pilgrim garb” and “left behinds”, I remembered that Muslim pilgrims going on Hajj to Mecca

also put aside their daily wear and don special garments called “ihram” (meaning “sacred/reserved/dedicated”) before they enter into the sacred territory.  For men the pilgrim garb is two simple white woven cloths, one around the waist, the other around the upper body (I couldn’t do that, but I am walking through mountain, valley and plain to my destination over a couple of months; they bus and plane to Mecca and surrounds over a period of ten days).  For women the clothing is not specified, but they usually wear national garb. I have seen both men and women pilgrims in airports in Pakistan and the Middle East, identifiable by their pilgrim garb, setting off to do the once-in-a-lifetime obligation of pilgrimage to the sacred sites of Mecca, according to the rituals laid down by the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD.

While my own divestiture of “ordinary” clothing and the selection of “pilgrim” clothing did not have any religious significance such as the Muslims have—as I wrote, it was the sheer bloody-minded practicality of carrying as little as possible!—nonetheless I realised that the choice of what to take and what to leave was profoundly symbolic.  It was in effect making the same transition from daily life to pilgrim state.

With my daily luggage left in Barcelona and my pilgrim pack on my back, I set off for Granada.

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